Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday's Word on the Street: When Worlds Collide

One of my favorite parts of mentoring is that it makes worlds collide. It brings people into each other’s lives in very intimate ways, when some of these same people would never speak to each other… or would be enemies on the street… or would meet only on wildly divergent ends of a power relationship. Race, class, culture, gender, sexual orientation, education – mentoring crosses all sorts of lines for everyone who participates. Mentoring can’t make power disappear, nor can it erase every prejudice or problematic belief that walks through the door. But mentees and mentors learn to connect and to honor each other's stories. And everyone sure as hell learns!

Sometimes – be still, my heart – this learning grows from the realm of the interpersonal into the political. This has been happening lately, and you should be advised that a collision of worlds is scheduled for this Saturday morning at 9:30 am. IKAR, a progressive Jewish congregation that a mentor and I belong to, is kicking off an immigration reform initiative with a special Shabbat service. The featured speakers are two young women from YMC’s programs. Both are brilliant, dynamic, and about to tell a room full of Jews what it’s like to grow up in L.A. undocumented.

I love this for so many reasons. I love the courage of the young women who are speaking, because talking about this in front of a room full of strangers takes uncommon resolve. I love that half our staff is going to turn out on a Saturday morning to support them. (I love even more that my black and brown coworkers are going to have to sit through a Shabbat service… Baruch atah ¿que?) I love that after the presentation, congregants are going to send letters and postcards to Congress in support of immigration reform.

Finally, I love the connections and richness this is creating. We’ve started a Facebook group entitled “Would you deport my bubbe [grandmother]? FEH! Fight for comprehensive immigration reform.” Most of the Jewish people in the room on Saturday are not far removed from the poverty and violence that brought our parents or grandparents or great grandparents to this country seeking a better life, and not far removed from the discrimination they faced when they got here. Sound familiar? Let’s remember. Let’s see ourselves in each other. Let’s make some worlds collide!

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