Racism in the Criminal Justice System

Racism in the Criminal Justice System

For your mid-week reading check out this infographic outlining racism in the criminal justice system.


Any other good racial justice reads for this about-to-be-rainy day?

Another article that was recently recommended in response to Spike Lee’s speech to Pratt Institute:


Development on the 5000 block of Baltimore

Development on the 5000 block of Baltimore

By Member-Owner Matthew Goodro

Development on the 5000 block of Baltimore Ave. has become a hot topic in recent months and was the subject of a recent acronym-heavy community meeting co-hosted by the Baltimore Avenue Business Association (BABA) and Cedar Park Neighbors (CPN) and held at People’s Baptist Church (5039 Baltimore). The meeting was called to discuss competing proposals for four “blighted” parcels on the south side of Baltimore Ave. near the intersection of 51st St. There is clearly a huge amount of interest in the future of this stretch of Baltimore Ave, as demonstrated by the standing room-only crowd of well over 100 and the meeting was at times contentious.

There is a lot of uncertainty around what may or may not happen with the four properties at issue. One controversial and somewhat vague proposal made by the Baltimore Avenue Redevelopment Corporation (BARC) would have the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) use the power of eminent domain (the power of government to seize private property, under certain circumstances, for public use) to expand the Mercy Wellness Center (5008 Baltimore Ave.), and/or to perhaps build student housing. (There was not much enthusiasm expressed at the meeting for the prospect of student housing on the block.) It was reported, however, that there is no funding for this proposal, and so it is not being formally considered by the PRA at this point. PRA also says that it is open to receiving competing proposals, but has not yet received any. Owners of other properties on the block, meanwhile, expressed that there has been private interest in acquiring and developing the parcels, including by Greensgrow to build a garden center (one of the businesses residents expressed the most desire for in a recent survey conducted by CPN), but that the threat of eminent domain had always prevented any private development plans from going forward.

Greatly complicating the discussion was the city’s byzantine process for dealing with blighted properties and the fact that some key decision-makers, most notably Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, were not at the meeting. A number of people in attendance expressed the desire to engage the councilwoman on this issue.

It addition to the conversation about these four parcels, there is a broader issue over the City’s the process by which the City designates properties as blighted, the lack of community input in that process, and the difficulty in reversing a blighted designation once it’s been made. The 5000 and 5100 blocks of Baltimore were originally designated blighted and then were re-certified as blighted in 2005, which appears to keep open the threat of eminent domain. Now, it would take City Council passing an ordinance to un-blight them, even though there seems to be a lot of interest in developing them.

In short, the current situation is something of a mess. The good news, though, is that the community is very engaged.

If you’re interested in learning more (or perhaps becoming even more confused), there has been a lot of media coverage in recent weeks, including a couple of City Paper articles, one outlining the BARC proposal and response from local property owners and another reporting on the community meeting, and a post on West Philly Local, with responses from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the comments. FJAR will continue to monitor and participate in this discussion. Stayed tuned to the blog for updates!

City Paper, outlining the BARC proposal and responses: http://citypaper.net/article.php?How-a-blighted-block-in-West-Philly-has-become-a-battleground-for-competing-interests-18306

City Paper, reporting on the community meeting: http://citypaper.net/article.php?With-Blackwell-MIA-meeting-on-Baltimore-Ave.-lots-leaves-more-questions-than-answers-19452

West Philly Local, with responses from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the comments: http://www.westphillylocal.com/2014/01/31/after-meeting-future-of-the-5000-5100-blocks-of-baltimore-ave-still-unclear/

An FJAR Invitation to the Co-ops and Social Justice Book Club

By Member-Owner Owen Lyman-Schmidt

The existence of a standing Food Justice and Anti-Racism committee at Mariposa is a double-edged reminder. It tells us first of all that our food co-op is paying attention, that we aren’t fooled by race-blind rhetoric and waxy Red Delicious apples from New Zealand. We know that racism has been institutionalized and requires an institutional response. We see the way an unjust food system supports and is supported by structures of oppression that favor whiteness, richness, patriarchy and heterosexuality.

But FJAR should also remind us that the co-op’s participation in the struggle for justice is only a potential and not a guarantee. That potential is based on the fact that democratically owned businesses can pool the resources and power of individuals to meet community needs, but if nothing is done with that power, or if the community being served is the same community privileged by the status quo, then the co-op is just one more place to buy in and sell out.

FJAR exists because we have to be proactive in making sure that our co-op lives up to its potential. That’s one of the reasons why the Co-ops and Social Justice Book Club formed in July. We wanted to understand how past and current co-ops have supported, participated in, and interacted with social justice movements because we want Mariposa to be fulfilling our potential.

We started off with Food Co-ops in America by Anne Meis Knupfler and an article on African American cooperatives by Jessica Gordon Nembhard. In September, we read What Then Must We Do? by Gar Alperovitz, which collected efforts across the country to show the ways in which we are already building alternatives to corporate capitalism. In October, we looked at James Boggs’ ‘The American Revolution’ which offered uncanny predictions of our current moment and abstracted 20th century labor struggles in a way that allowed us to look again at what we value in a workplace.

In November, December, and January we worked our way through John Curl’s substantial work of cooperative history, For All The People, which provided a wide lens through which to view the booms and busts of past co-operative movements. Curl’s book reminded us that co-ops, as people-centered businesses, share some of the limitations of people. Unlike corporations (on whom legal personhood is magically bestowed) co-ops are more grounded in their context and more likely to live and die with the generations that created them.
Our context at Mariposa is a growing co-op in a changing neighborhood and our next two readings are aimed at grounding us in that context once again.

On February 26 (7-8:30 pm), we’ll meet to discuss Sharon Zukin’s Naked City, a sociologists’
commentary on the relationship between food and gentrification. On March 26 (7-8:30 pm), we’ll explore our own history by way of Andrew Cornell’s Oppose and Propose, which outlines the history of Movement for a New Society, a national movement-building organization that was based in West Philly from the early 1970’s to the mid 1980’s and helped found Mariposa.

Read what you want and come if you can because our power comes from our ability to take collective action, and what we learn together is what will make that happen.

Links of Interest:

Jessica Gordon Nembhard on the History of African American Coops: http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/coopinfo/Black-Coops-GordonNembhard.pdf

The American Revolution: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/amreboggs.html

For All the People: http://library.uniteddiversity.coop/Cooperatives/For_All_The_People-History_of_Cooperation_in_America.pdf

The Barbara Hirshkowitz Library Is Officially Open!

The Barbara Hirshkowitz Library Is Officially Open!

Mariposa’s new resource lending library, a project of the Food Justice and Anti Racism Working Group is officially up and running! A great team of working member-owners are serving as librarians.

Come browse the new resource lending library at Mariposa! Check out the catalog online, and learn more about the library here: https://www.mariposa.coop/bhmlibrary/.

You can request materials online or ask questions and share comments or ideas with librarian@mariposa.coop.

Anti-Oppression Working Group Workshop Series

Anti-Oppression Working Group Workshop Series

Mariposa’s Anti-oppression working group is putting on a series of workshops all about challenging oppression during January. Join us at the co-op – all events are free and open to the public! And tell us what else you want to see happen at your co-op!

Saturday, January 11, 3pm–5pm
Access in Action: An Interactive Food Justice Workshop
With Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews & Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed
In Philadelphia, there are many factors that determine who has access to what. With regards to food justice, access to healthy food can depend on logistics (neighborhood, transportation, available vendors), economics (how much we have, how much we spend, how much we receive), and specifics (e.g.: I’m allergic to this product, I can’t read those words, and when I go into that store they discriminate against me based on these assumptions). This workshop will mix words, images and actions to share and transform our own experiences with having and not having access, with the aim of taking action steps toward making healthy food accessible to all.

Saturday, January 18, 3pm–5pm
Discussion: Race, Racism & Our Co-op
To build a co-op that is as diverse and inclusive as possible, we have to make time to talk about how the values of oppressive systems tend to arise in our organization–and what we can do about it! Mariposa staff members Clarice Bailey and Laura Smoot will cofacilitate a discussion about race, racism, power & privilege and our co-op. Please join us!

Tuesday, January 21, 7pm-8:30pm
Facilitation & Consensus Basics Training
Mariposa Board of Delegates member Peter Collopy and Mariposa staffperson Laura Smoot will lead this dynamic workshop about how to facilitate meetings! This is a great workshop for anyone who wants to gain useful tools for how to have effective meetings in any group–as a facilitator or as a participant.

Thursday, January 23, 7pm-8:30pm
Dynamic, Anti-Oppressive Facilitation Training: Making Meetings Awesome for Everyone
Whether or not you tend to act as facilitator at meetings you attend, building your facilitation skills will help you make your meetings better, more inclusive, and more fully democratic! Jenna Peters-Golden of the Anti-Oppression Resource Training Alliance (AORTA) for one of the most popular workshops we offered in 2013. All are welcome; come to develop new skills and enhance the ones you have.

Philadelphia Passes Historic Land Bank Bill

Philadelphia Passes Historic Land Bank Bill

The Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land and the Land Bank Alliance represented diverse groups of people of different races, genders, ages, neighborhoods, and interests—from nurses and neighborhood activists, designers and the disabled, to co-ops and community development corporations, realtors and religious groups. It was all over the map.

On December 12th, City Council passed legislation that will make Philadelphia the largest city in the U.S. with a land bank. A land bank is a public entity that converts vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent property back into use, as community gardens, affordable housing, and other uses. As a member of the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land, one of two coalitions that led the push for the creation of a land bank, Mariposa is proud to have been part of the effort to bring a land bank to Philadelphia.

The Land Bank bill was passed by a unanimous 15-0 vote after an agreement was reached between Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, the main sponsor of the bill, and Council President Darrell Clarke. As a result of the compromise that was struck to win Council President Clarke’s support, City Council will retain some control over which properties are put in the land bank. While land bank advocates had resisted this, arguing the land bank should be totally independent of City Council, there is public oversight and transparency built into Council’s oversight of the Land Bank that was missing previously.

In the end, the bill included almost all that advocates had sought. One of the main benefits of a land bank will be to bring all of the city-owned vacant properties, of which there are between nine- and twelve-thousand, under a single entity. Doing this should streamline the process of getting these properties into the hands of owners who will put the land to use. The Land Bank will also be able to acquire tax-delinquent properties. There are roughly thirty-thousand privately-owned blighted parcels in Philadelphia. The Land Bank allows for parcels to be used for a wide range of purposes and community representatives will be included on the Land Bank Board.

While the creation of the Land Bank is a huge victory, there is still much work to be done, including educating people about the Land Bank is and ensuring there is proper community oversight. If you are interested in learning more about the Land Bank, please contact Matthew Goodro at matthewgoodro@gmail.com.

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

Molly Bidlack is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and has been a Mariposa member-owner since 2012. Her primary focus is on the individual’s emotional relationship to nourishment. In her practice, Seasonal Self, she explores concepts of the whole person and takes a seasonal approach to health, healing and well-being. She has been running a series of seasonal nutrition workshops at Mariposa as well. Here Molly writes about navigating the flood waters of nutrition information in your own life.

Analysis paralysis…! This is a great term I’ve come across in the past few months to describe my feelings toward figuring out the best way to eat. I imagine sitting down to write a post, doing a little food research and then boxing up the results and delivering it to you in a few pithy paragraphs… let me tell you, that is a fantasy.

While certainly I’d like scientific evidence behind my food choices, (and my public statements about said choices) I am also very aware of the fact that much of nutrition science is inconclusive. I mean, after all, science is the paradigm we use for truth, right? Got a question? Ask science. It knows. But what do you do when “scientific evidence” comes to different and even opposing conclusions? This study says too much fat gives you heart disease, that one says certain fats lower cholesterol. Do carbs provide energy or make you depressed or both? Is whole wheat a whole grain? Is that better? Sugar is evil, but what about fruit juice? Glucose? Fructose? Get this- we take both probiotics and antibiotics to feel better? Furthermore, why does it seem like I have to become a biochemist to understand what is healthy for me to eat? How did humans survive for millions of years without being biochemists?!

And to further complicate things, what about the subjective nature of eating properly for my own body? Some people are allergic to nuts, but when I eat them, I’m just fine. No matter how many omega-3s in almonds, someone with a nut allergy isn’t going to benefit. That is an obvious example, but what about something more subtle, like dairy? Maybe conventionally raised dairy gives me bowel problems, but pasture raised, grass fed doesn’t? Meanwhile, I have friends who can’t digest lactose no matter how nice the farmer was to the cow… or the goat.

Remembering back to the research courses I’ve taken, scientific studies, which make up scientific evidence, have a few general components. We have the conditions of the experiment, the independent variable and the dependent variable. What makes science reassuring and “truthy” is that given certain parameters, it will produce predictable and measureable outcomes. But in a nutrition experiment, are our human bodies the independent variable, the dependent variable or the conditions? Do our bodies constitute the parameters for the experiment, and if so, how am I ever going to replicate someone else’s conditions in my own body? Oh and forget all that stuff we actually don’t know about the mind, like what or where it is. Often we approach nutrition experiments with the idea that the body is static, and different food will have different effects, but what about all the variables within the body that are not static? Genes, allergies, ancestry, billions of variations in gut bacteria… There are just too many variables.

As Americans, we don’t have the advantage of just doing what we’ve always done, (essentially relying on the unscientific experiments of our ancestors, who survived long enough to get us here) because in terms of human history, we’ve only been in this area, living this way, eating this food for a few generations. “Scientific evidence” as we know it is rather new in the history of food-eating humans. Additives and agricultural practices have changed quite a bit even within that amount of time, as well. Truth be told, most of us don’t know what’s in the food that is generally available in the grocery store. Even though all the ingredients are listed, how many of us actually know what most of it is? And not in the conspiratorial agribusiness-put-profits-over-health sense (though there is room for that), but simply in the what-exactly-is-lecithin sense.

Ultimately, finding the right diet can really only take place on an individual level. And it is going to take a different approach than what we are used to in terms of understanding truth. We’re used to asking someone else, like the Internet or an expert, for the answers. But consider this, who is more of an expert on you than you? As Seuss, M.D. said, “No one else in the world is more youer than you!” And even though we like our information like we like our health, in pill form that is, it is going to take a little more intuitive investigation than that. Not to say we can’t be sciencey about it. Run your own mini-experiments. Define your terms and parameters, pose questions, run tests, observe results, and gather a body of data that supports a general theory… of your body. It might take a while, but waiting for nutrition science to come up with a perfect human diet will likely take far longer. And what will you eat in the meantime?