And just like that, March is upon us! I hope you're all in good health in spirits with the promise of spring right around the corner (for those of us in warmer climes, it's a promise already fulfilled in the bloom of exuberant flowers). It's given me hope to see that elders, essential workers, educators, and other people are getting vaccinated in greater numbers. What a joy it will be when we can safely gather again in person at our favorite sanghas, libraries, cafes, and other community spaces.
Thank you to everyone who has braved screen fatigue to attend the online events around Be the Refuge. It's been an honor and a delight to connect with people from across the US and around the world. I've learned so much from people's thoughtful stories and perceptive questions. Some of the events, including the Institute of Buddhist Studies book launch with Dr. Scott Mitchell, Elliott Bay Book Company conversation with Dr. Sharon Suh, and Books & Books conversation with Dr. Ann Gleig, have been recorded. You can find a list of upcoming and past events here.
I wrote about the importance of community- and coalition-building across racial and religious boundaries in my last newsletter, and this continues to feel vital and urgent. This year's Black History Month is now past, but I'm heartened to see a commitment among many Dharma practitioners to continue to deepen our understanding of the diversity and complexity of BIPOC communities beyond the confines of designated months. I've had moments of heavy-heartedness this past February too: hearing about the recent vandalism of Higashi Honganji Buddist Temple in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, for instance. Reports like these have me thinking about what it means to build stronger solidarity—across racial divides generally, and Black/Asian American communities in particular. I don't have easy answers about the best ways to go about doing this, but I know the process of building relationship is nourished by time, patience, empathy, and—as Audre Lorde so beautifully articulates in Sister Outsider—the generative power of our differences, which can be sources of creativity rather than fear.
If you're interested in attending an online event around Be the Refuge this March, feel free to register for these upcoming events:
As always, feel free to join any of these virtual events, and to share them with others who might be interested.
- San Mateo Buddhist Temple on Wednesday, March 3, 7pm PST, in conversation with Juliet Bost, David Chin, Hailey La Monte, Michiko Mukai and other SMBT community members. It's always an honor to connect with the Jodo Shinshu community, whose deep roots are a testament to the tradition's resilience. (The San Mateo Buddhist Temple has been serving the Buddhist community of San Mateo County since 1910!)
- The Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford on Thursday, March 4th, 7–8:30pm PST, in conversation with Jane Iwamura, author of Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture. Prof. Iwamura's scholarship is woven throughout Be the Refuge, and it seems like just yesterday that I was shyly asking her to autograph my copy of Virtual Orientalism at University of the West, where she has won multiple teaching awards, so I'm very excited for our conversation and the audience Q&A.
- Zen Center North Shore on Thursday, March 11, 7:15–8:30pm EST, in conversation with ZCNS Founder Rev. Joan Amaral and Asian Art and Philosophy Professor Kate Farrington. I met Rev. Amaral more than ten years ago through the Sati Center's Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program, and am looking forward to this conversation with a sangha that has been engaged in ongoing local efforts for racial justice.
- Barre Center for Buddhist Studies on Sunday, March 21, 7–8:30pm EDT, "Buddhism, Race, and American Belonging: An Asian American View," with Duncan Ryūken Williams. Dr. Williams is a professor at USC, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest, and the author of the groundbreaking work American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War. We'll be exploring a range of topics, including what people of all backgrounds can learn from Asian American Buddhists when it comes to building multiracial coalitions and inclusive communities.
- Insight Meditation Center of Washington DC on Thursday, March 25, 7:30–9pm EDT with Luana Long and Annama Johns (Co-Founders of IMCW’s Asian Sangha) as well as Trisha Stotler, IMCW Executive Director of Programming. The audience Q&A will be moderated by La Sarmiento (Guiding Teacher of IMCW’s BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Sanghas), and the evening will also feature music by Mongolian-born local artist Urana Heart. I'm excited that this event will draw together so many different groups in (and perhaps also beyond!) the IMCW community.
With warm wishes for spring,