“Every tree has its enemy, few have an advocate. In all my works I take the part of trees against all their enemies”.—- J.R.R. Tolkien
It was the largest tree my seven year old eyes had ever seen. Stately thick limbs spreading out into a huge leaf canopy that seemed to reach skywards forever. Beneath was a small clearing of grass and dirt where I could admire the tree house that the big kids had built, complete with small boards attached to the tree to make a ladder upwards.
The tree house was sturdily built with a strong platform, a roof of boards and a glassless window where one could look out on the rest of the forest. And best of all, the big kids who built it told me I could use it anytime. I have no idea how old these kids were, probably no more than 12 or 13. But they were nice big kids, not the like the bullies I often encountered in Glenmont MD of the 1950’s. Read more
Filed under: Job Safety & Ecology, Me Stuff, Society & Economy
“I’m proud that this Neighborhood Schools Fair came from neighborhood parents— from neighborhood moms. And that they invited people from all over the city to be involved.”— Kim Bowsky, Chicago Public Schools teacher
You might not associate colorful balloons and a room full of school displays with a bold act of resistance, but that is what happened at Roberto Clemente High School on a gray drizzly November day in Chicago. It was the Neighborhood Schools Fair, a testament to the love that Chicago has for its neighborhood schools and their critical importance to the city.
It’s been a tough year for the education justice movement in Chicago. A lot of heartbreaks. A lot of tears. Fifty schools closed. Massive layoffs of teachers and other education workers. Sit-ins and multiple arrests. Parents frantic about their children’s’ safety going to school. Deep emotional ties among favorite teachers and their students broken. A steady stream of insults and lies coming from City Hall and the Chicago Public Schools(CPS) top brass.
The movement really needed affirmation. Something positive and joyful. Thankfully a small circle of activist women who call themselves “The Badass Moms”, or BAM, got together and hatched the idea of a one day exposition where neighborhood schools could set up displays, hold workshops and talk about their successes and their challenges.
Rousemary Vega, one of the BAM’s, told me that the goal was to create a web of relationships among neighborhood schools to build for a better educational future. This web would cross traditional racial and neighborhood lines in one of the most segregated cities in the USA, where neighborhood insularity and distrust of “outsiders” is the stuff of legend. Read more
Filed under: Discrimination, Race, Society & Economy, U.S. Politics, Unions
It was a cold clear Chicagoland morning with a sharply defined crescent moon hanging above the apartment complex in front of my Oak Park IL home. I turned on my bicycle flashers and headed down the street to the East Ave CTA Blue Line station. The train arrived within minutes and I sat in the front car thinking about the relationship beween poverty and the education crisis on the West Side of Chicago.
I had recently attended 3 meetings in North Lawndale sponsored by several community groups as the largely Black and Latino West Side struggled to recover from a series of school closings earlier this year. The Walton family who owns Walmart has poured money into school privatization efforts in Chicago and had even organized the hearings where thousands of anguished parents and teachers fought for their schools in front of stony-faced Chicago Public Schools( CPS) representatives who refused to answer any questions.
Filed under: Discrimination, Global Economy & Politics, Me Stuff, Race, Society & Economy, Unions
In October of 1991 a convergence of powerful weather systems created a monster storm in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. It killed the entire crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail among other storm casualties. Journalist Sebastian Junger used the phrase “The Perfect Storm” as the title of his book about this unusual weather event. The book became the basis for a Hollywood film of the same name.
Since then the term “perfect storm” has entered the language to mean any catastrophic collision of natural, political, or social forces that combine into a disaster greater than the sum of its parts.
Lasting only a few days, the 1991 storm was centered along the US eastern seaboard region. Neo-liberalism, climate change and militarism is “The Perfect Storm” engulfing the entire biosphere and is projected to last for years to come. It is a perfect storm of planetary proportions. Read more
Filed under: Global Economy & Politics, Job Safety & Ecology
I was 4 chapters into the George Pelecanos crime fiction novel The Turnaround when a sudden chill ran down my spine. Omigod, this is the story of the Ken-Gar 5. I had to put the book down as my mind traveled to 1972 Kensington, Maryland where an ugly racial incident ended in tragedy. I had lived in nearby Wheaton until my teen years and was writing for a local underground paper when that racial clash exploded. Our paper, the Spark, had covered the story and talked to witnesses.
Three young white men, all from neighboring working class Wheaton, had driven into the small black section of Kensington called Ken-Gar on a hot summer night and thrown a firecracker at a group of black residents while yelling racial epithets. The firecracker landed near the 4 year old daughter of one of the blacks. The three whites sped down Plyers Mill Road through Ken-Gar thinking they could easily escape in their souped up fast car. Read more
Filed under: Discrimination, Gender, Race, Society & Economy