The Seeds of Hope initiative began in Rochester in early 2017 as a way to “expand our minds, enliven our bodies, open our hearts, embody our hope, and rebirth our world.” At a time in the United States political environment when finding hope could be challenging, the Rochester Pachamama Community started planting seeds that are blooming.
Over the past year, Seeds of Hope programs have included a major Healing the Great Divides event; Radical Hope: Reversing Global Warming, What Does it Mean to Be an American, Democracy in Danger: Making Truth Matter, and Switching to Green Energy; a gender circle; and screenings and discussions of the movies 13th, Merchants of Doubt, and Doctrine of Discovery.
On January 6, 2019, Seeds of Hope presented Moving into Courage When Tyranny Threatens. The event was the culmination of weeks of intense planning by the a combination of the Rochester Pachamama Seeds of Hope planning team and the Democracy team: Dave, Padme, Susann, Dwain and Joyce.
54 people attended from a wide range of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), Indivisible, Raging Grannies, and the Rochester Pachamama Community. We saw this as an opportunity to connect and collaborate with these organizations around a key issue: the threat to democracy in America.
To set the stage for the event Padme offered an adaptation of Pat Schneider’s poem Patience of Ordinary Things to open Sacred Space. Then the group engaged in an exercise where partners shared what about the event title brought them there. An animated video about tyranny was shown, with partners sharing what it brought up for them. Participants listened to one another deeply so that everyone had an experience of being fully heard to create a sense of connection and community amongst participants.
Then Scott Forsyth, long-time counsel to the Genesee Valley ACLU chapter, shared information about what can be done in the face of tyranny from a legal perspective. He spoke about the First Amendment issues of “standing” (who can bring suits under the First Amendment), and the possibilities and limits of protests. The importance of understanding those concepts was highlighted when an ACLU member spoke about the legal hazards of non-legal protesting.
The AU president spoke about the violation of the separation of church and state, and AU member Linda Stevens spoke about her experience taking her complaint against the Town of Greece all the way to the Supreme Court, because of its beginning town meetings with Christian-only prayers. Although she didn’t win the case, the Supreme Court laid out new standards that the city has been following.
Participants were offered a variety of actions they could take to help protect democracy. They also shared resources and action ideas with the whole group. Dave challenged them to find their own sense of calling, growing edges and potentials for courage. They then shared in small groups what next steps they were ready to take to protect democracy. One outcome of the gathering was the launching of an ongoing online information and action exchange group, Seeds of Action, on Pachamama Alliance’s Global Commons platform.
The event ended with a circle, with participants sharing what they were taking with them from the event, and Mirabai inspirationally and beautifully leading us in the Holly Near song “I Am Willing,” which has become Seeds of Hope’s anthem.
Comments from participants reflect the mood from the event:
"It was perfect!"
"I feel hope!"