Sunday, August 12: Downtown Worcester – Pete and his daughter Layla

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

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City Manager Ed Augustus, these pictures are, for me, the real downtown Worcester – the real Worcester. A dad and his little girl walking to where they need to go – Dad holding his daughter’s hand as she holds onto and pushes her dolly stroller (with black AND white babes!πŸ’™). They walk down a beat up Main Street not questioning the crappy sidewalks, the city noise and pollution … their poverty… Like so many folks of color here. A world of hopes, traditions, culinary arts … struggles.

The kiddie professionals and students you fawn over in the newly built, pricey boxes you call luxury apartments leap into their cars to head out of downtown Worcester every chance they get! … to shop, eat and have fun (sometimes they grab a bite in their student cafes, on their campuses, entirely skipping the downtown Woo GAStronomic experience!!).

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The color and culture of our city is changing in a major way: we have a majority-minority school district. The neighborhood I live in, and most of the older, ethnic neighborhoods in Worcester, the “other side” of Park Ave, are majority-minority, too. Yet our public schools, library and library branches, fire department, police department staffs – heck, even our animal shelter, the lily white Worcester Animal Rescue League! – do not reflect or represent the city’s population. So these places can’t – don’t! – won’t! – really serve the people of Worcester. How can they??? The WPS, the WFD, our public library system etc keep the old Worcester in power, as the new Worcester struggles on the perimeter.

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One in four Worcester kids is labelled “Food Insecure” by the federal government. That’s a euphemistic term for HUNGRY! Who can learn, grow, sleep! when they’re hungry?! The Woo children and the adults in their lives are on the MOVE, too – always one step ahead of the absentee slumlord, leaving one shitty apartment for the next. It’s been documented by our school system for years! The graduating classes of our WPSchools elementary schools look nothing like the kindergarten classes that began their public education six years ago. That’s because the kids and their families are always MOVING, which means major family AND neighborhood stress and instability – for roughly half of Worcester! (So unlike the old, poor, but more equitable Green Island I grew up in, attending Lamartine Street School, K – 6, with the SAME GROUP OF KIDS! True classmates.)

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CECELIA file photo

You gotta laugh – or cry – about the way this city runs itself! A million stories about the Pawtucket Red Sox possibly pulling up their Rhode Island stakes and coming to the lily white, gentrified Canal District (CM Augustus, city development poobas, the gentrifiers slobbering over themselves in private, while playing cool and tight-lipped, even smug, in the papers) and ZERO MENTION OF OUR HUNGRY KIDS, our poor families, our stressed neighborhoods, our families of color whose first language isn’t English…

ALMOST HALF OUR CITY! Neighborhoods that no longer work for their people…

And, for the most part, at least to me, most of the neighborhood folks of color have been: real, gracious, helpful, hard-working/enterprising, loving (parents – and sons and daughters) as they make their way around Worcester’s periphery. We’ve connected on different levels, not always easy, but I’ve become a better person.

THEIR NUMBERS ARE MAJOR! They HAVE CHANGED THE LOOK, FEEL, TEXTURE OF OUR CITY! IN A GOOD WAY! Yet they are ignored. City leaders, the people in power, don’t let them in. It’s called institutional racism. And that keeps people separated in our city: their lives don’t intersect. People don’t open up and struggle and learn and grow together. Racism is perpetuated.

No, City Manager Augustus, building 100 new affordable apartments WILL NOT solve Worcester’s homeless problem!! What a totally out-of-touch thing to say!!

And, no, the Paw Sox won’t integrate the Canal District – or our schools, libraries, fire department, neighborhoods – even the WARL animal shelter staff!

Unless we all begin to have a dialogue about the real, new Worcester – the majority-minority city we’ll soon be living in – we’re never gonna be a world class metropolis. This is true for our country, too! The America on the horizon!

Attention must be paid!