Just a note to say that the weird and wonderful Gramma Poetry published 3 poems of mine yesterday at Gramma Daily. One about animal welfare (including human animals), one about my dad (including my human dad) and one with a hook by Jay-Z and Kanye. So something for everyone, I hope. Enjoy!
Notes for Reversing the Apocalypse: Katharine Hayhoe, Years of Living Dangerously and Afaa Michael WeaverPosted in Climate Activism with tags afaa michael weaver, citizens climate lobby, climate change, don cheadle, donald trump, global warming, global weirding, harrison ford, katharine hayhoe, kenosha, racine, showtime, strength, vulnerability, years of living dangerously on November 14, 2016 by ndemske
The last seven days have been…..very difficult. That is an admittedly weak articulation of the reality, but it’s the sort of situation where it leaves one a little speechless. Or it’s left me a little speechless. Until now, maybe.
Now more than ever, strength is needed. We create strength, sometimes, by deciding to be strong. I am trying every day when I wake up to decide that I am strong.
Now more than ever, also–in a time where easily-disprovable lies are being rewarded…. and, I would say, worshiped–truth is needed. That means spreaders of truth is needed. Those willing to share the truth are needed. We must not be greedy and complicit and comfortable in the truth, if we truly believe we’re privileged enough to be privy to it. That is a privilege and it comes with a responsibility. So every day when I wake up now, I am also asking myself “What am I doing to share what I believe to be true with others? How am I sharing the truth today?” (a question that my friend Jenetta kind of asked me the other day that struck me like a bolt of lightning, for whatever reason).
These truths that I’m writing about–they’re not specific to any one topic. From quantum entanglement to voter suppression to prison over-population and disparities in sentencing to the miraculous effects of mindfulness training or sitting meditation to the hidden histories of oppressive systems and designs in our cultures, the radical words of what Jesus actually said in the gospels versus who Jesus is represented as now by the church, the truth of the hidden science and history of racism and sexism and other modes of oppression in America which are still rampant today (which also have a great deal to do with institutions of religion). All of truth
So here’s one place to start: the whole entire world.
President-elect Donald Trump has publicly described global warming as a hoax invented by the Chinese. He is not by any means alone in his thoughts on climate and environment in this country–not at all. So that is the truth as many people experience it here in this country somewhat ironically known as the United States of America. However, there are many who experience this issue with a dramatically different reality.
Here is something a hero and poetry elder of mine (and of many), Afaa Michael Weaver, posted on Facebook the day after the election took place:
“Certain facts wait for all of us to face, no matter who controls the government. The northern ice cap is melting, and the southern cap is no better. Our petty squabbles over differences such as race will be the foolish music of a ship in a world full of chaos and hunger. Our economic system will not save us from the pressure it has put on the ecosystem. We will have to dig deep not for material wealth but for the wealth of compassion and honest embracing of realities. Now more so than ever, the lifting of a single finger by any of us affects the realities of all of us. Be haughty in spirit if you like. The planet will live, but its will to live will force it to do things few of us can survive. If we fail to understand love right now, we will leave an impoverished spirit for our children and the unborn to struggle with in a world of shrinking resources. An impoverished spirit is not a pretty thing for a national culture.”
Afaa is often considered one of the most influential living poets writing in the English language and his enormous skill with words is only matched by his capacity for compassion.
This is one version of the truth now. A truth where the body of the planet, like our own bodies, is under assault by what we might think of as a disease. And, like our own bodies, the planet will do what it has to do to wipe that disease out of itself, if the symptoms do not start rapidly decreasing soon.
Here is something else another hero of mine has put together expressing a similar truth. Katharine Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian Climate Scientist living in Texas, has begun a video series called Global Weirding. Katharine is not only a brilliant climate scientist, but she is one of the most brilliant climate communicators I know of, too. So check out the promo video below; it’s exactly 1 minute long. There are only 4 episodes total now, and they’re each only around 5 minutes long. So enjoy:
Lastly, one more expression of this version of truth around climate: the Showtime series “Years of Living Dangerously.” You can watch the first episode of last season (Season 1) below. The series features lots of Hollywood stars, including Don Cheadle and Harrison Ford, in this episode:
As luck would have it, my previously mentioned hero Katharine Hayhoe appears in this episode, as well. She’s kind of a big deal.
There you go. You have some tools for educating yourself today about those who are asserting Climate Change is impending and real. Do with them what you will.
However, if you’re already educated on this and you’re wondering “What’s next…..how can I help?” I could give a million suggestions, but I’m only going to offer one here: join the group Citizen’s Climate Lobby. If you’re near me geographically, you can join the Kenosha/Racine chapter which I am a part of (here’s our Facebook group page). If you’re not, odds are we’ve already got a chapter near you. The group is 40thou+ people globally and we’ve only existed for 9 years.
Have more money than time? Give money to CCL. They actually have a great fund-matching program coming up that you can read about at that link–an kind of enormous fund-matching opportunity that goes until Giving Tuesday (the Tues after Thanksgiving). In fact, if you want to give money that would help enable CCL volunteers in SE Wisconsin lobby Congress around putting a price on carbon, feel free to be in touch with me and I will help point you in the right direction for that to happen, too.
Here’s what counts today: you and I alone separately don’t matter much and can’t change much–at least not in terms of systemic climate change solutions. But you and I and all the other people we stand with–we can change everything. And one thing we can change today is what we as individuals are doing to ensure Climate Change is reversed as soon as *humanly* possible. So join us in that work however you’re able. And please, feel free to be in touch with any of your thoughts on all this.
I love you. Don’t forget that you are ridiculously strong today.
So Rattle is having a submission call for Civil Servants right now. I sent them a few poems, but also drafted a “contributor note” that just got way too long. Since I couldn’t send it to them in it’s full-length form, figured I’ d at least post it here and share it with the world somehow. Enjoy:
I call myself a Literacy Evangelist because I spread the good news of literacy every day for a living. I am a public librarian, primarily in a children’s department, and I love my job wildly. It affects my writing both directly and indirectly. At the library, we deal with people every day who are different kinds of desperate. Today, a man left loudly sobbing and screaming the words “It’s all my fault! It’s all my fault.” Several of us tried to talk with him and console him, but he was belligerent with sorrow. That can affect your writing pretty directly in that it might appear in something you write–seems like it would, or maybe even should–but it at the very least will affect your writing–and your whole life, probably–indirectly. Being in such proximity to people who are constantly on the margins of life makes it so that you never forget those marginalized. It keeps you grounded. To some, it feels like it drags them down. To others, it’s a gift–being put in position to have regular relationship with people who need relationship most.
So there’s that. And whenever I get to feeling sorry for myself in one way or another, I only need pay attention when I’m at work and engage with my patrons there for me to realize just how unbelievably easy I have it compared to so many.
One other note is that: I absolutely love kids. They are one of my purest joys in life. I have endured pretty significant depression for almost all of my life (maybe I’ll submit to your mental health issue too), but kids, for whatever reason, are honestly like an antidote to depression for me more often than not. It’s not something I work at—it’s just a part of me that was put there; a gift. And kids absolutely love spending time with me, because they know that I love and respect them. I am one of the only male children’s librarians in my region and its amazing what an impact I can have in my role, in a place where children and adults alike are so unaccustomed to seeing men in nurturer roles.
FB Rant on Sentencing Disparity, the Brock Turner Rape Conviction and Racial Bias in Media Representations of Monstrous ActsPosted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2016 by ndemske
So I shared a Marlon James Facebook post about Brock Turner and racial bias in media the other day and then added a rant of my own after it. Since it basically turned into a mini-diatribe, figured I might as well post it here, too. So ya’ll know I’m still alive.
Hope at least one of the comments somehow inspires you to take some form of action on these issues. Even if it’s just bringing them up incessantly from here on out……
Thanks to Marlon for the original stir-the-pot comment. We need this in everybody’s mouth. I don’t care if it sounds different from different mouths–if it’s in agreement that justice system reform is urgent, I am behind it.
“So quite a few have noted that when it comes to people like this shithole, the media goes all Brady Bunch on the pic, while always searching for the most “thuggish” if it’s a black person, even if that person is the victim. I agree on the motive, but believe it’s up to us to control the meaning. So yeah, I don’t want the mugshot, I WANT this pic. So thank you mainstream media, because I want this pic to sink in, and I want every woman in college to study the shit out of it. I want people to look at a pic like this, at people who look like this, and think, rapist.”
My repost diatribe:
“Honestly, calling a person a “shithole” or a “human piece of sh-t” (the NY Daily News called this young man the second one)…….I’m just not trying to be here for that, no matter what they’ve done. But I’m going to share this post anyways. Partially, because the rest of the sentiment it’s expressing is completely true: we have clear racial mythologies for people who do things like rape other unconscious people (which is what this person, Brock Turner, did last year). Partially, because it’s absolutely true that–in so many ways beyond just what media photo is reproduced everywhere–people of color are portrayed in demonic and demoralizing and guilt-suggesting imagery (think hand cuffs and orange jump suits and angry facial expressions). Whereas here, with young Brock, we have yet another perfect example of how innocuously a white convicted rapist is represented (over and over and over). But beyond those things, I want to share this post simply to bring attention to….yet again……the thing so many have been trying to bring attention to for so long that still–as this case makes so clear–is an urgent urgent urgent crisis in our culture. That’s right, we’re talking about SENTENCING DISPARITY!!!!!!
Look, if how a rapist were represented in media coverage and SENTENCING DISPARITY didn’t go so hand in hand, I probably wouldn’t beef about it…..or at least not as much. And I’m not even trying to say that it’s the main cause of SENTENCING DISPARITY, or anything crazy like that. What I’m saying is we all really really really do need to take a good, long look at this picture because somehow the image of this skinny white college kid has been conflated with “he will not be a danger to others” (Judge Aaron Persky’s own words). That is a lie. That is false. That–and I mean this, I’m not trying to be clever or sassy–that is straight up mentally ill. A culture that can accept that statement is a culture which has blown up all reason and logic. It is a culture being torn apart by mental illness. This person was found raping an unconscious young woman. What is it about him, exactly, that is suggesting to a man with a law degree that he will not be a danger to others? That’s only a rhetorical question because you and I already know exactly what the answer is.
What the answers are.
I’m not trying to say I want to see Brock Turner stoned. I’m not trying to say he deserves the death penalty. I’m not even trying to say he deserves a longer prison sentence…….but that’s only because I’m not trying to talk about Brock Turner in this post. I’m not trying to say jack about Brock Turner. I’m trying to say that, if we are going to show compassion to people who commit monstrous acts, we need to stop doing so BASED ON THEIR RACE, SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS OR ANY OTHER ARBITRARY CULTURAL FACTOR THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ISSUE. And, furthermore, we need to do so in much more responsible ways than was done in the case here of Brock Turner.
Honestly, I’m all for conversations that start with sentences like “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him” (which Judge Persky also said of Turner).
Well, yeah. Um….affirmative. Accurate.
This should not be a revelation, Judge Persky–this is basically the whole entire ostensible “point” of prison. Amazing to me that a judge can publicly say something like that and be allowed to stay in his position. Regardless, I’m all for noting the truth and accuracy in that statement. But if we’re going to start looking at how being put through our hellacious “corrections” system so often results in irreparably destroying human lives, rather than actually rehabilitating them, let’s not do this in clear racially & socioeconomically opportunistic ways. Let’s talk about how incidences where a person of color getting a sentence literally 3000% longer than Brock Turner’s (see here: http://www.nydailynews.com/…/king-brock-turner-cory-batey-s…) are so utterly common that, the only reason why this one I’ve linked to is unusual is because it’s appearing in a news article pointing out its unfairness. That’s it.
Our system is jacked. That much seems clear, at least, to very many people. But if we only recognize that when a white kid from the suburbs rapes someone, we are only exploiting it’s jackedness. We are exponentially multiplying its jackedness through that.
Let’s see if we can talk about something real from this whole tragedy: that black, brown and indigenous Americans are typically punished to the fullest extent of the law at EVERY ACCESS POINT THE LAW HAS WITH THEM (the pulled-over car, the arrest, the sentencing, etc) and that white Americans are still so very very very very often given more grace and mercy in these circumstances that it seems potentially irresponsible of those who “uphold” the law to the rest of us watching from the sidelines.
That’s what I want. Especially if you are white, that’s what I want from you today. I want you enraged at this chronic, toxic arrangement in our legal system. And i want you talking about it, posting about it and and bringing it up at light-hearted parties until ALL of us (and not just some of us) can’t bear how stupid it makes us feel as a society and finally change it, end it, make it an embarrassing memory that we use to teach our great grand kids just how bad it can get, if you let it.
My deepest sympathies to Brock Turner’s victim and her family (who seems to be an unusually amazing person, based on the statement you can read here: http://www.nydailynews.com/…/king-rapist-brock-turner-judge…). My deepest sympathies to the countless lives beyond hers that have been brutally affected by sexual assault (which is pretty much everyone you’ve ever met, if you’re woke).
And, without taking away from that, my deepest sympathies to those whose lives have been ravaged by the racist, classist, broken corrections system that has evolved and descended from the racist values America was founded on. My deepest sympathies to you, your families and all of your loved ones.
Dear facebook friend of mine who made it to the bottom of this post,
You have a voice, and it will be beautiful if the truth comes from it.
So go. Use it.”
Hakim at the DP Wigley Building, BONK! series, 2014
I’ve had some extra reading time with the extra days off this week and I wanted to post at least a couple of the really phenomenal poems I’ve been coming across over the next few days. Today we’re starting with the inimitable Hakim Bellamy.
Hakim got a piece published by the White Privilege Conference Understanding and Dismantling Privilege Journal that knocked me out. You can read that here (click on the “Download this PDF file” link). And here’s an audio version of it, too.
The poem focuses on the phenomenon of black invisibility and especially on the effects of that phenomenon in law enforcement. It’s not that people of color (and black males especially) are indeed invisible , obviously……but that the individuality and humanity of people of color vanish into thin air in so many situations, and are replaced by whatever demonic stereotype currently overwhelms mainstream media. Since law enforcement officials deal with people in dire situations, the temptation to bypass the individual for their stereotypical counterpart is–as we’ve seen in this country over and over again–often too much to resist, apparently.
Hakim talks about “sticking out”–even if awkwardly– as a defense mechanism to ward off the horrors black invisibility can result in. But he also talks about assimilation in newly crafted ways:
image found here
“We’ve worn these neckties for years
because we’re least threatening
at the end of a leash.
Speak jive only
as a second language,
because when in Rome
do as conquered people do.”
Later in the poem, in a parent’s voice, he instructs:
“Wear your culture
like a butt naked emperor.”
The poem meditates on how different people see things differently, especially based off their fears. It reminds me a lot of a song the current Kenosha Poet Laureate, Brent Mitchell, played at the BONK! 100 Thousand Poets for Change event last September about the Tamir Rice shooting. I’ll see if I can get a recording of that song from Brent to share with people.
And since Hakim is a BONK! alum too, I’ve added his video here (from 2014), just in case you want to get a better sense of his work.
Thank you, Hakim, for making such substantial work about such a under-discussed issue!
I’ll try to drop another poem or two on here as the week goes on. In the meantime, happy 2016 everyone. We gonna ride this year to glory!
addendum (added 1.7.16)
Here is the video of the above mentioned Brent Mitchell song for Tamir Rice:
Yay-uh! Just got the news that my poetry homie Wendy Xu is my new publishing labelmate. Congratulations, Wendy! AND I know she recently just got a shout out in one of Entropy’s end of the year best of lists. So Wa-bam. Can’t/won’t/etc.
And as a bonus, here’s a real short shout out Wendy posted on an independent review site back in the day about my first book (in like 2011 I think). It is good when we get published by publishers whose books we like. The world makes sense. Amen.
Can’t wait to read it, Wendy! So excited for you.