WELLBEING: What Art Got To Do With It?

By: Zoë Muntaner

An update from the Office of Civic Wellbeing was presented to Santa Monica City Council under the Special Agenda Items at the September 12 meeting. The buzzwords are diversity, race, equity.  On the heels of the renewed call for the removal of the historic Stanton Macdonald-Wright City Hall mural, one of its most relevant highlights involve intensive staff training on racial equity led by the Center for Social Inclusion and Government Alliance on Race and Equity.

“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.”~ Jim Rohn

Activists have viewed the mural an expression of racism that parallels the Confederate Flag.  Julie Rusk, Chief of Civic Wellbeing watched protesters cries of the blatant symbol of colonialism from the balcony of City Hall, a day before her presentation. Yesterday, she accompanied Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades to the Pico Neighborhood Association Meeting for his presentation of a policy proposal affecting immigrants.  Coincidentally like the Wellbeing Index, the law is about data. The City is considering a law that would limit the gathering and use of information about a person’s immigration or religious status. It seems they can’t escape the historical legacy of local disenfranchised populations. The law is designed to empower the City Attorney’s Office to file lawsuits on behalf of marginalized immigrants. Oscar de la Torre, Chair of PNA stated: “the policy offers a false sense of security, this is another instance of a white organization teaching people of color about social justice” Mr. Rhoades said: “We use discretion and don’t want to file false claims” Oh, the irony of ironies… a story for another post.  Stay tuned.

“What we need today are universal values based not on faith but on scientific findings, common experience and common sense.” ~Dalai Lama

Back to the mural. The Santa Monica Landmarks Properties website offers a brief history of the mural–President Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped cure the country of “The Great Depression” by allocating several billion dollars to Public Works Administration projects, as a means of providing employment, stabilizing purchasing power, improving public welfare and contributing to a revival of the American industry. The City Hall walls feature murals documenting the city’s and the state’s history. Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) created one of the most extensive mural cycles in Southern California at the Santa Monica Public Library in the mid-1930’s, unveiled on August 25, 1935.

The Mural’s history is chronicled at the Santa Monica library’s website. Macdonald-Wright, had plywood panels specially prepared.  This technique, termed “portable murals,” was also utilized by famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Such a procedure enable easy removal from the wall if necessary. This is exactly what happened in 1965 when the library moved to a newly-constructed building located at 1343 Sixth Street. Deemed too old-fashioned, the Depression-era mural cycle was not transferred to the new facility, and the federal government took possession of all the mural panels. Alas, removal has precedent.

According Dr. Noah Bardach, an art-historian and co-founder of Universal Human Rights Initiative (UHRI), a non-profit focused on human rights education, “The WPA murals at the entrance to City Hall, depicting two American Indian men at the feet of a conquistador and a Franciscan friar,  communicate prominent themes of white supremacy over Native Americans and other people of color.” Local activists demand the murals be moved to a local museum. Dr. Bardach further explained: “These images glorify two historical tragedies for indigenous peoples, the Conquest and forced conversion by the Catholic Church, both of which resulted in the decimation of local populations from violence and sickness. The loss of life suffered during this period can rightly be thought of as a Native American Holocaust. Paired with this message of Native American subjugation and suffering is a mural of Caucasians at leisure.   Together, these two murals convey a vision of Santa Monica as an enclave for the pleasures of the White leisure class, one where people of color are kept in an inferior status and hidden out of sight.   The City of Santa Monica must recognize the central message of these works for what it is: white supremacy. This is not representative of the diverse, inclusive Santa Monica of today and it must not be the sentiment that greets visitors to our City Hall.   To live up to our highest ideals as a City, and in recognition of the wrongs that have been visited on minorities in our City’s past, the City of Santa Monica must take immediate steps to relocate the mural to a museum, or other suitable location, where it can be appreciated as a historical document.”

Carol Lemlein, President of the Santa Monica Conservancy filmed the demonstration on Monday. “I personally think there is little equivalency with the use of the Confederate flag and erecting statues of Confederate icons, most of which took place long after the Civil War and which were, for the most part, erected in defiance during the Jim Crow era.” said by email statement. She offered some food for thought courtesy of African American historian, Alison Rose Jefferson. “The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has issued a statement which in my mind offers a much more constructive and unifying approach than what I heard at City Hall on Monday.” she wrote.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

The intention of Santa Monica Wellbeing Office is to hone in on partnerships as an effective path to address concerning aspects of community wellbeing, one would think this is an ideal opportunity to address those intentions in a tangible way.  Local equity issues debated through education, affordable housing, street food vendors and authentic inclusion are on the line.

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The Wellbeing Index was deemed a “game changer” when it won the first-ever Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge in 2013. Will they talk a good game or play a good game? We can only guess what Mike Bloomberg would say about sportsmanship. In his 2016 Annual Letter on Philanthropy, he wrote: “Teamwork wins championships, as any sports fan can tell you…But having a full roster is a far cry from having a great team, to say nothing of winning a championship. Success will require leadership that unites everyone behind a common mission and gets everyone to work together by promoting communication, collaboration, and coordination. It’s a role that Bloomberg Philanthropies has fully embraced.”  

“Truth is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy.” ~Pope Francis

Santa Monica does not have a good track record when it comes to inclusive teamwork.  A lack of viable and sincere city government leadership have residents at wits ends.   After multiple emails expressing a desire to co-create with Compassionate Santa Monica, Wellbeing Project Manager Lisa Parson, in patronizing superiority, said is not my place to define inclusion.  I thought we were getting along fine.   At Council Chambers, multiple boards & commission community leader Albin Gielicz divulged they are still trying to define what wellbeing means in Santa Monica. I’m confused.  What have they defined all this time?   Chief of Wellbeing Julie Rusk and Senior Strategist Libby Carlson have made it clear there is a gatekeeping policy.  When confronted by the question of how City Attorney staff will assure fair enforcement/compliance with policy/ordinances given the fact that intensive staff training on racial equity raises flags of historical bias, she admitted: “We have a lot of work to do, yes”.  With new findings showing a community in need of social connection, economic security, and stress management, one would think their approach would be more inclusive.  The launch party of the new findings of the Wellbeing Index at The Water Garden excluded key groups and advocates that have been tirelessly working towards equity, parity and good racial relations in Santa Monica.   Missing the mark as the best opportunity to start making those connections and affirming the sincerity of the message, does not sound promising.  “Perhaps this is not the best example of an inclusive event,” said City Manager Rick Cole.  He is right. “There are clear areas of disparity, and the overall strength of a community is measured by its ability to help all members thrive, including its most vulnerable members. The latest Wellbeing Index tells us that we have work to do and we want to enlist the entire community in bridging these gaps,” said Mayor Ted Winterer.  Off the gates, the entire community was not included. The flaws seem to be in the design.  Authentic Wellbeing Mantra: “Meet people where they are, but tell the truth”.  Let’s frame it with that intent.

“In the absence of love and belonging there will always be suffering” ~Brené Brown 

GAME PLAN

We’ll have to wait to see Rick Cole’s game plan. He adopted this project two years ago when he became City Manager.  Does he have what it takes to win?  Can he do the work of becoming a real team outside of the cheerleader’s squad? Is this another ploy of City Hall’s expensive PR Machine?  Is he an authentic agent of change? Are we being played? What kind of inheritance we want, one of money or one of values? Innovation thinks outside the box.  Unless we fundamentally practice democracy, wellbeing is a hashtag code for privilege.   The ball is in their court.

Speaking about games, the Compassion Games are currently being played around the world. Santa Monica has a team on the map.  To learn more visit The Global Unity Games: Building Bridges a 16-day challenge to unify communities around the world in an expression of globally synchronized intentions with locally organized compassionate action.  Today”s Mission: Nourishing the Diversity of Life.

 Are you optimistic about your future?

#CompassionUnites #SantaMonica #BuildingBridges Game On.

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“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~George Orwell 

 

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DIVERSITY ON WHEELS

By: Zoë MuntanerBest-Earth-Day-Poster-Ideas-Pictures-2016HAPPY EARTH DAY!!! Do you bike or walk to work?  I do!  I am a progressive believer of alternative transportation, and do not own a car in LA. Hard to believe but is doable.  I ride the bus, walk, Uber, share rides, and bike…until last Sunday when the folks at Gumbiner and Savett, Inc. decided to hire a gardener to cut my lock and vandalized my bike. The following day I stopped by their offices to inquire about the insurance policy to cover damages, and was emailed back with the following reply from Rick Parent, Managing Director of Gumbiner & Savett:

Dear Ms. Muntaner:

I was forwarded your email concerning your claim that your bicycle was vandalized and in which you state that somehow Gumbiner Savett Inc. is to blame. Let me be direct and state that Gumbiner Savett is not responsible for your bicycle whatsoever. As a matter of fact, you have left your bicycle on our property for weeks if not months and it should have been thrown away a long time ago. There is a sign marked “private property” a few feet away from where your bicycle was abandoned.

Additionally, I understand from our employee, Maria Ruiz, that this morning you confronted her in an aggressive manner. You are hereby notified not to step foot on our property again and if you should do so, we will immediately contact the police to have you removed.
Lovely! No? Not only they engage in criminal activity, they also fabricate a lie to cover it.   Let’s see what the SMPD has to say.  More will be revealed.

Two years ago I started filming a documentary about the influence of money in our local elections.  Amongst my advisors is fellow Santa Monica resident & filmmaker Holly Mosher who produced the documentary Pay2Play.  We have a team of researchers committed to finding the connection (if any) between the bullying behavior of business and/or developers and their political contributions.  Remember City Council candidate Phil Brock’s anti-development rhetoric last election?  We found out he solicited money from a local developer and confronted Residiocracy’s support/endorsement of his candidacy at their rally; one of the many flip-flops on his political record. Yep, you can call me the Pay2Play police, pro bono service to our community.  STAY TUNED, coming to a screen and theater near you!

In celebratory environment news, the first criminal charges were filed for the Flynt water fiasco. Environmental racism advocates should be rewarded for their hard work and activism.

As a storyteller, I showcase my work at different venues.  In New York, I started my career with The Moth, Speakeasy, The Liar Show and The Talkingstick.  Lucky for you I am back in the saddle and this weekend will be telling stories on Saturday: In Heroes We Can Trust on 5420 Adams Boulevard and Sunday at BUSted in Echo Park at Stories Books & Cafe. BUSted!

Go to my Facebook page for details.   ZOË MUNTANER PUBLIC EVENTS PAGE

YEAR OF THE MONKEY

According to Joni Yung, 2016 is a leap year, I couldn’t agree with her more.  We both were born in a Monkey year.

chinese-new-year-monkey

For her is the end of a decade and beginning of a new one.  For me is the launching of this platform and release of the documentary I started to film two years ago during my run as a Santa Monica City Council candidate.  Time flies! We have a new election in seven months and the stakes are higher than two years ago.  So exciting! I LOVE politics.  I live for election season.  Elections show the best and the worst of the human condition at the same time.  It’s pure theater and seduction, so much fun to watch people lie with such conviction, and don’t get me started with the Saturday Night Life skits. The Press has its field day.  You have to have thick skin to be in politics, if you can’t get the heat, kindly remove yourself from the kitchen because I will be covering our local and national elections, get ready.  Diversity MATTERS and its Monkey Year! joni hammer photobooth

Back to Joni.  Like me, she is a long-time Santa Monica resident. She moved to town for college and stayed. We were both born on the year of the MONKEY, therefore, this is our year to celebrate under the Chinese Lunar Calendar. I met Joni two years ago on her birthday at SATTVA Yoga when I went to Friday Kirtan with Amita and Clay. It was a chilly winter night in December, you could not notice it from the warm intimacy of the room and the sensual soft movement of incense smoke twirling around.  SATVA LA community closed on May 2015, but Joni still here.

Joni BdayFor five years Joni has been moderating and producing YOGA CHAT, a podcast which covered my involvement and participation with The Mindful Living Health Expo through Compassionate Santa Monica back in 2015.  you can listen to episodes here:

YOGA CHAT with The Accidental Yogist

Joni is part of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition team, that will be participating in Climate Ride to have a positive impact on climate change. It will be her longest ride to date. I have been vocal about bicycle safety and support the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s work to make the LA region a healthy, safe and fun place to ride a bike.  The team is captained by Greg Laemmle who returns for a fourth run as their fearless leader and as a seasoned vet who helps the team meet their fundraising goals. To read more about Joni and support her fundraising efforts click on the following link:

Joni’s Climate Ride Fundraising Page

As she says: “female – check, minority – check, baby boomer – check! ” She is diversity on wheels and I wanted to hear more about Joni’s journey and celebrate her multifaceted interests and accomplishments.  She now commutes primarily on bike, logging an average of 15-25 miles a day and still own the same car for 15 years, which she drives it around town whenever biking is inconvenient.  Do you agree with me than we need more Jonis?  Lets get to business, she needs to raise $3000 by May 8th, Mothers Day. Did I mention she is a wonderful mother of two amazing daughters?  Open your hearts and wallets!

 

PENUMBRA

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY ART: is a new addition to the website development we are building for DIVERSITY MATTERS.  I will be posting artwork on exhibition at our local galleries that move and inspire reflection to write.  I love the blues, the lyrical, metaphorical and the actual color blue is my favorite (in all its hues).  The sky, the ocean, I was born & grew up on an island …what you expect?  Our environment deserves respect!  Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery tells me about the shadow nature of our collective and individual souls.  A penumbra is defined as an incomplete or partial shadow. In astronomy, it refers to the shadow cast on the earth by the moon in a partial eclipse. Brooklyn-based artist Randall Stoltzfus translates these natural phenomena in his current body of work. Celestial blue circles of cerulean and deep cobalt are layered and repeated, dispersed by a spectrum of soft white, yellow and black circles suggestive of dim shadows and illuminated horizon lines.

 

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Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery In Bergamot Station.

Stoltzfus’ meditative process begins slowly – compositions develop over months, and even years as controlled, circular layers of oil, hand-mixed pigments, and gold or palladium leaf are added over time. Abstracted landscapes and figures are illuminated and obscured in a push and pull of darkness and light as Stoltzfus builds visible texture. He compares his meticulous technique to the layering of scrim, a strong, coarse fabric, allowing the work to become a sum of its layers.

Layers are what I find fascinating about our local politics and the world at large. The more I research, the more I find, the more I learn, the more perspective I have to connect the dots.  Sight and perception are intrinsic to Stoltzfus’ thoughtful process. “Our perception is … always partial, and always collective in a way we sometimes find difficult to acknowledge,” says Stoltzfus. “We see individual things, less often aware of the broader condition of light and shadow that make this possible. The sources that power our sight dwarf what we actually comprehend.”  That is what sets me apart from the crowd. I am different, I represent diversity and that is my biggest asset as a writer, advocate and citizen.

PENUMBRA is an intimate study of light and the physiological response. Drawing reference from the color field painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, as well as the textured works of abstract expressionist Richard Pousett-Dart, Stoltzfus engages directly with his audience’s vision for a response that is at once physical and emotional. His paintings defy the two-dimensionality of the canvas to create visual narratives of wonder and mystery.  I wonder if our City Council has the depth and courage to explore the shadow side on the implications of their votes at City Council Chambers?  This work will be a good invitation to do that.  A little reflection never hurt anybody.  Kevin Mckewon is set to cut the ribbon at the Expo Se in Bergamot station, perhaps he will take a look.

In honor and celebration of the EXPO line opening at Bergamot Station, I will be posting a series of EXPO-SE posts starting next week. Get ready, is going to be a bumpy ride.  Details for the EXPO-SE below. Don’t miss it!

Until next time…let’s get intense with it!

 

EXPO-SE Card2

 

 

 

 

DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS

By: Zoë Muntaner

Robert Frank Charleston
@ROBERT FRANK, Charleston,  South Carolina 1955 from “The Americans”

 

Through the years, people asked me to blog about any of my many passions. It took me a while to finally commit and launch something sustainable with meaning and purpose.  Thanks to everyone that read the inaugural post and to the many who encouraged me to write it.  I’m profoundly grateful and humbled by the praise and road ahead.  With purpose, I will give voice to the less fortunate and push the boundaries of our thinking with compassion.  My aim is to bring  light and awareness to issues vital to our community and the world at large.  Your feedback is always welcome and brings hope that one single person can make a difference.  In the words of Activist & Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai: “When the whole world becomes silent, even one voice becomes powerful”

Malala

 

That was the meme I used to tweet about the Santa Monica Democratic Club presentation & discussion of the Downtown Community Plan (formerly Downtown Specific Plan)  this past Wednesday at the Santa Monica Main Library.  The panel included Santa Monica planning director David Martin, community activist and Ocean Park Organization board member Mary Marlow who co-chairs a neighborhood group subcommittee studying the DCP, and architect Ron Goldman, a member of Santa Monica Architects for a responsible tomorrow (SMart) which is also studying the DCP.   Although they brought flash drives with their respective presentations, no one brought a laptop and mine was designated to make the visuals available to all. Hence, now everyone not present that night can view the presentations by clicking on the names here:

David Martin

Mary Marlow

SMArat

You be the judge of what you envision Downtown Santa Monica should look like for future generations. I respect my readers too much to encourage support or boycott petitions.  I also respect the democratic process that allows citizens to take control of their desitny and encourage active participation in the political process.  Anyone who discourages the activism of its citizens in the process is not a friend of democracy. My job is to present information and data, your job is to analyze it.  DIVERSITY MATTERS is about sharing different perspectives of our own humanity and how we approach the daily task of living while affirming our personal and political identities.  I am inspired by grassroots organization, the mobilization that evolves our democracy.  Bernie Sanders Campaign is an example of how committed citizens can transform the political culture and create revolutionary results.  In our city, Residiocracy proved to inspire residents through the Hines referendum and now they are trying to repeat the feat with the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE).  I dig living in a city of engaged political discourse.  As a Sander’s newsletter in my inbox read: “Our power comes from a simple, timeless truth: when people come together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

ROBERT FRANK @ BERGAMOT STATION

Bergamot Station Arts Center continues to be a hub of artistic activity unrivaled not only in the city of Santa Monica but in the Western United States.  Robert Frank, one of the most important visual artists, (His photos bookend this post.) has created an exhibition of works presently on view at building g-1 home of the old Santa Monica Museum of Art.  This show is compiled of the artist’s photographic prints, books, and films. It is a most amazing feat to have an exhibition of this importance and magnitude at Bergamot Station, and for this we must thank Shoshana and Wayne Blank, the founders of Bergamot Station Arts Center; Richard Ehrlich of UCLA; Steidl Publishing House; and the Steve Tisch foundation, all of whom had the vision and fortitude to bring to our city a world class show that will be traveling to 40 other international museums and institutions. The exhibit is the brainchild of Gerhard Steidl, Robert Frank’s longtime friend and publisher. In New York Gerhard Steidl gave a Master Class to students and post doctoral candidates -“How To Make A Book” and offered critiques to any interested students.  The exhibition was was a smashing hit!  Thus our mandate is clear: to duplicate if not surpass it in LA at the Santa Monica Museum space at Bergamot Station.  Robert Frank: Books & Films 1947-2016 runs through April 16, 2016.  Do not miss it!

New York Times Review

VOGUE Magazine Review

At a time when the city of Santa Monica, owner of most of the land the arts center inhabits, is contemplating a plan to turn the center into an office building and hotel complex, it is very important to note that the artist, his collaborators, and supporters chose Bergamot Station because of its worldwide reputation for being an accessible and open arts venue for all to come and appreciate and enjoy for free. Robert Frank’s most iconic body of work, ‘The Americans’, photographs made on several road trips throughout the United States in the 1950s, is best known for its portrayal of the inequality of race and economics that existed in this period of American history. Right now, in 2016, we, Americans, are confronted by such very similar issues.

The City of Santa Monica has long had the reputation of being a haven for those committed to racial, economic and cultural diversity. I fear this is no longer true. The city seems bent on becoming an enclave of the wealthy and privileged. Do we really need another hotel / office business park?  When all is said and done, a forward thinking city needs to realize that investing in the cultural life of its citizens is also the best investment for the economic life of the city. At this moment, we are at a critical juncture. The galleries at Bergamot Station have a vested interest in continuing to bring to the our audience significant, far-reaching and diverse exhibitions and events that enrich and enhance our collective lives in our city. The Robert Frank exhibition is a most fine example of what they strive to accomplish day in and out. Robert Frank has stated that his intention with this exhibition is to make young folks aware of these works. When asked what advice he would give a young photographer, he responded -“keep your eyes open”!!!  That advice also applies to Santa Monica residents that concern themselves with the dramatic changes to the character of our city and the direction the Planning & Community Development Department is taking.  The second day of the exhibition I witnessed hundreds of students from all parts of Los Angeles County at the center. This is community at its best. Diversity lives at Bergamot Station.

MARIMBA MADE ME DO IT

Last Sunday I went the Main Street Farmer’s Market to get groceries.  The sun was hiding behind clouds but the atmosphere was celebratory and joyful.  At this point, I’d like to introduce another member of the Santa Monica community, Venice HS teacher and community organizer Marcy Winograd. Marcy and I met up at the busy Main Street Farmers Market last Sunday.

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Marcy shared with me: “Standing there at the Farmer’s Market, a few blocks from my home, I felt as though I was at the intersection of African, Latin, and American traditions” as the talented Masanga Marimba band captivated the crowd with beats and song from Zimbabwe and Latin America .”

(Remember that I’m Latina, I hear Latin sounds and I am trasported, anything can happen when I hear Afrocaribbean sounds, so I allowed Marcy to tape me and share in Facebook to much of my embarasment.)

Back to Marcy … “According to the band’s website (masanga.com), “The word Masanga comes from an African word that means coming together of rivers …” and indeed the lyrics and music brought people together of diverse ethnicities and ages. This wasn’t just a venue for adults but children, too, for in between jam sessions, when the band took a break, girls and boys, toddlers among them, practiced percussion, experimenting with their own brand of Marimba as their wrists went wild. Kudos to Dr. Ric Alviso, a CAL State Northridge ethnomusicologist and professor of World Music, for assembling this rare 9-member ensemble and bringing the beats to Santa Monica, and a special thanks to City staff for inviting Masanga for a repeat performance.”

Until next time, join the Diversity Bandwagon!

 

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@Robert Frank Trolley-New Orleans 1955 from “The Americans”

 

 

 

 

DIVERSITY SPRING

By: Zoë Muntaner

“Diversity”and its sister “Inclusion” have hit critical mass of awareness.

I have always wondered about the true meaning of diversity and its role in a community and a nation at large. It always seems like it’s the right thing to say when you wish to garner votes (except Donald Trump) but in the moment of truth communities vote for projects that disenfranchise the poor (where diversity is more apparent) to open way for less integrated neighborhoods. Is Santa Monica one of those communities?

Is that time of the year, the word diversity is coming to the forefront. We have a presidential election and candidates want to bask in their diversity credentials. The President visited Cuba this week and with it the hope that the embargo will be lifted soon.

Do you remember the Arab Spring? So much hope and possibility that things could change. That Spring came with a short-lived revolution, and for a moment, the Arab people felt their voice and power rise to the occasion. No flower blooms in the dessert. I was there, I witnessed the regional change while living in Dubai during those turbulent times. It provided me with an understanding of diversity within the Arab, Persian, Pakistani and Indian people. It was an adventure and I am glad to be safe at home. I love my flawed democracy.

Edelman Trust Barometer

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer presentation at Santa Monica’s Cross Campus. The Trust Barometer is an annual global study that measures the amount of public trust in institutions, including business, media, NGO’s and government.

For more information, visit www.edelman.com/trust2016.

As I walked into the room and scanned the prestigious panel and audience, I could not find the diversity that a global study on TRUST should reflect. When we reached the Q & A portion of the event I was allowed to ask a question and BOOM! The SILENCE that comes after an awkward moment. Oops, did I make anyone, uncomfortable? Sorry, not my intention but I was really curious why there was an all white male and female panel that talked about the gospel of trust in terms that do not reflect my experience. I was given the glossed over PR answer that included the “importance of having the conversation”, not before hearing from one of the panelists referring to diversity as minorities. WOW! Really? Seriously? YEP, we have not come a long way, babe! Not in this crowd. Two years before I came across important data and metrics that I assumed was common knowledge.  Beatriz Acevedo (Founder of Mitu) presentation at SMWLA showed Latinos over index in all categories hence the success of her company. Click on the link below to examine the data:

SMWLA_MITU

A week after the Edelman Trust event, Social Media Club LA had a panel event on the topic of Diversity in Social Media, examining diversity and the need to be inclusive of gender, culture, sexuality and race. I hope that by now we all agree that diversity is beyond people of color and encompasses what the world looks like outside your door, at least if you live in a city like Santa Monica, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago…. you get the point.

Bergamot Station & The Human Race Machine

Art always supply a good point of departure. The Bergamot Station Spring Fling last Saturday had two exhibits at the ROSEGALLERY and one at Earth WE that blew my mind in regards to diversity, challenging the audience to examine the issue and provoking us to engage in the active participation of life in the 21st century.

If your world is not diverse, you are not alone. Do not panic, there is a help, I will provide resources with each piece in this blog to explore and integrate you into normalcy & the real world if you are not watching Shonda Rhimes’ roster of shows on ABC on Thursdays.

Betsy Clark’s “The Exiles” are portraits created by her imagination that look as if they are from another country and era. Says Clark: “ I imagine these women have had really hard times, yet they are all so proud and dignified and have put their best outfit on for some special occasion or party, where they might not really fit in…” I had a lovely time chatting with Clark on Saturday, she is real, authentic, enjoys deep conversation and is a lot of fun. My kind of gal. Although Clark’s comes from a privileged background, she brought to life what I consider one of the seeds of diversity: Exile.  The exhibition runs until the end of April.

Nancy Burson’s timely new work “What if He were: Black-Asian-Hispanic-Eastern Indian” is a large-scale five-part image of presidential candidate Donald Trump that challenges photographic truth at the birth of digital manipulation. About the work on view Burson says: “This project was a commission for a prominent liberal magazine, which ultimately decided not to publish it. My interest in creating this work was the desire to know what Donald Trump’s reaction might be if he saw the images. Current research shows that experience of oneself as another produces an empathetic response within the mirror neurons of the brain. The question in my mind was whether Donald Trump’s brain would be affected by an emphatic response to viewing the work.”

Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal brain might also benefit from a journey through the Human Race Machine. Imagine the woman who bows to AIPAC and votes to go to war on Iraq becoming an Iraqi or a Palestinian or a Libyan or a Honduran, since she supported destabilization in those countries, as well as Iraq. (Can you tell I’m a Bernie Sanders’ supporter?) Yesterday, Ms. Clinton honored Santa Monica with her presence for a $2,700.00 ticket fundraiser. I am confused about her campaign-finance reform ideas, is there a machine for that?

How it all began . . .
Nancy Burson’s pioneering work in morphing technologies began with age-enhancing the human face, enabling law enforcement to locate missing children and adults. The Human Race Machine is Burson’s best known public art project, originally developed as a commission for the London Millennium Dome in 2000. What would you look like as another race? Human Race Machines have been changing perspectives on racial diversity since 2000 and have been used on college and university campuses as a diversity tool to discuss issues of race and ethnicity since 2003. Human Race Machines have been featured in all forms of media including segments on Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, National Public Radio, PBS, and Fuji TV News, as well as countless local TV channels in the USA. Prominent articles featuring the Human Race Machine have appeared in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Houston Chronicle, and Scientific American Magazine to name a few.

It occurs to me that bringing one to Santa Monica as part of the 2016 Compassionate Santa Monica calendar could be an interesting proposition. Bring students of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and Santa Monica College to experience it, have an essay contest whose winner will be published at one of our media partners. Even better have the Santa Monica Police Department experience the Human Race Machine as part of mandatory training to improve social relations and minimize the exposure to litigation the city has experienced in the past couple of years. What about our city employees? City Attorney’s office? Residents? Our City Council? Maybe a permanent installation of the machine is in order. We need to raise funding. Volunteers?

The concept of race is not genetic, but social. There is no gene for race. In 2005, there was a gene that was identified for skin color, but that was only skin deep. Skin color is simply a reflection of the amount and distribution of the pigment melanin and humans are all alike underneath their skin. This newly found gene involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome — the complete instructions that comprise a human being. We are, in fact, all 99.9% alike.

About this project Rose Shoshana of the Bergamot ROSEGALLERY observes: “Art serves many functions, such as addressing issues of current politics. One role of an art gallery for the community it serves is to make known possible controversial creations that may have no other venue. It is an honor to fill the breach and make Burson’s new work available for public consideration”.

Burson’s installation compliments the ongoing Japan’s Tomoko Sawada exhibition: Facial Signature, not to be missed. Trust me, just go before it ends on April 9, 2016. Both artists focus on the ever-changing form of the human face in diverse ways.

The Arts get it, they always do. One of the reasons to support and advocate for your local arts community and have your local government subsidize it.

Coming this Fall, I will be hosting a fundraiser event exploring themes of Diversity, Trust and Authenticity. Top Tier executives from diverse fields will present engaging explorations of the themes, potentially developing an annual Symposium on the subject. We will be streaming the event globally to all cities involved in the Charter for Compassion. Compassionate Santa Monica, much-needed funding will benefit the Urban Counseling Project to serve the homeless population in Santa Monica. Subscribe to our mailing list to be informed of more details.

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

Before you disqualify the premise of the blog, consider that two days ago the HBR published an enlightening piece about the subject. Women and Minorities are penalized for promoting diversity.  Read the credentials of the authors. I rest my case.

READ HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW HERE

You might claim that Santa Monica is exempt from this diversity issue because we have a black female Chief of Police, a Latino Deputy Chief of Police and a Latino Mayor (who was not elected but appointed in a political move by the rest of the City Council). The optics are designed to deceive and disguise a little ( actually, is not that little, is pretty BIG to me) dirty secret that carries shame. The Nile is a long river. I can’t believe that at this day and age we still have to witness the racial obscenity of the mural in our local city hall, for the mural honors the colonizers and depicts a white entitled community. A city whose latest park — Tonga Park — named after the indigenous Indians nearly wiped out when the colonizers arrived — carries an obviously rich heritage. Yes, the City of Santa Monica, the first city to sign the Charter for Compassion in LA County, should know better and reflect the values and the statement of The Charter for Compassion who garner a unanimous vote from our City Council on 2013.

Spring Equinox at the Community Gardens

Sunday’s Spring Equinox brought me back to the Santa Monica Community Gardens on Main Street, where I used to have a spot. I met with Ramey, the first friend I made in LA, who is responsible for me living in Santa Monica. We met after many years apart, now she is married to a Puerto Rican (enhancing her bloodline) who could not join us as he left for Cuba with The Rolling Stones. They have a gorgeous daughter and witnessing three generations celebrating Spring in the garden was lovely but bittersweet. Ramey’s mother arrived in Santa Monica from Savannah, Georgia in 1967 and brought her mother and brothers with her. Sadly Ramey had to move to the Valley, as the rising costs of rents are pushing a long time residents out who could no longer afford to live in the city they love, reason enough for me to explore the topic of Diversity and Affordable Housing in one of my next posts. Until then, have a blessed week and enjoy the city while you can, for you never know when you’ll have move out; that is not laughing matter.

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