Sunday, June 24, 2012

June Teenth/Justice for Charles

Yesterday's June Teenth event lacked only one element to make it the perfect day: the presence of Charles Wilhite.

On Monday, the court will set a date for a bail hearing; the bail hearing may be (we hope) July 2.  Once again, community support makes a difference.

Ruben, Tony, Maggie and Jeremiah at the Arise table

Best former city councilor ever- Amaad Rivera

Vira Cage, Charles' aunt, coordinating  the day

Lucinda Ealy coordinating childcare

Dan Keefe from Out Now & Justice for Charles with Vira

Rev. Charla Kouadio and Maryanne Winters

Arise's Ellen Graves & musician Ben Grosscup

Amanda's boys

Jean Sherlock on the racist school system

Rep. Ben Swan and Vira

In the hat-- Arise member Sheldon Gaynor from Like It Or Not

Early Arise member Helen Drungo, Charles' grandmother

'Candejah Pink from No One Leaves

Arise member Keith Peters, who's coordinating next Saturday's CORI Independence Day
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

3rd Annual C.O.R.I. Independence Day-Opportunity House

Project Coordinator, Keith Peters of Arise for Social Justice, spoke to a group of men at The Opportunity House this morning, June 19th. Keith spoke in depth on the logistics of sealing criminal records. The men at the Opportunity House are recovering from substance abuse and other health issues. Obtaining Employment and Housing can be difficult when you have a record with the criminal justice system. Keith promoted the upcoming CORI reform day being held at Blunt park in Springfield, MA on June 30th from 11:00am to 4:00pm. The men at the Opportunity House  had many questions around CORI and the 3 Strikes legislation currently being considered in Massachusetts.
The Opportunity House, owned by Behavioral Health Network- BHN, has 38  residents. The average stay at the House is from 6 to 7 months. With the help of a experienced staff, each resident is encouraged to establish a recovery network, rebuild family ties, find employment and housing.  It is one of the few effective programs in the state offering these services. Opportunity house has been open since 1971. BHN also operates "My Sisters House" a similar program for Women located in Springfield Ma.
Arise applauds the efforts of the Staff at Opp House for allowing all of the residents to attend this important event, both this morning and the upcoming event on June 30th Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I had lived in Western Massachusetts all of my life before I moved to Springfield. I had only lived here for a couple of months. I had walked by 467 State Street many times. The sign, ARISE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, intrigued me. Social Justice? Well I was pretty sure I was all about Social Justice. Isn't everyone? I would look in the window and see that the folks inside always seemed very busy. There was a mix of folks inside. Older, younger, White, Latino, African American. People going and coming, Most of the folks either on the phone or in front of a computer monitor. Some younger folks making big signs, "JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL"   What the heck do they do in there? I had asked some of my friends if they knew what ARISE was. One dude told me it was a "Lefty cult, very radical, some Jesus freak shit" This made no sense to me. There were signs in the windows, but nothing about Jesus. Nobody was coming out in the street after me trying to recruit me to sell incense and handing out those Jesus pamphlets. No, I was pretty sure my friend was wrong. I would often stop and read the literature posted in the window. "Police Brutality case nearing
close" - "3 Strikes legislation in the House" - "Do you owe Community Service Hours? You Can do them Here". I had to find out what Arise For Social Justice was all about. I owed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a fine. I wasn't working at the time and paying this fine was near to impossible. The representatives at the Hall of Justice were understanding enough to allow me to perform community service in lieu of the fine. 

This is how I discovered what Arise for Social Justice was all about. On my first day, I was asked to hand out flyers addressing a upcoming rally. The next few weeks I started to get to know the staff and other volunteers. They were working for SOCIAL CHANGE, at a grassroots level. These folks were committed to issues I had been concerned with for a very long time. I did not know that there were local organizations that fought for these important concerns, issues such as Homelessness, Poverty, Police Injustice, Needle Distribution, Tenants Rights. 

On a daily basis I would see families come into the office that were being evicted or losing their section 8 housing. I was amazed at the level of compassionate concern shown to each and every one of these folks. From advocacy to the housing court, to advising individuals of their right with an arrest or a mistreatment by the local law enforcement. 

I discovered there were many issues I knew little about. The Arise staff were kind, generous and patient, educating me on many issues and taking the time to be sure I understood them. On one occasion, I was handing out flyers promoting a upcoming event on the 3 Strikes Legislation currently being considered in Massachusetts. On that day the Governor was scheduled to speak. The New Dunbar Center was merging with the YMCA, and  all of our local politicians showed up. The Mayor, a Congressman, City Councilors, a host of  Springfield businessmen and the media. This was the first time I would identify myself as being from Arise for Social Justice. As Mayor Sarno was arriving at this event, I approached and handed him a flyer denouncing the 3 strikes bill. (Little did I realize I'd be seeing a  lot more of Mayor Sarno.) The feeling I clearly recall from that day was a sense of purpose. Like I was making a difference. Just handing out flyers and asking folks to support us. The issue needed support. It still does! 

On that day, I carried an important message. One person to another. Approaching and talking with a mother with children in tow or a college student or a businessman on lunch, about the great burden this law would put on our Families, our Community our State and our Country. I was beginning to realize that I wasn't just handing out flyers. I was helping to influence a proposed law, at a Grassroots level. I began to realize further that this is how change begins. This is how we can make a difference in our City, in our State and in our Country.
My life has changed considerably since I walked into 467 State street. I have been honored to meet committed individuals who are willing to stand up to the bureaucrats and fight injustice. The folks who call themselves members of Arise, give a voice to the poor and the homeless, speak out against industry that destroys our environment and fearlessly demand answers from our elected officials.

I am proud to stand with my colleagues and call myself a member of  Arise for Social Justice.

Please join us on the firing lines and help us make a difference. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, June 11, 2012

Breast cancer:

Today's Cape Cod Times has a disturbing article about funding cuts for breast cancer studies and prevention-- I can think of a dozen items I'd cut in the state budget before this.  Then, of course, we could restructure the state income tax so that higher income people pay a fair share!

(The graphic shows the distribution of breast cancer in the state from 1982 - 1994.  Hate to think what it is now.)

Silent Spring looks to end dry spell

State funding for environmental research on possible contaminants in the Cape's drinking water is getting harder to come by.
It's a situation that advocates for breast cancer research say could delay the development of protective regulations, costing lives as well as treatment dollars.
After receiving no state funding for the past two years, the Silent Spring Institute in Newton asked legislators on Beacon Hill for $150,000 this spring to continue a study on carcinogens and endocrine disrupters in the Cape's drinking water. Lawmakers in both houses, however, turned down funding for the nonprofit organization, founded in 1994 to study the Cape's high rates of breast cancer.
But some fancy footwork by state Sen. President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and Sen. Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, could salvage one-third of Silent Spring's request.
At the last minute, the legislators got a "technical amendment" to include $50,000 for Silent Spring in the Senate budget. "It's really important work," Wolf said.
Now Silent Spring leaders hope the proposed funding survives a joint conference committee review.
The reduced amount "is a good start," said Cheryl Osimo, co-founder of Silent Spring Institute and communications director of its sister organization, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition.
"But we need to fill the gap to have an active research project on the Cape again," she said.

Hurt by budget crisis

The money is a far cry from the $1 million in funding Silent Spring got from the state a little more than a decade ago.
The institute used the funds for studies on breast cancer incidence rates and such factors as pesticide and land use in an attempt to look for possible environment links to breast cancer on the Cape.
It also conducted a household exposure case-control study showing that contaminants from building materials and consumer products end up in the air and dust of people's homes.
Many of these contaminants are classified as endocrine-disrupting compounds, which because of their ability to interfere with the body's hormone system makes them suspect in cases of breast cancer.
But Silent Spring lost its state funding when falling tax revenues contributed to the state budget crisis in 2003.
Since then, the organization, which has an annual budget of $1.6 million in private and federal funds, has focused its Cape work on studies into possible contaminants in drinking water.
Several of its studies, including one on private wells released in November, show that pharmaceutical products and artificial sweeteners as well as flame retardants, hormones, plasticizers and insect repellent are making their way into the Cape's private wells.
This is a concern to researchers, since many of these substances mimic estrogen, which causes breast cancer cells to grow in the lab.
Across the country, about 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year. Barnstable County has the state's highest breast cancer mortality rate, according to a report by the Massachusetts affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The Cape's annual death rate from breast cancer is 29.4 out of 100,000 here, compared with the state average of 21.4. Barnstable County's breast cancer incident rate also is higher than the state average, according to the Komen foundation.
"Breast cancer incidence has been elevated on Cape Cod ever since the Massachusetts cancer registry began in 1982," Silent Spring Institute Executive Director Julia Brody said.
In December, the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit organization that acts as the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, "issued a clear statement saying that science now documents plausible biological links between environmental chemicals and breast cancer risk," Brody said.
She said it was the first time a major medical organization had made such a claim.
But with the economic crisis affecting public research dollars available at both the federal and state levels, Silent Spring has been facing budgetary woes.
The federal government filled some of the state funding gap with four congressional appropriations, the last of which was $350,000 in September 2010.
But those appropriations ended with the federal ban on earmarks, although the organization continues to receive other federal grants.
The Massachusetts Environmental Trust helped out with the Cape drinking water studies until it dropped its funding in fiscal 2011, Osimo said.
Nearly a quarter of the organization's funding comes from private donations, Osimo said. She said it gets more than a third of its funding from nonprofit foundations and 42 percent from various federal grants. It just received $200,000 from the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which Osimo said will help update the organization's epidemiology database and develop new biomarkers for exposure to contaminants.

Lack of funding 'appalling'

Karen Joy Miller of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition on Long Island, N.Y., the fundraising arm for one of the country's largest studies on environmental links to breast cancer, said the funding situation is "appalling."
She said her organization no longer receives funds from the county, state or federal governments.
Miller said Huntington and Silent Spring have been role models for involving the community in discussion about breast cancer and partnering with private donors to offset lost public funding.
Environmental research organizations can't expect the deep-pocket corporate support that floats pharmaceutical and other research, said Dr. John Erban of Tufts Medical Center Cancer Center, who is on Silent Spring's board.
"There is very little revenue to be gained in prevention. The financial incentive is lacking," Erban said.
But there is great cost savings to be had in preventing cancer, especially as the population ages, he said. Unfortunately, organizations "are not doing nearly as many studies as could be done, because of limitations on resources," Erban said.

Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, June 10, 2012

become a housing Discrimination Tester!

Nearly 4 million Cases  of 
Housing Discrimination Occur Each Year - YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THAT  STATISTIC
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

57 Suffolk Street, 3rd Floor, Holyoke, MA
Deadline: June 12


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Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Add caption
April 2nd, 2012- Almost 100 of us came out in support.

Many of us spoke on the Homelessness in our city. We were right across the street from you Mr. Mayor. We were angry. Couldn’t you hear us? We signed petitions. We addressed with great clarity how serious our problem is. We requested a meeting with you Mr. Mayor, to discuss the travesty that only gets worse as you ignore it. You had to have heard us THEN, didn’t you Mr. Mayor?

We stood at your doorstep and called for action. Our Great Warriors marched up your grand marble staircase and hand delivered a letter to your office. You weren’t available Mr. Mayor. You must have had something more important to do than housing the poor of Springfield. It seems you may think we are easy to ignore. We are not going away Mr. Mayor.

 We decided to come to your office, with hope of a meeting to discuss the urgent need of Housing. We showed up with our own beautiful oriental carpet, lighting, music, magazines and entertainment. Hell, we even bought lunch. You called the police.

 You smiled as you tried to walk by us Mr. Mayor. You got about 10 feet away, and you couldn’t help yourself. You turned around and came back for the last word. You did this three times. You pointed your finger, you talked down to us, and you showed us arrogance. In the face of a homeless mother, in tears, you showed NO compassion. You walked away.        

We are not going away Mr. Mayor.

We now  demand a Housing Task Force, made up of at least 50% low or moderate income members. We are not going away!

 Finally, Mr. Mayor, On the 1 year anniversary of the tornado, you invited all of your supporters in city and state government, for a time of self-congratulatory frivolity, 50 of your supporters came to the First Church, a far cry from the thousands  you claim to have been involved in the Rebuilding Springfield Effort. We were there Mr. Mayor. You walked right by us. We had signs- “What About Us?” You pretended not to see us once again. You smiled as you walked past the 6 year old who looked directly at you, asking for help. Can’t you see why we are Angry Mr. Mayor? You have kept us out of the Rebuilding Springfield plan. We have repeatedly tried to be involved. We have real ideas, with real poor people, with real needs. A real difference could be made here Mr. Mayor with input from those who desperately need help. But, you choose to ignore us. Can’t you see why we are Angry Mr. Mayor? We are not going away.

You indiscriminately demolished housing after the tornado without Due Process. Without professional opinion stating whether or not the structure could be saved, and then you charged the owner for the demolition cost.  Many more families needlessly homeless because of a decision that could have been avoided if we had a Housing Task Force in place. A task Force of the People to give voice to their needs. Given the millions of dollars being appropriated to housing in Springfield, supposedly, to help those most devastated by the tornado, it would make perfect sense to listen to those individuals. THE HOUSING TASK FORCE.  You will not even meet with us on this issue Mr. Mayor. You choose to ignore us. Can’t you see why we are ANGRY?

We, the voices of THE VOTERS, THE FAMILIES, THE CHILDREN, THE POOR, THE HOMELESS, Need a Housing Task Force in Springfield.


By John Morris
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