Racialicious Crush Of The Week, Facing Race Edition: Yvonne Yen Liu

By Andrea Plaid

Yvonne Yen Liu. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.

Like I mentioned at the Facing Race roundtable yesterday, the “No Justice, No Peas” panel left a deep impression on me because it addresses what otherwise great food-movement documentaries like Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives sometimes touch on but tend to erase entirely: the food workers of color who do the incredible work of bringing the food–both organic and non-organic–to USians’ palettes and gullets and how deeply economic exploitation and racial injustice not only affects their lives but the lives of their families and neighborhoods. (The Storified version of the panel is here.)

Pretty prescient and very relevant, considering the current fast-food workers strikes.

I just had to vibe with the panel’s brilliant and passionate facilitator, Yvonne Yen Liu, who’s the outgoing Senior Research Associate at the Applied Research Center (the people who bring you the Facing Race conference and Colorlines) and the incoming Director of the Global Movements at WhyHunger. We chatted about not only how she found her way to food justice but also how that issue intertwines with race, racism, sexism, and labor justice, and how one journalist cluelessly said that the food movement isn’t a social justice issue.

I know. I know. Read on…

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Solving The Pipeline Problem

By Guest Contributors Sarah Milstein and Eric Ries, cross-posted from Startup Lessons Learned

It’s well-known—and we ourselves have been publicly frustrated—that white men tend to dominate the speaker rosters for tech and entrepreneurship conferences, not to mention the portfolios of many entrepreneurship programs. Conference hosts, VC’s, and others often attribute this to a “pipeline problem,” the idea that there simply aren’t enough qualified white women or people of color who wanted to or were qualified to participate.

So we were proud earlier this week to announce our program for The Lean Startup Conference, which comprises approximately 40% women and 25% people of color. We still have room to grow, but this is a significant improvement over last year’s conference, which had almost none of either. Our approach was deliberate, and we want to share it with you in the hopes that you can replicate it for other conferences and for processes like hiring where equity is important.
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Watch: The Final Two Plenaries From Facing Race 2012

To close out our coverage of Facing Race 2012, here’s the two plenarie sessions from the second day, Nov. 17. (Note: Slightly NSFW – occasional curse words)

First up is “”Race and Gender in the 21st Century,” moderated by the founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion, Maya Wiley, a discussion that starts with the question, “How is race constructed, and why do we construct it?”

On the panel are:

The plenary closes with a performance of “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic,” by Amirah Sackett and Khadijah and Iman Sifterllah-Griffin. Via the great Avory Faucette, here’s an excerpt:

The final plenary, “Culture Trumps Politics: Or Does It?,” is moderated by Applied Research Center’s Rinku Sen, and features:

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As Chang asserts in a video clip early on, cultural change is often a harbinger of political shifts, but even as he agrees, Varga says the current cultural landscape has led to a redefinition of what constitutes a “minority.”

All The Places We Are Not: The Racialicious Roundtable For Facing Race 2012

Hosted by Arturo R. García

Rinku Sen, the president and executive director of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Colorlines.com, at Facing Race 2012. Via Colorlines.

We’ll finish posting the plenaries from Facing Race 2012 Friday, but collected below are some impressions of the conference from members of the Racialicious team, including:

–Racialicious Owner and Editor Latoya Peterson
–Associate Editor Andrea Plaid
–Arts & Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour
–Guest Contributors Kendra James and Tressie McMillan Cottom

What were the highlights of the conference for you?

Andrea: “No Justice, No Peas,” “What’s Faith Got To Do With It,” and “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” were the stand-out panels for me.

I loved the first one because, unlike the other “green” panel I attended, “Energy Democracy For All,” I never had to ask “but what about the basic disconnect between this idea/policy and people/communities of color, namely that quite a few people of color still think ‘green’ as a whites-only thing.” The presenters made plain the idea that food justice goes far beyond just eating organic foods at vegan restaurants but the racial injustice undergirding the current human ecology of food work, namely who performs which functions in producing, transporting, and serving food–not just to and in vegan restaurants but also, as an example, to and in supermarkets.

“What’s Faith Got to Do With It” was more of a supportive space than a presentation, which is good as far as people connecting with each other but a bit messy when it came to facilitating it–we ran out of time, and our facilitator, an ARC staffer, had to scoot off to do another presentation! I got the feeling that the people needed to have a place where they could talk about how their faiths inform their social justice when larger progressive movements tend to aggressively degrade religion/spirituality as a framework for doing anti-racism work.

“Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”–which was about how the Right successfully and unsuccessfully uses sexual health issues to drive wedges within communities of color–was so righteous because the panelists brought it so fiercely about not only the racist misogyny that, dare I say, is the Right’s playbook, but also how the Left and the communities themselves are complicit with it when, say, the Left makes it a political strategy to ignore the “flyover states” where the Right is steadily implementing their anti-choice beliefs as laws and others tactics or, say, some Black communities (for example) are silent about abortion rates.

Oh yeah…and I got to ask the first question at the Junot Diaz press conference. (For those who didn’t see the Storified version, I asked him to address several Racialicious readers concern about his “irresponsible” use of the n-word. The Storify is his response.) For all who think breathing the same air as a MacArthur Genius Grant winner would be like inhaling sparkly bits of brilliance–the air’s pretty regular, y’all. He’s a very down-to-earth man, which only adds to his Racialicious sapiosexuality.
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Meanwhile, On TumblR: Jada Pinkett Smith On Willow Smith’s Hair

By Andrea Plaid

Jada Pinkett Smith and Willow Smith. Photo Credit: Bauer Griffin. Image via Zimbio

What captured the most likes and reblogs in our corner of Tumblr this week? Jada Pinkett Smith on her giving her daughter, Willow, the autonomy to cut her hair…or, rather, a post from Feminist Griote on Pinkett Smith’s position about it:

Willow as a little girl is learning that she is a force to be reckoned with in this world, and that her gender, and gender presentation will not serve as impediments. Jada who is now championing the cause against human sex trafficking, of which girls are disproportionately victims, understands that women need to own themselves fully, if not someone else will. Girls are being trafficked at an alarming rate and not just abroad, but also in our own backyards. In the U.S. alone 80% of human sex trafficking victims are women and girls and 50% are minors. Jada is making the conscious choice to take her daughter along with her on her journey to help end human sex trafficking. In a world where little girls are raped, stolen, and sold as a commodity, hair isn’t all that important.  Sometimes I wonder, have some of us adult Black women forgotten what it’s like to be a little Black girl in a white heterosexual patriarchal society? Again to quote Lorde, “easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness…” Our Black bodies and Black psyches are always being assailed and violated. Healthy validation is often hard to come by in these streets riddled with harassment. Therefore, let us save our vitriol and condemnation for more important things like the perpetuation of rape culture or Donald Trump.

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Watch: ‘Now What? Debriefing The Election And Talking Governance’ [Facing Race 2012 Plenary]

This plenary from the first day of this year’s Facing Race conference starts from a place, said moderator Carolina Gonzalez, where it felt like people were still recovering from President Barack Obama’s re-election a little over a week before.

Ten days later, she said, she felt “half hung over, but the way that you’re hung over from a really good party, where you wake up the next day and your head is banging and just crying but you want to talk about what happened the night before. Who said some outrageous thing, who hooked up with whom, who did the most ridiculous thing that they’re not gonna remember this morning.”

To that end, Gonzalez, who produces the radio show Latino USA for the Futuro Media Group, set out to facilitate a conversation “with clear eyes” about what happens next, with panelists:

[Racialigious] Leaving Jesus: Women Of Color Beyond Faith

By Guest Contributor Sikivu Hutchinson; excerpt from “Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels” (Feb. 2013); originally published at the Feminist Wire

The 24-hour prayer sessions are the true test of a warrior for Jesus.  They require Herculean stamina, the patience of Job, and the rigor of elite marathon runners hitting the wall in a fiery sweat pit at high altitude, primed for God’s finish line. In many small storefront Pentecostal churches these “pray-a-thons” are women’s spaces; hubs of music, food, caregiving, and intense witnessing.  My student Stacy Castro* is a bass player in her Pentecostal church’s band.  She is also the pastor’s daughter and a regular participant in the pray-a-thons, a mainstay in some evangelical congregations. Much of her weekends are focused on church activities. And though she is an intelligent, gifted speaker, up until her participation in the Women’s Leadership Project she thought little about pursuing college and wanted to go to cosmetology school.  Stacy’s aspirations are not atypical of students at Washington Prep High School in South Los Angeles.  In a community that is dominated by churches of every stripe; only a small minority go on to four-year colleges and universities.

Over the past decade, Pentecostal congregations have burgeoned in urban communities nationwide, as Pentecostalism has exploded amongst American Latinos disgruntled by rigid Catholic hierarchies, alienating racial politics, and sexual-abuse scandals.  The gendered appeal of Pentecostalism is highlighted in a 2008 American Religious Identification Survey which concludes that, “Latino religious polarization may be influenced by a gender effect, as in the general U.S. population, with men moving toward no religion and women toward more conservative religious traditions and practices. Two traditions at opposite poles of the religious spectrum exhibit the largest gender imbalance: the None population is heavily male (61%) while the Pentecostal is heavily female (58%). (Italics added.)”[i]

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