Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Uptown Magazine Goes Green

Last Thursday night I went to a panel discussion at the New York Society for Ethical Culture entitled "People of Color Don't Care About the Environment." Sponsored by Uptown Mag, the panel was moderated by this fly sister Simran Sethi of the Sundance Channel's The Green. She was on point with her questions and comments especially her criticism of Vanity Fair's recent mostly-whites-featured Green issue. Even though I haven't seen the latest issue of Uptown I think this month's jawn is their urban (read Black) spin on the environment and going Green. Anyway the discussion was ambitious and well intentioned, it's just that afterwards you just couldn't help but have this keep it real feeling reverberating in your mind that the hood ain't going green anytime soon. At least I don't think so. And by the many heads I saw nodding when the woman asked how do we do connect recycling and beautifying the earth with folk who are struggling to pay their rent and make ends meet, I'm gathering I'm not the only one with that sentiment. There just seems to be so many other issues going on in this country that I just don't think people of color feel, unfortunately so, that the environment-- the greening of the world at large is relevant. I live in a building that is mixed with working class, middle class and upper class educated colored (and white) folk and do you think we recycle? Nope. Not a blue bag or bin on the premises. Right now one of our concerns is that Columbia keeps their gentrifying hands off of our apartments. And then when I walk outside and I see the chicken bones thrown about the sidewalks and the synthetic hair blowing pass storefronts, I'm disgusted and know that folks in my hood are very far away from thinking about nature and land preservation. So many of them don’t even respect their own walk-ups and elevators as the ubiquitous, penetrating smell of piss will undoubtedly confirm. Is it just me and my cynicism or do we need to get hiphop on board the Green boat before we can expect to see change in our urban areas. And it cannot simply be a few (Russell Simmons, Erykah Badu and dead prez), but it’s gotta be infused in the culture as a whole. And what's going on in our public schools? I don't have children so I have no idea if eco-friendly ideals are being taught and discussed.

On a positive note there are quite a few heads in NYC (esp in the BX-- oh yeah!)taking charge and doing their part to save our earth like Jarid Manos (who was on the panel) and who has written a very intriguing book called Ghetto Plainsman.

There's also Zena Nelson's South Bronx Food Cooperative that's getting people hooked on eating organic and at very reasonable prices.

I gotta give propos to the folks behind The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook!

And of course there is Majora Carter, also in the South Bronx, who won a MacArthur Genius award for her work "greening the ghetto." (her talk @TED conference)

UPDATE CORRECTION: Simran Sethi was not critical of Vanity Fair's Green Issue. She was instead "proud and grateful (to be) featured - as a woman of color and as a person who cares deeply about these issues." Read more of her remarks in the comments section. Sorry Simran about the confusion!

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Blogger Simran Sethi said...

Hotness Grrl,

I appreciate your feedback and props but allow me to clarify: I did not criticize Vanity Fair magazine. Ludovic Blain mentioned he was glad I was in last year's Green issue and that it should have also featured more people of color. Please check your notes.

It hurts me to hear you write that not only because it wasn't true, but also because in saying so, it negates the fact that I was present. I am proud and grateful I was featured - as a woman of color and as a person who cares deeply about these issues.

The event was aimed at highlighting the problems of environmental racism and calling for justice solutions that help us all work together. The more attention that is brought to all of us, the greater opportunities we have to affect change. The black/ brown/ white divide will only serve to tear us apart. We can't afford that.

Simran Sethi

3/03/2008 4:23 PM

Blogger Hot Grrrl said...

Simran: Sorry about that misquote! I've updated it with a correction.

Personally I remember seeing that issue and I think I've mentioned more people of color leading the Green Movement than Vanity Fair although again I could be mistaken. I agree with you about unity leading to more opportunities for change, however, I will always be critical of mainstream media for not being more inclusive of people of color and Vanity Fair is in my Top Ten. It's a great magazine no doubt, but they can do better in terms of diversity-- in their content and in their cubicles. People of color need to be affirmed not only in "urban-niched" media but also in mainstream media.

3/03/2008 6:33 PM

Blogger lana18 said...

hey sis,

I really want to thank you for thinking about this and writing about it. I was not at the event nor have I read the Vanity Fair issue being discussed, so forgive me if my comments go into another direction. I'll just say that it's within the same topic.

As a fellow harlemite, born and raised and wondering how I'm gonna stay here, I see the tumbleweeds of synthetic and chicken bones.

East Harlem I give props for taking the steps. As for Central Harlem and West Harlem (now called SoHa...breaks my heart), folks are not getting it and to be honest, the answer is not that simple.

I caught a recent Oprah show on going green and while I was happy to see her making the effort, I thought about all these great items being showcased and given to the audience.

All wonderful items, energy saving, good for the earth but one problem...

Hella pricey. Go to fairway, whole foods, any health food grocery that sells environmentally friendly products and you run into the same issue: cost.

I'm not gonna sit here and say most folks of color can't afford it. In fact, most of this country is probably feeling the same way.

However what I will highlight is this:

7th Generation detergent: $11
C-town brand detergent: $3.99

7th Generation house cleaner: $9
Lavender cleaner and freshner: $1.19

This we could continue with the cost of going hybrid vs staying with the Exxon, con edison vs going solar, etc.

and yes, this is beyond color.

There's a HUGE gap between who can truly go green 100%

I am honestly 50-60% earth friendly depending on whether or not I got a big check or a little check in the mail.

And listen, this ain't an excuse and yes, this is only a portion of the larger picture. If we going there, these products need to find solutions that will make these products affordable for upper, middle, low, and below poverty incomes.

As for the synthetic, sis that's a cultural question that needs to be answered by the individual and the collective.

long hair vs short hair, a simply beautiful cornrow done with your own hair rather than the hawaiian silky #40 up in your head pulling at your nerve endings...that's another blog entry

We are making steps and we will catch up soon enough. I recycle. Can't say everyone in my block does, but it's a step.

thank you simran for what you're doing.

3/06/2008 2:18 PM

Blogger michael a. gonzales said...

hate me now, but i heard a comic once say, "the white man destroyed the world, let the white man clean it up." though i realize i shouldn't follow the philosophies of some dude on tv, but still...

3/06/2008 2:38 PM

Blogger Hot Grrrl said...

lana 18: i do agree with you..mostly. i'm not convinved that affordability is the sole reason of even the utmost reason that's hindering people of color from going green. yeah whole foods is hella expensivebut dang grrrl i was in popeyes saturday night (yeah i'm guilkty) and the three peopel in front of me on line all had orders over $25. dude infront ofme walked out spending $50 on wings, popcorn shrimp and of course tenders. when i ordered my two wings and the chick at register screamed out "that's it" i was crazy embarrassed and ordered a side of cole slaw just keep from looking 'fast food frugal.' so it's gotta be about education too cause you can get get mad collards and spinach for $50 bones! and since i was just accused of sounding like a republican by my outburst about the number people urinating in my elevators, i'ma say no more cause deep down inside i probably am becoming a bit of a community snob for being so frustrated with harlem's current plight (and flight).

michael: that's hilarious and probably the mindset of a whole lotta folks that ain't never even been on tv!

3/06/2008 4:22 PM

Anonymous AK Cabell said...

Love this post. And I completely and wholeheartedly (ahh, my ten-cent word of the day) agree with most of the comments, particularly lana18. I'll have a piece coming out soon in Brandchannel.com talking with a sistah who was head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Starbucks. She now has her own business snapping up global clientele and teaching them a thing or two about CSR. But this was my dilemma and still is--when all that ethical, environmental awareness go through upper-level execs then shareholders, the consumer is still left with, as lana18 so eloquently put it, "7th Generation Detergent--$11" (!!!). 10-4, sis.

3/20/2008 10:07 AM

Anonymous ludovic said...

Hotness Girl,
This is Ludovic, another panelist. And i'm also from the Bronx, although i now live in Oakland. Glad you came to the panel.

I don't know where ya been, but mad black, latino and asian folks are into the green movement. Most of us just don't call it green.

Some examples--Folks working to keep the trains running and the fare low are doing green work. All the folks working on asthma, which is really bad in Harlem, are doing environmental work. Mad folks of color are working on lead poisoning, which is also enviro work. And it was the Black Panthers and Young Lords who really kickstarted the whole anti-lead poisoning thing.

Latinos in the South Bronx fought against an incinerator. So did a whole bunch of types of folks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, led by El Puente. West Harlem Environmental Action has been working on this stuff now for decades. Rev. Calvin Butts ironically campaigned against the cig adds in Harlem targeting black folks.

Whole Foods/Whole Paycheck ain't the major way folks are green. And although it would have been nice for the Vanity Fair issue to not just focus on white greens, we don't need their spotlight.

So yeah, we black and brown green folks got a looong way to go to engage and educate and learn from our folk, but there's a long history of folks doing something in NYC.

So we gotta do a mix of critiquing and learning our history....

4/03/2008 2:58 AM


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