In April of 2022, in conjunction with an alignment of Jupiter and Neptune, Naropa University hosted the Dreaming For Our Lives- Afrofuturist and Astrological Pop- Up Festival. The festival brought poets, healers, astrologers, artists, educators, students and community into a four day journey into liminal time, culture and creativity, with the expressed intention of sensing into new/alter futures from the level of the imagination. While it centered Black creatives, facilitators, wisdom traditions, and cultural references, it was open to people across the melanin spectrum. What emerged was a collaborative journey and a temporary community, unfolding in ways unexpected and nourishing to those who attended.

One of the key purposes of this festival and perhaps the Afrofuturist/Black Futures movement is to open to new/alter ways of being, feeling and acting: to be able to perform facets of our identities and our selves that are relegated to the realms of science fiction, fantasy or idleness in the order of the everyday. 

Dreaming for Our Lives was a chance to collectively enter into our cosmic identities or mythic intersectionalities. I will mix and match these two phrases and use them interchangeably, in a sense more evocative than technical here. Since legal and racial justice scholar Kimberly Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality in the late 1980’s to designate individuals who belonged to two distinct legally protected groups at once, oftentimes with competing claims, intersectionality has exploded into a household name. As often happens when ideas become popular, it has been morphed at times beyond its original definition. Intersectionality identifies the ways that we must navigate distinct but overlapping types of oppression, often simultaneously. It also indicates that we may be part of privileged and marginalized groups at the same time/in one body. This became the basis for intersectional feminism, which brought intersectionality to next level not only as a legal category or conceptual mode of understanding, but as a means to build movements and develop allyship between people of varied identities and social locations. Recently authors like Reverend angel Kyodo williams have discussed intersectionality as a kind of interconnectedness, or even interbeing. Intersectionality can illuminate how we are woven with one another, and how our traumas and strategies for survival  are shared, or how they might be shared. Intersectionality reveals our embeddedness, not only in particular socially defined identities, but in the flow of human history.

In addition to ascribed or chosen identities like race/skin color, gender, sexuality, ability, social class, nationality and so forth, we also develop a sense of identity out of our experiences with the liminal. Typically intersectionality is discussed with strictly human, legalistic contexts of socio-political power and historical relationship. It usually deals with identities that are assigned externally, that are political projects and carry attendant levels of access and danger. Frequently what is not discussed is the way that we develop identity outside of not only dominant discourses, but outside of dominant realties and ontologies. Our identity can be shaped or transformed in the natural world and in the depth of the imagination, meditation, or what is historically called soul. Often in anti-oppression and justice spaces, a kind of constraint develops. We can never step outside of the structures of power and language set up by a particular society. We sometimes force ourselves into a kind of two-dimensional flat world where no one can move, and shifting the systems begins to seem impossible. Cosmic and mythic intersectionality presupposes that there is both a horizontal space of our assigned and ascribed social identities, and an inner or vertical space for identity creation. We also constellate selves, sometimes multiple, around our experiences in liminal times/spaces or the natural world, in the arts, in contemplation, mediation, dance, prayer and psychedelic experiences that melt down our sense of human centeredness and take us beyond the limitations of a particular historical moment. Our mythic identities develop in response to non- ordinary states of consciousness. They are identities where our humanness fuses with particular environments, with vegetation, animals, bodies of water, star constellations and planets, with descendants, ancestor or culture heroes, with elements and dynamics of nature, technology and other works of human artifice, with physical energies and spiritual forces. In our cosmic intersections we know ourselves to be more than the children of a particular culture, family and moment in history. We know ourselves to be children of infinity.

Herein lies the possibilities of post-traumatic growth, or the transmutation of trauma into sacred wounds. Here lies the transposition of cultural-political struggles against oppression into the mythic and timeless, the alchemizing of fear and brutality into love and wisdom. Cyberfeminist Donna Haraway spoke of the imagination as one of the poles of historical transformation, the other being the material. Afrofuturism is an intervention in the social and material by way of ancient and fresh imaginations. Afrofuturism asks black peoples and all that want liberation from our current genocidal social script to meet at the crossroads between the present, past(s) and possible futures or to step one foot out of time altogether. Although our mythic identities and cosmic intersectionalities are not completely bound by spatial-temporal social locations and historical power dynamics, they are also not completely free or unaffected by them. Building on our typical understandings of intersectionality, the textures of experiences and challenges will differ if one inhabits a body that is read as a black and male than a body that is read as black and female, or black and queer. So too our cosmic identities touch history, alter and are altered by their interaction with our other social locations. For that reason it is often important that we source our mythic identities from cultural traditions that our peoples have some experience and resonance with – or at least have some knowledge or acquaintance with them. Afrofuturism works specifically to revive/rewrite cultural archetypes that come out of the diasporic/dystopian experience of black people as well as the indigenous, traditional, urban and emergent cultures of continental Africa, its wisdom traditions, works of art, music and so forth.

Through the medium of popular culture, this society provides a host of mythic character types (often emptied of soul force) who are both connected to particular cultures and in some ways transcendent of them. Witness your fairies, mermaids, werewolves, superheroes and so forth. If you can accept that these popular tropes have at least one foot in the archetypal realm, we can see one example of the importance and the ways that our cosmic identities are tinctured by our earthly identities. Let’s take a peak at the goth subculture for example. One powerful cultural archetype being played out by those that identify with this subculture is that of the vampire. You can see the way that the vampire idea expresses itself in dress, makeup, posture and poise, modes of speech or times of day you might see some goth folks. Recently there has been a rise in a black/african american goth scene, eyebrow raising because typically goth culture is identified as a “white” subculture. The fact that black goths are rare or perceived that way demonstrates how our horizontal social locations interact with our more vertical, imaginative and mythic identities.

An important point of consideration as well is the way that mythic identities buffer and shore up our temporal and earthy identities. One key concern raised by Afrofuturists concerns representation in sci-fi and fantasy media.  If black and brown people are fed mythic stories that only feature white people, or further portray characters of color as synonymous with evil or degeneracy, what impact does that have on our psyche and our navigation in the everyday world?Intersectionally we can ask what happens to the psyche and social expectations of queer folks if “the future” only features hetronormative models of relationship? Furthermore, what messages do individuals in “dominant” racial and gendered identities internalize when stories of the future or mythic past only feature those that share their social locations?
We can also extend these questions to the built environment. If the architecture of your living space sources all of its mythic references come from one cultural tradition, one that is not only not your own, but historically hostile to your existence, what does this do to one’s sense of being at home in the place where you live? Witness the neoclassical style and Greco-Roman hang-overs in our civic capitals and downtown metropolitan areas. We might consider this final question in light of the insurrections in the spring and summer of 2020, where both real and symbolic centers of power were defaced and removed. Westeros is not real, Numenor is not real, but they do have a real impact on the sense of historical and imaginative richness (and limitation/distortion) of their viewers, particularly of European descent.

The efficacy of mythic intersectionality shows up in another way as well. In counter-cultural and new age spaces we often see white individuals who play out mythic identities such as channeled entities that claim otherworldly or universal origins/relevance. While many of these communications offer fresh and stimulating imaginations, they are also culturally shaped in their expression by the whiteness of their “hosts”, in ways that are unacknowledged. Witness the blonde haired blue eyed Pleiadians. Why shouldn’t they be blue, or purple, with kinky hair? The point is not to try to eliminate this cultural “coloring” of the liminal (white as a color, as a “distortion” of the real), but to be awake to its influence, impact and importance.

The well of stories and myth that we have to draw from help to frame and support our “real” and existing identities. To take this one step further in anti-oppression and critical discourses it is widely recognized that identity is not a given, rather our identities are enforced, socially constructed and most importantly here performed. This is a key remembrance in the discussion of mythic and cosmic identities.

In Afrofuturist spaces going back/forward since Sun Ra we have blackness as the alien, the other, the extra-terrestrial. Ra suggested that since mainstream white society looked at black people as non-existent, or as fantastic beasts, that black people take up that space as a position of strength and actively develop those qualities and practices that could help us do other and escape the compulsive and destructive ways of societies based on white supremacy and an apocalyptic linearity. Black people could live in the blackness of space, which was not only outside of the earth, but all around us and infinite inside of us as well. Recent Afrofuturists such as Janelle Monae have taken on the mythic identity of the android as a social location of resistance and alter/altar imagination. The android as portrayed by Monae is as a being with a flat, if cheerful affect, hyper-beautiful, hyper-symmetrical, and a blank humanoid form free to be projected upon and programmed but also free of personal and historical bias, with lucid perception of situations, and fearlessness/non-attachment to naming them for what they are. For diasporic Africans, whose native tongues have been erased, any cultural retrieval will inevitably involve or be an act of imagination. In mainstream society we play out cultural characters or (arche)types. Anyone can put on a costume on Halloween and be a generic Superman. But as we spend more time communing with these identities and the cultural and psychic forces that create them, we can develop individualized versions of them, cosmic identities that reflect our specific visionary and ecstatic experiences, our particular longings, traumas, wounds, the histories of our families and peoples, and our specific sense of mission, purpose and vocation. We can develop identities that externally reflect the lives of our individual and collective soul.

These are some examples of how mythic intersectionality plays out, more suggestive rather than exhaustive. Across the world and time people have sought to make space for their mythic intersectionalities and cosmic identities in ritual, ceremony, theater, solitude, celebration and other ludic and liminal/limonoid spaces. Where in our society do we make space for the play of imagination, or further for the active embodiment and intersubjective socializing of the imagination? And where can we do so without them becoming commodities or commodifying others? If there is no place to practice, to step into our soul characters and play them out, to live them, do they atrophy? Do the particular rainbow bridges to infinity that they represent begin to fade, dissipate and crumble? If we do not play out these higher and more multi-dimensional selves to one another do we lose track of them, and thus become unmoored in space and time? In our ancestral traditions the world over the resounding response is yes!

To maintain these connections, our ancestors assigned times of day, in the lunar month, solar year, in greater cycles concerning other heavenly bodies, and in cultural calendars to move into the liminal, to a make space when the more than human could come into the human community and help heal, refresh and make new the life of individuals and society.

In traditional African cultures many rituals revolve around elaborate masking traditions. The creator of the mask and those wearing them in ceremony both know that they are fashioning and performing the presence of a god. They are making an appearance of a god in the life of the village. These masks are not used casually, and are often hidden away prior to and after a ceremony to ensure that their magical effects have both the most impact when needed and do not run rampant. As we “put on” or perform our mythic identities, the mask is useful as metaphor and more. These identities (all of them?) can to various degrees be put on and taken off, or perhaps merely hidden (passing as human). In post-modern contexts we can also recognize that our concepts and cultural conditioning (though deep) are not the totality of who we are, and that we can shapeshift and change identities and ideas as we change contexts, or that we can host multiple identities at once or sequentially/circumstantially. We can code switch between ontologies. If we introduce the vertical dimension of the soul or transpersonal, we come to see that even the body, feelings and conceptual mind can be masks, worn by our souls to interact in the material “horizontal “ dimension. I invite our movements to take up our cosmic intersections and mythic identities, as evocative phrases and deed. We are more than what history and power have made us. We can socially construct the material out of the ethereal. 

Dreaming For Our Lives
invited us to play and perform cosmic intersectionalities, to bring mythic identities to the fore, to walk like them, feel and see like them, and imagine/co-create the worlds that they would inhabit. It invited us to use the power of the word- of nommo, of music and movement, of color, costume, of face paint, wild hats, of a deep attunement to our somatic selves and a deep attunement to our capacities to grieve and enjoy- as acts of masking. We enlisted astrology here as a repository of shared characters, as a hall of masks, historical personages and ancient faces, as an imaginal ring of mythic and cosmic intersectionalities to draw from and enrich both our interpersonal experiences and sense of time.  We dreamed publicly, in three (four, five) dimensions. We dreamed in objective social space and attempted to seed new timelines and worlds, with different rhythms and purposes than the everyday and dominant. It was an endeavor to yoke ourselves to the stars, to the water, to our blackness, to one another and to a co-created futures where we all thrive: where we are not bound by the distorted dreams of supremacy, but where each of us is a creative center, prisming rainbows of intelligence and feeling though our embodied identities in ecstatic conversation. Each of us as a star, linking with others to create constellations to guide the present, heal the past, and divine shared tomorrows.

Dearest Youth Passageway kin,

Greetings from the lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples, along with 48 contemporary tribal nations who are historically tied to the state of Colorado – a place I am calling home, again.

As we creep slowly towards the light of the spring equinox, I pause and stretch back in reflection to the days of darkness, this winter, when I came to a decision about how I desired to relate to Youth Passageways in the coming year. Today, I share with our larger network that I have stepped down as the Stewardship Council Co-Chair and would like to take this moment to thank you, the network, the spiral governance and particularly those within the staff circle and stewardship council that I have been in close connection with for the past 3 years. I bow in gratitude for the learning, the sibling-hood, the growth and commitment to help regenerate healthy passages into mature adulthood for today’s youth, witnessed every day within the various projects, working groups and conversations I found myself a part of.

My biggest prayer that I’d like to share is that any body of works I was a part of on behalf of YPW, in an effort to uplift network partners who were and are learning how best to serve and offer programming by and for queer & trans people, that that work built more than burned bridges. My mistakes and edges forge my commitment to learning, advocating, and relationship accountability, repair and transformation across identities and cultures.

Where this network may have fallen short for me or where I failed the network will be a beautiful flaw on the tapestry woven into our story during my time and I pray many of us will continue to grow and stretch in the discomfort and move towards deeper understanding. 

My story with YPW began on the island of Hawai’i (from which I just returned recently) in 2015. It was here I met Darcy Ottey, developed my skills as a Guide for Rites of Passage, and became a YPW Ambassador after attending the 2016 gathering in Los Angeles. I then sailed across the Atlantic and lived unanchored until 2018, when I returned to Turtle Island, and participated in two of our network partners’ programs. First, a two week Rite of Passage Journeys’ Leadership Intensive guided by Darcy & Cameron, also our Co-Director & SC Treasurer, in the Pacific Northwest, followed by summertime with Youth on Fire & Melissa Michaels and the rite of passage movement community at Golden Bridge in Boulder, CO. My relationship to YPW deepened in autumn when I made my way to All Nations Gathering Center in Yellow Bear Canyon, SD for a YPW healing ceremony. Invited by Youth Passageways guardians Becky & Dallas Chief Eagle I reconnected with many folks I hadn’t seen since our LA Gathering in 2016. By the end of that year, 2018, I said, “Yes!” to join the YPW Stewardship Council and become the Secretary. I also said “Yes!” to drop anchor in the Bay Area of the Ohlone people, supporting my partner and now fiancé while they finished grad school.

When the pandemic and uprisings happened in 2020, now the Co-Chair of Youth Passageways, I found myself closer to the Leadership Circle. I was lucky to have the ability and time to plug in where I was needed and where I felt I could bring my gifts. We birthed the YPW Education & Consulting Collective in the midst of the fires, offering caucus spaces for both the People of the Global Majority and aspiring and committed white anti-racists in the network. We planned and held our first virtual Stewardship Council gathering in autumn. I was a part of creating systems of accountability and assessment for our staff and leadership within YPW. I supported our “Core 4” in organizing monthly Stewardship Council meetings. And I hope throughout my time my input for website updates, particularly the partner listing classifications and specifically the gender & sexuality search, provide a container of belonging and a tool for LGBTQIA2S+ people and my Queer & Trans kin. 

I feel I have served our mission, the organization and the people I call family well. I trust the fruits of my labors will come to bear in deep time and I remain open and curious, with the ability to witness and remain close and supportive to those meaningful relationships I have invested in. I hope that the fires that have forged YPW into our current stage of development (still a young organization!) bring with it an accountability  and vulnerability that shepherds us through a collective, regenerative, healthy passage into the conscious and embodied adult leaders serving young people in these uncertain times. 

What’s next for me? Well, I’ll continue to be in contact and involved with the YPW Education & Consulting Collective and assisting with fundraising for now. I’m completing my SomaSource Practitioner studies with Golden Bridge and am on the Production team for Surfing the Creative here in Boulder, CO this July. I’m volunteering with OUT Boulder, learning how to DJ, tending to my website queerodyssey.org, participating in a Queer Mirroring training and becoming a foster parent. I’m creating home. If you’re ever in the area, hit me up, I’d love to show you.

Queer Odyssey

(image by Dane Z)

~ dancin’ bodhisattva in service to humans rising up & gettin’ down.

With love &  gratitude,


Jett Cazeaux

 

 

Over this past couple of years, Youth Passageways has found itself serendipitously situated to work together with partners and allies. Here is a current list of our emerging and ongoing collaborations as well as some of the ways those have begun taking shape alongside some of the truly wonderful folks we’re honored to work with and support.


 

So many things are happening in the world of the Ever Forward Club! We are pleased to announce the launch of the #MillionMaskMovement Peer Mentoring Program! The Peer Mentoring Program trains students to bring the Million Mask Movement into their schools and communities. As the local team says, there is #strengthinnumbers 💯 

And Inspired by the courage, strength and resilience exhibited by the students who submitted over 50,000 masks for our Million Mask Movement, we brought to life: Ever Forward Club: The Adventure Game! We have created something completely new and different to our community and the Card Game Space. Combining our 15+ years of experience working with thousands of kids, we took our deep understanding of social emotional learning and turned it into a Universe that kids themselves can become part of – maybe even a character in our future expansion packs! We aim to introduce kids worldwide to the social emotional universe of the Ever Forward Club by equipping every teacher with their own deck and providing more youth with the the ability to identify their feelings and express them in healthy ways.

And finally, The Ever Forward Club is preparing to present at SXSW EDU in 2022 to share with educators the work that we have been doing to help improve education for all students, especially for those students who enjoy school the least.

Now we are making these resources available to educators throughout the world to use them in order to build healthier relationships between students, teachers and schools. To learn more or get involved, head HERE!

In early July, The Ojai Foundation and Youth Passageways marked the completion of the inaugural year of our collaborative project, The FIRE Fellowship. Launching a pilot program in a pandemic year was a journey worth taking, and stretched all of us into creative solutions to unforeseen challenges. Our situation is not unique, as people around the world are finding new ways to live, do business and, perhaps most importantly, to relate. While we longed for the kind of togetherness that deep retreat can afford, we made the most of what was possible in the time that we had and emphasized incorporation of key practices from day one. We look forward to what will unfold for all of our alumni, and for the relationships that were seeded and watered through the Fellowship. We are in a redesign process for future FIRE programming. Stay tuned.

Additionally, Re-Calling Our Ancestors, an exploration in ancestral recovery, truth-telling, truth-seeking, and collective repair is in development right now! Course details will be announced soon. Stay tuned.

After many months of listening and “waiting and seeing” about how Covid would play out for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, our cross-cultural organizing team decided to move forward with plans for a small focused work party at the Buffalo Visions land in August. On the eve of the arrival day, evacuation orders were given for most of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation due to a large wildfire that had rapidly grown to threaten the main town of Lame Deer. Through a few hours of dialogue, it was decided that the 20+ people planning to travel for the work party would stay home. Thanks to firefighters and first responders, the 170k acre Richard Spring fire did relatively little damage. Please send healing prayers for Sharon and Hubert Blackwolf, as they undergo and heal from major surgeries this summer, and their community rebuilds after a deadly winter of Covid and summer of wildfire damage and smoke. Though it has been disappointing to not gather in 2021, relationships have continued to strengthen this year, and ideas and inspiration for 2022 are abundant.

 

YPW recently began a research collaboration with faculty at University of San Francisco (School of Nursing Public Health Department and Environmental Studies Department), Dominican University of California (Global Public Health Department), and Naropa University (Interdisciplinary Studies). We will be looking at how rites of passage impact the immediate and long term health and wellbeing of participants, communities and society, and developing a long-term research strategy that serves partners and informs policy and funding priorities. 

Our intentions are that this research:

  • Collects and interprets data on the individual, community and societal benefits of rites of passage 
  • Identifies benefits and gaps in individual rite of passage initiatives, as well as in rite of passage work as a whole
  • Emphasizes community-determined metrics of success, moving quickly towards decolonized research methodology, 
  • Is grounded in the multiplicity of language, values, and approaches which make up our diverse network

In the first phase of the project, we will be synthesizing existing literature and research from interdisciplinary sources and collecting information from partners and participants. Interested in getting involved or want to be kept in the loop? Please reach out to Darcy or Sobey <link>. 

Welcome to Queer Nature and Fierce Allies’ Centering Justice Project, two of our newest fiscall sponsees. Stay tuned for more information on the important, visionary work these partners are bringing forward into the world. Read more in the YPW Collaborations section.

The Cross-Cultural Protocols seat being kept within the YPW Education and Consulting Collective will be continuing the trajectory from August 2020’s People of the Global Majority Caucus with a podcast series hosted by Sobey Wing launching soon. 

Greetings YPW Network and a call to the People of the Global Majority aka Black, Indigenous, People of Color!

A year ago we concluded a month of weekly online sessions with a People’s Assembly that included in its futurisms continuing efforts to forward the momentum we had generated to center rites of passage by and for us. After a year of gestation, a strategy has emerged to do so with a podcast.

I call upon our network and the eyes and ears on the ground to what lies beyond our network to come to join me in conversation so we may discuss what has been happening, what’s coming into being, and what areas we could use support to bring positive initiation experiences to the youth. If you’d like to share with audiences across the globe what you’re up to or can point me towards great guests to feature please drop me a line at sobeyone@gmail.com and stay tuned for upcoming announcements on when the podcast will be ready for listening during your commutes or daily rituals.

Amping! Take care!
Sobey Wing,

Katheryne Lewis, Stewardship Council Secretary since November 2019, has stepped seamlessly into a staff support role, much to the delight of the whole team!

Greetings to my dear YPW community,

This felt like a great opportunity to share a bit about myself as I settle into my recently acquired position as a part-time staff member for Youth Passageways. I was first introduced to YPW through a mentor during my time in Hawaii, hearing briefly of the efforts they put forth in connecting community leaders in practices of self-initiation. A couple of years passed before I was able to come in a bit closer and witness the uniquely thoughtful processes of YPW at one of their annual gatherings. As someone who often finds herself as either the only or one of the very few people holding intersecting minoritized identities, it felt incredibly special to step into a community where many of my core values were present from the lenses of people from all walks of life. At the end of that weekend, I knew I was called to step in closer to YPW although I didn’t exactly know what that meant at the time.

Fast forward to today! I’ve stepped in even closer to help YPW move sure-footed into their intentions of fostering global partnerships with others who hold the values and vision to cultivate and advocate for the unquestionable need for rites of passage initiatives among our young folks. Working in a myriad of ways that tends to our existing relationships while establishing new ones I hope to build on the foundation of integrity and bring forth opportunities that will allow us to show up and do the work that is needed in the world today. As I wrap up my final year of graduate school in a mental health counseling program, I aim to incorporate my passion for cultivating a sense of belonging in our nonhuman/beyond human world through a lens of ceremony and self-initiation that allows others to step more fully into their authentic selves. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been granted to intertwine so many important aspects and experiences of my life in a way that consistently fills my cup of purpose and joy. Thank you to those who have shared space with me thus far on this journey and I’m looking forward to crossing paths with many more of you in the future.

Sincerely, Katheryne

 

Dayvon Williams (he/him/his)

Based out of Los Angeles, Dayvon is a former foster youth and was incarcerated with a felony at age 18. He was sentenced to a year, but actually only spent 6-7 months in LA County Jail. Afterward, he spent over a year looking for employment and got involved in helping the community. Dayvon landed at the Youth Justice Coalition and began working with formerly incarcerated youth doing political and social justice work. Dayvon also was involved in acquiring from the Board of Supervisors $1 million to support former foster youth in the LGBTQ community. Dayvon attends Southwest Community College, serves on the Youth Passageways Stewardship Council, and volunteers at the Minority Aids Project. His dreams are to get a masters in social work, run a non-profit that promotes social justice, and be a homeowner and a leader in his community.

 

Katheryne Lewis (she/her/hers)
Secretary

Like most beings of African descent, Katheryne’s ancestral journey and healing is an ongoing process. Her family was originally brought to the lands of the Muscogee/ Creek, Yamassee, and Seminole (Georgia and Florida), where many of them still remain. Wanting to honor her family’s legacy of determination, hard work, and resilience, a legacy that has afforded Katheryne an abundance of opportunities and gratitude, she finds herself pouring her energy into the work of protecting and empowering our younger generation. Her experience includes a background in conservation and trail work through Montana and Wyoming where she challenged the idea of who was a part of the movement to protect our nonhuman/ beyond-human world. Her latest endeavor was working at a horticultural rite of passage based program in Hawaii. She is currently studying ecopsychology to help youth foster a sense of environmental stewardship in efforts to build a sense of belonging and purpose within the communities that are often left out of the outdoors narrative.

 

Siri Gunnarson (she/her/hers)

Siri is a guide, council trainer, global citizen, and community steward. Interested in both new and ancient forms of education and learning, she has worked with LEAPNOW: Transforming Education and Naropa University’s Gap Year Program to support, develop and lead inner and outer journeys and rites of passage for youth. She is active with support of many places and projects around the world including Three Creeks, Tamera, The Ojai Foundation, School of Lost Borders, Youth Passageways, and Beyond Boundaries, an intergenerational ‘response team for our times’ She is passionate about love, community, anti-oppression and equity, embodiment and movement, and permaculture and water. Siri is a guide for the Young Adult fasts with the School of Lost Borders, connected in ceremony and training since 2009. Siri has been nomadic for most of her adult life – moving with purpose between projects with transformational vision, deepening in relationship with each return visit and interwoven cross-pollination. She is humbled daily, a deep believer in self-study as a way of insight into the human being and compassion for others.

 

Tarek Kutay (he/him/his)

Tarek was born in Duwamish territory/Seattle, WA into a family of travelers and activists, spending much of his early years exploring the world and working with progressive political organizations. He is an alumni of Franklin University Switzerland and the National Outdoor Leadership School, where he studied political science, environmental studies, and became a skilled outdoor leader. After graduating he began working in Guatemala as a transformational travel guide leading spiritual road trips throughout Central America, deepening people’s connection towards themselves, humanity, and nature. This experience eventually led him to co-creating an off-grid community and event space in Northern California and becoming an active member in the global underground festival community. Tarek now lives a nomadic lifestyle working as a rite of passage guide and producing music festivals. He believes journeys into the wilderness, transformational festival culture, and conscious traveling are important ways to awaken our truest selves and shift people toward living lives of genuine purpose, truth, healing, service, and celebration.

 

Lia Bentley (she/her/hers)

Lia is a dancer with a background in restorative justice, rites of passage and community development. She works for a dance and racial equity initiative called Movement Liberation, an herbal medicine business called Resonance Apothecary, and with young ones as a preschool teacher in the Bay Area, California. She dedicates herself to community health through her work as a writer and support for organizers, artists and healers.

 

 

 

 

Vianey Moreno (she/her/hers)
Coming Soon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlakatl Ce Tochtli Orozco (He, him, his)
Younger Wisdom Keeper

Tochtli is a Young Warrior at Tia Chuchas and we celebrate his entry into the Eagle Group of the  Peace and Dignity Journeys, where he and other indigenous peoples of these lands will be running from Alaska to Ecuador to join with the Condor group, South American  indigenous groups running north from Argentina. Wishing you blessings on your and your fellows’ journey!

In the most fitting of ways, after the journey to Pine Ridge, YPW was brought back again this November for the 2018 Stewardship Council retreat to Los Angeles. YPW had been offered the use of a beautiful home in Malibu that had been used for a smaller retreat directly after the 2016 gathering. Much can be said of the time in California–updates on new SC members and what to expect in 2019 are forthcoming–but more than nearly anything, what is most present was the fire. The morning of the retreat, the Leadership Circle woke up the next day to a phone call from, wait for it, Becky Chief Eagle, letting them know the Woolsey fire had rapidly grown into an evacuation order for much of the Malibu area. The short version is that the house we were offered was thankfully not consumed by the fire but a new location had to be found and thankfully YPW is blessed with the individuals, resources, and relationships to be able to shift gears quickly to adapt to rapid change. Our hearts go out to all those who were not so lucky, and the many humans and non-humans who lost homes, possessions, and even their lives in the fires in California. (*thanks to Ashanti Branch for this photo from his flight to LA!)

After a full weekend, members of the SC headed back to Chuco’s Justice Center (of the 2016 Host Partners) for a reunion dinner and dialog and to come full circle with LA and its current reality. That very weekend Chuco’s participated in the Inglewood Open Studios to amplify activist art in a city that is rapidly being gentrified. Local artists and activists came together to tell the story of displacement, criminalization, and deportation. Those gathered were greeted with traditional song offered by Luis Rodriguez’s wife Trini and son Romero and then heard from the curator of the Chuco’s exhibits, Leslie Guardado, a community resident and artist, as well as from Yari Herrera, one of the amazing Youth Organizers that works there!

As Youth Passageways moves collectively into the future in partnership with organizations like the ones forged on this journey from the neighborhoods of Los Angeles to the bluffs of the Yellow Bear Canyon, the future as challenging as it may be, looks bright, united and ready for the kinds of change the young ones are calling for as we speak…

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*These are just some of the many voices that were present. We’re looking for more, please send your reflections or experiences HERE


Delacina Chief Eagle

The youth gathering held at the All Nations gathering center was an empowering experience within a safe & nurturing environment. I felt free to express who I choose to be all while being comforted with encouragement from those surrounding me. Pilamiya, thank you, to everyone who blessed us with the medicine of their spirit.


Siri Gunnarson

The healing balm of generous invitation and gifting supported a cross-cultural contact beyond my expectations… it felt like all participants showed up having done ‘their homework’ to be able to listen, honor and celebrate differences and breathe new understanding into our network and our individual and collective work with youth.


Akicita His Horse is Thunder

It was a great opportunity to meet kind and open-minded people. 1 word is awesome


Marisa Taborga Byrne

What brings together a diverse network? Shared time on the land, stories from elders, ceremony, games, and intention for healing. The gathering at All Nations Gathering Center was joy-filled, soft, and deep. Having been invited by Becky and Dallas, of the Lakota people who first stewarded those lands, created a holistic welcoming feeling, and the Lakota youngers and elders who joined us nourished that sentiment. Such deep gratitude for the invitation, and for how we all showed up, ready to listen, to share, to love.


JO Jett Cazeaux

What stood out for me from the beginning was the strong representation of Queer, Trans & gender non-binary folx in attendance, including myself. There were many moments I recall from our time that, in my opinion, led to mutual understanding and growth edges, safe space to be one’s authentic self and opportunities for allies to carry the labor of advocating for Queer/Trans/non-binary visibility at the Gathering. What stands out for me, personally, began our first night with the sweat lodge when we were instructed that women go in first, then men. Feeling the crux here and the support and opportunity to arrive in this sacred space empowered. Following the women & leading the men, landing in the hottest “seat” in the circle, with grace, humility and strength, set the tone for my time at All Nations. Learning from the Creation Story that the Half Moon is traditionally the time when Two-Spirit members hold ceremony was special to hear. And recognizing that the Lakota people, just like some cis settlers, are open and learning a language that does not erase the visibility of the community members that do not fall into the binary of brother or sister, but that we are all kin. And finally, those cis comrades that went to the table to advocate when erasure was happening, I am eternally grateful. With all that said, reflecting on our follow up call when Becky told us that those Two Spirit community members of Pine Ridge that were in attendance at the Gathering shared that they felt “seen” and saw others “like me”, meant the world to me and lots of relief & joy. A testament to not only those of us showing up authentically but a direct reflection to how our cis friends, mentors & elders elevated our presence and voices.

Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge the courage it takes for those of us who show up in these spaces that still, despite best intentions, face language, history & structures that are visibly binary. Advocating for our visibility to be spoken, incorporated into stories & weaved into ways we move forward in our gatherings is the hope. That the labor is carried by all of us- honoring our ancestors & future generations with clarity, kindness & kinship for all of the YPW family.


Dave Moskowitz

Read Dave’s Reflections HERE


Dane Zahorsky

Read Dane’s Reflections HERE


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This fall, in the Yellow Bear Canyon just outside of the Black Hills, Youth Passageways brought together a small intergenerational delegation, for relationship building, truth-telling and healing, and explored an alliance to support and uplift indigenous youth throughout the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This gathering was one of the many threads that have and continue to build the tapestry of Youth Passageways over the last few years and feels like a foundational step towards actualizing YPW’s mission.

The theme of the 2018 gathering was Spirit Led. What this meant for the group was to allow the unseen to be welcomed and incorporated into our time together and to guide the journey throughout. Those gathered let go of attachment to specific ideas of schedule or form that could block the Blessings from coming through.

Below are the intentions set as well as other images from some of the breakout sessions and activities from various parts of the weekend.

 

 

The Days Before – Hard Work and Healing: After more than a year of planning, Marisa and Dane got into a car headed for South Dakota, arriving in Pine Ridge the Saturday before the gathering. Becky met them with her legendary hospitality and joy, and after a great many hugs (and selfies) the work of getting the space ready was well underway. Early on, the organizing team invited participants to offer their labor along with their participation in the gathering. The YPW gathering happened just weeks before All Nations was to hold one of its annual gathering of over 300 folks. Part of their preparations for that gathering was a total overhaul of the kitchen space from pipes to ceiling and the YPW gathering fell right in the time that the bulk of it was underway. As more of the organizing team and other participants arrived over the next few days, it was all hands on deck alongside Yolanda and the All Nations work crew to put the kitchen together and prepare the land for both gatherings. It was a close call but the work was finished right on schedule with the cuts, stains, and smiles to prove it right in time to celebrate Dallas’s birthday!

Meanwhile, the organizing team was still looking to find another cook to use the beautiful new kitchen. Becky mentioned they were considering hiring someone for their larger gathering and that he would be available to help with the Youth Passageways meals. After driving into Porcupine, Dane met Filmore Richards, a two-spirited man, in his early 50’s with a laugh for days. Alongside Aidoneus Bishop, a Sámi man who generously volunteered his time to create the menu and lead in the cooking, the kitchen was finally complete. The finishing touch was making sure the most important part made it back in the newly upgraded kitchen which Marisa lovingly hung next to the brand new industrial grill– the sign for Becky’s Kitchen!

In keeping with her invitation of healing, Becky had arranged for one of their medicine man, Leksi’ Johnny Gibbons to hold a Yuwipi healing ceremony for the members of Youth Passageways that had arrived and for their larger community on the Reservation. It was an incredibly powerful evening for all those who took part, directly in the ceremony or in their own ceremonies alongside. Folks shared and prayed and were opened up long into the early hours of the morning, before heading to their beds in anticipation of the official ‘start’ the next day.

 

Day One – A Map, Emerging: Folks that had been in ceremony the day before found themselves still very much in that space upon waking. Others arrived at different times, and were welcomed to the land and began to weave into the flow of our time. Collectively, those present began to develop a “Map of Wholeness” (a term shared with us by Gigi Coyle). Grounded in how All Nations holds the components of Mind, Heart, Body, and Spirit, in their work, this map provided the outline for how we would share responsibility for our time together. The map continued to develop over the weekend and continues to evolve as it becomes a core organizing framework for our operations as a network.

That morning, we sat together in a round of introductions: who we were, where we come from, why we were here. Becky’s mother and father joined the group to share about their lives at Pine Ridge and beyond, which reinforced a desire by many of the folks who had arrived to see more of the surrounding reservation. That afternoon, Becky took a group to Wounded Knee and the Badlands National Park to see some of the history of the place, and to bring it fully into the opening.

That evening, after everyone ate the first of many wonderful meals prepared by Aidon and Filmore, the participants came together in prayers and blessings to officially open the gathering. The Youth Passageways delegates brought gifts from their ancestral lineage or the lands they lived. One by one, each delegate was invited to come to the center and speak to what their gift was and to offer it to the center table or to a specific person from Pine Ridge. There were so many gifts offered that they filled the table and the floor around it! The Pine Ridge residents were then invited to choose the gift they wanted and the rest were placed next to the altar for those who would arrive throughout the gathering. The invitation to gather on the ancestral lands of the Lakota people was met with gratitude; it was a special moment for many of the delegates that had been holding the story of YPW all the way back to its origins in Hawai’i or even beyond. The evening ended with a round of introductions and acknowledgments, a rich sense of exchange clear and present in the air.

 

Day Two – Mind, Body, Heart: The second day started with the Facilitation Team, Clement Wilson and Ramon Parish, alongside Becky and Dallas, inviting the larger body to break up into self-identified caucus groups of Olders/Yelders/Elders, Queer, Youth, Settler, Indigenous, and “?”. Each was then asked to reflect and share on the challenges and gifts they saw as part of the group they were in, see photos for what came out (including the modern art provided by the Olders/Yelders/Elders). This was also a time for folks to get some time to be in smaller conversations. After lunch, the YouthVoice group held by Marisa, Lia, Kruti, and Delacina invited participants out for a no-holds-barred game of Capture the Flag (led by 2 youth captains Michael and Khalil) and oh what a game it was! Arguably, one of the biggest takeaways from the gathering is confirmation that Orland Bishop will indeed divebomb the ground in order to advance a game for his team! Afterward, there was a debrief and then some needed time to decompress.

Later that evening after dinner, everyone met back in the central meeting space where Brother Larry Swallow, one of the ceremony and story holders of the All Nations community, gave a lively and interactive telling of the Lakota Creation story and the Seven Sacred Medicines gifted to the Lakota people by White Buffalo Calf Woman. The sharing of the traditions of the Lakota people opened conversation around the challenges and opportunities of the interfacing of these long-standing traditions with multi-cultural worldviews. One example that surfaced was how two-spirited and non-binary folks can feel seen and welcomed for who they are, across cultural differences.

As the evening closed, folks went to various spaces, with fireside conversations that emerged from the day weaving into the Dreamtime of the night and the gathering overall.

 

Day Three – Spirit Led: By the third day, the participants were living in the flow of “Spirit Led,” of letting go of agendas and accepting that what needed to happen will. That morning, Becky and Dallas invited community elders Leksi’ Chris Eagle Hawk and Leksi’ Cecil Cross to join the group and for a water blessing that would happen at some point during the day. Leksi’ Chris shared his story of being taken from his home and forced into a Catholic Boarding School and how that directly impacted the way he was unavailable for his children for most of their childhood, as well as the steps he took to come back to himself, his culture, and the lifesaving power of its medicine. Afterwards, the group convened to bless a freshwater spring on the property with the hopes for it to become an artesian well sometime in the next year.

The time in nature continued as Leksi’ Cecil and Dallas took a group up into the bluffs that line the Yellow Bear Canyon in which All Nations is perched. They spoke of the land, the medicines there, and the experiences they have had with young ones learning their traditional ways through All Nations. Through this the hike, the expansiveness of the land and of All Nations larger relationship to it, became infinitely clearer to the participants who walked the bluffs. It made for a breathtaking and nourishing time.

That evening was the Passion, or talent, Show. After dinner in the setting sun, Delacina met participants in the clearing at the center of the All Nations grounds on Horseback and spoke to her and the Lakota relationship to animals, dogs and horses in specific. For many people that were present, watching Delacina weave two traditions of her people–horse culture and hoop dancing–was a moving testament to the power of the ways young people can draw on their traditional ways to give birth to new cultural forms and their own unique expressions of creativity. Watching her father, Dallas, humbly and a little bit awkwardly support her added to the power of what she shared! Afterward, folks made their way back to the meeting space for the Youth MC team of Michael, Alex, and Khalil. From wholly raw and emotion filled poetry to uncontrollable laughter, many participants offered in a creative way a bit of who they are. This evening created a moment inside the larger moment of the gathering harkening back to the “Blessings and Beauty” public event held during the LA Gathering.

 

Day Four – What is Actually Needed – The Gift in Offering: The day began with movement held by Melissa Michaels. Participants began to move some of the energy and tension in our bodies from the weekend so far. As the gathering drew toward closure, there was a common sentiment that participants needed a chance to get to know what each present had brought in terms of skills and knowledge as one of the many ways YPW would live into the idea of alliance.

Simultaneously Dallas had started a conversation with Dane (and championed by sweet Khalil) about using their combined collection of bows to close the gathering with an arrow ceremony in which prayers were tied to arrows and shot out into the land. So as the morning session unfolded, each participant was encouraged to make a prayer tie, knowing that some folks had to leave earlier in the afternoon.

As each of the adults shared, one of the participants, Angus, recorded what each offered on a large drop cloth attached to one of the walls with a promise to translate to a spreadsheet and disseminate to the collective upon their return home. A common component of the sharing was a feeling of being under-resourced overall and simultaneously in need of more of the kinds of gatherings like those that Youth Passageways hosted. After each of the adults and elders had gone, everyone transitioned outside and formed a circle around the youth to center their voices and to hear what their needs were. Many listening felt humbled and heartbroken, listening to the challenges that the young ones faced. A common refrain the youth shared was a desire for more experiences like this weekend gathering. As each spoke, they lifted up the others and together began forming a protective and supportive bond, even while they offered clear and passionate appeals to the practitioners and facilitators surrounding them!

As the group headed back to the central meeting space, departure time was approaching. Dallas rallied a group of seven folks from Pine Ridge and YPW to take up bows, each with a bundle of the prayer ties affixed and on the count of three, they were loosed out into the bluff overlooking the land. The cheers and laughter were riotous and as the circle came together in closing, each person was invited to embrace every other in a beautiful chain of love and doksha (farewell for now in Lakota).

 

What’s Happened Since & Next Steps: Since the gathering, many things have been moving in those who attended, in the All Nations and Pine Ridge communities themselves and between them and the greater YPW community, here are just a few.

  • Participant Follow Up Call: Participants gathered for a call in the month after the gathering to reflect on their time and to discuss what was most impactful for them and some of the steps below. You can listen/watch the call HERE.
  • All Nations / YPW Alliance: Dane (and other interested YPW delegates) will head back to All Nations this coming April for the next All Nations Annual Gathering to keep dreaming into the alliance as well as to continue the arrow ceremony started with Dallas this fall.
  • Youth Council – Delacina along with youth from around the reservation have also formulated a Youth Council to meet each month at All Nations with male and female delegates from each of the 9 districts (As well as the invitation to two-spirited delegates as well) to talk about what they want to see happen in the coming months and to hold a Passion/Talent Show those same evenings!
  • Elders Council – In September, Dallas and Chubbs began going to all the Elders in the 9 districts and inviting them to start an Elders council in response to the Youth Council with the goal of eventually having them be informed by each other!
  • All Nations & Golden Bridge Yolanda has already made a trek out to the Front Range to continue building relationship with Golden Bridge and Becky is slated to head out in the coming weeks. There are also plans solidifying to integrate movement programs into the All Nations program offerings in 2019 and for a joint dance center to be built at All Nations at some point in the future.

Deep and Enduring Thank Yous to the Many Hands Who Made the 2018 Gathering Possible:

The warmest of thanks to Becky and Dallas Chief Eagle who opened their home to Youth Passageways in the spirit of generosity and healing, and to the whole All Nations family including Brother Chubbs Francis Thunder Hawk, Brother Larry Swallow, Sister Yolanda Cordova-Swallow, Sister Carol Iron Rope-Herrera, Leksi’ Chris Eagle Hawk, Leksi’ Johnny Gibbons, and Leksi’ Cecil Cross.

And a specific and poignant thank you to the youth who brought such vulnerability, trust, courage and grace to our time together including Delacina Chief Eagle, Alex Swallow, Michael Bull Bear, Brittany Poor Bear, Duane Two Bulls, Khalil Parekh-Richardson and to the whole His Horse is Thunder clan (Akicita, Tessie, Sol Mahpiya Zi, and Anina)!

Flow of Resources – the Financial Report:

The gathering cost $26,097. Our goal for this gathering was to break even, and we did exactly that. In April, we launched our Making Kin fundraising campaign and secured funding from the Kalliopeia foundation as well as a new grant from the Arbonne Foundation, combined with individual contributions that brought us to $17,600 with another $3,200 in registrations costs which gave us exactly $3 in net revenue! The success of breaking even however, should not be understated, even, for a fact, allowed us not only to bring folks from across North American to Pine Ridge but additionally, to contract with local folks for various logistical needs and to keep the resources close to Pine Ridge!

Individual & Organizational Financial Donations:

Mick Rhodes, Kruti Parekh, Munro Sickafoose, Scott Lawrance, Wendy Kaas
Darcy Ottey, Anna Coffman, Pegi Eyers, Rob Meltzer, the Schick Foundation, the Arbonne Foundation, the Kalliopeia Foundation, Golden Bridge, the School of Lost Borders, Gigi Coyle

Donations/Volunteer Time:

Including but not limited to: Kruti Parekh, Marisa Taborga Byrne, Darcy Ottey, Sobey Wing, Ramon Parish, Melissa Michaels, Gigi Coyle, Orland Bishop, Dane Zahorsky, JO Jett Oestreich-Cazeaux, Frederick Marx, Lia Bently, Clement Wilson, Siri Gunnarson, Will Scott, and Angus Maria Moore.

And a special thank you to Aidoneus Bishop who offered his hands and his amazing food alongside brother Filmore Richards in the kitchen, and to David Moskowitz who so graciously gifted us with so many beautiful images!

Participants:

Marisa Taborga Byrne
JO Jett Oestreich-Cazeaux
Aidoneus BishopDarcy Ottey
Siri Gunnarson
Will Scott
Ramon Parish
Kruti Parekh
Cameron Withey
Yolanda Cordova-Swallow
Melissa Michaels
Sarita Rivard
Angus Maria Moore
Chubbs Francis Thunder Hawk.
Akicita His Horse Is Thunder
Tessie His Horse is Thunder
Sol Mahpiya Zi His Horse Is Thunder
Anina His Horse is Thunder
Manuela Welton
Mariah Tuffy
Lia Bentley
Gigi Coyle
Orland Bishop
Clement Wilson
Sobey Wing
Larry Swallow
Michael Bull Bear
Brittany Poor Bear
Delacina Chief Eagle
Becky Chief Eagle
Duane Two Bulls
Pedro H. Silva
David Moskowitz
Dane Zahorsky
Pınar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd
So Sinopoulos-Lloyd

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Though Youth Passageways holding a gathering at All Nations would be a momentous gift and opportunity, it felt important to be very thoughtful saying ‘yes’ to the invitation. Embedded in the very fabric of YPW from the start has been a steadily evolving practice of permission seeking and the intention of coming to the places it gathers in service and in right relationship with those places and the peoples that reside there. Over the rest of 2017 and January 2018, finding that ‘YES’ was explored deeply alongside Becky, as a new SC member, and in collaboration with the Cross-Cultural Protocols Working Group. An organizing team formed consisting of Becky and Dallas Chief Eagle, Dane Zahorsky and Darcy Ottey, and supported Gathering by Yolanda Cordova-Swallow, Gigi Coyle and Sobey Wing. This team, in dialogue with the whole SC, decided that a small gathering of 35 to 40 people would best serve the place and people of the land. Half of the attendees would come from All Nations and Pine Ridge, and the other half would be a “delegation” from the greater YPW network. Becky, Dallas, the CCP, and others helped offer a mindful and heartfelt process of preparing and informing the YPW delegates to contribute and collaborate with the Place so that reciprocity would be at the heart of the gathering.

Below are some of the steps in this preparation and trust building process:

March 2018 – All Nations Site Visit:

In early March, Dane Zahorsky, YPW’s Director/Broom pusher, and his partner, headed to All Nations Gathering Center on behalf of YPW, to deepen the relationship with All Nations and get a working understanding of the place, its capacity, and ways of possible collaboration between the two organizations. Learn more about that journey and what came out HERE.


June – PC Episode 3 – The Spirit of Wellness & The YouthVoice Team Forms:

After the site visit, and in preparation of heading to All Nations later that summer, Becky and Dallas were invited to be guests on the newly launched YPW Podcast: Practicing Community.  You can listen to Becky and Dallas dive into their work HERE.  At the same time Marisa Taborga Byrne, YPW’s Network Mapper, had started to develop a bond with Dallas’s daughter, Delacina Chief Eagle and joined the organizing team as the Youth Voice Track point person.


July – August – Participant Calls:

The preparation process included two calls; the first shared historical and current context on Pine Ridge Reservation and All Nations Gathering Center and offered deeper awareness of the socio-economic and political issues affecting the community. You can listen to the first call HERE. The second, hosted by Sobey Wing and Gigi Coyle, focused on the relationships between settlers and indigenous peoples and provided examples of asking permission and consent to organize events on traditional territories that are not one’s ancestral homelands. You can listen to that call HERE.


 

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Youth Passageways Advisor Frederick Marx first introduced Rebecca (Becky) Chief Eagle to Youth Passageways in 2016, and she attended the 2016 gathering in Los Angeles. Over the course of the weekend, Becky fell ill and Marisa Taborga Byrne, JO Jett Cazeaux and Sharon Black Wolf (three amazing Stewardship Council members) nursed her back to health. Even a bit under the weather, Becky showed up in a strong way and it was made clear that tending this new relationship and the unfolding bond among her and those she met at the gathering was important for many people, and for Youth Passageways. There were many threads that came out of this gathering and wove together in a way that wouldn’t be made clear for nearly a year after. Here are two:

Drawing on what transpired in Los Angeles, the Cross Cultural Protocols (CCP) Working Group offered a six week web-based Learning Journey in spring 2017,  in which participants were asked to dive deep into the ways in which who we are and where we come from has an impact on our work as rite of passage facilitators. Topics covered included ancestral lineage, social and cultural change, queer initiation, as well as the ways that rites have been lost through systemic oppression and how they can be reclaimed through reconciliation and healing. This Journey had a significant impact on many of its participants, and ended with the call for the work of reparations in concrete ways.

Another thread was a call from practitioners working along the Front Range in Colorado to explore the possibility of the next YPW gathering taking place there. Through dialogue over a year and a half, it became clear that the timing was not quite right. The question of where the next gathering would be was opened again, with the focus being a localized, community-specific offering. At the same time, Becky accepted an invitation to join the Stewardship Council (SC) during the annual retreat in November 2017, during which she and her husband Dallas graciously invited Youth Passageways for a small gathering of healing and celebration at the All Nations Gathering Center. This center is their home and base of operations on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where for more than 10 years, Becky and Dallas, along with a growing team, have impacted and transformed lives through a “blending of modern practices with the beautiful traditions of the Lakota Way”.

Another thread was a call from practitioners working along the Front Range in Colorado to explore the possibility of the next YPW gathering taking place there. Through dialogue over a year and a half, it became clear that the timing was not quite right. The question of where the next gathering would be was opened again, with the focus being a localized, community-specific offering. At the same time, Becky accepted an invitation to join the Stewardship Council (SC) during the annual retreat in November 2017, during which she and her husband Dallas graciously invited Youth Passageways for a small gathering of healing and celebration at the All Nations Gathering Center. This center is their home and base of operations on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where for more than 10 years, Becky and Dallas, along with a growing team, have impacted and transformed lives through a “blending of modern practices with the beautiful traditions of the Lakota Way”.

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Date: November 10-12, 2017

Location: Estes Park, CO

In Attendance:


Dane Zahorsky (Staff)

Darcy Ottey (SC Chair)

Kruti Parekh (SC Vice)

Marisa Taborga Byrne (Current SC)

Sharon Blackwolf (Current SC)

Sobey Wing (SC Secretary)

Clementine Wilson (Current SC)

Ramon Parish (Current SC)

Grant Abert (Current SC)

Jaime Carrillo  (Prospective SC)

Michelle Katz  (Prospective SC)

Rebecca Chief Eagle (Prospective SC)

Cameron Withey  (Prospective SC)

Sharon Shay Sloan (Prospective SC)

Brendan Clark (Prospective SC)

Hubert Blackwolf (Advisory Council)

Dallas Chief Eagle (Prospective Advisory Council)

Orland Bishop [Guardian/Advisory Council Member]

Gigi Coyle (Advisor/Guardian)

Win Phelps [witness/guest]


Narrative Summary:

This retreat marked the fourth birthday of Youth Passageways. It was held at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. This year, Darcy Ottey and Ramon Parish facilitated the retreat, supported by YPW guardians Orland Bishop and Gigi Coyle.

This year, a larger than usual group gathered, including several prospective Stewardship Council members and advisors as well as several of their spouses. It was a gift to have a strong collection of elder and “yelder” (young elder) couples present and solidified a sense of family and partnership in the work we are doing.

As always, it was an enormous relief to gather in person after a year of conducting our work remotely.  The named intention for our time together was to “nourish the heart of Youth Passageways, and the hearts of each person present.

Participants arrived Friday afternoon, including two guests there for just the evening, Pinar & Sophia Sinopoulos-Lloyd (members of the Cross-Cultural Protocols Working Group). Our opening ceremony and council included acknowledging the lands on which we gathered, called Heetko’einoo’ (“where it is a circle”) by the First Peoples of the place, the Arapaho. The Arapaho were removed from the lands during the bloody 1800’s, and now primarily live on two reservations, one in Oklahoma and one in Wyoming. We began with building an altar together, which grew over the course of the weekend. Many of us offered prayers into our circle. We concluded our long travel day with a round of council in which we each shared our reasons for being there, and anything we wanted to share to bring us fully present in the circle.

Saturday morning, Dane shared a heartfelt, impassioned report on how the last year has gone, and where he sees Youth Passageways at now. After he shared, we broke into small groups, where each person had a chance to share their experience of what’s unfolded at Youth Passageways, where they see us at, and how they see themselves fitting in.

We then heard report-backs from each group and built on the list of questions we’ve holding and wishing to explore during our time together, in order to build the plan moving forward. Here is the list of questions/topics that emerged:

  • What’s our Theory of Change?
  • Our financial situation, how do we shift how we are relating to money. “Who’s Going to Pay For This?”
  • Staffing roles–what is the best system for now, and who are the right people?
  • How is is the working of the SC going to get done most effectively?
  • How do we hold social identity? What is the impact of social identity/positioning on our recruitment/decision-making process? How are we holding diversity & inclusion moving into 2018?
  • How are folks engaging with YPW that we don’t even know? What are the tangible services that we provide?
  • What is it we’re trying to do?
  • What is it we want/expect out of doing those things?
  • What’s happening with the Front Range gathering? Is it the right place, and the right time?
  • How do we gather in a way that not only builds relationships within our network, brings light to important work but also truly serves to advance how rites of passage are being held in the world?
  • Who’s Telling the Story and How Are They Learning It?
  • Are We Actually a Family?
  • Where Are the Young Folks?
  • What Are We Actually Doing to Advance this Field? Is This Even the Right Frame?
  • What’s actually happening right now, in communities with our youth?
  • How do we build in relation to inclusivity?
  • What is changing/changed?
  • Who do we serve?
  • How are we compensating BIPOC (black/indigenous/people of color)/queer folks for their emotional labor in building the network?
  • What conflicts arose this year, and what is there for us to learn from them?
  • Rites of passage: are all ROP today either traditional or appropriative? How do we move beyond this binary?
  • Is Youth Passageways as an organization: white-led, multi-cultural, grounded in indigeneity? other?

It was a long and rich list, and we knew we wouldn’t get to everything over the weekend!

Saturday afternoon, two fishbowl councils were held with our prospective SC members & guests serving as witnesses.  The first dialogue began with the Leadership Circle (Dane, Ramon, and Darcy) sharing about the draft YPW Theory of Change, and speaking about how they see the YPW mission, what’s been happening over the last year, and where we seem to be getting stuck.  The second council focused on how we are using our resources: who’s in what role, how our tasks are getting done, and how to work with our financial challenges as we build for the future. Our witnesses mirrored back the ways we’ve continued to be stuck with conflicting visions, and the need for clear and shared vision of where we’re going and how we fit into the larger cultural shift we’re working for. Maybe more than anything else there was a call for simplicity.

We then were joined via Zoom by Sam Bull, Melissa Michaels, and Pegi Eyers, three of our advisors. We shared briefly what was happening at our retreat, and they brought their voices into the circle, sharing why they were part of Youth Passageways, and what was alive for them in that moment. A few notes from other advisors were shared into the circle as well. While brief, it felt good to continue to build connection between the members of our family, and stay connected with the large circle that is holding Youth Passageways.

Saturday evening, we had a strong truth sharing around where we were individually and as group, naming key missteps and hard moments and feelings. We honored Dane for his work over the last year, and supported him in grieving the loss of his mother and his challenging role in midwifing her death in October. We washed away what was ready to be released from the last year with snow, and shared song together. Some folks met late into the night in healing ceremony, others in playful decompression, others in the dreamtime.

Sunday morning was centered around creating space for what came through the day before. We honored Grant Abert who has been a long-time SC member, major donor, and involved in any way he’s been asked over the last four years. With gifts and words we marked his transition out of one role (on the Stewardship Council) and into another as an advisor.

Over the course of a deep listening, all other SC members affirmed their renewed commitment to continue on, and were joined by new SC members Cameron Withey, Jaime Carrillo, Rebecca Chief Eagle, and Hubert Blackwolf. Supporting that circle were the rest of the retreat participants, including several folks who put a foot or toe in yet still unsure what the right seat might be. We continue to listen for how they will serve the vision. Orland and Gigi continue to support as Guardians while also recognizing that they may step back even further in coming years.  All officers remain in their roles, except Clementine Wilson, who gratefully stepped back as Jaime Carrillo stepped in with knowledge and experience to fulfill the role. The Leadership Circle (Ramon, Darcy, and Dane) continue on, joined by Marisa Taborga-Byrne and Kruti Parekh.

As we moved towards closing, we spoke of the role of the Stewardship Council in fundraising, and the spiritual dimension of gathering resources for our work. Each of us made our own pledges for the year. An interesting moment occurred when the bag containing pledges and donations was placed on the altar. A request was made to move the bag, to separate the profane of money from the sacred of our altar. Another voice spoke of the ways that money is sacred, and the concern of separating the two: how key reuniting in this way is to the cultural shift we are working towards. Collectively, we figured out what to do: place the bag half on the altar? We quickly found our way: the donations were placed on the altar, small stones holding it in place, and a prayer was offered that it may come back one hundred fold, toward the health and wholeness of our youth, our communities, and the land.

After our closing as a small community, we traveled from Estes Park into Denver, and re-convened with folks from the Front Range at Four Winds American Indian Center for an evening of meeting one another, exploring a Front Range Gathering for the Youth Passageways community. As we shared a simple potluck together in a Christian church reclaimed for First Nations peoples, we spoke of Youth Passageways’ history, what our gatherings are about, what has happened in the Front Range so far in preparation, and what we collectively heard is needed at this time. People spoke of the need for something, but perhaps it is a smaller gathering focused more regionally rather than serving the broader Youth Passageways community, or perhaps more time and local community building is needed first. We left inspired by the work happening at Four Winds, and renewed in our commitment to listening together to what is needed, and offering our gifts in service to the whole.

Thank You to all Stewardship Council members, new and old, & their families, Gigi Coyle, Orland Bishop, Grant Abert, Kailo Fund, Kalliopeia Foundation, Roger Milliken, AnJel Fund, Four Winds Indian Center, Estes Park YMCA, and many others!

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Dear friends and family,

This has been an intense couple of weeks. It seems this country has come full tilt into its own adolescence and we’re seeing the full cost of having lost our collective rites of passage. I’m heartsick from the surge of bigotry and racism that have seen an uptick, though in some ways I am grateful that there’s no denying the systemic oppression that has been a reality for so many for so long. It was a deeply important moment for white, cisgendered people who were jolted into a state of anxiety, hypervigilance, and uncertainty that many people of color and the LGBTQ community feel on a daily basis and have for a very long time. I believe that feeling can contextualize privilege and power and act as a transformative agent in the work we each do and as part of a network arising from so many different kinds of communities.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, our Stewardship Council gathered together to look at what 2016 has been and what is needed moving forward to be of the most service to the dream of this organization, especially now.  You can read our report HERE.

One of the themes of last weekend in making sense of it all was exploring together the metaphor first spoken by YPW Advisor Luis Rodriguez in the lead up to our 2016 Gathering. He described our work as trying to build a new house within an old and already crumbling one.  This metaphor guided Youth Passageways to the theme for our gathering last April: Building the Foundation. After November 8th, I would venture to say it’s not just crumbling but being consumed in a raging fire, the smoke is pouring in, and we’re trying not to choke on it. I so often see our work done in this way: acting within a system that seems ablaze, undoing our gains as quickly as we make them. Sometimes I feel that we live in a world where the best we can do is to find our place among the wreckage, pick up debris looking for signs of life underneath, and seek out those doing the same. We’re often forced to expend so much energy simply trying to keep our own communities clear from that debris the larger picture can feel paralyzing. It’s such a vast concept, brimming with questions, and those questions seem like exactly what YPW has been convened to unpack:

  • What is this new house we’re trying to build, who’s welcome, what (if any) are the boundaries involved?
  • How do we come together in its design as both sovereign and integrated communities and cultures?
  • How do we live into the real pull of being ‘in’ and often beholden to the old structures while trying to build the new?
  • And crucially in this time, how do we acknowledge and reconcile that the house we’ve been living in was built on stolen land?

In processing it all, I find myself drawn to the London-based Somali writer Warsan Shire’s perspective:
“ It isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.” 

Which seems so often (at least to me) as the central question: where’s that as of yet unbuilt ‘home’ in which we might bring out the best of ourselves while openly confronting the worst? Because there’s never been a more potent time to think about the kind of home we want to build. We’re charged anew to ask what kind of parents, teachers, practitioners, guides, and  allies we want to be. Charged to figure out how we support each other so we can support our young people. What makes YPW something I am humbled to be a part of is that our partners and supporters are dedicated not to just to a future, but also to a present where we are all seen, held, challenged, and celebrated. Many of us have come together to continue to cast our lots with that beautiful vision of ‘beloved community’ championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, a community that looks to the crucial ingredient that has been seemingly separate yet also bubbling to the surface time and time again in our own community: the power and necessity of healing.

To heal while building means mindful allyship, it means not turning our eyes away from systemic oppression, tacit disenfranchisement, and the deep melancholy that colors our ability to see the world as wholly ripe with possibility. It means building spaces with open seats, it means taking hold of this, the greatest call of our time to not let scarcity overtake abundance, to stand for civility, the strength in difference, and the power of the human spirit.

One of the tangible ways we’d like to do that within our own network is by opening up a digital space for our partners and supporters to be with each other on a monthly basis. Starting on Wednesday, December 7th [5-7pm Pacific] we will have the first YPW Partner’s Circle in which we invite you to come and be with whatever is alive for you. We’ve often heard that our partners are nourished, inspired, and reminded of why we do the work we do never more vividly than when we come together. To offer a space where we can continue to live into the idea of being a community of practice, YPW will be hosting a monthly Zoom call in which our partners can be together, speak truth from the heart, and be current with where YPW is and is going. Click on the link above for more info.

There are a great many other things in the works from a re-imagining of our 2017 gathering, the new journal call for submissions, end of year asks and opportunities, but today, right now, let us just be with the abundance. More people than perhaps ever before are ready to stop sitting it out and start taking action in building a house whose foundation is poured in compassion. And no matter how it shakes out, our responsibility remains the same. Whether you’re a practitioner searching for the way forward or a parent explaining it all to your child (or both), our role right now is to not give into fear but to show up and tend to each other.

None of the work you were doing yesterday is any less important or valid today. In fact, it’s even more so. Together we can build that house,  create that place we’ve never been before.

On behalf of the Stewardship Council of Youth Passageways,
Let us stand together in this great liminal space.
In gratitude,

Dane Zahorsky
Director/Broom Pusher

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Dear Family,

As I thought about what to write to you, I found myself looking out over the bluff at the end of my property. It drops suddenly off into a thick wood that takes over the landscape framing the skyline of the city beyond. Having recently returned from time on the road, I find myself often reflecting on how much I value Hinterlands, areas not quite in the city yet not quite out. These places remind me of the center point on magnets. One of the most interesting things I remember learning as a boy was that the earth’s magnetic center in which longitude and latitude converge isn’t fixed, but is actually constantly shifting. This happens because at the temperatures and pressures found in our planet’s core, iron is squeezed to nearly twice its normal density, and the abundant heat drives electrons crazy. The result is a constant push and pull between competing poles, creating a center that is as alive and seemingly chaotic as the natural systems which its conditions engender.

It seems such an apt analogy of the work we keep being drawn to at Youth Passageways. I’ve often found there to be a certain charge that comes with a given modality or from working with a specific demographic, and these charges on their face can seem at first to repel each other. Yet given the right container, the proper context and conditions, met with a good deal of compassion and patience they can find their way into exemplifying that old adage: that opposites do indeed attract. And so it is with us that we search for how to carefully co-create a living center in which we are made stronger in our diversity and multiplicity. It doubly goes without saying that this is by no means easy, our goals and schedules, egos and shadows so easily tell us we are repelled and yet with persistence…we come fully into the long view.  William Heat-Moon describes it perfectly:

“What and who I cherish I’ve come to slowly, usually blindly, not seeing it for some time, and then suddenly gratitude rolls in like a thunderclap, and I am changed.”

As we think through where YPW is in 2016, and where we must carefully place our energy I find myself filled with a boundless and buoyant gratitude for the many ‘fields’ created by each of you: our partners, both as one pole among the many which comprise our network’s field and within each of the communities from which you hail.

with deep thanks and joy,

Dane Zahorsky, Co-Coordinator

Here’s a little of what we’ve been up to:

  • We are proud and excited to formally acknowledge Kruti Parekh and Clementine Wilson as the newest members of our Stewardship Council! You can read more about them and their work HERE
  • We are full swing in preparations for our upcoming Gathering in Los Angeles. Invitations are out, momentum is building and we’re very excited to say that youth presence is coming in strong and clear. Though it’s an invite only event we still have some wildcard slots left so if you or someone you know is called, or if you’d just like to be involved and aren’t sure how, contact us HERE. To learn more about the gathering itself or to stay up to date we are using our Facebook group and have created an event page you can check HERE or on our website HERE
  • We officially achieved 501c3 Status with the State of California, and remain incredibly grateful to Warrior Films for their fiscal sponsorship while we got there!
  • A big thank you to everyone who helped us reach our 2015 fundraising goal!  Stay tuned for our forthcoming annual report.
  • The Cross Cultural Protocols Working Group is preparing for a pre-gathering Webinar on Monday, March 14, 5-6:30pm Pacific/8-9:30pm Eastern. More Info Coming Soon!
  • Youth Passageways offered consultation to United Visual Arts, an international arts organization based in NYC on a project they are headlining that would bring art, rites of passage, ecology, nature, and entrepreneurship together for inner city youth in NYC in 2017! Visit Pohopoco.co to find out more.

Invitation to Participate in the Youth Passageways Journal:

Want to be on the ground floor of what a YPW journal could be or do? Have experience with editing, visioning creative projects, or are you just someone with great ideas? We are excited to convening a working group to help envision and launch the journal, a resource that will be accessible and relevant to a variety of audiences.  If you’re interested and want to learn more, email Dane HERE and he’ll get back to you ASAP.