Monday, February 22, 2010

Haiti womens micro-lending bank - spread the word!

This is the type of thing that too few of us know about because too few of our media outlets pay attention to truly supportive and community based projects.

Please take a moment to learn about how a network of women in Haiti have been able to mobilize quickly to distribute funds to get the economy moving again.

A branch of the Grameen bank of Bangladesh (specializing in micro-lending), Fonkoze, was able to work with high level officials within 24 hrs to get money to people in need.

Most essentially, read this and pass it along so that we can spread the word about some really important avenues for reducing dependence on commercial banking (which cannot easily respond in crisis).

Even the U.S. State Department understands how important this is --- saying that this alternative operation "may well have stabilized the banking system for the country's most vulnerable population."

Haiti womens micro-lending bank brings cash to the rescue

Understandably this was not the lead story during the first two days of the crisis. But, I would love to see us challenge more of the mainstream media to shine some light on these smaller, unconventional approaches to banking that really work to support people in challenging circumstances.

Yes, it would mean accepting that not all great ideas come from the U.S., and it would also mean accepting that the most powerful (by which I mean essentially contributing to society's well being) and important operations are NOT run by U.S. non-profits and/or government aid entities. Self-determination and grassroots organizing in action would need to be valued.

But, wouldn't this be a much better use of time than talking ad nauseum about fears of violence from those in desperate circumstances? The stench of racism in that conversation is so strong that it diverts attention from the remarkable work being done by many within third world countries today. Truly, this type of micro-lending is something that we could use more of here in the U.S. too. Read and feed your imagination. Then, pass it on to someone else.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Re: James Arthur Ray charged with manslaughter, guilty of cultural appropriation

Glad to see the news this morning. It looks like James Arthur Ray will be facing charges stemming from the $9,695-a-person "spiritual warrior" workshop he led last October which included a sweat lodge as a final activity...and the death of three of the participants.

Let's be aware, though, that although these serious charges are significant and justifiable (from what I know), they do not capture the foundation of what led to the deaths of the three individuals who lost their lives in this tragedy. (For more thoughts on that...see my earlier blog posting.)

As the conversation moves forward, take note as to whether or not James Arthur Ray is held accountable for his cultural appropriation, his use of white privilege, his wanton use of a sacred healing and purification ceremony that HE turned into a profane trial of will.

Saying that he "researched" these practices in Peru hardly absolves him...In fact, it just makes it worse, as far as I see it. I've not heard him speak of elders who passed down their practices to him. I've not heard him name how he came to see himself as sufficiently trained in the tradition to become a water pourer. I've not heard him speak humbly in any way, shape or form around this issue. The question becomes, I suppose, do I think this misuse of a culture's traditional practices in this way constitutes, in and of itself, a criminal act?

Yes, cultural appropriation used in this fashion SHOULD be considered criminal. This is not to shift the attention away from those who lost their lives. But, instead, my hope is that we would draw the line about what is acceptable well before someone has to lose their life.

But, what do you think?

Do you see the privilege in this, as I do?

Do you recognize the difference between being influenced by other cultures vs. using them in an exploitative fashion?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Profit in anti-racism, and why the workshop series is free

The question arose the minute the Witnessing Whiteness Workshop Series was posted and people started receiving the announcement. Why are you giving it away? You should be charging for this!

Not everyone responds in this fashion. Friends in racial justice work are far more surprised than opposed. They recognize that all-too-often important resources are priced out of reach of many of the grassroots or community groups who would really like to use them.

For me it is largely a matter of wanting the resources to be used. I want people to really dig in to the ideas in the book and get as much out of the reading as possible. In an economy such as ours, starting with a relatively pricey book but then adding a really rich companion resource for no charge makes the book purchase a lot more rational.

Admittedly, if I were trying to make my living from this work, this approach would likely be more challenging. But, I work a full time job in addition to my anti-racism efforts. This allows me to make the choice more easily.

This is also not without context. There are many that rightly question how white people doing anti-racism benefit markedly from the work. How many of us are called to speak more often because of the very privilege that we're trying to dismantle? I think it happens a lot. I recognize it in the reasons people give when they call me to invite me to give a talk. We talk about it.

Let's be honest. For those who know me, they know I have a nice enough quality of life and I receive compensation when I travel to offer presentations. Making this workshop series accessible and free to anyone wishing to use it is simply the right thing to do. No self-righteousness involved. It just makes sense.

My only hope is that people don't imagine that the series is less valuable because they didn't need to pay for it. (You know, that does happen sometimes.) That is truly my deepest concern.