About A Week Ago: coloring, coalitions, and constructive criticism

Week of June 26, 2017

"Life is not colorful but coloring..." with that I jumped into another week donning a new lipstick combo (MAC's cherry lipliner with their studded kiss lipstick) and thinking through how to use life's crayons, colored pencils, and paints. 

Here's what went down this week: 

On Tuesday I attended Minnesota Comeback's quarterly meeting about education wins, misses, and resources. It's a group I came across early on while trying to find my footing in the Minneapolis social justice scene during fall of 2016.  While I'm not currently professionally a part of the education field, it's an area that's been close to my heart since I worked as a student outreach rep during my undergraduate years. Minnesota Comeback, through a "coalition of more than 80 schools, community leaders and funders", has set out to "increase access to great schools and close the opportunity gap for 30,000 Minneapolis kids."

Much of the meeting was focused on EdNavigator  that took a deep dive into how the tool is being used in New Orleans. Their priority is "helping you get the education you want for yourself and your family... by meeting 'with you at your workplace—or wherever is most convenient for you—to develop a customized educational plan." Parents working in certain sectors (especially service and hospitality) often don't have the means or time to take off work to tend to educational goals. EdNavigator sets out to do so. Here are some thoughts on what was presented: 

1. And beginning with the completely unrelated... when you believe you're about to eat baklava but it turns out it's spanakopita instead.. it's heartbreaking. This is no one's fault but my own. 

2. I really need to get to New Orleans- not just for the scenery but to understand the cultural past and present. There is a sprinkling of people native to New Orleans residing in Minneapolis and I'm interested to learn more of why. Yes, it's only a sprinkling but this data nerd loves the outliers. 

3. EdNavigator got  private sector companies to move faster than the public sector and non-profits. I'd find this point surprising if I hadn't worked for so long in the non-profit field.  While I love the field with socially good missions and potential, I've often found that the people leading them don't have the best intentions and act that out. Friends have been fascinated by the mistreatment, prejudices, and savior mentality to be found in the ranks of social justice advocates. But humans are humans and you'll find that behavior many a place- I just tried to run away from it after college by choosing a sector I thought would have less of it. 

4. The crowd spent time reviewing report cards sent to families- and if a crowd steeped in Ed practices can't decipher... then yikes. But there's a slight purpose to it- schools (whether because of money or status or ill intention) make data hard to break down or obtain. It was highlight after this report card review that Minnesota Comeback struggled to get data from schools to create their Minneapolis School Finder booklet.

5. The meeting adjourned with this great quote from Al Fan, leader of the coalition: "We know this is a great state but we don't think outside the box a lot." There are so many layers to this comment's truthfulness. Minnesota has so much potential but wastes it on a "niceness" that turns into something else and prejudices (MN's #2 on the worst places for black people to live). We're beat out by Wisconsin for the #1 spot on that list (per the usual, this feels like collegiate and professional football). I want better for this state, for its future- to get there we need reconciliation that goes deeper than policies, meetings, and initiatives. The culture has to be addressed. Without I really don't see how we can move forward.

On Thursday at New Rules on Lowry in North Mpls, I entered a packed venue and tuned my ears to organization mismanagement, aggression to those seeking accountability from leaders, and the casualizing of sexual misconduct. We're having to fight for ourselves while we fight for ourselves. I recognized early on into this meeting that the information I was receiving was fresh to me but old news to most in the room. And not in that I was simply out of the loop- the information divulged had been known (and ignored) for months or years depending on when they entered the narrative. That alone helped to bring understanding to a city I set out to re-explore 9 months ago. And with that knowledge I won't repeat what others have done in their silence (a form of being complicit). I took many notes but in my newness will leave this response from Black Liberation Project (who was there in the beginning and continues to do the work) that highlights the timeline and complexities of what has been taking place. Click here

The layers of sexism, colorism, classism, fear, and silence discussed in this space helped me to unpack my own journey as an advocate and my recent run-in being treated poorly by an older, male organizer who sees constructive criticism as a challenge to be dealt with using a loud voice and dicey words.

On Friday I came across an artists honoring of a fallen, young woman. I've been avoiding (and I'm sorry) this story on the death of Nabra Hassanen at the hands of 'isms because it hurts, it haunts, and I've dreamt about it. But here are better words from a Twin Cities artist on Nabra Hassanen: Click here

I spent much of Saturday and Sunday diving into children's movies and coming out the other side thankful for the lessons to be found and the energy it gave me. Moana, Mulan Part 2, and El Dorado- I'm looking at you! (And while Part II to Atlantis is on that list of recently watched films I'm pretending that movie didn't happen, the 1st was much better). And in the words of a dear friend: "Kids movies I think are catered a lot more to adults. There are a lot of jokes that go right over their heads, also a lot of kid jokes that we don't get. I like the mix." I wholeheartedly agree.