Tag Archives: incitytimesworcester. org

Main South: the block party at Stone Soup!

Text and photos by Ron O’Clair

I was pleased to have been able to attend on September 16 the block party at Stone Soup at 4 King St., in the rear parking area of the renovated and fully functional building that had nearly burned to the ground some time ago. It was a long process of renewal that saved that building from the wrecking ball. It took a lot of time and a lot of effort to secure the funds needed to make this happen. It was a Herculean effort that has paid big dividends for the neighborhood …

DSCF5520

… with its programs being housed there.

Stone Soup is the headquarters for Earn-A-Bike, which is a really cool program that teaches children how to repair/build bikes, and the kids who volunteer end up with a free bike. It teaches kids the importance of hard work and saving for what you want in the world. There are many life lessons taught here, as they instruct the lucky recipient children in the art of making something whole again from a bucket of parts scavenged from other bikes that have been donated in various states of disrepair. They learn how to fix their own bicycles, too, and that can have an advantageous effect on their future development because they get to see what makes things work and understand a bit about how to make them work with a little effort. Plus they learn skills that can be applied at work or future jobs. It really is a unique program, one that should be emulated across the country, if you ask this author. It is a great program that, unfortunately, is being underutilized.

DSCF5521
Woo Rides at the block party!

There is also the EPOCA organization, which advocates for removing roadblocks put in place that prevent ex-felons from gaining employment and housing in their attempts to re-integrate back into the community after their release form prison. I support this organization fully due to my own oldest brother John Jr. having been killed in August of 1973 when I was 12 because he COULD NOT get a job in an economy where they were so plentiful you could quit a job in the morning and have another by that afternoon, starting the very next day.

That was 1973 Worcester, with factories running three shifts around the clock, such as Robinson Thread, Worcester Knitting and many more in the Industrial Parks that dotted the Worcester Landscape.

DSCF5513
Folks learning at the Stone Soup gathering

My brother faced the challenges the EPOCA folks face today, where after release from prison, and having paid for their crime with their time, they find they face a monumental obstacle that prevents them from obtaining employment and housing based upon their criminal convictions with a bad CORI report.

EPOCA works to address these issues so that the recidivism rate will drop. It is a truly worthwhile effort, as I believe in rehabilitation for all!

In the accompanying photographs, you will see the crowd that showed up for the burgers, hot dogs, Table Talk pies, Polar Soda’s, and other goodies – all free to the neighborhood …

DSCF5512

It was a good time to be had by all. You had a chance to mingle with your neighbors!

Parlee Jones, our own CECELIA/InCity Times writer had a spot at the table with her goods for sale which appealed to the women present (there was nothing there that interested me as a man). It was good to see my friend and colleague Parlee Jones …

Parlee for Rosalie
Parlee at the podium! ICT file photo

… whom I have a great respect for – and also a Bob Marley oversized cigarette lighter (she doesn’t smoke – it is for her candles). I wish I had known Parler was going to be at the event so I could have given it to her. When I got it, I said, Oh, Parlee would love this, she LOVES Bob Marley (and puts on the city-wide celebration every year at the WP library) … so I picked it up at the yard sale I was at for her. (This was like 2 years ago, I really need to get my gift to her pronto!)

There is a gentleman who is the owner of the “Woo Rides” who came by on his Pedi-cab to offer free rides as an inducement to generate some business for his fledgling enterprise of carting people around Worcester.

DSCF5514
There was a sound truck in the next driveway over that was used to carry the message of various speakers to the crowd. It was provided by an on call 1 hour notice D. J. service that I failed to get the name of, but if you need that type of service I am sure the good people of Stone Soup can tell you how to get in touch with the D.J.

It was a great time at Stone Soup! More than 200 people celebrated! I support all they do in our community, and I know there are other groups that I have not listed here that work out of that building as well.

I hope you found this article interesting and that you support Earn-A-Bike with donations of bicycles in any state or condition. Don’t throw your used bike out! Please donate it for the children of Worcester at Earn-A-Bike.

I also hope you support the EPOCA 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that supports ex-offenders who are trying to reintegrate into society and face challenges that, if not removed, lead to higher rates of recidivism. It is in the best interest of all to get people the help they need to STAY out of prison and become productive tax payers once again!

Please email Ron O’Clair – Ronaldoclair@hotmail.com – with any comments.

City Councilor Michael Gaffney drops another bomb


IMG_20170913_181419
A few days ago: Rose walking her mutts. With the leaves turning color, her thoughts turn to the fall city election … pic: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

No, it is not the usual City Councilor Michael Gaffney political hate bomb, right before this Tuesday, September 19, the last date all Woo city councilor candidates at large must officially declare their intent to run for mayor. No, this time, it’s not Gaffney: demonizing minorities, refugees or immigrants; accusing the editor of a local paper of being a sexual predator after the paper runs A FEW PARAGRAPHS! on him that he doesn’t like – Gaffney does this to cost the editor his job and stop the stories – not to help women; lying about and twisting the intentions of present Worcester Mayor Joe Petty; cynically thinking he’s smarter than every one else in the room so he boldly obfuscates and manipulates his way into the voters’ psyches.

No. It’s not the usual Gaffney scheme, taken straight out of the Donald Trump Shit on the Other – Prey on the Weak Handbook. No. This is something new: Gaffney’s declared that this fall, this election season  – when he runs for mayor of Worcester for the second time – HE WILL NOT BE TAKING ANY QUESTIONS FROM THE MEDIA – pertaining to his mayoral run!

That’s right: He will be answering zero Q and A-where do you stand on the issues? candidate surveys. He will be participating in zippo candidate profile pieces, shunning any kind of forum hosted by any paper, radio or TV station  … saying NO to any media-sponsored forum that will help voters make informed decisions in the voter’s booth this November. 

A guy who runs for mayor of the second largest city in New England but refuses to tell the voters what he is gonna do, if elected mayor! That’s Gaffney!

Endorsements? Screw ’em! The Gaffer, who never shuts up when it comes to spreading falsehoods about his perceived political enemies, is clamming up when it comes to talking facts, ideas and goals for Worcester! Unless he is planning to spend $40,000 on advertising, like he did last election cycle, so he can control his message, totally. Because he’s got the dough. … Very presidential candidate Donald Trump! Money money money.

Boycotting voter education, while doling out a ton of voter miseducation on Turtle Boy!

Even though Gaffney thinks he’s merely poking a thumb into the local media’s eye ball, grabbing control of his message, he’s  hurting himself. You wonder: What is Mike Gaffney so afraid of? What is Mike Gaffney trying to hide, ashamed to admit, unwilling to own? Why can’t he be a part of this very American tradition? What doesn’t he want to discuss?

Obviously, quite a lot. Basically the way he does politics – his political m.o.

For starters:

Gaffney’s Sanctuary City lies/race-baiting debacle that messed up Worcester for weeks;

his vindictive political style and bashing of poor people a la his political supporter CHANGE WORCESTER FB PAGE ANONYMOUS AUTHOR PAUL COLLYER – a guy who is so NEGATIVE about Worcester it hurts!

… or may be it’s Gaffney equating – like his buddy Aidan Kearney, owner and writer of Turtle Boy – minorities and poor people with crime and stupidity, an America on the cusp of moral collapse

… or, like Aidan Kearney, like Donald Trump, it could be Gaffney’s stoking the prejudices of people who fear a changing Worcester/America – and refusing to admit to the fact in order to keep feeding the red meat to  his political “base”

… or, coordinating hateful stories with Turtle Boy … and Paul Collyer’s FB page, Change Worcester, becoming an echo chamber – though Collyer has often been the original source from which some of the puke was first puked up.

When you think about it, every puke-y, ugly Worcester political  hate-storm, every nasty Woo political scream fest, every depressing headline about one Woo group pitted against another can be traced to City Councilor Michael Gaffney. Or, if not the source, the Gaffer’s fanned the flames of misunderstanding and prejudice. For political gain. To win.

Now why would we want a guy like this to be Mayor of Worcester?

Worcester is the second largest city in New England. A complicated, diverse, growing metropolis! We deserve better! Incumbent Mayor Joe Petty is better – he is a BETTER man than Gaffney will ever be. He’s a bigger man, a man whose heart is not capable of hatching all the shifty, soul-shriveling political schemes of a Mike Gaffney. And, for this Woo voter, that’s what it comes down to: Petty is perfect for my city of 2018 and beyond not just because he’s a guy with the smarts and collaborative instincts to create a Woo on the move but because he’s got Modesty and Grace. Grace: a quality the spiritually vacuous Gaffney knows nothing about. Being a good person who never exploits the OTHER in our society, the weariest and weakest among us: refugees, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the men, women and kids struggling with drug addiction. Mayor Joe Petty works hard to make our city a millennial playground, but he also keeps his eyes on our kids in our schools, our families in our inner-city neighborhoods, our workers who need good jobs and job training … even our pups in our dog parks! He is a GOOD PERSON WHO DOES RIGHT BY EVERYONE. In a multicultural city, with a minority-majority public school system, a lot of poor folks who the global economy has abandoned … during these awful Trump Times in which cities are gut-punched daily, courtesy of our insane President, we need Grace in City Hall. We need Joe Petty.

We don’t need schemer, never-dreamer Mike Gaffney!

Clark U – always in style! Fall dialogue symposium!

IMG_20170910_121305
Cece, what are you doing in this listing?!! pic: R.T.

Clark University’s fall dialogue symposium to focus on the “public good”

Lectures, art exhibit to highlight how the arts, humanities unite us in common pursuits

This fall, Clark University’s Higgins School of Humanities’ dialogue symposium “Common Pursuits/Public Good” will consider how the arts and humanities contribute to the public good through acts of advocacy and teaching; creation and critique; contemplation and scholarship.

“A commitment to the public good premises a system of shared values, even as those values change and, sometimes, come into conflict with each other,” wrote Meredith Neuman, director of the Higgins School of Humanities. “Consensus can be elusive, and compromise difficult, but the pursuit continues.”

All events listed below are free and open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, they will be held on the Clark University campus in Dana Commons, 36 Maywood St., Worcester.

Exhibit

“ENGAGE: An exhibit by William Chambers”
On display from September 12 through November 21
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
Socially engaged art exists at the intersection between powerful symbolic statements and quantifiable political change. Part installation, part performance, wholly participatory, this exhibit will feature two works by artist William Chambers – “Service Station” and “Repairs” – that explore the power of art objects to foster conversation on important issues and to allow for the unexpected. This exhibit is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. (Chambers will give a lecture on Wed., Nov. 8.)

Community Conversation

“What’s In It for Us? A Community Conversation on the Public Good”
Thursday, September 28
7pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
How do we support, utilize, and recognize contributions to the public good? Clark University professors Barbara Bigelow (Graduate School of Management) and Toby Sisson (Studio Art) will share their respective expertise in dialogic process and community-based art as facilitators of the discussion. This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and Difficult Dialogues.

Discussion

“Why Bother with Prison Education?”
Thursday, October 5
4:30pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
Arguments for the value of prison education generally focus on larger social benefits, such as reduced recidivism, but arguments might also be made for the less quantifiable but no less transformative outcomes for individuals themselves. Poet Jill McDonough (UMass Boston) and Arthur Bembury (Executive Director of Partakers, a non-profit organization devoted to helping volunteers mentor incarcerated students), will lead this conversation on the fundamental role of education in the prison system. This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, the Department of English, and the Hiatt Center for Urban Education.

Panel

“Why Get Involved with Prison Education?”
Tuesday, October 17
4:30pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
In this follow-up to “Why Bother with Prison Education?”, Clark University Professor Shelly Tenenbaum (Sociology), former Clark student Claude Kaitare, and Steffen Seitz of the Petey Greene prison tutoring program will discuss the various goals of prison education programs, offer reflections on their own experiences, and discuss volunteer opportunities. This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Department of Sociology.

Readings

“Terror Rising: The Village Mob”
Wednesday, October 25
7pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
Professors Gino DiIorio (Theater) and James Elliott (English), and Jennifer Plante (The Writing Center) will read scary stories that turn our attention from the fear of the monster to the fear of the mob. This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.

Off-Campus Lecture

“Community and Memory: The Bullard Photographs”
Sunday, October 29
4pm
Belmont A.M.E. Zion Church
55 Illinois Street, Worcester
Cheryll Toney Holley (Sonksq and historian of the Nipmuc Nation and Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians) and Professor Janette Thomas Greenwood (History) will lead this discussion of how the recently discovered William Bullard photographs of Beaver Brook residents (1897-1917) can help reconstruct this neighborhood, its families, and their stories, suggesting lessons we can learn about community and memory today. This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Department of History. Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897-1917 will be on display at the Worcester Art Museum from October 14, 2017 to February 25, 2018.

Lecture

“Race/Memory/Public Space”
Friday, November 3
12pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
Cultural historian Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation), who has written about the National African American Museum of History and Culture and was a designer of the University of Virginia’s Memorial for Enslaved African American Laborers, will examine current and historical intersections of race, architecture, and the public realm. This event is part of the African American Intellectual Culture Series and is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, the Office of the Provost, Africana Studies, and the Department of Political Science through the Chester Bland Fund.

Lecture

“Health Care for Good: What We Need to Learn from Radical Clinics”
Tuesday, November 7
7pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
Author, performer, and practitioner Terri Kapsalis will draw upon the history of radical clinics linked to political movements, such as the Black Panther Party and the Women’s Health Movement, to address the continued need to expand economic and geographic access to quality health care and to offer a vision of what radical health care has been and can be. This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities; the Center for Gender, Race, and Area Studies; and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Lecture

“Art as Social Practice”
Wednesday, November 8
7pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
William Chambers, instructor at Massachusetts Bay Community College and Visual Arts Chair at the Bancroft School, will consider how socially engaged art has the power to interrogate privilege and inequity as well as identity-based pretexts for social and political discrimination. This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.

Also at Higgins this semester:

Lecture

“The Science of Undeath: Zombies and Animated Corpses in Historical Perspective”
Wednesday, October 18
4:30pm
Higgins Lounge, 2nd Floor, Dana Commons
Winston Black (History, Assumption College) will discuss how and why medieval scholars debated corpse animation and hence understood the porous boundaries between life and death. Clark University Professor Deborah Robertson (Biology) will offer commentary. This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, Early Modernists Unite, and the Departments of Biology and History.

What will you give the Easter Bunny this year?

20170406_173138
Lilac, 4-6-2017 pic: R.T.

Reposting for Easter …

By Kendall Bryant

Easter is almost upon us, or as we in the sheltering world say, “Brace yourselves — it’s rabbit season.” I’ve rescued rabbits for 10 years, and I volunteer in the small-animal room at my local shelter. And every spring, it seems as though, for many cast-off Peter Cottontails, the bunny trail leads straight to our door.

While most of us consider cute, scampering rabbits to be one of the quintessential signs of spring, it can be a tough time for many of them. The ways in which we inadvertently cause them to suffer — for everything from fur to floor cleaner — would make any bunny hopping mad.

Let’s start with the Easter Bunny. Every year, breeders and bunny mills churn out irresistible baby rabbits for parents to put in their children’s Easter baskets. And every year, for several weeks after Easter, shelter workers take in a deluge of these same rabbits — after they have chewed through electrical wires, books, baseboards, doorjambs and all the Easter lilies.

What breeders and pet stores often fail to mention as they’re ringing up those fluffy little bundles of Easter joy is that rabbits, like all animals, have some particular needs. They chew incessantly (their teeth never stop growing), and they have special dietary needs (think less lettuce, more hay). They require constant mental stimulation and space to run around in, and they get depressed when confined to a cage. They can live for up to 12 years.

So, when Bugs turns out to be more work than parents bargained for, he usually finds himself tossed out like a stale Peep. He might be dropped off at an animal shelter, relegated to a cage outside or simply turned loose in the wild, where he won’t stand a chance against starvation, harsh weather and predators.

But buying bunnies on a whim and then abandoning them once reality sets in is just one way that we cause them to suffer.

Many of the fur accessories, trim and jackets that you see in stores are made from rabbit fur because it’s often cheaper than other animals’ skins. Rabbits on fur farms spend their entire lives confined to tiny, filthy metal cages and often have their necks broken while they’re still conscious and able to feel pain. On angora farms, rabbits scream and writhe in pain as workers tear the fur out of their skin. I couldn’t wear a coat made of rabbits any more than I could wear one made of golden retrievers.

Rabbits’ mild manner and the ease with which they breed also make them a favorite victim of experimenters, who use them to test chemical products, burning their skin with noxious chemicals and dripping substances into their eyes, even though superior non-animal testing methods are readily available.

And it should go without saying, but anyone who cares at all about rabbits shouldn’t eat them. The House Rabbit Society and other rabbit advocates have been fervently protesting outside stores that sell rabbit meat.

We humans have long had a hard time thinking straight about other animals — we keep some as “pets” while serving up others on our plates — and our treatment of rabbits shows just how schizophrenic our relationship with other species can be.

So this Easter, let’s give rabbits a break by vowing not to wear them, eat them or buy cosmetics or household products that were tested on them. (You can check to see if a company is cruelty-free by using PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies searchable database.) And if you’re really ready to give a rabbit a lifetime of care, hop on down to your local humane society or rabbit rescue group to adopt one — preferably right after Easter.

****
These companies don’t test their products on bunnies … Support them!

petaLiving-social-15CrueltyFreeCompanies

*******

A kind of Easter Parade!

How I Saved Money by Going Vegan

From PETA.ORG:

Shekalia-at-market-830x623

By Shekalia

Back in the day, I wasn’t necessarily swimming in cash. I was a student, so you can imagine how empty my pockets were. When I found out that animals suffer miserably on cramped factory farms for our food, I was determined not to let my financial situation deter me from going vegan. But I was surprised to learn how affordable vegan foods are and that I could actually save money by ditching animal-derived foods and planning my meals.

I created a budget and became a money-saving ninja. And now I’m here to pass on what I’ve learned. Here’s how I saved money by going vegan:

Brainstorm Meal Ideas Before Making Your Grocery List

Some folks make the mistake of creating a shopping list without actually thinking about what they’re going to cook. Don’t do that. Instead, sit down and think, “What dishes do I want to make?” By doing this key first step, you’ll avoid overspending at the store and start saving money.

Here are some ideas for meals that are cheap and easy to make:

Stir-fry: This can be made up of anything, and it only takes one pot. Just chop up your fave veggies, heat up some oil, and start frying. Add some cooked noodles and tofu.
Pasta: You can buy pasta for as little as $1—and pasta sauce is just as cheap. Add veggies like onions and mushrooms for texture.

Chili: All this dish requires is beans, veggies, and spices, and voilà—you’re done! You can’t beat this simple go-to meal, plus chili can be used in a variety of ways: Put it on fries, on Fritos, on nachos—the list goes on. If cooking isn’t your thing, most grocery stores carry “vegetarian” chili that’s actually vegan. Just check the label to make sure that it doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients.

Don’t Forget the Staples — and Buy in Bulk

Food is usually cheaper when you buy it in large quantities — and if your kitchen is always stocked, you won’t be tempted to order expensive takeout when cravings hit. Stock up on staples like beans, grains, nuts, and frozen fruits and veggies. (I like to buy quinoa in bulk because it can be more expensive in smaller amounts.) Sometimes, I prepare a large portion of beans and rice to eat with other dishes that I cook during the week. This saves me time and brain power, as I don’t have to come up with a meal from scratch.

Shop Sales

We all love a good deal. Plan your grocery shopping around when stores and markets have sales. And don’t skip the dollar store — most stores carry staples like beans, rice, pasta, and frozen produce as well as other vegan options. Go to your local dollar store and browse the aisles — you never know what you may find.

Cook!

mentor-featured-imaged-830x400

I started cooking when I was 6 and was quite the little chef — although it involved mostly meat-based dishes. When I went vegan, I realized that preparing meat-free meals is far simpler. Cooking your own meals saves you money, too, while sparing your body the negatives effects of eating unhealthy takeout.

While cooking at home will save you money, there’ll be moments when you need to grab a bite to eat on the go. Taco Bell, Subway, and other vegan-friendly fast-food places have meals that’ll fill you up for just a few bucks!

Try Mock Meats and Tofu

MOCKMEATCOLLAGE-830x830

Mock meats like those made by Gardein and Tofurky are great sometimes. Don’t focus on replacing meat with mock meat, though. Instead, concentrate on eating more whole foods — and don’t forget about our friend tofu. One block can cost as little as 99 cents, it’s extremely versatile, and it’s also a better, cheaper substitute for meat that can be found at pretty much any grocery store.

By going vegan, you’ll be able to eat well for cheap and you won’t contribute to animals’ suffering. Knowing that piglets’ tails are cut off without painkillers, male chicks are ground up alive, and cows are separated from their calves inspired me to change my lifestyle — and as a result, I was able to cut my spending in half. I no longer buy meat, dairy foods, or eggs, which accounted for most of my budget in the past. I now buy and prepare affordable, nutritious plant-based foods. What could be better than saving money and being kind to animals and my body?

Time to abolish electoral college

By Steven R. Maher

Hillary Clinton may have been defeated in the electoral college, but she apparently has won the majority of votes in the 2016 presidential election.

This happened to candidate Al Gore as well in 2000. Filmmaker Michael Moore has called for the abolition of the electoral college. Given that George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump were not the choice of the majority of American voters, that might not be a bad idea.

During a class in public speaking I took at Nichols College, the professor illustrated the way language can be used to mask a falsehood without telling an outright lie. (This would be something along the line of saying, “It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”)

During the Cold War, there was a contest to see who built a better car: the United States or the Soviet Union. The American automobile won. Pravda, the Soviet newspaper (ironically, given all the lies it told, Pravda is Russian for “Truth”), reported the results as follows: “In an international competition of automobiles, the Soviet vehicle came in second, while the American vehicle came in next to last.”

The Pravda statement was true. It was a clever way of disguising the truth, which is that Americans made a better car than Russians. Reading it, one would think there were many nations participating in the competition. This wasn’t so, but the Russians were denying the truth without lying.

Another example of this would be: “Donald Trump was elected President in a landslide, with Hillary Clinton coming in second.”

That would be true if you looked at the electoral college only. It would disguise the fact that a majority of the American electorate voted for Clinton for President and rejected Donald Trump.

There is no mandate in this election for Trump.

Michael Moore is right. We should abolish the electoral college.

******

For Donald Trump. Joan and Bob sing Woody:

WOW! It’s finally happening: Downtown Worcester mural fest!

20160627_171433_HDR-1
Mural –  Dramatic lady – Downtown Worcester, Hanover Theatre  pic:R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

Several years back I was driving through Main South and I saw this: a mom and her little girl – the girl was about four or five – walking past the revamped PIP shelter. It was now a free lunch spot for the neighborhood’s downtrodden. This slice of downtown Worcester was truly menacing 15 or so years ago when the PIP was still a wet shelter. Outside the big, multi-storied brick PIP building at 701 Main St. men and women, strung out on heroin, coked-out on coke or just plain drop-dead drunk,  lurched and staggered across Main or Charlton street, talking/swearing to themselves words slurred… They were so high/drunk you feared for their lives! You feared for yours! They were craving – physically needing – their next fix, and many would do anything to get it.  They couldn’t help themselves! You saw, out in the open, the Main South drug biz. Women offered themselves up for sale so they could buy their drugs –  johns paid them 50 bucks (the cost then for a bag of smack) and abused the street girls: I know of one woman konked on the head with a beer bottle because she told her john that pigeons are messy birds, another woman got her hand smashed when some asshole slammed the refrigerator door on it; her face was swollen and bitten up from the bed bugs in the apartment. Sirens, screams, gun shots were all part of the aural scenery on this side of downtown Worcester…

Fast forward to seven or so years ago: Now I was looking at a less perilous area, with the mom and her little girl crossing Charlton Street, walking by the new and improved PIP. It was now a place for the hungry and homeless (addicted or sober) to eat a hot lunch and (oftentimes) be driven to the hospital by ambulance for first aid/detoxifixation.

The one true constant in that ‘hood, the one thing that had outlived the police cruisers, the street fights, the ambulances, the heroin, the prostitution, the old PIP’s angel executive director, Buddy Brousseau, the old PIP’s angel PIP doctor for the homeless and the big-hearted PIP case workers was the lovely mural painted on the Charlton Street side of the PIP. The mural’s tall flowers, its themes of beauty and love, its tropical colors, somewhat faded through the years, STILL gave this tough inner-city corridor warmth, softness …  As it always had and always WILL! Public street art – the artist’s urban dream superimposed on the urban reality. For all to experience!

Children are better, braver than adults! It was the little girl, walking with her mom on Main Street, who made me see! She, on catching sight of the mural,  ran away from her mom, to the PIP building, to its mural and flung herself at one of the mural’s painted sunflowers. With her arms outstretched over the painted brick wall I could see she was “hugging” the flower! For a long time! She was smiling … delighted! She had found a new friend during her walk with  her mom – a  yellow sunflower taller than she was! There they were: the painted flower, her petals unfolding,  and the little Latina girl, her heart unfolding. Mom, a nice young woman, had adult distractions: she was carrying a grocery bag and pushing a baby carriage, with a little one inside. It was July and crushingly hot. Mom wanted to keep on walking, get home, get out of the heat wave – intensified by all the concrete surroundings. She could’t pay too much attention to the mural that had captivated her daughter, though she was smiling when she walked up to her girl with her cheek pressed against the painted flower and took her by the hand and gently lead her away.

I think of that little girl and her mom often. I remember how the mural had moved the little girl, lifted her straight up off Charlton Street and deposited her on her own little cloud of happiness!

This is what I want for all our city kids – many of them deprived in ways you may not be able to relate to. You think it’s poverty. You think it’s sadness. You think it’s an abusive dad… You think it’s malnutrition. You’re certain it’s a shitty apartment. Often it’s all of the above – entwined, braided  … over and over again, through generation after generation sometimes.

And so it is with GREAT LOVE AND GREAT JOY that I SAY: POW! Knock out the hurt and pain! WOW! Look at all that great public art!

WORCESTER’S DOWNTOWN, the hub of our inner-city, the seat of our city govt, is getting a big MAKEOVER. Bright, huge, colorful  MURALS will be painted ON THE SIDES AND BACKS OF OUR DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS from August 26 to September 4. By local artists and visiting artists from all over the world. So much art! Such BIG COLORFUL PICTURES – a ton of them! – for all the little city kids to be  WOWED by!

This is HUGE, Worcester! This art fest, with so many artists creating street art right before our eyes, is a gift. Everbody – rich and poor; black, brown and white; old and young; college-educated and autodidact – can feast their peepers on our buildings.  And enjoy!

Collectively, these murals will be our very own STATUE OF LIBERTY! Yes, the millenials and upper-income empty nesters, people city leaders want to attract to our urban core, can and will enjoy the art, but for me, the murals are for the people. Power to the people! Especially the little kids! … of Green Island, South Worcester,  Main South, Piedmont…Our sometimes weary, hungry and forsaken…our immigrants, refugees. Without a lot of dough or connections, they may not be able to eat dinner at downtown’s new pricy restaurants. They may not be able to buy tickets to that special concert at Mechanics Hall. Maybe they are even afraid – intimidated because they are new to America and don’t have confidence in their English or American government! – to enter City Hall.

But the best things in life are free!  Like our glorious Free Worcester Public Library. Like all the BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS AND TREES growing in our downtown … And soon the folks from Lafayette, Hacker, Queen, Cambridge, Charlton streets (yes! PIP people, too!) will be able to walk through their downtown look up at its buildings and see “rocking horse people,” “newspaper taxis” … “girls with kaleidoscope eyes” – you name it! There are gonna be a lot of murals!

(Sun)flower to the people!