In 2020 as the pandemic hit, and being at home, working and relating from a distance through the internet, became the norm, I created justuscafe.org.
justus cafe is an online space offering multiple ways to connect people in communities around the world that are engaging in the arts of social change; the creative work of doing justice; seeking to align in right relationship with each other, and the earth that is our home.
I did not know what I was doing, and can't say that I do now. I was just following a thread in my life, looking to find ways to connect people who choose to participate in life and social change as artful ways of being and doing. It was, and is, a pursuit of something that often I struggle to articulate. Not long after I began this pursuit, John O'Brien shared a poem by William Stafford, "The Way It Is", that captured what the journey was about:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt Or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you can do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.
So in January 2021, I created this blog space for me to work on articulating "the thread" I am pursuing.
In 1989, our family moved to Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. Peterborough is the home of Trent University. Trent established one of the first university Native Studies progams in Canada, now known as the CHANIE WENJACK SCHOOL FOR INDIGENOUS STUDIES. Starting in the 1970s, Trent hosted an "Elders Conference" (now called Elders and Traditional Peoples Gathering), bringing indigenous elders from across North America, and beyond, to introduce and share teachings, wisdom, and stories from the traditions of First Nations.
It was at the Elders Conference that I was introduced to the Seven Generations principle and value that comes from the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois),
“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”
There is something in this that resonated deeply; an orientation, a mindset, and imagination, that what we choose to do now is linked to a history of generations before us, and will impact generations to come. It offers us an orientation of humility, while at the same time reminding us that we are significant, our decisions and actions matter, not only now but for generations to come. Seven Generations brought perspective to how healing occurs, over time, and across generations.
The wisdom of the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee grows out of thousands of years of relationship of a people learning what it means to be in relationship with each other, the earth, and other beings in the natural world.
A few years ago, my friend De'Amon Harges, introduced me to the phrase "100 year work". De'Amon is a community 'cultivator', an 'imaginator', and a 'curator' in his neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was after the killing of George Floyd, and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement that De'Amon shared his perspective on 100 Year Work. I am old enough to recall as a child watching the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech, the news stories of beatings of protestors in Selma, riots in the streets of cities across the US, and the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and on my 10th birthday, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Conversations with De'Amon reminded me that the journey to social wholeness and healing is a long one. We are called to do our part, where we are with what we have now, contributing as a link to the future and a much longer story of healing.
Throughout my life I have become aware of what happens to us when, from a very early age we designate children as 'other', attributing and justifying the designation to some condition, disability, or perceived incapacity. I have walked along side of people, and their families, who have experienced this 'othering' directly.
Recently, I was writing something about social arts and making space for social change, with my friend Beth Mount. I was recalling how 50 years ago, in the early 1970s, public stories surfaced exposing the inhuman treatment of people in placed in institutions throughout North America, and beyond (Willowbrook; Christmas In Purgatory). These public stories fueled a movement to "de-institutionalize", embarking on a journey into the unknown of what this would mean for people, families, communities, and schools.
Reflecting on all of this I have decided that I want to explore this journey out of 'othering' over the last 50 years, uncovering thinking, practice, and stories through the lens of "100 Year Work". My ultimate desire is to learn how to be a filmmaker, a visual storyteller, bringing perspectives on this long journey to light, marking our part of history, and imagining what might lay ahead.
To develop a focus for filmmaking, I am engaging in conversations with people, to deepen my understanding, and fuel my imagination for creating.
The conversations, and what I can learn from them, is what is most important for me. But for those people I reach out to who are willing, we will record the conversations and publish them in audio and video podcast format. The current working title and description is:
100 Year Work - Re-claiming Personhood
Conversations about words, meaning, and stories related to social change, and the work of reclaiming personhood, when people are designated as 'other' ("special needs", intellectually disabled, mentally handicapped, etc.)
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, as a listener, or someone who I can learn from, feel free to reach out to me at:
I will keep you posted as things take shape.