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Zimmerman Verdict

Zimmerman Verdict

The news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin produced an immediate and very emotional reaction. I absorbed the quotes and articles, friends on Facebook, talking heads on Sunday morning news shows, perspectives, justifications, and over and over again, people trying to talk about ‘what this is really about.’  The conversation feels frustratingly limited, considering the complexity of the issue and the strength of all the opinions. It’s also a powerful example of the need for Building Bridges to expand our work addressing the divisions that exist within the US.
Depending on the news source, this was an isolated, tragic incident in Florida, or it  was one more in a litany of cases that prove how Black lives are valued less than White.  It was proof about how wrong racial profiling is, or an unfortunate byproduct of the need for it.  It was about the erosion of civil rights, for the victim or the gun owner.  It was about the injustice of and the need for Stand Your Ground laws.  And, it was about the pain of a parent who has to explain to her children the dress, posture, and manner of speech they need in order to survive their trip to the corner store for candy.  What it was not was nuanced, or complex, or in context.
I believe that Trayvon Martin’s death is an immeasurable loss to his family and his community, and potentially to us all.  And, I believe his death is an example of how racism makes our society a dangerous place to live, especially for young Black men.
Zimmerman’s acquittal, however, is less clear.  I have feelings about it that I’m not going to share here because in our world of shorthand, hashtag communication, how we feel about this verdict will quickly fit us into some political or social box.  And that will be our loss.  In fact, it is the complexity of what happened that we need to address to learn more about how the interplay of race, class, and gun laws continue to affect our daily lives.  I don’t fully understand the perspective of people who believe differently from me about the issues involved here, because their perspectives are not available to me in any meaningful way.  We can watch the news channels’ coverage, or read blogs, where we’ll hear the extremes.  And then, when we find out our neighbors think differently than us, we work to avoid the topic because it’s so uncomfortable, or we don’t know how to talk about it.
Our culture exhorts us to fit into sides or colors or boxes, and I believe those labels paralyze us. We are forced to stand on one side or the other of multi-faceted issues.  And, when there is no space or opportunity for complex views to emerge and be shared, the same story, the same issues, play out over and over again.  This acquittal comes the same week as Fruitvale Station, a film about the 2009 killing of a young Black man by a police officer in Oakland, who served less than a year for the crime.
When we talk about Building Bridges forming a US only program, we often get asked what the participants will talk about, since there isn’t an ongoing, visible conflict like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  And today, I am sad that the answer is clear.  Our program will offer a space for participants to step outside of their labels and their boxes and begin to unravel what’s true for them.  We’ll offer them the opportunity for those truths to get complex.  They’ll get to talk about it with someone who thinks differently from themselves, and they’ll emerge with skills and new ideas and the hope that change is possible.
Today, our hearts are with the Martin family, and our passion is for creating a world where complex conversations can bring about real change.

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Alumni Jerusalem Tour

This is Rawan, the Jerusalem office director, and I was so excited to get the call from Adaala, one of our alumni who recently moved to Jerusalem for her last requirements of school and she suggested we do a Jerusalem tour for our alumni.  As an alumna, I look forward to opportunities to connect with other Building Bridges alumni, and as a staff member, I am always looking for creative ways to do it.  I thought the Jerusalem tour was a great idea because it would bring our alumni from different years together, and also  allow them to share the experience of their daily lives on the ground.  Adaala helped me put a plan together and we reached out to every alumni who lives in Jerusalem and that we have a personal relationship with, and scheduled the tour for June 15th.

When the day arrived, 12 Palestinian and Palestinian citizens of Israel alumni from Jerusalem and parts of the north joined our tour. We started with one of our own alumni’s talking about her experience living in the Old City, where she shed light on the social and political dynamics there. What stood out for me about what she said was her honesty about what she loved there, and what she thought was challenging, and the process she went through to make a decision about remaining a resident in the Old City.  Her sharing sparked a great discussion about topics like oppression, social problems, settlements, security, and injustice.

The tour started at Damascus gate, going through the narrow roads to the Christian quarter, the Wailing Wall, and the Dome of the Rock.  Then, we visited a community-based organization and finally had a nice breakfast at one of the most delicious and famous hummous and falafel places in the Muslim quarter.  You know, it’s Building Bridges and we eat well!

Our alumni talked about the diversity in their lives and talked about some of the challenges they see today after years of participation in Building Bridges. They emphasized the importance of the Building Bridges skills and knowledge and the relationships they made in the program and talked about how they are challenged today and at home.

For me, this day was so amazing because not only did it bring our alumni together, but it allowed talking about our experiences in time and space, the now and here. As a Jerusalemite myself I felt very connected but also educated by the experience of other alumni. The only drawback was that there were no Israeli participants on the tour, mainly because it was a Saturday. However, we are looking forward to more activities designed by and for our Israeli and other alumni.

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Inaugural Blog

Welcome to the new Building Bridges blog!
We want to invite you, our friend/supporter/participant/alumni/community member, into our organization in as many ways as we can.  Our monthly newsletter comes right to your inbox, our Facebook and Twitter accounts help us hear back from you on thoughts and events on a daily basis, and our new website gives you more detailed information about all of it.
This blog offers a more intimate look inside the organization, with at least monthly updates from staff about what’s happening with the program, and from participants and alumni about their experiences.  We’ll also be sharing our Building Bridges perspective on what’s happening in the world.
You’ll be able to access the blog from our homepage at www.BuildingBridgesShift.org, and we’ll let you know on Facebook and Twitter when there’s a new post.
Please let us know what you are thinking!
Warmly,
Erin and Jen
Erin Breeze, Executive Director (on Maternity Leave)
Jen Sarché, Acting Executive Director

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We need your help!

Your support allows us to include exceptional young people in our programs, regardless of their ability to pay.

Building Bridges is not a fee-based program, we provide full funding for the majority of our participants. You can help make this life-changing experience possible for more deserving teens. Please join us by sponsoring a participant.

The participants are drawn from four “home groups,” with participants from different political perspectives, ethnic, religious, and class backgrounds.

  • Metro Denver: (14 girls) We are excited to announce that all of our U.S. participants will be coming from the Metro Denver area – members of this group of young women hail from rural Greeley to urban Denver and beyond.
  • Israeli Jewish: (12 girls) The Israeli home group is mostly Jewish, and varies in their political perspectives and religious observance.
  • Palestinian/Arab Israeli: (11 girls) This home group is drawn from Arabic speakers, including Palestinian, Druze, Bedouin, and other groups who live inside of Israel.
  • Palestinian: (10 girls) This home group includes Muslim and Christian young women, and at this time the participants come from East Jerusalem and cities and towns in the West Bank.

What are the costs?

$3,500 is the cost per participant for one program year: August 2013 – July 2014.

This includes both the summer intensive held in Colorado and programming conducted in their home communities throughout the school year.

$2,000 covers the full cost of the residential summer intensive in Colorado: August 2-18
  $1,000 covers all room and board costs for one participant
  $800 provides program supplies and facilitation costs for one participant
  $235 supports mentoring and support from a trained program alum
  $106 covers the summer visual arts enrichment program for one participant
  $85 sponsors one night of room and board for one participant
  $57 supports the summer cross-cultural music program for one participant

 

$1,500 funds year-round programming in participants’ home communities: September – July
  $350 supports participation in a cross-community weekend retreat
  $45 covers the cost to attend a home group meeting

 

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We’ve got a new name and look

We are thrilled to embrace ‘Building Bridges’ as the name under which we operate, as we believe it speaks to the core of what we do.

Our best-known program, Building Bridges for Peace, which participants have shortened to ‘Building Bridges’ for years, has often been confused with our former organizational name, Seeking Common Ground.  Changing the name in this way allows us to communicate more clearly and powerfully about our work.

To help us amplify the impact of our new name, we also have a new look.  We believe our new logo represents us in a very deep way.  When we look at the new logo we see movement and expansion, creativity, and the kaleidoscope of the people that we serve.  And, maybe most importantly, it is in itself a perspective exercise.  Among our staff and board, we all see different things, dialogue boxes, faces, gears, little people reaching out, and we hear new interpretations of it every day.

The new name and look have been well-received by supporters and alumni, and is one of several outcomes of a strategic planning process completed in 2012, that was undertaken by the board and staff, with input from participants, alumni and other key stakeholders.

 

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