Monday, January 2, 2012

25 Years and Counting :-)

25 years ago it was 1987. Reagan was president, Governor Dukakis and John Kerry were Gov and Lt. Gov , Richard Neal was Major of Springfield, Unemployment was at 3.5%, and the Monarch Life Insurance Company was beginning to build Monarch Place, the new 400ft skyscraper.  Despite these statistics, cracks were beginning to appear in this fa├žade of prosperity.  Springfield’s crime rate was increasing and its white population was fleeing to the suburbs.  Over 400,000 Massachusetts citizens received some form of welfare aid. A family of three, who received maximum welfare benefits, was expected to make ends meet with just $549 a month, just over half of what they needed to actually survive; Over 1000 families were homeless each month.  The wealth gap was growing and those in poverty were beginning to grow restless.

              It was into this environment, just two year earlier, that four women on welfare met around a kitchen table do see what they could about the injustices they experienced in the welfare system.  As they began to build political power, helping with the Up and Out of Poverty Campaign, other members of the community began to join these women.  As the Arise Community grew, the organization grew with it. In 1987, Arise applied for and received non-profit status and rented our first office in Springfield.  Even though the founders eventually did find low wage work, they found themselves dealing with the same prejudices and oppression they faced as mothers on welfare.

Although Springfield and Arise have gone through many changes, their fundamental traits have not changed. Although Springfield is a slightly more diverse city with many cultural and ethnic traditions, big business and wealth still try to dominate.  Minorities and the under privileged are still marginalized, ignored, and oppressed. After 25 years, Arise is still dedicated to fighting for the voiceless, helping people find their voice and working for city and culture wide change.  Today, our issues have expanded to include issues that affect not only low-income people but all people. Our member driven committees cover racism, economic justice, justice for criminals, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, environmental justice, and anti-war/pro-peace actions. We have seen amazing progress on many fronts, but there is still much to be done.

Over the coming year, in addition to our regular efforts, Arise will be hosting a series of special events, blog posts, open mic nights, film nights, and other great events to celebrate the last 25 years and look forward to the next 25 years.  You’ll hear from founding members, older members and some current members. It will all culminate this October with our 25th Anniversary Gala!

           We will be posting details both here, on Facebook and on Twitter, so please stay tuned and plan to join us in both celebration and in rededication to meaningful and lasting change! 
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