The Return Of…

Greetings all!
Shake Loose the Empire will be returning in the next few months with new content in the forms of podcast, blog, and video. This project is at the intersection of spirituality, social change, and the arts. It’s about great artists, activists, mystics, thinkers, friends, family, and strangers. It’s about a future world crying out as possibility, not certainty. Please join me and all the incredible people you will meet along the way.

Thank you for tuning in.

Stay tuned.


Only a pawn in their game – Bob Dylan

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
’Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ’neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
“Only a pawn in their game”

stream of consciousness v2

hell is holy
in an unholy

am i a human being
or am i technology

it’s crazy
amaze me

we vote for death

please come quickly
and save me
from this sacrilegious

sacrificial empathy
carves hearts apart

stream of consciousness v1

it could have been beautiful
it could have been glorious

save joy for later
until we are victorious

postpone the problem
ignore the remedy

tear apart integrity
success would get the best of me

no sir, that’s not for me

there are already
plenty of zombies

And we’re back…

Hey folks,

I’m not sure how public I’m going to make this, but I am going to start using this site to post poetry and prose that I am working on with hopes of eventually publishing. I thought it would be a fun way to start compiling this material, soliciting feedback, and hopefully gaining the courage to get it out there in a more substantial way.

If you feel led, please comment on my posts, because I am trying to improve as a writer and appreciate any and all feedback.

Thank you for reading. Time to post.

With love,


Courageous Community

I have been thinking about Shake Loose The Empire for months. Submitting a piece back in January was empowering and inspiring. Following that, I  had a wonderful month in the wilderness which inspired another piece I’ll soon share, but it’s April now and I haven’t submitted anything.

On top of processing and trying to distill my experience into a couple of themes to share, I’ve struggled with the sharing itself, struggled with showing up — with the being known that this sharing represents — with feeling like what I have to say is valid (I’m not reading and citing awesome radical authors. What work towards this “better world” do I really do?)

I’ve recognized this insecurity as a part of the self-limitation that keeps us from engaging the beautiful and monumental task before us; the task to consciously re-design — to actively participate in — the creation and healing of our world, the creation and healing of our very own lives.

I’ve struggled to even feel! So tempting is the story-line that I’ve got to get mine first, or get fixed first, or that I’m no expert, that I accept things as they are as a means of my own survival.

I also don’t like focusing on pain! I don’t intend to avoid it by any means; I try to actively engage it. But I don’t want to identify with it. So much activism seems identity based. I don’t want to feed by fighting.

I’m philosophically and spiritually attuned to step outside of the yuck and into a whole new playing field. I have an affinity for Taoism and this hunger for hermiting and moving in the world slowly and simply that while it shouldn’t feels opposed to activism and fighting. The dream or delusion to cloister and simplify my life, simply singing the many names of Life, comes often.

I think my politics are a bit more anarcho, but I find myself under the stupor of inertia. I’ve always wanted to be a part of, what I’ve considered, “generative” work, work that creates, creates outside of systems others directly fight. I know there’s a place for that. I know on some level I’m cooperating. I know we must work simultaneously on all levels; I just know I’m here to take a quieter path. But I don’t think I’ve found it yet. But it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share, that I can’t be a part of collaborative efforts. I haven’t found the balance yet and I have some growing to do, some courage to summon in order to be part of the courageous community it will take to get us through. The beautiful inspired courageous community that we’re meant to be.

“I have to have it all figured out.” “I’ve got to be perfect.” “My contribution must stand alone.” Not so; that’s not how community works. So I’m contributing what I have in me to share, knowing it’s the symphony of our voices and sharings that make a righteous noise and I’m not too small to sing my song.

We each, as individuals, may not have it altogether; and that’s the point, because it’s community and with one another that we come to recognize ourselves whole, our individual existence is wholly what it must be.


IMG_20121126_213001Julie Ferreira lives in Tucson Arizona where she grows vegetables, rides her bike, reads kids books, and spends time with loved ones. She is working on letting go of all that keeps her from experiencing that life, in and of itself, is the truth and there is nothing to be sought.

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4 Things That Changed My Life (And Might Change Yours Too)

Earlier today, I was planning on posting a new piece on how individuality is being used by elites to prevent effective resistance. Corporations and the state, still using racism as a way to divide and conquer, have perfected a new tool in their domination toolkit: the notion of the individual. If we are all focusing the majority of our energy on our own goals, happiness, success, image, etc., then collective action is rendered impossible – how can we look out for each other if we’re only looking out for ourselves? If our options are limited to either dominate or be dominated, what options do we really have? (Is this also why self-promotion really bothers me?)

Anyway, I could have written that article. I probably still will. But will it really do anything to change you? Will my commentary ever be more than reading material for a handful of people?

I don’t know the answer to that, so I am going to skip the commentary today, and instead, here is a list of what changed me. Maybe it will change you too:

1. Anti-Oppression/Ally Training

When I was a first-year in college, some friends approached me about attending something called the Peacemaker Training Institute (PTI), organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). I didn’t really know what it was at the time, but it sounded cool: a week full of trainings on racism, patriarchy, heterosexism, privilege, organizing, nonviolence, art activism, and more.

It was LIFE CHANGING. Never before was my privilege made so apparent, and never before was the need for societal transformation made so visible. I wish it still existed, but due to budget cuts and the down economy, FOR ended the program in 2009. Luckily, there are still lots of great organizations doing trainings on a variety of issues. These trainings develop skills that are vital to making change in the world. They might be pricey and hard to schedule, but all organizations offer scholarships and hold trainings throughout the year, so plan ahead, fundraise, and get your life changed.

Here’s a list of training organizations to check out: Training For ChangePeople’s Institue For Survival And BeyondThe Highlander Center, Beyond Diversity 101, Ruckus, Be Present, The Audre Lorde Project, and Allies for Change.

2. Feminism

I’ll never forget the day I walked into my professor’s office at Earlham College, hesitant to declare a Women’s Studies minor because I believe in the value of female-identified spaces. The great Mary Daly did not allow male-identified people in her class, and I understand why: having a man in the room changes things. I experienced that reality in my intro-class to Women’s Studies, which included three male-identified people. Although the three of us were very intentional about not taking up too much room, the conversation was surely altered by our presence from time to time.

On that day, I was ready for the head of the Women’s Studies Department to encourage me to attend certain classes, but to also leave others as safe spaces for female-identified persons. It is, after all, a privileged notion that I ought to be allowed everywhere, right?

But that wasn’t what happened. I walked in the door, and I said, “Barb, I want to be a Women’s Studies minor, but…”

“You’re a guy?” she said, finishing my sentence.

“Well, yeah,” I said.

“Don’t you wish more men took Women’s Studies classes?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Then what’s stopping you? Welcome aboard.”

I DO NOT feel that I did something exemplary by becoming a Women’s Studies minor. I was simply doing what I feel all male-identified people ought to do. We often shy away from “should” in our society, because of how loaded it is as a guilt-inducing concept, but I mean it when I say that we all need to be engaging with feminist writers and activists, especially feminists of color. Why single out feminists of color as especially important? Because of their insight, wisdom, and location, a Black Feminist concept that you need to know about!

“But why, Greg?”

Because not only is feminism vital to all social transformation and activism, it’s also the best s*** I’ve ever read. It changed me for life, and it continues to challenge me on a daily basis to resist the temptation of male privilege and patriarchal norms of objectification, violence, and the delegitimization of women’s voices. Feminism made me a better activist, and it made me a better person.

Here is a short, very incomplete list of authors, activists, artists, and anthologies you need to check out (feel free to add more in the comments section):

Angela Davis, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, Chandra Talpade MohantyCherríe MoragaGloria AnzaldúaAna Castillo, Adrienne Rich, Alix Olson, Simone de BeauvoirMaxine Hong KingstonThis Bridge Called My BackBorderlands/La Frontera: The New MestizaNew South Asian Feminisms, But Some of Us are Brave, Colonize This!, and Making Face, Making Soul.

3. Do not accept the status quo.

I love my parents, but it took me a long time to get over their seemingly constant plea for my life: “We just want you to be happy.”

Over and over, we are encouraged to forget our idealistic notions and “get a real job.” Our friends and family members don’t understand us, and they’re right about one thing: it’s not fun to live paycheck to paycheck. So maybe that cushy non-profit job does make sense, or maybe that temporary stint working at Verizon to pay off your student loans was totally worth it, or hell, what isn’t fun about having some money to throw around?

I spent a long time trying to adjust my dreams for a truly just society to the reality of the “real world,” and then, I realized something very important: the “real world” is oppressive, unfair, exploitative, unsustainable, and falling apart in front of our very eyes. Only the privileged and those hungering for privilege are convinced that the status quo is something worth fighting for or even pursuing. 

My parents always worry about me, but I can’t live my life for them. I don’t see the need to save for my retirement, because I would rather spend time co-creating the types of communities that refuse to let ANYONE fall through the cracks.

So wherever you are, whatever you do, challenge the status quo. Hell, you can even keep your day job! We all need to pay the rent. Just speak up! As Audre Lorde, from the previous list of awesome feminists, once said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

4. Resist the temptation to focus on your own success.

This is obviously tied to the previous plea to resist the status quo, but it’s so important, it gets its own number. Too often we find ourselves living under the false belief that our happiness is what matters most, that we need to put ourselves first, and that we ought to follow our dreams regardless of how they impact the world.

Yes, we all deserve happiness, but all too often this “pursuit of happiness” is lived out at the expense of working for a more just and sustainable world in which everyone would be happier! 

Yes, sometimes we need to put our own survival and livelihood first, but isn’t our fear of failure rooted in our recognition that society punishes the poor, oppresses those around us, and has no safety net for those who do not “succeed?”

Yes, following our dreams is often a good thing, but our society also breeds “dreams” that become nightmares for everyone else, allowing the privileged to enjoy their privilege while prison populations keep growing, wealth disparity keeps increasing, and environmental destruction keeps raging.

What if all of our individual dreams became collective ones? What if we put all of our talents, passions, and skills towards transforming the world rather than towards our own success? What if we put pressure on elites through our collective action, creating a movement that cannot be ignored?

Sky’s the limit, friends. But one thing is for sure: inaction is complicity. Let’s do this. Together. For everyone. And thank you to all those brave souls out there already doing the work. Let’s support each other! This s*** is hard.

Shake Loose!

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“What’s wrong?” A Poem By Sarah Bunch

If wisdom were constructed of carbontrees
it would be
a forest of trees:
unfathomable giants
stretching toward the light
digging deeper into the ground
reaching mightily until their final
Effort and growth never cease
Among trees
fear of time and its relativity
is replaced with solid certainty
that the sunrise is inevitable.

There is no notion of worth, esteem, “self”
no distinction of “other”
Life, simply

By forgetting how to simply
humanity fuels tragedies
globally, cyclically.

It is said forests of wisdom are felledHands Holding a Seedling and Soil
for the good of man.
It is hard to believe that we
dependent inescapably
upon oxygen, clean water
clean air, sturdy soil
could benefit
from the death of beings
that provide these things

Centuries-old trees are felled
for the good of few men
hacking and slashing
and burning and axing
the sustenance,
the life support,
the livelihood,
of billions.
It is strange to think that we
reliant unavoidably
upon fruits and grainsOld Lumberjacks
vegetables, legumes
could benefit
from these things being controlled
by few men pursuing
their own
sustenance, life support

Humanity forgets the lessons of the tree,
the whale, the wolf, the bee
as each dwindle and disappear
now memories.
So begins the cycle of poverty;
as nature is bartered and bought
destroyed, displaced
So too are we

It is said poverty is natural, inevitable.s01
It is a product of the natural
being stolen
and processed.
Pollute with toxins the water and air,
bulldoze the flora
and let wash away the soil.
Frack and blow off mountaintops,
relentlessly search for oil,
never mind the global turmoil—
fuel the addiction,
prescribe prescriptions to treat
tension, depression,
loss of connection.
Cancer, birth defects,
asthma, dementia.

As wisdom is destroyed,
so too are we,

Chief Jackie Thomas

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i think some people are good at living in community.  they just get it.  they do their share. socialize when appropriate.  speak honestly about their needs.  unfortunately, i am not one of those people.

but i keep trying.

.the best way to know god.

rulesmy trying began when i was in highschool, when living in community became a near obsession.  my family life was so fractured–although we lived in one house, love seemed absent–that the idea of living with a community of people dedicated to loving one another in an almost holy, sacramental fashion, seemed like heaven.

as a young spiritual idealist, living in community was also the best way to know god.  because, as i realized during a revelation at the age of fifteen, love, and love for others, is the essential ingredient for transformation.  so, of course, living with people and experiencing that love must be the closest you can get to god, to nirvana.

i quickly discovered, however, that nirvana–at least in the traditional, mystical sense– is nothing close to life in community.  most of the time, it’s challenging.  and not just because some people leave toothpaste buggers in the sink–but because learning to know ourselves and others is scary.  transformation requires sometimes painful destruction of our most comfortable selves.

Dorothy Day

.in community.

during the summer between my junior and senior year of college, i decided to live in a dorothy day catholic worker house in duluth, minnesota.  what started as a fairly wholesome, simple living situation, quickly morphed into a tense, toxic web of misunderstandings and estrangement.  what instigated that switch, i’ll never really know.  but it had something to do with confronting my neuroses through the judgement of intensely righteous and committed people.  what i had formally assumed to be kind, well-intentioned behavior came across as privileged, artificial and somewhat irresponsible.  i wanted so badly to learn how to cook, how to meditate, how to know and be known but i couldn’t stay still.  i had a great deal of healing to do.

while i learned of my own failings over and over again that summer, i also learned of the great injustices of the world and became aware of an empire mindset of oppression and control that was destroying our planet.  and i was being destroyed by it, as well.  my inability to stay still was rooted in a very deep fear that i was not enough, that my worth was wrapped up in what i could accomplish.  i was broken that summer, in community.

.emanate love.

homedespite that somewhat traumatic experience, i kept trying.  after college, i began living with a group of intentional, righteous young people in west philadelphia, with no tie to any particular religious group or spiritual tradition.  it was exactly what i wanted.  but–surprise surprise– i found myself confronting similar neuroses as i had witnessed years before.  sometimes even the idea of even seeing people when i got home would cause me severe anxiety. there was so much emotion at the tip of my chest that i was terrified it would spill all over others, all over the floor, infect the very space i wanted so badly to emanate love.  i would rather go into my room and fantasize about my problems or my joys.  and i would certainly rather be alone than confront the awkward mystery of another.  my own insecurities–which are varied and seemingly bottomless–kept me at arm’s length from most people. so living in community was hard.


but bit by bit, every time i put myself out there, i felt stronger.  more powerful.  community had given me an opportunity to grow, even if i failed.  people had given me an opportunity to feel forgiven for my failings. i broke the juicer.  and the blender.  i’m terrible with appliances.  but i had an opportunity to reconcile the situation, to take responsibility for myself and learn that i am a power stronger than i could have ever imagined.


many people are convinced that they are just too much–they have too many problems, too many quirks, too many inconsistencies–to live with others. living in community, you have endless opportunities to recognize that you are perfectly fine.

whatever unbearable sadness you think you’re holding can be held by others.  and the magic part is that when you expose your fears, concerns, problems, they actually clear up.  it’s like a wound–it will only heal once it is exposed.

when we live together we remember our unconditional connection to one another and the strength that it affords.  living in community allows me to harness at least some of this power to transform myself while giving me confidence to change the world.

MadelineMadeline still lives in West Philadelphia with five wonderful housemates.  This winter she’s been dancing more, and writing, too.  In the spring, when new life returns, she’ll be developing an online multi-media project that documents “Movement for a New Society,” an experiment in radical community and social change that took place in West Philadelphia during the 70s and early 80s.

You can check out what she’s done so far here:

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