Tuesday, October 27, 2020

30 30 30

Not much has come out of Durham policywise from the BLM movement that began in June. Aside from a heightened consciousness and sensitivity, practically speaking, we are doing the same old same.

One idea that I had (that will likely never see the light of day) is:

30 30 30

30 activists under 30 paired with the 30 biggest businesses in Durham in hopes to make real policy changes regarding how they intersect with structural inequality and racism in Durham. Young people are driving this movement, and we need them at the forefront, interacting directly with the holders of power, the corporations that drive the Durham economy.

Pushing the Buck

The recent Covid spike, combined with anxiety around the election, has everyone worked up to a fever pitch.

Throughout the crisis, I have tried to inform the public and elected leaders how miserable and mediocre a job we are doing at addressing, containing, mitigating, or eliminating Covid-19 in Durham.

By this point, I don't really try anymore. Leaders at Duke and in Durham elected offices are going to do what they feel is best, which is vastly insufficient to address the enormity of the task at hand.

I don't see it as any one person's fault, but instead a collective indictment against erstwhile leaders who are caught in a web of bureaucracy, corporate interest, and State and Federal inaction. They literally don't know how to take responsibility because they feel so put upon by the system, so exhausted by the lack of perceived options. There is no creativity, there is no movement, and there is no anger.

In our employee handbook, one of the ethical tenets we try to abide by is, "Don't Shrug, Take Responsibility." What I have been seeing is a whole lot of shrugging and deflecting, from the president on down. Without determined action, the ability for the upper middle class to insulate itself will become harder and harder. You might think it would be impossible to look away now, and lo, look at the blinders our leaders wear!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

safety nets and emergency response

 In the Fall of 2018, Hurricane Florence struck, followed by Hurricane Michael. These were the most massive and destructive storms I've witnessed firsthand. In the storms' wake, the Bakery was involved in sending relief to poorer parts of the state, through both food and cash donations (see https://www.facebook.com/Ninthstbakery/photos/a.10150149431520183/10160838987310183/?type=3&theater). For me, it was eye-opening how a community could rally and support its poorest, most needy citizens. Where FEMA, the State, and county response should have been able to have the resources to handle crises like these, it was instead a ragtag group of ordinary folks who chipped in. I will always remember the working class guy (I never caught his name) who, when we put out a call for food donations, went to Food Lion and bought what looked like $150 of essentials (pastas and canned goods and such), bringing in bag after bag, just an individual guy. When I applauded his generosity and thanked him, he was modest, and just shrugged it off. Apart from the heroic acts that make headlines, community responses are the sum total of thousands of small actions like these.

What I took away from the experience was both the goodness of everyday people, and also the ineptitude and mismanagement of our government institutions. It does not take much money to feed people every day. It doesn't take much organization to provide support to those who are suffering, or have lost their homes. But without flexible budgets, organizational leadership, and saddled with a minefield of bureaucracy, a pass-the-buck mentality where shrugs are more common than "Yes"es, and where liability is ever present threat, it is no wonder that the government is not trusted. We could be doing this for pennies. Of the CARES act, a minority of the money went directly to everyday people.

Because a community response is not a robust structure, not as robust as a governmental one, there should be governmental help. Communities eventually become exhausted and can no longer self-organize and help. When communities drop off, along with their donated funds, we need government to step up and fill the gap. Right now, we are serving twenty lunches per day for homeless and otherwise food insecure folks. Why do we and Urban Ministries need to fill this gap, when the city needs to be mitigating and eliminating homelessness.