At the Threshold of Change in Ashland, Oregon

Words by Holly Truhlar (Ashland, Oregon – USA)

A HALLMARK OF A magnificent mind is . . . they do not need much promoting. Their mental activity is so revved up, all that is needed is a platform.

That’s the situation with Holly Truhlar, who possesses a couple degrees and can boast of special letters behind her name. She has knowledge. Yet, it is not knowledge which is powerful, it is the action knowledge inspires. Truhlar is action.

After only one year in Ashland, she is spearheading a public offering. On Saturday, May 26, she seeks to . . . well, let me get out of the way and have her speak for herself. She is well qualified.

TTT flyer

What is the intention organizing this event?

As I see it, there are a few intentions as listed here:

1) Begin to build trust within a community of practice and care that includes (even emphasizes) marginalized identities and voices;

2) Bring awareness to the underlying, often exploitative and dehumanizing, dynamics in dominant culture which are particularly pervasive in Ashland and often covered by a privileged spiritual overlay;

3) Give voice to the incongruence in what many folks with dominant identities, particularly in Ashland, claim to value versus the impact of their ongoing actions (or non-action);

4) Help people learn and/or practice the embodiment skills needed to sit with discomfort, intimacy, and unpredictability—in other words add to the community’s ability to regulate its nervous system both personally and as a collective;

5) Build experiences, and thus neural pathways, that normalize process over perfection, as well as de-centering dominant identities and voices; and (perhaps most importantly),

6) Get people plugged in and committed to one or two concerted efforts/organizations that work toward social change.

The second day is mostly dedicated to helping people (in Ashland and beyond) move towards specific social change goals and organizations they’re passionate about (such as the Racial Equity Coalition or a pipeline protest). This will include an offers and needs market where the participants list their resources and skills, as well as their needs to the group, a 100-day plan where participants specifically outline how they’re moving forward with the information and experience they’ve had, and time for people with shared interests to come together and plug each other into current, ongoing efforts or create a new needed event/organization.

Who do you see sharing the event over social media? Do you think you are getting the right community endorsements?

Honestly, I am not on social media often and when I am it’s mostly Instagram. Two people manage most of the Facebook promotions and responses for the event. This is an incredible challenge for me as I was stalked by a group of men, mostly online, several years ago, and so I have some fear around participating in social media.

That being written, and in order to not skirt the question, I am not satisfied with some of the emails and social media posts that have gone up, including the sources promoting them. This is a tricky thing because I am absolutely not going to have transactional relationships with people, especially people with marginalized identities, to promote this event. I am not going to ask someone who I don’t have a connection with to promote this event unless it feels like a completely good fit. In the meantime, getting the word out in a way that feels congruent has been hard for me as I am new to the community and marketing. On the other hand, I have had many different people and organizations send information about the event through email including the Racial Equity Coalition, Bill Kauth, Dean Walker, Circuit Youth, Pachamama, and the facilitators. Happy to go into this more and I hope it doesn’t feel like I am brushing off the essence of this question.

Who do you want in the room? Who self-selects to be there?

I want anyone who is a proponent of inclusivity, equity, and imagination beyond Whiteness to be in the room. I am hoping people with marginalized identities find this to be a brave space. I am hoping to attract White people who are willing to work through their fragility. So far, the people who have self-selected are varying in age 16-72 years old, economic background, and racial identities, among other things. That being written, there are more white people and residents of Ashland coming than anything else.

What conversations do you think Ashland needs to have with itself?

Whew! This is a big question. I think Ashland needs to talk to itself about the exploitative foundation it’s built on and the privileged, spiritual shadow that furthers the problem. I think that it needs to get real about intention versus impact, and honest about what the initial intentions even are. I think Ashland needs to start addressing the problems of racial inequity, lack of affordable housing, and white, male-dominated decision-making.

The conversation would be something like this: With so many resources and “good intentions” why is it that so many people in Ashland are still being devalued and exploited? Where do our resources come from? What reparations need to be made? And, are we looking to take care future generations through the way we’re spending different forms of capital or are we looking to keep the current, mostly violent and oppressive, systems in place?

How are future generations going to deal with the unpredictability and chaos that’s inevitably going to happen in the next few decades (due to economic and environmental collapse somewhat caused by the boomer generation)? I hope this gives you an idea of where I’m at with this… happy to go further.

What do you think contributes to impeding personal growth? How can society address those barriers?

I think there are many things that contribute to impeding personal growth. One thing is the idea that personal growth can happen without an eye towards the communal well-being. In other words, I think the emphasis on individualism, personal-growth, and self-development is one of the biggest issues we face. We, especially people (like me) with many dominant identities, lack healthy initiation in this culture and so we continue to reference our selves, our own safety and growth over the health of our larger community, watershed, and the collective human psyche.

Second, I believe trauma and shame (slow-trauma) are pervasive and impede any healthy growth or interaction from fully taking place, thus, embodiment practices are key.

Third, I think we lack deep-discernment and real analysis of what causes harm both systemically and personally. We are encouraged to stay numb and dumb so that power is not actually restructured.

Fourth (and perhaps this is number one stated over again), I think lack of healthy community and connection impede us all from doing any real deep work. We were conceived in relationship to other, we must grow in relationship to other.

Perhaps, I am talking about lack of secure attachment and the circumstances that allow healthy attachment to take place. I don’t believe society can address these barriers, I believe it will be local communities of practice and care that start to address these barriers–emergent strategy style.


Far From American Eyes: An Appeal for Syrian Refugees

Words by Brooke Bicher-Gershel (Alaska, USA)

Far from the view of our American eyes, across the globe in Syria, innocent victims are faced with potential death on a daily basis and for any number of reasons. Families are starving to death due to a severe lack of resources and no access to funds to purchase the limited food that may exist in their town. We don’t see their hollow eyes and emaciated bodies, as our mainstream media limits the information and dictates the narrative that we receive regarding the Syrian Civil War. Bombing campaigns perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad and his allies, claim many innocent lives. We have seen hospitals bombed, something we cannot even comprehend occurring on U.S. soil. Our foreign military intervention is also a cause of death in Syria, as there is no way to ensure innocent victims are not in the way of our bombing campaigns; despite the claims that we conduct “targeted strikes”. These are not “terrorists”, but mothers, fathers, children, loved ones, who are being lost to this war. Chemical weapon attacks are very real and have caused some of the most horrifying and heartbreaking of deaths. Many of those losing their lives are young children, whose underdeveloped bodies simply cannot handle the strain of war.

In the United States, we have long had the luxury of not worrying about bombs falling upon us or chemical weapons attacks suffocating the breath out of our children, burning their respiratory systems from the inside out. We go about our daily lives with the atrocities taking place across the globe barely on our personal radar; as they say, “out of sight, out of mind”. As it does not directly impact our daily lives and we each carry our own burdens; few folks have the wherewithal to diligently monitor the events occurring in a country that is so far away and foreign to them. And with the massive amount of misinformation that gets disseminated via social media and through mainstream media sources, it requires time and research to get a clear vision of what the Syrian citizens are experiencing. When we do the research, many Americans are debating these events on an academic level and losing sight of the human beings most severely impacted by these atrocities. They are facing a genocide, while much of the world turns a blind eye. Will we look back on our apathy and inaction with shame?

Manaf and his daughter

In 2016, I became friends with Manaf, a Syrian refugee who was living in a refugee camp in Turkey and awaiting the designation of “official refugee status” with the hope of eventually being granted asylum and escaping the deplorable conditions of the fenced camps they were surviving within. He and his wife had already experienced the challenges of escaping their war torn country, facing the gun barrels of heartless smugglers who exploit the already impossible situation to their own benefit. This is a prevalent scenario both in Syria and Turkey. They spent cold nights on the ground, hiding in forests until daylight when their journey could commence. His wife delivered their first two children in the confines of a tent within the camps. They did not have enough food to provide her with the necessary nutrients to be able to breast feed her daughters. The situation was dire.

Due to the unlivable conditions of the camps, Manaf decided that they must leave Turkey and attempt to reach Greece. He wanted his wife and children to have their basic needs fulfilled, things as simple as food to eat and clothes to wear. They braved the crossing of the Aegean Sea three times before they were successful in crossing. The first two times, the rubber raft they were on was captured by the Turkish Maritime Police, and they were imprisoned in cattle pens for merely attempting to leave Turkey. Eventually they made it to Greek waters and were greeted with a NATO ship that took them the remainder of the way to land. However, this was not the end of their journey or struggles.

In 2017, Manaf and his immediate family were granted asylum in Germany. Unfortunately, his parents and several siblings remain in the Idlib province of Syria. Over the last two years we have become rather close; he is my brother and his daughters, my nieces. I have dedicated my time, energy and any available income to helping support them and assist in getting his and his wife’s families out of Syria and into the relative safety of the camps, until they too can be granted asylum and reunited with one another. With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, I have had the privilege of helping fund the escape of his disabled brother, sister-in-law and their children from the dangers faced each day they remained in Syria. Unfortunately, his parents are struggling to survive and he does not have an income to provide them assistance. His father calls begging for help and my friend is left feeling powerless to the threat that his parents and sisters face.

I choose to believe that we, as Americans, are generally a compassionate people. We do not want to see the suffering and atrocity of our fellow human beings. We can see our own children in the faces of those dying in Syria, just as we see them in the children who suffer without drinking water in Flint, Michigan. But we also are insulated from these dangers and struggle to understand the acts of a country so foreign to our own. We do not understand why a government would attack its own people, which prompts some to question the validity of these occurrences. We remove the emotion so that we may instead debate these events on an intellectual level. We analyze how our own military intervention into this crisis might affect American lives, at which point, we lose sight of the suffering of the Syrian people. I am here seeking to redress this and bring our attention back to the innocent lives being lost. I ask that you do not turn away from our Syrian brothers and sisters. They are just like us; they love their spouses and children, they want the youth to experience peace, they want their families to be able to follow their dreams. And not only can we help, we have a responsibility to help them. Please, consider donating to campaigns that help the people of Syria directly and those which aid in facilitating the process of asylum. Speak to your legislators about how we are serving those members of our human family in dire need assistance and refuge from the danger faced. Get out and vote. Share knowledge and get active in the refugee community. Together, we can save innocent lives and help them to have a future to build.   

GoFundMe Link:


Contributor’s Biography: Brooke Bicher-Gershel is an Alaskan born activist, who is currently pursuing their Juris Doctorate in NYC. Brooke’s undergraduate work was in Critical Race Theory and the study of genocide and they have chosen to focus their legal education around International Human Rights and the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. They are dedicated to working with marginalized and disenfranchised communities, with the goal of making high end legal aid accessible to these populations. Brooke dedicates her time to raising money for Syrian refugee families, seeking to empower the oppressed and bringing attention to injustice at all turns.



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