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My identity isn’t your politics.

By Abe Haile

Have you ever wondered how your various identities interact with each other? How does your role as a parent impact your religious beliefs? How about your physical abilities/disabilities and your job title?

During a video series recording with Jenny Medrano (Shift Program Manager at Building Bridges) I got the chance to experience this identity chemistry experiment first hand. I couldn’t believe all the profound ways my identities play with each other behind the scenes of every part of my life.

[Image description: An illustration with a blue background features a large fingerprint in the left of the image. Two large black knitting needles are threaded through the fingerprint, as if it is a ball of yarn. At the bottom of the fingerprint, a strand of yarn extends - as if unrolled from the ball of yarn - to connect with the outline of a person walking in the lower right side of the image.]
[Image description: An illustration with a blue background features a large fingerprint in the left of the image. Two large black knitting needles are threaded through the fingerprint, as if it is a ball of yarn. At the bottom of the fingerprint, a strand of yarn extends – as if unrolled from the ball of yarn – to connect with the outline of a person walking in the lower right side of the image.]

A couple months ago, Jenny asked me to be a guest on her web-series Intersectionality: Let’s Get Real. I initially had no idea what I was signing up for, but as any astute intern, I excitedly accepted the task and saved the worry for my diary. It was probably best I didn’t know all the details ahead of time because I might have bailed had I known what I was walking into.

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It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

In this post, Kim Jackson shares part of her identity formation journey.

Imagine for a moment that you are filling out a job application when you stumble upon a section that asks you about your race/ethnicity. The question asks you to choose one of the following identities that best describe how you identify:  

  • White (not Hispanic or Latino),
  • Black or African American (not Hispanic or Latino),
  • Hispanic or Latino,
  • Asian (not Hispanic or Latino),
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native (not Hispanic or Latino),
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (not Hispanic or Latino),
  • Two or more races (not Hispanic or Latino).

For someone who is bicultural/biracial these forms pose a serious challenge. In my experience with such forms, I have always checked “white” instead of “Asian” even though I am from both Korean and white racial backgrounds. For most of my life, I had not considered how my identities develop until I began working at Building Bridges where we integrate racial identity development into our work.

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Power of the Poker Face: Why I use neutrality as a facilitator

By Jenny Medrano

DEI: Beyond the Buzzword.  Program Manager, Jenny Medrano shares insights and lessons learned while navigating diversity, equity and inclusion in her daily life.

Neutrality? No thank you.

The first time I experienced neutrality was at Building Bridges. I can admit, I definitely judged the facilitators who used this posture. I remember thinking, “Damn, these people are stiff and emotionless.”

What I mean by “neutrality,” is: facilitating a discussion with minimal facial expression, little to no nodding or affirmation of any kind, and rarely inserting your own opinion into any discussion.

So you could see how someone like me, an animated person who grew up in a passionate Latino household, was taken aback by this posture, and even a little unsettled.

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When White People Say, ‘That’s Bad!’ It Matters

By Abe Haile

A page from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photographed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 1, 2019. The page has four photos: on the top left, a portrait of Ralph in a suit and time; in the middle, a candid photo of Northam standing outside, trees in the background; bottom left is Northam seated on the ground beside a convertible; and on the right side is a candid photo of two people, the one on the left in blackface, the one on the right in a klansman's robe and hood. Below that photo states, "Alma Mater: Virginia Military Institute; Interest: Pediatrics; Quote: There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I'll have another beer."
A page from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photographed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 1, 2019. The page has four photos: on the top left, a portrait of Ralph in a suit and time; in the middle, a candid photo of Northam standing outside, trees in the background; bottom left is Northam seated on the ground beside a convertible; and on the right side is a candid photo of two people, the one on the left in blackface, the one on the right in a klansman’s robe and hood. Below that photo states, “Alma Mater: Virginia Military Institute; Interest: Pediatrics; Quote: There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”

I’m willing to bet you and everyone you know had never heard of Virginian Governor Ralph Northam before this month. A racist photo from Northam’s medical yearbook surfaced depicting two individuals—one dressed in minstrel blackface and the other in full Klansman garb.

Keep in mind this year book page in question was Northam’s personal page with four pictures he handpicked and submitted to the yearbook committee.

Northam initially apologized for taking part in this 1984 racist buffoonery, then changed his story less than 24-hours later, claiming he was neither of the gentlemen in the photo. Unsolicited, he did however admit to dressing up in blackface for an unrelated Michael Jackson costume just a few months after the photo in question.

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Happy Black History Month!

By Raegan Quattlebaum

This post will be the first of many in a series I’d like to call The Young, The Black, and The Professional, where I will be discussing my experience as a young black professional in a white dominated space and city.

Who is this for?

Today’s message is specifically for my fellow people of color (POC) who encounter microaggressions in their daily lives. However, ff you don’t identify as a POC, don’t worry. This message applies to you too. That’s the beauty of our intersectional identities!

I promise that most people will be able to relate to some part of this post.

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Equity in Fundraising: Why Every Supporter Matters

By Jenny Medrano

This post is the first in a series called DEI: Beyond the Buzzword.  Program Manager, Jenny Medrano shares insights and lessons learned while navigating diversity, equity and inclusion in her daily life.

To say that I used to be scared of asking people for money would be an understatement.

It would be more accurate to say that I hated fundraising with a passion. Or, that I felt like I was causing all of my Mexican family- dad, mom, and all of their ancestors living and dead, a lifetime of shame by begging. Or, that by asking for money I would literally be choosing my own death as I plummeted into a tornado of anxiety before each cold call (yes, I am EXTRA but it’s true).

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Happy National Coming Out Day!

By Kim Jackson, Building Bridges Intern

Today, on National Coming Out Day, I would like to start a dialog about bullying within the LGBTQ youth community.

Imagine…

…picking up your child after school. And when you ask them how their day went, they burst into tears. You ask what is wrong, and they tell you that one of their classmates told them that they don’t want to be their friend anymore because their moms are lesbians, and that being gay is wrong. They pick on her because one of her mom’s doesn’t fit into what society tells us a mom should look like; they tell her that 2 women cannot get married. This is a true story that happened to my daughter.

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Looking Back, Paying It Forward: Reflections from Liz Hamel

From Liz Hamel, Director of Programs

Dear Community,

With a full heart I’m announcing that I’m leaving my position as Building Bridges Director of Programs as of August 20.  As I make this change, I’d like to share some of my many emotions and thoughts with you.

Reflective & Grateful

Image with a quote from the blog post, overlaid on a background of the northern lights.
  • When I joined Building Bridges as a Summer Facilitator in 2014, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was questioning where I fit in the social justice world, my naturally conflict-avoidant self wasn’t fully aware of how powerful cross-identity spaces could be, and I wanted to be a part of social change rooted in empathy, healing, and inclusion, not shame, denial, or dismissal.
  •  
  • In Building Bridges, I found that healing community—I could be myself and all my identities were embraced, and I was also challenged and pushed to grow. A place where power dynamics and tension were named so that systemic inequality and oppression weren’t just “society’s” fault, but were playing out in the room for us (and me) to own. A space where youth were the experts on their own lives and weren’t fed the “right” answers, but instead encouraged to speak their truth, question, disagree, and explore the line between difference and injustice. I built connections with the most amazing people I may never have met otherwise, who shared so vulnerably and listened so intently, even in the most painful moments when developing empathy is the hardest. I knew I’d found a place like no other I’d experienced and one that represented the world I want to live in.
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“White Polite” Against the Fight for What’s Right

by Amanda A Andrews

Imagine the moment where you felt the most vulnerable. Now, imagine sharing that feeling in a circle of 20 people you’ve known for one week.

A green bar over a photo of paper bags labeled “Black, White, Latinx” says, Phrases like we’re all one race the human race or why can’t we all just get along both sound great, but don’t address any of the history that created the problem or the social systems that maintain them.

For some people that can seem intimidating or even impossible, but for Building Bridges that kind of vulnerability is in the foundation of the organization.

Building Bridges was founded in 1994 to facilitate transformative dialogues between Israeli, Palestinian, and American young women. Each summer young women would join together for a two week intensive to where they could open up about their identities and the social systems that influence their lives.

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Year-Round Transformation

2016 was a tumultuous year, with lots of changes for our organization, our communities, our nation, and the world.  The US Presidential Election held a mirror up to the conflict, discrimination, and biases still alive and well in this country.  What we saw was painful.  What we saw challenged us.  What we saw reaffirmed the importance of our work.

And what we saw motivated the incredible generosity of our community!  We are humbled and invigorated by the outpouring of financial support we received in December.  Raising over $30,000, this year-end campaign ensures that we can kick off the new year on a strong foundation.

We enter 2017 with gratitude and hope – gratitude for people supporting positive transformation and hope for positive social change towards a more just, inclusive society.

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