A few weeks ago, I spotted a sign at a local bookstore reminding patrons "circulate your money within your community." Written in white letters atop a green backdrop, this sign clearly promoted two forms of behavior: first, support of independent bookstores, and second, capitalizing on our current fixation with anything green, support of local vendors. I'd seen thousands of similar signs encouraging people to "Buy Local" or reminding consumers of the vital role that independent booksellers play in communities, but there was something compelling about this particular sign, so much so that I decided to take a picture of it with my camera phone. Upon further reflection, I eventually realized why I thought this mundane sign so striking -- it was a reminder to the "Buy Black" signs that I was accustomed to seeing in African American communities throughout this country.
As Marcus Garvey can attest, Green has always permissible in this country unless it was associated with Red and Black. This current eco-environmental movement retraining consumers to circulate our money locally is not at all new -- what is new is that for the first time in this nation's history it has an opportunity to free itself from some of the acidulous elements of its past, most notably Jim Crow segregation. At one point in America's history, the color line determined how cash flowed and incited the triumphant and tragic legacies of the aforementioned Garvey, as well as Tulsa, Oklahoma. Supporting local vendors was tantamount to supporting white or black vendors. History has shown us that we can not afford to go down this road again, which is one of the many reasons why this weekend's The Dream Reborn Conference taking place in Memphis Tennessee is so vital.
Sponsored by Green For All, an Oakland based community organization striving to, "build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty," The Dream Reborn is a:
Racially just, green gathering [that] will celebrate the life of Dr. King and present positive solutions for social and environmental equity from today's generation of visionary leaders. Special emphasis will be placed on ecological solutions that can heal the Earth while bringing jobs, justice, wealth, and health to ALL of our communities
The Dream Reborn coincides with the fortieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder, thereby injecting a profound biblical quality to this venture that is clearly not lost upon its supporters. In this case, the forty years spent in the desert represents a quest to counter the burgeoning gaps in green economies that threatens to produce what some have termed, eco apartheid, "a situation where the benefits of the Green Wave bypass the communities who need them most."
Forty years in the making, this gathering of community activists, dreamers and leaders from amongst others, renowned organizations as the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Highlander Research and Education Center and Sustainable South Bronx, The Dream Reborn endeavors to fortify a national commitment to ensuring a just green social and political economy. With fuel prices at record highs, the housing market at record lows, and cities across the country considering environmental friendly initiatives ranging from banning bottled water in municipal offices and congestion pricing, it is obvious why it is necessary to ensure that as many people as possible realize how they are stakeholders in these decisions. It is also worth remembering that the Civil Rights was in part a green movement. Civil disobedience strategies such as bus boycotts where people walked and carpooled, and disciplined spending habits developed through boycotts of racist proprietors are apt examples of how the types of change that sponsors of The Dream Reborn are promoting were successfully enacted in the past.
Bridging the past and present is only one of the goals of this convening, now that this has been accomplished, it is now time to see how the future manifests, for all births are about labor -- that difficult and unpredictable task that gives life to all.