I have one more major announcement before the start of the new year, but I wanted to take a quick second and explain another project I have been working on since January of 2010. The project is called: Mantengase Alejado, Las Puertas Estan Pocierrar. (click to see images on Facebook!)
It gets lost in a lot of conversations, but the Other Awareness Project was actually inspired by the work of Simon Rodia, builder of what’s commonly known as The Watts Towers. Every time I think about the towers or go visit them, I’m always astounded by his 33-year dedication to a project that he didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. He let himself be shaped and guided by the project, and in the end, he gave it all away.
The Other Awareness Project has certainly done that for me. I love the project cause I never know what conversations I’m going to get into with all sorts of people. I know how the conversations end, but what isn’t known is, what point in history people will start at in trying to support their case for continued self-categorization into racial groups.
Most of the OAP was never preplanned. First it was photography, and then it became more video focused, which resulted in my giving presentations and speaking to many groups around the country. Some groups which I have no academic qualifications to be speaking to. In what was only my fifth full presentation, I gave a 3-hour workshop at the 22nd Annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education. The conference was attended by more than 2,000 persons representing higher education institutions, agencies, state and national associations, commissions, and foundations concerned with higher education, from 49 of the 50 states. The presentation received overall ratings of: 17% Excellent, 33% Very Good, 33% Good, 17% Fair.
I had to add some structural points to help other people and groups understand it, but for the most part it is still a free flowing conversation that touches upon a zillion topics, AND can be used to help put things into what I try to support as the proper perspective going forward. (If a person can’t support the words they use, who cares what they think?)
This latest project is switching gears a little, and is also inspired by a guy’s life story that I like a lot, John Muir. To me, one of the more exceptional things he did early in his life, was walk from Wisconsin to Florida! His purpose for the trip was to intentionally seek out nature to examine and reflect upon, then write about the plants and animals he discovered along the way. Later in life his travels and writings throughout Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains, helped create awareness of the beauty of nature in that part of the country, and led to the development of national parks, etc.
How does this relate to the price of tea in China? Well, I have always been fascinated with bus stops, train stations, and airports. Places where people who have no other connection with each other, gather to catch a ride. For every method of public transportation a schedule is created of when that vehicle is supposed to be at a series of predetermined destinations. At numerous times each day, complete strangers gather and disperse and will probably not have any interaction with each other, until it’s time to catch a ride at their station tomorrow or the next day. After a short period of time, these people become like a family. I have seen complete strangers smoke from the same cigarette, give a quarter or even the full amount when people are short on the fare. In my travels I have been offered food, advice, directions, etc. by a wide range of people. And each group is different than the previous group, or the group that comes after. For example the people who catch the 9:18 bus have different things going on in their lives than the 10:27 bus people. I always wanted to film and interview these people, listen to some of their stories and viewpoints.
So, at the start of the year, I sold all of my cars and have been buying monthly Metro passes. I have ridden all over Southern California talking to and shooting pictures of people that I met. If you ever noticed any of my Facebook status updates, I have been all over. I have been to Bell to practice my Spanish. I have been to Burbank, Pacific Palisades, Long Beach, Marina Del Rey, and Compton, literally everywhere talking to people. The Mantengase Alejado, Las Puertas Estan Pocierrar project was also about wondering if a person, who was interested in lowering their dependence on oil, even get around Southern California and conduct business, keep appointments, etc. without the use of a car? Can I realistically change my lifestyle to use less oil and other resources, reduce my carbon footprint? In my opinion, most of the things that we are concerned about as an American society, economy, pollution, natural resources, obesity, doesn’t translate into us having to do things “smarter.” It means our having to stop or significantly reduce our overuse and reliance on said resources. I think it also means a reduction in the types of food we manufacture and eat. If you think about it, the introduction of hybrid cars hasn’t stopped anyone from drilling for more oil, hasn’t even slowed it down. As far as I know not one well that is fully functional has been closed down because we are “saving” oil.
The name of the project comes from riding on the Metro Train Blue Line, it is the Spanish announcement right after the English announcement of; “Stand clear, the doors are closing.” (On the Metro Train Green Line, the announcement is different. It is; “Cuidado, las puertas se estan cerrando.” I don’t know why.)
As I traveled around this year, “Mantengase alejado, las puertas estan pocierrar” is the one phrase that really sticks out the most. If you ride the Blue Line to Los Angeles, there are 13 stations from the Del Amo Station in Long Beach to the 7th Street Station that ends in downtown. The announcement is repeated every time you prepare to leave a new station. Assuming your return trip is also on the Blue Line, that’s 26 times a day! I couldn’t figure out the last word, so I asked a guy standing in line with me at a Bank of America in Carson, CA to correct the spelling of my translation.
The project has been very interesting, for me at least. I don’t think it will approach the level of involvement like the Other Awareness Project, but that wasn’t the purpose anyway.
Over the last 7 years I have received many emails from the more than 250,000 people who have visited the Other Awareness Project website. (http://www.otherawarenessproject.com) I have responded to every letter. Between my two groups on facebook there are more than 1200 “fans” of the project. Some people become fans or understand the project right away, others take as long as 2-3 months. Below is an example of the typical exchange of emails that it takes to get people to focus on the questions I’m asking, rather than continue to regurgitate all the wrong information or wrong deeds that anyone has done in the past. I’m still waiting for his response.
Comment to otherawarenessproject.com July 9, 2010 9:31:08 PM
Comments: Hey, am I missing something? I’m reading that there’s no such thing as race, but at the same time someone’s saying they’re “biracial“, etc. And the lengthy discussion of the Mexica, isn’t that all about race? Or is that discussion not being condoned here? And the discussion of reparations to African Americans, is that being denounced, since it’s about a race? Last, I recently saw one of the forensic file shows on tv, and they found out from the DNA that the killer was white, blond hair, blue eyed, which proved to be true. Isn’t this a racial thing?
Let me mention I’m all for getting the government out of our lives, I think that’s what this country is all about, but are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Please accept my apology in advance if there’s a simple answer to all this.
MJB response #1 July 26, 2010 8:21:14 PM
Thanks for your comments! Sorry for the delay in responding, have been busy scheduling events, etc. I noticed you are in Orange, CA and I’m going to be showing footage and discussing the Other Awareness Project at The MUZEO Museum on August, 8th at 3PM
There is a much simpler answer to all of this ongoing “racial” talk. Real quickly, when people call themselves “bi-racial“, I’m asking what are they still basing that on? I’m not sure what you call yourself when asked what “race” you are, but my project looks at how do you still justify your choice with current information? Some people mention incorrect stuff from the Bible, some people mention old scientific stuff that has been proven false many years ago, other people mention old laws or what people used to think.
My project is about self-identification. If you have friends from other “races”, have been through a couple of diversity programs, why are you still calling yourself any of these arbitrary and completely made up “racial” names? Here is a hint, look at your driver’s license. How come your “racial” information doesn’t appear on there?
Overall, I’m asking people to reevaluate why they still use these names to try and solve problems, and is it working. But, more importantly than talking about what everyone has done wrong, do we need these names/categories to solve problems going forward. If you haven’t done so already, please download my complete media kit and hopefully I’ll see you in Anaheim on August 8th!
Download Complete Media Kit (with letters from Barack Obama, Vernon Jordan, Clarence Thomas and others):
Good to hear from you. I saw you the year before last in Long Beach.
I was still curious though, because you and I had a bit of discussion on the dna idea, that there was no biological basis for race (hopefully I’m remembering right) but again, on a recent crime documentary, they determined from dna all about the guy, so wouldn’t it at least be fair to say that there is actually a biological basis to race?
And, I was very curious about a handful of links on your site, in which people elaborated A LOT about race this and that, naming specific ones and what “they” need to do, what they did, etc, so I’m confused about your stance on that (are you endorsing those or critiquing them….?)
I mentioned the Bible thing I saw online, because I was intrigued that it seemed to describe what you were saying. In any case it did not say God created races but that people morph naturally given their environment, something like that. (I’d still wonder if it wouldn’t make sense though, that enough morphs create a “race”) Also saw an extremely interesting documentary from a guy who researched what he deduces is the path of humankind, starting somewhere like north africa, migrating all over, and says the europeans became that way over time, others migrated way east, and then through the americas, so the native americans are “cousins” of the asians. You may have heard all this before, but I find it interesting. It helps to realize or see this kind of thing and see all the commonality.
Dare I inject a touchy thought–the left is way too focused on race and it drives me crazy.
Hope to hear your feedback…..
MJB response #2 July 27, 2010 5:21:13 PM PDT
I’ll go in order:
#1) From many current scientific viewpoints there isn’t any basis for people self-identifying themselves into any of the commonly accepted “racial groups.” Period. I can’t argue about the documentary on a TV show, but like a lot of CSI stuff that stuff is made up. Not accurate science. But, if YOU think there is ANY basis for putting people into various “racial groups” what would it be?
Since my project is about self-identification, I like to be very specific. When you, Paul, are given the option of choosing a “race” which one do you select? In your answer, I would like for you to explain why you selected the choice you chose. Then I would like for you to think of 10 other people who you think or feel might be in your same “racial category” and tell me what you all have in common, that a member of any one of the other arbitrary and undefined groups can’t also have.
#2) It isn’t up to me say because they are asking you to identify yourself, but I don’t endorse people calling themselves “bi-racial.” There is no such thing! If you think there is what is your rational? What other race are you combined with?
#3) You should explore the concept of how scientists use the word “race”, and how they apply it to every other animal on the planet. A lot of scientists and scientific organizations concur that the human race hasn’t been on the earth long enough to have split into separate races. Scientifically, the word race can be interchanged with the word sub-species. In my research I have found that one of the most basic rules of whether something is of the same race or not, is if you can naturally mate a male and female and produce offspring. Humans certainly can! Quick example: A horse and donkey are artificially mated together to create a mule. If you try and mate that mule with another mule what do you get? Nothing, the mule is sterile. Why? Because the horse and donkey are separate races. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mule
#5) Here is a DNA migration map that shows how Homo Sapien Sapien spread across the planet. We are ALL virtual COUSINS of each other! The differences you see are due to diet and environment. Today, in my opinion, they are further accentuated and exploited as “differences” by politics, media and marketing.
Conclusion: I assume you mean political left when you say left, but in my opinion, EVERYONE who continues to answer a question about their race with anything other than human is wrong. No matter where anyone is on the planet 99% of their genes are common with everyone else. If you want to make it continental, we are all AFRICANS! The whole reason why it persists has nothing to do with the Bible or science or law. In my opinion, the perception that everyone is dealing with “racism” on this grand scale, exists because it has been determined that people can make more money with it, than without it.
With my project, I’m trying to discover the people who can interact and solve problems WITHOUT going through these arbitrary and undefined hoops and actually spend our time SOLVING real problems.
Paul response #2 July 28, 2010 11:11:15 AM PDT
Thanks for your thoughts, I do appreciate the chance to dialogue.
Let me clarify–I don’t necessarily hold to the idea of bi-racial–I was asking because I see it in a handful of places with your interviewees or online comments, and mainly wondered if you agreed with it, and I appreciate that you’re being consistent and DON’T agree with it. But….it’s almost funny how the same people are agreeing with the idea of no race and at the same time claiming they’re bi-racial. I don’t mean funny in a sarcastic way, just to clarify.
Now, CSI is a drama and I would never trust it for facts. The other few programs are serious documentary, it shows the actual crime dept. involved and interviews actual forensic scientists doing their thing, so I wouldn’t see this as inaccurate science unless we can know otherwise. (and then, do I distrust everything on Discovery, The History Channel, PBS?) It’s not like a movie documentary for example, which normally has an agenda. In the case I mentioned they figured from the dna that it was a blond haired white skinned male, and the guy saw this on the local tv and turned himself in before they found him (partly since it was a very small town and he figured it was just a matter of time)….so my only point is that SOMETHING about this dna shows physical characteristics–this is the only thing I wanted to mention here, just to be fair with the facts. If this is due to diet and environment….whatever it is, there’s something. That’s all. This fact doesn’t mean conclusions or ramifications about self identifying.
Now, your question about asking 10 people about a category, I really think it would be easy–I think they would come up with basic stuff about our ancestry and its whereabouts, and if that’s all, THAT’S OKAY, isn’t it? This doesn’t have to imply anything more, but do we need to do away with it…..?? If it’s literally–“hey, my people came from ______ and we tend to have ______as a characteristic, and we typically do ________ ” (as an ethnicity), then is that inherently problematic? It’s a different issue if we say..”we’re this ______ and obviously our people did this and this, so we’re better or smarter” but the latter doesn’t invalidate the former, does it?
I certainly agree that humans’ dna is distinct, while evolutionists have tried to establish that it’s similar to all the animals.
Now…..if everyone in a society wants to self identify, would there need to be an exact science todo that? Certainly we use “ethnicity” with no exact science, and I don’t believe it’s inherently problematic, and without question–don’t people all over the planet have issue upon issue over “their” ethnic ways…..? Maybe it’s more of an issue of human nature, not necessarily official, legal, scientific categories…..? I really suggest that’s the issue…..
What I was asking about on your site is/are the links–the Mexica I think it was, for example. Total discussion of this race and that race, so I was just curious if you had an issue with that being on your site. It seemed like it was going against your whole premise, though I realize there may be other reasons why you have it there (but I’m curious then).
The more I hear the more it seems like there’s no way possible for people to not self identify. We have eyesight, we look different, and people will identify by class, geography, education, religion, intelligence, body weight, age. If we eliminated half of those….do we have “unity”? Even if we can officially and every other way establish that there’s one human race…..we wouldn’t eliminate the ism’s of humanity, would we? I think the problem is really human nature….
Hope you welcome the dialogue….I’m not wanting to be an annoyance…!!
MJB response #3 July 28, 2010 12:51:34 PM PDT
Not an annoyance but respectfully I’m sure you are aware that while I enjoy the conversation, I simply don’t have the time right now to interact with everyone on a one to one basis. Because I get these sort of comments all the time, that’s why I have the group presentations. You should come out to the event on August 8th.
In my opinion, you are trying to “dialogue” about a lot of things that I don’t see where there is anything to dialogue about. Rather than talk about ALL OF THE POSSIBLE sources of INCORRECT INFORMATION that people CONTINUE to use and make reference to draw incorrect conclusions on race etc., I’m looking for you to provide YOUR answers to the questions I asked. In my answer to you I sent links to articles that you can research if you want to, in return, I would like the same.
If you want me to answer about some crime documentary, send me a link and I’ll look it over. Can’t answer abstract observations about an unnamed documentary. If you are saying they found some guy through his DNA and from that DNA they determined that the guy was “white”, I would like to hear their explanation on how they scientifically attached the word “white” to DNA results.
The Mexica link is there because that group is talking about how being called Latino or Hispanic has nothing to do with being called Mexican, or Puerto Rican, etc. The people of Central America aren’t the ones who first started calling people from the region Hispanic, etc.
I’m also going to suggest that it is NOT human nature for people to solely interact or fight with, or marry, or bear children with people who only look like them. You may want to look up the definition of the term coalitional behavior.
By the way, I’m not trying to convince you or anyone else of anything. I’m letting people know that maybe some of the information they are using to continue to answer these type of questions might be a little out of date. When I started the project 7 years ago, I started with the premise that everyone I would speak to was/is smarter than I am. That’s why I spent a couple of years talking to scientists and lawyers, and politicians, and religious professionals BEFORE I started talking with people who draw their conclusions on what they think or feel solely on the basis of information presented to them on TV. I respect your intelligence as well, but I would still like to hear your answers and supporting rational to the questions I asked.
So, when asked the question about your “race,” or “ethnicity,” which choice, of the 7-8 choices possible, do you choose and why? I’ll wait upon your answer, then we can dialogue a bit.
Below is a condensed email that I received on 2/27/10 from Megan Smolenyak, founder of Roots Television.com, regarding the closing of the Roots Television.com site, and the upcoming start of a show called “Who Do You Think You Are?” on NBC.
Dear RootsTelevision.com Viewer,
It’s with mixed feelings that I’m sharing the news that I will be closing RootsTelevision.com (RTV) as of March 10th. Back in 2006, RTV was launched to fill a void. As I wrote at the time:
“We’ve been perplexed for a long time. These days, there’s a horse channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a poker channel, a guitar channel, and even a shipwreck channel. So why, isn’t there a channel servicing the millions of people interested in genealogy and family history?”
The good news is that this yawning gap is now being filled. Genealogy is finally going mainstream. Some of you are probably already watching Faces of America on PBS and The Generations Project on BYU. And many, I’m sure, have heard of the imminent launch on NBC of Who Do You Think You Are? (a series I’m proud to be affiliated with, and for which, I wrote the companion book). The non-genealogical world is finally waking up to the long overlooked potential of what we roots-sleuths do on a daily basis, as you can read in this article:
I’m honored to have had the opportunity to fill this void for more than three years. I hope that you have enjoyed the hundreds of high quality videos that RootsTelevision.com has produced or selected. It’s been a privilege to give the genealogical community this resource, but this seems the appropriate time to move on.
I really don’t want this to sound like sour grapes, because I think people should watch the shows mentioned above. The more TV programming people can watch that supports and reinforces the ideas that we are all the same, only brings people closer to my project which doesn’t just point it out, but is more focused on what to do going forward. They want to make good TV, I want to solve the problem.
I wanted to use Megan’s email to highlight a couple of other things. Two other questions I get asked all the time are: “Have you ever thought about submitting your project to ‘Oprah’, or ‘Dr. Phil’, etc.”“Are you making any money with the project?” In true OAP tradition, the answer to both questions is yes and no.
The project wasn’t conceived with making money in mind. (So in one way It is a HUGE success!) If you remember from previous updates, I have posted more than half of the project to my site (www.otherawarenessproject.com), You Tube, and Facebook, essentially giving it away. When I make presentations, I try to focus on the parts that haven’t been posted anywhere else. I always knew that when finished, I would make most of the money from this project from speaking engagements. That has been the plan all along. I was a stand up comic. I like the performance, getting out and meeting people aspects of the whole project.
One of the connections here is that Roots Television was one of the very first places I tried to submit video clips. I have email correspondence with Roots Television from as early as 3/05/07! In the beginning I did submit to a list of shows, networks, potential sponsors, etc., including Oprah, Dr. Phil, and a bunch more.
Here is a link to Oprah’s submission policy, which is roughly the same as everyone else’s, including Facebook’s! Basically, what they are saying is whatever you send, they own, and THEY can use in whatever form THEY want into perpetuity! One of the tough things for artists to do is talk about or expose their projects, without giving it all away for other people to profit from. It’s called the entertainment business for a reason.
After I started posting clips on You Tube and Facebook, I have been approached by several “TV people” who liked the idea of the Other Awareness Project, but want to change it in one way or another. They mostly want to add celebrities, just like the NBC show, “Who Do You Think You Are?”, or Professor Gates show on PBS, ‘Faces of America’, and focus on their stories. I have been around marketing and entertainment long enough to know why celebrities make for “good television” and can instantly add relevance to any project in our TV dominated society. Again, they want to make good TV, I want to be involved in solving the problem.
One of the things I really like about the Other Awareness Project is that I was completely unaffiliated with any organizations as I was working on the project. Didn’t take any money from any outside source. If you remember that artists like Simon Rodia, creator of the Watts Towers, Cristo & Jeanne Claude, creator of The Gates and other projects, and Blues musicians, such as Howlin’ Wolf, are big influences on the Other Awareness Project, then I hope you understand that I am of the belief that artists shouldn’t ask anyone for money or resources to complete their projects. They shouldn’t ask other people what they think about their projects. As the artist, I should focus on what I’m trying to create or bring into existence. It’s not a committee decision!
Of course that has it’s pluses and minuses, but you know that going in to it. The plus is I can do what I want as far as questions, direction, subjects, etc. I have truly enjoyed all the variations of the project that might not directly translate into money. One of the minuses, is that it is harder to get anyone to work with you if they can’t see how they are going to profit from the project. ALL shows on TV are in business to make money for THEIR brand! Build THEIR network!
But, I think that misses the point of solving the “problem”. Each of the programs mentioned earlier are meant to be a series, run season after season. Each of the programs are focused on what other people (celebrities) think and discover about themselves. The Other Awareness Project, and the film component is just one part, is about regular people and your self-identification. Since the information on any of the forms presented to you, via the census or in a job application, etc. is about your self-identification, my project is about your self-identification and how much real information is filtered down to real people.
In the complete bibliography for the project I reference a lot of sources, but that’s only to be thorough and because I read a lot. ALL of the factual information I talk about can be found on Wikipedia. And that’s not because I think they are the only correct source, it’s because they are the quickest place where a regular person can post what they believe to be the more correct answer and have other people support or make corrections.
If you have ever heard me speak at one of my events, you might remember me saying TV (mass media) is not made to solve problems. In my opinion, its sole purpose has become to sell you stuff, lock you into wanting more and more stuff, always seeing things as a problem that can only solved by buying some brand or belonging to some organization.
Since the whole conversation is about your self-identification, you can only really solve the problem for yourself. The way I see it, if I’m talking to a room of 140 people, like there was at Clarion University back in February, then I’m having 140 simultaneous conversations.
Anyway, watch the other shows and stay tuned for a bunch of interesting Other Awareness Project presentations this summer!
ps thanks for continuing to be a fan of the project!
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.
In my opinion, what the author is saying is that it’s simply not enough to have a good idea. You have to get out and show people how the new idea works, and even then they won’t be quick to adopt or use the idea because of what other people might think about them.
The hard part of the Other Awareness Projectisn’t gathering the information; you can find all the “answers” on Wikipedia or other sources. In my opinion, the perception of racism is mostly still around because people of all colors can make more money with it than without it. The hard part of this project is showing marketing people, media companies and consumer brands that there is a market for a show/project that isn’t based on race at all.
The Other Awareness Project is about self-identification and is directed towards community involved, solutions oriented people. That’s it!
Here is some information from the Direct Marketing Association concerning response rates for various types of advertising. The average response rate for the 1,122 industry-specific campaigns that the DMA studied was 2.61%.
Within sectors, nonprofit fundraisers enjoy the most success with direct response, getting rates of 5.35%. Close behind are retail stores (with 3.36%) and establishments selling services to businesses (3.34%).
Manufacturing delivers 3.17%; personal and repair services 3.07%; and travel 2.98%. The two sectors at the bottom of the list — computer/electronic products and packaged goods — still get better than 2% response.
Throughout 2009, with a budget of $0 dollars, using only a 10-minute video clip, I added approximately 1300Facebook friends. Most were extended an offer to join the Other Awareness Project group. 280 people did.
280 of 1300 = 21.54%
On December 14, 2009, I created a page for the Other Awareness Project. The page is more easily accessible to people not in my group of friends and has a greater ability to measure analytical information, run ads, etc. From 12/14/09 to 1/14/10, 252 people became fans of the project page.
252 of 1428 = 17.65%
I joined Facebook to connect with old friends, but also to be a more arbitrary confirmation of the data that I get from the traffic on my regular site (otherawarenessproject.com.) I think it is clear that a response rate of 17.65%, with a very limited budget, shows that the direction of the project connects with a substantial number of people, across all current demographics.
In my opinion, the only thing this project is missing is the support of a major brand, regional sponsors, media outlet, etc., to help get the message out to a wider audience.
It seems like a simple question with a simple answer, but the correct answer might not be what you remember learning as a child. If you can grasp the fact that scientific information can change, then you are well on your way to understanding the rational behind the Other Awareness Project.
As of August 25, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), people who are more knowledgeable on the subject than I am, voted and determined the correct answer for this question should be changed to eight instead of nine. Pluto was demoted from planet status to dwarf planet status. So the eight planets in order from the Sun are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
The reason for the demotion is simply that based on new information, Pluto no longer fits the main requirements to be a planet. The IAU decided that planets needed to have three things: 1) They need to orbit the Sun. 2) They need to have enough gravity to pull themselves into a ball. 3) They need to have cleared out all the other objects from their orbit.
Although it orbits the Sun, and has pulled itself into a sphere, Pluto has failed to clear out all the other objects from its orbit. It just does not have enough mass to accomplish this task. They discovered this because astronomers had better telescopes and methods to calculate data in the years leading up to 2006, than they had when Pluto was classified as a planet. Things change!
So how does Pluto’s reclassification relate to the Other Awareness Project? They both are more concerned with the use of current information and how do we use it going forward, rather than talking about what use to be considered true. For those of us taught that there were nine planets when we were growing up, the answer has changed. We can either believe it and use the new information or do not believe it and keep answering what was true when we were kids. People in school after August 25, 2006, will only know a solar system that consists of eight planets; they will have very little reference of what used to be.
The choice to believe something or do something, or not believe them or do them is always up to you, which is why the Other Awareness Project deals with self-identification. I cannot tell you what choice to make or what to believe, so rather than telling everyone what they should do, I look at what you have done then ask, “Why did you choose the choice you made?”“How do you support that?”“Is it solving any problems, real or perceived?” “Do you think you need it going forward?”
The viewpoint of the majority of people and associations, more knowledgeable on the subject of race than I am, is that all people on the planet are the same species (race). There is no such thing as separate races for the people currently living on Earth. You can believe it and work off that basis, or you don’t have to, it is completely up to you. With the Other Awareness Project, I am trying to show that everyone’s basis for answering a question about your race has changed, especially if you are trying to use science, or legal definitions, or even the Bible as some sort of reference for your choice. It is an outdated, no longer valid, was never true concept.
With the Other Awareness Project, rather than solely focusing on all the wrong things done by every one in the past, I am more interested in looking at what is the greater good going forward. Do we continue to do things the same way just because they have always been done that way, or do we use the new information to help develop a better rational that everyone can support? I am trying to help identify the people who truly have the capacity and desire to change, based on current information.
Michael James Brown, writer/producer of the Other Awareness Project.
My name is Michael James Brown, writer/producer of the ‘Other Awareness Project’. The ONLY comedy show with a bibliography!
More involved than just your personal association with whatever arbitrary and undefined “racial” name you call yourself, the Other Awareness Project (OAP) is a 95% guilt & anger free, thought-provoking, humorous mixture of film documentary, stand-up comedy, and audience discussion that looks into what I think is the continued incorrect categorization of people into “racial” groups by skin color and other arbitrary things.
Despite everything we know scientifically, legally, religiously, practically any way you want to look at it, governments and businesses STILL ask questions concerning your “racial” choice? In this era of “keeping it real”, Internet access, DNA research, why does an intelligent person answer the questions and STILL classify themselves into “racial” groups? Is it helping to solve any problems?
I recently conducted a 3-hour workshop at the 22nd Annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education. The conference was attended by more than 2,000 persons representing higher education institutions, agencies, state and national associations, commissions, and foundations concerned with higher education, from 49 of the 50 states. The OAP received overall ratings of: 17% Excellent, 33% Very Good, 33% Good, 17% Fair.
Although we touch upon a wide variety of topics, the project isn’t focused on racism or past wrongdoings, real or perceived. It’s more focused on today and tomorrow, and helping to discover the best plan going forward that everyone can support.
I traveled to various cities around the country. (Long Beach, CA; Austin, TX; Portland, OR; Cypress, CA; Carson, CA; Youngstown, OH) filming conversations with people I didn’t know and who are more intelligent than I am. People, who have been calling themselves any of the completely arbitrary and legally undefined “racial” categories for 10, 20, 30, 40 years. To see why they still chose a “racial” category, how they supported that decision, and how it has or hasn’t affected their lives.
Everyone answered the same roughly 20 questions, from “Who is Al Sharpton?” to “Where is Caucasia?” to “What is the legal description of a _____ person in the United States?” Not one person knew the questions until we were filming. I didn’t prep any of the responses. The conversations are exactly as they happened with as little editing as possible.
Highlights include speaking with Marc Dann, Attorney General for the state of Ohio. Jim Dear, Mayor of Carson, CA, Dr. Joseph Graves Jr., Professor of Biology at NC A&T University, and Rabbi Brian Zachary Meyer Los Angeles.
The purpose of the filming was to show:
1) It really isn’t that hard to talk with people of different “racial” groups. Anywhere!
2) That the conversation doesn’t have to be angry and can lead to solutions. “Racism” isn’t a hard problem to solve.
3) You can actually have fun and just might learn something from listening to someone else’s experiences.
Past presentations include: 3 hour workshop at the 22nd Annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education, San Diego, CA; 5 workshops at Reid Continuation High School, Long Beach, CA; The Cellar (nightclub), Long Beach, CA; Smooth’s (nightclub) Long Beach, CA; A Citizens Group, Hyattsville, MD; Orange County Democratic Club, Irvine, CA
Born in Champaign, IL, Michael is the fourth of eight children who have the same mother, with four different fathers. He met his father when he was about ten years old. “Growing up on welfare without a full-time father has its challenges, but as you talk to other people, everyone has challenges.” “Your problems don’t define you “racially” unless you let them.”
After the third grade, his mother and five kids moved to a two bedroom house in Rantoul, IL, a small farm town with an Air Force base, population about 20,000. Everything was different! New people, new places, but at the same time, many people had similar life experiences, and some of them didn’t call themselves “black”. “Since the fourth grade my friends and teachers and mentors have been people from all “races”. During college, he was asked to join a “black” fraternity and a “white” fraternity. (… and about six sororities!)
After the birth of his daughter in 2002, Michael resigned his position as a Director of Operations for News America Marketing to spend time raising her and complete this project. “I have completely enjoyed the time shared with my daughter and think the direction of this project better reflects the experiences I have had with people throughout my life.” “I also think it provides a better platform for a society going forward.”
Today Michael is self-employed and active on the boards of a couple non-profit organizations in Southern California.