Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Arizine available!

Ashley collating the Arizine
It's been a few years, but we finally have a new edition of our Arizine available! Much thanks to Amherst College intern Ashley McCall, who, as a participant in the Pioneer Valley Citizen Summer, worked with us for two months.

She collected artwork from Arise artists (Ruben Santiago, Paul Midura), poetry from Arise poets (Norm Harris, Martina Robinson, me) and did interviews with many others, collecting their experiences in stories about fighting landlords, overcoming addiction, and reaching for their dreams.

The zine is free for all low-income people, but we hope that those who want a copy and who can afford it will make a donation for our next edition!  Call the Arise office at 734-4948 or email us at Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Global warming state by state

Measure thirty years' worth of average temperatures from 1971 to year 200.  Now do the same thirty year measurement from 1981 to 2010 and compare the difference.  The state that's seen the biggest temperature increase?  Colorado.  But all of the Rocky Mountain states have seen big increases, and there isn't a single state in the country that isn't warmer now than 30 years ago.  Summit County Citizens Voice.

While large parts of the U.S. government, including a majority in Congress, continue to deny the reality of climate change, the U.S. Forest Service is not among them.  The service gets to see the reality up close.  See here for a list of the climate change presentations available on their site.

Wildfire Today has a report on climate change and wildfires.  Read it and weep.  In thirty years, there may be no forests left in Yellowstone National Park. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Costs of War

A good friend of Massachusetts, of poor people, of people of color, who is also a historian, journalist and writer, has a great piece in CounterPunch that mentions Springfield and what community organizers are achieving.  Check it out.

"The impact of war is self-evident, since economically it is exactly the same as if the nation were to drop a part of its capital into the ocean"
-- Karl Marx, Grundrisse, 1857-58.
Reports come fast and furiously from the Pew Research Center and the National Urban League. The news is bad. The Pew report shows that between 2005 and 2009 every "racial" group lost wealth, but the losses were largest amongst Hispanics and Blacks. Inflation-adjusted median wealth of white households fell by 16%, but Hispanic households lost 66% and Black households lost 53%. As of 2009, the typical white household had wealth (assets minus debts) worth $113,149, which Black households only had $5,677 and Hispanic households $6,325. The myth of the post-racial society should be buried under this data.

The most dazzling fact is not this decline. It is what is to come. The National Urban League Policy Institute's latest study finds that unemployment for Blacks with four-year college degrees has tripled since 1992, and overall unemployment is near 1982 levels, namely 20%. Such numbers have not been seen since the Depression. Langston Hughes wrote that the 1930s "brought everybody down a peg or two," but that those on the darker side of the Color Curtain had not much to lose. That is no longer the case. The thirty years since 1965 provided a boost to the Black and Latino middle class, largely thanks to employment at the various levels of government (and salutations to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for its battles to hold public sector wages). With unemployment on the rise, it will be difficult to build back those assets.
The shuttering of the U. S. industrial sector and the attack on public sector jobs hit the Black and Latino workers very hard. Rather than tax the rich and use these public funds to build up a different kind of economy (such as to make public rail networks), the Clinton administration harshly developed a massive prison archipelago and hacked at the modest social welfare system in the country. In the name of balanced budgets and supply side economics, a generation of young people of color lost access to decent education. It is difficult to try and get a job if your resume includes a stint in prison, often for non-violent economic crimes (such as employment in the drug economy, one of the few places to get a job in neighborhoods of the disposable class). The other place for employment, of course, was the military.  Read the rest at CounterPunch.

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

Another perspective on the Dallas "riot"

Dear Friends and Allies:

On July 21st, several news channels in Dallas covered what they referred to as a “riot” or, better yet, a “stampede” for rental assistance vouchers.  Estimates ranged from hundreds to thousands of people running desperately once the local housing office was open simply for the chance to fill out an application.  Prominent were images of this mass of running people and interviews with those who had been injured.  “Rental assistance at what price?” asks Ron Corning of Dallas, Texas’ WFAA News 8. What story is the mainstream media telling?  With words like “riot” and “stampede,” one might think they were talking about a violent, crazed and criminal group.  The reality involved poor and hard working family desperate to keep or put a roof of their heads.  Criminalizing people simply because they are poor is not new, however, in media or in policy.  Families that receive rental assistance live under the constant threat of “one-strike” rules and are required to do monthly community service, whereas wealthier families that receive “rental assistance” through the mortgage interest tax deduction (“MID”) do not).
This is the first time in 5 years that the City of Dallas has opened its Section 8 rental assistance vouchers wait list.  15,000 families were expected to apply for roughly 3,500 newly available vouchers.  Yes, families.  40-50% of recipients of rental assistance are families with children; 15% are seniors; 19% disabled.  While budgets are slashed on the backs of working and middle-class people, and banks get bailed out in the trillions, people who are in need of rental assistance are set against one another in the struggle to survive with only enough assistance to house 1 in 4 of them, and that’s IF they are eligible based on an ever-narrowing set of criteria.
Put another way, we have one of the most severe human rights crisis in many decades, particularly around the human right to housing, and our government stands by mutely while families are forced to participate in a foot race for ever shrinking resources.  Yet, this is not an issue of resources; it is an issue of values and whether we are committed to being an equitable society.  Low-income housing programs receive less than $4 billion, while subsidies for wealthier homeowners, such as the MID, cost the government over $150 billion.  Simply through equitable reforms of federal housing finance policy, rental assistance for those who need it most could be available as an entitlement and we would be one large step closer to protecting housing as a human right.  Rather than forcing families to race in desperation, we should be racing to create human rights based solutions that are equitable and ensure the dignity of all our communities.

Brittany Scott, Campaign Coordinator, Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights
National Economic & Social Rights Initiative
90 John St., Suite 308 + New York, NY 10038
Tel: 212.253.1710 x318 + Fax: 212.385.6124,,  
Photo from Art Makes Me Smile's photostream at Flickr. 
Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Take 12 minutes to understand climate change (and why we're in big trouble)

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.
We had a great supper yesterday with the New England Climate Summer riders.  There was so much good conversation going on, I forgot to take pictures-- but we did get to see a short video on climate change.

Someone asked me the other day why Arise is working on environmental issues.  "That's not about what  poor people need, that's not what poor people care about," he said.  Well, I beg to differ, at least in part.  If we can't have clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and food free of chemicals to eat, we get sick.  And it's our job, as community organizers, to help our people to make the connections.

But we need to get the big picture stuff, too--like, we all live on just one planet, and we can't go anywhere else.  Keeping our planet safe is like not letting our house burn down.

Watch this great short video to understand how our planet works, why we're in trouble, and what we can do about it. Print Friendly and PDF

More kids hungry, too thin in MA, elsewhere

Doctors at Boston Medical Center are reporting that the numbers of too thin children ages 3 and under seen  in their emergency room have jumped from 12% in 2007 to 18% in 2010, says today's Boston Globe.

Pediatricians at hospitals in four other cities - Baltimore; Little Rock, Ark.; Minneapolis; and Philadelphia - also reported increases in the ranks of malnourished, hungry youngsters in their emergency rooms since 2008. But Boston’s increases were more dramatic, said Sandel, a lead investigator with Children’s HealthWatch, a network of researchers who track children’s health. Researchers said higher housing and heating costs in Massachusetts probably exacerbated the state’s surge.
BMC has also seen a 58 percent increase, from 24 in 2005 to 38 in 2010, in the number of severely underweight babies under the age of 1 who were referred by family physicians to its Grow Clinic, where doctors provide intensive nutritional, medical, and other services to boost babies’ growth. Such malnourishment is similar to what is more typically seen in developing countries, Sandel said.
 Frankly, I can't even imagine where we're headed in this country. 

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Join Arise and the New England Climate Summer riders Wednesday for food and conversation!

Wow!  Last week the Springfield Institute organized to community to participate in an Environmental Justice Bike Tour.  This week, the New England Climate Summer riders will be in Springfield, and tomorrow, Wednesday, will be joining us at Arise for a potluck supper and great conversation.  Join us and help build the connections between climate change and our local fights for clean air to breathe and a green city to live in.
Wednesday, 5:30 , Arise, 467 State St.

What's Climate Change Summer?  (from their website):
New England Climate Summer is a summer internship program for college students, graduate students, and recent graduates. Climate Summer riders travel exclusively by bicycle in small teams across New England, spending approximately one week in a community before biking on to the next. While in each town, riders connect with community leaders that are actively addressing society's addiction to fossil fuels by crafting local solutions that strengthen communities. Riders bring with them a movement-building perspective and ethos, empowering those they meet and helping to highlight the important work of local organizations with the local press as well as in the 2011 State of the Movement Report, which will catalogue the efforts of groups in all the communities the various teams visit.

What's their philosophy?
From southern Connecticut to northern Maine, from the Massachusetts coast to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, communities across New England are actively addressing society's addiction to fossil fuels through local solutions and building a more sustainable world. We know that these communities are leading the way, but recognize that their stories are not being shared. They are not getting the respect and attention they deserve, and their ideas are not traveling as quickly as they need to.
Over 9 summer weeks, Climate Summer bikers learn from, cross-pollinate and spotlight these initiatives by working with community leaders to connect diverse constituencies and weave a powerful movement for a better future. Riders live their values as they travel exclusively by bike and join the next generation of movement leaders.

Graphic by Carrie Watkins Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Proving that poverty and racism kills

OK, we all know something isn't real until scientists measure it.  Forget about our personal experiences, our life learning, our sense of our community and our world--  we need that hard, cold data.

Excuse my sarcasm.  Scientific studies are important because, really, you can't make a case to Congress or City Hall solely on anecdotal information.

A study published in the June 16th issue of the American Journal of Public Health has calculated deaths for six social factors and here are the results: "Approximately 245, 000 deaths in the United States in 2000 were attributable to low education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual-level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality, and 39,000 to area-level poverty."

Check out the letter at the end of the study summary which calls the figures an underestimation because the study does not calculated for the combined effects of experiencing one or more factors:  low education plus racism, low social support plus poverty,  etc.

Memorize these figures, folks. 

Photo from Joe the Misfit's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Man says blood center rejected him because he appeared gay

A straight man who tried donating blood at a Gary, Indiana blood center was reportedly turned away recently--because employees of the center thought he was gay.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Aaron Pace, 22, is "admittedly and noticeably effeminate," but still a heterosexual man. In any case, when he visited Bio-Blood Components Inc. in Gary, which pays for blood and plasma donations, he was told he could not be a donor because he “appears to be a homosexual.”
Bio-Blood would not respond to the Sun-Times for comment, but allegedly are taking advantage of an outdated federal law that was upheld in 2010.  See more at Huffington Post. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fighting for Environmental Justice

Holly, Steve and Chrisoula
On Tuesday, July 19,  The Springfield Institute organized community groups, including Arise, to participate in an Environmental Justice Bike Tour of the North End.  It was a wicked hot day (not as hot as the past few, though!) but enthusiasm was high and everyone wants to do it again.  Thanks, Chrisoula, Steve, Ruben and Holly (also riding for Out Now!), for riding, and Lamont for helping to kick it off.  You can get more details at the Springfield Institute website, and if you want to be involved in another EJ Bike Tour, let us know because more are planned..

City Councilors Zaida Luna & Jose Tosado- Tim Allen also present

I am thrilled that our community is finally waking up to the fact that we have a right to live in a decent city and the right to demand the changes we need.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a woman in Indian Orchard who has been on our mailing list for a number of years.  She said she'd gotten a notice from the City's Planning Board about a proposed zone change from Residence B to Commercial A in her neighborhood.  The notice read as follows: "Notice is hereby given that the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm. in Room 220 of City Hall for all those interested in a zone change from residence B to Industrial A at the property known as ES Parker St (09510-1894).  Owner and petitioner: City of Springfield.  By order of the City Planning Board, Katie Stebbins, Chairperson.  Information may be viewed at the Planning/Eco Dev Dept., 70 Tapley St. (413) 787-6020."

Not a lot of info, right?  And you'd have to be pretty pro-active to actually go to the Planning Dept. to see what the proposal is.  On top of that, the zoning change notice was only delivered to households with 300 feet of the proposed zone change.

The woman I  heard from, however, knew exactly what property was being discussed: a piece of Hubbard Park, owned by the city,  would be given over to expand the parking lot of Unifirst Uniforms, right next door.

The "Industrial A" designation caught my eye, because I've been told that the City of Springfield has no say over what is done or developed with "Industrial A"-- which is supposed to be why it was easy for Palmer Renewable Energy to move its proposal for the biomass plant we've been fighting at the existing Palmer Paving site.

I went over to Parker St. to take pictures and see what my contact was talking about.  Apparently Unifirst only wants about 10 feet of land and intends to put up a concrete wall between the parking lot and the remainder of the property.

Back entrance to Barrows Park
 I must say that the baby rabbit I saw hopping around did pull at my heartstrings.  Another neighbor told me that a fox also lives in the area, as well as many other animals.  Tugging at the city's pursestrings, however, is an offer from Unifirst to donate $250,000 in park improvements.  However, it turns out that the park improvements will not be for Hubbard Park, but for Plastics Park on Page Blvd.

I made up a flyer and with some other Arise members, passed it out to a somewhat broader area in Indian Orchard.  I could not attend the Planning Board meeting (we had an important Stop Toxic Incineration meeting the same night)  but was told later that about 20 people attended.  Result?  the Planning Board did not (at this time) allow the zone change, and sent the proponents to an upcoming City Council meeting.

I may have more to say about Unifirst in a later post, but I hope one thing is obvious: if the Planning Board wants real citizen participation in in local decisions, it's going to have to do a better job in informing the community-- better notices, better descriptions of what's really going on-- maybe some photos to accompany the notice? Print Friendly and PDF

Watch out for apple juice!

Unless you like arsenic with your apple juice, you might want to skip Mott's Apple Juice.  Two consumer groups, Food and Water Watch and the Empire State Consumer Project, found five times the amount arsenic in Mott's juice as is allowed in drinking water.  The reason?  Mott's gets its apples from China, where arsenic is still used as a pesticide.

"Chris Barnes, a spokesman for Mott's parent company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, said the company took food safety seriously and was in compliance with all FDA guidelines. He also said the company had no access to the testing done by the consumer group and could not vouch for its findings."  Democrat and Chronicle.  Remember those words:  "we're in compliance."

You can read more about the study at Food and Water Watch.

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stop the Hate

SPRINGFIELD, MA – On Tuesday, July 5, 2011 from 12-1pm, organizers called for all concerned about the recent brutal violence against an openly gay man to meet at Barrows Park in Springfield, to stand in solidarity against violence, and along side of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Neutral and Allied community.
On the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 28th, an openly gay man, whose name remains anonymous, was violently attacked by 5 males and 4 females ranging in age from 12-19.   He suffered head trauma as well as other injuries.  The victim reported that slurs were being used during the beating, including one of the alleged perpetrators saying, “That’s what we do to faggots.”
This incident happened at the tail end of Gay Pride Month, and followed a week of Gay Pride events in our city; one which was a Flag Raising event that involved institutional proclamations read aloud by Mayor Sarno and City Council President Tosado calling for “Springfield residents to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless or sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In response to the incident, openly gay City Councilor Amaad Rivera states, “Hate is not a Springfield value. Only together can we create a community that safe for everyone. No one should have to suffer violence for being who they are.”
When Youth Community Organizer, Michael Hall, from Out Now, Springfield’s only Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth organization, was asked about the beating he stated, “It just really reminded me of how one incident like this, that is motivated by the hating of gay people, can leave us feeling afraid all over again.”  “I just really believe there needs to be institutional education/curriculum that focuses on LGBTQ people, at every level of the public school system, for starters,” added Hall.
“I find this all so disturbing, yet we must try to use this as an opportunity here,” reports Holly Richardson, Community Organizer, Out Now, and Arise for Social Justice.  “If we are to truly tackle anti-gay violence we must treat this beating not as an isolated incident.  With people living and working in our community like Scott Lively, an internationally recognized anti-gay minister; and this kind of extreme violence occurring a week and a half after Springfield’s Pride/Visibility Week, I believe it’s important to address homophobic violence (and oppression, in general) with a root-cause analysis, starting with asking ourselves what would cause a group of young people to act in such a way toward an openly gay man?”
The Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition was formed in January 2011 upon learning that Scott Lively was living and ministering in Springfield.  Lively is president of the Abiding Truth Ministries, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he has been running the Holy Grounds Coffee House on State Street, right near Commerce High School.  The coalition deplores hateful messages and actions, and calls for community education about the impact of homophobia on our communities, as well as calling for community leaders, neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc. to speak out against homophobia whenever it is perpetrated.  The coalition involves a number of community-based organizations, local college professors and students, members of the faith community and individual community members.
Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Save the Pell grant program!

Sorry, if keeping people from getting an education isn't part of a plot to keep power in the hands of the few, then I don't know what is....

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trial of men accused of illegal filming inside Franklin County Jail begins in Greenfield

Published: Monday, July 18, 2011, 10:44 AM Updated: Monday, July 18, 2011, 11:14 AM
Conor Berry, The Republican
protesters.jpgA large group of supporters were on hand Monday at the Franklin County Courthouse, where Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller are on trial in Greenfield District Court for an incident last summer at the Franklin County Jail & House of Correction. Eyre and Mueller, founders of the police watchdog organization Cop Block, are accused of illegally filming their encounter with law enforcement officials inside the county jail on July 1, 2010. The pair were arrested by Greenfield police after they alleged failed to comply with officers' request to stop filming at the jail. On Monday, several dozen supporters flocked to the Greenfield courthouse to offer their support to the duo and to protest what they view as an unnecessary and illegal arrest.
GREENFIELD -- Jury selection got under way Monday morning in the trial of two New Hampshire men accused of illegally filming their encounter with law enforcement officials at the Franklin County Jail & House of Correction last summer.
Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller, founder of the "pro-police accountability" organization Cop Block -- which advocates filming or photographing police and posting those images online -- were arrested July 1, 2010, outside the Greenfield jail when they refused to stop filming on the premises.
The men, who had gone to the facility to bail out two friends being held on drug and weapons charges, claim there were no signs indicating they could not film at the jail. They continued to record the encounter against officers' orders, leading to their arrest by Greenfield police.
On Monday morning, Eyre and Mueller and about 50 supporters gathered outside the Franklin County Courthouse with placards protesting police tactics that they believe tread on their natural freedoms. Eyre and Mueller, both of New Hampshire, are so-called voluntaryists who adhere to the principles of a stateless society based on natural law, not a formal system of rules and regulations with law enforcers such as police and other agents of the state.
As of 10 a.m., the legal proceeding had not resulted in any conflagrations in or outside the courthouse. At a previous court appearance, supporters of Eyre and Mueller caused a minor disturbance at the conclusion of that proceeding, prompting extra securitty at Monday's trial.
greenfield 003.jpgPete Eyre and Adam Mueller's Mobile Anti-Resistance Vehicle, or MARV, was parked outside the Franklin County Courthouse on Monday. The men are on trial in Greenfield District Court for an incident stemming from an encounter with law enforcement officials at the Franklin County Jail & House of Correction last July. The pair, founding members of the police watchdog organization Cop Block, were arrested after they allegedly refused to stop filming at the county jail. Despite their legal woes, Eyre and Mueller are conducting a "Liberty on Tour" mission this summer to promote their anti-government, libertarian-leaning views. The men are so-called voluntaryists, who believe that submission to government rules and regulations should be entirely voluntary and that the principles of natural law should prevail.
In an effort to control the crowd and avoid any disruptions, court guards sealed off a wing abutting the Superior Court courtroom, where the trial is taking place even though it is a District Court case.
Picking a jury can take hours or even days, depending on the nature of a case and how much media exposure it has received. In Eyre and Mueller's case, the duo launched a media blitz in advance of Monday's trial, though the effectiveness of that campaign remains unclear. There were no TV stations evident at the courthouse complex, and only a handful of print-media reporters were covering the trial.
Any chance of reaching a last-minute plea deal with the defendants before the trial apparently was off the table; Mueller was wearing a T-shirt inside the courtroom that made it plainly clear that a plea was not an acceptable option.
District Court Judge William F. Mazanec is presiding over the trial, which could last a few days.
The men appear to be representing themselves, though an attorney was present on Monday and several times during pretrial motions stood to whisper in their ears.
Eyre and Mueller's black-and-gold "Liberty on Tour" mobile home was parked outside the courthouse. Despite their current legal woes, the men are touring the nation this summer to espouse their views on a voluntary society and their message of publicly challenging law enforcement officials by filming and photographing them and placing those images online.
Print Friendly and PDF

5,000 Poor Dallas Residents Stampede Each Other In Race For Scarce Housing Vouchers

amond on Jul 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thursday morning, 5,000 Dallas residents in need of housing assistance showed up at the Jesse Owens Memorial complex early in the morning, hoping to be one of the lucky few to get a coveted spot on a waiting list for housing vouchers. Only 100 vouchers were available.

Some people had camped out since Wednesday night, and the line was at least a mile long. When hundreds of people suddenly sprinted for the doors, at least eight people were injured, and some say they feel lucky not to have been trampled to death:

When, at 6 a.m., officials said it was time to form a line, a frantic rush ensued — the latest sign of people’s desperation for help in tough times. There were no serious injuries, but video footage of the chaos received national attention.

“Once they said we could go on the property, it was a stampede, a circus,” said Adelia Frierson, a 24-year-old single mother applying for the federally funded assistance.

Zachary Thompson, the county’s director of health and human services, said the turnout once again demonstrates the need for the Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8. By the end of the day, about 5,000 households had applied. [...]

The hard-to-get vouchers pay a portion of the rent based on household income. This was the first time Dallas County had opened its waiting list since 2006, and applicants may have to wait at least two years to actually receive vouchers.

The incident is a sad illustration of lengths people will go to for even the chance of government assistance in such hard times. Health director Thompson acknowledged that, “a lot of times people are shocked there are so many people who are low income and need assistance. That’s just the reality of the economy we are living in.”

The crowd ranged from young single mothers with their children to senior citizens with nothing but a small Social Security income. Many applicants had jobs, but barely earn minimum wage.

Authorities have been pointing the finger of blame at one another since facing a mountain of criticism for letting the situation get out of hand and not having a better plan to accommodate the sheer number of voucher applicants.

Watch the news report here!
Print Friendly and PDF