Tag Archives: incitytimesworcester.org

Try a little openness

By Ron O’Clair

Department of Justice visits Worcester to hold community meetings on race

DOJ Discussion #2

The participants of the discussion broke off into groups of about a dozen each and went to different areas of the Auditorium at Quinsugamond Community College and even into private rooms to hold discussions based on guidelines prearranged by the City of Worcester Human Rights Commission.

I went into the #8 group which was determined by having been given a random number upon signing in from 1 -12. Each person signing in got a number. After having heard a presentation from the City of Worcester about how the local government works, we all broke off into the separate areas to begin the discussions.

The group I was in had some notable Worcester figures in it, including Dr. Reese the Assistant Principal of Doherty High School, Ronald Scott, Charles E. Scott’s son, and arriving late, a woman who used to be a teacher in the public schools system.

When it came time for the discussion part and the facilitator asked if anyone wanted to say anything, everyone looked around but no one spoke.

I held up my hand and started the discussion off. My contribution was all done, and other people took turns. It was at this point that the retired school teacher entered the room, so she had no idea of anything that I said.

Nearly everyone else in the room had a chance to share their thoughts, and then the lady monopolized the conversation, interjecting “just three more points” when other people wanted to talk. In fact one person who attended sent an email to complain about not having had a chance to talk, blaming the woman who snubbed me for it.

There was a lengthy pause before I started the discussion, he or she had the opportunity to speak then, but chose not to avail themselves of it.

I listened to all she had to say: it was basically a diatribe about prejudice against students of color in the school system, although she mentioned that she was taught as the only black child in a Catholic Schools system. She also mentioned about the Boards and Commissions available for the City of Worcester and about what she perceived as prejudice there also. I took an opportunity to relate that I also had applied for a couple of spots on City of Worcester Boards and Commissions and had been rejected. She flippantly suggested that I was not worthy for those positions with her comment about what I had to say.

I listened to everything she said and was initially impressed enough by what she said that at the end of the discussion period and before we all returned to the Auditorium to hear a recap of the 12 different discussions, I reached out my hand to shake hers.

She declined my offer of a handshake with a look of contempt spread across her features.

I was taken aback a bit, but I figured that perhaps she is one of those people that just do not like physical contact and decline hands offered in friendship.

That was then … after the meeting was breaking up in the Auditorium, I happened to be near that same woman as she was making her way up the aisle and out of the Auditorium. Every single person of color that approached that woman with an offer to shake her hand was met with warmness and affection by the woman. Some people even got hugs.

I was stunned.

I could not help but think that that woman intentionally snubbed me based upon the color of my skin!

What other reason could there have been?

I am an outgoing individual who was the only person in the group # 8 that was involved in the City of Worcester political process, as I am a Candidate for City Councilor At-Large, and I have made it a habit to befriend all people regardless of their ethnicity as I have always done, and I have to tell you, the way that woman snubbed me hurt me.

It seemed to me that she felt that I was beneath her, due to my having been born with “white privilege”!

Our group had a representative of the daily come in and take pictures, and no one made a protest about it. Another group actually was offended that a representative of the press attended their group, the group led by Professor Sonya Conner who actually brought up that their group did not like the media being there when it was her turn to speak from the podium, City Councilor Konstantina Lukes was in that group. Councilor Phil Palmieri was in another group, and Councilor Sarai Rivera was in yet another, as was City Councilor At-Large Morris Bergman. There were a lot of City Councilor and Candidates for City Council in attendance, I saw Candidate Krystian King there as well.

I was there not as a representative for the InCity Times but as a private citizen and a City Councilor At-Large Candidate, and I did not ask, nor take any photos of the private meeting group. Though I certainly could have.

All in all, I thought that it was a good meeting of the minds to help address legitimate concerns about racism here in Worcester and thought that a lot of valid points were brought up in the discussion that our group had, even by the woman who then snubbed me.

Discourse is a valuable tool in any negotiation, and a spirit of working together has a much better chance of getting results than to have people act the fool, riot, loot and burn.

I think these talks and the ones scheduled to yet take place will help the people find constructive ways to eliminate racism in our communities and ensure equal and fair treatment of all citizens regardless of race.

At least, that is what I hope comes of these talks.

Mr. Ronald L. O’Clair, Candidate for City Councilor At-Large, Worcester. Massachusetts.

If you liked this story, or did not like it, I would love to hear your feedback at: ronaldoclair@hotmail.com

Educating our WPS students: the fifth “R”

By Edith Morgan

The “R’s” of school life. We all know which ones they are, the four “R’s”: reading (w)riting, ‘rithmetic, and, as I pointed out in a previous article, the fourth “R”: RESPONSIBILITY.

I was just getting ready to write about what I believed to be the fifth “R”: RESILIENCE , when a headline in our newspaper caught my eye: it said that RESTRICTIONS were the new “R” and dealt with the question about what further restrictions were being considered to ensure that our high schools would be safer.

Among the ideas floated were increased uniformed and armed police presence, metal detectors at school entrances, no longer allowing backpacks, and who knows what further restrictions could be implemented to prevent any WPS student from bringing weapons into the schools.

Of course, a number of Worcester citizens, parents, educators and students objected to these proposals to restrict their freedom further, and there was talk of criminalizing the schools.

I have great objections to this trend.

First, I do not believe all these measures will add to the safety of the student body, as there are so many ways to import violence into a school. If guns are too hard to bring in, there are other weapons that pass easily through metal detectors and are still deadly, or at least capable of doing bodily harm.

Second, when I spoke with various persons who knew about the troubles at our high schools, there seemed to be a general consensus that in a body of over 1,000 students they could identify the small minority of students who were the source of most of the trouble.

So why not find a way to zero in on these students, instead of punishing and hampering all the others?

The police gang squad and others in law-enforcement also have a pretty good idea who these persons are. Teachers also know who they are, but in the past few years have been increasingly disempowered and unable to deal directly and immediately with such students – having instead to file innumerable reports, go through myriad bureaucratic hoops, and waiting for some sort of help or relief, while having to defend themselves against differing versions of events, with their word pitted against those of savvy students who know how to game the system.

So we have empowered those who have no responsibility and disempowered those who are held responsible.

I would like instead to empower those who CAN stand up to the few who do not intend to observe decent limits and the bullies (who are usually cowardly and pick on those unable to stand up to them).

Instead of endlessly studying those students who fail in shcool, why not study and try to replicate those kids who, despite the horrible conditions they meet in their families and neighborhoods, still manage to succeed, help, cooperate and exert their freedom in responsible ways? Find out what enabled them to overcome  obstacles, to stay positive in the face of adversity, and to continue to struggle and to finally succeed.

We are not born resilient, but somehow some of us find the strength and wisdom to develop that quality.

Our schools and neighborhoods are full of kids/young adults who have found the secret. Find them,  empower them, and as cream rises to the top , they will rise up and help us succeed. Not with test grades – but with values and habits.

The Old Injun Fighter’s German Shepherd dog died …

… a few days ago. The Spark was 13 1/2 years old. I want to write a fine column about Sparky this weekend – my gift to the OIF.

Jett wasn’t close to the Spark…

CAM00134
In the meantime, I bought this at Unique Finds. It’ll bring a smile to the OIF’s face, which seemed drawn today. … He loves red … He can hang his keys from this sexy, lithe flapper – or the rosary my late mom gave him. Maybe even his (red) work bandanas …     – R.T.


CAM00130-1

Are vegetarians more compassionate than meat-eaters?

By Paula Moore

According to a new study by an international team of researchers, your thoughts about marriage equality and racial justice could be linked to your affinity for steaks and sausages. In other words, if the idea of killing another living being for dinner doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, then you’re probably not too bothered by other social injustices, either.

The study, “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4 Ns,” published in the journal Appetite, found that people who justify eating animals by claiming that it is “natural,” “normal,” “necessary” or “nice”—even though it is none of these things—are more tolerant of social inequality in general.

Historically, these same “Ns” have been trotted out to justify everything from slavery to homophobia. For instance, as the study notes, “In defense of male-only voting practices in the U.S. opponents of women’s suffrage often appealed to the necessity of denying women the vote … to the natural superiority of male intelligence, and to the historical normalness of male-only voting as ‘designed by our forefathers.’ … Today, most people find such arguments in support of male-only voting ludicrous at best.”

This confirms what PETA has long maintained: The mindset that condones the oppression of other humans—whether Jews, women, gays or people of color—is the same mindset that permits the exploitation of animals. Prejudices of any stripe arise when we start to believe that “I” am important and “you” are not, that my interests somehow trump those of other living beings.

It’s not surprising that meat-eaters find it necessary to defend their behavior, which is increasingly coming under public scrutiny. In this day and age, anyone who’s been paying attention knows that raising and killing animals for food is destroying the planet, jeopardizing our health and causing tremendous suffering to billions of sentient beings. In today’s meat and dairy industries, animals know little else but pain, fear, injury and disease. Piglets have their tails and testicles cut off without being given painkillers, chickens and turkeys have their throats cut while they’re still conscious and calves are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth.

And the United Nations reports that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary if we want to combat the worst effects of climate change.

It’s simpler to make excuses—”I grew up eating meat; it’s normal,” or “A plate of spare ribs is so nice after a hard day”—than it is to change behavior. It’s easy to shake our heads in disbelief at what others before us have done but not so easy to examine honestly the biases and prejudices that we hold today.

But there’s hope. As more consumers begin to question the status quo and reject the inherent violence of eating animals, the world will become a kinder place for all of us.

A previous study found that vegans and vegetarians have more empathy than meat-eaters do—for both animals and their fellow humans. Researchers in Europe placed volunteers in an MRI machine and showed them a series of random pictures during scanning. The scans revealed that when observing animal or human suffering, the “empathy-related” areas of the brain are more active among vegetarians and vegans. The researchers also found that there are certain brain areas that only vegans and vegetarians seem to activate when witnessing suffering.

Compassion begets compassion. Change can happen when we begin to recognize that all oppression, prejudice and cruelty are wrong—and that all are connected. We can start with dinner.

A few celebratory pics! … and news from the Worcester Latino Education Institute …

IMG_0460

 

IMG_0386IMG_0453

Above: photos from Scholarship Night for Latino Scholars – awards ceremony held at Franklin Manor restaurant, Saturday night, May 30.

********

Exploring my Environment: A Collaboration between the LEI, Worcester State University and the Worcester Public Schools

With support from the [Worcester] Latino Education Institute staff, teachers from Burncoat Middle School, and Worcester State Univerity’s Dr. Sebastián Veléz of the Biology Department and Dr. Eihab Jaber of the Chemistry Department, Burncoat Middle School students have been participating in a program to increase awareness about their their environment using hands on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities.

The focus areas are:

self identity

career options in the sciences

… and environmental topics in transportation choices, waste management, recycling, and natural resources.

Students have been doing hands-on activities and experiments focusing on ecosystems, climate change, life cycles, ecological footprints, and living a sustainable life.

The students are learning about how these environmental concepts intersect with urban life and development.

The program supports learning with field trips and participation in a community service day.

A final project will demonstrate student learning and engages students in solving a community problem using scientific methods that they have learned over this 20-week program.

*********

Explorando el medio ambiente
Una colaboración entre el LEI, Worcester State University y las escuelas públicas de Worcester

Con el apoyo de un equipo de colaboración entre LEI, maestras de Burncoat Middle School y el Dr. Sebastián Veléz del Departamento de Biología, así como del Dr. Eihab Jaber del Departamento de Química en Worcester State University, estudiantes de Burncoat Middle School han estado participando de un campamento de concientización sobre el impacto que tiene el medio ambiente en sus vidas, a través de su participación en actividades interactivas de STEM.  Las áreas de enfoque incluyen desde su autoidentidad, hasta orientación sobre profesiones dentro de las ciencias, y temas sobre el medio ambiente, entre los cuales se tratan, el tema de opciones para la transportación cotidiana, el reciclaje de basura, y la preservación de recursos naturales..  Como parte de este programa, en adición, los estudiantes toman cursos en biología y química. Este programa es en sí, una oportunidad para que el estudiante pueda explorar el campo de las ciencias con la asistencia de profesores de WSU.

Por su parte, los estudiantes llevan a cabo actividades interactivas, así como experimentos, los cuales se enfocan en tópicos tales como ecosistemas, cambios climáticos, ciclos biológicos de vida, y cómo lograr vivir en un entorno ecoviable.  Por ende, los estudiantes están aprendiendo cómo estos conceptos establecen una conexión entre su vida y el desarrollo urbano que los rodea a través de excursiones y la participación en un día de servicio comunitario (Earth Day) durante las vacaciones de abril.

Al final del programa, los estudiantes contarán con la oportunidad de tener una exposición oral sobre lo que han aprendido durante el transcurso de su experiencia en este campamento a través de metodología científica adquirida durante su transcurso por un período de veinte semanas.

**********

A Word from our Students!
íUna palabra de nuestros estudiantes!

“I like [the program] because it has activities… We get to do stuff I don’t do in my house!” – Cecilia, 7th Grade

“Me gusta [el programa] porque hay actividades… Podemos hacer cosas que no hago en casa!” – Cecilia, 7 Grado

“People can learn about fossils and animals they’ve never seen.”  -Saif, 8th Grade

“Se puede aprender sobre fósiles y animales que nunca ha visto.” – Saif, 8 Grado

“I really like the staff members.  They’re always here and ready and make things fun.” – Irianis, 8th Grade

“Me gusta mucho el equipo de trabajo.  Siempre están aquí y listos para hacer que las cosas sean divertidas.”  Irianis, 8 Grado

Big giveaways to trucking industry in transportation bill will make American roads less safe

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jim McGovern, second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, spoke today on the House floor to call for the defeat of policy riders in the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill that put the trucking industry ahead of the health and safety of American travelers.

“In just the past four years, we have seen a dramatic 17 percent increase in the number of truck crash deaths and an alarming 28 percent increase in injuries. Instead of advancing safety measures to make our roads safer, Congress is about to roll back significant safety laws and regulations that will result in more deaths and injuries on our roads and highways,” Congressman McGovern said. “In fatal truck and car crashes, 96 percent of the fatalities are the occupants of the passenger car.

Public opinion is clear: Americans do not want bigger trucks or tired truckers on the road. 76 percent of Americans opposed longer and heavier trucks and 80 percent opposed increasing truck driver working and driving hours,” Congressman McGovern added. “Making our roads less safe might be good policy for fundraising, but lousy policy for the safety of American people. We must remove these dangerous policy riders and ensure that this T-HUD bill is putting the safety of everyday Americans first.”

The full text of Congressman McGovern’s floor speech is below.:

“Today, I want to highlight the big giveaways to the trucking industry in the T-HUD bill. This bill is loaded up with pet projects of the trucking industry that threaten the health and safety of the travelling public.

“This bill should be focused on strengthening America’s infrastructure – repairing crumbling bridges, investing in public transportation, and making our roads safer –  but instead puts the trucking industry in the driving seat, leaving the average American left behind.

“The bill would increase truck weights in Idaho and Kansas, allow twin 33 foot trailers on Interstates, delay full implementation of DOT’s hours of service rule which requires minimum rest periods for truckers, and prohibit DOT from increasing minimum insurance requirements for big trucks and motor coaches.

“With all that we know today, it is simply outrageous that we would allow bigger and heavier trucks on our highways. Today’s bill is intended specifically to appropriate funds, not authorize new policy. Yet this is exactly what these policy riders are doing. They don’t belong on this bill.

“Furthermore, there was not a single hearing on these trucking riders. These issues are important enough that they should be openly debated as part of a comprehensive surface transportation authorization bill, not tacked on to an appropriations bill. They don’t belong here, but this process has become so corrupted that anything goes.

“Making these controversial policy changes before DOT finishes their comprehensive truck size and weight study that was required by MAP-21, would be irresponsible. We should allow DOT the time it needs to get their study right.

“Simply put, these trucking industry riders will make our highways less safe at a time when our infrastructure funding is woefully inadequate and our roads and bridges are crumbling.

“In just the past four years, we have seen a dramatic 17 percent increase in the number of truck crash deaths and an alarming 28 percent increase in injuries. Instead of advancing safety measures to make our roads safer, Congress is about to roll back significant safety laws and regulations that will result in more deaths and injuries on our roads and highways. In fatal truck and car crashes, 96 percent of the fatalities are the occupants of the passenger car.

“Public opinion is clear: Americans do not want bigger trucks or tired truckers on the road. 76 percent of Americans opposed longer and heavier trucks and 80 percent opposed increasing truck driver working and driving hours. Making our roads less safe might be good policy for fundraising, but lousy policy for the safety of American people.

“We must remove these dangerous policy riders and ensure that this T-HUD bill is putting the safety of everyday Americans first.

“Sooner or later all these restrictions are going to either be negotiated out of the bills or into more flexible language, or they will land on President’s desk and face a veto.

“I urge my colleagues to oppose this rule and the underlying appropriations legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.”