The Courage To Tackle the Impossible

The body is such an inconvenient thing. Especially when it gets pneumonia. And is running for President. Or when it overdoses on heroin and passes out while driving around a four year old. Or when the police keep killing African American bodies for no good reason, even those with their hands on their head. Very inconvenient and unreliable, the human body can be.

Dead bodies can be inconvenient too, especially when you’ve spent billions of dollars on 60% of a pipeline like Energy Transfer Partners has for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and there are sacred burial grounds of Lakota ancestors. Or are there? Either way, the pipeline will be completed, so says the corporate CEO – media and actual living Native Americans be damned. Put the dogs on their bodies. That will send a message.

The news this month has been awful. And so much of it seems to come down to a total lack of respect for the body – for human life, especially if you are poor and black, or if you are native to this land we call ours.

As a religious leader, it’s one of my prime messages. The body is sacred above all else – not our spirituality (whatever that is or may be), not our mind, our religious beliefs, our convictions. We aren’t brains floating around disembodied. Everything we do and accomplish is due to our having a body. Our well-being as individuals and as a society is centered in our bodies.

This Sunday, September 25, the title of my homily is “The Courage to Tackle the Impossible.” I chose this title because I’m tasked with addressing the epidemic of gun violence in America. The UU Church of Studio City has a Gun Violence Prevention Project, and my first reaction was, “wow, they are really taking on the impossible.” After all, if the aftermath of Sandy Hook could yield no meaningful legislation, what on earth could? What do we do about the NRA wearing the pants in our country? What do we do about the militarization of the police, about our culture of violence growing ever more pervasive and virulent?

My 7 year-old son won’t watch Star Wars because he says it’s too violent. He told me, “I’m afraid if I watch it, I will become a bad and violent person, and I don’t want that to happen.” This is based on watching his classmates warring with each other Star Wars-style with pretend light sabers. My boy is saying, “peace starts with me” and I couldn’t be prouder. I am not a perfect parent in this regard – my children are frightened by the violence in shows you would think benign for children to watch, like Puss in Boots, and even the Care Bears, for Chrissake. There is no social contract about keeping violence out of TV and movies for kids.

While it may all seem overwhelming and impossible, I have hope. While rioting is worrisome in Charlotte, NC, it is all the people have left to do, as it is with the Standing Rock Sioux nation and other nations in North Dakota – they can put their bodies on the line.

When all is lost, and there is no hope in the decency of others, all hope is put in the body. A body can protest – take up space and draw attention to injustice. I think of the hunger strikers of the undocumented mothers in immigrant detention or the men at Guantanamo Bay. It is the last resort, to use our bodies to save our own lives and say, “you may try to destroy my life, but I will use my body to fight for my life.”

We also use our bodies in less dire circumstances to protest, organize, and gather ourselves en masse to create pressure that creates change. This is the method of a new organization developing in Pasadena, called Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, or POP. We are debuting our existence this Sunday, September 25 at the Pasadena Peace & Unity Festival, from 2 – 6:30 PM behind Madison Elementary School, which includes some awesome musical acts like Ozomatli. This event is organized by NDLON (National Day Laborer Organizing Network) and sponsors include the Pasadena Playhouse and Weekly. The idea is to have some joy in place of the worry; peace in place of the violence; unity instead of division.

I’ll be there 3:30 – 5 PM and you can come say hi at the POP table. I believe in POP because such an effort gives me courage and hope that we can tackle the impossible. That with enough bodies working together, changes in how we police Pasadena could set a national standard, as could high standards of enforcement for the new minimum wage, among other important concerns.  We are raising money to hire full-time organizers.

Progressive grass-roots organizing, and/or supporting it financially, is the least of what we can do – especially white people. We don’t have to resort to rioting, risk being bitten by pit bulls, or stop eating so we and our children can possibly be released from prison, our only crime existing without papers. Our bodies are not particularly in danger the way bodies of people of color are in this country.

It’s an excellent opportunity to get involved and support POP if you care about progressive change. It’s change that not only could make Pasadena a stronger city, but our whole country. With courage and faith in our potential, we can put our bodies where our mouths are and where our hearts are in our highest hopes for humanity.

For more information about POP, contact Ed Washatka ed.washatka@charter.net.

Hope to see you this Sunday, and until next time, Do the Hustle!

– Rev. At-Large, aka Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

 

 

 

The New Consensus

David Shechtman has written an article for the Good Men Project that is worth a read.  David and I are the same age (solid Gen Xers going on 43) and grew up in the same corner of the country, the Chicago area.  We share that Midwestern wry and no-bs way of looking at the world.  We think in practical and functional terms.  I have appreciated his friendship over the years because we are not of the same political persuasion and yet we find much on which to agree.

I currently call myself a Democrat and, in recent years, David made the switch from Republican to Independent.   David is committed to not allowing candidate Trump to become our next President.  He talked to me recently about strategy in his communications with Republicans and how he can convince them to, if necessary, “hold their nose and vote for Hillary.”  He sees four categories of Republicans that any of us who has access to them can influence in a customized way:

Right-wing ideologues

  • David Duke types.
  • Authoritarian personalities.
  • Extreme social conservatives.
Countering strategy

  • Likely too extreme to influence.
  • Best hope is to expose their venom for what it is.
Bandwagon Republicans

  • People who grew up in Reagan/Bush households.
  • Like the party because of its electoral success since 1994.
  • Pro-business, socially moderate (or at least sensible).
Countering strategy

  • Appeal to patriotism.
  • Talk about heroic, defining moments.
  • Give tacit permission to explore an alternative.
Globalization casualty

  • Someone who has lost work or made less money because free trade.
  • People who feel threatened by progressive social changes (immigration, diversity, political correctness).
Countering strategy

  • Provide context: this system has created opportunity AND it needs fixing. Better to fix it than to destroy it.
  • Give people tools for making change in their life.
  • Fall back on social/religious ethics of decency, conflict resolution, and engagement.
Clinton haters

  • People invested in exposing the Clinton family as frauds and soulless politicians.
  • Women who Hillary as a doormat for Bill after his infidelity.
Countering strategy

  • Sitting the election out is too costly.
  • Hold your nose and vote.
  • The alternative is ghastly.

Perhaps this is helpful, for those of you who wish to have these conversations with your friends and family, or your neighbor in the check-out line.   But this isn’t a blog about getting “our side to win,” it’s about the idea that none of us are really on any side.  Or, that we’re all on the same side – the side that wants to find solutions for our country together, instead of wasting time by fear-marketing and assigning blame.

David wants to see a “new consensus” emerge – one that counters the vicious tensions between the left and the right, and whose foundation is the idea that we are tired of being “stuck” and we are ready for “restoration” as defined by Peter Block’s seminal work, Community:  The Structure of Belonging.

Block says, “The overriding characteristic of the stuck community is the decision to broadcast all the reasons we have to be afraid.  This is a kind of advertising that exploits the fear we have of violence, of the urban core, of terrorism, of African-Americans and other ethnic groups, of immigrants, of those who are poor or undereducated, of other religions, and of other countries . . . Restoration comes from the choice to value possibility and relatedness over problems, self-interest, and the rest of the stuck community’s agenda.  It hinges on the accountability chosen by citizens and their willingness to connect with each other around promises they make to each other.”

I really like that word “promise” Peter Block uses because the keeping of promises is the glue of healthy structures of belonging, be that in our marriages, the workplace, the religious community, or the country we call home.  I will be exploring our promises more at length in my first pulpit appearance at the UU Church of Studio City on September 11.  The theme is “covenant” which is basically a hoity-toity word for “promise.”   There is  also sermon material in the idea of the new consensus, and that may occur closer to November.

No, I really don’t want to see Trump become president (although I think it would be, um, beneficial for the liberal religious business! HAR), but I know that no matter who becomes president, the need for a new consensus will be as pronounced as it is now, if not more so.  No matter who wins, it will be a very big deal.  Historic if the first woman takes the helm, historic if someone as unconventional as Trump does.  Whoever it is, it’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable – and here is the opportunity.

As people experience cognitive dissonance, they may be ready for a new way of seeing things.  They may be more interested in having the difficult conversations about their fear and anger, and be more open to new solutions.  Imagine how angry Trump supporters would be when, after a year or two of Trump’s administration, things are even worse for them.

They say the pendulum swings in politics between right and left and David and I are suggesting that perhaps the pendulum could swing also between divisiveness and unity, between moderate and extremist.  There were times our country was more unified, but we don’t live in that world anymore, nor do we want to – we are ready for the world where equity and humanity are the default, not the opposite.

No political party can help us get there, and we need to embrace that truth.  It is ordinary people like ourselves who hold elected officials accountable, be they Dems or GOP.  Some say we don’t even have a two-party system anymore and haven’t for some time – it’s all the same corporate-bought party.   However you see it, join the post-partisan conversation.  What do you think it will take to develop an effective “new consensus”?

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

Rev. At-Large, aka Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

Boutique Hotels, Floods, Fires, and the Scramble for What’s Left

Like I’ve said, as Americans we are united in our compulsion to hustle for income in whatever way we can. For many, the option to generate funds via airbnb is a no-brainer. In my little wild west town of Altadena, CA I see there are currently over 140 short-term rentals available. My husband and I have a “carriage house” behind our 1926 Janes Cottage that, with a little love to the tune of 10 – 12 K, could shake our own moneymaker.

But, it’s like the true environmentalists say to the mammal-eaters: you can’t call yourself an environmentalist if you partake in red meat. I couldn’t call myself an affordable housing advocate if I became a supplier of short-term rentals. If we ever do soup up the carriage house it will be so someone can call it home.

I recently commented to Rabbi Jonathan Klein, the leader of CLUE-LA, that organizing for affordable housing is like wrestling an octopus. There are so many subheadings of affordable housing advocacy (from countering municipal efforts to criminalize homelessness to dried-up public funding to airbnb and elite hotel developments decimating an already inadequate affordable housing stock . . . the list goes on), and our quickly changing world is ratcheting up the pressure on all of them.

I told the Rabbi that the need for affordable housing is so acute that perhaps it could unite activists in a large urban area like LA County. With enough people organized we could pin that octopus.

In the latest match in Pasadena, the octopus won handily. Last week, the City Council unanimously voted to move ahead with the huge Kimpton Hotel project that will turn the historic YWCA building adjacent to City Hall into a 179-room luxury boutique hotel. The project involves adding an entirely new building, permanently altering the prominent view of the Jackie Robinson statues.

This week local activists are shaking their heads in regret around the lack of organized opposition that led to this loss. The environmentalists dissented en masse but it wasn’t enough – killing this vote required the cooperation of a gaggle of activist coalitions, too many of which operate in silos (the workers’ rights, environmental, and affordable housing activists all needed to link arms on this one).

It is a loss of several things: it could have been a wonderful affordable housing project (in fact, it might be illegal in CA to have usurped this surplus property to a private corporation before making it available for affordable housing – the matter is being studied and may result in a law suit); the deal could have negotiated labor peace (good jobs) for its workers instead of more crappy low-wage ones (and these new workers will also have to somehow find an affordable place to live in or near Pasadena – buena suerte!); it is a loss of green space; it is a further loss of the soul of a Pasadena that once valued socio-economic diversity. How fitting that the Robinson statues will be eclipsed by this monstrosity.

The City Council seems insatiable in its fervor for more hotels and elite accommodations in Pasadena. And yet, part of our quickly changing world includes vast numbers of people who suddenly find themselves homeless, be that a result of flood or fire. The contrast is stunning: droves of devastated lives in Louisiana and parts of CA and the Pasadena City Council gleefully voting in a boutique hotel project in a building that used to serve the common good values for which the YW/MCA is known. This should not compute.

None of us are immune to the hustle for dollarage – one reason airbnb has been such a boon is because home-owners are strapped for cash, and many are enabled to keep their house and their toe-hold in the middle class by offering short-term rentals. While I don’t begrudge their predicament, I can’t help but look at the bigger picture here.

As resources become more scarce in a climate-change world (are literally rotted to the ground or burned up), there is a mass “scramble for what’s left” because most people are not of the elite class.  But the elite sure are taking up a lot of space.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

– Rev. Hannah hustlin’ Hope! Petrie

“It’s the Sugar, Stupid”

I took a break from blogging the last couple weeks mostly because I was looking after my kids all day before they went back to school this week. Blogging and entertaining children do not go together. Not so much. But there was another reason, too – I did a 30-day no sugar diet!

Boys and girls, do not try this at home – unless you know what you’re getting yourself into when you submit to a period of de-tox. Yes, you lose weight and cellulite (it’s not why I did it but nice perks), and you also take on epic brain-fog. The likes of which I’ve never experienced.  In a one-week period, for example, I:

  • plumb forgot two social obligations
  • had the central air running with some windows open until it croaked (my multi-talented husband fixed it)
  • ran my car head on into the cinder-block fence separating my neighbor’s yard (I was gazing at some free furniture my across-the-street neighbor had put out, then, BOOM! My new bumper is beautiful – for now)

Some other dumb things happened that are too embarrassing to mention. I learned something important – de-tox brain fog is real!

Which leads to my larger point, relevant to hustling justice – sugar is a toxic substance!

No, it won’t kill ya with one dose, but one might think of it as a slow-drip poison most Americans submit their bodies to, starting at a pretty early age, until – sadly –health and quality of life are often compromised by diabetes, heart disease, or some other serious malady that otherwise might have been avoided.

What’s my source? There are some pretty good films about it – one is called Fed Up and another you can stream on Netflix called, Sugarcoated. My friend Chris insisted I watch this movie (he was kind of relentless about it), which I did with my parents and children. In a nutshell, the sugar industry has managed to accomplish what the tobacco industry did, getting in bed with the FDA, only they’re still getting away with it. The industrial sweetener scandal is far more evil and insidious than tobacco, because one needn’t consume tobacco to live, but the opposite is true of food.

When it comes to processed foods, sugar (cane or otherwise) is in effing everything – especially convenience items, which are often the kinds of things parents pack in kids’ lunches. I am one of those parents, because I’m not sure what else to do – I can’t spend an hour each day packing lunches – it already takes me 30 – 40 minutes. Also, my girl especially is already a carb-addicted kid – if it were up to her, she’d only eat cheerios, noodles, and pb & j! And I’m an enlightened mother. WTF?

Maybe it’s because when she was in utero, I’d get these insane cravings for Starbucks cake-pops or brownies every single afternoon. Hmmm.  At any rate, like a lot of kids, she fixates on carbs and sugar, and we struggle to make sure healthy proteins and fresh veggies/fruits also find their way in. At least she takes vitamins everyday, which of course are administered in the form of gummy bears.

My mom became diabetic in her late 60’s and I had gestational diabetes with my son, so I figure I’m at risk unless I get a handle on it. It’s one reason I took the 30-day plunge. I want to set an example for my kids (I can control what goes in my mouth – most of the time!) and the good news is, taking a break from sugar easily addresses our auto-pilot cravings for it.  The less you have, eventually the less you want (I also found that taking an L-Glutamine supplement, an amino acid, also effectively reduced my cravings).

I did the Amy Meyers, M.D. 30 day Candida diet (not TMI – we all have it, but people like myself with auto-immune issues are susceptible to systemic over-drive), which allows for low-glycemic fruits like berries and apple and up to a cup of carbs (like rice and beans) per day. So, I wasn’t totally deprived. And now, after the diet, sugar is a treat, be that a dessert or the fermented sugar drinks known as alcoholic beverages. I might have a diet coke once a month. Fake sugar has its own problems, like some of them murdering your healthy gut biome. Get busy with your biome! I’m a believer: the gut is the gateway to health, especially if you’re susceptible to depression. The vast majority of your neuro-transmitter is manufactured in your gut.

Taking a break from sugar is not only good for your health, but you actually make sugar taste sweeter and more pleasurable because then you don’t have such an, er, tolerance of it. It’s amazing what our bodies get used to – but just like when a river is un-dammed and allowed to heal itself, it does so quickly (observe wetlands repair in the Everglades). We are the dammers of our bodies’ health, and it’s a social justice issue because our individual good health is important for society to function at its best. We do pass on our habits to our kids. I accept that I can’t make my kids hate sugar, but I can talk about it and always provide options – the other day my boy handed me the half-finished ice-cream cone and said, “I’ve had enough sugar.” Way to know your limits, son!

It’s also important to mention that sugar-induced dis-health particularly afflicts the poor – food deserts are very real, especially here in sections of LA county, where people are often forced to subsist on a cellophane-wrapped diet, devoid of fresh food. It’s cool what Michelle Obama sought to do – the campaign to bring healthy alternatives into public school cafeterias. But the problem runs deep – a lot of that fresh food in public schools gets wasted because it’s foreign to many children. When I lived in West Africa for six months in college I learned wasting food is a sin and I never forgot it. It’s not enough for that kind of food to only be at school, but it’s better than none at all, I suppose. What’s happened to those practical classes in middle school like home-economics, where you learn how to buy, cook and enjoy healthy food? Seems important in a country where the rate of diabetes is quickly approaching 10% of the population.

When I transitioned out of my last job, I found myself drinking, er, more than I usually do. To be expected, perhaps, in such circumstances.  When I was ready to drink less, I realized I didn’t have a drinking problem, I had a sugar problem. I said to myself, “it’s the sugar, stupid.”  All of it.

Now I don’t feel so stupid, and life is sweet. Just don’t ever ask me to give up coffee.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

Native Vision: The Wisdom of Two Indigenous Nations

Happy August! I hope for my readers this month you have some time to rest, rejuvenate, and reflect – here is some spiritual food for thought before we confront the conclusion of the presidential race this autumn.

I’ve been reading about some native people’s ethics and spirituality, particularly the Aborigines in Australia, and the Lakota nation that is now located on reservations in the South Dakota area – at one time their territory stretched all the way into Wyoming. I have two wonderful books to recommend: “Mutant Message Down Under” by Marlo Morgan (first published 1991) and “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living” (2001) by Joseph M. Marshall III.

Morgan is asked by an Aboriginal tribe to receive an award for some great volunteer work she did in Australia that benefited their people, so she flies to a far away corner of the country, and is picked up at her hotel by a man named Ooota, who drives her four hours into the Outback. Long story short, she is asked to dispossess all her belongings. They are burned in a fire – camera, jewelry, shoes, even all her clothes, everything – and is told she has been selected as a worthy participant to go on walk-about with this tribe of 14 people, and then report back to the larger world her experiences.  Having little choice, she goes – and is gone for many months. Ooota becomes her translator. The book describes her adventure of living as the natives do, eating all manner of things, and surviving the harsh desert climate. Most importantly, she learns some timeless wisdom and beliefs about the nature of life, and what human beings are capable of.

The Aboriginals call themselves “Real People”, and all others are called mutants, because they are not, from their view, whole people who understand the nature of the universe. Hence the title, “Mutant Message Down Under.”

I’ve always been attracted to native values and beliefs, because I sense they are pure, and that I can trust them. For thousands of years, the first peoples lived in harmony with the earth, if not always in harmony with each other. Even when there were inter-tribal rivalries and battles, it was much more about honor and bravery than about killing, or wiping out great numbers of people.

In our modern and increasingly uncertain world, such core principles of living not only can serve as a salve for our anxieties, but if we were to integrate them with intention into our daily lives, we ourselves can become living beacons of hope: through our actions, our demonstrations of integrity and steadfastness. With our strong character we give hope and well-being to our closest family members, our friends, and the larger communities in which we work and interact.

Looking through the lens of native beliefs and practices – having native vision, if you will – also offers the kind of ocean of wisdom we can have the freedom to pick and choose from.  We use what speaks to us or calls us to challenge. We help keep respect for these worldviews alive by reading and studying them, practicing them by transforming the wisdom into action in our daily lives, and then sharing this good news.

There is immense diversity among the hundreds of native nations that still survive, but the tribes hold much in common, especially the worldview that nature is sacred and is the basis of all being on this earth – that we are not above nature, we are part of it. And what we do to nature and to each other, we do to ourselves.

Let’s home in on some key concepts. Let’s start with humility, gratitude, abundance, and generosity, for these are related, but I fear that in today’s world, we are forgetting that, at our peril. Today it would seem that the road to success and abundance must entail aggressiveness, maybe even ruthlessness, and great wallops of ego. Here is a piece about Crazy Horse from Marshall’s book, because it was quite the opposite that defined Crazy Horse’s success and his honored place among the pantheon of true American heroes:

We Lakota don’t remember Crazy Horse primarily because he defeated Crook or Custer; we remember him because – in spite of his larger-than-life achievements on the field of battle – he was a humble man.

Crazy Horse was born to be a warrior and a leader. He was known far and wide for his daring and recklessness in combat, but also for his ability to make good tactical decisions. If anyone earned the right to participate in the waktoglaka ceremony – when warriors recount their wins in battle in public – it was he. But according to all the stories handed down about him, he never did.

For all his life Crazy Horse was painfully shy and probably spoke in public only twice. Though he was entitled to wear the symbols of his many achievements on the battlefield – eagle feathers – he was known to dress plainly.

His refusal to do what was expected of all accomplished warriors – recount his exploits in combat – raised more than a few eyebrows because he was bucking tradition, but it also endeared him to many. Those exploits are the basis for the legend of Crazy Horse; but sadly, they overshadow the real man – the man, the stories say, who would walk through camp with his head down in humility when he had every right to strut with arrogance.

Crazy Horse didn’t ask or volunteer to be a leader. Men came to him, especially during that critical period following the Battle of Little Bighorn when the U.S. Army stepped up its campaign against him. Because of his reputation and the humility with which he always conducted himself, over 900 people followed him. Only a few more than a 100 were fighting men. The rest were old people, women, and children, and they all endured hardship and uncertainty. But all of the fighting men and most, if not all, of the others would have continued to fight against the whites to the last man, or woman, or child if Crazy Horse had chosen that as the best course of action. But he chose otherwise. As a true testament of their loyalty, Crazy Horse’s people followed him into an uncertain future when – for the welfare of his noncombatants – he finally surrendered to the United States. He was the last Lakota leader to do so.

Humility was a virtue that the Lakota of old expected their leaders to possess. A quiet, humble person, we believed, was aware of other people and other things. An arrogant, boastful man was only aware of himself. Interestingly, our methods of selecting leaders today seem to favor the arrogant and boastful.

The process that we, as a nation, endure every four years is the same that many Native American tribes or nations seem to mimic on a more frequent basis. In Lakota society of the not-too-distant past, however, it was the people who approached the man who possessed the qualities of leadership. One of those qualities was humility.

If humility was a virtue important for everyone to practice, it was absolutely necessary for a leader. Humility can provide clarity where arrogance makes a cloud. The last thing the people wanted was someone whose judgment and actions were clouded by arrogance.

When we have humility, not only are we not clouded by ego, but we are also more likely to practice gratitude. We see with clear eyes that all that we have is not merely a result of our own individual efforts, but of those around us, and some whom we don’t even know – such as the people who pick our fruits and vegetables, or the people who manufacture our many mobile devices (both, usually, for poverty wages).

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with gratitude. Every week there are thank you notes I think to write, all to people I love and greatly respect, but often the thought doesn’t transform into action. It’s silly, because enacting gratitude always brings me a sense of peace and well-being, and when things are not going well, remembering what I’m grateful for always makes me feel stronger. When you’re feeling down or in a rut, write a thank you note – it will always give you a lift.

One of the first things I loved in “Mutant Message Down Under” was the ritual the tribe did together every morning before they set off walking. In a semi-circle they face east, and offer their gratitude for the food and water that would faithfully appear each day. Marlo Morgan writes:

These people believe everything exists on the planet for a reason. Everything has a purpose. So each morning the tribe sends out a thought or message to the animals and plants in front of us. They say, ‘We are walking your way. We are coming to honor your purpose for existence.’ The Real People tribe never go without food. Always, the universe responds to their mind-talk. They believe the world is a place of abundance… I learned that the appearance of food was not taken for granted. It was first requested, always expected to appear, and did appear, but was gratefully received and genuine gratitude always given.

If this tribe had a concept of God it was called “Oneness.” As Marlo Morgan describes it, the tribe begins each day by saying thank you not only to the food they will eat that day, but also to Oneness, and for themselves, their friends, the world. “They sometimes ask for specifics,” she writes, “but it is always phrased, ‘if it is in my highest good and the highest good for all life everywhere.” (Italics are mine)

As I read this book, I thought that a name or term for God that I am comfortable using is “Merciful Oneness.” I am of the Pagan persuasion when it comes to spiritual beliefs, and while I once thought of God as Nature Herself, or the Great Mother, I’ve expanded my vision to include the heavens and the cosmos – all of existence of which we are a part. It’s a vision of God not limited to a gender, but is in fact limitless, and all utterly connected, all One.

For me, Merciful Oneness captures the idea that God is all encompassing, and importantly, merciful and generous in its abundance. Again, the practice of remembering this on a regular basis – especially daily – is a strong salve for anxiety. It reminds me of one of my favorite messages by Jesus of Nazareth, in the Books of Matthew and Luke. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear . . . who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . Consider the lilies of the field. They do not labor or spin . . . if this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (NIV)”

It’s wonderful when native wisdom overlaps with the Judeo-Christian tradition, and lends to these ideas of Oneness, mercy, and abundance.

When we are aware of the great abundance in our life through our gratitude, we ourselves are more likely to be generous, and abundance-giving. This was also a great lesson from “The Lakota Way.” The Earth is generous and so must we be.  Joseph Marshall writes, “One of the sacred ceremonies of the Pipe brought to us and taught by White Buffalo Calf Maiden is the Hunka, which means ‘to forever move.’ The Earth tells us, ‘I shall forever be, or move as, your mother.’ We are given assurance that no matter how good or bad we are, no matter how happy or miserable, because we are children of the Earth she will always love us and provide for us. Therefore, our concept and practice of generosity comes from the Earth itself.”

It’s all a part of having faith that the Earth will care for us, and as part of that promise or covenant, if you will, we in turn promise to care for each other.

Now, if we were to get very adept and supple at honoring these key values in our lives – humility, gratitude, abundance, and generosity, it creates a strong foundation for another key spiritual concept that, again, many religions share, but that some of the first peoples seemed to be especially good at – especially the Aborigines. There is some fascinating research that indicates they likely were some of the first human beings to survive into the modern age. Their history goes way back thousands and thousands of years, long, long, long before the whites came to Australia.

Like many Native American tribes, everything they were given by the Earth was never put to waste. Uses were found for every component of plants and animals killed for humans’ sustenance. Along with this ethic came something else – a lack of attachment to material objects. This was especially vital on walk-about, when you had to travel light.

I’m not suggesting you give everything away and start walking, owning nothing. But I’d like to point to a beautiful quotation of Morgan’s she included with a few other native leader’s (including Chief Seattle), before her story begins:

Born empty-handed,

Die empty-handed.

I witnessed life at its fullest,

Empty handed.

I don’t need to convince you of how cluttered our modern lives are, but I will testify. I’ve developed an attachment to Swatch watches – sometimes I’ll even wear two at a time like people did in the 1980’s. I think of it as my ironic, analogue fashion statement – nobody ever tells me my watches are cool, but I don’t care, because I think they’re cool, and the wearing gives me joy. It’s ironic because I’m no fashionista, but here I am attached to a materialistic fetish, one that delivers time, no less, which speaks to my complete compliance to schedule and the hustle of modern life.

Such hobbies take time and money, and the point is this: the less we have, and the less we spend our lives on the pursuit of acquisition and maintenance of items, the more time we have for the things that are not things – like nurturing relationships or spiritual awakening or emotional maturation; learning a new skill or talent; volunteering and being of service; being an activist. These are more honorable things that not only enhance our living but also make us who we are and form our character, and when we die, are the things we’ll be remembered by. When I die, I don’t want someone eulogizing me to say, “she owned a lot of Swatch watches.” That’s like, so what?

I want to be remembered for more than my whimsy. For what do you not want to be remembered? And for what do you really want to be remembered?

One of the coolest things about this Aboriginal tribe is that they don’t celebrate birthdays. No one seemed to know when their birthday was. What they do celebrate is when they have acquired a new talent in life. So when someone, say, grows to have a special knack for finding water, or healing ailments, a celebration is given in the learner’s honor, and their talent is an identity by which they become known. If we applied this in our world, a community might throw a party once someone has spent a number of years excelling in a chosen field, rather than only throw the party upon retirement.

We have humility, and it’s our community who takes initiative to acknowledge our growth and achievements, thereby giving us a sense of well-being and worth. Imagine how we might adapt this concept into our hyper-competitive world? It would be challenging, but would create great joy and encouragement.

Finally, I’d like us to turn to the concept of truth. Again, in our modern world, one might conclude that truth no longer matters so much. The research is in: even when people know a politician is manipulating facts, they still cling to the principles of that manipulation, and discard the relevance of the truth (this happens on both sides). Or, even when we know someone is being treated unfairly, we often honor the cut-throat mores of the corporate mind-set, and allow injustice to prevail. For these reasons and more, truth has lost its honored place in our minds and hearts, and even our souls.   In this way, we should fight not only for our own souls, but the soul of our communities, our nation, and our world. We may find ourselves needing, at times, to take a stand for truth. We may have to step apart from our crowd, so that we walk the Red Road, instead of the Black.

In the “Lakota Way,” Joseph Marshall speaks of the Red Road, the road of integrity, honor, and truth, and the Black Road, where there is only the illusion of truth. Throughout our days, we are given the choice of which road to travel. He tells a great story about this:

Two chieftains met on a plain while their two armies waited.

“I have ten thousand warriors, every one skilled with weapons and seasoned by battle. Victory will be mine,” said the first chieftain. “What do you have?”

“Only the truth,” replied the second chieftain. “This war has decimated my people so I face you now with an army of a thousand children. This truth will either destroy you or glorify you.”

The first chieftain returned to his camp, where his army of ten thousand stood ready for battle. He ordered his army to put aside their weapons while he went into seclusion to ponder the truth his enemy had spoken. With the new dawn he sent his chief aide with gifts of food and an offer of peace to the army of a thousand children. The first chieftain then returned to his homeland and stood to be judged before his countrymen, fully expecting to be dishonored for his weakness. He was, instead, made a king.

And so we often can’t have truth work in service of the good without courage. The Lakota call it bravery. No, we’re not always going to succeed, but the Aborigines say that the universe responds to our heartfelt intentions. It is often the sincerity of our intent that is more important than the result.

So, to bring this home, and literally down to Earth, and the truth, here is a final soliloquy of hope from Mutant Message Down Under. Let its transcendent message seep into your bones, giving you peace and courage, especially as we soon enter into the last stages of this grueling presidential race, and the anxieties it inflicts on our hearts, minds, and souls.

Ooota, Morgan’s translator says:

Mutants have many beliefs; they say your way is different from my way, your savior is not my savior, your forever is not my forever. But the truth is, all life is one life. There is only one game in progress. There is one race, many different shades. Mutants argue the name of God, what building, what day, what ritual . . . Truth is truth. If you hurt someone, you hurt self. If you help someone, you help self. Blood and bone is in all people. It’s the heart and intent that is different. Mutants think about this one hundred years only, of self and separateness. Real People think about forever. It is all one, our ancestors, our unborn grandchildren, all of life everywhere.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

Which World Do You Believe In? Progressive or Elitist?

An Affordable Housing Commission (AHC) for Pasadena? Yea or nay? There are commissions galore in Pasadena, including one for bikes and one for trees – but not for housing.  WTF?

The city used to have one, but it was disbanded in 2012 when a major source of funding dried up.

At the friendly debate last week that pitted affordable housing advocates, myself among them, against two city commissioners and an affordable home-owner developer, the story of funding drying up became a refrain: in the wake of 85% of federal HUD dollars and other funding sources disappearing, everyone is wondering what to do.

The nay-side says an AHC would cost too much money and staff time. Another developer in attendance pointed out to me in a break-out session that preceded the debate that “gentrification is happening everywhere, especially on the west coast. It can’t be stopped.” All this noise added up to: so what if we’re losing our racial and ethnic diversity in Pasadena because many are priced out. This is the way of the world – the elites get to live in a city of . . . other elites.

But our side argued that everyone is affected by our city’s housing policies. How? Certainly the 500+ homeless and low and very-low income residents who struggle to find adequate housing, but also our children in the PUSD. Our public school teachers who can’t afford to live here have long commutes and are probably not at their best when more sleep-deprived. Our police and firemen can’t afford to live here either, and are less invested in the community they police, which may also compromise job performance. We are all affected by air quality, and more cars driving long distances to Pasadena for jobs degrades the environment.

This is why I began my spiel with this sentence: “With an AHC, Pasadena could be a model of urban development that ensures diversity, economic generation, and environmental innovation.” We shouldn’t settle for “this is the way of the world.” There’s a better one possible, but yes, it will take more effort and funds.

But not much. Let’s talk about money. Did you know the police are burdened by incidents related to homelessness? One sworn police officer might spend his or her entire 8-hour shift dealing with a homeless person who is having a mental health crisis. And when all is said and done, several hundred dollars later, that homeless person ends up back on the street. Did you know the city allocates about $67 million for its police services, and the housing department gets less than $2 mil? Hmmm.  All that the staffing would cost for an AHC is 1/5 of an FTE.  And what if we prioritized the creation of permanent supportive housing for our homeless, preventing the draining of our police resources in the first place?

Another nay-argument was that it’s really the advocates who “get things moving” and convince the City Council to move in desirable directions. Not another city commission. What a brush-off. What advocates are asking for is the AHC (advocates had also needed to fight for a housing department). In other cities of comparable size in CA that have an AHC, they are able to find or create additional funding sources, strengthen policies, educate about the deep complexities of affordable housing, and find ways to expedite development projects (not slow them down, as the nay-side clucks).

It recently came to my attention that Pasadena votes overwhelmingly progressively – 70% of us voted for Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama. But our municipal leadership is made up of conservatives and moderates. Indeed, advocates will always play an important role in steering the municipal ship toward progressive ordinances and policies – policies that believe in a city as it could be, rich with ethnic and economic diversity, clean air, and innovation. Isn’t it interesting that we meet this roadblock when we ask that attention to these matters be instituted within the city government?

When they say, “no, we can’t,” we’ll say, “SI, se puede – YES, we can.” We just need one more vote on the City Council to get the AHC.   So keep hustling – write a note to your city councilperson. At the last G-PAHG meeting (Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group), we had 18 people in attendance. Come join the party!

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

 Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

Don’t Ever Think There’s Nothing You Can Do

When I heard the news about the police officers getting mowed down in Dallas, it was early Friday morning, and I was focused on preparing my family to leave for a camping trip by 8 AM. I was still reeling from the events of the week and couldn’t quite process it. The family trip was an easy distraction. The next day we visited the Discovery Center at Big Bear Lake, and I noticed the flags at half-mast. I had forgotten about the police killings and the answer given for my inquiry was simply, “Texas.”

I agree with the statement Chief Sanchez of the Pasadena Police recently made about Texas, that all workers deserve to come home at the end of the day, including his police force, and was moved by him saying he was opposed to all forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence or violence on the street. I also reflect that flags would always be at half-mast if we honored and respected life equally. Shouldn’t the flags be at half-mast after people are so purposelessly killed by police? What about after a four year old is killed in a drive-by shooting? That also happened last week, in my neck of the woods, Altadena.

I’ve been reading about Lakota values and spirituality, preparing for a sermon on the topic later this month in Santa Monica. Here is a passage by Joseph M. Marshall III about respect from the book “The Lakota Way”:

“Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota and one of the first Native American writers to be published (around 1900), talked about respect as an essential ingredient for balanced interaction among all living things. According to him, the Lakota had developed a respect for the Earth and all forms of life because all were a necessary part of the physical environment. He suggested that some people, and he was politely implicating whites, had lost respect for animals. His biggest concern was that humans who lost respect for animals would soon lose respect for their own kind as well (italics mine).”

It sent a chill up my spine, in light of the mounting tragedies, how far down we have sunk in terms of respect for human life. It made me think of the concurrent unfolding of failed Reconstruction soon after the Civil War, when Standing Bear’s observations were published. A book recently published that traces the roots of white backlash in America to this time period is “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, reviewed as “extraordinarily timely and urgent.” My interest was also piqued on KPFK when I heard part of a speech by Dr. Joy DeGruy about Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

In response to these times of civic unrest and tragic violence, we must take advantage of the spotlight, and help educate ourselves and others about how we got here. It starts with the violent commencement of our nation, exterminating Native Americans and centuries of slavery. It continues today as we wage the War on Drugs decade after decade in the poorest neighborhoods of America.

And we shouldn’t stop there. The other day, my friend lamented there was “nothing we can do.” This is far from the case. There is clear evidence that advocating for and achieving greater civilian oversight of police force is the best way to curb unnecessary brutality and killings. Here is a helpful article: 15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality. And here is a helpful update about the city of Pasadena in this regard.

Last Tuesday I showed up at a Human Relations Commission meeting to urge them to pay attention to the Graziano report, which highlights the results of a survey that was taken in 2015 about public attitudes toward Pasadena police. An article, “For Second Time in Two Weeks, Controversial Report on Pasadena Police Goes Unheard, Undiscussed” was published the next day in Pasadena Now.  At the commission meeting, here is part of what I said:

Good evening Commissioners. I’m Rev. Hannah Petrie and I’m here tonight because I’ve worked with the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight for Pasadena Police and am concerned about biased policing in NW and Central Pasadena that is revealed in the Graziano Survey, for example:

  • 72% of African American residents found racial profiling by police a problem. (Up from 52% in the 2006 PARC survey). Latino results stayed about the same at 46%. (page 23)
  • About 25% of both African Americans and Latinos who were stopped by police were searched and experienced use of force. Only 7% of white residents stopped were searched, and only 3% experienced use of force. (page 29)
  • 58% of residents searched lived in NW Pasadena and 30% in the Central area. (page 29)

These figures, when paired with recent studies compiled by a Coalition of California legal and criminal justice organizations, including the Western Center on Poverty, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and others, show hard data about the biased effect of police stops.

  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately pulled over more by police, and white drivers are pulled over less.
  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately pulled over without a good reason.
  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately searched during traffic stops.
  • Police are less likely to find contraband or other illegal activity in searches of black and Latino drivers, than in searches of white motorists.

As it turned out, the Human Relations Commission cancelled the presentation of the Graziano survey, and there was no discussion or questions after our public comments were made.

But we have another chance to urge the city to take this report seriously (so far they have not, and some have even questioned its validity) this Thursday afternoon, July 14, in City Hall Chambers at the Public Safety Committee meeting, at 4:15 PM, when the Graziano report will be presented and public comment heard.  Any public comment made makes a difference, but it is especially helpful if people of color who have experienced over-policing can testify to support the report’s findings, which are further reviewed below by CICOPP’s Chairwoman, Kris Ockershauser. What is CICOPP, you ask? It’s the coalition whose work you join – our next meeting is this Thursday morning, July 14, at 9 AM at All Saints Church. CICOPP stands for the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police.

Until next time, Do the Hustle! Oh, speaking of hustle, here is a recent article about criminalizing it.

– Rev. At-Large, hustling hope for all you mother fo’s, aka Rev. Hannah Petrie

 

GRAZIANO SURVEY OF POLICING IN PASADENA &

THE TRAFFIC TICKET TRAP: TARGETING LOW INCOME AND COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

  1. Graziano 2015 survey of residents of all Pasadena show great majority – 87% – pleased with police services. African American and Latino residents differ: racial profiling, excessive use of force, and stop and search for no good reason cited as major police misconduct affecting them.  One third of all residents surveyed felt police misconduct at least a minor problem in Pasadena
  2. Graziano survey a replica of 2006 PARC (Police Assessment Resource Center) survey,  Pasadena Police-Community Relations Assessment. PARC survey showed satisfaction with police services by a majority of the city, except in NW and Central.  Police misconduct such as racial profiling and being stopped for no good reason was seen as a problem by more than half of African Americans residents and 45% of Latinos (p. 70).
  3. An informal survey in 2011 of more than 600 resident and shoppers in NW Pasadena replicated the PARC survey findings.
  4. Graziano survey results show biased policing: 72% of African Americans and 46% of Latinos found racial profiling a problem (p. 23).  About 25% of both African Americans and Latinos who were stopped by police were searched and experienced use of force.  Only 7% of white residents stopped were searched, and only 3% experienced use of force (p.29).
  5. 58% of persons stopped and searched were from NW Pasadena;   30% were from Central Pasadena (Graziano Survey p. 29)
  6. Studies of a variety of California cities show that police stop and search for no good reason practices are: a) disproportionately targeted at people of color; b) African Americans and Latinos  are disproportionately searched during traffic stops; and c) police are less likely to find contraband or other illegal activity in searches of black and Latino drivers than of white drivers. (http://ebclc.org/backontheroad/problem/ )
  7. People of color are disproportionately stopped, searched and arrested for minor offenses (broken tail light, rolling a stop sign, littering, jaywalking). (http://ebclc.org/backontheroad/problem/ )
  8. If a person fails to pay, automatic fines increase from $100 to $490 to $815.  Drivers License suspension for unpaid fine follows.  Over 4 million in California have suspended DLs, 1 in 6 people.
  9. Predominantly persons of color and low income are affected. (see Interactive Map of DL suspensions, Zip Code 91101, at (http://ebclc.org/backontheroad/problem/).  Restitution in full is required to get DL back.  A study reported that 42% with DL suspension lose their job, only 45% find a new job, and 88% of those with a new job receive lower wages.
  10. A recent Supreme Court decision will now allow illegal police stops without probable cause/no good reason if a person has an outstanding warrant. Legal commentary predicts a rise in illegal police stops to search persons. (see Supreme Court Gives Police More Power To Stop And Question People http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-court-police-stops-20160620-snap-story.html ; Police Injustice: How the Court Fails  http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/07/02/police-injustice-how-the-court-fails/ )
  11. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor ,in dissent of the Utah v. Streiff majority decision:By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”
  12. Ferguson MO police, courts, city administration, city council raised revenue through increased traffic stops, use of force, ticketing and fining, and jail sentences targeted at African Americans. (CNN 3/6/15 “Policing for Profit”)  Who benefits from fines in Pasadena?  (An Investigation of Civil Forfeiture in California   http://bit.ly/1RRZSgx )
  13. Pasadena can stop thisA) A state sponsored ticket amnesty program is in effect until March 2017.  Flintridge Center holds monthly clinics on ticket amnesty.  The City could also offer free ticket amnesty clinics.  B) Pasadena PD could cease making arrests solely based on warrants for failure to pay or appear, or for driving with a suspended license for a failure to appear or pay.  C)  Pasadena PD could curtail the over-policing of low income and communities of color.
  14. Civilian oversight of PPD could provide professional, full time oversight of Pasadena’s policing policies and practices, to City leaders and the public, with input from neighborhoods most affected by over-policing.  This could be an effective, low cost way to build trust between communities of color and police, reducing crime within neighborhoods and police misconduct within poor neighborhoods.

Why I Wanted Bernie

I’ve known the middle class was shrinking, but today on NPR I learned some hard numbers. They started a new series, “The New Middle,” seeking to answer the question, “What does it mean to be middle class in America today?”

The hardest numbers I heard was that since 1970, every decade has ended with fewer people belonging to the middle class. And that 2015 was the first recorded year when the middle class was no longer a majority, outnumbered by the rich and poor combined. Then NPR did what they do so well to reassure its listeners, by throwing in a misleading stat (courtesy of the Pew Research Center) that, of those who have left the middle class, two thirds went up to be rich, while only one third went down to be poor.

While it may be true, it’s misleading as far as thinking about the realities of downward mobility for so many Americans.

This is why I wanted Bernie – yeah sure, I’ll vote for Hillary, though my friend Judy would groan to hear me say that (more on Judy in a minute). I think of strong Hillary-supporters as people who listen to this New Middle NPR story and say to themselves, “see! It’s not so bad. More people who are leaving the middle class are getting rich!” and don’t bother to ask the deeper questions about wealth and class in America today.

But a Bernie supporter chucks the rose-colored glasses, seeing through the bourgeois bs. I could count on Bernie to be honest and have integrity about the realities of economic struggle. I want a president who points out that over one fifth of America’s children living in poverty is morally unacceptable, and here’s what can be done about it.

Bernie was the best hope for saving the middle class. When I said this to my friend Judy today, who is a Bernie-or-bust supporter, she retorted, “forget about the middle class – I mean, that’s important – but at this point for me it’s about saving democracy.”

Judy is distressed by the corruption she sees. From voter suppression that has inspired a national class-action lawsuit against the DNC to the fact that if you want to be a Bernie delegate at the Democratic National Convention, you are required to pay $600 per night for a minimum of 5 nights at a fancy hotel in Philadelphia. There are 1,879 delegates for Bernie, and they ain’t all rich. “We don’t live in a democracy,” Judy says.

She is going to Philly at the end of the month to be part of the protest scene outside the DNC.  Judy is no youthful thrill-seeker in this regard. “I’m an old lady. I’m scared of getting gassed and pepper-sprayed. But our country is at stake. I have no choice but to take to the streets in protest.” She says she is willing to get arrested.

I admire her conviction, but cringe at a country led by Trump more than a country led by Hillary (Judy disagrees and says Trump’s bafoonery will be innocuous compared to Clinton’s aggression). I fear that neither presidency will do much to halt the tide of “A Tale of Two Countries.” While it’s more complicated than I’m about to state it, we have become a country of wealthier cities and poorer suburbs/rural areas. Warren Olney (I love that man) had a good piece on this recently, The City as the Power Center.

It all makes me think of two films that I’d sooner hope not describe our future, The Hunger Games and Her.

I thank Judy and others like her who have fought for Bernie’s candidacy for hours, weeks, months on end, and who are not giving up on the leader they believe in. They give me hope that plenty of Americans still care about the highest merits of democracy, with equality, freedom and opportunity for all.

Bernie had a refreshing combination of authenticity, realism, and idealism. And yes, I trusted him.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

– Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

4th of July Reading List Spectacular!

One of my favorite things about being a parish minister and a hustler of justice is I get to read constantly, because I have to understand what it is I’m fighting for.  I have two periodicals in my life: Rolling Stone magazine (journalism, baby) and the New York Times Book Review. I have a running list of books I want to acquire, and ostensibly, read. Years may go by before I read some of them, but others I devour.

As y’all settle into your summer, here are some great newly published or recent picks that are at the top of my list to read, many with patriotic subjects: what’s happening to America, politics, satire, and history. Note the article that is a primer for economic justice activism.

So get the kids to bed, turn off Netflix, and enrich yourself with knowledge and the truth about your country.  Turn on your patriotic mind, and your ass will follow – Happy Independence Day!

PRIMARILY? POVERTY:

Evicted – Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016) by Matthew Desmond

This book could be a prelude to change if enough of us rise up. Very readable – about what life looks like when you’re forced to spend the majority of your income on rent, which fully a third of Americans do, if they’re not homeless.  Summary available.

Hand to Mouth – Living in Bootstrap America (2014) by Linda Tirado

Poverty is physically painful, but this book delivers wit with your moral witness. Foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Tale of Two Cities (2014) by Mark Maier and Peter Dreier

This article came out right before Christmastime at the end of 2014, so a lot of folks might have missed it. It’s important to note that, while Pasadena has the largest difference between rich and poor out of any city in the whole state of California, this tale-of-two-cities phenom is occurring in cities across America. I’ll go deeper into this with my next blog post, when I explain why I wanted Bernie.

HISTORY! HELLO:

For a readable, background history of the tale-of-two-cities phenom, check out,

The Color of Wealth – The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide (2006) by Lui, Robles, Leondar-Wright, Brewer, and Adamson

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime – The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (2016) by Elizabeth Hinton

Lately it’s been fashionable to blame the Clinton era (the first one) on the rise of mass incarceration. This book dials it back to the mid-1960’s and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Crime. So, same fuck-up, different Democrat. Highly praised in the review (“a revelation”).

The Firebrand and the First Lady – Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and The Struggle for Social Justice (2016) by Patricia Bell-Scott

I can’t wait to read this one – about a bad-ass most of us have never heard of. Pauli Murray was a super smart and audacious African American woman who had a brilliant mind for activist strategy.

POLITICS? PERHAPS:

Wonder why we have Trump on the docket? These two books promise to illuminate how and why the Democrats can no longer claim to be the party for the working class,

Listen, Liberal – Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016) by Thomas Frank

The Limousine Liberal – How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (2016) by Steve Fraser

United – Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good (2016) by Corey Booker

New Jersey US Senator.  Pretty sure this is the dude who recommended Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  Could might make us feel better about Democrats!

Breakthrough – The Making of America’s First Woman President (2016) by Nancy Cohen

Women and politics making it to the show: Bring. It. On.

COMMUNICADO? CORRECT:

Free Speech – Ten Principles for a Connected World (2016) by Timothy Garten Ash

Establishing sensible social mores, not censorship, on free speech. Review said no other book has gathered the salient issues as thoroughly.

Rebel Reporting – John Ross Speaks to Independent Journalists (2015) edited by Stockwell and Bell

One review says, “John Ross was Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, Roque Dalton and Che Guevara all rolled up together, but most of all he was himself, observer and participant at once, listening carefully to the poorest, challenging hypocrisy wherever he detected it oozing from the mouths of the powerful.” Enough said.

SATIRE’S SAKE:

I’m looking forward to these novels,

The Sellout (2015) by Paul Beattie

Massively offensive, probably, to some.  Won loads of awards. Put that in your politically incorrect pipe and smoke it.

Blackass (2016) by A. Igoni Barrett

A black man in Nigeria wakes up a white man. If you like the Sellout, you might like Blackass, too. Also, gets us out of our myopic, US navel-gazing and into Africa.

A final note: I linked all these titles to Amazon so you could read more about them. But if you like to read books with paper pages, order them at your local mom and pop bookstore.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

(Patriotic, disco-colored fireworks!)

– Rev. At-Large aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

The Unsexy but Righteous Issue of Affordable Housing

Advocating for the issue of affordable housing is hard, hard, hard. There is all the grunt work of advocacy (advocate meetings, lobbying of city council members, writing letters, going door to door to organize stake-holders) without the excitement of marches and rallies (which is actually just fine with me – I prefer the steady hustle of behind-the-scenes activism). It’s also hard because there are a lot of arcane things one needs to grasp, for example, about land use and zoning and all the conditions needed to empower an affordable housing project to proceed. When it comes to affordable housing justice, the devil truly is in the details.

There are times, of course, when getting a crowd in City Council chambers is necessary, and the two women in Pasadena who get people to show up the past two decades and running are Michelle White of Affordable Housing Services (Michelle is an affordable housing real estate developer) and Jill Shook, author of Making Housing Happen. Their commitment is unmatched, inspiring, and educational to all who feel called to work on this issue. Currently they have attracted an attorney who works for Kaiser and is studying the conditions for optimal health (he has found the dearth of affordable housing to be a significant impediment), seminary students from Fuller, people of faith, pastors such as myself, and formerly homeless women who found their way to affordable housing and are giving back.

I worked with Jill and Michelle a lot about eight years ago when the activist group was known as PAHG (Pasadena Affordable Housing Group) and now I’m getting back in the game with G-PAHG (Greater Pasadena Affordable…). Back then I tackled the issue of granny flats, one piece of the affordable housing puzzle, where affordable housing is created by homeowners able to construct a second unit on their property for affordable rents. Sadly, the city officials didn’t find the political momentum to remove the prohibitive restrictions (your lot must be at least 15,000 square feet!), and G-PAHG is still working on it.

Since I have “been there, done that” with granny flats, I’ve joined a sub-committee that could have a lot more “bang for the buck” as far as creating the most affordable housing units per project moving forward. Affordable housing is so unsexy there isn’t even a catchy phrase for what I’m trying to describe, but here’s an attempt: Land development for affordable housing. Too bad I can’t throw a bikini on that.

Land is damned expensive, so one of the most important preconditions for an affordable housing project is to use land the city already owns. Every district in Pasadena has city-owned land that could potentially be developed in this manner (the beautiful new housing you see across from the Von’s on Fair Oaks, near Orange Grove, is one such project). Problem is? City Councilors say, “not in my district!”

But there is plenty of research showing that mixing low-income dwellings in higher-income neighborhoods have all kinds of good outcomes, especially for the children who grow up there; they are more likely to enter the middle class. Another important point to note is that if we care about keeping Pasadena diverse, then creating more affordable housing is a must. Already, the African American population has been cut in half in Pasadena since the 90’s, because they are priced out.

So I am setting up meetings with all the Pasadena City Council members to ask them to look at the land available in their districts, and present solid talking points about the win/win aspects of moving these affordable housing projects forward (among other pieces of the G-PAHG agenda). Thankfully, there is one City Council member who has already seen the light, Margaret McAustin, and the affordable housing project in her district is nearing completion. Setting her courageous precedent will work in our favor.

I’m also excited to participate in a friendly debate about why the city of Pasadena should have a separate Housing Commission, rather than the matter of housing be relegated to discussion only four times a year in the Planning Commission (which amounts to members being educated but no action taking place). Michelle, Jill, and myself make up the pro-side of the panel. This will take place Thursday evening, July 14th, and I’ll blog more about the details soon.

That’s enough for now – I’ll make affordable housing sexy, by golly! You’ll see. Until next time, Do the Hustle!

– Rev. At-Large aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!