Derided in classist ways,
Are the best of looks
This was an article I wrote on Dec. 24, 2014, and submitted to a local paper. Not hearing back from them since the holidays, I figured I might as well get it out here. This is a response to an article written by Mark Holmberg which you can look up if you want to read it, I don’t want to give it the clicks.
Mark Holmberg is a staple of the Richmond journalism scene. I remember being a kid and reading his columns in the Richmond Times Dispatch. As an adult I have been interviewed by Mark for his new gig at WTVR CBS 6, and seen him at numerous protests and events around town. He’s been in my home on several occasions. Mark is a human, you know, like the rest of us, and a perfectly nice guy in person. Sometimes, Mark’s perspective which he infuses his reports with is sympathetic or similar to my position on an issue. But there are other times where Mark’s reporting makes a strong case for the old concept that if you don’t have nuthin nice to say don’t say nuthin at all.
Unfortunately, the views Mark has chosen to broadcast regarding the Eric Garner and Mike Brown protests fall into this category. His December 21st article, starts off badly and doesn’t get any better. He seems to draw ties from the world wide protests against police brutality, murder of people of color, institutional racism and impunity from accountability for the police to the mentally ill man who killed his partner, a woman of color, and then two NYPD officers. There is no connection between #blacklivesmatter protests and Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who shot the two cops, and there is no reason to try to delegitimize organizing and protest efforts by people of color and their allies around these issues based on faulty logic.
Mark draws rapid, trite conclusions, about both the Eric Garner and Mike Brown decisions. I have been patient with white people who do not understand or sympathize with the Mike Brown murder and Ferguson situation. I know it is hard for folks to see past their white privilege, especially without video evidence (sigh). But white people need to learn to listen to people of color and believe what is being said. White privilege protects white folks from certain experiences and blinds us to certain realities. (more…)
We are having a protest at the Easter Parade on Easter in Richmond. There were of course, critics. The Easter Parade is a family event, and Easter itself is Christian holiday which celebrates the Rising of Jesus Christ from the dead. Clearly, that is some significant stuff.
However, we find the Easter Parade to be a completely appropriate setting for this type of a protest. I would go so far as to say that Jesus is/would be on our side and that we would be doing a great disservice to his message were we to not emphasize some of the incredibly salient points in Christianity which relate to current local political issues.
We are protesting against Venture Richmond (who now sponsors the Easter Parade and pushes for tax breaks while still getting more than their fair share of tax payer money), the privatization of Monroe Park by the Monroe Park Conservancy (one of whom’s members lives on the hoighty toit Monument Avenue at 1643), and the Revitalize RVA plan being pushed by Mayor Dwight Jones and Developers. What all three of these issues have in common, is that they largely benefit the rich, while deprioritizing other issues like schools, public parks, the history of the slave trade and institutional racism, poverty and the homeless.
We will again emphasize something very significant, which is the 27% poverty rate in the City of Richmond. 40% of the youth live in poverty. Richmond is a poor City, and the elected officials, corporations, and non-profits are not doing enough to help the poor and fight against all forms of oppression. Instead they are working to increase their profits, their money, and their power.
With the help of friends we have done some exploration of the bible and related texts to see what they have to say. We hope that folks at the Easter Parade and in positions of power in the City of Richmond will give these words the consideration they deserve.
We start with the Lord’s Prayer, which includes the very telling lines, “Give us our Daily Bread and forgive us our trespasses”.
People deserve food, food is a right not a privilege. And in Monroe Park, people come for food, and they should never, ever be considered trespassers on public lands. Public parks should remain public.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven” Mark 10:25
This is just one of the many statements in the Bible critiquing the rich.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:17-18
We hear a lot from politicians talking about compassion for the poor or homeless, but at the end of the day we have seen very, very little. Words do not mean anything if not backed up by actions. The selfishness of many is reflected in the corporations in this City, who give only when tax deductible and consistently lobby for better deals for themselves while ignoring the poor.
“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” Proverbs 14:31
Privatizing parks, ignoring or making illegal the homeless, racial profiling by police, failure to protect folks of all genders and in the lgbtqia spectrum, classism, and racism are all forms of oppression constantly and consistently occurring in Richmond. There is nothing honorable about these forms of oppression, they are contemptuous. A specific example of this in Richmond is that the Richmond Police Department goes around and finds homeless camps, and then destroys the camps and throw away all of the belongings of the people who had lives there. The Richmond Police also force people with court ordered community service to participate in this violent, dangerous, and incredibly oppressive act. Any City official who does not stop this from happening is complicit. We are all complicit.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24
Mayor Jones, you have to choose. Who is more important, the private developers looking to make a quick buck, or the poor?
“They also will answer, ”Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me'” Matthew 25:44-45
“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them” Proverbs 22:22-23
And finally, a very powerful statement, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” Isaiah 10:1-3
For a Mayor who is also a minister, the City of Richmond clearly lacks leadership who will fight oppression and show compassion to the needy. We have built a new jail for the poor and needy, but we have not built them shelters. They are planning to use tax payer money to pay the utilities for a restaurant in Monroe Park, but they could not keep the Conrad Center funded as one (actually badly conceived and executed) location to serve food to the poor. The Mayor only pushes for grocery stores in food deserts when he can also build a baseball stadium on historic slave trade sites.
Something is wrong in Richmond. We do not have to be Christians to see that the Bible itself, and especially Jesus, had a lot to say which is valid and relevant. We hope that anyone will consider these words and take the messages to heart. We need a big change in our culture.
What Would Jesus Do?
(hey that’s me!)
As always, never ending thanks to Silver Persinger for being an amazing activist and documenting so much of public process in Richmond.
This was originally something I published as a zine. I just wanted to get the information out there more since I’ve almost run out of copies!
on the Cheap
Many folks I have talked to about veganism share a similar complaint/concern. They are worried about it being affordable.
And let’s be real- there are many ways that veganism is presented in a classist way.
I have a bunch of vegan cookbooks that call for ingredients that are just totally obscure. I’ve been vegan for 10 years and I’ve never used them. These sorts of cookbooks/recipes can make veganism seem really intimidating and inaccessible to folks.
Another reason veganism can seem classist is definitely the unchecked privilege often found amongst vegans. There are plenty of militant asshole white-dude vegans, for example, who give other people a hard time for not being vegan in shitty ways. These types of folks (though clearly not limited to just white dudes) give the rest of vegans a bad name.
There are some things about a vegan diet that can make it less accessible for low-income people. But there is also a ton of kind of urban legend/misconception type stuff around veganism. This isn’t going to be a total coverage of all info relating to these topics. This zine is for folks interested in eating vegan, and want to/ need to be able to do it on a low-income. I am totally into having these conversations with people though if you want! My contact info is at the end of the zine, let me know what concerns you!
First though, I do want to take a little bit to briefly touch on some of the (many) things that can make eating vegan difficult for folks.
“A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants.” wikipedia entry on food deserts. Check out more about the significant and intersectional issue here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert
Living in a food desert basically means in this context that it is a lot more difficult for people to access vegan food. There are all kinds of transportation and expenses related to accessing a real grocery store if you live in a food desert, and believe me, the corner store does not provide all of the things a vegan needs to survive.
If you are vegan, and have the ability, (or even if you aren’t vegan), you can take action to try to get more fresh produce and food into food deserts. Simply creating access where there wasn’t access before is both an act of vegan activism and social justice. You can organize a Food Not Bombs meal, or just produce distributions in neighborhoods where people lack access to healthy food. Talk to people to see where the need is, and what the community wants.
Time is Money:
Even when vegan food is affordable and accessible, there is the further complicating factor of whether or not someone can afford the time it can take to cook much of their own food. The convenience of fast food, prepared foods etc. which are mostly available in non-vegan forms is something that folks working multiple jobs, busy with families and kids, taking care of elders, going to school while working, etc. can understandably want to take advantage of. Folks who are low-income, or any of the things listed above, or other things not listed, often are already pretty stressed out, busy, and might not feel like they have the time or energy to make home-cooked meals all of the time. And home-cooked food is certainly one of the healthier, cheaper ways to eat a vegan diet.
There are plenty of other challenges, and I might go into them more in a later version of this zine. But I am a procrastinator, and I want to have resources to offer folks tomorrow- so I’m going to start into the ideas for how to deal with the challenges and difficulties of being vegan on a low income! (more…)