Tuesday, September 27, 2011
To put that in human terms, when a young woman with a baby (apartment lost in the tornado, didn't know about FEMA, staying for 2 months with a friend in subsidized housing whose own housing is now at risk because of her presence) goes down to the Dept. of Transitional Assistance to apply for Emergency Assistance (necessary before you can apply for HomeBASE) and is twice told she is not eligible and turned away with no written explanation, then something is wrong with the implementation picture. It was not until she came to Arise with her story and we gave her a flyer (thanks, Mass Law Reform) about HomeBASE, with certain key parts highlighted, and sent her back down to DTA, that she was able to get help.
The hearing today wasn't huge. Some advocates came, and some agencies charged with administering some aspect of the program, and a couple of poor people.
One of the testifiers (this was an official hearing) is the head of a local housing agency. Among other things, he spoke about how the housing rate is set too low, and may, through the law of unintended consequences, concentrate poverty in particular areas. I've heard him speak about the need to have our neighborhoods economically diverse before; and while I agree with some of his analysis in theory, it's really a much more complicated scenario. So i thought i knew where he was going. But I was wrong.
"Poor people should be able to live in more affluent neighborhoods," he stated, "because they need people to hire for the low wage jobs."
My mouth fell open. I could not believe what I was hearing. And he went on later to speak about how many homeless families are coming from out of state, and shouldn't these scarce benefits be preserved for the people on his long housing waiting list, a point nicely countered later by someone else who said that studies show a statistically insignificant difference between the needy families who come to our state and our needy families that go some somebody else's state, which also has long waiting lists., etc.
I've been pondering his remarks all evening. Let me get this straight: at least a few of us (not too many, mind you) should live in affluent neighborhoods so we can do their dirty work? Can we all get hired to become maids and gardeners? Can we wander their snowy neighborhoods with shovels? (Actually, we do that already.) Work in the convenience and mega-drug stores? (We do that already, too.) And wouldn't affluent people really prefer we commute rather than live next door?
As classist, serf-like and preposterous as his idea is, it also belongs to an era long gone, never to come again. This isn't the Fifties. Most people's fortunes have been rolling downhill for decades. Sure, we still have a few affluent neighborhoods in Springfield, but they're ragged around the edges, and in a city where nearly thirty percent of us live below the poverty level, there just aren't enough affluent people to go around-- not here, not anywhere.
Even the HomeBASE program, rotten with good intentions and riddled with regulations, is predicated on the belief that, starting basically from zero, a homeless family can turn its life around in just one year.Do these policy makers and administrators read the same news that I do? Is anybody predicting the economy will recover in just one more year?
I have a lot more I could say about we what we, as poor people, need to do, but that's another post.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
(off Franklin St., behind YMCA)
Information: Mass Senior Action, 543-2334
Thursday, September 22, 2011
|AFSC organized a vigil yesterday evening in Northampton|
For someone that was facing death the very next day, he was just full of life and wanted to spend time talking to the younger staff, the interns, giving them direction and hope and asking them to hold onto God. And he challenged them. He challenged them by saying, "You have a choice. You can either fold up your bags after tomorrow and go home, or you can stand and continue this fight." He said it doesn’t—it didn’t begin with Troy Davis, and this won’t end if he is executed today. He just asked us all just to continue to fight to end the death penalty, if in fact he’s executed.
September 21st, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
(It's 10:24 and the Supreme Court has denied Troy's stay of execution.)
Today will not end without at least one execution, however. Lawrence Russell Fisher, aged 44, was pronounced dead at 6:21 pm.in Huntsville, Texas. It took him ten minutes to die from lethal injection.
If you don't recognize his name, you will remember the circumstances under which he killed a Black man, James Byrd, Jr. Fisher and two other men dragged Byrd behind a pickup truck in 1998 until he was dead.
Fisher, a white supremacist, is scarcely a sympathetic person. It's said he expressed no remorse for his crime. The AP story about his last moments, as he declined to make a final statement, said that a tear hung in the corner of his right eye.
Deserve is an odd word, meaning "to merit, to qualify for." Did Fisher deserve the death penalty, while Davis does not? The word puts the focus on the object and away from ourselves as individuals and as collective members of society. What is truly best for us?
"You can't fight murder with murder," Ross Byrd, 32, told Reuters late Tuesday, the night before Wednesday's scheduled execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer for one of the most notorious hate crimes in modern times.
"Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can't hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn't what we want."
With every cell of my being, and with every fiber of my memory, I oppose the death penalty in all forms….I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don’t think it’s human to become an Angel of Death.
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1986
From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored…to develop…rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor…Rather than continue to coddle the court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved…I feel…obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed
Justice Blackmun, Supreme Court Justice quoted in1994
There are many reasons to be opposed to the death penalty but the one writ large on today 's almanac is that a mistake made cannot be unmade. A life taken cannot be given back.
When will we become fully human?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
funded by the Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S.. UU.
(Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA)
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Our long local fight in Springfield to stop Palmer Renewable Energy from constructing a biomass plant in Springfield-- as well as the struggles in Russell and greenfield-- have become part of a statewide struggle with the Biomass Accountability Project to limit the subsidizing of biomass by the Patrick Administration. So many of us are headed to Boston on Monday. If you can't make it you can still have your voice heard-- sign the petition to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor here at Stop Spewing Carbon.
Rally and Press Conference Demanding Governor strengthen rules on subsidizing dirty biomass energy.
Photo from fotdmike's photostream at Flickr.
In the mid-1600s, plantation owners in colonial Virginia looked through their lace curtained windows and saw a disturbing sight. What they saw was their workers in their fields. Those workers included European indentured servants and African indentured servants, as well as African slaves. *
The workers all lived in the same quarters, ate the same food and socialized together, essentially sharing the same abominable conditions. What troubled the planters was not the idea of race mixing (indeed, the concept of “race” had not yet been invented), but the fear that African and European workers would unite to rise up and slaughter their masters. The plantation owners were desperate to do something to protect themselves from this threat.
The British were not savvy imperialists for nothing. They had perfected the skill, first in Ireland and later throughout the Empire, of pitting one group against another through favorable treatment of selected populations. My own Lowland Scot ancestors accepted an offer of free land in Ireland. The British made this offer not to save us from frequent raids by Highlanders, but to establish a Protestant class, loyal to the crown, that would control the indigenous, largely landless, Irish crofters. It was the tried and true practice of divide and conquer. At the behest of the plantation owners, Virginia’s colonial legislature passed laws that required planters to award fifty acres of land to European indentured servants (but not those of African descent) who had completed their servitude. In the Colonies at that time the ownership of land was the ultimate form of status. In addition, landless white Europeans were eventually allowed to testify in courts, further enhancing their status. The importance of these early laws cannot be understated as precedents for how our nation eventually evolved. These were the first laws that based human rights on skin color.
The genius of this became evident over time. The paltry benefits afforded poor whites were clearly less important to them than their status as “white” people. Poor whites were hired to form slave patrols in order to cement the notion that they had more in common with the wealthy white elite than they did with black slaves. The overriding irony of this system was that slavery tended to diminish the wages and opportunities for poor whites. Poor whites and black slaves had significantly more in common with each other than either did with the white elite. Despite this, the importance of “whiteness” had become so powerful by the time of the Civil War that millions of poor whites fought and died to preserve a system that exploited them nearly as much as it did blacks.
We whites in the 21st century can no longer expect fifty acres of land, but what we can expect (statistically at least) is that we will have, as compared to the descendents of slaves, more of society’s benefits. We can expect to live longer, healthier, safer lives. We can expect to earn more money and to have accumulated more wealth. We can expect better education and more lucrative jobs. We can expect to be much less likely to be incarcerated or harassed by the police. For all these apparent benefits for being white we are, by and large, intensely supportive of the status quo and the corporate capitalist system that provides these benefits. Our loyalty and participation in this system provide us what we in shorthand call white privilege. These privileges have become so commonplace and ordinary that they have become largely invisible to us and at some deep level we have the sense that they are deserved. We are, in short, the loyal constituency of a wealthy elite.
This insidious and brilliant system functions today as well as it did in 1670. The divide that exists between blacks and whites still prevents us from working together for our common economic and social interests. The knee jerk tendency to blame blacks for the economic problems experienced by whites is still a vibrant tool of political manipulation. It is currently being used to scapegoat Latino immigrants, with claims that they threaten the wages and standard of living of (white) American workers. Even if our borders were slammed shut right now, capital and jobs would continue to flow abroad, to the continuing detriment of all American workers – black, white and brown.
This white privilege that we protect with such ferocity is based on an illusion created by the wealthy to protect their status. The illusion is that whites are more deserving than people of color. And the purpose of this illusion is precisely the same as it was in 1670 – to sow divisions between groups who might threaten the wealth of those in power.
* At that time, chattel slavery, the ownership of a person and all of that person’s offspring for life, had not yet become a norm in the Americas. Some plantation owners who used European indentured servants for cheap labor also made indentured servants of the Africans they purchased. Indentured servants were required to provide their masters with a certain number of years of labor, and then were freed. By about 1700 it became a law that Africans and their descendents could not be indentured servants. Those who were then indentured servants entered chattel slavery, becoming slaves for life. Like all free blacks, former indentured servants were always at risk of being captured and sold into chattel slavery.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Peter Witzler, Senior Community Political Organizer
Supporting People, Supporting Communities
http://spsc.seiu.org/, SEIU, Public Services Division
Cell: 202.257.4952, Office: 202.730.7389
Photo from Red Bubble.
|Great to get this from the Sierra Club-- they were late to the game, but with us now.|
It's not like we at Arise haven't been busy this summer, because we have-- but looking ahead to the fall, to everything we want to accomplish, I feel both excited and anxious.
This week we've been interviewing candidates for a resource developer position at Arise-- seven people total. It's been hard. I liked every person we interviewed. Some clearly had more experience with fundraising and with social justice than others but everyone had at least one quality we knew would make a valuable contribution to Arise.
What really got to me, though, is how desperate people are for work. We got resumes from teachers, veterans, web designers, single mothers, organizers and store clerks. They were fully qualified to do the work that they had been doing previously, and for which some had spent big bucks in the educational system. But they'd been laid off, and unemployed long enough to know they were unlikely to get work in their field.
If you can't get a decent job with a good education, you can imagine what it's like for everybody else. Yeah, there are some part-time, service jobs out there, that don't even come close to supporting you, but even they are out of reach for some. On Saturday, I got a call from a guy, a former member of Arise, who was serving a five year prison term at Walpole! he was out! He's spent some of this past week visiting former employers, to see about the possibility of a job. Most were sympathetic, but couldn't or wouldn't offer work. The future looks rough for my friend, and I hope we can help him hang in there until he gets a break. But it could be a long time.
I've been thinking a lot about the Poor People's March on Washington, D.C. next June 30, and how we're going to get there. Maybe it'll help break down the invisibility of the poor that Katha Pollitt has written about in the Nation:: The Poor, Still Here, Still Poor. Check it out.
Photo from b4b2's photostream at Flickr.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
September 7th, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
One of my favorites is Tennessee Ernie Ford's version of "Sixteen Tons." It was the #1 song in 1955, when it was released. i heard it as a kid and have remembered it all my life.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
First Nations and American Indian Leaders Arrested In Front Of White House To Protest Keystone XL Pipeline.
Representatives of Native governments and organizations from the United States and "The Dene people in northern Canada passed a resolution standing in solidarity with Native Americans and other people opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. We want the people of America to hear our concerns, as people that live downstream from the tar sands development" said Chief Bill Erasmus, Dene Regional Chief of Gitz Deranger, Dene from "We have thousands of ancient and historical cultural resources that would be destroyed across our treaty lands. It's my responsibility as a woman to stand with Mother Earth against corporate male dominated greed. White Plume stood proud as her hands were handcuffed behind her back and led away. "This is a matter of life and death. Our human rights should not be on the altar of US energy policy," says Pat Spears, a Lakota, with Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, of Chief George Stanley, Regional Chief of SOURCE Indigenous Environmental Network www.prnewswire.com Copyright (C) 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved -0- KEYWORD: INDUSTRY KEYWORD: ENV OIL SUBJECT CODE: NTA
Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara/Photo Shadia Fayne Wood
Representatives of Native governments and organizations from the United States andtraveled long distances to to tell President Barack Obama not to issue a permit for the construction of a controversial 1,700 mile pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
"The Dene people in northern Canada passed a resolution standing in solidarity with Native Americans and other people opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. We want the people of America to hear our concerns, as people that live downstream from the tar sands development" said Chief Bill Erasmus, Dene Regional Chief ofand representative of the Assembly of First Nations.
Gitz Deranger, Dene from, living downstream from the tar sands, says, "I have seen the devastation of our people's health with increased cancer deaths. If Obama approves this pipeline, it would only lead to more of our people needlessly dying." "Our people oppose this pipeline because of the potential contamination of the surface water and of the aquifer," says Deb White Plume, Lakota grassroots leader, with Owe Aku, an Oglala Lakota organization in .
"We have thousands of ancient and historical cultural resources that would be destroyed across our treaty lands. It's my responsibility as a woman to stand with Mother Earth against corporate male dominated greed. White Plume stood proud as her hands were handcuffed behind her back and led away.
"This is a matter of life and death. Our human rights should not be on the altar of US energy policy," says Pat Spears, a Lakota, with Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, of.
Chief George Stanley, Regional Chief ofsaid the pipeline was initiated under the previous Bush administration and inherited by Obama. "Our First Nations in Alberta have been concerned of the lack of consultation of the pipeline and tar sand expansion. President Obama can do what's right. The President's approval of this pipeline is not in the national interest of US or Canada." Tom Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, the organization that organized the Indigenous Day of Action in said, "The tar sands and pipeline infrastructure are weapons of mass destruction leading the path to triggering the final overheating of Mother Earth. President Obama made promises to Native Nations. Here is an opportunity for him to honor those promises and be a man of conscience by standing up to corporate power and saying no to the Keystone XL pipeline."
SOURCE Indigenous Environmental Network www.prnewswire.com Copyright (C) 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved -0- KEYWORD: INDUSTRY KEYWORD: ENV
OIL SUBJECT CODE: NTA