The Virtual Valley

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

As of this writing seventy percent of local bodies are in the process of moving into what is known as the Virtual Valley. It is seeing regular use and further support resources are soon to begin rolling out, so an increasing number of members are becoming aware of its existence and are wondering what it is all about. I wanted to take a few minutes to give you all the history and vision of the Virtual Valley.

No one joins the Electoral College without some experience in the operations of a local body. Some of us may have ideas or goals for improvement coming into service. Some of us get the opportunity to realize those goals, some learn that we were woefully clueless before serving five or so years. That certainly happened with me. I came in wanting to support the development of local body leadership and specifically to raise local body standards.

Through my service on the College and the Kaaba Colloquium team, I have had great opportunity to observe our strengths and weakness, mine included, over the last eleven years, and I came to some surprising conclusions. Or at least they surprised me.

To raise standards, we didn’t need to just increase the requirements placed on local bodies and expect them to meet them, placing undue pressure on the members to live up to these aspirations. Instead, we needed to provide better resources and more training, and to focus on the development of a strong leadership core from all the initiates interested in one day serving in this capacity.

The College had two committees tasked with the discussion of developing resources for masters and mentors, but they did not seem to be getting anywhere quickly, so as the President of the College, I rolled them into one committee and solicited members from outside the College to participate. Specifically, I solicited seated and past masters interested in the objective.

We started with what they wished they had or had had when starting in the role and issues the College had seen repeat over the years, and as chair of the committee, I started outlining a plan.  It would take multiple years and would culminate with local bodies moving into the U.S.G.L. Workspace in semiautonomous electronic oases, we call the Virtual Valley.

Six months later the pandemic hit. Just as we were about to solicit volunteers for our traveling resources lists, suddenly no one could travel.  We put that project on hold and started looking at what the local bodies needed right then to maintain their communities. The answer was first to provide the ability to stay connected.

So, we would give them the ability to Meet online for free in the U.S.G.L. Workspace. To do this, they needed oto-usa.org emails. We would buy them for all officers of local bodies. I asked the Assistant Internet Secretary what it would cost the Electoral College to buy up to 4 emails for each local body. Turned out, we had enough emails included in the U.S.G.L. workspace to do it for no additional charge. But, with that email came so much more than a calendar and the ability to host a Meet for up to 250 attendees and we had other goals from the plan that could be met at the same time. Resources local masters needed. Resources that would solve recurring issues.

We started rolling out the Virtual Valleys on a voluntary basis at the end of March 2020 and the initiative was announced in the Spring 2020 issue of Agape. Subsequently, at the EC’s Spring Policy and Procedure meeting, I outlined for the College what the Virtual Valley came with and how it could help by providing:

  • email archives that pass from one office holder to the other with ease
  • calendar for online meetings
  • drive space to place all electronic resources in the hands of the body rather than individual members
  • groups for communication between the local and regional leaders, a public announcement list, member lists, and others by request (with proper security settings prescribed for said lists to protect member contact information from accidental public exposure)
  • training sessions on how to use all of the above.

The College voted to mandate the use of the Virtual Valley, leaving the calendar and electronic meeting software as optional, knowing that several bodies had paid services with which they were happy. This was announced on the internal U.S.G.L. policy update elist in June of 2020.

The Resource Development Committee continues to work on resources we plan to roll out over the coming months, including the aforementioned traveling resource lists. It turns out, however, that the first developed resource released in the Virtual Valley after the initial roll-out was not developed by our team, but instead came from the Diversity Task Force of U.S.G.L. This is quite encouraging, as one of the committees’ goals is to provide easy access to resources from across Grand Lodge to the local body leadership, and we are thrilled to collaborate.

If you have any questions, or to set up your local body, do not hesitate to contact me.

Love is the law, love under will.

Fraternally yours,

Hattie Quinn

 

 

Announcing the Diversity Task Force’s Educational Modules

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. 

The U.S.G.L. Diversity Task Force has released the first six educational modules (MoMods) that focus on racial diversity and inclusion. The module descriptions are listed on the U.S.G.L. Education Committee’s Diversity page. The monthly modules were created by a subgroup of the Task Force known as the MoMod team and were guided by the U.S.G.L. Values Statements, in particular:

“We advocate the principles of Scientific Religion and Universal Brotherhood, and oppose tyranny, superstition, and oppression.” — U.S.G.L. Values Statement #4

“We believe that a membership free from unfair discrimination is essential to accomplishing our Mission, and reject doctrines that promote bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance.” – U.S.G.L. Values Statement #6 

The MoMods were designed to be a tool for local leadership to provide space to have hard discussions, increase awareness of underserved populations, and challenge participants to self-reflect on the module topic as it relates to Thelema. The modules also provide room for those who wish to complete them alone, but in either case, it is the team’s desire to give each individual the knowledge and confidence to talk about these topics whether it is with other siblings or in other parts of their lives. 

The MoMods were birthed and fueled with the idea that our physical spaces and online events should be welcoming. They must be free of ignorance and the bias that discourages many members of underserved populations. If individuals want to embrace Thelema, take initiation, attend Liber XV, participate in classes or ritual events, then race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability should not be the limiting factor. The Law must truly be for all! 

Love is the law, love under will. 

 

Reflections On the Moment

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

I have been struggling with what kind of statement to make since the death murder of George Floyd and the explosion of activism in its wake.  What right do I have to say something as a middle class white woman?  Or as a part of middle management of a small charitable organization?  Yes, I have written poetry, shared posts for awareness, given family funds to causes supporting the protestors and people of color, continue to serve as emergency contact for protesting friends, and had some productive conversations with my fellow privileged suburban housewives about how we can all learn and do more.  But, as President of the Electoral College, what could I say?  So, I didn’t.

We just celebrated Juneteenth, aka Freedom Day. A holiday known as the day African Americans achieved freedom, because the southern states chose to ignore the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 because they were still in rebellion until Lee surrendered in April 1865 and the final proclamation was read in Texas on June 19th, 1865.  Further researches show that freedom did not come that day, but rather the tyranny of slavery turned into monetizing the nascent criminal justice system by renting out Black prisoners to perform menial or dangerous labor, which continued until World War II. I don’t know what I am going to say about the rage and sadness I feel inside, but by all the gods, I am going to say it right now.  So here we go…

I am 15/16ths White American.  I grew up in the Deep South in a city renamed for Andrew Jackson, Florida’s first territorial governor and later our 7th President.  He claimed to be for the common man instead of the wealthy, but like most, he meant the common white man.  Not the African Americans, the Native Americans, or any other people of color, or women of any race. A city named for the president whose legacy is the Indian Relocation era culminating in the Trail of Tears under his successor.  In the seventies and eighties when I was growing up there, racism was overt. The N-word was common. Everyone was judged by their skin color and socioeconomic status.  May your god help you if you were the wrong one in both. Being what I think was lower middle class, raised by a single father who worked three jobs, I was what we used to call poor white trash.  I was still considered above people of color and given preferential treatment.  Even when we were “broker than broke,” I existed in a world of privilege.

My father raised me to love people for who they were and how they treated others, not for our superficial commonalities, but I had little contact with people of color, even at school, as in that time we were two distinct social groups. The Black people I met were old men and women my father knew from one or another of his jobs and they were beautiful, loving people, and they deserved so much better than the life they had, even though they found the joy of it.

I could outline my years of complicity through silence combined with my growing awareness that this could not stand, but I do not want to talk about that.  Just like when women shared their #MeToo moment, we didn’t want to hear from men so we could just for this moment in time focus on the systemic abuses of women, though men had obviously suffered, too. We are all victims of the abuses of the powerful.  That is the way of the world and it cannot continue.

Now, we must set aside our stories to listen to those of our brethren and friends and strangers of color.  If they wish to share their story, it is our responsibility to listen, and to support them in seizing their moment in time.  As the lot of women has begun to improve through finding our allies and using our voices, so too must we now be allies and lend our voices where we may to all people of color, but especially to Black people who are really still not free and equal, as they are beaten down figuratively and literally by the existing structures of American society. 

Meditate magicians, act upon your conscience, educate yourself, offer yourself in service through providing support at the demonstrations (first aid, water, cleaning up after, a safe ride home, bail, etc), donate to causes shown to be getting the money where it needs to go, promulgate the message of people of color, or whatever else you are called to do by the dictates of your soul. But no longer turn a blind eye to the injustice all around us. No longer think that you can’t do anything as only one of many.  

If you are a sibling of color, if it be your will, volunteer for leadership or the U.S.G.L. Diversity Task Force, write for Agape or the EC blog, or reach out to the leadership and tell us how we may help you. We are listening. How we bring true diversity to our Holy Order must be guided by you and your experiences, or it will be guided by a bunch of well-intentioned, slow-moving white folk (no offense to my peers on these teams).

Let 2020 be the year we saw ourselves and each other clearly. The year we set aside our comforts to lift up or defend another star. Siblings of color or those allies fighting injustice in the streets, reach out to us to assist you. Let us move forward together.

#BlackLivesMatter, don’t talk to me about the others right now.

#CryMotherfuckers for the injustices Black people are faced with and die from

#endracism

Love is the law, love under will.

Fraternally yours,

Hattie Quinn
President
U.S.G.L. Electoral College