Interfaith Lecture Preview

Soerens to discuss importance of connection, faith to civic life


A lack of connection can be harmful to a community. Coté Soerens lived in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood for about 10 years, and she saw the highway that divided it as a problem. 

“It was an underutilized, redundant highway in a neighborhood that has been struggling with this investment for 100 years and isolated from the rest of the city,” Soerens said. “This highway was getting in the middle of it, and once it just hit me: What if we just shut this highway?”

Soerens would go on to start Reconnect South Park, an initiative to decommission Seattle’s Highway 99, a fight it continues to this day. Soerens would move on from that initiative to others, still working to get people connected.

Soerens will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy as a part of Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme “Religious and Ethical Infrastructure.”

Soerens said the South Park neighborhood was a “living grant proposal,” and “non-profited out,” with nonprofit organizations regularly coming in to communicate that the neighborhood needed external help, with the places people could congregate taken over by nonprofit student programming.

“The idea started emerging of starting a coffee shop, which basically was a placemaking initiative,” Soerens said. “In Seattle, at least, coffee shops are really great third spaces, so it seemed like a good idea.”

Soerens’ shop, Resistencia Coffee, was entirely sourced from within the neighborhood, from the construction to the vendors, and was open about six years.

“It was a love letter to South Park,” Soerens said. “Everything about the coffee shop was very intentional — the design, the menu, the baristas that we hired, the kids area, the layout — we had a good run.”

Recently, Soerens and her family relocated to Chicago, where she is now the director of tuition transparency and access at Trinity Christian College. 

She said she works with the college to look for “neighborhood-based economic models to make college affordable and debt free.”

“The bet we’re making is that ecosystems approach to economics, which is place-based, that there is wisdom and gifts in neighborhoods in the Chicago area,” Soerens said, “that we can draw from to co-create a more just and accessible system of higher education.” 

At Chautauqua, Soerens will speak about the power of religious institutions in bringing people together.

“Democracies thrive when people are connected, and the church has historically been an institution that has brought people together in a value-based way,” Soerens said. “We are people who have ideas and values, and we want good things.”

Currently, Soerens said there is a crisis of belonging, with people feeling lonely and isolated.

“I do see religious institutions as places that do bring people together,” Soerens said. “Whether it’s a Christian tradition or the Jewish tradition or the Muslim tradition, there is a lot of power in congregating around common values.”

To Soerens, there are lessons from faith traditions that we can bring into secular spaces.

“The ability to love across difference, that’s something critical to Christianity, to love your enemy,” Soerens said. “How powerful would that be, if we were to actually rely on the gifts of our religious tradition that allow for us to have a healthier civic life?”

We are responsible for making our neighborhoods transformative places, Soerens said, and we have the ability to do so.

“We have a lot more power than we sometimes assume we do,” she said.

Simran Singh to discuss Sikh faith, ‘staying optimistic and hopeful amidst darkness’


James Buckser
Staff writer

Simran Jeet Singh is working for equality.


Singh will speak on his own journey today at 2 p.m. in the Hall of Philosophy as part of Week Four of the Interfaith Lecture Series theme “Religious Faith and Everything Else We Believe In.” 

Singh strives for equal treatment of all people, regardless of race, class or faith, serving in several roles, including his work as an Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity with Columbia University and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a Soros Equality Fellow with the Open Society Foundations, and executive director of the Religion and Society Program at the Aspen Institute. 

The institute works to ensure that all people “have the opportunity to thrive,” Singh said, no matter “what they believe, if they don’t believe, how they look, where they come from.”

“We do that in many different ways,” Singh said, “primarily by working with leaders in different areas who can help ignite change and resolve some of the biggest social issues that we face in our time today, around racial justice, around climate change, and ultimately, about learning the dignity in the people that we meet every day.”

Singh holds graduate degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and is a visiting lecturer at Union Seminary. He writes articles for outlets including Time magazine, CNN and Religious News Service. He is the author of a children’s book, Fauna Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person To Ever Run a Marathon, and a nonfiction book, The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life.

In a recent article for Time, Singh wrote about the Sikh idea of seva. According to an article from the BBC, seva or “sewa” involves “acting selflessly and helping others in a variety of ways, without any reward or personal gain,” which is important to the Sikh faith.

“It helps us have a sense of perspective about where we sit in the world, how we relate to other people,” Singh said. “It … helps us to practice humility, and to see that the world is bigger than our individual lives, and that we can find meaning and happiness for serving the people around us.”

Singh said while some aspects of American religious inclusion are “getting better,” others are “getting worse.” What is remaining consistent is that Americans tend to be “unsure” about how to discuss religion and “uncomfortable” with conversations about it.

“I think that is unfortunate,” Singh said. “It leads us to not know important reasons for what makes us tick.”

While we’re “comfortable” discussing issues like “race and gender and sexual orientation,” Singh said religion often gets left behind.

“When we’re thinking about creating a culture where people can be their whole selves, but we don’t account for religious identity and religious experience,” Singh said, “we miss out on an important part of people’s lives.”

While often under-discussed, Singh said it is “increasingly clear” that religion plays an “important role in American politics.”

“You can look at any major hot-button issue like abortion or immigration, you can look at phenomena and movements like white Christian nationalism,” Singh said. “Religion is playing a really important role in our society, and we’ve gotten to the point now that we can no longer ignore it.”

While this is happening here, this is also true outside of “the American context,” Singh said, with the rise of right-wing nationalism often using religion as a driving factor.

“If we want to address these issues head on, we have to start taking religion more seriously and understand better what’s happening here so that we can deal with it,” Singh said.

Singh said part of the way to do that is to start talking about difficult subjects.

“We really make progress when we actually talk about the issue, even when our conversations are uncomfortable and even when we don’t have all the right answers,” he said. “I think with regard to religion, step one is really developing a basic comfort around curiosity, being able to ask the right questions and not expecting one another to always have the right answers.”

Singh also said a second step is “cultural and religious literacy” that could help, not “for the sake of having all the information,” but to “open our minds and our hearts” to people who are different from us.

Singh will offer his own unique experiences today, hoping to “share a story that people haven’t heard before,” the story of “a Sikh growing up in America” and share insights he’s learned from his tradition that have helped him stay “optimistic and hopeful amidst darkness.”

“I’m hopeful that the message will be both grounded in the real challenges of our lives,” Singh said, “but also the possibilities of the optimism that comes from it.”

Jackowski opens series on spiritual friendships with personal journey


Sara Toth

When Karol Jackowski entered the Catholic Sisterhood in 1964, nuns were prescribed a litany of rules to follow — even ones related to friendship.


“They shall carefully avoid any friendship contrary to community spirit, such a close union with one person being a formal separation from the rest,” read one.

But another: “They shall love one another sincerely, never entertaining feelings of aversion. They shall pray for one another; they shall help and serve one another. They shall strive to banish from their minds every thought of jealously and to rejoice in the success of their sisters as their own.”

Jackowski — who has since left the Sisters of the Holy Cross — is now part of the Sisters for Christian Community, an independent, self-governing sisterhood. She opens the 2023 Interfaith Lecture Series, and its Week One theme of “Holy Friendship: Source of Strength and Challenge” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. Her lecture title is “Friends: The Holy Family That We Choose.”

In her memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: Becoming a Nun in the Sixties, Jackowski details how she first came to her religious vocation; the idea of becoming a nun grew serious in the middle of her senior year, “the proverbial eleventh hour,” she wrote.

“I loved high school because of the friends and fun I found there; it was my first taste of what I now know as sisterhood,” she wrote in Forever and Ever, Amen.

In 2007, Jackowski told Reuters that she decided to write her memoir — her fourth book as a full-time writer — because she found that the life of a nun is largely a mystery to many outside the faith. The lives of the nuns themselves, she said, were shrouded in mystery, and she wanted to lift the veil.

“Writing or any of the arts were never encouraged or supported in religious life. The sense of individuality or the idea of expressing your own experiences was sort of suppressed. I think there are only a handful of nuns writing anything,” she told Belinda Goldsmith of Reuters Life! “Lots of parts of convent life were very difficult and people don’t want to reveal that side. It’s like a dysfunctional family.”

That family, she told Goldsmith, taught her “how to live with people you don’t like, you disagree with, and you would never anticipate being your friend.”

In the years since, Jacowski has earned a PhD from New York University, become a full-time writer (her most recent book is 2021’s Sister Karol’s Book of Spells, Blessings, and Folk Magic), a self-taught painter of religious folk art, and a faculty member in Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction. 

Since Jackowski’s been considering this concept since she was a young nun, she brings a spiritual creativity to open the week that Melissa Spas, vice president of religion, finds exciting.

“Sister Karol has a breadth of experience in thinking and sharing with others the power and limits of friendship as part of spiritual practice,” Spas said. “It sets the tone and creates space for others to talk more particularly about their own friendships and the nurturing of friendship as a spiritual value.”

Rev. Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard Div., to talk justice work through faith


A speaker, professor, mentor, preacher, writer and cable news commentator, the Rev. Yolanda Pierce, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity and professor of Religion and Literature and Womanist Theology, works at the intersection of race, religion, gender and justice.

Pierce will give her lecture, titled “A Grammar for Racial Justice: How Religious Talk Can Save the World,” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 in the Hall of Philosophy for Week Nine of the Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Faith and the Tapestry of the Future: In Partnership with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”

Pierce is dedicated to relieving any division created between the pulpit, or lectern, and the people; she feels as though teaching is meaningful only when it improves people’s daily lives. When Pierce leads people in dialogue, her goals are clear. 

“I am not interested in most conversations about equality,” Pierce wrote on her website. “I am, however, interested in the weightier matters of law: justice and freedom. How can we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly?”

Pierce is the first woman to lead  Howard University’s Divinity School. In February 2021, she released her book In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit, which chronicles the history of theology before it was consistently defined as theology. 

“If the only theology we have is (Martin) Luther or (John) Calvin, then we’re missing how God moves in a world for a group of people who don’t know Luther or Calvin, will never read (their) work nor are interested in the 1500s in which they lived,” Pierce told Religion News Service in February 2021. “So I’m really trying to shift the discourse about who can do theology and what counts as theological source material.”

Pierce is an esteemed scholar of both African American religious history and womanist theology, which approaches theology by focusing on the Black female perspective. She has been published in academic journals for which she has authored over 50 essays centered on the interaction between race, faith and gender. But, she said her grandmother supplied her with expectations for the future of the Black church. 

In the preface of her book Pierce refers to “grandmother theology,” which she defines as the thought and faith systems of generations who came before her parents. This was done in an effort to broaden the boundaries of womanist theology.

“It is to refer to the grandmothers, aunties, the other mothers, the nonbiological connections women have and to really expand the category of womanist theology,” Pierce told Religion News Service, “so the words and the thoughts of grandmothers and church mothers and other mothers are a part of the conversation.”

Pierce is working toward dismantling the patriarchy of the church. She identifies as Pentecostal and said she grew up in a tradition where women believed living a modest and holy life, including dressing modestly, were required to attain salvation. This concept of modesty has been a struggle for Pierce to separate from her understanding of godliness. 

“For me, it has been a challenge to tear apart the question of legalism from the question of holiness, to maintain the beauty of holiness but for it not to be caught up in the legalism of patriarchy,” Pierce told Religion News Service.

Interfaith America founder Eboo Patel to address, celebrate diversity, innovation


America was created on the basis of religious freedom, back to the 17th century when the pilgrims first arrived from England. Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith America, author and former member of President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Reform of the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, will open the Week Nine Interfaith Lecture Series with his discussion on “Potluck Nation” at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22 in the Hall of Philosophy.

His lecture launches the afternoon theme, “Faith and the Tapestry of the Future.” This week’s theme is in partnership with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. 

Patel, whose position at Interfaith America involves facilitating interesting conversations, said he has two main points to his Chautauqua lecture, and one will be to address the current Judeo-Christian state of America.

“It’s actually quite recent, only since the 1930s, that we regularly refer to ourselves as a Judeo-Christian nation,” Patel said. “It was an important step forward from the idea of being a Protestant nation.”

The United States is one of the most religiously diverse countries, and the most religiously devout nation, in the Western hemisphere, and Patel said the country’s next chapter should be titled “Interfaith America.” 

He will explain that title, of both his lecture and his suggestion for the country’s next chapter, by discussing the concept of America as a “melting pot.”

“Identity shouldn’t be considered a battleground, either, where we’re only talking about our own wounds and trying to wound others,” Patel said. “The best way to think about American diversity is as a potluck supper. We are welcoming the distinctive contributions of diverse communities.”

In his time working on the inaugural Advisory Council on Reform of the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Patel had a conversation with Obama about interfaith cooperation as a central pillar of American civilization.

“One of the things that his White House did with my organization was launch something called the President’s Interfaith Challenge,” Patel said. “It involved (about) 500 campuses and dozens and dozens of local communities.”

The full title of the challenge was: The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, and its goal was to use universities, a place of problem solving, to set the example for interfaith cooperation. 

At Chautauqua, he plans to discuss the events of Aug. 12, when author Salman Rushdie was attacked on the Amphitheater stage. Patel sees Chautauqua as a place to discuss American civilization and the role America plays in having intergenerational, ongoing conversation about diversity.

“There’s no place that does that better than Chautauqua,” Patel said. “When (these conversations) are violated, what we need to do is, first of all, tend to the wounds of that violation. Then we reaffirm and reassure the centrality of the work of the Institution, and I’m proud to do that. I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Patel said for centuries, people have thought it was impossible to have interfaith dialogue and relationships, and America is the world’s first attempt at this.

“The United States has shown that not only can we coexist, but that we can cooperate and we can create together,” Patel said. 

Sr. Joan Chittister to promote feminism alongside religion


Feminist values have become more prominent within the social discourse of the last century; it has been an even longer road for those values to emerge in the dialogue of religious communities. The need for advocates of justice, peace and equality within religious communities is immense. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, a Benedictian Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, is one of those advocates, using her work to promote feminist values alongside religious ones. 

She will give her lecture, titled “The Time is Now,” at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19 in the Hall of Philosophy to close Week Eight of the Interfaith Lecture Series, “New Profiles in Courage.” 

She is a theologian, author and has served as the Benedictine prioress and federation president, and president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Chittister said she wants to question and observe the roles of every institution, group and citizen involved in developing a culture. 

“(America) is moving more and more into a position of observership, we observe everybody else (and) we observe what’s going on,” Chittister said. 

In the current state of the U.S. government, people often observe without taking action. There’s no participation other than sharing a social media post, she said; the questions that need to be asked are being ignored.

“When I was a young woman, there was no feminist talk at the time,” Chittister said. “The strongest women I saw anywhere in my life were the sisters who taught me, and I saw them as strong, independent, committed and loving women — they were so good to me.”

From a young age Chittister knew she wanted to be a sister. She said there was almost no activism for women when she began work with the sisters. 

“These sisters became a model to me of womanhood,” Chittister said. “I admit that there was no language in my world to talk about groups of women and the impact of them.”

Reflecting on the attack on Salman Rushdie Friday morning at Chautauqua, Chittister said the assault does not necessarily change her speech, but rather emphasizes the importance of such conversations.

“I want to talk about the whole notion that we are living in a culture that enables last Friday,” Chittister said. “We’re a country of violence, the most violent country on the globe, and we don’t even seem to care.”

Princeton’s Robert P. George to examine illiberalism, advocate for civil liberties


Stereotypically, people with opposing viewpoints don’t get along. But stereotypes aren’t always applicable in the context of controversial subjects such as politics. People with opposing viewpoints can be acquainted and even admire each other.

Robert P. George, Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program and Cornel West, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary, could not have less common ground in their cultural, social and political beliefs. But they do have a close friendship. 

The two are an example of reaching across the political divide, having taught courses together, written together and traveled the world together discussing the importance of civil and honest discourse. 

George will draw from this friendship as he gives his lecture, “What Causes – And What Might Cure Campus Illiberalism?” at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 in the Hall of Philosophy to continue the Week Eight theme of “New Profiles in Courage.”

Illiberalism is the rejection of basic civil liberties, such as the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment.

“Sometimes it’s not the outright rejection as it is having such a limited and constrained view of those freedoms, that the life is sucked out of them,” George said. “So they lose their robust meaning.” 

He plans to talk about situations on college campuses where speakers are disinvited from speaking because of their personal views, despite the importance of their research or necessary topics they may have planned to discuss.

“Sometimes it’s worse than disinvitations, although that’s bad enough,” George said. “A speaker is not only protested … but are obstructed or shouted down or not allowed to be heard or threatened or intimidated.”

These are all examples of illiberalism, and George said one instance he remembers profoundly is Dorian Abbot, associate professor of geosciences at the University of Chicago. Abbot was disinvited to give the 2021 John Carlson Lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“His lecture was not going to be on anything controversial,” George said. “It was going to be on how scientists figure out what the climate is like on planets outside our solar system. That’s not a political talk, but a very interesting one from a scientific point of view.”

MIT was pressured by people on campus to disinvite Abbot after reading an op-ed he and another colleague released on how hiring in the science industry should be based only on scholarly accomplishments, not race, gender or any other identifiable factor.

“It is controversial that you should hire only on the basis of scholarly narrative — we have a big debate on this in our country,” George said. “There were people who didn’t approve of Professor Abbot’s point of view (and) they demanded that MIT cancel his lecture.”

When George found out about the cancelation, he got in touch with Abbot and gave him the opportunity to give the same talk, but at Princeton.

“The lecture went forward, but not at MIT,” George said. “That’s an example of someone being denied an opportunity to speak his case. Not because of what he was going to be saying at MIT, but because of his views about an unrelated matter.”

A properly liberal spirit welcomes an expression of a wide range of viewpoints, George said; the best approach is to bring up all sides of controversial questions so people can make up their minds themselves.

George said he doesn’t like ideologically-partisan labels, but sometimes they are necessary to provide a broad perspective.

“We need to be careful because most people don’t fit under any one comprehensive description,” George said. “We need to make sure that in our effort to be efficient in our communication, we don’t shortchange accuracy.”

Labels and illiberalism can damage the intellectual culture of any campus, from K-12 schools to graduate programs. George said it deprives young people of the opportunity to learn.

“In all fields of learning, it’s important to the health of the intellectual enterprise that liberalism is not ashamed,” George said. “(It needs) a wide range of reasonable points of view that are well-expressed.”

George said he and West are dear friends who happen to be at different places on the political spectrum.

“We can learn from each other because we don’t go into it convinced that we absolutely know the truth infallibly,” George said. “I learn from Cornel all the time, and he says he learns from me all the time.”

People who seek the truth will find others who wish to do the same, and then there are those who do not conform to what people believe they should. George said both of these kinds of people should be appreciated.

“I want to commend the courage, both of the dissenters, whether I happen to agree with them or not, that doesn’t matter,” George said. “They’ve got the courage to express their dissent. They deserve commendation for that. And I want to commend the courage.”

V. Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Darren Walker to converse on importance of social justice issues

Screen Shot 2022-08-16 at 10.45.09 PM

Personal relationships are at the forefront of America’s future, determining whether it crumbles or prospers. Relationships and friendships across faith, professions and politics, allow people to grow and arrive at conclusions of where they think America should go.

The V. Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, in conversation with Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and curating partner for Week Eight, will give their lecture, titled “New Profiles in Courage,” at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17 in the Hall of Philosophy. Their lecture title coincides with the Chautauqua Lecture Series and Interfaith Lecture Series themes.

Douglas is canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral, an ordained minister and dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, and is chaplain-in-residence this week at Chautauqua.

“I think we are fortunate that many of the speakers coming in this week have had a relationship with Darren himself as a person,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “In those instances where you see conversations, versus direct lectures, it was our shared belief that we would get to even deeper substance on these topics.”

Douglas and Walker plan to talk about the time of crisis the nation is currently in, and what decisions need to be made for the sake of progress. Douglas explores some of these topics, like anti-Blackness in American culture, in her book Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter.

“Not only in terms of who we think we are, or growing into our vision of a democracy — but as we do that, going into our vision for justice, I always say to proclaim ourselves as a democracy is aspirational, as it is to proclaim ourselves as a church,” Douglas said.

Walker said he has always admired Douglas,  and wants to use this as an opportunity to talk about her work that addresses homophobia in the Black church, as well as other challenging issues.

“As an African American Christian, this is something that I have experienced, and it’s something that I think remains a challenge in our faith community,” Walker said. 

This is their second time in public conversation together, and Douglas said she enjoys talking to Walker and believes their discussion will reflect the current climate of America.

“Certainly one of the things that we have to engage and not avoid in this country and in these conversations, and that the faith community cannot avoid, is a recognition of this dangerous emerging reality of white Christian nationalism,” Douglas said.

Walker previously gave a virtual presentation for the Chautauqua Lecture Series in 2020. At the Ford Foundation, he steers the organization’s mission that includes, in part, reducing poverty and injustice, strengthening democratic values and advancing human achievement. Hill said this is one of the reasons the Institution partnered with Walker and combined the lecture platforms with the same theme of “New Profiles in Courage.”

“Much of (Walker’s) personal work has been on lifting up issues of justice, justice in philanthropy (and) justice in communities,” Hill said. “He’s really devoted his own life and has helped to steer the foundation to ask these very, very large questions.”

America is currently at an inflection point, and Douglas said people need to seriously consider where the country is going and how faith plays a role.

“One of the roles of religious institutions, and faith and religious leaders, is to call us forward to an expanded notion of justice,” Douglas said. “Our job is to expand our moral imagination of what’s possible. When this has occurred, when religious leaders have been on the forefront of social justice work, transformation has happened.”

While the morning and afternoon lecture platforms have shared themes in the past, Hill said this is the first time a 10-lecture platform has been linked so tightly.

“I would encourage Chautauquans, to the extent they can, to really try to follow all 10 of these expressions,” Hill said. “It’s a really exciting week. It’s one that I’ve been looking forward to for a couple of years, and I think it’s going to be pretty thrilling.”

Walker said he is looking forward to discussing the divide of politics, class and race in America with Douglas. 

“I hope the talk leaves one inspired, hopeful, resolute, (with the) belief that faith matters and that we all have a common humanity,” Walker said. “We must be committed to the pursuit of justice for all.”

Buffalo Poet Laureate Hanesworth to call for change in deconstructing systemic racism, roles we all play


The systemic treatment of people of color has been an issue for centuries. Jillian Hanesworth, the first-ever poet laureate of Buffalo, New York, wants to ask the question: Is America truly a place for people to thrive and grow?

She will give her lecture, “We Are in a State of Emergency,” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy to close Week Seven of the Interfaith Lecture Series, “Home: A Place for Human Thriving.”

Born and raised in Buffalo, she began writing at age 7 and obtained a bachelor’s in criminal justice from SUNY Fredonia. Her work as Buffalo’s poet laureate led to her invitation to speak in Chautauqua’s 2022 interfaith program; after the deadly, racist May 14 shooting at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, she pivoted her Chautauqua lecture to focus on current events.

“I had an entirely different idea of how to approach (my lecture),” Hanesworth said. “After dealing with the trauma that I had around that terrorist attack, and trying to help my community heal through my art, I decided that is absolutely what I’m going to talk about.”

She wants Chautauquans to understand that everyone has a role in fighting racism, violence, hatred and any other problem America faces. 

“I want people to be fired up and charged up, and I want them to challenge the status quo and challenge their family members and challenge their coworkers,” Hanesworth said. “I want people to join me in agitating the system.”

As a community organizer and activist, she uses her poetry as a call to action for her revolution, modeled in her book The Revolution Will Rhyme.

Hanesworth described this revolution as beginning with the momentum of uprisings and protests following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

“We are at this place where we are tired of the way things have been going in America,” Hanesworth said. “We’re ready to revolutionize all of it. We want to revolutionize the idea of public safety.”

Creating welcoming communities and improving access to quality food, housing and wealth are critical, especially in Buffalo, which she said is “one of the most segregated cities in the country.”

She uses her art to amplify her voice and passion for this movement, as others in communities across the country have.

Her degree in criminal justice not only gave her the understanding of the system — it also gave her an understanding, beyond her own experiences, of how to enact change.

“(My degree) really helped me understand the system and understand the role that public safety and policing were supposed to play in our society, versus what actually happens,” Hanesworth said. Social justice isn’t a hobby; it’s a lifestyle, she said, and the more often people are out in their own communities, making themselves aware and working to change, the more the system will actually change.

“If you don’t know how to get involved, that’s OK,” Hanesworth said. “It starts with debunking stereotypes in front of your children so they know that this is not how we think about people. This is not how we talk about people. This is not how we label people.”

She said people also need to be honest with themselves about the history of America and the acts of genocide it was built on, because if they don’t, history is destined to repeat itself.

“It’s time for things to change, and we’re not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” Hanesworth said. “It’s not a request, it’s a demand. The revolution is going to happen. …  We’re ready and we have work to do.”

Editor’s note: This event did not take place as scheduled, as many Institution events were canceled following an incident in the Amphitheater on Friday, August 12.

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom founders Olitzky, Aftab to share interfaith work


Most, if not all, religions have some sort of scripture that says to treat others with kindness, or to welcome others with loving arms. This is also the case for people of different religions when engaging in interfaith dialogue.

Aftab and Olitzky

Atiya Aftab and Sheryl Olitzky co-founded the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom in 2010 to build trust, respect and relationships between Muslim and Jewish women.

They will give their joint lecture, titled “Being the Change – A Leap of Faith,” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy to continue Week Eight of the Interfaith Lecture Series, “New Profiles in Courage.”

“There’s total confidence that by sharing my story, and Atiya sharing her story, and the many stories of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, we will be changing the level of ignorance,” Olitzky said. “We will be shedding new light on understanding and through that we will be changing the course.”

Their original mission is reflected in the work Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom currently does: “Having these conversations that are often difficult conversations about how people who seemingly may look or believe differently. … We have much more in common as the cliche goes,” Aftab said. “Despite whatever differences there are, we could work together for good.”

Olitzky, a Jewish woman, started her journey to interfaith discussion and support in what she calls an “a-ha” moment. She led a group of about 40 people to visit Auschwitz in Poland, and she asked the tour guide why everyone there looked the same — no people of color, no one wearing a headcovering and no one looking like they might be of a different race.

As they were about to park the bus, the guide said to her, “You’re right my dear. Poland is for the Poles. And by the way, you talked about a headcovering. If you’re referring to a headscarf, we don’t have a Muslim problem here because they’re not welcome.”

This was her “a-ha” moment, she said. She realized, while sitting at one of the “worst places on Earth,” that she could try to overcome these feelings of hate and ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

Aftab, a Muslim woman, said her moment was different. Olitzky had reached out to her several times, wanting to discuss her desire to join forces through their respective faiths.

“I agreed to meet her and, to me, this shows the power of personality and the power of human relationships, that when we met for the first time, there was an instantaneous connection,” Aftab said.

Olitzky said she knew she had to do something to make sure hate directed at the Jews did not also happen to Muslims. She didn’t know very many Muslims in her community, and the few she did know, she did not have relationships with.

“Imagine what we could do with a small group of Muslim and Jewish women,” Olitzky said, “to really get to know each other and to work at changing that course of hate?”

Neither of them anticipated the size their organization would become. They started with 12 women; in 2022, they’re more than 1,000 strong.

Aftab said she didn’t initially feel the need for interfaith dialogue. She was on the board of her mosque for many years and felt the conversations were only surface-level effective.

“Leaders of the different religions would come in and talk about religion in a very academic, theological or generic fashion,” Aftab said. “I didn’t see the connection to the people who are in the room listening.”

Atfab and Olitzky wanted to regularly create experiences for people to join together, and cultivate a safe place to do so.

“They can have conversations that are meaningful to interfaith, asking difficult and awkward questions,” Aftab said. “Those are not necessarily things that can take place in an institutional setting.”

Olitzky said there are three things that can change the way people view each other. First: Bring people who are different together in order to create a shared objective.

“Everyone has some difference, even if you call yourself within the same religion,” Aftab said. “These are opportunities to have conversations that are challenging, and people can if they want to engage in that.”

Second, Aftab said, is to meet in safe places and meet in each other’s homes. Third, the work must  be consistent. The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom chapters have met every month or every six weeks, for almost 13 years.

“If you do all three of those things, those two groups will view each other with trust and respect and (care),” Olitzky said. “The way they view each other is how they will view each other’s groups that they’re a part of.”

When people commit to creating relationships with those of different faiths, it helps create positive change. For Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, Olitzksy said that commitment can affect a Jewish woman’s view of a Muslim woman’s view, and vice versa.

“It’s not hard to be involved in this work,” Olitzky said. “It takes, in our case, one Muslim woman and one Jewish woman to change the entire world.”

U.S. Rep. Raskin opens week on courage by honoring son


Sometimes it takes extreme trauma or loss to understand the true meaning of courage. When the unthinkable happens, one of two things can occur: everything stops, pauses and we are unable to go on, or we push forward.


U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md) chose the latter. A span of seven days in which the unthinkable happened forced him to push through for the rest of his life. 

He will give his lecture, “It’s Hard to Be Human: The Political, Philosophical, and Mental Health Struggles of Tommy Raskin,” at 2 p.m. today in Norton Hall to start Week Eight of the Interfaith Lecture Series “New Profiles in Courage.” 

Today’s lecture was changed from the Hall of Philosophy, the traditional ILS location, for security purposes. That decision was made several weeks prior to the attack on Salman Rushdie last Friday in the Amphitheater.

Week Eight, programmed in partnership with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, has been in the works since early 2021. And when considering speakers, everyone involved in planning wanted to extend an invitation to Raskin.

“I think what we’ve been most intrigued by is how he responded to a pretty deep personal tragedy all alongside being a national leader,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “You’ve got this narrative of personal tragedy and national trauma happening at the same time.”

Raskin lost his son, Tommy, to suicide on Dec. 31, 2020, just seven days before the Jan. 6 insurrection, and two weeks before Raskin presided over President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. The three separate events each required three different kinds of courage. 

Raskin and his wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, took to their Medium account on Jan. 4, 2021, with an essay-length statement in tribute to their son. 

That essay, and their courageous candor of public grief, went viral. As in the essay, in an interview with The Chautauquan Daily, Raskin discussed the passions Tommy had in his life, both politically and philosophically.

“Tommy was a dazzling young man. He was a playwright, poet and a stand-up performer,” Raskin said. “He was a second-year student at Harvard Law School. But he was really a philosopher and confronted all of the major problems in philosophy and tried to work them out on a daily basis.”

Raskin said he wants to use his platform, at the Institution and writ large, to raise awareness and to honor people who have loved ones who struggle with mental health.

“Tommy battled depression in the last few years of his life and felt trapped and suffocated by it,” Raskin said. “This is a great agony and misfortune for all of us in his family and friends who loved him.”

Along with Tommy’s philosophical views, Raskin said he was a “passionate vegan,” who rejected the eating of animals as “barbaric and unnecessary cruelty.” 

Tommy was also opposed to war and violence, and supported causes like Amnesty International, humane societies and other groups advancing human rights and animal welfare.

“Although he didn’t make much money as a young man, in his different jobs, whatever he did make, he pretty much gave away to the groups that were doing the work he believed in,” Raskin said. 

The family wants to eventually pull together a book of Tommy’s essays, poetry and meditations to share what he had to say. 

“It’s a very beautiful mission,” Raskin said. “It’s also a very tough assignment to live that way. We lost him all too early, but there are lots of things that all of us can learn from his life.”

Raskin wants to highlight Tommy’s life, and his lasting impact, his “profound moral, political and philosophical commitments, and those things are of intrinsic value to us,” and how those commitments intersected with his mental health crisis.

There were many emotions I experienced on Jan. 6, in the middle of the violence and assaults on the Capitol. One feeling I did not experience was fear, because we had already just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.”

—JAmie Raskin
U.S Representative (D-Md), 
United States Congress

Seven days after Tommy died, on Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol Hill was stormed, while Raskin’s family was in town. 

“I was extremely concerned for Tabitha, our younger daughter, and for Hank, who’s our son-in-law, married to our older daughter, because they were in the Capitol and they were hiding … as the mob pounded on the door outside,” Raskin said. “I was concerned about where everything was going.”

Although he was concerned for his family and his country, Raskin said he did not experience fear himself.

“There were many emotions I experienced on Jan. 6, in the middle of the violence and assaults on the Capitol,” Raskin said. “One feeling I did not experience was fear, because we had already just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.”

Raskin was the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s second impeachment trial on Jan. 13, 2021. He started writing his book, Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy, shortly after all of these events.

“The book began as a love letter to my lost son, Tommy, and it became a love letter to America, too,” Raskin said. 

Raskin’s mother was a journalist and novelist; growing up, he said he remembers her typing away on her typewriter late at night, and he felt connected to her while writing the book.

“I wrote my book in a five-month period of pretty intense insomnia after we lost Tommy and after the impeachment trial,” Raskin said. “I would come home from Capitol HIll around dinner time, (and then) around 8 p.m., I would just start writing and write pretty much throughout the night.”

Beyond Raskin himself, Hill said Raskin’s book perfectly complements the week of “New Profiles in Courage.”

“He was looking for a way to respond, about love and crisis, and was hoping that his story might help many families,” Hill said. “It becomes this perfect example of someone being called to be courageous at a time when I think many of us might want to not be at all public.”

In Unthinkable, Raskin describes the conversation he had with Speaker Nancy Pelosi prior to the impeachment trial, when she asked him to be the lead impeachment manager. Raskin said he wasn’t eating or sleeping, and was unsure if he would be able to move forward.

“I felt Tommy in my chest and my heart, and something deep inside me told me that I needed to do this,” Raskin said. “Nancy (Pelosi) really threw me a lifeline because she was saying that they needed me and I needed to rally and help bring people together to do this thing.”

Raskin said he was initially shocked when Pelosi asked him, but he felt it was his duty.

“It was the hardest moment I’ve had, in personal terms, and she was asking me to do the most difficult thing I’d ever done professionally,” Raskin said. “But she was telling me that I was needed. … It was how I began to reconnect with the ordinary rhythms of life the best that I could.”

People describe him as courageous, and Raskin said people often use the word in connection with him and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo), as both were heavily involved in the impeachment trial and now with the Jan. 6 Committee.  Where some may see courage, Raskin said he sees it as more necessity.

“I don’t think Liz Cheney has felt like she’s had any other real choice, and I certainly didn’t,” Raskin said. “There was no way for me to turn away from the trial and leave our (Jan. 6 committee) team without turning away from everything that I believe in.”

IMAN lead Alia Bilal to advocate for creating home away from home for ILS

no thumb

Not many people know what they want to do as a career when they’re young. Every child has similar ambitions — doctor, veterinarian, princess, and so on — but when they’re in high school, not everyone dreams of working at a nonprofit. Alia Bilal did, and now as deputy director at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, she works to foster health, wellness and healing in underserved communities.

Bilal will give her lecture, “Homesick in Wakanda: Living, Longing and Fighting,” at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 in the Hall of Philosophy for Week Seven of the Interfaith Lecture Series, “Home: A  Place for Human Thriving.”

She first heard of IMAN when some of the founders came to talk to her high school, which was a Muslim school for all ages in Bridgeview, Illinois. They spoke to students about getting involved and taking action toward criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and relieving food insecurity.

“I just said, ‘Someday I’m going to work for this organization.’ This is everything that I feel like I’d been missing in life, or everything that I feel like I had been wanting to orient my life around,” Bilal said.

She said she remembers feeling elated that people were focusing on these issues in their home of inner-city Chicago, as many of her friends came from immigrant families, and were focused on social issues in their home countries.

Bilal’s parents converted their family to Islam in the ’70s. As a Muslim Black American, she said she didn’t feel the sense of “back home” in the same way her friends from Middle Eastern countries did.

“The community that I was a part of was a very nurturing (and) loving community, very oriented toward that ‘back home,’ and not necessarily focused on the neighborhood they were in,” Bilal said. “That was something I could, naturally, not ever connect with as much.”

Her initial ambition to join IMAN is reinforced through the work she does now. As community organizers and advocates, they create the positive change she has hoped to see for most of her life.

“We’re still working on passing really important criminal justice reform legislation and organizing communities to both learn their rights, know their rights and then fight for their rights,” Bilal said. “We developed our own community organizing curriculum where we train people across the city of Chicago and across the country.”

In efforts to use the arts as a positive, transformational rehabilitation effort, IMAN’s curriculum includes work at Beloved Community Ceramic Studio on Chicago’s South Side as a way to help people decompress and deal with some of the trauma they face.

Her lecture today will focus on these aspects of IMAN, as well as some personal experiences she wants to share. She will also explore the contrasting ideas of “being home,” versus “back home.”

“I’m going to be talking about the fact that there’s an aspiration, for all us, for home to be … tranquil and safe; but in reality it’s not for many of us,” Bilal said. “We, as humans, strive to make this Earth home (and) we create comforts.”

In the Muslim view, home is where the Creator is, and while people can seek comfort in this earthly place, Bilal said the task is to try to make others feel as comfortable as possible.

“The idea for many African Americans (is that) you have a place that is home in this country, and for most of us, the only home we’ve ever known,” Bilal said. “And yet, there’s a missing piece.”

She hopes people will come away from her lecture with a sense of purpose and renewed insight to how impactful it is to have a worldview, regardless if that worldview is influenced by spiritual or religious beliefs or not.

“Even if one doesn’t believe that, I hope people will take away the idea that you can fill your life with purpose in the places we dwell in,” Bilal said, “ … and to not allow oneself to simply exist in a place, but to really try to figure out how one can change that place for the better.”

Dave Isay to advocate for preserving small moments of humanity


People lose or forget so many memories of laughter and joy with friends and loved ones; StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing this. As a former radio producer and the StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay wants to make sure these memories stay preserved.

StoryCorps’ mission is to share humanity’s stories in order to build connections and create a more compassionate world. In 2003, Isay set up a single recording booth in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal where people could preserve a piece of history.

“I was always interested in audio and radio as public service and had this kind of crazy idea 18 years ago that became something I never imagined it would become: this massive collection of voices of who we are as everyday people in America,” Isay said. 

StoryCorps grew, and when Isay won the $1 million TED Prize in 2015, that money went to creating a StoryCorps app for people to have conversations worldwide. StoryCorps has also received two Peabody Awards: one in 2007 for a rare Institutional Award and again in 2011 for its 9/11 initiative. 

He will give his lecture, “StoryCorps: A Celebration of Human Thriving,” at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10 in the Hall of Philosophy to continue Week Seven of the Interfaith Lecture Series “Home: A Place for Human Thriving.”

“I think what I’m going to do is play stories about home and human thriving and connection,” Isay said. “We’ve recorded about 700,000 people (who) have participated in StoryCorps, recording conversations with loved ones over the last 18 years.”

He said he wants the audio recordings to help show how people connect with one another as Americans. Some of StoryCorps’ new work addresses widespread toxic polarization affecting America and other countries.

“StoryCorps, in many ways, collects the wisdom of humanity,” Isay said. “I hope that these stories are just a reminder of the basic goodness of people that we often forget when we’re surrounded by 24-hour news.”

When he was a kid, he recorded his grandparents around the house on a tape recorder, but ended up losing the tape. Now, 40 years later, when he visits his mother’s house, he still searches for it.

“I wanted to make sure nobody made that dumb mistake I did of losing the tape,” Isay said. “Every one of (StoryCorps’) interviews goes to the Library of Congress (to) make sure that people have this opportunity to say the important things to the people who are important to them, and have that for their children and their children’s children.”

In relation to Week Seven’s theme, Isay thinks StoryCorps reflects a similar idea of humanity, home and thriving.

“I think StoryCorps is an effort all about human thriving and helping to find the best in us and reminding us what’s really important in life,” Isay said. “Human thriving is certainly what life is all about.”

Writer, PBS host Kelly Corrigan to advocate for personal relationships at life’s center


Podcaster. Author. Researcher. Wife. Mother. These are all names Kelly Corrigan, New York Times best-selling author, goes by. She takes her perspective from all of these roles to go beyond superficial concepts, and plans to do the same at Chautauqua.

She will give her lecture, titled “Homes: Places that Come to Inhabit Us,” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9 in the Hall of Philosophy as part of the Week Seven Interfaith Lecture Series theme “Home: A Place for Human Thriving.”

“A thing I’m curious about is the context of our intellectual property and the context of our emotional life,” Corrigan said. “The thing I’m thinking about is how your environment influences your emotional (and) intellectual conclusions.”

Her podcast, “Kelly Corrigan Wonders,” was created while working on her unfinished manuscript. New episodes are released every Tuesday and Friday, and she said the current series features “teenagers doing crazy cool, super smart things to change the story on climate.”

She said all five of the featured teens are “pretty daring and effective,” but one of them stood out to her: Rahul Durai, a 15-year-old from Indiana.

“He wrote a 78-page piece of legislation that he got four Republicans and four Democrats to sign off on to consider the climate situation (as) a crisis,” Corrigan said.

She also launched a PBS interview show in October 2020, called “Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan.” Both of these outlets allow her to have conversations about broad issues like religion, death and love, with guests ranging from experts to well-known personalities.

“(Our team) realized pretty quickly that the best thing to do would be to stand shoulder to shoulder with each guest and look at the world together,” Corrigan told Diablo Magazine. “They gave us three pilot episodes. … I loved the way the shows turned out. We got an avalanche of positive energy and responses.”

She has interviewed countless notable figures, such as Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of the Los Angeles gang rehabilitation center Homeboy Industries and frequent Chautauqua presence — including a week of preaching earlier this summer. Even with these different facets of her successful career, she said she constantly worries about her personal life and her family, but tries to see a better angle. 

In her mid-40s, she and her dad had cancer at the same time, which led her to write the memoir The Middle Place, which centers on being both a mother and a daughter, as she moves through her and her father’s cancer diagnoses. 

When everything in someone’s life is stripped away, Corrigan said people recognize over and over their personal relationships have been the center of joy in their lives.

“I believe worry is the backside of gratitude,” Corrigan said. “When I get anxious, I am actually acutely feeling my good fortune, and clinging to it with both hands.”

Cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar to analyze ties between emotional, physical heart


Someone can actually have a broken heart. It’s called broken heart syndrome, and it’s a temporary heart condition often brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. Sandeep Jauhar, cardiologist and contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, works to help people understand that emotional heart health can affect physical heart health.

He will give his lecture, titled “The Emotional Heart,” at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8 in the Hall of Philosophy to open Week Seven of the Interfaith Lecture Series “Home: A Place for Human Thriving.”

Jauhar’s work focuses on what he calls the emotional heart, a term conceived by ancient philosophers as a description of emotions, courage and love. It stems from symbolic and metaphorical origins 300 to 400 years old, and is where the emotional heart intersects with the biological, physical heart.

“For most of history, the heart was considered to be this mysterious object that represented the soul,” Jauhar said. “My talk is about how that ancient conception still has relevance to our modern-day understanding of the heart.”

His ideas are put forth in his book, Heart: A History, in which he explores all aspects of the heart and uses these different ideas to tie the physiological and metaphorical hearts together.

The book tells the lesser-known stories of doctors who risked their careers, and patients who risked their lives, to learn and heal the heart.

Emotions are thought to either be contained or not contained within the heart, but affect it nonetheless. Jauhar said he’s going to argue that the emotional heart and the metaphorical heart “intersect in mysterious ways.”

He said this is relevant due to the “stressed-out” world where people are anxious, depressed and have what he calls “negative affectivity,” which can have deteriorating effects on the heart.

“I would argue the things we do to maintain heart health — exercise, eat right, have low cholesterol, low blood pressure — all of those things are important,” Jauhar said. “We’re missing a very important piece, which is our psychological health and how it affects our heart health.”

There’s no one-size-fits-all scenario when it comes to heart health. Jauhar said everyone has different coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.

For example, his son lifts weights, his daughter runs, his wife does yoga and his father meditates. 

“All of those are equally valid ways of dealing with psychological distress,” Jauhar said. “The most important thing is acknowledging that this is a thing and we need to devise solutions that are personal.”

He wants his audience to understand that emotions affect the heart and how to deal with it.

“Our emotions affect our hearts in very deep and mysterious ways,” Jauhar said. “We need to be cognizant of that to achieve optimal health and longevity.”

‘Wintering’ author Katherine May to explore coping amid darkness


Coping mechanisms are a necessary part of life. Some are positive, some may be negative; nonetheless, they exist so people can deal with bad news, shortcomings or negative, depressing feelings.

An international best-selling author, Katherine May has written about her own experience with a midlife diagnosis of autism; her most recent book is Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.

She will give her lecture, titled, “Baking Bread in the Dark: Why Our Winters Replenish Us,” at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 in the Hall of Philosophy to close Week Six of the Interfaith Lecture Series, “Embracing the Dark: Fertile Soul Time.”

Her chosen specialized subject, as with most of the other Interfaith Lecturers this week, is the poem “Dark Night of the Soul,” by 16th-century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross. May said she wants to make people think about how they work through suffering and struggling in their lives.

“We often tend to do gentle, soothing work and I’m using baking as an example,” May said, “and how that helps us to process our feelings and sort of aids us in that process of transformation.”

There’s a literal connection to Cross’ poem in waking up in the light after a dark time, she said, but the process of being able to get up and go on with life is something a lot of people struggle with. There’s also the metaphorical process of ruminating over problems, depression, anxiety — and the externalizing of these feelings can help normalize these experiences.

“I think that (these feelings) are a really regular occurrence for loads of us. They’re really ordinary, and we tend to keep them secret and be embarrassed about them,” May said. “So in lots of ways, it’s about externalizing that very ordinary thing.”

She said she wants people to take a fresh perspective on their own lives, something she explores in her book, Wintering, so they can reflect on their lives and dark times, and create a sense of community rather than isolation.

“We feel it in our bodies, and it’s better to solve it that way than to try and talk ourselves out of it,” May said. 

Baking is something May often finds herself doing when she is unwell, mentally or physically, as she uses the steps of baking to unload sensory complications in a way that makes sense to her.

There’s a scene in Wintering where May finds herself very sick and can’t go to work, so she decides to bake bagels to soothe herself. She can’t get the bagels to rise, and after 24 hours of trying different things, she realizes the yeast she used is over 10 years old. 

“That speaks to how sometimes when we’re busy, we don’t maintain the basics. We don’t look after ourselves,” May said. 

Her writing is something she always comes back to, and she said the best part of her work is getting to make an end product that she can see all the way through.

“I love being involved in every aspect of the project. It’s just very rewarding, even when it’s sometimes frustrating and terrifying and awkward and difficult,” May said. 

Sharing her expertise and knowledge with others is something else she enjoys. She works with adults and children in workshops and retreats where they can go through the processes of change to reflect and think about where they’re headed next. But, she said she has a disdain for not being able to help induce change where it is so desperately needed.

“In America, everything’s underfunded, everything’s under a huge amount of pressure, everything’s understaffed, so the frustration builds up for me,” May said. “I always feel like I’m fighting fires rather than thinking about the bigger structures, and that’s where I always want to go.”

May said when she doesn’t feel like she can finish a project or write something, she lets that speak to her more than the inability to complete it.

“That normally tells me that I’m kind of bored or that I haven’t fed myself enough,” May said. “It tells me that I’ve emptied all my words out, and I need to go and find some inspiration for some new ones.”

Some ways she does this are reading someone else’s work, going for a walk or visiting a museum. She sometimes will even interview someone to gain inspiration for her own writing.

“(Creative writers) often need to go off and make space to think. … That’s when the block comes, when we don’t have any more ideas because we haven’t made space for them,” May said. “I always take the pressure off myself and try and find something interesting to do or think about, and it always helps.”

1 2 3 7
Page 1 of 7