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small town

Plumas Protests

In the late afternoon of June 5, nearly three hundred plus Plumas County residents slowly gathered at Dame Shirley Plaza in Quincy, CA for a local protest in support of Black Lives Matter.

  The protest was organized by local high school students and adult residents in solidarity with national protests.

  TyAnna Farmer, a senior at Plumas Charter School, and one of the organizers read a poem she wrote at the event called “White Washed.”

  TyAnna

The line that stood out to me is “Surrounded in a sea of white, all that can be seen is my black. Seas of white, slowly rising.” That–as a Chicana with two brown kids has often been the experience of our family in Plumas County. I can only imagine what it is to be African American here. When we moved here in 2002, my husband at the time and I were pregnant with our son. I checked the census data then and there was something like only 200 “Hispanics” (our family doesn’t use that word) in the whole county of 20,000. I’ve heard things that would make your head spin. Even though I couldn’t make the protest, (my kid was graduating at the same time), I’m so glad 300 residents of the county did.

Yay! Plumas County Youth in Solidarity!

  “We are here today to peacefully protest the racial injustice and blatant racism throughout the nation,” began a speech by Tristan McMichael, a youth organizer and Quincy High School senior.

  He went on to discuss June being LGBTQ Pride month and how on May 27 just two days after Floyd’s murder at the hands of cops, an African American trans man named Tony McDade was also killed by police in that state—highlighting that being in both demographics statistically means a higher rate of police (and other) brutality.

  “It is not just Policing standards that need to change, we need to change American society itself. This is why we call social reform movements social reform movements,” said McMichael.

  Some residents have recently been galvanized by racist comments made by some community members in facebook groups, which furthered some residents into wanting to come out publicly in favor of Black Lives Matter to demonstrate to local people of color that white community members stand with them. There is now a group called Exposing Racism and Oppression in Plumas County on facebook, which hosted the flyer and information for the event. It’s been great to connect with people who are also seeing that some of the language and actions of our neighbors are abhorrent. (If you want to see some of Plumas County’s vitriolic ‘bless their hearts’ cases, check out “Plumas Concerned Citizens” on facebook or “Plumas Rants and Raves”–both groups are overflowing with All Lives Matter, Karen-esque talking points, get off my privileged white lawn comments–and every once in awhile something actually nice).”

  By all accounts of those who attended the event, it was a peaceful protest aimed at solidarity. Most people wore masks with respect to COVID19 CDC guidelines. Not all practiced social distancing of six feet apart (because 300 people in Dame Shirley Plaza–wow!).

On Fridays on that same corner the Plumas Democrats have staged protests for years that draws pretty much the same 10 people or less. This size crowd we rarely see. In fact the last time people came out like this was for Quincy’s first PRIDE event in September 2019.

  “This was such a powerful message for me personally growing up here, and thinking that many people here would not support people of minorities groups, and today that changed. So many people showed their faces and had so many kind messages and experiences to share,” said Farmer. “ Especially a big thank you to all of my teachers who came, you have no idea how much it meant to me to see you guys their supporting us,” she wrote on her fb page.

I’m sure the students were as excited as I was to hear and see so many of their teachers from the local high schools and Feather River College there too.

The African American population in Plumas County is 192 people according to census stats or just below one percent of the population. The county population is 20,000. This IS a big deal.

A similar event is being planned by Sierra county locals on June 13 in Loyalton in Sierra County. The old guard in Sierra County already assumes it must be “outside agitators” –mostly because that guard rarely bothers to get to know who lives here if they aren’t white or working for them.

It’s a wonderful and hopeful thing to see so many students and neighbors out marching for Black Lives Matter. The young people remind me of what I’ve thought as a mother these last 17 years: that this up and coming generation is quite amazing in their own way. When I think of what was taboo or impossible when I was a teen and how things are now I truly am amazed and grateful to live in such a time and place where the young are active.

(Photos submitted by TyAnna Farmer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

It’s About the Kids…

It’s Wednesday morning. I’ve had a double cappuccino and a banana and I’m hoping that wakes me up for my day. So my post might seem dreamy or reaching into a netherworld that only I am connecting but hear me out anyhow.

I live in an area of sometimes pretty extreme isolation–especially in winter months. Most event planners around here avoid January because the weather is too unpredictable. Indeed our variety show was canceled two weeks ago due to snow storm but rescheduled for last night when we had a balmy 42 degrees going for us.

We are one of those rural communities that suffers from suicide attempts and sadly some follow through. The local high school last Thursday was the site of two kids of color–including one of my own–being jumped. I watch as the social workers and school admins try program after program that look great on paper. Whether it be Friday Night Live events in which only the non marginalized kids attend or forced sports togetherness that only increases isolation. I have my suspicions that these things are designed by people who don’t spend time with real students.

Perhaps by real I mean, kids who have souls and who recognize and see through the bullshit but aren’t old enough to navigate out yet. The kids who are vulnerable are those that feel. That know the world’s depths and the fakeness too that surrounds them–they aren’t numb yet to it. They know something is wrong. Pinpointing takes time.

Enter our tiny theatre troupe—Pachuca Productions. Back last year we had an idea. Tina and I are big Hamilton fans (we saw the production at the Pantages 2017). Lin-Manuel Miranda released that instrumental version of the show–last summer? What if we got some kids together to sing Hamilton songs with us?

They came from all over the county: Portola, Indian Valley, Quincy, Sattley–5 different schools. A couple of kids from each school. Shy kids. Kids never having been on stage before. Kids who didn’t know whether they could sing or not. We roped one of their principals into it and asked him to sing Right Hand Man as George Washington. We got the women who usually sing and act with us to sing a song or two. We created a costume contest. A kid made trivia quiz. A challenge to write a Ben Franklin wrap. We got the local theatre to rent us a kid friendly space. And we rehearsed them on two sides of the county a couple times a week since after Thanksgiving.

And now the shy and the isolated have taken to the stage and we couldn’t be prouder.

I’m not saying that theatre solves all the problems in the universe. And if someone wants to sue us for singing Hamilton songs in public know that we didn’t make any money off of the venture. Like donations just barely covered the cost of the building for a night. We are divorced moms with kids–please don’t sue us. And I donated the prizes for the contests.

But there was joy on shy faces. There was some serious confidence building. There was a break in January’s oppressively cold hold on this region. There was light. And it was beautiful.

Here’s some photos:

Pre-Show Green Room Selfie.

Bree — the shyest one who loves Dear Theodosia.

Sarah the King.

Indian Valley Academy’s Rendition of Cabinet Battle # 1


The audience sang along and laughed and cheered on the students. A kid from the audience won the trivia quiz getting 9 out of 10 Hamilton questions correct. We gave them pencil sets with Hamilton quotes on them.

For a moment the town hall theatre was warm and it wasn’t the bleak mid-winter anymore. Thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda for your words and music. I hope you don’t mind. And Happy 264th probably Birthday, Mr. Hamilton.

I’ll post more photos as they trickle in…

My son and Daveed Diggs fan, Diego.
Categories
latina literary

Nicked Named (a poem)

Two days in

And they give her

A nickname

Two syllables instead

Of three—

Her given name too full

Of beauty, of vowel, of nuance.

High school begins.

Fresh start.

The time we throw on new identities

The time we suppress the old.

I’m not allowed hugs

What makes me think I can have names?

Two syllables–

A name I didn’t chose for her

Something short, ugly

More American. Joking. Fun.

They don’t mean nothing by it.

Easy to remember:

Like knowing one’s place.

I have to be silent on this one.

It’s not my battle.

I spent a lot of time on that name,

Nine months as she turned

And kicked and got ready to be born.

I am reminded of crossings

When one of her grandfathers crossed over

having his Mayan name chopped in half

to make it easier on everyone

but the one erased.

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Uncategorized

Just. One. Book.

Just. One. Book.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mills closed, then –nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1970s-1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The last eight years students couldn’t even check out books.

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But all that is changing now.

Greenville Junior/Senior High School and Indian Valley Academy, which share the library space have new leadership which are welcoming the idea of revamping the library. Both principals want to see the area’s students supported and reading. Like most of rural America we have no budget for such things as books, film, music , and other media and arts.

I’ve lived here 13 years. I’ve watched kids succumb to despair. Our suicide and alcohol abuse is rampant as it is in many small rural communities. 75% of our county is beautiful national forest. 44% of jobs are government jobs—mostly forest service. There used to be mills but they closed down in the 90s. So much of that other 56% is underemployed and unemployed. It’s a beautiful place to live but it’s also a scary place for the mind to atrophy. We have a median income of under 30K. At the local elementary school 2/3 of students qualify for free lunch. Getting the picture?

What we’re good at:

Because we live in a forest we do have great resources about natural resource management, forestry, conservation. We have a number of environmental organizations that help with a good deal of education and hands on learning experiences related with the great outdoors. We also have organic farms and sustainable ranches. Yay! So there’s the silver lining.

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who excel are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of.

We want things that will make a difference and get kids wanting to read and wanting to create. We want to engage.

We also are getting students onboard to design their new space. Students are actively reimagining and recreating their library space.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

GHS/Indian Valley Academy

Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia

117 Grand Street  Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you!

We now have an Amazon wish list up:  Amazon Wish List