Somewhere between leaving high-school and forging a career in advertising I lost my activist voice. It was a subtle atrophy, an abdication of the soap-box to friends and concerned individuals. As I traveled westward to manifest destiny, community was severed. Mine is not a new story.
Advertising is a harsh trade. We package and peddle, hype and distract – creating demand for things you never knew you needed. Children are not welcome in this family. Happiness is not a natural by-product.
At the end of 2012 I changed my outlook, quit my high-status job to join a smaller firm, and explore a better balance between work and life.
GRITS AND GREENS
Grits & Greens provides the perfect environment to reconnect with activism, packaged around the intersection of food, art and technology. It stirs passions no matter how removed we see ourselves. Promoted solely through social media, tweeting is encouraged. Spreading word about activities, discussions and ideas turns everyone into active participants.
THE TRUMPET OF CONSCIENCE
Today’s event celebrated the life and work of Martin Luther King – coinciding with his weekend anniversary. An audience full of people shamefully more educated in his teachings than I, joined a chorus of approval for the man and the movement. Drew Dellinger, a doctor and scholar in MLK, turned our attention to King’s lesser-known work. Using preaching as an artistic communication tool for the masses, Dellinger argued that King was a master in “stirring” his audience, creating emotional connections that moved people to action.
Over the last 45 years, popular apathy and media sound bites have relegated King’s teachings to “I have a dream…”. Acknowledgement of 400 years of white supremacy is a bitter pill for society to swallow and, Dellinger believes, has prevented many from exploring Kings other teachings. Themes of ecological and cosmological connectedness, and his belief that the Universe is on the side of Justice, were some of the areas Dellinger has unraveled over the last 15 years of study.
Beyond the speeches and lectures, MLK challenged society to lead a global movement towards interconnectedness, intolerance of racism, war and poverty. Events such as Grits & Greens deliver upon this and demonstrate an ability to “Planetize the Movement”.
SOUL FOOD JUSTICE
Grits and Greens brings table fellows together sharing delicious food prepared from the kitchen of Miss Ollies. Food activism is woven throughout the event. Filmaker and educator Byron Hurt, talked about his new film “Soul Food Junkies”–screening tonight at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (http://soulfoodoakland-eorg.eventbrite.com/).
Byron Hurt examines the obstacles to healthy food choices and society’s disconnection from where fresh food comes from. His documentary “Soul Food Junkies” took three years in the making and calls out a US “food apartheid”–food deserts where healthy food choices are unavailable to people who could benefit most.
Our final panelist was visual artist Evan Bissell. He demonstrated his extraordinary website– http://www.knottedline.com –a blend of history, documentary and creativity about the Prison System. A difficult subject which Evan makes easily accessible through interactive animation and illustration. Widening his reach with input from schools and community, his site expands the conversation around incarceration and presents opportunities for future transformation.
What proliferates Grits and Greens, and sets it apart from other Bay Area networking events, is connectivity. Not in the technological sense (although it’s powered by digital) but in our awareness and interconnectedness with each other, the world, and the metaphysical. The breakfast meeting was christened by a water ceremony by Ashara Ekundayo (who moderated the event). Vocalist Jennifer Johns then opened the floor by singing a powerful dedication to MLK–which could not fail to “stir” emotions.
Amazingly the majority of people who attended the event were all first time participants. Powerful proof that through word of mouth an appetite for change can grow.
MLK Lectures–recommended further reading for lesser-known writing: The Trumpet of Conscience.
HUB Oakland, event organizer – http://www.huboakland.net/
Miss Ollies – https://www.facebook.com/MissOllies
Ashara Ekundayo, Curator/Moderator – http://flavors.me/asharaekundayo
Evan Bissell, visual artist, educator – http://evanbissell.com/Evan_Bissell/Evan_Bissell.html
Drew Dellinger, poet, activist, Martin Luther King scholar –http://drewdellinger.org/
Byron Hurt, educator, director of “Soul Food Junkies” –http://www.bhurt.com/