Saturday, December 14, 2013

An unfortunate racial incident as related by Martin Jones

An Unfortunate Racial Incident At Bruegger's Bagels in Northampton, Massachusetts

A black man was ordered to leave the premises under threat of arrest after the management angrily confronted him and said he couldn't stay there all day without making a purchase. He had just arrived and was trying to link his laptop to the Wi-fi before settling in. On past occasions he had been unable to access the wireless service and he wanted to make sure it was working. If it worked, he would stay and make a purchase. If it did not work, he would leave. 

The management pointed out that there were other places he could go and that there were families who came there. Apparently, the families were a factor in the matter. Apparently, the management had hoped that he had initially chosen another coffee shop and never came there in the first place. 

Within seconds after telling him he had to make a purchase, she came back and told him to just leave and furthermore, she would not allow him to make a purchase. 

What she did not realize is that the black man was startled and had been taken aback by the confrontation which she initiated. It was characterized by her angry, aggressive and threatening posture towards him and he was at first understandably reluctant to immediately approach her thereafter in the process of ordering and making a purchase. So he paused and took a minute to regain his composure while waiting for his computer to link with the wireless service. 

 If the hesitation was construed as defiance, it was probably due in no small part to the common and widely
preconceived expectation that black men are violent troublemakers.

She was obviously certain that he was a homeless man who had just left the overnight shelter that closes every day in the early morning, discharging the homeless guests who have to spend the day seeking places to go to escape the harsh winter weather. 

What she did not know was that the black man was not a transient, but a years-long resident of the city and a well-known local musician who was only there at the early hour because of a once-in-a-lifetime event that was occurring overseas at that very moment in Johannesburg, South Africa: the funeral of Nelson Mandela. 

World leaders from dozens of countries had traveled from around the globe to pay tribute to the hero of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. 

The event's featured speaker was none other than Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States. 

The black man nonetheless found himself barred from access to that event under circumstances which led him to believe that his race made him an unwelcome element at the bagel shop where he had hoped to watch the live coverage of Mandela's memorial service online.

 He ultimately resolved to put the ordeal behind him and left the establishment after the manager rebuffed his belated attempt to purchase a cup of coffee. Instead, she placed an imaginary phone call to the local police department and no officers would arrive there until being asked to do so by the very same black man who had subsequently encountered them getting coffee at a Starbucks down the street. After hearing the black man's story and confirming that no police call had actually been made, they agreed to grant his request that they go back to the bagel shop and relay to the manager on his behalf the explanation that he was never allowed to give in his own words. 

 The black man was left feeling emotionally devastated by the experience, coming at such a poignant moment in history. He eventually decided that there would be no further action from him on the matter, except to never venture into that business again. 

Any attempt to peacefully resolve the situation would likely be viewed as threatening and result in the engagement of more law enforcement. 

The black man has now retreated to the solitude of his home, which unfortunately is beginning to feel like a prison cell. 

How truly appropriate indeed it all is, happening on this of all days when such a towering giant of freedom and justice as the great Nelson Mandela is being laid to rest. 

Let us all hope that the struggle does not die with him. It is pointedly clear that the fight against racism continues and must be carried onward with courage, grace and dignity. 
Martin Jones
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nobody wants these two beautiful children

I've been wanting to write about the Jobs With Justice 20th Anniversary event last Thursday, and also about the death of one of Arise's founders, which I found out about at the JwJ event, and I will, but first I want to write about the two beautiful homeless children who had been sleeping in the girl's father's car before they came to Arise today.

I hope they will forgive me for calling them children-- legally they are, not yet being eighteen. But they just felt so young and fragile to me-- no flesh on their bones.  I couldn't take my eyes off them.  

They were brought to Arise by a friend, Carlos, who has been volunteering with us.

"This is Mia and Alex," he says.  "They're homeless and they've been sleeping in a car.  They're seventeen, boyfriend and girlfriend. .  I told them to come to Arise because I knew you guys could help them."

My heart sinks.  The last thing we can ever do is promise someone we can find them shelter.  But we can at least listen and then do our best.

I talk to Alex first.

"Where were you living before you became homeless?" I ask..

I was in DCF custody." (That's the Dept. of Families and Children.)

"Don't they have a program for young people who are aging out of the system?"

"F**k them!" he said.  "DCF totally screwed up my life.  I don't wanna have anything to do with them."  I decided not to push,, because I did once help a young woman to get back under DCF supervision (not easy) but now was not the time.

"Do you have any family in the area?"

"No, I've been in the system since I was one. " he says  Long pause. "You just can't imagine.  I've been beaten, I've been burned, I was almost molested. DCF totally screwed me."

Next I talk to Mia.

"How did you become homeless?" I ask.

"My mom's new husband-- my stepfather-- is very strict," she says.  "He has a lot of rules, and I got kicked out."

We keep talking and she tells me that not too long ago, she was living in a domestic violence shelter with her mother.  I can't help wondering if her mom is now in a similar relationship to the one that brought her into shelter..

"You guys have a car?"

"No, we've been sleeping in my father's car.  He'd like to let us stay there, but his new girlfriend says no."

"Have you tried Worthington St. Shelter?"

"We did, but they told us we couldn't stay there because we're not eighteen, and they have lots of pedophiles there and stuff, and it wouldn't be good for us."  Damn, I'd forgotten.  (And where did Worthington St. refer them, if anywhere, I wonder?)

Next a couple of hours of leaving phone messages and getting callbacks.  Might they be eligible for EAEDC, a small income of about $300 a month for Elders, the Disabled, and Children?  Maybe if they can get into the educational programs at Mass Rehab.  Food Stamps?  Mia tells me that her mom is still receiving welfare for her, and she's still in the mom's food stamp budget-- is there any way she can get that money?  Food stamps yes, cash assistance no.  

Then calls to the only two teen shelters I know about-- SHINE at Gandara, but they are full, as usual, and the Safety Zone at the Center for Human Development, where there uis a glimmer of hope.  The woman I spoke with says she'll make some calls and see what she could do.  The teens CHD serves, those ages 14 to 17 are placed in a home with a family-- food, showers, a bed of their own-- but only for 21 days and, of course, not together.  My guess (but I'll find out) is that they provide some case management, but she also asks me if we will continue to work with them.  I say yes, and start wondering who might have a room in their house they'd let Mia and Alex stay in? 

 While Mia and Alex and I are waiting for CHD to call back, they make themselves something to eat in the back office (thank you, the person who brought the canned ravioli in today) and then they help staple copies of our Homeless Persons' Survival Guide.  They get to talk to some of the people sitting around our big table, and help staple copies of our Homeless Persons' Survival Guide.  I hear someone saying to Mia, "Well, at least you don't have any kids, and you're not pregnant.  Stay that way!"

CHD calls back; the woman has found places for both of them.  Thank you!  Can I get them to West Springfield by 3:30?  Yes, I can.  Mia and Alex are happy but also apprehensive.

We drive first to their father's car, where they have a few bags of clothes in the trunk, and then toward CHD.  Alex sees someone pushing a shopping cart full of cans.  "That's what Mia and I were doing in Hartford, to get food," he says.  The we arrive at CHD, where we wait a little awkwardly in the waiting room for the woman I've spoken with to come down.  There's an older Latina also waiting, who I only realize later is probably from one of the host families.

"Do you guys speak Spanish?" I ask.

"I do," Alex says, "her, not so much."  Mia smiles and shrugs a bit.

The CHD woman comes down.  We introduce ourselves and shake hands.  She shakes hands with Mia and Alex.  Then she says to me, "We can take it from here."

I feel a both a pang and a sense of relief.  .The three of us hug and they both say they'll keep in touch-- might even come see us every day.  I've given them $10 each so they'll have a bit of bus fare and can call each other. 

When I get back to the office, Carlos says, "I knew this was the right place to bring them!  I knew you could help them."

"It was luck," I say.  "I just made phone calls."  And that's what it was, pure and simple-- luck.  We know too well how easily it could have gone the other way.

Mia and Alex: struggling to overcome broken families, broken promises, broken communities, broken economy.. At seventeen they are pretty much blameless for the situation in which they find themselves.  But in six or seven years, if life doesn't quite measure up to the dreams Mia and Alex have right now, if getting out of homelessness and finding a place where the ground doesn't move under them somehow continues to elude them, then there will be plenty of people to judge them and talk about all their bad choices and how they could get ahead if they really wanted to.

I hope we see them again.  I hope they become part of our family.  But whatever happens, I wish them well..

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

If even white guys are coming here.....

"Things must be getting bad out here," Jackie said, "if even white working guys are coming here for help."

Jackie was commenting on a guy who was working, but only part-time, who was looking for a room to rent-- under $400 a month, please-- because he's being put out of the room he's been renting in someone's house. 

She should have been here a few minutes ago, when a white guy in a suit came in to get one of our food pantry brochures.

The first couple of hours of today were relatively quiet but of course by 11 am., it was pretty non-stop.

We talked to three families today who have been determined to be not eligible for emergency shelter-- not, of course, that that makes them any less homeless.
-- A single dad with a 16 month old daughter who left shelter on January 31st, and won't be eligible until a year has passed. (White.)
-- A single mom with a 3 year old boy who left shelter 5 months ago after being assaulted by another resident.  Not eligible.  (White.)
-- A single dad with three kids who is working fulltime but lost his apartment after an illness.  He's sleeping in his car while the kids stay with his ex-girlfriend, who keeps saying, "When are you getting these kids out of here?" He's over-income for shelter.

We tell them what we of our members took the woman with the 3 year old home for the night.

Carl came in.  He was hit with a brick two days ago when out on the street and his assailant stole $9, all that he had.  He had a concussion but no money for the prescriptions given him.

So what is to be done?  I've been working on the Freedom of Information Request to the state to get information about how many people have been banned by Friends of the Homeless who may be out on the street.  And huge numbers of families have no place to go.  But nobody wants to help them, because they can't get paid by the state to do it.

Got a few other things done.  Members and volunteers made more copies of our Homeless Survival Guide. We made outreach calls for Ayyub's next court appearance on Friday.  I'm going to the Indian Orchard Citizens Council meeting to talk about Solutia and air pollution.

The photo is from our demonstration at the Econolodge last Friday.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

A rat in the pool: Does protesting injustice make a difference?

A few things of note from yesterday:

I missed a call from a woman from the Econolodge welfare motel, who had just taken a photo of a rat in the motel's swimming pool......I hope to reach her today and will post her photo if I can.

Then we got a call from the Chicopee Police Department-- it was pretty noisy in the office, but I'm pretty sure the caller said he was Police Chief Charette.  He wanted to let us know that the Econolodge owner had called and, not surprisingly, we are NOT allowed on the Econolodge property.  The chief was concerned about where we would stand for our protest, as the street is very busy and there is no sidewalk. He said the owner felt like he was being unfairly targeted.  He said the owner has plans to tear down the motel and build a Comfort Inn.  More power to him.

Of course the Econolodge is not our primary target-- it's the head in the sand homeless and housing policy of the Department of Housing and Community Development.  It's always tricky protesting a welfare motel, because the last thing we want to have happen is for DHCD to close motels as long as they are needed.  This is what happened two years ago (not as a result of protests) when DHCD policies about shelter eligibility lead to a denial rate of homeless families of about 60%.  (We'll have to make sure we ask for the current denial rate in our FOIA request.)  But assuming for a moment that the denial rate is the same, and knowing there are about 4,200 families in shelters and motels, then we can assume there are close to 11,000 homeless families in Massachusetts.You understand that DHCD is not saying these families aren't homeless-- just that they don't meet the eligibility criteria.

We did hear yesterday that 100 new shelter beds are coming online in Western Mass, to be managed by the Center for Human Development and the New England Farmworkers Council.  That's good news.  But it's still a bandaid on a bandaid. If we can't stop the market trend of ever-increasing rents, then we're going to need permanent subsidies and massive investment in new housing.

Last but scarcely least, we got a call yesterday from staff at Worthington St. Shelter, saying they had "good news" for Lisa, and that she should get in touch.  Now all we have to do is find her.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Worthington St. Shelter put Lisa's life at risk

I said in my last post that we'd been worried about Lisa, a homeless woman we hadn't seen in nearly a week.  At 5 pm today she came to the Arise office.  She was crying, saying she was not doing too good.  I asked where she'd been staying and she said, "On the street." 

Jackie said she'd call Worthington St. Shelter and plead for them to let her in.

"They won't let me in," Lisa said, "because the police brought me there last night at midnight and they turned me away anyway.  Worthington said I was banned."

"Why did they say you are you banned, Lisa?"

"Because I stole a scoop of Cremora when I was there a month ago."

What I knew had happened a month ago was that she had applied to get in, but staff told her she would have to go to detox first.  So she'd spent the whole of the next day at our office, calling detox every hour, as she'd been directed, but they never had a bed for her.  I emailed Bill Miller, Director, about her to ask why she couldn't stay at the shelter and make her calls to detox from there?  Bill said that was entirely possible-- and yet, she was still being turned away.

Sure enough, when Jackie called, staff said her case was "under review" but that she was still banned.

We still  had a lot of folks still in the office.  Carl, the guy sleeping under a bridge, had turned up about 4 pm.,  bringing a young homeless woman with him.  They were hungry.  Fortunately, Cynthia Melcher had brought us some food earlier in the day, so they cooked something up on the hotplate in our back office.  Two of our members were there, and they both took me aside and asked what I thought of their taking Carl, Lisa and Carl's friend home with them for the night.  (This could be a long discussion, but on a night when the temperature will fall to the low 30's, there is only a short answer.)

Lisa had fallen asleep sitting up in a chair and for a while had been snoring deeply.  But when I went to shake her awake and tell her the good news, I couldn't rouse her.  I wasn't even sure she was breathing!

Folks rallied around while I called 911, who connected me with the ambulance service.  Via instructions from the dispatcher, we got her on the floor, determined she was breathing although shallowly, and then she started to cough, deep and phlegmy, and rolled on her side.  When the paramedics arrived, they managed to get her to her feet and they walked to the ambulance. 

I thought, at least she'll have a place to sleep tonight.  I thought, what if she hadn't come here and had gone to some doorway in the city-- would she have been alive tomorrow?  I realized my blood was boiling; in fact, the office was full of concerned, angry people. 

I asked Liz what I could possibly  say to Worthington St. shelter staff that wouldn't get me accused of making a threat.  She suggested I phone in a report on the status of Lisa.  So I did.  All I said was, "I am calling to give you a status update on Lisa, the woman you turned away from shelter tonight.  She collapsed in our office and was taken away by ambulance.  You understand, this is the woman you turned away.  She could have died."  They hung up on me-- it must have been the barely controlled rage in my voice. 

Earlier today I talked with a Worthington St. resident who said things were rotten at Worthington-- that favoritism was rampant, that Worthington only wanted "the cream of the crop" of homeless people, that people were turned away night after night.  He and I will talk more later this week.

Rose Evans at the Division of Housing Stabilization at DHCD did, indeed, call me back today.  She told me that if I wanted information about the number of people on Worthington St.'s banned list, i would have to submit a Freedom of Information request.  She said it was their policy..  I said, wasn't it more costly and staff-intensive to use a FOIA, instead of just giving me the information?  She said it was their policy.  I asked if, by the way, she could give me the figure for the number of families in shelter? (I know the motel numbers because they are posted on the DHCD website; as of Tuesday night, 2,120 families were in motels.) She said if I wanted that information, to put it in a FOIA, which is really ridiculous, because it's pretty common knowledge among providers that the number of families in  shelters about equal the motel numbers.  But still, OK, I'll put it in a FOIA.  I made a few calls to statewide allies and asked them if while I was at it, was there anything that they wanted to know from DHCD?  

We've decided our demonstration at the  Econolodge will be on Friday at 1 pm.  We'll save Worthington St. for next week.

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Shelters, motels bulging at the seams with no end in sight

Today was just incredibly hectic at Arise (not that this is unusual). We talked with four currently homeless families, all calling from the Springfield or Holyoke welfare offices, and all being told they're not eligible for shelter, and one homeless woman with two kids who is placed at the Econolodge in Chicopee in a room that has bedbugs.

  • One quite pregnant 18 year old was told she needed proof of pregnancy.  Liz took care of her by providing a list of places that would do same-day pregnancy tests.  You'd think the Dept. of Housing and Community Development (the actual providers of shelter in Massachusetts, but housed at the Dept. of  Transitional Assistance offices)would have a list like this together by now.
  • I talked to a man who has custody of his 16 month old son but he was being denied shelter because he and the child's mother were in a homeless shelter for the month of January.  We got Community Legal Aid and Mass Justice Project involved in his case, but it doesn't look good.
  • Another woman and her one child left North Carolina (she had friends up here) after three incidents of being battered by her husband and having the police called made management decide not to renew her lease.  Doesn't look good for her, either-- she should have stayed in her apartment post-lease and forced her landlord to evict her, so she wouldn't fall in the category of having "abandoned" her housing, but how was she to know?  She's coming to the office tomorrow so she can have police reports faxed to Arise.
  • The one I feel worst about (at the moment) is a woman with three kids who probably is eligible for shelter, but the documentation DHCD is asking for is lengthy, and hard to gather when you have 3 kids, no car, and four suitcases to lug around.  I was going to tell her to ask for "presumptive placement" but didn't write down her phone number because by that point I was too utterly disorganized.  She didn't call me back. 
Why was I disorganized?  It shouldn't have happened but our senior aide was out today so when the phone rang, I just answered it.  I could have called one of the three very kind members/volunteer advocates or asked Jackie, Terrette or Tina,  who were trained by us a few weeks ago to do intakes and who were working on collating our next homeless newsletter, but I forgot!  And of course as it gets later in the afternoon, the window is closing on being able to get folks into shelter for that night, so you just tend to try to act fast.  I'll do better tomorrow.

The rest of my day, and much of Liz's day,  was taken up with figuring out if we were going to have a demonstration tomorrow at the Econolodge and in trying to reach the "policy people" who can answer some essential questions if they would only choose to do so.  More on that part later.

Last week a woman called me from the Econolodge, one of DHCD's motels for homeless families, saying she was overrun with mice in her room.  I told her to call the Chicopee Board of Health, which she did ; the BOH contacted the motel, and they moved her into another room-- but this morning she and her daughter had numerous "bites" which she could only assume were bedbugs. 

I told her maybe it was time for us to go picket the Econolodge (if that was OK with her) but that we needed to do some research first and I'd call her back.  So Liz called the Chicopee Board of Health and I called MJP to doublecheck on the number of "noncompliances" a motel resident can have before being terminated-- it's one, with termination on the second (you get one more chance in a shelter) and to make sure that participating in a First Amendment activity wouldn't count as noncompliance for motel residents (should be OK). The Board of Health had some interesting things to say.  Apparently they act quickly on complaints and ask for written proof the complaint has been resolved.  Seems like the Econolodge is certainly no worse than many other "welfare motels" and is better than some.

I talked to my contact at the motel again and she mentioned how Econolodge employees provide a shuttle van a few times a day which drops people at the Springfield bus terminal so they can look for work!  This is NOT required by its contract with DHCD as far as I know.  (This doesn't help my friend; one child leaves for school at 9 am, another at 1 pm, and then the first one gets home from school at 3 pm, so she has exactly a two hour window to be out looking for work.  Motel and shelter residents are not allowed to babysit for each other.)

"Look," I told her, "in this case, the problem is not the motel-- the problem is that there's not enough shelter and not enough affordable housing.  We can still come picket, but let's make DHCD the target."

So looks like we'll be doing this on Thursday..  I'll post on Facebook and email the time.

As of Monday night, there were 2,122 families in Massachusetts being sheltered in motels.  Add the number of families actually in shelter, and we're over 4,000 homeless families being sheltered.

I wonder if religious communities in each town where families are in motels could mobilize to help them meet some of their basic needs?  I wish I could say Arise has the resources to organize this.

Meanwhile, homeless single people are also much on our minds.

We've been worrying about Carl, a homeless STCC student who has been sheltering himself under a bridge.  Haven't seen him in a week.  And we're worried about Lisa, who was sexually assaulted on the streets last year, and who we haven't seen since last Wednesday.  I know she was trying to get to Westfield, and last Friday, a news article said a woman had been sexually assaulted by a man who had offered her a ride home.  Was it her?

I have been trying to get a list of people both permanently banned and banned for a year from Worthington St. Shelter for the last three weeks.  I asked the director, Bill Miller, to let me know the numbers (not the names) so we could get a sense of who's out in the community and unsheltered.  But apparently he has no intention of doing so.  I asked two of his board members if they could get the numbers, and Bill said he would provide them, but he still hasn't done so.  (I did hear that he will provide names of banned people to Gerry McCafferty, Office for Housing, so they can be prioritized  for Housing First-- and I know that wouldn't have happened without our badgering.) 

This is no academic exercise.  We hear that Juan Rivera, who was crushed to death last month while sleeping in a dumpster, was on the list of banned individuals.  How many people are sleeping out on the street?  While the "banned" numbers will not exactly correlate with street homelessness, it gives us a ballpark.  And seeing as we know of two rooming houses, housing more than 100 people, were recently closed in Springfield, we know that the availability of affordable housing in Springfield is NOT increasing.

I've been calling Rose Evans, Associate Director for the Division of Housing Stabilization at DHCD, twice a day for the last seven business days.  She can get this information for us if she ever chooses to return my call.  (UPDATE: I decided to call her before 9 am just now, and she actually picked up the phone.  She says she will get back to me by the end of the day.)

Just what are we to do about this insane situation? Unless you're in the low-income community, you just have no idea who unstable our whole community has become.

I want to thank those people who said they'd be willing to assist with a building takeover (I'll get back to you all personally later today).  But we're definitely looking for the right place!  I've been talking to Catholic Charities about church-owned property that is vacant-- there's a LOT of it!  WHY isn't it being pressed into service for homeless people.

Christina has been holding homeless committee meetings at the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen, 35 Chestnut St.  The next meeting is tomorrow at 1 pm, and the meeting after that is Wednesday, November 20.  But you don't have to wait that long to get involved.  Call Arise at 734-4948.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively – you should still care and must attend!

Back in January, I blogged “Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively – why you should care, why you should go!”  The case is ongoing and heating up.  Until now Scott Lively and his defense team have been mustering up every tactical move than can to avoid this trial. But they have run out of moves to try to get out from under the Crimes Against Humanity charges brought against him. The proceedings continue with a  discovery scheduling meeting before the magistrate on November 6th at 11am in the Springfield MA Federal Courthouse.
So, now again we are saying again – “Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively – you should still care and must attend!”
After being charged with Crimes Against Humanity and eve after the Court refused to dismiss the case against him,  Scott Lively has not slowed down from his life’s work of persecuting the LGBT community worldwide. In fact, he has stepped it up.
This past week Lively was in Russia, again, where he has been so many times. So proud of his work in Russia, and what he perceives as the resulting anti-gay legislation, he told Bryan Fischer of The American Family Association: “I indirectly assisted in that and it’s one of the proudest achievements of my career.”
Keep in mind he is bragging about his influence on the recent spate of Russian anti-gay legislation including the gay propaganda ban law, the gay adoption ban law, the arrest and deport foreign nationals suspected of being gay law, the label advocacy NGOs ‘foreign agents’ to cripple them law, and the new bill to remove children from gay families.
Lively even has a campaign going, supposedly supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, to take back the rainbow for the Christians so the nasty gays can’t use it to protest their persecution at the Sochi Olympic Games.
He’s been busy here in the U.S. as well fanning the flames of anti-gay hate. This year he has visited Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri on his First Amendment Supremacy Clause tour, signing up foot soldiers in the war against The Gay Agenda, specifically Human Rights Ordinances and the First Amendment liberty of individuals to refuse public accommodation to the gay community.
I have just returned from a nine-stop speaking tour in Nebraska, which is now on-board with the First Amendment strategy, along with Oklahoma and Missouri. I am looking for more invitations to conservative states where we can put these in place as a roadblock to the homosexualization of those states and perhaps build some momentum in the other direction.” July 2, 2013
In September, after their last appeal of the dismissal ruling was denied, Lively even issued a hit list of sorts complete with names, photos and places of employment of those he felt were responsible for the lawsuit brought against him. Not his persecution of the Ugandan LGBTI community, of course, but local activists supporting the case complete with ridiculous charges such as “especially aggressive against me and against our church”.
So yes, Lively is still at his bullying and bragging. As much as ever. He is still persecuting the LGBT community near and far. With nothing much stopping him, we need your help and your presence will show Lively that his behavior is abhorred by our community.
It will also help create opposition against his crazy notion that he is worthy of being the Governor of MA.
Sexual Minorities Uganda is proceeding with their lawsuit. It’s time for everyone opposed to American Evangelicals exporting hate and homophobia to come out and support SMUG. 
See you in front of the Federal Courthouse in Springfield on November 6th at 10:30 am.

Cathy Kristofferson
GetEQUAL/MA and Stop The Hate and Homophobia Coalition Springfield

crosspost from O-Blog-Dee-O-Blog-Da
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Historical Journey by - Doug George-Kanentiio For the past few years the Onyata, aka “People of the Standing Stone” or Oneidas of Madison County have played an increasingly large role in the economic affairs of central New York. While much has been reported about the Oneidas in the newspapers, the following information should give readers a better understanding of the Oneidas. We are told the Oneidas were part of a larger Iroquois family which originated in the American southwest thousands of years ago. The migration to the northeast took many hundreds of years to complete but ended when the Iroquois entered present day New York at the confluence of the Oswego River and Lake Ontario. From there the Iroquois separated into six distinct groups settling throughout the region. The Mohawks created a homeland along the Mohawk Valley followed, east to west, by the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. The sixth group journeyed far to the south, finally ending up in the North Carolina area. These were the Tuscaroras, a native nation which retraced its s teps to their ancient homelands in the year 1712 after losing a bitter war with English colonists. Oneidas refer to themselves as the “Standing Stone” because they had, in each of their villages, a large rock they would gather around to hold their ceremonial activities. The Mohawks are referred to as “People of the Flint”, the Onondagas are “People of the Hills”, the Cayugas are “People of the Swamp”, the Senecas call themselves “People of the Great Hill” and the Tuscaroras are the “Shirt Wearing People”. Originally, the Oneidas lived in an area which stretched from the St. Lawrence River to northern Pennsylvania and from the Chittenango Creek-Tioughnioga River on the west to the Unadilla River-West Canada Creek on the east. Total area for the aboriginal homeland of the Oneida Nation is estimated to be about 3,600,000 acres. Oneida life in pre-European times was centered around their villages. They were primarily agricultural with crops such as corn, beans and squash forming the greater part of their diet. They enjoyed a rich spiritual life with a major ceremonial gathering during each lunar month. Clans were essential to the orderly flow of Oneida culture. All social, political and religious functions were dependent upon the clans, as was the distribution of material goods. There were three clans: Bear, Wolf and Turtle. Each clan appointed three female leaders (clanmothers) and three male leaders (rotiiane or “chiefs”) to the national government. Also, each clan selected a man and a woman to serve as advisors on spiritual matters. These were/are the faithkeepers. All leaders were nominated by the clanmothers and were subject to ratification by their respective clan. They served for life unless impeached by their clans for such violations as insanity, greed, assault, rape, treason and incompetence, among others. The clan might also indicate they have no confidence in a leader or he/she might by their own actions commit crimes which violate their oath of office thereby removing themselves from office. With regards to a rotiiane his clanmother would give him three cautions to rectify his behavior. At the third such ‘warning’ she was accompanied by a young man who would, upon her instructions, remove the rotiiane’s deer antler headress, which was his symbol of office. Once removed, such a person was considered as “walking dead”, without voice in the people’s affairs or ever to be entrusted with any type of influence or power. They might also be banished from Iroquois territory either permanently or for a set period of time. In order to function as a qualified leader the candidate had to have a secure and stable home life, a solid marriage, be willing to accept the criticisms of the people (his skin was to be “seven spans thick”), live simply and without thought of personal enrichment, have considerable knowledge as to the traditional spiritual values of the community and be an active participant in all of the ancient rituals. Once selected as a candidate by the clan the prospective leader had to be endorsed by the Oneida national government (but not each individual member) then by the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy at a ceremonial called “Condolence” which the Council might elect not to do if they disapproved of the candidacy thereby sending the entire process back to the respective nation for a repeat of the selection process. For many generations the Oneidas prospered in their ancestral lands but with the arrival of the colonists in t he northeast they endured considerable cultural stress. Devastating epidemics of European borne smallpox and influenza killed hundreds of thousands of Native people in the east and the Iroquois suffered periodic plagues resulting in displacement, disorganization and chaos. In the 1600’s the Iroquois endured a century of warfare as the native nations in the northeast fought to reestablish political and economic power. The Confederacy engaged in brutal struggles with the Eries, Susqeuhannas, Algonquins, Crees, Chippewas, Illinois, Hurons, Mahicans, Abenkais and others until a general peace was secured in 1701. Also enveloped in this war were Dutch, English and French settlers who, in some instances, adopted a policy of playing one native nation against the other as the Europeans sought to expand their seacoast land base. The Oneidas were quick to adopt the new technologies brought to the region from across the sea. Firearms, tools and ornaments found a ready market in Oneida as the natives brought their furs for exchange to markets in Montreal and Albany. The Iroquois derived great political power by controlling the fur trade along with material prosperity. But the Oneidas were feeling the pressure of expanding European settlement; they watched with growing alarm as the Mohawks were driven north to the St. Lawrence River to escape the colonists. Likewise, small groups of Oneidas also went north but to seek easier access to the Catholic church since many of them had converted to Christianity. Oneidas settled across the river from Montreal in 1660 and in the 1730’s established a community called Oswegatchie near present day Ogdensburg, NY. During the American Revolution the Oneidas desired neutrality but were drawn into the conflict when their homelands were invaded by both American and British forces. In addition, the Rev. Samuel Kirkland was an influential advocate for the rebels and used his authority to divide the Oneidas, many of whom actively fought for the US. After the war, the Oneidas believed they would, because of their loyalty, have their lands secured but New York State adopted a policy of alienating Iroquois land by intimidation, threats, bribery and outright fraud. Through a series of highly controversial, and illegal, transactions New York assumed control over most of Oneida territory resulting in the displacement of the Oneida people. When US President Thomas Jefferson sought to remove all Natives west of the Mississippi, the Oneidas felt they had no choice but to secure their survival by finding refuge far from the settlers. Led by a Mohawk preacher named Eleazer Williams, most of the Oneidas left their homelands beginning in 1820 for territory among the Menominee Nation in eastern Wisconsin. This group was primarily Christian while another so-called “pagan” faction elected to form a community on the Thames River near London, Ontario. Another group chose to live on the Onondaga Reservation south of Syracuse while a fourth, the Marble Hill Oneidas, refused to leave and held on to their few acres outside of Sherrill, NY. Throughout the 19th century the Oneida lands in New York were gradually whittled away by New York in violation of federal law. Although the Oneidas complained vigorously not until 1985 would the merits of their case be upheld by the US Supreme Court. During those dark years the idea of the Oneidas returning home to live on an expanded land area was kept alive by a few individuals. In the 20th century patriots such as Mary Winder and her sister Delia Waterman filed numerous petitions to the US government to seek justice for their cause. While Mary Winder died in 1952, her sister continued to press the government. In 1972 the Oneidas remaining in New York filed legal action in the US courts before finally prevailing 13 years later. With the arrival of commercial gambling in Indian country in the late 1970’s the Oneidas sought to create an economic base by opening a small bingo hall which was later expanded. Throughout the 1980’s, however, intense internal struggles for control of the Oneidas resulted in violent clashes, recriminations and arson. In 1977 the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee acknowledged three individuals, Lyman Johns, Richard Chrisjohn and Arthur Raymond Halbritter, as messengers for the Oneida people residing in Central New York. With the death of Johns and Chrisjohn, Halbritter assumed unilateral powers and created an organization called the “Men’s Council”; a decision made without the approval of the Oneida people and condemned by the Grand Council. In April, 1993 Halbritter concluded secret negotiations with New York Governor Mario Cuomo resulting in a gaming compact to open a casino on disputed territory. The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee stripped Halbritter of his status as an Oneida spokesperson which then ratified by the US Department of the Interior on August 10 then rescinded a day later after the intervention of US Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) a sponsor of Halbritter and gambling advocate Halbritter moved to create a 54 member, completely non-Native police force to consolidate his power on Oneida territory. Using US government funds, Halbritter built a housing project and offered expanded social services to gain support. In August 1993 the Turning Stone Casino opened to quickly become the largest single employer in Oneida County. The Halbritter regime refused to comply with the 1988 Indian Gaming Act by supplying the National Indian Gaming Commission with audits from 1993-1996. Not until the Commission threatened to close the casino did the Halbritter regime acquiesce and submit a report, yet despite efforts by the Oneidas to obtain a financial accounting of the casino operations they have yet, as of May, 1999, to see such a document. On March 20th, 1995 the Wolf Clan members of the Oneida Nation gathered to meet at their Longhouse to find the locks had been changed. The non-Native police officers were instructed to arrest anyone trying to enter. They moved the meeting to the Wolf Clan Mother’s log cabin (Maisie Shenandoah) where the Wolf Clan members decided to remove Ray Halbritter as their Representative due to the numerous injustices done against the Oneida people. The Halbritter regime responded by stripping the “dissidents” of their status as Oneidas resulting in a loss of employment, health insurance, educational allowances, quarterly stipends and all other Oneida Nation services. In 1996 the traditional Oneidas, or the Onyota’a:ka, initiated suit in US federal court to have Halbritter, deemed a US citizen, removed as Oneida representative. The complaint was dismissed at the District level but appealed at the Second Circuit which found sufficient evidence to order a hearing in the US Department of the Interior to determine Halbritter’s status. The Federal Court dismissed this case without prejudice and now it is up to the people to exhaust all remedies. This is impossible due to the structure of the current leadership. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition in Springfield continues to organize locally as a historic lawsuit seeking accountability from local Evangelical Preacher Scott Lively moves forward

Photo Courtesy Boston Magazine
SMUG v. Lively:

On March 14, 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBT advocacy groups in Uganda, against Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively. Filed in the United States District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, the suit alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the conspiracy to strip away fundamental rights from LGBT persons, constitutes persecution. This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

To learn more, please see:


On August 14, 2013 the Court denied Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and the case has been referred for pretrial scheduling!


Sexual Minorities Uganda, an umbrella organization located in Kampala, Uganda, which represents the interests of its constituent member organizations in advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (“LGBTI”) in Uganda, brought this case against against defendant Scott LIVELY, a U.S.-based attorney, author, and self-described world-leading expert on the “gay movement,” for the decade-long campaign he has waged, in agreement and coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.  

The case is brought under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), 28 U.S.C. §1350, which provides federal jurisdiction for “any civil action by an alien, for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”  United States Supreme Court has affirmed the use of the ATS as a remedy for serious violations of international law norms that are widely accepted and clearly defined.  Persecution, as a crime against humanity that is universally proscribed and clearly defined in international law, is such a violation.   Persecution is defined in international law as the “intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.”  


March 14, 2012: Sexual Minorities Uganda filed its complaint  against Scott Lively in the Springfield Division of United States District Court, District of Massachusetts.

May 11, 2012: Lively, represented by Liberty Counsel, filed a Motion to Stay    the case pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, a case also brought under the Alien Tort Statute.

May 25, 2012: Sexual Minorities Uganda filed its Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Stay.    

June 1, 2012: Court denied Lively's Motion to Stay and ordered him to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint.

August 10, 2012: Lively filed a Motion to Dismiss.

September 20, 2012: Sexual Minorities Uganda filed its Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

January 7, 2013: Court heard oral arguments on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. 

April 17, 2013: Lively filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority in support of his Motion to Dismiss. 

May 7, 2013: Sexual Minorities Uganda filed a Response to Defendant's April 17 Notice regarding Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell.

August 14, 2013: The Court issued a Memorandum & Order, denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and referring the case for pretrial scheduling.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Join us. Lets tell the city- No more tax title auctions in Springfield

Jackie and Son   picture by John Morris

Please join Arise and Springfield No One Leaves to let the city of Springfield know that we will not  stand for one more sale of property by auction that has been taken by tax title and sold to speculative developers instead of serving the  citizens who are in need of housing in their very own city.

Tuesday June 18th, 2013
Springfield City Hall
We will meet in front of city hall- located across from Court Square downtown Spfld
Visit Arise Facebook Page for updates and more information on contacts and directions


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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mass Parole Board Immediately Release Donald Perry Please Sign Petition

Please follow the link below. Consider signing this important and powerful petition. Let the Massachusetts Parole Board know that men like Donald Perry are vital to our community.
This may be one of the most important petitions you endorse this year. Please let your voice be heard. Please circulate this urgent demand to all of your concerned friends and contacts.


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Monday, May 27, 2013

Call to Action- The Goverment is selling us out- To Monsanto

We all know times are hard. We eat what we can when we can. Most folks don't question what they eat, especially poor folks, like me. The family needs food. We shop at the cheapest stores. Buy what we must to survive. Meanwhile, our government conspires with big business for a profit at our ex pence. Our government officials protect the interest of Monsanto over the interest of our most vulnerable citizens. Daily, we are fed foods that have been altered by GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) and most folks have no way of determining what foods have been altered or not. The government has refused to support labeling of GMO's on our food products. There has even been an amendment to a bill introduced this year in the 2013 Farm Bill protecting Monsanto from being forced to comply with labeling.
On Saturday May 25th, about 100 supporters gathered in the Mason Square area of Springfield MA, Michaelann Bewsee of Arise for Social Justice, helped with a great organizing effort that brought folks out in the rain and cold to push back against Monsanto. This action was in solidarity of 250 other marches that happened the same day in the USA, and millions more across the globe. 

 Learn more and Join the Facebook page at:

 People need to know: GMO's have not been proven safe, and in fact, a growing body of independent peer-review studies have linked these foods to allergies, immune problems, infertility and cancers.
Most folks have no idea! GMO's were quietly introduced into our food supply in the 90's, and the FDA requires no safety testing or labeling.
What is truly outrageous is the connection between the largest company in the world that creates these GMO's and our elected officials. Watch this very informed video, where Heath Bleau gives shocking facts, definitively linking some of our top government officials to the interest of Monsanto. Even the President of the United States. This is very disturbing.
 What can we do?
Declare your Right to Know!
Support Mandatory Labeling of
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's)
Public Hearings June 3rd and June 11th 2013
Let Them Know
June 3rd 2013
10:00am - 2:00pm
David Prouty High School
302 Main Street Spencer MA
June 11th 2013
Massachusetts State House
Room A-1
Boston MA
Hearings are open to the public.
Sign up or submit your testimony online at
If you are worried------You should be!
Take Action -- Wake Up

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day Poem (Thanks, Jon and Lynn!)

To be of use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

'No More Hurting People' Vigil- Monday April 22- Noon- Court Square Spfld MA

Please join us at noon on Monday April 22 2013, in downtown Springfield. Court Square, as we honor the victims of violence injured and killed in the Boston Marathon Bombing this past week. We remember the kind words of 8 year old Martin Richard, who died in the blast,  'No More Hurting People'. Come stand with us as we call for an end to violence in Springfield. As we recognize all victims of violence and call for peace in our state and in our country. Guest speakers are welcome. The general public is welcome. Please contact Arise for further information.
We will stand with you on Monday, as you stand with us. Together we do make a difference. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, April 5, 2013

Don't forget Michael Ververis - Victim of Police Brutality

Hello everyone,

I am writing today to remind you all of the next trial coming up on a case that we have been working on.  This is the case of Michael Ververis, which is set to begin on Monday April 22nd at the Springfield Court, 50 State Street.  We will gather at 8:30am and go into the court in solidarity with Michael and his family.  We need you all to come and stand out with us and, together, witness this trial that will reveal more police misconduct and brutality in Springfield.

Background: On January 9, 2011, Michael Ververis was assaulted by members of the Springfield Police Department while simply trying to make his way home from a night out in Springfield's entertainment district.  Michael did not do anything to prompt the officers’ rage.  He was merely sitting in the front passenger seat of a car that the police had determined was blocking traffic on Worthington St.  What quickly ensued thereafter was Michael becoming victimized by the police as he was pulled from the vehicle, dragged nearby and ended up terribly beaten by six police officers.  He emerged with both misdemeanor and felony charges, including assault and battery of a police officer and attempt to commit larceny of an officers firearm. 

It is our belief that these charges were fabricated, and evidence tampered with in an attempt to cover up police violence and corruption.  Video footage (available at and witness testimony clearly show that Michael is not a criminal, but rather yet another victim of police brutality.

Remember, we are building more and more community strength and power as we are so strong together.  We have experienced victories against the Prison Industrial Complex in a number of cases now, and we cannot let this one pass us by.  This incident with the Springfield Police and Michael Ververis is another very troubling and disturbing one.  

So, mark your calendars now for the week of April 22nd to your show of support for Michael and to hold the Springfield police accountable.  

For peace and justice,
Holly Richardson
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Vigil for justice for LGBT people this Monday!

On March 26th  and 27th , the U.S. Supreme Court will consider two cases that are fundamentally about whether same-sex couples, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans should have the same freedoms as everyone else.  The Supreme Court will make rulings on whether or not it is constitutional for the federal government to deny a minority of U.S. citizens’ rights and privileges with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and whether or not a majority of Californians can vote to take rights away from a targeted minority with Proposition 8 (which overturned the CA marriage equality law).  The two cases being heard have implications that reach beyond marriage equality, as the court will consider whether these laws violate the LGBT community's U.S. Constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

As members of Springfield’s Stop The Hate and Homophobia Coalition, we are not only seeking justice in the Supreme Court to relieve collective denial of rights to LGBT people, but also seeking justice in that very Springfield federal court house from persecution and the crimes against humanity committed in Uganda and worldwide by Springfield’s Scott Lively.  Here in the United States, housing and employment protections for LGBT people are just two of the rights Scott Lively actively campaigns against.  Internationally, he actively campaigns against all equal rights for LGBT people, including the basic freedoms of speech and assembly which Americans presume guaranteed.

The U.S. Constitution says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  President Obama said in his inaugural speech in January “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”   The LGBT community is not only seeking its chance to pursue happiness, but also full federal equality and justice.

On Monday March 25th, starting at 6pm on the steps of the federal court house at 300 State Street in Springfield, the Stop The Hate and Homophobia Coalition of Springfield will hold a candlelight vigil, standout and speakers.  Our gathering will be one of over 100 in a nationwide event being coordinated by the Light the Way to Justice Coalition (  Please JOIN us as we come together to fight for equality everywhere!

Cathy Kristofferson
GetEQUAL Massachusetts
Stop The Hate and Homophobia Coalition Springfield
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