Friday, February 3, 2012

A Black Environmentalist's Perspective

I will begin this post by sharing with you the caliber of people I represent.  Far too often, we as people of color are seen as a single entity, but due to the increased opportunities that became available to us as a race of people, following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, some of us no longer can be considered a part of such a group.  Our only connection to being black is our color and occasionally some environmental circumstance (i.e. barber & beauty salons, or church). 

Now with that said, I want to clarify what part of the black race I am saying needs our help to prepare for the future.  If you are reading this, you are probably not the person I am speaking of, at least not at this juncture; your time for learning will come later, but for now I am merely speaking to you to solicit your attention.

I left off the last post saying I would talk about the need for us to reach out to our elderly.  To do so I have added the below photo because I realize in many parts of the country, some black Americans no longer live or exist in neighborhood that have the kind of store shown in the photo, so again, your issues may be different.  But for people whom actually live, work, or represent this kind of low-income community, I am hoping my comments will be beneficial.  I am also including this photo because it has to do with the term “food deserts”. 

A food desert is any area in the industrialized world where healthful, affordable food is difficult to obtain. Food deserts are prevalent in low-socioeconomic minority communities, and are associated with a variety of diet-related health problems.  Food deserts are also linked with supermarket shortage.


When there is a lack of supermarkets, neighborhood stores like the one in the photo is where residents in our low-income communities have to purchase their food, especially the elderly who usually lack adequate transportation to get to the kind of neighborhoods, where supermarkets prefer to locate.  This brings us to the point of why we decided we needed to find a way to reach the elderly. 

Environmental organizations all over the country are working to improve the quality of food available in low-income neighborhoods.  They are busy creating a network of community gardens.  The problem is when there is food available; the people who need it the most are bypassing the community garden efforts, causing neighborhood stores to suffer a loss carrying fresh produce (they are rotting on the shelves).  This is why reaching the elderly to explain the need for them to support this system is a necessity.




The photo on the left is of a farmer’s market we used to get our students prepared to open a market in the hood.  Of course the market was located in a suburb, but we wanted the students to experience what a successful market could do, as far as making money.  The photo on the right is in a lot across the street from the store in the above photo.  As you can see we built it but few, if any, came.  Those who did were excited to have such a market so close to home.  I remember an elderly lady on a cane, who said she had no problem walking to get there.

It is a known fact that getting the community itself to support fresh vegetables in a neighborhood store, would not only create more money being spent in the neighborhood, but if an agreement is reached with the store involved to hire neighborhood people with their profit, we would actually be creating an example of how the community could create a sustainability process that could one day be used by other businesses to also create jobs for the people who live in the neighborhood. 

We see such a turnover of money in every other ethnic community in our cities, and many of us wonder why we don’t see that in our own communities.  I personally have found that in most cases when a business locates and opens their doors in our low-income communities, other than some entertainment spot (eating or drinking establishments), barber, or beauty salons, we as a race of people usually don’t shop there.  Granted there are several reasons why, from the cost factors, safety issues, to the quality of service, but the bottom line is the business suffers from a lack of sustaining customers. 

Before I go any further, I want it known that my conclusions are not just some assumption.  To gather my information I have personally traveled across America in the last three years from coast to coast.  From the hoods in Compton and Oakland California; east on Interstate 80 through Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania to a wet experience at Niagara Falls; from St Louis, Memphis, through the Smokey Mountains to a trip the college-laden city of Raleigh, North Carolina.  Then this past October of 2011, I engaged in what was my very first trip through the south that included South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Dallas Texas, Oklahoma City, Wichita, and finally back to my own city in Kansas City, Kansas.  So when I speak, it is not something that I am assuming, it is from something I may have personally experienced. 

For instance, in my dealings with Black Americans, I qualified their relationship to our black communities by saying whether or not they would be willing to get a cup of coffee in the hood (coffee, not drugs, or other social fulfillments) but an actual cup of coffee, at a neighborhood store like the one in the above photo. 

My philosophical view is that when it gets to the point I am afraid to go into the black community, as far as I am concerned, we lost the battle. The so-called “man” has won.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that is the way it should be for everybody, because going into some parts of the hood on certain occasions can be dangerous; I am only saying that those who do, are keeping our fight for freedom, alive. 

When it comes to my opinion about inner city businesses, I find myself constantly saying that we as a nation of people are forcing them to make a living off the poor.  A similar circumstance is happening to the people who are striving to make a difference in the hood too.  I see them also as being forced to make a living, but this time with a slanted political agenda, which means that once again, we lose; even our liberal white brothers & sisters who actually understand (the Occupy 99%), have agendas that cause our freedom fighters, to actually lose to them too.  

So I am writing this blog to say to you, like Uncle Sam says in his famous recruiting poster!

We Need You!

For instance, I know for a fact the other ethnic groups were not born knowing how to turn their dollars over in their own community, they grew up seeing the benefits from doing so.  As far as I am concerned it is past time for us to start providing our future generations with these kinds of economic life (survival) skills too?


So that is why I see reaching out to the elderly as a necessity or an excellent place to start, seeking such a process.   

My next posting will share my rationale for reaching out environmentally to our youth.

Just in case you wondered, in almost all of the cities I visited, I found the hood.  For example, Buffalo, New York (where I stayed to visit Niagara Falls), and in the hood there is a restaurant named Gigi, which is an excellent place to not only eat, but also to visit.  So if you are ever in that city check it out, you won’t find it in those “welcome to the city” brochures, so just ask some respectful looking black person, which is how we found it. 

And yes, there were hustlers on the street, selling DVD’s:)


Friday, January 13, 2012

A Black Environmentalist's Perspective

THE MAJORITY OF OUR STUDENTS CAME TO US IN POVERTY, FROM THE CABINS OF THE COTTON, SUGAR, AND RICE PLANTATIONS OF THE SOUTH.  When creating my power points for the environmental presentations I make around the country, I started using this photo to show how little we had improved since the days when Booker T. Washington made that statement when speaking of how they received their students at Tuskegee once they opened their doors for former slaves to receive a higher education.  I do this because as far as I am concerned Hurricane Katrina, which is where this photo was taken, was an environmental Tragedy in this country that showed just how little we have accomplished as a race of people.  Black people in New Orleans were as helpless as were the people Booker T. Washington was seeing headed towards Tuskegee.  The difference being the former slaves were seeking a future, and the people in the picture above shows black people that were not only clueless of how to protect themselves, but how to do so safely too. 

It is not my intention to relive that on going sage (people are still somewhat disconnected) but to merely point out why we need to become more aware of our environmental circumstances.

I just saw Tavis Smiley & Cornel West today on Good Morning Joe’s News, talking about their Remaking of America project.  I heard them criticizing politicians for not address the poverty concerns in America, and I dearly support their effort.  However, while we are waiting for them or people like to be heard by the powers to be, incidents like a Katrina keep happening, where people of color need to be helped or advised.

I will never forget seeing sights like the following:


              Death on the Bridge

                                                                     The lady in the Chair

I can remember saying to the some black residents in my city, this could have been any of our mothers, who just could not get away, or out of harms way.  As freethinking adults, we should never again have such a sight in our city

Then I add this photo to emphasis what I am saying:

But what if God helped us, and we didn’t listen.  I feel this was God’s way of saying we should stop depending on man to save us.  The Katrina incident and even to this day, shows a lack of concern for poor people.  Which takes me back to my statement about Tavis Smiley & Cornel West effort to Remake America.  In the process of their remaking efforts, should also be a way for all of us as the American public, to do our part to make a difference too.  I don’t feel their effort should only be geared towards politicians, we all should feel a need to do something. 

I don’t feel learning how to preparing your own community for some disaster is asking too much.  It could happen to any of us, at anytime.  From the tornado's that hit in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri last year, to the drought conditions that has been plaguing the southwest (especially in Texas).

Which brings up a great point, we no longer can keep thinking what happens in New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles, will do as an example in Kansas; different strokes for different folks.   So while I share what I have done in Kansas to help prepare my city or community, instead of seeing what I am actually doing as the rule, see how I am doing it instead.

For instance, I see 2 groups of low-income residents in dire need of environmental literacy.

As I have already said one group is our elderly.

Who need to learn energy efficiency to cut their utility bill due to their fixed incomes; it is ridiculous for an older person to die, because of the heat during the summer, or freezing cold weather in the winter.  As far as I am concerned that by it self makes helping our elderly a great place for all of us to begin.

And the second group, again as far as I am concerned, is our youth

  We have to find a way to reach both groups as soon as possible, and that is what I am hoping my blog will help some of us begin to do.  We can't keep thinking someone else will do it.  If America is ranked 27th on the planet for S.T.E. M. educated students, where do you think our people of color students are ranked.  It is going to take us all, to make a difference.

My next blog posting will begin with how do we reach the elderly?  


Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Black Environmentalist's Perspective

If you have read any of my other blog entries, you would learned how my discovery and interest in the Environmental Movement came after I was introduced to David Korten, the author of "The Great Turning".  In 2007, I along with a couple of friends traveled to Columbus, Ohio to what was being billed as the first gathering of the Great Turning Navigators.

When I returned from that gathering, I determined to become the Great Turning Navigator for my city.  After meeting David Korten, reading his book, and gaining an understanding of “Peak Oil”, and the future affects we as a human race could possible find ourselves facing.  In order for the environmentalists I begin meeting to help me understanding the conditions they saw for our future, was to have me think about a 1981 move titled “Mad Max”; where people would kill for a once of fuel.  It wasn’t until I had such a visualization that I begin to realize, if we did not start preparing our future generations for the kind of life, the lost of fossil fuel would cause on this planet, the disappearing Black Community that Minister Farrakhan is warning us about, would become a disappearing world.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those Doom’s Day kind of person, but once I was able to understand the depth of what the environmentalists were predicting, my past Civil Rights Community Organizing mentality kicked in, and I saw preparing black people, (who as usual would probably be the last to be told of these circumstances), as my independent responsibility.

Then my concerned became, how do you take a portion of the population that has been disenfranchised from mainstream society, who due to survival circumstances, were far removed from the kind of concerns being expressed about the environment?

In may ways black people in America are similar in nature to the people in the Republic of China, as far as how they also feel about the concerns being leveled at them for their environmental missteps.   They feel, America or the Western world has only now, after years of their own excessive living and development, decided it is a problem, and wrong for the Chinese to do so.   Just when they (the Chinese) have reach a point of pulling themselves out of the dark ages, they are being told by environmentalists, by them excessively enjoy the benefits of their labor, they are being a major destroyer of the planet, environmentally.

In many ways we as a race are facing similar circumstances.  It kind of goes with what Minister Farrakhan was saying about us talking our eye off the prize.  Many of us have reached the point in life, where being able to enjoy the thrills of life can finally be a reality.  So how dare someone like me try to tell you your directions in life is destructive.  How can I possible expect you to listen to what I am trying to say?  With all of the pressing issues we have in our communities around the country and world, who am I to speak negatively of your choice of directions in life?

My main justification for understanding is because I realize if I were you, and someone was trying to say the things I am going to be saying to you, I would have those same concerns myself.  But I also realize, for me to assume my independent responsibility, I need to find a way.

It is not my intentions to say that I have the answers, as much as show you why I think we as a race were born to figure it out.  This is where my spirituality has been expanding long with my environmental awareness too.  I truly believe Black America’s lifestyle with its ability to survive and prosper, has always been apart of God’s master plan.

While most are totally at a lost as to where we as a race of people go from here, I truly feel we are God’s chosen people, who were regulated to a second-class status so we could truly, under the proper tutelage, discover our true purpose in life.

I am using this blog posting to stress how David Korten became my personal environmental intellectual guide, what he taught me about “Peak Oil”, and to then show how the movie Mad Max 2, help me visualize the need for me to get involved.

I am going to end this posting by sharing a statement that I got from David’s book that became my sign from God that I was where he wanted me to be, and since having that realization, the picture included with this posting is showing me doing what I feel some of us really need to be trained to do; teaching both our elderly as well as our future generations of their individual responsibilities too.   The above photo is of me taking time to teach our elderly about the environmental movement, and why they are still needed to help us teach their grand children too.  Our baby-boomers (me included) have knowledge that each of us who can, needs to find a way to extract.  The statement I am ending on will show why, I say we need to do so.

David Korten says in his book:

Leadership to create a world that works for all is more likely to come from those who live in the real world and consequently are intimately acquainted with the injustice, violence, and environmental failure that the Empire has wrought.

Empire (an imperial or imperialistic sovereignty, domination, or control)
Wrought (put together, created, or a carefully wrought plan)

Our elderly figured out how to overcome such circumstances, and for us to develop into the kind of leaders the above statement says will be needed; we need to figure it out too.

My next posting will start sharing how I feel we might be to become or transform those kind of leaders in America and/or this planet.

Until then,


Monday, January 2, 2012

A Black Environmentalist's Perspective

Happy New Years, I hope this is the one we have all been working or (depending on your motivation) waiting for; God knows I am going about my business like it is.  So far in my environmentalist comments, I have introduce my intentions, and given you a little background of where I am coming form.  To begin my effort, I want to share with you what I have used as my way of welcoming people to my website.  It is as follow:

I don't know how you found us, but I am really glad you did.  You are about to enter the world of Environmental Literacy from a person of color's perspective.  We like to consider ourselves pioneers in world wide environmental movement, with a mandate to learn first, return to our roots and evaluate how what we have learned fits, and then return to the environmental community itself, to share the kind of adjustments we have discovered needs to be made to their perceived perspectives, so what we are now teaching as a collaborative group, can finally have a real chance to truly become a benefit.   This process as far as we are concerned is cutting edge community organizing; using environmental literacy as a means to finally complete the integration process in America.

I guess this is as good a place as any to begin.  I do not feel the integration process in America has been completed, regardless of perceived progress (i.e. this blog) we seemed to have made.

To back that up and give what I am saying some kind of foundation, a recent charge was made against the ever present Occupy Wall Street groups, and their lack of a black or people of color agenda.  The term used to clarify what they were charging was “White Democracy”.  While there are many sides to this issue, for my purpose I will address the problem solving decision-making part of this equation (democracy).

Since the end of slavery, decisions regarding recently freed slaves, were based on what the white majority felt was appropriate.  During the “Civil Rights” movement, when policies were being discussed, it was the opinions of white America that ruled.  So many of our programs, and/or solutions for integration have been based on what white people (liberal white people) felt would work.  Granted, all along we have had some black input, but the input was regarding a pre-determined white solution; which is what is being called “White Democracy”.
After years of working in this kind of system, where our opinions were regulated by our pre-determined job descriptions, I decided to take what I had learned, and use it to create my own hypotheses, and take that hypotheses and establish my own economic development vehicle for hard to place black inner city residents.

In doing so, I was able to develop the system I have been using which was described above when I said, “We like to consider ourselves pioneers in world wide environmental movement, with a mandate to learn first, return to our roots and evaluate how what we have learned fits, and then return to the environmental community itself, to share the kind of adjustments we have discovered needs to be made to their perceived perspectives, so what we are now teaching as a collaborative group, can finally have a real chance to truly become a benefit.

I learned from the white social engineers and businessmen during the Civil Rights community organizing attempted during the sixties and early seventies, return to my root the black community and evaluated how what I learned would fit, but because of 9/11 my effort to prepare what I had accomplished, so I could present it to the social engineering community, was cut short when my vehicle for change was eliminated.

I had contracts with car dealership for their janitorial service, and one day I went to work about a year after 9/11, and because of the disruption to the car industry (which has yet to really recover), I no longer had any contracts.  I was told, it is not personal; it's business.  The boys washing car, which we are not selling, can pull my trash, and sweep & mop my floors.  That way they can earn the money I am paying them for not washing any cars.
It was while regrouping I discovered the virtues of the environmental movement, and found a place to use what I do best; learn first, return to our roots and evaluate how what we have learned fits, and then (in this particular case) return to the environmental community itself, to share the kind of adjustments I had discovered needed to be made to (once again) their perceived perspectives, so what we needed to teach as a collaborative team, could possibly have a real chance to truly become a benefit.

The next Blog will be the beginning to explore the results of that experiment.

I am going to say this now, so I don’t have to eat my words later.  I too was educated in the “White Democracy” that taught us to speak a lot using I, was a problem.  Hear me when I say, what I have done, I have done by myself.  That was not because I can’t get along with people or because I have some kind of unbelievable ego.  My reason for using I, is because it is a report of what I have done out of my own pocket to evaluate this aspect of life.  If you need to qualify me, just use Google search! 

So no ego problem, I have been motivated by what the minister Louis Farrakhan said we had lost or done, took our eye off the prize.  Turning the black community into a winner has always been my objective in life, and will continue to be my objective until I die.