“Forward Together, Not One Step Back!”

IMG_20130629_142745_876My friend, Leslie Boyd, designed this tee-shirt for those of us doing civil disobedience in Raleigh.  I’m not going to wear it to Grace Covenant Presbyterian tomorrow morning but I am going to wear it when I led communion at Circle of Mercy later that day.

When I was in the holding cell with ten other women, we went around the circle, told our names and whether we had participated in civil disobedience before.  A few of us had several actions under our belts but for many of us this was our first one.  One woman was 82 years old!

I remember when I decided I couldn’t do this because of my brain injury, I felt a little like a failure.  I believed then that only “true activists” did this and until I had the experience, I wasn’t a true activist.  I’ve since changed my tune drastically.   We are all members of the Body of Christ and we have our own ways of contributing to this cause of justice.

My brain functioning has improved immensely since my accident in 1996.  I remember when I lived in Atlanta, I often went to rallies where I joined in singing the chants.  As much as I love Asheville, it just doesn’t have these sort of rallies here and I’ve missed participating immensely.  Below is a picture of the crowd last Monday.crowd June 24, 2013

I loved the energy and the chants.  Yes, I did have to use “compensatory strategies” to be there but I used them and they worked.   This really is the start of an incredible movement for change in North Carolina and I’m glad I can be part of it.

See this link for the N.C NAACP’s video of the event.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsYWKnSsvxE It’s about 11 minutes long and you’ll get a taste of Dr. Barber and his powerful preaching.  I understand he’s going to preach at a church here in Asheville somewhere down the line but I would love for him to lead a rally here.  Who knows?  Perhaps it will happen.  On the video, you’ll hear the chant “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!”

Leslie Boyd, Rev.The picture on the left is of Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Leslie Boyd and a state legislator who attended the rally.  She greeted me when I was released from jail.  The following is another video of the rally on June 17.  This one is done all in black and white to signify the “backwards thinking of the N.C. General Assembly.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYI7nNOXxRQ&feature=youtu.be

Dr. Barber really is at his best in this one.  At about 7.50 he mentions how N.C. has denied Medicaid expansion and offers a laundry list of what will happen.  He asks in his preacher’s voice “How mean can you get?”  At about 9:15 he tells the parable of the fig tree and how there’s no fruit on it.  He then quotes Jesus, “There is something dam wrong with that!”

Yes there is.  “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!”

Moral Monday 6.24.13

Somehow I ended up standing next to James Andrews, President ofthe AFL-CIO and Rev. William Barber II as we sang Solidarity Together.

Somehow I ended up standing next to James Andrews, President ofthe AFL-CIO and Rev. William Barber II as we sang Solidarity Together.

Attending Moral Mondays in Raleigh this past Monday on June 24 was an incredible experience.  I’m pretty sure my husband, Michael Galovic got tired of me agonizing for days about whether to do civil disobedience.  I even called several folks I knew who had done it in previous weeks – The singer, activist David LaMotte, my friends Greg Yost and TJ Amos were among them. I don’t do well in situations where I have to “think on my feet” because my brain processes information slowly now so it takes me a while to make a decision.  For this reason, I always try to figure out things beforehand.  It is pretty impossible to plan how an action is going to go so I knew it would be difficult for me.  My friend, LisaRose Barnes, was wonderful though. She drove us the four hours there and then stayed with me much of the time to help me navigate the huge crowds and loud noises.

In order to do it, I brought my ear plugs so I could “rest my brain” when necessary.  I wore them for the entire rally outside in front of the building beforehand.  Below is a picture of me sitting on a ledge with my ear plugs in, “resting my brain.”  I’ve stopped feeling silly when I do this in public now.  I figure if anyone wants to ask me why I do this, I’ll tell them.

I'm "resting my brain."I really do have a problem with overstimulation though. I understand that many brain injury survivors do but it seems like I have more problems with it then others I know.  Admittedly, this event was crazy for anyone but at times it was unbearable for me. During the rally inside, I had put my ear plugs in my pocket and since my hands were cuffed at the jail, I couldn’t get to them.

As luck would have it, when we were waiting to be processed, I was seated next to a woman who has done many actions so she knew how to sing during them.  She led us in song, after song, after song, after song.  So much for “resting my brain!”

Look at the crowd behind me in the picture above!  It was unbelievable.  Rev. William Barber II is an incredible preacher.  I plan to write another post which includes links to two of those videos but I think it’s time for me to stop writing just now.

Tamara after getting out of jail.The picture on the right is of me right after getting out of jail.  It was almost ten o’clock which actually wasn’t too bad.  My brain function seems to be getting better and better as time goes on so perhaps in five years I’ll be able to spend the entire night in jail.

This experience reminded me of when I visited Terry Mincey on death row in Jackson, Georgia.  Prisons and jails are horrible, demeaning places.  It’s no wonder folks are released with broken souls.

Raleigh

Moral Monday Tee-shirtI’ve changed my mind about being arrested in Raleigh this Monday.  I’ve decided to do it.  I understand it will be a stretch but I can’t seem to get the idea out of my head.  Am I hearing God’s voice or am I hearing my own?  I don’t know.

I’ve talked to several folks who have been through the process to get some idea of what I’m getting myself into though.  One person I know even wrote me a long email about ways I could make this work.  As much as I wish God would simply take away my brain injury challenges, I know God can’t do that.  While some folks may disagree with me on this, I don’t believe God takes away our struggles but rather gives us ways to go through them.

Am I making a mistake?  Perhaps. However, I’ve made plans to simply step out of the line when the protesters enter the capital if I think it will be too much stimulation for me.  I can even leave the capital building itself if my compensatory stradegies don’t work.  A friend reminded me, if I decide to not do this, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure.  It just means I’m not able to do this now but I can support the issue in other ways.

It may be a while until I write my next post since I need to recuperate from this to do so.  Here is a wonderful report written by Willie James Jennings who teaches at Duke Divinity School about his experience with this. In it he writes, “The modern lie of individualism is most powerful when we imagine that boldness comes from within.  It does not.  I comes from without, from the Spirit of God”  I feel God’s Spirit within me now especially through the many people who have listened to my fears and given me their wisdom. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/7146/becoming_the_common__why_i_got_arrested_in_north_carolina_this_week___politics___/I’ve

Moral MondaysThis is a picture of my friend TJ, who did civil disobedience in Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. The North Carolina legislature is out of control for they are cutting many, many programs.  This past Monday, several clergy were arrested and I so very much wanted to be among them.  See this link for information about the protests. http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/11/2954059/clergy-lead-moral-monday-demonstration.html

I am astounded at our legislature and I want to join the protests but because of my brain injury, I think it would be too difficult for me to participate. Raleigh is about 3 1/2 hours from Asheville.  The jail is noisy and I understand folks aren’t released until about 2 or 3 AM.

Yesterday I had an appointment about 1 mile from my home on Haywood road so I decided to walk.  The traffic on Haywood was loud and I because I’m unable to filter noise, I found it difficult walking.  When I arrived to get my hair cut, I went inside where there was music playing on the stereo so I had to divide my attention and filter that out as well. The whole thing exhausted and reminded me why it’s best for me not to get arrested in Raleigh.

I did get another idea though.  There are many folks who just can’t take risk being exhausted for work on Tuesday so they cannot participate either.  It seems to me, we need to have some sort of event here.  It could be connected to what is going on in Raleigh.  I ran it by a couple of folks a week ago and they thought it might work.  I just need to follow up on my idea.

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New Normal

I’ve been reading a blog called “Broken Brain – Brilliant Mind” and the author wrote a post on finding a “new normal” after experiencing a brain injury.   In brain injury circles, folks often talk about the “new normal.” She writes, “I have heard so much advice from well-meaning individuals to ‘accept your limitations’ and ‘get used to things not being as good as they used to be.’ Please.  I’m not saying anything more than that, other than that.  Please.”

Reading her words was like a breath of fresh air because I, too, have heard this phrase used over and over again.  Perhaps for some survivors, it applies but it doesn’t apply to me.  She writes, “Even the concept of ‘normal’ is not my favorite.  I think especially when it’s defined by others, it can be a trap that’s almost impossible to get out of.” 

Her definition of normal is “a state of mind and body and spirit that is balanced and feels usual.…It doesn’t have to do with others’ definitions of how you should be, but rather it’s about how you know yourself to be – and accept yourself… That’s where I’m at today – it’s not a ‘new normal’ for me.  It’s a new take on the old ‘normal’ that used to be part of my everyday world.”

I like this a lot.  A whole lot.  My brain is functioning better now than it was ten years ago.  As the years go by, it will improve even more.  I don’t ever want to simply adjust to my current limitations and hope for the best.  I want to keep growing and changing.   I suppose I could stop trying to improve but I don’t want to do that.  Sure, I get mad sometimes when I discover I can no longer do something the way I did it before.  However, I try to channel that anger so that I can find new ways of doing things.  I also try to find new ways of serving God when I discover I can no longer serve the say I used to.  

If you are a brain injury survivor, have you found new ways to do things?  Whether you are a survivor or not, what does being “normal” mean to you?  Do you even like the concept?