Executive Director and co-founder of the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition, Inc. A co-author of the Walking in Balance with All Our Relations teaching curriculum, Strong Oak, LICSW, has a Masters in Social Service Administration from Case Western Reserve University School of Social Work. She served on the Advisory Council for the National Sexual Resource Center from June 2010 to June 2016. While on the Advisory Council, she was its voting representative to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Board of Directors from 2010 to 2013. Strong Oak is currently a Peer Cohort, representing VBCIC, with the Just Beginnings Collaborative, a funding organization that seeks to build a movement to end childhood sexual assault nationwide.
Transforming communities to embrace restorative practices in dealing with both those who are victimized and those who have victimized others are important aspects of Strong Oak’s work. She teaches Circle process to communities, agencies, and providers, working with those who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence and those affected directly by homicide as well as those who are working to return to their communities violence-free after having hurt others. Most recently, Strong oak has been appointed by the governor of the State of Massachusetts to serve on the statutory Restorative Justice Advisory Committee for a six- year term beginning November 2018 and lasting until November 2024.
Blanca has an LMHC, with specialty and expertise in trauma, restorative processes, healing circles, and mindfulness. She co-developed and co-facilitated training in 2017 on the Clinical Understanding of our Spanish Speaking Clients: Working with Latino Youth and Families. With Kristine Kinniburgh, LICSW, Blanca developed the Training in Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency (ARC) framework for treatment of complex trauma. In 2013–2014, she worked in Trauma Assessment and Evidenced Based Treatments, Massachusetts Child Trauma Project, and received her Certificate in Relational and Multi-Contextual Treatment of Trauma, Simmons College of Social Work.
Judy has been an RN since 1968. She grew up as a teenager in the 1960s, which gave her an early affinity for civil rights and women’s equality, issues she still strongly embraces today with a more focused lens on peace, justice and equality for all beings, including the environment. Judy cared for and was an advocate for disabled children and adults before and after her 27 years in acute psychiatric hospital care. Much of her work there was with trauma survivors of all genders. She, along with her husband, took in long-term teenage foster children for many years.
Judy has been with VBCIC since its inception in 2006. She believes by returning to pre-colonization, indigenous values with circles and ceremonies, that culture can be changed to ensure the safety of children and eliminate violence of all types. She has served previously as a Board member, Treasurer, and Board President of the VBCIC Board of Directors. She is currently serving again as Treasurer. She continues to contribute to the team process of editing the Walking in Balance with All My Relations curriculum for publication. She also enjoys being on the drum of VBCIC with the Visioning Bear Singers.
An original member of VBCIC and Visioning BEAR Singers, Mary has served on the Board of Directors since the organization was incorporated. She currently serves as Clerk of the organization. Mary has also been a trainer for the Walking in Balance with All Our Relations curriculum. Mary, who has worked extensively in social services, has experience in both direct service and management positions. She is a songwriter and has written songs for Visioning BEAR Singers, a community drum group associated with VBCIC. Lyrics for the songs promote themes of peace and justice. In 2018 and 2019 Mary facilitated a group called Healing the Core, a creative expressions group, based on a book she wrote entitled Healing the Core: Creatively Exploring Generations of Trauma. The book addresses themes of child abuse, racism, and other forms of oppression across generations. The group will resume in 2020.
Grandmother Nancy is of French and Algonquin heritage. She was not born on a reservation and holds no tribal card, but she has followed the red road since her early childhood. Seeking out elders to teach her, her first two teachers where Lakota, one an author, one a medicine man. She was adopted by her Ojibway sister, also a medicine woman, and then by a Mi’kmaq grandmother. She has had permission to pour lodges since 1991. She has served as a facilitator for a native woman’s circle in federal prison for 17 years. She is a sundancer, a pipe carrier and an elder and grandmother in her communities in Canada. She has instructions to bring out and share certain teachings.
Suzanne joined VBCIC around 10 years ago, when Strong Oak brought her Talking Stick and Circle Process to the Five Rivers Council. Strong Oak acknowledged Suzanne’s heart connection to Mother Earth through her experiences: Walk for the Earth 1984 (from California to Washington DC in seven months), learning from many Native peoples; and joining five activists in a Plowshare action against the omnicidal Trident submarine missile system, resulting in her arrest, trial, and sentencing to a year in prison (from 1985 to 1986).
Committed to peace, social and environmental justice, and cooperative community, Suzanne is active with Citizens Awareness Network (shutting down nuclear power plants), Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, Common Wealth CSA (cooperative of farmers/growers from 1998 to 2013), Peoples Music Network for Songs of Freedom and Struggle, Franklin Community Co-op (part-time cashier at Green Fields Market for 21-1⁄2 years, retired April 2019), and more recently Middle East Peace and Justice Coalition and Venezuela (now Latin America) Solidarity Coalition. Suzanne joined VBCIC as the drum was being built and became an avid member of the Visioning BEAR Singers. She has been a board member since the founding of VBCIC and recently served a year as treasurer. Suzanne contributed to the development of the curriculum for Walking in Balance with All My Relations and, in the past two years, contributed to the team process of editing for publication. Suzanne is very committed as a co-trainer of this curriculum, working with several groups thus far and looking forward to working with more groups in the coming years.
Bob completed his Walking in Balance With All Our Relations training in 2017 and since then has served as a trainer/facilitator for several subsequent Walking in Balance groups. He is also a member of the Visioning B.E.A.R. Board of Directors as well as the group’s Drum Circle. Bob was a high school teacher (English, Greek, Latin, and Social Justice) for 42 years and is deeply committed to peace and social justice work. For many years he was a facilitator for the National Diversity Institute for the National Association of Independent Schools and he also was a staff member and presenter for the White Privilege Conference. Bob is also deeply involved with the local recovery community, including creating and leading a writing group entitled, “Write Your Recovery.” In both Talking Circles and Recovery Circles Bob experiences a commitment to equitable relationships wherein every voice is both equally powerful and distinctively different.
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