We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.
Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf
Marquette Students in the middle
of the intersection of Wisconsin
and 16th street.
Today I attended a rally and march by Marquette students, the Ad Hoc Coalition of and for Students of Color. All year they have been in contact with Marquette administration on changes they would like to see for students of color and for Marquette’s relationship with the Milwaukee community. It has been all talk and nothing has been done, even a simple new cropping of the picture on the Marquette University seal to make it more inclusive. As I mentioned last week in a posting Marquette with donations from businesses is hiring its own prosecutor, district attorney. This move with making the Marquette Security Department the Marquette Police force, already armed, creates a dangerous environment for people of color on campus and the surrounding neighborhood.
The rally and march on the sidewalk were like many protest, speakers and chants. Suddenly while crossing the main streets of Wisconsin Avenue and 16th street four leaders of the movement lock arms and sat down in the middle of the intersection. Other marchers continue to march back and forth around the intersection. The Milwaukee police quickly gathered and blocked off this intersection. It was clear that the Marquette administration and the police did not want any arrest that would draw attention to this event. Now the public and student numbers grew and grew. Some Marquette students checking out what was happening joined in the march and blocking of the closed streets. Though it was rush hour for traffic the police just waited them out. This lasted over an hour and when the TV stations cameras arrived the police finally arrested them and put them in a van around 5pm.
By the six o clock news time Marquette had already put a spin on the news with public relations director and statement from President that they welcomed student activism and had been working with student leaders of the protest. By 10 o clock news some stations did not even cover the event and two just skipped it, although one had a camera and crew on the ground and a helicopter above that this picture, on the side, of the scene.
So what started off as a regular protest rally and march was heightened by the civil disobedience of these four students. No slick PR campaign or suppression of the news by Marquette University can cover up the underlying issues of these students and their supports.
Four seven years ago, almost to this exact date, a small group of student picketed a faculty dinner about the issue of “institutional racism”. This led to a major protest on campus the last week of school. The Marquette Administration said No to all the student demands, like offering scholarships to African American youth. The demands were dismissed, students were expelled and arrested but that summer the Marquette administration met in secret and began the process that led to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) which Marquette reached out to minority community to bring it students of color. When I asked recently how many African American students were in the EOP program I got the run around but no answer. These days it seems easier to ignore than be transparent and accountable, even for the values and principles the school stands for and says “Makes a Difference.
The modern system for Universities seems to ignored the issues when possible, talk about them yet do nothing, marginalized leaders and ignore the message. Nonviolent actions like the act of civil disobedience of the four today cuts through to the heart of issues. You cannot ignore four students committing act of civil disobedience in the middle of a busy intersection in the middle of campus.
Child Poverty in U.S is at its Highest
Point in the past 20 years
Today I drove a friend to visit her son in a halfway house. We took with us two of his children, my friend’s grandchildren, 9 and 11, who had not seen their father in the seven years he spent in Federal Prison out East. On the way back my friend, who works hard but is still very poor, told me how food stamps and kinship care support, had been severely cut for her two grandchildren and one’s child, her great granddaughter who live with her. We had a good time traveling to the halfway house and back and I got a chance to read a novel during the visit. But the hard life of poverty for my friend, her grandchildren including the two in the car today was on my mind when I came home to find the article below sent to me. I am not blaming anyone, Republican or Democrat, for this increase of poverty in American children but I feel we all are responsible for letting this happen to our children. Read the article which I will put in the Featured Article section of this web page and feel the shame we our guilty of.
The callousness of America’s political and business leaders is shocking once you start looking at the numbers.
By Paul Buchheit / AlterNet
April 13, 2015
America’s wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.
Financier and CEO Peter Schiff said, “People don’t go hungry in a capitalist economy.” The 16 million kids on food stamps know what it’s like to go hungry. Perhaps, some in Congress would say, those children should be working. “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” insisted Georgia Representative Jack Kingston, even for schoolkids, who should be required to “sweep the floor of the cafeteria” (as they actually do at a charter school in Texas).
The callousness of U.S. political and business leaders is disturbing, shocking. Hunger is just one of the problems of our children. Teacher Sonya Romero-Smith told about the two little homeless girls she adopted: “Getting rid of bedbugs, that took us a while. Night terrors, that took a little while. Hoarding food..”
America is a ‘Leader’ in Child Poverty
The U.S. has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. As UNICEF reports, “[Children’s] material well-being is highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries and lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United States.”
Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.
$5 a Day for Food, But Congress Thought it was Too Much.
Nearly half of all food stamp recipients are children, and they averaged about $5 a day for their meals before the 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program.
In 2007 about 12 of every 100 kids were on food stamps. Today it’s 20 of every 100.
For Every 2 Homeless Children in 2006, There Are Now 3.
On a typical frigid night in January, 138,000 children, according to the U.S. Department of Housing, were without a place to call home.
That’s about the same number of households that have each increased their wealth by $10 million per year since the recession.
The US: Near the Bottom in Education, and Sinking.
The U.S. ranks near the bottom of the developed world in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education. Early education should be a primary goal for the future, as numerous studies have shown that pre-school helps all children to achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most. But we’re going in the opposite direction. Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history.
Children’s Rights? Not in the U.S.
It’s hard to comprehend the thinking of people who cut funding for homeless and hungry children. It may be delusion about trickle-down, it may be indifference to poverty, it may be resentment toward people unable to “make it on their own.”
The indifference and resentment and disdain for society reach around the globe. Only two nations still refuse to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: South Sudan and the United States. When President Obama said, “I believe America is exceptional,” he was close to the truth, in a way he and his wealthy friends would never admit.
Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
“Homicides are up 182%”
Today we were driving to dinner to celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary tomorrow when we spotted a car pulled over on the expressway with police surrounding the car and driver. My wife noticed a person on a bridge nearby with a smart phone videotaping the event. It seems like the right thing to do, especially if the person stopped by police is black man. With a video you can show what really happened.
I went to a prayer/discussion meeting today with some local churches and the Coalition for Justice, which was established when a white police officer beat and shot fourteen times an unarmed Dontre Hamilton in a County park on April 30, 2014. The district attorney took eight months to decide the police office would not be charged with any criminal act. There were three cameras taking video of the area but the DA said they did not show this event. The Hamilton family lawyer ask for the family to see the three video but so far, a year this week, the request has been denied. If the videos show nothing of the incident what is wrong with showing them to lawyer and family?
A fifteen year teen was shot in the back as he ran from police yesterday in Milwaukee. The police say the teen has a semiautomatic gun. The boy is in serious condition in the hospital. The mother of the young man was on TV tonight. She told how her son was not into gangs or drug and had a hard time believing he had a gun when he was shot in the back. She has not been able to see her son in the hospital. No video was taken so the story will probably fade away.
Black youth and young adults are shot and killed by police officer and other black youth and adults. Video cameras work when a police shoots a black man but is of no help when a black shoots other black persons, the usual situation.
The police chief, Mayor, Marquette University President and others say we need more policing, more punishment and prosecution of young black offenders though they know that this strategy does not work and does not deal with the root causes of violence, poverty, discrimination, high unemployment, poor education and housing.
The Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission reports that in the first quarter of this year “Homicides are up 182% and shootings are up 31% from last year”. The local newspaper homicide tracker reports 48 homicides as of yesterday with another one on news today.
What can we do to stop the violence and killing? I do not have the answer but know that blame, name calling, prosecution and more punishment does not work. I also know the only person we can change is ourselves. However, we can work together and by taking direct nonviolent action we can “create an environment where it is easier to be good.”
Trying to look at the big picture of life, our country and world I have come up with some big questions.
1) Can we come up with a way to transfer fresh water from regions of USA that have too much water to regions of the USA that are suffering major drought? An example would be that Boston got more snow this year than it could handle while the snowfall in mountains of California that feed the reservoirs was extremely low.
2) Can we economically slowly replace “Made in China” products with “Made in America” products? The benefits to our economy, if we could slowly do this, would be significant, including more jobs and less debt.
I do not have any answers to these two questions but have some thoughts. As they say, unless we know what the question is we will never know the answer. Are there any thoughts, or comments or other Big Questions?
Afgan children killed by USA
A top news store today was the admission by the White House that one of US Killer Drones killed an American and Italian citizen in a drone attack. The President apologized to the American family and took full responsibility. He added that his office “will do everything we can do to prevent the loss of innocent lives, not just of Americans, but all innocent lives, in our counterterrorism operations.” Actually 3 Americans were killed in this drone attack but since the other two were members of al-Qa’ida I guess their lives do not count. Actually “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2004 and 2015, as many as 960 civilians may have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, including up to 207 children.” Other groups, including Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) estimate much higher numbers. If you include innocent civilians killed by American aircraft the number is much higher. In one attack on a wedding party in Afghanistan the government said 47 civilians including the bride were killed by a USA bombing strike. Where are the apologies by the President on this non-good Americans killing? One article I read quoted an attorney with the international human rights group saying “The White House is setting a dangerous precedent - that if you are Western and hit by accident we’ll say we are sorry, but we’ll put up a stone wall of silence if you are a Yemeni or Pakistani civilian who lost an innocent loved one. Inconsistencies like this are seen around the world as hypocritical, and do the United States’ image real harm.”
A good friend told me tonight that when he votes for President he always votes for the “lesser of two evils” that for him voting for the Democratic candidate, even if he means voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. I pointed out that voting for lesser of two evils is still voting for evil and our Christian faith tells us “the end does not justify the means.” President Obama, in his second terms election which cost over a billion dollars, was considered by many to be the “lesser of two evils.” Although he approves a “kill list” for CIA attacks by Special Forces or drones every Tuesday, although he has been president over a time when the division between rich and poor in USA has grown and although he has ordered more deportations than all the presidents in USA history combined he is not held accountable. Some say the congress, Republicans are to be blamed and some say he is too blame. But whoever is to blame the killing goes on and more and more persons, including USA citizens, want to harm our country.
Another friend sent me via Facebook a more telling fact: “America has been at war 222 out of 239 years since 1776.” Empires have always considered the killing of others, not its own, as justified in war, even though they are innocent. The insanity of “endless war” continues.
I was driving west on North Avenue looking for a Teutonia, a street that starts on North Avenue and angles northwest through the area I have come to call North Central Milwaukee. From landmarks, like the YMCA on the northeastern corner I knew I had arrived and prepared to turn right onto Teutonia. As now my habit I looked around at the four corners for street signs marking this intersection and there was none.
I was driving from one prayer vigil for a homicide victim in North Central Milwaukee to another one. Most of our prayer vigils on the sidewalk where the person was killed are located in North Central Milwaukee, the most racially segregated neighborhood in the most racially segregated city in the USA and the poorest neighborhood in the second poorest city of the USA. I am not familiar with many of the side streets in the area so often navigate us using street signs. Even the GPS on my phone talks in terms of streets being marked.
However, often, like the corner of Teutonia and North they are not marked. Sometime they have one or two street signs on one corner and sometimes by three or four street signs but seldom by eight, two on the four corners.
This observation is not true on the West side, South side or downtown or even the far Northwest area of Milwaukee. The lack of street signs on the corners in North Central Milwaukee defined as North Avenue north to Silver Spring, 60th east to the Milwaukee River, is for me a sign of racism. This neighborhood is 85% African American, poverty level is the greatest is this poor city, in one of the zips the average household income is around $20, 000 while is the southern suburb of Greenfield the average household income is $45, 000. The unemployment rate for North Central Milwaukee is over 50% and this area houses the greatest number of young adult African American who has been incarcerated in prison. This last fact is noteworthy since the State of Wisconsin has the largest number of incarcerated African American males than any other state in the USA. And with the USA having the greatest number of citizens incarcerated of all the countries in the world.
Many persons in North Central Milwaukee do not have cars or have lost their driving license, sometimes for an offense unrelated to driving a car. Because of this, some would say people in North Central Milwaukee do not need street signs on every corner, but I say it is a Sign of Racism.
Marquette wants to stop violence,
yet teaches violence on campus
Today on the front page of the paper I read the headline Big names on west side join together. Being a lifelong West-side resident I was interested.
Reading the article I found out it was the ‘near west side’ they were talking about, the neighborhood around Marquette University. What the big names were seeking was ‘community prosecutor’ on site from the District Attorney’s office “to tackle issues including rundown housing, drug dealing and domestic violence. I started to get suspicious and then found out the Big name partners were Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development corporation all business on near West side or in the Menominee valley development that goes along river to downtown. They call the group PARC, Promoting Assets and Reducing Crime. I got more suspicious.
Then I read a quote from the President of Marquette University that said: “None of us alone can transform the neighborhood, but working together, we actually could get to the root of the problem.” I remember that some years ago Marquette University had purchased and developed all the land around the campus. They were displacing the poor and bringing in new housing for students and student friendly businesses. They were clipping along building a corridor around Marquette University until they go too bold and try to close down Wisconsin Avenue which runs through campus but is also is the main street in Milwaukee. Recently there has been a renewal of crime in the nearby neighborhood. The president’s statement got me more suspicious because Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives all know that getting to the roots of crime and downcast neighborhoods is now hiring a community prosecutor. As Governor Thompson’s, a governor known for building prisons, task force on crime and prisoners said many years ago: Prisoners and Prisons “are bound to grow as long as the root cause of crime—poverty, lack of education and lack of family support—go unaddressed.” Many persons throughout the years have pointed out the ‘root of poverty stricken neighborhoods around Marquette is Not hiring a special prosecutor on the site to prosecute crime.
Things took a turn to the ugly as I read on and saw that the Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking will coordinate the combine efforts of this group to reduce crime. Marquette University hosts the regional military office training programs for all universities in Southeast Wisconsin. By their own admission the military, Department of Defense, teaches war, violence and reflex killing, killing without conscience on campus. Both the President and the Director of the Center for Peacemaking have refused to recognize these facts or even dialog about them.
The headline on the front page of newspaper read “Total loss of control”. The headline referred to Mayor’s comment on shooting of two innocent victims, calling the shooter having “a total loss of control, the total inability to control oneself in that setting, led to two more tragic deaths.” The mayor is describing how the military teaches how to kill at Marquette, using no control, firing weapon without thought or conscience on instinct or orders. As the ethics instructor at West Point testified to the military command “Modern combat training conditions soldiers to act reflexively to stimuli—such as fire commands, enemy contact, or the sudden appearance of a “target”—and this maximizes soldiers’ lethality, but it does so by bypassing their moral autonomy.” Is this not what the Mayor accuses the shooter of when he saw two persons standing over a two year old that had been accidentally run over by a car? This is what Marquette teaches, killing on reflex.
At the end of the article on PARC program the Mayor commended the effort calling it ‘proactive’ and ‘aggressive’. If I put all this together Marquette University needs control of a larger section of local neighborhoods to keep its student safe and has solicited some big businesses nearby to put up a million dollars to get the area its own prosecutors that will get at ‘root of crime’ prosecuting people in the neighborhood. This all makes as much sense as Marquette University Teaching War and Killing on campus. Maybe we can put both newspaper articles together and call it “Total loss of common sense and Christian values”.
Pope Francis visits one of the city’s
notorious “favelas”, or slums in RIO
DE JANEIRO ,and denounces
corruption and a “culture
Dear Holy Father Francis,
Before details of your trip to the USA was announced I wrote you two letters offering our house, Willi Graf House of Hospitality, for your stay. As the letters noted I had ulterior motives for requesting your presence.
One, I was hoping you would take a strong moral stand with Marquette University, the only Catholic Jesuit, that is home to three Department of Defense military bases that teach war and ‘reflex killing’, killing without conscience. Someone you may have known Salvadoran Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria, talked about military training, ROTC, at Georgetown in a 1985 interview with a Jesuit. He said “Tell the Jesuits of Georgetown that they are committing mortal sin because they are supporting the forces of death which are killing our people.’ The Jesuits at Marquette ignore this moral issue but we continue to say: Marquette University, Be Faithful to the Gospel, and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science. You can find more on this moral issue at Teach War No More. “Faith and Violence are Incompatible.”
Two, Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the USA and the second poorest. The neighbors of poverty are the African American area on the North side and the Hispanic area on the South side. The Catholic church and in particular, the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Milwaukee, have lost their way in serving the poor and marginalized in Milwaukee. I was a proud member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, having made, with my wife, over a thousand home visits to people in need. However, when the local society central office decided to spend millions of dollars of money donated to the poor in building a thrift store in the suburbs that may,or may not, have some ‘trickle down’ to poor in years in the future, I and others had to speak out. For this I was suspended from the Society I love. However my concern is not so much for my hurt feelings but for the poor whose voice I was trying to speak for. At a time of great need in African American and Hispanic neighbors of poverty the local Society has abandoned its local mission of “person to person visit with people in need.” (See Mission of St. Vincent de Paul )
Despite my 13 years of Jesuit education my voice for poor and be faithful to the Gospel has been marginalized. Your voice on these two issues of justice and peace would be heard and might make a difference. In Washington DC you will be meeting with our Commander in Chief that approves a “kill list” each week for people in Somali, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Maybe you have time to join Father Ellacuria in denouncing the military training center at Georgetown. In New York say hello to Cardinal Dolan, former Archbishop of Milwaukee. We were friends till he changed his mind on the Iraq war when it started and weakened Archdiocese support of poor and marginalized which continues today.
On the positive side we are blessed to have you as our leader of the Catholic Church. You have brought for many of us, hope, by your words and actions. My first two letters were sent to you by regular postage. This one will go by email to your associates since you do not have email. My hope that you will get the message.
May God share the blessings and grace God only gives to the poor with you,
I receive solicitations for money not only from non-profit charitable organization but from organizations advocating on a particular issue. As we get more issues, more wars and injustice, thrown at us, the number of request for money increases. Now organizations are using current events for fundraising. The other day I received a request for funds from a well respected organization asking for money so they can fight the expected Republican objection to the projected treaty of USA and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. Today I got an email from a well known political organization asking for funds to make what is called “Automatic Voting Registration” happen here in Wisconsin as it has in a few other states. The “opt out option” would allow everyone to register and vote using data from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Is this liberal organization aware that the new Wisconsin law requiring voter ID in terms of Wisconsin license or ID just passed its court test, and is on its way?
I try to be selective on who I donate to and what comments I put on facebook. However, the more I respond to any organization I feel is serving the poor, stopping wars or advocating on justice issues the more request I get. Being selective is not enough.
The Democratic nominee for the next President of the USA, Hilary Clinton, probably the only Democratic candidate, will officially announce tomorrow through social media her candidacy. One of the reasons I could never vote for her or her husband is the terrible things they did in Haiti. Ironically a Haitian political party formed in February, 2014, KOD stated recently they are not opposed to elections in Haiti but will not vote until the President, selected by USA, and MINUSTAH, the UN occupying force, leave the country. They point to the elections of 2010–2011, “rigged by the Clintons”. KOD claims “the electoral bone is to prevent the people from struggling to change their reality.” From what I have read, experienced and observed elections are a shame in Haiti just like they were in Honduras election in 2013.
Tonight at dinner, a friend asked me if I voted in recent election for Judge of Supreme Court and referendum changing the selection of chief judge. I did not vote but knew the results of the elections before they happened. The progressive judge, already on the court, spent the most money and easily won. The conservative side, who wanted to change the selection of the Chief Judge, spent the money on the referendum and they won. A friend on facebook wondered how two contrary votes could take place on the same ballot. I commented that ‘money wins’ in 95% plus of all elections but no one wanted to hear that. Most want to think that voting matters and we change the system by the electoral process.
In the USA as in Haiti elections are rigged, although in USA it is not as obvious as in Haiti. But the results are the same, the ‘electoral masquerade’ continues.
Person to Person Home Visit
Main Mission of the Society of
St. Vincent de Paul
Someone just gave me a bumper sticker that reads “Stop the War on the Poor”. For me this means, although I have been ‘suspended’ from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, to keep speaking and acting out for people in need in Milwaukee. Here is Part 1 of Series about how to “Stop the War on the Poor.”
Milwaukee Society of St. Vincent de Paul Past and Present
We believe that the Milwaukee Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) has lost its way over the last 25 years and no longer is faithful to the mission of the Society, or in conformity with Rule of the Society and Manuel for the Society in the USA. In order to correct this:
We demand the Milwaukee SVDP focus on the main mission of the Society: “offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering”.
We demand that the Milwaukee Society accept the fact that all the money of the Society ‘belongs to the poor” and be in accordance with Manuel of St. Vincent de Paul Society of USA in seeking funds. “Councils may receive funding requests from charitable organizations outside the Society. Funds donated to the Society, however, must be used only for works that involve the personal service of Society members. (p. 37) The Greenfield Thrift store serving the suburbs, if not profitable right now, should at least be self-sufficient and not take any more donated funds meant for the poor.
We demand a full and independent audit, as required by Rules of Society, that it be done for the last three years and the results of this audit be made public.
We demand that the council of St. Vincent de Paul be restored to its original purpose “to bind conferences together, to support conferences in need and do special works of the Milwaukee Society. All elections for conferences, council or other offices are done with complete transiency and according to bylaws and rules. Central staff should be accountable to the Milwaukee Council.
The essay below will focus on three major areas: Mission of the Society and home visits; financing and donations; and role of central office and council. We will use documents provided by Central Office in Milwaukee, Rules and Manuel of SVDP and the book “Humble Harvest, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1849–1949.” You can read for yourself how far off track the Milwaukee Society has fallen.
Brief History of the first 100 years of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee.
“You cannot know where you are going until you know where you have been.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was formed in Paris in 1833 by a group of young university students led by Frédéric Ozanam. The purpose of the Society was to travel to homes of the poor during this time, prior to the French Revolution, providing them with needed aid and assistance. Conferences of SVDP, making home visits to the poor, spread like wild fire through Europe and the world. The first conference in the USA was in St. Louis in 1845 and the first one in Milwaukee at St. Peter’s Cathedral in 1849. After the first two conferences ceased in 1874, it was in 1908 at St. Francis, a Capuchin parish that the second spring of Vincentian conferences began. By 1914 there were twenty conferences in Milwaukee. The tenth anniversary report, 1918, showed receipts of $14, 870.55 for the decade and expenditures of $14, 398. 35. (97 %). By 1939 there were 95 conferences in Milwaukee’s archdiocese. There was German speaking, Polish speaking, English speaking conferences in mostly ethnic neighbors where an assortment of persons, rich, middle class and poor lived. In 1940 a SVDP conference was established at Marquette University and in 1941 a conference was organized at St. Benedict the Moore to serve the growing African-American community. Members of several conferences made home visits with St. Benedict and the council paid most of expenses. Special need was also given to the growing Mexican parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a conference was established there in 1948.
The Milwaukee Council was formed in 1914 “to bind our new conferences together and to undertake special works.” The first special work of the Council was visiting and helping the men at the country house of correction. The second act was for special works at the County institutions. The third special work of the Council was to open a central office and clothing depot (not a thrift store). There were other major spiritual and corporal works of mercy performed by Council over the first 100 years, like visiting prisoners, working with juvenile courts and catechesis.
The Central office and clothing depot collected “old clothing, furniture, rags, paper of all kinds, magazines, iron, brass copper, zinc bottles etc.” “The waste was sold to defray the expenses of the office and the collection of articles.” In the first year the depot gave out 6, 564 articles without cost to any of the conferences. The Central Office status was that of a “great clearing house for the conferences, especially in such instances where the case-work was proving too complex or too specialized for the facilities and times of individual conferences.” By 1949 the central office staff included an Executive Secretary, staff consultation and senior social worker and seven family visitors whose job was to assist parish conferences in making home visits. There were other members of central office like receptionist, janitor and bookkeeper. There were no Thrift stores and meal programs for the first 100 years. The mission of the Society in Milwaukee was for “women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering…”
Present Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Milwaukee is no longer a thriving industrial city with strong ethnic neighborhoods. Milwaukee is now the most racially segregated city in the USA and the second poorest city. The concentration of poor and segregated is in North Central Milwaukee, over 85% African American and South Central Milwaukee, 85% Hispanic. (See M.A.P.S.)
The recent Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society plan being used for fundraising asks for donations of $500, 000 for the “cornerstone of our goal of sustaining the work of St. Vincent de Paul for many generations’’, the “development of our new store located at 4476 S. 108th Street.” The Milwaukee Society has already borrowed 3.2 million dollars from the bank and the St. Vincent de Paul Trust Fund for this suburban thrift store serving a neighborhood that is 85% white and with household income twice that of homes in North Central Milwaukee. The new store is projected to provide funds for the Society and work of the poor sometime in the future (trickle-down economics). However, due to tremendous operating and compensation costs of the store (40 employees) the 2014–2015 central office budgets have a projected deficit of $ $297, 129. Because of its location in the suburbs the new thrift store is not able to fulfill the “primary goal of all St. Vincent De Paul Stores” …”Serving Christ’s needy”. There is no thrift store in North Central Milwaukee, the area of greatest need. SVDP Thrift stores in Milwaukee charge conferences 100% of retail cost of beds, clothing and household items.
Home visits by conferences are now called “Neighbors helping Neighbors.” In the present budget only 4.5% of $3,417,518 is allocated to direct service to people in need and only $100,000 to six of the most needy conferences in North Central Milwaukee and South Central Milwaukee. For the first 100 years of Milwaukee Society the city was a thriving industrial city. The poor were spread throughout the city, in Irish, Italian, German, Polish neighbors. Now Milwaukee is the second poorest city in the USA and the most racially segregated city in the United States. The poor are concentrated in North Central Milwaukee, 85% African American and South Central Milwaukee, 85% plus Hispanic. There are only three parish conferences left in North Central Milwaukee and none in South Central Milwaukee. Since calls to central office for help are primarily allocated to conferences in specific “neighborhoods” they are often met with “we do not serve your area” or “the conference in your area is not accepting new home visits at this time”. From the last figures available, around 5000 – 6000 calls for aide made to central office for help do not receive home visits. These conferences in the poorest areas are strapped for money and volunteers while the majority of conferences have money and plenty of volunteers but with few home visits. For example the conference around the new store in Greenfield makes 8–10 home visits a year while one of the conferences in North Central Milwaukee, at last count, made around 600–800 home visits.
The Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Council is now basically a powerless organization and meets only a few times a year to approve decisions made by Central Office Staff and SVDP Board of Directors headed by the President. The President appoints the Board, except for four representatives of the four areas of the city. The Council has no special works, like visiting those in prison. The Central Office, with consent of SVDP, controls all special programs and finances, like the two meal sites and the two thrift stores The Central office spends 94.5 % of the $3,417,518 on compensation, $2, 068,364, new merchandise, $182,600, operating expenses, 1,309,580 (Non-relief), and $154, 200 for direct services (relief) and is projected to have a deficit of $297, 129. There are around 10 employees at the Central office, around 40 at the new suburban store, 15–20 at the other location and 6–8 at the two meal sites.
There are no employees that make home visits with conferences or provide advice for conferences in difficult cases. Conferences serving the poor have a difficult time serving people in need with just the basics: used refrigerators and stoves (purchased from private vendors) and beds, clothing, household items purchased at 100% of retail vale from the central office run stores.
The theme of the new $950,000 Fundraising campaign is “Basic needs with Compassionate Care”, yet only a small portion of that money will serve people in need, where all donated funds are to go: “Councils may receive funding requests from charitable organizations outside the Society. Funds donated to the Society, however, must be used only for works that involve the personal service of Society members.” (Manuel of St. Vincent de Paul Society of USA p. 37)
Audits, budgets, even the mission of Society and Thrift stores are kept secret and control of the Milwaukee SVDP is in a very small group of Staff and Vincentians. Younger persons are not attracted by conferences that do not directly serve the needs of poor. Conferences become older, more suburban and less of the person to person home visits that is the trademark of the Society. The new suburban thrift store, the putative cornerstone of Milwaukee’s St. Vincent de Paul plan, is draining resources, money and people away from the poor. The small group in control promises the new store will produce money for the poor but it cannot even be self-sustaining for the present. Raising money for the poor is not the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Person to person serving of the needy is.
There is much more we can say about how Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul has lost its way but now is the time for action. Please join us. Contract
My capacity for rejection and being ignored on matters of conscience relating to justice and peace was getting low. This was especially true for this rainy and dark day.
This morning a friend who has lived a hard life, full of illness and murder of her son, gave me a call about her friend that was doing grief counseling. During our conversation I mentioned how I felt a little down about being suspended by St. Vincent de Paul Society and being ignored by Marquette University on a moral issue. I might have even said I sometimes like felt like giving up on some of these causes. She jumped all over me and said how I could not give up on the struggle for peace and justice and how I was her inspiration when she faced troubling times.
This morning I drove a friend without a car to the school board building so she
could renew her letter authorizing her to teach at a local high school quilting to a recreational program of the public schools. She thanked me by giving us many of her wonderful homemade corn muffins.
Also today a friend that I help drive to the hospital for physical therapy send me a nice card saying what he says every time I drive him, thanking me and saying what a good friend I am. Today another couple who I have helped called me that their car had broken down in a parking lot. I went over and got them and took them home. They wrote me a nice email saying how much they appreciated me.
There were a few other things happening today, a delicious dinner made by Pat and a call from friend suggesting a way to respond to the attack of my character by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
At the heart of creative nonviolence as practiced by Jesus, Dorothy Day, King or Gandhi is the acceptance of rejection, insults and suffering. I do not do so well in this area. Without the help of my friends I would be a complete failure with this acceptance.
“There are causes worth dying
for, but none worth killing for.”
I read an article in “Rolling Stone” today about how three young adults, two brothers and their sister, came very close to leaving Chicago and traveling to join ISIS, the Islamic State if Iraq and Levant. They were very ordinary Muslim youth waiting for a cause worth living and dying for.
Once, when I was a Youth Director at a Catholic Church, on a confirmation retreat the pastor quoting Martin Luther King Jr. said: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Deep down I believe youth want something worth dying for and if someone can touch their heart with that message they will rally and support the cause. ISIS has certainly found out a way to touch the heart of Muslim young adults all over the world.
Dorothy Day and many others have said that Revolution starts with a “change of heart.” The Society of St. Vincent de Paul which has the challenge of doing works of mercy with people in need has a motto that says: “End Poverty through Systemic Change.” To change other systems and institutions I believe one, like with revolution, needs to start with change of their own system and institution. My effort to do that as voice for the poor, however, ended up, with me being ‘suspended from the Society’ for advocating systemic change in the Milwaukee Society.
One thing in common for those willing to give their life for the Islamic State and institutions working for systemic change is that both the individual and institutions are willing to sacrifice, even to the point of giving up their own existence for change.
After another, and major, rejection, this time from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul a group that I really believe in and worth giving my life for, I am discouraged about searching for the truth and speaking the truth, as we see it, to the powers that be. However, something inside me says keep on going, keep struggling for the truth and be not afraid to speak and act out.
Death comes slowly like in day to day suffering with illness, poverty and/or rejection. Or Death can come quickly as it did with Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee or with the 50 year old black man shot in the back 8 times after a traffic stop for a missing light on his car.
The inside of our cities, like Milwaukee, are suffering a slow death by racism, poverty and being ignored. Individuals inside our cities are suffering a quick death by reckless, senseless and random gun fire.
Some suffer a slow death by the hell of war, with injuries to body, mind and spirit. Some in war, like children, suffer a quick death by release of missile from a drone sent under orders of the President of the USA.
Whenever I suffer a rejection directly or by being ignored, I think of the persons whose voice, weak as I may be, strive to be. My suffering of rejection hurts my feelings but I keep my white privilege and rights and wealth it brings.
Where is the promised resurrection? It is spring and cold. As my wise elder African American friends remind the times for poor and racially segregated are growing worse day by day. When will the rejection of poor, ill and marginalized end? When will we stop ignoring persons among us who are struggling to survive? Each day brings more news of harm and death to poor and marginalized less food for the hungry or the election of the 1% Mayor in Chicago.
Sometimes I just do not know what to do. “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long…long way…from home.” Death comes slowly or quickly but it comes.
The Wisconsin Badgers Basketball lost the championship game in the NCAA tournament. This is big lost for many people in Wisconsin. A smaller number do not care. There was a lot of passion for this game.
Tomorrow is an election day in Wisconsin. There are a few contested contests on the ballot and many persons do not know either of the two persons running. There will be low voter turnout and most likely the person with the most money in the campaign chest will win. There is little passion in this election.
Yesterday was Easter the greatest day in the Christian calendar, celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, an act that showed him to be God, the way, truth and light. Passion was spotty, in some place it was big but in many it was not much.
As most information comes out about the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lost of human lives and destruction of two countries there is not much passion to stop the flow of ‘endless wars.’
I am reading some American history now and it is scary to see how our country was built by 1%, the elite, who now are still in control. Passion is lacking because many believe there is not much we can do about it.
I heard it said that too much passion for anything is not good. But all I see around me is too little passion. It is like we do not want to feel the passion of life. In a society full of things, so many things, where did passion go?
This dead grass is going to rise
From Good Friday until today, Easter Sunday, I spent time with my son and his family up north. The family lives in a rural area. Around my son’s house. a large lawn, grass, has been nurtured and is green and well groomed in the spring and summer. But for now, Good Friday and Holy Saturday it is brown. It looks dead but we all know that as soon as the warm and sun come to stay for awhile it will turn green and the grass grow. This makes a good metaphor for Holy Week. What is dead, Jesus, rises again, as predicted, in three days on Resurrection Sunday.
My life has a lot of death spots, big ones like the death of my youngest son, to little ones like being rejected. But from my faith and from working with the earth I know the seed or grass must die so he can be resurrected again. I do not believe history is cyclic but I do believe life events, like suffering a defeat and enjoying a victory, like the grass, is cyclic. History evolves and moves on but nature has its repeats and swings. We must learn from history so not to make the same mistake over and over again. However, in nature and life we must dig deep, be willing to face suffering and death for life, like the grass, to be renewed.
Easter is tied in with the full moon and spring and although there is no exact match, we know, just like the dark and cold of the winter will fade into spring, our downs and low moments, if we are faithful to our nature, will also grow into new life and growth.
We know that dead grass will rise again and that the sorrow and sadness of our lives will bring the spring of joy and new life.
Jesus on the cross, Good
Friday, 2006 Guatemala
Tonight we attended Holy Thursday liturgy at a Capuchin parish were the Society of St. Vincent de Paul really got established in Milwaukee. The service started with joy as we remembered Jesus breaking bread and giving out wine at his last dinner, giving us his body and blood, Eucharist, and telling his disciples to do the same in memory of him. The liturgy ends with the Eucharist being removed from the altar and put aside as we remember the agony of the garden, where Jesus realizes he will die for living what he taught, the Way of God.
My friend, Father Charles McCarthy says: “Holy Thursday of Holy Week is a dangerous memory because it is the memory of the institution of the Eucharistic with its two commands: ‘Do this in memory of me,’ and the ‘new commandment’: Love one another as I have loved you.”
In 2006 I was on a pilgrimage to Guatemala where Good Friday, the day remembering the death of Jesus on the cross, is the biggest holy day and holiday of the year. As I described in my pictorial essay Buried in Guatemala Good Friday in Guatemala is a day of celebration, bigger than Christmas or Easter in the USA. The Maya people of Guatemala who suffered so much really identify with Jesus on the cross. There are many processions in a joyful environment on Good Friday. The paradox of the cross is really evident; we celebrate the death of Jesus since we know that only through suffering and death can live with him.
It is the paradox of the seed planted in the spring in the ground. It must die to rise again as a plant and produce fruit. The cross is the ultimate symbol of nonviolence, loving our neighbors and enemies and enduring pain and suffering for them or from them.
After Good Friday the hard work is done. Saturday we just need to wait till Sunday, when the Resurrection of Jesus happens and out of death we can say: “All is Well”.
Be a Fool! - Wednesday, April 01, 2015
April Fool’s day was not much different than any other day. Pat and I did some shopping and running around in the morning; this afternoon I helped a friend and after dinner I did some writing while watching a basketball game in the background.
Yet, it was an extraordinary day. I heard from a friend of how and his family are doing. The family has had some tough times but keeps on going. I played an April’s Fool joke on a friend and he, for a little while believed me. I cooked a delicious supper which we enjoyed with a favorite wine, which we found in the grocery store today. I took my elderly friend out today for her first custard from Culver’s. My younger brother called tonight to confirm his visit here next week. I noticed my letter to the 1%, What More Do You Want from Us, got a lot of unique views on the Diary of a Worm.
I had a friend who said he was a ‘fool’ for Christ and went around the country doing fool kinds of stuff. I have been called some names, one being a ‘fool’. One benefit to being a ‘fool’ is an ordinary day can be an extraordinary day.
A ‘fool’ does not worry about what others think of his or her actions which gives the fool a lot of freedom. So turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary day by just being a fool.
We cleaned out our sun room today and now can start some seeds for later planting outside. When the sun is out there is plenty of heat in the sun room for plants but I put a small space heating for the cooler nights. Let’s hope this slightly more heat, 40’s −60’s, last for awhile or grows into spring weather.
Holy Week, this week, reminds me of why Jesus died. We used this question for faith sharing this morning and there were interesting comments and insights. For years I was confused and upset at the common statement that Jesus died for our sins. For me to say God send the person of Jesus on earth to be killed is like saying God is an abusive parent. When I went back to school in the 90’s for Pastoral Studies at Loyola in Chicago, I had a scripture scholar teacher who had the same concerns I did about saying God sent Jesus to be killed. The way she explained it and backed it up with historical and scriptural scholarship is that God sent Jesus to show us the Way, Truth and Light and how we can return to God. Jesus was true to his mission, doing God’s will, although that meant upsetting the Jewish and Roman hierarchy of the time.
Jesus kept true to his message even when it meant riding triumphal into Jerusalem on an ass, as it was predicted by the prophets the Messiah would do and turning over the tables of moneychangers and vendors who were in the Temple, a sacred place. He was accused of being the “King of Jews”, treason for Romans and killed like any other common criminal was killed, on a cross in public sights. The Romans rule, like all empires, with fear and if was not for the Resurrection this tactic might have worked.
I was reminded today that generally there is hardly any remembrance in history of the losers, the oppressed, the forgotten, the broken, and the victims— like Jesus of Nazareth. But today many in the world know of Jesus, not as “King of Jews” but as a holy man who lived in Palestine during the Roman Empire and by his cross and resurrection triumphed over evil and the Empire.
In my own simple life I have a hard time with insults, injury or being ignored. I forget the nonviolent example of how Jesus dealt with rejection and suffering, taking in on to himself, loving his enemy and by love, even love unto death, overcoming.
The death and darkness of winter is fading away into spring of life and light. Almost everything changes but some things, like dying and rising, winter to spring remain the same.
Yesterday a friend invited me to a rally today at Marquette Alumni Union by Members of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES). They were calling on the administration of Marquette University to establish an exclusive scholarship fund for undocumented students. They wanted to hold Marquette University accountable to its Jesuit beliefs in social justice. I came and was impressed by the number of Marquette students at the rally. I was reminded of 1968 when a number of Marquette students rallied to establish a scholarship fund for African American students. Several students spoke on the urgency of this fund and we than marched to the administration building and went up to the fourth floor to deliver a letter to the president. This is the same 4th floor where the legal counsel of Marquette University reminded me just the other day that no one was allowed to enter without an appointment.
I said a few words at the rally about our struggle in 1968 and how at the end, with nonviolent action, arrest, expulsion, resignations of students we were successful. I encourage them to struggle on and Thanked God for them. Several students spoke to me on the march to the administration building and back to the Union and thanked me for my words. I thanked them for boldly speaking out an issue, support of undocumented students, that was not so popular but central to Catholic Church teaching and Jesuit struggle for social justice, especially for marginalized, like undocumented.
I have been trying to find out how many African Americans young adults from Milwaukee are presently enrolled in the Educational Opportunity Program, the program that was established after our 1968 struggle. Since it so hard to find out makes me wonder if there are many African Americans from Milwaukee in the program. Today was a YES day.
Dear 1%, “powers that be”, very wealthy, ‘unspeakable’ in the USA,
I am really sorry for bothering you and know I do not matter in your lives. However, I have a question that has been disturbing me for quite awhile and I thought I would be bold and ask you directly. The question is how much more do you want from us?
You already have most of the world’s wealth leaving a little bit for us to fight over. You have us at ‘endless wars’ with each other where you profit from both sides? The US has the largest military budget ever, bigger than the other nine nations behind it combined. War is very profitable to you and the USA has become the largest arm dealer in the world. What more do you want?
You have given us a new health insurance system that some like and some hate but continues to make large profits for you. Illness and injuries make you money. What more do you want?
You have us politically divided and while we fight each other, conservative vs. liberal, Republican vs. Democrat you keep on moving the nation in the direction you want us to be, making more money for you. What more do you want?
You have replaced ‘communism’ with ‘terrorism’ and the more we kill terrorist and others in our way the more terrorism we have in the world. What more do you want?
You have made our system of voting irrelevant. We just think we are making a change by voting for the least objectionable candidate while persons with the most money generally win. What more do you want?
Our public school education system is dying while you direct more and more money into private education. What more do you want?
The racially poor are more segregated than ever and while we fight and blame each other we neglect to see your powers and wealth. What more do you want?
You have made ‘money’ free speech and corporations ‘persons’. What more do you want?
You control all the major media, radio, newspapers, TV, movies and now you want to control the little bit of the internet free for the rest of us. What more do you want?
You distract us by giving us more and more issues and concerns, environment, violence, racism, budget cuts for common good, education and wars each day. What more do you want?
Rather than working together we compete against each other for attention and we get nowhere, but more distracted. What more do you want?
I am sorry for bothering you but if you could just answer my questions maybe lives could be saved. I worry that the more you get the more you want. Greed has a way of taking over morals and justice.
Thank you for hearing me out though I expect this letter will be ignored. In fact, I do not even know who to send it to.
Just another nobody and reject,