THE PIRATES OF SILICON BEACH

By:  Zoë Muntaner

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

In his 2002 classic The Rise of the Creative Class, Carnegie Mellon professor Richard Florida argued that “creative class” professionals like tech engineers, held the key to revitalizing America’s cities. He encouraged government planners and citizens to cater to the tastes of these creative professionals by developing walkable urban neighborhoods well-served by transit and with ample amenities. 

The result came with rents skyrocketing, pricing out many ordinary citizens. Sound familiar? Cities have become more segregated by income and economic class. Mixed-income neighborhoods have been on the decline, replaced by concentrated pockets of wealth and poverty.  We are more segregated now than the end of the civil war. Can you hack that? 

A hack is the use of a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system but don’t let the metaphor escape you.  Hack the Beach is a series of micro-festivals celebrating and bringing together Santa Monica’s tech innovators with local civic leaders co-sponsored by the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. The organizations aim to explore the big issues facing our community and discuss ways that technology can transform Santa Monica.  Technology has transformed Santa Monica indeed.  In the lead-up to the second annual Hack The Beach event, they are searching for innovation, ideas and solutions to improve Santa Monica’s Wellbeing through technology. 

hacker
Hacker is any skilled computer expert that uses their technical knowledge to overcome a problem, and/or uses bugs or exploits to break into computer systems.

Wellbeing is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy. new paper by Yale University researchers published last Monday, reaffirmed there are vast overestimations in the progress toward racial economic equality, particularly amongst those who are thriving.  The study’s results are especially stunning in the wake of census data released last week that showed that African Americans were the only racial group still making less than they did in 2000.  Hispanics, are a whole other story. Take a look at the growing discontent of the Pico Neighborhood residents published in the local Lookout piece by Niki Cervantes. 

This week’s The New York Times Technology section published a short documentary exploring digital colonialism: How Facebook is Changing Your Internet”.  Electronic colonialism theory explains how mass media is leading us to a new concept of empire.  “It will not be one based on military power or land acquisition but one based on controlling the mind. It is a psychological or mental empire.  It is an evolving global “Empire of the Mind.”   But it’s not just Facebook, several large tech companies are shaping access to information and expression, influencing political and business environments in previously unseen ways. Who is building the algorithms?  

City Manager Rick Cole spoke about “the opportunity for all of Santa Monica to be globally competitive, to have the highest quality of life and to achieve the goals of social justice and equity that we all share” at the 2016 State of the City Address.  The following video illustrates a particularly troubling metaphor that stands in the way to the lofty remark.  Got diversity?  Easier said than done.  Are YOU ready for your future? 

Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakes” ~Carl Jung

Last year I sat with Brian Mac Mahon, sensei of Expert DOJO one of the partners of the event, to discuss Compassionate Santa Monica’s interest in the intersection of tech and corporate responsibility.  The tech industry can and should generate widespread opportunity instead of inequality and displacement, but without the acknowledgment that such disparities exist, as echoed by the Yale study, how to correct such imbalances?   That is one of the goals of Compassionate Santa Monica business sector.  We aim to build a compassionate and inclusive business community.   

Local leaders now have the opportunity to own up to intrinsic bias in policy making and development. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Americans revealed that all income levels remain profoundly unaware of the economic inequality between their groups. The clueless misperceptions could negatively affect public policy as (if) we grow more diverse, researchers said, with politicians championing misguided legislation rooted in false impressions.  Santa Monica is not immune to this problem. 

 “Perhaps, after all, America has never been discovered” ~Oscar Wilde

We have a fair share of equity issues, evidenced by last years’ school board Equity in Education presentation by Dr. Pedro Noguera, Fay Wells and Justin Palmer’s incidents with SMPD, at-large vs. district elections lawsuit, the renewed call for relocation of the Stanton Macdonald-Wright City Hall mural, criminalization of food street vendors, and compensation inequality.  Councilwoman Sue Himmerlich revealed at our meeting to discuss street vendors, she took the intrinsic bias test and found she hold biases: “I am sure you have taken it as well, everybody has biases”  Do you?  Got Compassion? 

I met with Mayor Ted Winterer on November 17, 2016, to present a Racial Relations Task Force aimed to deal with diversity issues created in part by the impact of tech on housing prices, the current presidential administration set of policies, parity representation at boards and commissions, and other issues.   The Wellbeing office jumped to facilitate a forum on immigration on February synchronized with a government resolution embracing diversity.  However, we still lack tangible solutions/policy to deal with the white elephant in the room, and the issues keep mounting. Resistant to own up their flaws leadership gets trapped in a bubble.

“But when Galileo invited Christian scholars to look through his telescope in order to see the new evidence, they flatly refused. They didn’t want to see any data that might count against the earth-centric view of the universe. It is difficult to think of a more revelatory episode of cognitive dissonance. They simply shut their eyes.”– Matthew Syed from Black Box Thinking

BENCHMARKING

Is no secret the tech industry has a toxic diversity problem.  In her TEDx talk, Dr. Ruha Benjamin challenges biases inherent to modern scientific research. Prominent civic leaders misperceive the impact of tech on the quality of life of a big demographic of the city.  Stress is not a state of mind…it’s measurable and dangerous, and humans can’t seem to find their off switch.

When mammals escape from danger, their stress response settles and they return to a calm state. For human beings, our repeated exposure to everyday stressors such as traffic jams, long waits for the bus home and pushing crowds means that we live in a constant state of low-grade stress. I’d like to call them micro agression.  It’s as if our off-switch for stress is out of order because our stress levels rise so easily.  One of the reasons why lab bench science equity is key.  

The Chair of the Santa Monica Social Services commission Shawn Landres, PhD stood in front of City Council last year to cite a study supporting financial segregation of residents in the new affordable housing project: The Arroyo. On inquiry, I found out the “study” was an isolated survey of one housing project in Berkley, CA with no scientific protocol. Ironically Landres criticized our polling system in a previous blog post as unscientific. His Wikipedia page calls him as a social entrepreneur, independent scholar, and local civic leader, known primarily for applied research related to faith-based social innovation and community development.  Faith-based?   The banner of the 4th of July parade Social Services Commission he chairs read: “Advancing inclusion, diversity, and wellbeing. Lord have Mercy on us.  

A truly wonderful aspect of secular or faith compassion is that it helps to lift us out of our own pressing concerns and connects us with a bigger picture.  Compassion can help us as much as it enables us to benefit others.  All this is explored in the new online course, How to Become a Compassionate Citizen which is open for registration now and begins on 27 September 2017.  You can read more about the course here. If you wish to sign up you can register here. 

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

THERE ARE NO MOORS AT THE COAST 

The origin of this phrase comes from a time where the Moors, inhabitants of North Africa, used to invade from the sea and sack coastal villages in Spain. The phrase means that there are no Moors at the coast, which generally meant that there are no problems coming our way.  Turning the tables of diversity advocacy, when invited to speak to City Council in support of inclusion of Oaxacan food vendors for the upcoming COAST Open Street Festival, Landres, activist Irma Carranza, Project Manager Lisa Parson and Santa Monica Chief of Wellbeing Julie Rusk turned away and left the corner hall outside City Chambers.  Got inclusion?  Is rumored Landres is running for City Council in the 2018 election.  

There will be no ethnic food street vendors inclusion at COAST, but All-string female Mariachi band Las Collbrí, Hip-hop dance group Antics, Samba Reggae, Afro-Brazilian Dance, DJ Anthony Valadez and music from progressive salsa orchestra Rambankete will provide entertainment. A good show.  Beware, there will be pirates at COAST.

coast

TRANSPARENCY: QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES?

Is a Latin phrase literally translated as “Who will guard the guards themselves?” It is commonly used to refer to the problem of controlling the actions of people in positions of power.   Building on the foundation of a simple level of transparency who won City Grows the inaugural Hack the Beach event, I asked Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs, Carl Hansen,  to disclose the list of the judges for the event.  Well, patience is a virtue.

Catherine Geanuracos, one of the co-founders of City Grows, went to college with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.  City Grows do business process and open data for local governments, an industry ripe for transformation. “Transparency is a missing component of a lot of government technology, it is a duty and a responsibility, it is also practical,” she said in an interview.  Adding “These processes are opaque in nature, transparency helps to build trust, establishing a culture of change”.   Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, after multiple emails I’m still waiting for Hansen or anyone from the Communications Office with answers to simple questions.   City Grows was awarded an initial $5,000.00 contract to develop a transportation plan as part of the mobility strategy of the city. Currently, they are working with the Block Party permits of the Office of Civic Wellbeing.  “Making things digital allows for more efficiency and gives access to better information. Our open data portal allows for internal and external transparency. Information can be very valuable, any government activity is”  she concluded.   Who will guard the pirates?

“The fullest measure of respect that we can show our country is activism – our courage to take a stand or a knee to fight injustice.” ~ Brené Brown 

As Santa Monica celebrates the creative class, it must be mindful of a couple of things.  One–appropriation is not collaboration, they can’t co-create by excluding the very community they aim to serve, two–not be so fascinated with the creative class that it neglects the working class that keeps the city going, and finally pay attention to digital colonialism.  Data and algorithm transparency is key. 

“He said his name was Columbus, I just said, “Good luck” ~Bob Dylan, 115 Dream

Florida praises “the clustering of knowledge assets, technology, firms, startups, universities, human capital, the talent that so many of us have seen as the motor for innovation, entrepreneurship,  productivity and economic growth.” But that same congregation is also at the root of “deep divides in our society.” 

“Problems can not be solved with the same mindset that created them” ~Albert Einstein

jack
“The problem is not the problem,.  The problem is your attitude about the problem.”  ~Captain Jack Sparrow

“Tech solves some problems and creates others,”  Geanuracos said

Take a deep look in the mirror. Ask hard questions. Explore how you can become a catalyst for a true compassionate city.  Here is a hack for you: treat everyone with dignity, kindness, and respect. Inclusion is the real challenge of wellbeing.  

Compassion is not a mindless detail.

Advertisements

IMAGINE if it MATTERED…

By: Zoë Muntaner 

In February of 2008,  Karen Armstrong asked the TED community to help build a Charter for Compassion — to restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine. The golden rule is a basic principle that should be followed to ensure success in general or in a particular activity.  To treat others the way we wish to be treated. 

In September of 2013, I brought to Santa Monica City Council the idea of the Charter for Compassion to be adopted as a means of affirming the values of our city.  To my amazement they voted unanimously to sign the Charter, making me the Founder of Compassionate Santa Monica and its Chief Compassion Officer.  It was a moment in time where diversity mattered.  That was the easy part.  Since 2013, I’ve gone to numerous Council meetings to speak on behalf of animal and worker rights, affordable housing, development, police reform, anti-corruption act (campaign reform)  and human trafficking.  I use my voice to bring compassion to policy at Santa Monica City Hall and once to Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.  I’m part of a growing category of Citizen Lobbyists. Perhaps they didn’t see that coming (I’m sure they didn’t), perhaps it was divine intervention that worked its magic.  It will remain a mystery, but here we are: the first city in LA County to affirm the Charter for Compassion and 4th in the state of California, brought by an animated speaker with a mission, who wants to engage change-agents in authentic social entrepreneurship.

50-inspirational-anne-frank-quotes

The work ahead was cut for me: How do we move from signing a document to practicing its doctrine in public life, day in and day out across every department, commission, and policy?   My personal belief is that government should be the servant of the people, NOT the ruler of the people.  There should be no room for entitlement or privilege if you are indeed a public servant.  Everyone should have access to government and its diversity makes it matter most.  Who is in the room matters. 

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”  ~Shirley Chisholm

Like many of you, I’ve witnessed the traffic of misinformation, false narratives and spinning stories that support not so innocent agendas.  Compassion and diversity decoys have been deployed to distract us from what we are craving: truth, peace, purpose, understanding and personal power. Yes,  I’m also part of the growing category of media that matters.

Does DIVERSITY MATTERS?  IMAGINE.

I want to challenge you to stretch and grow because diversity & inclusion as of today are increasingly becoming buzz words for campaign strategies.  I  don’t ever want to move from the idea that the world can be a better place.  How we make it better together?  No matter how similar we seem, we’re all very different.  No matter how different we feel, we’re all very similar.  

Is baffling to me to hear an activist advocating equity in education for black kids only. When asked if Latino/Hispanics were included, the answer was a resounding no: “this is for black kids only”.  The wife of Mayor Antonio Vasquez (first Latino Mayor of Santa Monica) was in the room as a speaker that night.  Ms. Vasquez is one of the key advocates to bring Dr. Pedro Noguera Equity in Education to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District along another Latino school Board member, activist, and City Council candidate Oscar de la Torre. 

It’s chilling to read Committee for Racial Justice activist Trudy Goodwin social media answer to a comment of solidarity and inclusion with “That statement is like attending a 5-k run for breast cancer and shouting “but lung cancer kills too”.  Seriously?  It’s cancer, it spreads.  Is not uncommon for cancer to show up in several parts of the body at the same time.  We’re all outraged and traumatized by police images killing innocent suspects.  Since when Racial Justice is exclusive Black justice?  

Apparently, it has become popular to exclude people that suffer the trauma of police violence because they don’t have the “right” skin color.   If you are Hispanic and black you are good… but if not, is limbo time…don’t dare to speak, is an exclusive matter.  All I have to say is:  

 I might not have the color but I have the struggle. 

206802-anne-frank-quote-i-live-in-a-crazy-time

Perhaps because I was born and raised with a black uncle, gay cousin/friends/neighbors, alcoholic relatives/friends, Jewish grandfather, Cuban & British neighbors, “white” parents and educated in a school that looked like a Benetton ad,  I was unconsciously groomed to tackle this issue.  

I surround myself with people of diverse perspectives, ethnicities, gender, political affiliations, disabilities and social status, it was the way I was raised.  Our perspectives might be different but at the end of the day, we share the same planet.  I’ve curated an exquisite group of friends that influence robust debate.  When we build with people that think the same and are the same, there is no perspective or change.  The excitement for me is to work with people that THINK DIFFERENTLY, the coming together of diverse people, while still affirming their differences.  To build a sense of community in the context of the obstacles we face, is to make Los Angeles a sustainable society for future generations. 

Right now we are endangering many voices and perspectives, that do not subscribe to the status quo.  Voices that sell their souls in the hopes of access, leverage, advancement, and survival.  This is not a time to distance ourselves from what is truly going on.  We don’t have to wait for an event to bring us together, we can build a community without a tragedy.  That’s why diversity matters to me.  It matters to me because we are better people by our ability to feel with the other, which is the meaning of compassion.  

TED creates action through ideas as evidenced by the Charter for Compassion.  We can develop the kind of identity that calibrates the gentle courage needed to speak our voice. Reason to join the City of Speakers  pre TedxLA experiment, a unique mosaic of the voices of Los Angeles.  We are working to capture the voice of LA in its rich diversity, spirit and authenticity.  The experiment is scheduled to be showcased at TedxLA in December. 

EDUCATION

Despite the efforts of education activists, we are facing compassion illiteracy.  My goal is to have our school district make the revolutionary decision to teach the science of compassion and meditation at our schools.  That is a step to make a difference for future generations, innovation in education.

Disruption is either going to happen to you or BECAUSE of you. 

The algorithm for compassion lies in the hearts and minds of each of us, we are built with it, is encoded in our DNA.  I learned from a Bhagavad Gita scholar, that the classic does not contain a single line on morality, it’s all focused on CONSCIOUSNESS.  As we build cities of the future WE MUST LEARN TO DO SO WITH COMPASSION, balance the needs of those who have done very well in our society with those who have nothing to sustain themselves except the kindness of strangers. 

The general atmosphere in politics where discourse is managed as spiteful currency by purveyors of hate increases the danger of compassionate cities.   Compassion is the arbiter of fairness. The kind of law that we want, is in our conscience.  DIVERSITY MATTERS is hosting a CONSCIOUS DEBATE for local City Council and College Board candidates in Santa Monica.  Why?  Vedic thought brings undoubted integrity to political discourse and conversation.  It occupies a significant place in the intellectual and ethical life of modern times.  It invites voters and candidates to evaluate with fresh meaning the role of politicians and their responsibilities to our community and humanity at large.

IMG_3476

This is an experiment I hope to expand to the rest of LA County in elections to come.  We must engage in the future of our cities, participate through the civic engagement available to us or make our own way to it.  Last September Michelle Alexander sobering Social Media announcement served an invitation to activists around the world.

Solving the crises we face isn’t simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding.  And I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own.  Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will forever remain trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed, and the hunger for power

Sobering indeed… aligned with the thoughts of fellow activist Cesar Chavez:

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.’

IMAGINE if DIVERSITY MATTERED like that.

A FATHER’S DAUGHTER

By: Zoë Muntaner

It’s rare, all right. A full Moon last landed smack on the Solstice in the 1940s. It’s the kind of thing that would have inspired the Mayans to shove a few extra in-laws from their pyramids – the sort of coincidence that would have made the Stonehenge folks haul additional stones into position. But that’s what’s actually happening this Monday, June 20. ~Bob Berman, Almanac Weekly

moontaner

The MOON is part of my business. This platform is the first digital property of  New MOON Media & Communications .  Click on name to learn more.  I started using the moon to illustrate the pronounciation of my last name. Phonetically, the first three letters of my father’s last name –Muntaner- sound like MOON. Instead of suntan, use moontan,  add er and the end.  Critical rolling of the “r”.  Practice makes perfection.  I’m fond of my Father’s name.

Yesterday was my first Father’s Day without my dad on earth.  I tried to write but something else was calling me to serve, my father would have done the same.  He would go to where he was needed before serving his personal or professional needs.  In his honor I went to the 2016 California Democrats National Convention.  I was there for the statewide delegation meeting that will be traveling to Philadelphia, PA from July 23 to July 28 for the 2016 National Convention.  My sister lives in Philly, at least I have room and board covered.  The hotels will be too chaotic for me.  I want to spend some time with my sister.  She is proud and supportive of my work,  I want to tell her more about it in person.  She actually sponsored one of my continuing education courses at General Assembly last month.   Since my dad passed away last July, we’ve become closer.  Death can be a catalyst to so many possibilities.  We’ll be together during the convention for the 1st anniversary of his passing, it sounds like the right thing to do.  It seems like is all part of a bigger plan, the stars are aligned, the mystery unfolding.  I just trust and let my faith guide me through the journey.

eDT26P458CN26FTAMFE787SW
As a young man Dad  enlisted in the US Military to serve.  I’m the proud daughter of a Veteran. It was quite the privilege to witness the burial flag on his casket during his military honors burial.  He was stationed in Germany and travelled throughout Europe during his youth as part of his service to this County.

My father and I had a special relationship.  Mom said we were the same, which means we butted  heads a lot.  Jewel sings: “In the end only kindness matter….We are never broken”.   For a while I felt seriously broken,  it propelled me to seek help to heal a wounded perspective.  The only thing from him I brought back with me to Santa Monica after his funeral, was an owl ring he wore on his pinky finger.  He collected owls, they represent wisdom, that symbol was important to his values.

“Many children have grown up with nursery stories of wise old owls. From the ancient Greek legends to the wise owls in Wini the Pooh and The Owl and The Pussycat, we have all seen images in folk tales of owls as the quintessential bearers of knowledge and sagacity.  From ancient Athens, the silver four-drachma coin bore the image of the owl on the obverse side as a symbol of the city’s patron, Athene Pronoia, the Greek goddess of wisdom who, in an earlier incarnation, was goddess of darkness. The owl — whose modern scientific name Athene carries this heritage — came to represent wisdom from its association with the dark (Saunders 1995). The owl was also the guardian of the Acropolis (Holmgren 1988), and the Roman statesman Pliny the Elder wrote that owls foretell only evil and are to be dreaded more than all other birds (Rackham 1997, as recounted in Martin 1996).  In many other cultures, owls represent wisdom and knowledge because their nocturnal vigilance is associated with that of the studious scholar or wise elder (Saunders 1995). According to one Christian tradition, owls represent the wisdom of Christ, which appeared amid the darkness of the unconverted (Saunders 1995). To early Christian Gnostics, the owl is associated with Lilith, the first wife of Adam who refused his advances and control. The owl had a place as a symbol in the King Arthurian legends since the sorcerer Merlin was always depicted with an owl on his shoulder. In Japan, owl pictures and figurines have been placed in homes to ward off famine or epidemics (Martin 1996)”.  ~Griffith Chen, Full-stack developer QUORA

The ring in my finger holds a daily reminder of hope.  It guides my choices and decisions the way dad wished I would be in the world.  My father did the best he could, I made peace with that.  He was the father of an imperfect daughter, I hope he made peace with that.  When he got ill, I went to visit him for a month.  He was bedridden by now, mom was his nurse 24/7.  It was hard for both of us.  He was so happy to see me when I arrived home at 4 AM.     The following day he sat in his rocking chair, I sat close to him, he looked to the horizon… his eyes filled with tears.  He started to cry.  Nothing was said, we both knew this was the last visit we were to spend as father and daughter.  I had to be strong for him.  With my silence, I did my best to let him know I would be fine.  Perhaps he was scared.  He didn’t know if I would be able to take care of myself as a single woman.  There were so many things unsaid.  I didn’t give him the joy of grandchildren. His name will end with me and my sister, unless I decide to adopt a child later in life.

Memories flood with fierce intensity.  I’ve learned that only I can unlock the door of my past and walk away.  My father didn’t have healthy parenting skills modeled by my grandfather, who immigrated from the island of Mallorca in Spain to Puerto Rico looking for prosperity.  He passed on from lung cancer, when my father was 17 years old leaving my dad as the head of a household of five.  I can only imagine what that did to his psyche.

Therefore, I’ve done as well as any woman could be expected to do under those circumstances.  Slowly but surely, my heart melts little by little.  I forgive the mistakes that were part of my upbringing.  The pictures above are of my grandfathers.  Left, Antonio Muntaner Flaquer and right, Maximilian Cohen (Abuelo Max).

“Everyone who plays a part in our lives offers something we might learn.”~Courage to Change  p. 335

At his funeral there were mended relationships from old family friends, everyone and then some showed up to pay their respects even though it was in a holiday weekend where most locals were out of town traveling.  I was surprised to see business leaders and politicians show up.  He was dad to me, for others he was a pillar in the community.

I learned to have a political, business and service mind from him.   He was always involved in some type of community service or volunteerism venture.  That’s who he was at his core, a man for others.   An old friend of mom and dad shared with us that when their father died they had nothing to eat, my father told my grandfather and showed up at their home to bring candy to the children.  He offered his unconditional support to them, with his already limited means.  That’s my DNA!  There is so much more I can write, but my intention is to honor him with actions not words.  He left me a ring, I give him Jewel.

FATHERS AMONGST US

There are other fathers around us worth mentioning here, serving families, cities, state, and communities.  First, I must talk about our City Manager Rick Cole. Having once been an elected official, he learned that much of what often passes for politics involves superficial soundbites, announcements of good intentions, oversimplification of complex issues and feel good symbolism. Both he and I understand the importance of these dimensions of public life, but his focus is on making measurable progress on key priorities that make a difference in the lives of real people here in Santa Monica.

My focus is on making policy that has intelligence, integration and impact.  Policy that creates more transparency and equity amongst ALL residents of Santa Monica.  I’m not a member of City Council, but I bring attention to the ideas that matter to me.  That’s how Santa Monica became the first city in LA County to sign and affirm the Charter for Compassion.  He is actively working on increasing capacity to deliver measurable results in two broad ways — one, better organization on how they do their work, which is music to my ears…. and two, work in greater partnership with other public agencies, NGOs, businesses, informal community groups and citizens, which sounds like a great prospective for Compassionate Santa Monica.

He visited Louisville KY, Mayor Greg Fisher last week.  Fisher is the man I spoke during my 2014 campaign for Santa Monica City Council, he ran on a compassionate platform and won.  The compassion games started from Seattle, WA calling game on Louisville, KY.  I met him at the Empathy and Compassion Conference in San Francisco, CA right after 2014 election.

IMG_4790
Banner at New Roads School in Santa Monica, for the 2014 Compassion Games.
IMG_7690
Mayor Greg Fisher at the Empathy & Compassion Conference in San Francisco, 2014.

I’m hopeful and patient.  I’m also disappointed that the City Council unanimously embraced the Compassionate City designation but has done little to actualize it. I assume that he has the same complaint, but from a different angle.  When he took the City Manager job, he told the Council, privately and publicly, “Your problem is that you have 15 top three priorities.”  I know which is priority 1,2,3: DEVELOPMENT AND DENSIFICATION.  I’m all in for affordable housing development and slow growth, but we have an issue of ideas brewing on a pot of misinformation and people are drinking the KOOL AID in Santa Monica.  Mr. Cole and his predecessor said publicly we don’t need development for revenue. Cole publicly said the future of Santa Monica lays in BETTER not BIGGER.  I’m getting some cues here. YOU?   The way I see it, City Council hired Cole to make magic happen here in Santa Monica, at the same time they are telling him how to do his job.  A receipe for disaster.  Lots of compassion for the man.

He and I both could spend the entire day listing the laudable projects, promises, policies and priorities embraced by our City, the last one being Diversity and Inclusion, which I brought to their attention, thank you very much!  There is almost no idealistic, progressive concept our City government won’t enthusiastically adopt, except the Anti- Corruption Act from Represent US and Safe Cities from UN Women.  I’ve been working with both initiatives for two years and have requested them be added to the agenda of City Council.  Other leaders are working strategically to take credit for it.  Cue: Elena Cristopoulos: you are being watched!

Mr. Cole explained to me the problem is governmental capacity to actually pursue simultaneously all these worthwhile endeavors — and produce measurable progress instead of simply raising unrealistic expectations.  The issue I see is that, despite having the communications resources, the city has failed in a cohesive strategy to inform its residents and build trust.  It is an understatement to think we are living distrustful times, as he expressed at the Civic Auditorium Planning Department- “I Love Downtown Santa Monica” event last week.  The trust is so fractured, broken and damaged, it will take a miracle to restore it.  Start praying people!

IMG_7677

When all is said and done, the challenge Mr. Cole has is how he would like to be remembered.  As someone who stood by its residents preserving what they have so dearly built by improving its infrastructure ? Or, someone who sat quietly and did the will of private interests funneled by the Chamber of Commerce,  and other non for profit institutions.  Someone come to our emotional rescue!  I’m confident he will make Santa Monica the best of the cities he has managed.  He has to. I have a good feeling about it and hope he does not let us down.  The earmark for the field was a flawless start, don’t you think?

His daughters are going to college, he has more time to focus on his new children (Santa Monica residents and City Council), once he moves to Santa Monica he will get a feel for what truly matters.  The LA Times didn’t call him the Guru of City Hall, just because he is chill.  The guy has some serious policy game. As a glutton of curiosity, I would like to know the neighborhood he will choose to call home. Don’t you?

A shout out to father and son Mayor Eric and Gil Garcetti (Where do I start? It will take me a whole new blog…coming in cowple of months, stay tuned), Muhammad Ali ( As my father, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was a man of faith and service to others), David Dorfman (IDEAS LA Swami), Governor Jerry Brown ( allowed SB 254 The “New” Overturn Citizens United Act to go to the ballot without his signature), Senator Bernie Sanders (My Jewish Hero who has transformed the political landscape this election cycle).  They are not perfect, who is amongst us?  Do I agree with every single of their stances? No.  Do I think they are doing good work?  Absolutely!  There is always room for improvement, that is the fabulous thing about life, every day we wake up with that challenge.

Ultimately the force that underlies all things in the Universe, which I choose to refer to as God, is the Father/Mother figure that deserves the loudest shout out.  I’d be lost without its guidance and support.  The mystery of that relationship is one of my sources of inspiration and service.  Without it nothing works.  Thank you God. Hebrew National hotdogs tagline reads: “We answer to a higher authority”

LATINO CAUCUS OF CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS

According to Marcy Winograd early morning Facebook post from the the Latino Caucus of the CA Democratic Party in Long Beach, a packed room shouted, “Primary them!” in reference to Assembly members  Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), and Marc Levine (D-Novato), three of the Dems who voted recently not to support farm worker overtime for those toiling over 8 hours a day, stooping in the fields, breaking their backs to deliver grapes, lettuce and strawberries to our table. The Democratic  Party base is mad as hell at these corporate Democrats cozy with agribusiness. State senate leadership plans to bring back the farmworker overtime bill via the senate, then back to the assembly again. Urge  Bloom — one of ours — to rethink this and vote for farmworker overtime. (310) 450-0041.  Never the wrong time to do the right thing, Richard.   Thank you Marcy for letting us know.  All I have to say is:  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

“Richard Bloom remains silent in the face of his disgraceful and inexcusable vote. We await the change.” ~Buddy Gottlieb, Labor Attorney 

cesar chavez

Marcy Winograd recently organized another delegation to urge Richard Bloom withdraw his AB2844 bill calling for a state enemies list to thwart the BDS campaign for equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis. After his bill was heavily amended by the farm worker overtime bill author, he and two other co-authors of the anti-BDS bill refused to support farm worker overtime — defeating the bill with their three decisive votes. She spoke with Bloom’s Chief of Staff in Sacramento about this and he said there was no retaliation, that Bloom simply felt for the growers facing challenges with the drought and increased water fees. Her thinking is if you can’t afford to pay overtime, you shouldn’t be running a business.

The Democratic party is facing a problem amongst the more progressive leaning membership.  Bernie Sanders campaign is the result of that crisis. The referenced politicians present themselves as progressives.  Yesterday, I spotted few of the new wave of candidates and leadership making their way, showing symptoms of the same syndrome.  Young men with miniscule amounts of power using it for their own personal gain and agenda.  Oh, the egos of these kids!!!!  I’ll be keeping an eye on them,  we deserve better than that.  Honest candidates are getting ready to serve.  To honor my father’s legacy of service, I serve by watching, warning  and writing.  Not under my watch, is all I have for tonight.

jon stewart

Have an awesome Summer Solstice today and tomorrow.  May you have sunsets as gorgeous as this:

IMG_0032
Santa Monica Sunset with no filter shot with iPhone 2014.

SPIRITUAL DIVERSITY

By: Zoë Muntaner 

WOW,  Pentecost was a diversity fest.  This day became especially significant for Christians because, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon his first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.

Jean_II_Restout_-_Pentecôte
“Pentecost”by Jean Restaut II, 1732 Public Domain

 

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” ~Acts 2:5-13

That’s how I feel at times when I go to City Council meetings. As if everyone is speaking a different language, but hearing the discussion in their native tongue. Their interests are at stake.  If land use is in the agenda, for sure I’m perplexed and amazed.  Maybe they had some drinks beforehand (I’m not talking about the councilmembers).  It has not crossed my mind until now.  Some people are drunk with power, that’s why I support term limits for City Council.  Is time we bring reform to that area or our government.

Last Sunday was the church birthday.  The night before, I walked to St. Anne’s for a quiet moment of silent reflection and noticed red programs stacked in a stand.  They read:

Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. ~John 20:22-23  

Sin is  particularly interesting to me because, like most humans,  I’ve sinned.  Through confession, I own it in order to move on and change direction.  I show up at life imperfectly.  In the spirit of keeping it real:

“Perfection is shallow, unreal and fatally uninteresting” ~Anne Lamott

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” ~John 8:7  

The concept of sin is heavy for most people that lack a broader concept of the word or its meaning.  It was tough for me until I studied other traditions with meanings that allowed me to accept myself the way I am: imperfectly perfect.  Lack of love or missing the mark are two of my favorites.  Catholic guilt is a terrible thing.

“Our virtues are made by love, and our sins caused by the lack of it.”~Hazrat Inayat Khan

On Sunday, I went to yoga class early.  I placed my mat at the back of the room and stretched on my own. My teacher had a substitute.  Fifteen minutes into it, I started to cry.  “What’s going on?  I don’t have time for this, it’s Sunday, I want to have some Zen, not a breakdown.”  Then I remembered going to an Evangelical church in Malibu years ago.  The moment I walked into the classroom where they met and listened to music, I started to cry.  The friend who brought me to the service told me, “Don’t worry, that’s the Holy Spirit, is a normal reaction, just let it go”  Was this the Holy Spirit at work in the yoga studio?  Hmm. Here we go.

By the time I arrived to St. Anne’s my body was feeling ready to receive whatever message was there for me to get. After the service, I approached  the deacon and priest to ask if it would be possible to bless my laptop.  I’ve been  working on some stories for a while now, way before I launched the blog, without knowing their destination.  I want to make sure I’m writing them for the right reasons.  I would like to feel there is purpose behind their publication.  It would be nice to feel I’m transcribing them instead of writing them, to have any sense of ego out of the picture.  I’d like to feel I’m doing some service to the community.  I’d like them to come from a pure heart because, well….the issues are not particularly pure.

Both Deacon Raul Molino and Father Anthony Mbaegbu prayed, it was quite beautiful, poetry, a holy moment.  I cried again, a lot!  The deacon looked into my eyes and said:

“That is the work of the prophet, this is your calling”.

– Oh, no,no,no,no.no!  Father, you don’t understand, I’m just writing a blog, there is no prophetic business in that, I’m a sinner, that’s why I come to church, to heal, not to be scared like that sir!

Saint

He shared some spiritual wisdom. I was scared and stayed for another service.  I sobbed for hours.  If the Holy Spirit manifests itself through tears like my friend told me in Malibu years before, I definitely received it.  No doubt about it.

Father Jorge Guillen is a theology scholar, he gave a memorable sermon with historical background, current church politics, weaved with spiritual insight and guidance.  It was a first for me, it felt like professors you still remember from college because they were real, really good.  I was lucky, he prayed for me after the service and with that, there was some confidence and peace to go about the rest of my day. I stopped by their cafeteria to eat some of the Mexican food the Guadalupanas cook every Sunday and learned more about their community.

I normally attend St. Monica’s at 5:30 PM service with Monsignor Torgeson.   Both of them are Catholic communities but their demographic composition is distinctively different.  St. Anne’s has an element of social justice that is not as evident in St. Monica’s.  St. Anne’s is a little piece of East LA in Santa Monica, most of their services are in Spanish and the one in English is given by a Nigerian priest who is here for his PhD at LMU.  You see where I’m going?  We live in a segregated city.  Is alarming to me that the land use we discussed last week at City Council promotes further segregation by having affordable housing off site.  It could be easily controlled by the City Council.   Wellbeing? Compassion? Diversity?  Seriously?   We can’t call our city any of that if we plant the seeds of further segregation.

Some years ago Jodi Low, Coordinator of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market told me that perhaps the Virginia Park Farmer’s Market was more attractive to me than the downtown Saturday market because it was in the Pico neighborhood, where the poor community of Latinos and blacks traditionally shop. And …I’m the politically incorrect?  Thank God I know who I am, and recognize the ill-managed social training of some city employees.  However, at this day and age is still shocking someone makes a comment like that in a city like Los Angeles is beyong my comprehension.   Santa Monica is a special pocket in LA.  Since I have to pace myself,  I will leave Laura Avery for next post. I would like to draw from the words of Jesus in his crucifixion:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” ~Luke 23;34

IMG_5431

I have a good radar to evaluate intentionality.  Some people know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care.  Two years ago while in campaign for City Council, I got in the elevator at City Hall to find an employee from the City Clerk’s office who told me: “keep doing what you are doing, they are scared” . My intention is not to scare anyone, my intention is to have an honest conversation about  some issues that don’t align with the so-called City Wellbeing and do not affirm the Charter for Compassion.  After the conversation we can go about the business of making change.  Shall we?  If we keep ignoring the white elephant in the room, you know what happens: “If you don’t pay attention, God will turn up the volume”.  On another instance Rebecca Adams, Administrative Staff Assistant who used to to be in the City Clerk’s office told me -as if she was incharge of the office- “come another time because everyone was busy and they can’t help you”.  Esterlina Lugo was ready to help me, but Adams was set on using her entitlement to make herself feel superior.  It does not stop there.  Last week, I sat on the same table she was sitting with other staff, waiting for the COSW meeting to start, she stood and left with someone I was striking a conversation to wait in front of the door.  This juvenile behavior belongs to a scene in Mean Girls not a city that claims Wellbeing, Compassion, Empathy, Diversity & Inclusion.  This stuff is relegated to films and fiction circa 1950 in the South. Do you agree?

via GIPHY

Am I the problem?  That is debatable.  If you want to keep Santa Monica a city of of racial tension and discrimination, perhaps I am.  On the other hand, if you want Santa Monica to be a real city of Wellbeing, Compassion, Diversity & Inclusion, I believe I’m part of the solution.  I tweeted yesterday a new mantra: “Zoë, just keep writing” , I t came to me in a moment of quiet reflection.  That is my job, to report from the frontlines, shine a light to issues that seem to get no attention but influence a fundamental part of our identity as citizens and our community.

BETRAYAL

I was betrayed on Friday.  Perhaps I had a delayed reaction and was vulnerable and fragile by Sunday, therefore all the crying.  Church was a place to find solace.  One thing is when someone let you down, betrayal is a whole different business.  Is a horrible feeling.

In Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, the ninth Circle of Hell is ringed by Biblical and Classical Giants. Nimrod , Ephialtes, and Antaeus are found here. THIS IS ONE TOUGH CROWD!

“The lowest, blackest, and farthest from Heaven. Well do I know the way.” — Virgil

 

Treachery is the ninth Circle of Hell. This last circle is dedicated to those people who betrayed their loved ones, friends, best friends, countries, cities, guests, and even to their masters.  YES PEOPLE, CITIES!  Are you betraying yours?  According to Dante, the end game is not pretty.  For me the best strategy in Public Relations crisis management is: own it, apologize, change directions.

That is my prayer for you.

DIVERSITY SLAPP

By: Zoë Muntaner

Santa Monica Pony Protester Marcy Winograd Wins – Court of Appeal Dismisses Pony Ride Operators’ Lawsuit as a SLAPP.

In a victory for legislative advocates, the California Court of Appeal (Division 5), a panel of three Justices, unanimously reversed a lower court ruling, and dismissed former Santa Monica pony ride operators’ Tawni Angel and Jason Nestor’s lawsuit against Marcy Winograd as a SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – designed to chill public debate.

In issuing the ruling, the Court said Winograd’s accusations of animal abuse were protected by California’s legislative privilege.

“I’m grateful that the Court of Appeal sided with those exercising the right of petition to change the law and did not allow this chilling lawsuit to go forward. This is a significant ruling for animal lovers and for anyone petitioning their local or state government for legislative change. The Superior Court’s failure to dismiss the lawsuit against me was dangerous, chilling, and disheartening, but fortunately this appellate decision rights that wrong and affirms the importance of robust public debate and citizen activism.” ~Marcy Winograd

The court ruled that the statements in her articles and television interview relate to the supposed poor treatment the pony ride and petting zoo animals received, and either directly or inferentially solicited public support for her petition to cause the City of Santa Monica to take action to end the pony ride and petting zoo.

BACKGROUND

In March 2014, Winograd launched a petition to close the pony ride and petting zoo featured at the city-sponsored farmers market blocks from her home in Ocean Park. She first learned the pony operators were suing her when a reporter contacted her to get reaction to the operators’ lawyers’ press release announcing the lawsuit.

On September 9, 2014, after hearing arguments from proponents and opponents of the pony ride and petting zoo, the Santa Monica City Council voted to seek alternatives to the pony ride and zoo when the operators’ contract expired, and in May of 2015 the City of Santa Monica closed the animal exhibit after twelve years of ponies circling round and round on hard ground – all the while tied to a metal bar.

At the time, the lawsuit was filed some 1400 people had signed her petition – including school board members (now State Senator Ben Allen), former planning commissioners, two former mayors of Santa Monica, a minister at the Church of Ocean Park, and several merchants on Main Street.

While the Superior Court dismissed the entire SLAPP suit against her co-defendant Danielle Charney, the judge left much of the lawsuit against her intact. On appeal, however, she prevailed on the ground of legislative privilege – in other words, the Court agreed that all of her advocacy efforts were connected to the City Council’s legislative decision and were therefore absolutely privileged from civil suit.

Just breathe

“This is a huge victory for those who value robust public debate, the First Amendment, and legislative advocacy,” said Winograd. “This is good news, indeed.” ~Marcy Winograd

“This is an important decision for animal advocates, and for anyone campaigning to make change through our legislative bodies. The superior court’s ruling failing to toss the lawsuit out in the first instance was dangerous, chilling and disheartening. This appellate decision rights the legal ship and properly restores a very heavy burden to be borne by any plaintiff attacking public advocates.” ~Ira L. Gottlieb, Labor Attorney

I LOVE MY FIRST AMENDMENT

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting … you get the drill.

Like Marcy, I am an activist, writer and political citizen who loves robust debate.  I love my freedom of speech so much that I self-funded this platform to express my ideas, because two minutes at a City Council meetings was not cutting it for me, and emails were not working for me to accomplish the goals I set to work at.

“Free speech not only lives, it rocks,” Oprah Winfrey, 1998

Remember the  multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit by Texas cattlemen against the famous talk show host? The Amarillo, Texas, jury, decided the television talk show host did not maliciously harm the U.S. beef industry in a 1996 program on mad cow disease.

 

Oprah
Oprah Winfrey Harvard University commencement address, 2013

 

“I will continue to use my voice. I believed from the beginning that (the lawsuit) was an attempt to muzzle my voice, and I come from a people who have struggled and died in order to have a voice in this country. And I refused to be muzzled.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I’m a media and communications professional, not as wealthy as Oprah, but in the same field.  Lawsuits are part of the game, people get offended and then use the compassion rhetoric to manipulate my speech.  I refuse to censor myself, therefore, I pass each post through a legal advisor to protect the platform.   I’m in the perspective business.  This is my point of view and you are welcome to make comments below.

Purpose

TOUGH LOVE, TOUGH LUCK & MY OWN VOICE

My friend Holly Mosher, whom I’ve written about in this blog, is concerned about my last post because she felt it was a leap to call what Ms. Christopolos said Nazi rhetoric. She wanted me to come from the place of compassion and manners that I laid out in the post.  I value her opinion and that of a small group of men and women who are mentors, advisors and friends.  They supported the post.  They didn’t find anything wrong with it.  Remember,  a month ago I wrote about the time it has taken for me to get the discipline to write again.  After all that trouble, I do a disservice to my readers if I’m not honest with my POV.  I must show up as authentically on the page, as I show in life.  Yes, I’m the Founder of Compassionate Santa Monica, that does not mean that I will compromise my journalistic identity, integrity and style.  I must be transparent in my perspective.  Sometimes, it’s time for tough love, is still love, just a different kind.  Was I compassionate?  You bet I was.  I was compassionate to the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust, the survivors, and descendants that live in and out of Santa Monica.  Ms.Cristopolos comment was inappropriate and offensive to me and others.  Upon research, I found a quote under the inspiration tab of her social media Pinterest that proves my point:

Exist Elena

What you want me to say?   It makes perfect sense. It’s self-explanatory. Those are her terms, she values the statement enough to post it in social media.  Is this a slap to our faces?  You be the judge of that. She owns it, and she shows it.  That is all.

I will always choose love

On the other hand, I exist on a different term,  I’m not perfect, I own my flaws and humbly apologize when needed.  I stand by what I write because it always comes, and will continue to come, from love.  Follow me here: LOVE

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.“
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dare

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.

image2