Featured image: Black Girl Nerds
Other images: New Yorker Magazine cover, assorted protest images from news sources.
While on Tablas Island in the Philippines on New Years Day 2019, I created a wish list of things I wanted to accomplished. This included learning how to write and produce radio dramas. Later that month I started an on-line course in radio drama and wrote my first script, Bigger Love.
It is about a gay couple in their 20’s who suddenly need to house a gaggle of LGBTQ friends and acquaintances after yet another big storm in NYC. It’s 2028 and many people are moving out of the city. Kyle wants to leave, especially with the stress of an overcrowded apartment, but Joey feels the need to stay and do something for the community.
I submitted the first scene to the Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA.) Every time the UN has one of their COP gatherings to discuss climate change, CCTA selects 50 short plays that are then read at venues around the world during the months leading up to the COP meeting. They selected Bigger Love, and it has been read at multiple venues in the USA and beyond.
My goal was to produce it as a radio play, and in this episode of Bubble&Squeak podcast, I did just that. With permission from Marcus Youssef, another CCTA playwright, I also adapted his play, Dust.
Every staging of plays from the CCTA 2019 season also encourages audience members to engage in some sort of specific climate action. Lots of people think that means lowering their carbon footprint or writing a letter to congress.
These are fine things, and there are millions of other ways we can do climate work including supporting LGBTQ community–in particular transgender and non-binary people and organizations. The healthier, well supported, and politically free a group of people are before extreme weather events, the more resilient and safe they are before, during, and after those events.
The action I call on you to consider is to make a donation to the Trans Justice Funding Project. They have given millions of dollars in small and large grants to trans and non-binary organizations. It is run by trans/non-binary people for trans/and non-binary people.
Part One An original radio play commissioned by Climate Change Theatre Action. They selected 50 short plays by 50 playwrights. This autumn groups around the world organized readings of these plays to coincide with COP 2019, the UN Climate Change Conference. You will hear me perform a radio adaptation of Dust by Marcus Youssef.
Inspiration: Reading Yuval Hariri’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and Shoshona Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Feeling convinced that the impact of digital and bio technologies is primarily defined by our species’ (preternatural?) devotion to capitalism as an organizing principle. And remembering that its consequences are being visisted on our planet by schmucks just like me (us?). –Marcus Youssef.
Part Two My very own Climate Change Theatre Action play, Bigger Love. It is set in the New York City apartment of a gay couple sometime in the near future. Jordan Sanderson and Israel Collazo, students at Susquehanna University, play the parts of Kyle and Joey.
What is a queer response to climate change? Who are the climate action figures of the future? As impacts magnify, how will our empathy and creative caring for each other also increase?
Part Three a Sound Slice created for us by listener Daniel Gonzales.
Featured photo: Miss Gay Santa trans pageant Tablas Island, Philippines (P Toscano)
Some people have the idea that climate change conversations only center around polar bears or parts per million of carbon dioxide. I sat down with two African-Americans concerned about the environmental health impacts on people of color. It is a moving and challenging conversation. I also chat with Tyree Daye, a poet from North Carolina who reads from his book of poems, River Hymns.
You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, SoundCloud, Podbean, Northern Spirit Radio, Google Play, PlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.
After 10 years of reporting on race, culture, and civil rights, Brentin Mock embraced environmental issues as his new beat. That was in 2008. He has since become a leading voice highlighting environmental racism in America. He speaks with Citizens Climate Radio host, Peterson Toscano about pollution, segregation, asthma, and mobility. Brentin also speaks candidly about failures of predominately white environmental organizations that attempt to reach out to people of color. He shares why these attempts fail and what climate advocates can do to build a more diverse coalition. Also joining the discussion is Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, environmental health policy analyst from the American Public Health Association. She outlines statistics on historical and contemporary pollution and how air and water pollution pose severe heath risks for everyone, but espeically people of color in the USA.
(Special thanks to Dr. Natasha DeJarnett and Siena Fouse from the APHA for Dig Deeper content)
Intersectionality is at last a term that is being talked about in more places. There is a growing understanding about how our lives intersect, overlap, influence, and too often interfere with each other. This interference happens with some groups far more than others.
“Intersectionality (or intersectionalism) is the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. An example is black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black, and of being a woman, considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other.”
This may sound too academic for some. In my own work I use comedy, memoir, and storytelling to explore the interplay of power and privilege in my own weird life. I spent nearly 20 years desperately trying (and failing) to become a masculine heterosexual.
There were many reasons I pursued this ridiculous and ultimately dangerous course. My Conservative anti-gay faith at the time played a big role. The HIV/AIDS Crisis added pressure. Fear and shame soaked my brain and caused me to consistently make poor choices.
I also have to admit that as a fem, gay, working class, Roman Catholic, Italian American in Ronald Reagan’s America and then in white Evangelical churches, I felt a distinct loss of power and privilege compared to what other white men experienced. In part, my quest to become straight was so that I could become a recognized member of the group that was most protected from oppression, domination, and discrimination—white, anglo saxon, heterosexual, masculine, Protestant, upper middle class, married, healthy men.
As a result, I submitted to oppression, domination, and discrimination in Jesus’ name in hopes I would come out a winner. I am not proud of this fact, but I understand why I felt so desperate to change myself so deeply.
Since coming to my senses and coming out gay, I keep finding oppression, domination, and discrimination in the worlds I inhabit. At times I experience oppression in the world in part because of my gayness, but I also move in and out of privileged spaces.
When I came out gay among white gay men in Memphis, I witnessed racism, sexism, classism, and transphobia among my peers. I saw similar oppressions in progressive liberal LGBTQ communities in New England. In fact, I see this happen in many areas of life and society.
As I have begun to do work around climate change, I see over and over how climate change affects women more than men, people of color more than white people, and lower income earners more than middle class and upper class people.
In short, when it comes to religious communities, queer organizations and community, and also on a rapidly warming planet:
The good news is that as we can become aware of a variety of experiences in the world, and we can work in solidarity with diverse people. While it often feels painful to have power and privilege revealed in ourselves, our work, lives, and our relationships are richer all around, more sustainable, and more justice minded when we see things in the light.
For me climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. Still I must recognize that people different from me are in immediate conflicts, crises, and concerns that are most pressing for them.
Who has the energy to take it all in and care for it all? While I understand my current leading is to break the collective silence about climate change and stir up Americans and their ability to engage in collective political action, I feel it is my responsibility to understand and to grow in understanding about many current issues that need vital, sustained attention: incarceration and the systemic racial injustice in the criminal justice, immigration policy and the policing of migrants, immigrants and their families, threats to the rights and freedoms of women, indigenous rights to land and clean water, and the array of issues that queer, transgender, gender non-binary, bisexual, lesbian, same gender loving, and gays face, (and how these queer lives and bodies intersect with immigration, criminal justice, indigenous rights, women’s rights, health care, etc.)
Finally, in these days of political turmoil, one can feel overwhelmed and unfocused. Many people are discerning their roles on this rapidly changing planet. With so many important issues tugging at us, many of us must discover our leading and calling so that we can remain focused.
As we do, we need to develop the willingness and ability to encompass other issues, some that overlap our own passions.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about these important issues. What are some of your answers to the questions above?
Like a lot of Americans I’ve heard about the violent death of Alton Sterling at the hands of two police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As with Tamar Rice, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and others, whose names have become familiar through their deaths and the relentless work of many to say their names, Sterling’s death is outrageous. From looking at the shocking and sickening video it seems more apt to call the death a murder or an assassination.
As of this morning, the number of people killed by police in America is 558. 15 of those in just the first six days of July.
One of my Facebook friends from the UK, Tim Crowhurst, put the numbers into perspective. “In a typical year, US cops kill more than 1000 civilians. In the UK the equivalent number is 2. Accounting for differences in population size, this means Americans are 10,000% more likely than Brits to be killed by those who duty is ostensibly to serve and protect.”
And if you are a person of color and male in the USA the likelihood of violence at the hands of law enforcers increases. The Guardian has a grisly counter of all the people killed by police in the USA. It includes names–when they are known–US state where they were killed, and cause of death–which is mostly gunshot, although some died in custody or from an officer with a taser.
All of these deaths are tragic, and I imagine most if not all are completely unnecessary. This year like most years white victims outnumber the people of color who die at the hands of police.
But when we break those numbers down, we see that based on the number of people of color in the USA, they experience this violence at a higher rate. 3.21 Black people per million are killed compared to 1.35 of white people. 3.4 Native Americans and 1.51 Hispanic/Latino people per million are victims of police violence during arrest and in custody.
While the media fixates on what they call riots, I am much more concerned with police departments funded by my tax dollars locally and federally. This is beyond a crisis–this is an outrage–an epidemic of violence, and I help finance it.
As someone who is a climate advocate, I run across denial and skepticism from people, who even with mountains of evidence still need further proof that our climate is rapidly changing and our pollution is the cause. Similarly I find that fellow whites (some? many?) harbor doubts about the chronic police violence against Black men and other people of color. They cringe at the words racism and white supremacy and systemic racial oppression.
As a white person, I have been raised to trust the police and distrust anyone labelled a perpetrator, particularly non-whites. I have been taught by the media and other white dominated social institutions and in social circles to give the police the benefit of the doubt–to always assume they had just cause and that they are basically good people doing their jobs. That or they are mostly good guys with a few bad apples.
But how can I deny the numbers? Why should I try? And how is it that even if it were just a few bad apples that virtually none of these killings by police end up in a conviction of the officer responsible?
My tax dollars fund the police. My tax dollars fund the police violence. My tax dollars fund the racist police violence.
They, the police and police departments in all of our towns and cities and states, are accountable to tax payers and non-taxpayers–children like Tamir Rice and those who do not earn enough to pay taxes. They are accountable to the citizens on the street regardless if they are suspected of criminal activity or not. The police have the mandate to serve and protect–not do disservice to the people of color and the destruction to families.
You will hear a lot about Alton Sterling. White people may feel disturbed, as we should. We have blood on our hands. We have the responsibility to open our eyes, listen, learn, and work out how we can move beyond being a barely conscious bystander to someone engaged in the struggle to stop this violence.
Like many Americans I have been reading about the events that unfolded in Charleston, SC. The attack at Emanuel AME Church is tragic and outrageous. Read about the victims for yourself. Follow Broderick Greer, Mackenzian, Wil Gafney and others on Twitter to hear from Black Americans sharing their pain, insight, and rage over this most recent attack on Black lives, one of many in a string of violence against Black people on the streets, in custody, and at a pool party.
As I posted on my Facebook Wall:
This is a day of mourning in the USA for those killed through a hate crime against Black citizens. This was a terrorist act perpetuated in an historic landmark that has been a site of on-going Black justice work and of white supremacist violence in the past. This was the assassination of an elected official who through his office spoke out in support of health care, putting people over politics.
Reading the stories of some of victims is heartbreaking. It also is absolutely rage worthy. The nation was outraged on 911 and with the Boston Marathon bombings because foreign-born terrorists attacked on US soil. Be outraged that a white American attacked Black citizens in this brazen act of white supremacy. .
As a white American Christian man, I choose to expose and oppose white supremacy. Be angry and mourn. And stand with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement
Here is information about some the victims of the attack that have been confirmed. ABC reports on the victims here:
Be angry and mourn. And stand with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.
I don't know what to say about Baltimore, except that as a citizen my tax dollars pay for policing, education, economic development etc, not rioting. There is no rioting item in the federal budget and my tax dollars do not fund anyone burning a CVS Pharmacy. So I want to have a conversation about improving policing, education, and economic development--including eliminating racism from government--not about whether desperate people should riot or not. Let impoverished inner city Baltimore residents discuss rioting, and let citizens like me discuss improving government. Right?
Last year I got to hear Rev. Irene Monroe speak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation at Susquehanna University. I always appreciate the ways that Monroe brings her whole self to her work as a woman who is Black, queer, a person of faith, a scholar, and more. She embodies the intersections she speaks about in her articles and talks.
Today she published a Faith in Action opinion piece, King’s Dream Went Beyond Race. She writes:
For King, justice was more than a racial issue, more than a legal or moral issue. Justice was a human issue. And this was evident in King’s passionate concern about a wide range of concerns: “The revolution for human rights is opening up unhealthy areas in American life and permitting a new and wholesome healing to take place,” King once told a racially mixed audience. “Eventually the Civil Rights Movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial injustice.”
Moral leadership played a profound role in the justice work that King did. He argued that true moral leadership must involve itself in the situations of all who are damned, disinherited, disrespected and dispossessed, and moral leadership must be part of a participatory government that is feverishly working to dismantle the existing discriminatory laws that truncate full participation in the fight to advance democracy. And surely part of our job in keeping King’s dream alive is to also work to dismantle discriminatory laws and dehumanizing structures that we see young people now taking to the street to protest about across the country.
But if King were among us today, he would say that it is not enough just to look outside ourselves to see the places where society is broken. It is not enough to talk about institutions and workplaces that fracture and separate people based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. We must also look at the ways that we ourselves manifest these bigotries, how we are the very ones who uphold and are part of these institutions and workplaces.
She goes on to point out:
King would remind each of us that we cannot heal the world if we have not healed ourselves. So perhaps the greatest task, and the most difficult work we must do in light of King’s teachings, is to heal ourselves. And this work must be done in relationship with our justice work in the world.
Read the article for yourself. Monroe offers clear direction and without shaming anyone, helps us see that we have work to do within ourselves as well as in the wider world.