I've got a loose ended proposal that looks like an empty bottle thirsting to be filled with good ideas. I originally sent this to a few people but it’s time to open it up because we’re all concerned and it’s us – the everyday people – who need to be the decision-makers. If we wait for our “leaders” to solve our problems, we’ll be waiting in the breadlines.
Myself and Paul Lamb of Man on a Mission - http://www.manonamission.biz/ - were asked by The Hub - http://bayarea.the-hub.net/public/ - to help them understand the social justice priorities of the East Bay because they're relatively new to this area. They are an international organization that works on a local level in a variety of social and entrepreneurial programs. The premise is simply that "social justice begins with us." The Hub wants to create an on-going program of social justice advocacy. Not that they'll own; it'll belong to all of us but it'll be conveniently accessible to us via The Hub.
Somewhere down the road, we need to build a forum or an on-going dialogue for which we participate actively
either in person or online. Somewhere we need to start even if we don't have the perfect venue; even if we don't
understand all that we need to. Because when we start something, then other voices will chime in and through
these new voices, we'll begin to figure things out.
I realize that social justice is an extremely broad term and the idea of having a convening to discuss social justice is
like discussing food. It's a supermarket jungle. But the idea comes from a book I read entitled "Sitting In the Fire" by Arnold Mindell. There is one passage that struck me as the essence as to why we need a dialogue on social justice. Here is a short section of that passage pertaining to a meeting around racism that happened in Oakland in 1992:
"It was a cacophony of themes, voices and pain. In the midst of the chaos, a Black man spoke out with fury about
the privilege of whites who give the good jobs to other whites while Blacks get the undesirable jobs. Things
escalated. A white man came forward to meet him and the two men raged at each other, face to face, inches
apart. The Black man screamed at the white man about his sense of supremacy and privilege, and the white man
warned the Black that if he did not cool off and speak reasonably he would get his “ass kicked.”
"That did it. The fire roared. Privilege means, as the reader will realize by now, not only economic power, but the
privilege of being cool, calm and detached in communication – the privilege of not having to listen to the rage, fury
and sadness of those without power. The whites suddenly split apart; some tried to silence the white man, while
others stood by to support him. Blacks came forward and rallied around the Black speaker."
In an urban farming project I had initiated in Oakland, a similar situation happened between various members. We were all working for the same goal but our ways of communicating with each other were disconnected and misunderstood. This happens when people of different color, different social and economic backgrounds and different ages merge together. Had we taken the time to sit, restated our purpose for coming together and requested more clarity with each other, we would still be working together.
There is no doubt that we are all hurting by the economy, by the overall disenfranchisement of our social system.
And if we remain separated in our little groups, then we'll continue to suffer when the real problem is the same for
all of us. If we don't unite we stay status quo and we continue to fight over scraps. So social justice begins with us.
We are the leaders we've been waiting for and we need to take back the power and control if we're to beat the
crap out of social injustice.
So my challenge is identifying the most important issues of social justice. Break it down; specify it:
* Our toxic food system?
* Our incarceration system?
* Our one-sided economic system?
* Our education system?
* Our eroding environment?
* Our unaffordable health system?
* the continued death of our social service system?
* Our inability to see our own racism, ageism and sexism?
* Our inability to unite to fight the same enemy?
So, it comes down to organizing and building a movement that gains traction and high profile so that it does not
remain in the closet but feels like a popsicle stick shoved up our nose. President Obama would agree. In 1990, he
wrote the following:
“In theory, community organizing provides a way to merge various strategies for neighborhood empowerment.
Organizing begins with the premise that 1) the problems facing inner-city communities do not result from a lack of
effective solutions, but from a lack of power to implement these solutions; 2) that the only way for communities to
build long-term power is by organizing people and money around a common vision, and 3) that a viable organization
can only be achieved if a broadly based indigenous leadership – and not one or two charismatic leaders – can knit
together the diverse interests of their local institutions."
So, any ideas; what the main issue? Is there a venue for this discussion? Who should be included? How do we gain
momentum and get something that's real and concrete to come out of this; something that kicks ass to our main
issue? Would we then gain the momentum and power to take on the other issues?
I realize this all sounds like stuff you've heard before. But on the other hand, when are we going to see change? When does that start? Not the politico rendition but the real one; the one when education is open to everyone, when your doctor isn't about going to the emergency room and young men don't feel the need to carry a weapon anymore.
Anyway, I've written this because we matter - you matter. And you have the resources, connections and
knowledge to make it happen. Can you get on board? In the words of the Isley Brothers: "When will there be a
harvest for the world?"