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Reflections from Seminar IV

Tuesday, November 24, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rachel Rana
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Seminar IV: Individual Values, Public Leadership 


On October 15-18, 2015, the 2014-16 Friday Fellows gathered at Wildacres Retreat for Seminar IV: Individual Values, Public Leadership. Over the summer, Kathleen visited each of the Fellows in their home contexts to explore how they are applying the core competencies they are strengthening in the Fellowship program to their public facing leadership, and to help them set their intentions for their work in second year of the Fellowship and their leadership goals overall. With their intentions set, Fellows gathered in Seminar IV to apply the tools, skills and competencies they have been building to large issues of public concern, and to intersect and combine their frameworks, analysis and capabilities to bring courageous leadership to these issues.  


On the opening night of the seminar we were joined by Mr. Tom Belt, a Cherokee language scholar and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Mr. Belt greatly deepened our understanding of the history of the land on which Wildacres Retreat sits including the inhabitants of the land over the past three millennia who were largely Cherokee until Western European settlers came in to take the land and its resources. His teaching was extraordinary and offered the community a much greater understanding of the stewardship of that place, a part of which ultimately came under the stewardship of the Blumenthal family. Donna Campbell and Georgann Eubanks captured the talk on film and audio and we are exploring including the history of the Cherokee on Wildacres land on the WLI and Wildacres websites. It was an extraordinary night.  


Continuing our work on negotiating power and difference, the Fellows explored Christian dominance as another framework for structural power. They used the framework of structural power through People, Stories, Resources and Rules in order to explicate how Christian dominance operates in our culture. They then explored several case studies involving cases of religious freedom, religious violence, and religious organizing, all in our US context. Small groups were charged with framing and leading a community conversation in response to a specific event or situation in community.  


Intersecting the negotiating power and difference core competency with the leading adaptively for sustainable change competency, the Fellows analyzed and explored mass incarceration through an adaptive leadership and structural power lens. Following, the Fellows were joined by Mr. Daryl Atkinson for a fireside chat. Daryl is Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice where he focuses on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues, particularly removing the legal barriers triggered by contact with the criminal justice system. Daryl himself was formerly incarcerated, and was recently honored by President Obama and Attorney General as “Reentry and Employment Champion of Change” for his extraordinary work to facilitate employment opportunities for people with criminal records. In January 2016 he will begin a year- long fellowship in the Office of Attorney General Lorretta Lynch. We were extraordinarily fortunate to have this exceptional leader in human relations with us at Seminar IV.  


As has been the custom of the Fellowship since the second cycle, the Fellows became versed in and participated in the Quaker process of Clearness Committees, a form of deep, community discernment developed in the 16th century. Four Fellows participated as focus people and the remainder of the Fellows and the faculty participated as listeners and questioners. Parker Palmer’s good work has been a part of the Fellowship since the early cycles as well. The Fellows read and discussed his important book, Let Your Life Speak, and explored their own birthright gifts and vocations together through writing.  


The Fellows are deep in their processes of developing their documentaries which they will share at Seminar V in February 2016. In preparation for that work, the Fellows were taught documentary principles and interviewing skills by Georgann Eubanks and Donna Campbell. Georgann is core faculty, of course, and Donna is her partner in Minnow Media, a documentary film company that produces stories that may be lost if not told. Most recently, Georgann and Donna completed a three-year project resulting in a film length documentary of North Carolina artist and great grandson of President Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Sayer. It is entitled Earthcaster and will be broadcast by UNC-TV soon, as well as be seen at film festivals locally and across the country. We commend it to you. The Fellows are fortunate to have the support of Georgann and Donna who are extraordinary artists themselves.  


This Fellowship group is exceptionally smart, publicly engaged, engaged in their own learning and development and mindful and strategic about the growth of their group. It is notable how many of them have engaged with the greater Fellows community during their first year in the Fellowship. They are individually and collectively an important addition to the community and have been quite good at connecting with one another between seminars as well. During Seminar IV, two Fellows led sessions and one Fellow offered her own case study for adaptive leadership analysis. We are grateful for their leadership. We are proud of all of their work.

Wildacres Leadership Initiative is connected with Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC.