Tuesday, June 12, 2012
WHATS IS 467 STATE STREET?
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" http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/03/former_springfield_police_offi_4.html - "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.
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.