Yes, we’re still in the middle of an election for president. This article from Current Affairs takes a long look at both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. It actually has something to say for people in both camps. It’s long. Everything Has Changed Overnight.
Back in the 80s, the only solution for getting sober was going to Alcoholics Anonymous. Today, there is a plethora of solutions such as Refuge Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and SMART Recovery. To name a few. But which one really works? This article in the New York Times tries to answer that question in Alcoholics Anonymous vs. Other Approaches: The Evidence Is Now In.
Grab a cup of coffee and happy reading. Kenley
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The sense of community, of joy, of celebration, and of suffering was palpable. Last week I attended a conference on race in Detroit. My first conference of this type. And despite many years of personal work along with anti-racism trainings and workshops, I realize that I still know very little.
I see and hold the native and First Nation peoples who lived on the lands before us, who cared for it as we do, and lived their lives in community. Here in the Ojai Valley, where I write these words, these are the Chumash people. Today I also honor our diversity, whether that be gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or political affiliation.
The bi-annual conference was created by the organization Race Forward, creators of the fantastic Colorlines publication, and the name of the event was Facing Race: A National Conference. The conference week also celebrated the election of 100 women to Congress, including 40 women of color. Each of our general sessions were started with a music, dance, or words from the local creative community. We also had a “conference weaver” who lead the 3000 people in song. For the opening session, we sang together:
We are the children of ones who did not die
We are the children of the people who can fly
We are the children of the ones who preserver
We are fearless
We are strong
And we’re ready to carry on
This was also one of the only conferences that I’ve attended that truly acknowledged and displayed the richness of the local community. Detroit is an inspiring place where the community works for food justice, water justice, and social justice. We were reminded early on by a local speaker from a nonprofit who said, “if you are a nonprofit, and you don’t have the people you serve on your board, then that’s a change that needs to occur.”
As a white male amidst a predominantly non-white audience, I immediately became aware of my whiteness. An experience that many, if not all, people of color experience on a daily basis. A clear reminder of my privilege and place in society. The other new experience for me was that probably 80-90% of the presenters throughout the conference were people of color. What a gift! The opening plenary featured Rashad Robinson, adrienne maree brown, Favianna Rodriguez, Bree Newsome, and Jeff Chang. These folks inspire and remind us that we need to change the narrative. Furthermore, if we want to move the needle and create narrative change then feeling comfortable isn’t going to help us. We need to step into those spaces where people may disagree or not understand. We live in a society that is organized around a lie and the symbol of white power flies above everything. And through conferences such as this we are building the conditions for people to be free and recognize new possibilities.
The conference offered hundreds of sessions and this created a challenge for each block as I had picked three or four workshops but could only attend one in each block. Here’s what I attended:
It Doesn’t Have to Suck! Easy Management Levers for Anti-Oppression Lovers
This workshop was offered by Bex Ahuja and Tamara Osivwemu from The Management Center. These two were energetic and connected with their audience. I loved too how they set the stage to allow for interactions and questioning by creating an invitation at the beginning. They remind us that bad management disproportionally impacts those on the margins. But even with good management, there is also disproportionate impact if we don’t have an equity lens. We need good management within equity and inclusion lens. Further, the modern definition and understanding of management (command and control) is not built for anti-opression work. Managing with an equity and inclusion lens means there is no neutral path. We can‘t just stand back and do the status quo. Dismantling and removing supremacist power (in my management style) means recognizing and addressing implicit bias, assuming sameness, and the convenient story (it’s not us, it’s them) – these are the pillars of supremacist power. Bringing the race lens allows us to do transformative work instead of temporary work. Bex and Tamara offer a model of goal development that is both inclusive and equitable. Instead of SMART goals, we can have SMARTIE goals. When we re-imagine, we can ask who is this process serving (or not serving), who is this building power for (and who it’s not), and who benefits the most from these outcomes (and who doesn’t). We each have a “Choice Point” in which we have a choice to bring the equity lens to the organization.
Afro-futurism and Black Horror
Tananarive Due, an author and faculty member at UCLA, and Bree Newsome explore the healing power of horror and science fiction as tools for addressing erasure and creating visionary roadmaps to black liberation. A fun discussion that ranged from Black Panther and Get Out to Octavia Butler novels. Following a short presentation from each, they opened it for questions on a wide-ranging number of topics. As an avid reader of genre fiction, I have made a conscious effort to include more narratives written by people of color. For example, in the last year I have read Jade City by Fonda Lee, The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, Everfair by Nisi Shael, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, and The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Through these stories, new insights and experiences are opened up to help me to grow and learn.
Alignment, Alignment, Alignment! Institutional Changes, Performance Measures, and Population Outcomes
In this session presented by Kien Lee, Nora Liu, and Marcella Hurtado Gomez we learn about measuring racial equity. They have developed an instrument to review structural racism through policies, practices, and procedures that benefit (intentionally or unintentionally) white people in our organizations. The tool proactively seeks to eliminate racial inequities and advance equity. It identifies clear goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes. Developed from Race Forward’s Model of Change (normalizing the work, organizing the work, and operationalize the work). This team offered us six stages for racial equity.
Articulate the change desired by the community
Determine the ecosystem and identify and analyze the relevant data
Engage the community
Determine organizational strategies to end racial disparities and ensure equitable outcomes to opportunities and resources
Develop, implement, and evaluate an action plan
Communicate about the plan’s progress and outcomes – be accountable
Each of these stages has their own process. It is iterative and this means you may go from one to four and then have to return to one again. This could occur anywhere along the path. It may feel overwhelming. It’s not going to change overnight. But we need to know we are on the path.
Flipping the Script: Developing and Deploying a Strategic Narrative for Transformative Change
Gerald Lenoir from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society presents findings based on the Blueprint for Belonging. This is a project in California to develop and begin to use a strategic narrative. A narrative to challenge the dominate view. The fundamental building blocks are to eliminate racialized inequality, an inclusive and responsive government, and empathy and bridging based identities. The last was the focus of the workshop. We had a great deal of interaction and conversation with others attending the workshop. One group exercise was to come up with a statement of who we are as group. The four of us (strangers) looked for our shared experiences, history, values, and visions for the future. It was a challenging exercise, but we came up with “A group who have all traveled internationally and work in the service to others and believe in justice, equity, compassion, nonviolence, and inclusion. To not causing harm and not pursuing harm. That all needs are met in a healthy society.”
Living History, Building Change, Inspiring People
In addition to the workshops, we had some great keynotes. Getting to laugh with Hari Kondabolu was different for someone like me who doesn’t care for stand-up comedy. He’s able to make us laugh without being disparaging. During the follow-up conversation, Hari also got serious by saying things like “I don’t think we should judge immigrants on how they do or don’t contribute to the economy.” He helped us look at what it means to grow-up in America as the son of an immigrant family. Thank you Hari!
Introduced by Alicia Garcia (#BlackLivesMatter co-founder), we hear the amazing Tarana Burke offer her insights and experiences as the founder of the MeToo movement over a decade ago. She talked of her work with women of color and sexual harassment and sexual violence. She reminded us of some very grime facts at the same time sharing how this has been an issue far longer than Hollywood getting all the attention – “Fuck Hollywood. You can’t take shit that’s mine. The MeToo movement is in our work.” Following her keynote, she was then interviewed by Linda Sarsour, organizer for the Women’s March. We are reminded by Tarana that sexual violence is a police brutality issue, a mass incarceration issue, an economic justice issue, a community health issue, a housing and homelessness issue, an LBTQI+ issue, and a racial justice issue. It is a human rights issue. And sexual violence also happens within the movement community. This is not about awareness. This is about action. What happens after the hashtag. This is not time for debate. It’s time to work. These are hard conversations. Expand your lens to include sexual violence. Find where you fit in. And “possibility is all we may have sometimes.”
As for white allies, we have work to do. We need to do our research. Seek to understand and expand our thinking and our hearts. That’s what I take away from this conference. The lived-experience of hearing and being with people of color for three days is something all white allies should experience. I do believe that we need to be vulnerable. We gotta find joy, people. Even in the struggle. Even in the learning and the mistakes.
And within the movements – race, environment, LBTQI+, sexual violence, women – we need to build bridges to create the larger “we” that links all of us. Step out of our silos. Perhaps as Chris Moore-Backman framed in his book, a movement of movements.
Thank you Santa Barbara City College and the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee for sending me to Detroit. And thank you for my two colleagues.
I’m planning on doing a 3-month media blackout during my already-established sangha sabbatical (July-September). It will be an experiment on my need to know (probably why I became a librarian and also something that’s been present in me for as long as I can remember). The experiment may allow me to open up some internal space for emotional and spiritual care. I’m seeing that life may not need to be so dense with content and I’m curious what I may discover without the constant text-based consumption.
I’ve already put my Medium and NY Times subscriptions on hold. Need to do the same with LA Times. Been unsubscribing from a few email lists each day to whittle down the noise. No consuming Twitter or Facebook, but may decide to push content to these platforms in via Hootsuite. That’s pretty safe. I trimmed back the podcast subscriptions significantly to only music and education related (but keeping Sword & Laser!). The Overcast app makes this quite easy to keep the subscriptions but not have them download constantly. And I moved the Unread (RSS) app to a back screen – that one will be hard and I couldn’t bring myself to delete yet.
What to keep? Probably my print magazine subscriptions such as Stack Magazines, Buddhadharma, and Lions Roar. Not sure about Wired or MacWorld just yet. Probably keep them too, but I don’t have to read. Right? The one social platform I’ll keep is LinkedIn. It’s mostly focused on education and helps me stay connected to my profession. Gotta have one doorway.
In the end, I won’t be to harsh on myself when I slip or end up changing my mind. It is simply an intention and a direction, but dogmatism isn’t helpful either.
Now what am I going to do with all this free time?
In over 15-years of teaching information literacy classes, I often used the Stormfront website as a teaching tool because they own an MLK domain. Most students didn’t even know about David Duke, prominently quoted on the MLK site, and now he’s front and center thanks to President Trump. On some level this is okay, because it brings white nationalism front and center, but it also means we can’t count on our leaders to speak out against what they represent.
It’s up to us whites to transcend white nationalism and cultivate a more pluralistic and fair society for everyone. It’s up to all of us to counter the white nationalist movement, recognize and transform our white privilege, pursue atonement and repatriation. We begin by recognizing that we live in a systemically racist society, that we each carry these seeds of racism (some conscious and some unconscious), and that we can become more literate about racism through dialogue, openness, and study.
This opinion piece, in the New York Times, is written by a former white nationalist. He writes, “The United States was founded as a white nationalist country, and that legacy remains today.” This is a critical recognition and one of the first steps we can take in moving forward.
Back in mid-2006 I created a wiki to document a community effort to restrict formula businesses (aka-chains) in Ojai, California. We were ultimately successful on November 27, 2007 with the passage of Ordinance #798. A few years later I shut down the wiki because it was requiring too much effort on my part to maintain and I felt like we had enough years with the ordinance regulating formula businesses. Now with a potential revision to the ordinance before the City Council again, I’m finding myself wanting to review the background. The purpose of this post is to simply document the work we did along with a timeline. It will be cross-posted on the Ojai Post.
This type of ordinance has been passed in many cities and towns (must read!) and been upheld in court. See the June 2003 California Appeals Court decision upholding Coronado’s formula business ordinance. Ojai community members began working on an ordinance in December 2006. The final document was called Formula Retail and Restaurant Establishments and it was submitted to the City of Ojai on April 9, 2007 and signatures have been collected from approximately 700 Ojai voters; enough to be placed on the ballot.
Compare and contrast a political campaign. Here we have two grassroots efforts that are starkly different. One portrays hope and the other generates fear. Where do you really want to put your effort and resources?
I’m not being Pollyanna when I say that positive thinking brings about positive change. If we surround ourselves with hope, then we can be hopeful. It’s not an ideal world, by any means, but a president that is thoughtful, kind, mindful, and willing to recognize mistakes is the kind of president I’d like to see, even if I don’t agree with all if his policies.
Though I don’t agree with every policy decision, regardless of being on the left or the right, I do appreciate moving in a general direction. The philosophy and outlook of the candidate. The values the candidate represents.
Students, thousands of them, fill all spaces in the library. Lines form to use computers and textbooks. All library staff are on their feet every moment the library is open to direct and support any need. Students come and go with alacrity, which is a joy to experience, and I smile to our role as a central place on campus. It’s the fall semester and, as I write this letter, we have just completed our third week. Finally there is a calming energy after so much activity. It’s the space between beginning and middle. To add to the huge number of students, we also went live with the WorldShare Management Services platform this semester (eight other California community college campuses are actively migrating, with a few more still in the works). It’s been a very full three weeks for us and I am certain that each of our campus libraries can share a similar story for the fall semester beginnings.