Diversity & Social Justice: Transition for whom and to what end, “Transitioning for All?”
This event is part of the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) Teleseminar Series “The Maturation of a Social Movement: A Regional Response to a Critique of the Transition Movement,” in response to the Simplicity Institute paper “The Transition Movement: Questions of Diversity, Power, and Affluence.”
Reverend Dr. Modele Clarke, New Progressive Baptist Church, Kingston, NY
Joanie Freeman, Transition Charlottesville Ablemarle, VA
Pamela Boyce Simms, Convener, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)
Yasmin Stewart, Call to Action Long-Term Recovery Group, Far Rockaway, NY
Rev. Dr. G. Modele Clarke is a social justice advocate who is committed to helping improve people’s lives. Born in Trinidad, West Indies, Reverend Clarke is senior pastor of the New Progressive Baptist Church, a hub of “End the New Jim Crow,” and “Undoing Racism” social activism work in Kingston, NY. Dr. Clarke has lectured and ministered in Uganda, Trinidad, Grand Cayman Island and Puerto Rico.
A retired faculty member with the School of Communication and the Arts, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, Clarke taught several journalism-related classes. He graduated from the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz and from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He was a reporter, editor, columnist, freelance magazine writer, and public relations practitioner. He received masters of divinity (MDiv) and doctor of ministry (DMin) from Trinity Theological Seminary. He was also inducted into the National Omicron-Psi Honor Society for his distinguished theological scholarship and community service. Clarke also studied at New York Theological Seminary, where he was the recipient of the Benjamin Mays Fellowship. He is the author of “Up in Mahaica: Stories from the Market People,” a collection of short stories about unusual characters in an oil refinery town in Trinidad. Clarke lives in Port Ewen, New York, with his wife, Evelyn.
Joanie Freeman presently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia after volunteering around the world for six years; engaging primarily with environmental issues. Joanie spent her early years growing up in a city housing project in the Bronx, New York City. She then went onto Miami, Florida for high school and finished her education at the University of Florida earning a degree in special education. Raised in a family that stayed conscious of the people and world around, Joanie continued to seek answers to the injustice she saw around her in Charlottesville as a Transition initiator. Joanie has tried multiple approaches to bridging the racial divide prevalent in Charlottesville, fostering diversity in Transition and in the Ecovillage where Transition is headquartered in Charlottesville. Joanie is the mother of two sons and two granddaughters. She is deeply committed to the Transition experiment and anything that will make life livable and respectable for future generations.
Pamela Boyce Simms, a change agent and public speaker for over 25 years, offers Transition Initiatives an experiential understanding of how groups can work when at their best. A veteran of organizational development and team building, Pamela helps initiatives work toward a progressive mastery of group dynamics that is essential to the long term traction, momentum and success of Transition towns. She adapts her expertise with a suite of facilitation tools, consensus building, systems development, and change management technologies to the needs of specific groups and organizations. One of seven original initiators of Woodstock Transition in Ulster County, New York, Pamela now convenes the Mid–Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH), a six-state consortium of Transitioners that facilitates the collaboration of Transition initiatives throughout the region.
Yasmin Stewart is a community activist with the Call to Action Long term Recovery Group in Superstorm Sandy-devastated Far Rockaway, NY. Yasmin bears personal witness to the pre-storm isolation and demographic stratification of Rockaway, “the forgotten New York,” profound personal loss in the storm, and the life-shattering bureaucratic abuse of the Far Rockway community in its aftermath. Yasmin is an educator with over 30 years of experience teaching and training teachers in curriculum implementation. Yasmin develops, coordinates and manages professional development seminars and conferences. She is passionate about working with organizations that promote scholarship and professional development with an emphasis on learning that’s creative and experiential.
Let’s Get the Party Started!
Celebrate Your Borough & Neighborhood Culture
International Cuisine Tasting (Bring a dish from your neighborhood)
(BYOE – Bring Your Own Everything meal [utensils, plate, napkin and cup])
January 21, 2015, 6:30 – 9:30 PM
What: NYC Transition Neighborhoods Info-share Party
Be part of the NYC neighborhood-specific resilience building conversation:
Fun, food from around the world and purposeful conversation.
Learn about Neighborhood Resilience Asset Mapping & Gap Analysis.
Where: 15th Street Quaker Meetinghouse
15 Rutherford Place (between 2nd and 3rd Aves), NY NY, 10003
Who: Dan Miner, Janet Soderberg and NYC Transition Hub Members
Pamela Boyce Simms, Certified Transition Trainer, Transition US,
and Convener, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)
RSVP: Let us know you’re coming and the dish you’ll bring: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Yorkers from 20 neighborhoods have already expressed interest in starting a local project, so you’re likely to meet a neighbor at this event. Bring a dish to share that celebrates NYC’s international cuisine, and your own reusable utensils, plate, napkin and cup. Also bring images of your neighborhood to post.
Learn more at: http://www.transitionnyc.org.
Contact NYC Transition Hub at: email@example.com.
Transition is a community organizing response to climate change, resource depletion and financial instability. There are 1,100+ Transition groups in 44 countries and over 150 initiatives in the US. It starts with a series of small group meetings in which neighbors go through chapters of a Field Guide. They strengthen their sense of place, build relationships, promote local food, and map their neighborhood’s current state of resiliency.
NYC Transition Neighborhoods Initiatives brings friends and neighbors together to discover and map “resilience assets” that are hidden in plain sight, right in our neighborhoods! A thought provoking Transition Neighborhood Field Guide leads participants on a practical and enlightening neighborhood resilience-building adventure that deepens and celebrates neighborhood culture. Let’s get the party started!
Coming in March: NYC Transition Neighborhoods Spring Equinox Training, March 21
The Story of The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)
A Regional Overview
Download PDF: State of Transitioning in the Mid-Atlantic Region
The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) pauses to take stock of five years of Transitioning in our region. The MATH network unifies the work of environmental advocates who have elected to Transition the Mid-Atlantic mega-region from fossil fuel dependency toward regionally integrated, self-reliant resilience. The cluster of cities in our megalopolis includes New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Richmond.
Hubris? We prefer to characterize what we’re up to as an “experiment.” Regardless, we are deeply engaged in Transitioning the Mid-Atlantic region hamlet by hamlet; by village, town, city, neighborhood, street, block and building. As we work, we keep our finger on the regional pulse; listening for that moment when, not a majority, but a tipping point, a critical mass of people in our region choose to live consciously, well, and lightly on the Earth.
Sparked and spread by serendipitous word of mouth and two waves of Transition Trainings, pockets of Transitioning began to germinate and sprout throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region from 2009-2014. In May of 2013 at a five-day Transition retreat, the newly Transitioner-formed Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) sought to cross-pollinate, scale up, and steadily cultivate a regional network of Transition initiatives at multiple stages of development. The MATH Council comprised of seasoned Transitioners from throughout the region came into being.The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) which prioritizes watersheds over state boundaries, currently
embraces Transitioners from the Housatonic Valley of Southern Connecticut (Coginchaug Area Transition), to the Chesapeake Bay watersheds of the Potomac-Shenandoah, Rappahannock, Big Sandy and Roanoke in the great state of Virginia.
New York State counts nineteen Transition initiatives scattered through the sub-regions of the Adirondacks, Mohawk Valley, Catskills, Capital District, Mid-Hudson Valley, Lower Hudson Valley and the New York metropolitan area.
Northern New Jersey is Transitioning in Newton, Sussex County and “down the shore” in Red Bank, Monmouth County. Wilmington in Transition holds down the fort in Delaware even as Transition Howard County is a dynamic Transition outpost in Maryland.
Robust Transition activity in Eastern Pennsylvania, Media and Philadelphia, and the grounded environmental networking of Transition State College in the bull’s-eye center of the state, are way showers for fifteen Pennsylvania Transition initiatives.
Transition initiatives in Richmond, Staunton and Charlottesville Virginia in the southernmost Mid-Atlantic watersheds provide a challenging range of demographics that demand Transitioning at levels, and from an angle that are in stark contrast to strategies employed in the north.
Some Transition initiatives sparked the development of others in their area. Most were catalyzed by participants in Transition Training cohorts who were fired up enough to immediately go home and walk the talk. Still others developed quietly, autonomously and in relative isolation from all but online references to the movement. Yet, – Transitioners ALL Are We – in the Mid-Atlantic region; summer, 2014. And the fact that 100% of those involved in the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub are Transitioners-to the-bone, is a key distinguishing characteristic of MATH as a network.
MATH – At Its Best – Mirrors Natural Systems
The self-organizing, ever-morphing Transition experiment is patterned after living-systems in nature, as are the operating principles of the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH). At our best, our goal of achieving integrated regional resilience is accomplished through deliberately emulating living systems patterns: 1) non-hierarchical, cooperative self-organization; 2) affirmation and encouragement of the spectrum of contributions inherent in our diverse perspectives; 3) constant adaptation to address what is emerging in the moment; and, 4) maintenance of balanced, nurturing energy flows between individuals and the whole.
Two transformation-driven groups bonded by a permeable membrane animate the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) network. Twenty one seasoned Transitioners from seven Mid-Atlantic states and nine “Stewards” of the environment form the MATH Council, and Circle of Stewards respectively. These environmental advocates are in turn networked back within their home states to concentric rings of thousands of Transitioners who are the leaven in the bread of the regional Transition environmental movement.
In an ecosystem, trillions of organisms dance a ballet of interrelated exchange. Each organism contributes to the needs of its neighbors, to the equilibrium, and the resilience of the whole while maintaining its own identity.
MATH Transitioners who hail from a latticework of interconnected water and foodsheds set out to create a Transitioner-ecosystem that pegs the measure of its operational effectiveness to how well we mirror natural systems dynamics. We’ve accepted and internalized how essential it is that we continually monitor the degree to which we value and honor each other’s humanity and innate talents equally.
This is no easy task. To take this particular path in growing a network and Transitioning towns toward local resiliency is to deliberately step away from mainstream thought and behavior. Power-&-control, competitive, and hierarchical habits in group-work are hard to kick.
Power and control dynamics infuse the air that we breathe when we participate in the “business as usual” mainstream. We all recognize that embracing the living-systems goal requires a fundamental shift of lenses since we’ve all been conditioned in the hyper-individualistic, stratified culture that drives the US economic system.
Natural living-systems have no need for a centralized control structure for example. The power of a living-system is derived not from individual participants but from how participants are organized, and the interchange among them. So while the contributions of individuals are important, the real power of systems emerges from their interdependence.
So, we vigilantly self-observe in order to head off “power-&-control-think” at the pass. Work is “convened” and “facilitated” not steered. Full self-expression and listening deeply for emerging needs and courses of action give free reign to the creative force of the collective genius.
Local to Regional Connectivity: Scaling up in Concentric Rings
The MATH network recognizes that aligning the way we live within the Earth’s biosphere means that the most vital work necessarily happens locally. Local self-organization optimizes sustainable use of the elements that support life. When constant adaptation takes place in localized microenvironments, any shock to the larger system is minimized. Resiliency is maximized. Transition Towns therefore focus on localizing the factors communities need to thrive, e.g. food production, alternative energy generation, economic interchange and more.
Yet, while local self-reliance is a goal of living-systems that seek resiliency, interconnectedness among systems is also essential. The Transition movement’s evolution therefore mirrors nature’s interlocking microhabitats. The Transition network now encompasses thousands of towns, regional and national hubs that function as a loosely connected international web of systems. Concentric rings of subsystems nested in geographically larger systems inform the other’s process to enhance the wellbeing of the whole, while cultivating all that is unique to its own particular sense of place.
Mindfully Managed Boundaries: MATH’s Growing Edge
Managing the energy and information flow among interconnected individuals, groups, and systems to allow emergence of the new is Transition’s growing edge. This occurs effortlessly in nature where each entity maintains a balanced flow of energy within itself and in continuous exchange with its neighbors. However, this type of interchange challenges Western minds conditioned to focus on disconnection, separation and competition. Through environmental work together, Mid-Atlantic Transitioners try to deeply consider how they treat each other and reorient their personal compasses toward true community.
MATH acknowledges that the movement is an evolving experiment, and that we don’t have all of the answers. We aren’t intent on finding perfect solutions, but like living-systems, we seek experimental pathways that meet the need of the hour and can be refined over time. When something doesn’t work, we’ll embrace new behaviors and adapt to emergent circumstances. Each time we shift course, the complexity of our relationships will deepen and we’ll become more adaptable—more resilient.
Pamela Boyce Simms, Transition Trainer, Transition US
Convener, The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)
TRANSITION FOR ALL
Read More (PDF file): Resilience for Whom and to What End?
By, Pamela Boyce Simms, Transition Trainer, Transition US,
Convener, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)
It’s time to ask some thorny questions of the Transition movement. We need look no further than Kingston to begin.
In a recent critique, The Transition Movement: Questions of Diversity, Power and Affluence, the Simplicity Institute (simplicityinstitute.org/), exhorted Transitioners to: 1) pay more attention to community power dynamics conditioned by the racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic stratification that shape relationships, and, 2) work to ensure that Transition isn’t primarily a pleasurable movement for predominantly white, educated, post-materialist, middle class small community people. Acting on either suggestion requires courage and commitment.
Transition groups are indeed for the most part, white and middle class. Transitioners in towns like Kingston where people of color comprise a full 35% of a population of 23,700, puzzle over how to racially and socioeconomically diversify their groups. The Simplicity Institute critique pointedly urges the Transition movement to self-observe, probe deeply, and determine, “Whose resilience are we concerned about, and to what end?”
Climate change impacts us all. No particular group is exempt from the ravages of gale force storm winds, extended power outages, and drought-induced food shortages. Yet few Transition initiatives consistently focus on understanding the deeper community economic and power dynamics that generate their homogenous groups. How might Transitioners take up this extremely uncomfortable task? Should Transition be more explicitly concerned with social justice?
First, Transition outreach planning might pose deeper questions than, “Why don’t people of color come to our friendly, welcoming potlucks?” Sincere interest in “Transition for all” compels groups to ponder as a baseline: WHO has historically, and currently lives in which areas of our town and why? WHAT social circles, institutions, economic engines and patterns drive commerce and employment in town? WHERE, if at all do people of diverse ethnic, racial, age, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds intersect in town?
Transitioners might then conduct an internal inventory of their own motivations, skills-sets; emotional, psychological, spiritual/humanitarian resources and preparedness as they embark on any diversity journey of depth that values authenticity.
Those who seek to Transition Kingston immediately note that like many towns, Kingston encompasses several distinct micro-environments that rarely intersect. Walkable Uptown which witnessed an influx of, “more stable” retailers over the past five years exemplifies one dimension of a Transitioner’s localization dream. One can shop at the farmers market, get a haircut and aromatherapy massage, stop at the bank, visit the doctor and sample a variety of cuisines on foot. Vegetarian restaurants serve locally sourced foods, niche retailers abound, loft spaces are available in revamped industrial spaces, and one can find everything from grassfed beef to exotic fair trade chocolates.
Kingston’s Rondout area offers a scenic stroll along the city’s historic deep water dock. A holistic health center, galleries and waterfront restaurants hold out the promise of similar business and exciting real estate development opportunities to come.
A radically different economic flow pattern is operative in Kingston’s high storefront-vacancy Midtown area; the corridor which includes the “red zone” from Franklin and Broadway to Wall Street. Cyclical “tough on crime” raids in this part of town provide the economic fodder and foundation for the mortgages, purchasing power, and lifestyles of thousands of New Yorkers employed by Eastern, Shawngunk, Wallkill, Fishkill, Hudson, Coxsackie, Greenhaven, and Green Prisons to name but a few of many penal institutions and all of the attendant branches of the NYS criminal justice system.
New Progressive Baptist Pastor Modele Clarke shepherds a Midtown Kingston congregation consisting of 80% “returned citizens;” that is, residents who have returned home following incarceration or drug rehabilitation. On certain blocks in Kingston’s Midtown there are only three addresses that are not under some form of legal supervision. As anyone who has attended an ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network) meeting at Pastor Clarke’s church can attest, the imperative that NYS prison beds must be kept full at all costs is widely recognized.
The enforced economic contribution to the NYS economy of Kingston’s “red zone” according to a white ENJAN activist who served five years in Ulster County Prisons, is an ensured cell-block head count. She posits that parole policies to which she is subject make it next to impossible to find meaningful employment (for which she is highly qualified) that would help halt the circular conveyor belt back into the system. As one of only four white women in her prison “pod” of 48 women, she knows the picture is exponentially more abysmal for people of color.
The lasting impact of movements, whether environmental or social, hinges upon the extent to which the movement emerges from the ranks of those most deeply affected. Similar to the Transition demographic make-up, social justice circles in Kingston draw white middle class activists with connections to the Peace, Civil and Women’s Rights movements of the 60’s and 70’s. ENJAN meeting participants for example, are overwhelmingly white. A practical reason for this might be that at any given point in time 50% of Midtown residents are on parole curfews and cannot be out of their homes after 8:00 PM to attend meetings.
Further exacerbating the non-intersection of Kingston demographic circles, Pastor Clarke observes that middle class people of color diligently maintain the same distance from those struggling financially in Midtown as their white non-activist counterparts. How might Transition initiatives bridge chasms of this magnitude, mirrored in towns and cities throughout the country?
Meanwhile, as climate change indifferently accelerates, resilience as measured by extreme weather recovery speed is extremely group specific. We’ve repeatedly seen throughout the state in the wake of Irene and Sandy, that electricity is restored much faster in networked neighborhoods with connections to resource persons who can turn on the lights, attend to the roads, and cut through insurance red tape.
How will Transitioners address the fact that:
resource depletion and climate change will effect various groups in different ways?
relocalization may not be equally as applicable to everyone?
some people are more adaptable than others given aspects of change that have more to do with historical power than place?
Diversification of the Transition movement is a litmus test that can indicate how prepared we really are to embrace a future transformed by climate change in which the old navigation coordinates will have evaporated. The degree to which we can calm the discomfort that often grips us when among people who appear to be radically different from us, is the degree to which we can truly deepen our resilience as we wade into the unknown.
The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) will offer a webinar series entitled: “The Maturation of a Social Movement: A Regional Response to a Critique of the Transition Movement” on the Transition US website. The series will explore diversity in Transitioning among other issues raised in the Simplicity Institute critique. The first webinar session will be offered November 6, 2014, 2:00 PM ET. Register and be part of the conversation: bit.ly/mathresponse
Pamela Boyce Simms, Transition Trainer, Transition US,
Convener, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)
The Curious Marriage of Two Networks
that are Made for Each Other
Resilient Response to Extreme Weather Births
Transition-Ham Radio “Practice Networks”
We all cherish our comfort zones. We tend to move in social circles that mirror and reaffirm our own interests, needs and identities. Yet, intent on crafting “resilient responses to extreme weather,” Transitioners from Connecticut to Virginia are happily stretching into what is for most, the unchartered territory of electrical engineering and applied physics! That is…..Ham Radio Operations!
Transitioners are engaged in very deliberate unlikely suspect outreach with a pivotal purpose as climate change-induced extreme weather becomes more prevalent. The Mid-Atlantic Transition network (MATH) is working closely throughout the region with the amateur radio clubs of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to build-out a Transition-ham radio “practice network.” In these times of rolling brown outs, prolonged and more frequent power outages, our intent is to become as facile with ham radio operations as we are with cell phones.
To that end MATH encourages Transitioners to obtain an amateur radio, Technician’s Class License and is striking up rewarding relationships with a welcoming regional community of amateur radio operators. (Due to the versatility and power available to its operators, the amateur radio service is regulated by the federal government. All “hams,” as operators are called, must pass an exam based on an easily accessible text and be licensed by the FCC.) We anticipate arranging creative programming whereby at designated times Mid-Atlantic Transition initiating group members can tune into specific frequencies up and down the east coast for regular information exchanges.
Accomplishing this goal requires that we take a giant leap out of our comfort zones into the world of “homebrew rigs,” and with the help of seasoned operators, build-out our “ham shacks.” Admittedly, we’ve found that some amateur radio clubs convey the sense of a hardcore technical subculture. However through Unlikely Suspects – Deep Outreach lenses, “hardcore subculture” can be interpreted as a time honored ham tradition of mutual support and solidarity. Unconditional openness is the key to deepened outreach. Transitioners can help erase the ham operator stereotype of the quirky-loner hunched over crackly sputtering radio gear in the grey light of a dimly lit back room.Well, the crackly sound is actually in fact a reality. That hallmark sound, … the spinning dials, buttons and knobs provide the authentic “ham experience.” But that’s as far as the stereotype goes. As newcomers, Mid-Atlantic Transitioners are being welcomed with open arms into the technical and social world of amateur radio as hams in local clubs volunteer to serve as mentors; especially among those who build their own gear…. “homebrew rigs.”
Keith Tilley ARES (Amateur Emergency Radio Service) Coordinator for Ulster County, New York is going the extra mile to connect MATH Council members representing seven Mid-Atlantic States and their initiatives to local amateur radio clubs in the region. Keith got the ball rolling by arranging for MATH representatives to attend a local “Field Day” on June 28th when they gather for a meeting in a New Jersey location that is central to MATH network members who hail from seven states. Annually on Field Day more than 35,000 ham radio operators across the country plan a barbeque and camping weekend around 24 hours of continuous broadcasting on as many amateur bands as possible. Field Day ispartly to educate the public about ham radio,…. but mostly to have fun.
Transitioners are part of a wave of thousands of Americans who are lining up in droves to relearn failsafe, Resiliency Plan B “back-up skills;” among them, amateur radio, the Dean of communication systems that took the country by storm over a hundred years ago. The country is witnessing what we would call a spontaneous “reskilling” in the domain of ham radio, i.e., bringing highly practical heirloom technology forward to the present in the service of a better quality, more resilient future.
In fact, ham radio licenses in the United States are at an all-time high of 717,200 according to the FCC with nearly 40,000 new ones in the last five years, and 16,000 + just in the last year.
Savvy folks who are weathering back-to-back storms and prolonged power outages proactively anticipate more frequent, future weather-related communications interruptions. When cell towers, police, fire, communications and television antennas were lost in lower Manhattan during the 911 crisis, more than 500 trained amateur radio operators became the communications back up for emergency operations 24 hours a day. When President Bush needed to contact the Mayor of New Orleans during hurricane Katrina, amateur radio was the only option for getting messages through.
The new wave of amateur radio operators know that when all other conventional means of communication fails, ham radio keeps friends, families and communities connected and informed. The spike in amateur radio licenses reflects the wise forethought of those who see the handwriting on the seawalls and are ready to stay connected when loved ones and neighbors will need them the most.In addition to amateur radio’s pragmatic application during extreme weather challenges, the ham licensure surge reflects a growing awareness that true resiliency requires knowing how take full responsibility for our own lives.
So if at a Transition gathering you overhear one Transitioner asking another, “How long have you had your ticket?” …or waxing long about shooting DX on 160-10, busting pileups, and confiding that Elmering is what it’s really all about,”…… you’ll know that “Immersion Phase I” of our Transition-Ham Radio Practice Net mission will have been accomplished.
We are deeply grateful to this newfound network of friends for their intense dedication to their craft, welcoming openness, and willingness to take Transitioners under their mentorship wings. Ours is a perfect mission-match of otherwise unlikely suspects!
More Information: The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), National Association for Amateur Radio (www.arrl.org)
Pamela Boyce Simms is a Transition Trainer and Convenes, the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH),
Photographs by Jim Peppler