13 Feb

Cheerleaders are Never on the Field

interwoven strings

Photo credit Derek Σωκράτης Finch under Creative Commons

I am a provocateur.

I like art and ideas that stir the heart, mind, and soul. I like being moved.

When I watched Beyonce’s video, Formation, last weekend, I was stirred. It was, at once, a celebration and a call to action. It was loving, hopeful, defiant, and angry, and it said get your shit together. In short, it was art, and it was provocative.

The educator and artist in me loves that Beyonce has inspired and stirred so many. Engaging racism, sexism, classism, and systematized oppression is a complicated, messy endeavor. The activist in me loves that so many white people are unsettled and uncomfortable with the images and words in her video—we don’t change if we aren’t uncomfortable.

I am hopeful that this is another opportunity for us to have deeper, more engaged conversations on racism. But the collective response reminds me that we, in particular white people, haven’t accepted our painful, ugly historical legacies of systematic oppression. Sadly we aren’t yet ready for this kind of conversation, and we are struggling to collectively hold that pain, find healing, make meaning from it all, and make change.

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31 Dec

Ripples of Change 2014

Photo Credit by Richard Freeman

Photo Credit by Richard Freeman

It has been a productive, complicated, difficult, and blessed year.

I had the opportunities to work with people at Rollins College, University of Nebraska, UC Merced, and the Sierra Club. I am blessed to work, and grateful for my exceptional partners: dr. becky martinez and Amber Mayes.

As part of my annual commitment to use a portion of my proceeds to spark more Ripples of Change, I share the organizations that I chose to support for 2014.

Feminist Frequency
I have been following Feminist Frequency and the work of Anita Sarkeesian for a couple of years now. She is a media critic, focusing on representation of women and gendered stereotypes in popular culture. She began her video blogs to address sexism in popular movies, television, and video games. This led her to research sexism in video games, undertaking a review of hundreds of video games and critiquing the ongoing sexism in the video game industry. Her work in gaming spaces prompted a backlash of harassment, sexual and violent threats on her wellbeing and life. Through it all, we witness a gaming and media industry unwilling to shed its prejudices. Anita remains a courageous and clear voice in one of the clear social justice issues of our time. You can find more on Anita and Feminist Frequency here.

The Brown Boi Project
The Brown Boi Project is an organization in Oakland, CA, that works to empower queer/straight men of color, masculine-of-center womyn, and trans men through leadership development, economic self-sufficiency, and health and wellness programs. They have a commitment to social justice work at the intersections: racial justice, gender justice, and using masculine privilege for social change. I continue to be inspired by their work to expand notions of masculinity, break down gendered roles, and to empower communities of young men. We have seen the results of a country resisting change and holding on to whiteness, patriarchy, and capitalism—black, brown, and trans youth being terrorized or killed by whites and a justice system that condones those killings—and the Brown Boi Project is a needed voice in the movement for change. You can find more information on The Brown Boi Project here.

I encourage you to support both these organizations.

Although the “end of the year” is a time for reflection, renewal, and thinking ahead, I am reminded that it is an arbitrary mark in time, and our work for social change transcends these time markers.

Happy New Year, and I wish us peace, justice, and love.

09 Nov

White Man Rules

Southwest Boarding ProcessAs we have previously discussed, systems have consequences.

And when we create nested systems within larger systems, often times those who benefit in the large system receive the benefits of the nested system, unless we account for it to be otherwise.

Case in Point–A few years ago, Southwest Airlines revised their boarding system from a “first come, first served at the gate” model to one that gave the early boarding spots to those who checked in online first. This was a natural evolution as the internet became more prominent in our lives.

Southwest additionally created their version of a tier system to honor and recognize its regular customers, which is also not uncommon in the airline industry. Southwest then revised its boarding system once again to reserve the early boarding spots to their frequent travelers with high tier membership and those that bought into the full fare ticket price.

On face value, this is a good system for recognizing brand loyalty by an organization that prides itself on low-frills, and is also fairly simple, which sets it apart from other brand-loyalty programs. On face value, nothing in this system is set up to unequally reward one group over another (assuming of course that the value within a capitalist system of rewarding customers who have given you a lot of their money is fair—but that is another post).

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14 Oct

On Mike Brown, Darren Wilson and the Deadly Intersection of Race and Masculinity

Photo Credit: Photo: Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Photo Credit: Photo: Brett Myers/Youth Radio

by Eric Mata and Craig Elliott

A couple of days ago, we had a conversation about the shooting death of Mike Brown. As a man of color and as a father of an infant son and a white man and a father of two boys, the events that have unfolded in Ferguson, MO have resonated deeply. We’ve been constantly thinking about what could have led to the moment when Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown. We know who killed Mike Brown. But we’ve been grappling with the question of “what” killed Mike Brown.

Further, as we raise our boys and daughter, we have also been grappling with these questions and are our part in them: How do we shift this system of oppression that causes death, pain, and suffering for men and boys of color, and teaches violence as the language of living? How do we raise our boys to be different, to resist violence and aggression and the other mantles of manhood and masculinity? How do our children grow to live a life filled with compassion, love, and justice, and to create community spaces built on those values? These aren’t new questions created by the death of Mike Brown, but they have been given more shine in our lives.

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30 Jul

Songs for Social Change, Love and Empowerment

We are at a crisis. The kids are aurally out of control in our house, without direction, or without foundation. They are listening solely to…<gasp>…POP MUSIC. This intervention was born out of necessity, and out of a loving desire to save the kids from audio hell.

Photo Credit by Irish Typepad

Photo Credit by Irish Typepad

Okay, maybe that is a bit of hyperbole. But only just a bit. This list was truly born as my kids began exploring their musical selves, gravitating toward music (as we all did) through popular music.

As a bit of background, I love music. Music moves my world and moves my soul. In many ways it is a centerpiece to my life, it is always with me, and I am immersed in it. I can mark life events through the songs and albums, and even use music to help me navigate feelings and emotions. Music is multi-dimensional poetry.

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15 Jul

Change is Possible

Photo by Alexsi Aaltonen

Photo by Alexsi Aaltonen

My work in the social justice movement is with organizations who want to change, want to be more inclusive, who want to create learning environments where people can thrive and feel respected. But that really means, I work with a lot of people. While I am not alone in this work (there are many brilliant and gifted colleagues), my place in these efforts is with people who are just like me: white people of all genders, orientations, and socio-economic classes who want to uproot the system of -isms and oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, etc.) in their daily lives and in their organizations, but don’t know how to do it. I help them find their possibilities of change.

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