Category Archives: InCity Voices


By Rosalie Tirella

The new Doherty High School, a work in progress. Photo submitted.

A photo of Worcester’s new Doherty High School on Highland Street, one third completed … night time. In the old days, you could call the WPS school brass at Irving Street or the city manager in his office at City Hall on Main Street and get a basic update on a major school (City) project without having to jump through too many hoops. But this is the new Worcester. We’re polished professionals now. So all the “hoops” – attractive, polite, well spoken, not too helpful, unwilling to answer tough questions – are firmly in place. The Worcester Public Schools newish school superintendent, a Latina lady from California, has kept the WPS substitute teachers making poverty wages while she has hired herself a passel of professional assistants to protect herself from the press, from questions, from reality. Unlike the previous WPS superintendent, she has hired herself a press secretary (mid-$90,000 salary??) and a bunch of other support professionals (thousands of dollars per year???) to create her personal buffer zone. Our newish city manager, Eric Batista, also has a media relations person so he doesn’t have to get personal with the press. He issues statements rather than calling back a reporter to answer basic questions that Woo voters and taxpayers may want answered.

So it goes like this: Your reporter Jim wants to ask questions about the new Doherty High School, but the WALL goes up. Your reporter is a nice person, super polite and fancies that he has good relations with the secretary of the WPS superintendent and the newish city manager. You, at this since 1987 and not exactly enamoured with the human race, think: Bull shit…these over paid bureaucrats will never return Jim’s phone calls. To answer the most basic questions!

Twenty three years ago I could call the Worcester city manager’s office and ask for an interview with the city manager and get a sit down with then City Manager Tom Hoover or his second in command, an always sweet Paul LaCava – within a few days. We sat and talked and Hoover and LaCava answered my questions. Tom was blue collar real, Paul was a sweetie. So, of course, then city councilor Tim Murray set out to destroy Hoover, and he worked behind the scenes to replace him with an Irish bro, Mike O’Brien, who became as dictatorial as soon to be Mayor Tim Murray.

But I digress. Jim’s/CECELIA’s question: HOW MUCH IS THE LATEST COST $$$ for building the new Doherty High School?

Months ago it was $240 million. What is the price tag these days? Not really a gotcha question, just one question for a basic news story.

But everyone who’s anyone in Worcester city government clams up. Everyone issues statements through their press flacks. Emails from the Worcester city manager’s media relations poop are sent to Jim who sends them to me. Jim is nice about it all. I want to take these ridiculously self-important “public servants” and turn them on their stupid heads and just shake shake shake them by their spindly, weak ankles until the answers fall out like pennies out of a dime store piggy bank. I think: What are these a-holes hiding? The cost to build Doherty must have gone up up up by millions of dollars, and the city manager and the school superintendent don’t want to tell anybody…the taxpayer, the voter, the Worcesterite whose kid will be attending the new Doherty High School. It’s public record, but the ropes in Worcester city government will turn it into a knife fight. This is America. People have every right to know. Federal tax dollars, state money, city taxpayer dough have all foot the bill …

Please! We’re not against new, state of the art high schools to educate the next generation of Worcester leaders, doctors, nurses, teachers and entrepreneurs. We love our WPS students! As do many of our pols! Head of the Worcester School Committee, Mayor Joe Petty, is making Burncoat Senior High School his next big school renewal project. Burncoat – my alma mater – beautiful memories. It was almost brand new, recently built, when I graduated in 1979. Now it’s tired. We need another new high school for that part of the city.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we – any one in Woo – could punch the appropriate office numbers into our cell phones and get some nice personal time with a City or School Department poo ba who could speak intelligently, passionately about these mega school projects? Instead, they all hide. And collect their almost quarter of a million dollar paychecks, courtesy of the Worcester taxpayer.


By Rosalie Tirella

Mr. Gilman’s gift. Photos: R.T.

Posted my SHANE movie review here on our website – with different pics from what’s on my FACEBOOK pages (check them out!). The film, with its sensitive and realistic depiction of the boy character, Little Joey, and the terrific scenes in nature, of the Teton mountains, the deer grazing right outside Joey’s bedroom window … has me rereading my book, THE YEARLING, once again. READING this special copy of the novel, my very own, with its corner chewed a smidgen by Cece and its inside covers illustrated with portraits of the dusty old industrialists of Worcester and its simple, wood-cut style pictures introducing new chapters of the novel.

The book was given to me more than a half century!! ago by my fourth grade teacher at Lamartine Street School, Mr. Gilman. It was the end of the school year, and Mr. Gilman was cleaning house in his always tidy fourth grade classroom on the second floor of old Lamartine – now the headquarters for the City of Worcester Building and Code Department. I was a smart kid and a good kid all school year, and I was one of Mr. Gilman’s accordion players – Mr. Gilman was a terrific accordion player and gave lessons to any Lamartine kid after school, once a week, for free. He had about five serious students – and I was one of them. Mr. Gilman loved any kid who wanted to learn how to play the accordion – his favorite musical instrument in the world. I remember he wrote in my Fourth Grade Autograph Book: “Rosalie, don’t ever stop playing the accordion!” We students had the little used accordions we rented from the music store downtown; Mr. Gilman had a big, beautiful, adult-sized accordion, like new, with a shiny iridescent panel by the instrument’s keyboard and three rhinestone studs on his C buttons. My old accordion, rented and very much used, always wheezed a bit when I played it. Mr. Gilman’s accordion sounded tremendous – like it was right off the Lawrence Welk Show – a polka-making machine! The genial band leader with that perpetual goofy grin of his, Lawrence Welk, was very big in my Polish family when I was growing up in Green Island. The Polish-themed TV musical program of the 1960s and 1970s was my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy’s, #1 TV show. She made us kids watch it with her every Sunday night. Sometimes she’d sing along with the soloists in her funny, sad voice. Other times she’d just clap her fat old arthritic paws to the beat.

Worcester industrialists …

When Mr. Gilman gave me THE YEARLING, I felt: YIKES. Such a thick book to read! (I was only 9) Mr. Gilman must think I’m very smart to give me this present! … I tried to not let my teacher down. I tried to read the book that summer during school vacation, but it proved too advanced for me. So I just had fun looking at its cool pictures over and over again.


The years rolled by and I never got around to reading THE YEARLING, a novel about a young boy growing up poor in the Florida Everglades, nor did I ever see the classic Gregory Peck film based on the novel. But all that changed 10 years ago, when I found myself a cozy spot in bed, opened the book’s vintage covers and entered the world of young Jody, his family and his colorful neighbors. And, of course, the natural world which was the young boy’s world. I read it fast because I was enthralled. Then I reread it, more carefully.

Beautiful illustrations …

So here I am, almost the age of my Bapy!, thinking about accordions, Green Island, THE YEARLING, baby deer, loving your very own fawn, puppy or kitten. Being young and playful, right along with them! I’m also thinking about Mr. Gilman and the humble gifts Worcester Public School teachers used to give to their favorite students, many of us poor, many of us with less than ideal dads or moms at home. We saw the teacher’s gift for what it was back then: a book, a book-mark, a calendar, a statuette. We grew up treasuring those gifts because of the feelings behind the gift-giving. It was a long time ago, a time when teachers were trusted, often idolized – and a bit freer to give to their students and their families. And, for me at least, the relationships, their small gestures of kindness, were so positive and helped shape my life … for the better.
Jody, the protagonist of the novel.

🙏Worcester’s Temporary Shelter at Blessed Sacrament Church💒

By Lorie Martiska

On December 19, 2022, a new temporary winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness opened at the Phelan Center at Blessed Sacrament Church on Pleasant Street in Worcester. The shelter project was a collaboration between the City of Worcester, Blessed Sacrament Church, the United Way of Central Mass and Open Sky Community Services. Open Sky is operating the shelter.

Homelessness is a pervasive challenge in Worcester and across the state and country. For people who are unsheltered during the cold weather months, the risk of injury or death from exposure rises dramatically. In Worcester, the situation was worsened by the closure of a shelter. For these reasons, a group of concerned agencies assembled with the City of Worcester in the fall, to discuss the upcoming winter.

Why isn’t the former St. Paul’s School on Chatham Street converted into safe housing/ affordable studios for Worcester’s homeless youth? Only four or five people work out of this HUGE, grand beautiful building! It used to be a Catholic school filled with a couple of hundred students and staff! Bathrooms, hardwood floors, beautiful rooms, a basement with rooms … all in pristine condition. photos+cutlines: Rose T.

After multiple options were explored, the parish council at Blessed Sacrament Church, led by Father Tom Landry, agreed to approve the request to use the Phelan Center as a temporary winter shelter on November 28, 2022. A community meeting was convened on December 11, and representatives from the shelter and several City Councilors attended the Newton Hill Neighborhood group meeting later that week.

Mini homeless camp on Millbury Street in Worcester’s Canal District.

While some neighbors expressed concern about the shelter location, since the shelter has opened, there are more offers of donations and support than complaints. The Shelter Director, Maydee Morales, and Shelter Operations Manager Nahani Meuse, as well as Open Sky leaders continue to make themselves available to residents and businesses in the neighborhood to answer questions and address any concerns that may arise. In addition, Open Sky is sharing a neighborhood update newsletter with the community and will be co-hosting another neighborhood meeting with the City of Worcester later in January.

Staying warm in downtown Worcester.

The shelter staff have invited guests to join them on trips outdoors in the neighborhood to clean up trash, with a goal of making it clear that the shelter wants to be a good neighbor and contribute positively to the community. Guests are also required to sign a Good Neighbor Policy and are not permitted to congregate outside the shelter. Smoking breaks are scheduled and guests are accompanied by staff.

The use of alcohol and other substances is not permitted in the shelter or on the grounds. Onsite security is provided 24/7 by Jet Security.

The model of the shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, is to offer a wide range of supportive services in addition to a warm bed and three meals a day. Guests are offered medical care, housing navigation resources, connections to benefits, recovery supports, mental health services, employment services, access to substance use treatment, clothing and more. There are four showers in a mobile trailer, and guests’ clothes are washed at no charge by an area laundromat.

Homeless in the Canal District.

Within four hours of opening on December 19, the shelter had reached capacity at 60 guests. Every day people arrive seeking shelter. Although these additional people cannot be accommodated as shelter guests, the staff meet with each person and call other shelters and resources to help them find a safe place to stay.

Donations of warm clothing, brand new undergarments in various sizes, shoes, boots and non-perishable snacks, as well as games and activities are welcome. Contact or to discuss donations and offers to volunteer at the Shelter.

The shelter is funded by the State of Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

Open Sky Community Services is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Worcester. As one of the largest behavioral health service providers in Central Mass, we employ 1200 staff in over 100 programs and have an annual budget in excess of $100 million.

Our philosophy and approach to service delivery is built upon a commitment to provide the best possible care and services in a manner that places the individual at the center, addresses complex needs and provides the skills, treatment, and tools to help individuals achieve their goals. We utilize evidence-based models such as Motivational Interviewing, Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Housing First and more, to effectively engage people in opportunities for growth and stability.

Open Sky has a whole-person approach to care that addresses social determinants of health to improve the health of our communities and has helped the agency to achieve wide-ranging success serving people with behavioral health challenges, intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, brain injury and others. We prioritize community inclusion and helping individuals to achieve valued roles in the community.

Open Sky is firmly committed to helping the individuals we serve achieve fulfilling lives through opportunities, relationships, and wellness in alignment with our mission: “blending best practices with the power of community, we partner with individuals and families to see and live beyond perceived limitations to pursue fulfilling lives”. Services are rooted in trauma-informed, person-centered, strength-based approaches. We measure outcomes and make decisions based on data and partner with local community entities, both public and private, to continually assess community health assets and needs and implement services that directly address service gaps to meet the diverse cultural and linguistic needs of local residents and to achieve health equity.

Lorie MMartiska is Vice Vice
President of Advancement at
Open Sky Community Services in Worcester. To make a referral or check bed availability for the shelter, call the main Shelter Line at 774-502-9105.

🇺🇲Tomorrow is President’s Day🇺🇲 …

By Rosalie Tirella

FILE - In this April 13, 1934 file photo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt smiles as he speaks to a Congressional welcoming committee which met him at Union Station on his return to Washington. (AP Photo)
FILE – In this April 13, 1934 file photo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt smiles as he speaks to a Congressional welcoming committee which met him at Union Station on his return to Washington. (AP Photo)

Tomorrow is President’s Day. For most Americans this signifies a day off with pay, a three-day weekend and/or the beginning of school vacation for the kiddos. When I was a little girl America was more serious and specific – not yet dumb-downed. We didn’t have a generic President’s Day where no one knew anything about anybody and a buffoon like Trump could be feted on the same day as a glamorous, forward-thinking JFK, a brave and compassionate FDR or an energetic, outdoorsy Teddy Roosevelt. Trump was our president, too, after all, so it’s his day as well! Ugh.

No, back in the 1950s and 1960s American students, moms and dads, factory workers, doctors and captains of industry remembered, honored arguably our two greatest presidents: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. On their real birthdays – February 12 for Abraham Lincoln and February 22 for George Washington. It may have been different in the South when it came to Lincoln, but when I was a kid every Worcester Public School I attended or visited had those two famous presidential prints flanking the right and left sides of the proscenium in the school auditorium: a portrait, big and serious, of President Washington, usually seated on an impressive white steed, and the print of that painting of Abraham Lincoln, depicted from the chest up in his famous black suit, looking lugubrious and doomed. You could go into many Polish, Lithuanian, Irish or Italian immigrant homes in the 1940s and see calendars with the same pictures, only smaller, thumbtacked to the kitchen wall. I know that was true for our tenement in Green Island.

When I was a little girl my mother always reminded me of the special holidays because she shared her birthday with George Washington. Ma was born on February 22. Ma was very proud of this fact – having the same birthday as our first President, a great man, a man who led Americans during the Revolutionary War and won the war for Independence. Then he became our first ever president, leading a wet-behind-the-ears country into the future. Ma didn’t know Washington was a very rich land owner who owned slaves and that they were whipped and chained just like …Thomas Jefferson’s slaves were. She told me the tale of Washington chopping down that cherry tree and stuck to that narrative until the day she died. Underneath the story were Ma’s feelings for Washington and the America she chose to believe in: a country of freedom, honesty, hard work, fortitude, great opportunity, grace and goodness. Those attributes could propel America – you! – to the top.

Americans’ possibilities were endless, so thought Ma.

Rose’s mom, late 1950s.

🏈🌶️Remember this CHEF JOEY👨‍🍳 SUPERBOWL🏈 RECIPE COLUMN? (+Peta recipes)🍅🧅

It’s Super Bowl Sunday!

By Chef Joey

We miss Chef Joey!! CECELIA/ICT file photos

It’s Super Bowl mayhem! What better thing to do than make snacks that we can watch throughout the game? Your snacks can range from anything that comes in a bag to homemade. The best snacks, of course, are the ones you make at home.
For example, skewers are a great way to get protein, and they look so pretty! And they last a little while …

You can take a cube of feta cheese, a black olive … dress it all up in tomato and dressing with a little olive oil …

… or you can take a piece of salami and add a cherry tomato and a small mozzarella … Ovalini … sprinkle with some Italian salad dressing. Voila! Italian skewers!

You can take pumpernickel bread, spread it with spreadable cream cheese … top off with sliced cucumbers. These munchies last all day!

🌶️Here’s a so-easy Mexican dip! My friend shared it with me:

Take one Greek yogurt container and one jar of pre-made salsa. Combine the two.

Now you have a healthy protein snack that goes well with vegetables or tortilla chips! All of the above snacks are inexpensive and healthy – for your Super Bowl or any-time get-togethers!


If you’re planning on making your own Homemade Salsa…from PETA.ORG:


💙Festive Salsa🍅🌶️


1 Tbsp. roasted hot oriental peppers, chopped

1 cup fresh or frozen green or red mild to medium chili peppers

1 cup tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup white onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2-3 tsp. vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste


Mix the ingredients together in a blender for a few seconds.

You should get a thick juice, with some chunkier pieces.

Makes approximately 6 servings.


❤️Salsa Fresca!🏈🐨

You may know salsa fresca by another name — pico de gallo. Both are a chunky salsa that is light on liquid but heavy on fresh ingredients.

Like many salsas, tomatoes are used as a base, but with salsa fresca, you leave your tomatoes diced but chunky.

Other common salsa ingredients are included — onion, garlic, salt, and cilantro — as well as small jalapeño pieces for a little kick.


Many salsa fresca recipes don’t require the use of a blender or food processor, but we like to use ours for a pulse or two so that the ingredients are combined – but just barely.


💙Simple Salsa Fresca


6 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 jalapeño, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cilantro

Pepper, to taste


Combine all the ingredients, except the pepper, in a blender or food processor.

Pulse once or twice only.

Season with pepper.

Makes about 1 1/2cups


By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

This summer: Mr. Monfredo. CECELIA file photo.

“We lose eight children and teenagers to gun violence every day. If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials. We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.”

― US Senator Elizabeth Warren, from “A Fighting Chance”

I am deeply concerned about the gun violence taking place in our nation and in our community every day. Too often we watch the news and a killing or mass murder is happening. So I started doing some research on this topic and read information from our citizens across the United States. The information was astounding!

Gun violence is a public health epidemic in this country, with nearly 40,000 Americans killed by guns each year, including more than 23,000 dying by firearm suicide. According to the research, more than 100 gun deaths happen every single day.

Among high-income countries, the U.S. leads in gun violence. We have the highest firearm ownership and, compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. In addition, the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is nearly 25 times higher than other high-income countries. The firearm suicide rate is nearly 10 times that of other high-income countries.

Against Violence

The research does say that there is a misconception that those living with mental illness are responsible for gun violence. But the research states that mental illness does not cause gun violence – the problem is access to firearms.

Still, based on those statistics, more than 6 in 10 Americans believe that a gun in the home makes the family safer. However, the evidence is clear: guns don’t make you safer. The overall gun deaths increased 17% over the last decade – the gun suicide rate increased 12.5% and the gun homicide rate increased nearly 26%.

If you go on the internet and read what owners of guns have to say it’s an eye opener. Many say that they use it to defend their families, others for hunting or for sports. When asked about a ban on guns – most stated it was impossible, for we have more guns in the homes than people. Most felt that firearms should remain in the hands of people and have no intention of giving them back without a fight. “In America, elimination is an impossible task.”

We also have a very strong and well organized gun lobbying organization that pours money into political elections – the NRA – and that many politicians kowtow to for the money. Bought and paid for by the NRA.

Many people stated that the right to bear firearms is legal, for our citizens have that right under the 2nd Amendment. However, on a side note, let’s remember that the citizens in 1776 carried muskets and NOT semi-automatics. And it was to form an army against the British. No one needs a gun that fires 10 to 50 rounds per second for protection or for killing an animal. No one needs a semiautomatic rifle. I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers had in mind.

Let’s face it, gun violence in our country is a public crisis. The murder rate in our country is 25 times higher than it is in peer nations, and American teenagers are 82 times more likely to die from a gun homicide than their international peers.

The problem is that there is no simple solution to reducing gun violence in this country. I believe that we need to look at some common-sense steps as a start. Here are some that are worth talking about:

“Compared to other peer countries, basically what we have is lots and lots of guns… and we have by far the weakest gun laws,” declared David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Here are some ideas …

– Ban Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines

– Enable the Center of Disease Control and Prevention to Research Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

– Require Universal Background Checks – for All Gun Sales

– Support Local Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs

– Disarm All Domestic Abusers

To me, banning assault weapons is a no brainer!

No private citizen should own one. These are military weapons, and they are used to kill human beings. Why have we not banned them from private citizens? Under President Bill Clinton assault weapons were banned – and there were fewer gun-related deaths.

Also, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center suggested that more research take place and recommends measures aimed at living safety with guns by having a safe storage requirement, smart guns that can only be used by their owner, and safety features that prevent guns from firing when dropped or after a magazine is removed. These are some suggestions in reducing gun violence in this country.

Another national survey by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy and Research found that 84% of all respondents who owned a gun in the survey stated that first time gun buyers should be required to pass a safety course on the safe handling and storage of a firearm. They also believed that carriers of concealed weapons should be required to demonstrate that they can safely and lawfully handle their weapon in the types of situations they might encounter.

This brings us up to 2023! The latest move coming from Congress is a bill by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. He is reintroducing two bills to help curb gun violence and strengthen gun safety. One bill would be to better equip and crack down on gun violence and illegal use of firearms. The other bill would incentivize state and local governments to implement the need for a permit to purchase laws. This would require individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun.

This is a start, so let’s hope that Congress will support it, as well as the banning of assault weapons.

Please encourage our delegation in Massachusetts to support these bills. Let all of us stay on top of the gun violence crisis in America. It’s time for us to stop being silent!

🎟️🎥🍿Luis Sanchez’s review of Wednesday Series🎬❇️

Wednesday Series Review

By Luis Sanchez


Who would have thought that a spooky series was just what we needed to end the year? Wednesday is a supernatural comedy horror Netflix series based on Wednesday Addams (played by Jenna Ortega) from the widely known spooky Addams Family. In this series, Wednesday Addams is introduced to Nevermore, a school for outcasts, and has to learn to manage connecting with her new schoolmates, control her newly-found psychic abilities, and solve a murder mystery. Typical high school problems, am I right?

The show’s premise is a bit shallow. The plot does not suffer from anything; it works well within the Wednesday world. What I’m referring to is how it is slightly uncreative. Many murder-mystery shows are displaying similar characteristics, and that is because they are all using a similar template. Wednesday is simply Riverdale season 1, but add supernatural elements and the Addams family. However, the show still succeeds. Despite being predictable (I solved the murder case by the third episode), the quirkiness of the show makes it stand its ground. It’s like having two siblings both dress up as ghosts for Halloween, but one simply wears a bedsheet with holes while the other sibling wears all white and even uses makeup to make themselves look pale; Wednesday is the sibling wearing all white while the other shows are like the sibling wearing the bedsheet; both costume ideas are basic for Halloween, but one is more interesting than the other. There is one reason why this show was able to succeed, though.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams did a lot of the heavy lifting with this show. She was casted for the role in part to represent Wednesday’s Latina heritage. We cannot forget to credit the writers for such a great character they were able to draw out. Wednesday Addams was a serious, dark, gothic and intelligent girl who rarely blinked. Her stern and direct way of speaking was different from the other characters, which helped her stand out in addition to her black and white attire. Wednesday is a girl who shows no emotion and finds joy in what others would feel pain. Ortega effectively portrayed this character and made her the reason for me to keep watching the show. I simply wanted to know more about Wednesday. The few moments where Wednesday showed emotion caught me off-guard but were quite rewarding. It was also comical to see how Wednesday would despair to what others would celebrate and celebrate to what others would despair.

Overall, Wednesday is what made Wednesday succeed. It only makes sense. Wednesday was a classic CW teen-drama with murder mystery turned supernatural and quirky. Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams carried the show. The show would have succeeded more than what it did if it took more time to explore its supporting characters and dedicate less time to the boring love-triangle that is not even worth mentioning here.

It may seem like I’m saying more negatives than positives, but that is to avoid spoilers. I give Wednesday a 6.3/10, and recommend watching it now during the hype because once the hype is gone, so will be the show.


Martin Luther King, Jr: a prophet of peace and social justice

By John Monfredo, retired WPS principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– MLK, Jr.

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive and well in Worcester this month. On January 14 Worcester State University held its 29th annual Youth Breakfast Celebration to an audience of community members, parents and students. Then, on MLK Jr. Day, Monday January 16th, Quinsigamond Community College held the 38nd annual event to a crowd of over 600 and honored the work of Dr. King as well as honoring community members.

Retired Friendly House Executive Director Gordon Hargrove was honored for his over 50 years of outstanding work at the Friendly House. For decades he assisted the neediest children and families in the Worcester area. He received the Eleanor T. Hawley Community Service award. Also, receiving the Eleanor T. Hawley award was Dr. George S. Smith for his service to the community in starting up this special day in honoring Dr. King and for all his work within the community. The Worcester Police Department Service award went to Captain Kenneth Davanport and to Police Officer David Rutherford for their outstanding service to the community.

Gordon P. Hargrove (1)
Worcester hero, social service agency icon and all around terrific person Gordon Hargrove was honored at the MLK event for decades of service to the poor in Worcester as executive director of the Friendly House!

The overall theme at the events was remembering the “Dream” of Dr. King and moving forward in an attempt to assist others, to espouse the importance of non-violence in our community and to assist the less fortunate in our society. The guest speaker at the event was Rachael S. Rollins, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. Her speech was outstanding, for she addressed the importance of carrying on Dr. King’s legacy.

Other speakers included Congressman Jim McGovern who spoke about racism. He said, “We need to disrupt racism in our individual choices, in our economic choices and especially, in our political choices.” Also, President Luis Pedraja of Quinsigamond Community College, on that same issue, stated, “Unfortunately, the pandemic revealed that we saw, more clearly than ever, that racism and systemic oppression still have a strong hold on our society…We still see that violence plagues us, and that hatred still thrives in our midst.”

Then Worcester City Manager Eric Batista, the city’s first Latino manager and a former student of mine at Belmont Community School, stated that one of his top priorities is to create a more inclusive and representative workforce… a future where diverse young adults see themselves better represented in positions of leadership within the community. He also spoke about everyone willing to work together for a better Worcester.

It was 29 years ago Gordon Hargrove and his sister Dorothy Hargrove, along with a few other community members, organized the MLK youth breakfast for students and it has continued with many other individuals carrying the torch. Students across Worcester County have been encouraged to participate in a poetry contest honoring Dr. King, Jr. In addition, student performances and special awards were also given out.

Student Art initiative awards were given out to Richard Bonus, a junior at WSU and to Maria Orozco Orjuela a freshman at WSU. Student dance performances were done by Friendly House Teen Program, The Learning First Step Team and by Jo Ann Warren Studio. Nasya Osei, of South High School sang the National Anthem and the Southeast Asian Coalition performed a song and dance routine. Vanessa Ford, an outstanding adult soloist, sang several songs throughout the program and encouraged audience participation.

Another highlight that the audience loved was the father-son musical team, Noah and David Allen, from “The Journey Community Church in Worcester.” Noah played the trumpet and his father the guitar and they did an outstanding job of entertaining the crowd. Noah will be attending Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship.

Mistress of Ceremony was senior Tayla Weeden from WSU. In addition, on behalf of Mayor Joseph Petty an award was presented to Richard and Elizabeth Gonzalez for their service to the community by City Councilor Etel Hazhiaj.

Another longtime advocate for Worcester families: John Monfredo!

There were several award-winning students who received college scholarships for their academic and work within the community: John Bouhanna, Ian Njihia, Tiernan Ashford Ivory O’Neal, and Rachel Sinclair all from WSU. The awards were given out by WSU president Barry Maloney.

The winning poems certificates given out by community leader Dorothy Hargrove went to the following students:

Grade 12: Judith Adu-Worcester Technical High School and Kiauna Russell- North High School

Grade 11: Anya Geist-South High School and Kevin Avalos-University Park Campus School

Grade 10: Alexis-Danielle Coleman-North High, Fernanda Duerte- South High School, and Abenezer Asmare and Cayvon Johnson – University Park Campus School

Grade 9: Nakeisha Moise- North High School and Matthew O’Connell- Venerini

Grade8- Missage Budimbu – All Saints Academy, Alexander Kowalski and Gianna Rosario – Saint Joseph School, Sorelle Lavalle – Saint Bernadette School, Armeline Chaban, Ryan Donahue, Davi Nogueira, and Joseph Castillo all from Venerini Academy

Grade 7: Georgeanne Gajewski and Kaylie Bageris from All Saints Academy, Louisa Akowus, Terhon Donovan, Ana Serna from Burncoat High School – Molly Hachigian and Ella Parslow, Alvin Montreuil from Saint Joseph School – and Elizabeth Spillane from Venerini Academy.

The poems were outstanding and here is a sample of one of the winning poems:

He Stood With Us

He led many to The Lincoln Memorial and said:

“We may have all come on different ships,

But we’re in the same boat now.”

He said he had a dream.

He was right.

Now many people hold hands all around the world.

Black American, Asian, Latino, Indigenous

And all people of color Survive together.

He stood for the right to let people of color

choose who may be in charge.

He stood with us.

He fought with us.

Here I am, a 12 year Black girl,

Asking you to stand together

For the future he dreamed of.

Louisa Akowua – Burncoat Middle School

Again, both events were outstanding and did our city of Worcester proud.

✍️A note to Worcester’s new city manager, school superintendent … and the usual suspects!🙏

By Rosalie Tirella

The Green Island three decker Rosalie grew up in was recently sold. photos: R.T.

Re: Worcester housing and Worcester kids – this post is for them. And the new Worcester Public Schools superintendent, Worcester’s city council, school committee and new city manager. City “leaders,” WHERE WILL OUR POOR CHILDREN – and their parents – live in the new, gentrified Worcester with its inflated rents and unscrupulous slumlords and sneaky developers? I just found out: the young developer and his brothers who are doing major work on my old Quinsigamond Village building and the other two buildings that he bought several months ago – 34, 36 and 38 Blackstone River Road – this developer is known for buying Worcester property and putting in TWO bathrooms in a three decker’s individual apartments. Adding a whole new bathroom, so there are two. He’s not slicing and dicing the big beautiful airy spaces – most original three deckers have 3 bedrooms – like other developers do to maximize their profit by creating two or three units out of one. No, this guy adds a bathroom to each tenement SO HE CAN freeze out most Worcester families and RENT TO FOUR OR FIVE PEOPLE who are UNRELATED and, pooling their $$$ financial resources, will be able to pay the new, exorbitant rents he will charge. Each person may be paying $800 for his/her own bedroom. Kitchen and dining room shared. Two bathrooms a blessing! Roommates. Not a Woo family.

This happens in the WPI neighborhood all the time, with WPI students getting into these big apartments, four or five students per apartment. Then the four or five of them pitch in$$$ to pay the high rents that working families can no longer afford to pay. My old beau lives in the neighborhood. When he first bought his house in the WPI ‘hood all his neighbors were working class families who rented the apartments in the two- and three- family homes. Now the houses are filled with WPI students because the landlords’ rents are too high$$ for a working class Worcester family.

As far as the Blackstone River Road buildings go, this extra bathroom gambit is illegal, as the neighborhood is NOT ZONED for this kind of dwelling unit. If each tenant in each three decker and two family has a car, that’s a lot of cars per floor! That’s 12 cars for a three decker that used to maybe have four or five. It all used to be terrific immigrant housing built for a family during the turn of the 20th century. Immigrant families, generation after generation, the sons and daughters, then the grandkids, lived in these edifices and were able to enter the middle class after a generation or two. The American Dream happening in Gateway Cities all over New England. There may have been two cars for the entire three decker back then! When I was a kid growing up in a huge Green Island three-decker apartment we had no car, but the family on the second floor had ONE car to do it all, and even the huge family on the first floor (about 10 people!!) had ONE car, too. A long station wagon with those cool wooden side panels.

Worcester’s East Side three deckers – nice homes to live in for Worcester’s Italian immigrants – and their descendants – during most of the 20th century.

The old Worcester neighborhoods actually made being poor tolerable back then: you lived in a spacious three decker apartment – bigger than some houses in Worcester – where you had big windows in each big bedroom room, a front and back porch, a dining room attached to your parlor and often a pretty big backyard. And a landlord who wasn’t out to make the biggest buck ever! Rents were low, we had our neighborhood school, Lamartine Street School, our local park, Crompton Park, Millbury and Water streets for our shopping/ business district … all a 10 minute walk from my family’s Lafayette Street tenement. Same for all the families on Lafayette, Lodi, Endicott, Grosvenor, Sigel, Lunell and Bigelow streets. So no one ever moved away from Green Island! We kids all started Lamartine Street School together as kindergartners and seven years later graduated from sixth grade. Togetherness. You were a huge extended, albeit dysfunctional, family!

Birthday celebration: “Bapy,” Rose and her two kid sisters in their Lafayette Street apartment, circa 1967.

All gone today – Worcester’s public schools have a student population that is always on the move, on the run. Families jump from one neighborhood as they move from one crumby three decker to the next – and often to a new school, for the kids. The landlords suck, the apartments aren’t up to code, the neighborhoods are rough and the rents keep going up up up. I forget the official name schools label children and families who are on the move – sometimes homeless – every few years. But it’s a detriment to the kids’ education. How can a child focus on books, do reading and writing assignments? Learn? Also: Make friends? Bond with teachers and adults who are great role models? How can they look forward to school traditions?

Tell me, new WPS super!

Gas stoves. Most three deckers have them, along with gas parlor heaters. It all worked well for a century or so, but now we’re finding out gas stoves cause asthma in children and worsen adults’ asthma. Federal officials recommend electric stoves OR ADDING A HOOD OVER THE STOVE AND A VENTILATION SYSTEM THAT sucks up the dangerous gases that are byproducts of cooking with gas. Some carcinogens! At least open the windows, we’re told!

My question: IS THE CITY OF WORCESTER BUILDING AND CODE departments AWARE OF ALL THIS??? AND CHANGING CITY CODES to reflect the new findings? To protect poor children? WHAT ABOUT IT, DIRECTOR AMANDA WILSON?

And what about that City of Worcester apartment registry, Amanda and Worcester City Council? City officials were supposed to create a directory OF EVERY RENTAL UNIT IN THE CITY OF WORCESTER and workers were to visit each unit periodically to make sure: its stoves work, the bathroom is in good shape, windows are not broken, doorways and hallways and stairwells are safe, the heating system is ok. The previous city manager, Ed Augustus, said he was planning to get this directory going – but he never did. Now it’s up to new City Manager Batista to do the right thing and help poor Worcester kids! Mr. Batista, make sure their parents have a good, safe stove to cook their meals on, a safe, effective heating system so they’re not cold during the winter, windows that aren’t broken and are good enough to keep the elements out during rain and snow storms. Are the porches ok?

The new City of Worcester hires on Irving Street and Main Street are really on probation in the eyes of most Worcesterites. For us, they needn’t get fancy and expensive$$$ with hiring extra administrative assistance and holding meetings with their people to protect themselves and their high paying jobs. They needn’t get caught up in their profession’s professional lingo. They just need to step up, work hard and do the right thing by poor Worcester kids and their families.
The original El Morocco restaurant. The Wall Street area was another Worcester immigrant neighborhood (Middle Eastern) that boasted scores and scores of three deckers with front- and backyards. Real homes where immigrant families could build their American Dream. Photo courtesy of the Worcester Historical Museum.

🥂New Year – new movie!🍿🎟️

By Rosalie Tirella

photo still: Wally, left, and Andre imbibing and pondering aloud the meaning of it all.

New Year … New Movie! Actually, I saw this terrific film, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, in 1981, when it first came out. At Clark University, I think, with my boyfriend at the time. The movie was kinda personal back then because a lot of Clarkies hailed from New York City or the Jersey suburbs. My closest female friend lived in Brooklyn; my boyfriend grew up in a leafy Jersey ‘burb. Then when I quit college and lived on that hippie commune, a pal of mine was from Long Island and another was from Greenwich Village. So I got to visit a bit of NYC – especially Manhattan – in my youth. It was pre-Giuliani clean-ups and his aggressive, racist policing … pre-broken-window urban theory, pre-gentrification, back when my friend’s big sister lived in a big beautiful old brownstone with several friends from college. Next year she was off to study in Japan! My Chinese American gal pal, the one from Brooklyn, grew up in an apartment building yards – I mean just a few yards – away from the subway tracks. At night her whole apartment shook as the trains rattled thru her family’s neighborhood. I spent a weekend there once – with her and her big, quiet family – both parents Chinese immigrants. Few words were spoken, everyone seemed so placid – the exact opposite of the Tirella Lafayette Street clan where no one ever shut up, where stories were told to thin air, where everyone had OPINIONS and REBUTTALS. My friend’s family seemed like they were from another planet – a planet where WHOLE APARTMENTS SHOOK AND VIBRATED, 24/7!

Manhattan was very gritty in the late 1970s – but democratic. Everyone could live here in a free, diverse, crazy America. I remember: hookers would follow my boyfriend (and me) after he drove in to the city to pick me up at Port Authority. 42nd Street was a world of strip clubs, peep shows and prostitutes. For miles and miles, it seemed! Exciting to me – just 18 years old and a wannabe writer hungry to experience the world. Oblivious to the pain and class divisions! Lovin’ the human carnival! I remember the subway cars – inside and outside – covered in graffiti. I mean every square foot. You ran through Central Park if it was nighttime.

I loved it.

The beginning of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE reminded me of the New York City of my youth – and a little bit of me and my friends. We were all kind of like Wally Shawn and Andre Gregory, two real life New York City theater people the movie centers on: we too were sensitive, artsy, philosophical – and garrulous as hell.

We first see protagonist Wallace (Wally) Shawn making his way through the garbage-choked streets of Manhattan – on his way to have dinner at a fancy restaurant with his old pal and colleague, Andre, a NYC avant guard director who has had a kind of nervous breakdown and dropped out of the theater scene. We see Wally, depressed and gnome-like in his big trench coat, gloomily walking past all the garbage, boxes and bags of refuse, block after block after block. He’s oblivious to oncoming traffic. He hops onto a subway car, numb to the garish spray paint sprayed all over its interior and the unfriendly faces, fellow subway riders. All the while we’re privy to his thoughts: Wally doesn’t want to have dinner with Andre – has been avoiding him for years, even though Andre was the one who discovered playwright Wally – staged his first plays, encouraged and championed Wally. Now Andre had dropped out and was being very weird, running around the globe having all these strange experiences. Andre was in Scotland, Poland, Tibet … the Sahara desert. “Andre was talking to trees,” says the glum and frightened Wally to himself. “He hadn’t been with his family in months. Andre used to hate being away … couldn’t wait to get back home to Chikita, Peter and Marina.”

Wally only agreed to this dinner after a friend called him, begging him to check on their mutual friend: a few weeks ago he had seen Andre in a tough part of town, leaning against a crumbling building, sobbing. Andre had just seen the film AUTUMN SONATA and broke down after Ingrid Bergman says: “I could always live in my art, but never in life.”

Well, Wally makes it to the expensive, fancy restaurant, full of dread. But his trepidation is misplaced. The handsome, suave Andre seems ok, walks up to Wally and gives him a hearty hug. They are led to their table, and for the next 1 1/2 hours they discuss: the meaning of life, the aloneness of death, the mystery of marriage, casual love, the theater, old age homes, swastikas, huge cabbage heads, cooperative insects, a photograph, weight loss, teachers … I mean, God, what a magical time at this dinner table! Wish I had been there!

But we are! The film, co-written by Gregory and Wallace after tape recording months and months of their real-life conversations and piecing the best parts and themes together, directed by the great Louis Malle, is meant to make you, the movie goer, the silent dinner date, hovering over this entire nutty, glorious affair. Listening in … Andre was one of New York’s promising talents, and he had in fact dropped out of life. Wally was a kind of struggling avant guard actor and playwright in New York City – the son of iconic editor William Shawn of The New Yorker. At the very beginning of the film, as he walks to his dinner appointment, Wally, once upper middle class, now struggling like a real writer, thinks to himself: “When I was young I rode in taxis … all I did was think about art and music. Now I’m 36, and all I think about is money.”

Point taken.

The road not taken – Andre’s way. The lover of cozy domesticity – that’s Wally. But Andre is such a terrific person and such a great story teller that Wally – and we, the viewers – hang on his every word, can picture in our minds, those teeny insects marching to the field where they’re allowed to nibble on the crops…the photo of Andre’s wife when she was 26 – young and sexy to Andre. A photo that he always carried with him. A few months ago he really “saw” the picture of his wife of 20 years: her face, mournful … she looked so sad … She was so beautiful but “she was lost,” Andre says. Wally slurps his potato soup and nods with understanding and compassion. Sometimes in silent, sweet disbelief as Andre’s adventures get more and more … esoteric, culminating in Andre being buried alive!

Then that was that for Andre. The end of his quests. Andre stopped searching, went home to his family and went to see an agent to tell him he was interested in directing a play …

Through the entire dinner, from soup to espresso, you come to love Andre and Wally. You love the warmth between them, their mutual cheerleading … their empathy and intelligence, their ability to really listen to “different” ideas and to react honestly, respectfully. With love.

Decades ago I used to have conversations like that in Clark University dorm rooms with my beau and my Brooklyn friend and other pals. Most adults called them: college “bull-shit sessions.” But to us students they were as important as our Kafka classes! A few hours set aside at night to drink beer, unwind and open up about ourselves and our families, our dreams and plans … a time to question, challenge, support and share. Real conversations. The kind of intimacy that seems to elude much of present day American society.

I miss the bull shit.