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In the interest of posterity, I’ve uploaded this important historical document to Scribd: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

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.

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

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!

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)

Happy May Day

Anarchy Flowers

As I researched the Haymarket Affair and the history of May Day in America, it was interesting to learn that Bohemian anarchists played a prominent role in the campaign for an eight-hour day and other labor struggles of the late 19th century. That caught my eye because I recently learned that one of my Bohemian immigrant ancestors had to sign a loyalty oath vouching that he was not an anarchist. (This puts me in mind of a conversation I had with my father some 17 years ago… but I digress.)

Tomorrow is May Day, so I wanted to wish everyone a very happy holiday.

Also, for the occasion, I have an essay on the topic, examining the connection between politics and spirituality through my own highly idiosyncratic lens, which you can read here:

May Day x 2

Green Convention

Green Party of Louisiana Convention 2014 Flyer

Over the past couple weeks, volunteers (including yours truly) have attempted to call every registered Green in the state of Lousiana, just to let people know that we’re organizing this convention on January 25. Our 2012 presidential candidate Jill Stein will be there.

Don’t let the slick graphics fool you: This is a grassroots, seat-of-the-pants effort. We value each and every person’s participation.

I should perhaps mention what the Green Party is about. A lot of people think it’s an environmental group. It’s not. It’s a political party which holds ecological wisdom as a core value. Social justice, grassroots democracy and nonviolence are the other pillars of the party. Obviously our efforts are focused on Louisiana, but the Green Party is an international movement.

Frankly the party needs an infusion of fresh blood. If you’re at all interested in these things, you should most certainly come and learn more. Please register at
Continue reading Green Convention

Institutionalized Insanity

Why Are We Here?

Sitting thru my employer’s mandatory benefits workshop reconfirmed my belief that health insurance is institutionalized insanity. There must be a better way.

I’ve never liked the concept of health insurance. It seems wrong to me at the very core. It feels like a perverse form of gambling. You’re putting down all this money against the possibility that you might get sick. If you stay healthy, you lose, and all that money goes to the house. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get sick, and then the house pays out.

If you win, you lose; if you lose, you win. That just seems like a cruel and unusual system.

The chief virtue of group insurance, as far as I can see, is that it helps share the cost amongst the group. That’s great. However, I fail to see how having such insurance administered by a for-profit corporation adds any value to that equation. The profit would seem to derive from either one of two sources: 1) paying employees less than their labor is worth, or 2) taking in more premiums than are actually needed to cover healthcare costs. Both seem blatantly contrary to common sense, which is why I call it institutionalized insanity. It’s better than no coverage at all, better than having to bear the costs alone, but the model seems to have fundamental flaws.

Our current system has many problems. The insurance model is one of those problems.

And that brings me to Obamacare.

I can see that Obamacare might correct some of the most egregious problems with our system. For example, it aims for universal coverage. I was glad to learn via social media that at least one old friend from Bloomington is doing well by the new law, and that makes me happy. For the record, I should note that Obamacare has had no effect whatsoever on me and my family. Thus my musings here are strictly big-picture philosophical.

My chief concern with Obamacare is that it doesn’t seem to move us any closer to sanity. It seems to only invest us deeper in the madness, by mandating insurance for all.

I hasten to add that my impression is based on my admittedly limited understanding of this very complex bundle of legislation. Like with our tax code, that complexity is part of the problem. We’ve got fixes grafted on fixes producing a monster like Frankenstein’s. Few really understand it all.

Of course, simplifying this complex situation would be truly radical, and I’m not sure we have the stomach for it. Nevertheless, let me sketch out my simple idea: I kind of think we should provide a basic level of healthcare for everyone, sharing the cost amongst taxpayers, and then have insurance for whatever is above and beyond that basic level. Insurance should not be a necessity; it should be something extra.

Does Obamacare move us toward that in any way? I don’t see how. If anything, it seems to move us in the opposite direction. We won’t ever move ahead by taking half-steps backward. We won’t replace health insurance as the basic model for healthcare by mandating it for everyone.

Some apologists for Obamacare acknowledge its limitations but say this was the only viable solution. They quote Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible.” True enough, but here’s another way to phrase that same idea: “Politics is the art of creating possibilities.” When people can’t manage to create desirable possibilities, it’s a political failure.

I hope I am wrong about this. Time will tell.

Epistle to the Ecotopians

I don’t often do this, but here are some words written by someone else. I guess I should add a few words of my own. I read Ecotopia in the late 80s. Written by Ernest Callenbach, it’s an imaginative novel that speculates on what would happen if the west coast of the United States seceded from the union and established a country based on the radical idea of living sustainably. I read it in a class on utopian literature at Indiana University, taught by the amazing Edward Gubar. I loved that class. Incidentally, today I saw that Edward’s ex-wife Susan Gubar is on the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is also a writer facing her own mortality, just as Ernest Callenbach has done. Callenbach died a few weeks ago, and this letter was found on his computer. It was obviously written as a final statement. Please, please read it. Also, many thanks to for first publishing this epistle.
Continue reading Epistle to the Ecotopians

Blasphemers and Apostates

March 14, 2012: International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates.

I suppose I am both an apostate and a blasphemer, at least by by some definitions. I’m fortunate to live in a country where religious freedom, though constantly contested, is guaranteed by the constitution.

But things are very different in some other nations.

On the YouTube page for this video, you’ll find a great list of resources for more information.

Please support this cause.


I’ll take this article with a grain of salt, but I did find the parenthetical explanation of the racial politics of capitalization helpful.

Readers frequently write to ask why I capitalize “Black” but not “white”. Often the question comes with racial resentment attached: there is a feeling that the use of the capital letter reveals some sneaky political agenda. The reason is not some kind of bending-over-backwards PC leftie orthodoxy; it is because I think the terms refer to two different kinds of groups. African Americans are an American ethnic group like Irish Americans, Mexican Americans, German Americans or Jewish Americans. We normally capitalize the name of such ethnic groups: Tibetans, Kurds, Jews, Gypsies. White in America is not one ethnic group; it is a larger, less defined group who do not share the kind of strong common identity that smaller groups do. White is an attribute but it is not an identity. I don’t capitalize black when referring to black Africans or Jamaicans; using the capital letter is a way to specify American Blacks, not blacks at large. It’s eccentric, maybe, but it seems logical.

I’ve long used lowercase for both descriptors. Capitalizing “white” felt wrong; I thought I was being egalitarian by not capitalizing “black” either, even though I saw that many respected writers did so. The usage guides I’ve read over the years offered unsatisfactory meditations that left me scratching my head. But I find this pretty convincing.

“The Oil is Not Gone, and Neither Are We”

Cherri Foytlin

This just in from Cherri Foytlin, who will be on the Social Media, Social Justice panel at Rising Tide 6 (register now):

“thanks to all who attended – please read and share the link”

The day before yesterday, on August 4, 2011, one year after the President of our United States stood on national television and said that 75% of the oil that had spewed into our Gulf was gone, I was booked into the New Orleans Parish Police lock-up with the charge of Criminal Trespassing.

The day before, I had been called by the Louisiana State Police Department to come to a meeting with them to discuss the Non-violent Direct Action Protest that myself and a united group consisting of environmentalists, community organizers, fishermen and clean-up workers, had organized in front of the British Petroleum offices, which are on the 13th and 14th floor of 1250 Poydras in NOLA.

At that meeting, I was told that we were allowed on the sidewalk only. That there would be plain clothed officers among us, and that if we crossed a certain line, which runs from the building to the parking lot, we would be arrested. The detectives, very nicely, drew us a map to explain the exact whereabouts of that line.

When we got to the event, which at the beginning had nearly 100 in attendance, I made the announcement that I was going to cross that line. And that I was doing this in protest of the so many lines that BP has crossed, in my mind, concerning the cleaning up of their mess, the spraying of toxic chemicals in our water, the murder of 11 of our energy providers, the disrespect and economical damage to our fishermen and residents, and the denial of and lack of response to health issues and claims since April 20 of last year.

So, I intentionally crossed that invisible line and took their tar balls back to them – a box full that had been picked up our beaches that day, (with no clean-up workers in sight, I might add). At least 15 other people chose to go with me, to complete this task.

As we approached the front door, we were met immediately by a representative of the company, the building and a security guard. Together they refused us any access to the building, citing that all BP workers had been dismissed for the day – a fact I knew to be untrue, because the state police had told me at our previous meeting that although most would be sent home at 4:30 that day, some would be available until 5:30, (at the time that they had told us this, they were trying to facilitate a meeting between us and BP – to which we had said was only an option it Feinberg and Zimmer was in attendance, and to which BP had refused to consider).

Being unable to enter the building, we dropped the tar balls on the sidewalk (in plastic), and sat down directly in front of the doors, where others came to join us.

And that was where we stayed.

In the mean time, kind people from within our group brought us waters and other refreshments in order to make our stay more comfortable. So, naturally, it was not very long before I personally had to urinate.

A very respectful gentleman from the state police had come forward to negotiate, just as he had the day before at the meeting in the SBI offices. I asked him, jokingly, if he thought they would just let me in to pee. He said no and that “They were freaking out in there.”, but pointed out that there were portable toilets just beyond the fence in a nearby hotel construction site.

After a few minutes, I felt it calm enough at that moment – since all BP representatives, building security and police personnel were discussing the issue inside, (excluding the one member of the state police that, at that time, was sitting with us), I could go use the restroom quickly, and come back.

So, I did. I jumped the fence and used the facilities. Upon my return jump, I realized that the BP reps in the building had seen me go and went running to find me, perhaps thinking I had looked for an alternative route into the building.

And that they had taped me jumping the fence and notified the nearby construction site mangers of my trespassing. We believe that they had hoped that the other owners would have had me arrested for trespassing and kept the BP name out of the incident. You see, arresting and charging people for bringing to light their negligence and lack of response sort of blows that whole “making it right” image.

But, the people next door had no interest in arresting me, or anyone else. We have more allies than they, or even we, know – you see?

I then joined the others in sitting, which we continued for over all around 3 hours until a little after 8:00 pm, which is when – after negotiating tirelessly, and being very respectful with us all day, the New Orleans Police Department and the Louisiana State Police gave us one more chance to end the protest and go home before arrests were made.

At that final refusal, NOLA PD, quietly came forth and arrested the 3 of us, who had remained seated.

Truth is, I knew that I personally was going to get arrested if I stayed sitting there, I knew that. And this was a decision that had not been made lightly on my part.

Over the last year and nearly a half I have studied past movements that have worked on different levels. And thanks to those who have come before us, we have a general formula for affecting change.

According to Dr. King, mainly from his letters while he, himself, was sitting in an Alabama jail, he said that the progression includes the following:

– To find out if an injustice exists – without doubt we, the people of the Gulf, have been dealt with very unjustly with regards to this corporation and our governments handling of this event, as well as others across the Gulf.

– To negotiate – we, the residents, fishermen, clean-up workers, tourism industry workers, oil workers, community organizers, ect, have negotiated on the local, state and federal levels with the HHS, the CDC, the NOAA, the EPA, the GCERT, the CEQ, the DEQ, the Oil Spill Commission, the Administration, and BP itself for nearly 16 months – to little or no avail.

– Dr. King’s next step was to “self-purify” – each person must take this step alone. Personally, I had first interpreted this step as the ending of bad habits, such as social drinking. But on the walk I realized that he was talking about preparing your mind against egotistical illusions, self-doubt and self-pity.

– The last step is action. And in the successful civil rights movement, as well as the Eastern Indian movement for independence, that meant non-violent action and civil disobedience taken against the oppressors in order to advance the cause of, and bring to light the call for, justice and liberty.

Our being arrested, was just the first step of that last phase.

Now, while I was sitting there I had a good friend of mine, who is very sick from the toxins still in his system and our environment, say to me, “Cherri, it is not worth getting arrested.”. He was begging me not to take that final step. He did that, because he love me, and he did not wish to see me suffer, I understand that – and it warms my heart. But my response to him was, “My friend, you are so worth getting arrested for”.

You see that is what we all must understand. You, my friend, are worth it. Our ecosystem is worth it, our kids are worth it, our future is worth it.. We must understand the value of what we have and be determined in protection of that. We must take up responsibility to, and for, each other now, in these times. Because, we are all worth it.

As we sat there, we repeatedly looked across the crowd and saw testament to that notion; such as, the poster my 9-year-old had made of her depiction of Earth with pollution dotting it, and the eyes of the people who were sick from chemical poisoning and yet had still come out to take a stand, calloused hands of a fishermen, community organizers who we have all seen at events from Texas, to Florida, to D.C. – demanding, begging sometimes, to be heard on behalf of the communities and ecosystem that they love. And we saw grandmothers and grandfathers, daddies and mommies, and sisters and brothers, all united in the simple humanitarian right of clean air and water.

One person in particular, Kimberly Wolf, a warrior woman who I have had the honor of getting to know early on in this fight, and who also has terminal cancer, yet got out of her bed and joined us for as long as she could – strengthened our souls. She is the picture of strength and love in all of this – and in seeing her, I have never been so moved by an example of commitment and perseverance.

That is the epitome of what this event, and our arrest, was about. That there is hope, we have allegiance to each other, that the loss of one does not and will not end the journey of the whole for truth, justice and recompense of the human rights violations that are taking place in our homeland.

There are so many to thank for the success of the day. I would especially like to recognize Kyle Nugent and Noah Learned, who I had not met prior and yet went all the way on behalf of our people and coast. The people who helped in organizational duties, too many to name here – but in particular Karen S, Ada, Devin, Josh, Mary-Margaret, Anne, Elizabeth, Robert – there are so many. And including the people who were at the event(s) of last week, and/or are still working on this issue, or others like it.. you are all my heroes.

I would also like to make clear, that the New Orleans Police Department and the Louisiana State Police Department were very kind in their treatment of us before, during and after our arrest. The first thing I was told after getting in the car was, “Why didn’t you just go home, Miss Cherri? None of us wanted to arrest you.”

They also took the handcuffs off as soon as we arrived at the station, and made sure we were as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

So, there you have it.

I want you all to know, that we will not stop. We will not stop until our fishermen, our workers, our families, our wildlife, our waters, our region – are made whole again. Because when you love something, when you really do, you will never be silenced in protecting and fighting for it.

There will be further opportunities for those caring souls across the nation to stand with us for justice. Be ready.

You see, THAT is the greatest weapon in our tool box, that is what will win this and so many other battles we have been called to participate in, it’s our LOVE that will carry the day.

On August 4 we took our first stand. Courage, my friends, this is just a beginning.

Yours truly,

Cherri Foytlin

P.S. – BP have a response to the event, which is further proof that we made a wave, I cannot find the link at the moment but will update when I can. They said something like, “we are still here too“. It would be nice if a response was made by you to the author.. And to every journalist, and person, who needs to learn more about the truth of what is happening in America’s Gulf Coast.

Here is the link mentioned in the above paragraph.

Photo cropped from original: Adam Thomas and Cherri Foytlin / Linh Do / CC BY 2.0

Social Media, Social Justice

Twitter Revolt Logo (burst)

After the Beyond Jena forum in January of 2009, I had the idea for putting together a one-day conference on the intersection of social media and social justice.

Alas, though I blew some hot air around the office, I never actually did it. A combination of distractions and personal lethargy (on my part) got in the way. I allowed the idea to languish while we looked for grant money to fund it, when in reality we could probably have done the whole thing on a shoestring.

But that’s all water through the spillway now. I’m looking forward to Rising Tide VI, and I may have a chance to program a panel on this topic.

Much as I’d like to think the title of this post says it all, perhaps I should unpack it a little. Social Media, Social Justice. More and more people around the world use blogs and social network services. Their power to connect people and publish diverse voices raises questions about the possibility of using new media as organizing tools for social change. For example, blogs played a crucial role in organizing protests in Jena, Louisiana, in 2007. I’m interested in examining the intersection and interaction of social media with the struggle for a more just and humane society. Do tools such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, et cetera, facilitate such work, and if so how? What are some concrete examples? We’ve all heard about the revolution in Egypt, but what’s going on locally? I’m also interested in critical perspectives. Does social media actually impede the struggle for justice? Are we just “amusing ourselves to death” (to borrow a phrase from Neil Postman)? Does new media present a new opportunities, or do we face the same issues as ever?

I have some ideas about who to ask to sit on the panel, but I’m curious to know if any of my readers have any suggestions. Ideally I’m looking for people who are equally versed in both halves of the equation. In other words, tech-savvy activists and socially conscious geeks, as well as scholars who have studied this issue. We’re looking for local folks with a New Orleans connection, so we can keep it real and relevant to the focus of the conference. Also we don’t have funds to support travel. Exceptions could be made for an exceptional speaker. Above all participants should be able to speak to the issue with passion and intelligence.


Twitter Revolt Logo (burst) / to the People All Power / BY-NC 2.0

World Events

She Turned My World Upside Down

News from around the world certainly has been interesting of late. Unfortunately it shows no sign of letting up. I call that unfortunate because “interesting” usually means “bad” so far as news is concerned. Even when bad news doesn’t affect me directly, it’s troubling and problematic for me in two different ways.

Of course it makes me sad to read of people suffering anywhere, but it’s more than that. Like many people, I often don’t know what to do or how to react. For example, I started following the story about the conflict in Ivory Coast months ago. This was before the revolutions and unrest started sweeping through other parts of Africa and the Middle East. I guess it caught my attention because I’m a fan of the reggae singer Alpha Blondy, who’s from that country. The conflict, revolving around a contested election, dragged on and turned bloody and eventually a lot of people were killed. I think the final death toll was tallied in the thousands. I’m not sure of the factual details. I could look them up, but why bother? In fact, I wonder more and more what is the point of being an informed citizen of the world?

Americans are notoriously uninformed about world events, and I find that aspect of our national character rather depressing; but on the other hand I personally am surrounded by plenty of intelligent people who are quite well informed, and I still have to wonder: Where does it get us? So we know about stuff going on all over the globe. Do we use that information in any kind of meaningful way? For many of us, our participation in civic life begins and ends in the voting booth, with a choice between two highly unsatisfactory candidates. Being aware of a bloody crisis in Ivory Coast doesn’t really factor into that decision at all. I often say voting is the least of our civic duties. Being an informed voter takes time and energy, as does keeping abreast of world events. I’d much rather see people actively engaged in their local community. It’s great if people can do all these things, but in my experience a lot of people are running around busy, busy, busy, overwhelmed by the stresses and demands of modern life. I’m certainly no fan of ignorance, but I’m just saying if you need to tamp down your vociferous news consumption to make time for active engagement, you certainly have my approval.

I was talking about this to MaPó a couple days ago and she turned me on to Kiva Microfunds. I’ve heard about microfinance, and Kiva’s been around for years, but I’ve never investigated this before. So I invested $25 in a loan to a shopkeeper in Uganda. It would have been more “poetic,” or something, to invest in Ivory Coast, but Kiva doesn’t currently have any partners in Ivory Coast. Faith needed that last $25 to complete her loan of $650, so it seemed like a good first-time investment for me. It’s not much but at least it’s some sort of way to be involved globally.

(I hope it’s self-evident that I’m not offering the above as an example of “active engagement” in the “local community.” It’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite. My friend Heather Duke shared a quote from Mother Teresa via Facebook: “Start by helping the person closest to you.” I’m down with Mama T on that one. My local involvements are well-known to anyone who knows me, and those efforts represent an investment of far more than $25, though I primarily give of my time and energy, rather than my money. Localism has to come first, in my view. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’m advocating we all invest in Kiva while ignoring our neighbors because I that would be a terrible idea.)

The other reason I find world events problematic is more personal and trivial: I constantly feel I should be writing about them here, even though I don’t have anything interesting to say. This is a journal of what’s going on in my life. When I read about a conflict elsewhere in the world, it’s not a part of my direct experience. But it can become an emotional force that impinges upon my consciousness such that I feel I have to account for it. If I leave it out I’m missing a major chunk of my day-to-day thoughts and feelings. Yet I really have nothing of substance to add beyond what’s reported in the media. For me to pontificate on the ramifications of the conflict in Ivory Coast would be the height of foolishness. So I’m left in a quandary, damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

Medical Madness

Medical Madness

Even though I’ve been feeling much better after my initial bout with bronchitis, I’ve continued to have minor relapses. I exert myself and then feel funny in the lungs and fatigued.

So I made an appointment to see my doctor Tuesday morning.

And it was such a strange doctor visit.

  1. I was informed that my doctor would now be charging $10 for phone calls. In fact, I was given a letter about it, and I had to sign to confirm receipt. The nurse-receptionist blamed “Obamacare” but the letter blamed Congress. So if I get some lab work done, I can either make a standard appointment to discuss the results, or I can pay ten bucks for a phone consult. My insurance will pay nothing for phone calls, but my co-pay for an office visit is $30.
  2. Once I got into the examination room, I was told the doctor now wants patients who can type to enter their own symptoms directly into the system. In the past a nurse or intern would talk to me and take notes. I can indeed type (in fact I’m typing right now) so soon I found myself typing my symptoms into a computer. I actually don’t mind this because I’m fairly articulate and I can know exactly what’s being entered. Still, it seemed weird.
  3. The doctor’s first impulse was to test me for HIV. Since I’m having trouble shaking an infection, perhaps there’s a problem with my immune system. I guess that makes sense. I’ve never been tested for HIV, so I guess it’s a good idea on general principle. I just thought it was odd that this would be at the top of the list. He also tested me for asthma but that came back negative. I’ll get the HIV results next week.

For what it’s worth, I’m on an antibiotic now and feeling better than ever.

As long as I’m talking about medical issues, I should mention the other symptom that prompted me to see the doctor. I seem to have quantity of fluid in my maxillary sinus cavity. I can feel it draining from side to side when I lie down. Yet my nasal passages are mostly clear — I’m not blowing snot. I finally blew some last week, and it was an alarming color I’ve never seen before, a very dark brown. Might be some old blood in there, as I was having bloody noses a month ago. I’ve been doing sinus rinses daily but they don’t seem to wash anything out. I don’t think the antibiotic will get the mucus out of my sinuses. What to do? What’s going on here anyway?

Medical Madness / Juan Calos Herrera / BY-NC-SA 2.0