Archive for the ‘news’ Category

November 2016

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016


This morning I hiked a hill above our home. It was so steep that my lungs began to explode with burning, short breaths. At the crest of the hill, my breathing returned to normal and I compared the tremendous effort and exertion with the energy it is going to take to maintain freedom in our country today. Most of the time I consider if what I am doing will make the world better. It is a conscious choice to focus each step on moving in a positive direction, each word I speak on raising hope, and each interaction I have with others to be fiercely for truth.

The political and social environments today are toxic with hate speech. Many people — more than half our nation — feel woeful after the election. There have been vicious attacks on people of color and women in the few days since the newly elected politicians have said they want to abolish a woman’s right to choose, cancel billions of dollars in climate finance, the future vice president spouting anti-LGBTQI politics, and people wave Confederate flags at parades. It is astounding.

New Zealand Green Party member, Metiria Turei, wrote in the Guardian “We need to say now, even louder than ever before, that we will keep fighting for the values we believe in. We will not stay silent when men brag about sexually assaulting women. We won’t accept lies and hate speech about women, or migrant, refugee and Muslim communities. We won’t stop pushing to prevent catastrophic climate change.” 1

The fight for equality and justice is part of my DNA. I have a sense memory of oppression, peace marches, and songs of resistance. For two days, I mourned the country’s return to the outspoken hatred, misogyny and racism I had seen my whole life. But now I am fired up, as President Obama encouraged us to be before Tuesday, November 9th. I remember what is required to transcend the roadblocks, the fire hoses, and the attack dogs.

Since 2012, when I studied “Spirit, Compassion, and Community Activism” with Susan Carter, Ph.D., I have described myself as a spiritual activist. Activism does not just mean a militant protest or demonstration. Dr. Carter wrote: “I personally equate activism with social action — and agree that both can be in the form of the ‘little’ things in everyday living, as well as larger public actions. I like to think of activism in relation to ‘activation’ — as a spark, or as a “putting forth” — to put spirit into action in the world.”

As a spiritual activist, I pray for strength and vision for each of you. I pray for the healing of divisions, misperceptions, and ignorance. I promise to be an ally for those who are being attacked or harmed in any way.  A short video by “Films for Action” lists five ways to disrupt racism: 1. Don’t be a bystander 2. Film it (a racist act) and report it 3. Stick around for the victim 4. Tackle the culture of racism 5. Actively fight racism ( »)

And I say, chant your chants, sing your songs, challenge the actions of elected officials, and work for equality and integrity for all.

I searched for the hymns of the movements of my childhood. Earth Wind and Fire’s That’s the Way of the World is a message I am singing now:

Looking back we’ve touched on sorrowful days,
Future passes, disappears…
You will find peace of mind
If you look down in your heart & soul…
Don’t hesitate cause the world seems cold…
Stay young at heart cause you’re never ever old.
That’s the way of the world…” 2

Marian Wright Edelman wrote: “…Never has the call to moral and political struggle for justice been more urgent in our nation and world as now when forces of regression seek to erode — indeed destroy — racial and gender progress and dash the hopes of millions of children for a life free from poverty, hunger, homelessness, unequal education, health care, and a chance to get ready for school through quality early childhood supports.

How can we make a difference? By remembering and respecting the sanctity of all human beings — created by and equal in God’s sight — whatever their race, creed, color, gender, sexual preference, or disability. In this time of racial, gender, economic, and political divisiveness, coarsening of political rhetoric, and fraying of America’s democracy, I hope we adults can transmit respectful messages of hope and decency that build and not tear down our community, national and world civility and mutual respect.” 3

I sincerely hope you will join me in creating a more perfect union that is wise, understanding, reverential, loving and powerful. In the ‘60s, we said, “Power to the People.” Today, regaining this power sounds like a mountain too high to climb, but I will not turn back.

November 15, 2016


1 »
2  Publishers: Peermusic Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, MUSIC SALES CORPORATION
Songwriters: Verdine White, Maurice White, Charles Stepney
Licensed & Provided by: LyricFind
3 »

Museums, Art & Culture

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

IMG_0702In my first year as a Board Member of the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington, DC collection of 19 museums,  research centers, and a zoo, I have learned more about presenting art and culture to the public, and the controversy that can sometimes arise.  With 210 affiliates in more than 46 states, Puerto Rico and Panama, the Smithsonian is a rich repository of art works, antiquities, science and educational centers. Currently, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, a Smithsonian affiliate, is exhibiting The Grace Jones Project, exploring the art, music and cultural influence of the former model, now memoirist.

Smithsonian curators are highly respected: their opinions, their knowledge, and their scholarly accomplishments. I have visited eight of the 19 museums so far: The National Museum of African Art, The National Museum of the American Indian, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Freer Gallery of Art, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Museum of Natural History, The National Postal Museum, and the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

On my last visit, I visited one of the affiliates, The Anacostia Community Museum, twenty minutes from downtown. Our Board was given a tour, and we entered the archives and viewed the fur coat worn by Marian Anderson when she sang at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Ms. Anderson had been denied to perform before an integrated audience at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. In response, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership of that organization, and with her husband Franklin Roosevelt, invited Ms. Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial. Estimates of the audience were 75,000 in attendance and millions of radio listeners.

Click here for more info: Denied A Stage, She Sang For A Nation »

There are hundreds of public programs, educational initiatives, and diverse collections to experience in Washington, D.C., and across the nation. On September 24, 2016, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will open, “a place of meaning, of memory, of reflection, of laughter, and of hope, and using African American history and culture as a lens into what it means to be an American.”

Enjoy all museums, and let’s expand our appreciation of art and culture.


Photo: Real Justice – The Spirit of Thurgood Marshall by Allen UZIKEE Nelson

End of 2015

Friday, January 1st, 2016

christmas-2015Dear friends,

I do not always end the year with a life-changing event. Nor do I often share my personal life, other than cheering for my three phenomenal children & the girls at Daraja Academy in Kenya, which I do unabashedly.

I usually write about the inspirations & insights I receive in nature, my morning meditations, works of art, & the books I read –right now Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover is enchanting me. The previous book I read was Find A Way by Diana Nyad – you will be moved beyond measure & on the edge of your seat with her story & physical triumph.

The end of 2015 is gracing me with marrying a man who gives me love, joy, laughter & brilliance everyday – Carl Lumbly. When he proposed in August, we knew that committing our lives to each other was not only “right,” but a miracle of sorts. The stunning surprise of discovering our similar characters, our love for writing & reading, hiking & exercise, & the completeness of being present each moment in this imperfect world expands our hearts.

As 2015 comes to a close, I wish everyone a most spectacular 2016 heaped high with the fulfillment of dreams, the realization of passions, & hearts filled with kindness, & love.

Happy New Year!




Sacred Activism

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

The values and ideals I live by were inspired by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone’s book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. Macy, ecophilosopher, scholar of Buddhism & deep ecology, is the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, & I had the great honor of taking one of her weekend workshops. She addresses the unsustainable systems & spiritual crises that lie in the center of our world’s disharmony & dis-ease. An activist, teacher, spreader of tools to awaken & connect people with each other, the environment, & with healing, Macy’s work asks us to see our part in the entire play of life. She encourages us to create vows to live by, & they “should not number more than the fingers & thumb of one hand.”

Mine are:

  1. To daily practice loving myself & others through the work I do to ease suffering in the world.
  2. To practice sacred activism by remaining nonviolent in my thoughts, words, & deeds.
  3. To find & be part of a nurturing, God-loving community that holds the space for me as I hold the space for others.
  4. To believe that the blessings & grace of spirit are within guiding me, & without protecting me, so that I am safe in the world.
  5. To offer gratitude every day.

Macy & Johnstone write: “the greatest danger of our times is the deadening of our response” to the troubles & injustices we see. Active hope means being committed to the healing & recovery of our world.

Won’t you join me in making your own vows to this deep purpose?

Precious Fossils

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Flowers in WindowI feel gratitude for many things: sunlight, birds in the oak trees in my garden, Daraja Academy, the ability to learn & grow, being in a body & all of the discoveries that brings.

It is a gift to receive each day & all of its moments, to accept what life offers, to do all I can to play my part in understanding and manifesting positive values for life.

One month ago, I took a class at the San Francisco Center for the Book with Master printer Mary Risala Laird. It was a beginning-level workshop teaching how to design & print your own book. I chose the font from many drawers of metal letters, & learned to hold the composing stick in my left hand, curling my fingers over it & keeping the type steady as I built words. I chose different em quads for title and lines, then put leads between the lines and, with great care, set the type for four of my poems.

The concentration & need for exactness was a meditation. I laughed when I made mistakes trying to differentiate between p’s & q’s, n’s & m’s, periods & commas. Setting the letters with the nick as the guide for lining the letters up in the same direction was like putting pieces in a puzzle. The final thrill was wrapping string around the forms & seeing my finished poems sitting in the galley.

Mary was a delightful teacher whose warmth, laughter, & patience made my experience memorable.

Here is one of my poems that I set:

Precious Fossils

I knew each of you first – found you on a dig-
Fine, precious fossils from my own body.
Fragments of each other, you arrived one by one,
Brought back to earth with your ancestors’ blood.

You have all moved far away from me,
grit on your bones from learning to speak your psalms.
Warm weather and frosts, you return to visit,
My throat tightens knowing you will not stay long.

Morning sun licks the table where I sit,
Cup in one hand, pen moving on yellow paper,
Limestone dust on my face.
Soon you will pack your car with bags of worn t-shirts,
your dog and his leash, my Prada heels,
Off to explore your own colossal terrain.

Red Lantern

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

red_lantern-smThis sculpture by Andy Cao & Xavier Perrot at Cornerstone Festival Gardens in Sonoma held me captive for many minutes. Called Red Lantern, the reddish orange crystals hanging over the water held the sun’s light on the windswept day I visited. I sat cross-legged at the end of the railroad ties, asking the art to teach me, illumine me, carry me from the sometimes stormy moments of my existence to a place of peace. The pond was a mirror of the assemblage of Chinese-inspired elements referencing the history of Chinese migrants who came to California during the mid-19th century Gold Rush, and stayed to build the Central Pacific Railroad.
What am I building, I asked myself? How can I create a road that brings people together in stronger relationships through my spiritual activism? I want to work to make life equal for all, by learning, sharing, & growing together with my friends and allies, advocating for those who are marginalized, for sustainable environmental practices, and building networks, with a desire for all to succeed.

My vision is a world where each person is connected like these hanging crystals, small parts of a larger continuum throughout the universe, moving upward in consciousness through our willingness to be one in peace.

I invite you to join me as I ask daily to be unconditionally loving, kind, forgiving of myself and all persons, things and experiences.


Photo by GB Photographers

In These Arms, A Song for All Beings “” Jennifer Berezan

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

In this time when the news shows humanity’s increased disharmony, forgotten interconnectedness, and our leaders using war as a solution to war, I send this beautiful song of remembrance from Jennifer Berezan. We all want to be happy and not to suffer. We all want love.  Let’s be that love.


2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


Deborah welcoming guests to the opening reception of the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrating Kenya and China. She was also one of the sponsors of “Divas Night,” celebrating women singers from Kenya.


Career Girls

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

“It isn’t enough to tell young girls to “dream big” or “aim high.” Without proper encouragement, or concrete methods for turning their abilities into tangible careers, many young women can simply flounder in the educational system. Career Girls is an organization dedicated to providing young girls of all income levels and ethnic backgrounds with the academic tools and support they need to achieve their professional aspirations. We do this by providing a “real world” context for a child’s academic studies, specifically through interviews with positive female role models and a comprehensive collection of easy-to-follow educational resources.”

Skills From Childhood


Please join us and help transform a girl’s life

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

LaTanya Richardson Jackson & Deborah Santana Invite you to spend one Saturday afternoon to transform a girl’s life.
Please join us for delicious food and wine, and information about how you can help girls change the world. We will show award-winning short documentary Girls of Daraja. Founders Jason & Jenni Doherty will share Daraja Academy’s success stories. Please read more about this exciting event and RSVP here:

Thank you!