Downtown Oakland Becomes a Redwood Forest Just in Time for the Woman's March


“Amidst of the fireworks of excitement, sisterhood and challenging emotion that will swirl in 50 states and 32 countries this Saturday, uniting people of all colors across borders to rally for the transcendent ideals of justice, peace & equality, I'm calling all Oakland yogis and mediators, sacred activists of the breath, to gather pre-march to hold space for the chaos, the hope and the glory of the streets by embodying the connection between inner peace and outer peace and to hold a vision for the highest possible result of this march: a personal, local, national and global awakening to our interconnection with each other and the earth….”

On fire from the inside, half fueled by the electricity of words like “equality,” half fueled by yerba mate, words spill from my fingertips to the keyboard, the tableau of Oakland’s landmark Arbor Cafe laid out before me like a 3D screen.

Without warning, a chair flies like an angry missile across the room followed by grisly scream “I’ll f*cking kill you, get out of my way!”

I recognize the mentally ill homeless man who lives around Lake Merritt shaking, frothing at the mouth. He grabs another chair, wielding it above his head, he points a dirt-caked finger in my direction, “I’ll kill you!” Men and woman shoot from their seats to move away from the center of the twister, making space for the horror unfurling before them.

A few stand to move closer.

Those who move into the fire- there is something different about them in this moment.

I notice their legs are big like tree trunks and they are growing thicker. They are taking on the rough texture of bark, that subtle smell of earth that emanates from a redwood when rain is on it’s way. These men are breathing into their backs, they are growing in surface area. Their chests are broad, not with the hubris of machismo but buoyed outward by an inner spaciousness, the full presence of embodied courage. Their spines are taller then they were a minute ago, reaching for the sun.

From a distance, I recognize the gift- this is what a body looks like when we are called to protect the things we love.

One man in particular, long dreads like thick branches, physically emanating compassion, moves closer to the agitated words, then shakes his head in acknowledgment, softly, the way wind makes branches slowly bounce in October. He’s listening.

Dread-branch man’s roots are thick, they reach down and down to the fiery center of the earth.  I can see them. Watching him makes my own roots start to grow, my own curled shoulder begin to broaden in surface area from the inside out. Watching him deepens my breath into my back and into the secret space between my vertebra, growing my spine. Despite the chaos saturating the room, I can’t take my eyes off him. My skin starts to roughen with the inherited wisdom of the earth.

His contagious presence begins to infect the chair-weilding man in front of him, angry words becoming softer and softer. Dread-branch man reaches one hand for the chair leg and the other lightly, to the arm of chair-wielding man. The metallic glint of fear-turned violence begins to soften, roots begin to unfurl. A breath- almost full. He allows the chair to be taken from his hand, he looks around as if returning to his body.

I’m proud to call Oakland my home.

I’m proud that these are my people, those that stand like redwoods when the rest of us shrink in fear that prevents us fro seeing the big picture. Those who unwrap hate and violence to find pain and social iniquity inside. Those who respond to the root of injustice instead of rashly throwing hate at hate. Those who embody courage in the face of danger. Those who return to the breath.

I’m proud that there are so many of us here. I’m proud to march for peace downtown with my people this weekend.

May we physically embody peace, courage and justice with our hearts held high, breathing deeply into our backs. May we wrap our roots around each other for greater strength and resilience. This weekend, may we return downtown Oakland to it’s pre-industrial roots: a forest of redwoods.