This week I am at Rec Lab and one person I am missing there more than anyone is Roxanne Weeks. She walked on last fall and it was a blow to know that this would be my first year at Rec Lab without her physical presence. And I worried that another fave friend Dorothy would not attend because of this as Roxanne was always her ride. Good news is that we were able to get her to Lab and so it feels a bit less empty than it might.
Today I give the blog to honor our friend missed at Rec Lab this year. The main paragraph below with details on her life outside Rec Lab was taken from her very well-written obituary.
Roxanne was born April 12, 1952 and died peacefully of cancer at her Minneapolis home on October 21, 2018. Roxanne was a lifelong community activist, who belonged to and volunteered with many organizations. The MN Beading Society, Capable Partners, Northland Recreation are just a few of her most recent. Roxanne was a terrific beader with exceptional taste who loved simple, organic design and colors. She enjoyed swimming, fishing, sailing, traveling and spending time (preferably over a meal) with family, friends and neighbors. She loved the MN Arboretum. Her own garden was a beautifully curated space that reflected her sense of whimsy. Her beloved home was a sparkling, sun-filled place of comfort, pride and two vociferous cats, who served as the Temple Guards. Roxanne was the quintessential Queen of innovation. She had determination, great compassion, and a wonderful sense of possibility. We are all better for knowing her or knowing of her-someone to remember, as well as emulate. Blessings and sincere gratitude to all of her helpers throughout – You know who you are.
You may remember Roxanne for her fiery passion, her fierce auction bidding, or her quieter ways. She seemed ever present, often with her partner Dorothy, as they rolled through camp bringing mischief and joy, news or a song.
Whether you knew her well, or just in passing, she brought a bright light to Rec Lab, a commitment to working hard to make it the best it could be, and a fearlessness to speak up when her heart led. And she adored singing. I know that the song time this year will bring many memories of her presence. I hope to hear her voice ringing through.
Roxanne will be sadly missed this year and for years to come.
Dan and I continue to have her photo on our screen saver. We can “lunch” with her any day we want! And sometimes I can still hear her words of wisdom.
Memorials, if desired, “in memory of Roxanne
Weeks” are preferred to the MN Arboretum 3675 Arboretum Dr. Chaska, MN
This Earth Day is a bit bittersweet as we face an ever-present danger of losing our planet due to global inaction on the climate crisis but as we see increasing numbers of people recognizing the issue and acknowledging the science. Globally, millions are marching, writing legislators, or even turning valves to work to stop the growing crisis. For these I am grateful. Yet the misleading smear campaign of the fossil fuel industry continues.
This made me think about what I have been doing for our Earth and perhaps more crucial, to plan for personally succeeding in this changing world. Most recently, Dan and I helped a team prepare the high tunnel we began building last year (which was quickly interrupted by a snowfall one month earlier than last fall) at Merry Gardens Farm. We pulled posts up that were too low, pounded posts in that were too high, put in the posts and beam on the north end that will frame the doorway, put in the posts on the south end, and got everything level. This week will bring the framing work around the perimeter and the top truss framing, and THEN we can cover it and fill it with food plants. I am excited about this project because with changing and more erratic weather, this high tunnel will give us better control over temperature, moisture and pests. I fear that the future gardens will all be housed in this kind of framework. For a good fictional dystopian novel on these ideas, I recommend Michael Perry’s The Scavengers.
While I missed Water Action Day this year, I have continued my work for MN350 with pipeline resistance by helping with an article for Make MN magazine and I look forward to seeing the final piece, my first magazine work. Following our 2019 Goals work, I created a tracking sheet for the work being done by the organization which I believe will help track our progress and hopefully keep us motivated and on target. As of today, I have 380 hours in for MN350 in 2019. It feels good to be part of a team so dedicated to climate justice. After fighting the pipeline on my own since 2014, I feel much better informed and engaged with the work. If you would like to donate to support me in this very important work, please do so by clicking here.
I continue to write LTEs, most recently on EV (electric vehicle) charging station installation in Greater MN and the Bagley Town Hall last week – that should appear in this week’s Farmers Independent. (It will be on the blog soon.) Little did I know I was sitting right next to the Editor of the paper at that meeting! I’ve been writing for him for a few years now but haven’t really ever talked with him face-to-face. I have put on the To Do list: Meet with Tom Burford! He is really good to me in that he pretty much publishes everything I send, even though I believe he is in disagreement with most everything I write! 🙂
We have not done much around the homestead yet as the water continues to linger. We still even have a bit of snow in the forest though most has melted with a heavy rain early the other morning. I am hopeful that Dan will be hauling some poop from the neighbors horse fields to nourish our garden beds while I am gone next week at Rec Lab. I was able to dump the one poop bucket I had from the other neighbor’s cows on the rhubarb closest to the Harn, always the first bed to be ready – well, if you don’t include the tomato and grape area on the south side of the garage just outside the front door. While this location doesn’t get quite as much sun, it still has a nice microclimate. The grapes already appear to be growing! And, as this is just outside the door, it has gotten plenty of nitrogen and phos over the last winter.
So next week I take a much needed break from all the activism and focus solely (I hope!) on crafting. The 2019 Northland Recreation Laboratory brings together people from all over the region to learn and share skills. This will be (I think) our 85th year and my last year on the Board, for which I am very grateful. It has been a rich experience but not a painless one. But, no pain, no gain, eh? I have really grown a lot through my work but it’s been a struggle for much of it. It will be nice to simply enjoy lab this year as my responsibility is only to assure the setting up and execution of the Art Show at the end of the week. That is one of my favorite parts, seeing everyone’s amazing creativity and celebrating the “failures” that turn out pretty good anyway. The beauty and skill we see is truly remarkable.
The people are what really make Rec Lab special. This year we will be missing one of the people I loved most – Roxanne Weeks. I will head to the Cities from Camp Wapogasset Thursday to pick up Dorothy as Roxanne was her usual ride. It will be a fun trip though also bittersweet. It is never easy losing a friend and especially not when that person has been such an amazing example and support to you. I will carry her spirit with me this week as I navigate the tough spots. I will try to remember that she, as always, has my back.
I have been doing a lot of reading of late. Not books, mind you, but screens. The internet is the new library and we’re all writers. You think that Facebook post you made of your silly dog was just an update to your grandkids but indeed, depending on your settings, it could be the post that brings a needed smile for a lonely dog lover who just lost his sole companion. We really never realize the extent of our deeds and I am here today to cheer on humble writers of that seemingly small tool of democracy, the Letter to the Editor.
Lowell Shellack of Park Rapids, MN gets credit for instigating this blog as his recent piece on Enbridge’s 99.999% safe record was exactly what I needed to see as this ridiculous number, posted in ad after ad in Minnesota papers, frustrates me and attempts to delude readers.
Lowell has a history of revealing to the public that which has not been clearly and fully presented by the local press on their own. In his LTE from 2017, he exposed three major Enbridge pipeline spills in Minnesota as shown below.
August 1979, west of Bemidji: 449,000 gallons oil spilled, a quarter of the oil oozed through sandy soil into a wetland and water table. It has never been cleaned up entirely and is the subject of an ongoing study to see how petroleum products break down naturally.
March 1991, near Grand Rapids: A state record 1.7 million gallons spilled when Enbridge employees misinterpreted alarms and did not respond immediately. A similar mistake happened almost two decades later in 2010, at Marshall, Mich., when almost a million gallons of tar sands spilled into the Kalamazoo River. The river was shut down for two years and the river still isn’t completely cleaned up.
July, 2002, near Cohasset: 252,000 gallons of crude oil spilled when the pipeline ruptured as a result of pipeline fatigue developed while shipping the pipe. It took a controlled burn sending black smoke over a mile high to dispose of some of the oil.
This is the kind of thoughtful and well-written journalism we hunger for as mainstream media becomes more and more of a sound-byte propaganda machine for government and corporate interests. Where is the news coverage that looks like this kind of debunkery? Where are the articles that truly reveal the nature of this pipeline project? Where are the voices of the non-human entities? Hell, where are the voices of everyday citizens who oppose Line 3? Mostly in LTEs and Op-Eds. The only time we hear these voices in the mainstream news seems to be when they become so loud in utter frustration to bring change that we see people marching in the streets.
Big corporations like Enbridge have plenty of money to buy ads but more importantly, influence.
Locally, I refuse to give money to the KAXE/KBXE public radio stations because they air misleading Enbridge ads. On the surface, this seems like a freedom of enterprise issue, yes? I mean, Enbridge pays them for the ad time just like any local business. What’s the problem? Well, the problem is that this ad revenue seems to have brought with it an associated willingness to look the other way with regard to their big pipeline project which runs directly through the KAXE/KBXE listening area. What kind of coverage is the station giving to those in opposition to Line 3? Not much. Even with the local trial ongoing regarding 4 Necessity Valve Turners.
Even their coverage of what was a horrible night for Enbridge seems to press as much as it can of the positive by focusing on pro-Enbridge views. The reporter, Scott Hall, spoke with the Enbridge representative, a landowner on the pipeline, and three Enbridge construction workers giving feedback from each of these conversations. But while he mentions speaking with a “dozen or more” in opposition to Line 3, there is not a single quote or summarized comment from any of the tribal members present or the non-natives working to prevent Line 3 construction. The voice of the opposition was barely represented in the KAXE/KBXE reporting, consisting of basically the question Winona LaDuke asked.
Someone asked for quiet and the leader of Honor the Earth, Winona LaDuke from White Earth, asked the Enbridge staff if the company was going to use the same tactics against pipeline protesters in MN as were used recently by law enforcement in North Dakota. At one point she asked “are you going to bring tanks here?”
The extent of Scott Hall’s coverage for the voice of Line 3 opposition.
We’ve made it clear via phone conversations and survey responses with KAXE/KBXE that we will not support their efforts until they refuse to take Enbridge money. It seems they are doubling down with Enbridge though, recently having them as a sponsor for a major community event.
Because I so appreciate those who write in to the paper, I called and left a message for my new friend Lowell. He returned my call the next day and we chatted about our beautiful region and our dedication to the work we hope will result in saving this place from the destruction of the fossil fuel industry. I encourage you to not only reach out to those who do write with thanks but to take a shot yourself at sharing your own views, ideas, concerns, and hopes. You never know who you might be helping.
Another area where I believe we are losing ground is in our televised satire. I love the coverage given to the inside story by our satirists but I truly wish the American public were mature enough to digest this information without all the distracting name-calling and ridiculous humor. How about we simply talk about the facts which, if really understood, would astonish most citizens? Our government spying on everyone should be front page news until it stops. Unfortunately, our mainstream media is owned by corporations who work in cahoots with the government to continue the capitalistic profits, regardless of the effect to the environment or the very citizens the government is meant to serve and corporations claim to benefit. Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Sam Bee, and even more mainstream Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers all use silliness while discussing subjects that would be terrifying if we could only see the full truth. This Assange case could mean the end of a free press, though it may only be a short step from the bound press we already have.
Is this video worth investing a whole hour? Yes. And I will admit that I have watched it twice in about 3 hours. These were Dan’s third and fourth viewings. It’s really full of information but very accessible and fun to hear.
I absolutely LOVE David Suzuki. What an amazing person.
Please get back to me if you have feedback on how we can expand exposure to this information.
I was really impressed with Brittney Cooper’s writing. And it’s not just because she reminded me so much of me… but that helped me enjoy the story. She has a way with articulating her ideas with storytelling and clear statements, often easing into Black girl talk – I think she might have referred to it as Hip Hop talk. She really gave insight to Black experience and cultural ways of communicating that I found very powerful. One of my favorite statements in the book was, “When Black girls get in formation, the nation should follow.” Here, here. And, in case you missed it recently, Brittney did a Ted Talk.
Anyway, here’s some of what I gleaned from this wonderful work.
In her chapter The Smartest Man I Never Knew, she says:
Our nation’s story is one of men using violence – against Native folks, against Black folks, and against women – to build and fund a grand “experiment in democracy.” ~p. 69
I love her idea of the US wielding its “big stick” around militarily being inherently phallic. Later in the chapter, she addresses the idea of size as a form of aggression, bringing a conscious epiphany to me that I’ve had many times subconsciously (or unconsciously perhaps as well). I wonder if I keep my fat in part because of the “safety” it infers or as a fallacious idea that it would keep me unattractive and prevent another rape. Shortly thereafter she notes that, while society can view the idea of Black women advocating for themselves as “imperial”, this is an “absolutely untenable” idea. In the US she notes:
“our reproductive capacities were conscripted to build the capital base for the assertion of U.S. empire. After slavery, our bodies and the children they produced were tethered to multiple generations of low-wage work and poverty, providing staffing for the perpetuation of the U.S. underclass. The desire for protection and safety is not an imperial desire. Asking the leaders of our country and members of your race to fight for you (if you’re a Black woman) is not a colonizing act. They are demands for recognition of citizenship and humanity.” (p. 85-86)
See what I mean about her writing? It’s so direct and sound.
Likewise, telling Black girls the solution is to “love
yourself” (p. 91) implies that this would somehow end patriarchy which will
“demand that she be killed for having the audacity to think she was
somebody”. So sadly true.
Her chapter Bag Lady revealed to me the story of Korryn Gaines and her freedom project. What she did basically was replace her license plates with signs reading “Any government official who compromises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right and freedom.” Understandable in the wake of the death of Sandra Bland. As Cooper notes, “The struggle by Black people to obtain the free and full exercise of their natural rights and continual forms of structural opposition to these rights have been a fundamental feature of what it is to be Black in America.” (p. 107) And there it is. In one little sentence, a powerful statement about why the Black Lives Matter campaign should be working. But the racism is endemic and the power structures loom large.
And the struggle rings true as she notes “individual transformation is neither a substitute or a harbinger of structural transformation.” (p. 115) How Black women see themselves is obviously affected by the racist narrative of the patriarchy, i.e., “welfare queens”, which shames some Black women to abort children they might otherwise consider having. Cooper also notes: “Individual solutions to collective problems cannot work” (p. 123) as empowerment and power are not the same thing. How Black women overcome at ALL remains a mystery to me. Sadly, far too many have died in this fight to overcome.
Perhaps my favorite chapter was Grown Woman Theology where she deep dives into sex. My usual discomfort with talk on religion was non-existent as she waxed eloquent (see what I did there?) on the subject still often seen as taboo by many. In fact, I kind of love the way she addressed religion’s role in the ideas women can have about their sexuality. On page 129 she references the Southern Baptist Convention “formal apology for slavey” issued in 1995 being from the “white Baptists – the ones who were pro-slavery and pro-segregation”; her Baptist church was not a part of the SBC. Going further, she writes:
“The purity discourse that emerged from Southern white evangelicalism is not separable from the racialized discourse of sexuality and purity that these same Christians have shaped for the whole of American history. The regulation of sexuality by white Christians in the United States has always been about the propagation of a socially acceptable and pristine nuclear family worthy of having the American dream, a family that was heterosexual, middle class, and white.” Yep, so much of this book was packed with this kind of thoughtful analysis. Because she grew up with white girls, she became involved in the purity movement. The thought striking me was how it reminds of the efforts to delegitimize the Indigenous as their lives, intimately connected to Mother Nature, were inherently “sexual” as all of nature is sex. (And death of course, another favorite subject.)
On page 137 Ms. Cooper shares well-written and revealing
perspective on the story of Boaz from the Bible.
“Many Black Christian girls are seduced by white evangelicalism, because, hell, it seems to be working out so well for white people.” (p. 139) Her grandmother’s “fully embodied theology” gave her pause to truly think about her beliefs. “Sometimes this means we have to reject the kind-of Christian teaching that sets up a false binary between flesh and spirit, mind and body, and sacred and secular.” (p. 140) Love it! And interestingly, she explains: “The primarily white male theologians who created the systematic theology of evangelical Christianity were trying to make sense of a theology that fit their own lives and their own worldview.” Thus making clear how some white Christians can read the Bible and still vote Republican – “nothing about the Bible challenges the fundamental principles of white supremacy or male domination.” The support of Blacks for this white evangelical agenda is counterproductive as it’s a “theology that does the dirty work of racism, patriarchy, and homophobia.” (p. 141)
I was thrilled with her draw on Brian McLaren’s work:
“Repentence to me means to ‘re-think’. That’s literally what it means. To think again and to think in a different
direction.” (p. 145)
Moving into Orchestrated Fury, Cooper writes an eye-opening chapter focused in part on a topic that fascinates many: Black women’s hair. [And you thought the topic of sex was taboo.]
Her analysis of Michelle Obama’s hair as narrative was delicious! Fuck-deficit, indeed. Cooper’s subsequent discussion on “responsibility politics” as “a rage-management project” (p. 151) that in large part simply divided Blacks was also informative. Her story of her own Black mother’s quiet intervention with a Black male preacher made clear: “Eloquent rage isn’t always loud, but it is always effective.” (p. 161)
Maybe most lovely to me were her ideas on “cussing and praying… mixing the profane and sacred” noting “No one can cuss you out more eloquently than a Black woman can.” Maybe a stereotype. Still true. The 2015 South Carolina story of Shakara and Niya Kenny gave much insight to the brutality of white power structures and the way inaction on behalf of Blacks allows it to continue. More recent update here. And Minnesota sure doesn’t look good in this NPR coverage of the issue. Thank goodness for Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi birthing the Black Lives Matter concept.
And I must agree with Cooper that Black fear and rage is
more honest (based on it being a reaction to the violence of white supremacy)
than white fear and rage which is simply based in losing power. (p. 169) “Black
women’s rage … when we … focus it on the powers that would crush us into
submission … is a kind of power that America would do well to heed if it wants
to finally live up to its stated democratic aims.” Indeed.
I thought Cooper’s chapter on White-Girl Tears might be a challenge but I found myself agreeing with her assessment of the effects of the “mythic nature of white female vulnerability”. Though I might add something about size or beauty in there too, if only to feel more accurately into it. No one gets more attention in America than the pretty, skinny, white girl in tears. And fat or ugly white girls still get more attention than Black girls on the whole. There is definitely a skew in America to value “the perfect” and “superficial beauty”, which is often depicted as upper/middle class, white, slender, big-boobed, and pretty with perfectly coifed hair and nails. Oh, and dressed to the nines never hurts.
There is a nice assessment of cultural appropriation as well
where Cooper notes:
“White people don’t share. They take over. They colonize.” (p. 177)
I’ve been learning more and more about white privilege and how it shapes so much of how America works, especially in the efforts to basically keep it in place. It seems to me that once white people figured out how to gain advantage, they never stopped, to a point where now three white males in America own as much wealth as half the rest of the population. Think about this. To steal and modify (#WhitePeopleShit) a quote from a recent book on the Indigenous (maybe this one?): We’re all Black now, Sister! And I will say here that I am really needing to learn more about American Shero Ida B. Wells. Cooper sprinkles her ideas and commentary throughout leaving me feeling I missed an important aspect of history by not being required to read more on Black leaders. And so it goes. *
Cooper’s deep dive into white fear includes a review of a case, new to me, of Betty Shelby, a white police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma who “shot and killed Terrence Crutcher , a forty-year-old unarmed black man, during a traffic stop.” (p. 185) Again, the danger Black people face by simply driving a car is disgraceful. How many have died because America has created such a blatant culture of fear? Far too many. And the fear mongers are never-ending.
The issues are complex and Cooper does an excellent job weaving together white fear and its deadly effects, the trial for the killer of Trayvon Martin, Black women’s willingness to call out Black men’s shit, and the infamous Cosby and a lesser known to me Elderidge Cleaver as she hammers out the racism and power dynamics. Cosby’s conviction received much coverage and dissection, unlike the trials of the many thousands of Black men who were falsely convicted of raping white women. While Cooper acknowledges that sins occur in all camps, there is a clear understanding in her work of the bias that profoundly affects Blacks in America.
But I must say, on some level, I can jive with Cleaver’s 1968 dialogue, though the quoted material Cooper shares is horrific. I can comprehend how decades of trauma, disrespect that included blatant killing (and which continues to this day), and nefarious and baseless charges against Blacks would lead one to such hate-filled behavior. I have said more times than I can any longer count that, “If I was born Indigenous or Black, I’d probably be in prison.” And, yes, I do comprehend the aspect of my white privilege which allows me to feel that, had this been true, that I’d have had the courage to speak up or act in ways that would put me in prison. And perhaps I’m fooling myself in thinking I’d have been this defiant, as evidenced by the many ways I’ve backed down or allowed myself to be shut down as a woman.
Perhaps most surprising was Cooper’s discourse on
inter-racial relationships. Her
reasoning on whether or not it’s ok for a Black man to choose white women and
her welcoming of Black women to choose as they will seemed very logical to
Never Scared is a short 20 pages (p. 201-221) but delves into the 2016 election, the idea that fear is the root of all anger, and the sketchy nature of feelings – and that’s just in the first couple pages!
A favorite quote of mine in this book is that “my approach to life is that feelings can’t be trusted” and she subjects them to “intense micromanagement”. (p. 204) She states clearly that growing up Black means your world is a place “where white feelings can become dangerous weapons.” And I realized she is talking about me when noting that “I resent others who allow their feelings to roam around unmanaged, demanding everybody’s attention.” Another aspect of white privilege that I must mindfully keep in check – and at which I fail repeatedly. Because I’m white, this has not yet resulted in my death. Something much harder for people of color to claim. No wonder they are often so quiet. I am stunned now, as I write, by the idea of what an amazing place this America could be, if only we’d had an even playing field where Indigenous and Blacks had as much opportunity to set our course as (often wealthy and powerful) white men. The differences in her latch key childhood and mine were a tough read as well.
As she approaches the idea of fear and faith co-existing she enters a place where she explains how white fear is accepted as fact when very often it is not. Cases in point are two from 2014: John Crawford, shot and killed while shopping (in my hometown stomping grounds), and Jordan Edwards, shot and killed while fleeing for his life with his brothers. (p. 209)
The figures given on net median wealth are astounding and explain much about the struggles of Black women, almost as much as the struggles of Black women explain about the wealth gap. Cooper’s notion that curiosity is often “the first casualty of the politics of fear” (p. 211) leads to a list of some very good questions that we’re missing out on discussing. This again points to the Obama presidency where many whites were challenged in their beliefs on whether a Black man could lead out country. I’d report that he surely can and imagine what could have been done had we actually given him more support. And I LOVE this woman for being willing to speak to white people fear so well.
Yet she faces criticism for her stands, even in the classroom.
And this leads to the idea of Black women being “simultaneously hypervisible and invisible.”
This makes me recall laughing out loud the other night as, I believe it was Leslie Jones in an SNL sketch, said, “I don’t apologize to white people.” Fuck Yeah!!
Ms. Cooper struck home for me when she talked about how men resort to physical belittlement of women when they can’t hold their own on substance. I know the “smart ugly” (p. 223) idea and it has nothing to do with real physical beauty, it’s a scapegoating…
And I could definitely relate to her sharing on how difficult it can be for a successful and intelligent woman to find love. It’s not always easy. But Dan will be the first to tell you he’s comfortable enough in his manhood to write “Housewife” on the IRS return. And he knows the benes that come with loving this smart girl. 😉
That said, Cooper helped me understand the real and substantial obstacles Black women face. And who does Brittney blame? Bill Clinton. (p. 226) In his criminalization of black adolescents, who he and Hillary referred to as “superpredators”, he wrote a heartbreaking story of a destination for the Black race as a whole. In Love in a Hopeless Place, she also discussed her long stretches of celibacy, another commonality we share. But the chapter Favor Ain’t Fair gives much more insight into these ideas, especially with regard to how wealth is a factor. As she comments on the idea of people noting the resiliency of children in addressing the ideas of inequality:
“Celebrating the resilience of poor folks is a perverse way of acknowledging the unreasonable demands placed upon people who already are struggling to make it.” (can’t remember the page…)
Like maybe we should see how long until we can finally break them completely? Sick…
When she talks about elite Blacks “valorizing their hoods”, it makes me think of white people who say, “I have Black friends.”
But she closes with Joy. It’s a blessing I think we can all appreciate.
“May you have joy.
May you have
gut-busting belly laughter, every day.