PICO Weeklong Power Building Conference

A more serious post, kids! Pull up your standing desks and bouncy balls and settle in.

I attended a training last week for PICO, a faith-based, national network of organizations that work toward social change. It was intense and exhausting. We took in a lot of devastating information. For me, nothing new, but having it all laid out so clearly was upsetting. However, it helped my spirit immensely to have laid out some of the actual steps local teams and coalitions (many of congregations) are making to challenge empire and bring about justice.

I heard a lot of good stories about Davids bringing down Goliaths.

We talked about organizing voting power, immigration reform, identifying what power sources are in bed with what corporate powers in our local settings, and all within the context of the theology of resistance.

The content of the trainings were strong, focused, well-organized and direct. I left the conference with several meetings scheduled with my local chapter of our state-wide network in Massachusetts.

But here I want to show you some of the images of the people who attended. I regret that I do not have their names in most cases. I do know they are all connected with various faith communities. Many are clergy. Please click on the images to see them in a larger format:









Miss Gloria Cooper, doing amazing organizing work in California. ALWAYS wears a hat.


Pastor Tawana Davis of Colorado, working to remove the slavery clause from the 13th constitutional amendment. Powerful work and witness, and naming herself PASTOR right on her shirt.

Andrea Marta, lead organizer for the LIVE FREE campaign.

A few observations from this conference:
Men and women seemed to me to be leading equally.
White people were not centered. People of color were centered.
It was entirely bi-lingual.
No one tone-policed or interrupted presentations in an effort to center themselves and their issues, as I have so often seen in my own denominational gatherings.
I never saw anyone raise their hand to quibble about the finer points of language: therefore, we got a lot done and on schedule.
Each session of the whole ended with great music, which cued the crowd to move out of the space and to the next thing.

A few observations I had about image, power and authority:
This movement is about dismantling empire, which means finding the hidden connections between money, law enforcement and government policy, revealing them and challenging them.
This movement is about refusing to remain silent in the face of criminalization of Americans and those who live and work here from other countries.
This movement is about interrupting and disrupting systems of racial profiling, systemic oppression, mass incarceration and the deportation (“kidnapping”) of undocumented workers from our communities.

Do you see these people messing around in sloppy Tshirts, scraggly, filthy hair and drooping hippie skirts?
Of course not.
Do you see these organizers shuffling around with their dirty toes hanging out of beat up sandals, patched up jeans and shabbier garments than they can afford to wear, assuming they’ll be given a respectful hearing from the power structures of this country no matter how unkempt and unself-respecting they look?
Of course not.

To look that way is an expression of privilege.
To think that you can work to challenge a corrupt DA or county sheriff or persuade a recalcitrant chief of police to come to the table for a conversation when that person is dressed in an impeccable suit or a uniform and you look like you just rolled out of bed is a tactical error, an insult to everyone involved, and an immediate give away that you’re playing.

Serious people don’t look like they’re playing.
They know better.

I don’t see one person here in comfy North Face or LL Bean sporty gear, because we’re not going hiking.
I didn’t see one woman here with a corduroy jumper or A-line button down skirt, or a sweatshirt and no make-up and chino capris, because we’re not on a road trip to see the grandkids.
I didn’t see anybody in a super hipster look-at-me get-up, because no one apparently needed that much attention to be focused on themselves.
I didn’t see flowy gauze or any beat-up rainbow backpacks.
I don’t think I saw more than two or three pairs of sneakers, and the ones I saw were nice.

I saw people who were dressed sharp, with care, and look like they live in 2016 and not 1976 or 1996.
I saw people who understand what they’re fighting for, what the stakes are, and who are showing up ready to speak truth to power.

I sang with them, I prayed with them. I took direction from them. I listened to their stories. I took notes on what they presented. I was happy to sit at their feet and just be around them.
People who look self-respecting instill respect in others.

It amazes me how different the entire feeling of this gathering was from those I more frequently attend, with sloppy people shuffling around looking smug because they’re “above” caring about such things as grooming and attire.

One Reply to “PICO Weeklong Power Building Conference”

  1. Miss Gloria Cooper! She’s an amazing organizer and always, but ALWAYS totally on point with her look. I’m so glad you got to work with her! [I got to meet her for a moment and was fortunate enough to be able to hear about an amazing story about recent victories in her work. She is a FORCE and ELEGANZA. – PB]

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