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How can white middle class enviros engage w/ Black & low income communities ?

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion How can white middle class enviros engage w/ Black & low income communities ?

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  • #88272
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    Kimberly Jackson Morris & Jamira Jamison

    Kimberly Jackson Morris & Jamira Jamison stood along Cleveland Avenue as President Obama spoke on Sept. 13 at the Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School about his jobs plan. Not far way were about 20 protestors holding signs and chanting “Barack Obama, yes you can. Say no to the tar sands.”

    The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas where it would be refined and shipped to other countries. There were no people of color in the protest, though a Black elder sat nearby on a lawn chair so as to stay in the shade during the hot September day.

    100_4071

    Morris said the under-representation of people of color in the environmental movement is a case in point on the importance of education.

    “We’re not educated on those facts…When you go into lower economic areas, there’s no one standing there giving us information about a pipeline.”

    Morris said white middle class environmental activists should spend time in Black and low-income parts of town.

    “Go into those communities and talk to people. There are people who aren’t too busy to listen. But the information isn’t there. Do you go into these communities and speak w/ people about these things that you’re protesting ? I’m talking about urban communities.”

    Morris said standing in the street holding signs won’t necessarily engage people who aren’t currently involved with environmental and other causes.

    ” It’s not personable enough. When you address me—me individually, or my community, then I see that you care. I don’t want someone standing on a corner yelling some important information that I’m not going to listen to. If I’m on my way to work, or if I’m on my way to pick up a child, no, I’m not going to stop and listen to you. But if you’re in my community and I happen to be walking to the community grocer, then yes, you’re giving me some information and I’ll stop and speak w/ you.”

    She said activists such as those fighting Keystone XL need to listen to and learn from people in the communities we go into, instead of assuming we’re there only to talk and teach what we know.

    Morris suggested the Eastside near downtown as a specific place for engaging w/ Black and low-income communities.

    “When you get close to Columbus State and Fort Hayes– really lower economic areas– people don’t mind listening. If they know you’re there for a reason, they’ll stop and talk w/you—if you’re there.”

    Morris agreed urban farming and community gardening are ways to form bridges between the mostly white and middle class environmental movement and people living in historically under-served communities.

    “My daughters and I are building a garden. We believe in organic food…I don’t like chemical pesticides and fertilizers. But if you go into the poor areas, this is all we’re eating. Everything is loaded w/ chemicals. Everything is processed. We don’t have the information though to know any better. Until we get the information to know any better, how can we do any better ? ”

    She said churches are an important venue for forming new ties among activists and community organizers.

    “Churches are number 1 in Black communities. You get on board w/ the ministers and pastors and they’ll help you. You have to inform them as well. But they will get the word out to their church members.”

    On that same day, I had a similar conversation with Rev. Kujenga Eliyah Ashe.

    Rev. Kujenga Eliyah Ashe and K. Lanai Ashe.

    Ashe with his wife K. Lanai Ashe near the Fort Hayes High School where President Obama spoke during his visit to Columbus to highlight his jobs plan.

    Ashe is the executive director of Community Organization for Abundant Life COAL I asked him what he thought of the environmental movement.

    “The Earth is being raped by multinational corporations. They’re polluting the Earth. Instead of using the solar power and wind power that they could be using…they’re using fossil fuels. They’re doing that because there’s so much profit in it.”

    Ashe said he and fellow activists are pushing for an economic rights movement.

    “The civil rights movement which Dr. King led has done great things. We even have a president w/ brown skin. So his dream has come true in terms of civil rights. But Dr. King, before he was killed, was starting to push for economics. He was boycotting different corporations and was planning a poor people’s march on Washington, just like up in Chicago. They still have the Poor People’s Campaign headed by Jerry Robinson.”

    Ashe said an economic rights movement lends itself to being broadly inclusive.

    “The Civil Rights Movement helped all people– black, white, red, yellow, gays, women. Everybody piggybacked on the Civil Rights Movement. Now we have our civil rights. We can vote. We have the franchise and (Black) mayors, congresspeople, senators, and even the president of the United States…Now we need our economic rights.”

    Ashe said the first program of that economic rights movement is repatriation and reparations for all descendants of slavery.

    “We want gold, silver, and land, not just from the federal government but also from the monopoly finance, capitalist, multinational corporations–the Wall Street Investment bankers. We want to have a march on Wall Street, July 4, 2012, to tie it up and to demand reparations for all the people. New York was built and Wall Street was built on the labor of slaves. They used to sell slaves on Wall Street. “

    He said building a mass movement requires spirituality.

    “We need something that will inspire people, that will get their hearts, not just their minds. We can’t just get them to read the ABC of Communism by (Nikolai) Bukharin (and Yevgeni Preobrazhensky)…We got to reach people at their hearts, not (just) their heads. The Civil Rights Movement got people at their hearts. Dr. King got people at their hearts. All people, black, yellow, brown, and Native American came together. That’s what we need now.”

    Unlike Kimberly Jackson Morris who suggested White middle class activists within the environmental movement reach out to churches in Black communities, Ashe–himself a minister— said that’s not the place to start.

    “The churches are not really going to move until they see the progressive organizations moving. The churches are always the last ones on board. They’re pretty much the gatekeepers of society. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Columbus, Ohio back in 1964, he only preached at one church, Union Grove Baptist. All of the other churches wouldn’t let him preach because he was talking about a movement and they were saying, ‘oh, well, we’re doing alright like it is.’ So I wouldn’t suggest anybody run to the churches right now. Go to the progressive organizations (within Black communities). Find the progressive people. We’re on Facebook and we have websites.”

    In addition to that Ashe said:

    ” You got to then push the issues that help people of color…The welfare programs have been cut out by Governor Kasich here, by Governor Snyder in Michigan and Governor Walker in Wisconsin. You got to go to them (Black folk) and say ‘we understand your issues, and your issues tie with our issues.’ You got to go to the progressive organizations.”

    #461703

    KujengaAshe
    Member

    This is a very good and accurate article by Writer and Activist Tom Over.

    #461704

    DCist
    Member

    You can’t generally claim that the only reason minority and low-income communities aren’t interested in the environmental movement is education. That is a large part of it. But these communities are concerned with other socioeconomic issues that actually affect them on a daily basis. When you are getting your food from pantries or solely using food stamps, you are not concerned about what type it is, only that you have it. Start with the pantries and the food you can purchase on food stamps and teach more nutrition.

    I work with these populations, they aren’t educated about nutrition, but they are in survival mode. Any food is better than no food. They don’t drive, so they don’t care about an oil pipeline.

    #461705
    Snarf
    Snarf
    Participant

    I don’t have anyone to play polo with. ;(

    #461706

    howatzer
    Participant

    Wait, I’m confused – is this about environmental protection, nutrition or slavery reparations?

    #461707
    ColumbusTime
    ColumbusTime
    Participant

    DCist said:
    You can’t generally claim that the only reason minority and low-income communities aren’t interested in the environmental movement is education. That is a large part of it. But these communities are concerned with other socioeconomic issues that actually affect them on a daily basis. When you are getting your food from pantries or solely using food stamps, you are not concerned about what type it is, only that you have it. Start with the pantries and the food you can purchase on food stamps and teach more nutrition.

    I work with these populations, they aren’t educated about nutrition, but they are in survival mode. Any food is better than no food. They don’t drive, so they don’t care about an oil pipeline.

    Yes, protesting the pipeline could be referred to as rich, white people problems.

    #461708
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    DCist said:
    You can’t generally claim that the only reason minority and low-income communities aren’t interested in the environmental movement is education. That is a large part of it. But these communities are concerned with other socioeconomic issues that actually affect them on a daily basis. When you are getting your food from pantries or solely using food stamps, you are not concerned about what type it is, only that you have it. Start with the pantries and the food you can purchase on food stamps and teach more nutrition.

    I work with these populations, they aren’t educated about nutrition, but they are in survival mode. Any food is better than no food. They don’t drive, so they don’t care about an oil pipeline.

    This sounds like what Local Matters has been doing here in Columbus.

    #461709
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    howatzer said:
    Wait, I’m confused – is this about environmental protection, nutrition or slavery reparations?

    Why, it’s almost as if there’s no real point at all; just a bunch of random crap thrown against a wall to see what sticks.

    #461710

    shadytree
    Member

    I don’t see why people who don’t drive wouldn’t care about an oil pipeline. I don’t a single friend who is black but I still care about the continued economic inequality.

    Tom, this is an interesting article.

    Your profile picture is creeping me out.

    #461711
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    howatzer said:

    howatzer said:
    Wait, I’m confused – is this about environmental protection, nutrition or slavery reparations?

    Do issues necessarily have to be kept separate ?

    Sure, protests that draw a lot of people (which the one in Columbus against Keystone XL didn’t) can be a jumble of diverse causes. Therefore, not surprisingly, no coherent message resonates beyond the immediate spectacle or euphoria of the event.

    But among a wide variety of causes a message is coming into focus : for the sake of US national interest and our quality of life, we must work and fight to get our government to stop promoting the goals of big corporations and the uber-rich at the expense of everybody else.

    That’s not my mantra for channeling Eugene Debs, Michael Harrington, or Saul Alinsky. It’s a common theme that applies to almost every public issue we face regarding food, water, housing, finance, wars, healthcare, communications, public safety, criminal justice, energy….

    As for reparations, it’s something that Kujenga Ashe is working on. So I included it as part of the conversation. But I spoke w/ him and Kimberly Jackson Morris during Obama’s visit because it seems neither the environmental movement nor what remains of the Black Civil Rights movement are living up our potential for forming alliances.

    All of the protestors against Keystone XL that day were White. And when all but one or two of the protestors left, I thought it was a good idea to stay and talk with some of the black folk who seemed to be there for other reasons.

    I did it because of enlightened self-interest, not White Liberal guilt.

    #461712
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    shadytree said:
    I don’t see why people who don’t drive wouldn’t care about an oil pipeline. I don’t a single friend who is black but I still care about the continued economic inequality.

    Tom, this is an interesting article.

    Your profile picture is creeping me out.

    I can change the photo when I get a chance. It won’t be today.

    As for economic inequality, it’s damage goes beyond issues of ‘social justice.’ People like me–and folk much more prominent such as former World Bank Chief Economist Joe Stiglitz— argue that the extreme inequality we now have undermines our democracy as well as our nation’s ability to compete on the world stage— culturally, economically, politically, and militarily.

    Essentially, our national interest is being sacrificed for the sake of extreme greed.

    Unfortunately, in the short term at least, masses of people may continue to look for scapegoats such as undocumented immigrants or labor unions or be gullible enough to keep falling for the tried-and true tactic of blaming the poor.

    Plus, there is the religious fundamentalist contingent of the far-right base that offers the explanation that our nation is in decline because we have “turned away from God ” with our tolerance for abortion and homosexuality.

    Connecting that view with the likes of Perry and pray-away-the-gay Bachmann and it’s not that far-fetched that people desperate for answers may see gays and liberals as among those to blame for our nation’s problems.

    Further still, giant corporations own the major mainstream media outlets. So they may be inclined to drum up among the general public vigilante and other forms of reactionary opposition by portraying those who challenge their power as domestic terrorists.

    This makes me think of the question. What’s worse than another US Civil War ? Here is my answer: an era of scapegoating and oppression that goes largely unchallenged.

    But I’m more optimistic, inspired and joyful when I look beyond my own individual lifetime.

    What do you all think ?

    #461713

    JonMyers
    Participant

    TomOver said:
    As for economic inequality, it’s damage goes beyond issues of ‘social justice.’ People like me–and folk much more prominent such as former World Bank Chief Economist Joe Stiglitz— argue that the extreme inequality we now have undermines our democracy as well as our nation’s ability to compete on the world stage, culturally, economically, politically, and militarily.

    Essentially, our national interest is being sacrificed for the sake of extreme greed.

    Agreed to an extent, however there is another side to the coin, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Consumers at all income levels still continue to buy too much crap.

    [b]In Time of Scrimping, Fun Stuff Is Still Selling[/b]

    [b]Consumers at all income levels have been splurging on indulgences[/b] while paring many humdrum household expenses, according to industry data for the last year. Many retailers also report that while fripperies like purses and perfumes are best sellers, they cannot get shoppers interested in basics like diapers, socks and vacuum bags.

    Consumers Cutting Back on Staples, but Splurging on Indulgences

    #461714
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    TomOver said:
    This makes me think of the question. What’s worse than another US Civil War ? Here is my answer: an era of scapegoating and oppression that goes largely unchallenged.

    But I’m more optimistic, inspired and joyful when I look beyond my own individual lifetime.

    What do you all think ?

    Sounds like you’re wishing you get the chance to kill people who disagree with you.

    #461715

    DCist
    Member

    JonMyers said:
    Agreed to an extent, however there is another side to the coin, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Consumers at all income levels still continue to buy too much crap.

    [b]In Time of Scrimping, Fun Stuff Is Still Selling[/b]

    [b]Consumers at all income levels have been splurging on indulgences[/b] while paring many humdrum household expenses, according to industry data for the last year. Many retailers also report that while fripperies like purses and perfumes are best sellers, they cannot get shoppers interested in basics like diapers, socks and vacuum bags.

    Consumers Cutting Back on Staples, but Splurging on Indulgences

    People will always buy crap. There is a SERIOUS breakdown at all income levels when it comes to people deciding what is a need and what is a want.

    I deal with this EVERYDAY with clients. I had a family that we rehoused from the homeless shelter with only $739 of SSI income. I told them to buy 2 monthly bus passes ($110) so they could get to GED. Instead, they got a TV, cable, and internet. I asked them why they didnt go to GED and they gave me blank looks and said it was because they didnt have enough money to buy bus passes. PRIORITIES PEOPLE.

    #461716

    JonMyers
    Participant

    DCist – Yep, a lot of it does fall back to a lack of priorities. While probably not a total American thing, it feels like the prevalent attitude in the US lately has the market cornered on lack of priorities and pointing fingers in all directions.

    I have no data to back up some thoughts based on my observations, but I’ve spent a lot of time in cities in developing countries with far more drastic contrasts in income inequality.

    The people that live in some/ most of these cities in developing countries appear to have more self-control when it comes to frivolous consumption and spending.

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