Charlottesville attack: We need to work together now, more than ever

We all have different roles to play in life. We are teachers, we are community leaders, we are parents, academics, activists, sisters, brothers and friends.

We unite around the fact that many of us want to make a difference in the world. For most of us — even the ‘tough cookies’ among us — this journey begins with our hearts.

On Aug. 14, at Virginia University in Charlottesville, U.S., over 250 heavily armed white supremacists lit their torches, took off their hoods and marched.

They chanted Nazi and KKK slogans: “white lives matter;” “Jews will not replace us;” “blood and soil.”

The weekend was horrific and the aftermath, ever worse.

The event was like an iceberg, visually revealing the massive unified force of the far right.

The president of the U.S., holding a huge potential to speak out against racism, painfully held silence and finally issued a statement that “both sides” were responsible.

Deep breaths. Deep condolences.

I follow Yoko Ono on Twitter and on a forum ripe with quotes, she stands out as someone that simply shares her own thoughts.

In less than 140 characters, she says simple things that touch me deeply.

If anyone else, on Aug. 18, were to write: “What is the greatest gift you could receive from anyone? Love with kindness,” it would likely sound trite.

So, how are Yoko Ono’s words never trite?

The reason is that she, beside John Lennon, worked her entire life to talk about the importance of love, compassion, and peaceful protest.

It has been Modo Yoga International’s intention to largely refrain from making any partisan posts on social media, so as not to make any person feel isolated from the community, or that they don’t belong.

After all, Modo Yoga is a place for all, and we really do mean that.

Despite my unwavering and wholly unchanged opinion that Donald Trump is an extremely dangerous and racist man, I stand behind this decision, because in reaching out and including all students of varied perspectives and opinions, we bravely open to the possibility of shifting racism toward equality.

I have spoken to many people recently, who are scared to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing.

But for many that are directly affected by racism, silence is, in a way, participation.

I want to say that hate speech is not partisan. Speaking out against racism is not partisan. Posting and sharing about rallies for peace is not partisan.

Our intention moving forward is to share our values and message of love and acceptance for all, more loudly than ever before.

To make it very clear that we stand up for tolerance, free speech, love and peace, and that equality and respect for all is fundamental to who we are and the teachings of yoga.

This is why “Speak Your Peace,” our annual human rights campaign, exists: to remind and encourage ourselves to speak up and to help amplify the voices that already actively promote peace in the world.

One of the ways we do this is by lending our community strength to organizations that align with our six Pillars.

This year, through the donation of our studios’ September and October karma class funds, as well as the candle-lit karma class held on the International Day of Peace (Sept. 21) and other community-inspired events, we offer our collective support to Amnesty International and RAVEN Trust.

It is so easy to be overwhelmed with helplessness. Let’s support each other in taking action to create a world united. Let’s speak our peace and encourage our communities to do the same.

What does this mean? It means we listen more attentively than ever to the inspiring leaders of today, like Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, founders of the movement.

We tune in and listen first, hearts open, defences down and eyes open to our privileges.

We remember our history as humans and seek the writings, words and actions of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Muhummad Ali and writers like Thoreau or Tolstoy.

It means we take action. Since day one of Modo’s Yoga’s existence, we have supported Amnesty International, whose mandate is to speak out against human injustices.

We have created a full scholarship for people of colour for every Modo Yoga teacher training.

We’re developing a sensitivity and anti-oppression training that the entire Modo International team will take this year, as a first step toward bringing this work to studio owners and teachers.

What can we do on the ground? Find rallies, organize rallies, discuss, ask, listen, take the conversation off social media and into our studios, into your communities and outside of your homes.

How can we be more inclusive? Ask and create the space to listen.

I think we can say “all you need is love,” and we can also say so much more. We can leave out partisan comments entirely. We can educate and bring awareness with honesty and integrity.

I think we can make a difference. I think we can. And I think we must.

I am proud to stand beside a community that cares about all beings without prejudice, one that has been working for unity in celebration of diversity since day one.

— with so much love and thanks for who you are, Jess