Yesterday, the White House hosted its first South by South Lawn (SXSL), an abbreviated riff off of Austin’s popular annual music, film and interactive festival, South by Southwest (SXSW). Some raceAhead stalwarts were in attendance, including New York Times writer Jenna Wortham, who led a panel on how technology can solve real problems, and activist/technologist Anil Dash, who led a panel on how citizens can make change.
It’s all here.
I was particularly happy to see that one of my heroes, a man named Will Allen, was also there, on a panel called Feeding The Future. Allen is the founder of Growing Power, and one of the early champions of the urban farming movement, which he has long believed is a way to transform not only the way we eat but the way society functions. “We cannot end poverty by shipping food,” he told the crowd, talking about factory farming. Large scale, monoculture farming has depleted the soil and feeds into a distribution system that bypasses low-income neighborhoods. “Local food systems have to be developed,” he says, bringing jobs, fresh food, and a cleaner environment to vulnerable neighborhoods, mostly of color.
I first met Allen in February 2002. I was in the middle a self-created, extended post-9/11 writer’s project looking for social innovators. In exchange for an interview, he made me spend a day working on his Milwaukee farm, where in between chasing after goats and turning worm castings, I met dozens of young, black teens who were being trained in modern agriculture techniques, or learning to make and bottle salad dressing in his food grade kitchen. They also shared stories of being targeted by the police in their deeply segregated city. “I come here and I’m important,” one teen told me.
I went on to profile Allen three more times. Since then, he’s become a MacArthur Fellow, and one of Time’s most influential people.
Today, that farm is also an information hub for a movement that trains thousands of people from around the world each year on urban agriculture and community development. His work – which now champions hydroponics, sensors, and vertical farming structures – has become increasingly high tech.
But his message remains the same. Communities with few jobs tend to have worse food and that’s an opportunity disguised as a problem. People with felony convictions who can’t get jobs should be embraced and re-trained. “The next farm bill must be done right,” he told the crowd. “We need money for farmer development and infrastructure, greenhouses and hoop houses.” Urban agriculture – correctly scaled – is the only way we’ll feed everyone, he believes, but it’s also a system that will heal our communities. “We’re all responsible for our food and our fellow man.”
NOTE! We’re switching to a new email provider this week. To ensure delivery of this newsletter, please whitelist or add firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book.
|Michelle Obama’s battle to change the way American kids eat|
|The first lady’s public fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity earned her plenty of skeptics in her early days, particularly as she engaged food giants and soda makers as allies – the same folks that helped fill school lunches with empty calories. And yet, years later, Michelle Obama has made a real dent, the same skeptics say.|
|PTSD is more severe for ethnic minority and veterans of color|
|Decades of research from the US Department of Veterans Affairs consistently show a higher incidence of PTSD for African American and Hispanic veterans than white ones in the post-Vietnam era. The rates are even higher rates for Native American and most Asian Americans. |
|The Air Force has a new diversity and inclusion plan|
|In a fairly comprehensive list of remedies, the Air Force now will require at least one diversity candidate on each slate for potential leadership jobs, and make sure that development teams, which help shape careers, are also diverse. They’re also deploying a new data analytics team to help identify new, diverse sources of talent and get ahead of retention trends.|
|Middle school football team continues to protest despite backlash|
|Inspired by Colin Kaepernick, a southeast Texas middle school football team and their coaches have been taking a knee during the national anthem since their season started. Now, other teams are refusing to play against them and their head coach has been suspended for the season. Amid the drama and death threats, the kids keep kneeling.|
|Black residents less likely to call police when they need help|
|According to the New York Times, US police officers have killed three people a day since 2016 began, a stat that comes to life in the videos that increasingly accompany the incidents. As a result, new research shows that black people are less likely to call 911 in certain communities. When citizens lose faith in the police, crime in those communities spike up.|
|New York Times|
|A shortage of injectable estrogen is causing a crisis in the transgender community|
|Synthetic estrogen plays an indispensable role for people who choose to medically transition, and the recent shortage has sent shockwaves through the trans community. There are many reasons why, but here’s one: violence against gender non-conforming people is alarmingly high; more than half of the trans people murdered in 2015 were transwomen of color.|
The Woke Leader
|What do we mean when we say things are better than they used to be?|
|Davidson College professor Devyn Spence Benson explores the idea that the appearance of progress is masking the deep but differentiated anxieties we all feel in racially divided countries. “Notions of racial harmony and progress are founded on the belief that nations like the United States, Cuba, Brazil, and others gave ‘things’ to people of African descent … and therefore blacks should be grateful and ‘act right.’”|
|African American Intellectual History Society|
|When someone you like or love says something kinda racist|
|Subtle things can be tough – like someone who defends racist comic books for their “edginess,” or sneers, like one poor guy’s new college suitemate: “Was that your dad? He looks sooo Mexican.” There’s no easy way, but the takeaway here is clear. Seething in silence is not your best option. |
|Ethan Hawke talks about race in a candid interview|
|In this installment of “How I Got Over,” a WNYC-produced video series that explores the language around race, actor Ethan Hawke discusses race and his mixed feelings about his own role as an amplifier of culture. One example: He observed stop-and-frisk activity while doing police “ride-alongs,” prepping for his role in the film Training Day. “And I could sit in the back seat and go ‘How come you guys…you never stop any white people. Why is that?’” said Hawke. The answer he was given: “‘Well, they’re not scary.’”|