Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton Ava is a beautiful chocolate brown and white female terrier. She is 6 years old, weighs about 20 pounds, is spayed and up-to-date on her vaccinations. She walks well on leash and knows her basic obedience commands. She has been crate trained and also uses a dog door. She is
ThurstonTalk’s team chooses Olympia as our home base. Even as the company has expanded, the leadership team continues to work out of a small office in West Olympia. “From our Olympia office, we manage a team of more than 70 people around Western Washington. Our freelance writing team crafts positive stories about what it’s like to
Home staging is not interior decorating nor does it always use the latest design trends. It is a unique creative science that readies a home so that it appeals to the greatest number of buyers. When a home is staged by Design Smart Home Staging and Redesign, the team uniquely arranges furniture, accents and accessories—
No one farm can afford to distribute to places where immediate point-of-purchase occurs
At this writing, I’ve just returned from the Olympia Farmers’ Market, now in full season. Although the Market was open all year on Saturdays, and open weekends from October through December, now four full days of local food, crafts, lotions and potions are ours to enjoy. We in Olympia are so lucky to be living in a place where over 40 farms, offering everything from vegetables to local meats, from fresh flowers to honey, bring their food, their amazing, tasty, grown right here, made right here, food, to us! We get to eat it, buy it, smell it and also listen to music, dance a little jig, and get our faces painted if we want, at the Market. Very patient Master Gardeners will tell us why we cannot and should not try to kill the moss in our lawns. Wise growers, who know something about trees and bushes, will tell us just the right pear tree varietals to plant (in pairs) in our back yard so that we can pluck our own pears on a late summer evening a few years from now—assuming the deer and raccoons haven’t done the job for us.
Life is good and growing in the South Sound.
So why is it that I can walk across a parking lot, or down the street, or just across town, from all this abundance and sit down at a restaurant table and not be able to order and eat that which is so obviously available at the many farmers’ markets in Thurston, Mason and Lewis counties? Why is it hard to find seasonally fresh and locally grown food in our grocery stores and restaurants in the greater Oly-Lacey-Tumwater area when the farmers’ markets are bursting with it? Good grief, we are over-run with kale all year round! When thousands of carrots, pulled from the ground hours before, are calling us at our many market stalls, why are we served frozen cubes of them, or old, shaved, “baby,” carrots grown in Texas last year? Why are carrots and kale grown far away and long ago served at the food vendor stalls at the Olympia Farmers’ Market when we can buy fresh just a few feet away?
As it turns out, that was a question I was asking local, small-scale, organic (or nearly so), farmers here over 17 years ago when I first came to this area. It’s a question the Thurston County Food Council grapples with annually, that frustrates local growers daily, and that elected county officials (except local farmer, E. J. Zita) and economic development agencies, ignore, because, they’re busy making sure Cabela’s doesn’t pay more taxes than the barristas at Batdorf & Bronson do. They’re much too involved in global trade agreements assuring that every tree with a trunk diameter exceeding 18 inches gets sold to China—quick-like.
The short answer? No local farm distribution system.
There is some local food distribution, of course—usually carried-out by the farmers themselves. They pack the produce on their trucks at dawn and drive it to the nearby farmers’ markets. Perhaps they drop off a few bushels and baskets and crates to the Olympia Food Co-op or Jay’s Farm Stand. Some have contracts with the optimistic and determined Tachira Farms: Farm Fresh Market! on Black Lake Blvd in West Olympia: http://farmfreshnw.com/index.html
Larger, but still small-scale, local producers might have a contract with a couple of locally owned grocery stores (not the big-box stores, see sidebar on page 10) or restaurants. For example, Hart’s Mesa restaurant has a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership with Pigman Farms. Others buy from Kirsop, Wobbly Cart and Rising River farms. Many local farmers growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, and even those also producing chickens, turkeys, pigs, goats and cattle offer CSA memberships, where individuals and business owners buy-in to monthly rations of local food, in-season. In this instance, CSA members pick-up their box of local food at a designated spot every week/month. Check-out the Thurston County Farm Map: http://www.visitolympia.com/direct-sale-farms
Here’s the thing: Small farmers living near you spend most of their time, from sun-up to sun-down, growing food. Then, they stay up late filling-out forms explaining why and how they grow food, in order to submit those forms to someone who doesn’t grow food, so that person/agency can figure out how much the farmer should pay, to grow food. The best part of farming? You get to eat really good food!
The value of a food distribution system in the South Sound has been recognized by small-scale producers in Thurston, Mason and Lewis Counties for decades. It’s been of major concern to organizations like Washington Tilth, South Sound Farmland Trust, the local and state Grange, and many other organizations. Individually, no one farm or small-scale meat producer, can afford to distribute its produce, fruits, flowers, dairy and meat beyond the farm itself, except to places where immediate point-of-purchase occurs. Most get by with farmers’ markets & CSA’s. Those with a bit more operational cash (and land) contract with a few local grocery stores and a few restaurants. Some artisanal dairies in the South Sound pay drivers to deliver milk, cream, cheese etc. to stores and restaurants as far south as Portland and as far north as Seattle. Check-out Black Sheep Creamery in Chehalis: https://blacksheepcreamery.com/
Because the South Sound has no truly local or regional distribution system for its small-scale food producers, those organic (or nearly so) farmers who can produce enough food to sell beyond the markets available to them through individual customer sales via CSA’s, or at food co-ops, Jay’s Farm Stand, and farmers’ markets, contract with Charlie’s Produce http://www.charliesproduce.com/about/. Some local grocery stores and restaurants, and many South Sound institutional food services like those contracted to area schools, colleges, prisons and government agencies, “Buy Local” through food contracts with Charlie’s Produce.
Here’s how it works. Small farmers in the counties of the South Sound, especially organic growers, contract to Charlie’s Produce (CP). CP sends a truck to the farm and carries the produce away to Seattle, where it is sorted into bins of plant varieties. All the broccoli over there, all the lettuce over here, put the beans there . . . And then, grocery stores and restaurants and institutional food services at local schools, prisons and government agencies here in the South Sound buy it back, at a mark-up. In this way, the kale grown less than 10 miles from where I live here in Olympia, travels all the way to Seattle and back again, so I can eat it at the college cafeteria, at a handful of restaurants, or buy it at a grocery store. By the way, Charlie’s Produce has main distribution centers in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and two in Alaska. That’s swell and hats off to a Washington State fresh food distribution company who made good focusing on some major cities in the Pacific Northwest and as far afield as Alaska and LA.
The point is, those cities where Charlie’s Produce has anchored its hubs benefit the most from what our local farmers produce in the South Sound. The employees and their paychecks connected to Charlie’s Produce fuel the economies of those hub cities, not the rural towns and small cities in the South Sound whose farmers sell to them. Only a few South Sound farmers, those who can afford to grow and sell for CP, make a little bit selling to CP. Incrementally, our farmers realize less than what the average worker at a CP distribution center takes home every month selling what our farmers produce. Our farmers would make more—and we’d pay less—if the Ports in Thurston, Lewis, and Mason counties would collaborate in supporting a local South Sound food distribution economic incubator. Many smaller farms in the area could then also afford to grow a little more if they could sell to a local distributor rather than to a mega-regional company like CP. Local restaurants and grocery stores would realize consistent and affordable local food delivery and we’d all find more locally grown food to buy and eat.
With over a hundred small-scale farms producing amazing, often organic, and heritage plant/meat/dairy food in the South Sound, shouldn’t you or I be able to walk down the street and buy or eat the food produced here? In fact, shouldn’t we expect that? People living in Seattle and Portland expect that. Guess what? Our big-city cousins are eating very well and affordably in those cities and enjoying tasty food raised nearby. Why aren’t we?
Liza Rognas is an academic librarian and a research professional, and has been a community food security activist and researcher for 20 years in Washington State.
In support of Palestine and farmworkers
On May 31, 2016, students at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington voted overwhelmingly to endorse resolutions expressing support for freedom and equality for Palestinians and labor justice for migrant workers at Sakuma Bros farm in northern Washington State. The three resolutions asked students to (1.) condemn the presence of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus, (2.) to de-shelve Sabra hummus and (3.) prohibit the use of Sakuma Bros berries from campus dining services.
Support for the resolutions was widespread: 67.4% of participating students voted for the Caterpillar resolution, while 73.9% voted for de-shelving Sabra and an impressive 84.7% for the Sakuma question. The resolutions also garnered support beyond the campus. The campaign was endorsed by Olympia-based organization Economics for Everyone, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and political scientist, Norman Finkelstein.
Both Caterpillar and Sabra are complicit in Israeli apartheid and occupation. Caterpillar sells armored bulldozers to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to conduct illegal house demolitions in the Palestinian territories, displacing around 100,000 civilians since 1967. One of Sabra’s parent corporations, Strauss Group, provides material support to elite units of the IDF, the Golani and Givati Brigades, that are infamous for human rights abuses, including during Israel’s latest assaults on Gaza. Sakuma Bros farm is notorious for its exploitative labor practices against a largely immigrant workforce, paying poverty wages in deplorable conditions.
Zayd Zaytoon, an Evergreen student and Olympia activist from Palestine speaks about what the resolutions mean to them, “As a Palestinian student, this vote reaffirms my school’s commitment to not support the oppressors of my family and my lineage and to use its tools to collaborate with other schools across the U.S. through the BDS movement.”
Victories in the first two initiatives continue a long tradition of Palestine solidarity organizing amongst the Evergreen and Olympia communities. In 2003, Evergreen student, Rachel Corrie, was killed by an IDF-operated Caterpillar bulldozer while defending a Palestinian home from demolition. In 2010, students voted overwhelmingly to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation and prohibit the use of Caterpillar equipment on campus. Evergreen’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter (formerly Mid-East Solidarity Project) has long been instrumental in educating students for years, hosting speakers, workshops, and displays commemorating Nakba Day, for example. Also in 2010, the Olympia Food Co-op made the historic decision as the first U.S. grocery store to boycott Israeli goods. Finally, downtown Olympia is home to the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural, a multi-media and art project and collective effort of some 150 groups and individuals, that “builds relationships across movements, issues, cultures and great distances,” according to the project’s website.
The recent student resolutions were crafted in response to the 2005 global call to action by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against companies and institutions complicit in Israeli apartheid and occupation. BDS campaigns have proliferated across campuses in the last few years. Sabra, in particular, was targeted at colleges such as Earlham, Wesleyan and DePaul. A similar call to action was issued from the Sakuma-based farmworker’s union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), to boycott Sakuma/Driscoll’s Berries. FUJ was formed as an independent union in 2013 with an initial membership of almost 500 mostly indigenous migrant workers from Oaxaca. The union is demanding an end to poverty wages, wage-theft and poor living and working conditions. Support for workers at Sakuma has spread rapidly, with solidarity committees burgeoning throughout the U.S. and beyond, advocating the Driscoll’s berry boycott.
While the impressive results of the resolutions are clearly indicative of general student sympathy with Palestinians and the farmworkers at Sakuma Bros farms, implementing the boycott measures may require further action. The Evergreen administration routinely disregards democratic student initiatives it deems not in its interest. For example, Evergreen refused to respect the 2010 BDS measures; the school’s endowment maintains investments in Israeli companies and Caterpillar equipment retains a presence on campus. Earlier this year, activists staged a sit-in at a Board of Trustees meeting to protest Caterpillar and students have consistently “defaced” Caterpillar machinery, by plastering them with educational flyers and removing black duct tape placed over the company’s logo—a pathetic attempt to disguise Caterpillar’s presence and quell student dissent. If this round of student democracy is also disrespected, students will have to adopt a direct action campaign accompanied by a consciousness-raising effort as the next school year begins. These strategies are necessary both to effect material victories and maintain an institutional memory of political activism in a space characterized by transience, as campuses tend to be.
For more information about the resolutions and boycott organizing at the Evergreen campus, please email: email@example.com
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(for those departed and surviving in Orlando and everywhere)
I am struggling now to comprehend how I still have one
after all the opportunities I’ve had to die with my hands
at the wheel after too many drinks in bars while I waited
to become my uncloseted self. And now I have nothing to do but pulse
with crackling rage as I raise an empty glass,
mourning the fact that you, Orlando, lost so many hearts
and lips and hands, all wanting to give something to the other hearts
beating like hell on the dance floor before the clock strikes one.
You. Alive. You. Raising your drinks to the glassy
Air. You. Raising your brown Orlando hands
to the heavens in the heat of your last dance at Pulse.
And, of course, you don’t know this. Don’t know that death is waiting
around the corner like a drunk in a car. You are just waiting
for last call, for your early morning heart
to drum faster, to keep perfect time with its perfect pulse
as it moves closer to each slick body on the electric floor, to the one
you will leave this world with tonight, with your hands
pressing each other’s calloused palms in prayer, your glassy
eyes looking forward to the next time you raise your lover like a glass,
clutch them in the grace of everything that the body waits
to release when it releases the tenuous grip of hands
in the act. And doesn’t your Orlando always resemble the heart–
resilient, restless, eager to demonstrate how it is one
with the divine, how it yearns to live from within its pulse?
And now I am pondering the woman who sat next to me pulsing
on my porch steps before we kissed then shuffled our crazy hearts
back into the deck to hide in the shadows of the one
true thing I know that I have been waiting
to discover with another. And now all the pulverized bar glasses
resemble diamonds on the dance floor, and a pair of smeared sunglasses
sleeps in the massacre’s aftermath, inside and outside of Pulse.
Orlando, the world will wake Sunday morning with news of your murdered hearts,
and in the fifth stanza I’ve dropped a line in shock. My hands
go cold with grief. I don’t know if I can spare the time to wait
for the one who could be the one while everyone in Orlando is one
dance step away from their hearts shattering like blown glass
floats that hands once held precious, every ounce of sweat and blood, waiting
for love to pulse. Yes, pulse. And still, I have one.
Sandra Yannone’s poetry and book reviews have appeared nationally in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Women’s Review of Books, Calyx: A Journal, Lambda Book Report, and Weave, among others. She currently is a Member of the Faculty and directs the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.
I want to provide some validity to the possible legal arguments of claims for Roger Calhoon and also Steven Wayne Tafoya, who is also waiting trial in our Thurston County Jail for driving without a license.
I first became intrigued by Roger’s plight due to the possible denial of a Probable Cause Hearing (PCH) and the County’s violations of other civil rights under the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. He was also not allowed to attend in his criminal and his mental health hearings, which lead one to think that hIs PCH did happen, but since Roger was not permitted to be present, who knows? Such actions hinder his case and certainly prolongs it.
Revised Code of Washington for Mental Illness are:
On June 8, 2016, I attended Roger’s hearing where he spoke to the judge directly and asked to represent himself. He was denied this right and a trial hearing was scheduled. His next court date was Monday, June 20, 2016, and again, I attended but the hearing clerk told me that Roger Calhoon was not schedule that day but on July 20. What?
One of female clerks at the County Clerk Office stated to me early that morning Roger was scheduled for a hearing. Later when I was double checking, she confirmed it again. Bottom line people like Roger and Steven have serious violations of civil rights and our community should rally behind them and support them.
The next hearing for Roger Calhoon is Wednesday, July 13 at 8:30 am with Judge Dixon. Following that, Wednesday, July 20 at 8:30 am and possibly again on Monday, July 25 at 8:30 am. Roger’s court case number is #15-1-01317-7.
Steven Tafoya’s next court date is Monday, June 27 (the judge and time to be determine).
His court case number is #15-100599-9.
Please, come and join us to support them as we supported and rallied behind Scott Yoos.
Carole Willey has been a local social justice reformer, civil and human rights defender, mental health legislative advocate, and an environmental healthcare activist since 1991. She is a co-founder of Health Freedom Washington in 2007 and co-founder of face book group page Thurston Environmental Collective (TEC) in 2014. Please, visit TEC to get the latest on environmental disasters, train derailments, protests, rallies, divestment campaigns, breaking news, etc.
Those interested may contact her at EnvironmentalHealthcareTC@gmail.com
I might add a few words to Wes Prang’s “What we love…” [published in the June 2016 issue]. Not only is it for love of money that we must forbear, it is the addiction to power that serves its purpose. I speak not of the power of Government, although tattered and embattled still bears a measure of power of the people; it is the entitlement of power so readily accrues to those of wealth and privilege. A vestige of an Aristocratic power, an autocratic and closeted plutocracy. A power that wields the law through it’s army of lawyers, lobbyists, judicial and legislative allies.
We see ourselves besieged by the ceaseless assault on our right to those essential things that allow a decent life. Our air, water, food, means of livelihood and ability to maintain well-being are all subject to the dictates of the bottom line. How else could it be that the average citizen now must endure threats thathave become common place fixtures in this American way of life? It seems we must be constantly engaged in the business of defending our families and homes from trespassers, exploiters of a synthetic state of war. Not foreign, not alien but homegrown and hell bent on conquering any resistance to their agenda and campaign.
We are exposed to poisons, toxins in our water and air, chemicals in our food and even seed stock. And it seems that now we have also become targets, caught in the cross hairs of actual enemies of the state and sanctioned by our own security apparatus. Rolling bomb trains transiting through our communities are targets of terrorists because they provide a unique opportunity for mass murder. Wherever the rails lay in proximity to large numbers of people, whenever a train carrying Bakken crude oil intersects with the lives of thousands of us, an opportunity exists to use that volatile force to destroy lives and property.
There are too many methods, too many ways to carry out a well-planned attack without the ability to prevent or defend against it. The oil tanker is a symbol of the ruthlessness of profit, the indifference to our common core values. It appears on the horizon as some immutable and unstoppable entity. A conveyance of the authority we must yield to because it is Commerce and the law which sanctify their passage over our commons. We suffer the consequence when that authority fails to control itself, breaks down under an avalanche of physical demands, mechanical, schedules and nature itself. And it cannot control that which is destined to become a worse moment in our history than the events of September 11, 2001.
Imagine a warm summer day in Seattle at Safeco Field. Tens of thousands of sports fans are in the stands enjoying the game when the sound of a train horn can be overheard from the tracks just outside right field. Somewhere in the surrounding community a gunman awaits the moment when that train will pass close to the stadium with it’s load of Bakken crude oil. As long as he has a clear view of the train he could be as far away as a mile because the .50 caliber rifle being used has an effective range of 1800 yards.
As the trigger is pulled a single armor piercing incendiary round is fired and then pierces the steel plate of an oil tanker. The explosive component generates enough heat to ignite the vapors in the tank and cause a detonation with the potential force of one kiloton of TNT. The pressure wave generated by the explosion is transmitted through the structure and immediately ruptures people’s internal organs. Structural damage turns construction material into shrapnel and the ensuing fireball envelopes the field as it is channeled over people’s heads by the open roof which sits above the tracks. The carnage would be beyond comprehension and overwhelm any emergency response plans in effect.
The sacrifice of perhaps tens of thousands of lives would become part of the conscience of our society but not part of the conscience of the interests that refuse to compromise their bottom line.
In light of the indefensible, a sort of gallows humor is applied and so when a Mariner hits a home run we celebrate with the BNSF Blast, just to show we’re not afraid of some abstract catastrophe because, after all, the safety record defies such a possibility.
Don’t worry too much though because just as soon as the tracks are cleared of debris the trains will resume their ceaseless journey to the terminals for export. I suppose one might come to the conclusion that things are the way they’re supposed to be and worrying about it won’t change a thing. I suppose.
Brian Grad is a retired electronics technician living in Sequim and active in MoveOn, Olympic Climate Action and the Sierra Club. He also writes songs about environmental issues and climate change.
Annual effort honors South Sound women and a business making positive impact in the community
(OLYMPIA) – They have changed policy. They have increased access to education. They have stood in the face of adversity. They have empowered women. They are Women & Businesses of Achievement.
YWCA Olympia is pleased to announce that nominations for their Annual Women of Achievement Celebration will be accepted in mid-July. Past honorees have included Barbara Clarkson (SPSCC Trustee, Co-Founder Black Alliance of Thurston County), Senator Maria Cantwell, Washington State Senator Karen Fraser, Marsha Tadano Long, and Olympia Federal Savings President & CEO, Lori Drummond. Three Girls Media and TOGETHER! have been named past Businesses of Achievement.
YWCA Olympia will once again honor women throughout the South Sound who have inspired and shaped the community. Nominees will be considered based how she models her life in line with the YWCA Olympia mission to eliminate racism and sexism to advance the political, social and economic status of all women and girls. Our vision is a world where all people are valued, live free from oppression and thrive in a just society.
The YWCA of Olympia also seeks to celebrate outstanding businesses that recognize that the value of women in the workplace is simply good business. We welcome nominations for both private and public businesses and large and small companies in the South Sound (Thurston, Mason & Lewis Counties).
Nomination forms and an online application will be available on the agency website (www.ywcaofolympia.org) on our around July 5. Nominations will be due to the YWCA of Olympia by 5:00pm on Friday, August 5.
Honorees will be formally announced to the community in early September. The Annual Women of Achievement Gala will take place on Friday, October 28th at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
For more information about Women of Achievement, contact Cherie Reeves Sperr, Community Engagement Director at 352-0593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For twenty-four years in a side yard in bucolic Ashfield, MA, my friend Jan Freeman has held a sacred ritual on the 4th of July outside her home, which also serves as the headquarters for Paris Press, a homegrown publishing mecca she founded for the sole purpose of putting and keeping Muriel Rukeyser’s 1949 manifesta, The Life of Poetry, back in print. People gather in the early morning before the heat of the 4th gets too brutal in New England, break bagels together, and circle up for a reading of Walt Whitman’s epic poem “Song of Myself” first published in 1855 as the signature poem in his now canonical collection Leaves of Grass.
Jan always begins by having the group introduce themselves and their various affiliations with the world. It is an intergenerational gathering of people from all walks of life in space and time. I usually travel there after a transcontinental flight from Olympia to meet up with my mother in Connecticut, and together we make the two-hour drive north in the early morning for a full day of poetic inspiration.
Generations of poets and friends in different configurations over the years add to the dimension that Whitman’s poem itself displays. I meet up with other friends and mentors I’ve had the good fortune to accumulate like charms on a bracelet over the years. Liz Ahl, one of my dear friends and now collaborator, from my MFA program in Boston and my PhD in Nebraska; Robin Becker, whose work inspired me to write openly as a lesbian; Kate Flaherty, another sacred friend originally from New Hampshire and currently residing there, but whom I met in Nebraska; Jeff Oaks, a dear poet friend from Pittsburgh.
Because Jan has held true to this ritual for twenty-four years, the group also has grappled with the changes in configuration of voices due to the untimely deaths of a number of regulars, transforming the ritual from a tribute to Whitman’s vision for a democratic coming together of all people to a sacred memorial. We invoke the spirits of those we’ve found and lost on our travels, and we make new friends to look forward to seeing annually. In the circle are current, future, and ex-lovers, parents and children, teachers and mentors, community leaders, and friends.
This collective endeavor of voices alternating passages in a lyrical round takes about two hours to complete. Jan reminds us of the sacred nature of poetry. She encourages us to pay attention to our collective and individual alchemy born from whatever passages we are called to read when we play this game of poetic musical chairs.
I began writing this essay before Orlando, before the pulse of a machine gun that should be in no one hands, cut the legs and life out from under forty-nine too young people, many Puerto Rican, Latinx, and most likely members of the LGBTQ tribes, and injured irrevocably scores more.
The early morning of June 12 rang out in terror the likes of what we have seen on our various screens from 9/11, the plane tearing through the towers in the commuter light over Manhattan. But September 11 and June 12 were not, unfortunately, our humanity’s worst hours. They join an all-too-long chain of atrocities against the human spirit. Our country was founded on this type of bloodshed on the plains, in the mountains, and the deserts of this continent with the erasure of its native people. The rise of capitalism was built on the backs of lives stolen from the shores of Africa. Our civil liberties were silenced under the gun fire at Kent State, the bullets that took Malcolm X, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the struggle for labor rights in Centraila with the Wobblies. In 1925, in Greenwood, Oklahoma, supremacists burned down one of the most affluent of our African-American communities in our nation’s history. Ropes around necks have been too strong for the innocent to resist. The death penalty takes without reciprocating justice. Leonard Peltier remains in a prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, for not shooting an FBI agent on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973.
“Song of Myself” is a clarion call for equity in a country that strives blindly for something it names democracy in the pursuit of happiness, but rarely embodies. Whitman begins the poem with three lines that have come to identify his vision and voice: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself./And what I assume you shall assume,/For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” His “you” powers the poem with a litany of peoples and occupations and experiences that span the terrains of America as well as the intentions of the soul. His litany travels through day and night, work and play, love and sorrows. He speaks of love between men and women as well as between men.
As a nurse in the American Civil War, he tended to the wounded on the battlefield and spoke of his love of those men, in words and flesh. He documented all he dared to live. Each dance, each open shirt collar bearing skin that he longed to touch with his lips, each kiss—all of it, and much, much more inhabits the 1,346 lines of his epic poetic quest. And when Whitman finally arrived at his final publication of the collection, this draft concludes with a nod to his own death, “[t]he last scud of day holds back for me, . . . I stop somewhere waiting for you.”
Whitman’s is an ecstatic leap of faith into the unknown, into the abyss of the future, into the realms of what he could not know and could not name. His lines embody all possibilities with little context of what would come after. If living today, Whitman would understand Orlando as an sanctuary for earthly pleasures and revel in them then turn his witness to revile the dreams shattered by an unfathomable rupture against humanity.
Whitman published nine editions of Leaves of Grass during the course of his remarkable life of letters. The final edition appeared in 1892 as revision was what he demanded of himself and of his country. Over a century later, in all of its glory, Whitman’s “Song of Myself” implores each of us to join in his quest to live and to love, as well as to grieve, with the full capacity of our different bodies in every city we now recognize as Orlando.
Sandra Yannone is a poet, educator, and antique dealer in Olympia. She is a Member of the Faculty and Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College.
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Evergreen Faculty Commencement Address — Spring 2016
Good afternoon, I would like to begin by sharing a poem. While I am not the author of this poem, the poem resonates with me in a particular way, I offer it today as a lens for understanding the content of what I will say as I stand here before you today.
Speak the truth to the people
Talk sense to the people
Free them with reason
Free them with honesty
Free the people with love and courage and care for their being.
This poem, “I am a Black Woman,” was written in 1970 by African-American poet, Mari Evans. As I begin, I would like to pay tribute to Maxine Mims.
Dr. Mims, it is an honor to be part of a commencement ceremony in which you are the honored speaker. Your words, actions, and work represent the very essence of Mari Evans words. Thank you for being the torch bearer, for preparing the space which enables me to stand on this stage today. On a more personal note, I would also like to thank you for the gracious hospitality extended to me as a new faculty member and even more so as a Black female faculty member…so very far away from home. Thank you for your wisdom and the gift and story of the octopus. To my faculty colleagues, thank you for this opportunity. I hope that my words today reflect our collective work. And to the 2016 graduating class of Evergreen State College, congratulations.
This year we witnessed on this campus how various student groups stood on the shoulders of their elders to change the discourse and social practices concerning race, gender, class, and sexuality. Your activism represents the many ways in which people can align the power of their ideas in service to social justice. Thank you.
Today, I will talk about race. My intent in talking about race is twofold—first, I hope to disrupt/dislodge a prevailing mindset which tends to situate race discourse in such a what that positions racialized others as problematic. Secondly, I wish to put forth a paradigm shift for talking about race. One which replaces the prevailing discourse and offers possibilities for new learnings.
First, we must move beyond seeing race as an issue to be solved. For when we place race as an issue to be solved, it renders people of color as being problematic. We are not problems to be solved! It is not the racists or the bigots who do this…for we all know where they stand. But rather it is well-intentioned folks who often see race as an issue in need of solving, this I believe is problematic. My aim here is not to make folks feel bad or point an accusatory finger, but rather name what I see as occurring and what I believe is in need of change.
So, I propose that instead of seeing race as an issue in need of solving, what if we situate race as a question? When race is posed as a question it challenges us to name it, talk about it, and do something about it. This requires us to move beyond a liberal self-congratulatory and incremental approach to race…for let’s face it…such an approach is not enough for the systemic change that needs to occurs. When we accept the challenge of seeing race as a question—then perhaps we can begin to envision the personal responsibility and sacrifice required to make real change to the deeply embedded acts of oppression engrained in organizational structures, routines and everyday practices. Yes, even here at Evergreen State College.
When we pose race as a question we can collectively engage in a conversation that focuses on equity, with equity goals as the center of our collective work. We can begin to equalize the quality of learning opportunities and focus on student outcomes. We can then begin to see the humanity of the students in front of us and the folks that work alongside us each day. As Dr. DeGruy stated, “I see you”. Such a move enables us to truly see one another.
So what are next steps? I believe we must follow the actions of the student groups. We must have courage. We must have the courage to face our fears when it comes to naming, talking about, and action upon race. Yes, our fears are real, but to be courageous means that one has to face one’s fears…because courage can’t exist without fear. My biggest fear is in not acting, for the consequences are dire, especially in our current climate where racist rhetoric and acts abound. This is the moment to step into the roar of our fears.
So how do we get there? I have no answers, but I do have some thoughts.
We must lean upon the wisdom of our elders who have traveled the road we are traveling for their strength and guidance. We draw upon the energy of a new movement where activism looks and sound differently, but if we listen carefully, we can gain learn new strategies. And lastly as a collective body of faculty, staff, and administrators we must act as professional knowledge producers—empowered agents to create change. To borrow from Patricia Hill Collins…we must “act as intellectual activists and put the power of our ideas in service to social justice”(p).
Phyllis Esposito, Ph.D, is a faculty member in Evergreen’s Masters in Teaching program.
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Call from a tree
One of the reasons I supported Bernie Sanders’ bid to be president was the clarity with which he said we have to address climate change. In late June, a federal district judge in Wyoming, Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, overturned the Department of the Interior’s ban on fracking on public lands, ruling that the Interior Department doesn’t have the authority from Congress to issue regulation. The ruling will be appealed, but it’s a telling indicator of how far we have to go in terms of public policies to respond at all effectively to climate change. Sometimes it seems hopeless.
Vermont tree sit to protest pipeline
We get the phone message later that evening from our son/stepson who lives in Vermont. “Hi. This is Sam, and I’m calling to let you know that I’m up in a tree, I’m safe, I have food and dry clothing, and I probably won’t answer my phone. If you leave me a message, I’ll call you when I can.” We try calling. No answer, and no way to leave a message. He’s in a tree somewhere in Vermont, trying to stop the installation of a gas pipeline.
I check Facebook. Rising Tide Vermont has posted a series of items about this tree sit, and a photo.
Early Wednesday morning, Montpelier resident Sam Jessup climbed 60 feet into the treetops above an active pipeline construction site in Monkton. Sam has put his life on the line, as his platform is anchored to the hydraulic arm of a dynamite drill rig. Any tampering with the machine or the rope puts Sam in immediate danger.
Due to the nature of the blockade, extraction would be complicated and involved. Sam’s courageous action is preventing VGS’s hired destruction crews from blasting the hillside away and building the fracked gas pipeline.
Join Sam’s supporters for a march and rally on Thursday evening, June 9th, at 6:00 pm at 986 Rotax Rd in Monkton. (http://www.risingtidevermont.org)
Vermont was the first state in the U.S. to ban fracking. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, on April 12, 2012, the Vermont Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee “voted unanimously for a bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the state, as well as prohibit collection, storage, or treatment of fracking wastewater in the state.” The bill was reconciled—passed—by the Vermont House of Representatives on May 4, and was signed into law on May 17, 2012.
Even so, according to Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) reaffirmed its approval of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project on January 8, 2016—the construction of a pipeline that would bring gas produced through fracking from Alberta, Canada.
Enrique, my husband, teases me each time the sky turns gray and mist or even rain comes down–“must be the drought.” I usually chuckle, sometimes uneasily, because even when it rains, I worry that we won’t get enough.
Last summer’s heat seared my imagination—it’s as if the climate models I’ve read about got branded in my mind as the long, hot, dry days paraded one after the other and I wondered whether our well would run dry. I watched spruce needles turn brown and wondered how to water trees. I started watering blueberry bushes and rhododendrons that drooped, never thinking that the summer would get hotter. It did, and I found myself in turmoil because I’d already tried to rescue these plants—how could I let them dry out now? I thought about the story of the competition between the wind and sun about who is stronger. The wind blows and blows and although people get cold and wrap their coats and blanket more tightly around them, they still survived. The sun shone and people died from the dryness, the heat, the relentless sun.
Sunny days make me anxious for rain. Last year, we spent hours ringing the shrubs in our yard with a mixture of bark and compost, creating nutrient rich dikes to hold any water that came. Most of them survived—even thrived. This summer, we have another pile of mulch, but not the same urgency. It’s not been hot yet. I’m waiting.
Vermont State Troopers
Sam had been up in a white pine—tree-sitting—for six days when a Vermont State Trooper called our house. I wasn’t home. Enrique took the call. The troopers were looking for Sam’s sister Becky. Enrique took the trooper’s name, said that we supported what Sam was doing, and informed the trooper that we were monitoring the situation closely. When I heard about the call, I was relieved that I hadn’t been home. What if they had asked me whether I was worried about Sam? I’m not very good at thinking on my feet.
We knew that the troopers had been shining lights at night, and blaring sirens and honking. We knew Sam had been threatened.
We called the contact person at Rising Tide Vermont to let them know that the trooper had called and to ask how Sam was doing. Sam was fine, we heard, and the troopers had called in a negotiator. Because Sam was so high, they had no way to safely extract him. Because this was the third tree-sit this spring, they needed to get him down.
Part of the strategy behind these tree sits is that delays in the pipeline construction lead to cost increases. If the costs increase significantly, Vermont voters won’t want to pay. Delay works in favor of the climate change advocates.
A Vermont trooper called my 84-year old mom in Illinois. He told her they were worried about Sam, and wondered whether she was too. He told her they wanted to be sure Sam had dry clothes (it had been raining) and food. (He didn’t tell her that police had blocked earlier efforts by the Rising Tide support team to bring dry clothes and food to Sam.) She told him that she loved Sam very much. A second trooper called my mom, this time a woman. “Does Sam have any pets?” she asked my mom, who refused to answer.
Ultimately, the troopers blocked Sam’s cell phone so he had no way to connect with the people supporting him on the ground. Enrique called ATT, and the person there reported that Sam’s line must have been cut off.
Escalating responses to civil disobedience
According to Will Bennington, our contact with Rising Tide Vermont, the police are escalating their response to civil disobedience.
As we continue to effectively halt pipeline construction, we are seeing an escalation in tactics from the police in their response,” said Will Bennington, a spokesperson with the climate justice group Rising Tide Vermont. “AT&T has reported to us that Sam’s phone was disconnected from nearby cell towers, and state troopers confirmed that they had ‘other tricks up our sleeves’ to disrupt the action, including interfering with the cell phone.”
Chittenden County Sheriff’s deputies reportedly harassed Sam at night early on in the week, yelling threats to cut his ropes, banging on the tree and blasting sirens intermittently to keep him awake.
Jessup is currently being held at the Chittenden County Correctional Center in South Burlington, marking the first time someone has been sent to jail for participating in civil disobedience against the pipeline. (http://www.risingtidevermont.org/news)
I’m grateful that Sam sat in the tree in order to delay the pipeline construction. As I go about our yard, pulling invasive species and planting drought resistant, bird friendly native plants, I wonder whether I’ll know when it’s time to act, and I wonder whether I’ll know what to do.
Emily Lardner lives and works in Olympia, Washington.
Recently (June 6), one of the Downtown Strategy Meetings that the City Council and Mayor do, was disrupted by us. We wrote this up as a way to explain why we did this as well as expand the narrative outside of the article that The Olympian put out.
The city of Olympia has a plan to displace the most vulnerable people in downtown Olympia; the poor, elderly, homeless, and people of color. The city calls it development, but we’ve seen what their capitalistic development brings; from Seattle to Tacoma, NYC to Detroit, San Francisco to Oakland. We’ve seen waves of “development” and displacement sweep across the nation, and now it’s here. Isn’t it obvious, in the way that more of the cities budget goes towards an ever militarized police forces, who harass and brutalize the homeless, the visibly queer and gender-nonconforming, and people of color, specifically black people, rather than towards social services and programs to help the most vulnerable and disenfranchised. We’ve already been feeling the effects of gentrification, the construction of the chic yuppy condo monstrosity on Fourth Street as the most visible example. As the property values start to rise, so does rent; it won’t be long before the city is unlivable for us.
The city council and mayor have made very clear what their priorities are, with how they have described homeless people as “street dependent”, as if being homeless is an addiction and not due to a lack of access to resources that the city refuses to spend money on, or how they described homeless as a problem because it might deter private investors with no connection to Olympia from investing in downtown; it’s obvious they’re more interested in selling off the city than making it better for the people that live and work there.
With this in mind, the city has been having meetings and workshops on “downtown development”; we decided to shut it down. We’ve seen the effects of playing nice with developers and gentrifiers, just look at whats left of the cities that we named earlier. Without resistance to gentrification there’s nothing left but a sterile, culturally devoid yuppie wasteland. The vision of the city they have in mind is one where we, the undesirables, don’t exist. So we decided to confront displacement militantly, and to refuse to dialogue with the developers and politicians. They would rather us channel our anger about being displaced in to the right political channels, where we must be passive and polite so that we can be diffused and ignored.
They had their meeting in the Olympia Center. Eight of us with various items to make noise with casually rolled up into the building and made our way to the conference room, which was filled with around 60 or 70 people. We began banging on our our noise makers and blaring air-horns interrupting the Mayor as she addressed the group. We snaked round the room making our way towards the microphone and people began to get up and started trying to talk to us and blocking us and grabbing on us, but we kept going. Members of the city council and the mayor tried to talk to us as well, but we made it clear we had nothing to say to them.
They had left the microphone open as they came to try to talk to us, so one of us ran up to the microphone and began to shout in it; “DEVELOPMENT MEANS DISPLACEMENT! THE CITY OF OLYMPIA HAS MADE IT CLEAR THAT THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT IT’S MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLES”, they promptly cut off the microphone. People continued to yell about displacement and how the city feigns at giving people choice in the development of Olympia, but is only letting us choose between prefabricated options that we have no say in.
A few minutes passed, the mayor got on the mic and said they were going to take a 15 minute break. During that time everybody was talking and many conversations were had between us and the audience; during that a member of the city council approached us to let us know they had called the police, though once the police came there they just stood off to the side as we had broken no law so they could not touch us. The mayor got back on the mic to announce to everyone that the meeting was adjourned; we had succeeded in shutting down the meeting.
We hung around talking to people for about 10 more minutes before we left; as we were walking an old white couple approached one our black comrades and tried to talk to them. The couple had been talking to our comrade in a very belittling and paternalistic way that was clearly racist seeing as the couple had talked to others differently and when our comrade checked them on that, the older man choked our comrade and slammed them against a wall; a short scuffle ensued which ended in one of our comrades restraining the man from behind so he couldn’t attack anyone else and another helping the comrade who was attacked away from the area. Both groups were detained for 20 minutes; there were no arrests.
The local news paper The Olympian, put out an article about the action and in it Keith Stahley is quoted as saying “They came in with no intention of participating.” They were 100% right; there is no participating in a process that is rigged from the start, we came in with no intention of dialogue because there is no dialogue with the forces of development and displacement; there is no dialogue with people who sit there with dead eyes and patronizing smirks when people come to their meetings to raise issue with racist police harassment and brutality, the problem of low wages, or the city spending extraordinary amounts of money on the police but skimping on social services.
At the end of the day, its about this; displacement isn’t coming, it’s already here and what starts downtown will quickly spread to the rest of Olympia.
If any changes are to come to downtown, or any neighborhood in Olympia for that matter, they should be decided on and implemented by the people for whom downtown is their home, not just the business owners and the land lords, and especially not private investors who have no connection to the neighborhood, but the renters, the workers, the homeless people who all call downtown their home.
Community control of our communities, not control by a city council who is more worried about private investors than the people who live in our community, who gives us the illusion of choice in these decisions by giving us prefabricated options, instead of letting us decide the options in the first place.
And let this be a notice to the city council; there will be resistance to your development that is more focused on profits than people, we will not go peacefully or quietly. We will evict you before you evict us.
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