Posts Tagged ‘Oakland’

Why I’m not donating to the Salvation Army this year

December 24, 2010

As a collector of Oakland firsts, I offer a fun fact about the Salvation Army kettles: The Salvation Army kettles began in 1891 with Captain Joseph McFee hitting up Oakland commuters to San Francisco to put donations in a crab pot at the Oakland Ferry landing. And I explain why I’ve stopped donating to the Salvation Army.

Years ago, I asked an Oakland Police Officer who I should give money to in order to help the homeless. Police Officers get to see what is happening on the streets in a way that most of us don’t. The Salvation Army was recommended, and I’ve given them a large donation every year since. This year, a friend asked me to re-consider because the Salvation Army discriminates against gays.

They don’t discriminate against gays and non-Christians in delivering services because that would be no fun—you can’t convert someone who is already a Christian and not a sinner. They discriminate in benefits available to their employees. The Salvation Army decided to quit offering domestic partner benefits after only one month of doing so because they didn’t want to appear to condone gay and lesbians having committed loving relationships. The Western region of the Salvation Army was pressured by hate-your-neighbor so-called-Christian groups, including the rest of the Salvation Army. They now say that homosexuals must be celibate. The national Salvation Army lobbied to exempt themselves from laws requiring that they hire gays if they take federal funds.

Donations to the Salvation Army are down perhaps, especially in the S.F. Bay Area, because of their discrimination.

The City of Oakland has an Equal Benefits Ordinance that prohibits giving City contracts or renting City-owned property to the Salvation Army because they discriminate by not providing equal benefits to domestic partners.

Who else are you going to give to?
The Alameda County Community Food Bank is serving 1 in 6 residents of Alameda County – nearly half of them children and teens. They are trying to end hunger and go out of business, a goal I support and applaud (and give money to.)

A Safe Place domestic violence shelter provides emergency shelter and supportive services for women and children.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency includes homeless people in creating solutions rather than preaching at them. BOSS started when California quit locking away mentally-ill people in mental hospitals. They do many things for the homeless, including handing out hotel vouchers and arranging to use un-used houses.

A Street Spirit / Street Sheet seller (I’m sorry I didn’t think to get his name) recommended that I give my money to him, and if not him, the street papers. He also recommended City Team as a place to get a bed on a cold night (only $3). He said preach at you, so I expect they have the same policy of discrimination that the Salvation Army has although I haven’t verified that.

Don’t like those choices? The City of Oakland has some suggestions for homeless services.

The Bay Area has a 211 resource which lists shelter possibilities.

Related links
New York Times: Bay Area. The Salvation Army-Gay Dilemma: To Give or Not?

This link is a particulary good summary. Salvation Army Policy Decried: Bay Area officials criticize the organization for halting health benefits to domestic partners.

Related post The letter to the Salvation Army

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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.

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.