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
Back in the late 70’s I was teaching a religious education to a group of high school youth in my house. Trying to understand the values that guide their lives I asked them what the values that are important to them are. One youth said: “To do you thing but not to hurt anyone.” Other youth in the group agreed with him.
When I was a community organizer I was taught that various groups had to work together on a specific issue to obtain change. The Gospel values my Catholic faith taught me are that we must work together for the ‘common good’.
I find today that “do you thing” implies not only to organizations but to groups. Recently I try to put three groups together on a common cause. One group was working on imprisonment and solitary confinement, one group was working to support families and individuals with mental health illnesses and the third group was working on human rights, especially for Blacks. I proposed working together to eliminate the padded solitary confinement cells for persons with mental illness in the County jail. Two groups ignored my request to work together and the director of the third said yes but has been impossible to reach.
I have had many people tell me that issues I have worked on like ridding Marquette University of Teaching War and Killing, stopping the flow of ‘money belonging to poor’ being sent to suburbs by the local St. Vincent de Paul Society or my concern to eliminate the stigma for persons with mental illnesses is “my thing”.
Some years ago I proposed that groups working on peace and justice issues focus and work together on winnable issue and then move on to another one. This is the way the peace and justice movements were organized in the 60’s and 70’s. Now individuals from one group may participate in another group or there are coalitions of organizations; but when it comes to taking direct action on issue it is the ‘thing’ of one individual or one group.
The ‘powers that be’ like this setup and create more issues for more group or individuals to work on. It was called “Divide and Conquer” and it works well.
I asked a good friend for support in the struggle of poor people to stop the flow of money meant to serve them to the suburbs and she said that was “my issue” and she had heard all about it from me. I said that taking money meant for poor and giving it to people in suburbs was not my thing and if I did not exist tomorrow the injustice would still go on. She did not want to argue with me and politely try to end the conversation.
A lot of groups start off saying “Let’s Work Together” to make a difference but soon gone off during their thing.
The art poster on my kitchen wall is from John August Swanson is of an urban scene and says in large “Let’s Work Together to Make a Difference” and in smaller print “Along we can do so little, Together we can do so much, in Unity there is Strength.” I say Amen brother and sister.
In today’s newspaper there was an article on major repairs to Miller Park Stadium, the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. We, taxpayers, are responsible for 70% of major repairs to the stadium which are around 1.4 million this year and expected to be 1.5 million in 2016. One of the products being studied is how to provide heat to the lowest 13 rows of seats. Most of Miller Park’s seats are heated with warm air flowing through ducts hidden below the rows. But tight space and other factors prevent that system from reaching the lowest 13 rows. So a separate air handling units warms those seats. However, these new units are now facing corrosion due the salt from peanut shells. Since banning peanuts at Miller Park is not possible so a new system needs to be created for these 13 rows.
Last Thursday the Milwaukee County Executive presented his budget to the County Board of Supervisors. After his presentation a county supervisor asked the County Executive what his budget would do to help the Milwaukee African American community, the largest such community in Wisconsin? His response was to talk about increased spending for social programs, such as more programming at the House of Correction (an extension of the county jail), child support enforcement, social services and mental health services. One commentator said the County Executive “apparently thinks that most African Americans are criminals, unwed mothers, welfare queens and/or psychotic.” See Cognitive Dissidence blog
Last night the Mayor of Milwaukee held a public hearing on his 1.55 billion budget for city of Milwaukee. People were angry at spending $880, 000 of the 278 million police budget to equip 1,200 beat officers with body cameras; the city spending millions on the new Milwaukee Buck’s arena; the news streetcar trolley serving the elite who can afford to live downtown; the low wage of Milwaukee’s public employees struggling to keep up with the cost of living. Critics of the budget pointed how all this money could be used to reduce recidivism, fight poverty and prevent homelessness. After the hearing the Mayor said: “Overall, I was very, very pleased. There was really little criticism of the budget itself.”
The city, county and State lawmakers decided that the taxpayers should pay 400 million dollars (with interest) on building a new Milwaukee Buck’s basketball arena and entertainment district downtown for the Wall Street Edge Funds owners of the team. Some call it ‘welfare for the rich’.
The newspaper also announced today that a new charter school was being planned for the South Side of Milwaukee. This charter school would use State public education funds, private and Federal government grants, thus further eroding funds from traditional public schools that often are left with the hardest to educate.
I continue to be amazed by the construction of the new street in front of our house. All the money, engineering, labor going into this project is amazing.
Maybe the poor and segregated in Milwaukee, the second poorest city in USA and the most segregated should start eating peanuts on the streets of Milwaukee so the salt from the peanuts will corrode our neighbors and force city to reconstruct these neighborhoods and thus create jobs for citizens in Milwaukee. But maybe corrosion of our neighborhoods from salted peanuts would just be ignored like other issues of housing, employment and good public schools. Then again people in need and the Black community are left with peanuts from the city, county and state, as it is. So why not try.
Tonight we went, with friends, to the Milwaukee Film Festival to watch The Look of Silence. It is a documentary about a middle-aged Indonesian man, whose brother was brutally murdered in the 1965 purge of “communists,” as he confronts the men who carried out the killings. The men and family involved in the genocide do not want to talk about that time. They keep saying we should not open this wound. Keeping silence, the government behind the coup in 1995 and still in power, encourages. Out of concern for his safety, the man is not fully identified in the film and is credited only as “anonymous,” as are many of the film’s crew positions.
What was scary about this movie was on some scale this is what our society, who backed the coup in Indonesia, encourages, keeping the silence. When people are reminded of the extreme poverty and segregation in our city people do not want to talk about it. When one points out that the US is the biggest arms dealer in the world, selling arms to all sides, people do not want to hear this.
Breaking the Silence is not something people like and can make one a ‘reject.’
Interesting enough is the fact that the movie has had many shows in Indonesia. After fifty years the silence about this genocide is finally being broken. There is now even a Facebook petition for the US acknowledge its role in the 1965 Indonesian genocide.
This genocide, recognizing it and admitting responsibility is a good example of how history can teach us not to repeat the same mistakes. Sadly, the opposite seems to be true in the USA, ignoring history and repeating mistakes.
Last Thursday a gunman opened fire inside a classroom at a rural Oregon community college Thursday, killing nine people before taking his own life. President Obama was angry and made an impassioned plea for gun control after the shootings in Oregon.
A few days later twelve ‘Doctors Without Borders’ staff along with seven patients, including three children, were killed after an apparent U.S. airstrike hit the international charity’s hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz. There were no International staff involved. President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the victims and said he will be kept updated on any developments into the investigation of the bombing.
President Obama, whose name is globally synonymous with drone strikes, personally expressed his “profound regret and apologized for an errant USA ‘killer drone’ strike that killed Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an American and an Italian.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni man, sought an apology for an errant USA drone strike that killed members of his family. President Obama refused to offer an apology.
What do these incidents say about the USA and the President? In my opinion and in the view of many in the world these two incidents say loud and clearly two things. The President wants ‘gun control’ for USA citizens but no control for USA bombing and ‘killer drone’ attacks, currently in seven countries. It also clearly says that USA and Western lives are valuable but Yemeni Afghan and Afghan citizens are not.
I do not want to put all the blame on President Obama since he is doing, perhaps on a larger scale, what every President, Commander in Chief, since Ronald Regan, Republican or Democrat, has done: condemn killing of US citizens but looking the other way in US killing of citizens in Middle East countries and around the world, in non-white cultures. Also each President has promoted more military might, weapons of mass destruction, each year. President Obama and the USA has sold more arms to more countries in his first five years in office than President Bush did in all of his eight year term. The USA is the weapons dealer with the most “blood on their hands” as Pope Francis called it.
I remember the day of the Columbine High killings in Littleton Co. My brother and his family live in this town and I was shocked and grieved as President Clinton expressed. Later I found out that on that same day President Clinton had ordered the largest US bombing in Kosovo, killing countless people, many of them innocent Christians.
The countless USA ‘killer drone’ attacks and bombings have been useful for our enemies in these and other countries. Using our verbiage they are ‘terrorist’ attacks and call for more revenge on USA.
When will ever learn that killing with a handgun or by bombing or done attack is still killing and only leads to more killing?
This letter is an attempt to get three organizations dedicated justice for poor, blacks and persons with mental illnesses to work together to eliminate solidarity prison cells for persons with military illnesses.
Dear Coalition for Justice, Milwaukee NAMI, MICAH/ Wisdom,
I write to you as organization devoted to justice, “black lives matter” and human rights for persons with brain illnesses. Please read below and respond.
Ever since a young African American male send me the horrifying video of Natasha Mckenna’s, an African American woman with a brain illness of schizophrenia, being taken from her county solitary confinement isolation jail cell by sheriff deputies, five in biohazard suits, to her death, I have had one dominating thought of “What can I do about it”? (See video at Natasha McKenna’s Last Words ‘You Promised You Wouldn’t Kill Me’ Caught On Horrifying Video or Sheriff Kincaid Releases Natasha McKenna Video )
My deceased son, Peter, and his friend, Loren, both had mental illnesses breakdowns and were locked in the ‘isolation’ solidarity confinement cell maintained by Sheriff Clark in the Milwaukee County Jail An isolation cell for persons with a mental health episode is more torturous than a regular solitary confinement cell. A person is stripped down and spends 24 hours in this padded isolation cell with nothing to do. For my son it left a lasted scar on his mind and fear of returning to this cell was overwhelming. Peter and I were sitting in our backyard one day wondering what happened to his friend, Loren, who the police had arrested after he had a brain illness attack about five days earlier. Loren, after five days in custody was finally able to make a phone call and called me crying, requesting that I bail him out of this torture chamber. It was late Friday, so Saturday morning, after jumping through some hoops the Sheriff had put in the way I was able to bail him out of jail.
After this incident I tried to lobby County Executive’s (Walker) and County Sheriff’s office about these ‘isolation cells’ for person with brain illness breakdowns. I got no way.
Now with the deterioration and the closing of the Mental Health Complex, with hospitals not willing to treat poor persons with brain illness and the increased incarceration of African American males more and more persons living with the stigma of mental illnesses are facing jail and prison time in these cells rather than treatment. Our jails and prisons have become our mental health facilities.
Alone we are voice crying in the wilderness but together we can make a difference and stop this torturous treatment of persons with mental illness.
Your organizations are dedicated to justice for all, especially Black young men, for eliminations of solitary confinement and providing treatment to persons with mental illnesses. Can one of you three groups take the initiative to bring together all three groups, other organizations and individuals into a united front willing to take nonviolent action to stop this injustice to the most vulnerable in our Society? Together we can make a difference and close these padded isolation cells in Milwaukee that only enhance a person’s illness.
Please respond, organize and act together,
“If daily life is trying enough, why, frankly, should blacks have to constantly watch their step? Why should they constantly be subjected to a different set of bells and whistles merely because they are black?” (Long Way to Go, Black & White in America” by Jonathan Coleman)
These final words of this book are race relations seen through the window of Milwaukee haunt me. Long before I read the book I observed it was harder and harder to be poor and black. Instead of creating an environment where “it is easier to be good” our society seems determined to make it harder and harder to be poor and black.
On the news tonight it was announced how the process of getting ‘energy resistance’ for this winter. I have friends who receive ‘energy assistance’ and I have noticed how hard it is to get it, now there will be more hurdles.
The State, County and City, instead of working for the common good, seem determined to make it harder for low income persons, especially blacks to get basic rights, housing and food, health care. Even voting in Wisconsin has been made harder, requiring now a State ID. My friend, Lucille, 87, has voted all her life without a State ID. Now she can be denied the right to vote. The reason given for requiring State ID is prevent voter fraud. However, there has been no evidence that former system caused fraud. Blacks do not vote as much as whites and now it will be harder for people without driver’s licenses or other Voter ID to vote.
The “trickle-down theory” seems to be the way white justified making it harder for blacks. For example, the local St. Vincent de Paul, justifies spending four or more million dollars in the white suburbs to it can get money for the poor later on.
Politicians in government keep giving tax-cuts to rich with the idea they will invest more in the economy and stimulate it. Government are gave rich Wall street millionaires a Welfare Grant of 400 million (with interest) of our money in name of creating more jobs and business in Downtown area. It may benefit some but the low income African Americans in North Central Milwaukee will not share.
As whites throw more obstacles, hoops to jump, more bells and whistles at blacks a more explosive environment grows and race relations deteriorate. How hard can whites make it for black?
For a number of years I was fighting the removal of full court basketball playing in the County Park across the street which some neighbors wanted to stop when African American males joined the Asians and Whites who were using the full basketball court for years. Eventually those of us fighting discrimination against African American youth lost. It was after that I learned from the President of the ACLU about ‘recreation redlining”. I did some research last summer but sent the letter to ACLU, Country Executive, County Park Director, Mayor and others today.
Wednesday, September 291, 2015
Awhile back after a MICAH event we had a brief discussion about my concern that basketball courts were being taken down at Doyne Park because young adult African American males were playing basketball at the park. Two of the four poles, backboards and rims have been removed leaving not only full court basketball playing impossible but availability of basketball low. (See Resurrect the Rims for history and update) You mentioned that day about the concept of “recreational relining.”
The African American youth playing basketball in the park had told me they had come to Doyne to play because other full court basketball courts had been removed by City, Public Schools and County Park. I started to do research about how many full basketball courts were left, outside of the segregated, improvised area of North Central Milwaukee, (North Ave. to Silver Spring, 60th street to Milwaukee River.) See M.A.P.S..
Researching the city and MPS recreational system was easy. Officials from both recreational departments admitted that they had eliminated full court basketball playing, except in one place each, due to citizen complaints about persons (read African Americans) using the courts.
The County official, where I had the most experience relating to since Doyne Park is a County park said he had no list of full basketball courts in County Parks in the city of Milwaukee. He referred me to a list of County Parks and said I would need to email and/or phone call each park separately. First I tried emailing all parks that listed basketball courts being available. Only a few wrote back so I tried calling each possible park. A few coordinators of county parks called back.
So from these phone calls, emails and personal observation I was able to gather the following list of full basketball courts in the Milwaukee. (Below) Please note that outside of the redlined area of North Central Milwaukee to the far South Side there is only two full basketball courts, at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, in the County Park System. . On that court there was an actual homicide of young African American male a few years ago but the neighbors, predominately African American insisted, like the city and people of Kenosha, that full court basketball playing remain.
You can find at M.A.P.S. some of the statistics of why Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the USA. I would be glad to make a map of full court basketball sites in city of Milwaukee. The North Central Milwaukee is the most improvised area in the second poorest city in USA and with high unemployment and high violence. There are many other ‘signs’ of racism in Milwaukee. Perhaps if ACLU could do something about “recreational redlining” it would help to expose the ‘racism’ in Milwaukee. Accepting racism is the first step toward overcoming it.
If we do nothing we are complicit in ‘recreational redlining.” If I can be of any assist to you or others in the struggle against racism in Milwaukee please let me know.
When we were in the rolling hills of Crawford County last weekend the landscape was breathtaking. Hills covered with trees about to turn color, hills cover with crops for animals and hills covered with organic vegetables for humans were everywhere. The hills were green or fall gold. Roads went up hills and roads went down hills. The land was not flattened to make room for construction and human occupation.
Seeing the beauty of the land I can feel how hard it was for Native Americans who live as one with nature to be forced out to make room for the white citizens occupying the land. The new invaders had guns and Native Americans were no competition this white human invaders and agreed or were forced into reservations on land not so fertile or productive.
I am reminded how African Americans were seduced or forced to move from downtown area and near north and west side. These citizens of United States had a heritage much older than the white settlers and their families. African Americans can trace their heritage to Africans who were brought here as slaves many years ago. The whites had the power of life or death over the slaves and after the slaves were ‘freed’ they kept control.
If you look at the city of Milwaukee today you can see that African-Americans are still segregated, especially the poor. The white suburbs have passed laws keeping those in need, especially African Americans out. Transportation systems between suburbs, where jobs are available and parts of city are poor. Racism and the individualism rebound in the USA. Bring back the rolling hills
Pumkin Moon - Sunday, September 27, 2015
As dusk fell tonight we were traveling home from Gay Mills’ Apple festival and two days of digital free existence. Our cell phones, including internet connection just did not work in the valleys of western Wisconsin. Also we watched TV for that is something our friends and other members of community do not do. Rather than on phone or internet we spent a lot of time outside admiring nature, watching an Apple fest parade, enjoying good organic and healthy food, spending time with very young children with full imaginations and just being present to the world.
We of the digital age, spending time on internet, watching TV or without smart phones do not realize how much we are missing in nature. Also many of us do not realize how privileged we are to have cars, have smart phones, have available and afford health food and have the basics of human life. Pope Francis called for the basic rights of all humans for Shelter, food, bed, stoves, money and transportation to travel, a decent job with a decent income.
On this weekend journey, at the American Players Theater production of Othello and at the Apple festival in Gay Mills I noticed very few African Americans. In fact at the play there were more African Americans on the stage than in all the audience. I was living in a world not affordable to many Americans whose families were uprooted from Africa and taken to America as slaves to whites so many years ago. Even at the events surrounding the visit for Pope Francis I noticed outside of UN visit, many persons of color, particularly African Americans. Why is this, when, for example, Washington D.C. has a majority culture of African Americans, many of them Catholic.
Watching the tragedy of Othello, a Moore, a black, unfold on Friday night and experiencing the delight of nature and good people we returned to the city of Milwaukee, where the poor and people of color are hidden in certain neighborhoods, kept divided and frustrated. As we were driving east toward the bright, full and super moon in the sky it looked orange to us and basically like pumpkin. Pat knew a children song about the moon and, keeping the same melody we changed the worlds to reflect a pumpkin moon. Later I found out it was called a Super Blood Moon and the lunar eclipse happening night was a rare event. “The last time a Supermoon and a lunar eclipse happened at the same time was 1982 and the next time it will happen is a 2033.” I doubt if I will be around in 2033.
I found out that it is called the ‘Super Blood Moon” I read it is called ‘super’ since this full moon only happens when the moon is closest to earth and this appears large. Also I read it only happens when the moon if fully eclipsed it appears ‘red’ and thus called’.
I tried to go outside before, during and after the eclipse but could only see the move white than dark at eclipse. However I know that thru the eyes of our childlike imagination Pat and I saw as we were driving home at dusk the ‘pumpkin moon’. I will take the ‘pumpkin moon’ over the ‘blood moon’ any day.
“Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”
These are the strong words of Pope Francis today before a joint session of the US Congress. The U.S. is by far the largest arms supplier in the world, with domestic manufacturers selling more than $23.7 billion in weapons in 2014 to nearly 100 different countries. William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, praised the Pope’s comments as “a refreshing change from the antiseptic language that too often surrounds discussions in this country concerning the global arms trade. Hartung’s research shows that the volume of major arms deals concluded by Obama in his first five years far exceeds the amount approved during the eight years of the Bush administration.
Will the Pope’s words matter? I would hope but doubt it. The major arms manufactures are in the USA and spend $150 million a year on lobbying and direct campaign contributions.
Our Holy Father had the courage to speak these strong words to US congress. Now it is up to us as Americans, to act on these words. If we keep silence our hands will be drenched in the blood money.
Recently I finished a fascinating book called: “Long Way To Go, Black & White in America” by Jonathan Coleman. I was given the book by a friend. It had been her father’s, a retired Pastor. My friend knew I was primarily interested in race relations in Milwaukee so I wonder what this book had to do with Milwaukee. To my wonder the author explores race relations through the window of Milwaukee. He spent seven years in 90’s reporting from Milwaukee, which at that time as now, was one of the most segregated cities in the country. (Since the census in 2000 it has been the most segregated area in the USA.) He drew on countless interviews, on diaries, journals, and letters, on events he witnessed, weaving it all into the context of history. Sadly what he observed racism, segregation, poverty of African Americans, degradation of the public school system, growing unemployment have increased. Impoverishment and segregation of African Americans in Milwaukee has increased since the nineties. We now have a longer way to go.
He ends his lengthy book with two questions: “If daily life is trying enough, why, frankly, should blacks have to constantly watch their step? Why should they constantly be subjected to a different set of bells and whistles merely because they are black?” In my words, why it so hard to be poor and black in Milwaukee? In the words of my 87 year friend, a civil rights activist, we are going backward, toward slavery, in the struggle for equality for all.
Accepting the racism within each of us is the beginning of bringing the gap between races. We must start calling situations like St. Vincent de Paul investing millions of dollars belonging to poor in African American neighbors to a store in a white suburb or taking down the rims in predominantly white neighbors when blacks start to play basketball, for what it is “Racism”. Yes we have a long way to go in race relations and the way is getting longer
The street in front of our house is being reconstructed, not just paved but completely remade. This street reconstruction is an inconvenience since we cannot use our driveways or garages for our cars during this time. But it is a welcomed experience.
My wife, Pat, went to the front of our house Sunday where there was no construction going on and marveled at the silence. She could hear the birds chirping and all the nature sounds in the silence. I have been fascinated by all the work, engineering, time and effort being made to construct the new street. I am sure such a reconstruction is very expensive since it takes so much work and time.
Today I was marveling at all the work and money being put in our streets and streets and highways all around us. I thought if that amount of work, engineering and money was put in some of the neighborhoods in North Central Milwaukee we could transform areas of decay and destruction into livable environments.
I realize that such an investment of work, time and money that is being put in my mostly white middle class neighborhood will probably not be put in the low income African American neighborhoods. Such an effort to transform neighborhoods into healthy environments along with other efforts to create jobs, fund education, support people in need with basics in life, like beds, stoves and refrigerators cannot happen in the present.
However, it is worth fighting for, like the small group struggling to have the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul live up to its mission. Today a friend called that my mission. The friend pointed out as others have done that I as the messenger was the problem why the message was not heard and supported. Marginalizing the messenger to ignore the message as being a part of every campaign I have been involved, including the one to stop our local Catholic university to stop teaching war and killing.
I can become discouraged since it is my “white liberal friends” who say this. However, I just need to look outside and watch the persistent effort to reconstruct our street. I remember how in all four Gospels John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus is described as an “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Matthew 3: 3)
Maybe we are called to be road constructors, inconvenient as it may be, preparing the way for Jesus to work in our lives.
Young men pulled from his
car for driving with cracked windshield
In today’s newspaper there is one inch of a column mentioning that a 28 year man (not identified) was shot and killed in North Central Milwaukee yesterday. In another one inch of a column is the name of a man shot and killed on Thursday in North Central Milwaukee. Yet there is a headline, front page article with pictures on how police are using ballistic technology to develop leads on homicides during this year of rising crime in the city. Also there in TV news last night and tonight mention was made of on a nearly three hundred thousand grant given the Milwaukee Homicide Commission to identify and capture violent offenders in the city. Other methods of capturing people who commit violent crimes are on the increase, from hiring of more police for areas of crime to more cameras to capture crimes to towers that can detect where guns are fired from. As more and more money and work is put into capturing criminals the more violent crime we have.
While it may be important to capture people who commit violent crimes it is more important to identify and correct the persons before they become offenders. Politicians, Police, Agencies and citizens know that the conditions that produce crimes are high unemployment, sense of homeless, dysfunctional families, mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders, poor educational systems, lack of healthy food, extreme poverty, poor housing. However, money spent in these areas is decreasing in Milwaukee as it becomes harder and harder in Milwaukee to be poor and a minority person. We seek to identify violent offenders but fail to target young person with services before they become offenders.
When we have an ecumenical prayer vigil at site of a homicide victim any family and friends are asked to say something positive about the dead person. Almost always they talk about the sense of humor of victim, how they laughed and made them laugh. The person becomes a human being instead another statistic in a one inch column. Many of these family and friends have experience more than one homicide victim and fear for their own lives.
Neighbors in North Central and South Central Milwaukee are rapidly increasing in human impoverishment while more and more resources and money are put in capturing offenders. I heard of a city in California that reduced significantly its high crime rate. The police chief decreased the stop and frisk of African-Americans and a city commission, independent of police, identifies youth who are in a potential situation to be an offender and pays them for education, food for family and more. Investment in crime prevention works and pays a greater return than an investment in capturing offenders.
We all know that we cannot change a person directly but we can create an environment where it is easier to be good. All homes should have beds to sleep on, stove and refrigerators to store and keep food yet that resource is becoming more difficult for poor families to have. We need to be investing in correcting conditions, like extreme poverty and racial segregation that make it more difficult to be good. Yet we rather capture offenders rather than prevent persons from being offenders. “When will we ever learn?” “Let those who have eyes to see, see and ears to hear, hear.”
I have been writing this Diary of Worm for many years, maybe since 2006. I can remember only a few of my postings being published, mostly in local newspaper as a ‘Letter to the Editor”. However, yesterday I was informed that two posting I wrote about two issues close to my heart have been or will be published. One is the posting ’Do Facts and Cry of the Poor Matter?’ which I wrote about the people’s demand that the local SVDP society stop using more “money belonging to poor” for a thrift store in the suburbs but rather serve people in need in the city. It was published, in all places, in the E Newsletter of the National office of Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP). Although the link is hidden it is a miracle that the National Office who cooperated with the local office to suspend me from the Society. I thank God, Blessed Fredrick and whoever was local agent for making this article available to all the good Vincentians in the USA.
The second came from the notable paper of the Catholic Worker in New York. This paper was established by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, co-founders of the Catholic Worker Movement in the USA. It has a large distribution all over the world and still is a penny a copy. The posting is Dorothy Day’s Worst Nightmare. The editor changed the title and made other edits but the essence of the article remains.
As some readers may know, I have struggled long and hard with other people to eliminate the teaching of killing at war at Marquette Catholic University (see Marquette and Notre Dane Teach War and Killing) and the struggle with people in need to shed light on “money belonging to poor” being use for persons in the suburbs These two issues at times looked hopeless. I have been told to “give up” on both struggles by some good people but just cannot. I take new hope in my persistent writing and acting with others on these issues of justice and peace. I do not bathe in the light of these two posting gone national but use them to inspire myself to do more writing and to work together with people on nonviolent actions.
Ghost Peppers from our
front yard garden
Ghost Peppers you are hot and very hot.
In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world’s hottest chili pepper,
401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.
In 2012 the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was discovered
And you were replaced as world’s hottest pepper,
Only to see your title passed onto the Carolina Reaper,
A pepper that is a cross breed between you and red habanero.
So now you are the third hottest pepper but who cares,
You are still too hot for almost all human beings to eat.
Only the very brave eat you straight.
I grow you not for myself,
You are so hot that just picking you leaves by eyes sting.
But I have a friend who told me some years ago you were the hottest pepper
And he can eat you straight.
So for my friend I grow you Ghost Peppers.
Now your past fame as caught on the restaurant world.
Red Robbin restaurants sells Ghost Pepper Hamburgers
And Taco Bell has ghost pepper loaded grillers.
Now you and I know these meals are not made with Ghost Peppers straight,
But with a heavily watered down sauce made from you.
Now you can say they have food honoring their hotness.
Yes, Ghost Pepper you are very, very hot,
Too hot for me but I can grow you and that is good.
This morning we had three prayer vigils for young African-American males shot and killed in North Central Milwaukee. There was no family present at the homicide prayer vigils and there was little information in the news for who they were in their young lives. But we prayed for these young men, their families, the neighborhood around the site of homicide. There have been too many homicides in Milwaukee this year, 135 by Sister Rose’s county and over 110 by the city count.
This afternoon I drove my friend Ms. Lucille, 87, to her doctors’ office. After a trip to help Pat get her lost keys in a parking lot we made a trip to a Fish store that had what Ms. Lucille was looking for—a fish with bones and all. She found a Red Snapper with head, tail and bones. She was delighted.
Tonight for dinner we invited three neighbors over, a retired couple down the block and a neighbor from across the street. During and after dinner we had a long conversation about many things but especially our experiences in the area and gave each other a sense of who we are. One neighbor worked for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the other two had retired from MPS. My fascination with Milwaukee and history was well fed today with stories by Ms. Lucille and my three neighbors.
In my driving around town today I heard on National Public Radio an interview with person who made the first ever virtual reality film in a war zone. It is called Welcome to Aleppo. Aleppo was an active and inclusive city in Syria that has been devastated by civil war. There is an eery presence all around you as you stand in a street in Aleppo. Of course you need virtual reality goggles to get the full effect but you can get a good taste for this short film at Ryot film projects. You can click arrows to get the 360 view.
The first and last event, homicide vigil and film about Aleppo speak about sorrow and death. The middle two speak about joy and life. All four experiences speak about how we are all connected, a young man being killed in a senseless death, an elderly lady looking for fish with bones, neighbors getting to know each other around the dinner table and a young girl welcoming us to her city destroyed by war. Moments of joy give us hope for moments of sorrow.
In the struggle of poor to stop the local St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) staff and leaders from using money “belonging to poor”, four million and counting, for a store in the suburbs the the pleas of the people and Rule and Manuel of the Society have been rejected and dialog with people in need has been rejected. After the Grand Opening of the new store in the suburb of Greenfield, when dignities and media had left, staff of St. Vincent de Paul using police threatened poor and people of color with arrest unless they left the property of the store. When people in need asked the leadership for a meeting to express their concern that the “Mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul” was suffering due to redirecting resources from poor to serve suburban people, their letter for dialog was ignored. Finally the people in need took a fact sheet/petition to the central office of St. Vincent de Paul where a bi-monthly meeting of board was to take place. The meeting was canceled and the office locked up early to avoid and ignore the people seeking a voice for poor. Here is that statement of facts and petition that where left at the door of the central office. Do facts and cry of the poor matter?
We the people, a voice for people in need,
Because the mission of “Society of St. Vincent de Paul is “Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering…”.(1)
Because “St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores throughout the United States are an association of lay employees and volunteers dedicated to serve our needy sisters and brothers. All who come to are stores are welcomed with dignity and respect. We hope they leave as friends to shop with us again. Those who cannot afford the clothing, furniture and other household items they need will be provided for through a Vincentian initiated referral system……Serving Christ’s needy is the first purpose of all St. Vincent de Paul stores.” (2)
Because Milwaukee is one of the poorest cities in the U.S.A., the most racially segregated city in the USA, with the highest rate of incarceration of African American males in USA and a city increasing in impoverishment of African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, (5)
Because In the Society, all our money, (income, donations, and debts) belongs to the poor. “The Society has held from the beginning that the funds donated to the Conference belong to the poor.” …… “Like Conferences, Councils act as custodians of funds given to the Society, understanding that they belong, ultimately, to the poor.” (3)
Because “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.” (3)
Because the Milwaukee SVDP Greenfield store, after seven months of operation and over four million dollars of investment* shows no signs of being sustainable let along profitable, (4)
We the people, who all SVDP money belongs to, demand there be No More Money of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee County be invested in the Greenfield SVDP store but rather being invested in the SVDP conferences that serve the needy and to create, not investigate, a SVDP Thrift store in North Central Milwaukee, where it is needed.
1 Rule of Society of St. Vincent de Paul
2 Mission Statement of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
3 Manuel of St. Vincent de Paul Society of USA
4 Based on the projected and approved 2014–2015 SVDP budget and small bits of information given to members of Milwaukee SVDP.
3.2 million dollars of loans from Securant Bank and Investment firm managing SVDP Trust Fund.
Interest on two loans $160, 000 per year
$500, 000 of Money being raised in present campaign
Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to City of Greenfield $15, 000 per year
Property Management Fees $37, 940 per year
Condo Association Fees $15, 000 per year
Compensation (40 employees) and Operating Cost for Greenfield Store not covered by sales.
Four Million Dollars Plus of Money Belonging to Poor investing in Greenfield Store
5 See MAPS http://www.nonviolentworm.org/Main/MAPS
What do these seven people in seven countries have in common with the President of the United States?
During the first seven years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the U.S. bombed their seven countries
The street in front of our house is being reconstructed. The fifty foot wide street with trolley rails and cobbler stones underneath is being torn up and will be reconstructed as 48 foot street with parking and bike lanes with curbs outs on east and west of 10 block stretch.
This year I did not add much new homemade soil with castings and noticed my tomato plants, while fruitful, are thinning out early. There are reasons for this, like lack of sunny hot days this summer, but I have no control over these conditions. However, next spring I can add more new compost soil with castings when I am preparing the raised area in the front garden.
We also had something to say about the reconstruction of street when city and alderman proposed making a narrow street. Our voice was heard. I had something to say about the reconstruction of the tomato planting area come next spring.
The large machinery used on the street has the word “CAT” on it, short for ‘Caterpillar’, a leading building of a large construction equipment. The Caterpillar Company also makes the large machines that are used by Israel to destroy the ancient olive tree gardens in Palestine. Olive trees take a long time to grow but can be destroyed in a few minuets. The Olive Oil I purchase in a store run by Palestinians is from the West Bank of Palestine. As Israel destroys the orchards new ones are planted by Palestinians but they will take years to grow.
For me the reconstruction of our street using “CAT” equipment is good for our neighborhood. Reconstructing the soil in my front yard garden will make it better for growing tomatoes. But the demolition of olive gardens by “CAT” equipment means death, destruction and destitution in Palestinians. The city pays for the road reconstruction; I pay, mostly with sweat labor, for reconstruction of the garden; and the USA, all of us, pay for the demolition of the Olive Tree Gardens.
Where are the Poor?
A group of citizens in Milwaukee’s most impoverished neighbors of Milwaukee went to the St. Vincent de Paul Central office today with a concern they have been trying to communicate for some time. They found the office closed and the bi-monthly board meeting had been cancelled. When the same group went peacefully to the Grand Opening of new store they were met with police and forced to leave the property. (See No Room for the Poor in SVDP Store They sent a letter to the President of Milwaukee Society and board to dialog on their concern for poor and they were ignored. Tonight they were met by one news photojournalist who took a lot of video shots but, so far, have failed to make the news.
Poor people are sadly used to being ignored and marginalized but this group will hopefully persist. Here is their fact sheet and demand. More can be found at Mission of St. Vincent de Paul and by requesting more information at
We the people, a voice for people in need,
Because the mission of “Society of St. Vincent de Paul is “Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering…”.*
Because “St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores throughout the United States are an association of lay employees and volunteers dedicated to serve our needy sisters and brothers. All who come to are stores are welcomed with dignity and respect. We hope they leave as friends to shop with us again. Those who cannot afford the clothing, furniture and other household items they need will be provided for through a Vincentian initiated referral system……Serving Christ’s needy is the first purpose of all St. Vincent de Paul stores. **
Because Milwaukee is one of the poorest cities in the U.S.A., the most racially segregated city in the USA, with the highest rate of incarceration of African American males in USA and a city increasing in impoverishment of African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, *****
Because in the Society, all money, (income, donations, and debts) belongs to the poor. (“The Society has held from the beginning that the funds donated to the Conference belong to the poor.” …… “Like Conferences, Councils act as custodians of funds given to the Society, understanding that they belong, ultimately, to the poor.” ***
Because “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.”***
Because the Milwaukee SVDP Greenfield store, after seven months of operation and over four million dollars of investment* shows no signs of being sustainable let along profitable,****
We the people, who all SVDP money belongs to, demand there be No More Money of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee County be invested in the Greenfield SVDP store but rather being invested in the SVDP conferences that serve the needy and to create, not investigate, a SVDP Thrift store in North Central Milwaukee, where it is needed.
Where are the poor?