|Needless to say we canceled our release party at SF City College, so...
You are invited to read volume 23 of Reimagine! Race Poverty & the Environment online! Great articles on Free City College organizing, immigrant women workers' rights, Black culture in San Francisco, food justice and green smoothies in Oakland and much more.
|If you make a premium level donation to honor our 30th anniversary you can choose from RP&E Journals/Anthologies and books for your acknowledgement gift.
by Jess Clarke
It’s tempting to blame Donald Trump for the fact that the US was woefully underprepared for this pandemic, but getting caught up in a manufactured made-for-TV surreality show could kill us. Our most urgent task is to reimagine our social order, our economic policies and our relationship to planet earth.
The fact that Italy, Spain, France and England have all made the same derelict choices as the buffoonish US administration, that Brazil and India are on the cusp of following the same path and that Africa lies essentially unprotected in the face of COVID-19, are proof positive that the global capitalist system cannot serve human needs. We are on a path toward environmental and economic collapse of an order of magnitude even greater than what we have now begun to experience.
The cumulative injustices of segregation in housing, education, health care and employment that are showing up in public health department body counts across the country are part of this larger process. African Americans and people of color are dying at twice the rate of other populations—just as they were before this crisis. The searing statistics for the elderly, prisoners and immigrants that are just beginning to be published should be a wake-up call that we have to go much deeper in challenging the current order of things to survive.
The wildfires in Australia and California that dominated the news cycles last year are harbingers of the same message. There is no need to recount the many other climate disasters already underway. While the current wave of death and illness is sweeping across continents at unprecedented speed, environmental justice advocates are all too aware that frontline communities, those least responsible, are bearing the brunt of the destruction visible in New York, Detroit, New Orleans and Milwaukee.
Thirty years ago on Earth Day 1990 a group of racial justice advocates created the journal Race, Poverty & the Environment (RP&E). They were motivated by an emerging analysis of how toxic pollution in certain communities was killing African Americans and other people of color at disproportionate rates. Over the succeeding decades the advocacy groups of which they were a part formed a national network of organizations to defend our communities.
Five years ago, when Urban Habitat shut down the journal, we relaunched it. We have won some and lost some. But I think it’s fair to say that we are better off for the effort. We posted the entire thirty-year archive for free download on reimaginerpe.org where we serve 60,000 plus monthly visitors over a million pages a year. We also make back issues available to university researchers through JSTOR and each year over 1,200 different universities and colleges download our articles. In addition to publishing RP&E, Reimagine! has also co-published two books from our contributing editors. Unfortunately, we have not managed to generate a real revenue stream despite ongoing readership. Our business model relies largely on volunteerism and donated labor. But we are keeping at it. We of course welcome your donations and will offer a premium level membership that gives you the gift of printed copies of either our books or the journal.
I think the words that inspired us to found Reimagine! are worth revisiting. This is what Grace Lee Boggs said in 2012:
“We are at the stage where the people in charge of the government and industry are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect them to do better.
We are at the point of a cultural revolution in ourselves and in our institutions that is as far-reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago, and from agriculture to industry a few hundred years ago. How do we reimagine education? How do we reimagine community? How do we reimagine family? How do we reimagine sexual identity? How do we reimagine everything in the light of a change that is so far reaching and is our responsibility to make? We have to think beyond capitalist categories. We can’t expect them to make it. We have to do the reimagining ourselves.”
I'm still convinced that’s as good a call for our times as we will find. And at RP&E and Reimagine! we are carrying on in this spirit. What we will do next, I don’t know. But I do know that we have to do it together. And that we can’t count on the ruling class to get us to the next stage, no matter how well-meaning and liberal they might say they are. Grace Lee Boggs also said the following, and I will close with this:
We invite you to take a free read of the current issue. No release party. No promise of free appetizers and an open bar. What we can offer this issue are great stories by committed and creative workers. Hope you will join us.
Earth day is here. Mother earth is pissed. We need to get busy. Hope you will join us.