Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Do Black Lives Matter To Me?


Of course it is a given that to me all lives matter. That is just simply my nature, reinforced by my Jewish heritage, I think; its plusses and minuses, its travels and travails and its magnificence.

In principle all lives matter, but why and how I have chosen to place an emphasis on black lives, I am not quite certain. But I am looking at it to find out. The question brought me to a serious contemplation this morning as I opened my heart and my mind to the day.

Added into the mix was that I was noticing that there was something strong behind my considerations, carried forth into these efforts, now energizing New Horizons’ current local Kids and Kops In Conversations project.
Storytelling Can Become
A Path To Peace


No doubt, if I plumb the depths of my psyche, my answers might be complex. Right now I am uncertain. Is humanity and what unites us with one another in caring and compassion uncomplicated or not? 

For the moment I think I have a short form explanation to my pondering. But the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is, I am sure, a long and intricate, twisting tale.

The first part of the answer, as I am telling it to myself, has to do with having a shared history with my African American brothers and sisters. Therefore I am carrying a not insignificant cache of tales, behind who I am that relates directly to Black – White relationships. Stories that help paint a picture of both the process and the product that is me today.

Front stories, back stories, each and every one of us has them; some are more drama-filled and/or intriguing, some more on the side of the ordinary. None are one more important than the other. 

Certainly the front stories and the back ones I have listened to over the past half year plus since New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations began are presently shaping the me I had become into the new me that has yet to emerge.

I like it that I am asking myself “Why it is that Black lives matter to me?” 

I like it when I know and understand elements that prompt my day-to-day actions and activities, from the simple to the grand.  Stories are made up of these personal building blocks while offering both speaker and listener so much from which to craft a better tomorrow.  I believe I will keep challenging myself to ponder questions such as these that tell me why Black lives matter to me. And continue to seek answers, similarly, from others, even when things get a bit rocky in this area as they have somewhat today and over the past week.

Still today I am understanding just a bit more about how and why Black lives came to matter enough to me – and – therefore to the organization I head, New Horizons Support Network, Inc., to devote so many of our resources; time, talent and treasures, to this profound undertaking, Kids and Kops In Conversations.

Front stories and back stories allow the various images of why things matter, to increase in clarity.  That matters too, giving impetus to the actions.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Truth or Dare is Back!


Finding myself in my notebooks, I got my Mojo (same as what Murat calls "Marjah") back and look what popped out!

New Horizons "infamous" Truth or Dare Game!

Wow!

New Horizons Support Network, Inc. presents 

The "New" Truth or Dare Game
New Horizons "signature" program

Back after a seventeen year hiatus because Anastasia lost her eyesight, but never her “vision.”

It’s A Love Bath!!!
  • Have You Told The Truth Lately? 
  • Heard the Truth Lately?
  • Do You Have Any Idea How Telling The Truth Will Set You Free?
  • Do You Dare To Find Out?
The Truth or Dare Game is New Horizons most impactful program, known for many years in Montgomery County and the D.C. metropolitan area for transforming the lives of participants. (Also under the names, the GAME (1976 – 1986) and the Discount Derby (1986 – 1993.)  The objective of this GAME is to clear away the cobwebs that obscure clarity and aid participants in reaching the highest levels of consciousness.

Now in its new and refined version, the GAME is designed to not only offer its former benefits but, at its most effective levels, create a “love bath” with experienced participants. (A “love bath” can be described as an environment where so much goodness, compassion, generosity, kindness, honesty, integrity and caring are present you can’t help but feel clean and refreshed.)

An intense, lively community-development and personal healing experience, the GAME introduces participants to the process of confronting “discounts” in ways that are non-abusive, empowering and profound. Discounting is a psychological term that means minimizing or ignoring aspects of reality, individuals and solutions to problems. Our present society is infected with it!

The confronting of discounts in healthy, life-affirming ways leads to the transforming of consciousness. Consequently, participants in this GAME learn more and more about what works in life and what does not in the most penetrating of ways. As a result participants learn to transform dysfunctional modes of functioning into healthy counterparts.

Imagine what a boon to our society and politics as well as our personal lives this can mean, if everyone would just simply tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Truth or Dare aids participants in developing enhanced skill in resolving conflicts and power struggles, breaking through denial in themselves and in others and healing the deepest wounds of the psyche. It also facilitates the development of strong relationship, family and community bonds.

Might it even help reweave the fabric of our society and politics?

The Truth Or Dare Game dramatically assists participants in creating healthier personal relationships, developing enhanced skills for communicating, negotiating, resolving conflict and creating, not only cooperation, but synergy and brotherly/sisterly love.

Next scheduled Truth or Dare Game

Friday, August 14, 2015

New Horizons Harpers Ferry Retreat Center

 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Bring snacks and a bag lunch. 

Stay for potluck dinner and campfire storytelling.

Space is limited! Please register early!

RSVP: No later than 24 hours in advance of scheduled program.

Cost: Pledge time, talent or treasures to ---
New Horizons Coffee House Conversations Project

Contact: Anastasia 240.409.5347

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth: Bedrock of Health and Stability


(Excerpted and revised from an article titled “Telling The Truth”by (Marcia) Anastasia Rosen-Jones, 1985)

Clich├ęs about truth and its connection to the ills of the world such as “The truth will set you free” and “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing” abound. Religious teachings, too, put forth doctrines, urging faith followers adherence to truth; social justice presumed to be intrinsically woven with goodness and honesty.

There is another side of the coin, however. This aspect has to do with the reality, as I have come to know it, that relatively few people are even capable of adhering to these principles that unite truth-telling, social justice, good clean living and life as we know it today, if for no other reason than there is just simply not enough time. 

Other aspects, setting this state of affairs in motion are that, generally speaking, few people have the needed skills, safe spaces or support structures to get to ‘truth” and/or clarity, even the whole truth and nothing but the real truth of their own personal experiences.

This is a mess of modern day life.  Enter Bill Cosby and Anthony Weiner!

If it was ever any better in the history of our human evolution I doubt. Thus real life circumstances are that most people create and live in varying degrees of clouded consciousness or a moderate fog their whole lives through.

My Notebooks Project and the increasing clarity it is bringing me now, each and every day, as I work with these binders are reminding me, with growing anguish, how much I miss the Discount Derby/Game/Truth or Dare Community that formed the center of my life for close to twenty-five years at New Horizons.

I am so personally malnourished and in need of safe loving spaces where people will do their utmost to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth that I think I will near burst sometimes.  So, honoring, my current adventure of rediscovery of who I am and what I stand for, I offer you the following words to get the conversation going on “Telling The Truth (the whole truth and nothing but the truth).”

I am determined, somehow or other, to bring into my present life the purity of my former life, before blindness when playing the Truth or Dare Game was a way of life and daily fare for me and a beautiful group of other dedicated folks.

I am hoping that if I speak my truth on the subject you might just be inclined to join me.

Edited and excerpted from “Telling The Truth,” 1985.

“Most of us think we are fairly honest. In fact, most of us like to believe that we are committed to personal integrity. But, if this is in fact true, what about the corners we cut, telling ourselves that we are being diplomatic, politically correct or in too much of a hurry to bother with small stuff.

For example, if and when someone questions our honesty, we are typically offended or defensive.

“Angry, me? Lying, oh no, not I!”

One truth I discovered in my many years of investigating the “Dark Side” in society and politics, commencing with the shock and devastation I experienced in the wake of Watergate, is that the majority of people in our contemporary society, mired as they are in survival driven living, are unwilling and frequently unable to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Realistically, the best any of us, driven to survive the stress of our modern day lives, can commit to is telling the best possible truth as we know it. Along with this we need to “honestly” acknowledge our very human limitations to even knowing what is full truth/clarity in any given situation, especially a situation of stress and tension - - and – being willing to learn from the perceptions and experiences of others what just might turn out to be a higher truth than the one we are promoting.

How about that for starters! 

Maybe you’ll like this way, if you aren’t already an adherent, enough to join me in New Horizons “New” Truth or Dare Game, when we start playing it again soon, I hope.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Lost Treasures


Sobering up am I, now, from the high of celebrating. This is how this new journey of rediscovery of lost parts of me is unfolding today as fresh insights flood my consciousness, especially regarding my recovery from blindness.

Up until now I have been in the dark, metaphorically and in fact, as to how it was for me to be blind. How did I fill my long days and nights during that time?

How might I answer the question, “Anastasia, how was it to be blind?” A question asked by very few; only those with the courage to know, if I could tell.
Diamonds in the rough

But I could not until now, or, at least not very much. 

All I could bring to mind was that I had spent my time of those eight years (1998 – 2006) mostly with that Higher Power or Source of all life, the Divine; meditating, contemplating, struggling for that contact when the terrors came which was very often in those days.

I once read that Helen Keller had stated --

Nearly everything in the natural world is as vague, as remote from my senses, as spiritual things seem to the minds of most people.

So it was for me too; the world that would ordinarily have come to me via my senses had been seriously cut off. Now, however, because of my unfolding notebooks project, I am beginning to discover what I could not see earlier, even with my eyesight restored. I had not been ready yet to open myself to what had been so dramatically lost to me. But now, apparently, I am.

One major aspect of my blind times, now becoming increasingly vivid, has to do with how I managed what became an almost totally solitary life without feeling alone or lonely.

How strange, now that I am able to look at this piece, especially as where I had come from, sighted, was filled with such an abundance of wonderful, loving, intimate relationships.

As a result of my notebooks project, I am beginning to see the contrasts of how it was for me, living blind, and how it was not, beginning to see into the world I left behind as I entered the one that was dark.  Not black blind, as I have shared before, but opaque as though I was seeing through two sheets of waxed paper.

Nonetheless, today what I am most aware of, the notebooks project bringing me closer and closer to that world I left behind, are the countless people that were closest to me; the members of the Discount Derby Community.

Never was there such an extended life experience of “awe,” shared by so many, at least not for me!

My Discount Derby Community!  This is what I am remembering most today.

They were the unpolished gems that filled so much of my world before blindness; a mound of diamonds in the rough, presenting themselves to one another as well as to me in such a manner as to invite each to be master cutters of the brilliantly sparkling gems each would, in turn, become; me included.

As much as I was their teacher, too often elevated to guru-status which I never sought and frequently loathed, I was also always the student. And what a classroom we did create; the collective that we were!

So much more must be revealed if this communal life adventure it brought us can be even justly considered. Over time I will do my best to get to it, if I am able.

(Originally we called ourselves the Game Community.  Later, at the time of the onset of my blindness, we had evolved our name into the Truth or Dare Community. But it was the “Discount Derby Community” that spoke most truly of who we were.)

I believe the doorway is open wide now for me to turn toward those loved ones, left behind until now physically, emotionally and spiritually but not quite entirely. Truth be told they were with me always even when I wasn’t looking, my lost treasures. Not lost to me at all.

So today, in honor of this next leg of my journey I am pledging myself to do my utmost to, once again, find these lost treasures.

To carry that out, I took a pause from this writing to call one of my long lost “honorary daughters” to check up on her and see how she’s doing in her life.

I loved it that I got through to her right away and found out she is still growing as I would have her do.

So delicious!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding Myself In A Notebook


You just never know where one thing and another will lead.  Here’s what I mean.

New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations brought me a much-needed volunteer Administrative Assistant. Her name is Rosario. I think I will be telling a lot of stories that include her. She has become important in my life way beyond what the job title suggested.

First and foremost, my dear Rosario was charged with the task of helping me get my piles and piles of disorganized papers in order. Right away she got me going in a direction that is certain to not only de-clutter my reams and reams of papers, buried one on top of the other since the day I lost my eyesight, Labor Day weekend, 1998, but also transform my life.

Now already in progress!

On that vast upheaval and great turning point day of my life, I was working from one to the other on my three Random House manuscripts, known now as my "Random House Trilogy." Almost three thousand manuscript pages were, thus, strewn all over my living roon floor! Almost seventeen years later I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it all and straightened it into any reasonable working order.

But now, thanks to Rosario, I am well on my way, much to the delight of those who love me and are close to me. My Rosario is truly magic in my life!

So it has come to be that, again thanks to Rosario, I am finally sorting out my unfiled papers all the way back to the beginning of my beautiful career in 1966!  And, of course, yearning for an opportunity to put the highlights of this magical journey of healing and unfolding that I have been on ever since into book form.

That’s what Hot Pants, Motorcycles and K Street is about; the magical journey of my personal healing and unfolding! And – what this incredible life adventure has taught me about society and politics that those three still unpublished books represent.

The magic Rosario brought is that now we are in the process of creating an archives in countless notebooks of my work and creative efforts all the way back to the beginning with samples of the most important pieces.  When finished we will have the start of an entire library that can be used to educate and help train those to come.

Today, we are up to almost twenty-five, mostly gigantic, notebooks!

Most delicious for me is that in the process of this endeavor I am retrieving parts of me that had been lying unseen for all the years of my blindness and recovery from the ordeal. 

What a celebration! I am celebrating me and my life!  (Next year I may do it with a party!)

I also celebrated my life and me over the week-end while many others around me were celebrating Nelson Mandela’s birth-day. It just happens that I share my birth-day with that venerable man!  Isn’t that delectable too!

Our notebook project, in fact, “feels” like it is bringing me into the final stages (if there can be such a thing which I doubt) of my recovery from blindness.

Long forgotten parts of me, most of them interconnected with loved ones, are showing up in what was a mess of papers and files. Thus a paper trail of my life and work is emerging right before my eyes that now see magnificently with restored vision.

“Anastasia” which means “she who rises again” is rising again before my very eyes as I find myself, day-by-day and moment-by-moment, in a notebook.

What a miracle!!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Challenge Of Humanizing Our Community-Police Relationships

(Links and photos are temporarily unavailable due to disrupted internet service.)

As a professional I’ve been diligently working to transform the “Dark Side” for close to forty years, dating back to my first visit to the James River Penitentiary just outside of Richmond, Virginia in 1976. This effort has been at the base of my livelihood as well as my life choices and my life style.

So I am no fool and certainly not even a novice when it comes to tackling this most difficult of human attributes; the Dark Side. I know my business so to speak. With many years of clinical training and supervision, skill development and accrued expertise in the field of psychology, I trust my ability to be astute, properly wary and inordinately skillful in tiptoeing through the tulips of evil, especially insofar as the Dark Side goes, operating as a force in human psychology and social/cultural dynamics.
"My Friend,"
Frederick City Police Officer,
Rebecca Carrado

Thus when a woman questioned and challenged me, in a hostile way, and the efforts of New Horizons in presenting our “Kids and Kops In Conversations” programs, it didn’t take me long to determine that an initial “lean in” endeavor might be, at least, worthy of an attempt, yet not necessarily one that would anticipate a positive outcome.

There was a hint of darkness here and conditions were not such that my abilities could make much difference.  She was coming from her place of pain and fear, covered over with outrage. The best I might be able to do was stay out of my own shadowy sides.

I was not surprised, therefore, when my two attempts at some kind of meaningful dialogue with the woman netted me a serious absence of camaraderie.  Still, as I had learned long ago from one of my mentors, Ken Windes, the game of life is best played from a win/learn position, Plan B, if Plan A, win-win, does not immediately arise out of our undertakings.

Ken was himself an ex-convict who, once rehabilitated went on to become a highly credentialed professional in my psychotherapy association, the International Transactional Analysis Association, So it was that after a bit of an internal realignment, following my encounters with the woman, I sat back and considered what the experience had brought me in terms of lessons to be learned.

The main lesson to date is that what New Horizons is doing through its Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations of which the Kids and Kops In Conversations initiative is a subset is fraught with challenges.

The item that originally drew the woman’s attention to me was a comment I made during the discussion period following a “Trip To The (Mexican) Border” Power Point presentation and commentary, graciously designed by Gwen… , a Quaker woman from Ohio. Gwen had gently and generously reported on her experience of visiting the Arizona border with the intention of discovering for herself, first hand, what the immigration situation down there would show her.

With “Kids and Kops In Conversation” being of immediate concern and involvement for me I chanced to share that we were, thankfully making “inroads” in building bridges between some of our local youth and police officers through our project. Through this effort I am developing hope for improvement in this area of concern.

“Inroads”!!!

How dare I suggest such a reprehensible state of affairs for our youth! 

Police can “only” be the enemy was the gist of her belligerent admonishment to me!

Of course, there is significant merit in the attitude of this woman, at least to some degree.  And, the presentation we had just viewed in the “Trip To The Border” report had made that painfully clear, depicting one more aspect of the Dark Side of our current national shame regarding police and community relations; dramatically, painfully and horrifically. But the fact that 34,000 prison beds are designated to be filled by illegal immigrants per year is only one side of the current American policing situation!

Another side is that there are increasing numbers of police officers throughout our country who are putting the development of renewed trust and safety, where police are concerned, as a priority for communities. At least, my deductive reasoning tells me this must be so. Meeting and getting to know three such officers in the local Frederick County, Maryland community has shown me this through New Horizons Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations, built upon almost endless storytelling programs and group discussions.

As a result of these I am reminded that “An enemy is someone whose story you do not know.”

As for myself, personally, I know myself to be an exemplary judge of character, especially about where and how the Dark Side is in motion and where and how it is not. I see that there is challenge here, without doubt.

For every encouraging exchange I have had with these local police officers, modeling the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that have the potential to build trust, I have, personally, encountered and heard of hundreds more that generate fear and alarm in me as well as in other citizens.

There are no easy answers to the troubling community-police relations we are presently experiencing. But there is, also, a movement gaining force in this country that wants us to move beyond this. As a citizen I must do my part to support its success.

Listen to my story (on The Possible Society In Motion Radio Show) on "Building Exceptional Community-Police Relationships" and let me know how you view the situation.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kids And Kops Can Talk In Frederick, Maryland!

New Horizons and The Frederick City Police Demonstrate Kids And Kops Can Talk

Anxiety and fear ran high with no space for release as a room full of people, mostly adults, awaited the van load of kids from Frederick’s Housing Authority. Gathered at Dublin Roasters Coffee House for the fifth and final in a series of Coffee House Conversation On Race Relations, this one was to be the highlight in a succession of New Horizons Support Network, Inc. sponsored programs, designed to build an enhanced community unity in Frederick, Maryland.

But this program’s agenda was fraught with concern. “Kids and Kops In Conversation” was the scheduled presentation for the day. But could these two, “kids and kops,” ordinarily polarized, often warring factions, even come close to a conversation with civility? No one there was certain it could be accomplished.

For months New Horizons had been meeting with members of the Frederick City Police,  planning this event.  Kids and Kops In Conversation was to be a challenge but with the four other Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations behind, successfully achieving their goals, the organizing team for this event was ready for the test.

With Brandon Chapman, Youth Activities Coordinator for the Housing Authority, in charge of bringing the kids and Cpl. Jason Keckler responsible for recruiting the police, the planning reams still found themselves to be apprehensive, facing into the wind. Herman King, one of the organizers and a football coach at Linganore High School, laid out some of the hard places that might need to be encountered.

With an incisive eye, based on decades of coaching youth in Frederick, not only on sports but, even more dramatically, on how people, especially young African American males, might safely interact with police, Herman had prepared the group with guidelines on how to openly address issues that potentially end up in violence. Herman’s “Ten Things Kids Might Want To Ask Kops” painfully summarized some of the most pressing of these.

Questions for the police such as: 1.What gets cops so aggravated that they get physical; 2. What can be done to end deaths of black men in the custody of law enforcement?; 3. How can I be assured that my race will not work against me when dealing with law enforcement? were on the money as topics that would need to be addressed, at some point, if a genuine success for the Kids and Kops in Conversation endeavor could succeed.

As the program began, once the honored guests, the van load of kids from the projects finally arrived, almost an hour late, the single most important item necessary to discuss was the hopes and the fears of the group, especially the latter, the fears for what lay ahead.

The program began with a moment of silence, recognizing the pain of recent violence; the murder only the week before of the Ice Cream Man in Lucas Village and just days before the racist-driven murders of nine African American church goers in their place of worship. Obviously, pain and fear set the underlying tone for what this group was now embarking upon.

Anastasia Rosen-Jones, Executive Director of the New Horizons Support Network, Inc., officially opened the program with a near-tearful apology to the African Americans present that people that look like her, Caucasian, were murdering people who look like them. Then the conversation really got started with people coming up to the front stage to share their fears and their hopes for what lay ahead. For the adults, the single greatest fear was that the group in attendance would simply not be able to talk. For the kids they were too shy – or fearful – to even share what they feared, or hoped.

But surprise of all surprises, miracle of miracles, everyone did talk. With goodwill and courage, the attendees of the event made it through, discovering in the process that kids and kops could talk in Frederick, Maryland!

They had made a beginning. The conversations actually had been relatively smooth going, once started. A rite of passage had occurred for these “kids and kops;”; they could just hang out, person-to-person at a neighborhood coffee shop. What made it turn out that way?

A pledge, carried out, perfectly, by the Frederick City Police, organized and orchestrated by Cpl. Jason Keckler, and all the other adults present, facilitators, volunteers, parents and the voices of the youth who had the courage to speak and be heard. And they were!