Do You DIY? Sustainability in the City

I recently visited West Virginia for work.  My colleagues and I were connecting with one of our partners, New Vision Renewable Energy.  The visit blew my mind on so many different levels.  First and foremost, this organization is quite literally bringing a new vision for energy to our local communities and international brothers/sisters.  Solar panels, aquaponics, and innovative recycling were just the beginning.  They showed us Life in a Box containing lifesaving water filtration pouches as well as recycled iPods containing education and literacy tools.

What I really sopped up like a swiffer is the fact that this kick ass work is headquartered out of the humble city of Philippi, West Virginia. Community members, neighbors, local colleges, churches, school aged, college aged, middle aged retired, and newly professional are all leaning in to bring economic resources and environmental sustainability to those in need.  New Vision bridges science, education, and faith in ways that big cities can learn from.

Don’t get it twisted; I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was en route to Philippi.  As a city girl, and more specifically a sister city girl, I had my trepidation about what kind of reception would be waiting for us.  My first wtf flag flew up when our tour began in a cemetery.  Yep, you read it right.  We drove through and stopped at the cemetery where each of the four main families from this city were buried.  You know that was felt as wrong as wearing a wool sweater without a bra.  I thought to myself, if this is the kick off, I should call my babies now and tell the oldest where my life insurance papers are in case mama don’t make it back from West Virginia. Well, as always, God gave me a big face palm and reminded me that His heart is present in all shapes and iterations, and that past disappointments never change His will; that only an open heart and mind can receive new blessings.  All that said, this is truly the only experience I’ve had where being the only Black folk in a sea of rural, White Christians was not only ok, it was a gift.  Damn, I can’t even believe my jaded ass just wrote that.  Woo, life is a trip.

So, in observing the incredible work of New Vision, it was mentioned that people, once almost void of financial resources and self-sufficiency, are empowered when they learn that the energy they are struggling to pay for; that the heat, food, and clean water they depend on outside companies to provide, is actually a product they can make themselves.  Rather than be held hostage to forces outside their control, these communities are creating and maintaining sustainable, renewable energy for their own families.  New Vision provides the raw materials and the training and presto! A once elusive commodity suddenly becomes DIY.

Well this got me to thinking: what am I unnecessarily outsourcing in my day to day life? In terms of my family’s day to day consumption, I was definitely swayed to think about ways to capture and re-use rainwater (we are in Tacoma, after all), and incorporate LED lights, high efficiency appliances, etc.  And yes, this should have occurred to me some time ago, but the green movement is definitely something marketed to and accessed by White folks.  This is ironic to me considering Black folk used to be the sole hands, feet, muscle, and brain driving the economic growth of this country (and others).  Despite our ability to hustle, bounce, back and innovate, we are not traditionally invited to the table to learn and cultivate the lessons of environmental sustainability.  For whatever reason, the idea of teaching these lessons to Black Africans is much sexier than going to say, Camden New Jersey and letting those brothers and sisters bear the fruit of these resources.

Center for Sustainable Urban Systems Quarterly Research Briefing

What are we paying others to do that we can be doing ourselves? Who do we trust to feed us, fuel us, and teach us? Are we taking the time to be informed about what we are consuming and passing on to our youth?

I don’t know, y’all. I don’t pretend to have any answers. But I do have the desire and will to do better, do my best for our people. Staying in constant pursuit of truth and empowerment will reveal a path that leads to our special brand of milk and honey; nectar that we brew, pour, and place on the lips of all our kin…with nothin but love lacing the ladle.

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Hope for the Weary

Happy Monday, peeps!  How I miss connecting with you all!  This blog thing falls short in that I can’t give you all a pound, a hug, a hip bump, or some other cool ass reunion gesture.  Oh well, we’ll settle for words then, right?

I’ve been slammed at the office, and focused on preparing for a couple of poetry performances.  With a not-so-gentle push from my inner circle–more like a pistol to the temple, really–I’ve taken a step out to share my work.  Fear and uncertainty be damned, I’m putting it all out there.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a shivering bitch. Guzzling red wine and fiddling with my afro,  I took the stage to join in The Tacoma Round last night at the the closing performance for the Broadway Center’s Fall Free for All. I carefully climbed the short staircase in my platform booties (complete with Dr. Scholl’s inserts of course), and offered T-town a little piece of my heart.

And damn if it didn’t feel good. Now in general I take great lengths to remain anonymous and cut off in my day to day activities.  I’m an introvert.  I have home training, I’m polite, engaged in the well being of my fellow humans, but small talk, socializing, and strangers scare the ever loving shit out of me.

Last night was different.  The energy of the crowd, my fellow performers (Shenandoah Davis, you are legendary), and what I can only describe as the presence and comfort of God, made a situation that would have previously emptied my bowels, feel like a homecoming.

Facing my fear gave me hope, and transformed my perspective on what I am capable of.  Powerful shit, right?  Folks showed love, and I was humbled and hopeful.  And hopeful is something I haven’t been for a little while.  Hanging on yes, but hopeful? No.

I’ve posted the pieces I shared on the Poetix page…I welcome your comments, but I prefer you adoration.  Just kidding…sort of.

I’m back in the swing, people.  Get at your girl.

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

Future of the Funk: Sundaze at the Social

Hello, my lovelies! Forgive my absence, Betty needed a little R & R. Palm Springs was beautiful, but there’s no place like home. And I just had to share the new Sunday afternoon hot spot. My brotha from anotha motha, Eddie Sumlin, aka Mr. Melanin, is dropping mad beats and chill vibes every Sunday afternoon from 2 to 6 pm right here in T-town. Sundaze at the Social offers good eats, dope tracks, smart cocktails, and more importantly, mad ambience. You’ll be head bobbin’ and hob nobbin’, baby! Mr. Melanin offers masterful mixes to include funk, neo soul, hip hop, world, and just overall deliciousness. Sexy ear candy, rolled in nickel bag of funk. This brotha is the truth, and his intention is to offer a unique platform for fly guys and gals to gather and vibe. You need to check it out. Sunshine, soul, swag….you know you want some. Act like you know.
Sundaze at the Social
2-6 p.m.

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