Archive | November 2017

SURJ Southern Maine-Seacoast Hosts Spoken Word Event

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, from 7:00-9:00 PM, the Book & Bar, in Portsmouth, NH, was rocking out with a variety of spoken word performances, from poetry-to-music-to-stand-up comedy by local creatives.

SURJ does fund-raisers such as this one (voluntary donations were collected), to raise money for our allies, partners & collaborators, who have a similar vision. SURJ’s vision is to educate in order to make people aware of racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and the cultivation of an anti-racism mind-set. The money raised from this event (approximately four-hundred dollars) will help & support the Black Lives Matter Scholarship Fund.

The theme of the spoken performance could be any topic related to Racial Justice, and all of the performers excelled in calling out their own topics, and giving more meaning through the art process & their unique personalities; that in turn, can create intuitional pathways to “internalize oneness” and raise consciousness in understanding the many faces of racism.

The idea of having this as an annual event has already been floated to some SURJ members; if this becomes reality, we envision putting together an anthology of the pieces presented at each event-this would also be a fund-raiser for SURJ and its allies.
A special note of thanks to Book & Bar for being our venue for this community event. We hope we can develop a good relationship with the venue, so that this can be an annual event, and we got off to a great start!

A very special note of thanks to all of the performers who composed a woven tapestry of insights about racial justice, racism & white privilege, and did so with passion, comedy, music, true personal stories, and poetry. We appreciate all of you very much! We hope you’ll return for our next one!

Special thanks to Karen McBride & Christopher Bear-Beam for organizing the event.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam November 12, 2017

Claudia Maturell’s Passionate Flame For Equality

I’m sitting with Claudia Maturell in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Kittery, Maine; we’ve met so that I can interview Claudia for a blog I’m going to do. Claudia has a sparkle in her eye when she talks about her passion for equality and anything that is off-the-chain, unjust, or just plain not right! Her spirit & attitude are downright contageous! This passion can also at times feel overwhelming, Claudia admits and has felt this, too. She’s also felt a sense of hopelessness at times, like we all do. Many of these “blue” emotions may possibly stem from many American’s sense of disempowerment.

My partner (Mahraiah) & I have been attending a Racism Dialogue, held each Tuesday evening, at the Baha’i Center of Learning Green Acre School, Eliot, Maine; I’ve come to see Claudia (a member of the Bahai faith there), as a wonderful, vibrant person to be around. For one thing, she trusts a process where there are many resources to draw from, but there’s also a unique chemistry that plays out of a group project.

This is the “trusting the process” of education, dialogue, training, and the group process. Out of this resolution, people have to fashion some way of effectively doing this work. Perhaps this is why Claudia is such a good facilitator. She’s humble, tries to avoid getting hooked in structures or relationships where maybe more stuff is intersecting-such as racism, sexism, heterosexualism, or any other “ism” for that matter, and attempt to move on.

Bear: What kinds of bias or discrimination towards you, did you run into in school, jobs, community, etc.?

Claudia: My family and & moved from Cuba to the Miami and Naples, Florida area when I was eleven years old. I didn’t have any real experiences like this; at some point in my secondary education, I wasn’t thinking about bias or discrimination against me, but more about how I could assimilate as an American. At that juncture, think I unconsciously started identifying myself as white.

Bear: Did you experience a lack of access to, say, healthcare services, or any other kind? If yes, do you think it was racism behind the social disparity between whites & persons-of-color? in terms of access to these services?

Claudia: No, because our family wasn’t wealthy, and, like many other Cuban-Americans, we had access to and used Welfare and other Social Services.

Bear: What kinds of issues (racial) emerged for you in your family?

Claudia: From what I gathered from the stories I heard, my
grandmother wasn’t fully comfortable with my mom marrying a black
guy. It wasn’t until I was born that the tension between them started
to ease out. As I look back, I wasn’t very close to my dad’s side of the family. I’m not sure if it was a cultural difference or something else.

Bear: When you were in high school or college, how did being Cuban-American impact your social life-if at all?

Claudia: This was my time to assimilate and enculturate into American society, so this is where I focused my thoughts. In college, I mingled with all of the groups; I usually hung-out with groups or people where I felt invited & welcomed.
At this time, I began feeling a bit resentful towards my own very vibrant & colorful, Cuban culture; perhaps this was due to my desire to fit into an American model, and the resentment was a part of a defense mechanism, or an internal struggle. However, there were also other times during college that I felt myself isolating away from certain groups of other people.

Bear: What inspires you most about being Baha’i, and our human, internalization of oneness process, an interdependent part of our Universe?

Claudia: For me, the Bahai teachings are messages for all human beings, not just for those who’re affiliated with the Faith.

There is a feeling that we’ve been given a sense of understanding as to why there are so many unhealthy, societal reactions, i.e., such as conflict, war, nuclear armament, greed, violence, etc., in our contemporary world.

A two-fold purpose guides us here: to develop our inherent gifts and potentialities and to contribute to the betterment of society with these. The second of the two-fold purpose alerts us to take responsibility to do whatever our strengths, attributes, and gifts direct us to do on our spiritual journey.

Also, the need is to see understanding & knowledge spread, may affect collective groups of humans. In other words, an example could be to think how could we take our racial conversation out into the world’s conversation?

Bear: If you had the chance to offer suggestions to government agencies, who now see the need for training in Anti-Racism, what suggestions would you give to them?

Claudia: I would lay the groundwork that all human beings are noble, dignified, with infinite capacities to change and advance our current conditions. This is a foundational premise for me. It focuses on the potentialities and the positive aspect of who we are as human beings.

Copy: Christopher Bear-Beam 11062017



Second Annual W.E.B. on Race & Democracy at Southern Maine University: The Strange Career of the Jim Crow North

On November 6, 2017, Brian Purnell (Geoffrey Canada Associate Professor of Africana Studies & History at Bowdoin College), presented a very informative, and much needed, program on Jim Crow Law’s origin in the northern United States of America). The book, entitled the same as the second part of this blog’s title, will be published & available sometime in 2018.

Purnell’s primary question was this: what does racism look like outside of the south? so often, northerners will “blame” the south for the institution of Jim Crow Laws, due to lack of awareness and/or ignorance to these historical happenings, and it’s become a kind of mythological note in many American minds.

During Reconstruction (post Civil War, 1865-1890s), many southern states re-wrote their state constitutions to include Jim Crow laws; these were often used to bolster de-segregation efforts within educational systems.

In the Liberal North, Jim Crow may have been used to challenge the place of the origin of racism, and presumed the entire American cultural-segregation was a national cancer.
For blacks who moved from the south to the north for jobs, but continued to face ongoing poverty, discrimination, & unemployment, northern blacks developed practices that may have effected cultural discrimination & behaviors.

I remember how a man who grew up in Buffalo, New York, told me about his memories of being on city buses, and seeing signs in the bus telling African-Americans they had to sit at the back of the bus. When he recounted this, he had a look of incredulousness on his face.

With this back-and-forth between north & south, Jim Crow laws allowed people to “get off easy” when it came to racism-a decided neglect to see reality, not how it was but how they wanted it to be.

Policy makers used three interventions to insure Jim Crow’s reality in their states:

  1.  Framing racism in the north revealed how racism works by analyzing it on its own terms.
  2. Unmasking Jim Crow in the north, rejecting the ways northern liberals said there were more racial tensions in the south compared to the north.
  3. Laying claims to Jim Crow in the north, takes into consideration that their own, regional cities were marred by Jim Crow that were formed, in various social contexts.

The history of Jim Crow began in the north, not the south & west, with all the hallmarks of what life came to be like in the south. For example, in the late eighteenth century in Boston, African-Americans couldn’t access the same educational opportunities as whites.
By 1827, construction of newly, northern, re-written Jim Crow Laws in order to restrict black integration into white schools.

In Post-Emancipation times during the 1880s & 1890s, northerners adapted the word “nigger” for blacks saying they were backwards and uncivilized.

In 1831 De Toqueville’s history decried both northern & southern racism.
In Pennsylvania, in 1854, laws declared mandated segregation in schools for African-Americans.

In 1863 “immigrant artisans” (people of color who’d immigrated to the U.S.) attacked whites.

During the huge wave of Irish immigration in the north, the Irish were lynched (they were called the “niggers of Europe”) before lynchings of African-Americans were common in the south.

Northern union workers barred blacks from membership.

The creation of “sundown towns or communities” (1890-1968), excluded any persons of color from living there. They were all-white neighborhoods & communities. In so many words, it meant ‘if your black, don’t let the sun go down on you in this community.’ Signs, evidence of this reality, were seen at the borders of these towns, just to be sure!

In the early 1900s there was broad, national appeal to the KKK and white supremacy; membership in the Klan jumped to where membership rolls were between 3-6 million people, at least 6 times greater than it was in 1870.

The New Deal under Roosevelt’s administration cast a new image of Jim Crow laws; it offered a new thesis: using expansive language in the north was very much advocated for by the south; with this came expansion of social relations’ language & legalities in this regard.

Jim Crow’s representation in the north wasn’t so much based in law, like it was in the south. Rather, it was a mix of social customs, patriotic ideals & legislation that found its matrix-oh, our Sweet Land of Liberty!

Copy: CBB 11/07/2017


PRIVILEGE, Poor Privilege

Privilege? You got white privilege, heterosexual privilege, able-bodied privilege, LGBT privilege, economic privilege, elite privilege, professional privilege, authoritarian privilege, religious privilege, “well” privilege, “not well” privilege, female privilege, male privilege, spiritual privilege, children privilege, no-children privilege, etc., etc.

What do all these privileges get us? What’s the pay-off for privilege?

Connecting\one-person-one-privilege connects us to the people, entities, systems, to keep our power (not in a “less than”) in the group, dig? The out group? Keep ’em down and that keeps us up. Simple as that! Whuddup?

We got you down on the mat, fixin’ to pin your shoulder to the mat, like that, for 3 seconds flat, to win the match. Done! Gold for the U.S.A! We’re all Gold Medal winners in tight-fitting, little, grey suits, carryin’ signs that say we be Capitalists in a wonderful way,

We, be
what we be
wonder and
with Awe,
wakes up on wrong
side, from bed
westerly is the flow
where we be goin’
to the West Indies, so
windy, so fine,
wash in hearts hope/

Privilege doesn’t go away again.
We dip in the dance,
it goes lower & lower,
re-charges, returns to
its motive, to scale
them later (he’s a
up-and-coming Capitalist Consumer), after all,
his hands & fingers, little burning coals,
burning up all his eyes, fixated on,
vanity, craving, lusting, hungering, puking
in pain,

don’t disdain,
your privilege, if you
didn’t have it, how
could you know it,
see it, catch it, get
angry at it, go off
on it, do something about it!

Go out and round-up about 20 people, a diverse cohort of humanity’s lesser regions\ask them to define what the word “privilege” means, and you’ll get a quilted, multiplex of holy (or maybe not) silence/our meanings-we all carry worlds inside our heads-it’s our territory and our map of how we get around in the surrounding world, this bitter crap-trap!

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam October 8, 2017

What’s Wrong With This Picture From Louisiana?

Sociologist & Researcher, Artie Russell Hochschild, in her book Strangers In Their Own Land, writes the story of her five years interviewing people from Louisiana, people, who for the most part, hold very conservative views; as she writes, she found a Great Paradox in their story: her goal in this project was to “use the wall of empathy,” in understanding the very right-leaning, conservative, along with many Tea Party member’s worldviews\she wanted to set a tangible image of the projections of people who see life from a completely opposite lens than her own.

The Great Paradox that Hochschild writes about is the extreme, but often not so extreme as one might think, diverse views & opinions of many Louisianans; first, the antipathy towards government with its ludicrous fabrications and its meddling in their affairs; they’re adamantly oppositional about regulations to which they know government so often adheres; however, if there were no regulations, how would any entity be curbed in its practices-good or bad?

Many Louisiana residents don’t want the government sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong, at least in their minds; yet, at the same time, they do want the jobs and other ancillary benefits, like ongoing employment, technology, and better lifestyles/higher pay.
Louisiana Governor Jindahl has the reputation of paying oil companies huge amounts of money to set up shop in his state, giving them tax credits, lavish homes for their executives, etc.

The state of Louisiana has been mega-polluted (at least in areas where oil companies have been doing their drilling [and dirty work]); so much so, that one state department disseminated educational information on how to cut up fish contaminated by mercury and other chemicals, and described what the least lethal part of the fish to eat. To this writer, this is a significant piece of evidence, showing how bad the pollution & devastation of land & water is in Louisiana. They all know it’s bad, but solutions seem to be in short supply.

As I’ve been reading through Hochschild’s book (I highly recommend the book to people who would like a peak into just how much collusion & looking the other way, has been done in Louisiana-mainly harming Louisiana’s residents), I’ve noticed one other paradox.
The Christian Church, for many Louisianans who’ve reaped the harsh consequences of the putrefaction & pollution, has been a mainstay in this oil-producing area of Louisiana.
Hochschild writes a great deal about attending one Pentecostal church; her observation was that practically any emotion known to humanity was demonstrated in the church service; this is characteristically true of many charismatic churches.

As I read about her experiences visiting these churches, in order to get another angle on this key social-connection-spiritual & social community, she concluded that the Church may be one effective means of interacting with organizations & services within the community; her goal was to interview parishoners to get their feelings about the community-wide suffering tethered to excavations for gas & oil, oil & gas refineries, dumped & poisoned chemicals, dips in prosperity to economic deprivation, health concerns, and concerns for the water & land in the area.

Many of these church’s ministries are geared to provide needed assistance to their community members, thus, they reiterate that this is what it means to be off the government dole, and seeking effective means to help oneself & others in their communities.

What’s paradoxical, in one sense, is that many folks who express their deep feelings & emotions within their church community, in general, they’re expressed in an environment where people feel safe and feel as though they can trust the church environment. This combo appears to give permission to them, to speak & reflect their own truth, about the feelings of their body-minds.

What actually confuses me the most is why the churches have been so much in bed with, and entered into an unwritten ‘covenant with corporations;’ why don’t they feel like the church can be one of the most proactive elements in Social Justice activism? Why aren’t they more open & active in expressing their anger in the direction of those who’ve hurt them? Why aren’t they more active when it comes to justice?

The way I read it, is that many Louisiana churches, in the heaviest hit areas of destruction, don’t seem engaged to “act on” the society around them, and change society for the better. It seems to me to be a ‘faith of resignation,’ rather than one where the agents of societal change are the changes they’re making.

For groups of people who’ve been burned & hurt by this vitiating partnership between church, government, and private industry, there’s also a concommitant element that usually is noticed as ‘a felt-body-sensation,’ as well as cognitive thoughts of dis-empowerment.

The poor, persons and/or communities of color, and the growing numbers of marginalized persons in our culture are probably the most frequent receivers of this type of dispiriting disempowerment.

This fact usually engenders feelings of fragility, vulnerability, a sense of being very limited, a sense of “overwhelmedness,” demoralization, and, ultimately despair & hopelessness in people’s minds & lives.

If a person is hyper-sensitive to others’ voices, there may be a kind of imaginary diagnosis that acts like a covering mask that conceals the hurt & rejection felt by someone-they feel sad, but they act as if everything’s OK. They “act” like it’s “business as usual.” In the same way, even though folks are expressing many emotions in their church, mosque, or temple-the positive emotions may also act like a covering mask for the pain they feel inside. For the feeling of disempowerment that gnaws at their own, inner dignity as a human being.

Each of us is the discoverer of our own sense of power, and how to use it.

Copy: CBB 11/02/2017