Navigating the Darkness with an Inner Compass

Flame also purifies.

Arsonists burned down the Highlander Center in Tennessee, USA.  It’s not the first time. They left a symbol of white supremacy in the ashes.

We live now in a rising tide of uncivil society, rising nationalism and anti-minority/immigrant sentiment worldwide. How do we bring light to the darkness?

Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks emphasized the importance of her time at Highlander in finding her deeper resolve to withstand the prejudice and ridicule around her when she insisted on her right, and the rights of all African Americans, to be treated with respect.

The Highlander Center is important to all who care about action oriented research for transformations. It was founded by Myles Horton and frequented by civil rights activists and community activists. Rosa Parks, Helen Lewis, John Gaventa, Paolo Freire all spent time there. Horton had re-created the Center in New Market, TN after the original center was closed by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. At that time the name changed from Folk school to Center.

This travesty is timely. At the AR+ Transformations Gathering in Sweden last month, we’d begun with acknowledging the participative action research legacy of the Highlander Center. We noted the importance of community and finding “retreat space” – such as the Folk schools/Highlander offered. Read the co-design team’s reflections. We see such community spaces as key to uncovering our “inner compass,.” Spaces to feel personally empowered and refreshed in the work of collective action with community.

“Inner compass” is the term we picked up from the Gathering’s opening inspiration by Tomas Bjorkman whose work on The Nordic Secret set the context for understanding the role of the “Folk school” tradition & its benefit to the Nordic countries – and from there the influence on Myles Horton (and then Rosa Parks).

Naturally some of us wonder, what are the implications for future organizing  – globally – using virtual communities and electronic platforms to provide spaces for developing inner resolve and connecting it to the work of collective action that serves all. Naturally this is something AR+ interested in supporting.

At the Gathering we looked to see what we might accomplish together. Ideas are bubbling, projects manifesting. One of the collaborations is the Global Unifying Learning Pluriversity, aka GULP. Flame destroys but it also purifies and lights the way forward.


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