Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Real Problem with Race and Homelessness and more in Greenville...

The fallout from yesterday and the day before's incident will tell the tale.  Sometimes the true value of an incident is not in the thing itself but our reaction to it, or in this case, the lack thereof.  There was outrage at the idea that one our citizens could not walk the street in a well lit area at a reasonable hour without being bothered.  The fact that the bothering came from the police should be more telling.

Yesterday, I went to every official and person of standing in the community that I knew.  I talked to professors, pastors, rabbis, county council members, news outlets and the readers of this blog (here is yesterday's).  The readership spiked, people spoke about their outrage in private messages but there was nothing done.  I did not receive a single response from anyone of our leaders.

I did speak to one person in City Hall.  Her response?  Not outrage. (I always liked Al Pacino's line in City Hall where he as mayor says, "If a sparrow dies in Central Park, I feel responsible")walking in the neighborhood that I was in at that hour (7:30 p.m.) was suspicious behavior apparently. Who knew I was not allowed to be outside after dark?
 Not annoyance at the fact that an officer treated a citizen so poorly.  I was told that I should not have been walking and that I should buy a car.  A person

We like to believe these days are over...
I talked to groups that have led talks about racism and more in the area and have asked questions among a very select peer group and they said nothing.  Apparently when they conduct surveys and have talks about outreach, they see nothing wrong.  Of course, the survey pool is affluent whites and a smattering of well educated minorities.  When they talk to them, they say that everything is just great! Fine and dandy.

The thing that this has shown me is that the goal is not to end homelessness, but to get rid of the homeless.  The two are very different.  We don't want to house them, we want to get them off the streets.  How do we do that?  We apparently don't care as long as they are out of sight.  We are ok with tent city because that is where "they" live.  It is ok to live in a tent on public property as long as no one can see you...There! Problem solved!  The homeless are told with tacit agreement that "You can live in the woods along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, as long as no one complains."

We are a giving people in the south.  We reach out, we really do...At Christmas and Thanksgiving.  The other 363 days of the year, well...

Craig Steven Ray Brown was found dead early in July 2013 by a churchgoer in Downtown Greenville.  Robin Banta was shot in the chest off the Swamp Rabbit Trail at about the same time, but his body was not found until about a month later in August. Jackie Goldman died in November while sleeping outside of a closed Bi-Lo store.

These people drift in and out of our lives and exist in the periphery of the world.  We notice them floating around, pass them on the street and we sometimes buy them coffee or a muffin.  Not to wax religious, but we are told that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us.

People are telling me that I should engage in a lawsuit and scream bloody murder about the way I have been treated.  I am inclined to. I thought it best to engage in the conversation first. I thought we should try to talk about this before it goes to far, to hold our tongues, to do the right thing first.

The fallout is the thing.  Where are our leaders, where are the people who are supposed to work to solve our problems not just those of the ones who vote for them?  Where are the officers who are supposed to serve and protect everyone, not just those who look like they are supposed to be in a particular area?

Too many people disappear without anyone knowing anything of them.  When (not if but when), I get stopped again, I am not going to be so cooperative.  We are not required to show ID unless the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place and that I am a part of it.  I am not going to.  The next time (and it will happen again) that I walking along, minding my own business, I am simply going to ask the officer if I am under arrest and if so we go from there and I hope that someone notices that I am gone.

Last night, after a sleepless night the night prior, I was tired.  I was about 3 miles from home when I decided to end my day and it was 7:30.  Normally, on a night last night, I would walk home to clear my head.  Last night, though, I asked someone to drive me home.  Was I scared of being mugged?  No...I was scared I would be stopped by the cops...again.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Is there a record for being stopped by the cops for no reason?

Yesterday afternoon was beautiful. It was so warm that I decided to take a walk and check my e-mail via stolen wi-fi at Starbucks. On my way back the sidewalk was so icy and the roads were clear so I decided to walk in the road, stepping deftly out of the way when a car was coming. I was nearly home, in fact I could see my back window across the parking lot of Sirrine Stadium, when a squad car pulled up in front of me, blocking traffic. The officer stepped out and asked me where I was going and to show him ID. He said that I (not "someone", but me in particular) had been walking up and down the street stopping cars and asking people for money. Two other cops arrived and one stood behind me while the first patted me down. My ID was ran (again) and no warrants, etc. were found. The officer promptly told me to stop asking people for money because "ain't nobody got any money for you". When I insisted that I had not been, he threatened to run me in just for walking in "his" street. I walked away but not before he told me that I was not allowed to cut through the Sirrine Stadium parking lot, but that I had to walk around. This was 7:30 at night...the street was well lit, and the officer who was standing behind me even acknowledged that I was wearing bright clothes and that this was just something they had to do. I have had some humiliating moments in my life, but this was one of the worst. Sadly, I have lost track of the number of times this has happened to me since getting back to the south.-

People wonder why others look at the south the way they do.  I wonder three things about this incident.  First, I wonder if someone had actually called the police on me.  I am investigating that.  There always seems to be some random justifications for officers pulling me over.  "We have had a lot of break ins in the area." "A person fitting your description was reported..." It is never anything specific.  It is always rather vague.

Second, I wonder if someone had called, then if they were calling to complain or because they thought that I was someone who needed help.  My better angel wants to say that someone passed me and thinking that I was homeless and in need of assistance, called the police so that they would get me off the street.  Considering the goal of the police is ostensibly to serve and protect, shouldn't the goal of that stop be to help someone in need rather than threaten to run them in?  If I were, in fact, out there asking for money and shouldn't they have been asking if they could get me to a shelter or a hot meal, or even just a hot cup of coffee?

The third thing is the fact that I recognized two of the three officers.  One of the officers had stopped me a few weeks prior and we went through the same thing only that time it was six officers all total.  Still THAT was not the first time I had met this particular officers.  The first time was when he and three officers stopped me while collecting the compost from a dumpster some months before.  I see that officer a lot.  Most days, I see him at Starbucks.

The other officer that I recognized was the one who made the initial stop.  At first I could not place where I had seen him, but midway through be treated so poorly, it struck me.  I had been walking along main street in Greenville one morning and I heard pretty much the same speech that he had given me, being delivered to a homeless man who was telling him the same thing that I was; that he was not asking anyone for money, he was just sitting there trying to charge his cell phone at an open public outlet.  This man was not as eloquent as I and was (I honestly could not tell) either drunk or had some other mental problem and was slurring his words.  The officer proceeded to berate the man to the point where I felt inclined to intervene.  He told the man to move along and that was the end of it.

Part of me wants to say that race was an issue, that is a common retreat, but I am not sure that it was entirely.  I think that a lot of it has to do with class or with a notion of a power trip.  Either way, I feel the whole thing was unprofessional and demeaning, especially if Greenville wants to grow as a city.  With officers like this around and actively harassing people who are literally minding their own business.  I was walking in the street and I spoke with several officers this morning who said that he could have run me in, I admittedly was walking down the middle of the street, but he would have a tough time explaining to a judge the waste of time and effort that it would take to take me in on a night when others were in legitimate danger and my only crime was not being dressed well.

Leaving the situation, I felt humiliated and somehow less of a human being.  I went home and watched television for a little while but I wondered about those who could not easily shake such a thing.  Had I actually been homeless, could I sat in my corner of the world and not found solace in a bottle or a needle in my arm.  Last night and many other nights and even some afternoons, I was treated like shit.  It is all to common.  It won't be the last time I am stopped.  How do we stop this?

Friday, January 31, 2014

How it all ties together...

We get manure from the Greenville zoo....
The manure feeds our gardens at 11Briar st.
The gardens feed people in need and the sales from the rest feed our other ventures...

We get manure from the horses that pull the carriages up and down main street Greenville in the evenings....
The manure feeds our gardens at 11Briar St.
The gardens feed people in need and the sales from the excess go to feed our other ventures...

We collect coffee grounds from Starbucks, Spill the Beans...We collect coffee chaff from West End Coffee...They collect the moisture from the manure, cover the smell of manure...

All of our efforts keep this stuff out of the trash stream and reduce waste in landfills....

We use containers from Starbucks and fast food places that would otherwise have been thrown away to create hydroponic gardens...
These gardens feed people in need and the sales from the excess feed our other ventures.

We use compostable matter from 14 restaurants in our compost piles...
We are a carbon sink
We use this or our gardens...
These gardens feed people in need and the sales from the excess feed our other ventures

We build tiny houses.
These create a smaller footprint and a vision for sustainable living...
The owners rent them out creating revenue...
People come out to our property to get away, rent the homes, support a cause, have fun, support local ventures.

We put on events...
These events are cheaper for our members, who get more affordable food through our CSA
The performers at these events make more money and are able to support themselves better with better food, better health and more of the money that they earn with their art in their back pocket.

We support an artist's guild...
The artists we support play at our events, support the venue, they leave with more money in their pockets and the venue gets paid for.
Allowing us to grow more food...
Allowing us to feed more people in need and the sales from the excess to feed our other ventures.

We support a school on the property...
Children learn about the natural world and the tech world at the same time...
They learn about how to create in and sustain a world that is rapidly changing and requires a foot in both worlds.

This is the tip of the iceberg.  This is the basis of what we are about. This is the foundation that we are building on.  Common sense, common cause...building, creating, being!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tensie's House...We can do so much with so little

Tensie's House
For those dealing with extreme circumstances, an escape, however brief, can mean so much.  We are going to give that chance to as many people as we can.  We are going to give a chance to escape, a brief respite to those who are dealing with illnesses and more.
We are going to dedicate an afternoon to building  a home, the first of many.  We are going to build in one day, and move it to our property on March 1 as a place for those who need an escape.
Construction begins on March 1 at 1185 Pendleton St.

That is what is what Tensie's house is all about.  It is a tiny house, a solitary place, designed for peace.  Help us build it.
We can make a dream become a reality in a matter of hours.
If you or your group would like to participate in and support this cause, join us.
Our plan calls for the creation of three such homes by March 12. Each dedicated to a cause...
Each created to help.
Each about changing the world.
Help us reach this goal

Contact us at to volunteer or for any other questions.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thank Goodness for Small (?) Favors...

A few months ago I got involved with an organization that works to put together community gardens.  Their problem was that they needed to raise funds for the next year and buying fertilizer.  I asked them why they didn't just get manure from the zoo and other farms in the area.  This is, after all, a farming community.  So I made a call.
I called the Greenville Zoo and asked them for a truckload of manure.  They said they didn't do that.  The next question was what did they do with it?  It goes in the dumpster and gets hauled to landfill.  It took me a moment to catch my breath.  I am a novice gardener, but I am learning quickly.  I knew that they had two elephants and I had a general idea of how much waste an elephant produces. I had a general idea how useful this stuff could be.  I then asked who could I talk to about changing that and that set me on a path where that general knowledge got a lot more specific.
The zoo was in an awkward position literally, figuratively, and politically.  The Greenville Zoo sits in the middle of the city of Greenville.  Even though it has been there since 1960, people still complain about the smell and the noise.  I live a short stint away from it and I personally like the sounds of the lions in the morning.  Composting the manure on site proved somewhat difficult due to smell concerns and limited space.  The zoo is carved into the hills and it is really difficult to find level ground to control the leachate (urine)
The second problem is/was that they only had the two elephants.  The average elephant produces approximately 600 pounds of manure a day.  That is a lot of manure but oddly that is a small amount compared to other larger zoos that deal with tons of the stuff on a daily basis.  Basically, it is not enough to keep or to make it worth the management and that made it more expedient to throw the stuff in the dumpster and let it be hauled off.
The third problem was more political in nature.  They did not have the staff that they could task to work it.  Other organizations did not want to deal with it.  We worked very hard to solve all of the other problems.  Long story short, it is finally here.  24 (yes 24 tons) of manure for our gardens and more.
We are even gathering much of it by bike...yes bike to be carbon neutral....
24 tons that will be saved from landfill...
24 tons that will be used to grow things...
24 tons that we will put to good use...

Is the moral of this story to be careful what you
wish for?
I am not disappointed.  We saw a problem and dove in.  These are the ways these problems are solved. If you want to live in a sustainable world, it can get a little...ahem...stinky at times.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The 11Briar Project

We spent a fair amount of time fumbling around in the cold in the past couple of days.  We knew that this was going to be an issue and as people must, we prepared.  The perfect tomato starts the year before and long before that first bite is taken in the summer, a lot of work has to be put in.

So, it seems as though we are taking some time off.  It looks like nothing is being done.  That is not the case at all.  Much like nature itself, there is very little true dormancy.  Hands around cups of coffee, or legs beneath blankets, there is still work being done.  We are growing the perfect tomato.

Seeds are being ordered, compost is being gathered.  The perfect tomato is on the way.