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!

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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?