White People as Individuals

Note: No blog post next week for mid-winter/mid-Feb break. Feel free to check the archives and catch up on old posts during the break. You can also visit our friends at Nonprofit AF if you want to read some other fun posts.


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Artwork display: Welcome to Entitlement, seen at Seattle Univ, May 2018

I’ve been sitting on this topic for a few weeks. Heidi suggested it as a topic and I’ve been marinating on it. As a person of color, and especially as an Asian I’ve been socialized to think about the group and the collective. As a child in classrooms and at home the messages were: “how will this affect others?,” “what does the group want to do?”. All of these messages shaped me into the person I am today. These messages were engrained in being Asian, think about others – group needs. Don’t get me wrong, my individual needs were met and I don’t feel I sacrificed from having to think about others.

It wasn’t until I was older and moved to Seattle that I understood where individualism shows up. I currently work in education advocacy. In so many of the hot button education topics individualism shows up. People show up and say: “My kid isn’t being served because they are super smart and get bored in a regular classroom,” “My child can’t excel because of this ‘inequity’,” “I really need this…” In the advocacy world we coach and encourage people to use personal stories, stories make abstract concepts stick. Yet there is a point where this individualism isn’t good for advancing racial equity – we forget that there are many others who need more and our individual needs aren’t always the greatest inequities. Those often needing more are silent.

“The white women are very comfortable”

A few years ago, I was in sitting with CiKeithia. She leaned over to me and whispered, “The white women are very comfortable here.” A white women had just noticed a buzzing sound and interrupted the flow of the presentation mentioned it to everyone. She wasn’t obnoxious or loud about mentioning it, but she felt comfortable pointing it out to the entire meeting. The room went with it because we have been socialized to allow white people comfortable and for their needs to be prioritized. Many of the POCs noticed it as well, but we didn’t interrupt or call attention to it since it was in the background and there was a meeting going on.

A friend, who is a racial equity trainer, mentioned in her training sessions how a white person will interrupt her to ask to have the activity changed because they don’t like a piece of it. Another friend is a high school teacher and told me how one of her students informed her that he changed the assignment because he didn’t want to do it the way she assigned it. He threw a high school version of a tantrum when she said he couldn’t just make changes without checking with her first. Never mind that both of my friends, as educators carefully thought through their lesson designs and thought about how to reach the largest number of people and supporting the group. As my other friend Carrie says: “When we design for everyone, we design for no one.” These stories illustrate how people think about themselves as individuals and not seeing themselves as part of a collective with greater needs over themselves.

White culture is built upon individual accomplishments and praising the individual, and at the same time denial or separation when convenient. Recently listening to NPR I heard an interview with a voter from Iowa. Towards the end of the interview Anita, the interviewee, said “Well, I don’t think I’m racist, but, sometimes, I say the wrong thing. … But no, I don’t think I’m racist because I know too many people of different backgrounds.” What I heard was “me” and seeing herself as an individual versus associating with others who have similar beliefs – a lot of proving her individualism is important.

White people it is ok for you to be uncomfortable for a while. You don’t need everything tailored to your individual needs. You don’t need to speak in every meeting or to speak to fill silence. It is ok to be part of the collective and not fight to be seen.

As an exercise to help you notice this dynamic, the next time you listen or watch the news gauge how many stories about white people as individuals, then look at the stories about people of color and how they are portrayed. The recent news around the coronavirus is an example – the collective of Chinese people vs. the individual European or Americans (often white) who are being interviewed.

In meetings how often do white people ask for changes and what are the changes? Are POCs as comfortable speaking up and asking and suggesting changes?

At another time I’ll explore how POCs can and should be seen as individuals and not always as a group. Before I write that one though I need to practice naming my own needs as an individual – Heidi another get together soon? I need some help figuring it out. You can practice naming your needs too and then we’ll group accomodate.


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Perfectionism — We Can’t Wait for Perfect

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Student artwork at Rainier Beach High School, 2018-2019

I was planning to write about another topic tonight, but decided to pivot after spending an evening with students at Seattle University’s Masters for Not-for-Profit Leadership program – Redhawks! My colleague and friend Jon is teaching a class on public policy. In his opening, he talked about how public policy is never race-neutral and how we need to operationalize racial equity principles and values. Through our time tonight, I threw a lot of new information at the students. I watched as they processed the new information trying to make sense of a lot of new content very quickly and reflect on what it means to them personally and professionally (apologies for overwhelming you).

As we closed Jon talked about how important it is to not let perfectionism stop us. Jon explained the aim for perfectionism, is built on racist notions of white supremacy. I’ll elaborate: white people know best, white people have the answers, white people are in charge, therefore, their answers are perfect and all-knowing, white people can solve poc problems. I also told the students this shows up as internalized oppression for pocs – we feel the pressure of having to get things perfect because we only get one chance to be heard, we have to be perfect because we represent all pocs, we have to be perfect because our elders and ancestors never got the chances we have, we have to be perfect for other pocs (group over self), etc. All of this is false, white people aren’t perfect nor should they put that on themselves, and pocs we don’t have to be perfect all the time, that is too much pressure and unachievable.

Perfectionism is a Myth

What I forgot to tell the students is perfectionism in racial equity work is a myth. There is never a perfect time, a perfect way, perfect circumstance. Racism keeps conditions chaotic as to have the upper hand. This is what racism and chaos look like:

  • Fractured communities so we don’t have the perfect coalition and conditions to work together.
  • Using one community of color or a subset of people of color to create a wedge issue and point to that group as the ‘model-minority.’
  • Saying there isn’t enough time to do something to work towards an equitable outcome.
  • Rushing a process to keep the project on-time, thus leaving out people of color who aren’t already in the know.

We can use all of these and millions of other excuses to say we shouldn’t start something, but they are just the types of excuses allowing institutional and systemic racism to prevail.

The second myth I forgot to bust is perfectionism exists in racial equity work. We ALL mess up when doing racial equity work. It is impossible to be right all the time. If you’re doing equity and justice-based work you will screw up, and that is a good thing (sort of) – it means you are engaged, learning, trying, testing boundaries, and pushing boundaries. Race is an ever-changing construct. What was ‘right’ even five years ago is now outdated thinking and terminology. There is no perfection, instead, it is important to be a learner and to learn from mistakes.

The myth of perfectionism shouldn’t stop you from trying. I’ve seen and heard many people, especially white people, refuse to engage in conversations around race because they are afraid to say the wrong thing and called out. I’ve had to sit through many awkward and frustrating conversations because the presenter felt the weight of perfectionism and therefore kept the presentation too safe, refusing to name the problems we were supposed to be talking about. Instead, they use coded language, rather than saying words such as race, Black people, white supremacy, Asian, Latinx, Native American, disabled, etc. You may say the wrong thing, but if you are open to learning and not a total jerk many people will allow you grace, if they do practice humility and acknowledge your mistake.

Normalizing imperfection

A lot of racial equity work, coalition building, and community engagement work is iterative – building from itself and correcting errors and omissions along the way. Imperfections, and correcting the imperfections as we move forward is better than not having any work done.

This isn’t an excuse for mainstream organizations and white people to plow ahead with work saying, “I have to do something and I’ll ask for forgiveness later.” As an example, I once saw a white presenter do a Native land acknowledgment that went bad. The presenter hadn’t done their homework and was reading off a pre-written script. The presenter stumbled on the Tribal Nation’s names, didn’t acknowledge several non-Federally recognized Tribes from the area, and it was clear they were making the acknowledgment for woke-points. In this case, a little more time to get the acknowledgment perfect would have been well-spent.

At the end of Jon’s class tonight, I asked everyone to pause and write down one action they can take to act on their new knowledge. One student said he would make a donation to an organization he feels advocates effectively for causes he cares about, another person said he was reaching out and checking in on colleagues who are apprehensive about a work situation, and another person said she would use her position to influence whose voices are heard in an upcoming video her organization is producing with the hopes of including more Latinx and Spanish speaking voices. These small acts are important to creating a larger change. These doing somethings may not be perfect, but they are better than doing nothing. People of color can’t wait for perfection, we need justice now.

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Seattle U, Pigott

Special thanks to Jon and his class for welcoming me and sparking this post. Light the nonprofit world on fire — be the change we need in the sector. Go Redhawks!


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Advocacy Matters, But so does How We’re Treated

Editor’s note: February is Black and African American History Month. Take a moment to read and learn more about Black and African American history and voices. Here is one website: Black Youth Project. h/t Kaleb G. for sharing this website.


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Tracie Ching – Democracy is Solidarity, artwork from Amplifer Art

In my job, I spend a lot of time advocating. My advocacy doesn’t always look like traditional advocacy of being in legislative bodies, testifying, or rubbing elbows in the grand halls of the state capitol or city hall. I do this sometimes, admittedly not as much as I sometimes feel I should, but I don’t think we all need to prescribe to the same methods of advocacy that works for white people or white communities.

In our current system of advocacy loud voices that show up and repeatedly show up gain attention. This is a time-proven model in our US government. Persistence and numbers pays off. We currently know which communities benefits – privileged (I use this term loosely) communities who can afford time, resources, and voice to their causes. Who is left behind are communities furthest from justice – People of Color (POCs), people with disabilities, non-English literate/speaking, etc. The traditional systems of advocacy are not built for, designed for, nor even remotely tries to accommodate people of color.

Many POCs know how to navigate the system or we can easily learn the rules of the game. With a little reading, asking around, or watching others we can figure out how to sign up to testify, how to read bill summaries, how to reach our legislators. There are training programs that teach people how to do this, my organization even runs a successful train-the-advocate like program. But this doesn’t mean we are treated well or even heard.

Recently several friends, who are parents and seasoned advocates at the local level, decided to advocate against a Washington State bill that would privilege mostly white upper-class students. To prep for their day in Olympia (Washington’s state capitol) they did their research, I reached out to a friend who is a policy analyst and knows Olympia processes better than I do to find out how to sign in to testify, where to find the committee hearing room, and other tidbits of info. My friend even shared her cellphone number so they could text if they needed help navigating the capitol. They were set and eager to advocate.

They made the trek from Seattle to Olympia, about an hour to two hour drive, depending on traffic. The group found the room, signed in to testify, even found my friend who helped us prep. The legislators didn’t allow the public to testify, they said they ran out of time. They spent a lot of the committee meeting time hearing from other policymakers and professionals – all valid, but it was deeply disappointing for this set of parents who invested time and energy to show up. Their lived experiences and beliefs weren’t heard, they were told they could email in their testimony. They played the game and the game shut them out. Will they want to show up again in Olympia, I don’t know.

Policymakers of all sorts (this includes principals, administrators, executives, etc.) preach “come we need to hear from you,” “we want to know what you’re thinking,” those who show up get what they need, etc. Yes, AND when the game doesn’t love you back or hear you, how willing would you be to show up again and again and again if you’re constantly shut out.

Why I don’t play the advocacy game

Today over breakfast, I was telling a colleague, there are many times I refuse to ‘advocate’ or send people into advocacy situations where I know they won’t be centered, cared for, or will generally be uncomfortable. My street cred and reputation won’t last forever. There are many times I know we must be uncomfortable to create the changes. But at the same time, it is difficult for me to ask others to voluntarily put themselves into positions where they could be dismissed, have to fight to be heard, or tokenized. We need to change the way systems work to allow advocates, especially advocates of color, to be heard.

A while ago I told a friend I often decline to sit on task forces, nor will I ask people in my network to sit on most task forces. There is a predictable formula for task forces – they are over stacked with special interest (who fought to get a task force and issue raised), racial equity practices are not infused nor operationalized, and privilege takes over. I also tell people to take their expectations and lower it by 2/3, that will realistically be about what will be accomplished by the task force.

For POCs serving on mainstream task forces the burdens are even greater. We are often expected to serve as representatives of our communities and we are the token or ‘twoken’ voice of pocs. While serving on task forces is a great way to advocate for specific changes I’m not convinced it is the most effective way for pocs to make change. The current structures are not designed to support poc voices.

How to be advocates

In order to be more effective advocates, we need to change the structures and rules of engagement and bend them towards being poc friendly. A few months ago, I told a colleague-friend about my past task force experience and how I am very careful with who I suggest serve on task forces. I forgot about this conversation, but my friend was listening. When we caught up recently over a Korean deli lunch, she told me she recently put together a task force and purposefully reworked the recruitment mechanism to more fairly balance voices. She wanted to ensure poc voices would be included and to keep loud special interest groups from taking over; to achieve this she didn’t use traditional recruitment mechanisms and is testing having people apply in mix-cohort teams. By changing the system she’s creating new ways for advocates to enter the system. My advocacy without being an ‘advocate’ created a structural change – relational advocacy is important to create long term changes.

We also need our allies to realize the mainstream systems suck. Showing up and testifying for two-minutes at a board, committee, council meeting isn’t comfortable for many – nor is it a meaningful way to build dialogue and relationships. Being in relationships with communities is important. Advocacy doesn’t always have to be testifying, lobbying, or showing up at legislative bodies – these are important, but they are just one aspect of the overall advocacy arena.

Changing structures to hear more from people furthest from justice isn’t hard when you stop to think about it. It often means shifting prioritizes and saying no to certain things and yes to others.


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Lunar New Year – Your Fortune (un)Told

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Image by Vlad Vasnetsov from Pixabay

This weekend is Lunar New Year’s. Also known as Tết Nguyên Đán or shorten to Tết in Viet Nam (which I recently learned is the more correct spelling is in two words), Seollal (Korean), or Chinese New Years.

Over happy hour earlier this week Heidi said we need a funny post, or rather our friend Vu who blogs over at Nonprofit AF keeps telling us we’re too serious and need to be funnier. This week we will not be funny-funny like Vu, but we will give you your Lunar New Year’s fortunes, which are totally fake since I’m not an astrologer. The bigger point is sometimes we need friendly reminders to not take all of work seriously, culture influences the way we think, and for the Asian community Lunar New Year is a HUGE thing so enjoy it with us.

If you like this post thank Heidi for the idea, it was conceived over beer brewed by Metier, a Black-owned company. Check them out and ask for their beer at your local taphouse.

How the Zodiac kinda-sorta works

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Image by D. Aida from Pixabay

Since it is Lunar New Year season and it is the ONE Asian-y holiday on western calendars I make sure we capitalize on it. In my house, there’s been a steady stream of Chinese New Years and Lunar New Year picture books. Colleagues have talked about where to buy red envelopes, and the superstitions we need to uphold (no haircuts, eat and be merry, go to the Temple, etc.). To learn more about Lunar New Year, check out last year’s post.

The Chinese Zodiac has 12 animals assigned to it with each animal having a year. My kid loves books talking about how the animals raced and cajoled to get their assigned order. Each animal embodies certain characteristics which are passed down to people born in those years. I’m born in the year of the horse. If you ask my parents, they say I stomp my feet when I’m mad, like a horse does. To find out what Zodiac animal you are visit here.

Rat — This is the Year of the Rat. Rats are known to be clever and funny. During this year, use your cleverness to root out inequities. Your fortune, at least according to one website says: great opportunities will come your way in 2020! However, it is entirely up to you on whether or not you take them. The best time to make a change in your life is within the first three months of the year.” Remember to use your great ‘opportunities’ to examine your privileges and use your cleverness and humor to support communities of color.

Ox — Those born in the year of the Ox attain their fortune through hard work and persistence. They are known as steadying forces when the world is in chaos, or as some would say they are stubborn and can be a killjoy. In 2020, your luck should take a turn for the better – including in love and work. Why not use this goodness to get unstuck in your thinking about race, racial equity, and other social constructs. Take your good-lovin’ and share it with your POC communities. Push your luck and call in colleagues and friends to learn more about race.

Tiger — Prowling tiger waiting to pounce. The Year of the Rat, 2020, will be a year to coast – your luck will be stable (according to the internet). Since you’ll be coasting, why not ride that wave into a new volunteer endeavor where you can build a new relationship with a community of color. Tigers are known for their humanitarian instincts. If picking up a new volunteer job is too much of a commitment, then do one kind act for another cause related to a community of color. Your luck will change by sharing your fortune with others.

Rabbit — You adorable, gracious, and good-mannered bunnies will not do well in the year of the rat. But take heart this means it is a year for you to hunker down and concentrate on you. While you are at times moody, take this moodiness and realize the world isn’t about you and learn to share with others in your community. This sharing isn’t just about material goods, which you have a natural affinity for making money, but really it is about being in a cross-racial community.

Dragon — Dragon people are as mythical and magnanimous as they sound. They are often eager and full of energy that is rarely contained. In this year of luck and fortune and being a doer by nature, fight the urge to speak for others, instead pause and listen. In your career pursuits, your instincts and feelings are often right, use this energy and no not become complacent in allowing racism to slide by. Also take some of your boundless energy and clean up your desk and room.

Snake — People born under the sign of the snake are often skeptical and a bit secretive, and ambitious. The Year of the Rat will be a good one for wealth making for snakes. If this is true for you, reinvest your wealth in communities of color – this can mean making donations to POC led and embedded organizations, shopping at POC businesses, etc. If you have decision making control within your wealth making enterprises, work to change your hiring and promotion practices to ensure POCs have a fair chance at the same wealth as prosperity as you snake people.

Horse — Ok, horse people it is time for us to buckle down and play nice. 2020 and the Year of the Rat is opposite of the horse on the zodiac. This year we need to be nice, help others, and be disciplined. As high-spirited horses, this is the year to give up all of our negative thoughts and bad habits – embrace the racial equity light and admit you don’t know everything. Learn humility in the Year of the Rat.

Sheep — This is a year of transformation. Since you are often called the good Samaritans of the zodiac and are often sincere and righteous with a bleeding heart, transform yourselves into being champions for anti-racist behaviors. Be positive and others will follow your lead, if they don’t take your rams head horns and headbutt them.

Monkey — Monkeys are known as the inventors and motivators of the Chinese zodiac. This year you will be eager to pursue change. Make sure this change is inline and motivated by a desire to work for social good and in line with your racial equity values. Use some of your energetic ways and social calendaring to support poc causes. If you are out entertaining stop by a poc owned restaurant or taphouse, don’t just swing aimlessly around hoping the right thing will find you, be thoughtful and a little playful in line with your monkey spirit.

Rooster — This will be an emotional year for you. Feelings are good when you can understand them. If you are feeling a little fragile and tender around race and social identities, take a moment to acknowledge it and find a friend to explore those feelings. Don’t let those feelings explode on a poc. Don’t puff your chest and crow like you self-assuredly know everything, be part of the flock and say “ok, it is my turn to let someone else lead while I learn.”

Dog — Likeable dog will have a good year if you are open-minded and flexible. Use your innate intelligence and honesty to learn more about others and the communities around you. Your natural tendency to guard and protect those you like is an important quality in community building. Use this to help others who may be further from justice.

Pig — Pigs will have more freedom this year and feel more productive. Take some of that productivity and freedom and channel it into feeling just a little uncomfortable, by this we mean challenge yourself to try to understand a social problem from a new angle.

Have a happy and safe lunar new year. Eat some nian gao, go to Chinatown and pick up some delicious food and watch all the dragon and lion dances. To my Asian relations – Gung he fat choy, happy Tet, and Selloal.

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Let’s talk about gendered language

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Artwork from Amplifer Art — Rommy Torrico, “Realizing Democracy is a year-long learning series led by The Ford Foundation reimagining the relationship among civil society, government, and the economy — and asking what it would take to realize the full promise of democracy in the United States. To learn more and engage, visit realizingdemocracy.org.”

Note: Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Please take a moment to learn about the civil rights leader and his impact on our communities. If you are in Seattle the NW African American Museum has an event — King Day, a great chance to learn more and support our Black and African American community. 


I’m about to wade into a topic I don’t know a lot about. Learning about gender and its impact on society and communities is a social construct I have a lot of learning to do. Many generous people have helped me become aware of the importance of gender, and in particular gender in language. With this new awareness comes a need to learn more, admit what I don’t know, and to practice learning. I’m veering a little off my normal topics of race, since gender is another important topic for me and many others to think about and grow into better practices.

This blog post isn’t about gender pronouns. Other people have written more extensively on that topic, please read some of the articles and use people’s pronouns.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed I use a lot of gendered language. There are many times I default to saying “you guys,” or other obviously male/female language. When I write I’ve slipped in words such as manpower, dude, freshman, actor, landlord, etc. In some ways all of these words denote men/male. Such as manpower, clearly says ‘man’ when I should say staffing power or person power instead. The words landlord and actor are a little less gendered but I included them since they are the male version of the words that have become commonplace in our English language – actor vs actress, landlord vs landlady. Freshman, is a very common term to denote a first-year student or first year in a position, the ‘man’ in the word skews towards thinking about men/males.

Defaulting to certain words that denote gender automatically and underhandedly creates power and sometimes class imbalances. Such as saying chairman implies men, including white men, are at the top. Gender laced words also leave out people who do not fall into the female/male binary, such genderfluid, intersex, or transgender people.

Why this matters

Recently, I was looking at some data point about teaching gender and sexuality in schools. A percentage of survey respondents said they don’t want schools teaching about gender and sexuality. As I read this data point, I thought, “Do they realize gender and sexuality are being taught every day whether they like it or not?” Every day children are exposed to gender-norms and terminology when they hear someone say, “Boys and girls,” “that is a boy toy,” “girls can do anything.” All these phrases are seemingly innocent, but they unmistakably are teaching messages about gender, gender roles, and feel inclusive or othering to different people. This doesn’t just happen in schools. Online shopping, there are often categories such as “boy clothes,” “girl toys,” etc. These beliefs are everywhere. Just like race, not talking about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact our daily lives.

In some cultures and languages, gender is interwoven into the language or alternatively not. When I was learning to speak and read Japanese, the honorific is gender-neutral, such as Miyagi-san when referring to Mr. Miyagi in the movie the Karate Kid. In English we would use Mr., Ms., etc. having to choose the appropriate title to go with gender. My friend James gave me a mini-lesson Vietnamese language. He explained in the Vietnamese language we have to think about age and positionality as well as gender in referring to others and substitute the word “I” for the speakers positionality. As James explained in this example he would say: “Hi older sister Erin, what time should younger brother call older sister to follow-up?” These cultural nuances are important and equally important to understand why some people might appear to be resistant to change, but really the language and culture change being asked for is a very new concept and sometimes the language and cultural norms need to change as well.

The language we use sends messages about who is included and not included. This can have real implications in who we hire, who feels included in classrooms, healthcare, positions of leadership.  Saying phrases like “boys and girls” sends a message on who is in a position of power, who is included and isn’t, and so on. In a job description saying he/she, may unintentionally screen out many qualified applicants. Or listing in a job description “generous maternity leave,” doesn’t feel very inclusive to many families without ‘mothers.’ I remember seeing a Facebook post by a POC organization advertising for a new Executive Director. In their posting they added the hashtags #womenofcolor and #mothersofcolor. By adding these hashtags they may have been meant to encourage women and mothers in to applying, but they were also leaving out many other qualified candidates, who do not identify as a women or a mother and may have had many relevant leadership skills.

What to do

As I mentioned earlier this has been a learning journey for me. Even sharing this blog post publicly is a little frightening for me since I know this isn’t a topic I understand well. I have a lot of learning to do, and writing this has forced me to reflect, do some research and thinking, and I’ve learned more. I also encourage you to do more of your own research since this post is not going deep into the topic at all. If this is an area of strength for you, thank you for your work, teaching, and patience with people like me who are learning.

The first step for me was being aware of how gender is showing up in my language, once I recognized my tendencies I am finding over time I am able to shift away from certain words and phrases, such as saying “you guys,” “dude!,” and other gendered phrases. I’ve been working on using they/them in place of he/him and her/she as well. It hasn’t been easy and I still slip a lot, but the more I am conscious of these tendencies the easier it will be to self-correct. I’ve also learned from watching others who model this very effectively replacing gendered language with terms such as folx (or folks), friends instead of boys and girls, neighbors or kin in place of brothers and sisters.

If you want to extend your learning look up articles and YouTube videos related gender neutral language, there are many.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Abby, Adrienne, Aimie, Alessandra, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Amber, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Angelica, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Barb, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brooke B., Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Cadence, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Colleen K-S, Colleen L., Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Dick, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Jaime, Janis, Jean, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessa, Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kimberly, Krista, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Laura, Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Maile, Maka, Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mary, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H. (x2), Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, PMM, Priya, Rachel, Rebecca, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tania T.-D.,Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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2020 Culturally Significant Dates & New Years (x19)

20200109_233920_0000Time to pull out your calendars and start marking off dates. Here is the 2020 Fakequity list of culturally significant dates, new years, and monthly celebrations.

Why this list

A few years ago I invited a colleague to coffee. She was ridiculously gracious in reminding me the date fell during Ramadan. I knew she was Muslim and I should have realized she would be fasting during Ramadan. At that moment I realized I couldn’t rely upon western calendars to remind me of these important dates in doing cross-cultural and cross-racial work. I made sure to put in Ramadan on my calendar and continue to do this annually.

Another year, as we were planning an event, we checked with our very diverse planning group to see if a certain date would be ok. Everyone signed off on it and only the week before we realized it fell during another important religious holiday. Another western calendar fail.

I also decided to update the list because it is interesting and fun to explore cultures through their important days. Such as this year I learned Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as Moon Cake day. I love a good moon cake, sooo yummy and so calorie dense. I also learned a little more about important Buddhism dates by including a few into this year’s list. We can learn about people and cultures by what they celebrate or choose to use as remembrances.

Notes and Biases

The list below does not include too many Western or Christian holidays. Those dates are easily found on Western calendars and many online calendars (MS Outlook or Google Calendar) have plugins that will pre-populate those for you. I also purposefully did not want to center American/European/white-centric holidays with this list.

No list can incorporate every culture’s dates and holidays. I did my best to include dates that a very diverse friend and colleague group mentioned as being important to them and their faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. This means there are a lot of biases included in the list. To name a few of those biases – US West Coast, English speaking/literate, social media connected. I double-checked this list against a few other lists (here is one from Cultures Connecting) to see if I missed major events. Some list are more inclusive than the Fakequity list, and others skewed differently, such as they included American holidays and Christian holy days. As authors and editors, we make editorial and political decisions on what to include and exclude. It is important for you to do your own research and decide what is important to include you and your network and daily work.

I did my best to make the list as accurate as possible, however there are cultural nuances that may have been missed. Such as in regionality is important. Such as the Puget Sound and Minneapolis have large Somali communities, so those dates play more prominently than in other places like Hawaii. Hawaii has holidays that aren’t celebrated elsewhere (I didn’t include those on this list, but look up Kamehameha day). Some holidays or events have different starting and ending on different dates than what I may have listed due to different practices. Some events may start at sundown/sunset on one day but Western calendars (which I relied on) may show the date differently. Please check with your own networks to ensure you are being culturally sensitive if observing a date.

2020 Culturally Significant Dates

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – 1/20/20
  • Lunar New Year (Chinese) / Tet (Vietnamese) / Seollal (Korean) – 1/25/2020
  • Leap Day / 2020 Leap Year – 2/29/20 (Not necessarily culturally significant, but author’s bias and privilege to insert this)
  • Hinamatsuri – Girl’s Day (Japanese) – 3/3/20 – annual date 3 March
  • Holi – 3/9/20 sundown, ends 3/10/20 sundown
  • Passover (Jewish) – 4/8-16/20 ends nightfall
  • Eretria Easter – 4/12/20
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Easter – 4/19/20
  • Orthodox Easter – 4/19/19 [Edit — corrected to this date]
  • Children’s / Boy’s Day (Japanese) – 5/5/20 –annual date 5 April
  • Ramadan – 4/23 (sundown) -5/23/20 (tentative dates, dependent on the sighting of the moon)
  • Vesak / Vesākha / Vaiśākha / Buddha Jayanti / Buddha Purnima / Buddha Day (Buddhist) – 5/7/20
  • Eid ul-Fitr – 5/24/20
  • All Saints Day (Orthodox) — 6/14/20
  • Juneteenth – 6/19/20
  • Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere) – 6/20/20
  • Hajj (Islam) – 7/30/20 (ten-day period)
  • Liberation Day (Guam) – 7/21/20
  • Ethiopian New Year – 9/11-9/12/20
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – 10/01/20
  • Rosh Hashanah – 9/18-9/20 (starts sundown 9/18)
  • Yom Kippur – 9/27-9/28 (starts sundown 9/27)
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – 9/13 – annually recognized
  • White Sunday (Samoa) – 10/11/20
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day – 10/12/20
  • All Saints Day – 11/1/20 (always 1 Nov)
  • Día de los Muertos – 11/1/20 (always 1 Nov)
  • US Presidential Election Day – 11/3/20
  • All Souls Day – 11/2/20 (always 2 Nov)
  • Diwali / Deepavali / Dipavali / Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) – 11/14/20
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance – 11/20/20 – annually recognized
  • Bodhi Day (Buddhist) – 12/8/20
  • Human Rights Day – 12/10 – annually recognized
  • Las Posadas and Noche Buena (Christian Latin American) – 12/16-24/20
  • Simbang Gabi (Filipino) – 12/16 – 12/24/20
  • Winter Equinox (northern hemisphere) 12/21/20
  • Hanukkah / Chanukah – 12/10-18/20 (starts and ends at nightfall)
  • St. Nicholas Feast Day (celebrated by Greek Orthodox) — 12/26/20
  • Kwanzaa – 12/26-1/1 annually celebrated
  • Orthodox / Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas / Eritrean Orthodox Christmas (Note: Not all Orthodox celebrate Christmas on this day, many celebrate Christmas on 12/25, the 1/7/21 date follows the ‘old calendar’) – 1/7/21

New Years Dates

This is a favorite list to put together. I enjoy seeing all of the different new year dates and thinking fresh starts are available to us year-round – 19 different dates listed. It stretches our thinking from a linear January – December frame to thinking more wholly. Lunar new year is coming up, so get that second round of new year’s resolutions going.

  • Orthodox New Year – 1/7/20 and 1/7/21 (including 2021 since we passed the 2020 date)
  • Losar / Tibetan New Year – 2/24/20
  • Lunar New Year (Chinese) / Tet (Vietnamese) / Seollal (Korean) – 1/25/20
  • Tsagaan Sar/ White Moon (Mongolian) – 1/24/20
  • Persian Nowruz / Iranian New Year – 3/20/20
  • Naw-Rúz / first day of the Baháʼí calendar – 3/20/20
  • Nyepi Bali Hindu New Year – 3/25/20
  • Ugaadhi / Telegu and Kannada New Year – 4/6/19
  • Thingyan / Burmese New Year Festival – 4/13-16/20
  • Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese New Year, Sri Lanka) – 4/13-14/20
  • Songkran (Thailand) – 4/13-16/20
  • Khmer New Year – 4/13-16/20
  • Bun Pi Mai (Lao) – 4/13-15/20
  • Bengali New Year, Pohela Boishakh – 4/14/20
  • Matariki, Maori New Year (New Zealand) – 7/13/20
  • Al-Hijra / Muharram (Islamic / Muslim) – 7/20/20
  • Enkutatash / Ethiopian New Year – 9/12/20 (due to 2020 being a leap year)
  • Rosh Hashanah – 9/18-9/20 (starts sundown 9/18)
  • Diwali / Deepavali / Dipavali / Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) – 11/14/20

Monthly Recognitions

  • January – none
  • February – African American History Month
  • March – Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
  • April – Arab American Heritage Month
  • May – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month
  • June – LGBT Pride Month
  • July – none
  • August – none
  • September – Hispanic Heritage Month (15 Sept – 15 Oct)
  • October – Disability Employment Awareness Month, Filipino American History Month, LGBT History Month
  • November – Native American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
  • December – none

A special thank you to everyone who contributed to this list this year and in the past. I appreciate all of you sharing your wisdom, time, and talent to make this as rich and diverse as all of you. A heartfelt thank you.


Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Amber, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Angelica, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G., Ashlie, Barb, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brooke B., Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Cadence, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Colleen K-S, Colleen L., Crystal, Dan, Daniel, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Dick, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Jaime, Janis, Jean, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessa, Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Laura, Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Maka, Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mary, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H., Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, PMM, Priya, Rachel, Rebecca, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

 If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version).

2020 Fakequity Pledge

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Square orange graphic – 2020 Fakequity Pledge

2020 is here, the start of a new decade. In the 2020 Fakequity pledge list, I’ve organized the list by how we live our lives: work, live, and play. My hope is you’ll take this start of the year and pledge to think and do things a little differently, after all, racial justice work is about a journey – we’re never done.

A few notes: Work doesn’t mean just paid work, it includes however you fill your day – volunteering, supporting family, etc. In a few places, I’ve suggested ways you can deepen your commitments – after all this work is about a journey and we can do better, reflect and learn more, and build and sustain relationships. If doing all 20 of these feels overwhelming, choose one or two from each category and concentrate on those for a while, then revisit the list and try a few others in a few weeks or months.

In 2020 I pledge to do the following:

Work:

  1. Learn about institutional racism and search for ways to undo it within your sphere of influence. Do you have control or the ability to add a topic to a staff meeting? Suggest a conversation about how race shows up in your work and look for ways to undo racism.
  2. When looking at data, think critically and analyze it for racial disparities. Ask questions such as is what are the historical racial influences that allowed the data to show up the way it does, look to see if disaggregated ethnic data is available, etc.
  3. If you are a white person, especially a white leader with formal or informal power, ask yourself where do you spend your work energy – is it investing in colleagues and organizations of color?
  4. Diversify your program, board, program material (e.g. books, videos, music, etc.) to incorporate more POC voices. Remember diversity isn’t equity, but it helps.
  5. Do a time or calendar audit of where and with whom you spend your work time. Who’s voices influence your work? Do they match the demographics of who’s farthest from justice?
  6. Identify places within your work where you can diversify and share decision making with communities of color.
  7. Evaluate how your organization unintentionally reinforces ableism. Such as do your job postings list physical requirements such as “must be able to stand, lift 20 lbs., drive, etc.” (these phrases screen out many qualified candidates and does your job really require them?), or does your event location have stairs (hint: list the ADA entrances on the invite or follow-up email), are events all oral with no microphone amplification (get a mic and require speakers to use it), etc. There are many ways we can re-imagine our work to be more welcoming and less ableist.

Live:

  1. Evaluate where you spend your money. Does it match your racial equity values? Check out the POC Business map 2.0 from our friends at Equity Matters and shift some of your purchasing power to these businesses. Instead of buying flowers at the big chain grocery store, stop by a florist of color, such as Flowers Just 4 U – the only Black-owned florist in the Pacific Northwest.
  2. Take out a piece of paper and make a list of influential people of color in your life. They can be historical such as Rosa Park, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, etc. From this list figure out who’s histories are missing and research them. Such as have you learned about Indigenous people who’s land you’re on, not just the Native Americans who we get a glimpse at in history class.
  3. If you have kids or are in proximity of kids, ask what they are learning in school. Influence their awareness by asking and sharing about how people of color have influenced whatever they are learning about. If you want to take it a step further, inquire with their teachers, the PTA, administration, to see how you can influence or start some racial equity work at the school. It can start small such sharing POC authored titles or using your influence to ask how relationships are formed with communities of color within and outside of the school. If you want to go deeper find a school with a high concentration of students of color and become a tutor or mentor – make this a multi-year commitment, we don’t need charity tours.
  4. Stop using gendered language – “you guys,” “boys and girls,” “Ladies and Gentlemen,” “brothers and sisters,” etc. I admit I do this all the time. I catch myself saying “you guys,” when I call for my kids, only one of which considers themselves a ‘guy.’ Now that I’m aware of it, I am working to change my phrasing. Along with being aware of gendered language, ask people what pronouns they use and commit to using them.
  5. Stop and think before saying something. We’ve all done it, said something and then thought, “Oophh, that didn’t come out right.” Practice pausing and listening before speaking or hitting send on that email where you want to unleash. Remember a lot of this work and being in a community isn’t about you and your feelings, it is about thinking about others.
  6. Name your race and think about how your race and your ethnicity have shaped you. Race is the broader categories – African American/Black, Asian, Latinx, Native American/Indigenous, Pacific Islander, White. Ethnic groups are the smaller sub-categories under race, such as my race is Asian, my ethnicities are Japanese and Okinawan. How do you know you are from your race group? What stories were you told and continue to tell yourself and others related to your race?
  7. Put important religious holidays and cultural dates on your calendar. Be sure to avoid scheduling meetings on these days. As an example, don’t schedule events that revolve around food during Ramadan. Instead of using the federal holiday of Columbus day, write in Indigenous People’s Day. [Edit: Here is the 2020 listof Culturally Important Dates.]
  8. Voting is how we define our values in public policy. Vote. Research the candidates, ask them hard questions about how they support Black and Indigenous people especially. Question their voting records. Donate time and money to candidates of color, even if the candidates don’t win their running changes the race.

Play:

  1. Traveling soon? Read a book about the place you’re going by a local author. Recently in a book-based Facebook group someone said they were traveling to Hawaii and wanted to read a book about the islands before visiting. I’m from Hawaii so this intrigued me, what books would people suggest? Many of the books listed were titles I’ve seen before (albeit haven’t read). Most were by white men who visited, researched, and then wrote about Hawaii – not the way I want people to learn about the Hawaii I grew up in. I suggested a few local authors and my friend who is an English teacher in Hawaii texted me a few more suggestions. By digging deeper, we can get a more authentic experience. If you’re not traveling soon (high-five, less climate impact), take a moment to learn more about your hometown from a POC perspective.
  2. Visit a POC museum, cultural center, festival, etc. Many have free days, such as first Thursdays in Seattle, Smithsonian Free Museum Day, or some library systems have loaner museum passes with advance sign up. Festivals are often free, but keep in mind these aren’t the places to do deep learning.
  3. Pick a POC owned restaurant or café and visit it. If you’re unsure what to order, ask the staff what they recommend to sample more authentic cuisine. If eating out is beyond your budget, location, or time research POC foods, perhaps shift one grocery shopping trip to an ethnic grocery store (investing in POC businesses) to find the ingredients to make a new dish or drink. Be careful not to appropriate someone else’s food, learning is one thing Columbuisng and appropriation isn’t cool.
  4. Watch two videos and/or read two books from a different language, preferably a non-white/European language. Most of our lives are English-centric, broadening our world to understand non-English perspectives is one way to work towards understanding others. TED Talks, Netflix Korean dramas, audiobooks, cookbooks, and children’s books all count.
  5. Practice Squad Care. The concept of Squad Care is from African American writer Melissa Harris Perry: “Squad care reminds us there is no shame in reaching for each other and insists the imperative rests not with the individual, but with the community.” Take care of one another in 2020. Check in on each other, build genuine relationships, be a friend, and just be. (h/t Heidi for introducing us to the Squad Care article.)

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Adrienne, Aimie, Ali, Aline, Alissa, Amy, Amy R., Andrea, Angie, Anh-Chi, Annie, Annie G.,  Ashlie, Ben, Betsy, Brooke, Brooke B., Brian, C+C, Caitlin, Calandra, Cadence, Carmen, Carolyn C., Carolyn M., Carrie, Carrie S., Casey, Chandra, Chelsea, Chicxs Happy Brownies, Claudia, Cierra, Clark, Colleen, Colleen K-S, Crystal, Dan, Danya, Darcie, Dawnnesha, Dean, Debbie (x2), Denise, Denyse, Dick, Donald, Edith, Elena, emily, Erica (2), Erica R.B., Erin, Evan, eve, Freedom, Greg, Hannah, Heather, Heidi, Heidi and Laura, Heidi S., Jake, Janis, Jean, Jena, Jennet, Jennifer C., Jennifer M., Jennifer T., Jessa, Jessica, Jessica G., Jessie, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Julia, Julie Anne, K.T., Kari, Karen, Katheryn, Kathi, Katie, Keisha, Kelli, Kristen, Kristen C., Kristen D., Kumar, Laura, Laurel, Laurie, Leah, Lisa, Lisa C., Liz, Lori, Lynn, Lynn D., Makeba, Marc, Maria, Mary, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Megan, Melissa, Michael, Michelle, Mikaela, Mike, Milo, Minesh, Miranda, Miriam, Misha, Molly, Natasha, Nathan, Nathan H., Nicole, Norah, Norrie, Paola, Patrick, Priya, Rachel, Rebecca, Risa, Rise Up for Students, Robin, Ruby, Sarah, Sarah S., Sean, SEJE Consulting, Shannon, Shaun, Shawna, Shelby, Stephanie, Stephanie O., Stephanie S., Susan, Tana, Tania, Tara, Terri, Tracy, and Vivian. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support. Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

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2019 – Finding, Sharing, and Learning the Justices we need in Books

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“Read Rise Resist” Tote bag image from Powell’s Books in OR. Photo by E. Okuno

My brain is a little tired this week. I’ve been eyeball deep in a huge survey project at work. It is an incredible project bringing together multiple partners, parents/caregivers, schools, language-based communities, and so many others to give input on what family engagement looks like. At another time I’ll share more about what I’m learning in that project—it is fascinating and overwhelming at the moment. This past Fakequity post shares a bit about the 2015 survey we did.

As my final post of 2019, I will give you my list of favorite books I’ve read this year. Maybe this will give you some books to read during your holiday break. The list has books for children, young adults, graphic novels, and adult books – a little something for everyone. No blog post next week, we’re taking the holidays off to wind down the year. See you in 2020.

Enjoy.

Book List

This is a short and incomplete list of books I read and enjoyed in 2019. Most of them are by POC authors, I noted one that is by a white author.

In reading these books I’ve learned more about people of color history, about immigration, disability, LGBTQ, and how to act and be more in solidarity with others.

I’ve also enjoyed sharing many of them with my kids. We read before bed and through stories, we explore topics that may not come up in other ways. Such as reading George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy allowed my kid and I to talk about WWII and the incarceration of Japanese Americans. I also did something I somewhat regret and don’t recommend doing. My kid was being a bit of a brat while we were talking, I think it was a defense mechanism to not wanting to think too much more about the internment. Since he was being dismissive and pushing my buttons, I asked: “What would you pack if you only had one bag and one hour to pack?” He listed things and I said “no you can’t take your favorite blanket – it wouldn’t have fit,” and onward. He later cried. I now know this book made an impact on him and he has a deeper sense of connection to history through this book.

With my other kid, I’ve enjoyed watching her ask to revisit books such as Magic Ramen. She often groans when I bring home books from the library with a “not that one” whine. She prefers to read pop-culture Baby Sitters Club in graphic novel, Dog Man (groan), or some book with mice people who go on adventures. I’m all for letting her read whatever she wants for independent reading. I can often convince her to sit through a different book such as Debbi Michiko Florence’s Jasmine Toguchi series or her newest books about fostering pets featuring an Asian protagonist or Under my Hijab by Hena Khan.

There are so many more books I’ve enjoyed over the year. As Jondou wrote about in a previous post, reading these and sharing them brings us the justices we need. Through these books I’ve learned, have more compassion and understanding for other people’s experiences.

Book List

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni – white author

All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism by Lydia XZ Brown – This is a tome of a book, while I didn’t finish it, I did enjoy heavily browsing it. Every school and other spaces (e.g. hospitals, police and fire academies, etc.) should have a copy and encourage people to heavily browse it.

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki

North of Dawn: A Novel by Nuruddin Farah – This might be the lone adult fiction book I read in 2019, I thought about it as I was listening to an NPR story today about immigration between Europe and Syria.

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo – I don’t read a lot of poetry, but enjoyed this a lot

Parker’s Inheritance by Varian Johnson – My kid and I LOVED untangling the mystery in this book

Under my Hijab by Hena Khan

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – a must read

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli – recommended by Kenny in Tacoma on Twitter.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff – white

This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketu Mehta – I listened to this on audiobook format

My Footprints by Bao Phi

M Is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child by Tiffany Rose

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (graphic memoir)

Stone River Crossing and Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by Tim Tingle – I really enjoyed this historical YA fiction

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Yang


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2019 POC Shopping Guide

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picture of wrapped gift featuring African American children. Photo by Erin Okuno

By Erin Okuno

A few weeks ago my friend Bao asked on Facebook “What are a few ways to make the holidays more meaningful and less about stuff?” The responses were interesting, everything from wrapping gifts in pillowcases to homemade gifts and repurposed gifts. I mentioned I try to shop at POC owned businesses, which means some gifts are experiences and tangible gifts are more focused such as art, food, etc. It also means there is a double impact of investing dollars into POC communities which hopefully also brings about other forms of justice, such as economic and environmental justice.

Here is the 2019 POC Shopping Guide. Be sure to the check the 2018 Shopping Guide for other ideas.

Experiences

Along with the theme of less-stuff and investing in people and relationships giving experiences is often a great way to support POC businesses.

Take a Friend to Coffee or Drinks – For the holidays invest in people by taking your friends and family to coffee or drinks. If the holidays are too busy do it in January. Check the POC Map 2.0 to find a POC owned business for some nosh and drinks. A friend whose partner is a bartender said his tips generally drop by 30% during the holidays. Mostly because people are busy getting ready for the holidays, entertaining at home, or it is winter and too cold to go out. Make sure to tip your servers, especially your POC servers very generously during the holidays. Extend this into January as well when business is still slow for bartenders and servers since new year’s resolutions keep people out of the bars.

Gift Certificate for Relaxation – For people who have everything consider giving them the gift of slowing down. A gift certificate to a Korean spa such as Olympus Spa (women only) or finding a POC yoga instructor and buying a gift certificate to their class or retreat might be an appreciated gift. Finding the time to use the gift may be challenging but slowing down to invest in ourselves and each other isn’t a bad thing.

We are on Native lands and Indigenous businesses are all around us. If you are traveling during the holidays stop into a Native American museum or cultural center, here is a handy website with a comprehensive listing. While there buy some gifts, art, or food at the gift shops and restaurants to invest back into their businesses. Along with this, be sure to may your end of year rent payment to your local Native/Indigenous organization. If you are in Seattle you can make your rent payment to the Duwamish at Real Rent Duwamish. If you would like to support two other Native organizations in Seattle Chief Sealth Club supports the urban Indian community, and Daybreak Star Doulas supports mothers through birth and all the ‘feels’ that go with becoming a parent.

Christmas Trees in Seattle – If you haven’t picked up your Christmas tree yet pick up your tree from El Centro de la Raza in Seattle. The trees come from a Latinx owned tree farm near Seattle. The proceeds from the tree sales support the important programs at El Centro. Once you’ve picked up your tree and thank the kind volunteers, grab a coffee drink at The Station (another Latinx owned business). Once you’re done there stop for a bite to eat at Cafetal Quilimbo (really great tamales) further South on Beacon Hill or across the street at Carnitas Michoacan.

If you need flowers this holiday season, order them from Flowers 4 U. This is the ONLY Black owned floral shop in the Pacific NW. The owner needs to raise $6,000 or face eviction. Read this AfricaTown Story for more details and ways to help, including a link to a GoFundMe Campaign and advocacy to several mortuaries who used to order from her shop. [Added 12/14/19]

POC Owned Bookstores and POC Authored Books

This year books by POC authors have been a go-to gift. Whenever possible I’ve tried to buy these books from POC owned bookstores. Since last year’s gift guide, I’ve found several new POC owned bookstores which helped me diversify where to invest some of my book buying purchases. I’d rather spend my money at these bookstores than at the mega-online-store named after a river.

Mahogany Books is a Black-owned bookstore in Washington DC. They have a great collection of books by African Americans and Black authors. Ordering through their website is just as easy as ordering through other mainstream bookstores. I’ve found titles here I wouldn’t have noticed in other places.

Libros en Espanol is a Latino online bookstore. A few weeks ago, a friend who just had a baby asked for bilingual books as a baby gift. Of course, the aunty crew jumped all over this request. I was thrilled to find Libros en Espanol, a Spanish language bookstore. The website is all in Spanish, but overall easy enough to navigate to place an order, especially with the translate function on many web browsers.

Na Mea Hawaii is a Native Hawaiian owned bookstore in Honolulu, HI. The store host cultural events as well as books for sale. The online bookstore features a wide array of titles from Native Hawaiian history and culture to a Hawaiian language translation of Harry Potter. While I haven’t ordered from the website yet, the next time I want a book about my home-state I’ll be sure to consult the website and order a title through here.

Here are a few new books I am in love with by POC authors, give yourself the gift of reading them and then gift them to others:

Aloha Kitchen – I grew up in Hawaii and ‘local’ food is comfort food. This cookbook is by Alana Kysar, a Japanese American. The book has gorgeous pictures of ‘local grinz’ such as soy-glazed spam musubi, chicken adobo, haupia (coconut dessert), chicken long rice, and so much more. I browsed the book with my kid and she enthusiastically said: “I like that! Can we cook NOW?”

Trickster – We read this compilation of Native American graphic stories/comics during the Thanksgiving break. Both of my kids loved snuggling in to pick which comics to read together. Sharing this during Thanksgiving was a small way to refocus the holiday on our Native relations.

How to be Anti-Racist – Grab a copy of this book for yourself and one for a friend or colleague. Create a book sharing community so you can talk through what you’re reading and learning together.

This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto – I listened to the audio version of this book and found myself re-listening to parts. This book explains how immigration shaped and continues to reshape our nation and world. As climate change and other geopolitical forces change our world immigrants experiences change as well, and we need to understand these changes to be in more just relation with each other.

Perhaps in a future blog post I’ll share out a few more titles I liked from 2019.

#BuyDisabled

Jump into Twitter-land and search up #BuyDisabled to find businesses and artist with disabilities. 2018 Twitter thread here or check out this website or this list. Take some time to find the POCs in these lists.

Down Time or On the Road—Podcast Time

If you are traveling or commuting this winter, download a few of these podcasts to learn more about POC experiences. While you’re at it make sure to support the shows by subscribing to their Patreon accounts or sending in a donation.

All My Relations is hosted by Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keene, Native American womxn. The podcast covers everything from Native history to topics such as DNA testing, to Native erasure.

LeVar Burton Reads isn’t focused on race, but hosted by the former Reading Rainbow host and actor from Star Trek. Quite a few of the stories are by POC authors.

Code Switch by NPR. While this is a mainstream podcast, the topics are related to race and I often learn something new when I take the time to listen.


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Poverty Tours

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Art from Amplifer: Gregg Deal – Real Power Real People

Today was my computer and office day. It’s been much needed since I’ve been out of the office for most of the week and having just come off of the Thanksgiving break. It was nice to have some desk time. I took a break to check Twitter and saw a tweet from a policy conference. The tweet was sharing how a panelist talked about why representation from people of color with diverse backgrounds and experiences are necessary to forming policy. The speaker, a Black womxn, said she was tired of going on ‘poverty tours’ and seeing herself in the faces of the people she was meeting and having to promise the people she was meeting with that things would be different. This resonated with me.

Closer to home I’ve been working on a huge community-based survey project. Tonight, I joined a school at their literacy night to collect surveys. Our survey is long, it takes time to fill out, and even with translated copies, it takes a lot of effort to complete. It also takes a lot of trust for families, especially families of color, to trust us with their stories and data. They don’t want to be the paper version of a poverty tour. They want to know their information will be treated with care, valued, and we’ll use it for their benefit. While they didn’t say it directly in many ways they asked what will change because they took the time to fill out the survey.

Why Poverty Tours Need to End

We need to stop putting BIPOCs on display. We often preach on this blog and in other racial equity work that pocs need to be included, consulted, and inform and be informed. Some people take this to mean they do site visits, have diverse speaker panels, and bring in experts, or charter buses to go on tours. I’ve listened to many school board meetings where they talk about ‘student voice’ as being important — this ends up being literally student voice, “We want your voice, here read from this script. Don’t tell us your thoughts.”

A few years ago, a professor from a prestigious business school told a story about how every year the faculty from the influential business school goes on a learning trip. The trips are often to other countries so they can learn about emerging economies, trade, or other things related to their research and teaching. Instead that year, the faculty deliberated and through a serious of deep conversations decided they wanted to understand the experiences of Americans. They wanted to understand the great divide facing America. It made for a compelling story and I think they were proud of themselves for recognizing needs within their own country. They felt compelled to learn about their own, to revisit their proverbial backyard. Yet this learning tour and story missed the mark. What I wanted to hear but didn’t was how the tour impacted their work, how they built and sustained relationships with communities, how it wasn’t a one-way transactional occurrence. A fly-by of learning. Maybe they did these things but in the storytelling I missed it.

These poverty tours are damaging and in the long run hurt communities of color. We don’t need more people coming in to extract information to use it in their teaching and research. We don’t need people retelling or defining poverty and poc experiences. We definitely don’t need a bus load of white and pocs with privilege coming into the hood to gawk, nod, or to hold our hands with pity – this is awkward for everyone, especially the pocs who are closer to the people.

Charity programs are really good at poverty tours – present poor people, guilt people into doing something, donate money, and they feel good. No mess, no need to get involved, it is easy. Systems level change can’t happen with charity models.

Don’t pack for the bus ride, invest like you live there.

If we want to stop racial inequities we can’t rely upon poverty tours. We need to invest in relationships and recreating the ways we operate. We need to allow the people who are most impacted by injustices to define their own problems and solutions.

Community Led or Community Informed

The opposite of the business school story from above comes from a colleague and friend who leads an advocacy organization. Paola shared the question, “Are we community led, or community informed?” She went on to talk about how much of the policy work happening today, even from the most progressive organizations, is often community informed. I appreciate the distinction between the two dichotomies, and even with this there are gradations.

While community led is best, much of our work is often community informed. Being community led often means restructuring the way we work. It means suspending judgment and allowing the community to take us in new directions. Poverty bus tours do not exist in this world because the work is now embedded and a part of the community, not just a stop along the highway. Too often our work is still community informed – a stop along the way where we sit to listen to people who are impacted by injustices, maybe a stop to have coffee, then drive back to our offices to sit with the stories we learned and try to craft policies or adapt practices that tinker at the edges of their injustices.

Instead, we need to invest and support authentically built and sustained community led efforts. These organizations or sometimes even grassroots projects may look and feel very different than what we are used to seeing and supporting. As an example, I’m part of a Facebook group, Gifts of Hope-Seattle run by a local African American mom. Samona created the group to support families she’s met living in a tiny home village and in transitional shelters. Through her Facebook group, with almost 800 people in the group, she shares the needs of families and asks others to step in to help. Oftentimes, the asks are for simple things such as new shoes, a simple birthday party for a child, or providing hot meals to the community. While her organization isn’t an advocacy organization, she is their best advocate. She has the trust of the families and knows they need. Yet her work is often overlooked (or under-recognized) since it doesn’t look like most mainstream nonprofits or advocacy organizations. She’s helped close to 20,000 people last year. She knows her families and if we invest in her and her work she is a closer advocate then many professional advocates, board members, or policymakers.

When we stop and listen over time and build trust with people, we find new solutions. Our assumptions change, our beliefs can grow, and reframe our thinking. We can’t do this by whizzing through on a poverty bus tour.


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