Guest Post: How I got to be here

Authors: Jennifer Johns

I remember watching the Inconvenient Truth for the first time and becoming incredibly troubled.

I thought to myself..... I want to be a mother one day. I want to enjoy sun sets and sunrises- see starry skies and breathe clean air in the later years of my life. I want my kids to be healthy and drink clean water. My fears for bringing life into this world prior to seeing this film were based more in the violence in urban streets of America- I had no real understanding of where we were and how far we had to go to get to a safe space again with the environment. I began to think about Katrina and the Tsunami and why there had been snow in the Bay sent me spinning. My heart began to hurt because what became clear is not only do we need change our habits immediately as a human race- worldwide but that it was our poor folks who lacked education and access to this information that were going to get hit first and the hardest. DAMN!!! Why are they first?

Because our economy is based on oil. We use non renewable fuel sources to do all things necessary to function at least in this country- to cook, to warm your home, to transport persons and goods. When the cost of fuel goes up- the cost of everything goes up. Food that is already hard to find and more expensive in the hood becomes harder to find and even more expensive. A situation like this leaves the people with questions like: "do I pay for a McDonald's happy meal or drive to work?". Not okay! There is no winning there. No one makes good decisions when the healthiest thing they can eat is McDonalds; when due to budget cuts to pay for a oil motivated war removes art and physical education from school systems. We cannot expect logic from a generation that has not had a balanced meal, exercise or creative means to express themselves. And with such a piss poor education system our youth have no ideas about how to end this cycle. So the dominoes fall and the end result is violence, murder, drug addiction, abuse.... We see this everyday in the streets of East/West Oakland, South Side of Chicago, the Bronx, Flint Michigan..... This is not a pretty picture, and the prognosis gets even more grim when you think about the millions of eco-refugees we will be dealing with when mother nature really decides she is tired of us. Katrina was nothing!!!

I brooded on this for months then one day it hit a little too close to home. On March 8, 2008 my mother began bleeding in her stool really heavily. She was diagnosed with Diverticulitis, a weakening in the lining of ones large intestine that when irritated bleeds and in this case excessively. If she were not treated she would have lost a lot of blood and died. Thank God she had medical insurance. If it would have happened to me this may have had a very different out come considering that I don't.

We spent three weeks in Intensive Care while doctors and specialists ran a million tests trying to find out where the bleeding was coming from and how to stop it. Ultimately they removed the majority of my mother's large intestine. In researching what may have caused this illness I discovered that Diverticulitis didn't exist at all before the introduction of processed foods into the American diet. WOW!!! What disturbed me even more than that was how many people I knew that had it.

So again I begin thinking....if processed foods could literally kill you and grocery stores, for so many, are hard to come by- then what? Prayerfully during this ordeal the wonderful people at Green For All sought me out and insisted that I come to an event in Memphis, Tennessee called "The Dream Reborn" on the 40th anniversary of Dr. Kings death. I had a gig in Hawaii the days before and thought how wonderful- I get to decompress from the family stress before I getting some knowledge on how to green my community.....Well that never happened.

Due to gas prices Aloha and ATA Airlines shut down in the same week leaving me and thousands stranded on the island for weeks. Now don't get me wrong after the initial sadness from not being able to hang with some new friends in Memphis (a place I still have not visited) wore off I was happy to be in a tropical paradise with beautiful people and a beautiful ocean.

I began to pray- thankful for the break from reality but overwhelmed by the fact that oil was having such a profound effect on my life in that moment. I went to the grocery store to but some food and in an effort to not make the same mistakes that my mother had made with her diet I went to the produce section to buy some veggies and fruit. I looked down at the label on the pineapple that I wanted to buy and saw that I was from the Philippines. For those of you who don't know #1 Pineapples grow freely in Hawaii so why were these fruits imported? #2 The Hawaiian islands are 2500 miles from any other land mass which means that these pineapples must have travel at least that far to arrive at a place that already has them. This shed some much needed light on the poverty in these islands.

After staring at this pile of imported fruit in shock I began to think about the American thought process and our belief that we are stuck in the situations we are in. We are trying so hard to make enough money to be able to survive that we are not thinking about what the best ways are to really LIVE. We need a paradigm shift; a new way of being! The old way has us believing that we are defenseless to the madness that is fossil fuels. The old way makes us think that food comes from grocery stores in boxes and bags. The old way leads to frustration, illness, murder, poverty and forces us to operate in our day to day lives from a space of lack. There is no power in that. So what do we do?

Van Jones says that "there are no disposable people and this is not a disposable planet." So lets let the MEEK- (not the WEAK) inherit the earth....and in doing so lets not attempt to paint the white house black. None of that pedagogy of the oppressed.... but something new- an economy and lifestyle that lifts people out of poverty. Better yet a thought process that eliminates the idea of poverty all together. After meeting the lovely folks at GREEN FOR ALL I've decided to make this a mission in life. And I will start with my people... HIP HOP!!!! We are the coolest folks on the planet so until we say that its COOL to go green it ain't going down.

Over the next 8 weeks follow me as I journey with the Sustainable Living Roadshow on a tour we call BE THE CHANGE. All of us come from different backgrounds and will focus on different ways we are BEING THE CHANGE. Mine will be people of color, the "poor" (cant wait to eliminate that word) and HIP HOP!!! Please let me know what you think.......... and tell me how you can BE THE CHANGE!!!!

2008 GO HARD OR GO HOME!!! Green Jobs Now!

Oakland-based hip hop artist Jennifer Johns is currently on the Sustainable Living Roadshow, a caravan or educators and entertainers who tour the country to empower communities and individuals to utilize sustainable strategies for a healthier planet. On September 27th she will be in Memphis, Tennessee for Green Jobs Now.

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