Monday, February 28, 2011

UMass to rally in solidarity with public sector workers

A friend called me during a break at work to say she'd seen a flyer for a rally at UMass, and would I put it on the Arise blog?  Well, sure-- got to keep that solidarity growing.  I don't know if we're quite ready to "get it" in the U.S., but I do know that without more voices, more solidarity and more organizing, too many people will continue to act against their best interests.

My daughter posted a joke on Facebook this morning and now I've seen it everywhere, and even posted it myself; so one more time, because it really explains (almost) everything.: 

A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."

RALLY! Starting at 11:45am
Wednesday, March 2nd
In front of the Student Union - UMass

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Governor Walker of Wisconsin has filed a bill which he claims will balance the budget. The true motive is to crush the unions in Wisconsin by ending their right to collectively bargain. Similar union-busting bills are being considered in Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere.

The people of Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana are fighting back! We need to stand with them in solidarity. They are on the front lines of a concerted attack on the public sector all across the country.

Working class living standards across America have been under attack for over 30 years; it's time to draw a line in the sand.

Right here on our campus we see a steady disinvestment by the state in public higher education, the mortgaging of students' futures through enormous debt, and hundreds of workers who still labor without union protection.

Rally for workers rights! Defend the public sector! Join the Fight-back! Print Friendly and PDF

LGBT Immigrant Youth Face Increased Risk of Homelessness

Care2 is highlighting a report by Feet in Two Worlds  on homelessness among immigrant LGBT youth.

 Juan Valdez vividly recalls the night he left home.
“I grabbed a whole bunch of black plastic bags, packed all of my things, and went to my best friend’s house. And, I mean, what else could I do? I was 16, I didn’t know how to do anything,” Juan said.
Juan was kicked out of his house when he revealed to his parents that he was gay.
Adrielle Grant has a similar story.
“I moved down to New York with [my mom], and like two weeks into the move she found out that I was gay,” Adrielle said.  “The drama started and she kicked me out.” Adrielle (who changed his name from Leroy) was 18 when he became homeless.
The most recent survey of runaway and homeless youth in New York estimates that, each night, a minimum of 3,800 youth are homeless, more than half of whom identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Within the overall homeless youth population, 15 percent were born outside of the U.S. mainland.  Advocates say much of the immigrant homeless youth population identifies as lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual (LGBT).
Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lying Facebook page - why you can't believe everything you read

The Housatonic River, which runs 149 miles through Western Massachusetts and Connecticut before emptying into the Long Island Sound, was contaminated with PCBs from the Pittsfield General Electric plant for forty-five years.  GE was ordered by the EPA to clean up the river, and two miles have been cleaned so far. 

Now, as GE prepares the next phase of the clean-up, a new Facebook page has appeared, the Smart Clean-Up Coalition, suggesting that the best clean-up may be no clean-up.  
Clean-up issues are complicated, and I don't know enough to promote the best way to deal with the River's contamination.  But when it turns out that the Smart Clean-Up Coalition is actually an initiative of a coalition that took $300,000 from the General Electric Company-- and that at first, they lied about it-- well, you have to wonder, yes?
Beth Daily at the Boston Globe is covering this story.

Photo from Jahansell's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Endangered species condoms win award

Once upon a time, Arise could get all the condoms we needed by calling the Mass. Dept. of Public Health and asking them to send us some.  But last year, when we put in that call, we were told that because of budget cuts, DPH would only send condoms to those programs which had contracts with them.  Penny wise, pound foolish, of course, but that's par for the course these days, right?

Then we found out that the Center for Biological Diversity was giving away endangered species condoms to qualifying groups! We've received two batches, both of which went quickly-- but they were fun to have around.

From the Center: Endangered Species Condoms Win Ad Award; Take Action Against Overpopulation

Our wildly popular Endangered Species Condoms are getting some additional love. This week we found out the colorfully packaged condoms, part of our campaign highlighting the connection between overpopulation and species extinction, won the American Advertising Federation's gold ADDY Award in Tucson in the "public service" category. In case you haven't seen them, the nifty condom packages feature illustrations of six different endangered species, along with catchy slogans like "Cover your tweedle, save the burying beetle" and "Wear a jimmy hat, save the big cat." The Center handed out 350,0000 condoms last year and hopes to send more out soon to draw attention to this crucial issue. Through the empowerment of women, education of all people and universal access to birth control, we can curb our population to an ecologically safe level.
But some members of Congress are making that very hard. In fact, the House has just passed a bill to cut government funding for critical programs like women's health clinics -- which for millions of people provide the only available access to reproductive services, family planning and birth control. With this February marking Global Population Speak Out month, it's time to tell our elected representatives they should be expanding those programs, not cutting them -- for the sake of our planet and the public.
Check out our Endangered Species Condoms Project and sign the GPSO pledge. Then learn more about the legislative attack on family-planning services from and contact your senators asking them to counter it.
Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, February 25, 2011

Meet City Life/Vida Urbana on Tuesday

Tuesday, March 1 from 4-6 p.m.
at HAP Housing on 322 Main St. in Springfield, Mass. (Directions)

*Buffet dinner prepared by Springfield Bank Tenant Association leaders;
*Sliding scale donation requested to support our No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude organizing in Springfield;
*Childcare and translation offered— if needed, please call in advance.
*Casual and comfortable.  Arrive when you can, leave when you must.
For more information, call Arise at 413-734-4948 or visit

City Life/ Vida Urbana lead organizer Steve Meacham and a creative, energetic group of organizers and bank tenant leaders in Boston pioneered a movement that has brought the big banks to the bargaining table.  Their work has been featured in a PBS news hour special  and a multimedia project called We Shall Not Be Moved.  Forging strong relationships with homeowners and tenants living in buildings scheduled for foreclosure, they have helped Boston residents to successfully fight post-foreclosure evictions.  They have showed the residents of Boston that “When We Fight, We Win!”  The movement they started was the inspiration for our new campaign in Springfield.  After last year’s record-setting number of heartbreaking foreclosures and evictions in our “City of Homes,” Springfield residents have united to fight back against the Wall Street banks’ destruction of our neighborhoods.  

Please join us as we welcome our City Life/ Vida Urbana brothers and sisters to Springfield.  We will share experiences and learn from their struggle.  Enjoy the testimony, song, and culinary talents of our Springfield BTA leaders.  Meet dedicated activists who are helping to grow this movement.  And help us to raise needed funds for our local campaign against the Wall Street banks. 

Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m.  The Bank Tenant Association meeting will start promptly at 6 p.m.  The 6 p.m. meeting is for residents of building scheduled for foreclosure and their allies, with guests from CL/VU.  Representatives of the media or others interested in attending the BTA meeting, please call organizer Malcolm Chu at 718-666-6872.
Print Friendly and PDF

Why don't they ask homeless people?

Dan Ring has a story on Masslive today about the increase in homeless families sheltered in motels-- last year, 982 families were in motels; this year, it's 1027.  Numbers did drop for a while, but now they're higher than ever.

Gov. Patrick plans to spend $38 million to revamp the Emergency Assistance program which pays to house homeless families, with the focus on moving homeless families into apartments or "congregate housing."  Is that a euphemism for shelter, some of which the state only recently closed?

One way the state has tried to lower shelter numbers is by reducing the numbers of families that are eligible. One of those rules disqualifies a family for three years if the family was evicted from public housing for non-payment of rent.  One young woman we're working with left her apartment in public housing temporarily three years ago, to deal with a family emergency.  She was evicted after the "friend" who was supposed to take care of her apartment let rowdy people stay with her.  Since then, my young friend has been bouncing from place to place.  She is technically eligible for Emergency Assistance, but was denied, then appealed, and was denied again.  She has two charming young daughters who deserve better.

What the governor's plans fail to take into account-- in fact, it may be impossible to do so-- is the incredible economic instability of low-income families.  It's like a mini Dust Bowl.  The Great Recession has made it worse, but this instability has been happening since the 80's.  For every family in shelter, I'd estimate there are at least five more who are ineligible or who are hanging onto some untenable situation by the skin of their teeth-- overcrowded living situations, abusive partners, apartments with rats, mold and leaking plumbing.  A LOT more has to change before we can tackle that.

Who don't policymakers ask homeless people how to end homelessness?

Photo from Las Vegas City Life Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Live bullets and beards on women - the idiots who "serve" us

Ohio National Guard fires on demonstrators, killing 4 - 1970
OK, I know there are lots of examples we could give here (and feel free to chime in), but when I first get an email about one idiocy and then see the Reminder's Mike Dobbs' Facebook status within two minutes, I just have to write about them.
A deputy attorney general of the state of Wisconsin (fired today, hallelujah!)  got into a tweeting war with a Mother Jones reporter and said he thought that live ammunition should be used on the demonstrating teachers and public employees in Wisconsin.  One of Mike Dobbs' friends said, "Where are we again? Libya? Bahrain?"
Maine's Governor Paul LaPage was asked if he supported his own environmental board's recommendation to begin phasing out BPA in baby bottles and children's dishes. (If you don't know what this is, click the link.)  His response?
"Until I see science that tells me that BPA is a problem--and I haven't seen it--quite frankly the science that I'm looking at says there's not been any science identified that there's a problem," LePage said. "The only thing that I've heard is if you take a plastic bottle, put it in the microwave and THEN heat it up it gives off a chemical that's similar to estrogen. And, ah, so the worst case is some women might have little beards, but we don't want to do that."
Read the rest of the Maine Public Broadcasting story.  Print Friendly and PDF

Labor holds strong, but color is missing

Arise member Ruben Santiago
When I was a kid, I happened across a copy of Irving Stone's Clarence Darrow for the Defense, and I was fascinated and inspired.  I learned about the Pullman strikes, Pinkerton thugs, Big Bill Haywood, the Haymarket Square bombing and Eugene V. Debs.  It was not hard for me, given my family's history, to identify as working class and to become a supporter of organized labor.  I know I idealized unions, much as I did other fighters and movements for freedom and justice, and had to temper that idealism later with the more complex realities of building a movement out of flesh and blood people struggling within large political and economic structures.  But still-- I have a lot of heroes, and I'm saddened by knowing that most people under 40 don't know their names and their stories.

Central Labor Council President Rick Brown
Myself, I've never been in a union.  The factory, clerical and agricultural jobs I've held were unorganized by labor.  But I remain a union supporter.  I understand that the line unions draw in the sand protects the wages even of the non-unionized.

Yesterday's Springfield rally in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers was big by our city's standards-- I'd estimate more than 400 people.  I stood at the steps of City Hall with other Arise members as speaker after speaker explained why the Wisconsin fight was also our fight.

Friend and Arise member Holly Patterson couldn't get to the rally until about quarter after four.  She stood behind me for a while, and then asked me a question.

Bank Tenant Association member Candia Pink
"Have all the speakers so far been white men?"
"No, there's been a woman."
"A white woman?"

And sure enough, as the rally progressed, every single speaker was white, and only two women among more than a dozen men.  The only speaker of color was City Council President Jose Tosado, who is running for mayor this year.  (Mayor Sarno spoke later in the rally.) I left a little after 5 pm., when the speakers got repetitive and I felt the rally was close to winding down, so I can't tell you for sure that no people of color spoke after that-- but if they did, they were certainly not given top billing.

 Council President Jose Tosado, JwJ Coordinator Jon Weissman, SEA President Tim Collins
So: if I were to inquire (which I will) as to why color was so lacking among the rally's speakers, I imagine it would go pretty much like the discussion about why there are no actors, directors or screenplay writers of color among any of the Academy Award nominations this year.  You can't draw speakers of color from the union leadership if they're not in leadership positions in the first place. Keep asking "Why?" to that answer, and the next series of answers, and you get to the unpleasant current situation.   Still, one would think that the organizers might have been aware of the lack of representation of people of color among leadership, and would have made some effort to compensate.  But you have to be aware of the lack to compensate for it, and if the organizers are entirely white (my assumption), it's easier not to even notice. 

What the organized labor movement is likely to look like in the coming years, I don't know.  I can only hope it finds a way to embrace the rest of us.  Solidarity has to be a two-way street to flourish. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Auction postoned: organizing makes a difference!

TWO rallies in the cold today, starting with the auction action in Springfield-- and it was postponed until March 24!  Guess that's what happens when you're trying to have an auction and the bankers can barely hear themselves over the chanting demonstrators and anyone who comes to bid finds out we're not going to let the family be evicted.

Here's a report from Malcolm Chu, coordinator of the No One Leaves Campaign-Springfield::
Ms. Williams' daughter on the steps of her home
Today a crowd of 25 residents, bank tenants, allies & activists gathered to protest the foreclosure auction of Ms. Inez Williams at 1179 Saint James Avenue by MidFirst Bank! Joining together with Ms. Williams children and family, the power of the community rose up again and made it clear that the time of banks destroying Springfield communities with no resistance is over. Springfield Residents are STANDING UP & FIGHTING BACK! 

As a result the foreclosure auction has been POSTPONED to March 24th, 2011 at 11AM. We will be ready to come back out in larger numbers if the bank does not negotiate with Ms. Williams and her family. After foreclosure, the bank can't get more than the real market value of the house anyway, so why not work with Ms. Williams to reduce the principal amount owed to current market value and keep her in her home, instead of leaving another family homeless and another home vacant! 

On Thursday February 24th, we are planning to protest 2 more foreclosure auctions. We will keep you posted on the status of these families' struggle. 

Guzman Family Foreclosure Auction Protest
Thursday February 24th at 9:30 AM
12-14 Foster Street, Springfield, MA

Pena Family Foreclosure Auction Protest
Thursday February 24th at 12:30PM
29 Verge Street, Springfield, MA

For more information or to get more involved in the growing Bank Tenant Movement in Springfield: 
Photos by Arise interns Emily and Katy
Print Friendly and PDF

White Power "postponed;" celebrate Black History Month!

So last night at the Arise board meeting, Holly got an email stating that the hate group New England White Power was having a public meeting at the Worcester Public Library tomorrow. Not only that, the NEWP meeting was taking place at virtually the same time and in a room right next door to a film series being sponsored in honor of Black History Month!  Coincidence? I think NOT!

This morning I reached the woman running the film series.  She had only just heard about NEWP's meeting the day before, and was waiting to hear back from the head librarian.  She had heard that some folks from Clark University were planning to protest.

"What do you want people to do?" I asked.
"Well, I'm going ahead with showing the film-- The Souls of Black Girls."
"OK, I hope to see you there," I said.

So this is a dilemma-- so little time to organize, and what is the best strategy?  I've heard of Nazis marching in cities where the residents stood on the streets and turned their backs on them.  Then there's the Phoenix, AZ response:

A few minutes ago, the Worcester Public Library website announced that the WELP meeting has been "postponed."

But we know there will be a next time, and a next what will we do? Print Friendly and PDF

Tea Party, go away! TWO important protests today

Just got the word that the Tea Party plans to meet and rally a few feet away (and half an hour before)  the Jobs with Justice rally for jobs at 4pm on the steps of Springfield City Hall.  Word is, Don't engage them (the Tea Party) in any way.  
 If these folks read The Grapes of Wrath in high school, guess they've forgotten the lessons of what happens when you drive wages down.
 Come rally and show support for the Wisconsin public employees-- and for all people fighting for a decent wage and the right to bargain collectively. 

But before the rally this afternoon, there's another important rally at 10:30.
10:30 AM (auction at 11 AM)
1179 Saint James Avenue, Springfield, MA

Ms. Williams bought their home in 2000 with her husband for $81,000. Her husband passed away 6 months later. Since then she has worked diligently to keep her home, along with the help of her children &; grandchildren. Now 70 years old, last year, following a year-long bout with breast cancer, Ms. Williams signed a modification with the bank, only to find her principal balance over $100,000. Now, MidFirst bank is moving to foreclose on Ms. Williams instead of working with her on a modification that would reduce the principal balance and make her home affordable. 
Here’s a little known fact of the mortgage/foreclosure crisis.  Many homeowners who cannot pay the inflated mortgages of the housing bubble CAN afford to pay a mortgage at the current real value.  When a bank like MidFirst forecloses and evicts the homeowner, that bank will then sell the home for the current real value (often after a long delay) or sit on the home as a vacant property.  But, if they are going to do that, why not sell it back to the former owner at that value?  Even better, before foreclosure, they could sell at a short sale to the owner or do a loan modification with a principal reduction.  They could even attach conditions preventing a big profit if values go up again. But the banks are refusing to do this despite billions in taxpayer bailouts and recent profits! 
We are protesting to do something very specific - send a message to any potential investor, and to MidFirst Bank, that we will resist any attempted eviction of this family.  If your business plan involves eviction, you might as well go home!
  • Stop this foreclosure and work with Ms. Williams on a solution that would reduce the principal amount owed, keep
  • If the home is foreclosed, DON'T EVICT! Accept reasonable rent from the Williams family or sell them the home back at the current market value! 
For more information see or call Bank Tenant Organizer, Malcolm at 718-666-6872

Print Friendly and PDF

Hawks only kill for food. What about our young people?

Mari got a couple of great pictures of the hawk that hangs around Arise.  Apparently he was in the middle of devouring a pigeon and had no intention of flying away until he was finished.  I think we have to come up with a name for him, and maybe, if we're lucky, we'll spot where he and his mate have their nest.

Hawks only kill for food.   Why are our young people being killed?

Last week Jesus Osorio, 24 years old, was shot to death.  It's the third homicide of a young person so far this year.  MassLive did an excellent story about this young man's life and the people, including two small children, he leaves behind.
If there's one organization I can think of in Springfield that is determined to bring this slaughter to an end, it's AWAKE.  AWAKE is having a Rebuilding the Village community meeting this Thursday, 6 pm., place TBA, according to its Facebook page, but you can find out where it is by contacting Chelan Brown at Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sen. Scott Brown: sexually abused, on welfare, but.....

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown was on 60 Minutes last night.  I didn't watch the show, but MassLive printed an AP article about it this morning.

Brown's book, Against All Odds, is due to be released today and apparently details his experiences of sexual abuse as a child.  He also says that he and his mom were on public assistance for a while.

But....he says his experiences as a child do not affect the decisions he makes now about the federal budget, including voting against programs very similar to the ones that supported him and his family when they needed them.

Well, I say his decisions today do stem from his childhood...and we call it Internalized Oppression.  Maybe Sen. Scott should see a therapist.

Meanwhile, he will vote in favor of cutting CDGB funds, which are likely to provide programs for childhood victims of sexual abuse, and will vote against the remnants of the tattered safety net that helped him and his family survive. 

I like to think that people-- and nations-- who have been oppressed learn how not to replicate that oppression.  But it doesn't always work that way, does it? Print Friendly and PDF

Food, flowers, fun stuff...stuff Arise needs

Truth is, we need money most of all, but....
We would really appreciate  some food that people could use to make lunch in an office where we have a fridge, a microwave, and a two-burner hotplate...canned soup, peanut butter, crackers, ramen noodles, etc.  We have a lot of folks in the office during the day, sometimes volunteers who've come to work and sometimes folks who just stop in...we'd like to be able to feed them.
Also: Houseplants to cheer us up, good toys, crayons, coloring books for the children who come in with their parents...give us a call at 734-4948, email us at or stop by at 467 State St., Springfield, MA.
Photo from Chatiry's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Solidarity Needed: Auction Protests, Rally to Support Wisconsin Workers

Funny with all the knee-jerk criticism of state workers and how "greedy" they are, and the criticisms of families that can't keep up with their mortgage payments, that you don't hear much about how the banks and financial institutions are responsible for the Great Recession!  And you don't hear much, in the hysterical discussion about our budget deficit,  about how Bush and Obama gave away a huge source of income by reducing income taxes that primarily benefited the rich!  See this Nation article for some explanation. Meanwhile, on the local front, FOUR opportunities for solidarity:
Solidarity with Wisconsin Workers!
Tuesday, February 22, 4 - 6 PM
City Hall Steps, 36 Court St, Springfield
 And at the State House, Boston.
Workers all over the U.S. are taking it to the streets throughout the week to show their solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin.
 What’s going on in Wisconsin is not an isolated event. Attacks on workers’ basic rights are sweeping the country.  We will stand together to ensure it doesn’t happen here.  This is more of the same old politics by politicians bankrolled by corporate CEOs.  They’re trying to weaken or eliminate workers’ freedom to join unions so they can’t serve as a check on corporate greed to restore balance.  We need to focus on creating jobs and restoring the middle class.
 Info: Western Mass. Jobs with Justice  (413) 827-0301
            Pioneer Valley Street Heat  (413) 732-7970


TUESDAY FEBRUARY 22ND @ 10:30 AM 1179 Saint James Ave, Springfield MA (see map here)


In the morning we will be gathering for the: 
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 24TH @ 9:30 AM, 12-14 Foster Street, Springfield, MA (see map here)
Then in the afternoon we will head to Indian Orchard to stand in solidarity at the...
29 Verge Street, Springfield MA (see map here)
Print Friendly and PDF

My Polluted Kentucky Home

Yes, we are all under attack, but as usual, when you're poor, these corporations think they can dump on you and no one will care. 
Berea, Ky.- by Silas House New York Times: LAST weekend I joined 19 other Kentuckians in a sit-in at the office of Gov. Steve Beshear. We were there to protest his support of mountaintop removal, a technique used by coal-mining companies that, as its name implies, involves blasting away the tops of mountains and hills to get at the coal seams beneath them.
Since it was first used in 1970, mountaintop removal has destroyed some 500 mountains and poisoned at least 1,200 miles of rivers and streams across the Appalachian coal-mining region. Yet Governor Beshear is so committed to the practice that he recently allied with the Kentucky Coal Association in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to block more stringent regulations of it. In court his administration’s lawyers referred to public opposition as simply “an unwarranted burden.”
The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.
Over the past six years I’ve visited dozens of people who live at the edge of mountaintop removal sites. They bathe their children in water that has arsenic levels as high as 130 times what the E.P.A. deems safe to drink.
Their roads are routinely destroyed by overloaded trucks; their air is clouded with pollutants. Their schools sit below ponds holding billions of gallons of sludge. Their children lose sleep worrying that the sludge dams will break, releasing the sludge down upon them. It happened 40 years ago at Buffalo Creek, W.Va., killing 125 people, and it could happen again today. Read the rest here: Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fighting For Freedom 2011 Style

Fighting For Freedom 2011 Style

The fight for freedom is sweeping across the face of the Arab nations as survival in the 21st century makes the old ways impossible. Technology and social networking are giving people an understanding that the world unites on a global front to support their efforts, everyone should rise up now in these energies and be free!
Read More...... Print Friendly and PDF

Save Food for Thought and the Planet!

On Sunday, March 6, at 1pm. it's time to Save Food for Thought & the Planet!  A fundraiser for Food for Thought Books will be held at the book store, 106 North Pleasant Street, Amherst. The event features author/activist, Brian Tokar on climate justice and genetic engineering. Tokar is Director of the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont.   His two recent books are "Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal" and "Toward Climate Justice: Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change".  Also, musician & bard, Tom Neilson will be performing. There will be poetry, entertainment & more! The event is sponsored by The Enviro Show and co-sponsored by many local organizations, including Arise for Social Justice.  Call: 413-253-5432 or email for more information Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

War on the Poor: Lawmakers in Ten States Mull Drug Testing of Public Aid Recipients

From Join Together: Legislators in at least ten states are considering bills that would require adults on various types of public assistance to submit to drug testing. Supporters have said that testing would save money and encourage treatment, while opponents have claimed it would cost more money in the long run and discourage people from seeking treatment.
In most of the proposed bills, people testing positive would risk losing their benefits, though they could mitigate or avoid the financial impact by entering treatment and/or not re-using illegal substances.
At least two bills would require legislators to be drug-tested as well.
Senators in Virginia passed a drug screening bill 32-7 that would require people applying for, or receiving, certain welfare benefits, to answer questions and then submit to drug testing -- if the screeners believe the person is using.
Bills in Illinois and Missouri would require drug tests for recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), a federal program that provides short-term help with food, rent, and utility bills for pregnant women and for families with at least one child at home under age 19. If the Illinois bill passed, the state would institute a three-county pilot program before expanding statewide. South Dakota defeated a similar bill affecting TANF participants 32-36. 
Not all the bills would limit drug testing to TANF recipients. In Oregon, House Bill 2995 would require drug tests from people on unemployment. A second bill in the same state, Senate Bill 538, would require drug screens from anyone applying for or receiving a wide range of public assistance, including TANF, unemployment, food stamps, and subsidized health care. Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Tennessee, and West Virginia are all considering similarly broad measures.
Supporters and opponents claim cost, treatment among reasons
Lawmakers who sponsored the various drug-testing bills said they wanted to save money, prevent aid recipients from spending public dollars on drugs, and help people get into treatment. Rep. Mark Venner (R-Pierre) of South Dakota, for example, said he wanted the drug tests to "force parents to spend welfare money to buy food, clothing and shelter for their children," The Associated Press reported Feb 7.
Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mount Vernon) of Missouri told on Feb. 8 that TANF would fail if participants were not required to take drug tests.
"I'm not a hard-hearted guy," Rep. Lonnie Napier (R-Lancaster) of Kentucky told the Courier-Journal on Jan. 18. "I believe there is a need for public assistance for those who need it, but I understand some are using these funds to buy drugs." He said the program would save the state "millions and millions and millions."
New Mexico's Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, (R-Roswell) supports a three-strikes plan. Aid recipients who failed a drug test once would be put on probation, and they would have to go to treatment if they failed twice. Anyone who failed it a third time would be "done," she told Jan. 18. "Those children will be taken from your home. Assistance will go away. If you don't want to comply, move elsewhere."  Read the rest at Join Together
Photo of Kensington Welfare Rights Union by PhillyIMC.
Print Friendly and PDF

More than one way to overthrow a government

Breaking: Berlusconi to stand trial! 

Berlusconi allegation triggers protest by women across Italy
By Flavia Krause-Jackson
Monday, February 14, 2011; A07

Hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets across Italy on Sunday to demand better treatment for women, days after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi came under investigation for engaging in prostitution with a minor.
The nationwide protest followed the filing of a request by prosecutors Wednesday for Berlusconi to stand trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl for sex and abusing power in trying to cover it up. The event was organized by a nonpartisan women's group whose members describe themselves on their Facebook page as "neither desperate, nor housewives."
"Women in this country are denigrated by the repeated, indecent and ostentatious representation of women as a naked sexual object on offer in newspapers, televisions and advertising," said protest organizer Ida Poletto, a married hotel manager who has two sons. "It's intolerable."
Demonstrators gathered in more than 230 cities and towns across Italy under the slogan "If not now, then when?" Protests were also organized in London, Brussels, Tokyo, Boston and Athens. Supporters said more than 1 million people attended the rallies. Police did not publish an official estimate.
The biggest were in Rome, where more than 50,000 gathered in the Piazza del Popolo, and Milan, where the crowd spilled out of the Piazza Castello into the surrounding streets and piazzas. Rallies in Naples and Turin also drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, where speaker after speaker defended the dignity of women and called on Berlusconi, 74, to resign.
Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini dismissed the protests, saying "the women who are demonstrating today are just a bunch of [radicals] who are being used for political reasons."
Few women hold positions of power in Italy. In politics, while a woman served once as foreign minister, not one has ever held a higher ministerial portfolio than health or education. In business, women fill about 7 percent of Italy's corporate management positions, compared with an average of 30 to 35 percent in other developed nations, a 2010 study by the research firm Gea-Consulenti Associati showed.
- Bloomberg News - Photo: Mario Laporta/Agence France-Presse - Getty Image Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, February 14, 2011

International Women's Day - Arise Fundraiser!

International Women’s Day, 100th anniversary
Celebrate Women Rising!
March 4-8, 2011
featuring women’s struggle for justice, human and civil rights in song, story and actions which speak truth to power!
Friday, March 4 - 7 PM – Film: “Enemies of Happiness” with Malalia Joya - Media Education Foundation – 60 Masonic Street, Northampton
Saturday, March 5 
11 AM- Weekly Peace Vigil (Corner  Main and King Street)
12PM- March and Women’s Soapbox Speakout at City Hall, Northampton 
Join us for a local lunch & walk to
 2-5 PM At the Unitarian Society- 220 Main Street
Speakers & Discussion-
Fahima Vorgetts, Women for Afghan Women’s Fund
Zasa Al-Janabi- Iraqi Smith student, recently returned from Bagdad
& Cherie Rankin-Veterans for Peace
With raffle,  hot beverages, music from the Middle East and topic tables!
Tuesday, March 8 – International Women’s Day
4 – Banner Drop from the Railroad Bridge at Main and Hawley Street
5 -  March to the UU for a women’s community meal & potluck
6:30 - Speaker on CEDAW (tba) and Community Sing
featuring Karen Brandow
Bring a song, poem or story related to women’s struggle
 for justice, human rights and equal rights in a global context.
 Join us in celebrating the 100TH Anniversary
of International Women’s Day!
 We will pass the hat/ fundraise for ARISE, which is helping women in foreclosure
  Co-Sponsors (partial list):  Western Massachusetts Alliance for Peace and Justice, American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, Arise for Social Justice, Middle East Peace Coalition, Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars, Western Massachusetts Code Pink, Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice., Women in Black.
 For further information, contact:  413-625-9242
Print Friendly and PDF

This is what democracy looks like

Like many of you, I've spent much of my time in the last two weeks watching the revolution in Egypt unfold and flower, and reading as much as I could, because I want to know: how did this happen?  How were the people in Tunisia and Egypt able to succeed?

I've heard it was a revolution enabled by social media-- then I heard we (in the U.S.) arrogant to think social media could play such a significant role.  I've heard Egyptian activists saying that their revolution had no leaders-- and yet, as a community organizer, I know how nearly impossible it is for such well-organized actions to take place without coordination.

This morning's New York Times has the best article I've read so far about how the revolution in Egypt organized itself.  I'm sure we'll read more and better detailed accounts in the future, but for now, this is it: years of work that came about because of repressive conditions, lots of organizing, and a big role for social media.
CAIRO — As protesters in Tahrir Square faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia: “Advice to the youth of Egypt: Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”

The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.

They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.
Poster from Nick Bygone's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just ONE of the many defensive actions we'll be needing to take

WHAT'S HAPPENING?:  The Obama Administration has proposed devastating cuts and changes to Community Action. Anti-poverty agencies nationwide, including Springfield Partners for Community Action, will be forced to cut programs or close the doors if these changes go through. Critical services for low-income families will be lost.

The Obama Administration is set to propose a 50% cut to the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), the central source of funding for Community Action Agencies in the United States. President Obama's budget will be released Monday, Feb. 14.

  CSBG is the ONLY federal program focused on comprehensive services to fight poverty. If CSBG is eliminated, more than a thousand Community Action Agencies nationwide - including Springfield Partners - will be forced to slash programs, or even to shut their doors.

WHAT CAN WE DO?  It is essential that President Obama and Congress hear from communities across America. We need to let our national leaders know that Community Action is important to us!

SIGN THIS PETITION!!<> Print Friendly and PDF

Performance Project!

Questies are in this performance... Print Friendly and PDF

Justice for Brisenia

From Presente: Nine-year-old Brisenia Flores was murdered in her home in Arivaca, Arizona in May 2009. She pleaded, “Please don’t shoot me,” right before she was shot — point blank, in the face — by a member of the Minutemen American Defense Corps (MAD)1
The alleged mastermind behind Brisenia’s murder, Shawna Forde, has publicly represented anti-Latino hate groups including the Minutemen and the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR). Forde is currently on trial in Arizona for the murder of Brisenia and her father, Raul. As we speak, the jury is deliberating and will return a verdict within days, or hours.
Our community is waiting on justice for Brisenia.
Her murder represents the violence that follows when hateful and dehumanizing rhetoric and the groups that promote it goes unchecked.
Brisenia’s story has been largely ignored in the mainstream media, but her life has galvanized people around the country to speak out against hate violence towards Latinos. We at Presente designed a poster to honor Brisenia’s memory, and to send a statement that we want justice.
Together, let’s take a stand against anti-Latino violence and the hatred that ruins lives. Please download this memorial poster, display it proudly, and share it with your friends and family:

Here's a New York TImes article with more details: Murder Trial in Tuscon.
Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Last week at Arise


Just ending a busy week at Arise and feeling as if we moved ahead.  Different Arise members went to other events, also, but from my end:

Monday: With the No One Leaves Coaltion, protested and temporarily postponed an auction of the Diaz' family home.
Tuesday: vigil for David Kato.  Very cold weather; about 20 of us took turns vigiling and going inside to get warm.  Met some new allies.
Wednesday: I spoke at WNEC Lw School with City Councilor Mike Fenton about the biomass incinerator and efforts to stop it.
Thursday: Back to the Diaz home, about 30 people, this time the bank buys the house back.  It's not over.  Then on to the Springfield Institute, for our second meeting of a coalition loosely titled, Group to Stop Hate and Homophobia in Springfield.  Arise, Out Now, Raging Grannies, and the OUTlaws from WNEC, plus more.  Next meeting March 3, place to be announced.
Friday: Brunch at Arise.  Every 2nd Friday, we invite members and folks who've stopped in during the week to join us.  A dozen people ate bananas and bagels and talked about why we care about social justice.  Then, at 3:30, ten of us attended the Community Coalition for Justice workshop on knowing your rights with the police.

Another busy week ahead.  Call us at 413-734-4948 to get involved. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, February 11, 2011

What's going to happen to us?

8:00 am.: It's minus 13 degrees outside right now, and I wonder: what's going to happen to us?
President Obama wants to halve the funding for the  Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps eligible families pay for some of their heating costs.  This is only one of the many cuts affecting poor people that we'll be writing about in the next weeks, but one that is much on my mind as I sit by my little electric heater. This is the third year I've decided that I just didn't have enough money to put oil in the tank that provides central heating for my apartment, and instead to get by with my gas stove and space heater.  But this was more or less a choice for me.  Many don't have that choice.
The other issue really on my mind right now is housing.  Yesterday about thirty people from the No One Leaves Campaign stood outside the home of the Diaz family, as we attempted to shame Wells Fargo and potential buyers into calling of the auction of the Diaz family's home.  We didn't succeed yesterday, but the fight is not over.
More than 12,000 homes were foreclosed in Massachusetts last year.  What happens to people forced back into the rental market?  What options do they have?  Not many now, and ever fewer after the Obama and Patrick administrations get done with us.  And Obama and Patrick are supposed to be on our side!  Just keep remembering: none of these cuts would even be necessary if the rich were paying their fair share of taxes, if banks were loaning out the money we, the taxpayers, gave them, if we weren't in a state of perpetual war.Just to get this discussion started, take a look at this great flyer done by WRAP: Sorry that I'm unable to reproduce it fully.

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, February 7, 2011

David Kato Vigil: Tomorrow, Tuesday, 1 pm.

Don't forget-- in front of Arise, 467 State St.  Don't let hate grow in Springfield.  For more background, see here and here.   Please join us. Print Friendly and PDF

Diaz auction postponed to Thursday

About 15 of us showed up this morning at 9:30 (auction scheduled for 10 am.) to try to stop the auction of  the Diaz family's home on Champlain St..  We chanted, held signs, and listened to a few speakers, including Ms. Diaz.  You can read the story of the predatory banks and their war against Ms. Diaz here.

We'd been out there about ten minutes when this white man in his 60's walked up and told us to go away.  Apparently he is a "neighbor" from down the street.  A few folks tried to talk to him but he just walked back down the street, shouting things like, "If you can't pay your mortgage, don't buy a house!"  I know that neighborhood fairly well and it is pretty white.  Some racism at play here?

A few minutes later a police cruiser pulled up and the officer told us we'd have to make sure we moved if any traffic came by, and we said we would, and then moved so he could pass.  (You have to understand that Champlain St., like five or six other streets in a row that run off Berkshire, are nearly cul de sacs, connected by a little road at the end used only by the few people with houses on that road.  In other words, no traffic.)

A few minutes after that, a car pulled to the side of the road-- the auctioneers from Wells Fargo National Bank!  Then along came another cruiser.  This officer said we were upsetting several elderly people in the neighborhood-- couldn't say which ones-- and that if we didn't have a permit, we'd have to leave.  While Lara was attempting to negotiate with the officer, the auctioneers decided they weren't going to go ahead that day after all, and they postponed the auction until Thursday at 2 pm.  

Of course, we'll be back on Thursday, also, with even more people (want to join us?) and a little more clarity on the permit situation.  I think we don't need one as long as we're in motion, or if we were to be on the Diaz' property-- not too easy unless we want to be knee-deep in snow.  But we'll figure it out.  No auction!  Not today, not Thursday, not ever!  Join the No One Leaves Campaign! Print Friendly and PDF

A message of hope and freedom

The people of the world stand at the doorway of a fretful future. What exactly will it be no one can say for sure. The people may not be able to predict the future, but I'm sure they know what they want; peace, liberty, an enriched life, that is free from want, oppression, violence and restriction; the people want democracy, a refreshed democracy; they want to be able to feel, see and smell freedom. The people want to sink their teeth into democracy and freedom and they want tangible assurances that all the loud chatter of democracy will include them, regardless of their station in life. They want certainty and will not be satisfied with mere high-sounding yet trite and cliche remarks by politicians or presidents.

These turbulent times are hardly the time to fumble with mere abstractions. The people want concrete safeguards of their rights so their faith in the democratic system won't be lost. We the people are in a titanic life-and-death struggle for our rights and freedoms against ruthless and efficient foes. Now is the time for the people of the world to galvanize into decisive action on the side of freedom and democracy. Freedom has become a world-wide issue to discuss and settle here and now.

Should the elitist and their vision of a "New world order" (N.W.O.) suddenly fold up their tent and surrender to the people's will tomorrow, the capitulation would provide only a brief respite of peace unless the people believe and act without reservation to make true the words of Sumner Welles that, "Our victory must bring in it's train the liberation of all peoples. Discrimination between peoples because of their race, creed, color or sexual orientation must be abolished".

Millions of people of all stripes; black, brown, yellow, red, white, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and all other minorities do not believe that the elitist and their police state N.W.O. intend to put into effect democracy and freedom for the people. In fact they have done everything in their power to take away our rights and freedoms, tear up the Constitution and destroy the principles of democracy. This belief is what accounts for the depths of passion that underlie all the struggles for freedom and democracy witnessed around the world today.

The rumblings for freedom and equality for the people of America and the world will reverberate into a mighty roar and spread like wildfire in the days to come, the days of talking quietly have past. These are the days for bold action, this is the time to serve the ways of democracy and preserve the integrity of the Constitution. Sweeping changes will set the peoples of the world on fire and they will stand in great numbers and have the power to demand justice, demand freedom and demand equality. Help us fight for our freedom and for what's right.

ARISE for Social Justice has been in the fore-front of the struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and human rights for many years, however we cannot continue in this struggle without the help and support of the people we serve. Because we accept no government funding and due in part to the economic downturn, we find ourselves in a rather precarious financial situation. We need the help of the people to continue fighting for the people. If you can spare a dollar, a few dollars or a few hundred dollars please consider a donation to ARISE, anything that will help us to continue helping the people would be appreciated.

Please send what you can spare to the following address: ARISE for Social Justice P.O. BOX 5423, 467 State Street, Springfield, MA. 01101. Your contributions are tax deductable. Thank you so much for standing with us for freedom and against oppression.

Don James

President: ARISE for Social Justice Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, February 6, 2011

FRIDAY: Know Your Rights with the Police Workshop!


Do you know when police are and are not allowed to search you?
Do you know when you have to answer an officer’s questions?
By fully understanding our rights, we can protect ourselves against  unjust police practices.
Join us for a free “Know Your Rights” workshop to learn the basics of  asserting your rights when dealing with the police.

Friday, February 11, 2011 3:30-5pm
Arise for Social Justice
467 State Street in Springfield
Free and open to all

This workshop is brought to you by the Community Coalition for  Justice. We are a group of community members and organizations working to stop police brutality in Springfield and to increase police
accountability to the community.  Questions? Want to get involved? Contact or call Arise at 413-734-4948 or 413-519-5964. Print Friendly and PDF