"We were like the world: more people of color than white, more poor than rich, and like the rest of the world, we had to learn how to get along," writes Melody Ermachild Chavis in this paperback. The author, a private investigator who works on trials and appeals for death row inmates, recounts her battles to take back her Berkeley, California, neighborhood from violent drug dealers. Once Chavis finds refuge in Buddhist teachings, she is able to spearhead various projects designed to enrich her community, such as sweeping the streets in front of her home, tutoring kids at local schools, joining a city tree planting program, marching for peace, and honoring the victims of violence.

People keep asking Chavis how she and her family can live in such a crime-ridden place. And she answers with the tranquility of the Buddha, "Wholeheartedly." The author's efforts to deal constructively with her anger, to cease thinking dualistically, and to practice lovingkindness — even to those who are her enemies — reveal the essence of spiritual politics. Altars in the Street powerfully conveys the ethical base of service and the rigors of compassion in an embattled environment.