Category Archives: Strange days

Baraka SoS

How to convey the oeuvre of Nairobi? The fulminating heap of humans tumbling through their dusty days, industrious as army ants. NBO JamSpeed bumps and pedestrians crossings on freeways. Gridlocked traffic into town all day. I’ve developed an aversion to traveling anywhere in a vehicle, knowing that I will sit in the heat and exhaust for up to 45 minutes, no matter the ‘real’ time of a journey. So I walk a lot.

We are making steady progress in reviewing and refining all the systems at Baraka Women’s Center, as well as making new connections with potential funders. I am ever humbled by the power of relatively small amounts of money here. One woman to whom I gave the equivalent of ten dollars tearfully launched into a lengthy prayer of gratitude.  Baraka indeed gathers in the lost and the hopeless; the energy of inclusion in this community is a miracle to behold. To belong is to have new power, new hope, even joy. A safe gathering place matters, and that’s what the Center provides.

Yesterday, twenty-five women gathered to mark the seventh anniversary of the Center, as well as to celebrate the graduation of the vocational program trainees.  Our food offering was peanut butter sandwiches (would have been plain bread had I not brought peanut butter) and cake.

BWC Staff and trainers
BWC Staff and trainers

This and other daily events painfully remind me that I came mostly empty handed. No month can pass without an infusion of cash; BWC has not located its August infusion. Shifting BWC into ‘thrive’ mode takes money. It means reallocating  some of our wealth to women with the greatest needs, to those who can set things right in the long haul.

$10 transforms a woman’s life for a week.

Add zeros and the prospects for the sisterhood grow exponentially.

What will move you to contribute what you can?  

Career Busting in the Age of #MeToo

“Cruel and Unusual Punishment” is the title of Lionel Shriver’s excellent essay in the February 2019 issue of Harper’s.  He ponders how charges of sexual predation leveled at men, whose works are considered significant cultural contributions, are ending their careers.

Among those mentioned: Louis C.K. (new film withdrawn before scheduled American release, HBO series dropped), Bill Cosby (“sentenced not only to ten years [in prison] but to cultural near- oblivion”), Garrison Keillor (Minnesota Public Radio ended broadcasts of his Writer’s Almanac, and re-broadcast of  The Best of A Prairie Home Companion), and painter Chuck Close (a major retrospective ‘indefinitely postponed’).

But what of the women who have suffered possibly years of career-impinging depression and anxiety due to men’s violations?  How do we judge that the loss of their contributions would be any more or less than those of the accused?

In the 21st Century, we are fighting off (still) The Great Silence: women have suffered such predations for centuries. Their violations once were considered not a trampling of of rights but the loss of their value as a marriageable commodity.

Silence no longer an option

It’s no news to most women that men of all levels of accomplishment have been culturally permitted a level of sexual entitlement.  Most of us are fully aware that the tether holding men to respectful behavior toward women is indeed fragile and unpredictably loosened.

Being called out is not an aberration, but a signal that the pattern of male entitlement cannot stand. If their fame has not taught these men a modicum of restraint in the internet age, then shouldn’t they take a fall?

Eventually female predators alsowill end up with their heads on stakes outside the gates of our citadel of “too much information.” The work of re-balancing gender power takes no prisoners.

The Torture of Our ‘Safety Net’

I’ve known a woman (I’ll call her B), who has worked a good part of her life as caregiver.   She has no living family, she does not own a car.  She usually lives where she works, often on the overnight shift to serve the needs of a patient.

One gig was caring for a women confined to a wheelchair in an advanced stage of a degenerative disease.  B noticed the women on day shift spent more time on their phone and watching TVs than the spent caring for the patient. She reported her concerns about the quality of care;  the company that had assigned her promptly fired her.

She got another job with a facility that houses people with mental illness.  Soon enough, her employer became verbally abusive in virtually every interaction, withheld her paychecks on a whim, and did not provide the house with sufficient food. Her stress level skyrocketed, as did her blood pressure.  She suffered what was probably minor strokes on two occasions.  The most recent one, on Christmas Eve, put her in the intensive care for a couple of days.  She was diagnosed with kidney disease  Her vision began deteriorating and is now about 80% reduced.  When she returned to work, her boss harangued her about missing days and accused her of lying about being in the hospital.  He fired her, then allowed her to stay, then fired her again, with two weeks’ notice. He refuses to give her last paycheck until she leaves.

il_570xN.1193079674_d4bnB has been on the phone every day looking for shelter space, of which the county has precious little. She applied for Med-Cal and now has coverage, but only with certain providers.  Her doctor ordered a CT scan. But she can’t get that without lab work, and she can’t get that without an appointment. “And the scheduler just left for the day.” More calls to people who cannot or will not help in the way their job title suggests they might.

A homeless services group wanted her to come in for ‘training’ before she got on the list for a shelter space. She might be eligible for hotel vouchers from Social Services, but that’s not assured.  Call Social Services and you hear the message “We are experiencing heavy call volume, please call back later” – ALL day. She will have to get there without a car, money, or much ability to see, and hope she finds what she needs.

She not a drug abuser or chronically homeless, but now she’s disabled. She will be homeless in two days.

She’s caught up in a trifecta of fuckups among systems we pay our taxes to support.  How did so much inefficiency and dismissiveness take over?

Truth is, many of us are a paycheck or two from the street – a hell I would not wish on anyone. None of this uncertainty would be necessary if the State’s considerable wealth were fairly distributed by forward-thinking people.  Yeah – how naive!  But those of us who want to live in a more just and compassionate world must find ways to help untangle our social ‘safety net.’

More coming…

Baffling sights, aural delights, and notable encounters of 2018

Navigating life is a daunting challenge most of the time, to say nothing of the considerable regular effort required to behave like a competent, contributory human being.

I do not have a television, having abandoned the device and the medium ten years ago in an effort to firewall my thinking, to improve my experience of a day.  Avoiding the mawkish, trite, corporate free-for-all of advertising relieves me of some anxiety.  If I feel a need to escape, I watch movies without commercials.

Without the clutter of factoids about shootings and disasters, money- or sex-related scandals, political embarrassments and rumors delivered by TV news, which is sandwiched among depressingly un-nuanced dramatic shows and unfunny comedies, I’m able, on more occasions, to be more attuned to observing and listening to the lives and life around me. It’s never boring.

Oakland, California where I live:

Plagued by a volatile racial divide. Some days it cools and softens with the balm of open relaxed conversations or random acts of humanity.

Too many people wandering across busy streets against the light and with no fear.  Suicide by random passer-by.  John George, the psychiatric facility where adults experiencing severe and disabling mental illnesses may commit themselves or be committed, has patients sleeping on mats on the floor in a dorm, unsheltered from each other, medicated but unhealed.

The upcoming Women’s March, spending an obscene amount of money on an events that is unlikely to produce any timely or tangible assistance to swelling ranks of women on the margins of our community,  where domestic violence shelters are always full, too many women have not completed high school, do not know how to use computers, and virtually stagger through their days under the burden of traumas rooted in their poverty.

The City’s infested with the cheap scooters that expose riders without helmets to head injuries and pedestrians without warning to vehicular assault.

The losing battle in West Oakland against graffiti and random trash piles. Not much sense that this is a neighborhood worth valuing. We need to change that.

On the plus side:

white unbrella fungi on tree CU
photo by David Lent

The Yuba River still flows with enormous power; a hike in the forest in the riot of furry mosses and spritely fungi and elegant ferns and nude oaks that have lain down rugged brown carpets on ochre clay – that resets a weary soul.

Women’s issues steadily are gaining traction in the public conversation, suggesting more action to correct the inequities and predations on women that are inherent in our society.

 

I’ve discovered the amazing music of Jessica La Rel  http://www.jessicalarel.com/  

ODI Dance Kenya   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqmIT3dVQyY   

Sol Development   http://soldevelopmentmusic.com/

JAX (Haiti)   https://www.facebook.com/pg/jaxmusic4/about/

WCI and I survived and rebooted after soul-busting betrayals by trusted women.  New strong allies are arriving with reassuring regularity.

Several extraordinary women I know through Oakland Women’s Center have become wonderful friends.  I cherish my connection with them. Black and white women have more than they usually realize to offer each other.

My next book is coming out in January:  Trouble Ahead:  Dangerous Missions with Desperate People

3D-coverIt’s a compilation of journals – commentary from my numerous missions in East Africa and the birth stories of Women’s Centers International.

Publication announcement to come.

After the holiday slack-off, I’ll be ready again to advance WCI in serving the women who need it most.

Liget…And Howl We Do It

Here’s  a new concept in human emotion:  liget.

The term comes from a story on Invisibilia (NPR) about a couple who visited a remote tribe in the Philippines. “Liget” is the tribe’s word for a kind of distress combining rage and sadness.

Liget may well express the emotions women often feel and seldom understand or discuss.  It’s that galling sense of having little value, of putting up with a lot of shit from society in general, most men in particular, and other women on occasions of betrayal.

Liget is the word I needed for Howl We Do It, my nascent campaign to develop unity in protesting and changing the inequities and violence directed against women.

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 11.26.14 AM

Here’s how the pros do it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IaYm3NjJnM

If you want to keep informed on the Howl We Do It movement, please email me at HowlWeDoIt@gmail.com