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Monday, November 1, 2010

Why You Must Vote

1. So you will have less to complain about next month

2. So you will have the right to complain about anything next month

3. To keep the crazies out of office

4. To prove you are not a nihilist

5. To demonstrate by your actions that you actually believe in participatory democracy

6. To prove the old folks- who say all young folk are apathetic slackers- wrong

7. So you can walk around all day with your "I voted" sticker proudly displayed, gloating and boasting about your implied political astuteness

8. So you can avoid coming up with a convincing lie to tell you friends and families when they ask you if you voted

9. Because Obama said to and he is commander in chief (if you believe in commanders in chief, that is).

10. To avoid letting the people who believe the world is about to end, who have already voted, and are voting in large numbers (because of their paranoia) to determine your future

11. To save soldiers. Historically, every time we have a Republican president or Republican majority in Congress there have been more wars and more loss of life.

12. To keep the Tea parrtiers out of office (Imagine Palin as your next president and then decide how safe it is to sit out this election)

13. Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Reproductive rights, healthcare reform, immigration, the economy, etc.

14. To keep the corporations from controlling our country (Ask David Koch)

15.  Because you claim you are anti-racist

16. Because women died slow painful deaths by starvation in their protests calling for female suffrage

17. Because countless black Americans died so that all Americans could vote regardless of color, race, or creed

18.  So our future can be better than our past

19. To increase the odds of having a representative who actually votes the way you want them to some percentage of the time. however small.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some Wounds (a new poem)

Some Wounds

There are some wounds that never heal
No amount of tending pretending
Careful concentrated concern
Nor Positive neglect release of regret
Some sores nothing erases nothing cures

Bandages don’t hide scars refuse to fade
Some wounds are for life
Testimony to strife tell on us
Broadcast to the world
Accusations in the flesh
Let everybody know what got left
What was undone what mourning
Song was sung what can’t be forgot
What and who after all we have become

There are some wounds
Red gashes of pain
raised black and brown
Welts remain some scars
That grow larger not smaller
With  time.

Some wounds that mark us
Stain the soul, set one forever apart
Cause people to stare and start
Some wounds that can’t be glanced at
Never become commonplace, happenstance
Never get replaced by glory funny stories
The champion’s parade
Never become red badges of courage.

And these are the wounds
Nobody talks about
Everybody sees
These are the wounds nobody wants
Everybody runs from nobody seeks
Everybody shuns

Which is why
These are the wounds that never heal
We refuse to believe they’re even real
It seems easier somehow
Never mind the screaming bleeding tirades
In the end we just refuse
to be marked
By something we can’t change rearrange
Overcome unravel or defeat

There are some wounds that never heal
Wounds that are for life
Testimony to strife
Evidence in the flesh
Let everybody know what succumbed/what died
What did and didn’t survive
What and who after all we have become

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ordinary People Making a Difference: Hands Across the Sands, Green Energy Congress,

Lately it seems like people have been busier than ever trying to address global warming, peak oil, fossil fuels, and the need to transition to a greener economy. The oil spill in the gulf has killed a lot of fish and fowl. Maybe we needed to see that to wake up? As Americans?  Whatever it takes, people...

As for myself, I have been busy of late with various green activities. I participated in "Hands Across the Sands" last Saturday to protest offshore drilling, attended the Clean Energy Congress in Tallahassee on Monday and Tuesday, calling on the Fl. legislature to hold a special session on renewable energy this summer, and  I attended a Transition Town meeting in Orlando today. All of this "greenwork" has got me thinking about oh so many things. And it has given me hope.

As an educator I cannot help but ask myself how I can contribute to the dissemination of knowledge about how to live more efficiently, more sustainably, how to prepare for a post-peak oil future, and how to turn this planet into something the seventh generation can use.  Fortunately I am far from alone. Many people are asking themselves the same question.

I have been reading a number of books on green energy, climate change, sustainability, community farming, etc (see images) and several facts really stood out for me:

The first one concerns public perception of the problem. According to an article in the Worldwatch Institute book, "2010 State of the World: Transforming Cultures from Consumerism to Sustainability"):

1. "Seventy percent of Americans already believe that climate change is a problem and 51% view it as a serious problem." (studies performed by Yale and George Mason Universities, p. 154)

So it is not just a bunch of anti-establishment hippies living on the fringe of society who are concerned about the future of the planet (though we need to thank the hippies for making us all more aware of the problem). Most people are now concerned. What's more, most of the world is making serious changes to transition to a greener, more energy-efficient, less-polluted future. Unfortunately, the United States lags behind most of the rest of the world in terms of making changes.

Africa, for example,  is the first region to develop and launch a 10- year Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) program ("2010 State of the World," p. 120)

"Over the last four years, China has apparently reduced its carbon emissions, even while its economy grew 7% annually, using subsidy phaseouts for coal, market pricing for fuels, and new energy conservation policies." ("Eco-Economy,"p. 101)

In 2008, the European Union approved a "package to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 percent, and achieve a  20-percent share for renewables by 2020." ("2010 State of the World," p. xxii)

What about us? What are we doing?

"The U.S. holds less than 5 % of the world's population but produces nearly 25 percent of carbon emissions and has played the role of saboteur by failing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels." ("Oil and the Future of Energy, p. 21)

Its a sad story, people....

But not to worry. While our political and economic leaders may not be doing enough, we as a people are busy! Many Americans are involved in one way or another with envisioning a better future for the planet.

Thousands of people came out to hold "Hands Across the Sands" at beaches and deserts all over the planet in response to the horrendous oil spill in the gulf. With little advance notice or time to organize, a movement took place in which strangers all around the world gathered on beaches and held hands to protest offshore drilling and to call for a move to green energy. On the little corner of New Smyrna Beach where I went we easily had a couple hundred people. It was exhilerating and empowering!

Only a few days later environmentalists, activists, community gardeners, solar power businessmen, and educators from every part of Florida gathered in the state capitol of Tallahassee in the House Chambers for a Clean Energy Congress to discuss and vote on a solution to our current use of fossil fuels and the damage it is causing to the planet and the economy. The congress met for  two days and put forth several important proposals for policies on solar energy, electric cars, a ban on offshore drilling, a 20/20 RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards) for Florida, grants and rebates for alternative grid and fuel systems, and a green energy education policy designed to educate children, university students, businesses, and communities about sustainability and energy efficiency. Like the "Hands across the Sands" event, this event was organized in a short amount of time but 120 delegates showed up and we were productive.

The oil spill in the gulf is a tragedy but it has galvanized activity and inspired people to get busy trying to transition us into a green economy. Keep up the good work, people!!!!

As for me, I have my mother (Michaele Lee Davis) to thank for raising my awareness at an early age about the importance of treading lightly on the earth. As one of the original environmentalists (AKA hippie) my mom had us doing organic gardening, washing our hair in the rain, heating up our water with a solar water heater and buying local when I was just a child of 9.

She taught me to respect animals and plants, not to take up too much space, and to avoid getting caught up in American materialism.  I may not have learned well all the lessons she taught me but I am trying...

Thanks Mom.  

Sunday, April 4, 2010



When I asked
Grandma said, “Tell stories”
And I don’t know
What kind of stories
And should they be written?
Or Told?
Novels or poems?
My grandmother’s
Or my own?

When I was young she used to tell stories

From books
And from memory
I don’t remember them
I was too young
And didn’t know myself then
I learned history from a book

When I asked her
The most important question
When I asked her
After she was gone
About my purpose
She came all the way back
To respond
She said,
“Tell stories”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cousin Sarah

Cousin Sarah

Cousin Sarah was seven
Blonde and blue-eyed
She was the grandchild
Grandma Eleanor wanted
Born fifteen years after
The three babies
She refused to claim

But Sarah was only seven
When she said it
Told her best friend
Her cousin “wasn’t really a bad guy”
Even though I looked black
And all the blacks
On TV “sneak around,
Kill people, and steal
And stuff”

I wasn’t really “a bad guy”
She explained
To her white friend
Not completely
I was only half black
Not really black

Don’t you see?
Her friend preened,
Looked at me closely

Sarah was only seven
I was twenty-two with a physics degree
And a fancy Stanford job
But suddenly I was the master’s
Bastard talking to
My clearly superior
Half-sibling on the plantation

Even a child
Knows the order of things

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I am angry this week about racism. Racism I dare not name, racism I cannot protest. Racism nobody will admit exists. I feel silenced,  stifled, unsafe. I feel rage. I want to complain, to speak up, to shout out, to resist. But I am alone, I have no allies. I am like a crazy lady in a crowd yelling fire when nobody else can see the smoke. I know I should run or yell but the crowd prevents me, the crowd threatens, the crowd pushes in, the angry faces hover above mine. I fear being arrested or trampled. I watch the smoke rise in curls around me and I don't know what to do.

I watch people around me, both conservatives and progressives, unite in their racism:  their racism ultimately transcends their other political differences. I am shocked and disappointed but know I shouldn’t be.  I know I should have seen all of this coming but somehow I am never prepared, somehow I never adjust to such behavior. I just can’t get used to racism no matter how many times I am confronted with it.

I can't
I won't

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti: We Must ALL Help

Tuesday, January 12, at 4:53 p.m. a 7.0 earthquake hit 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Current estimates by the Haitian government suggest that 200,000 may have died already, 80,000 have been buried in mass graves by bulldozers, and millions others are injured; most are unable to obtain medical treatment. Surgeons are amputating limbs with hack saws and no anesthesia; people not killed in the quake are dying from dehydration and treatable infections. Millions are homeless.
The people of Haiti are suffering
What can we do  to help?


On January 20th, another earthquake hit; this one a 6.1 on the richter scale.

The people of Haiti are suffering
What will we do?
Before the earthquake, Haiti was already ranked as "the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of its people living below the poverty line and 54% existing in abject poverty." (The Week, 1-15-10)

40% of the population of Haiti is comprised of children. 
Aren't the children of Haiti our children too?

Before the earthquake the life expectancy for the average Haitian was only 60. According to the World Food Program  1.9 million people in Haiti "were ‘food insecure’, meaning they needed assistance to stave off hunger" before the quake and only 50% of the population had access to safe drinking water prior to the devastation wrought by the quake.

Haiti has been suffering for a long time
Shouldn't we have been helping them for a long time now?

Everyone is jumping on the "collect donations for Haiti" bandwagon. It makes more sense to donate to organizations who are already in Haiti, have been working for Haiti for years, are run by local agencies, or who have financial profiles that show their money goes to the victims not to the administrators. Consider giving to one of the following organizations:

Doctors Without Borders has been in Haiti for 20 years and needs donations to provide crucial medical treatment and supplies; they only spend 1% of their funding on management.

Quisqueya International Organization for Freedom and Development, founded by a former Peace Corps volunteer, is on-the-ground, assisting with relief efforts; QIFD is a nonprofit organization that works on the grassroots level to advance political, economic and social rights by working with community organizations to empower poor people to help themselves;

Yele Haiti, a grassroots organization set up by Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean, a native Haitian, whose programs have used music, sports and the media to create 3,000 new jobs, put 7,000 children in school, feed 8,000 people a month, and provide HIV/AIDS prevention education to 2,000 young people a month.

The Pan American Development Foundation is the disaster relief arm of the Organization of American States. It has been in Haiti for over 30 years, and currently has over 150 people on the ground there. Go here to make an online donation or call 877-572-4484;

Partners in Health (Paul Farmer's organization) has been on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. To support its efforts with a donation, go here;

Action Against Hunger has mobilized an emergency response and has teams already on the ground, assessing and responding to needs;Recognized as a world leader in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, the ACF International Network has pursued its vision of a world without hunger for three decades.

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, also needs donations for its on-ground work in Haiti;

Habitat for Humanity has been working in Haiti for 26 years and will be sending a team to assess the impact on affordable housing after the earthquake. To make a donation, go here

The United Nations World Food Program has teams "already on the scene, mobilizing emergency food assistance to families." To support these efforts, you can make an emergency donation here;

Staff from the United Nations Foundation is currently on the ground, and its United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is accepting donations toward these relief and recovery efforts. Donations can be made online here.

Dreaming of Haiti

Lush green, people singing

Children running in the streets
I try to fly away at night

To this ancestral land
Where the people’s eyes shine

America will have me
But Haiti knows me

From the marrow
Loves me from the soul

And Haiti waits for me I know

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Have You Seen Any Indians?

When I was interviewing for my current job in Florida, I asked the host institution to arrange
for me to meet with other Native and Black faculty. They had me meet with an old white man wearing feathers who interspersed his authenticity questions about my heritage with anecdotes about all the ceremonial objects he had acquired from Indians. In his office he actually had a number of sacred objects on display on bookshelves on top of books. He took them to class for show and tell, he explained.

I was too busy clenching my teeth to ensure that the smoke did not escape to ask him the
only question he was in a position to answer,

"Have you seen any Indians?"

After getting hired and relocating to Florida, I heard rumors of an Indian professor on campus who reportedly also had a gig as a judge back home (somewhere in the Southwest) As a result he was rarely seen on campus. After five years of not meeting him I became convinced he was merely a myth.

Then I met another mixedblood Black/Indian in a faculty workshop and we practically knocked people over trying to claim each other in some mad spastic rush to recognize each other as kindred. It was hilarious only because it was so pathetic.

He too had heard about the mythical judge but like me, he had never met him. "We should start a Native faculty group," he said. "Yeah, we should," I replied, knowing full well two people does not an organization make. "We might need to find the other Indians to do that," I suggested. He assented and then we both sighed.

Neither one of us had seen any other Indians.

Mostly when I want to see Indians I drive down south to the reservation to hang with my peoples. Its always a good time but four hours is a long way to drive in search of Indians so I began looking locally.
I started going to Pow Wows in the area. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and found them peopled by non-Indians in Indian garb. I brought a white friend who had never been to a Pow Wow and because she is a shopper she insisted on visiting all of the vendor booths that circled the arena. Since I had nothing better to do I joined her. Big mistake.

In every booth for four booths in a row somebody felt the need to say something anti-Indian to me. All the vendors were white men and I was wearing my Seminole jacket and had my hair in braids. A caustic combo apparently. After four stops and four insults I told my friend I wanted to sit out the shopping expedition. She understood. In fact she was shocked by all the bad behavior.

She turned to me and asked in all sincerity why a person who hates Indians would sell Indian artifacts and go to Pow Wows for a living?

Good question, my friend. I wish I didn't know the answer. I wish I was blissfully ignorant. It would be so much easier.

"They act like that because they don't like Indians," I told her. "Just Indian stuff. Dead Indian stuff."

I went home still wondering where all the Indians in Central Florida were.

Then I heard about this Spiritualist camp. The religion of spiritualism shares many beliefs with Native American religions and it turns out that the founder of one particular Florida settlement claimed to have been led by Native American spirits to the tract of land. Many early Spiritualists wrote books they channeled from Native American spirits and most of the mediums in the settlement claimed to have Indian Spirit Guides. In general, Native American culture and beliefs appeared to be held in high regard in this community.

Or so I thought.

Then I met church members who were holding ceremonies and organizing their own tribe. They called themselves Indians, burned sage, and had monthly meetings compete with drums and dancing. They seemed harmless enough- hobbyists perhaps?- until they began to actively try to get federal status as a tribe. Why become a tribe? They wanted to be able to become healing practitioners, to bill themselves as medicine men and women, to give mediumistic readings without following state laws regulating such practices and they wanted to sell Indian items without paying taxes. They openly pitched this ability to make money as Indians to potential recruits as the benefits of joining their "tribe."

Nobody invited me to join their tribe (somehow they knew better) but I overheard their recruitment speech one day at a church event.

My mouth dropped so far so fast it took a week to close it. Were they serious? Did they really think they had a right as white people to benefit from treaty obligations the federal government had with tribes as a result of stealing land? And why so shameless? How can people claim to love Indians and want to exploit them? Oh, right, they don't love Indians, just Indian ways.

So just when I had resigned myself to making the four hour drive to the rez, I got schooled on where all the Indians were.....

There had been a rash of small time burglaries in the community, all committed by white men against the residents late at night. Then, the unthinkable happened: tourists visiting the Camp in broad daylight were robbed on the street by armed gunmen.

Word spread like wildfire: this small time spiritual community was no longer safe. Officers in the Religious Association began sending out emails to the membership alerting the residents to the danger and advising them on how to be safe. An email went out describing a "suspicious looking black man" prowling the area. Only later did an email go out informing people that the armed gunmen and women were all white.

Next an email went out advising residents to talk to their neighbors and to be alert. It was suggested that people begin to employ a codeword to alert one another when a dangerous person was nearby. Guess what code phrase the Association Officer recommended?

She suggested, "Have You Seen Any Indians?"