Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Photo Challenge, Quest: Hero’s Journey for Social Justice

WordPress assigned this week’s photo challenge as “quest,” and when I think about quest, I immediately recall Joseph Campbell’s PBS series on the hero’s journey. The adventure begins in the everyday world, when a herald calls the hero or heroine to action. Mentors along the way reassure the hero, as the quest continues. The heroine is tested as she faces a final ordeal. The way home can be fraught with danger, but in the end, the heroine has succeeded because she has had the courage to stand up for a noble cause.

Those who make the journey on the path toward social justice face enormous odds to create a society that respects and cares for all people. Ordinary people are drawn to speak up for what’s right, marching in the streets, often proclaiming an unpopular belief. Detractors label them as “troublemakers” and “rabble-rousers.” Authorities engage armed legions to contain and control demonstrators, even when protesters are unarmed and peaceful. The media catch one individual engaging in undesirable behavior and then demonize the entire protest.  Despite all obstacles, the hero persists and continues the mission to create a just society.

Weekly Photo Challenge, Quest

Photo Challenge: Spare

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al
It was Al all the time
Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?
–E. Harburg, J. Gorney

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West Philadelphia, Summer 2015

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Spare

Bernie Sanders for President: Rally in Philadelphia

I jumped back into politics placing a reservation to attend the Bernie Sanders Rally in Philadelphia on April 6. I’m very much a pragmatic thinker. As much as I would like to overhaul the American economic system, replacing corporations with worker-owned collectives, I can support a candidate who strongly endorses unions and a living wage.  Bernie’s positions on income inequality, living wage, medicare for all, tuition-free college are issues I strongly support. Bernie cannot, however, change the broken economic system alone.  It is up to the citizenry to create that sweeping change. We must be invested in our democracy by participating in ways that guarantee that every citizen has a voice.

The Rally

I returned to my graduate school Alma Mater, Temple University, for the rally. When I arrived at the Liacorous Center a little after 5, the line, ten deep, snaked along the sidewalk, weaving through the side streets for ten blocks. I thought I’d never get in, seeing that many people; and the doors had already been open so more folks were already inside. By 6 o’clock I entered through the security check, the Secret Service, inspecting coats and bags. My necklace alerted the wand, but the guard finally let me pass through. We waited until 8:30 for Bernie to speak because it took so long for people to get through security and get seated.  I didn’t think the arena would fill, but it did, all but some seats on the balcony. I estimated 5,000 but turns out more like 10,000 were present.

The crowd, mostly students and young people under 35, were friendly and well-mannered. No one was pushing or shoving in line, and most were engaged in happy conversation. Someone was carrying a sign, Free Hugs, and Philly Jesus showed up, giving his blessings. I sat down on an aisle seat for good visibility. The young man sitting next to me introduced himself, and we had a conversation about Pennsylvania politics. I met everyone around me, and turns out we were all alums of Shippensburg! I heard stories of underemployment and low wages, even for college graduates.

When Bernie walked to the podium deafening cheers erupted. As Bernie spoke the audience responded with enthusiastic cheers or boos, depending on the subject, i.e., living wage or mention of Trump.

Pennsylvania Primary, April 26

The Pennsylvania primary will take place on April 26. Political history in the United State will be made if we elect a progressive candidate for President such as Bernie Sanders.

 

 

Democracy Spring: The Philadelphia Story

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On the lawn in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, a crowd gathered to support and to send off 150 activists, who plan to walk the 140 miles to Washington, D.C., launching a civil disobedience campaign, Democracy Spring. The goal of the march: “Congress must act now to end the corruption of money in politics and ensure free and fair elections.”

The enthusiastic crowd responded to a series of speakers and performances that called on elected officials to support their initiative, an equal voice for everyone. The rally is Washington is set for April 11 at the Capitol Building and organizers have said that thousands have pledged to sit-in for seven days. Over 100 organizations have signed on in support of Democracy Spring.

Overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which has resulted in big-money interests buying elections, corrupting the political process, is fundamental to keeping democracy sound.

Photo Challenge: One Love

The photo challenge for this week is inspired by this quote:

One love refers to the universal love and respect expressed by all people for all people, regardless of race, creed, or color.

The Urban Dictionary

Folks can express that love in unconventional and humorous ways.  This sign on Lebowski Bar window in Reykjavik, Iceland, offers such respect. Some of our politicians (I’ll let you fill in the blanks) would not pass muster for the criteria for entrance.

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More on my recent post: Iceland, Land of Frost and Fire.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Love

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

IMG_2954Philadelphia Hiking Meetup Group sponsored a tour of West Philadelphia that focused on African-American historic sites. The organizer, Jed McKee, plans hikes that are transit friendly and is one of the reasons I selected this walk. The tour began at 30th Street Station, which is a hub of the rail lines, including Amtrak and Septa, that go in and out of Philadelphia.

Our group met under the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, a 39-foot monument commemorating the Pennsylvania Railroad employees who died in World War II. The bronze sculpture, Angel of the Resurrection, represents Michael the Archangel raising up a dead soldier out of the “flames of war.” Assistant Organizer, Scott Maits, our guide and local historian, began his commentary with a history of the station and of early Philadelphia.

As Scott led us west along Market Street, crossing under the freight train tracks, he told us the story of Frances Harper, who protested segregation on the trolleys in 1858.  Frances refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car. Frances, an abolitionist, was also a writer and poet, author of the poem, “Bury Me In A Free Land,”

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

We crossed through the campus of Drexel University into the area known as Black Bottom, a predominantly African-American community that was almost completely destroyed in the 1960s for “urban renewal.” Penn, Drexel, University of the Sciences, and Presbyterian Hospital worked together to acquire properties for eventual demolition.

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Scott gave us an opportunity to view the facilities of the Community Education Center, that once housed the Quaker Friends School and Meetinghouse, rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century. Local community members founded the CEC “to promote shared experiences and nurture fellowship among its varied neighborhoods across cultural and economic differences.”  The Center supports local community art programs, especially dance and performance.

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The neighborhood varied from grand mansions to row homes.

Dupree Studios just won their long battle with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA); the agency has ended condemnation proceedings to acquire the property by eminent domain.

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We walked along Lancaster Avenue, originally called the Lincoln Highway, finding these wonderful moments along the way.

Hall Rennovation

Lovely old building needing funding to restore to former glory,

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Inspection Station with mural and mosaics.

Included this photograph of CBM Tires because I like old gas stations!

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Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Shop with clever display of wheels and gears. Can’t find anything like this at the mall.

Belmont Mural

Welcome to Belmont Mural

Lava Space Mural

Murals on Lancaster Avenue/Lava Zone Mural

Martin Luther King Mural

40th Street and Lancaster Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. mural. Mural recreates “Freedom Now” Rally held on August 3, 1965, during the Civil Rights movement.

Our last stop was at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue, 42nd Street, and Brown Street, near the New Africa Center Muslim-American Museum, before heading back to 30th Street via Number 10 trolley.

IMG_2982The contrasts on Lancaster Avenue are striking: blighted stretches of store fronts and sidewalks in desperate need of cleaning juxtapose with the creative art displays, both public and private. Derelict buildings stand next to colorful sidewalk mosaics. After years of economic decline, revitalizing the neighborhood is a challenging task: to create a prosperous commercial corridor while preserving and encouraging a mixed-income community.

Extended thanks to Jed McKee and Scott Maits for giving our Meet Up group an opportunity to visit and to learn about the history of this important Philadelphia neighborhood.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

Invasion of Starbucks by gathering of activists supporting workers by advocating wage increase to $15.

Starbucks demonstration.

Starbucks demonstration.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/gathering/

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Happy Place, In Solidarity: Weekly Photo Challenge

Happiness is standing side by side in solidarity with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, working toward a goal of social justice. I especially find this participation satisfying when advocating for justice and fairness in the workplace. By making connections with my fellow workers, we can come together to improve our mutual conditions, recognizing the bonds we share.

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Without worker solidarity, we find ourselves adrift and alone in the workplace where many employees have little voice or camaraderie. Corporations like to keep it that way, pitting employees against each other for raises, power and influence in the organization, the very opposite of encouraging teamwork, consensus and harmony. When we resist human labor as simply being a commodity, we have taken a virtuous path.

Solidarity is by nature inclusive. Regardless of background, solidarity brings everyone together. Differences fall away as the greater good of the group becomes paramount. We nurture our collective rights rather than than engage in competitive interactions. For those who experience the greatest degree of discrimination and marginalization, we can stand together so that they have the strength to participate and defend their freedom of association.

Solidarity is not a quiet place, but it is not a forced state of mind. It evolves naturally as our shared responsibility displaces uncertainty. The result is a joyful state of mind.

WordPress: Weekly Photo Challenge, My Happy Place

In Remembrance of Megan

Megan

Megan McFadden

March 9, 1981-August 29, 2015

IMG_1803When someone so young passes from this earth, the shock reverberates for days, weeks and months, as it seems impossible that Megan will no longer be with us.

As Megan came into my life, I watched her as a year went by, and I saw how she was working through the difficulties of her past to move forward into a new day. We thought this new beginning would be bringing her success with her art. 

We will miss you, Megan. We’re so sorry.

Her Father’s Eulogy

When you have a drug-addicted child or sibling, you live in dread of the phone call that tells you she has overdosed and died in some abandoned house. My son Jim, her best friend, and I got that call on August 29th about Megan.

Rather than mourn over Megan’s tragic death at 34, let’s celebrate what was wonderful about her. She was a sweet, beautiful, and funny little girl. She had an adorable little speech impediment until she had it fixed at therapy in first grade. We had a squirrel that visited us on the deck of our apartment almost daily. We asked her for a good name for him. She said, “Mistoow Sqwool.” From that good day on, he was Mr. Squirrel, “Mistoow Sqwool” to Megan.

Megan was all her life a gifted artist and was passionate about it and lived for it. She was enrolled in school to pursue and enrich her passion, but was taken from us just before she was to begin.

She left a great legacy with her son Michael, who has brought great joy to every person he’s known in his 13 years. Good job, Megs.

The only consolation that we, her family, friends, and all the people who knew her, was that she was a person of great worth. What we can take from her death so young, is the knowledge that her pain and struggles are over, and the belief that she will find the peace with her heavenly Father that she was unable to find in this life.

Pro-Act Recovery Walk, Philadelphia, September 19, 2015

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Philadelphia Photo League

Philadelphia Photo League Photographers, Konrad Jones, Mike Browna, Spencer Lewis

Several weeks after Megan’s passing, I received a notice from the Philadelphia Photo League about an upcoming event, the Pro-Act Recovery Walk. In 2012 a group of area photographer/activists, who were committed to social change through documentary photography, established a mission to assist civic organizations to affect change through photography. Photo League members have photographed the Recovery Walk in past years and shared their photographs with the Pennsylvania Recovery Organization–Achieving Community Together. By participating in this year’s photography project, I hope that I might help in some small way to document the event.

Morning has Broken

As I approached the staging area at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, the sky appeared gray and dark as the fog began lifting from the Ben Franklin Bridge. As the presenter led a prayer from the stage, the clouds opened to a magical reflection on the river. Sun beams streamed down to the water–it was as if the universe was blessing the gathering.

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Participants in their colorful t-shirts began gathering in front of the stage. The photographers took photos from the vantage of the stage, and then we split up to cover different aspects of the walk. I took a position at the start of the parade on the Chestnut Street Bridge under the balloon arch. As marchers began to stream under the arch, I began to video the walk. What amazed me was the diversity within the crowd: young and old, men and women, abled and disabled and all ethnicities represented.

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The participants kept coming, walking, cheering, as those standing on the sidelines clapped.  Group after group, representing organizations advocating for recovery, passed in front of me. These people have endured the challenges of addiction. Society could mediate these tragedies by implementing social policies that bring people out of addiction without stigma. To be immersed in this experience became a humbling moment, realizing that these warriors are ready to continue their fight for freedom from alcohol and drugs. Last year 600 people died from drug overdoses. It seems that a tainted batch took Megan as well as other victims, one evening in August.

Will we stand with the 25,000 Pro-Act crusaders? Our society failed Megan, we cannot fail again.

Links

Recovery Walks

Thousands march in support of and hope for addiction recovery

ProAct: Ambassadors for Recovery

Teresa Forcades Speaks on Women’s Ordination

Women’s Ordination Conference
 A Voice for Women’s Equality in the Catholic Church

“We have a church that’s misogynist and it’s representing the Gospel. We need freedom, equality, and the people’s capacities to participate in the conversation. I look forward to having this discussion in Philadelphia.” –Teresa Forcades

Teresa Forcades WOW

Teresa Forcades: History

As a supporter of anarcho-syndicalist movements, which advocate for democracy for the working classes in politics as well as the workplace, I’ve followed the news about the strikes against the Spanish government’s spending cuts, which create severe consequences for workers and their families. Following these events, I read about one of their leaders, Sister Teresa Forcades.For folks who have their doubts about capitalism, Teresa has launched a political manifesto to counter austerity measures by the Spanish government. The document calls for an independent Catalonia to carry out a more democratic and progressive agenda, including nationalizing banks and energy corporations. I visited Spain in 2013, and on my first evening in Barcelona, I attended an event, Women, Spirituality and Social Change, a dialogue between Teresa and Lekshe Karma Tsomo, a California Tibetan nun, who share the same commitment: to promote social change based on inner transformation.

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A year ago I heard Teresa speak again, this time in my relative neighborhood, at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative started in 2004, supports a bookstore, restaurant and community space and is “dedicated to putting principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace.” The namesake of the cooperative, Emma Goldman, a political activist known for her promotion of anarchism, is another woman I admire for her progressive views on women’s rights, prison reform, racial equality and right to organize our workplaces.

While some may consider Teresa’s ideas radical, I think of them as being common sense, such as viewing capitalism as an unethical construct. Sometimes when I’m talking with people about the problems of capitalism, they agree but then say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” Teresa says it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I learned that Teresa was speaking at the WOW conference in Philadelphia, I immediately signed up to attend.

Women’s Ordination Conference, September 2015

WOW Protest

WOW Prayer Vigil at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The WOW Conference represents forty years of advocacy for women to become full participants in the Church by allowing women’s ordination. I am a former Catholic and what drove me away from the Church was thinking about my daughter’s perceptions of how affirming Catholic practice contradicts a fundamental belief that women must be treated as equals. The Church’s embedded bigotry against women, which arises from historical chains of oppression, undermines women’s liberation.

Teresa flew into Philadelphia just before she spoke, as she had to stay in Spain for an important leadership event on Saturday. Teresa presented an inspiring talk, a few of the highlights in the video:

I met Teresa after her presentation, and we talked about the political situation in Catalonia and her candidacy. She asked about my son, John. Truly a remarkable experience to connect with a woman who is on the world stage advocating for her fellow citizens and for equality for women in the Church.

Links:

Teresa Forcades Facebook Page

The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

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