Friday, March 22, 2013

Olodum:Outreach Evaluation & Diasporic Grassroots Coalition Building

I'm taking a really awesome class called International Black Social Movements.One of the class assignments is an "Outreach Evaluation & Diasporic Grassroots Coalition Building Strategy." Sessy and nerdy at the same time, I know. Basically, it is a 20 minute in-class multi-media presentation that requires the explanation of the political philosophy, mission, program, constituency, leadership, and outreach strategies of the assigned organization, in addition to the evaluation of the effectiveness of the organization’s outreach strategies and suggestions for improvement. On top of this we had to find a counterpart organization for coalition building. It was a lot of work, but I must admit I had fun doing it! I gladly put my PDR (Professional Decision Report, "AKA" my Capstone Project) to the side and dug in deep.

My organization was Olodum, a Brazilian samba school and social activist organization. I was familiar with them before research  I just didn't realize it. They are the drummists in Michael Jackson's hit ”They Don't Really Care About Us,” one of my favorite MJ songs! Aside from musical accomplishments such as creating samba reggae, having one of the largest and most renown samba schools in Brazil, and kicking it with the King of Pop, Spike Lee, and Paul Simon, Olodum has an activist and social service component that makes me admire them even more. They are an exemplary organization, capturing the attention of the world through creative cultural expression.

I selected the Backstreet Cultural Museum as a counterpart organization. The similarities (Carnival based, cultural manifestations and pageantry, humble beginnings, and disenfranchised communities) between the two organizations were numerous and would create a really create partnership.

Below you will find my presentation. Don't judge. It's my first Prezi. Hope you enjoy!

Paz, poder, e amor (peace, power and love)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Frozen (East) Flatbush

Posters at Kiki's Memorial
(taken by yours truly)
In the dead of March, on the cusp of spring I get news that East Flatbush is ”frozen.” Jack Frost is not the culprit. In fact, he hasn't been much of a burden this winter. Smack in the middle of Brooklyn, a ”freeze” was put in effect by NYPD due to recent protests in the name of police injustices towards Kimani "Kiki" Gray and all young, black men. Never in my lifetime did I believe that I would live so close to the implementation of ”Marshall law,” a temporary lock down of civilians in order to control the flow of people, especially protesters and media. 

This comes to a surprise to me, for obvious reasons; this sounds like the stuff movies are made of, a policy of far away lands!!! Also, because after Hurricane Sandy ('AKA' Frankenstorm) I recall a conversation I had with my friend "J" pertaining to this very issue. We spoke about NYC's preparation and response to the storm in terms of effectiveness and equitability. J's concern was more about how the distinct boroughs were locked down so quickly. Guards were placed at bridges to deter people from getting on and tunnels were closed almost instantly. These plans were implemented for public safety, of course, but J was concerned about other circumstances that could warrant such treatment.  The City could lock us down anytime they pleased, specifically during protests and uprisings. I was a bit dubious, but here I am five months later with a live example 30 blocks from my home. {Sorry I doubted you, J. Soy necia, ya tu sabes.}

The corner where "Kiki" was shot seven times,
murdered by undercover NYPD cops.
(taken by yours truly)
I will admit I found out about the protests via Facebook. My timeline, the ultimate informant of what's happening in my 'hood and beyond featured links from RTPolicy Mic, Gothamist, and Kreep NYC (this link would not load on my computer or cellphone.) A Google search didn't yield any more information than Facebook provided. No coverage from any major news source, only from the Indy news circle, bloggers, and YouTube.  If it weren't for these sources I'd be completely in the dark about last night's riot and arrests

More cops than people on Church Ave and E.55th St.
(taken by you's truly)
Tonight "D" and I went to the vigil on Church Ave. and 55th Street. Police were in full effect for a 30 block span, dressed in riot gear. Helicopters swarmed overhead. Media vehicles from Univision, CBS, and other major news outlets were present. So much for the lock down! (There are even doubts floating around about Marshall law ever being implemented in the past few days.) There were so many young people there...and no one engaging with them. From the memorial we headed to a church for a meeting, only to meet people leaving with disappointed looks on their faces. From what we gathered, there were two factions present: cop huggers and justice seekers. Consensus building is one of the biggest barriers to creating change and both sides proved this to be true. 

Tonight in my Black International Social Movements, one of the major topics of the night was levers of social change. My professor, Robin Hayes, explained the 6 steps in finding balance and eventually shifting power.
  1. Cognitive liberation- spread awareness about an issue.
  2. Coalescence building- creating community with people who have similar awareness and action plans.
  3. Identification of targets- who can make the changes you want to see?
  4. Fulfillment- mark achievements (and failures) of plans.
  5. Repeat- move on to the next issue, beceuae we know there are lots more to cover!
  6. Adaptation- everyone isn't on the same page, so change is constant.
We are lingering somewhere between steps one and two. It is time to complete these steps and move on to the next one.  NYPD has been stopping  frisking, imprisoning, and killing youth of color for way to long. We should have had our shit together by now. I fear how long it will take, how many more lives will be stolen, how many more vigils will we have to hold before we can coalesce on a rudimentary level and progress toward some form of positive change. Who is down for putting an end to this issue? Do you know of any organizations that currently seriously are working on this issue? If so please share below.

In the meantime, rest in peace Kimani.

Memorial for Kiki on E. 55th and Church Ave, Brooklyn
March 14, 2013
(taken by yours truly)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vote for "Can't Hold Me Back" as the 2013 People's Choice Winner

I had the honor of befriending Betty Bastidas when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. She was filming "DreamTown," a piece that speaks to how Afro-Choteño youth rely on fútbol ("soccer" for you crazy Americans,) a one in a million opportunity, as their only way out of poverty. I admired her talent for capturing the voices of people who were often overlooked by society. Her new piece, "Can't Hold Me Back" is yet another reflection of this talent.

Set in Detroit, MI, this documentary "follows Fernando Parraz as he becomes the first in his family to earn a high school diploma — his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence. With a mountain of roadblocks stacked against his educational achievement, Fernando finds support from an unlikely figure: his father — a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes."

I hope you enjoy this piece and vote it as 2013 People's Choice Winner at