Dennison College Becky Thompson presentation

The Goodspeed Lecture welcomed Becky Thompson, presenting
"Love Calls to the Things of This World": Yoga and Social Change
in April, 2017.


Since my early 20s, coming up through the multiracial feminist movement in the United States, I have been taught that social justice activism is both a promise and a way of life. My recent work in support of refugees includes standing on the shoreline in Lesvos, Greece, welcoming families crossing the perilous Aegean Sea, assisting people seeking asylum, writing for the international press, and teaching poetry workshops in refugee camps in Lesvos and the mainland. My recent work in China allowed me to offer “Working on Peace, Insisting on Justice” workshops (translated into Chinese) for activists and academics in two provinces (work made possible by a marvelous group of Chinese feminists I first met when teaching yoga, creative writing and justice workshops at a Buddhist retreat Center in northern Thailand). In the US, I am a long time supporter of Indigenous struggles and the Movement for Black Lives. From my early work to stop Apartheid in South Africa and US military wars in Central America, to work to end white supremacy and all forms of oppression in the US and globally, I see activism and a deepening spiritual practice as synergistic.

The Poet and Activist Alice Walker Writes

“A writer’s heart, a poet’s heart, an artist’s heart, a musician’s heart, is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world; more mysterious, beloved, insane and precious for the sparkling and jagged edges of the smaller enclosures we have escaped.” (Walker, 2010)


“I tied my six children to my body with a rope,” the 37-year-old Syrian mother tells me from her cubicle in Elpida, a refugee center for vulnerable families in Greece. “Either we were all going to make it together, or none at all.”



When a professor from the “Working on Peace, Insisting on Justice” workshop I offered in Dali China in 2017 said she wanted to invite me to her university the following year, I thought she was just being kind. Given the considerable responsibilities that Professor Wei carries, as Chair of one of only two Women’s Studies departments in all of China, I didn’t think she would really have the time to follow through. Only she did.


On the heels of a disastrous election in the United States, I got the lucky chance to travel to China, made possible by a dynamic group of Chinese feminists, some of whom I first met when teaching poetry and justice workshop in Thailand a few years ago.


"I go to as many Black Lives Matter demonstrations as I can. Sometimes, I get to march with my gender-bending Southern Ute daughter, and many of my students, who seem to know to stay close to me, way beyond when they graduate. And I keep scanning the eyes of mothers, hoping they can see mine, that they can see that I see theirs. In some ways, my view of police violence as more than just a few bad apples, as systematic and historically rooted in slavery, comes from my white privilege. My son can't afford to walk about thinking that police, as a group, have been trained to see him as a target. I marvel at his stamina. I grieve for this world. Recently, I dreamt of LaMar when he was a toddler, before I even officially knew him. He was sweet, rocking in my arms like they were a swing set, to some soulful music, enjoying the sunlight, wrapped safely in his own dark radiance." From "Dark Radiance"(2016)