Browngirl Going Green

Yes, I am Thinking and Saying Things, Just Not Here
July 9, 2010, 5:30 pm
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Oscar Grant mural in downtown Oakland on 17th and Telegraph

As a person of color, a writer, an activist, as a long-time resident of Oakland and someone who is Bay Area born-and-bred, I have some strong opinions and feelings about yesterday’s verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial re: the murder of Oscar Grant. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to blog about it now because I have other writing to do, but if you’re interested in finding out more about what I think, please visit my Twitter feed, which is the main way I’ve been communicating with folks about what’s happening here.

And special shout out to Max Elbaum, fellow activist, writer and Oakland resident, whom I ran into at the rally last night downtown. He told me he's been following my blog (not sure which one) so just want to give him special thanks!


My Review of the Karate Kid Remake
June 20, 2010, 1:04 pm
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Ok, this is a bit of a stretch for a blog about environmentalism and people of color, but I thought some of my readers here might enjoy this post at my other blog about the new Karate Kid movie. Would love to hear your thoughts, too, so feel free to comment.

Black Man (Trying to) Go Green
June 16, 2010, 2:19 pm
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I don’t agree with all of President Obama’s clean energy recommendations, I did appreciate many aspects of his speech on the BP oil spill and the tragic aftermath in the Gulf of Mexico. As I watched and listened to his speech, I also couldn’t help but remark to myself, ‘This is a Black man who is the President of the United States, talking about environmentalism on national television.” Since the ‘face’ and image of environmentalism on a national level in this country has been largely White, the historical weight of that fact needs to be recognized.

More Brownfolks Going Green

Jarid Manos and his son Kaiden (from the Ghetto Plainsmen web site)

Thanks to fellow blogger Dianne Glave for giving me the heads-up on two other people of color who are going green and writing about it. It’s been inspiring and cool for me to find these kindred spirits online, and makes me want to plan a cross-country trip so that I can meet these folks and see some of the wild places that have inspired them and their writing.

First, there’s DNLee at the Urban Science Adventures! blog, who recently visited San Francisco and seemed to have had a grand time. She’s a scientist who’s blogging about discovering nature in urban areas—one of my favorite people-of-color-and-the-environment topics. Since so many of us live in and / or identify with urban areas, either by choice or by force of circumstance (economic or otherwise) I think it’s important for people of color to (re)claim nature in the cities and towns where we live. Environmentalism is not just about going to the backwoods and living off the land—it’s about stewarding all of our natural resources in a way that’s respectful and sustainable.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dianne also introduced me to Jarid Manos, whose new book is provocatively and intriguingly titled The Ghetto Plainsman. Jarid is the CEO of the Great Plains Restoration Council, whose mission is to “restore and protect our shattered prairies and plains through developing youth leaders in Ecological Health”. I love this mission statement, and the way the organization integrates the healing of our young people and humanity with the healing of our land and ecosystems.

The time I spent in the Pacific Northwest last year as part of the Windcall Institute—a three-week-long nature residency for activists and organizers to recover from burnout and reconnect to our essential selves—showed me first-hand nature’s power to heal and to grant clarity and purpose. I came back from my time in that rugged, wild part of the world with a renewed sense of connection to the Earth, and a stronger commitment to making environmentalism part of my social justice work as well as my writing and my everyday life. I started this blog in part because of my time at Windcall—so I totally get that we need nature to heal ourselves, and that our acts of healing the Earth are also healing for ourselves.

Lastly, I’m going to be submitting something for the April Diversity in Science Carnival, a sort of blogging festival that’s being curated this month by Dianne, whose book, Rooted in the Earth is coming out in a few months. The theme this month is, of course, Earth Day, which happens every year on April 20th. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to write, but I’ll think of something.

Freedom Food

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, aka The Black Farmer (photo from The Black Farmer web site)

I found these two sites while I was poking around on the Internet, and it made me feel hopeful for the possibilities for the food industry in this country.

The Black Farmer is, indeed, a Black farmer (that is, a farmer of African descent), who lives and farms in the West Country of England. He raises outdoor bred pork for sausages (or ‘bangers’ as British people call them) and other animals for meat. I have to say, just by reading the site and watching the video, those sausages do look damn good. And to know that they are humanely raised, outdoors, and are, as the site states ‘gluten-free’, makes them sound even better.

The Black Farmer claims that his meat products are 100% British Freedom Food, which piqued my curiosity. As you can see on the site, Freedom food is the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ official designation for meat, fish and any other game that has been raised in a humane fashion. The agency has created standards for the welfare of animals that are raised for human consumption, and these standards are posted on web site.

The RSPCA says that the standards, “cover every aspect of the animals’ lives, including feed and water provision, the environment they live in, how they are managed, health care, transport, and humane slaughter/killing. The standards are designed to ensure that all animals reared according to the requirements have everything they need for a good quality of life, whether they are kept on large or small farms, or in indoor or outdoor production systems.”

It doesn’t surprise me that the Brits have something like this in place, and that the RSPCA is a royally recognized charity (on the web site they state, “Her Majesty the Queen recognises the work we do for animals in England and Wales, and that our reputation extends worldwide) is not surprising either. The Royal Family are well-known conservationists and animal lovers, and Prince Phillip is a former President of the Board of Trustees of the World Wildlife Fund.

It would be cool to have a similar designation scheme in the United States—instead of having to rely on vague labeling like ‘hormone-free’ or even ‘free-range’. What do those mean exactly? And what government agency (if any) would define, measure and enforce these standards? Since nothing like this exists now in the US, it’s nice to envision something like Freedom Fund in this country. Has a nice ring to it, too.

BrownFolks on the Trail
March 7, 2010, 6:08 pm
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POC Hiking Group

One of the POC Hikes of 2009, in Marin

About a year or so ago, I started a Facebook group called, unsexily but accurately, ‘Bay Area People of Color Hiking Group’. My partner, Henry, and I do a fair amount of hiking in the beautiful and numerous public parks in the East Bay, and I wanted to hike with more folks, as well as increase the number of people of color I’d see on the trails. Sadly enough, even for a place as diverse as Oakland, I could usually count the number of people of color I would see on the trails around here on one hand on any given day. I knew that some of my POC friends were a little intimidated by hiking—usually they were interested but hadn’t done much of it and thus it was just an unfamiliar thing—or they didn’t have cars to get out to the hills, or they didn’t have anyone else to hike with. I figured with this group we’d knock all those things out of the picture and make it easy, fun and social at the same time.

Since then, the group—a fairly loose network of about 40 people, only about 15 of whom have actually come on one or more hikes—has stomped out on the trails about once per month, with a winter hiatus starting in November. I’m looking forward to starting up the group again once the rains taper off though.

Hiking is not only a fabulous way to get in touch with nature—I’ve learned how to identify some of the native trees in this area, have seen wild animals such as jackrabbits, and love the scent of the bay laurel leaves that are common in our canyons—but also a good way to get exercise, get to know folks and to reclaim or rediscover the lovely public spaces that are all around us.

I was also happy to find online—and to later discover that many of my African-American Facebook friends were already fans of—the EcoSoul Nature Stroll group, another crew of POC who are making an intentional effort to get out into nature via hiking. I’m hoping to join one of their strolls soon and / or to do a joint hike with the BA POC hiking group. Possibilities abound!

POC Hike - Wind

A windy day on the trail in Las Trampas Regional Park

Black Nature
February 24, 2010, 6:06 am
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Just a quick post to let you know about an event that I heard of from a couple of friends of mine that’s coming up next week at UC Berkeley. I probably won’t be able attend, unfortunately, because of previous commitments, but if you’re in the area you should check it out. It’s a symposium and reading for the new anthology, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille Dungy. The book’s been enjoying some great press, including this article in the San Jose Mercury News, as it’s the first-ever anthology to focus on nature writing by African-American poets.

Along with Dianne Glave’s upcoming book, Rooted in the Earth, Black Nature represents what I hope is a growing trend among Black folks and, hopefully, people of color in general, to write and publish nature- or environmentalist-oriented writing. As I’ve said before, I think people of color, immigrants, low-income people, and other people who have been historically pushed to the margins of society in the US have a lot to offer to the public discourse on environmentalism and living more in tune with nature.

If you end up going to the symposium, feel free to post your impressions of the book and the event here. It should be a great event, with former California poet laureate Al Young listed as one of the speakers.