Friday, April 27, 2007

Recap for April 22, 2007

Earth Day. WARNING: This discussion contains ideas which may challenge the reader to be an active advocate for justice.

We convened at 9:20 am.
We begin with a reminder about protocol. Everyone gets a chance to speak once before one of us gets to speak twice. Today Thomas is telling his story.

We had brief reports on:
· The recent World Affairs Council session on compensation of performers.
· The 2012 group gathering last night went very well.
· Upcoming Salon at on the 29th about alternative energy, with two hurdy-gurdy players, and a Tacoma City Council member.
· A reminder of the 26th dine-out for life, benefit to Pierce County AIDS foundation.
· The Courage and Renewal sessions on race. Six members of the Conversation were there, next one June 9 on how race affects organizations in the community. Members in attendance had high praise for it.

The discussion after Thomas’ story focused on a point he raised, of young people (defined as under 30) are less politically active and more supportive of the policies of the current Administration. Most of us in the Conversation are looking for some action that leads toward progressive change, and often lament the barriers to it. One example that came up was the energizing quality of the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, in late November of 1999. How to keep things moving? We raised some interesting questions about why organization is sometimes effective, what leads to lots of people showing up at events, and when such movements are effective.

The Moral and Philosophical Question of the Day:

Dexter asks us to consider several issues. Some things beg for our attention.
The Conversation is now a year old. Who are we? What do we, what can we share in common? What is our role? Having been here a year, what is it we have done for each other, for the community?

When looking at this, it is a moral obligation to consider some wider context of where we live. Today is Earth Day, and we sit in the wake of the worst school shooting in the country. About the same day a bombing in Iraq killed a couple of hundred people. The Supreme Court made a decision that might be the first step in prohibiting abortion. The Governor signed a bill that approves domestic partnerships in our state. It appears we live in a time of moral confusion.

What are the askables, to coin a term? What can we ask? In the wake of the Virginia shootings, one of the question we could not ask is about guns. In the White House press conference right after the shootings, before the President spoke later, the spokesperson for the Press Office (Dana Perino) said the president supports gun rights. Congressional leaders echoed sentiments that now is not the time to raise the issue.

In the Middle East, a similar pattern emerged among US leaders—in fear of the big organized interests, politicians are fearful of taking a balanced view of the region, of regarding Palestinians as somehow equal in the situation.

Dexter asked us to come up with questions we want to ask—that is, to begin to ask questions that will help us to remain human in this confusing context. As part of this, never make peace with war, never accept injustice, never accept poverty as appropriate, to never rationalize racism as realistic, to never give up agitation for justice. It doesn’t matter how hopeless, how lonely, no matter how many times you bump your head against the wall…. if it does nothing else, it keeps you human.

The discussion first focused on the apparent actions of gatekeepers who keep questions from being asked. We run into rationalizations that give people permission to not go further. Let’s go around the room and ask some questions that can serve our discussion of what we will be next.
(Note: these will be verbatim, the editing will come later.)

Do we want peace, and what is it?
Why are lives in the USA more valuable than lives of people in other lands?
Why are we sustaining institutionalized racism in the education system?
The news media do not acknowledge killings going on right now, why do we have justifiable killing via regime change and by organizations like the CIA?
Why do we fail to see the smokescreen of distraction whenever the President is on the hot seat, and groups of Americans die?
What does it take for me to be fully human?
Why does Christianity play such a major part in all the things we are talking about?
Do I really care? How do I know I really care?
How can we open ourselves to the suffering of others; what are the ways we numb ourselves to the suffering of others?
What happened to “we the people” with regards to the government? Why is it that because I look white, I am better than anyone else in the world?
How can we reach folks 40 and under with the collective solution to the movement?
Is there something I can do every day to bring the peace I want to see?
How can we reduce or eliminate stereotypes?
What happened to the freedom and justice for all referred to in the Pledge of Allegiance?
Given that humans are predators, mostly, what balance is the most positive in a life of harmony, somehow including the earth and all of its bounty?
Why is there not more talk about young black men, and why they are killing each other at a terrible rate?
How can we deal handle a situation where elected officials need so much money to get elected?
Why is it acceptable for there to be some who are obscenely wealthy, and others who are obscenely destitute?
Who is really in power in this country, and who is pulling the strings of the people who are in power?
Why do we as individuals not accept our innate power, admit to it and act upon it?
Why is it important for us to have control, military bases in everyone else’s country?
With regards to Israel/Palestinians, why is it that Israel can not understand the Palestinian requests for their strip of land?
How do we educators help to get children of all races together and to teach them it is better to be loving thy neighbor rather than to be fighting thy neighbor?
Where do we go with these questions?
Can we discuss the Don Imus situation?
How do I understand the paradoxes in the world and continue the necessary kind of work?
Don’t we know the answers to a lot of these questions? Are they, perhaps, rhetorical questions? Some questions are more geared to inquiry, and to a more action-oriented response. But, then again…. we often think we know the answers to little children’s questions, and have to answer them afresh.
When do we take the personal responsibility to devote ourselves to study as much as we devote to recreation and resting? When will we take the responsibility to address the Portland baseline essays? clarify
What are men afraid of when faced with the power of women? What are adults afraid of when faced with the power of children?
Are we, can we, be responsible for sustaining life?
Is global corporate capitalism just or rational? What is its replacement?
Why are so quick to punish and imprison black children, instead of focusing on their development?
What would the world be like if people saw other people’s children as their own?

A transition to talking about the questions.

Dexter will look at the questions and begin a process of addressing some of them at a time.
Here is a beginning, with an eye toward plenary planning. What do we want us to do? What do we look like? How will we respond to these questions?

Much of the time we will have responses, as opposed to answers that put something to rest.
This week Dexter asked one of his classes to consider the example of sacred texts, a favorite target of deconstructionists. These are texts made to be learned, not to be taken apart. When we raise the critical questions of sacred texts, esp. in front of literalists, the response is ‘but that’s the way God wants it’. For example, in the ‘Husbands obey your wives’ phrase, he asked the students what came next—it was If you don’t know the Bible, you don’t know the text that most informs cultural life in this country. Say what you want about conservatives and evangelicals, but they know the text better than the critics. The next phrase is, ‘Husbands, love your wife the way Christ loves his church.’ So, this knowledge of the texts takes the sting out of the admonition to obey. You’ve got to know the text. If you want to engage with conservatives who derive the power of their argument from the text, you have to know the text. Christianity is implicated in all of this, because Christianity is a central piece of US culture.

The discussion turned to asking what is the role of religion in our society. If we take the route of explaining it as a natural history—that people had reasons for coming up with theologies—we will find ourselves in trouble.

If we do the interpretation of Virginia that it is about personal responsibility, and that the laws that were not enforced, does not put a person out on a limb. Compare the response in the UK after their big school shooting about a decade ago. Hard to raise that in the USA. It is easy to not be out on a limb in the USA, just don’t ask those questions.

Back to the question of how we approach these issues.

The V-Team meets to talk about where to go next, so this is an open question to us. How do we address these questions, how do you want this to proceed? That is what we are asked to discuss for the rest of the meeting.

Wherever people hear about the Conversation, there is a very positive response about the idea.

In a way, The Conversation provides some spiritual sustenance. And we should make it clear why we are here, who else we want to be here.

One idea: The people who should be here are local community folks, who live nearby; and state representatives from this district.

One idea: There is an openness and trust shown the members, and the discussions here sustain us each week. More than one of us said they hear and learn things here they don’t get anywhere else. The Conversation, several said, is unlike anything else. One of us put it this way: I need meaningful conversation in life. And it is conversation each of us gets to participate in. Several mentioned that the personal stories are important to confronting what we think about others. Another one of us said that the discussions we have move us, and support us to get out and do something. This is the place where we get to ask difficult questions, and be with others who do it. Many of us want us to be activists, and want more activism. This is the weekly call to arms, a time to look squarely at how we want to live, at our connection to the education of the young, a place to do something with our indignation at forms of injustice. Face it: this group is important to many of us. It calls us to be honest, and to look into things anew. There aren’t enough people in everyday life who talk about all the things we do, and we value it. For most of us, it appears to be an important source of hope.

It appears we value both conversation and action, and that the two are fundamentally linked. Conversation is, sometimes, action—it provides us with the equipment for living.

Over the next couple of weeks, let us have a fundamental discussion of what we are—the time we meet, the topics we discuss, the procedures we use, and what we do with the list of questions. We need to find a way to nourish the personal touch among the people who come here. The relationships matter, and that is a big reason why people show up. And, we need to discuss programming. What is it we do, and will do?

People who change the world often set out simply to follow their own conviction, and the changes come out of that.

Recap for April 15, 2007


Janice Miller-Director of Housing development and head of Salishan Project of THA

Rosalind’s Story

Michael Mirra-THA Presentation about Salishan

Largest housing project. Largest redevelopment in history of Tacoma Dome in 2011ish 200 million.

Ambitious in development and in social justice goals.


Built in 1942 very fast and in some ways viewed as temporary. 2000 units. Started as emergency war-time housing—shipyards (Holly Park, Rainier Vista, and High Point, in Seattle and West Park in Bremerton).

Started redevelopment era with 855 units. Tearing up as well as down. One of first racially integrated communities—known as a gateway community for necomers. Public housing is more hospitable to groups that the private housing market won’t serve.

New Salishan will include 1200-1300 new units of which 350 will be for purchase.

Creates mix of renters and owners, mix of incomes, home ownership by low income. No Mc Mansions. Partners are Quadrant Homes and Habitat for Humanity (about 20 homes) and 11 homes preserved from original and will be sold to low income families.

Over 100 of relocated families moved to homeownership.

Salishan is a Hope 6 development important program but somewhat controversial because people relocated could not return. In Salishan, increase in units affordable to relocated families.

THA “Social justice organization with a technical mission”rent determined by income.

Traded public housing units for Section 8 units because gov’t has never paid to maintain public housing where as Section 8 has money for maintenance.

Partners: 2 senior “high-rises”(Korean Women’s Assoc., American Baptist Homes of the West), Kimi and George Tanbara Medical & Dental Clinic (Community Health Care),

Various types of community space - Family Investment Center, Education & Training Center (MDC) WSU, TCC TPS in this building. Childcare, culinary arts program that will run a deli in the building.

Services are necessary companion to housing. People are coming to the housing authority as most needy and vulnerable in order to stabilize, prosper and also be more competitive for housing dollars.

Other community assets are: Lister school, Blix, Roosevelt, McIlveigh,, Salishan Shine Project: parks with recreational equipment, outdoor gathering places

Perspectives are different when talking about public housing versus other attempts to make housing affordable.

Residential involvement:
Design meetings architects
Relocation Plan Salishan Residential Council -Relocation and Reoccupation Plan

Want to live in new Salishan? If no got a Section 8 voucher. If yes, want to stay and move around during construction, or move out temporarily. Tried hard for the rest to only have to move once during construction. Some people changed minds on interim. Preference if can’t move everyone back at once. Seniority, family has a disabled member, person is a senior. Phase one had 60-70% people who used to live in Salishan.

Tried to have jobs done by minority/women-owned businesses – goal was 22% total is actually 37% local spending on materials etc.

Phase I is done, ribbon cutting on Int’l Center rentals are complete and occupied and homes are sold.

Phase II underway—construction to finish by 2009

Phase III on shelf while seek funding fro infrastructure

Tax credit partnerships own actual homes, not THA. Rich people invest so they can get tax credits. MMA is one of the main investment syndicators who have 2 or 3 major corporate investors.

Tax credit financing doesn’t make housing affordable to lowest income people. What makes housing affordable for Salishan are other layers of subsidy—namely Public Housing dollars and Section 8 dollars.

Have lost lots of public housing. Tacoma has fed rural poverty by eliminating assests available to low and moderate income. How address the trend, in light of social justice mission.

It’s true that public housing is decreasing because it’s not sustainable, but when focus on number of units rather than how they’re financed, you see that Salishan will have an increase in units affordable to the neediest families.

Waiting lists—3500 on Section 8, 2500 on public housing list.

Difference between need and capacity:

Housing wage=what you have to make to afford a rental unit on private rental market. In Tacoma $15.15 median income for rental families is $10.

Number of sheltered and turned away from shelter in Tacoma 3,000 and 7,500 turned away.

If talking about food it would be widespread malnutrition with pockets of starvation.

How many past renters are owners now? 17-20. About 100 others purchased homes elsewhere.

Dexter--one of the reemerging issues in public discourse is cross and crown—sacrifice vs reward. MLK said the nation has the capacity and the resources to end homelessness. Yet for some reason we are moving in the opposite direction. Salishan, while making a good faith effort, it’s only a speck in the big picture. Challenge to us is can we go to a place of really dreaming big? About solving the problem of homelessness in the country?

Dick--Find natural allies to come up with policies that challenge the way our society is structured.

Eve—ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once but to stretch out

Charhys—good to use models that work and replicate community by community. It will be a more grass roots effort because it’s a revolution and it’s not going to be funded.

Tom--We have the capacity but we also are dealing with a design that was never intended to build community. If we are going to build community we have to get at design—both that which exists and that which we want to see.

Dexter—we need to sort out who we are. Can be a place where the Michael Mirra’s can come and talk about the piece that they do and we can have a conversation about how we multiply what we do. How do we grow our numbers? But we multiply our effect more if rather than try to grow here, we encourage similar groups to develop at the places they are.

Finally, we ought not to be naïve—“the devil is in everything” and we have to “stand on the crooked and cut straight”. Be shrewd and practical.

David—“Why People Hate Americans” chapter—the hamburger and other American viruses.


11:30am - Sharon Schauss, 02-06 work done at Foss at World Affairs Summit. Went from 1/3 of students receiving achievers scholarships being college ready to 98% and how they did it. UWT Carwein Auditorium.

10:30am on Friday - Conversation 45 min. in Museum of Glass auditorium. What is the responsibility of a community toward its artists—should they be paid at a program such as this summit? Keith S, Charhys, Luke, Eve, Dexter, others?

Fri. Eve. Dexter speaking A. Phillip Randolph, Seattle Chapter annual dinner. 6pm

Charhys and Keith 8PM TSOTA next to Djembe Soul on Broadway Side

My Sister’s Pantry 1st and 3rd Monday and 4th Sat. from 10:30-12:30 1st Congregational Church @ 209 S. J St.

Eve— April 22nd--2nd of 4 part workshop by Courage and Renewal “Action and Inaction in Dealing with Racism—9am – 1pm Bush School in Seattle. Need people of color.

June 9 – How Does Race Impact the I organizations and Institutions of our Community

Sept. 29th Bridging the Race Divide

All will culminate in a weekend retreat.

Dexter Gordon received an Equal Justice Award from Fair Housing Center of Washington

June 18-20 Take Back America Annual training conference opportunity to send someone who wants to step up and either run a campaign or run themselves.

Keith B. this Sat. 21st 2012 event One Heart Café All Ages doors open at 7:30

April 21st Langston Hughes Film Festival Rosalind’s “Tootie Pie”

Dr. Lara Evans “E-Racing: When Race and Gender are Missing from the Classroom”