This is How We Do It: Reflections on the Downtown Block Party

I was so proud of T-town on Saturday when ,e and my crew attended the Downtown Block Party. We came, we saw, we shook our collective groove thangs! The Hilltop Pops, the PSP pizzas, the beer garden…it was what James Brown would call “a funky good time.”  A project of Downtown Tacoma Neighbors and Local Life Tacoma, the block party had an amazing variety of kid-friendly activities and crafts, as well as an on-site T-shirt screen for a custom made keepsake shirt.

As the night fell it was so great to watch young Black brothas in basketball shorts, middle aged White men, a Filipino grandma in her wheelchair, and my personal favorite, a blind woman with a three-legged toy poodle…they were all groovin’ to the music, taking turns with the soul train line, and teaching each other how to Dougie. Oh, it was something to see, my loves! Like many cities, we might bump into each other during work or school, but we live, play, and congregate in a very segregated manner. North End, Hilltop, Eastside, Proctor District, South End—we don’t feel inclined to build relationships or even patronize businesses outside of our neighborhoods. It’s really quite sickening because we need every spoke in our neighborhood wheel to transform our city. Nothing corny here, baby, I’m talking interdependence and solidarity here. I’m talking mutual respect and sharing economic, political, and social resources. I’m talking quality and affordable grocery stores in EVERY neighborhood (holla at me Eastside and Hilltop), streets without potholes the size of beach balls, more libraries than liquor stores, and innovative educational models for every school in the 253.

I know, I know, I’m shooting high. Yeah, I admit it. But hell, what I’m supposed to do, shoot for the ground? Aim for the mediocre? Um, no. In fact, hell no.

While I recognize the above aspirations involve systems, institutions, resources, and conflicting philosophies, we can take the first step towards achieving them through two basic elements: CONVERSATION AND SPACE.

Talking, laughing, meeting. Hula hooping, face painting, lobbying, and of course, electric sliding. This block party encouraged my spirit because it was a testimony that we can share space to celebrate our fucked up lives and aspire to an even better one. Check out these gems:

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It was crazy to be dancing to some of favorite jams from high school and college with my 15-year old, my 8 year old, a super preppy White dude in pastels with a golden retriever, and of course, the three legged toy poodle. I so regret not asking what his name was.

All this to say, I was proud of my city and our will to engage with each other. My prayer, though, is that we can take that willingness from the dance floor to the board rooms, classrooms, court rooms, and our living rooms.  Let’s take it home with the most popular jam of the night:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.N.I.T.Y. It’s About to Go Down

So, I had a shit day.  Too much to do, not enough time, and folks don’t give a damn about my timelines, intentions, or competing priorities.  Whatev. Well, my mood and outlook quickly turned around as I attended the city council meeting.  Yep, you read it right.

I know I know, these are generally not a fun fest.  However, this evening Mayor Strickland proclaimed that United Tacoma Day will be observed January 7, 2013, and every year thereafter.  It was on January 7m 1884 that old Tacoma and new Tacoma merged to incorporate as Tacoma.  This day will provide a reminder and platform to celebrate mobilization and connectivity among communities in the city.  This encouraged my heart in a time where, although Tacoma’s diversity is lifted up, our neighborhoods remain segregated and working in silos.

JD Elquist (center) with Travis Pranger (left) and Dorian Waller (right)

We have JD Elquist to thank for the proclamation.  JD, although relatively new to the Tacoma area, is extremely passionate about Tacoma, and committing his time and talent to cultivating a unified, thriving and just community in the 253.  JD is clothing designer by trade, but is immersing himself in city systems, community networks, and personal relationships to implement positive change in Tacoma.
Articulate and easy going, JD is modeling a movement proving that the young folk got juice.  As so many other movements throughout history, the vision and innovation of emerging leaders are an imperative in community development. JD is just the squeaky wheel young Tacoma needs to get good and motivated.

Keep your eye out for announcements and opportunities to volunteer and contribute to United Tacoma.  Mark your calendars for January 7, 2013.  The city needs some traditions to counter the negativity that continues to plague our reputation.

Join me in thanking JD for taking risks and believing in a united Tacoma. And google the brother. He’s the truth.  Here’s his recent TED talk to prove it:

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BB

How Deep Is Our Love?

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
― Rumi

I spent my morning watching a re-run. Not my usual Sunday morning syndicated stuff.  You know, Law and Order, Roseanne, Fashion Police. I paused on C-SPAN for a panel discussion at the Harlem Book Fair from June 2012.  Entitled “Democracy 2012: The panel consisted of some serious heavy hitters to include Cornel West, poet Sonia Sanchez (a goddess as far as I’m concerned), Penial Joseph of Tufts University, and Khalil Muhammad, Director of the Schomberg Center. The discussion was rich, virtually stuffed to the gills with the sharp, biting wit of Dr. West, and the esoteric sweetness and disarming grace of Professor Sanchez. They covered everything from an analysis of President Obama’s administration thus far to examining the concept and role of democracy for contemporary Black America. One concept kept coming up over and over again. Regardless of the political terminology, historical references, and overall academic carriage of most of the panel, the concept of self-love was brought forth repeatedly. The absence of self-love and self-worth; as a barrier to educational and economic equity; as a missing ingredient in the establishment and maintenance of a Black political agenda; and as preventing out youth and 20-somethings from being a driving force in advocacy, activism, and policy change. While at first it may seem that self-love, self-image, self-worth and the like are far too existential to plug into the methodical and tedious constructs of the Black politic and our collective liberation, I quickly came to a different conclusion. The value, the very importance one attributes to his/herself, and his/her community is the spark that causes revolution to catch a fire.

Fundamental rights, not privileges.

Humans, not statistics.

Non-negotiables.

Entitlements, not perks.

What do we believe we deserve? More importantly, what are we willing accept? The space between the two is where we may be able to find a manifesto for Black people in the 21st, 22nd, 23rd century.  I use the word “may” because it is difficult for me to see the areas where we will mobilize for the collective.  Our subscription to individualism and assimilation has resulted in a survivor mentality. We kill our own, eat our own, and discount our past as quickly as we put those history books back on the shelf. I have to be very intentional in teaching my children the history of Black people; the history of us. Where we have been, what we have endured, and the struggles that still remain. And I am by no means an expert, or even a role model. However, I strongly believe it behooves us to do whatever we can, whenever we can to support the development of identity in our children. This is not a matter of names and dates, inventions and famous firsts.  It is a matter of pride, a matter of self-knoweldge, knowledge which if relayed with any sense of accuracy and integrity could result in nothing short of a chin up, chest out, serious strut of self-love.

I don’t believe our children know enough about our history.  Mainly because we don’t know enough about our history.  And unfortunately rather than learn it together, complacency seduces us into simply imbueing our babies with the very poison that sustains this inferiority complex. I’m not suggesting we aspire to be foremost authorities on the civil rights struggle or the Great Migration.  What I am urging us to consider is instilling pride in our kids based on models of courage and devotion to the collective vs. the attainment of stuff (shoes, phones, swag–whatever the fuck that involves)  I feel us starving, growing flimsier and flimisier. Threads to our identitiy as a driving, undeniable force have grown frayed and tattered.  We grow more and more isolated from our incredible truth and instead turn to the images presented on TV and internet.  And we all know that ain’t goin’ nowhere good.

Sonia Sanchez offered an amazing point. She suggests that we have forgotten that although we cannot control the images that prevail, we can reject them.  We can say, “No, I don’t accept that; I don’t own that as truth,” and we can push it back on the parties that tried to feed it to us, ask us to reflect upon it, tempt us to gossip about it, or pay money to see it.  I so appreciated this comment because it reminds me that we all have the individual power to make choices.  Choices that bring and sustain life to our dignity, or choices that push us toward more modern day minstrel shows.

While you may not initally be able to change policy, programming, or re-allocate funding, you can:

  • Change the channel
  • Ask questions vs. always answering them
  • Affirm your people vs. criticize or judge them
  • Cross the socioeconomic divide and build relationship with those who make less money, have been exposed to less experiences than you (go to the juke, speak to the borther on the corner, look that sister in the eye instead of avoiding her gaze, get to know some young folk)

I love being Black. I love being a woman. I love being a human in this precarious and unpredictable world.  But damn if that shit don’t hurt sometimes.  But with love comes risk, loss, lessons, but most importantly investment.  We must invest our hearts, minds, and money in a love movement; one that re-establishes the very real and perfect truth: WE MATTER. Like any other courtship, we must court ourselves into a blissful state of movement, of demands without apology, of unity without mutiny. I crave that homecoming. And although I’m barefoot on broken glass, stumbling over my own doubt, I will never stop trying to find my way home.

Black love lives in this cat here. Listen, and try not to fall in love:

Amazing, right? You’re welcome.

Check out the full panel discussion here.

Loving you madly,

BB

Wisdom: It Aint’ Just for Yoda

Local badass, Patricia Talton breaks down the importance of incorporating WISDOM, rather than simply intellect as we work to transform our communities and ourselves.  Watch:

Pushing beyond the shortcomings and restrictions of the merit based system in which we operate is imperative to creating and advocating for systems, policies, and relationships that are inclusive, equitable, and just human.  Wisdom always considers and uplifts the needs of the collective versus individual benefit.

How are you striving for wisdom in your work and relationship?

If I was asked this, I would first panic.  I’d sweat, get a little nauseous, then take solace in the roots that fed the people that gave me life.  I practice wisdom by pausing before I speak.  By reflecting, on both my motives, and the continuum of stakeholders at play.  Whether it’s my own children, or the youth with which we work; my circle of friends, or virtual strangers whose path cross with my own.  I must sit still, sit in the uncertainty, and let my heart and instinct lead me.  It’s not a sexy sell.  It’s not evidence based or rooted in any theoretical model.  It is, however, the tie that binds me to other human beings.  My spirit, my soul is fed by the act of respecting and feeding the soul and spirit of others.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu presses us to practice this life of interdependence called Ubuntu, which states “I am because you are.” There is no triumph for me without an equal victory for you.  Abundance prevails over scarcity and rivalry.  There is always enough for everyone, because individually, we make it so.  To operate any other way is unacceptable.  Caring for the whole is not only smart, it is wise.  For if we give voice to more than just our needs, we are not just engaging in community, we are taking ownership of it. And ultimately, we are caring for ourselves in a way that no degree, promotion, or economic windfall could.   

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Wise Woman, by Veeno. On veenomandala.com

Back on track with Inadequate Woman’s Syndrome this weekend.  Stay tuned.

Mad love and unending blessings.

BB

Peace March in My Hood

Bryant Montessori here in Tacoma marched through the Hilltop to promote neighborhood unity. Kids, parents, and a big ole dove. This blessed me. How can we be ACTIVE participants in the betterment of our communities? Can we, as adults, empower and trust youth to spearhead the efforts that will impact them? Can we share the spotlight, the power, and most importantly, the credit in revitalizing and healing our neighborhoods? We better recognize.

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Blessings and incredible happiness this weekend. Betty loves you.