Greetings WIN community,
"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived; but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
- Maya Angelou
Change is a constant in our lives. Sometimes change leads to uncertainty and concern about revisiting historical injustice, and we must work together to ensure that we continue moving forward courageously in order not to relive the pain of our history. This is when we gather, as we recently have in Wyoming and in the Wyoming Interfaith Network, to work together to build bridges and do justice.
This, my first Sunday Message, as the new Executive Director of WIN, occurs at an important time marked by, and requiring, transformative change. In the past two weeks, the people of Wyoming have courageously, compassionately and creatively collaborated and connected to commit to march forward beyond the history of injustice. We face many choices at this time in our world, and we have chosen to march forward, through times of uncertainty, to move together toward peace, justice, and equitable spaces for all. Likewise, the Wyoming Interfaith Network (WIN) is also engaged in organizational change and continues to commit to social and environmental peace and justice.
On Monday, January 15, 2018, Martin Luther King Jr. Equality Day, gatherings took place across the world and across Wyoming to stand together to march forward from racism and oppression. In Cheyenne, Rodger McDaniel, Pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church, invited the WIN community to join him in an interfaith prayer vigil in front of the Cheyenne Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office to express opposition to an immigration prison planned by the ICE agency for Evanston, WY.
Over fifty people gathered in interfaith prayer outside the ICE Office. Reverend McDaniel has drawn parallels between the Heart Mountain Japanese World War II Internment Camp in Park County, WY, and the proposed immigration prison. Reverend McDaniel stated, "Didn't Wyoming learn its lesson with Heart Mountain? Remember the last time a prison camp was built in Wyoming to house people of color? Didn't we grow up with the shame of what had been done there? Isn't Wyoming better than that?" (McDaniel, January 17, 2018, Blowing in the Wyoming Wind Blog Spot). Indeed, as Maya Angelou said, "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived; but if faced with courage, it need not be lived again."
Prior to the prayer vigil, Reverend McDaniel had met with the #WyoSayNo campaign, a "grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to stopping the proposed Uinta County Immigration Prison [that is] here to keep our families together, protect our rural communities, and to say Wyoming won't detain for private gain."
The prayer vigil in front of the ICE Office was followed by the annual Martin Luther King March through downtown Cheyenne, which began at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. Hundreds of community citizens connected to march in honor of continuing to uphold the memory and legacy of Reverend Dr. King's monumental work of nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement.
Again, on Saturday, January 20, 2018, courageous citizens connected in their communities for Women's Marches in all corners and regions of the country and the Equality State. The mission of Women's March is to "harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change...Women's March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect" (women'smarch.com).
WIN also begins 2018 continuing to work together toward transformative change (read about the changes at www.wyointerfaith.org). Chesie Lee, WIN's previous Executive Director, is to be thanked, recognized and honored for her years of commitment and service, as she moves on from her WIN director position to continue her work toward social and environmental justice and other bright horizons. I am honored to have been hired as the Executive Director of WIN as Chesie continues on her courageous path. I have a great deal to learn, and am delighted to be joining this great organization at such an important time, and to be following the leadership of someone as inspiring and instrumental to transformation as Chesie Lee.
As a social worker, counselor, educator, and storyteller for social justice, I have found that lasting and transformative change requires us to engage together in what I call the Five C's of Transformation: Courage, Connectedness, Communication, Creativity, and Compassion. I look very forward to connecting and communicating with all in the WIN Community as we engage courageously, creatively, and compassionately to boldly build bridges and do justice in 2018.
Fear not. Be bold. Build bridges. Do justice.