At 66% Caucasian, Jamaica Plain is the most ethnically diverse of the 25 official New England Transition Towns (Census Data 2010). Appropriately, Carlos Espinoza-Toro and Orien Kriegman of the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition facilitated a seminar on community initiatives across race and economic divides.
One glaring weaknesses of the Transition Town Movement is that it is currently a “white person’s game.” Of the approximately 25 people who attended the seminar, none were of color; a trend that seemed to hold true throughout the entire summit. The underlying question of this seminar was: how can we change that?
First, we went around the room and introduced ourselves and said our connection to the Transition Town Movement. Next, Carlos and Orien had the group divide into pairs to brainstorm examples of dividers in communities. After five minutes or so, we were instructed to find another pair and form a group of four. This was a very useful exercise because we went from being strangers listening to a lecture to friends participating in a seminar. After another five minutes, we all came together to share the barriers to engagement currently hampering the movement. Some of the barriers the group came up with were: race, language, fear, time, stereotypes, gender, and religion.
Orien Kriegman brainstorms barriers to participation in diverse communities.
To demonstrate the language barrier, Carlos spoke very quickly in Spanish and asked if anyone understood him. The point was to show us how difficult it is for someone whose first language is not English to be encouraged to engage in the movement.
After outlining the barriers to participation, we discussed the ways in which we can hope to overcome these barriers to participation. Outreach and transparency were two that everyone could agree upon. Orien added that instead of speculating how we can be more inclusive, we should just physically go and ask people how we can better encourage inclusion. I thought this was spot on since the TT Movement is, at its heart, about connecting with people.
I definitely feel that I left the seminar more prepared and better equipped to break down racial and economic divides. Thank you Carlos and Orion for leading an interesting and informative seminar.