Archive for September, 2010


Hey YOU! Restore Appalachia.

Chapter three of the Appalachia Rising saga unfolded today in the Hart Senate Office Building. But first, let’s jump back to how I got there. If anything, it’ll paint the picture of life amidst rush hour as a DC res.

I leave the house a bit before 8:45 a.m. and speedily walk down the street towards the Columbia Heights metro station. As I step on the escalator, I have two choices: ride down on the right side or walk down the left side, thus getting me into the subway faster. I chose the later option. If you’re ever entering or leaving the DC subway, know that it is custom to ride on the right and walk on the left of an escalator. Otherwise, people get mad. Especially at peak rush hour times.

After putting some much-needed funds on my SmarTrip card, I ascend onto the platform aiming for Chinatown, the stop in which I will switch to the redline and shoot for the Judiciary Square stop.

When the car arrives, I pile on with everyone. Personal space doesn’t really exist on the metro during rush hour. But I get on anyway and finally arrive at Chinatown where I run around in a hurry because I realize I’m on the wrong side of the platform for Judiciary Square. Sometimes I surprise myself at how much I fit into city life. I get impatient and I sometimes have no trouble cutting people off or walking in front of them. I also walk fast a lot. Hmm.. is that bad?

Anyway, after all this craziness, I arrive in the office building and meet up with my group. We have a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled with a staffer from George Voinovich’s office. The staffer works on energy issues and some of the folks in the meeting with me know him. In fact, they know him well enough to know that his wife just had a baby and know to ask him about it at the beginning of the meeting. Props for the whole building a rapport thing! With me is a mother from Huntington, Wva. and her daughter and other folks who work at NGOs like me. The topic of discussion is the Appalachia Restoration Act. Basically it would define fill material so that coal cannot be dumped into waterways. Lobbying can either be fun or stressful. Today it was enjoyable. Since I’m from Ohio, I brought the constituency to the meeting. I emphasized that every environmental issue is really a human issue and that this was the perfect example. This bill would protect the drinking, bathing, etc. water of the people of Appalachia.

Here’s some information on taking action on this act: I Heart Mountains! Please please please take some action. Write a letter, draw a picture, say some prayers, and totally CALL. Pick up yo damn phone and CALL!

Here are some other random things I’ve found of interest today:

Shane Claiborne and the President of Goshen College talk about Jesus and patriotism.

Louisville Coal Ash Hearing

I went to a Bread and Puppet show tonight!

I’ve been listening to the Soil and the Sun.

Obama and Jesus.

This weekend was Appalachia Rising. And Appalachia definitely rose. A few thousand people gathered in the capitol this past weekend for a conference and a rally against mountaintop removal coal mining. The weekend was tiring and fun. Here are a few highlights:

The Beehive Collective. A grassroots art activist community based in Maine. They draw artwork on social issues. Now this conference was not the first time I had seen the Beehive Collective. I believe the first time was about a year and a half ago at Powershift 2009. I’ve always admired what they do. However their artwork can be overwhelming because it’s so intricate and complex (much how problems of this world are! Coincidence? Maybe not). I tend to spend a few moments looking at their work and then moving on to some other table to pick up some swag (stuff we all get) or something. However this time I decided to stop and listen as one of the artists told the story of their latest creation, “The True Cost of Coal.” I first learned that they new draw people because that would have the potential of portraying race, age, class, gender, etc. So instead they draw animals. She went through the entire painting which covered everything from colonization to the company store to miner activism to even green-washing! I loved that green-washing was a part of the painting because more people really need to be aware of it. The presentation really got me to look at each part and I was BLOWN away. I now have that poster hanging in my room. It’s definitely worth buying. I believe you can get it straight from their Web site: Beehive Collective. You can also get information on there about getting them to speak at your college if you’re in college. But please, order that poster! It may very well change the way you see some things. It may also make you cry (it did for me).

Faith-based organizing. I went to a session on this topic and it was so refreshing. There were a few Christian environmental organizations present at the conference. Check out Restoring Eden and Christians for the Mountains. Both organizations work within congregations and Christian colleges to organize them to take action around environmental issues. Christians for the Mountains is based in Appalachia and works specifically on mining issues while Restoring Eden works on a broader range of issues mostly with Christian colleges and some congregations. This session really got me thinking about my future. I’m definitely starting to feel a calling towards working within the church on environmental and social justice issues. And I’ve experienced a variety of denominations through my Catholic upbringing and the more evangelical and protestant churches I’ve been a part of in college. I feel as though I understand the language and traditions of a variety of Christian groups, so I’m less likely to judge or be turned off by different things. So that’s one of many possibilities I’ll have to discern throughout the year.

The third highlight was the rally on Monday. I awake around 8:20 a.m. and put on rainboots. It had been raining off and on, so the right shoes are key when I’m planning on being on my feet for at least four hours. My house guests and I eventually catch the bus clad in MTR gear and holding protest signs. I carry a white cross that says “lack of jobs” on it. At the Faith and Organizing session, they handed out crosses with things like “40% of streams destroyed” or “children in poverty” written on them. I really liked seeing the crosses throughout the crowd. It was so good to have a faith presence at the rally. I think I want to bring a cross to other protests I attend. After all, I do this stuff for Jesus.

We arrive at Freedom Plaza and join up with other activists. A few people play music and speak to the crowd. There was so much passion and you could just feel it. People who have been watching their home get destroyed for years ready to speak out and advocate for change. And people who had never lived in Appalachia but were there in solidarity because we all live down stream.

After the program at the plaza we headed for our march. I ran up into the middle of the crowd when the rally began with my cross chanting “Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!!” Our first stop was the Environmental Protection Agency. We chanted “EPA do your job” as we passed it. We stopped for a few minutes in front of their building and a few people spoke.

We then proceeded up 14th St. chanting “One, we are the people! Two, you can’t ignore us! Three, we will not let you blow up mountains!” That may have been one of my favorite chants of the rally.

We then gathered up in front of the White House and I met up with my housemate Rachel. This was the moment in which the people who were participating in civil disobedience i.e. risking arrest went and did their thing and the others watched, supported and cheered. Basically, if a group sits in front of the White House and refuses to move, they arrest you. However, if you’re peaceful about it, you spend maybe a night in jail at the most, your bail is low and you get a mark on your record equivalent to a traffic violation. We had sessions to prepare us for risking arrest at the conference, so everything went fine and smoothly. I hung around and watched as all 100 people got arrested. It was a big number but also tiring to watch everyone. It’s definitely a process having to arrest each person. Oh and the bus they used to take everyone to jail was one of those DC buses that reads “powered by natural gas” on the side. I wonder if that bus was strategically chosen for this rally.

Among the handful of rallies I’ve attended, this is probably one of my favorites. I’m lobbying tomorrow with George Voinovich. Please pray if you feel led.

Here are some stories about the rally:

CNN

AP

NPR

Louisville Courier-Journal

And check out Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s blog: KFTC!

Here are some photos:

Oh and then when I arrived back to the Maryknoll Office for a bit of work Monday afternoon, I get a call from my father. He tells me he’s been reading that people got arrested at this protest and that he “hopes I’m not one of them.” Oh, you gotta love parents.

Appalachia Rising

I square-danced with environmental activists at St. Stephens Episcopal Church tonight.

Five activists are couchsurfing with me.

There’s a civil disobedience on Monday where I could choose to risk arrest.

I’m pumped for this weekend: Appalachia Rising

More to come later.

P.S. Check out these great groups doing great things:

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Christians for the Mountains

Faith, Economy, Ecology

Mountain Justice

I Love Mountains

Coal River Mountain Watch

Tuesdays, ramblings, etc.

Hey folks,

So Tuesdays might be my favorite day of the week. Well at least for this next year.

Every Tuesday I work at Maryknoll from 9-12. I then return home, eat lunch and settle down in my living room for our Tuesday afternoon sessions. Our program director is conducting a variety of sessions each Tuesday from 1:30-3:30. Yesterday’s session was on working with the poor, racism, poverty, etc. It was led by a man in the Church of the Savior community. He had worked as a doctor and helped found Christ House, a hospital-like facility for homeless men. He also founded Joseph’s House, a hospice for people with AIDS. So his insight was very valued.

I really appreciated his honesty. He spoke about the frustrations that come along with working with people in poverty. About how you get frustrated at the people and start sort of believing the stereotypes that are out there. You know, that people just live on welfare and are lazy, etc. And I totally could relate. This was how I felt sometimes at my AmeriCorps position as a caseworker with the homeless.

But then he told a story about a young mother he saw one day. She was 14 and had a baby. The child was misbehaving and she just yelled at him and smacked him. At first, he was angry that she was treating the child this way. But then when you look at the bigger picture, things look a little different. Apparently her mother was a drug addict and she was passed from sibling to sibling all her life. Her mom had something like 7 or 8 siblings, so that had to not have been stable. Most of these siblings had substance abuse problems. She became sexually active at 11. In school, she never did well. So what they did at her school was put all the kids who didn’t perform well of all grades in one room and the teacher would act as more of a babysitter than a teacher.

So in looking at the bigger picture, he began to see that there were many factors and systemic things that kept this woman and her baby in poverty. Now I know, you may say that drugs are a choice. And I’m not saying that they’re not. But the chances of someone coming out of poverty when they’re in such an environment is pretty low. And at the end of the day, who am I to judge and say things like, “well, she can get out of it if she tries.” I’m not saying that that is impossible. However I’ve never lived in her situation so who am I to judge?

We then went on to discuss the history of ghettos, the prison system, public assistance, housing and other issues. We had quite an enlightening discussion. Overall, I’m learning a lot. The organization I’m working for really values research and often does not take a stance on an issue before really looking at the facts. And when they write, they write in a way in which they let the facts speak for themselves. I think that is the best. What I’m finding is that with a lot of issues there isn’t a clear cut answer. Or at least with legislation, there’s so much to it and so many facets. But you can never do too much research.

Anywho, here’s some other interesting things:

This was quite an intriguing story in the NY Times: Mind-blowing story

And this show is phenomenal: Woah It’s performed by a former Discipleship Year volunteer. It’s amazing. Go see it if you get the chance.

Saturdays

I’m gettin into a grove here. A routine. And I like it.

Yesterday was Saturday and for the third week in a row, I’ve done sort of the same thing. My alarm sounded at 9 am and of course I hit the snooze button a few times. I then rolled out of bed, put some clothing on and fixed myself up. I traveled downstairs where my housemates were sitting at the dining room table making lists. We compiled a grocery list and then Tamara, Rachel and I were off to the co-op and Farmer’s Market. We tried to get everything we could from our list at these two places. It’s great to buy local food. And shopping at the Farmer’s Market makes you just feel like you’re a part of the neighborhood. You’re part of a village.

The co-op is great too. There are a lot of like-minded people who are members as well. And now that we’re all members, we get to help with the harvest as well. Okay, not the actual harvest. However we are expected to work for a few hours every six weeks. And that’s not so bad to get quality food.

What I love is the walk. Mt. Pleasant doesn’t feel like the rest of DC. Mt. Pleasant Rd. is the main strip and it’s not a major road like 16th or Columbia or 18th, full of traffic and bar hopers at night. There are lots of cute little restaurants and shops. There’s definitely a big Hispanic population in the neighborhood, so you’ll probably find the best tacos in Mt. Pleasant. And then once you get into the more residential area, you’ll find beautiful homes. Some of them even have front yards. It’s just a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Mt. Pleasant really fits it’s name.

After our food adventure, I lugged a few re-usable bags full of produce back to the house. I must say, re-usable bags are the way to go for city shopping. One bag holds what would take maybe 5-6 plastic bags. And when you’re finished shopping, you just put it over your shoulder and walk home.

After a little break and some food at the house, Jessica and I board the metro and ride to Eastern Market, DC’s outdoor market. It’s only a little ways of a walk from the capitol. We have our fun perusing the booths and imaging what we may purchase if our stipend was larger. And then because we were close, we thought hey, why not go to the Library of Congress? Done!

The evening was spent talking with a housemate. I’m finding that one-on-one interactions are really the best for community building. It’s from these interactions that we come to understand one another and really know each other. The Lord keeps surprising me and bringing me joy through my community here.

So that’s what a Saturday looks like in DC. Before I know it, it’ll be Monday morning again.

Activism

The bottoms of my khaki dress pants slowly soak in the water from the freshly watered grass as I make my way to Constitution Ave. It’s the kind of wet grass that you feel in your feet and shoes. And not the kind you enjoy when you’re trying to do that whole professional thing. But nonetheless this was happening as I passed a group of coal miners in support of coal mining on my way to an immigration rally. If you know me at all, you’d be amused that I passed that sort of a rally.

I took my seat in a pew in the historic Lutheran Church of the Reformation amongst immigrants, religious leaders, families, community organizers and a myriad of other folks who make this county great. A variety of people speak including Jim Wallis from Sojourners, Senator Luis Guiterrez and Representative Robert Menendez. The Dream Act is up for a vote in the Senate next week. It’s being introduced by Senator Harry Reid as a part of the defense bill due to the military component of the Dream Act. A lot of peace activists are torn over this and I share their sentiments. But I suppose that’s how legislation is. It’ll never be 100% what you want because we’re a bunch of people and compromises have to happen and all that jazz. This is where I agree with the whole idea of not putting your entire faith in the government. Sure, as Christians we should be influencing policy where there are injustices. But at the same time, our faith lies in Christ and he gives us abundant life.

Overall, the theme was “relief, respect, reform.” (I may have gotten that out of order). Relief means no more families getting separated, people being treated unfairly, etc. Reform means legislation like the Dream Act but also Comprehensive Immigration Reform, legislation that will give undocumented immigrants a clear path to citizenship. All I know is that things need to change. People need to be treated fairly and we need to embrace our diversity.

After the speakers were finished, we left the church, ate lunch and proceeded to our afternoon actions. I went with a group of people to Senator John McCain’s office. About 40 of us crowded into his lobby area and spoke to one of his staffers. McCain used to support reform but now he does not and we came to urge him to come back to the table. We prayed and sung “This Little Light of Mine.” It was encouraging to be around such a great group of people.

Flash back a day and you’d find me sitting in the United Methodist building also on Capitol Hill. Two Ugandan religious leaders traveled to Washington, DC for a few days to speak to people and our government about the new legislation in regards to the Lord’s Resistance Army. If you don’t know, the LRA is a rebel group that has been waging war on Uganda for years. The U.S. has passed legislation to try and stop the violence and it includes some military force. The religious leaders came to America as proponents of peace because they see it as the only way. The U.S. tried using military force a few years back and it spread the LRA to Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. So people are wondering what is different now. Uganda is a tough situation and I can see both sides. I’m a big fan of peace. However I can see where people are coming from when they wonder if peace will work since the LRA is a crazy, rebel group. However I’m for peace because that’s what I feel called to be for.

So that’s it for now!

So tonight ended a saga. The food/chores saga. I’m beaming that it’s figured out for the most part. But it took a lot longer than I had expected.

So part of Discipleship Year means that I live with six other people for the year. Each month, we each put in a certain amount of money to the community fund for food and other needed household items. It sounds easy. Well, at least it sounded easy to me. Before I moved into the community, I envisioned the food conversation taking up maybe a few hours and then poof, it’d be finished. We’d just shop each week and we would all have nourishment. But I was wrong.

There was so much I overlooked at first. Where we shop is huge and after the discussion happened, it made so much sense to me. We have people coming from all different backgrounds. Some have been living on their own for a while and have used a community supported agriculture to get their food (a CSA is where you get a certain amount of produce delivered to you from an area farm each week). Others have just gotten out of college, so a meal plan is probably more familiar to them. Some are more comfortable in co-ops and farmers markets and others prefer the supermarket. And at first glance, this seems crazy. Judgement is liable to happen. People may feel their needs are not met or are overlooked.

So the second food talk we had, we began the discussion with everyone sharing their personal stories i.e. why they came to DC, where they are on their journey and what and why they care about certain things. Through this, the food differences began to make sense. Preferences often came from a deep place, a place of passion. And when I think about it now, it makes sense. I mean it’s food. Food is so crucial so of course people have their ways and concerns.

But to balance that out, we also came to the understanding that living in community means you don’t always get exactly what you want. If you want things to be about you, then don’t live in community. At the beginning, people were using the phrase “my money.” We came to the realization that that’s not healthy for community. Once each person puts their monthly amount in, it’s no longer theirs. And it can be a hard thing to let go, but that’s where faith in your community comes in. Of course, if there are specific things that certain people must have, that’s one thing. But the shopping list is a community thing, not something decided solely by one member. I really like what one of my community members said. We need to go from thinking “my money to our money to eventually God’s money.” To get into the idea we need to be a good steward of said community money.

Tonight we had our final meeting to iron out the process. We came to a compromise on the whole local/grocery store food issue. And I have the job of list master! Each week people are to get their requests to me for the next week. I will then distribute said list to shopper and he or she will have a budget. I will detail why each food is on the list, that way the shopper can make judgement calls if the list ends up going over budget.

So for the most part, things have been ironed out. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more as we shop and see how the process works. It’s sort of like the constitution and amendments. We have a process but there’s always room to change it if needed.

Oh and the cleaning talk was way shorter in comparison to food. We just wrote down chores and divided them up. Sigh. That was a relief.

I’m glad the food talk happened as it did. While it was painful at times, I felt it helped us to grow as a community. And now I know.. food isn’t super simple.

So much

Hey readers,

Wow.. life has traveled fast. Moving in seems like yesterday. Fast forward about 14 days and you’ll find a Nina sitting on the second floor of a row house in DC, half Facebooking and half blogging.

A lot has changed. This is now the sixth time I’ve held the title of intern. When is Nina going to make money, you’re probably asking. Ha, good question. Of course this internship has many awesome benefits.. living in the district, living in community, taking seminary-like classes (Servant Leadership School!), etc. I’m interning through a year-long service program where all the essentials are covered in a monthly stipend (housing, heath insurance, food, personal spending, etc.) So don’t worry about me folks. I can eat and I eat pretty well. I’m also now a saucy city biker and I commute to work on my pedals. I have six new roommates, ages ranging from 22-36. I’ve also worshipped at a few new churches.. New Community Church in the Shaw neighborhood, the Festival Church and the Friends of Jesus Church. All are through Church of the Savior. Oh and now I’ve attended a few rallies as a resident. I attended two very different rallies last Saturday. I’ll let you guess which ones 😉

Orientation week ended Tuesday and now I’m in the grind. I wake up around 7:45 am every day and am out the door at 8:30 am on my bike, dodging cars and getting a workout. What I do each day at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns varies from day to day. So Maryknoll as an organization is an order of sisters, brothers and fathers in the Catholic church and then lay missioners. There are people serving in America and abroad. The office I’m working for was created as a way for Maryknoll to influence global policy as many of the missioners see changes that need to happen every day but can’t really advocate for them being miles and miles from Washington. So that is my job!

In some ways, part of my job is doing what I already do. I already try to stay up-to-date with current global events. I’m already on e-mail listservs for tons of groups working on social justice issues. And I’m already looking out for rallies to attend about the issues I care about… most of which are in line with what Maryknoll advocates for. And I’m allowed to attend rallies as a part of my work day. Awesome!

Another cool part of my job is that I get to blend writing and communication with advocacy and activism. I’ve always said I would love to do writing and communications for a non-profit, specifically a faith-based advocacy organization in Washington DC. And now that dream has come true! Thank you, Lord! Thank you! You are good 🙂

Now I’m really craving a bowl of cereal. So I must do that.

Love,

Nene

Ps. I got a camera. I still need a memory card though. But look forward to blogs with pictures in the future.