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How To Be A Shining Example: Empathy. Education. Empowerment.

April 9, 2018


“You don’t have to be anything,” reminds Tsoknyi Rinpoche. “You don’t have to teach anything. You just have to be who you are: a bright flame shining in the darkness of despair, a shining example of a person able to cross bridges by opening your heart and soul.”

How can we do this? How can we be who we are, a shining example? And can that bring more social and environmental justice to the world?

To increase justice in the world, Judy Lee Dunn suggests we practice the “3Es”: Empathy, Education, Empowerment:

Empathy is the ability to walk in the shoes of another: without empathy, we don’t know what injustice feels like and we don’t care about the injustice in the world.

Once we care, we want to learn more through Education about injustice so we understand it — the causes, the solutions and the actions people take.

Education leads to Empowerment — taking action.  If we only learn about problems, and don’t see how we can be part of the solution, we feel helpless. Taking action leads to a sense of empowerment.

Empathy. Education. Empowerment. I wrote about this a few years ago but it bears repeating.

One way to to become empathetic and to educate yourself and empower yourself is by attending events like Ventura College’s Diversity in Culture Festival and Earth Day events going on all over the world this month.

Ventura College announces the 3rd Annual Diversity in Culture Festival, Wednesday and Thursday, April 11-12, 2018, starting at 9:30 am. The Diversity in Culture Festival is a free, two-day public event that has been designated by the Ventura College Executive Team as, “Alternative Education Days.” The festival will feature a variety of educational opportunities including guest speakers, panel discussions, visual & performing arts, student organizations, food, and a market place.

“We are proud to support an alternative day of instruction and encourage faculty to permit their students to attend the events as part of their educational experience. We value cultural diversity on campus and look to inspire dialogue in the classroom following the festival,” says Ventura College President David Keebler.

The festival provides ample opportunities to highlight various cultural backgrounds, practices, and topics reflected in the campus and the local community. Annual highlights of the event will include a native Chumash ritual; local Danza Aztec groups; and a panel of community religious leaders will share their insights and perspectives, ranging from Islam to Sikhism to Judaism and Christianity. Faculty will present on their areas of expertise, from art history and uncovering the meanings of Maya Glyphs to Haiku writing workshops.  Guest speakers will shed light on non-binary gender identity, and students will host a panel on LGBTQ issues. Various panels will shed light on topics such as autism, adoption, and deaf culture.

Both afternoons, local story tellers Tracy Hudak and Rasika Mathur will lead volunteers in sharing stories from the recent Thomas Fire about immigration and migration experiences.  On Thursday, esteemed Chicano actor, Danny De La Paz, will recount his experiences in the film industry along with a viewing of his film, “Boulevard Night.”

In a multi-media and multi-sensory presentation, LA Chicana punk rock pioneer Alice Bag , former lead singer of the Bags, will share her experiences Weds from 4-5pm. Interactive art includes Carousel Candeo, shibori prayer flags, and a drum circle. Additional cultural topics include flamenco dancing performance, Irish culture, student performances, and a student art display.

Student expression of diversity will be featured in our Poetry Slam on the main stage, Wednesday, April 11 from 11:30am – 1:30pm. This year’s theme is, “Breaking Silence”. The Diversity in Culture Task Force will also announce the student winner of the Poster Art Contest. The selection will be used in the 2019 Festival promotion. The 2018 Poster Art winner is Catherine Carrier.

Festival organizer Gigi Fiumerodo states, “Diversity is often defined in many ways. The goal of the festival is to provide opportunities for our students and community to experience all it can be and hopefully learn more about our world and each other. Usually the discovery lies in that we are all more similar than we are different. Additionally, we hope the festival provides an opportunity for gathering, connectivity, and healing for our community.”

The main Festival stage will be located adjacent the Learning Resource Center. The nearest parking is in the East Lot on the corner of Telegraph and Day Roads. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is $2 and permits can be purchased at designated kiosks. The full event schedule can be viewed at

poster by VC student Justine Arenas


I’m very involved with the Diversity in Culture Festival including bringing the inspiring Chicana punk Alice Bag to campus once again on Weds. April 11 at 4pm in ASC 130. Please join us at this free event! Events that I am hosting include:



12:30-3:30 – ASC/LRC lawn area – Lynne Okun: Shibori banner workshop

Shibori banners come from the ancient art of Japan that involves knotting fabric and dying it.  In our version of Shibori, we will fold, dip and then unfold unique, colorful displays of merging colors. No two will ever come out the same! Make a colorful Shibori banner as a prayer flag to leave to fly on campus during the festival or take it home with you that day.  Materials to make a stencil message will be available — bring your own shirt for stenciling!

1:30-1:45 – ASC/LRC area – Art Installation, “Carousel Candeo” with Deniz Nicole

Art installation Carousel Candeo will be available for play during the Festival on Weds and Thursday. A 12ft kaleidoscopic participant-powered merry go round art installation, it features fire painted panels and gyroscopes that cast splashes of color as it spins participants on their merry way. Pyro-painter Deniz Nicole is passionate about art, music, technology, and science. A Turkish American who grew up in Egypt, Deniz’s talk will focus on how her wild dream of an art installation came to fruition and the difficulties facing a first-generation female artist.

2:30-2:45 – Main Stage – “Touched by Fire” Storyteller Rasika Mathur

2:45- 3:45 – ASC 120 – Circle of Stories: “Touched by Fire” facilitator Tracy Hudak

Story-sharing and community-building based on the national People’s State of the Union movement. We will gather in small circles to share stories prompted by the question: How did the Thomas Fire transform my sense of community? Come join the circle to share or just to listen. Tracy Hudak is a writer and director, an arts leader and a creative economy consultant. She served as the Arts Impact Director for downtown Oxnard, the Executive Director for Bell Arts Factory in Ventura, and as the founder of CreativityWorks, she is growing awareness and support for artists as entrepreneurs and partners in community success. She has a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy & Administration from California Lutheran University.

4:00-5:00 – ASC 130 – Alice Bag: Diversity in the punk movement

People typically picture the punk movement as populated by young white men. But the Black and Chicana punks have been an integral and pioneering part of punk history – and they’re keeping the movement alive and growing today. Meet Chicana Alice Bag, a key figure in the 70’s LA punk scene and an influencer to several of the bands led by women that gained popularity in the 70’s and 80’s. In this mixed media presentation, Alice will share recent and historic video clips and read from her critically acclaimed memoir Violence Girl (Feral House 2011). This event will open with a short video about Black Punks. ENGL V01A (31367)


12:30-3:30 – ASC/LRC lawn area – Lynne Okun: Shibori banner workshop

2:30-3:30 – ASC 140 – Circle of Stories: “Immigration/Migration Stories with Tracy Hudak
Story-sharing and community-building based on the national People’s State of the Union movement. We will gather in small circles to share stories prompted by the question: How did you get here? Come join the circle to share or just to listen.

3:30-4:45 – Main Stage area – Drum Circle with John Lacques
John Lacques of Drumtime will be facilitating a 75-minute drum circle that will be for all ages and all-inclusive of the VC community. John is the founder and principal of Drumtime Facilitated Drum Circles, whose mission is to empower individuals and strengthen groups through the practice of group drumming. Participants will be encouraged to play, sing, dance, and contribute to this group-music making event. Drums and percussion will be provided by Drumtime, and no prior experience is necessary! Come and get your groove on!

NOTE: Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo created the silk applique thangkas detailed aboveLeslie’s fascinating story is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. Her Weekly Wake-ups provide a thread of inspiration to set each week on the path to awakening.



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