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.



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.



The Pig is Coming! And Other News

So we are FINALLY getting our pasture-raised, all-natural-feed pig delivered this Saturday from Godfrey Family Farms. The delay was on the butcher’s end, I guess, since the pig was slaughtered on my birthday (coincidence, but an interesting one) back at the end of December. I organized this purchase, pulling together five other buyers from Oakland and Berkeley via the Bay Area Meat CSA and my personal network of progressive foodie friends, mostly people of color. I’m very excited to cook and taste an animal that I purchased directly from the farmer, whom I will meet on Saturday and whom I’ve spoken to on the phone and communicated with via email. I wrote an earlier post that you can read for more background on our pig. This is all in an effort to eat more sustainably and humanely raised animals, and while I haven’t gone completely 100% sustainable in this regard, I’d say about 90% of the meat I consume now is at least hormone- and antibiotic-free, if not free-range/pasture-raised.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if stores’ labeling practices are completely forthcoming and honest, which is why I’m glad to be meeting the Godfreys on Saturday and taking home some of their pork. I’m hoping to have a little dinner party with a few friends at some point to hopefully turn more people on to buying meat in this way. I have to say, while it was definitely time-consuming and not very convenient, it’s so far been an interesting experiment in farm-to-table shopping, and is something I think more people will need to do more of if we want to have a truly sustainable, green, locavore-based food distribution system.

In other eco-news, through the networking magic of the Internet I’m happy to have connected with another woman of color writer, Dianne Glave, whose blog, entitled Rooted in the Earth is a precursor to her upcoming book, Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Obviously, there are lots of connections between what Dianne writes about (much more eloquently than I do, I must add) and what I strive to describe in this blog. I’m excited about Dianne’s book and hope that it signals a wave of environmental non-fiction by people of color in the US that is long overdue.

Lately, I’ve been reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which is fascinating and offers a lot of information to absorb about what the Earth would be like if human beings disappeared from its face completely. The predictions will no doubt surprise you, and make you realize how much energy we expend everyday to maintain our modern civilization. Mr. Weisman is such a skilled writer that you feel as if you’re seeing the landscapes that he writes about, both ancient and modern, before your very eyes.

There’s some really good environmental/scientific non-fiction out there these days that is both highly educational as well as entertaining—two that I read last year that were among my favorite books of the whole year: Farm City by Oakland-based writer and urban farmer Novella Carpenter, and Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen. I look forward to reading Ms. Glave’s book and adding it to my growing collection.

If you know any other books that you think I or other people who read this blog might like, please share them. I’d love to hear about what you’re reading.



Another BrownGirl Going Green

Photo of Jolene Rodriguez, by Jennie Warren, from The Long Beach District Weekly

This is another good example of how communities of color and immigrants communities in this country are often at the cutting edge of creating more a more ‘green’ environment for everyone. But they’re not necessarily driving Priuses or eating locally grown food. Usually they’re fighting for basic environmental rights that more privileged folks take for granted, like clean air.

I’m so proud of my former organization, Californians for Justice (CFJ), where I worked for many years, and also of this CFJ student, Jolene Rodriguez, who was recently profiled in a local publication for speaking out about air pollution in her community in Long Beach. The article talks about a testimonial she gave before the Long Beach City Council, and includes this great quote from Jolene: ““Every weekday at 1:40 p.m., I should look forward to softball practice. But instead, I fear that my lungs will give out because I have asthma.”

Yes, Jolene is just one of many young people in California and elsewhere fighting for clean air and a healthy environment. I don’t know whether she eats humanely raised meat or organic produce (although I’m guessing she doesn’t, since that kind of food is likely harder to find or afford in the low-income neighborhoods in Long Beach), but she’s another Browngirl Going Green. Kudos to CFJ and Jolene for their great work!



Haiti and the Choice That Lies Before Us All

I have to admit, when I was blog-surfing and looking for information on the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, I came across a few obscure posts that it could’ve been triggered by US-sponsored oil drilling. It seemed like a hyper-paranoid lefty conspiracy theory that was using a tragic natural disaster to (once again) point out how evil US imperialism is. And while I agree on the evil nature of US imperialism, I was still skeptical. But after reading this blog post from the Haitian Blogger, I’m a little more convinced. This blog goes deeper than the sensationalist ‘Bush did it!’ rhetoric that I’d read in a different blog, and backs up opinions with more facts, specifically from Haitian and other officials who’ve warned about the dangers of deep drilling in triggering large earthquakes.

Also, the Haitian Blogger points out that the country’s emergency response system was gutted under the Bush-backed Preval administration, which obviously would weaken any rescue and relief efforts after a disaster such as an earthquake. As we can see in other poor countries like Cuba, which is hit yearly by often-devastating hurricanes, even the most basic infrastructure and prevention efforts can minimize human deaths. In California, during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (which I experienced), killed only 63 people, in large part because of the more strict building codes here but also because of better infrastructure to deal with rescue and relief efforts.

In any case, whether you believe drilling for oil and mining triggered the Haitian earthquake of 2010 or not, environmental degradation and the neglect of infrastructure-building in Haiti has made this natural disaster a man-made disaster. Many other bloggers have commented on this terrible phenomenon, Mother Jones published a decent piece, and the UK Guardian published a good commentary. Naomi Klein has also been writing extensively about Haiti using the lens of her new book on ‘disaster capitalism’ called Shock Doctrine, which I have yet to read. Clearly, what’s happened in Haiti is a long-standing man-made disaster that has only been grossly exacerbated by a natural (or semi-natural?) disaster.

And the fact that Haiti is the first Black republic of the Western Hemisphere, and the result of the largest African slave revolt in history? Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that the governments of much larger industrialized nations keep intervening in their sovereign affairs,right? Like sponsoring invasions or propping up dictators or demanding the Haitian government follow neoliberal economic policies that keep its people poor. The racism here is too blatant.

The bottom line? Human activity on Earth can be damaging, exploitative and deadly, or it can be healing, life-affirming and cooperative. It’s our job as a species to decide which path we want to take. I choose the latter. How about you?