Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Beyond safety pins and petitions

The last week has been filled with heavy hearts and hopelessness. What can WE do?? What concrete actions can WE take?? It's really easy to feel small amidst the national struggle. I am working on my own action plan and thought I'd share some thoughts on concrete ways white people can support marginalized communities. Many of us have taken to posting on Facebook or wearing safety pins to show our solidarity or signing any and every change.org petition. While all of those things certainly can't hurt the cause, it's important that we step up and do more. But what?


Get Involved: Fighting for social justice is not a new thing. There are many organizations doing this work already. If you are unsure where to start, consider connecting with an established group. SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) organizes white people for racial justice, while collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. They are a national network with local chapters in several major cities. Consider attending a local chapter meeting, or if they aren't in your area connect via social media or sign up for their newsletters. They regularly send out action steps that I've found very useful.


Give Money: Consider donating money to the things you care about that may be at risk. Worried about women's rights? Give to Planned Parenthood. Support Black Lives Matter? Buy a yard sign (just make sure it's from an official BLM affiliate, don't waste your money on internet sellers). Concerned about the climate? Donate to Sierra Club. A couple of great local organizations that I've offered my financial support to are Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and Headwaters Foundation for Justice. Search for organizations led by marginalized voices and show that you support their mission and organizing efforts. Want to be a super contributor? Organizations like these thrive on sustaining gifts, consider giving an affordable amount every month. These recurring payments make a big impact on their bottom lines.


Protest: There are a lot of opinions out there about how effectual protests and marches are. I personally think protests draw attention to the issues and open dialogues, but at the very least I'll tell you this - When you are feeling a little alone, a little small and a little helpless joining a protest can be a powerful reminder of why this work is important. Let's be honest, fighting for social justice can be depressing work.  Standing in unity with thousands of others for a common cause is loving feeling, a unifying feeling and a motivating feeling. A protest can lift your spirits and reinvigorate your soul to do even more.


Listen: It is so important that we are listening and hearing the voices of the people we aim to support. Be receptive to their feelings and their experiences. We have to take the supportive role here. We don't get to tell, project or assume the reality of a person of color. I'd also challenge white people to find more voices to listen to. What does your social media feed look like? Do you follow any Muslim voices? Are following any LGBTQ voices? How about Native American voices? Actively seek out new and differing perspectives from your own. Here are a few of good follows: Shaun King @ShaunKing, Deray McKesson @deray, Everyday Feminism @EvrydayFeminism, Linda Sarsour @lsarsour, Unicorn Riot @UR_Ninja, Ljeoma Oluo @IjeomaOluo, Sopan Deb @SopanDeb.


Tell Your Legislature: Make your voice heard and write, call, or even tweet your local lawmakers to ask their stance and present your views on the issues that matter most to you. You can find your elected officials HERE. Remember, they are representing you, so let your voice be heard!


Find A White Ally: There is a lot of dialogue right now that can be difficult to unpack alone. Find a white ally to have these tough conversations with. Challenge one another's thinking and push each other to dig even deeper. It is our job to investigate our own white privilege. It is not the job of the POCs in our lives to educate us, this is work we need to do for ourselves.


Talk To Your White Friends And Family: With the upcoming holidays, there will be plenty of opportunity for conversation. Find a way to talk through problematic or divisive language in a loving way. Unsure how to do that? Practice! Maybe role play with that white ally of yours. We need to find ways to educate each other without blame or generalizations. It's important we find the words to point out bias rhetoric without going to the extreme and labeling each other as racists. So maybe avoid having this conversation at the dinner table with the whole family as witness, and instead pull your loved one aside later in a safe place and the two of you have a heart to heart without spectacle. Prejudice actions end when prejudice thinking ends. Some of us are further down the path of acceptance than others, so let's try to educate and connect through love.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

the harassment

As much as I believe the importance of balanced news, it's true that my news and social media feeds are largely progressive. It can be easy to forget that not everyone is reading the same articles I am. Yesterday I sought out some news from a different perspective. I read a few conservative newspapers and watched a few interviews with Trump supporters. The one that struck me, that I just can't shake, was an article on the increase of harassment throughout the US. Or specifically, that there isn't one. I can't find the piece as I write this, so you will just have to trust my memory. The white male author described that there has not been an increase in violence at all, instead most of the allegations are made up, not actually symbols of hate, or they were just kids being kids not REAL threats. His proof for the fact that hate crimes are not actually increasing throughout America was completely based on police reporting.

It's that last part that is sticking with me. As a white person, I can see the logic of 'if I'm a victim of a crime I would call the police for help' and therefore there should be tons of new police cases out there documenting these hate crimes. But let's step back a moment and acknowledge that your reality is not the same reality as every other person's in America. Specifically, white male reality is much different from the marginalized voices of society. Can you imagine for a moment that you have family members who have been unfairly persecuted or jailed? Picture your partner getting teargassed for joining the front lines of a peaceful protest. Pretend you have been regularly stopped by police, maybe even frisked, while doing nothing wrong. Imagine you have a friend that was shot down or assaulted by police for petty crime or, hell, no crime at all. Do you see how that might shape the relationship you have with the police? Do you see how your first inclination, as a victim, might not be 'call 911'? That maybe the police don't stand as a symbol of safety for you?

Just because discrimination is not always reported, does not mean it doesn't exist. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia exist all around us, even if they do not touch you personally. And sadly, it exists as the norm for many of the inhabitants of this country. As a female who has been verbally and physically harassed by countless men, was I supposed to report every case to the police? When it's the norm? And I can imagine for a Muslim woman the frequent comments she must receive on her hijab. Should she report all of those? When it's the norm? What could the police possibly do for us, when this reality has been a part of life for many of us for so long? A uniformed officer cannot undo the objectification we faced or calm our hurt feelings. The police cannot change the mind of our perpetrators. Ending hate crimes begins with ending hate. That starts by us examining our inherent privileges, talking with and educating one another, and then inserting some empathy into the world around us.

The harassment taking place over the last few days is not new. No. It's existed long before the election results, but what is new is the frequency in which it is happening and that these acts are being committed in the name of our new president-elect. That is why we are afraid. And that is why we protest.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Why I support the I-94 shut down



Flash back to the civil rights era when, in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march that famously took over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Taking to the streets or the highways is not a new phenomenon. Protests, even peaceful ones, are not meant to happen quietly in a convenient corner where the message of opposition might be missed all together. Protests exist to be heard, to be seen and to shake up our daily existence. In my mind, a protest isn't doing it's job if it's not a little bit annoying or a little inconvenient.

Just two days ago, on Thursday night, I left work after a nice dinner and noticed police sirens swirling in my periphery. Frequent accidents occur on that corner, so lights coming from that direction are not a surprise to me, nonetheless my head turned round the building's edge. I was met with thousands of peaceful protesters heading right towards me. An anti-Trump march that started on the U of MN west bank was now walking down my Franklin Ave and, what I learned later, preparing to take the on-ramp to Interstate 94.

Rob and I stopped, sharing peace signs and gestures of support with the crowd as they past. It felt good to work for an organization that proudly hangs Black Lives Matter on our storefront as I watched people throw their fists up in solidarity while they passed our windows. We witnessed the togetherness these protesters had. We saw the mourning they were feeling. The group flowed in waves of the spectrum of people hurting from these election results; Hispanics against the wall, and then Muslims against deportation chanting "refugees are welcomed here", and the LGBTQ community scared for their civil rights, and on and on they came. As you can imagine, I-94 came to an abrupt halt that night, leaving many drivers stranded and irate for the inconvenience.

For those that say, this is making me late to work or late to _______. I say, this is minor inconvenience for one night out of your life and annoyance you can and should tolerate. Imagine the number of black men in our country that are frequently pulled over by squads simply for driving while black. Imagine how often they might be late to work.

For those that say, what if an emergency vehicle needs to get through. I say, emergency vehicles are usually only on the highway when the emergency takes place on the highway. Most emergency vehicles stick to the city streets.

For those that say, this is an inconvenience. I say, yes, yes it is. It is an inconvenience to your every day commute. It is supposed to be. It is a reminder that life is full of inconveniences. Imagine the inconvenience that marginalized people experience every day when their daily lives are interrupted by discrimination or harassment.

For those that say, what if those drivers have a home emergency and are now stuck in traffic. I say, this is the risk we take every day we get in our cars. We take the chance of excessive cars on the road or possible collisions in the way every single time we drive. Why does it make a difference if the thing that is stopping traffic is people, rather than an overturned semi?

For those that say, this isn't doing anything for your cause. I say, we are talking about it right now, aren't we? These actions have created a dialogue. These actions have disrupted the status quo. Their voices have been heard and now local and national news are reporting on their efforts. Let's not forget that those very roads were created during urban flight and connect the highest paying jobs to the highest priced suburbs. Not to mention every person sitting in that traffic is privileged enough to own a vehicle. Sounds to me the highway is a perfect place for disruption against the white majority.

I tend to believe that protesting is as much for the protesters as it is for the greater society, just in a different way. Marching pulls together community from the segregated. It joins the silenced voices into a force to be reckoned with. And there you can find comfort in the community around you, love from the people that share your thoughts and a power inside you that often sits quiet.


One last thought as I put this topic to bed. Last summer, Black Lives Matter marched I-94 after the murder Philando Castile. The same thoughts above were heavily discussed in the news and on the web. Even on BLMs facebook page people (mostly white people) questioned this tactic for peaceful protests. As I wrestle with my own white privilege, in the case of BLM, it is not my place to question the tactics of their movement. If I support the cause, I have to trust and support the choices those leaders make. If you have better ideas on how to lead a movement, then find your own cause to lead.

Back on Franklin Avenue, watching the thousands of people pass by, Rob and I stood next to a Somali man who had a tear in his eye and a smile on his face, and I couldn't help but feel a little hope. A little unity. And a little beauty in the world. A welcomed moment over the last few days.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

In bikes VS cars, I choose people

I am a multi-modal commuter. In equal parts, I choose walking, biking, public transit or driving for work and leisure. I own a car. I pay insurance and registration on a '98 Camry that I gas up once a month and use a couple of times a week. I have 15+ pairs of shoes, but let's be honest, I wear like 3 of them. They walk OK. I've got two bikes, a nice hybrid when making time is priority and another that I like to call my "ice cream bike", an Oxford Windsor equipped with Brooks saddle and wicker basket, perfect for a lazy Sunday ride. My money clip carries a MetroTransit pass that always has value stored on it. With door to door service and several bucks cheaper than downtown parking, bus riding is my preferred choice to get to work. Let this paragraph serve to fully illustrate: I know how to get around town and I have experience on all sides of this topic. Get it, got it, good?

Up until recently, I considered myself Pro-Bike. I wanted stronger biking facilities; be they bike lanes, bike parking or bike racks on buses. I wanted it all. I craved route options. I needed a safer way to travel via bicycle and a city government willing to make that a priority. And I yearned for acceptance on the road. What changed recently is not that I no longer want those things, I absolutely do (so you can change all those 'wanted's to 'want's for the same effect). What's changed is my frame of mind on the whole issue. I am not Pro-Bike or Pro-Car or Pro-Ped or Pro-Public Transit, I am Pro-People.

A few months ago I started serving Major Chris Coleman's office as a member of the Community Advisory Committee tasked with aiding the design of the new downtown Saint Paul bike loop project, an 8-80 initiative. Needless to say (but needed to say for this post, I guess), my interest in city planning has perked tremendously. My involvement in the CAC has increased my attention to other bike initiatives happening throughout the city and my ears are more open to what the communities around me are saying on the 'Car VS Bike' debate.

It ain't pretty. This issue is heated and often times downright hateful. While our governments (some better than others) are trying to find safer ways for ALL people to travel regardless of mode within it's boundaries, our communities stand heavily, strongly, and stubbornly divided on this issue. So as I am paying more attention to which roads might be getting bike lanes and more attention to what neighborhood Facebook page might be posting on the topic today, what I end up feeling - is pretty shitty. This topic can rapidly turn into horrible generalizations, an aggregate of misinformation and slips pretty quickly into direct personal attacks. Brutal, unnecessary attacks (thanks, Internet!).

I see both sides and I am neither of the extreme that people rant about. I am not the lazy, convenience centered driver, just as I am not the rule breaking ruffian on two wheels. And honestly, I think most of us aren't. I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle - where we try to follow the rules but slip up sometimes. Let's be honest with ourselves, most of us, on occasion, treat the rules of the road as guidelines. In driver's ed we learn to slow as we approach a stop sign, the front end of our vehicle cannot cross that stop sign and our vehicle must come to a complete and hard stop. That's how we passed our drivers test. Right? But when is the last time you did that? The rolling through, entering the cross walk "stop" is far more common than the aforementioned. I admit, I am guilty of this too. I will also admit that as a cyclist I often opt for the Idaho Stop when traffic isn't around, but when riding in traffic, I absolutely try my best to obey the same traffic rules of the vehicles around me. My point is we all break the rules, and some studies are showing at similar rates, so let's stop accusing the other side of being the only violators. We are just human, after all.

But if we embrace ourselves as HUMAN, than we must also embrace our own human nature for not being perfect and messing up sometimes (or a lot of the time). We get distracted. We might not know all the laws (like in MN, motorists must at all times maintain a three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist) and we might even slip up the ones we do (ahem, speeding). We, as a society, inherently know this about ourselves, so now I transfer the onus to our city planning efforts.

The boom of the automobile has passed, and it's unfortunate that the design of our neighborhoods was a consequence of its heyday. We have to embrace that people are getting around differently today and we have to make that safe for EVERYONE, regardless of mode. Not having designated bike lanes on roads is like not offering pedestrian crosswalks. What bike lanes and pedestrian crossings do is give those people not in cars, a safe and predictable place to be. So the pedestrian knows where to find the bicyclist that knows where to find the motorist that knows where to find the pedestrian and round and round it goes. As a result, we can better prepare for our possible and inevitable encounters. Likewise, there is benefit to all to SLOW DOWN CARS. Narrowing traffic lanes to accommodate bike lanes, slows down vehicles and that's a safety win for all parties. Less accidents for drivers, for bikers, and pedestrians alike.

Let's face it guys, cars can be incredibly dangerous machines. Pair that with our likelihood to make mistakes and injuries result. I am not encouraging people to give up their cars with this post. But I am encouraging people to give the safety of every single person top priority. Convenience and speed, and all the other reasons we sometimes choose a car can come last. Today, I fight for city planning and executing infrastructure that embraces traveling of all kinds. I want to some day pass along my love of biking to my future kids without the fear of traffic. I want to minimize risk for all persons alike. Better design is possible. And believe it or not, accept it or not, it's happening, little by little every day.

For me, the bikes VS cars debate is not a road tax issue first or a parking space issue first, it is first and foremost a safety issue. We should all put safety first for the lives of our brothers, sisters, children, parents and loved ones. And for that, I will always choose people over bikes or cars.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18, 2015

April 18, 2015

The state of my (garden) affairs:

The garden is all cleaned up and ready for summer.

I have wire wrapped all of the things that I possible can... the raspberry bush is now a squirrel proof fortress.

I have sown seeds for kale, radish, parsnip, carrot, onion and beets directly outside.

The kale and radish are sprouting.

The raspberry bush is getting greener and taller every minute.

I have started tomatoes and herbs inside.

I have used eggshells for the things I'm starting indoors again. I liked the results last year.

I have planted a small amount of flowers outside.

Maybe I will start my flower seeds indoors today...






Humming humming hummingbird

One of the things I never talked about last year was that we bought a hummingbird feeder. I've rarely ever seen birds in my backyard. I don't know why I should think we could start with a hummingbird. But we bought one. Mostly it hung there. Sometimes I'd remember the change the water. But mostly... it hung there.

For something that we impulsively bought and then ignored, it sure does come up in conversation more than it ought to. So maybe that means... I should try. Put a little effort in.

Supposedly the hummingbirds are migrating north and have been spotted in our neighboring states. I have cleaned the feeder and today I added some enticement.

Flowers.

This 70 degree weather has me optimistic, I'm sure, but it sure is nice putting some color back there. I tried to stick with the red the birds are drawn to. But who am I kidding? We have wayyy too many one legged cats in this neighborhood for hummingbirds.



I also bought a little alyssum to plant between the veggie pots.




I'm so very ready for summer.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Clean Up

It's 67 degrees and I'm feeling fine. Sunny and perfect to stay outside. We got our hands dirty today and cleaned up the yard and readied the pots. We also squirrel proofed, lettuce bed'ed and pinterest'ed the shit out of some plant markers. This is what we did today:
 
My stick labels. Pinterest made me do it. We direct sowed some of our root vegetables outside today. Parsnip. Carrot. Radish. Onion.

Squirrel proofing... or at least trying to....

This is going to be our lettuce table. New this year. It's a world premiere of sorts.

Pretty little maids all in a row... who knows what goodies they will hold...

All cleaned up.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

lazy gardener

Last fall I might not have cleaned EVERYTHING up. A few things I just threw into the garage at the first snow fall. Thinking I would deal with them later.

Months past and these two kale plants refused to kick the bucket. On occasion I would throw some snow on them after I pulled my car in. Mostly, I ignored them and waited for them to die. They never did. So they are back outside! But I don't think you can eat kale the second year? Regardless, this is what they look like today after surviving the harsh Minnesota winter:


PS I bought a tiny, awesome and new camera! Upgrading from the camera phone, downgrading from the 9 lbs digital SLR. Expect the best.

Hello Garden 2015

The thing about apartment gardening is when you are researching "apartment gardening" and come up with a million hits on "best vegetables to grow in pots", they never tell you the HOW part or the YES, BUT part. Pinterest will tell you you can grow a miniature Meyer Lemon tree in a pot in your kitchen year round! You get all excited at the prospect - but quickly realize your apartment doesn't have the south facing sunroom cloaked in sunshiney warmth that that Meyer Lemon tree needs to survive. Let's not even mention the dry, cold, drafting housing conditions of a Minnesota apartment winter. Needless to say, I wasn't duped by this Meyer Lemon business. There was one that got me last year though:

The raspberry bush. 

They tell you it can grow in a pot. True. It can stay alive and even grow some. But what they don't tell you is that raspberries are two year growers. The first year it grows the vines and the second year those vines become woody branches with the strength to support fruit. What this means for the apartment gardener that just spent $16 on one plant is two things:

1 - when you first buy that plant it will look like a cut back branch or two. It will look like that because that is precisely what it is. That stubby, thorny 6 inch wood shaft is THE ONLY branch that will support fruit that first summer. Which means a wicked yield of a mere handful of berries. 

2 - then you have this plant in this big pot that you need to over-winter. No one really talks about this part. Come fall 2014 I realized I had a crazy heavy pot and a temperature problem. Raspberry bushes need the temperature to get cold enough to force them into dormancy, but not so cold that it kills the plant. I couldn't bring it into my basement (too warm) and I couldn't leave it sitting out (too cold). I searched for advice long and hard on what to do to prep for winter. I didn't want this $16 plant that I only ate 4 berries from to die before I got a decent crop! I tossed around the ideas of putting in the detached garage or wrapping it in burlap and straw cover. Talking it over with my local garden store, they told me that a plant in a pot would surely die in our winters since the wind & cold will cut right through the container. In ground plants mostly survive the weather due to thermal mass of the earth. Our brains clicked at the same moment and we decided I should try burying the pot. Which is what I did.

As the snow has cleared I have been debating whether I'm looking at a dead plant or a dormant plant. After much uncertainty, I'm proud to announce - It worked! Today I unearthed my pot. And am happy to say I have the first green buds of life.

My summer garden has officially begun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

a stand for my plants

I've continued to update to my space and solve some of it's 'problems'. One being that I don't have enough surfaces near windows for my plants. They seem to be increasing in quantity (a good thing since it probably means I'm a killing them at a lesser rate) and still have limited sunny spots around the apartment.

Pinterest has largely fueled these home projects and purchases. It has probably inspired me more than it should ($$$) but it has also helped me hone in on my own personal style. Pinterest helps me visualize how things might work together. I decided I need to just stop buying single items that "I like" without the consideration of the larger whole (this thinking is trickling over to my wardrobe as well). What I have learned about my own taste is that I love big furniture pieces with strong mid century modern lines and then prefer to embellish on the accessories. 

Back to the plant stand - I kept pinning these vintage retro stands:

Turns out antique bullet planters like the above can go for $200-300 a pop. But I also was pinning these:
And THESE made me think - can I build that? The beauty of Pinterest is when you have a thought like mine.... you can immediately find someone that has already done and documented it. I found it here but the problem with that DIY was my lack of tools and skills for it. Alas, I also found this slightly different rendition on A Beautiful Mess and it was speaking my language.

Here is my step by step:
Supplies:

4 - 40"x 1"x 2" wood pieces (cut down from 2 - 8' long strips) = $0.82/ea or $1.64 Total
2 packages - 1.5" corner braces with screws 4pk = $3.68/ea or $7.36 Total
1 - small canister of stain in dark walnut = $4.38
2 - 12" round panels = $3.99/ea or $7.98 Total (found at Menards, Home Depot doesn't carry them)

I had sandpaper and the white paint from another project. Which brought my overall cost to $21.36.

I lightly sanded, stained and painted first.





Then added the brackets and finished with attaching the circles. The hardest part was trying to find the equidistant points on the circle to make sure the legs were even and symmetrical. Initially I tried to figure this out scientifically but ended up mostly eyeballing and feeling a little stupid. It turned out well enough, I'd say. It's a lovely little addition to the living room and a great sunny spot for my plants.