Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Cultivating Spiritual Power for our Healing and Happiness




WED, OCT 22 – SUN, OCT 26, 2008

Our fifth annual retreat offered to People of Color in the tradition of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh will be held on the East Coast for the first time! In this five-day retreat for people of Native-American, African, Latina/o, Asian/Pacific Islander, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern ancestry (as well as their Caucasian family members), we will touch healing and nourishment through the practice of mindfulness and our reconnection to our ancestors.

This retreat offers us the opportunity to practice and enjoy the art of mindful and peaceful living in our daily life. We will learn to recognize and embrace our pain in transformative ways, find peace within ourselves, and foster stronger sisterhood and brotherhood in our communities. It will give us an opportunity to stop, rest, and touch the source of wisdom, compassion and healing in ourselves, so that we can renew our relationships and bring peace and understanding to our world. Through the practice of mindfulness we will learn how to nourish happiness, gratitude, good communication and serenity in our daily life. Some of the questions we will explore are:

• What are our sources of spiritual power in us?
• How can we cultivate our spiritual power to maintain balance in our life?
• How can we nurture faith, joy, creativity, and compassion in our daily life?

For further information, please check our website later on for more details regarding this retreat (, or call us at 845.733.4959.

My letter to the editor in response to the Architecture Issue of the NY Times Magazine was published. In it, I had expressed disappointment at the lack of perspectives from landscape architects, and the recognition of the influence of landscape architecture among our favorite “starchitects” whom were prominently featured in several articles. Maybe they’ll come out with a Landscape Architecture Issue!

Letter to the Editor, NY Times Magazine:

The architecture-themed issue, “The Next City” (June 8), was a wonderful exploration of how today’s cutting-edge architectural firms, like OMA and MVRDV, are exploding the boundaries of conventional architecture. However, I would have liked to have seen perspectives from landscape architects, or what some refer to as “landscape urbanism.” Even architects like Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi and Stan Allen are turning toward landscape architecture to infuse and renew their own architectural-design strategies. Planning cities by single buildings was, and continues to be, a shortsighted strategy. To truly design our urban centers, we must now think of the city as a landscape of infrastructure (transportation, utilities) and systems (ecological, social, institutional).

I have a small confession; I like to watch CBS Sunday Morning. If you have ever seen this news show, you’ll know that it is catered to a much older (than me) audience, mostly because it doesn’t use a lot of flashly graphics, and I don’t know of very many mid-twenty year olds that wake up before 9 am on Sunday to watch the news. But I’ll save why I like CBS Sunday Morning for a separate post. Anyway, I learned about Alice Smith from CBS Sunday Morning (pretty lame, I’m sure), and I’ve been hooked ever since I listened to her entire album. She came to NYC to perform at Joe’s Pub. Here’s a video clip I took from my digital camera. Hopefully you’ll be able to see what a talented singer she is from the short clip. And yes, that’s Me’Shell NdegéOcello playing bass in the back!

Here are some scenes I took from this year’s NYC Pride. It was a beautiful thing to see so many family taking over the streets!

The writing is punchy and imaginative, and I imagine that if read aloud, the short chapters would sound like spoken word. I’m really digging how the author captures the experience of waiting for a train:

This is the fabled journey underground, folks, and it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. On the opposite track it’s a field of greener grass, you gotta beat trains off with a stick…The postures on the platform sag of stiffen appropriately. With a dial controlling the amount of static. What are their rooms like, the men at the microphones…Look down the tunnel one more time and your behavior will describe a psychiatric disorder. It’s infectious. They take turns looking down into darkness and the platform is a clock: the more people standing dumb, the more time has passed since the last train. The people fall from above into hourglass dunes. Collect like seconds.

For the past three months I’ve been living in Brooklyn, in a very slowly gentrifying area between Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. Historically, I understand it to have been a largely West Indian neighborhood, though I’m not sure who was there before that. Presently there are more whites and young professionals slowly moving in, myself included though only passing through (gentrification in process). For me, it’s a blessing to live here — beautiful brownstones lining the streets and enough amenities within walking distance where I don’t feel like I have to break an arm and leg to find groceries, coffee shops, boutiques, and ethnic restaurants. Not to mention easy access to the Brooklyn Museum, Main Library, Botanical Garden and Prospect Park.

One of the coolest neighborhood spots I learned about is Tom’s Diner, located at the corner of Washington Ave and Sterling Place (it even has its own blog!). They serve excellent food, and you get to dine within an atmosphere of a traditional and authentic feel of a diner. The owners knew nearly everyone, young and old, walking in and out of the restaurant. You could sense that it was a place people cherished.

Suzanne Vega fans may already know that her song Tom’s Diner references this very diner. The song also appeared on the soundrack of 90’s flick ‘Untamed Heart’.

Tom’s Diner opened in 1936, and it is a testement for this restaurant to have remained a strong neighborhood establishment through all those years. I learned that in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, neighborhood residents and patrons held hands to protect the diner from the riots, looters and violence resulting from King’s death. Tom’s Diner is the kind of place that holds together the fabric of urban neighborhoods. These kind of places require an openess and generosity from the owners, who offer a place where individuals and families can commune. It’s the kind of place that keep communities intact and thriving, even through times of economic hardship or social unrest.

Yesterday, the Judson Memorial Church located in Manhattan hosted a conference called “How the Church Failed Us: A Way Back from Spiritual Violence“. Attendance was sparse, but I believe this was a result of poor outreach rather than disinterest and relevance of the issue. The conference brought people of Christian faith together to discuss how religion was being used to alienate and oppress people of color and queer folks.

I found the panelists and speakers engaging, flowing well from topic to topic. The most enjoyable speaker for me was keynote Ron Buford, former director of the “God Is Still Speaking” campaign. I didn’t know about this campaign before, and how socially transformative and progressive (i.e. controversial) it was, transforming churches into spaces of affirmation rather than condemnation. Ron’s words about the need to address our nation’s lack of spiritual development reminded me of Grace Lee Boggs’ writings.

My partner and I were also invited to speak on a panel and share our personal experiences with spiritual violence. Though I wish it weren’t such a tall order, my partner and I are trying to find a spiritual home(s) affirming our interfaith, inter-racial, queer relationship. As a buddhist, I was tentative to be a panelist at first, but was assured that my experience growing up in a white, conservative Southern town was an important one to share.

It’s taken me many years to develop an understanding about the way my childhood friends made me feel guilty about not being Christian. Their hurtful words were wrapped up in what they were hearing and internalizing from their own churches, perhaps not necessarily from God. The way they questioned my spirituality were denials of my own family, culture and spiritual journey. At best, they regarded my being buddhist a novelty, and not a legitimate practice. So when I became an activist, it was too easy for me to equate Christianity with being oppressive and fundamentally conservative.

I think that something is taking place in my own spiritual development, where moments of opportunity, affirmation, and reconciliation are taking place. To have had the opportunity to share my story at this conference, in a Christian church, was such a moment. And as an activist, I found it very hopeful to that these kinds of challenging conversations are taking place within the church.

Seredipitously, I was offered a job within three weeks of moving to New York! I’m working at a landscape design-build company, which specializes in rooftop gardens and is expanding its green roof projects. The photo here is an example of a garden we designed and installed.

In many ways I am feeling very “new”. I’m (re)learning a lot and remembering that there are people who are not community organizers and don’t necessarily think like community organizers. The days pass by very quickly, and there is barely time to even think about blogging.

I’m (re)learning how to travel all over again. Walking is wonderful, though I need better shoes. Most notably, I’m enjoying every moment of public transportation, which is so very much needed in Detroit, even when my train breaks down and I have take three extra trains to get to work.

Still staying in tune on the Michigan front:

This week the Detroit Free Press published a pretty good article about local activists in Michigan who are speaking out about global warming through workshops and presentations for community organizations, neighborhood block clubs and church groups. The individuals highlighted (including my friend and former employer) are part of a cadre of volunteers trained by Al Gore and The Climate Project and who are now raising awareness about climate change in their local communities. The Climate Project website is very interactive and includes a calendar of events for you to see what local activities are taking place in your state.

The presenters’ tasks are to be available to talk about climate change and make the technicalities behind global warming more accessible to non-scientists (i.e. regular folk). So if you want to do something tangible about combatting climate change, get in touch and tap into this resource to bring them out to your own community organization.

Top of the Rock

Last night I went to the Top of the Rock to see New York City’s skyline. The view was fantastic. It was raining, so I couldn’t get a good shot of the city, but here’s a photo from Gothamist.

Today I pack up my belongings into my car to complete my move to New York City/Brooklyn. While living in Detroit, I remember lamenting over the handful of folks who decide to leave the city each year, for whatever reason. It is not my intention to be that person who couldn’t see the beauty of what is taking place in the city.

Rather, I’m on a pursuit to become a landscape architect/designer and trying figure out how to pull together my background as a community organizer into this new path. In putting a lot of my writing energies into composing a reflective and honest personal statement for grad school applications, I realized that much of what I wrote was about Detroit and its people that impacted my life.

Sharing the text of my personal statement seemed like the perfect way to give tribute to Detroit and to the residents who are continuing to lay the seeds of social change. I will post my Love Letter to Detroit as soon as I hear back from schools, so regrettably, I must ask you to check back in April for the tribute. 😉