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12 JulConnecting the dots: why black lives must matter to the environmental movement


There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives. - Audre Lorde (photographed above) In the days since the police shot and killed Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, we’ve seen the gamut of reactions on social media: from outpourings of sympathy, to grief and despair, to anger and rage, and more. As we’ve monitored the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, we’ve also been reflecting on what role we at the Avarna Group have to play in this civil rights movement. Here’s where we’ve lande...

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07 JulHow do we move forward? Do the work.


I was going to take the day off from work today, turn off my computer, and relax but I can't. I can't ignore the continued racist police brutality. So today I worked. My work today, as it is everyday as white-identified person, is to continue to navigate how I can dismantle systems of power and oppression. Days like today it's easy to feel lost and overwhelmed about what to do, but it's these days that the work is the most important. I spend the morning reading about police brutality, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Some of the articles...

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01 JulFrom the knapsack of privilege to the backpack of bias


When we ask workshop participants whether they have done an activity called "the privilege walk" before, hands inevitably shoot up, accompanied by furrowed eyebrows, skeptical glances, and other hallmarks of concern. I can almost see the thought bubbles above their heads: Are these women going to make me do the privilege walk . . . AGAIN? The sin qua non of every diversity trainer's repertoire of activities, the privilege walk, has a long and storied history. It builds off of Peggy McIntosh's touchstone 1988 essay, "White Privilege: Unpacki...

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15 JunWhy reverse -isms don’t exist


We are in the middle of our busiest month, where we are scheduled to give 12 days of workshops for 10+ organizations. We're about half way through and have noticed one common theme in the questions we are asked. Many of our partners and participants want to know: do reverse _____isms exist? That is, can a women be sexist against a man? Or can a person of color be racist? Though the questions are all slightly different, we always give a similar answer, which is: "No. Reverse '-isms' do not exist."' Of course a simple "no" is not enough to ans...

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12 MayWhen in doubt, ask “in service of what?”


In one of our early workshops, I was considering whether to share my personal experience of taking the Implicit Association Test. In short, I discovered that I actually have unconscious biases that really surprised me, left me feeling dismayed, and quite frankly, a little horrified. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great anecdote to share with workshop participants to describe what it's like to have an uncomfortable "aha!" moment, and how to move forward. The night before our workshop, I casually mentioned to Ava that I intended to talk about ...

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30 MarA guide to building DEI bridges


  As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) professionals, we envision ourselves as bridge builders. Each person is in a different place in their understanding and experience, so we can't expect everyone to magically comprehend the complexities of privilege, oppression, and colonialism (let's be honest: we're still trying to understand all the complexities). So we first tease out the knowledge and mindsets people already possess, and then figure out how to build a bridge to meet them where they are so they can continue to move forward i...

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03 MarChanging Mindsets With Mad Facilitation Skills


I teach at Montana State University's Department of Education, which educates the next generation of teachers. But what I've found is that teacher education programs don't really teach teachers how to facilitate--they teach them how to teach. Teaching and facilitation are two very different things, and in our work, facilitation is much more crucial for achieving truly transformative learning, building bridges across difference, and creating coalitions for change. For years, I've been figuring out how to facilitate the hard way. And it's tho...

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18 FebThe real story behind the Yosemite trademarks


On March 1, 2016, in the wake of Delaware North’s exploitation of trademark laws, many of the iconic places in Yosemite National Park—including Curry Village, the Ahwahnee Hotel, the Wowona Hotel, the Yosemite Lodge, and Badger Pass Ski Area—will be renamed. There are (understandably) many people and organizations who are frustrated with Delaware North’s monetization of a public good. But in all the public outrage, we may be overlooking an opportunity to look deeper into history of place-naming. A toponymn refers to the name of a pla...

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21 JanWhat can outdoor and environmental organizations learn about inclusion from MLK’s experience?


Photo above: Martin Luther King, Jr. marching from Selma to Montgomery with John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Douglas, James Forman and Ralph Abernathy. I had a very different idea about what I was going to write about this week to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; I was about halfway through writing the post when I reached for Carolyn Finney’s Black Faces, White Spaces to verify some dates. As I was thumbing through the pages, I found a page that I marked with an alarming number of exclamation marks. Curious about what had gotten me so...

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07 JanWhat Does Cultural Relevancy Mean Anyway?


This post is dedicated to Vu Le at Nonprofit With Balls, whose bold nuggets of gold we can only aspire to produce, and who has inspired us to fearlessly “go there.” Disclaimer: For those of you engaging in cultural relevancy work without a working definition, this blog post is intended to call you in, not call you out. “Cultural Relevancy” is a phrase that is being bandied about in the outdoor and environmental sector. But the more I hear it, the less I believe we’re all on the same page as to what it means. Try Googling "cultur...

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