Sunday, June 08, 2008

Conversation Recap for June 7, 2008

Next week, June 15, we are optimistically projected to meet outside. We will meet at Owen Beach, which is in Point Defiance Park. The topic is checking in on where we are in our lives.

During check-in, we heard from Laurie, now in her last week at ESC before moving on to her new job. More on that later.

This week we heard Kathy’s story, part two. Imagine being in NYC 1964-8, the music, the theater, the politics, it was a place where many things happened. A central part of the story was the 1968 strike that began in April of 1968, and the recent 40th anniversary of those events.

The discussion drew out comparisons among the white, black and Asian students during that time, and contemporary accounts made it clear that this was a time when segregation was the norm, and the ways this affected life went largely unnoticed by the white students.

One of the reasons the police took a while to arrest the strikers was that they were worried about Harlem exploding, possibly as a reaction to any mistreatment of black students.

Another strand of conversation looked at student activism, and comparisons between now and those times. There is student activism today, largely focused on the Iraq war.

When asked about her own writing, Kathy described her interviews of members of mixed families. One feature of making sense of the interviews is the question of identity. This is in part a product of the context that defines the color line in America—recall the days of miscegenation laws, the ‘one-drop’ rule, and legalized segregation. She has five categories she asked her respondents about: ascribed identity (what people call a person), cultural identity (cultural features where people find strength, entertainment, etc.), self-identification (what people use when filling out forms, which is often not the same as the previous three categories), how people say they really identify, and a general question where she asked people to describe events or situations that make them feel more white or black or Asian. Identity is a complicated question.

The V-team will meet after today’s session to discuss and set an agenda for the next three or so months. We discussed topics for the V-team to take up. Next week they will present a proposed schedule.

Part of the V-team work may follow a call by Dexter to encourage more dynamic civic engagement on the part of the Conversation. We have subgroups that work on education and on peace issues. We also discussed the organization of small discussion groups within the larger Conversation. This is also connected to the possibilities of our growing, and how to handle larger groups. We also discussed possible topics: American exceptionalism, the links between race and class, the criminalization of immigration, health equity and disparities, a session on helping parents understand their rights and resources available to them in the education system (and elsewhere), public education, Obama’s use of the term ‘post-racial,’ contemporary civic engagement, economics and social justice, planning strategically for social and structural change, native Americans in the Northwest, sessions on Youth and Children. Another topic, perhaps in two weeks, is juveniles in the law and disproportionalities. Other topics are welcome. One thing to discuss is the time of our meetings—the issue we have discussed before that this is the church hour for lots of people, and there are consequences for who is able to be part of the Conversation.

Next week, June 15, we are optimistically projected to meet outside. We will meet at Owen Beach, which is in Point Defiance Park. It is also Sound-To-Narrows and Fathers Day, each which bring out lots of people.

Places to consider for the outdoor meetings.
• Somewhere along the Ruston Waterfront, like Dickman Mill Park
• Owens Beach
• Downtown Tacoma, at the History Museum
• Wright Park
• Peoples’ Park
• Titlow Beach
• There are park facilities or covered outdoor meeting areas at many of the schools, such as Lincoln Park.

If we commit to going outside for the summer, we are committed to potlucks. We will coordinate it through the folks now signed up for food. A couple of our number will check these out and propose a schedule for the next couple of months. One thing to consider: Perhaps instead of meeting at a different place each time, we meet at a couple of places. We will need to print something that everyone can have on their calendar, and in their pockets, to remind them and to help with invitations to people. We also need to put it front and center on the blog.

We express our profound thank you and appreciation to Laurie Arnold, for the many things she has done to organize and energize The Conversation. Several people offered testimonials.

We notice, we appreciate, that Laurie is our steady presence—here every week, here first, here to welcome us and make it happen. This rock steady person is also, as some of us know, rebellious. And we take from this a recognition of impeccable timing—when to be each.
In one testimonial, Laurie is called a fellow traveler in the fight against racism, in the struggle to help families in need, to make education possible for many for whom it was closed, she is the change we want to happen.

Laurie, “our butterfly,” who carries our presence through the internet. She creates stability in the communities she adopts, and we are grateful for doing that for us. She gives so generously to others. We love and honor her and her family of origin. She will now create support systems in new places.

In a tribute from a self-confessed odd person, thank you to Laurie for encouraging us in our oddities, to open Evergreen as a welcoming place for us.

Special thanks go out from Evergreen alumni, who have been welcomes, been taught through her role model as a caring person who fights racism, encourages students, and makes programs happen. The students love Laurie, several testified.

One participant reminded her there is life after change, and the wish for Laurie is for her to be able to experience these wonderful aspects of life in that new place, too.

Laurie is a pillar of the community, our community. Some etymology: pillar: One who occupies a central or responsible position, from the latin pila. The metaphor is architectural, of course, but pillar is the plural form of pilum, the javelin carried by Roman soldiers. For the Romans, pillars were seen as bundles of spears. Pillars don’t just stand there, they are fierce bundles of energy, ready to move and take action. And they are also not single things, but a gathering of the many parts that, together, hold the place up.

No comments: