Re-Cranking the Manifesto

I was quoted in this recent article by Robert McLendon:

As residents started to trickle back into Mid-City after Hurricane Katrina, people looked at the mess around them and came to a realization: The storm may have been responsible for the wreckage, but the city was broken in many ways long before it made landfall.

Inequality. Exclusion. Low expectations. “It was a wake-up call that there were a lot of longstanding problems that people had just gotten used to,” said Bart Everson, who, along with his wife, was one of the first to return to the neighborhood.

Everson and his neighbors started to meet to talk about how they could change things, how they could make their neighborhood and the city more inclusive. Out of those meetings, and a blog manifesto that Everson cranked out in the early post-storm days, came the neighborhood’s master plan.

The article goes on to detail the disappointing implementation (or lack thereof) of the city’s neighborhood participation program.

Mid-City Planning Meeting

But speaking of that grassroots planning process I helped jumpstart, it recently came to my attention that the Mid-City Recovery Plan, drafted by residents in 2006-2007 independently of any government sanction, is in danger of disappearing from the public web.

In the interest of posterity, I’ve uploaded this important historical document to Scribd:

Mid-City Recovery Plan

This was true grassroots democracy in action. Did we get everything we wanted? Not by a long shot. Did it make any difference? I’ll let others judge.

Some details of this process were covered in Karl Seidman’s 2013 book, Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding after KatrinaSee page 177 ff. The passages about the Mid-City library branch make for especially poignant reading, in light of the recent announcement of its imminent (and thankfully postponed) closure.

An Embarrassment of Equinoctial Riches

Equinox Mandala (Autumnal)

Yo, check my mandala. (I’ve always wanted to say that.) It’s the autumnal equinox again, an event I’ve celebrated now six years running, a time for gratitude and reflection, even as we step into the dark, into the creative power of the abyss, even as we acknowledge our losses. I made the mandala to express some of these themes, and as I look back I see I’ve slowly accumulated a wealth of practices and observances for the equinox.

Last weekend we celebrated with Lamplight Circle, this morning I visited my daughter’s class (to read a book, do a science demo, share a treat, and make a gratitude chain), this evening we feast with family and friends, this weekend we hope to commune with nature at Bayou La Terre. And, on an intensely personal note, at this juncture I dedicate (or rededicate) myself to my personal mission/vision of awakening to Gaia, which is manifesting especially through a renewal of activity with the Greens. More on that soon.

If you’re reading this, thanks for being a part of my life, and I hope you may enjoy this equinox in your own way.

The Recovery Discriminated

“The storm didn’t discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort.”

As soon as George W. Bush said those words, we knew it was a lie.

No, not a lie. Call it wishful thinking. Call it evidence of white privilege.

Even the president’s speechwriters seemed to realize this, and a few days later, when he gave his famous Jackson Square speech, he was singing a different tune.

As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

Now it’s ten years later, and just in case you were wondering, that didn’t happen.

The recovery discriminated. Of course it did.

The evidence is easy to find if you care to look. Ask a New Orleanian how we’re doing, and their answers will vary according to race. Chances are a white person will say, “Better.” Chances are a black person will say, “Worse.”

Other numbers bear this out. Income inequality has gotten much worse in New Orleans. We have a huge gulf between rich and poor, akin to places like Zimbabwe. Over half of black men are unemployed here.

If these facts make you queasy, that might be a good thing. It shows you have a sense of decency. The facts are offensive to common decency.

How did this happen? How is it the recovery discriminated so harshly?

If you are thinking of active, personal discrimination, where one person treats another unfairly because of their race, then you’re thinking too old-school. That still happens, but the factors at work over the past decade in New Orleans are more subtle and insidious than that.

In order to understand how the recovery has discriminated, you have to think in terms of social structures and systems. Our society is riven by deep divisions. Of course the recovery process reflected those divisions, reproduced those divisions, deepened them. How could it be otherwise?

The only way we could have avoided this was by doing what Bush said. We needed “bold action” indeed — truly innovative and courageous action — but that didn’t happen. Some good ideas percolated up. There was, for example, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, which would have put local people to work rebuilding the area. It died in committee.

But this story isn’t over yet.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Rising Tide X


  1. The X stands for ten. Yes, it’s been ten years.
  2. Rising Tide X takes place on the 29th of August, 2015, the ten-year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall. Rising Tide started on the first anniversary and the conference has convened every year since.
  3. Many Katrina anniversary events are commemorative or memorial in nature. They look back. Rising Tide looks forward. It’s a conference on the future of New Orleans.
  4. Rising Tide is a grassroots organization. If it was any grassrootsier, we’d have to mow it. An all-volunteer group of people who have somehow managed to work together without any formal structure for a decade now.
  5. Rising Tide X will be the final Rising Tide. I don’t think that’s official, but then nothing is ever official with this group. (See previous item.)
  6. Rising Tide X will be the biggest and best ever. Going out with a bang, y’all. There will be four or five tracks of programming. Check the schedule.
  7. DeRay McKesson is the keynote speaker. He is one of the people at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement, and I can’t think of anyone more timely or relevant.
  8. For the first time ever, admission is free. We don’t wanna make any money, folks, we just love to get people thinking, and talking, and taking action.
  9. But you should still register. That helps us get a a handle on how many people are coming.
  10. And you can still support the event financially. Your donation will help defray the expense of mounting this whole deal.

Re-Upping Katrina

Frame from ROX 93

Moving video around the web has gotten a lot easier over the past decade. Studious types may remember that YouTube launched the same year Katrina hit: 2005. In remembrance of the ten year anniversary of these twin catastrophes, I’ve re-upped the three episodes of the ROX “Katrina trilogy” in full quality. There’s really no reason to squint at postage-stamp vids in this day and age.

The three episodes are ROX #93, ROX #94, and ROX #95. Watch ’em all in full resolution thanks to the hosting services of Vimeo. (Sorry, YouTube.) For your viewing convenience, here are direct links to the respective media pages: After the Levees FailedHangover Cures, and Fifteen Months of Katrina.

Personally I haven’t watched any of the documentaries that deal with the flooding of New Orleans. I know there’s some good stuff out there. Recently I got to wondering if there were any videos I could show my daughter, to convey a sense of this major event that took place before she was born. Then it dawned on me: I’ll show her these episodes, at least episode 93, and probably 95 too. They may not be the best documentaries on the subject, but they have the advantage of featuring people she actually knows. That should bring the subject matter to life.

She’s never seen an episode of ROX, so this will be a rite of passage.

Feeling the Bern

Yesterday evening some friends dragged me out to see Bernie Sanders at the Pontchartrain Center.

Feeling the Bern

You may wonder, what’s a card-carrying Green Party member doing at a Democratic Party rally?

In my defense, I thought we were going to see Bernie Mac. As my friend pointed out, that would be somewhat miraculous, as he’s been dead for a few years. May he rest in peace. It turned out Bernie Sanders was pretty interesting too, though not quite as funny.

Bernie delivered a strong message on social justice, with particular emphasis on income inequality. He including a smattering of grassroots democracy and a single allusion to ecological wisdom. Our national propensity for dropping bombs and drones on other countries didn’t merit even a mention.

In other words, he harped on one issue, a crucially important issue, but he failed to make equally important connections. In the Green Party, we’d call him a “Single Pillar Green.”

Am I asking too much of Bernie? He can’t address every issue, after all. But as Bernie himself reminded the audience, we can do anything if only we set our minds to it. “Please don’t tell me that the United States of America, our great country, cannot guarantee health care to all people. Don’t tell me that every person in this country should not be able to get all the education that they need regardless of their income.” Yowza! By the same token, don’t tell me this carefully-crafted speech couldn’t include a more balanced message.

If the Democrats should choose Bernie, that would be amazing to me. I sincerely hope they do. It would be great to see income inequality as a central issue. Plus it’s fun to fantasize about “Feel the Bern” as a national campaign slogan.

However, it’s only a fantasy. The oldest and most powerful party in the world will never run Bernie for the most powerful office in the world. They will nominate Hillary. I predict it. At that point, Bernie will ask his supporters to vote for Hillary instead. Mark my words.

Of course, in the general election, 100% of my state’s votes will be going to the GOP, so it’s not like us folks here in Louisiana could ever cast a vote for either of them that would actually count for anything anyway.

Meanwhile, those of us who have been trying for years to build an alternative to the duopoly will continue trying to breathe despite Bernie’s rapacious consumption of oxygen.

Equality Is Awesome

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue

On the 28th of March, 2004, I started this blog with a post about sweetgum buds. Later that day, I attended a meeting of the Greater New Orleans Green Party, where the group endorsed a statement I’d written on the subject of marriage equality.

Everybody should have the right to get married. The sex of the partners should have no more bearing on their right to marriage than their race or religion.

You can read the whole thing; it’s no work of genius but I’m quite proud of it.

At that time, I thought marriage equality was a great issue for people of conscience to “organize around.” That is, I thought the issue could serve to get people with diverse and divergent concerns working together, starting to see the connections between many different social causes — perhaps garnering support for Green candidates in the process.

Because, after all, marriage is a positive thing. Wedding celebrations can be beautiful and joyous. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?

A couple months later, I posted the following.

Gay people are getting married in Massachusetts today, and this straight, married man couldn’t be happier. I love weddings. In fact, the stories in the news today brought a tear to my eye. I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly positive about this development. Maybe I’m just starved for good news. But this feels like a historic day. Fifty years from now, I bet we’ll all be looking back and remembering.

But when November 2004 rolled around, I was alarmed and disappointed to see the issue being used to ends which were exactly the opposite of what I’d dreamed. Instead of a rallying point for liberty and unity, voters turned out in droves to deny equal rights to their fellow citizens — giving electoral support to conservative candidates.

Demoralized and dejected, I second-guessed myself at that point. I figured I was just profoundly out-of-touch with the American people. Fortunately, many truly committed activists didn’t give up so easily. They kept working away, on many fronts. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in that time. I guess I need to triple-guess myself. There have been other victories and setbacks along the way, but it’s hard to imagine anything bigger than last week’s ruling.

In retrospect, it seems clear that it will be the 26th of June, and not 17th of May, that will be remembered as we look back at this time. Not only do we have Obergefell v. Hodges to commemorate, but the 26th of June is also the date of the decisions on two other historic related cases: United States v. Windsor (2013) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

And let’s not forget Loving Day on the 12th of June, in honor of the historic ruling on Loving v. Virginia, which made interracial marriage legal in 1967.

Happily, it seems that June is increasing its currency as the month of matrimony. As I note in Flowers to Flame:

For centuries, June has been far and away the most popular month for weddings. The very name of the month derives from the Roman goddess Juno, queen of the gods but also goddess of marriage. This is the time to celebrate union, and not just the young, passionate, lusty desires of May, but also the more mature, stable, lasting commitment, the intimate, deep commingling of self and other.

I’ve read that the achievement of marriage equality in our country may lead to a renewed appreciation for the institution of marriage, especially amongst left-leaning types who have sadly ceded that ground to conservatives in recent decades.

I hope so. Xy and I will mark 22 years of marriage this year, and I can testify that despite many challenges along the way, it has been on balance a very healthy thing for me, and for Xy too I think. Marriage isn’t automatically awesome, but it can be, and I am glad that more people will be able to participate.

Footnote: Can I indulge in a little quadruple-guessing? I do have some misgivings, of course; it’s my nature to consider the angles. When Xy and I got married, I asked, “Who is the ultimate arbiter of human relations?” (It was in our wedding program!) Is it the state or the community? While I strongly endorse the right of consenting individuals to get married, I’m skeptical about why the state has to get involved. Thus I find myself strangely sympathetic to the arguments of conservative Libertarian Party types. I see that some states here in the Deep South are suddenly eager to get out of the marriage business entirely. That’s interesting, and though I deplore the motive in some ways, I’m curious to see where it will lead.

Photo credit: Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue by Mark K., CC BY-NC 2.0

Please Forward

Please ForwardI know I shouldn’t be excited about something so grim but nevertheless I am happy to announce that Please Forward will soon be available in bookstores (officially on August 15) and is now available for pre-order at all the usual places, including my favorite bookstore.

This anthology collects online writings that erupted in the aftermath of the flooding of New Orleans in 2005. As such, it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, upon which I have expounded at some length.

Continue reading Please Forward

A Pagan Community Statement on the Planetary Ecosystem

Happy Mother Earth Day

Today is International Mother Earth Day. Yes, that’s the official name as designated by the United Nations. And isn’t that a more interesting, more compelling, juicier name? I wonder if it will ever catch on in these United States.

I’ve heard it’s the largest secular holiday in the world, but many of us experience the Earth as sacred, which would seem to make it a quasi-religious holiday. Such mysteries are well above my pay-grade.

Not coincidentally, I am also celebrating today the publication of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” I’ve been involved in the drafting of this document over the last six months, though it was very much a group effort, with dozens of people contributing.

It was, as one might imagine, difficult to synthesize many divergent views on such a broad topic into a single coherent and relatively concise statement, but I’m proud of the final product. As of this moment, there are over 400 signatories from around the world, including a number of well-respected organizations.

Please take a moment to read the statement and consider signing on yourself.

Happy Mother Earth Day!

And on the Radio

2009 WFMU mini-Marathon
As if breaking into the print medium wasn’t enough, I’m on the radio too. More specifically, the inestimable Brian Turner played some of my stuff on WFMU a couple weeks ago. Check the playlist and see (or listen) for yourself. Yeah, there was a little confusion regarding the name of the artist (Editor B) and the name of the album (A vs. B) but I’m not complaining because he did indeed plug the site. This might be a good time to remind the world that A vs B can still be had free despite its questionable legal status. Get it now before the Man shuts it down!

Photo by John Dalton

Red Rock Review

Red Rock Review

I’m holding in my hot little hands the Spring 2015 issue (#35) of the Red Rock Review, a literary journal from the College of Southern Nevada. Red Rock Review is notable for publishing such luminaries as Marge Piercy and now yours truly. Check it out, page 71, “Dreams,” a short piece of what might be called fiction. Long-time readers of this blog may be intrigued to know this story/essay had its genesis back in 2006, during a two-week inner vacation which I wrote about in somewhat vague and mysterious terms. It took over eight years to bear fruit, a long gestation. This is my first time in print, I think, and certainly in a literary journal of this caliber. I’ve also got work coming out in a couple anthologies later this year. The question remains, how best to leverage this into something more? What next?

PS: You can get a copy of the Red Rock Review from their website. Copies of “Dreams” are available from the author for a song.

PPS: Uploaded to

A Natural Extension


I was honored to stand with over a dozen parents, teachers, and former board members, to speak in support of the Morris Jeff United Educators at the board meeting yesterday. Here’s what I said.

I’m speaking today to express my enthusiastic support for the formation, or perhaps I should say the re-formation, of a teachers’ union at Morris Jeff.

As you are all very much aware, Morris Jeff Community School as we currently know it was born, or perhaps I should say reborn, after the flooding of New Orleans, during the recovery process, as a grassroots effort toward the recovery and rebuilding of our city.

It was inspirational to bear witness to this process. Engaged citizens took on an awesome task, self-organizing for a better future, talking to one another, sharing information and taking action. This was a pattern I saw repeated again and again throughout my neighborhood, and in neighborhood after neighborhood across the city. But this effort was special, a sterling example of democracy in action. As a result, we have a fine school, and I’m proud to say that my my daughter is currently on her way to completing her third year here.

In my view, the process of teachers getting self-organized is a natural extension of the very process that gave birth to the school. A teachers’ union embodies the principles of grassroots democracy, organizing from the bottom-up, and I am fully in support of this in broad general concept, as I feel will yield many positive results for our children. I encourage the board to look favorably on recognition of the union and to enter into negotiations as appropriate.

Additional information:

Morris Jeff teacher’s union ask to enter a collective bargaining agreement with school board (Mid-City Messenger)

I’ll Have the Equinox with a Side of Eclipse Please

This year the vernal equinox coincides with a supermoon and a solar eclipse. We won’t be able to see the eclipse from our part of the globe, but it’s cool to think about nonetheless. Sister Moon is asserting herself at a time usually associated with Earth and Sun.

I’m sure you’ve already read my little column on spring in the subtropics, but have you seen my new column on fathers and daughters? It also touches on the question of when spring truly begins. I believe it is the most eagerly anticipated of all the seasonal turnings.

What else can I offer? I posted my new vernal equinox mandala here the other day. Oh, I know, how about this brand new mix?

Vernal Equinox from editor_b on 8tracks Radio.



I wanted to know more about the historical context of the faith in which I was raised. So I got hold of A History of Lutheranism by Eric W. Gritsch. It offered a bit more detail than I needed, so that I ended up skimming large sections, but nonetheless I found it a fascinating volume, and I think my understanding has been enriched.

The book covers the birth of a reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church in the early 16th century, its growth and consolidation in the years that followed, and the eventual emergence of a distinct Lutheran identity. The book goes on to detail Lutheran orthodoxy in the 17th century, the subsequent swing toward Pietism throughout the 18th century, the diversification of the movement, and a summation of developments in the last hundred years.

Some of the lurid details of Pietism are especially riveting; I’m making a note to myself to learn more about the Moravian Brethren and the Seitenhöhlchen-Kult. This is some weird wild stuff.

While such subjects have a certain sensationalistic appeal, the opposite end of the spectrum is much more relevant to me personally. I was particularly struck by the “quest for pure doctrine,” a driving force in Lutheran orthodoxy which continues today. It’s stunning to realize how much human time and effort have been expended on theological disputes. While many of these quarrels seem like hair-splitting, I can recognize this fervid thirst for truth and correctness in my own self even now.

This connection runs through the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (aka LCMS) which was formed in 1847 right here in North America. This is the denomination in which I was raised, noted for its “aggressive Lutheran confessional and biblicist stance,” a doctrinal conservatism which I now understand goes back for centuries. How conservative? According to Gritsch, LCMS journals have contended that “there is no development of doctrine since the Reformation.”

If contemporary Lutheranism has any image in the popular mind at all, it’s probably of a gloomy blandness derived from Garrison Keillor’s stories of Lake Wobegon. I hasten to point out that those are Scandinavian Lutherans, probably Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Though I have Norwegian heritage and a deep affinity for Nordic culture, my sense of the LCMS is much more Germanic, and the corresponding emphasis is on precision rather than gloom.

This desire for precision manifests in the quest for pure doctrine. “By 1929,” Gritsch writes, “it had become clear that the Missouri Synod suspected all other Lutheran synods of false teaching.” The divide between ELCA and LCMS represents the biggest rift in American Lutheran tradition. ELCA is distinctly more liberal than LCMS. I gather Dr. Gritsch was ELCA, so I’m sure the LCMS is untroubled when he writes that “Lutheran unity, fifty years overdue, will come eventually because Missouri cannot forever escape the implications of its own confession.”

According to the LCMS perspective, it’s an open question whether ELCA is even a real Lutheran church. After all, the ELCA holds that the Bible may contain historical and scientific errors. They tolerate homosexuality, and they even ordain women! That would never fly in the LCMS of my youth.

That’s why it was so surprising for me to learn of a movement in the LCMS called Ordain Women Now (OWN). This is an effort to promote discussion within the LCMS about the ordination of women, and as the name suggests, they are actively advocating for the same. Female pastors — in the LCMS? My mind boggles.

In fact, OWN is just part of a broader movement for gender justice in a number of faith traditions, including Roman Catholicism and the Latter-Day Saints. There’s an interfaith coalition called Equal in Faith that’s gotten organized to call attention to these efforts. They are all working to transform their traditions into something more just and equitable.

I’m of a divided mind about all this. I’m absolutely in support of gender equity, which is a crucially important issue, but I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to stay in a tradition where they didn’t feel fully respected. Then again, I left the LCMS a long time ago; I have too many fundamental disagreements, and separation was the only option for me. I’m very happy to be a member of a local group in which gender equity is a bedrock assumption, but it’s a long way from LCMS to Lamplight Circle.

Anyhow, even though I may not fully comprehend it, I want to express my solidarity with this movement. Therefore I hope to participate in the 2015 Fast for Gender Equality, which is taking place on International Women’s Day. That’s this Sunday, 8 March, 2015. There are interfaith gatherings scheduled in at least twenty cities across three continents, and one’s right here in New Orleans. (Here’s a flyer for the local event.)

Good luck to those on the front lines of this struggle. From everything I know about patriarchy, you’ll need it. But your cause is just, and I’m pulling for you.


A History of Lutheranism by Eric W. Gritsch

Ordain Women Now (LCMS)

Ordain Women (LDS)

Women’s Ordination Conference (RC)

Equal in Faith (interfaith)

Authority Vested: A Story of Identity and Change in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod by Mary Todd

I Was Not Killed This Morning

Last night we had dinner with an old friend and his new wife. When the topic turned to cycling in New Orleans, she confessed she was fearful for her safety, and she enumerated an appallingly long list of friends and acquaintances who have been severely injured when their bicycles collided with automobiles.

This morning a number of friends contacted me, concerned that I was perhaps no longer among the living. I’m still here, but a man about my age was killed at Jeff Davis and Canal Street. He was riding a bike and was struck by a car, or so I read.

"A driver killed a cyclist here today."

I was not killed this morning, but it could have been me. Until the new year, I passed through this intersection at least twice a day. This is a dangerous intersection for bicyclists; there are not even stripes to designate where the Jeff Davis bike path crosses Canal Street.

No Stripes

This reminds me why I first got motivated to pursue the construction of a trail in the Lafitte Corridor ten years ago, and why the work of groups like FOLC and Bike Easy is so important. We need to do better by our cyclists and pedestrians.

For now, though, my heart goes out to the man who was killed this morning, and to his family.
Continue reading I Was Not Killed This Morning