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Altars in the Street: A Courageous Memoir of Community and Spiritual Awakening

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A wonderfully written memoir, overflowing with miraculous stories, of a Buddhist private eye who vows to heal her community's suffering from violence and racism. Altars in the Street is for people who live in cities and those who have fled them. It will speak to anyone who cares about the future of our children, our neighborhoods, and our nation, as well as anyone who wants A wonderfully written memoir, overflowing with miraculous stories, of a Buddhist private eye who vows to heal her community's suffering from violence and racism. Altars in the Street is for people who live in cities and those who have fled them. It will speak to anyone who cares about the future of our children, our neighborhoods, and our nation, as well as anyone who wants to look truthfully at the relationship between poverty and prisons and between community and education. Drawing on deep reserves of good humor, common sense, and practical experience of nonviolent action, Melody Ermachild Chavis has written a moving testament to the power of spirit in today's often cynical world.


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A wonderfully written memoir, overflowing with miraculous stories, of a Buddhist private eye who vows to heal her community's suffering from violence and racism. Altars in the Street is for people who live in cities and those who have fled them. It will speak to anyone who cares about the future of our children, our neighborhoods, and our nation, as well as anyone who wants A wonderfully written memoir, overflowing with miraculous stories, of a Buddhist private eye who vows to heal her community's suffering from violence and racism. Altars in the Street is for people who live in cities and those who have fled them. It will speak to anyone who cares about the future of our children, our neighborhoods, and our nation, as well as anyone who wants to look truthfully at the relationship between poverty and prisons and between community and education. Drawing on deep reserves of good humor, common sense, and practical experience of nonviolent action, Melody Ermachild Chavis has written a moving testament to the power of spirit in today's often cynical world.

30 review for Altars in the Street: A Courageous Memoir of Community and Spiritual Awakening

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    As everyone who's been following my reviews for these past two years probably already knows, I've become a small-time political activist in my town where, unfortunately, there's plenty of racial tension. I'll read anything that shows promise in helping me, and since this book was the memoir of a white activist in a predominantly black community, I thought it might fit the bill. It was certainly inspiring, but the main issue in Melody's community was crime, and specifically, the crack epidemic of As everyone who's been following my reviews for these past two years probably already knows, I've become a small-time political activist in my town where, unfortunately, there's plenty of racial tension. I'll read anything that shows promise in helping me, and since this book was the memoir of a white activist in a predominantly black community, I thought it might fit the bill. It was certainly inspiring, but the main issue in Melody's community was crime, and specifically, the crack epidemic of the 1990's. Poverty and crime are problems here, too, but the biggest conflict we face is over education and allocation of funds. In that sense, I'm not sure how much I can transpose Melody's methods, although there's a lot to be said for simply being nice. She was also extremely brave; I hope I don't have to face any dangerous criminals! The book doesn't have a happy ending, but it's a realistic and hopeful one about keeping on keeping on. And I love this quote: "Our allies are the black people and the white people who think racism and poverty are a problem." May G-d guide my steps right in my attempt at peace.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was moved by this. I might buy a used copy to have on my shelves to return to at a later date. I'm not even excerpting some of the best moments below. I will commit to reading the work of Jarvis Masters and signing petitions to exonerate him. He writes, "I was sentenced to death by lethal injection and have since spent 21 years in solitary confinement, longer than any other prisoner in San Quentin history." https://www.freejarvis.org/jarvis-story "It’s hard to right these wrongs, but we have t I was moved by this. I might buy a used copy to have on my shelves to return to at a later date. I'm not even excerpting some of the best moments below. I will commit to reading the work of Jarvis Masters and signing petitions to exonerate him. He writes, "I was sentenced to death by lethal injection and have since spent 21 years in solitary confinement, longer than any other prisoner in San Quentin history." https://www.freejarvis.org/jarvis-story "It’s hard to right these wrongs, but we have to." https://www.freejarvis.org/qa-with-ja... "Most people did not go out for a couple of days after the earthquake. Although most chimneys in Lorin were down, our area had done well, with no injuries or fires. On TV we watched the efforts to free people from the collapsed freeways and tried to come to terms with the incredible fact that the Bay Bridge had been broken by the movement of the earth. When I did go out again, to the grocery store, I noticed that everyone I saw looked tired and disturbed. For Elyse the psychotherapist, it was amazing to see a whole society with symptoms of trauma. 'The children at school say that can't sleep, can't stop thinking about the earthquake,' she said. 'A lot of them don't want to leave home at all.' 'That's how we all feel in our neighborhood when there's gunfire,' I told her. 'Our whole little society is traumatized, and we hardly have time to get over it before it happens again.'" (pg. 83) "the escapable network of mutuality" - Melody quoting MLK Jr. Blue paper shrine They wrote, "I do not know you, but I love you." "Thich Nhat Hanh said we all have positive seeds of love, peace, and joy in us, and we can water those. We also have seeds of anger, despair, hatred, violence, and fear in us, he said. The more these negative seeds are watered, the stronger they will become in our minds." "Elyse, why is it a secret that the key to happiness is helping other people?" "I had brought along an article about James Baldwin's visit to San Quentin not long before he died. Jarvis hadn't seen him; no one on death row ever was allowed to go to an event like that. The article quoted Baldwin, who had written that he had faith in 'the few relatively conscious black people and the few relatively conscious white people' who could bring us through the fire next time." (pg. 247)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Billy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. How long can we stay on this block? Wanting to be the mother of the world, trying to let go of being able to influence the lives of others. Found the emotional journey of the author interesting. Worked on others' problems while trying to meditate to not think about those problems, instead of confronting her own childhood issues. Some allusions to trying to fix childhood pain through working in the community, but left unexamined. Great incidences of setting boundaries or knowing that she should s How long can we stay on this block? Wanting to be the mother of the world, trying to let go of being able to influence the lives of others. Found the emotional journey of the author interesting. Worked on others' problems while trying to meditate to not think about those problems, instead of confronting her own childhood issues. Some allusions to trying to fix childhood pain through working in the community, but left unexamined. Great incidences of setting boundaries or knowing that she should set boundaries. What remains are the buddhist lessons. Don't focus on outcomes. I won't remain on the street if it improves or deteriorates. Give an effort for the kids on the block without judging their progress, because one should give an effort. Accept that the effort given for someone else is an effort given for yourself and don't judge your effort based on those results.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Artful Abuela

    not a literary masterpiece, but a journey of a woman, her faith and her neighborhood. how buddhist meditation affected her and those she came in contact with. a very inspiring and worthwhile read for the content, not the writing style.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aj

    There were times when reading this that I wanted to give up, it was moving along so slowly. But by the end, she had me in tears and I was reminded--as a social worker--how so much of the 'real work' of healing and nurturing communities is done by the people living within them. There were times when reading this that I wanted to give up, it was moving along so slowly. But by the end, she had me in tears and I was reminded--as a social worker--how so much of the 'real work' of healing and nurturing communities is done by the people living within them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    SUCH a powerful book---inspiring. Makes you want to get up and out and change things.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tom Malarkey

    Such a profound book, especially for those living in the city... especially the East Bay... interested in the intersection of Buddhist practice and social justice. Beautiful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Siri

    Great social work type book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Stellar. Finished a very long time ago.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey Clammer

    this book is awesome. everyone should read it. seriously.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  13. 4 out of 5

    Don

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Mcconnell

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nora

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erica

  17. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Carnine

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melanie J.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lila

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  21. 5 out of 5

    Thea

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mindi

  23. 5 out of 5

    erin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Chai

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dean Jorgensen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucky

  30. 4 out of 5

    Haley

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