Social Justice

California Water Policies Show Priorities

Lake Oroville in Butte County, CA

The headline screamed across the page: "NASA Scientist Predicts California Has One Year of Water Left!" Famiglietti later said he was misquoted and that he was talking about our reservoirs, only part of our overall water supply. But it doesn't take a NASA scientist to know that, four years into record drought, California is in bad shape. The before and after pictures of lakes and snow caps show a state that is drying up.

Given the urgent need for effective action, it was alarming to see the online comments in response to the article. People blamed green lawns, swimming pools, and ultimately overpopulation. This thinking mirrors the messages from our state officials: don't water your lawn, take shorter showers, put a brick in your toilet tank. While I am entirely in favor of xeriscaping and other personal practices that lessen our impact on Mother Earth, the reality is that it isn't the number of residents nor our “water-wasteful ways” that are taxing California resources. Estimates vary widely yet still tell a similar story:

  • Depending on whom you believe, between 6-14% of California's water goes to residential use. All the toilets, showers, bathtubs, washing machines, dishwashers, lawns, and yes, even swimming pools, in residential properties amounts to about 10% of total water use.

  • Depending on whom you believe, between 40-85% of California's water goes to agriculture. (Most estimates say about 80%.) Just the amount of water needed for the miles of almond orchards alone is the same as domestic water use for the state's entire 38.8 million residents.  Residents are fined $500 for over-watering lawns but corporate farmers are not required to use the most water-efficient irrigation techniques.

  • Despite dire drought, California continues to allow fracking, which uses billions of gallons of water per year. But that isn't the only strain that fracking poses on California's water supply. Once the water has been used and irreversibly contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals, it's disposed of underground, where it has contaminated potable ground water.

  • Despite dire drought, California continues to allow private companies to bottle our water and sell it for their profit. While residential water use is increasingly monitored, companies like Nestlé, under its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands, extract water without any regulation from local agencies.

California's water crisis is so severe that Gov Brown declared a state of emergency last year and recently signed a $1 billion emergency spending bill to address the situation. But if you look at the bill, it leaves corporate interests intact while putting ever more pressure on residential “water wasters.”  Telling residents, who collectively comprise just 10% of our annual water usage that we need to cut back, while placing no restrictions on corporate interests that make up more than 80% of water usage does not make sense. 

Some might argue that we need to support farms because of the economy and jobs.  However, Gov Brown supports diverting essential water from the smaller, family-owned farms and fisheries of the Sacramento River Delta in order to bolster the larger, corporate-owned farms of the Central Valley. These same corporate farms use chemical pesticides that have poisoned the local water supplies of the people who live near and work for them.

Some might argue that we need to allow fracking for the oil and for jobs. However, federal officials have cut their estimate of the amount of recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale deposits by 96%. (That's right, less than 1/20th of original estimates.) Yet we would poison precious water so that fossil fuel companies can squeeze out what little profits they can.

One can only conclude that despite the urgent need for change, state officials continue to favor the profits of corporations over the best interests of the people.  And in that respect, what is happening in California is instructive to the rest of the country. 

On a spiritual level, these policies also hint at the pervasive, destructive belief that humans are somehow inherently bad for the environment (ie - "overpopulation", "too many of us").  This forces us into a false choice between caring for our own welfare and that of our Earth and sibling species.  (No wonder so many people decide not to care!)  In reality, the problems caused by bad environmental policies could be remedied if we had the will to change. 

Do not accept the lie that it's California residents who are responsible for the water crisis.  Do not let corporate interests off the hook.  Please sign one, two or all of the following petitions:

 

Color-Blind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are the reflections I shared with First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco for MLK Sunday service, 2015.  As worship associate, it was my task to speak (about race) from personal experience, not to preach about systemic injustices perpetuated against others.  So that's what I did. (Image from empathyeducates.org.)

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When I was a teenager, I was much smarter than I am now, judging by how much I thought I knew. All the social problems that grownups seemed unable to remedy... I thought I knew the solutions. One of those seemingly intractable problems was racism. Racism, or so I thought, was treating people badly based on inherited differences in physical traits, the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, the shape of their eyes... So the solution seemed obvious to me. Encourage people to be color-blind, to not see race. Eventually, we'd all interbreed, race would disappear, and so would racism. Problem solved.

I should mention that I grew up here in San Francisco. And while I had a few experiences of being verbally and even physically harassed over race, in general, I grew up relatively sheltered, which is what my parents had worked hard for. As I moved into academia in young adulthood, that degree of shelter only increased. In grad school at Caltech where half of the graduate students were foreign born and people tended to be pretty liberal, it was so rare to experience overt bigotry that on the few occasions that it happened I could brush it off as personal ignorance, which it is. My friends (who were mainly white) treated me just like them, which is what I wanted. Or so I thought.

But every now and then, something would happen that would disturb the cocoon around me. I remember when Michael Chang came on the scene as a professional tennis player. I was so excited, until one of my classmates chided me for celebrating Chang's success because of his race. After all, if we're colorblind, I'm not supposed to have noticed that as I was growing up there had been no one who looked like me succeeding in sports. There was the time I tried to explain to my boyfriend how my parents would argue with friends over who would “get to pay” the restaurant bill, except the argument was scripted and they would take turns “losing.” He incredulously accused my parents of being dishonest because they didn't mean what they actually said. I knew he was being unfair but couldn't explain why. After all, if we're color-blind, then everyone should conform to the same cultural norms, “our norms”, and white American culture values direct communication. And I remember the night a distressed friend confided in me about the argument he'd just had with his girlfriend. He'd been detained by police who were looking for a robbery suspect, the only feature they shared being they were both young Black men. His girlfriend thought he was making a big deal over nothing, and my friend, who'd immersed himself in white liberal circles just as I had, needed to know that someone else saw things his way. I did, but again couldn't explain why. And neither could he.  So we sat confused together. After all, if we're “color-blind,” then the only racism we can recognize is overt racial bigotry. We can't point to social patterns based on race since we're not supposed to be looking for them.  (And if you do point to them, you get accused of being racist.)

Yet even if we're not looking for patterns, our minds notice them anyway, IF we directly experience them.

In my sheltered world, the incidents of overt racial bigotry were few and far between, but I (and folks like me) were continually hurt nonetheless, not by bigots but by our friends. People who espouse liberal values and sincerely try to treat all people the same. I finally had to admit that the color-blind approach, frankly, sucks. Instead of solving racism, it perpetuates it, because it takes away the ability recognize diversity, and privilege.

The theme for this month is reconciliation, and in honor of Dr. King, the focus this week is on racial reconciliation. Usually, when we speak of reconciliation, we think of a positive outcome. But as I thought and thought about what I might share with y'all today, I could think of no happy ending with respect to race. Of course there has been progress, and I believe as Rev. King did that our universe ultimately bends towards justice. But with prisons and morgues full of black and brown bodies put there by our “justice” system, the only racial reconciliation that I can genuinely speak to is internal, between me and race itself. I once was blind but now I see.

Penniless, not Destitute or Indigent

Being penniless has not been as bad as the nightmare my imagination conjured. I choose the word penniless over words like destitute, or indigent, because those two words also mean without resources. For years I volunteered and donated to the local homeless shelter knowing, "There but for the Grace of God."

The Affordable Care Act aka "Obamacare" is a godsend. This year it made me eligible for Medi-Cal, which had been limited to Social Security recipients, and children. Upon becoming eligible for Medi-Cal, Kaiser Permanente re-enrolled me  on the smallest of technicalities. I had Kaiser the first three weeks of 2012, which were my last three weeks of seminary. This enabled me to go to the doctor today to get prescriptions refilled, and while I was there, a flu shot. No charge. On the county insurance for the indigent, my prescriptions were no cost, but it took getting a lawyer to go after the homeowners insurance of where I fell to get the necessary care for my back and neck. Prior to the last year of seminary, the cost of COBRA plus medication was astronomical.

Although I loathe asking for help, my circumstances have forced me to ask, learn, and be subject to the capriciousness of public assistance. My second year of CalFresh, food stamps in the old parlance, started without interruption in spite of my turning in the wrong paperwork. The worker and I went back and forth until we realized that we were talking about two different packets. Food stamps are great, except any goods that are not food, are not eligible. Soap, shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent, pet food, and any other non-food items in the store are ineligible.

My post earlier this spring, touched on all of this. I overcame my shame and applied for cash aid this time last year. Through a clerical error, it was taken away early this year. I neglected to follow up that post, which detailed some of the trouble. The aid was reinstated in April. That lasted until the end of June. In July, a representative from another program that I had been  limbo for told me an answer would take two months. I was expecting an answer in September. I preached a few times for small stipends during the summer. Knowing the cash aid would have been stopped for earning the stipends anyway, I let it go. Either were to have held me through August, which they did.

September came and went. So, too, October. Mid-November brought the realization that taking the other program at its word, even with diligent follow-up, was not in my best interest. I returned to the county office to reapply for cash aid, only to learn that the reason it ended in June was another clerical error.  The past few months have been exceedingly difficult. If not for the graciousness of the woman who has allowed me to stay, things would be  much, much worse. Now that autumn, or winter, has finally arrived I am even more grateful.

In the days leading up to  Thanksgiving, I was struggling. I spent too much early in the month on groceries; I was going into yet another holiday season without enough to buy raw materials to make gifts in time; Here was another season of being unable to donate; Here was one more season of not supporting my faith community to which I'm still unable to drive. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving did remind to be grateful, despite indigenous history. My list of complaints is a list of first world problems. I have healthcare that includes mental health, a place to sleep, bathe, and keep my laundry clean and inside. I regularly have access to a car. I have food and clean water, not only to eat and drink, but a place to keep and prepare the food. I have good weather the vast majority of the time. I had a few weeks in July in which I did not worry about the future. I have a dog who thinks it's the best day ever every single time she returns from her walk to find me home. I have a neighbor who walks her daily and keeps her when I'm not there so that the dog does not have to be kenneled too much.

I have faith communities that regularly invite and/or welcome me to their midst: the Pasadena Mennonites, a supper club, a new Buddhist sangha, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, the newly interfaith Peace and Justice Academy. I am grateful for dear friends and my parents who have been generous and encouraging. Kimberly, too. Recently, I posted someone's meme with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It was the normal pyramid, but underneath, two new layers were added with a digital pen. The first meme added wi-fi. The humor was that it was under the very basic needs, implying that it was most important, the foundation. Next, someone added second layer below wi-fi. Bicycle became the foundation for the most basic need to be met. Therefore, in addition to the things I am grateful for listed above, I still have a bicycle and access to wi-fi. Life is, dare I say it, good.

It seems too much to ask, then, to stop being in limbo so that I can begin to move forward. I am going to house-sit over the holidays, but it is time to find another place to live. In the meantime, I take pleasure in the little things and stay focused and present each day. Most of all, I am not alone. I do have resources. My imagination conjured much worse. I am reminded of another quote I read often. "The misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never happen." -James Russell Lowell

UUism and Social Justice: Don't Make Me Choose

This morning UU World announced that the sale of mineral rights, donated over two decades ago by a generous Texas couple, will net the UUA close to a million dollars, and that money will allow the UUA to close its large budget deficit without borrowing from the Endowment.  I read the news with ambivalence. On the one hand, there is the generosity of the Carpenters, which shines through in the article.  And it is a great relief to not have to dip into the Endowment.  Otoh, selling mineral rights that allow companies to drill for oil means more carbon that is taken out of the ground and burned into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Moreover, such drilling always comes with other ecological damage - pollution of the land and water.  These things directly contradict our values and numerous social witness statements that we've passed in recent years about moving away from the use of fossil fuels, combatting global warming/climate change, and care for the interdependent web of all existence.  The UUA supported civil disobedience at the White House to stop approval of the Keystone XL pipeline in 2011 and more recently supported the People's Climate March in NYC this past Septemeber.  What's most puzzling is that this obvious conflict wasn't even mentioned in the article.

(Perhaps it should not be surprising since previous decisions such as the sale of 25 Beacon and the redesign of the UUA logo were announced similarly - with onesided positivity and no acknowledgement that some folks might find the decision troubling.)

I could go further into how the sale of mineral rights allowing oil companies to drill is so problematic and at odds with our stated values, and perhaps if necessary I will at a later time, but the thing that motivated me to write today is this: Every time the UUA does something controversial the same general pattern of conversation occurs.  Party A points out that that there is something wrong with the action.  Party B criticizes party A for being critical, suggesting that party A is (pick one or all of the following) judgemental, ungrateful, lacking joy, unwelcoming, making a mountain out of a molehill, and "no wonder we can't grow." 

It doesn't matter what the issue is, whether it's a moral/justice issue or something to do with internal organization, this pattern happens within our UU community.  And I've already seen this pattern emerge within the conversation/comments following the UU World post. 

There is some truth to the claim that we make mountains out of molehills.  For example, the mini firestorms that erupted when someone created "Standing on the Side of Love" stoles and clergy shirts.  And I totally recognize that it's hurtful to start one's objections off by attacking fellow UUs who are trying to do something for the community, no matter how vehemently we may disagree with their actions.  Assumption of good faith needs to be the foundation of our conversations with each other.  There are ways to point out how an action is problematic while still honoring the inherent worth of all parties involved, and as people in religious community we should always remember that.

That said, it is irksome to read statements suggesting that any kind of disagreement is unwelcome and/or that such criticisms are the reason why our congregations are lacking joy and no one wants to join us.  The implication being that we should never offer critique, no matter how tactfully stated, no matter how important the issue, if we want Unitarian Universalsim to be vibrant and growing, even if the criticism is that we are violating our stated values, as is the case here.  First of all, let me say that I don't believe that's true - I don't believe we have to choose between critique and healthy, happy congregations.  That is a false choice.  Secondly, even if it were true (which it's not) that one has to choose between pointing out how an action does not align with our values and growing Unitarian Universalism, I will choose the values.  Every time.  If we don't live by our values, then I don't care if we don't grow.

That last sentence should not even be considered a controversial statement.  It really shouldn't. So finally the reason for this post: Growth for its own sake is not inherently good.  Unitarian Universalism for its own sake is not inherently good.  These things are good only in so far as they promote the greater good, for humankind, for our sibling sentient beings, for our Mother Earth. 

There are so many admonitions within Buddhist traditions about confusing the vehicle for the destination.  Zen warns us to not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.  The Buddha warned us not to hold tightly to rafts that might have safely carried us across waters but then become burdensome to carry on dry land.  The point is that we need to always be aware of what the true goal is and what are just vehicles that can carry us to that goal.  For me, the goal is the Beloved Community, or as my family's Buddhist tradition would put it, the Pure Land.  The Land where systemic oppression does not exist, exploitation of the Earth and her children (both human and otherwise) does not exist, where beings are unencumbered by the suffering caused by injustice and thus can reach their fullest potentials, whatever those potentials might be.  That is the goal (for me).  Unitarian Universalism is a vehicle to help us reach that goal.  A worthy vehicle that I love, filled with people whom I love, but still just a vehicle.  (The Buddha said the same thing of Buddhism, urging us to even let go of his teachings if they get in the way.)  I believe that Unitarian Universalism can help us reach the Pure Land, which is why I am a UU. And despite occassional missteps, I have faith that we will eventually always do the right thing.  But if it comes down to having to choose between UUism and a just, sustainable world where our Earth and her inhabitants are not exploited for profit, then yes, I choose the latter.  I would hope that after careful consideration, no UU would ever really demand such a choice.

On “10 Things You can’t Buy With Food Stamps”

Think about which personal care items you could live without. Could you pick? Would it be deodorant? Toothpaste? Toothbrush? Soap? Shampoo? What about laundry detergent? These are just some of the things that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. [1] I’ve been experimenting with baking soda and vinegar for my hair and baking soda for my teeth, for environmental, as well as money reasons. Last year, I bought them in large quantities for cleaning, along with a large supply of laundry detergent and Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. Next is homemade deodorant.

Yet, try to get a teenager to forego shampoo or deodorant. Imagine trying to brush a toddler’s teeth with something other than toothpaste. What do you substitute for diapers and powder. Diapers, tampons and pads are also not covered. Thus, mothers are penalized more heavily. Make-up would be out, of course, but so, too, are lip balm and lotion.

This has become the reality for more and more of households suffering from food insecurity. Plus, the amount awarded is not enough if 90% of the funds are used by the third week. The fourth week is made up, for some, by local food banks. Others wait must it out.[2] There is the added indignity of not having, or being able to buy those items essential for being in public, let alone looking for employment.

Interestingly, a disproportionate number of gay and lesbian households receive food stamps. Lesbian couples also receive more cash aid, in all likelihood due to the diminished earning potential of women. “Some 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared with 6.5 percent of different-sex married couples. Moreover, 2.2 percent of women in same-sex couples receive government cash assistance, compared with 0.8 percent of women in different-sex couples.”[3] We cannot ignore the Transgender community who have double the unemployment rate, doubling once again to 28% for African American transgender individuals.[4] No wonder so many tragically end up homeless.

Those in poverty continue to be vilified by politicians. A climate of resentment has been cultivated by those in power, so much so that people forget teachings by their religion that tells to remember the poor. Worse the working poor earn just enough money to be unqualified for help. It is the rich that feel entitled. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the dignity of of each person. What are we called to do for the poor who walk among us?


[1] What You Can’t Buy

[2] SNAP Myths & Realities

[3] Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Poverty Update

[4] Transgender Face Uphill Battle

UU on the Ropes: The Frayed Safety Net

I keep finding myself unable to blog. It is not that I cannot find something to write about. There are plenty of things that are important to me, not the least of which is living out my Unitarian Universalist faith in the green and the LGBTQ communities. I write the posts in my head, but am bogged down by the thoughts of more immediate concern. If one were to look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I have hit bottom. A catastrophic fall a year ago means that I do not have an income. Through the generosity of my girlfriend Kimberly, and the co-owners of her house, I have been staying rent free. Going through the public health system to recover from my accident, meant being bounced back and forth between the county hospital and the county clinic for months, with no movement to actually fix discs pressing on my spinal cord in two places was its own punishment. Believe it or not, mental health through the county is remarkably better. That, too, has its own story.

Although I was very embarrassed to have hit so low, I finally applied for food stamps late last fall. The rhetoric against people on food stamps plus a healthy dose of denial and shame kept me from applying sooner. I was too embarrassed to apply for cash aid at the same time. Since I did have no income, nor disability, I finally for cash aid from the county a few weeks later. I had to see a county contracted doctor, first. I was awarded the cash aid, General Relief or GR, in December.

This past Christmas was my leanest yet. My mother and father each sent a bit of money. Since I had to provide bank statements I just knew that they would figure out if I deposited money in the bank.

Mistake number one: I misplaced a report that I received at the end of December, which I was to fill out and declare income including gifts. I was notified that my cash aid would end because I had not turned in the report. So I turned it in at the county office before the threatened day at the end of January.

Mistake number two: Being honest, I declared the small bit of money. I then needed documentation about the money I received for Christmas. I had to as my mother and father each to write a letter declaring that they gave me money for Christmas, and that it was a one time deal. Now, we are after the January 31 deadline. I went down to the county office, and turned it in. The worker was so nice. She said that she would put the paperwork in right away.

A few days later, I received three letters. One that they county overpaid me, and that they would be reducing the aid over the next several months to recover the loss. The overpayment was more than the amount one of my parents gave me. I suspect that it was the February money that was deposited on the 10th. The second letter said that my cash aid had been reinstated. The third letter said that it was discontinued.

By this time I am seriously confused. I did what they asked. It came to my attention that I would also need an outside referral from the county office. I called for more information and was told that I needed go down to the county office to fix the general relief before I could use the outside referral. I made an appointment, saw another worker. He said the GR should have been fixed, and gave the name of the worker in charge of facilitating the outside other service. He seemed convinced that the GR issue would be straightened out.

I made an appointment to see the referral worker, with stipulation that the GR be fixed, later that week. She told me to call her before the appointment to verify it had been restored. I called on the appointment day, and it had not been restored. So we made an appointment for the following week. We are now in the month of March.

Thankfully, I saw the worker for the outside referral even though the cash aid situation was not fixed the following week. After the appointment, I stood in the customer service line at the county office again so that they could tell me what I needed to do next. Apparently, they lost the copy of my ID. Now since I applied for the food stamps separately, they did have a copy of my ID scanned into the system. The kind young man printed it out, and submitted it for me.

March tenth, the day that the money becomes available, I took that card to make a withdrawal. I’ve been really stressing at this point with no cash, and no money in my bank accounts. It had the $5 balance from last month.

I waited for another week to call again. This time I called the main number. The worker told me that the GR continued to be cancelled, and not only that, due to the foul up, my food stamps, as well. Up until this point, the food stamps had been working.

Several days later, I called the main number again. This worker told me that I would have to go in to the county office again. I asked if it was better to just go straight in, or to make an appointment. He told me to make an appointment, so I made an appointment for the following day, March 17.

I got in line to check in. I was relieved that it was still in time for the appointment when I started to check in. The worker put in my information and told me my case was closed. She told me that if I came in the day before, I could have fixed it. No exceptions.

I went to the application line to start the process over. I sat down and the tears came running down. The pain, the paperwork, the frustration, the money anxiety, all got to me. I heard my name called relatively quickly, after 30 minutes or so. I went to the window, but the person was not there. The woman at that front of that line got testy as she thought I was cutting in. I waited a few minutes with the woman glaring at me. I went to the customer service window to see if my name had been called. On the first day that I applied, the fingerprinting worker garbled my name so badly, I had no idea it was me. It was not until the last call announcement, that I realized that they were calling me. So, the customer service guy called me up. I showed him my papers and asked if I’d been called. He told me, no. He noted that I’d been there only 45 minutes and the process takes at least 2 hours.

I went back to my seat, weeping profusely. I heard my name called again. I went in to see the worker. I just could not stop crying. I tried to explain what was going on. He went away, and came back after discussing my case with a supervisor. It should not have been closed. He also made me fill out a depression questionnaire and was going to make me see that worker. I assured him that I did not need to see them. He told me he was denying the current application, but that I should call back in 4 days. I started bawling at this point, and exasperated, he told me that the supervisor will fix the old case so that I could start receiving the cash aid as of March 1. Mollified, I went home.

I called him on the following Thursday. As it had not yet been reinstated, he gave me the name and number of a supervisor. He told me that he’d look into it and call back. He gave me the name of another supervisor. That supervisor looked into it, and said he’d call back. I’ve called him three times since. As of today, April 4, the case is not resolved. He told me today that it is not my fault and he is continuing to monitor it. He actually tried to call in a favor. I asked him to check on the status of the food stamps as I had not been shopping.

Thankfully, since I did apply food stamps and GR separately, the food stamps are intact. Welfare is a punitive system. The workers are harried from the sheer number of applications, but ultimately they are doing the best that they can, and they are kind. The worse part of this is all of the man hours by the county for just under $200 per month. I will have to be fingerprinted again.

The food and shelter are okay for now. I’m boiling up a pot of beans as I finish this up. This is just the tip of the iceberg. My multiple identities are all intact, but battered. I am still at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. I’ve just been unable to do higher ordered thinking. The best I can do is pin pretty pictures that inspire me, and hope to inspire others that way.

Update 4/15/2014

After being the squeaky wheel, and then giving some time for the supervisor to track things down, he called me back this past Tuesday. The case was back on track, and I’d need to come in to get fingerprinted again. Five hours waiting, and a panic that I would not make my next appointment, and I gave my fingerprints and another photo on Thursday. There was no money in the account again.

I called the supervisor today. He told me my case must be jinxed. This saga was due to clerical error. Although my fingerprint request was marked urgent by another supervisor on Thursday, the fingerprints were still not attached to my file.

He asked for my number again, and said he’d call me back. As he did before, I’m going to trust that he will call back. In the meantime, I found this tidbit about SNAP, which could be said for cash benefits as well:

"Two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error. Nearly one-fifth are underpayments, which occur when eligible participants receive less in benefits than they are eligible to receive." Feeding America.org

Update 4/17/2014 Mr. Frykholm came through. I am so grateful for his perseverance and referral to other supervisors to help when I came in. It was not perfect, as there are humans at every level. Still, that one person cared enough, or was conscientious enough to see this through. I will not be missing anymore deadlines.

Do Something

Poetry that Gives Birth to Revolution

Author: 
Christopher D. Sims a.k.a UniverSouL

We need powerful empowering poetry
Poetry that promotes positivity
Poetry that encourages people to progress

Poetry that gives birth to revolution

We need poetry
that puts on black berets,
black dashikis, black pants, and black boots
Poetry that rises and raises its fist
to run after the oppressor to oppose
its rendering racism

Poetry that challenges the boys in blue
Poetry that kicks butt while we sit back
and say, "Get 'em poetry!!"

Poetry that gives birth to revolution

Black folk need poetry
that gangsters the grime in the ghetto
Poetry that gathers graceless women,
gutless men, and guiltless children
to guide them back to greatness

Poetry that disintegrates crack
and evaporates alcohol so that we don't
continue to fall into destruction

Poetry that gives birth to revolution

This world needs poetry
that puts an end to poverty
to starvation
to homelessness
to A.I.D.S.
to dehumanization
to government regulation
to population control
to depletion of Earth's natural resources
to war
to worry
to suffering
to pain
to the Bush and Tony Blair regime

Poetry that gives birth to revolution!


(C) Christopher D. Sims
All rights reserved by author

Immigration Prayer

Author: 
Rev. Mark Belletini

O Love,
I come into your presence,
and the presence of this gathering,
as the grandchild of immigrants.
Immigrants who were not joyfully welcomed
by many inhabitants of this nation,
but ridiculed and accused of being a threat.
Immigrants who came to this land
in poverty and never became wealthy.
Immigrants whose English was never
as good as they wanted it to be.
Immigrants who were honest,
thrifty, hardworking, and who loved
this nation, even though many in this
nation despised their nationality of origin,
mocked their religion,
and pointed accusing fingers at them.
I am their grandchild, O Love,
and know this:
all human beings are inherently worthy,
and are worthy of respect and fair dealing.
All human beings, no matter their origin,
skills, education, language abilities or
religion, live lives as important to them
as my life is to me.
O Love, may I walk through this world,
where conversations about immigration
are often aflame with the exact same
disrespect and misunderstanding
leveled at my beloved grandparents,
with my head held high,
my memory strong,
my courage loud,
my solidarity secure.
May I give a voice to the voiceless,
and hold up a mirror of honesty
to the twists and distortions of the age.
O Love, set us free to serve you in peace. Amen.

What Is Hope?

Author: 
Rubem Alves

What is hope?

It is a presentiment that imagination is more real

and reality less real than it looks.

It is a hunch

that the overwhelming brutality of facts

that oppress and repress is not the last word.

It is a suspicion

that reality is more complex

than realism wants us to believe

and that the frontiers of the possible

are not determined by the limits of the actual

and that in a miraculous and unexpected way

life is preparing the creative events

which will open the way to freedom and resurrection…

The two, suffering and hope, live from each other.

Suffering without hope

produces resentment and despair,

hope without suffering

creates illusions, naivete, and drunkenness…

Let us plant dates

even though those who plant them will never eat them.

We must live by the love of what we will never see.

This is the secret discipline.

It is a refusal to let the creative act

be dissolved in immediate sense experience

and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.

Such disciplined love

is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints

the courage to die for the future they envisaged.

They made their own bodies

the seed of their highest hope.


Rubem A. Alves, Tomorrow’s Child, 1972

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