A Visual Introduction to Nashville: Sans Houses

I highly recommend everyone who lives in Nashville join the Homeless Power Project’s newsletter and attend their events. I also recommend joining us for Food Not Bombs or just going to downtown and taking an opportunity to meet those who hang out in the park across from the library. However, for those who don’t currently think they have the time, Sans Houses is a beautiful introduction to the Homeless Community of Nashville.

Frenchpress takes pictures and voice records many of the homeless community throughout Nashville. Her work is beautiful, and so I think you should stop reading here and go and meet the Nashville Community, Sans Houses.

Sans Houses

Racial Differences in Traffic Stops

Rachel at Ally Work gave some commentary on a real interesting report on Traffic Stop statistics that came out recently.

When you combine the data, the result do show greater scrutiny of people of color by police officers.  However, that scrutiny doesn’t always occur in the ways that we expect.  With the traffic stops, the greater scrutiny comes after the stop is made.  The data on stop and frisks need a more thorough analysis that has a national level sample and more methodological sophistication before we can make find how and why racial disparities occur.

Visit the post for further break down of the statistics and a good over view of the Bureau of Justices statistics.

I really think clearly laid out statistics like this need to be made regularly available to the public. I’m not sure why they always come out in a hard to read manner and it’s not part of the Bureau or Department of the government to actually make the statistics clear to the public. I think it would be a powerful thing for the Bureau of Justice to put out this report, have their statisticians and others analyze it and make a forward statement about how in some areas there is nothing unusual about the traffic stop statistics, but in others there is clearly still racial discrimination going on and here is what the Bureau is going to do about it. Anyways, here’s a brief break down of some of the statistics linked from an AP article on Ally Work:

Black, Hispanic and white motorists were equally likely to be pulled over by police — between 8 percent and 9 percent of each group. The slight decline in blacks pulled over — from 9.2 percent in 2002 to 8.1 percent in 2005 — was not statistically significant, Durose said, and could be the result of random differences.

The racial disparities showed up after that point:

_Blacks (9.5 percent) and Hispanics (8.8 percent) were much more likely to be searched than whites (3.6 percent). There were slight but statistically insignificant declines compared with the 2002 report in the percentages of blacks and Hispanics searched.

_Blacks (4.5 percent) were more than twice as likely as whites (2.1 percent) to be arrested. Hispanic drivers were arrested 3.1 percent of the time.

Among all police-public contacts, force was used 1.6 percent of the time. But blacks (4.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.3 percent) were more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to be subjected to force or the threat of force by police officers.

People interviewed described police hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, pointing a gun or spraying pepper spray at them or threatening to do so. More than four of five felt the force used was excessive, but there were no statistically significant racial disparities among the people who felt that way.

Jena Six: Racism Still Exist In The South

UPDATE (7/28/09): Two years later, here is the results of the Jena Six trial. Mostly a victory.

Updated:  New post on the Jena Six

We’ve talked about stories of racism and police abuse in the past, so this shouldn’t be a revelation for any of the regular readers around here. However, stories like this, when they are specific, need to be noted, brought up, spoken out against, and made aware to a larger community.

In Jena, Louisiana, a town of 3,000, 85% white, 12% black, the disgusting injustice of a still racially charged society is receiving some attention from the national and international community. Six black youth from Jena are facing attempted second-degree murder charges from a fight with a white student from their school who himself is being charged with possession of a firearm in a ‘firearm-free zone.’ In a city were racism clearly still exist, a school yard fight turned into murder charges seems like the troubling injustice many in this country have worked hard to overcome.

Megaphonic, who pointed out this story to me, writes:

someone is teaching these kids that this type of behaviour is acceptable. either directly or by their inaction, the adults in this community are giving them the go ahead to hang nooses in trees and beat the s*** out of kids because they are of a different race. the school board should have expelled the kids who hung the nooses… that’s a hate crime. federal offense. the principal was fully correct to call for their expulsion.

How does this continue to happen, and how can communities fight it? how can we, as nashvillians, keep this from happening? how can we as southerners (even nominal ones like me) fight the stereotypes that history has left us?

My suggestion was that churches need to be gathering together and discussing how to address the injustice of racism, and not pretend it disappeared along with MLK. My other thought, maybe a dumb one, was to start a facebook group. update: looks like someone already beat me to it, join this Facebook Group, Jena Six: The World is Now Watching. Any other ideas?

UPDATE: Just wanted to add some links from the blogosphere to help you stay on top of things that are happening with the Jena Six…

Where I do My Grocery Shopping

This is actually a repost of something I wrote last year, but I figured it fit appropriately on a Monday (CRM). This has changed a little since we live in a community and I don’t actually do much of the shopping, but I think it’s still pertinent to most people. I’ll probably elaborate on CSA’s and other things more at some point soon. From February of 2006:

When it comes to most of my purchasing, price is a major factor. In the same way that I wouldn’t go pick the most expensive designer jeans and assume they are the best, ethically and quality, I don’t go for the most expensive groceries and consider it ethical. Currently, we (my wife and I) do our main shopping at ALDI. I’ve tried as much as possible to find out more about the ethics of ALDI’s and compare it to other grocer’s but never with much luck. I did recently find out that ALDI’s is owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s from whom there is a little more information. I also occasionally shop at Kroger. Kroger as a company has done some fairly unethical stuff in the past, as far as worker right’s in their stores, and for about 6 months we joined in a boycott of their stores. From what I know the strike and boycott was a victory and some good agreements where made. ALDI’s is Extremely reasonably priced, but the savings are mostly in how they run the store, not in short changing their workers and producers (From what I can tell).
If you shop at a place like Kroger or other major retail chain you’ll also encounter having to choose what brand products to buy. It’ll take you a little while to read through, but I’d highly recommend reading the notes at ResponsibleShopper.org about FOOD brands. The goal is not for you to read all the bad stuff and lament ever eating again, but rather for you to become more aware and educated about some of the situations stores have been in. Like I suggested in a Fair Trade article I wrote, I would suggest picking one product (coffee, chocolate, tea) and choosing to buy it ONLY Fair Trade.
In addition, I personally know I want to shop at the local Farmer’s Market more. Nashville has a year-round Farmer’s market that carries plenty of produce, and I would recommend anyone I know to shop there first. Also, if you could become part of a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) I would encourage you doing that. We were part of a local CSA in the fall and plan to continue come spring time. Basically each week we would get a bin of food. Always a dozen eggs and a whole chicken, and then an assortment of fruits and vegetables. We had to learn how to cook new items and discovered many different peppers and squashes. I would HIGHLY recommend you get involved in a CSA if you can find one.
Last but not least, for you radical few out there, I would recommend you find a local Food Not Bombs group, hang out, and learn a little bit about the art of dumpster diving.

What Is Essential to the Gospel?

This is more question time for the readers then me giving answers.

In a discussion at the house the other day, and a couple email conversations with some readers, I’ve started to rethink what topics, facts, concepts, etc. are essential to the Gospel.

There’s all kinds of cliches and sayings about the gospel: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” There’s all kinds of things we spend far too much time talking about and others we simply neglect. So, take a minute to think about this. I’m wondering, if someone were to come up to you and ask you write now, “What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”

What would you say?

Flash Back: Why I don’t Shop At Walmart

Below, in it’s entirety, is something I wrote a while back about why I don’t shop at Walmart. With all the CRM posts and everything I felt this was probably a pretty appropriate time to post this up again and hopefully garner further discussion on it. If your going to link to the article, please link to the original, Why I don’t Shop At Walmart:

This topic always draws a lot of feedback. The thing is from the moment someone starts to talk, or write, you usually have a good idea what side of the fence they are on (it’s the same as when you listen to someone talk about Kanye West’s statements and racism). I fear-and I’m speaking about myself too-that too often we are choosing what side of the fence we want to be on, and then just finding evidence to back it up. Maybe it’s cause you had a bunch of liberal friends, or you hung out with the grunge crowd, some external pressure just decided for you that you hated Walmart, and since then you’ve found all kinds of reasons why this is true. For others it’s their republican upbringing, their support of “Christian” values, or their love of low prices that swayed their decision and now they’ve found all kinds of reasons to support that choice. Honestly, I probably fall into one of those categories, but give me a minute to share with you why I personally avoid Walmart.

At some point in my movement towards maturity, I recognized the significance of personal responsibility. I realized that with any situation, regardless of the reasons behind it or circumstances concerning it, my involvement (or passive silence) would show my support for it. If something is against the rules, and I say nothing about it, I show my support for it. If my government, of which I am a part, makes a decision and I say nothing about it, I support it. I need to take responsibility for those things. If I am ever confronted on those things (and I have this strange feeling I might be), I will not be able to pass blame like Adam did, I will be held accountable for my decisions.

I’ve definitely made poor decisions in the past. I remember being in high school and seeing a sign posted above a drinking fountain in the hallway. Walmart and Sweatshops was the topic, and I passed it by without a second thought. Interesting that I can remember that now, but it had no bearing on me then. For a number of years I had been aware of this, and I did nothing.

At some point later, maybe after I had been exposed to some facts, seen some video, and been confronted a few more times, I realized that important lesson on personal responsibility. Suddenly, the weight of the responsibility was heavy on me. I never went through a research project of weighing the Pros and Cons of Walmart. To be honest most of this debate about whether Walmart is good or bad seems to miss the point for me. I’m not saying it doesn’t have significance, but it gets us into a balance game, and I’m not interested in that.

This is the one fact that disturbs me. Close your eyes. Think about the shirt you are wearing. Trace it back through the store you bought it from, back past being packaged, past being shipped, and to the place it was stitched and sewn together. I’m terrified when I do that and I see a small child, dirty and weary from 18 hours a day of labor, looking into my eyes and awaiting an explanation. What will I say to that little girl? What does taking responsibility mean for me there?

I cannot in good conscience buy from a store where I am aware that that is where the items came from. Does Walmart employ sweatshops? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard evidence of it, and the mere possibility scares me. Do other Stores employ sweatshops? Probably many other stores do, and as I become aware of them, my purchasing decisions and opportunities will become more and more difficult; But that in NO way allows me to disregard my responsibility. Do ALL stores employ sweatshops? I do not believe so. I know of a number of fair trade clothing stores whose goal and focus is to be sweatshop free.

I’m not advocating a boycott; I don’t know enough about economics, etc to make a strong decision on that. I do think that when a company like Walmart is in the news for bad practices, it should affect our spending habits. When Martha Stewart goes to jail our continued purchases send the message that we don’t care about her breaking the law. When we read that Coca-Cola has been polluting the water in India, our continued purchasing sends the message that we do not care. I long for someone with much more brilliance then I to come along and give me a plan for making choices and organizing in a way that will affect change for the good. Are you that person?

I leave you with this. As a friend, I want to admonish you. I am aware of some facts that might or might not be true about Walmart. Please stop shopping there until you have examined the facts.

Link to Original


Shane Claiborne on NPR: The New Monastics

I like to say Shane is my friend, though he’s becoming quite the name and face in the big media, he’s very personable and committed to the faith. His story is a wonderful one and he explains well a lot of the values and truths I hold in my faith. I haven’t even listened to the whole podcast above (it’s 53 minutes) but I promise you it will be worth your while.


I also have a couple copies of his book, Irresistible Revolution, if anyone is looking for one. It’ll change your life. Three of the guys I currently live with were so impacted by Shane’s story and convictions that they ended up moving in with us (a little nuts I know). Anyways, be ready for your life to be changed if you take the time to read or listen.

And before you think I’m too much of a Shane fan, I wanted to point out a couple quick things. I think what Shane has to say is valuable for the masses to hear, and since he does it better then I do I’m gonna pass his writing and speaking on. However, I’m not a fan of Shane and I don’t see him as a ‘guru,’ but I see the danger of that being the case. Mark, addresses this quite well in a recent post over at Jesus Manifesto so I thought I’d give you a quick excerpt:

In fact, Jesus (while he certainly accepts our worship) seemed WAY more interested in having people follow him than he was in people worshiping him. I don’t think Jesus is pleased with our worship, given the atrocious state of our discipleship. And he certainly doesn’t like it when we elevate people like Shane Claiborne as exemplars, but fail to follow their example. Shane has gotten a lot of attention, and for some good reasons. He is living out a radically Christ-centered life that is worthy of imitation. But he’s gotten WAY more fans than imitators. And the way the “machine” has gotten a hold of him has saddened me, because it is turning him into a saint instead of into an “ordinary radical.” I know so many people who love what he has to say but feel like he’s in a special class of holy person.

Read the rest here.

Bottled Water Is a Scam

Okay, I don’t know for sure that bottled water is a scam, but I had to come out strong. My dad sent me the Ideal Bite Tip from the other day that suggested using home filters to clean your water rather then bottled water. It made me think about how ridiculous I think the bottled water industry is.

I haven’t been alive that long, but I clearly remember when there was no such thing as bottled water and I didn’t think twice before drinking my water straight from the tap. Now a days kids I work with think having to drink water from the tap is disgusting. Here’s an anecdotal experiment: I am not more sick or had diarrhea or any other ailments now then I was ten and fifteen years ago when I was also drinking tap water. In the meantime, I can’t go to a meeting at work now were a pitch of water is available, it’s either bottles or soda.

I could be wrong, but here’s a brief collection of facts on the bottled water industry…

From Ideal Bite on the benefits of filtering rather then bottling:

  • Save the 1.5 million tons of plastic expended in the bottling of 89 billion liters of water each year.
  • Get rid of contaminants normally found in tap water such as chlorine, cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead and pesticide runoff.
  • Save money – Pitcher or faucet filters cost about $600 over 5 years. Bottled water services or bottles cost nearly $2000 in that same timeframe!
  • Filters are a safer bet – up to 40% of all bottled water comes from a city water system, just like tap water.

Not that I’m advertising filters either, but I think we need to consider we’ve really been advertised into this bottle water craving. Here are a few more links:

SOA Watch Update: Costa Rica Says Goodbye

From the SOA Watch website:

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias vowed on Wednesday to stop sending police to train at a U.S. facility criticized for a history of producing soldiers who went on to violate human rights.

Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the promise after talks with Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a U.S. activist priest who has campaigned since 1990 for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School for the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Though U.S. defense officials closed the original school, a Latin American military training facility, in 2000 and reopened it a year later under the new name and with a new curriculum, critics say the change was purely cosmetic.

For those who don’t know about the School of the Americas, here is a brief intro:

The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American security personnel in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. SOA graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among the SOA’s nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians. (See Grads in the News).

You can take action today to help shut the place down. At the least take your new awareness and be sure to share with others as the opportunity arises.

The Big Day Approaches: You Can Expect Changes.

This is clearly a personal blog of my thoughts, but details of the ins and outs of my days don’t really show up here. For example, you might not have known that the school year is almost over for most of the kids I work with, my brother just graduated college, my sisters gonna get her license in a few months, I live in a house full of people (not just my wife), I bike to work, and in about a month or less I’m going to be a father.

That last one is the Big Day I’m thinking about. With it so close on the horizon priorities and time management is being shifted around. I still love to write, so I’m not saying the blog will disappear, but it is likely to change forms. For example, I might just start posting links to things I find interesting each day. I’m not really sure at this point, but I just wanted to give you for warning. I love the consistency of a daily post, but if it’s too much work that might be gone as well.

No need to make this long and drawn out, just wanted to leave you with a little something. Who knows, as inspiration strikes me right now I might write enough posts to fill up the month of June. If you want to be on the immediate notification about the baby list your probably going to have to get in touch with me.

So, I guess the only thing left to do is get some predictions on the birth time. Dates are boring, I want to know what time (hour and minute) you think the baby is coming…