Archive for August, 2009

Amazing Ella Baker Center

August 21, 2009

The Ella Baker Center is trying to end poverty, end crime and violence, fix the climate, and do it all in Oakland.

Tomorrow they will be planting a tree for me in West Oakland. You could come help if you like. Next month it will be installing solar panels in East Oakland.

They’ve got some impressive Climate Change reduction targets, goals and action areas. The first class of the Oakland Green Jobs Corps has graduated, well over half of the graduates have already been placed in full-time jobs, with many more continuing their education with 3-months of paid, on-the-job training through green-collar employers, and pictures are posted!

For those of you who aren’t on their mailing list yet, here’s a snippet:

Save the Dates!

The rest of the year promises to be even more exciting than the beginning. Here are some upcoming events we thought you’d be interested in. See you there!

Saturday, August 22nd: Plant a tree in West Oakland with Soul of the City. Click here to RSVP.
Sunday, August 30th: Grind for the Green – Solar Powered Hip Hop Concert featuring Dead Prez. Click here for more information.
Saturday, September 12th: Help Green the Block by volunteering with GRID Alternatives to install 16 solar PV systems in East Oakland. We’ll send you an invite soon!
Saturday, October 24th: Join 350.org for an International Day of Action of Climate Action. Click here to find an action near you.
Thursday, November 12th: Ella Baker Center’s Annual Celebration and Fundraiser
Thursday, November 19th: Oakland Climate Action Coalition hosts Solutions Salon for Climate Justice in Oakland.
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The Race-ometer

August 2, 2009

Unlearning Racism Adventure #2

I’ve got a pedometer. My HMO encourages healthy habits and preventative care. One of their programs is “10,000 steps.” You get a pedometer and try to take 10,000 steps every day. (I can’t do that while on the internet, but FlyLady has figured out how to.)

So I got a pedometer and just put it in my pocket. I took it out and looked at how many steps I’d walked every day. There was an attitude change. I started wanting to get that number higher. I quit whining when my airplane was at the farthest gate–now it was a chance to get a few more steps in before being locked in a metal tube. I started taking more than one walk a day sometimes. Just measuring changed my behaviour–an example of the observer effect. Yay! Science in action!

Can scientific measurement help me overcome my personal racism?

I’m going to start by keeping track of how many people of color are at the events that I attend.The comedian  W. Kamau Bell reminded me that if everyone around me is white, that’s white privilege. In Oakland, California, about a third of the people are white, a third black or African-American, and a third are every other category. In addition, about a quarter are Hispanic or Latino.

The Race-ometer:

W/B/O = 33/33/33

White/Black/Other = 33/33/33

That’s the goal. Ten thousand steps and only one-third white people. I start by observing where I am. The “other” category is to help me break out of the White/Black binary thinking I usually do.

So, where was I yesterday? PEERS River City, Iowa, Picnic Dance of 1912 = W/B/O = 150/6/11. This surprised me a lot. I was expecting 150/0/0. (I estimated the number of white people. I may have double-counted or missed a few of the non-white people. Still, it’s a start.) Later, dinner with friends W/B/O = 4/0/0.

I’ve realized that to get the race-ometer numbers to average 3/3/3 means that I will sometimes be in situations where whites are in the minority, which will be uncomfortable for me. Do you think that’s why Biden was invited to sit down with Gates, Crowley and Obama?

Unlearning Racism Adventure #1

August 1, 2009

Notes about the African presence in Mexico and comedy at La Pena.*

Last night I tried to end my personal racism in about an hour.  Comedian W. Kamau Bell notes that if 70% or more of the people in a place are white, it’s possible that place is racist. That place is my life.

In Oakland, California, only about 35% of the people are white.  So why couldn’t I think of anyone to bring with me to La Pena get the 2 for 1 discount for coming with someone of a different race? Pitting my frugalness against my racism was very clever, Kamau. It hurt. (I didn’t come up with anyone of the same race except my family to invite either, now that I think about it, but I’m ok with that.)

I was taught racism as a binary black and white–which means that I don’t usually think about racism and Asians or Native Americans or Hispanics. That’s got to be another variety of racism right there. That way of thinking leaves out about a third of the people in Oakland. I’ve certainly got a lot of work to do to unlearn racism!

A few things I learned or was reminded of from Kamau’s act:

  1. Racism is real. Race isn’t real–it’s just a thing we’ve made up.
  2. In South Africa, Chinese are Black.
  3. Not having to think about race all the time is a white privilege.
  4. White people need to apologize for Glen Beck. ( The solution to Rush Limbaugh might just be more and purer drugs.)
  5. Black people invented American popular culture.
  6. Country music = The blues – slavery.
  7. Sacred Harp and Square Dancing must not be popular.

W. Kamau Bell has videos.

The Oakland Museum has a good exhibit about The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present. Did you know that Columbus brought African slaves with him? Or that there were more African slaves in Mexico than in the U.S.? There was an elaborate system of classifying people based on how much Indian, Spanish, or African ancestry they had.

People born in Mexico of Spanish ancestry were called Criollos. The Mexican War of Independence in 1810 threw off Spanish rule, but left the Criollos ruling. Slavery was abolished as part of that (1829?). Mexican Independence Day is celebrated September 16.

The Mexican revolution starting in 1910 overthrew the Criollos and established “La Raza.”  Cinco de Mayo is something different.

La Pena will be hosting “Diáspora Negra – The African Legacy in Latin America” August 14 & 15.

After viewing “The African Presence in Mexico” I saw Squeak Carnwath: Painting Is No Ordinary Object. In the light of the “African Presence” exhibit, I saw this exhibit as exemplifying white, upper class privilege. Here’s a woman who spent money on art supplies instead of therapy. The canvases are huge, so she had a LOT of money to spend. Just for kicks, I looked up women artists and African-American women artists.

It’s International Blog Against Racism Week.

Go check out the links at that link. More details at The Feminist Texican
*Can you tell me how to put a tilde on that n?

Update 14 Sept 2009: The Oakland Museum has pictures of the African Presence in Mexico up at Flickr.

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August 1, 2009

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