Dehumanizing the Dehumanized: Denver’s Urban Camping Ban

I am officially ashamed to say that I live in Denver.

Don’t get me wrong.  I really like living here.  There are so many cool people, and the mountains . . . oh the mountains!  Plus, there’s some cool activism going on that I love being a part of.  Oh, and the weather is great!

The politics?  Not so much.  Earlier this week, the Republicans in the Colorado state legislature killed a bill that would allow civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.  As I usually do with CO state politics, I was able to say, “Well, CO state politics are shitty, but at least I live in the progressive bastion of Denver!”

Except that only a few hours later, Denver did this:

Whaaat?  Seriously?  In essence, it is now illegal to be homeless in Denver.

Now, if the “Urban Camping Ban” had been a part of a wider effort to actually offer services that get the homeless on their feet and off the street, I would probably be for it, but that is in no way the reason or rhetoric around why it was passed.  Advocates, primarily business owners in downtown Denver and our hyper-pro-business mayor, claim that the blight of homeless people sleeping in public places is bad for business.  Essentially, “People don’t want to come to my store when there are icky people around!”  Despite that wildly dehumanizing rhetoric, the ban was passed.

There are two main problems that I see in the legislation.  The first is simply practical.  Where are homeless folks to go if they can’t sleep in parks, sidewalks, or other public spaces?

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CFW’s 2011 Year in Review

After spending a little time this morning going through my blog and looking back over some of what I had written this year, I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of my top posts from the year.

Thus, without further ado, here are

The Top Posts of 2011 from Change From Within

10. The tenth most visited post that I authored in 2011 was one I wrote after visiting the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial in southeastern Colorado – Cultural Amnesia: The Sand Creek Massacre.  Though it is perhaps easiest to forget that we live on the lands of a genocide, we must never forget what has happened in our own back yards.

9.  The 9th most popular publication that I wrote in 2011 was in response to the oh-so-common idea espoused among White folks that because of the election of Barack Obama, we now live in a post-racial society.  I posit, though, that Post Racial = More Covert in Our Racism.

8.  The 8th post popular post on my site was also the most popular post among our White Supremacist buddy over at Unamusement Park who decided to hijack the comments section for his White Supremacist ramblings. The blog, though, was a reposting of a profound piece by Ewuare Xola Osayande in a critique of Tim Wise (and other White Anti-Racist activists such as myself).  On White Anti-Racist Activists by Equare Xola Osayande

7.  Coming in at number 7 is one of my posts that was republished at the Good Men ProjectMy Take On Sex was a response to a young man who was interested to hear my perspective on sex and relationships, as he couldn’t find many perspectives outside of the Christian one he heard in his church community.  The comments section also turned into a rousing debate on abortion, a debate that is still continuing.  I would love to see some comments from more of my readers!

6.  Rounding out the latter half of the Top 10 is a piece that ruffled some feathers locally and got some national traction in the #Occupy movement.  Occupy Denver has a Race Problem criticized the local iteration of the #Occupy movement in its lack of responsiveness to the needs of communities of color.  It posited that if Occupy Denver doesn’t work to be more inclusive, it will quickly become irrelevant, something I fear is happening.

5.  The 5th most popular post on Change From Within in 2011 is one that still saddens me incredibly.  It was my last-minute plea to join in the multitude of voices trying to stop the execution of Troy Davis.  Injustice Anywhere: Stop the Murder of Troy Davis called on my readers to join in the activism that ultimately failed to save the life of a man who was convicted of a murder he very likely didn’t commit.

4.  The 4th most popular post was another repost blog from White Anti-Racist activist Tim Wise that I posted right before attending the White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis, MN.  Tim Wise and White Privilege reposted one of Wise’s pieces where he critiques the racism often present on the American Left.

3.  It’s notable that the 3rd most visited post I authored in 2011 was only written on the 1st of December, and it holds the record for the most single-day hits on Change From Within.  Profitable Objectification: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show problematizes the perspective from which the “fashion show” is presented and how this can not only affect women’s body image but can drastically impact the way that men see women.

2.  The second most visited blog that was published on Change From Within in 2011 addressed the issue of immigration and the English-Only movement in the U.S..  Speak American” – Multilingualism and the English-Only Movement looked at the ways that English-Only as a mindset and policy is not only unconstitutional but actually works to the detriment of the United States and its citizens.

1.  Finally, the single most popular blog post of 2011 was authored January 26, 2011.  It’s Not Just Rap – Misogyny in Music looks at the way that violent misogyny is not a problem solely in rap music, as often asserted, but is actually simply a problem in MUSIC.  From Kanye West to Avenged Sevenfold, from NoFX to Trace Adkins, misogyny is rampant in our music culture, and it’s time for us to do something about that!

Thank you to all my readers for helping to make 2011 such an incredibly successful year at Change From Within.  I look forward to what 2012 will bring, but in the mean time, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Did your favorite post not make the list?  Feel free to post in the comments!

Occupy Denver has a Race Problem

I was recently talking about the race-related problems that I see in the #OccupyDenver movement with a friend, and he said, “Why don’t you reach out to your friends and allies, your contacts who are activists of Color?”

I responded, “While I support the general #Occupy movement, I do not trust the folks at #OccupyDenver nearly enough to welcome activists of Color into the movement.  I have worked hard to build trusting relationships and allyships with some respected community leaders of Color from around Denver, and there is no way I would risk jeopardizing those relationships for what I have seen as a poorly-organized group of activists at #OccupyDenver.”

Saturday at the #OccupyDenver march, I was reminded of exactly why I would not feel comfortable encouraging my allies of Color to attend.  Just before the march began, a group of Indigenous activists from the American Indian Movement of Colorado showed up with a group of protesters bearing signs opposing the Tar Sands Pipeline.

Upon their arrival, one of the White folks who identified himself as a member of one of the #OccupyDenver committees used the “People’s Mic” to say, “Our brothers and sisters from the Indigenous community have joined us!  Welcome them!”  People cheered.  Then our White activist friend went on with what he was saying.

It was as if he was saying, “Hey!  Look!  Some Brown folks joined us!  Yay Brown people!  Now look back over here at the White agenda!”  Essentially, the mention felt like little more than tokenizing.  “Our token Brown folks have arrived!”

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4 Things #OccupyDenver Must Do (Better) to Survive

Though the content below doesn’t deal expressly with the usual content of this blog (in its focus on power, oppression, and community), it does relate in that the #Occupy movement exists as a force to end the incredible economic inequality (and power and oppression therein) that exists in this country.   I need a space in which to publish this piece, so I figured here is as good a place as any.

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4 Things #OccupyDenver Must Do (Better) to Survive

“Non-violence is the constant awareness of the dignity and humanity of oneself and others; it seeks truth and justice; it renounces violence both in method and in attitude; it is a courageous acceptance of active love and goodwill as the instrument with which to overcome evil and transform both oneself and others. It is the willingness to undergo suffering rather than inflict it. It excludes retaliation and flight.”

— Wally Nelson, conscientious objector, civil rights activist, and tax resister

Having been closely watching and participating in the #Occupy movement in Denver and around the country, I understand that each iteration of the #Occupy movement is different.  In my time at #OccupyDenver, I have come to realize that it faces some grave challenges that it must address in order not only to remain relevant but to survive as part of a sustained social movement.  Obviously the list below is not comprehensive, but as an experienced activists with a Bachelor’s degree training in nonviolent movements and resistance, these are my humble suggestions, less so for how #OccupyDenver should respond but simply to begin (and continue) the conversation.

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