Last week, we shared the first half of this two-part webinar, inspired by the words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “This is no time for romantic illusions and empty philosophical debates about freedom. This is a time for action.” In part two, WBI alumni Uneeda Brewer and Stephen Redmon continue their conversation with Caroline Kohles, Senior Director of Health and Wellness at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, about what it means to take action in today’s world, more than half a century later.

Uneeda has more than 25 years of experience coaching individuals to improve their personal effectiveness and ability to work well with diverse colleagues, and consulting with teams and organizations to improve outcomes and employee satisfaction. Stephen is a yoga teacher and former Peace Corps volunteer, holds degrees in both environmental and military law, and retired in 2018 from his position as a special assistant to the general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Watch now.

Highlights from the Conversation
Caroline: In this second part of our two part series, we will provide an opportunity for everyone to share their expressions of creative nonviolent direct action with a goal of building and strengthening community in the service of social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. We anticipate and hope for a lively and productive discussion that continues to activate our hope. And then we demonstrate the value of micro actions and micro goals and provide ways we can use positive emotions to sustain us during these turbulent times and help us when difficulties arise so that we keep moving forward. 
Uneeda: Last week, we shared Dr. King’s point of view, about the method to bring about social change in social justice, not only for African Americans, but for all Americans. And the phase one of the Civil Rights Movement, approximately 1955, to 1966/67, really had to do with public accommodations, voting rights with citizenship with ensuring that African Americans, especially in the South, were full citizens, not second-class citizens. And you can see that Dr. King admonished that it is time for action. And that we have a choice: Wwe can engage in actions that do not ultimately promote chaos, or we can do actions that support community. And his philosophical and moral point of view is nonviolent direct action. And if you were alive in the 60s, the demonstrations, and protests and boycotts and the Freedom Rides, and all of those things where people were nonviolent, even if they were met with violence, he says it was practically sound and morally excellent. Why is that? No one is harmed, it respects all people, it ratchets up the tension without becoming violent, so that something needs to be done to release the tension. And we remembered that whether we did big actions or small nonviolent direct actions, they all count.

Someone asked last week, is nonviolent direct action all about protest and we said, here are lots of other ways. And since last time, I thought of something else: that if we hire people to do work for us and we pay them a living wage, we are contributing to their being able to live well.

Stephen: Sometimes what we call direct action could just be merely smiling at a child or just nodding gracefully without any words to someone that you don’t know when you pass them in the street. These are all ways in which we contribute to community and love and understanding and social justice. Sometimes it’s just a silent nod and smiling to another person with your eyes
Uneeda: Because you’re recognizing that they exist, that they are a human being. And I know that each of us can have a memory of a time when somebody did that for us, and it uplifted us or it encouraged us. Love that idea, just smiling, nod recognizing them that they exist as a human being. Wow. There are cultures that say that when we don’t recognize each other, it’s a little death, we’re actually contributing to the diminishment of the soul of a person. Positive psychology calls this micro moments of positivity resonance.

Building community requires us to act. And so today, just like last week, we invite you to put yourself in the picture. You’re not just a tourist today, you’re actively engaged in our dialogue, and the conversation. What we asked people to do last week was watch the movie One Night in Miami, that is streaming on Amazon Prime, and/or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s video about what it was like growing up in Austria, post Nazi-ism. His father was a Nazi, and it was the first time he had said that in public. And after the insurrection, he made the video to say to Americans [that] he had experienced what it’s like for people to be misled by lies, and the danger and the demonic energy that could be unleashed. And so he was both warning us and imploring us not to take that route.

Stephen: You know those electronic hidden fences that they have for dogs? It reminds me of how racism and sexism and anti-Semitism and all these evil and negative moral boundaries are there, whether we see them or not. Over the last four years, I think that some of these things have come to the fore, they become more visible. But people that are affected by those isms, whether you’re Jewish, or whether you’re Black, or you’re a woman, or a person of color, or not, you are well aware of being shocked when you try to cross certain boundaries. And sometimes you try to express it to others. But they oftentimes can’t see those invisible boundaries, until some of these things that have occurred recently, people like, oh my God,I thought we were beyond that. But the people that are affected, whether you’re woman, or you’re Jewish, or you’re black, or any of these things, are acutely aware of those boundaries all the time, and manage it the best way we can. 
Uneeda: This week, we want to talk about the evolution of Dr. King’s perspective on what it would take to bring about social justice. Up until 1967, he says that the civil rights leaders didn’t see too well during the last 10 years, that racism is still alive in American society. This was 1967. We’re in 2021. He could be speaking this to us now. He says, in the final analysis, racism is evil. Because its ultimate goal is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. He ended up leading a nation to the point of killing 6 million Jews. And just as Steven said, when you say racism, you can say African American, you can say Jewish, you can say woman, you can say any other person of color, because any kind of discrimination and bigotry, when you think about it, ultimately wants to remove people from social interaction. So if you have only ever seen the Dr. King “I Have a Dream” speech, we want you to know he evolved by 1967. He had a whole ‘nother point of view. 
Stephen: A lot of people don’t realize, and I don’t know if many of you do, but in the last two years of his life, Dr. King was ostracized by the white community, the government, the Black community. Not all Black churches, not all synagogues, not all mosques, not all people embrace King. They thought he was a troublemaker, they thought he was unpatriotic. They thought he was communist. And you know, that was one of the worst things you could do to be called a communist back then. So he was ostracized, he was cast aside. And that’s something to keep in mind. And we’ll touch on a few of the reasons why we believe, according to scholars and others, why he hit a nerve and was ostracized, although he is loved and embraced universally now.
Uneeda: And what he’s loved and embraced for now, it stops at 1963. Oh, wasn’t that nice, he was just dreaming. But Dr. King was an activist. He was an organizer. He was an intellectual. And he was a warrior for social justice. And he was hounded by the FBI. He was taking on capitalism, militarism. And he spoke movingly about the Vietnam War, and about how we were spending money when we could be eradicating poverty. He was a warrior. He became radicalized, and radical just means root. And he looked at what is the root cause? And he said, in order for us to really bring about social justice, we need a radical distribution of political and economic power. Wow. Talk about upsetting the forces that be. And now we want you to hear Dr. King in his own words. So we’re going to share some video of him speaking from 1967. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (video)We must also realize that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power. We read one day, We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But if a man doesn’t have a job on income, he has neither life nor liberty, and the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists. It is estimated that we spend $322,000 for each enemy, we kill in Vietnam, why we spend in the so called war on poverty in America, only about $53 for each person classified as poor. The promises of the Great Society have been shut down on the battlefield of Vietnam, making the poor white and Negro bear the heaviest burden both at the front and at home. The other thing I want you to understand is this: that it didn’t cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters. It didn’t cost the nation, one penny to guarantee the right to vote. But now we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power. All labor has dignity. But you are doing another thing. You are reminding not only Memphis but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wage. America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have nots. And the question is whether America will do it. There’s nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.
Stephen: The real question is whether we have the will. The real question is whether we have the will, individually and collectively.
Uneeda: And I think somebody put in chat that, in a way, that’s what we heard President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speaking about in terms of shifting and responding to the needs of the American people. 
Stephen: One thing I was going to add, most importantly, Dr. King, always made it clear that the struggles and challenges we face as human beings are ultimately spiritual. Always refocus on the reality that while we serve God by serving others in need, you remember that constant prayer, meditation, universal fellowship, and love, are the only paths to social, political, environmental, and economic justice for everyone. How do we do this? We do this by using our SHAPES to serve others, SHAPES stands for our Spiritual gifts, our Heart, our Abilities, our Personality, our Experience, and our Seeds. We all have unique and beautiful SHAPES that are a gift from God. And we are born and live to share our God-given SHAPES with others with love, and sometimes tough love, but always with a spirit of humility and love. 
Uneeda: If you’re aware of the Wholebeing Institute’s SPIRE well-being approach, you hear the echoes—spiritual, meaning, purpose. … But we do want to give you a chance to speak together because people said last week that was really valuable. We want you to talk about your reactions to Dr. King’s statement, and talk about what you have done or think you can do and answer the question, Do we have the will to do what’s required? What are you doing in your own life that allows you to say I’m moving toward radical readjustment?

[Most participants move to breakout rooms.]

Kathy: I’ve been speaking out, kinda like Dr. Martin Luther King. And I’ve felt a lot of the repercussions in my life because of it. And it’s intense. So I understand. I understand that part of it. And I’m working on legislation, I send stuff out to my Congressmen and women, and I’m getting responses back that are positive. And I have hope … it’s like my dream that the change is going to be made, but it can be lonely in trying to make change. 
Caroline: Uneeda, did Dr. King have some suggestions on how to operationalize the redistribution of wealth?
Uneeda: Lofty ones—he talked about a guaranteed annual income. He talked about giving people a living wage, a guaranteed income. And he had organized the poor people’s campaign because, he said, we realize that the conditions in which African Americans live exists across ethnic groups. And so we need to be social justice warriors, not just warriors for civil rights. He wanted to petition the government to use our resources to eradicate poverty, which included giving people a living wage.
Caroline: And do you think that some of the discontent in the Rust Belt is poverty related? In other words, some of the support for our former president is around economics and people feeling like they didn’t have a fair wage, or is there any similarity at all? 
Uneeda: The people that I have been reading, and you may have been reading them too, writing in the New York Times, the Atlantic, talk about what Dr. King said, that the pervasiveness of racism in our culture, and how that influences so much else that goes on. And so if people are led to believe that despite their economic situation, they are superior, then it’s not just economics. It’s more that spiritual warfare that Kathy and Steven were talking about that. If I don’t see you, as a human being equal to me, then I may not support economic activities that are in my interest, because what one party has done through dog whistles and now not even dog whistles, they say, we don’t want healthcare because those undeserving Black people will get a free ride. And so I’d rather not have any, if it means that those folks don’t have any, and that’s a spiritual problem, That’s a spiritual problem.
[Participants return from breakout rooms.]
Stephen: I’m hoping someone from my group does chime in, but I just want to say that we were on the brink of solving all of the world’s problems in eight minutes.

Terry: We had a good conversation about we get in our own way a lot of times, and just understanding that there are going to be other opinions out there and putting yourself out in the arena andnot sitting on the sidelines. But oftentimes we get in our own way doing it.
Ellyn: We all were in agreement about connections, and how we can influence change and shift and love and understanding and compassion by connecting and for me, and we discussed this, it’s about losing our ego, and not worrying about who’s right and just being there in the moment. And with my group, we were there in the moment. And I love them.

Stephen: Yeah, and one of the things that you just touched on, Ellyn, and others have experienced as well, we’ve lost the art of just sitting with others. Just sitting, just sitting, you know, not getting in the way with our words, but sometimes just going and sitting quietly, and snapping some peas. And that’s it.
Uneeda: Just being present. There’s a whole practice of being fully present with oneself, and then with another person. And that is so very amazing. When you said shelling beans, I just have to have a small aside when we were kids, and we were at my grandmother’s, and all the women would be shelling the peas and beans that they were going to can and cook the whole summer. And we would just be there with each other. And I’m sure you all have those kinds of experiences too where you’re just with each other, supporting, caring, laughing, and being a human being.

I did want to land on one thing. Integration—Dr. King says it’s not just about mixing people like putting a Black person in a group or another kind of person in another group. It is a political strategy, where we build and share economic and political power, so that we can build a new and great nation. And a lot of times some of the the terms from the ’60s get distorted, and are just emotional: Oh, well, integration is nice, so we can all you know, be together and get along. It is also a strategy for increasing shared power. 

So our challenge today is what can each of us do to make progress toward the radical redistribution of political and economic power? He says, that’s what we need to do. And he says, Do we have the will? And that you don’t have to be marching. Don’t have to be saving the world. Although that would be great. You can do what you can do in your neck of the woods. 
We know from Dr. King’s life, and for any life of a person who’s trying to make fundamental change, that it’s very difficult. And if you watch the movie One Night in Miami, you will be reminded of those difficulties that we encounter. And so we invite you to check in with yourself and say, Well, given my situation, given my strengths, given my circumstance, what’s a small action I can take that will keep moving us toward community?

Uneeda Brewer

Uneeda Brewer has more than 25 years of experience coaching individuals to improve their personal effectiveness and ability to work well with diverse colleagues, and consulting with teams and organizations to improve outcomes and employee satisfaction. She retired from Johnson and Johnson, where she was responsible for one of the corporation’s global executive education programs. In 2019, her company, Accelerate Coaching and Consulting, LLC, was chosen by New College of Florida to design and deliver a series of workshops on diversity and inclusion for a campus climate initiative. She is a certified practitioner of psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy and is in the process of completing the requirements to become a trainer and educator in this field. Uneeda is a founding member of the recently organized Action Training for Social Change collective in the Tampa Bay area, which designs and delivers trainings for religious and community groups to help individuals and groups create and support social justice initiatives in their communities. Uneeda is enrolled in the Wholebeing Institute Positive Psychology Coach Certification Program and the Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, and was trained as an executive and life coach in the Core Essentials Program provided by Coach U, Inc. She holds a B.A. in American studies from Goucher College and an MSW from Clark-Atlanta University School of Social Work in policy, planning, and administration.

Stephen Redmon

Stephen T. Redmon, Ph.D., J.D., leads yoga retreats around the world through his business, Nomder Yoga. His speciality is helping people—often veterans—cope with trauma. A veteran himself, Stephen worked for the Department of Defense and then as special assistant to the general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs, from which he retired in 2018.  Redmon holds many advanced certifications in yoga but originally taught himself yoga while an undergraduate as a way to overcome his own trauma from growing up in Harlem, surrounded by violence and rampant drug use. Redmon teaches yoga at George Washington University and believes there is a need for bringing people together across all types of racial, religious, and gender lines. He enjoys being a part of the healing for individuals and communities.
Stephen earned his B.A. from Colgate University and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He earned his J.D. law degree at North Carolina Central University School of Law, where he researched and developed the first edition of the Rules of Court for the Cherokee Indian Tribal Court. Stephen earned a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Environmental Law at Pace University School of Law and an LL.M. in Military Law from the J.A.G. Legal Center at University of Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. from Fielding Graduate University in human and organizational systems. Inspired by his commitment for national service and national security after the tragic events of September 11, he completed his M.S. in strategic intelligence from National Intelligence University at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and taught graduate-level courses at DIA on the law of intelligence.