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Interview with Adrienne Maree Brown—Voices of Climate Justice

Adrienne Maree Brown - Voices for Climate JusticeVoices of Climate JusticeWhat inspires you to work for change?
My number one inspiration right now is not an organization or a person or an event, it’s the city of Detroit. I first went there a couple of years ago to do organizational development, and later for direct action trainings with Detroit Summer, which was founded by Grace Lee Boggs and her partner Jimmy Boggs. Their key lesson is, ‘Transform yourself to transform the world. It’s time to grow our soul’s capacity to deal with the world we’re living in.’

The tangible solutions that are now coming out of Detroit blow my mind. It’s not just young folks getting excited about these ideas and trying to implement revolutions. It’s the 30- to 50-year-old black men coming out of prison or unemployed, gardening and farming. It’s not about getting a job and being a cog in someone else’s system. It’s about liberated work, where you are playing a useful role in your community.

Watching “The Greening of Cuba” reminds me of Detroit. Detroit has had an economic crisis for decades. The auto companies have divested, now it’s this urban rural city. Detroit’s population is less than half what it was. Out of necessity, people have had to start community gardens and urban farming. Music and food are being used to organize people. Potlucks provide a communal place to talk about issues and eat together.

Detroit has the highest statistics in terms of crime, unemployment, and drop out rates. Those are the symptoms of an unhealthy society. Those negative aspects can create a real darkness and depression. But that darkness can be the womb from which our new societies are born, where we can create the world we want to see.

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Governor Brown is Not Green

California EJ Communities Bear Brunt of Bad Policies
By Eric K. Arnold

Governor Brown at 2014 press conference on budget allocations. Courtsey of business.ca.gov.At the Paris climate summit, California Governor Jerry Brown played up his reputation as a progressive visionary—one of America’s most experienced politicians on environmental issues. He met with world leaders, did a photo-op with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and gave a speech to graduate students about climate awareness, saying, “we’re talking about a different kind of life, a life not based on oil, and a life not based on so much emphasis on the individual as opposed to the common good.”1

Farmworkers—The Basis and Bottom of the Food Chain

Events in recent years have triggered a reawakening across the United States of a movement that acknowledges the importance of worker rights and of protecting the livelihoods of this country’s working class. Historically, however, one group of workers has routinely been excluded from the gains made by the larger labor movement, i.e. farmworkers—the people who weed, pick, harvest, and pack, often in 100 degree weather, while routinely being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Approximately 700,000 farmworkers reside in California at any given time. Farm employment is unstable and the average farmworker is employed for only seven months of the year (nine months in California). For female workers the employment season is even shorter. Jobs are scarce, even during high season. In California, about 350,000 jobs are available from April to October and 275,000 from November to March. Historically, migrant workers returned home during the winter months. However, with the increased militarization of the border, this practice has become harder and many migrants remain in the U.S. out of fear even in the rainy season when they have little or no income. And although a majority of farmworkers are male, women and children are increasingly crossing the border and entering the workforce, as men can no longer maintain a seasonal migration.

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Ban the Box

Prince White, Jahmese Myres and John Jones. Courtesy of Jahmese Myers.By Jahmese Myres with John Jones III

When John and I first met in 2014, I was working with Lift Up Oakland, a coalition of community and labor organizations leading a ballot initiative that would raise Oakland’s minimum wage to one of the highest in the country and provide sick time to all workers. John was working as a security guard at a fast food restaurant downtown and had recently been released after spending one-third of his life in prison. He was committed to creating a stable home for his son, and we bonded over a shared belief that obtaining a good job is a critical component of realizing this commitment.

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