I have accepted a submission for a guest blog this month because the theme seems so timely. Andrea Dennis, Outreach Director for Greenheart International, just returned from an Earth Activist Training with Starhawk in the hills of California. I was so moved by her story that I want to share it on my website. “A Rainbow Sheep Revolution” refers to a revolution of the mind that will lead to the grassroots social change that will bring a more just society. This isn’t about confrontation or politics, even though Andrea’s new friend Ahmed Salah has seen plenty of that in Egypt. Fortunately, many of us live outside the grip of tyranny, but there are still many outmoded values that could benefit from a revolution of mindset. The rising herd of rainbow sheep is different from the exclusive movement in the past that fizzled out in frustration. This is the beginning of a philosophical stampede that will bring freedom and justice for all. I trust you will enjoy Andrea’s contribution as much as I did.
By guest blogger, Andrea Dennis, Greenheart International Outreach Director
I found my tribe, and it felt good. This January, I attended the Earth Activist Training (EAT) in the hills of Cazadero, California taught by the renowned permaculture teacher and activist Starhawk and her teaching partner, an ecological human encyclopedia, Charles Williams. Over 30 people ascended for a two-week training course on permaculture, social activism, and a taste of earth-based spirituality. If all went well, I knew I was going to receive a Permaculture Design Certificate, but I certainly did not have the expectation that the EAT course was going to make my revolutionary blood boil with passion, help me self-identify as a rainbow sheep, and give me my first ever nickname (“MC Pumpkin”).
While some of the stories, including the full moon ritual or freestyle rap sessions, can remain in the hills of Cazadero (or are available upon email request), the revolutionary rainbow sheep concept fits the theme of Emanuel Kuntzelman’s website, one of transformation and social action. So allow me to share.
In attendance to EAT was one of the key organizers behind the Egyptian revolution, Ahmed Salah. He was an attendee and also a presenter. As one of the long days came to its final session, you could tell the group was tired, but when Ahmed began speaking, all ears perked as we heard a firsthand account of his involvement. A gruesome broken nose, shootings, utopian moments of selfless altruism and trickery were told as he weaved the story of motivating fellow citizens to free themselves of dictatorial rule. Among the stories he told, some lessons stood out.
Lesson #1: Focus on unity. Ahmed shared that ideology divides and that there is no use in bantering about which political opinion is better, in fact that will only hurt your cause. It is a focus on unity that brings us together. What did all Egyptians want? Bread. Freedom. Social Justice. This is what he and his comrades focused on in rallying support. In my heart, this hit home as I have too often become embroiled in heated debates about right wing, left wing opinions, which seem to always leave a larger gap in the air, rather than a bridge of understanding. In this transformational shift into the new paradigm, we must implore our governments, corporations, and civil society to ensure all people of this earth have access to live in human dignity and in cohesion with the earth. Another story shared in EAT was that you can teach a man to fish, but what if he has no fishing pole, no waterhole, or bait? We must focus on and demand the basic rights that we all need—that unite us as human beings.
Lesson #2: Collaborate with the like-minded people and grow from there. Ahmed helped paint the picture of how the tides of revolution can change. He said in a loud voice, “WAKE UP! Only 20% of people will take the leap and be a revolutionary. It only takes 20%, then the 80% will follow.” He said it won’t be the most vulnerable, as they are the least able to take this stance, but it will be the lower and middle class citizens who suffer from injustice and have the means to fight back. This concept fit perfectly into the site analysis given by Starhawk regarding the pillars of support in the social action model. As she shared, there are essentially seven levels of people on the social action model: revolutionaries; those willing to take the risk; those that will show up when they see others do so; the political couch potatoes; those who support the status quo; those who are the beneficiaries of the regime; and those who are the injustice leaders, the regime. Therefore we need a 20% critical mass of revolutionaries to collaborate and begin a revolution. This is great news! For me, spending time with people who see the possibility of a transformed world and want to dedicate their lives to making this happen is truly the greatest pleasure of life. So connect with those who want to make change happen, cultivate a community and be together. This brings me to the third lesson.
Lesson #3: Rainbow sheep and microclimates are important and beautiful. The group at EAT was diverse. One evening we split into different caucuses: people of color, foreigners, older folk and “other.” I was other. For a moment it made me feel like I lost the wind out of my sails. I felt so united with the group and then we split into these labels. As I shared this in the “other” group, a fellow EAT attendee name Kris said, its okay to feel that way, you are a rainbow sheep. I took this and ran with it! For me, a rainbow sheep is someone who has boatloads of empathy and adaptability to connect with a multitude of colors on the spectrum of humanity. Finally, there is a self-identifying label that fits more comfortably than just white and woman. The next morning the session continued when each group had the opportunity to share what if felt like to have time to caucus with their associated labels. What beauty I discovered. Much like natural eco-systems and the importance of microclimates for the diversity of growth and life, humans are no different. Queer folk, people of color, older people and foreigners all have unique and important perspectives to share. In retrospect it seems so obvious, there are rainbow sheep within labels, and we as a group were a collective herd of rainbow sheep—revolutionaries who want to change the world and can begin within their microclimates.
Among the many shifts I felt during the EAT course, I came away wanting to focus on what unites; a yearning desire to connect with my fellow revolutionary Chicagoans; and a greater appreciation for rainbow sheep and microclimates. And like we learned when Charles affectionately discussed tending sheep, we must treat life sacred and honor it. What a gift we have! In closing, while perusing Starhawk’s library of books on nature and goodness, I came across one titled “You Can Never Speak Up Too Often For The Love Of All Things,” otherwise now known to me as the anthem for the rainbow sheep revolution.
If you are interested in more information on Earth Activist Training and permaculture, please visit the EAT website and stay tuned for more permaculture related blogs on the Greenheart Transforms website.
I would like to dedicate this moment in time to my TRIBE who taught each other, laughed with each other, and loved each other. I will always hold jail solidarity with you: Iamani (The Prophet), Cameron (Buddy Burns), Kris (Rainbow Sheep), Andreanna (A Person Who Stands for Many Things), Ludo (The Rebel), Terra (Strong Woman), Starhawk (Teacher), Evelyna (The Voice), Annabel (Minister of Social Media), Gary (Coach), Ash (Creative and Cool), Danielle (Boo Boo), Ahmed (The Revolutionary), Clouds (Rhythm in Voice and Movement), Rachel (Soul Sister), Sam (Fun Dad), Victoria (Excellent Inquisitor), Toi (A POET), Veronica (Lives It), Nirmula (Gift of Song), Sarah (Softness and ) , Gabrielle (Talented), Shelley (The Mover), Reid (The Jokester), Bret (The Activist), Obang (Elegance), Casey (My Little Brother), Autumn (Brains), Renee (Strong Like Vermont Trees), Wanda (My California Mama), Dana (A Confidante), Jennifer (Howler at the Moon), Bee (Nurturing), Amber (Smiles and Laughter), Pandora (Inspiration) and Charles (The Shepard). Thank you.