Three Things Thursday: What I’m Thankful For This Year
Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to the November 26th edition of Three Things Thursday. I hope this message finds you all safe and healthy, surrounded by love and warmth, not indicated by the number of people in your company, but by good food, best wishes from friends and family near and far, and the fact that our nation is moving towards an era of decency, renewed, trustworthy international diplomacy, and action to protect people, place and planet.
In this week’s Three Things, I share a few things for which I am incredibly grateful, aside from my family and our new canine, Guapo, of course.
This includes all who are part of the Michigan LCV family–and that means YOU!–as well as the many incredible Black female leaders in Detroit, and poets who help buoy us during hard times.
1.The Michigan LCV Family
The week of March 9, 2020 was the week Governor Whitmer was planning to announce her MI Healthy Climate Plan, a bold plan to tackle the most existential threat of our time: climate change. As you can imagine, the Michigan LCV team and our allies across the state were filled with great anticipation and excitement knowing that strong leadership from Governor Whitmer would not only put Michigan on the right path, but signal to states across the nation and in Washington, D.C. the dire importance of this issue.
Instead of announcing her climate plan, the Governor–looking straight into the face of a growing global pandemic–announced the much-needed shut down of our state, urging people to shelter in place and recognizing from the start the disproportionate impact COVID-19 was having on low-income populations and communities of color.
From March 13 to November 24, 2020, the Michigan LCV board, staff, volunteers, and members have come together in unprecedented ways to support one another; to pivot, survive and thrive in an all virtual environment; and to ensure voters had all they needed to vote and vote safely in May, August and November. Together, we:
– Built our robust first-ever Democracy for All program, which not only educated and mobilized thousands of voters around their voting rights, but led the statewide poll worker recruitment program in partnership with the Secretary of of State, the ACLU, Voters Not Politicians, All Voting is Local and many more;
– Engaged for the very first time in Michigan Supreme Court races, helping re-elect Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and elect former Michigan LCV Board Member Elizabeth Welch;
– Partnered with our friends at national LCV to ensure Michigan “went blue” at the top of the ticket, with over 154,000 more voters casting their vote for Joe Biden (than the other guy) and ensuring that U.S. Senator Gary Peters, and Congresswomen Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens returned to Washington; and
– Elected strong women to office at both the state legislative and county commission level.
Within a global pandemic and a highly contested election, we elevated issues that mattered in communities all across the state, with clean, safe, affordable drinking water right at the forefront. We made sure that voters understood the links between disproportionate exposure to water and air toxins and the impact of COVID-19. We used our sophisticated communications infrastructure to connect the dots between the major dam collapses (examples of aging infrastructure failure due to extreme weather) and climate change and toxins in our waterways; between oil pipelines in perilous places (Line 5 in the Straits) and drinking water, our regional economy and the dangerous (and, again, disproportionate) pollution at the end of the line (Marathon Petroleum facility in Detroit’s 48217 zip code). We talked about the horrors of water shut offs and what that means to families when they can’t wash their hands, bathe their children, or cook their food.
2020 was, and is, a really hard year for all of us. And, yet, this feisty, determined, whip-smart Michigan LCV family came together in unprecedented ways and our work made a real difference –in people’s lives. While the pandemic rages on, I am incredibly grateful for what we were able to accomplish this year. Thank you for your partnership!
For a comprehensive look at everything we–the Michigan LCV family–accomplished this year, I urge you to check out our #OurWater Summary.
2. Incredible leaders in Detroit
This year has put a spotlight on the challenges facing our nation’s largest cities, including the City of Detroit. This enhanced focus brought to the fore for me an elevated appreciation for the women warriors who are on the frontlines every day working to protect their families and communities. In Detroit, there is a group of tenacious Black women who have been fighting for justice over the last many decades whom I admire deeply and for whom I am very, very grateful. Facing what some would say are insurmountable challenges (some of which are deeply entrenched within our institutions), these amazing leaders have rolled up their sleeves to take on threats to their communities like toxic, polluting incinerators, giant corporations (e.g. Marathon Petroleum and AK Steel), lead exposure in aging pipes and aging homes, and water shut offs in thousands of Detroit households. As the current presidential administration did all they could to disenfranchise voters in our state’s largest city, the residents of Detroit stood up and said, “NO”, so many of them women serving–as they have for years–as poll workers, election officials and community leaders encouraging their friends and neighbors to participate in the democratic process.
Last week, Planet Detroit published an article focused on four of these amazing women, leaders who have helped birth Detroit’s environmental justice movement: Alice Jennings, Donele Wilkins, Theresa Landum and Monica Lewis-Patrick. As the subtitle reads, “That Black women lead this work is not by accident.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you, warrior women!
3. Poets whose work buoys us during tough times
As we continue to face a very tough and challenging year, I find myself turning to the strength of the written word, specifically poetry, to find some solace and reflection. Richard Blanco is a Cuban American writer who “has straddled the many ways a sense of place merges with human emotion to form the meaning of home and belonging. In 2013, he became the fifth poet to read at a presidential inauguration — also the youngest and the first immigrant.”
Blanco was interviewed by Krista Tippett on On Being in 2019 and the interview was replayed last weekend on NPR.
From the opening of the interview when Blanco is heard reading…
“We hold these truths to be self-evident…
We’re the cure for hatred caused by despair. We’re the good morning of a bus driver who remembers our name, the tattooed man who gives up his seat on the subway. We’re every door held open with a smile when we look into each other’s eyes the way we behold the moon. We’re the moon. We’re the promise of one people, one breath declaring to one another: I see you. I need you. I am you.”
….to his reading of a portion of his poem entitled America…
“A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
‘one if by land, two if by sea’
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the ‘masses yearning to be free’
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey …
as well as pork.
Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamà set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I had to translate from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolus,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworths.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
‘DRY’, Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly–‘esa mierda roja,’ he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin—calabasa—was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.”
…Blanco had me…laughing and crying. These poems come from his book, How to Love a Country.
And, then there’s Kwame Alexander, who was interviewed this week on NPR in relation to his new book of poetry, entitled Light For The World To See: A Thousand Words On Race And Hope. This new work includes three poems on three events: the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protests before NFL games, and the election of Barack Obama as president. In the interview with Rachel Martin, Alexander says that he offers these poems as “psalms and balms” for the soul.
Finally, but not at all least importantly, is the amazing Natasha Miller whose spoken word poetry has wow’d audiences at our last three Detroit Galas, including this year in our all virtual event. If you haven’t taken a moment to watch/listen to T Miller’s poem as performed for the Michigan LCV audience October, I highly encourage you to do so. She’s a Michigan treasure and her words are so important for all of us as we work through the times we find ourselves in.
I invite you to explore all of Richard Blanco’s, Kwame Alexander’s and Natasha Miller’s poetry as a gift to yourself this season. I think you will find yourself very grateful, as I am, for their amazing work.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well. Be safe. Thank you for all you do to make this world a better place.