Monday, June 18, 2007

Conversation Recap for June 17, 2007

Several people commented on the feast-like quality of today’s food offering. Thank you, Rosalind.

Luke announced that Marley’s Wailers are coming to town, June 24th, and fifty seats are open to members of the Conversation. He circulated a sign-up list.

Get Smart Tacoma is reconvening June 27th, at South Park Community Center, in the 4700 block of South Tacoma Way.

Eve distributed information on the group she works with, Courage and Renewal. Read about them at They put on the series of workshops, on dealing with racism, we have discussed in earlier weeks.

Tom reported on the Tacoma School Board meeting where he presented the letter signed by many members of the Conversation. Many people attended, and stood up to show the Board the degree of public support for this call to focus on student achievement. Tom worked with many groups to generate broad support.

Laurie described the idea for a Fall Festival (thus far nameless, so how about The October Thing for now), discussed by a planning group after last week’s Conversation. The vision is to have an event in early October, a concert coupled with sessions on social justice, some booths where people can connect with different groups, musicians such as Steve & Kristi, 2012, and Peter's group, Kusikia, that has connections to audiences attending college and high school. One objective is to attract a wide range of creative talent and connect to a diverse audience. There is a meeting for further discussions tomorrow. Laurie and Noah are the people to contact for those not able to make the meeting or who otherwise wish to be involved in the planning. Conversation members should feel invited to participate in any way—you can be either on the core planning committee or not, there are many ways to connect, and perhaps you have some ideas to add. Please feel invited.

Today we heard Dalton’s story. The discussions touched on the variety of experiences we have during teen years. We also looked at the sometimes idiosyncratic connections that lead us from the defining moments of younger days to our connections to groups like The Conversation. For example, involvement with an anti-apartheid group proceeded The Conversation, but that suggests the sensibilities supporting involvement were already developed. It is sometimes hard to put our fingers on why we take particular turns. One among many memorable phrases: “being steadfast in what you do, and being ready for whatever comes along….”

Rosalind described something that happened at yesterday’s meeting of the Black Collective, a Curtis High School teacher (Diane Curran), described how she went to the Achievement Gap Summit and to the Race & Pedagogy Conference. She left those with a commitment to go out and do something. And she was honored for making a huge difference in the lives of a group of young men who were there. The group applauded this example of how those events keep resonating in the region.

Kathleen, welcomed today to the Conversation, described her work at the AIDS Foundation—organizing the AIDS walk (in September), running services that help people get health care and other facets of care. She will give a larger talk in a subsequent week.

Dr. Joye Hardiman, executive direction of Evergreen, has been a host to our group, and is changing from her administrative role to a faculty position here. The Conversation has invited her to speak with us next week on the experience of being a public intellectual.

Dexter described a 1976 meeting of the World Hunger Summit, and its goals. A more recent UN meeting set a goal of ending hunger by 2015. All evidence suggests goals are being unmet. About half the people on the planet live on $2 a day or less, and about 30,000 children die every day from a lack of the most basic elements—clean water, adequate food, basic medical care. For those interested, you can check the United Nations’ Millennium Goals program. See it at

We discussed some features of policy that contribute to this failure to meet these goals—US policy, and by inference its citizens (like us), have a large part of the responsibility for taking action that undermines the efforts to combat poverty. Some members of the Conversation connected this direction in policy with capitalism, and the persistent and widespread emphasis of free market ideology in our public discourse. One feature of our policies described by several members is the tendency of policymakers to treat governments as evil based on their loyalty to capitalism, rather than considering the impacts on human well-being.

One local example of working with hunger is My Sister’s Pantry, which you can read about at One study of international events that influence global poverty, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, can be read at One member emphasized the state of the US population. You can see some details of US public health at

One Conversation member emphasized that personal decisions we all can make, in what we consume, how much petroleum we build into our lives, and what we do in the way of activism, can make a difference. Others gave examples of their own choices in this direction.

Dexter connected the food aid that is part of US policy with the agricultural subsidies—guess which is ten times larger than the other. One of the strongest arguments of leaders of poorer countries is that US agricultural subsidies make it difficult for their farmers to make ends meet.

As Conversation members emphasized, there is a color to world poverty. The color of the overwhelming proportion of those dying children is black or brown. We should not pretend this has nothing to do with the direction of policy.