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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Posting boards as community places, or Why I tore down 30 posters on Wednesday

Dear Fund for the Public Interest,

I noticed your flyers on Wednesday posted all over the UC Santa Cruz campus. It was clear to me that you have summer jobs available. It was also clear that you have no respect for our community, the multiplicity of voices that make us such a vibrant place to live, work, and study. It was clear to me that I would never apply for one of your summer jobs, and I have already encouraged potentially interested and qualified applicants to your organization--my friends, coworkers, and fellow environmental activists--to think twice about what kind of organization they really want to work for after they graduate.


No, it's not the way your flyers look. Those are bright and colorful and eye catching. Clearly well-funded (perhaps by this fund you have that's supposedly for the public interest).

No, it was clear to me that I would never work for you because your principles do not align with those that I hold in my approach to environmental and social justice activism. I believe that all members of our community deserve a voice, a chance to express themselves, an opportunity to organize and participate and create new projects. I believe in a diversity of perspectives because collective solutions are what are going to foster the flourishing and engaged communities that we require to face the challenges in our world today.

To me, a beautiful representation of a diversity of perspectives, activity, opportunity, and community involvement is the common, public posting board. You might have noticed UC Santa Cruz has one at every bus stop, in every college, in every dorm. We are a community that seeks opportunities to engage, and we encourage these opportunities by making it simple for student organizers and the community to post about what's happening.

Actually, I'm certain you've noticed this. I'm also certain that you have abused these spaces for your own gain, not only today, but every time I bike up to a posting board to share the word about an event I'm planning or an internship opportunity that I want my fellow students to know about so they can be engaged in the vibrant community on and off campus. There are always more than one of your posters there, covering others' flyers that took money and time and effort to get there. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a large "fund for the public interest" from which to draw flyering money and hire people to drive around flyering. We're students. We're local, community organizers. When we have money, we put it toward real work in our communities and use what's left to flyer because we know that investing our time into our community, planning events and creating opportunities that are the focus of our work will create more lasting change than trying to prove to our community that we're worthy of their time by forcing them to look at bright, plastered flyers all over campus.

I say that you abuse these spaces because these spaces are communal, public, ours. They are not a single-use billboard with one advertisement that can be bought over by you simply because you have the funds (again, from the one for the public interest?) to print 200 copies of a flyer and blanket our community spaces with them.

Yesterday morning, when I saw those flyers covering every inch of three bus stops on my campus, in my community, I couldn't believe the audacity you had to cover our community up, silence it. I refused to let you do that, and I took down those flyers. Don't worry, I left one of them up for you at each posting board. That's how it works, in case you were unaware. You get the same amount of space as everyone else. It's etiquette and it's fairness and it allows everyone to have a chance to engage with our community.

Oh, don't worry. I'll repurpose your obviously well-funded, vibrant posters. But they no longer get to take away space from the rest of us, we who actually do grassroots work, who know people in our community well enough to fill a room or find stellar applicants or have a great event without covering up the incredible work of everyone else in Santa Cruz.

So to my community, my fellow Santa Cruz residents, my fellow Banana Slugs, I ask: Which do you prefer, a monotonous, monocultural, well-funded message for summer jobs all over campus, or a vibrant, multi-colored, uniquely Santa Cruz posting board full of weird stuff and environmental stuff and strike announcements and evidence of a multifaceted, active, and engaged citizenship?

 
Thanks for listening.
 
Sincerely,
Green Gal/Melissa Ott

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