Thanksgiving Fast and Prayer

November 12 to 21, 2018

The future of human civilization as we know it is threatened by climate change. In the southeast we have witnessed these dangers recently in some of the most destructive hurricanes ever experienced. Katrina, Mathew, Irma, Maria, Harvey, Florence and Michael are among the greatest teachers of all time.
People the world over are working to change the systems and institutions responsible for these dangers, to keep all fossil fuels in the ground and move us into a sustainable, socially just, future.
These people are lights in the darkness of our times, and their work, their example, and their courageous moral witness contradicts widespread hopelessness, and shows us many ways forward. 
We stand in solidarity with those working to change the course of human history on planet Earth with a ten-day Thanksgiving Fast and Prayer. Fasting is an excellent way to focus our attention on an issue, to become more aware of our privileges – especially the privileges of those of us who can protect ourselves from some of the impacts of climate change and hunger – and to realize in new ways the blessings which life bestows on us when we take care of our Mother Earth.
Historically many people have seen fasting as a spiritually purifying ritual which leads to greater love and compassion for all beings – something which is sorely needed in this country at this time.
We are also following the example of Gandhi in India, who when all else failed to quell widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims during the struggle there for Independence, fasted until the violence ended. 
By fasting for ten days before Thanksgiving, we intend to add light, prayer and witness to the efforts to end climate change.

Even though we are in the midst of a dire emergency, miracles happen, especially when as in this Thanksgiving season we have an opportunity to give thanks for all that we are blessed with, and for all that we still need. We will prevent catastrophic climate change and the sixth extinction from wrecking Mother Earth, but only if we do so with intention, prayer and action. have

This fast is our intention, our prayer and our action. Please consider joining us.


The fast will start on Monday, November 12, at 8 am and will be broken 10 days later at noon on the day before Thanksgiving. Wednesday November 21. At least one of us – Steve Norris PhD will be fasting solely with liquids for the entire time. He will spend most days from 7:30 am at the College Street entrance to the Courthouse, then from about 8:30 am until sunset at Vance monument in downtown Asheville.
At noon each day we will conduct a short prayer ceremony at Vance Monument led by one of Asheville’s faith leaders.  Following that each day we will invite a local thought leader to speak about an issue relating to climate change.
Others are encouraged to join us at the Vance Monument for an hour, a day, or longer. Or to simply come and share in the community which this fast will inevitably create. As with other similar fasts, people who cannot come to downtown Asheville and who so desire are encouraged to fast at home or in work places for whatever period of time makes sense. 


Steve Norris PhD is a former Professor of Peace at Warren Willson Collage and has been involved in social and environmental change work since the Civil Rights Movement. 

Steve is heading up the Thanksgiving Fast and Prayer. 

Please consider supporting him by joining him at any point during the ten days November 12 to 21st, 2018. 

Press Release: Democracy in the Park

Democracy in the Park 2018

ASHEVILLE, September 18 2018: On Sunday, September 30th, community members are invited to Democracy in the Park, a public gathering at the Carrier Park Pavilion from 12 – 6 pm. Democracy in the Park is a convergence space for community members to engage with local activist and organizers about City government, how it works, how it could be improved, and to discuss with each other ways to expand public participation in the process. All are welcome.

Too often in today’s world the only options presented for participating in our democratic process are getting out to vote, making calls and writing letters to elected officials, or participating in some form of street protest. These activities are essential parts of our current democratic system, but there is a wide range of activities outside of voting and protesting from which most people are excluded. Democracy in the Park is the place to explore those opportunities together.

Voting is not enough. It is important to do but only one way we can engage in guiding the decisions that affect our lives. Voting for one person to represent all our complex values and concerns while they write policies and budgets gives us very little say in what actually happens. Large Corporations on the other hand have entire teams dedicated to engaging in lobbying and law writing (e.g. ALEC). “Representative democracy as it is practiced currently in America does not represent the voice of all citizens and ultimately disempowers us as we are painfully aware of our lack of power. At this point in American history Corporations have more Rights to decide what happens in the places we live than we do” says Kat Houghton, co-founder of local nonprofit Community Roots.

Locally, the City of Asheville drafts and approves a budget for each fiscal year. However, public participation in this process is almost nonexistent. Outside of voting for City Council members (who vote whether or not to approve the budget presented by City Staff) the public has very little say in how funds are distributed. The budget work sessions held by the City of Asheville prohibit public comment. The only opportunity to have one’s voice heard is to attend the public hearing on the budget. There, community members are given three minutes to share their thoughts and opinions on the allocation of resources. Once the public hearing is closed, there are no further opportunities for the public to comment on the budget, and City Council votes whether or not to approve the budget. Rarely, if ever, is the presented budget not approved.

The process was clearly not designed with participation from citizens in mind. If you could manage to get to City Hall by 5pm on that particular Tuesday then you could say your piece (or at least some of it) but have no confirmation that your thoughts have been heard or will be acted on. If you couldn’t make it to City Hall that day then there were no other options available. In other US cities, including NYC, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago citizens can work together in a process called Participatory Budgeting to propose and vote on projects which improve the community and is funded by the City.

“Making meaningful decisions together is the key to vibrant, sustainable communities” says Kim Roney, piano teacher and activist who serves on the the Multimodal Transportation Commission.

No such process exists in Asheville. Community members are held out of having meaningful input about what to fund. While some recent City Council campaigns and elected representatives have run on a platform of participatory budgeting, there has been little to no movement at the level of the City to explore its potential in Asheville. Democracy in the Park attempts to answer where in Asheville do we go to engage with other citizens who want to be involved in making collective decisions about our shared resources? We can go to the twice monthly City Council meetings and make a 3 minute public comment but it’s not a conversation and we don’t get to make any decisions together.

“Democracy in the Park is a place for us to get together, listen, discuss, ask questions and begin to think together about how we can push the limits of of current system of governance to facilitate the emergence of the new one”, says Mic Collins who is part of a group organizing the gathering. “Our goal is to politicize public space outside of City Hall. We hope to create a space where people can come out from behind their screens and keyboards to gather in person and dialogue, exchange ideas, and collaborate for innovative solutions about the needs of our community,” says Collins.

“Democracy in the Park is a safe, inclusive container for local citizens to engage in dialogue around local government, understand how it works and vision how we’d like to see it change,” says Houghton.

“There are many people and groups in Asheville talking about social change and how to create the world we want to see, one that is more equitable, inclusive, sustainable and spiritually fulfilling and some adminarable work being done towards these goals. However, a fundamental system of how we relate to each tends to be dismissed from those conversations – our local government.” says Houghton.

Tips for recruiting businesses into the First 100

When you go into a business first you want to ask if a manager or the owner is available. Generally someone will either get them or ask what you need. Let them know first that it is a fundraising campaign for the water protectors in Standing Rock and then go into details and information on the first 100. My pitch goes something like, ” I was coming in today to see if your business would like to be a part of a global fundraising campaign for the water protectors in Standing Rock. We have already raised over $20,000 for winterizing gear for the folks out there in North Dakota. Our project is called the first 100 and what we are doing is getting a hundred local businesses signed up to ask their customers if they be willing to donate a dollar or more to Standing Rock. When we get a hundred businesses generating anywhere between 100 and $500 a day that’s a large amount of money daily to support our efforts in stopping the pipeline . The registration process is very simple and straightforward and Is proving to be a great way for our community and business owners to come together to help out with such an important cause”.

Typically I will then show them the first 100 website and get them registered and show them where they can donate. Many places opt for the jar option but there is also a way for them to program a button into their POS system if they are so inclined. I found it helpful to name drop a few businesses as well but also it seems that people who are on board or onboard from the get-go because they feel the same way we do about the Dakota access pipeline.

Once they say yes and they register then we take a photo of them holding the flyer and post it on social media. I like to let them know that will be doing some free marketing and publication for them in that way by posting their business name and photo on our first 100 Facebook page and always encourage them to join our first 100 group on Facebook. It is the best way to stay up-to-date and also answer any questions that they may have. I also leave my personal contact information with them as well.

Of course this is just a pitch that I have found that works for me personally and I would encourage all of you to find something that feels natural for you. This is a Grassroots movement on our part and I think everyone’s individual energies are very important, so speak from your heart and be authentic to who you are.