A SoulForce Moment

Posted by Poonam Singh on Feb 16, 2017
1164 reads  
Yesterday, I presented to 500 students at our local high school to recruit for our youth leadership program, Soulforce Leadership. I had a presentation planned, but I scrapped the slides and instead spoke from my heart. This was a "soulforce" moment for sure because I completely changed what I was going to say just 15 minutes before going on stage after looking within. Here is what I said:

Three months ago, my sister died. I have never talked about this publicly with anyone except for my family and close friends. And I wasn't planning on talking about it today, but I felt called to do so just 5 minutes before coming on stage. It is hard for me to talk about this, but somehow I feel it is no coincidence that I thought of her as I came to talk to you today...

She was 30 years old when she died and she was found dead on the street in the middle of the night. Dead.

When she was 15 years old, she was sexually assaulted....We didn't know that at the time. I recently learned she was sexually assaulted multiple times after that throughout the years.

She was diagnosed with bipolar disease and struggled with mental health issues and ultimately she found herself in and out of institutions struggling with demons of alcohol and drugs..

We didn't know what was going on... The shame and guilt in me wants to keep this story silent. But I speak to release it.

We tried and tried and tried to get her help but it was hard to navigate the system ....it was hard to have the resources .... it was hard to know the language....it was hard to know what to do... Systems that were supposed to help us failed us. The criminal justice system failed. The mental health care system failed. The men who violated we're not held accountable and that failed.

3 months ago, they found her on the street dead...

The American dream did not work for her...

The American dream also did not work for my cousin who went in and out of the criminal justice system and ultimately was deported after a few traffic tickets for a final violation because he was on a green card. We still don't know if it was legal that he was deported.

The American Dream didn't work for him either....

My parents sacrificed so much to come into this country and to give us an opportunity and a better life... but it doesn't always work... it failed for some of my family members... And it has failed for many, many other people.

But I have not given up and I still believe in the American Dream.... Because the American Dream did not fail for me. I'm here talking to you all today and I feel so lucky that I'm here today being able to do work I love and being able to speak to you all. I have an education. I own property. I work as a woman...I have 3 beautiful children who will have all the opportunities in the world. For many people, the dream has proved to provide so many tremendous opportunities, and the hope that regardless of your skin, religion, background you can succeed here. America is the land for everyone. I don't forget for a day that I'm a girl here in the US and I have rights that many others in the world as girls simply don't have.

I love the values this country is supposed to represent and I have not given up on the dream.

Because as Gandhi once said, the universe will always side on the side of justice.... the universe will always side on the side of love... You just have to stand far back enough to realize we are a little blip in this larger story.... We have been called right now in this point in our history to rise above it all... Despite what we see on the news or on facebook, peaceful protest is on the rise and peaceful protest is winning... According to empirical research done by Erica Chenowyth, in the last 100 year there have been 4x more peaceful protests than violent ones, and nonviolent movements have been successful not only to change policies but to overthrow governments two times to one... Since the 80's there have been many examples... Estonia, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Arab Spring....the list goes on and they are on the rise.... All you need is 3.5% of the population to make your voice known and for governments to shift. In the US, that's about 11 million people. We had 2-3 million people get up and attend the women's march. We are on our way.

I have also not given up because I know deep inside there is goodness in all of us....I don't just think this. I know this.

So we will fight for that goodness.... we will fight for that love...

Soulforce is a five-day leadership camp with weekly meetings throughout the summer and then monthly throughout the school year....

But it is so much more....

We become a family....

We become a family for life...

We talk a lot about our feelings....We face our truth...We share our stories of selves to the world....

If you want to be a leader in your community....come join us...

If you want to stand up to injustice and systems of oppression that hold us down...come join us...

If want to be a peacemaker who can bring people together, come join us...

If you just want to be, come join us.

We will provide you with the skills and the training that you need.... because working toward a movement of change is not just a protest.... or signing a petition... it is about working systematically toward a goal.... We will teach you how....

We are part of a much larger movement.... this is an important moment in our history and you have been called....it is a movement to save what matters most to us....Natural state parks are under attack. Principles of equality and justice for all are being attacked. In the names of jobs, we are allowing greed to overthrow everything, including basic human decency and respect to each other as people. We are in a movement now to save the love we have for each other....to save the love we have for the earth...and to save love we have for ourselves...

Because I can't make change in the world if I am still dealing with my pain of my sister...

I can't sustain myself it's from a place of anger.... or if it's fear that is driving me...

I can't listen to the other side to come to a solution if I'm lost in my pain...

It has to be love....

And as we say at Soul Force, the first revolution is inner. It has always been inner.

So we do things like meditation and mindfulness to connect with ourselves.

Sometimes we are just silent.

Sometimes we just listen.

If anything I've said to you today has hit you in your heart, I urge you to just apply.

Don't forget and don't let it get lost in the shuffle. You can go online or you can fill out an application.

As I look at the hundreds of you out in the audience, I feel like saying sorry. I see that we have messed things up for you and we need to fix it. A native elder once told me that this is one of the first time in history we'll be learning from the younger generations because we need them to guide us. So we are ready to learn from you. You are in charge. We want to give you a platform to lead.

Thank you so much for your time. It was an honor to be here today.

Posted by Poonam Singh | Tags: | permalink


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Comments (6)

  • Pancho Ramos Stierle wrote ...

    Beloved hermana Poonam, 😊🙏🏾

    I'm aware of the limitations of words to convey the love and kinship i feel for you and your sister and your family in this very moment.

    Your vulnerability, courage, wisdom and love for life comes through strongly and i can only encourage you to do it more often. It felt as if your mind emptied for some moments and some radical authenticity anchored in love started to flow to you, even as you shared this in written form.

    Thank you for sharing it in so many ways with all of us. It is a source of profound inspiration that invites our ecosystem to be more and more real to experience reality as it is.

    May your journey continue to unfold in such skillful ways to amplify the Soul Force in each and every one of us.

    Love you very much hermana. 🌏💖
    sin documentos y sin miedo,
    en amor radical,
    panchito

  • Bela Shah wrote ...

    Thank you so much for sharing this story Poonam...I'm blown away, humbled, and deeply inspired by your response to such a tragic loss in your life.

  • Jyoti wrote ...

    Dear Poonam. A big hug. I love you. I am sorry. Will hold up the hope and love, as you do so courageously. Stay warm.

  • Kozo Hattori wrote ...

    Poonam, You are love. My heart and hugs are with you. Thank you for sharing so authentically and vulnerably. I honor your journey. Love, Kozo

  • Nandini wrote ...

    Gratitude for you following your heart that day and sharing your story. Your sharing with such truth is inspiring and humbling -- sending you love.

  • Sima Sanghvi wrote ...

    Poonam, so incredibly moved by your courage and vulnerability. Yes, the young generation you are guiding will lead us towards light - but it's because you've held them up and given them a ladder to climb by showing your sorrow and pain. Sending you lots of love and prayers my friend.