Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stone Cold Winter in 75 degree weather

Living in California, Winter has in the past been several weeks of rain off and on and enough chill in the air to make the hot tub in our back yard a rewarding excursion-warming us to the bone, a warming that stays with you, takes the stuff out of you. Whatever you've been carrying around, in the chilled darkness as you dissolve into the liquid heat of 102 degrees, disappears as your body is enveloped by the heat. No more bones, no more sharp angles or sharp thoughts-it mellows you out. Well, that is not this year. It's hot. And it feels wrong. The winter duldrums, the stone gardens bereft of new life in the 75 degree weather and strange white sun light have me longing for rain to cool the earth, to feed the earth, to replenish the earth. The promise of the mission of the Spring to bring life to everything around us is not now. The winter's gray and wet imposes our sealing ourselves off from the outside. That provides the opportunity to regroup, rethink, reevaluate, take less action and more focus and concentration as a response to the demand of the outside being difficult to deal with at best. Waiting for spring, waiting for the buds to appear that's how it is in Winter, but how it is is that the red maple has not lost it's leaves and some other trees have started to bloom-out of synch, out of time.

Global warming, that's what they say. A perfectly brilliant woman said today-oh how can they talk about global warming when it's freezing cold, extrememely cold in different parts of the country, more freezing than usual. Well, of course, that's global warming also actually. What I think is there is adaptation, there is accommodation and change is underway and we will meet this change. We already are becoming conscious of the our carbon offset, the steps we can take to account for our use of the planet is the green book philosophy and this is huge compared to 5 years ago when only the "freaks" were looking in that direction. Now we're all some degree aware and some degree responsible. More would be good, but everyone has the question: are we going to get to keep the world as we know it and if so what can we personally do to have it be that way. Give up our cars and bike or walk, some amount of that goes on where I live but it's because this is a university town and walking is definitely reasonable and biking, a bit of a gamble out there with cars and an occasional bust up with the bike participant being the loser of any such occurance.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The New Year! The New President!

Today in my dance class, Evelyn, who inspires and drives us to an effort that took abit after my taking a 3 week vacation from class, was talking about going to Washington to see Barrack Obama become President. Just getting on the plane with her husband, putting on a backpack and doing whatever it takes to get close enough to see the new President come down Pennsylvania Avenue is her goal. Sounds good to me!

What are your plans for the 20th of January 2009? My friend, Nancy, just invited me to go to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on Nob Hill where there will be a vigil the night before and a service at Grace Cathedral for the new President. That's the night before. But the day of the actual Inaguration, we plan to be at the Ella Baker Center. Now, especially now, that's where I want us to be.

I was introduced to the Ella Baker Center after hearing Van Jones speak at a Pachimama event; I was so taken by him, what he had to say. He said the Pachimama people had heard of his work in Oakland to stop the Violence on the streets. Young black men killing young black men. Police shooting young black men; young black men shooting police often enough to have the city of Oakland on edge and the people in a state of resignation about what to do. I had experienced the grief of a family that lost their twin sons 21 years old years back. The thing I most remember about that experience was the minister saying: remember the young black men - in prison or dead- are not the end users. They are being exploited, their lives wasted --used and spit out or laid out on the concrete while the people making the money and the people with the money to purchase walk on. Ab and Ob were the twins. I also remember their mother singing with all that she had surrendering her pain to the Lord she said.

But what drew me to Van Jones and the Ella Baker Center was that they are dealing with this loss with the families, with the community and they ARE having an effect. In a meeting I attended not long ago for the families affected by the violence, I realized that both sides of the violence are victims and in the context of this work, both are brought in, both are given the knowledge that they are not alone. When you figure that something like 48% of the young black men bail on high school and have little to look forward to in the future, you can see that the excitement and the glory of having a moment even if it involves a gun but that they don't plan on getting killed or being killed, but think this action might bring them a semblence of a life, you can see where they'e coming from. So what I witnessed in this last meeting was the embrace of the people who come to the Ella Baker Center: to show love to all the parties involved. The Center wants to give hope to young people by giving them training and a dorm instead of a dead end jail that communicates they're nothing to anyone. The Center wants to educate the public on the fact that in the current youth system produces a recidivist rate of 68%, offering no hope and a turn around almost guaranteed. And very simply what I saw was inclusion and compassion in their mission is making a dent.

There are people who have worked with the Ella Baker Center and Van Jones since the beginning, I think it started with 400 seven or eight years ago, and at awards dinner, there were 4000; a growing recognition that a difference is being made. In 2008, there was a reduction in the killings on the street, and in the meeting I attended, a solid number present were the young people speaking about the part they want to make in having this change happen. The lights are on. Someone is home. And there is going to be a new president.

And then you have a man of 22, at the Fruitvale Bart station, two other friends sitting next to him on the concrete platform, he is pushed down on his face by one BART officer who has his knee in his back while another officer is looking in the direction of the car full of New Years Eve celebrants on the train taking the picture shouting out in outrage at the treatment they can see from the BART train. Another officer has his knee on the back of this young man, this young man having at best only his mouth as a means to respond to the officers pressing him to the concrete when the BART policemen reaches for his gun and fires it into this 22 year old's body point blank.

So where I want to be as Obama takes office is with the Ella Baker Center. I heard that Obama asked Van Jones to be on his Transition Team, and I felt like the same lines that reached people so far and so deeply in the population can be a current to actually produce light in the darkest corners of the darkest hours and shed light to heal and bring about the needed change for this segment of the population that is beginning to feel they will be heard and seen. This is the new year and the new possibility.