Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ella Baker Center: Justic + Oppurtunity + Peace

"The Green Wave is coming, will it lift all boats?"
"The Unbearable Whiteness of Greening"
I have decided to look at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which is mentioned in the Apollo Alliance publication "Community Jobs in the Green Economy." The slogan for the national nonprofit is "Working for JUSTICE in the system, OPPORTUNITY in our cities, and PEACE on our streets." Among the several programs that Ella Baker is involved in I wish to highlight the "Green for All" initiative. The purpose of this program is to "ensure that this green economy is strong enough to lift people out of poverty."

Ella Baker successfully advocated nationally for The Green Jobs Act of 2007 that was passed by the House of Representatives as part of a "sweeping" energy bill and would authorize as much as $125 million for green jobs training.

At the local level, Ella Baker through Green for All has formed the Green Jobs Corps in Oakland, CA. This pilot project seeks to demonstrate that green economic development is the path out of poverty. The Green Jobs Corps is a partnership between local community development corps, unions, and the City of Oakland.
The Green Jobs Corps will:
Recruit participants and provide them with ongoing support;
Teach participants “soft” skills: general life skills necessary to be successful in any work environment;
Teach participants "hard" skills: specific required to work on new energy projects as a member of the Oakland Green Corps;
Provide participants with employment experience for a limited time on City-funded renewable energy and efficiency projects;
Support participants in transitioning from the Oakland Green Jobs Corps into independent employment.

Green for All also hosts ongoing "Solutions Salon" with the title of an upcoming session "Green Cities, Brown Folks: Sustainable Solutions for a Safe and Healthy Oakland." The free event includes food and music and will feature leaders in the East Bay who are on the cutting-edge of creative environmentalism that is rooted in communities of color.

My assessment of Ella Baker's green initiative is that they are extremely successful in disseminating knowledge and empowering people of color. Instead of looking at the green economy as "white" based Ella Baker is creating part of the green economy and through their work people of color are becoming leaders in the movement and more are poised to become strong and creative thinkers. These are all outcomes that are at the core of the justice movement. I found their work to be by far the most inspiring I have read or heard about in this class. I also commend the program more generally for their effective website and obvious strong organizational skills, all necessary to effectively disseminate their mission.

1 comment:

caitlin said...

“The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use, and it could only be used if they understood what was happening and how group action could counter violence…”

- Ella Jo Baker

I really appreciate Maya's post about the Ella Baker Center. After doing the reading, it's refreshing to read about a real-life example of some of the ideals that are tossed around almost flippantly at times.
Their website even includes a menu choice called "Solutions," which shows Problem and then Solution, and as far as I can tell from their philosophy they are a truly participatory organization.

I especially like the project called Silence the Violence which deals with the growing problem of violence in their city, which most directly affect minority youth.

This makes me even more clear in my feeling that the question wheter justice comes before sustainability is not a which came first, the chicken or the egg, it is justice that has to happen before environmental sustainability.

Maybe it's unfortunate, but it's more important to me to deal with the fact that most young men don't make it past age 25 in the favellas of Sao Paulo. Or with the fact that schools in the US are more segregated now that they were before the Civil Rights Movement. Or that we can actually be having a political discourse right now about whether or not water boarding is torture.

Until the human race can revisit the fact that we are humans, and learn to be that again, well, what's the point of turning off my computer 5 minutes earlier today? I mean, it might mean that my electricity bill drops a bit, but it doesn't change the things I listed above.

So, I do really appreciate seeing Maya's entry, and I really enjoyed looking through their website. It's exciting to look at what seems to be a well organized action organization dealing with social issues as well as environmental ones, and more importantly, for people of color.

"The Unbearable Whiteness of Greening" really says it all. But that combined with the quote at the top from Ella Baker herself brings up the most important part. People DO have knowledge-- knowledge that we don't have. When we sit in the class and think we're enlightened, I'm afraid it's not true, and I think it would be very helpful to think about becoming more humble and more interested in doing something like the Ella Baker Center. Maybe I'll go work for them!