Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poem for Mayor Sarno

The last time we occupied the mayor's office for lunch, Amanda (who is living in a welfare motel although DHCD is trying to kick her out) wrote a poem which she brought with her.  Seeing as the mayor was "not available," we read it to the staff and left a copy for the mayor.  Here it is:

The poor have no choice
Poverty denies them the right to choose
It makes decisions for them
Like a dictator makes decisions for a country
There are no negotiations
Poverty is a dictator.

The poor eat whatever is there
No matter how rotten it is
no matter how little it is

The poor wear whatever is there
No matter how torn it is
No matter how dirty it is

The poor live in whatever shelter is there
No matter how small it is
No matter how run down it is

There poor do whatever job is there
No matter how low-paying it is
No matter how dangerous it is

So I take the time again

Please give us a task force
for low and moderate housing


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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Subtle classism

I didn’t get to finish college. I started, but then life got in the way. It happens all the time. Me, I quit school to go to work full time and help support my family. My dad was dead and we were poor, so there wasn’t much choice. It didn’t stop me from learning it just stopped me from going to “a traditional school.” Instead, I went to what they use to call “The school of hard knocks” but it’s really just life.
This past year, though I had the chance to be part of The Clemente Course in the humanities at the Care Center in Holyoke. A bunch of “non-traditional” students gets to study the humanities twice a week for eight months. Writing, literature, art history, American history, and moral philosophy--> We range in age from early 20’s to 60+ years. I’m at the top end of the age group, with only two other women older than me, mostly Hispanic but a good mix of black, white and “other.”
This week we are starting on the last part of the course, moral philosophy. I’ve made friends I probably would have never met otherwise, both students and hopefully teachers. You see, the teachers get it. They get why the humanities are an important part of learning, but some people don’t.
I started this post because this past week I’ve been floored by statements made by people who, you would think, should know better. One statement was in a recounting of a conversation, which brought to mind another statement made late last year, and the other happened just the other day at a meeting.
Anyway, last Thursday, Kent, our lit teacher and coordinator of the course asked to speak to a couple of us. He was writing an article on the course for a publication and because his word count was limited, he needed some advice. What was it about humanities that made it worth studying to non-traditional students? The question arose out of a conversation he had when asked about his work. The person he was speaking to asked him why learning the humanities was important to the students in the Clemente Course and wouldn’t it be better if we were taught a skill in stead? I mean, really, WTF--talk about academic privilege and classism. This brought to mind a statement about the benefits of mixed income housing, so the more affluent in the community would have workers close by that would work cheap. Duhhh! And this from the head of the local non-profit low-income housing agency. We call people like that “Poverty pimps.”
This week I was at a meeting to try and sort out some issues that came up between members of a coalition we, Arise, belong to. We were talking about how Arise as an organization was perceived by some of the coalition members, as if because we were intelligent, politically astute, knowledgeable about social justice, and have a power analysis from a poor people’s perspective, we must have been to college. We must be one of privileged. So when there was a misunderstanding, and we got accused of trying to steal/horn in on/takeover a campaign that not even one Arise member had been working on, and that we, as a poor people’s organization had been looking at as part of a solution for homelessness, for years, at least 10 years and the accuser was one of the ‘up and coming’ leaders of the organization the coalition started, and when one of the strategies of the coalition was to shake up the privileged class, nobody said Boo! So in building a new organization/coalition from a grassroots base where members, the people, are the driving force, well then our voices not only weren’t as important but all of a sudden we weren’t to be trusted? When I said academic privilege in the context of perception, OMFG did I hit a nerve. The people at the table just stared with blank looks. Kind of like “What? Who? Me? I have no idea what you are talking about. I don’t feel guilty for going to collage.’ ” Gee, do you think they/he really didn’t know what academic privilege was? To me, it sounded like guilt, a lot of guilt. Whether it was guilt because of academic privilege or guilt because they got called on their shit or just the exceedingly high levels of testosterone in the room, I can’t say for sure, it could be any one or all three. What I do know is that at that meeting, there were nine of us, 3 men and six women, 2 other male regulars were not there and one of the women that was there is not usually involved in this specific work. All of the men, including those not in attendance, have at least a bachelors’ degree and only 2 of the women, I know for sure went to college this included the woman who isn’t usually involved. The rest of us learned this shit the hard way, by living it every day.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition Presents: "Religion and Sexuality: A Spiritual Conversation"

The Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition will be holding an event titled
"Religion and Sexuality: A Spiritual Conversation" on Wednesday, May 16,
from 7 - 9 pm at South Congregational Church, 45 Maple St., Springfield.
The event includes the documentary film, "Missionaries of Hate" followed by
a panel discussion of area clergy, including:

Pastor Susannah Crolius, South Congregational Church, Springfield
Rev. Charla Kouadio, Christ Community Church, Chicopee
Rev. Louis Mitchell, Interfaith Ministries, Springfield
Rabbi Mark Shapiro, Sinai Temple, Springfield
Jamilah Ali, Pioneer Valley Progressive Muslims

Light refreshments provided. Free Admission, although donations are
welcome. For more information, contact Holly at 348-8234 or
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

It’s not poverty—it’s thrift! Change your mindset.

Over the past several years we here at Arise have frequently talked about how to save money. We all have heard about or seen on TV extreme couponing, like where you can get 25 boxes of cereal for $3.00, or some really intense ways of saving, like the family who cuts squares of cloth from old clothing to use as T.P. Yuck! This is some interesting stuff but I don’t have the time it takes to extreme coupon, besides what happens when you can’t afford the gas to store hop. Cutting out the use of plastic bags or saving water to save the planet is great, it’s important, but we have to save ourselves first before we can save the planet.

What we were talking about was what we could save as poor people, people without money. You see, we save differently from people who have money, even when it’s only a little bit more money. We need to be able to save on everyday things, like stretching a meal, or saving on groceries when we only have $40.00. For us older folks, 40+, our parents or grandparents lived through the “Great Depression.” My Gram saved the backs of envelopes to use for scratch paper or washed, folded and reused tinfoil, when it was still called tinfoil. In the winter my dad would take old newspapers fold them tight and force them into the frame of the outside door to save on heat. These are the kind of savings we’re talking about.

Growing-up being thought of as "cheap" was bad. Cheapskate, skinflint, tightwad, stingy, greedy not nice names. If something was cheaply made it was worth little or of poor quality. Frugal, thrifty, prudent these are much nicer words but they mean the same thing CHEAP! Cheap isn't a bad word, I like the word, one syllable, one short sound that says exactly what it means, Cheap. I like being cheap. Way back when before I was a parent it was just me and the husband, we would buy a roasting chicken, cut it up (roasting birds are a bit bigger than fryers) and get 4 meals out of it. Chicken breasts and rice, chicken legs and rice, chicken salad from everywhere else and then boil the bones and have chicken rice and soup, rice is a great food too. Sometimes if there was any of that left we would make a 5th meal by adding dumplings. Even today when the kids are home for a visit they ask me to cook meals from when they were little or send then the recipes for. What they didn't know then was that we had no money and so ate what was cheap. Kitchen sink soup, you know the soup that had everything but the kitchen sink in it or tuna casserole or spaghetti that had more veggies than meat or raisin and carrot salad recipe from the back of a box of welfare raisins. Cheap Cheap Cheap!

Talk to anyone from anywhere and ask, when there was nothing in the cupboards what did your mother feed you? Inevitability you hear rice and beans. For my family, we were lucky, when I was a kid my Mom would make Yankee rice and beans, I learned southern style from my husband, Mexican when I lived in Texas and Puerto Rican from my neighbors and friends here at home. My own kids got spoiled they only eat Puerto Rican rice and beans. And this is just food! Can you just imagine other ways for poor people to save money?

I got hundreds, and so do you! We have a new blog page; Cheap and proud of it: A Poor People’s Guide to surviving on almost nothing. So if you have something to share send it in and we’ll share it with the rest of the Ethernet. We’ll give credit where it’s due and when we can, and you get to help poor people just like you stretch every dollar we can!

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

What’s with the Weird Weather?
Climate Change Teach-in
  Thursday, May 17   6:30-9pm,
Unitarian Universalist Society    220 Main Street,  Northampton
The following  climate scientists and energy experts in the Pioneer Valley will discuss the latest science and increasing extreme weather events, and call for more urgent federal and state clean energy policies:

* Asst. Prof. Michael Rawlins, UMass Geosciences Dept.;
           Manager, UMass Climate System Research Center
* Prof. James Lowenthal, Smith College Astronomy Dept.
* Prof. Michael Klare, Hampshire College and 5-College Sustainability Program,
             author of “The Race for What’s Left: the Scramble for the World’s Last Resources”
* Prof. Jan Dizard,  Amherst College Sociology Dept. 
* Prof. Alan Werner, Mt. Holyoke College Geology Dept.

--Cash Prizes of $50, $25, and $15 to those who invite and bring along the most other
people --relatives, friends, neighbors, fellow workers or students, members of your faith
community or local organization—especially those who are not yet convinced of the
urgency to stop climate change.

--Co-sponsors:  Grow Food Northampton; GreenNorthampton; Peace and Justice Committee
of First Churches, Northampton; Traprock Center for Peace and Justice; Safe and Green Campaign;
Greenfield Community College’s Peace, Justice, and Environmental Studies Program;

--More Info:  Pioneer Valley Climate Action  413-625-6374  pioneervalleyclimateaction.org
                            and on Facebook

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