Category Archives: Racism

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls For Immediate Halt to Dakota Access Pipeline

Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue—it’s important to all people & living beings

Press Release: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Immediately Halt Dakota Access Pipeline December 01, 2016
Washington, DC—In a speech on the House floor Thursday, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called on President Obama to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and announced plans to join thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota this weekend.

“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned the value of caring for our home, caring for our planet, and the basic principle that we are all connected in a great chain of cause and effect.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a threat to this great balance of life. Despite strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux and serious concerns raised by the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers approved permits to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequately consulting the tribes, and without fully evaluating the potential impacts to neighboring tribal lands, sacred sites, and their water supply. Just one spill near the tribe’s reservation could release thousands of barrels of crude oil, contaminating the tribe’s drinking water.

The impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline is clear. Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Pipeline, has a history of serious pipeline explosions, which have caused injury, death, and significant property damage in the past decade. The future operator of the planned pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has had over 200 environmentally damaging oil spills in the last 6 years alone—more than any of its competitors.

Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue—it is an issue that is important to all people and all living beings everywhere. Water is life. We cannot survive without it. Once we allow an aquifer to be polluted, there is very little that can be done about it. This is why it is essential that we prevent water resources from being polluted in the first place.

Our Founding Fathers took great inspiration from Native American forms of governance, and the democratic principles that they were founded on. Their unique form of governance was built on an agreement called the Great Law of Peace, which states that before beginning their deliberations, the council shall be obliged, and I quote, “to express their gratitude to their cousins and greet them, and they shall make an address and offer thanks to the earth where men dwell, to the streams of water, the pools, the springs and the lakes, to the maize and the fruits, to the medicinal herbs and trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, and to the Great Creator who dwells in the heavens above, who gives all the things useful to men, and who is the source and the ruler of health and life.”

This recognition of our debt to the Creator and our responsibility to be responsible members of this great web of life was there from the beginning of Western democracy.

Freedom is not a buzzword. The freedom of our Founding Fathers was not the freedom to bulldoze wherever you like.

Our freedom is a freedom of mind, a freedom of heart, freedom to worship as we see fit, freedom from tyranny and freedom from terror. That’s the freedom this country was founded on, the freedom cultivated by America’s Native people, and the freedom the Standing Rock Sioux are now exercising.

This weekend I’m joining thousands of veterans from across the country at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters. Together we call on President Obama to immediately halt the construction of this pipeline, respect the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, and respect their right to clean water. The truth is, whether it’s the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaiʻi aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources.

We can’t undo history, but we must learn lessons from the past and carry them forward—to encourage cooperation among free people, to protect the sacred, to care for the Earth and for our children, and our children’s children. What’s at stake is our shared heritage of freedom and democracy and our shared future on this Great Turtle Island, our great United States of America.”

DOJ press release on Native Americans vs. US Army Corps of Engineers and Entergy Corp.

 Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, September 9, 2016 Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  The Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued the following statement regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:  “We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.  However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.  Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/joint-statement-department-justice-department-army-and-department-interior-regarding-standing

Documentary Activism and Formation

Idle Threat and Racing Extinction: Two passion driven documentaries about a group of people acknowledging issues that are a threat to our environment and our planet, and actively pursuing the goal of minimizing the damages that come from these issues.

On one hand you have Racing Extinction with a Hollywood production budget, dealing with global-scale issues in regards to animals that have been extinct and some that are on the verge of being extinct. The film takes us to several different countries across the world and introduces several different methodologies that these driven journalists, artists and scientists use to fight this battle.

On the other hand you have Idle Threat with a minimalistic production budget in comparison to Racing Extinction, dealing with a much more local issue of curbside engine idling in New York City. George Pakenham seeks help and support from the City of New York, rather than taking this issue to a global level. Pakenham uses humor to keep his audience engaged with the documentary, which is a tactic that Racing Extinction doesn’t use.

While Racing Extinction’s insane production budget makes the film a spectacle for larger groups of people across the globe, Idle Threat has a more relatable and conversational tone that allows us to connect with the subject easily.

Nonetheless, both documentaries were eye opening and reassuring that environmental activism can have satisfying results.

On that note, I would like to give some updates on my project.

As you all know, I am working on creating a performance art piece to raise awareness about the Flint Water Crisis.

I am currently finishing up my research on individuals who were/are effected by this tragic event. With the data I collect from my research, I am going to start writing monologues representing different characters. This is similar to the work that Anna Deavere Smith does.

I was also inspired to use this device of using character distinction as a way of sending a message from a TED talk that I watched last year by Sarah Jones, in which she portrays nearly six different characters from her own life to describe her diverse background and the benefits of diversity within a specific community.

Additionally, I started developing choreography to Beyonce‘s new controversial song “Formation“. The music video to the song is highly political and features tons of strong statements. However, I’m not sure if the lyrics of the song suggest the same. Beyonce released “Formation” during the height of the Flint Water Crisis, which is a curious action on her part. Therefore, I am interested in exploring ways in which the two might be related to one another.

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Have you ever thought of what your daily life would be like if you didn’t have access to fresh clean water through your city’s water pipes? lead rust water.jpg.838x0_q67_crop-smart

Imagine, you wake up in the morning, go to brush your teeth and end up seeing brown water mixing with your bright blue toothpaste on your toothbrush creating a muddy tableau. After you brush your teeth with the colored water, you proceed to take a shower with the same water. Then, you boil the same colored water to make tea and the cycle goes on.

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What if you found out that the reason your water’s so colorful isn’t because your faucet suddenly decided to pull a prank on you, but instead, because your city council is actually trying to poison your entire city with lead water in order to save money?

On top of all of this, if you were living in a predominantly black city with mostly poor families, what would you make of all this?

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The water crisis in Flint is a tragic event that is slowly but surely destroying a community of black people and no one is taking is responsibility for this mass poisoning. I have no other words to describe this crisis but call it environmental racism.

Personally, I can’t even begin to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have access to clean water for my daily needs. The fact that these people are being robbed of one of their most basic human rights is alarming and as a nation we should be doing more to help the citizens of Flint.

Media coverage of the crisis is limited and the information that is presented in the media is often twisted to misguide readers/viewers.

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With all the unfairness surrounding the Flint water crisis, I have decided to dedicate my final project to raising awareness for Flint and educating people about this tragedy through a performance art piece. As of right now, I am thinking about creating a solo piece with self written poetry, borrowed music and devised choreography.

My main focus right now is generating material that I can try to piece together and create an educational and motivational art piece. However, I am also thinking about how I would go about performing the piece for the class and for outside audiences. After all, the whole point of the piece is to raise awareness and get people to talk more about Flint.

Some performance options are:

  • creating a short film out of the performance art piece,
  • performing the piece at a specific location in New York (parks, subway stations etc.) and filming the public performance to present in class,
  • or renting out a performance studio and inviting people to come see it free of charge.

I am excited, thrilled, and anxious to start creating content using news articles, interviews, documentaries and other media sources as primary sources. I know I’m not changing the face of the world with this project, but I like to approach it as a baby step towards aiding a major problem in America that most probably won’t be solved until many decades after I am gone.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the legendary, incomparable Maya Angelou:

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

If I can’t change the situation in Flint, maybe I can at least change the way a hand full of people view this environmentally racist crisis.

#BlackLivesMatter meets #OurPlanetMatters

From this week’s assigned readings and screenings, a particular quote really got me thinking about generations that will follow us and about our legacy as artists and as humans.  In the trailer for “Living Downstream” Sandra Steingraber says:

I believe our grandchildren will look back on us now and marvel that our economy was once dependent on chemicals that were killing the planet and killing oursleves and they will think of it as unthinkable.  An environmental human rights movement is the vision under which I labor.”

As a twenty-one year old millennial, my daily worries include getting to class on time, meeting deadlines for internship applications, preparing for auditions, figuring out how to balance seven different rehearsals during the week, making sure I work enough shifts during the week to make enough money for groceries and rent, and the list goes on.  But not for a second do I stop to think about having children and grandchildren, let alone think about what my grandchildren will think when they look back on the era during which I grew up.  It was terrifying and worrisome to hear Steingarber utter those words, because it made me realize how, as a generation, we are so selfish and we only think about the present moment.

We feel as if it is not our responsibility to leave the planet in a better state than when we found it.  We are so consumed by worrying about how many likes our picture is going to get on instagram, or will Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar, or whether Kylie Jenner’s lips are real or fake, that we don’t even acknowledge the amount of pain and misery that is present in the world.

The more I think about it, the more I say shame on us and it motivates me to do something and be more active.

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With that being said, I’ve been digging more into the concept behind my project, which, as I explained in class, is dealing with environmental racism within the Flint Water Crisis.  Tonight, there is a benefit show taking place in Flint, Michigan called #JUSTICEFORFLINT with several famous directors and performers taking the stage to support the victims of the Flint Water Crisis.

Director Ava DuVernay (‘Selma‘) is one of the main supporters of the benefit and during an interview with Michigan Live  she said, “We have to be in the world, we can’t be in glass houses typing away and collecting our check.”

The fact that majority of the supporters of the event are Black artists speaks to the fact that race is a big component of the crisis. The event is taking place on the same night as the Academy Awards Ceremony, which has also sparked controversy as several Black artists have been protesting this year’s Oscar nominations with the slogan #OscarsSoWhite.

While our White artists are attending the Oscars, celebrating White excellence in Film, the Black artists are standing up for a damaged community that is predominantly Black and making this cause a priority.  Now this act is praise-worthy and is something that I look up to and feel inspired by.

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Academy Awards Infographic 18 24 - FINAL - REVISED 2-18-2015

After hearing about the controversy of #JUSTICEFORFLINT and the Oscars taking place on the same night, I thought back on to a chapter from Merchants of Doubt in which Conway and Oreskes say, “Sometimes reopening an old debate can serve present purposes” (Conway & Oreseks, Chapter 4).   For those of you who might not know, Ava DuVernay was jibbed from an Oscar nomination for her film ‘Selma’ in 2015, which initiated the #OscarsSoWhite movement last year.  Now, a year later, the movement is still alive and more powerful, and once again, black artists are jibbed from a nomination. However, by attending the Flint Water Benefit instead of the Oscars tonight, DuVernay and other Black artists are making a statement that Black people have bigger issues to deal with than the Oscars. When a brotha and a sista are in danger, we jump right in and we support them full force. Therefore, #JUSTICEFORFLINT can be seen as a response to #OscarsSoWhite, even though it is claimed to be a total coincidence that the two events are taking place on the same day.

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I know some of us still feel like there isn’t much that we can do to help save our planet, but what we can do is educate others and raise awareness in hopes that we can spark a fire in people that will lead to them wanting to be more active and so on.

The more I read news articles and hear about updates on Flint Water, the more I begin to piece together ideas for my project and #JUSTICEFORFLINT has definitely inspired me to think about incorporating different mediums of performance into my project. I’m thrilled to explore how I can use my talents and creativity to stand up and say something about environmental racism.

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Not To Pull The Race Card But…

As the Flint Water Crisis continues to make headlines, political debates around the crisis start to become more complex.  Recent arguments are labeling the crisis as environmental racism due to the lack of attention shown towards the situation.  According to a Huffington Post article titled “The Racist Roots of Flint’s Water Crisis” written by Julia Craven and Tyler Tynes, majority of Flint’s population is Black and also poor.  This raises the question  “if this same situation had been placed in a predominantly white and rich community, would the state have beeen quicker to reach out and solve the problem?

Craven and Tynes address this question by saying, “At the first democratic presidential debate of the year, Hillary Clinton issued a rallying cry for Flint’s predicament, saying that the crisis would have been handled differently if it happened in a white suburb outside of Detroit.

Well we all know that actions speak louder than words.  So if we’re acknowledging the racism behind this crisis, then why isn’t anyone doing something about it?  Or at the very least, why aren’t we hearing more about this through mass media?

After doing some research on this topic, I came across a meme that stands as a counter-argument towards the accusation of environmental racism.  The meme basically states that we can’t blame White republicans for the crisis because Flint’s city council members are mostly Black democrats, thus denying any correlations between race and the crisis.

While these arguments seem to either support or deny the idea that the lack of attention in dealing with Flint’s crisis might be categorized as environmental racism, others claim that the issue is actually rooted in both race and class.   Craven and Tyler quote Carl S. Taylor, a sociology professor at Michigan State University, after their interview with him, in which he said, “It’s both a class and race issue. When you have companies there, they dump everything into the water and into poor communities. You can’t go dump it into affluent communities. They wouldn’t tolerate it on their land.”   Prof. Taylor points out the direct correlation between class status and agency, and how this correlation can have an impact on the quickness and level of attention and care shown by the State towards a major crisis.  It seems to me that the citizens of Flint are being taken advantage of due to their class status and are not able to fight for justice. This is a fine example of oppression in the 21st century.

So what can be done about this dilemma?  I am not quite sure, however, I do think that the mass media needs to play a greater role in highlighting the racial aspect of the crisis so that people around the world can be well informed about the depths of the issue.  Raising awareness may not solve the whole problem, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.