Friday, August 13, 2010

Police Brutality in Provincetown!

picture courtesy of

On July 4, 2010 Jim Downs was a bystander in an unlawful arrest taking place in Provincetown MA, a place where differences of sexual orientation are celebrated, but as Downs explains, racism still seems alive and well.  Downs tells the story of an abuse of power he witnessed and his frustration in trying to take action in a town where even the local paper seems complicit in the harmdoing.  After finding no other avenue through which to speak his truth Downs turned to the Huffington Post to exhibit his moral courage and make one final attempt to reach the man unlawfully arrested. 

Full Article at Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Over the past several weeks we at Arise have been hearing some very disturbing stories coming out of D.H.C.D. at the Liberty St. D.T.A. office. This is the new department that handles Emergency Assistance (temporary emergency shelter for families).
2 weeks ago several families slept on the steps of D.T.A because they were turned down for E.A. A shelter worker from Holyoke had been at the D.T.A. office and saw the families who slept there. She came to Arise and asked if there was anything we could do. We sent back some information and our phone number and within an hour we were down at welfare. By now there were 8 families who had been sent packing by the woman who ran D.H.C.D. here in Springfield.This is were Arise got involved. Many of the families were not allowed to even fill out an application. We were told of a worker who took an application and then just tossed it in the trash, one family was told "there is no money for shelter because families from other states come to Mass and take all the money" another "you're lying, you aren't homeless"
After speaking with the families and telling them their rights the most important at the time was that everyone has the right to fill out an application and that if it even looked like they might be eligible then they should be placed until they were able to get all the documentation needed.

Of the 8 families 2 left in disgust without going back in, 6 families insisted on filling out an EA application and 4 were placed in temporary shelter. The last 2 families 1 was originally from Springfield but had lived in Buffalo N.Y. for several years. The father had come back to Spfld. 5 months earlier to find work and an apartment, in the mean time the Mom was not able to support their apartment and was evicted. So she came be with the father of her children because there was not enough space where Dad was staying they went to D.T.A. The other family was from Brooklyn N.Y. and fled to Spfld. because they were targeted with violence by a woman who lived in the same housing complex (NY Housing Authority & N.Y.H.A. police said there was nothing they could do and refused to move either them or the woman to another location. These 2 families refused to be intimidated. They called Arise
Both families came back to Arise, the first call I made was to Gerry McCafferty at the Springfield Office for Housing she contacted others including H.A.P. Marsha and Ramona from HAP came to our office and worked on filling out papers for what ever was available. I started calls first to W.M.L.S. and then M.L.R.I. to get the ball rolling.
The next day Friday both families were again at Arise for help and we went back into action. Amid a plethora of phone calls both families went back to D.H.C.D. and they demanded to be allowed to fill out an other application for E.A. While they were waiting for a determination letter to be issued the supervisor of D.H.C.D.were told that if they did not leave, they were waiting on the office steps, D.C.F. would be called and their kids taken away.
Long story short The Office for Housing paid to house both families at a local motel for the night and H.A.P. paid for the next night. On Friday afternoon D.H.C.D. gave both families temporary approval for Emergency Shelter but wouldn't you know it D.H.C.D. sent one family to Worcester and the other to Pittsfield, the Mom is in family shelter, the Dad was placed in a single shelter but we are working on that and working to get both families moved back to Springfield.
Placing the families 45 min. from Arise in either direction and 1 1/2 from each other, they had become each others support system, maybe D.H.C.D. was hedging their bets and thought distance would deter our efforts. I guess D.H.C.D. forgot about the modern convenience called a phone for communication and if all else fails Pony Express have this new thing called a truck.

Thanks to Marion at WMLS and Ruth at MLRI for all their work and continuing work and to The City of Springfield Office for Housing, Gerry McCafferty, Marsha and Ramona from H.A.P. for all their work helping these families. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fight Poverty NOT Prostitution

Monday July 19th many of us flooded City Council Chambers with our families and friends in tow.  We found it important to stand up against Councilor Ferrera's proposal to create a mandatory minimum sentence for people offering as well as people soliciting sex for a fee.  There were many reasons to oppose this ridiculous proposal.  For one, Arise has fought for years for the decriminalization of prostitution in Springfield.  Secondly, most women charged with such "crimes" are already serving 9-18 months in the Chicopee Jail so this mandatory minimum would just be redundant--but would give the inflated impression that Councilor Ferrera was tough on crime. Thirdly, even the Dept of Corrections is re-evaluating mandatory minimums and the ways in which they create large racial disparities in our criminal (in)justice system.  Additionally we would like to see the City Councilors creating plans to reduce poverty in Springfield NOT working to further criminalize acts of survival.  Arise members, OUTNOW members, Prison Birth Project members and other concerned people filled council chambers carrying signs and taking the mic during the speak-out period.  Fortunately the Council saw the wisdom brought forth by the community and voted Ferrera's proposal down 12 to 1!
The media seemed overwhelmed with the concept that SO many queers and kids were moved to speak out against this measure, evident by this amazing news clip:

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

One tree at a time

We had a little tree growing in front of Arise last year, but one day, it was gone, cut down-- a casualty of the State St. Corridor renovation.  We were told that in the spring, we'd get another little tree-- not the same one, of course.  The ghost of our original little tree  lingered above the sidewalk-- and in my mind-- all winter.

This spring I watched trees and flowers being planted up and down State St.-- trees in the median strips, lavender bushes on the slope outside STCC's iron fence.  Then, one day a month ago, I came into work to discover that the previously grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb had been paved with black tar.

Trees and grass everywhere I looked!-- in front of Burger King, the closed Kavanagh's building, the median strip-- but not in front of our little strip of storefronts, which house a Black-owned clothing alteration and tee-shirt shop, a Latino-owned recording studio and music store, a storefront evangelical church, a Vietnamese-owned nail salon, a Chinese restaurant, a Turkish-owned pizza shop-- and, of course, Arise.

"What are we, too ghetto to get grass and trees?" I asked myself-- and started my phone calls to get to the bottom of this story.  First I was told by the city that it was a state plan, and I'd have to get my question answered by one of several state employees.  No calls were returned over several days.  Then finally I was sent back to the city, to Dept. of Public Works Director Al Chwalak.

Al told me that the tar was only temporary, that eventually the tar would be replaced by brick.

"And what about our tree?" I asked.

"There's no room for a tree," he said.  "The strip is smaller since we widened the street."

"And you know that for sure?"

Long pause.

"I'd have to check with the city forester," Al said.

Now, I'd already called the city forester, Ed Casey, and he hadn't called me back.  Maybe a call from Al would get a better response.

Then I was away for a week, and when I called Al on my return, he told me that the forester hadn't called him back, but he'd try Ed again.  He also mentioned that city employees would be walking up State St. on Wednesday and Thursday, doing their punch list to track the work finished and unfinished.

So we made our signs, put them in front of Arise, and waited for the city to come by.

On Wednesday, we spotted the folks in suits and orange vests on the sidewalk outside our office.  I went out to talk to them, and one turned out to be Al Chwalek.

"You're getting three trees," he said.  We're bricking the strip but we'll create three tree wells."

"Thank you very much!" I said, and we shook hands.  So it turned out our signs were unnecessary, and yet I knew that without the dozen phone calls,our strip would have remained treeless.

Last week I drove by the house where I lived for thirty years, owned by a slumlord who never maintained the house, and which eventually, after the chimney started to fall to pieces and the foundation began to crumble, I had to leave.  Someone-- and I think not the city-- had cut not only the junk trees, but also a magnificent maple tree, at least a hundred years old,  that had provided afternoon shade for my bedroom on hot summer days.  Only a ten foot trunk still remained standing.  It was heartbreaking. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This, that and an other thing,

Things are getting pretty busy at Arise. With demonstrations, vigils, fund raising, meetings and then everything else, time is limited. There are never enough hours in the day. I wanted to take a moment and let folks know about a couple of things that are happening in the next week or so.

This past Tuesday The farmers market at the "X" is back with a new location. The market has moved to Cyr Arena in Forest Park. They are open every Tuesday 12:30 PM TO 6:00 PM now through the end of October. Just let the attendants at the entrance to the park know where you are going and you'll get a pass to park in the lot next to the arena. Don't park anywhere else or you'll get towed.

Wednesday, May 12th @ 6pm the Arise Springfield Tenants Union will be meeting in our office on State St. We are organizing to let people know their housing rights. We've had a great victory in tenant protections on a state level. An omnibus bill was passed this past week that gives tenants more protections in foreclosed properties than ever before. It also the first step in foreclosure legislation that truly protects property owners caught in the throws of the foreclosure crisis. Stop in and see what we are up to.

Arise Membership Meeting. May 15th, 2010 at Tapestry Health on Bay St Spfld., MA We plan on having lots of fun and sharing information about what we've been up to and where you think we aught to go. So stop in if you can if not stop by the office and say Hi. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, May 3, 2010

Arise Membership Meeting May 15!

Are you a current or former member of Arise?  Or have you been interested in checking us out but just haven't gotten around to it?

On Saturday, May 15, we'll be having a meeting at Tapestry, 365 Bay St., Springfield. 

Light breakfast at 9:30, and by 10 am, we'll be talking about our organizing campaigns: 
  • Ending police misconduct and developing resident oversight
  • Stopping a toxic incinerator proposed for Springfield
  • Developing a strong tenants union to protect people's rights
  • Bringing an end to deadly and wasteful wars and returning funds to our community
  • Challenging racism in the community and in ourselves
  • Developing economic alternatives to our current system
  • Increasing people's involvement with electoral issues, especially ward representation
Our mission is achieving social justice for those of us usually left out of the system!  Want to fight with us?  Then please join us!  For more information, email or call 734-4948. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, March 8, 2010

Springfield Tenants Union

Housing Problems got you down?

Did you Know:
No one can evict you except a Housing Court Judge.
You have a right to live in safe and sanitary housing.
Landlords are forbidden by law from retaliating if you complain about bad conditions.
Tenants have RIGHTS as well as RESPONSIBILITIES, but it can feel scary to act on your own.
Arise for Social Justice is building a Tenants
Union to tackle problems such as substandard housing, freedom from harassment, and the lack of affordable housing in Springfield.
JOIN US! The next TENANTS UNION meeting is
March 17th, 2010 6:00 pm
467 State Street
Springfield, MA
For more information call 413-734-4948 and ask for Liz or Lamont.

Los problamas de Vivenda te tiene mal?

Nadie puede desalojarlo a usted, excepto un Juez de la vivenda.
Usted tiene el derecho a vivir en una vivenda segura, y sanitaria.
Landlords estan prohibidos por la ley tomar la decision de tirarte
ala caye situ te quejas de malas condicionesde de tu apartamento.
Los inquilions teine derechos asi como responsabilidades, pero se puede sentir miedo de
actuar por su cuenta.
Arise for Social Justice esta haciendo una asociacion de inquilinos en Springfield para hacer frente a problemas de vivenda precaria, la libertad, y la falta de vivendas accesibles en Springfield.
Liz or Lamont 413-734-4948
March 17th, 2010 6:00pm
467 State Street
Springfield, MA Print Friendly and PDF