SOCIAL JUSTICE INITIATIVES AT TREE

Racial Justice

Community Involvement:  

Continuing the Work of Anti-Racism at TREE Academy

 

Calls to Action Within TREE Academy

  • Clubs & Organizations:

    • Consider joining the Black Student Alliance & Allies Elective at TREE

  • Discussions: 

    • Participate in ongoing discussions about BLM, racism, etc in your History, English, Life Skills, Student Government, and other classes!

    • Consider how Anti-Racism plays a role in our ongoing Social Justice Fridays

  • Donations: 

    • Donate an anti-racist book to the TREE Academy Community/Student Library. Here are some books that are being requested:

      • Between The World and Me

      • This Book is Anti-Racist Ghost Boys

      • The Hate U Give 

      • Stamped 

      • Piecing me together

      • Brown Girl Dreaming

  • Creative Expression:

    • Create a Black Lives Matter or Anti-Racist poster art to be exhibited in the TREE Student Art Gallery.

 

Calls to Action Beyond TREE Academy

  • Conversations at Home: 

    • Have important conversations with friends & family, just like our social justice presentation and breakout sessions

  • Support Black Owned Businesses! 

    • Support Black creators and businesses in your local community. For example, Yelp has compiled a list of Black owned restaurants in LA. Awesome and diverse choices!

    • Check out websites like etsy.com that have put together Black owned businesses that you can support. There is an amazing range of Black artists and creators that sell everything from self-care products to food, eco-friendly materials, art, woodwork, etc!

    • For makeup and beauty product lovers, check out this list of incredible Black owned brands: link here

    • Here are some other websites that help source products from Black owned businesses: 

  • Protests:

    • Consider participating in a protest (first time or ongoing!)

  • Petitions: 

    • Sign up for emails on change.org, learn about and sign petitions on various issues about Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’s experiences. There are petitions that range from raising awareness on people’s experiences with discrimination and injustice, to putting pressure on politicians to take actions that truly address equity and justice. 

  •  Social Media:

    • Diversify your feed, post and share resources that promote BLM education and resources to get involved in/contribute to. There are many organizations and individuals that have social media accounts to keep you informed and updated on BLM, racial justice/injustice. These people can range from non-profits, to artists and scholars.

      • BLM, Instagram @blklivesmatter

      • BLM Los Angeles, Instagram @blmlosangeles

      • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Instagram @naacp

      • Martin Luther King III, Twitter

      • No Whtie Saviors, Instagram @nowhitesaviors 

      • Sonya Renee Taylor (Author), Instagram @sonyareneetaylor

      • Black Excellence Collective (“Organizing hub for & by Black Trans/Queer young people”), Instagram @blackxcollective 

      • Anti-Racism Daily, Instagram @antiracismdaily

      • And more!

  • Donations: 

    • Look for organizations to donate your money (even if it’s $1) or your time:

      • Marsha P. Johnson Institute 

      • Compton Girls Club

  • Take Responsibility for Your Own Learning!

 

Women's Rights

Our intention in this important discussion was to educate and engage students in a meaningful dialogue about women’s rights and why they make a difference for everyone.

 

Our presentation was threefold: First, we provided definitions that we feel are important to understanding the breadth and depth of women’s rights. Second, we debunked common myths about feminism and showed how feminism is beneficial to all people. Third, we honed in on specific women’s rights issues with guidance from our women’s studies students. 

 

Women’s Rights

Feminism

Gender Identity

Sex

Intersectionality

Double Standards

Misogyny

Sexism

Rights that promote a position of legal, economic, and social equality of women with men.

The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes and gender

One’s internal, deeply held sense of gender. Some people identify completely with the gender they were assigned at birth (usually male or female), while others may identify with only a part of that gender, or not at all. Some people identify with another gender entirely. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.

At birth, infants are commonly assigned a sex. This is usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy and is often confused with gender. However, a person’s sex is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. As a result, there are many more sexes than just male and female, just like there are many more genders than just male and female, as well.

The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage in society.

A set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another example: application of more severe standards of sexual behavior to women than to men.

Hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender. Sexism can affect anyone, but it primarily affects women and girls. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another.

 

Definitions

Misconceptions about Feminism

Additionally, we felt it necessary to explore common misconceptions in feminism that so often prevent people from identifying themselves as “feminists.” Here are our responses to these common misconceptions: 

 

1.  Feminism does NOT advocate granting more rights to women than to men. Feminism works to promote equality of the sexes and genders. 

 

2.  Feminism does NOT only benefit women.

a.  More women in the workforce have boosted the economy since WWII. 

b.  Women were key figures in the Civil Rights Movement promoting racial equality. 

c.  Feminism has challenged how women and men are represented in the media

d.  Feminism supports and encourages men to come forward about the abuses and trauma they have experienced, which have typically been associated with women

e.  Feminism allows everyone to be their most authentic selves

 

​​3.  Feminists need male feminists in this work. Thus, Feminists do NOT hate men or deny their gender and sex identity-related experiences too. The work that has been done, and needs to continue, requires male feminists.​

 

Women's Rights Issues

Finally, we laid out several women’s rights issues still impacting women in 2021. With guidance from our women’s studies students, we focused on the following topics in small group discussions: 

A.  Gender Pay Gap & Sexism in the Workplace

B.  Beauty Expectations & Norms in Society and Online

C.  Abortion & Reproductive Health

D.  Female Intersectionality 

E.  Period Poverty & Menstruation Myths and Stigmas

F.  Women in Politics

G.  Women in Different Cultures 

On behalf of the Social Justice Team, women's studies, and all of us at TREE, thank you for your ongoing support.

 
 

What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (Genderqueer), Intersexed, Agender, Asexual and Ally community.

 

  • Gay: Term used in some cultural settings to represent male-identified who are attracted to males in a romantic and/or emotional sense. 

 

  • Lesbian: Term used in some cultural settings to represent female-identified who are attracted to females in a romantic and/or emotional sense. 

 

  • Bisexual: A person emotionally and/or physically attracted to males/men and females/women.

 

  • Transgender: A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.

 

  • Queer: An umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively-heterosexual-and-monogamous majority.

 

  • Intersexed: Individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies.

 

  • Agender: Individuals who do not identify themselves as having a particular gender.

 

  • Ally Community: Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and gender straight privilege in themselves and others; has a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people; and a belief that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are social justice issues.

 

Homophobia and Transphobia

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

 

ARTICLE 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.

ARTICLE 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

 

However, homophobia and transphobia are still rooted in our society.

 

Homophobia is the fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or any person who doesn’t identify themselves with the traditional sexual orientation.

 

Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender, thought to be transgender, or whose gender expression doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles. ​

What are the physiological impacts of homophobia and transphobia?

  • According to the Planned Parenthood organization, in addition to several psychological studies, those individuals who suffer homophobia and/or transphobia (to a greater or lesser extent), can be gravely impactful both psychologically and physically. 

 

Some of the psychological consequences include:

  • Depression

  • Isolation

  • Fear

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Anxiety

  • Eating disorders

  • Low self-esteem

  • Addictions

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Inappropriate language

 

Some words are so rooted in our daily lexicon that we use them without knowing they are offensive and can make other people feel uncomfortable, hurt and/or humiliated. The use of certain words are in fact homophobic/transphobic acts. 

 

Awareness of everyone's sexual orientation and gender identity is incredibly important when interacting with individuals. We never know if someone (who may even belong to our circle of friends) is being affected indirectly or directly by our comments, and thus, awareness is important to best support each other. Also, people who themselves do not identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community sometimes have friends, family and beloved ones who do identify as LGBTQIA+. These people can feel very hurt if someone uses incorrect terminology or inappropriate words.

 

Individuals who feel part of the community have reported having experienced traumas that can have grave consequences such as the ones listed before (depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts).

 

Pronouns

What are pronouns?

 

We use a pronoun instead of a noun when referring to someone instead of saying their name. Ex. He, She, They…

 

Why do pronouns matter:

 

In English (as in some other languages), some pronouns (he/she) refer to a person’s gender. For queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender people, these pronouns may not fit. Using the incorrect pronoun can create discomfort, and cause stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem...

For some transgender youth, being referred to with the incorrect pronoun can increase feelings of depression and suicide.

 

Having trouble understanding why this would upset someone? Think about your pronoun (he/she/they). Imagine someone calling you the one you don’t think of yourself as. Now, imagine them doing it over and over and over again - even after you’ve corrected them. It may not feel so good.

 

What to do if you make a mistake and use the incorrect pronoun?

It's okay, we all make mistakes! The best thing you can do is apologize, correct yourself for next time, and move on quickly. If you make a mistake in front of a group of people, you may want to apologize to the person in private later on. Then, use the correct pronoun next time.

 

Two-Spirit People

Some Native American/Alaskan communities have traditionally assumed the idea that some of their members are “TWO SPIRIT” people.

 

Some of these communities understand Two-Spirit people as a person who combines both men and women activities, traditionally assigned to one of those genders.

 

However, in most of the communities, these people are not considered men nor women. They have an alternative gender status. In some Native American tribes, they considered a fourth gender status.

 

Two-Spirit people held a meaningful place in the sacred hoop. In many tribes, Two Spirits were balance keepers. Thought to be the “dusk” between the male morning and the female evening.

 

It is important to understand this is not a new-age movement from the 21st century. This is an identity that has been inherent in several Native American tribes throughout history.

 

What is queer visibility?

Queer visibility is a social movement that advocates for the normalization of sexual diversity and fights for the right to be yourself and be proud of it.

Why is queer visibility important?

  • Queer visibility is meaningful and important. It helps stop sexual stereotypes and clichés that the LGBTQIA+ community endures. For instance, the cliché of a gay man who is feminine and frivolous.

  • Queer visibility also embraces diversity and respect for other peoples’ identities and orientations.

 

Famous people who gave visibility to the LGBTQIA+ community include:

 

  • Ellen Degeneres, who came out as a gay woman in 1997, one of the pioneers for the Coming Out Movement. She opened the door for other women to express their identity and sexual orientations freely.

 

  • Pete Buttigieg, who is the first openly gay major party candidate for President; and the first openly gay Cabinet Member.

 

 

  • Tammy Baldwin, the first lesbian and first out member of the LGBT community to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

 

  • Lucy Hicks Anderson, a transgender activist who was a pioneer for marriage equality in the 20th century.

 

What can we as individuals, and as a community, do to stop discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people?

  • One starting point is to create awareness. It is our duty to help people understand how this is a real issue and how behind the LGBTQIA acronym are people who have the right to be themselves without being discriminated against, judged or insulted.

 

  • TREE Academy has created a GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) where LGBTQIA+ members and allies can attend and have conversations in a supportive and encouraging environment. Everyone is invited to be part of this.

 

  • Getting rid of prejudice. It is important to accept that every individual has their own identity and sexuality which is both personal and unique.

 

  • Same-sex marriage is legal in only 29 countries worldwide, which represents less than 15% of the world.  Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries. In at least 7 of these countries, being gay is punishable by death. Therefore, it is critical to demand governments and the United Nations to provide legal protection for those people who are being tortured, incarcerated and executed because of their sexual orientation.

 
 

Environmentalism and the Environmental Justice movement are related but not the same.

 

Environmentalism's primary concerns are with the planet's ecology and the adverse effects of humankind on nature. 

It champions preservation, restoration, and improvement of the ecosystems and their processes, such as climate and biodiversity.

 

Environmental Justice deals with racism and socio-economic injustice, acknowledging the negative impact of humanity on the environment and how the affected environment disproportionately impacts certain groups and their habitat.

 

In other words, environmental justice is the right of all people to have equal access to a healthy, safe, and sustainable environment, as well as equal protection from environmental harm, secure access to living wages, good education, recreation, decent housing, and affordable health care.

The origins of environmental justice in the United States can be traced back to Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.  The movement’s goals were to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans and secure legal recognition and federal protection of the citizenship rights enumerated in the Constitution and federal law.

 

The Civil Rights Movement resulted in The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This Act is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Civil Rights Act after mounting pressure from the events that transpired on March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, where peaceful protesters were beaten and detained. 

 

Other communities of color had also organized to oppose environmental threats. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers fought for workplace rights, including protection from harmful pesticides and fair pay in California's San Joaquin Valley’s farm fields in the early ’60s. Cesar Chavez molded his movement after Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. employing civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts, and fast. 

 

Remarkably, the environmental justice movement did not take off until 1982, when a predominantly Black community in Warren County, North Carolina, protested over the plan to place a hazardous waste landfill in their community.  Liquid contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) had been illegally dumped alongside several miles of road in rural North Carolina. The state response was to collect and bury the toxic waste in Warren County.  The problem with that decision was that the water table was only 10 feet below the surface, and most residents drew water from wells. 

 

Thanks to the intervention of groups such as the NAACP and the United Church of Christ, Warren County’s event drew national media attention to environmental threats’ dangers and injustices.

Consequently, a series of governmental actions for environmental justice took place.

 
 

President George H. W. Bush founded the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice with the passing of Bill (S.2549). The purpose and summary of the legislation read:

 

“The purpose of this bill is to ensure that every Federal

Agency take environmental justice into account when carrying

our activities and programs; establish an Interagency Working

Group on environmental justice; expand and create a new grant

programs to help communities and States address environmental

justice; and increase training and accountability regarding

environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

 

Later on, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order that required federal agencies to address environmental justice in marginalized communities and those with a lower socio-economic status.

 

Executive Order 12898 directs federal agencies to:

  1. identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their actions on minority and low-income populations, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law.

  2. develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice.

  3. promote nondiscrimination in federal programs that affect human health and the environment and provide minority and low-income communities access to public information and public participation.

An Interagency Working Group (IWG) on environmental justice chaired by the EPA Administrator was also established. Executive Order  12898 involved the heads of 11 departments or agencies and several White House offices. These efforts, however, were never fully implemented because Congress failed to pass a bill that would make the executive order a law.

President George W. Bush shifted the focus of the Office of Environmental Justice to include all people instead of focusing more specifically on marginalized communities and those with lower socioeconomic status. This move thwarted the bill’s original intention, and underprivileged populations lost an important legislative advocate.

 

Unfortunately, environmental injustice is still very prevalent in our society. When urban areas develop across the country, zones reserved exclusively for residential purposes are often expensive. Mixed-use zones are more affordable, but allow residential and industrial buildings to coexist side by side. This has led to a higher population density in areas closer to environmental hazards.

 

The proximity to harm increases significantly if you live close to an industrial site such as the refinery at El Segundo, in L. A. county. According to the EPA, “there is a growing body of evidence that refineries are underestimating emissions of volatile organic chemicals (or VOCs)- things like benzene, xylene, and toluene. Exposure to these chemicals can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and cancer.”

 

Another example of the proximity to harm is the pollution created by Exide, a battery recycling plant in Vernon, California. 

 

The California Department of Toxic Substances shut down Exide. An investigation revealed that the plant had contaminated the soil around the plant. The resulting toxic metal dust, including lead and other pollutants, affected the cities of Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East LA, Huntington Park, and Maywood, where the majority of the population are Latinx and working class.

 

Exide was allowed to file for bankruptcy and leave the area without compensating the communities or cleaning up the affected areas of operation.

 

All communities should have access to reliable, low-risk sources of water. Unfortunately, geographical location, water management, oil spills, toxic waste, and agricultural runoff affect the final product.

 

The lead poisoning of Flint’s population in Michigan exemplifies the effects of this type of environmental injustice on the poor and people of color. Lead poisoning in children can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.

 

To save money, Governor Rick Snyder switched the water supply from Lake Huron, treated by the City of Detroit, to water from the historically very polluted Flint River. The lack of anti-corrosive agents caused the lead pipes to leach lead into the water.

 

Flint has a large African American population, many of whom live below the poverty line.  There are also Arab American and Latinx communities in Flint, where the annual per capita income is $17,086.

 

Water mismanagement extends to the oceans’ waters too. There is an area off the coast of Louisiana and Texas known as the Dead Zone.  Every summer, the runoff of fertilizers used by commercial farms located upstream of the Mississippi River and its tributaries promotes algae’s excessive growth. The algae’s decomposition process consumes oxygen, consequently creating a low-oxygen condition in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters. It is estimated that this Dead Zone is now 6,765 square miles wide.

 

A report by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium estimates that the dead zone poses a real threat to the Gulf’s seafood and tourism industry. About 600,000 jobs are at risk and, according to the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a cost of $82 million a year for the same industries.

 

Many communities around the region and across the nation depend on the good health of the Gulf. This area produces about 40 percent of all the seafood in the lower 48 states. Jobs, income, food, shelter, and diverse wildlife are at risk.

 

Food justice addresses the burden on lower socioeconomic communities and communities of color where Food Deserts or Food Swamps are prevalent. The USDA defines a Food Desert as an area where much of the population lives at least one mile from the nearest supermarket. 

 

Food Swamps not only lack the presence of fresh foods but have an abundance of liquor stores and fast-food outlets.

 

Statistics about the national health crisis show an alarming increase in obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and cancer. 

 

These diseases affect today’s adults and the nation’s younger population, placing a burden on the medical system and decreasing productivity and quality of life.

 

Food is central to our social life, and good, nourishing food is essential to maintain health, strength, and success. A lack of good, healthful food clouds our minds, weakens our bodies, and harms communities. Access to clean, fresh, and nourishing food should be a right, not a privilege.

 

Solving all of the issues that we have presented here is a daunting task.

The first step is to recognize the disparities and injustices in our society and acknowledge the painful truths haunting our country and world. The road will be challenging, but we must all participate in bettering our society and improving our relationship with each other and with nature. 

If you haven’t, get involved. Donate your time or support to one of the many organizations striving to make a difference. Become an informed citizen. Write to your elected officials to voice your concerns.

We cannot sit idly anymore!