Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hangin' in Austin, TX

Instead of working in Chi Town last week I carried my work along with me to Austin, TX. It was an important week for my younger daughter Kaleema. She was the key note speaker for the NAACP's Annual Banquet and she hosted a house warming in her tiny and cute house where friends and friends of friends gathered with her!

In the process I met two great sisters that invited me out to lunch the next day at Oasis, a great restaurant with an incredible view. The day was very overcast and so I will definitely have to return to really appreciate the view.

I am grateful to Rose and Ruby, two sisters that I met at the party, who came and picked me up for lunch the next day. Here are the pictures I took at Oasis:

Getting ready to head back to Chi Town after a great visit in Austin, TX!

This is the first of a number of sculptures that were all in the garden at the Oasis.

Another great sculpture!

Another great sculpture!

L-R Ruby, Bill (owner of Oasis)and Rose

Beautiful mansion across the lake

L-R Betty Boop and Rose

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Voices from the Past

As I continue to organize and declutter my files on South Africa I have pulled the file labeled, "correspondence." This is a file that documents my contacts. While it is dated there are actual letters that I have saved.

Below are two, one from Sharon Pratt at the Family Marriage Society of South Africa and Jane Keen at the Women's Support Centre. My basic philosophy is to be very intentional in sharing research findings with informants as a courtesy. I am all too aware of folks that obtain degrees as a result of individuals and never even bother to share their final papers etc.

The final letter is from the Rev. Bob Steyn, minister at the Unitarian Church in Cape Town and dated January 8, 1994. He has since died and so the letter has sentimental value since he was so kind to me.

Dear Qiyamah: This is just a short note to express our deepest gratitude for your excellent presentaion at our In-service Training Programme on Thursday 22 September 1994. The staff were both challenged and encouraged to continue to work in this very difficult area of domestic violence. We wishyou every success for the future and hope that somehow we will be able to maintain the contact. Best regards, Yours sincerely, S. Pratt (Mrs.) Manager of the Domestic Violence Team at Family Marriage Society of South Africa. Cape Town Office

Another letter from Jane Keen, Coordinator of the South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders (NICRO) reads as follows:

17th January 1995
Dear Qiyamah, Thankyu so much for your letter which arrived today. It is lovely to get feedback and see that things are going so well for you. I am glad your visit was such a positive experience for you. We certainly enjoyed it and hope that you will maintain contact.

Thins are beginning to get going here at the satart of the new year but staff wise we are a little depleted. Debbie has gone back to Canada (as expected) and Penny has moved to Rape Crisis (their gain and our loss). Politically things continue to move int he right direction, albeit slowly, and ther is more of an openness to deal with domestic violence.

All the best for '95 - in your new job, your studies and your lecturing! Please keep in touch. With best wishes from all of us at the centre, Jane Keen, Coordinator: NICRO Women's Support Centre.

Dear Ms. Rahman: Forgive the delay in replying to your letter aboutr coming to South Africa. Life has been fairly hectic. I am not sure of the urgency because you do not say when in August you want to come to SA. Tony Baker has sent me a copy of his letter to you. Eric Heller-Wagner has not had your letteer because his address has changed. I have filled him in and he has a possible suggesgtion which I shall include below.

The YWCA Hostel int he City Bowl area could put you up after mid August. They are fully booked until August 12, but have vacancies after that. The cost is R55 a day for dinner, bed and breakfast. Thi is very reasonable in local terms. The accommodations and the the food are good. Eric Heller-Wagner says a woman colleague of his in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Western Cape, a predominantly black university where Eric is teaching now, hs been trying to find a woman to share her house. He does not know how far she has got. He will let me know. That is all I can come up with at this time.

I have vivid memories of Atlanta. I had a brief spell at the Atlanta Gazette during the Civil Rights campaigns in 1963 as part of my Nieman Fellowship programme. My wife, Marie, and I shared with close American friends and colleagues their shock and grief when John Kennedy was assassinated and felt ourselves very close to them.

I have discussed your research plans briefly with Eric who says he will be happy to help you with suggestions and advice as far as he can.

Please let me know if I can be of further help. Our telephone number is 21-461-1410. You would have to add the 0 and the international code at the beginning when you dial. We do not have a fax machine but we do have an ansering machine. We look forward to meeting you.

Bless you and take care, Bob Steyn

Failed Attempt to Return to South Africa

I researched and wrote a proposal to the Fulbright Institute as a way to return to South Africa in 2007. My focus at that time was to integrate gender studies and religious studies through some basic courses like women and religion and violence against women and the faith community. The proposal was not successful. I submitted applications in 2006 and 2007. The format below is Fulbright's:

While I have no regrets I still very much would like the opportunity to return. As a minister with a focus on interfaith social justice issues I would be interested in exploring how the vareious faith communities work together to address the issue of violence against women and what that looks like.

State of Proposed Research
Qiyamah A. Rahman, South Africa – Women’s Studies and Religious Studies
New Directions in Gender /Women Studies and Religious Studies: Interdisciplinary Curricula Development Utilizing African Feminist Pedagogy in Historically Black Universities in South African

Introduction - Entering the twenty-first century with the weakest higher education system in the world will surely not bode well for Africans in the global knowledge economy. Despite these overwhelming challenges, African Higher Education (AHE) in South Africa is in the midst of some exciting initiatives.
I was born in 1948, the year that apartheid came to power and so I have grown up with, watched, worked for, prayed for and witnessed the dismantling of apartheid. Forty-six years later, I was in South Africa in 1994 conducting research on violence against women when they held their first democratic elections. This research project is my personal contribution to the new South Africa.

Description - New Directions in Gender /Women Studies and Religious Studies Programs: Interdisciplinary Curricula Development Utilizing African Feminist Pedagogy in Historically Black Institutions in South African is a one year project designed to develop interdisciplinary curricula utilizing African feminist pedagogy. African feminist pedagogy approaches learning as a liberatory process and the classroom as a site of resistance. It is a revolutionary process of teaching and learning that is counter hegemonic and emphasizes critical thinking and awareness
The gender/women’s studies and religious studies in South Africa, specifically Historically Black Universities (HBU’s), often tend to comprise separate and distinct disciplines. However, Historically White Universities (HWU’s), in particular, The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Religious Studies Department has recently launched a Project titled, “Religion in a Globalizing World” that includes gender studies, human rights, globalization and post-colonialism. Additionally, the African Gender Institute at the UCT obtained Ford Foundation funding to support a programme of intense capacity building with African-based researchers focused on gender, sexuality and politics. A distinctive strength of the proposed research project is to further development of multidisciplinary expertise in gender/women’s studies and religious studies at HBU’s. The lack of an interdisciplinary approach poses a unique opportunity to initiate and encourage collaborative efforts. Ultimately, the globalization of knowledge dictates that universities be able to reconfigure their educational and research efforts based on forming interdisciplinary teams of scholars. Furthermore, the gender/women’s studies focus of South Africa’s Higher Education’s production of knowledge has primarily addressed access, participation and gender equality in educational leadership, but has failed to sufficiently consider and generate research on gender/women’s studies curriculum and pedagogical strategies. Hence, this research project generates needed research on both gender studies curriculum and on pedagogical strategies. Preliminary research suggests that religious studies at HBU’s have not for the most part made adequate room for gender analysis. Thus, this research will foster collaboration between gender/women’s studies and religious studies to develop an interdisciplinary approach which will expand opportunities for faculty and students.

Implementation - Phase I begins with an assessment at the University of Cape Town’s Religious Studies Department and the African Gender Institute to determine how these departments have evolved over time and what was required to do so. The University of Cape Town appears to have both a strong and well funded Gender/Women’s Studies Department and Religious Studies Department that potentially can provide direction for HBU’s as they consider and conceptualize interdisciplinary approaches within their unique frameworks. There is the potential for partnership and cross-fertilization between HBU’s and HWU’s to promote interdisciplinary gender/women’s studies and religious studies courses that ultimately represent a viable partnership between resource rich institutions and those with fewer resources.
Phase II – Upon completion of the assessments I will review the data and develop a survey instrument to be administered to staff, faculty and selected members of the student body at designated HBU’s. The intent is to gather information pertaining to the culture of the programs, including structure and curriculum, mission statements, and the feasibility of creating two or three interdisciplinary courses. Additionally, the data will identify what level of professional development currently exists for instructors and if there is a need for increased exposure to curriculum development, teaching pedagogy and methodology. Also, compiling syllabi from various institutions will determine what, if any, interdisciplinary courses currently exist. Some preliminary investigation has already identified two courses that appear to be commonly taught in GWS: “Women and Religion” and “ Violence Against Women.”
Phase III, identifies an HBU as a test site for an interdisciplinary course between gender/women’s studies and religious studies. Further, course curricula for the top two to three courses identified by the feasibility study will be developed and one course selected as a team taught with a South African co-hort at an HBU.
Phase IV is dependent upon future funding generated to convene a 3-5 day “teaching clinic” with the teaching staff of the HBUs. Workshops on some of the following topics are proposed: Integrating and teaching Gender/Women’ Studies and Religious Studies (RS); Overview of Gender/Women’s Studies and RS resources; the use of African Feminist Pedagogy for GWS and RS; Updates and Developments in Curriculum Development for GWS and RS; Forming Partnerships and Identifying Research and Teaching Grants to Strengthen Learning at HBUs in GWS and RS and Available on-line resources and How to Access them.

Contacts - In preparation for this research project I have contacted the University of Cape Town, Historically Black Universities, the University of South Africa, African American Institute (South African Office); The Council on Higher Education and SisterLove, Inc.

Bringing It Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue

(This "mother and child" statute are located inside Holy Cross Church in Back of the Yards in Chicago, IL where Father Bruce Wellums serves. The generic images of women as loving mother and fierce protector while positive can be highjacked to promote militarism and encouragement of patriotic zeal during times of conflict and war.)

Bringing It Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue
By Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman
DV is an important issue facing women and children in this country
as well as an important human rights issue. Today, in our global village, hundreds of thousands of women and children experience violations of their right to live with respect and dignity and free from fear. No one at home or abroad deserves to be hit, beaten, threatened, humiliated, or otherwise subjected to physical or emotional harm. Articles 1, 3, 5, 12 and 28 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948 describe some of the rights to which we are all entitled, rights which are often denied in a battering relationship. Article 1 states, “all human beings are born fee and equal in dignity and rights, Article 3 states, “Everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of persons”; Article 5 reads, “No one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;” Article 12 states, “No ones hall be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Article 28 reads, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”
The global movement for human rights and democracy has had a
profound effect on citizens around the world. International human rights standards are based on the principle of universality, that is, that human rights standards apply equally to all persons and all nations.
Recognition of violence against women as a human rights issue places power in women’s hands, puts responsibilities on governments and international bodies, and takes excuses and power away from those committing the abuse. Women can now say that they have a right to freedom form violence, and now their words are more likely to spur government action. Governments are obligated to respond to women’s demands to be free from violence, to take steps to prevent violence, and to adopt measures to punish perpetrators when women’s human rights are violated. Neither the state nor the batterers can argue anymore that it is “just a private matter.” By seeing the problem as one of human rights, the world community has flatly rejected this argument. The UN and its components andother regional and international bodies are also obligated to treat violence agains women seriously and as a human rights issue. Women activists worked for decades to achieve international recognition of violence against women as a human rights issue. When the UN first began addressing the problem, neither “women” nor “human rights” were mentioned. Instead, the UN talked only in terms of “domestic violence” and “violence in the family.” Guess where the education, the coalition building and advocacy and pressure came from to change this? If you guessed women’s groups you guessed right.
The first major breakthrough was in 1992 when the UN set up a committee charged with monitoring how the Women’s Convention is observed and implemented. This committee articulated for the first time in an international setting that dv is indeed a human rights violation and they detailed the responsibilitgies of governments to stop the violence. None of this would have been possible had women such as yourself were not taking care of business back home in the state coalitions and serving in the trenches in shelters. Three important actions occurred as a result of women’s advocacy efforts:
1. the specific inclusion of violence against women in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, that is, the report of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, 2. The UN’s adoption of a specific declaration on violence againstg women, also in 1993, and 3. The 1994 appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur, a global fact finder, on violence against women.
Yet every day, women are murdered, beaten, raped, traded as chattel, denied their basic human rights and marginalized around the world. Women cannot reach their potential and participate in the development of their countries if their basic rights to safety and dignity are violated.
While American society has been slow to recognize violence against
women as a pervasive social issue, rather than a personal one, it has only been in the last thirty years that shelters have evolved as a way to help women escape violent relationships. Institutional responses to abuse of women is still at best uneven and thus inadequate. There are still serious knowledge gaps in society’s understanding about the problem. Prosecution and conviction rates of offenders still remain relatively low despite civil protection orders available in every state. The ultimate task contends male allies at Men Stopping Violence in Atlanta, is to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place. The key they believe is to shift from reacting to individual incidents of violence, and focus on changing the social, behavioral, and environmental factors that support violence. The full participation of communities is vital to engender a sense of ownership of the problem. That begins by conceptualizing the issue of domestic violence as a human rights issue which brings it fully into the international agenda as governments grapple with what it means to provide full protection under the law for all citizens, including half the world’s population.

South Africa Memories

(picture of Theaster Gates, recently performing some of his spoken word in Chicago, IL. Theaster studied at the University of Cape Town many years ago before I visited in 1994. I dedicate my memories of South Africa to him and all the black Americans whose curiosity, intellect, love interests,sense of service and varied motivations prompted them to travel to South Africa. I believe we have all been touched by this powerful example of individual and social transformation.

In my small apartment I have a huge box of papers that I have dragged around since my visit to South Africa in 1994. The voices of the people that I talked with; the women whose stories I have held with the intention of sharing them. I have not been able to bring myself to discard this box of memories. It is time to tell these stories. So the purpose of this post and future ones is to empty out my box and bring it all together to honor that experience and bring some closure to that part of my life once and for all as the year concludes and new phases unfold in my life.

In the Beginning
Over the past twenty plus years gender-based violence has been the focus of my research and career interests. Initially I worked as a social worker in direct services, including counseling battered women and children and conducting separate groups for women and batterers, transitioning to administrative positions and eventually directing the Family Violence Program for the State of Georgia. I was personally motivated to understand family violence, an issue that afflicted my own family, as it does so many others. I continued my personal activism and education as a social worker over the years and pursued additional degrees in Africana Women’s Studies and Religious Studies. I was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist community minister in 2007 which reflects my wholistic approach to serving body, mind and spirit. My membership in national and international organizations is indicative of my interdisciplinary and global perspectives that have been influenced by the Africana Women’s Studies Department at Clark Atlanta University and the Center for Women’s Global leadership Institute.

In the summer of 1991 I attended the Institute where our key contribution as a global “think tank” was reconceptualizing the issue of violence against women as a human rights issue. That campaign has been carried and translated all around the world. I later wrote an essay titled, Reconceptualizing Violence Against Women as a Development Issue that was published by the Association on Women’s Rights in Development Newsletter and appears on the website of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Grants from the United States State Department and Rockefeller Foundation allowed me to conduct six months of field research on gender-based violence in Ghana in 1996. I conducted focus groups and researched culturally specific forms of gender-based violence, including, trokosi, female circumcision, child brides and widow rites. In addition, I prepared the women’s section for the United States State Departments “Country Report” highlighting the status of women in Ghana with a focus on the joint efforts between the Embassy and NGO’s to eradicate trokosi and female circumcision.

My research and teaching interests include women in development, Africana Women’s Studies, liberation theology, gender based violence and postcolonial feminist theory and social change movements. All of my academic interests are practitioner based focusing on the real and lived experience of women. Writing from the particular standpoint of a black female scholar and activist that came to voice during the
1970s, my research on violence against women in South Africa has drawn on several conceptual frameworks, including feminist/womanist theory, postcolonial feminist and social movement theory. I have delivered many lectures and presentations on the basis of my field research in South Africa in 1994. Born in 1948, the year that apartheid came to power, I have grown up with, worked and prayed, for and finally witnessed the dismantling of apartheid.

Violence against women has captured prominent attention on women’s global agendas as a result of the pervasive gender-based violence. The movement to end violence against women in South Africa and the advocacy efforts that shifted the issue of woman abuse from a feminist/womanist agenda to a public policy agenda in the Republic of South Africa from 1994 to present times is still an interest of mine. I have been exposed to some of the pioneer work of South African scholars such as Desiree Hanson, Amina Mama, Matshilo Motsei and Anna F. Steyn.

Some of the foci of my research interests are: 1) the evolution of the movement to end violence against women between the years 1994 (when I was last there) to present times; 2) the reform of the criminal justice system’s approach to woman abuse; and 3) the role of race and culture in woman abuse in South Africa. The three conceptual frameworks that I think are most helpful in undersanding woman abuse in South Africa are: feminist/woman theory, postcolonial feminist theory and social movement theory. Because this is a complex problem requiring multiple approaches, I believe it requires the breath offered by these three conceptual frameworks. The intersection of these theories, situated within the context of a post colonial contemporary nation-state like South Africa, effectively interrogates the study of women’s conditions and thus provides a more comprehensive framework to examine and understand the relationship of women to the state, gender relations and the social movements that challenge prevailing social norms. I draw on my earlier research conducted on violence against women in South Africa, and compare and contrast the progress or lack of same between the years 1994 and 2008.

My goal should I be able to return to South Africa one day is to obtain primary and secondary sources, including archival and documentary materials, organizational files, newspapers, journal articles and research reports to update my existing research. It is my intention to write essays for to the Journal of Pastoral Theology, and the Oxford University Press Journal, housed in the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, I expect to finalize a monograph that I have almost completed. This would allow me to give voice to women whose stories I have carried around for twenty five fifteen years. The completion of this important research can potentially make a contribution to the growing body of scholarship on violence against women in South Africa. What I offer is my personal, professional-practitioner and academic experiences which have enabled me to compile a unique syllabus exploring the diverse forms of gender-based violence from the perspective of a non-traditional scholar activist.

And so this work begins with this first post.

Question: Whatgift have you been procrastinating on that is waiting to be offered to the world? What unique story can only you share with the world? What would it take to help free that gift?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Stories Can Save Our Lives!

(this winter scene depicts the pending winter time weather that lies right around the corner here in Chicago.)

For the last week I have been escounced at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, Canada attending the Unitarian Univeralist Ministers Association Convocation. The Convo meets every seven years. This years theme, "Tell a Tale...Touch a Life...Transform the World" attracted over 400 religious professionals that included ministers and seminarians.

Telling the truths of our lives is a way to touch each others hearts. The following excerpt from the Convo Planning Committee provides insights into how the transformative power of storytelling can be utlized to empower our lives:

"The art of storytelling is not a lost art. It may recede to corners of tea
and coffee houses, and dinner parties in this fast paced world of electronic media. But, we believe the transformative power and beauty of story telling is needed now more than ever in worship across all faiths. We belive that in hearing each other's story, we hear a version of truth that is deeply personal, and potentially life saving."

Another highlight from Convo is my attendance at the Story Telling Cabaret, not as an audience participant but as a story teller. I told the story of the Blind Begger Bedanius. It went well and it motivated me to continue my story telling efforts.

A number of workshops were offered that included: preaching, worship, anti-racism,diversity, clergy ethics, systems theory and spiritual direction. We have had wonderful worship, good food and delightful collegial conversations. I have gotten some work related tasks taken care of. It has been good and I am ready to return home.

I also was able to spend a couple of hours at the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery included contemporary art, an outside garden, a water court, Inuit art, European art, prints, drawings, library and archives and photographs. Of course I was not able to see everything but it was so renewing to view the beautiful art.

Question: What have you done recently for your professional contacts as well as the need to indulge in the visual arts? How have you nurtured your spiritual practices?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Monday, November 2, 2009

Coming Home

The beauty of these flowers depicts the beautiful and rich experiences that the City of Philadelphia and its residents bestowed upon me this week during my spontaneous visit. Thank you Philadelphia and all my helpers along the way!Thank you to my spirit of imagination that pushed me past my comfort zone where everything did not have to be all planned out before proceeding. Had that been the case I would have missed all the great people and experiences!

Coming Home
My title for this post is taken from South African playwright, Athol Fugard. I first met Fugard and saw my first Fugard play back in the late 80s/early 90s. Those many years ago I was honored to facilitate a discussion with young teens in Atlanta and Fugard after they had viewed his play through the Settlement Institute.

He is a prolific playwright and his repetoire includes: No-Good Friday, Non-Gogo, Blood Knot, Hello and Goodbye, People are Living There, Boesman and Lena, Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act (I know it was not this one because it includes nudity and I would remember that!); Siswe Banzi is Dead, Dimetos, The Island,A Lesson from Aloes, "Master Harold"...and the boys, The Road to Mecca, A Place with the Pigs, My Children! My Africa!; Playland, Valley Song, The Captains Tiger, Sorrows & Rejoicings, Exits and Entrances and Victory.

Kenny Leon was the Artistic Director of the Atlanta Theatre at the time. He is remembered for reaching out to audiences that would usually not have the opportunity or exposure to theatre. As a result more poor folks from historically marginalized groups were showing up at the theatre. He has gone on to bigger and better things (as they say!). It was also wonderful to see his chocolate face in the upper echelon of the theatre scene in Atlanta.

Coming Home
Last night I had the honor of viewing Coming Home at the Wilma Theater in Philly.( I was able to get $45 tickets for $25. Students are subsidized and can receive "rush" tickets 30 minutes before opening.

Coming Home featured Patrice Johnson as Veronica, Lou ferguson as Oupa, and Nyambi Nyambi as Alfred Witbooi. The two child actors were Elijah Felder who played Mannetjie at age 5 and Antonia J. Dandridge who played the same character at an older age. It was a great two and a half hour play! It rounded out my trip to Philadelphia.

This is one of those posts on the run as I prepare to head to the airport to return to Atlanta. Watch this blog for more follow-up.

Question: How are you stifling your creativity? Where do you need to let go and experience the messiness of life?

Question: What is the difference between being in the moment - letting it happen? and simply needing to have some organization in your life?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are you a Disinterested Bystander in Your Life or an Engaged Party?

I selected this picture because it is symbolic of our stepping out of the darkness and morass of our negative and destructive attitudes and behavior and coming into the beauty of the light of knowing that we are connected to one another and that we can create beauty and promote love in the world if we but know the truth. We have the ability to heal ourselves and the world around us. What shall it be? I don't know about you but as for me I choose life and life more abundantly!

I am sending out healing energy to those hurting and in need. Now is the time for you to act! This is the moment! Now is a great place to be! Anything is possible!

I send out healing energy to the young girl that was gang raped and the police investigating the incident that took place outside a school dance during homecoming in Richmond, California. May she receive the medical care and love and support needed to heal any dis-ease. May the Divine whisper words of love and encouragement in the midst of her grief.

There is an answer if you but go deep within where the Holy resides within you beyond the pain and sadness. Let it be so! You are loved daughter of the most Beloved!

How long do we have to continue to hurt each other? How long do we have to wander in the wilderness of our lost thoughts and loveless lives? When the night seems cloudy and dark know that there is a Presence beyond what you can see and know.

May the same loving source enfold the perpetrators and heal their lost and empty lives so that they no longer have need to hurt others. May they grow to realize how blessed they are to have life and with that life they can choose more life and step into the light and love of the Sacred and Divine to heal their dysfunction and reconnect them back to the Source of Life so that they can give rather than take. So that they help heal and aid life to flourish rather than diminish.

May we all step up and name the good and claim all that is good and gather that energy into us and then send it out into the world where it is needed. In places of war and conflict - in places where babies are starving for food and mothers are wracked with worry. May the light of God, our light, our God within hold them in the loving embrace of the eternal source. Feel this moment and know that you are a part of the great family of humanity, some of which are lost and wandering in the wilderness our times.

As for me, I choose to serve. I thank you Lord for all. Let go of the pain! Let it
goooooooooo! Just let it go!

Question: Did you take a minute today to offer your thanks for the blessings from which wells you did not dig; food for which you did not grow; clothes that you did not produce. Give thanks and be the blessing that you are!

Out of all the wonderful things that have been bestowed today let the good bubble up out of the midst. For those that feel that they are walking in seeming darkness and despair I am knowing for you that change is coming even as you weep for the loss that you feel. I am sorry for your pain. I bless it and send it on its way. Know that weeping endureth for the night and let the joy cometh in the morning of your life if you but embrace it and know that it is there even when you cannot see it. Even when it feels distant it is right around the corner tucked in the recesses of your heart waiting to be acknowledged. This is your life. Do not allow anyone to steal your joy. Just hold on until you see the world anew and see your consciousness as new. Change your patterns of thought and your life will change! Know that there are persons praying for you and knowing your good for you in your state of loss until you can see the light that you are already standing in. The Holy has not left you. You have become disconnected!

Reach within and reconnect! Spirit is as close to you as your jugular vein.

My prayers go out to the killed in the mayhem of violence around the world. may we all be encouraged to work toward a peaceful existence and to know peace within ourselves in the midst of violence and confusion.

Question: How might you show your gratitude for all that is done and for all that has been done for you? Can you do that despite the appearance of things? Learn to do that and you will change your life!

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall is Upon Us

The temperatures in Chicago are starting to consistently drop even as we are still gifted with an occasional sunny day. But it is just a matter of time before the really cold weather sets in and I will be pulling out my down coat. I would hardly think about replacing a cloth or leather coat after only two years but it seems that while down is warm it does not hold up well. So while I am preoccupied with all things necessary to keep me warm, my mind is also occupied with my reliance on technology. In the midst of preparing a major presentation I had to purchase and set up a new lap top, get familiar with a handy cam and the editing program. Needless to say, I am in serious need of a techie to guide me through this maze of technology. lol

Just this week I decided that I did not need a land phone and a cellphone. I seldom use my land phone. I want to downsize my lifestyle so that I can prioritize my finances for things I want and not be saddled with unnecessary expenses. I am looking to see where else I can cut but I am already living a spartan life. I do not have a tv, so I do not have a cable bill. I have DSL and was told by AT&T if I bundle my services I could reduce my monthly expenses by $10. So of course I bundled. I do not eat out a lot, although I go out more often than I would like. It often involves meetins and social functions.

Question: What challenge or growing edge are you facing? What support and resources do you need to get through with your sanity and dignity intact?

What might you need to do to feel more in control of your finances and be able to spend according to your priorities?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Creating Multiple Networks

I said that I needed to put down some roots in Chicago. What that means is developing multiple networks of political, social, spiritual, financial interests. See below some of my most recent activities:

Visit to Harris Park Recreation Center around the corner where I have taken water aerobics and have recently signed up for pilates classes. This is a mural in the main lobby where Kaleema and her friend, Shakar are standing.

Kaleema is lost in the huge mural.

This is the opening for the pilates class that I will be taking upstairs in the Harris Pk. Rec. Center.

More pictures of the pilates opening!

Pilates demonstration

On the set of the play, The Piano by August Wilson featured at the Civic Play Center in West Bend, IN. L-R back row Scott and Joe Cherry (two seminarians at Meadville) front row L-R John Tolley, Director and faculty member at Meadville Lombard Theological School where I am on faculty; yours truly, Rev. Q and Susie Pangrel.
faculty member.

I had the opportunity to view two August Wilson plays in three days. The other was Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Court Theatre on the University of Chicago's campus and directed by Ron O.J. Parson. Both were very good plays.

I must read more of Wilson's works!

Question: How are you developing networks that reflect all aspects of yourself? How are you creating a full and rich identity outside of your work environment?

Blessing! Rev. Qiyamah

Journey Toward Wellness

My journey towards wellness continues. I recently took a road trip with my younger daughter Kaleema. The trip served multiple purposes: to haul her belongings to Austin that had been in my closet; to provide some bonding time between mother and daughter, an opportunity to change my environment and do some thinking while still maintaining my work responsibilities. Hence I telecommuted between Chicago to Austin, TX and back. It made a big difference and I have returned feeling if not rejuvenated, that I have spent invaluable time doing some introspection and figuring out a few things.

Question: What is going on in your life that is posing a barrier to your health and wellbeing? What can you do about it? How creative can you be?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Surprise! I picked up my purse to pay my bill and discovered this humongous grasshopper staring back at me! Hey! Get out of my space unless you plan to pay part of or all of the check! photo taken in Memphis, TX

Kaleema standingin front of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain. His room is marked just overhead by the large wreath in the background.

Entrance to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. that documents Kings' life and the Civil Rights Movement. It also contains a small tribute to Ghandi in recognition of the role that Ghandi played in King's life.

Ms. Kaleema sashayin; down the Boulevard in Memphis, TN. Sunday Morning we attended church at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church where Bishop A.L. Green, Pastor and Founder resides. He is also the R&B singer with a number of hits including, I'm Still in Love with You. A shout out to Evangelist Marie M. Lomax who stopped us in the parking lot as we were leaving the church to share some information with us. I enjoyed the service although my daughter says Rev. Al is A.D.D. Hey, what is wrong with multitasking while you give the word! lol

Qiyamah oilin' up after a bath in the healing thermal waters at Buckstaff Bath House in Hot Springs, AK.

Hot Springs ,AK We drove the trail through the famous Hot Springs National Park.

Along the trail in Hot Springs, AK. By the way this is a picture of my new car! It gets 50 mpg! Yeahhhhh!

While this looks like the Botanical Garden of Austin it is the front yard of Kaleema's new house that she is renting. The landlord thought it was his decision to make. He didn't know who he was dealin' with. We knew the house was only his on loan and that Spirit was going to decide who would be the next tenant. Once we prayed over it and visited the premises and conjured up our presence on the property it was a done deal!

Kaleema in front of her new house where she has just signed the lease.

Austin, TX at the George Washington Carver Museum and cultural center where author, Angela Shelf Medaris hosted a luncheon with a fantastic meal and history of African American cuisine. She served grits and shrimp preceeded by a salad and followed with greens, and some extraordinary meal that I do not recall but loved in the moment!

Burnout is More than a Notion

Homespace: Reflections at Home - photo by Rev. Qiyamah

Dar-Ul-Islam (Abode of Peace)
trought he door,
healing vibes
pull me in,
reordering my mind
into ssoft spaces,
earth tones,
vibrant splashes
a smile
on my face
drawing me,
holding me,
in my home spun room.
(written in the 1980s by Qiyamah A. Rahman)

Burnout is More than a Notion
I am my mother's daughter. I love a clean house. I have spent today cleaning and washing, sweeping and mopping,potting plants, healing some diseased plants and running errands. This is how I destress. I declutter my life by sprucing up my environment that feeds and nurtures me. The colors, the furnishings and energy, the pictures and images all rejuvenate me and feed my soul.

I wind down after intense periods in my life through nesting and hibernating and hanging out in my personal space. I like to hang with people but I rejuvenate myself through solitude and "cleaning" and "organizing" my environment so that I can languish in it and let it feed me as I make sense of my outer world and soak up renewing energy.

Last night I watched a movie after finishing up the week with New Student Orientation. This was the first year that faculty assumed responsibility for the New Student Orientation. Some how it got placed in my portfolio. At first I didn't take it seriously and did not even acknowledge that fact. Then when I realized that it was intentional and that I was really expected to plan the New Student Orientation I got serious. Unfortunately, it also came when I was in the throes of doing planning for a class that has not been previously taught and that I did not expect to teach.

Burn Out
Circumstances converged to create a very intense schedule which led to a mild case of burn out. For those of you that have not experienced burn out, consider yourselves fortunate. It is nothing to play with! Some of the symptoms include:

feeling disillusioned, a sense of helplessness, and feeling completely worn out, feeling that your problems are insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and difficulty mustering up the energy to care - let alone do something about your situation.

Because I have experienced burnout previously I recognized the signs and symptoms in the early stages. I made arrangements to take off even though I could not leave the work behind. While I carried some work with me, my stress management strategy of changing my environment that was causing the stress, work, did not eliminate the burnout immediately, but it slowed it down enough to begin to help me regroup and problem solve the situation. Had I waited I am convinced that I might I done myself serious damage and suffered a serious setback to my self esteem, career and professional relationships. As it was I was getting cranky and it was harder and harder to exercise patience and empathy. Even when I returned having put four days between me and my work setting I was experiencing slight anxiety attacks and feeling so overwhelmed that I found it difficult to be my usual creative and problem solve self. Had I allowed myself to spiral into the later stages of burnout, research indicates that recovery often takes more time and effort. Changing my environment and indulging in some recreational time allowed me to regain my balance and reassess my priorities. I accomplished this by taking time away for myself, and seeking the support of my family and colleagues.The reality of my situation required me to take my work with me. The New Student Orientation was happening one day after I returned from a short respite. Such mental health days can make the difference between productive work performance and emotional and physical collapse.I am convinced that I was on the verge of a physical and emotional collapse.

What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to offer.

According to Helpguide, a non-profit on line resource, most of us have days when we feel bored, overloaded, or unappreciated; when the dozen balls we keep in the air aren’t noticed, let alone rewarded; when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If you feel like this most of the time, Helpguide contends that you may be flirting with burnout.

You may be on the road to burnout if:
Every day is a bad day.
Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
You’re exhausted all the time.
The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life – including your home and social life.

Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

Dealing with Burnout: The "Three R" Approach
Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout
Reverse – Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support
Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

The difference between stress and burnout
Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up. One other difference between stress and burnout: While you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Causes of burnout
There are many causes of burnout according to In many cases, burnout stems from the job. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout – from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation or a raise in two years to the frazzled stay-at-home mom struggling with the heavy responsibility of taking care of three kids, the housework, and her aging father.

But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and certain personality traits. What you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing burnout as work or home demands.

Work-related causes of burnout
Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
Lack of recognition or rewards for good work.
Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging.
Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment
Lifestyle causes of burnout
Working too much, without enough time for relaxing and socializing
Being expected to be too many things to too many people.
Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
Not getting enough sleep
Lack of close, supportive relationships
Personality traits can contribute to burnout
Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough
Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others
High-achieving, Type A personality

Preventing burnout
If you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout in yourself, remember that it will only get worse if you leave it alone. But if you take steps to get your life back into balance, you can prevent burnout from becoming a full-blown breakdown.

Burnout prevention tips
Start the day with a relaxing ritual. Rather jumping out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least fifteen minutes meditating, writing in your journal, doing gentle stretches, or reading something that inspires you.
Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands.
Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things that you truly want to do.
Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email.
Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work.
Learn how to manage stress. When you’re on the road to burnout, you may feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress can help you regain your balance.
To learn more, see Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress

Recovering from burnout
Sometimes it’s too late to prevent burnout – you’re already past the breaking point. If that’s the case, it’s important to take your burnout very seriously. Trying to push through the exhaustion and continue as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage.

While the tips for preventing burnout are still helpful at this stage, recovery requires additional steps.

Burnout recovery strategy #1: Slow down
When you’ve reached the end stage of burnout, adjusting your attitude or looking after your health isn’t going to solve the problem. You need to force yourself to slow down or take a break. Cut back whatever commitments and activities you can. Give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.

Burnout recovery strategy #2: Get support
When you’re burned out, the natural tendency is to protect what little energy you have left by isolating yourself. But your friends and family are more important than ever during difficult times. Turn to your loved ones for support. Simply sharing your feelings with another person can relieve some of the burden.

Burnout recovery strategy #3: Reevaluate your goals and priorities
Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? Burnout can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to change course accordingly.

Recovering from burnout: Acknowledge your losses
Burnout brings with it many losses, which can often go unrecognized. Unrecognized losses trap a lot of your energy. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional control to keep yourself from feeling the pain of these losses. When you recognize these losses and allow yourself to grieve them, you release that trapped energy and open yourself to healing.

Loss of the idealism or dream with which you entered your career
Loss of the role or identity that originally came with your job
Loss of physical and emotional energy
Loss of friends, fun, and sense of community
Loss of esteem, self-worth, and sense of control and mastery
Loss of joy, meaning and purpose that make work – and life – worthwhile
Source: Keeping the Fire by Ruth Luban

Coping with job burnout
The most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit doing what you’re doing and do something else, whether that means changing jobs or changing careers. But if that isn’t an option for you, there are still things you can do to improve your situation, or at least your state of mind.

Dealing with Job Stress
In order to avoid job burnout, it’s important to reduce and manage stress at work. Start by identifying what factors are stressful. Then you can take steps to deal with the problem, either by changing your work environment or changing the way you deal with the stressor.

Read: Stress at Work: How to Reduce and Manage Job and Workplace Stress

Actively address problems. Take a proactive approach – rather than a passive one – to issues in your workplace. You’ll feel less helpless if you assert yourself and express your needs. If you don’t have the authority or resources to solve the problem, talk to a superior.
Clarify your job description. Ask your boss for an updated description of your job duties and responsibilities. Point out things you’re expected to do that are not part of your job description and gain a little leverage by showing that you’ve been putting in work over and above the parameters of your job.
Ask for new duties. If you’ve been doing the exact same work for a long time, ask to try something new: a different grade level, a different sales territory, a different machine.
Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence—anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and take perspective.

My prognosis is good because I realize how close I came to experiencing a total breakdown. I have the responsibility to set boundaries in my life beginning with myself and with others. Because classes begin next week I realize that I am particularly vulnerable to overextending myself because the job expectations are unrealistic. I discovered that because I am not as young as I used to be my body does not recover from the abuse of over scheduling, long hours, little sleep and high stress work environments the way it did when I was much younger.

If I want to experience a quality of life during retirement that is anything like what I have experienced during my working years then I need to pace myself.

Question:What is your vision for your life and what does that look like? How can you sustain and achieve that in the midst of a demanding world that is constantly changing and requiring so much from you?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Emotional Liposuction

I recently had my resolve tested. I had sincerely committed to work on my wellness. Little did I know the degree of physical pain I would have to endure on the road toward wellness. With my partner in crime in tow, my daughter Kaleema, we met with a local practitioner, Master Gary J. Clyman. Like Master Clyman I believe that we hold emotional traumas in our body that continue to plague us unless we heal them. Different techniques of bodywork can expedite this process. One of the processes that I recently discovered is referred to as emotional liposuction. It involves the practitioner utilizing oriental medicine wherein pressing certain pressure points on the body releases emotions that are stored there from past traumas.

Looking back we paid him to impose excruciating pain! lol No really, there is no way to describe his technique other than he touches pressure points that hold emotions and he presses until you either pass out from the pain or the emotion dissolves and thus the pain. You can see from the pictures below that the pain is real and it is excruciating.Actually it appears that we are laughing when in reality we are grimacing from the pain.

So, did it work? All I know is the pain that was produced from pressing certain pressure points no longer produces any pain. The pressure points were: bitterness, anger, abandonment, guilt and rage. Are those emotions healed? Not completely but I believe that I have moved so much further along in my healin process as a result of the body work done. If you are interested in checking out Master Gary J. Clyman, L.Ac. at the Chicago Wholistic Health Center you can contact him at: 312 446 8318 or 8000 782 4244.

Question: What do you need to heal in your life? What are you doing to facilitate the healing?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

These Pictures Speak Volumns!

Faculty and Staff Takes A Well Deserved Break!!

Meadville Lombard Theological School Faculty and Staff September, 2009 Veteran's Memorial in Downtown Chicago, IL That is me on the left holding the rear down!

A Well Deserved Break
Working non stop can take its toll. It seems that I am not the only one paying attention to ways to cultivate a positive mental attitude, particularly in the work environment.

Recently the faculty and staff at Meadville Lombard Theological School took a day off to rejuvenate ourselves. We went on a boat cruise with one of the local water taxi's that included a scenic tour through downtown Chicago pointing out the architectual history of the buildings followe by a delightful ride out on Lake Michigan. Chicago is so beautiful in the summer that one can almost forgive the bone chilling cold of the winter! I said, "almost."

Mother Nature cooperated and faculty and staff had a wonderful boat ride and concluded the day with a bag lunch in downtown Chicago. One day out of the year is only a drop in the bucket but it can add up when we remember to do little things to nurture positive relations including a positive state of mind! Hurray to the President and Provost for funding and planning a day out. Now let's do it again next year or even sooner!
Question: What are you doing to nurture a positive work environment?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Caught in the Act! Rev. Dr. Lee Barker text messaging during our retreat!

The view from Lake Michigan

Downtown Chicago

Water Taxi in downtown Chicago

L-R Adam, Douglas, Sharon Welch, Mike Hogue, and Tina Porter

L-R Justine, Debbie Bieber, Nerissa Legge and Bradley Sterrenberg

The gang's all here!!!

Are we having fun yet!??

Let's get this show on the road!