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The People's Inauguration

10 Days to Activate Revolutionary Love


January 22–31, 2021

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Day 3

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Teaching and practice with Valarie Kaur

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Today’s teaching and guided inquiry turn us toward our own sense of agency. We’ll learn to harness the fight impulse so that our love becomes a force for justice.
Home Practice
1. Summon the voice of wisdom inside you and explore these questions:
What is my sword? What is my shield? Who is my sacred community?

2. In your wisdom journal, write what you have identified as your tools for the fight.


Interview and live Q&A

with Ai-jen Poo, Caitlin Breedlove, and Isa Noyola: “Fight”

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To fight is to choose to protect those in harm’s way; to fight with revolutionary love is to fight against injustice alongside those most impacted by harm. In this session, Ai-jen Poo, Caitlin Breedlove, and Isa Noyola join Valarie to discuss how when we fight with and for one another, we begin to build the solidarity needed for collective liberation and transformation—a solidarity rooted in love.

Moderated by: Melissa Ann Canlas, EdD

Session Highlights:
  • Recognizing the fight impulse in our bodies, and channeling that impulse into something that gives life
  • Developing metaphorical “swords and shields”
  • Exploring the roles we play in a social change ecosystem
  • Becoming a strong “accomplice” for vulnerable communities
Compass of Revolutionary Love
Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo is an award-winning organizer, social innovator, author, and a leading voice in the women’s movement. She is executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, director of Caring Across Generations, cofounder of Supermajority, and trustee of the Ford Foundation. Ai-jen is a nationally recognized expert on elder and family care, the future of work, gender equality, immigration, narrative change, and grassroots organizing. She is the author of the celebrated book The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America.

Caitlin Breedlove

Caitlin Breedlove

Caitlin Breedlove is the deputy executive director of organizational advancement at the Women’s March, and serves as the vice president of movement leadership at Auburn Seminary. Since 2003, Caitlin has been organizing and building movements in red states, working across race, class, culture, gender, sexuality, and faith. She is a current board member and the former codirector of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), where she co-led intersectional movement building in the LGBTQ sector. Caitlin is also the former campaign director of Standing on the Side of Love at the Unitarian Universalist Association. She hosts the Fortification podcast, where she interviews movement leaders and organizers about their spiritual lives.

Isa Noyola

Isa Noyola

Isa Noyola (she/her/hers) is deputy director at Mijente, a political, digital, and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building that seeks to strengthen the participation of Latinx people in the broader movements for racial, economic, climate, and gender justice. Isa also works extensively for the release of transgender women from ICE detention and to end all deportations and mass incarceration. She is part of the advisory boards of Familia:TQLM, BreakOUT, El/La para Translatinas, and the International Trans Fund. Isa identifies as a translatina activist and cultural organizer, and is passionate about abolishing oppressive systems that criminalize trans and queer immigrant communities of color.

Melissa Ann Canlas, EdD

Melissa Ann Canlas, EdD (Moderator)

Melissa Ann Canlas, EdD, is the director of education at the Revolutionary Love Project and a full-time faculty member in the School of Education at the University of San Francisco. Dr. Canlas’s research and teaching focus on issues of educational equity and human rights. As a lifelong educator, Dr. Canlas believes that education should be directed toward learning to love and care for one another as we build systems where every person can live in wellness and dignity.

  • Josephine Grey says:

    human rights laws and principles esp the rights of the child to a liveable future are my shield and sword. I/we work on solutions to spark hope….

  • Marilyn Seward says:

    I’d like to remind Valerie Kaur of the Freedom Fighters of the 1960’s who were white and fought alongside the blacks seeking justice. She remarked that blacks and whites coming together after George Floyd’s death was the first our country has seen of interracial grieving together. Not so.

  • Allan says:

    there is not only fight or flee or pause. Freeze has been reconstructed recently to be seen as pause,.To flee, to run away, causes shame built upon shame. To pause is to allow time to engage the mind, not be dominated by fear, and to assess our choices. I agree that there is need to fight but the need to retreat and regroup also has value.

  • Linda Bessom says:

    Regarding your definition of “fight”, I would add. Those MOST impacted by the storm are the LEADERS of this nonviolent, antiracist, revolutionary love fight against the systems that yield oppression. That is one of the core principles of Essex County Community Organization based in Lynn, Massachusetts of which I am a member.. Thank you for this 10-day journey.

  • Madelyn MacKay says:

    Wonderful, powerful love-full joins us purposefully together! A birthing, nurturing, loving addition that helps me broaden understanding of our stress responses for making changes nonviolently is the gift of oxytocin, the love/bonding hormone releasing in loving and nurturing interactions including caring for our environment, and in labour in birthing, milk flowing/letting down, deepening our connection to others. Hearing that Hans Selye’s research on stress back in the 1930’s leading to the fight/flight/freeze constructs was conducted only with men, I’ve appreciated researchers who’ve named the more common stress response of women–perfect for organizing–Unite, a choice to go with fight, flight, freeze. Also called Tend and Befriend. In stressful situations, women have often brought people together to care for them and keep them safe, the young, elders, injured men. First thing I want to do in a stressful situation is form a network of support, call in others to collaborate together to care for others. Maybe choosing oxytocin’s gifts is part of mothers contribute, and how perfect that men feel it as well in nurturing. Thanking you profoundly for leading with transforming love!

  • Jim Fair says:

    With awakening comes the realization that weapons that once produced misery, madness and mayhem are replaced with “weapons” that promote protection, harmony and healing in unity for ALL.

  • Len Novak says:

    I find myself so incredibly immersed in this process as you each present the opportunity to go deeper into whatever level of feeling awareness comes upon me. And while I have tended to allow and explore this level of feeling in solitude, some wonderfully meaningful moments that include the presence of friends are being recalled and valued more than ever. Thank you all for your commitment to a movement that feels totally in line with my soul. Following up with the word fight right after the day before was a stretch for me as I believe that the intense grieving I experienced had subdued quite a bit of anger so I didn’t feel like fighting (in my old way of defining it} It has worked very well for me to be a great time to explore a new meaning to the word. I know that learning to trust Spirit and truly love All That Is requires some internal ‘fighting’….. Blessings to you all…

  • Sonia says:

    This is so encouraging and empowering. Thank you thank you for this. Again, I see the thread, the golden thread, weaving so much of what I have made part of my life together with these teachings… things swirling in my head are the path of the bodhisattva-warrior, the writings of the Dalai Lama, the yamas and niyamas of yoga, the writings of MLK, the spririt and experience of Nelson Mandela… it all comes together. It always has, and always will.

    • Soosi Day says:

      It is the weaving together of the ethics of the world’s religions that Reinforces the feeling that we are all one and because we are one we stand for all that are in peril, each taking up the “sword” and “shield” that he/she/they can carry.

  • Sonia says:

    Not sure if this is the right place to ask this… please redirect me if I am sending this request to the wrong place…
    Valerie, you have begun the first sessions with a beautiful incantation. I am sure I’m not the only one for whom words are talismans, and I feel that mantras in their original language are most powerful. Would you mind sharing with us the spelling, pronunciation and meaning of the lines you have repeated at the beginning of the sessions?

  • Carol Caffee says:

    I haven’t been able to be live but a tiny bit. I am watching each day and loving it, being touched and inspired by it. I just figured out the chat is here! I am in Alabama working as an anti-racist racist to bring about racial reconciliation, forming a non-profit institute. You are leading me and growing me. Thank you! I look forward to meeting you one day and being a part of your circle.

  • Norm says:

    Do we need MORE fighting? Really? Or do we need more love, as we were told 2,000 years already? We have also been told; ‘He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. We are at war with mosquitoes, other people, we hate “hate”, so, who is the hater? We are here for one thing, for one thing only: love. And hating and fighting can never produce more love. Mother Theresa was asked to join a demonstration against war. She declined but offered: If you choose to demonstrate FOR love, you can count me in. The “fight” is not a tool to create love. Love more, fight less.

  • Aspasia says:

    I understand what you’re saying. I understand that white has a definition as supremacy for many. However, that is not the whole picture. I am 55 years old. I held picket signs and marched with my mother who was a warrior accomplice. I found this discussion not only dismissive and diminishing considering no one would be in the movement without my mother and white people like us. I feel as offended as you have felt in your unfair experiences. I don’t see how that helps the cause to become what you say you want to change. Thank you for all you do. And for considering my perspective.

  • Vicky says:

    I had trouble getting past the ‘fight’ metaphor. I translated it to ‘co-create’ and ‘persevere’

  • Dorothy says:

    Thank you💜 I will find new ways to –
    Let me be your Sister; let me be your Mother. Amen

  • Mira Zeimer says:

    Valerie, you are an inspiration. We need to listen to our grandfathers. I hail from a Jewish family. My grandfathers believed in justice, human dignity and tolerance and love for the stranger. What a great inheritance we share

  • Monica Côté says:

    Unable to join live, I tried listening later and was unable to. I pushed play but it kept returning me to play.

  • Judy says:

    Valarie, after listening to your podcast with Tami Simon, I registered to participate in The People’s Inauguration. Your welcome, kickoff, teachings, interviews, and Q&A’s have been enlightening.

    I don’t personally know anyone who is a professional organizer, so I enjoyed your interviews with Ai-jen, Isa, and Caitlin. I was touched when I heard them describe their sword/shield as listening, vulnerability, the wiliness to let their service transform them, showing up in one’s power, grounding, and growth.

    I appreciate your Compass and the clear guide it offers for this 10 day journey. Yet, I too, challenge your use of the word fight. I felt dismissed when you said if the warrior metaphor doesn’t serve you, “let it float away.” I don’t think you are hearing our concern.

    Organizers have the power of the internet to move people into action. Their words can stimulate and trigger people in a variety of ways. I don’t know which of your ancestors you summon to be brave in love, but we don’t live in the same world your ancestors lived in. I’m assuming your ancestors where like-minded people from a similar culture who met in person to get organized.

    I too learned helplessness and passivity as a child, teen, and young adult. The words “setting a strong boundary” are more powerful and meaningful to me.

    Organizers need to be careful of the tone they are fostering. Fight is a word that can trigger violence in a violent culture. The word accomplish is also associated with crime. I heard your defense of using the word fight, please consider mine.

  • Eydie Sue says:

    My daughter has been trying to teach me about White privilege and she is part of the queer community as well. In the last year she has been affected by Covid. She is really trying to turn her pain and fear into the fight against the senseless violence against POC. At first I was afraid for her, she is white, she is female and queer. After spending the last three nights with Valerie and her guests I see why it is so important to look into your soul for an awakening, a new beginning, even if you are not sure how you fit in. I look forward to the continuation of this special journey and hope that somehow I will be inspired to find a way to support my daughter and what ever cause she is fighting for.

  • Debra Sands says:

    Another uplifting & inspiring session. Thought provoking, a stirring so deeply from within. I felt pain too because of feeling alone, yet I’m not alone. I’m ready for my good fight, to fight with love . My question to myself ; If I don’t who will?
    Thank you so much 🙏🏽

  • Chris says:

    This is so powerful. It is the missing piece for me. Permission to be fierce for love, to fight.
    Thank you feels so inadequate!
    I would like to know how many people are participating in this program and if many other countries are represented?

  • jeannie says:

    I am stunned, broken wide open to our collective humanity, and so so energized to fight by this evening together. Deep bow of gratitude

  • Lucia says:

    When and where will we be able to purchase the song See no Stranger?! We are aching to listen to it many more times and share it with friends. 🙂

  • Marjie Ratliff says:

    encouraged, empowered

  • Barb says:

    How do you get through to those who feel that they will be left behind when you say basically that no one will be left behind?

  • Terry Irish says:

    I just ordered your book yesterday Valarie, from Quaker Books.

  • H says:

    Valerie, Ai-jen, Isa, and Caitlin,
    Thank you so much for sharing. Truly inspirational and I have to remember, join the fight even if it isn’t perfect.
    Sending love and gratitude.

  • s says:

    Thank you — my heart is full. Every session has been inspiring and comforting….

  • J says:

    I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share in this experience. As a white woman of relative privilege living in New England, I struggle to know where I fit it. There is so much love and wisdom in these teachings and practices that I suspect I will find my path as I continue with you on this journey. I am not sure how to ask a question. I have one that is yelling to be asked, so I will ask it here:
    Is there a place to intertwine the fight against the CLIMATE EMERGENCY that is destroying our natural world. To me, it seems to be a congruent and essential piece of this work.
    With gratitude, respect, love, and light to all my relatives on this journey with me!

  • MARK S EKDAHL says:

    Thank you so much. I honor your warrior spirit. I have always had a deep moral acuity, a sense of right and wrong. I have always felt that I was here with a special purpose, to bring healing and justice on a broad scale. But lately I have been feeling that my warrior spirit was defeated and that evil prevailed. Last night, I had a sort of visionary experience in which I travelled back to my childhood, actually so many similar life experiences, and saw clearly the aspect of my psyche which is the schizo-affective. I saw the devastation and loneliness that weakness that wrought over the course of my life. I was extremely sensitive and shy and easily hurt, but I had an intense and early developed affinity for altruism and altruistic causes. I was especially inspired by certain female educators, who I now realize probably had experiences of divine love and bliss and oneness with God probably through the intensely positive trips on LSD so many boomers went through. I finally tapped into that essence a couple nights ago, when I felt electricity coursing through my entire body, and it was Christ Consciousness. I thought several times to myself “I would die for all of you” and felt the ego-death release of that all consuming love. You know….deep in my soul, I feel that white nationalism has finally been defeated. The broken hearted world can try to finally begin to recover. There could be some enclaves created in gun-culture areas, but I seriously doubt it. I have always striven against racism and faced extreme and dire opposition from so many people in my life and from the public. I have been abused, ostracized, ridiculed, humiliated, and assaulted. I have lived in fear because of my acute sense of justice and a desire to connect with a higher plane of altruism. My seventh grade teacher once told my sister that I lived on “a different plane.” I have been crushed over and over again and hurt so many times, never finding my community of kindred spirits. A nightmarish travail through the mental health industry. I feel that my soul was split by the cultural divide–in a sense my family and social experience is the archetypal essence of the cultural divide that has ripped this country apart over the course of my life. So much evil has prevailed. Hatred. Regressive government. Evil wars. But I am so grateful for bright shining stars like yours. We need to spiritually resonate with all the grassroots, environmental justice, and social justice movements all across the world as mentioned by Paul Hawken in his book Blessed Unrest. We cannot give into nihilism. We need to align with the progressive spirit found so prevalent in the northwest United States. I hope it rolls across the whole nation. We need “spiritual activism” as championed by Andrew Harvey. We need to target our leaders and rulers to have a fair democratic socialism and somehow get the voice and messages of people like you to more people. The TVs are just channels for propaganda, aggression, brow beating, condescension, brainwashing, and corporate greed. I wish there was a way to change corporate media law so that there were channels where people could watch people like you speak. We need to care again like so many hippies did. Recognize evil and reunite together with shared principles, identity and wisdom, not just greed, self-interest, narcissism, or spiritual bypassing or navel gazing and family therapy sessions. We have become a demon haunted world again, full of reptiles. Enslaved to materialism, no place for spirit. Infected with existential fears and sublimated shadows. We need to feel the righteous anger much of religion often invokes in order to manifest progressive social change. Thank you again. I honor you and am very grateful for you. Love.

  • Bryan says:

    I am a former high school English teacher. Words have always been my sword. I wanted might students to use words as their sword. Students and parents were my shield as I taught in the public schools. I still employ words as a figurative sword in online forums (COVID limits public), Zoom chats, or emails to politicians. People that engage with me serve as my shield. These forums form a large community that can be informative, provide challenges, and give support.

  • Julie Powell-Mohr says:

    We know tht words have power–they carry vibrations/energy. You acknowledge that the word “fight” is part of an ancient way of thinking. It is old language that has a powerful history of battle images. Scientists have found that the brain doesn’t distinguish between a good and bad fight, for example. It processes a visual image of conflict. As I listen to you talk, I hear a deep disconnect between your desire for healing and proposing a “fighting” path to get there. “Fight” always has a dualistic foundation. It is either/or. We need a new language to create a new vision for the future. We need a lanaguage of both/and, a language that invites everybody in. A language that witnesses the power of love. I want to be “standing with, showing up for, laboring for.” My wisdom voice is challenging me to give up fighting words. I think of Rumi’s poem:
    “Out beyond ideas
    Of wrongdoing and rightdoing
    There is a field and I’ll meet you there.

    “When the soul lies down in that grass,
    The world is too full to talk about.
    Ideas, language, even the phrase
    Each other doesn’t make any sense.

    “Out beyond ideas
    Of wrongdoing and rightdoing
    There is a field and I’ll meet you there.”

    Hope you will join me in that field–of revolutionary love. You have a far-reaching voice for creating a new language, and I would love it if you wanted to talk more about how to get there.

    • Doug Helfrich says:

      I agree basically with the point that you’re making, and that is my understanding of the brain too
      Conflict is not something to be avoided, As you all are affirmingand in the prison workshops that I co-facilitated for 25 years (The alternatives to violence project,) we experientially learn together creative ways to be in conflict that are, what used to be called, win-win. Imperfectly. But
      after experiencing and processing exercises designed to form community and trust, affirmation of self and others,and safe , effective ways to communicate,
      We practice activities that help us work creatively with conflict in experiences, culminating in role playing playing

    • Nurallah says:

      Yes Julie, Rumi’s Example of that Field is my Ideal as well. We are in great need of a new language to get there .. Include me in on your eloquent reach for such & I too applaud the way Valarie is able to fill that shoe if a slight new slant was taken. Nurallah Eleanor Briseno : Nurallah3@gmail

  • Dina Ayala says:

    Valerie, I am inspired even more each day by your stories, your lessons and your wisdom. You are a warrior! What an amazing upbringing you had. Your grandfather was a sage and he instilled it into you so beautifully. I have been using my voice to educate white people as I educate myself so that I can fight with you. OXOX

  • Nicole says:

    When I tune into the fight impulse. I think of sexism and the objectification of women as a commodity. How women take it on and even do it to other women. How this leads to the missing women cases (mostly indigenous) that are not investigated. My sword is my voice and my shield are my true friendships that have my back. I feel compelled to find a way to become involved in the advocacy groups on my community.

  • Gloria Switzer says:

    Does one have to pay to hear these speakers? I have registered for the PI and can not connect to the live or the recorded talks. Please clarify. thank you gloriaswitzer@gmail.com

  • Kathi says:

    I understand advocacy burnout. But I’m rested. My sword is my my white privilege. My shield in my education and experience. My community is global ageing advocates. Intesectoral includes linking ages across the lifespan and leveraging the wisdom of older persons.


    A few years ago I stared making art, fabric art to be exact. I used the art as a way of expressing my emotions. My first piece was about divorce and the lose of my marriage. I recently completed a peice called “Women on Fire”. It was conceived a year and a half or two ago. But as I look at the work and explore the life of the peice, I realize that I am a women on fire and I have been for a very long time. I don’t know when the fire begun, maybe it was MLK dealth, maybe before that. A little girl living in poverity, within a single parent home even though my parents were married. Maybe it was being seperated hundreds of miles from my extended family as a child, because my mother kept hoping her marriage would last, so we moved to that end. Or maybe it was the images of the Civl Rights Movement, I really don’t know. I also realize that the fire keeps me moving forward in my personal and professional life. That fire had me register to vote on my 18th birthday and has kept me voting ever since. I don’t know when I becasue an activist, when I particpated in my first march, made my first phone call, donated my first dollar to a cause I believe in. I have been in the fight a long time, my life time and I can’t stop now. I feel determined, not adequate, not well trained but determined to do what I can, my part whatever that is.

    • Linda says:

      I am an artist, and I too made a sculpture of what you described as “Woman on Fire”. I called my sculpture “Madame Pele” for the Fire Goddess, or the Volcano Goddess. I made that sculpture to represent the inner strength and power that We Women have, after the 2016 election, when I marched in WA, DC with hundreds of thousands of Women of every color, age, size, religion, nationality, and a few very good men too. 😉
      My art is my sword. I’ve been an artist my entire life, but after the past 4 years, I’ve decided to devote my art career solely to Social Justice. I’ve been working on a body of work about the Childhood separation policy, Border Babies, for the past year. I had hoped to finish it by Sept/Oct, but I was too busy canvassing on line all summer and fall. We “won” but the fight has only begun. I continue to build my sculptural body of work with the hopes of calling attention to the millions of Americans who turned a blind eye to criminally cruel Human Rights violations.
      Rock on sister Valari J!

  • Sharon says:

    Amazing Wisdom within–and such a beutiful presentation!
    Thank you, Valerie

  • Rachel says:

    Valarie is so compelling and moving in the way she shares her wisdom and encourages growth and inquiry. I’ve ben moved to real tears all three days during her powerful guided inquiries. Grateful to be part of this sangha of accomplices. Onward.

  • Neal Stephens says:

    thank you so much, this has been so empowering

  • David James says:

    FIGHT.. A very inspired talk Valarie. At the turn of the century I felt I had to give back to the world the advantages that I had been given. I worked for the UN as a peacekeeper in South East Asia, Afghanistan and Liberia. In Afghanistan I was attacked twice by Al Qaeda. I hold no hate for these people, I realize these people are fighting for what they believe in, that attack and working for communities in war zones living desperate lives opened up my heart to realize that we are all the same, all 7 billion of us living on a fragile planet. Back in my own country I worked for an organization fighting the stigma of AIDS and helping drug users. My selfless colleagues taught me so much more about myself, they gave me back to myself. The wonder and magic of this life. Blessing to you Valarie and everyone of us.

    • Judy says:

      I am grateful for the work you have done and are doing

    • Nurallah says:

      David, I applaud your brave work & your discernment to recognize with empathy .. what we 7 billion have together on this Fragile Planet. My hope is that we Build this discernment into our passionate “fight” & re-name it Choice! Nurallah

  • >

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