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Water for Healing, Justice and Action: Building Blocks of a New Resiliency Paradigm

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Water for Healing, Justice and Action: Building Blocks of a New Resiliency Paradigm

UN water event image

Water is central to our lives. It is our lifesblood, culturally, spiritually, and economically valuable, and right now it’s under attack. Industrialization, pollution, and privatization, all threaten the sanctity of our water. That’s why now more than ever it’s important we join forces to protect it. 

In collaboration with SCEN, AHAM, and many others, this Multi-Day UN Water Conference Side Event is dedicated to exploring innovative strategies to decolonize water access that center water and nature as a catalyst for healing collective trauma. 



8:30 – 9:30 am
Session 1 – Water Justice –
Decolonizing and Restoring Intergenerational Relationships to Water for Access, Safety and Post-Traumatic Healing

This session will explore the history of water relations in the US and the role that colonization played in the disruption of BIPOC access and connection to water as a source of survival, recreation, and cultural tradition. Panelists will share ongoing efforts in the Black community to restore BIPOC relationships to water and water culture through education on water history and historically black beaches, water safety, learn to swim and lifeguard training, and how blue mindfulness trauma-sensitive and restorative healing practices near pools and waterways are empowering people of color to heal, become water healers, and lead in aquatic industries.

Film screening of Emmy winning documentary Wade in the Water: Drowning in Racism. By Cathleen Dean (BlackCat Media). A 15 minute documentary on the history of racism and water relations in the US.

Moderator: Dr. Miriam Lynch 

Invited Panelists: Thaddeus Gamory, Director of Community Engagement, Partnerships and Programs, Diversity in Aquatics, USA; Cathleen Dean, Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker on water justice, USA; Dr Shaun Anderson, Professor, Norfolk University, USA; Dr Carol Penn, Physician and Mind Body Medicine Facilitator, USA.

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm 
Location: Baha’i International Community, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120, New York, NY 10017-1822

Session 2 –
Elevating Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge and Action for Water and Nature Conservation in the Americas

This session kicks off with a screening of a film about the biosphere of the Rio Platano region in Honduras and the story of how indigenous wisdom is being integrated into conservation efforts by indigenous biologist Wildres Wood. We then embark on an exploration of how indigenous nations have cared for waterways for thousands of years and now struggle to protect ancestral and unceded territories from further decline. We will also obtain some experiential  insight into indigenous principles and practices that can guide us as advocates of respecting indigenous land and reducing water contamination. 

Film screening of documentary short featuring La Miskitu indigenous community in Honduras The Shemelca Serpent.

Moderator: Alexander Easdale

Invited Panelists: Crystal Cavalier, Principal, 7 Directions of Service, USA; Wildres Wood, Miskito Indigenous leader and Biologist, Honduras; Luis Alvarenga, Producer, Honduras; Laura Bermudez, Filmmaker, Honduras; Youth Water and Climate Coalition Ambassador.

9:30 – 10:30 am
Session 3 – Eco-Affinity: Water and Climate Activism through Contemplative and Faith-Based Practice

We begin this session with a trailer of AHAM Education’s film Healing People Heal the Planet, showcasing how mindfulness practice or “eco-awareness” can lead to “eco-activism” and climate justice action. In the panel discussion, speakers unpack the concept of “eco-affinity” which essentially translates into a love of nature or a sense of “being nature” that becomes naturally embodied as a result of deep contemplative and faith-based practice, especially in nature settings. Panelists provide examples of this, such as Be Nature retreats or mindful beach clean-ups by AHAM Education and partners, compassionate eco-action through volunteerism and service by Tzu Chi Foundation, or the cultivation of kindness to nature as oneself by the Brahmakumaris. Ultimately, the call to action here is to embrace a new paradigm of activism. Rather than fear-based and anxiety-producing approaches to facing water and climate challenges, we can choose to rebuild affinity with nature and water to catalyze healing and motivate positive eco-transformation for people and planet.

Film Preview: Exposure Labs-funded documentary short by AHAM Education and BlackCat Media Healing People Heal the Planet.

Moderator: Rev. Dallas Conyers

Invited Panelists: Steve Chiu, Tzu Chi Foundation, USA; Knellee Bisram, CEO and Mindfulness Leader, Be Nature co-creator, AHAM Education, Trinidad/USA; Piero Falci, Be Nature co-creator (recorded statement), Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living, USA; Brahmakumaris NGO representative to the United Nations, USA.

10:45 – 11:45 am
Session 4 – Community-Based Water and Climate Transformative Action

This session is a culmination of learning about BIPOC history, Indigenous perspectives and actions, and eco-affinity. Together we synthesize the conversations co-created in each session, and our learning from our participation in the UN Water Conference. We explore the convergence of solutions that can be applied “globally” through personal transformation as citizens, community-building and mobilizing through education, and legislative action that honors history and ancestry. Transformative action also means that water resiliency activism draws from wisdom and healing to make it sustainable for the people and the planet. The panel and audience will co-create recommendations and feasible action steps that will take us forward based on best practice in the field.

Moderator: Steve Chiu

Invited Panelists: Alexander Easdale (Executive Director) and Dallas Conyers (International Liaison), Southeast Climate and Energy Network (SCEN), USA; Idelma Quintana, City Commissioner Hollywood Florida, USA; Youth Ambassador, Women and Water NGO Representative, AOSIS Youth Fellow Representative.

2:30 – 4:30 pm
Location: Location: Evander Childs Educational Campus, 800 E. Gun Hill Road, Bronx, NY 10467

Blue Mindfulness Practice

Blue Mindfulness Practice at a local high school pool in the Bronx. Join us for an experiential blue mindfulness activity, practicing trauma-sensitive healing in water with Blue Mindfulness founder from Diversity in Aquatics.
Location: Evander Childs Educational Campus, 800 E. Gun Hill Road, Bronx, NY 10467

Facilitated by Thaddeus Gamory, Blue Mindfulness Creator and Director of Community Engagement, Partnerships and Programs, Diversity in Aquatics
Hosted by MVP Swimmers program creator Olga Perez and her team.



Shaun Anderson's photo

Dr. Shaun M. Anderson

Dr. Shaun M. Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science at Norfolk State University. 

He has served as a consultant for numerous aquatics organizations such as the American Red Cross and USA Swimming where he serves as the Senior Advisor of Community Outreach & Engagement.
Dr. Anderson has championed numerous aquatic programs, swim lessons, water safety seminars, research projects, camps and clinics throughout the country as well as abroad including co-founding International Water Safety Day and Diversity in Aquatics Inc., and became part of the United States permanent congressional record when he was recognized in congress for these accomplishments. He received a B.S. in Kinesiology from Penn State University and MBA in Finance from California State University and Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He currently serves as co-chair of the Water Safety, Water Competence & Swimming Lessons working group developing the National Water Safety Plan.

Knellee Bisram

Knellee Bisram

Knellee Bisram is CEO and Founder of AHAM Education, a transnational NGO leading multi-sector partnerships that build mindful, resilient communities. 

Serving as Lead NGO Representative to the United Nations, she leverages regional, national and global multi-stakeholder partners to bring a nature-based, mindful approach to meeting 21st century global challenges affecting children, women, marginalized communities in education, water and climate justice, and women’s well-being.
Knellee is a Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) instructor and Certified Center for Mind Body Medicine (CMBM) facilitator and is the co-creator of the
Be Nature program. She holds a BA in languages, and a MA in International Relations and Latin American Studies. 

Crystal Cavalier-Keck

Crystal Cavalier-Keck

Crystal Cavalier-Keck is co-founder of Seven Directions of Service with her husband, and citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Burlington, North Carolina.

She is a board member of the Haw River Assembly, the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County, and Benevolence Farm.
Crystal is an alumnus of the Sierra Club’s Gender Equity and Environment Program and Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) Accelerator for Grassroots Women Environmental Leaders and recently earned a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership focused on the Social Justice issue of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women in Gas/Oil Pipelines in frontline communities. Her current projects center on burden, exposure, risk, and health disparities among American Indians in environmental justice communities, and dismantling inequities in BIPOC communities to achieve sustainable food systems and food justice. 

Steve Chiu's photo

Steve Chiu

Steve Chiu serves as Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s Representative to the United Nations.

In alignment with Tzu Chi’s work in disaster relief, climate action, education for global citizenship, sustainable development and gender equality, Steve works to build relationships, share best practices and develop programs with other organizations to make tangible impacts on the ground, with the mission of alleviating the suffering of those in need. With over 23 years of experience in community based development and local interfaith partnership, Steve seeks to connect the importance of grassroots action to policies that are being developed on the international level.

Cathleen Dean

Film producer, director, and photographer, Cathleen Dean, creates innovative work inspired by her experiences in South Florida.

Dean’s surroundings help fuel her work, and her subjects, translated through her storytelling abilities, engage her audience to ask questions about their surroundings. Dean approaches her work from an anthropological point of view, aiming to uncover historical truths that have been lost, forgotten, or hidden with time, and illuminate their consequential presence in a contemporary environment.

Alexander Easdale's photo

Alexander Easdale

Alexander is the Executive Director of the Southeast Climate & Energy Network (SCEN), where leading a network of 78 organizations across 11 Southeastern states. 

Alexander has previously served as Associate Campus Director of Ana G. Mendez University System – South Florida Campus, Foundations Director at the Democracia USA project of the National Council of La Raza, program manager of economic development projects in the U.S. and Latin America at Hispanics in Philanthropy, and international trade negotiations consultant at the Argentine Consulate General in Miami. Alexander is an expert in building multiple stakeholder networks, a dual-language college professor and keynote speaker on topics such as leadership, fundraising, organizational development, and network management. 

Piero Falci's photo

Piero Falci

Piero Falci is an author and an educator. He teaches Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living. He has written several books, including the highly praised 3-book series “Mindfulness for a Better Mind, Life and World,” and has created a variety of courses on how to apply mindfulness for the improvement of overall well-being, enjoyment of life, and preservation of life on Planet Earth.

Dr. Miriam S. Lynch's photo

Dr. Miriam S.  Lynch

Dr. Lynch is an advocate for water safety education and equitable resource access in aquatics, and is the Executive Director of Diversity in Aquatics. 

Miriam has served as a coach for one of the top clubs in USA Swimming, Nation’s Capital Swim Club under the mentorship of National Team Coach Mr. Pete Morgan, and in various roles within USA Swimming as a board member of the USA Swimming National Diversity Committee and the Eastern Zone, and Potomac Valley Swimming (PVS) Diversity and Inclusion Chair. Miriam is a public school educator and is part of the leadership team at West Springfield High School as a Software Based Technology Specialist in Fairfax County where she supports over 2550 students and 240 teachers at the school. 

Idelma Quintana

Idelma Quintana is a City Commissioner in Hollywood Florida. She brings with her 30 years of experience in public service as a public-school teacher, facilitator of diversity programs and as a community organizer. 

She is a member of the local mindfulness community of practice and a student of permaculture. Idelma’s experience as an Afro-Latina immigrant woman informs her approach to policy making on environmental issues and addressing the impact of those policies on traditionally marginalized groups. 

Lic. Wildres Wood's photo

Lic. Wildres Wood

Born in Brus Laguna, Gracias a Dios Department in Honduras, Wildres is the daughter of a fisherman and homemaker from the Miskito indigenous community. 

She is an elementary school educator and the very first Miskito community member to earn a Bachelor degree in Biology and become a biologist. Wildres is a passionate defender of indigenous human rights as well as the rights for women and children. She is an expert in traditional fishing practices and a researcher studying the flora and fauna in the Rio Platano biosphere in Honduras. Most recently, her story and her work as a water and climate activist is featured in the documentary short “The Shemelca Serpent.”

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