Back at the hotel after our first gathering on the farm, I met with my friends from Harvest Time to debrief the day. In that hotel room, I finally understood that we had stepped into a very complicated process, one that would involve building relationship across places of difference that are charged in this culture. I was overwhelmed. And yet I knew we had a shot because Be Present was in the circle.
In 2007, I was new in my learning of the Be Present Empowerment Model®. My friends had introduced me to the organization in 2005. Later, Harvest Time Board Member Nancy Thurston recommended that I participate in Be Present’s National Training Institute on Race, Gender, Power & Class. I was still very early in that training when we met at the farm.
I remember what it felt like to be in my first Be Present conversations and how scared I felt when someone talked openly about the racist assumptions present in their minds. I would freeze internally when those topics hit the floor, thinking, “Oh no. This is where everything is going to fall apart. How are we ever possibly going to find our way through this pain and wounding that is such a part of our country’s history?” Incredibly, amazingly, in ways that I did not yet understand, we did. People talked openly about racist, classist, sexist thoughts and images and others shared what it felt like to hear those things. And somehow – after working through the feelings that come with those conversations – people emerged bright, shining, friends. I did not yet understand how it worked – this model – I just saw that it did.
Though I was still a novice when the circle met at the farm, I had seen enough to know
that Be Present had a tool that could support our process. That tool became a key part of our work to build partnerships in the Mississippi Circle.
Though Be Present remains spiritually connected to the land and to the circle, in 2014 they stepped out of the process, offering everything that they had brought to the circle, including financial resources, as a gift to support the emergence of the full dream for the land.
When I was crafting this newsletter, I invited our friends from Be Present to write a reflection. Because they are operating with a very full schedule and a limited staff, they were unable to do so. But I, in good conscience, could not complete this newsletter without speaking to the incredible gift that Be Present offered this process from beginning to end.
I know that we are ready to transfer the farm according to our original intention, in large part because of what Be Present offered the circle. I am deeply grateful.