By Chris Fontana, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Full Circle Leadership Center
Dear Educators, Parents, Leaders & Friends,
Hope Dies Last
I send you my love and hope that you and yours are in good health in this harrowing pandemic.
In Studs Turkel’s book Hope Dies Last, he introduces readers to regular citizens who find the courage to make a small difference. Historian Howard Zinn reminds us: it’s the collective impact of those small actions that keeps alive the possibility of a dignified livelihood for common people while keeping fascism at bay.
Things seemed particularly dark even before Feb 29 when King County, WA became the epicenter of the Coronavirus in the U.S. I confess: on some of the darkest nights over the past three years, I lay in bed bracing for my children’s future–with the onslaught of climate catastrophe, the seventh great extinction, intensification of overt racism, and the dismantling of democracy now upon us. Now, nearing an apex of Covid-19, amid the fear and mounting deaths, I find hope. Hope for a new way of being with one another and with our Mother Earth and all her living creatures–with and without legs, fins, or wings.
My mom, Dalton told me a story yesterday about her growing up in Perryville, Missouri with her mother (big city gal) and father (small town, humble farmer). In Perryville, a meter measured their water usage, so baths were “this high” (3 inches) and just once a week. Her mother told her that in St. Louis, they were “advanced” because water only cost a dollar a month and you could use as much as you wanted.
We got too “advanced.”
The UN environmental chief says that Coronavirus is ‘Nature sending us a message’
LIVE SIMPLY so that Others may SIMPLY LIVE
Air, water, food, sunshine, shelter, sleep and love. We don’t need more than that to live, thrive and be happy. It took this pandemic to slow me down enough to truly remember. Oh, the long winding tale of how I bought into the rat race. What’s your tale? I’d like to know. And when the pandemic ends…Back to “normal”? There is nothing normal about the way I live. We would need five Mother Earths to support my lifestyle. And that’s with 36 solar panels on our home and a modest [for middle-class U.S. Americans] number of air flights/year. While Mother Earth catches her breath, I am invited to rethink my [entire] life moving forward. For starters, will I board fewer planes? Yes.
On the night of the greatest baseball game ever played, the Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year drought to win the World Series. Talk about keeping hope alive for generations. We diehard Cubs fans knew that with the Cubs winning it all, the end of the world might be near: five days later, the electoral college selected DJT. At that time, my body and I were on a 3-month medical leave, foreshadowing my impending [sorrowful] departure from Global Visionaries, which I had co-founded 18 years prior.
In the ensuing three years, I have grown a lot (you’d have to ask Lisa, my wife, to be sure). I have moved through my grief from leaving Global Visionaries, found my footing, and am feeling hope again. By hope, I mean courage. And by courage, I mean re-discovering that forgiveness, love, joy, and abandon are choices I make upon waking each day. With the myriad reasons to despair today, love in action is my beacon: forgiving and acting to create a future of true democracy, racial equity, and ecological healing. I awake and ask: “what is the most loving action I can take next?” The answer I receive is to re-connect with you to build transformative communities from the ground up. Shall we?
Covid-19 Home Schooling
PS – To all the educators and parents: I have given up on any notion of formalized “home-schooling” my 7- and 5-year-old children. Oh, we had a detailed schedule which went up in flames on day 3. And it has taken me 6 weeks to de-institutionalize [decolonize] my mind and remember in my bones what I have believed for 33 years since becoming a teacher and what I have been teaching teachers for years: trust the genius of the child. Trust with abandon their innate curiosity! So, this, quite simply, is my “new” approach. And after a week of my kids seeing that I am no longer pressuring them, Eureka! They are choosing “school” activities again.
PPS – Be sure to read our invitation for parents to join what promises to be an extraordinary virtual community experience: Parenting In the Time of Relentless Parenting (Covid-19). I hope you’ll join Dalton and me and a courageous group of parents as we explore and support one another through the next eight weeks. The first class is this Tuesday night 4/21 at 6:30pm PST.
As a white person, I have used the last three years to dig deeper in understanding my own role in perpetuating white supremacy; I have committed myself to actionable steps in both my personal and professional work towards undoing my own internalized superiority [my racism] and that of the communities with whom I interact.
As I develop our curricula with the wise and talented partner facilitators at FCLC, we are ever more committed to creating the possibility of racial equity and to explicate connections between building life-giving relationships with one other and with our Mother Earth. The injustice of Latinx and African-Americans who are disproportionately dying of Covid-19 reflects centuries of racial oppression by white folks. Families of color and low-income families are disproportionately grieving and struggling for survival. It is yet another clarion call for white folks to examine our hidden wound, as Wendell Berry named our national pathology. May we may all be relentlessly compelled to transform our relationships in U.S. America and worldwide.
FCLC Impact Since Our Programs began in 2018– in a Nutshell
First, I invite you to read the stories (below) that educators have written and shared; they bring to life our impact.
We have served 745 educators. Many educators have said their time with Full Circle Leadership facilitators has been “transformational”, and “one of the best PDs (professional development trainings) of their career.”
Marcus A. Campbell, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent & Principal, Evanston Township High School, Evanston, Illinois (one of our nation’s top public schools according to Newsweek Magazine): “What did you say to my faculty!? They have talked about how ‘life changing’ their five days with you were. THANK YOU! What you have done is truly amazing and I am appreciative of your willingness to invest in us. Your work has been refreshing and has added a much-needed wind in our sails at ETHS. I am extremely grateful for our partnership. Your work powerfully operationalizes culturally responsive teaching!”
Guiding Questions at Full Circle Leadership
How can we catalyze a revolutionary movement comprised of educators, parents and students?
How can we…
…move educators and parents to overcome our collective [unconscious] prejudice against children and young people?
…bring about a democratic and restorative transformation in education?
…create the space so that children learn from early on that they are agents of change capable of transforming their lives, their government, and the sacred yet dying ecological systems that sustain life?
…uplift students to break the cycle of oppressive relationships they have inherited and in turn, learn to collaborate and innovate from creativity?
…create a pedagogy of love and peace?
Do variations of these questions keep you up at night? If so, reach out and let me know so that we might exchange thoughts!