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Not the Same Ol’ Leadership

Not the Same Ol’ Leadership

Katie Loncke & Dawn Haney

Since late 2009, Buddhist Peace Fellowship has been in a transition to younger leadership. Under Sarah Weintraub’s direction, the organization has become increasingly relevant to the next generation of socially engaged Buddhists. This shift continues as Katie Loncke and Dawn Haney move to the front as the new co-directors of Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

As young leaders in movements for social justice, we grew up learning about the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, of Silvia Rivera and other queer and trans people fighting back at the Stonewall Riots. In our world, we have always needed to free Leonard Peltier from his politically-motivated imprisonment for leadership in the American Indian Movement. The feminism we come from is rooted in the words of Angela Davis, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua; it has always centered race, class, and sexuality as part of gender politics.

The Buddhism we practice is strongly rooted in the US and is socially engaged. In our lifetime, there has always been an Insight Meditation Society in Barre, a San Francisco Zen Center in the Bay Area, and Naropa has always existed as an institute or university in Boulder. Thich Nhat Hanh has always been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work as an engaged Buddhist, speaking out about the Vietnam War. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has always brought Buddhism into a secular context. There has always been a Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

The movements of social activism and Western Buddhism have fostered a new world, a new world we have grown up within. As Grace Lee Boggs, radical Asian American Detroit activist and movement philosopher has asked, “How do we understand that every victory creates new and more challenging contradictions?” With new contradictions, we need a new set of strategies to respond to the new world we have built. As younger people step into leadership, it is not just that new faces take on the same work BPF has always done. Together, we must develop new strategies, new analysis, and new ways to be Buddhist activists. The challenging contradictions of our times demand nothing less.

We are excited to explore this new landscape with you! As socially engaged Buddhists, we will each be challenged to step beyond the familiar frameworks and tools we have grown accustomed to using. We look forward to exploring with fellow Buddhists who share skills in wise speech, have spaciousness to sit with discomfort, and foster compassion for all those on the path. May we face both the new and old familiar dharma doors together, grounded in our activist practice.

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Comments (6)

  • Rick Harlan

    I’m writing as Aung San Suu Kyi takes her first major trip outside the country of Burma/Myanmar to receive the Nobel Peace Prize she won 20 years ago, whilst under house arrest. Now she and 40 other League for Democracy candidates take seats in Burma’s tenuous new moves to democracy (and global capitalism….).

    In 1991 I was 45 years old. Now I can add “old” or “elder” to a list of other identifiers that include “white, male, hetero, able, and higher-ed-ucated”. These are actually reasons why, like my excitement when BPF named Sarah Weintraub to direct, I welcome and support the leadership of Katie Loncke and Dawn Haney to head BPF. YAY.

    Here in our corner of the US, we are spreading the new news: to the 300+ on our BPF-Seattle email list; and to communities connected to Northwest Dharma Association (annual gathering was on Buddhism and Social Transformation, ) and Occupy Chaplains (interfaith group grown out of the Occupy Seattle encampments).

    Yes, we have capacity issues, both locally and nationally–few people feeling the need to do a lot. That’s all the more important that we help Katie and Dawn to help us. They shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting (of laptops and coffee cups, without an office, at internet cafes) by themselves. Capacity is multiplied when we each do a little–send some money; make some Comments or submit articles or art; offer to help start a way to share ‘best practices’ and experiences amongst BPF locals; and TELL EVERYONE about TURNINGWHEELMEDIA.ORG.

    I want to be one of many to offer congratulations and support here to K & D and all, for the even more engaged practice of BPF going forward.

    And I just started off only wanting to say: Emaho! and YAY! to everyone involved in the sense of urgency and direction including risk exemplified by Turning Wheel Media and the new co-directtion for which we all wish the best and pledge support.

  • Dawn

    Thanks so much Rick for your kind note!

    I’m so inspired by all the community building you and others have done in Seattle. You have such a strong network of dedicated practitioners of socially engaged Buddhism – we have a lot to learn from you about how to do this well.

    The Northwest Dharma Association gathering sounds like it was amazing! I’m really excited to see that you all grappled with this question of non-violence – it’s one we’ve been talking about a lot here in Oakland as well. When is strategic property damage a useful tactic? What does it mean to insist on only nonviolent tactics, particularly for those of us who come from backgrounds where we’ve faced few situations in which violence was the far easier choice?

    I’m looking forward to exploring this and other big questions with you! It feels so good to have your support and know that you are part of our team :)

  • Belinda

    Rick rocks – and so does Seattle BPF! ‘Nuf said!

  • Belinda

    And Katie and Dawn rock too – we’re so lucky to be charging ahead with their leadership!

  • Katie Loncke

    Wow, this is really amazing encouragement. Thank you, Rick and Belinda. As a relative newbie to BPF I’m really psyched to hear about what’s going on in the Northwest! Want to learn much more, and build together. So many complex and difficult issues to tackle, but hopefully to take on together, with joy and deep teamwork / comradeship.

    Echoing Rick, Yay!

  • James Simon

    Sorry, but there is no compassion or wisdom in this statement, only ignorance, propaganda, and hate:

    “In our world, we have always needed to free Leonard Peltier from his politically-motivated imprisonment for leadership in the American Indian Movement.”

    Be responsible. Be informed.

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