Tag Archives: murder

HISTORY WILL NOT ABSOLVE FIDEL CASTRO

20161215_114833
Cuba had Castro; we had Kennedy💝   pic:R.T

By Steven R. Maher

In 1953 Fidel Castro stood in the dock of a Cuban court. On July 26, 1953, Castro had led an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks, the second largest army base in Cuba, in an attempt to overthrow the tyrant Fulgencio Batista. Castro and his 135 followers planned to take the 1,000-man garrison by surprise, and use the barracks and captured weaponry as a “Free Territory” to set off a civil war. The attack failed, and approximately sixty of Castro’s followers were brutally murdered.
Castro in court denounced the state of Cuban society, the savagery of Batista’s dictatorship, and concluded with an inspiring battle cry.

“Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!” Castro cried out.
Thirty years earlier Adolph Hitler had stood in a German dock after he, too, had led a failed revolt.

“You may pronounce us guilty a thousand times over, but the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to tatters the brief of the state prosecutor and the sentence of the court. For she acquits us!” Hitler cried out.

Castro biographer Georgie A. Geyer in “Guerrilla Prince” quoted historian Ward M. Morton: “Both [Hitler and Castro] put the accusers and the regime they represented on trial for cowardice, cruelty, persecution, and base betrayal of the national spirit. Both announced a mission: to realize the true destiny of the fatherland by purging it of all its faults. Both speeches contained many references to blood, death and sacrifice and both ended with almost the same identical phrases.”

It seems Castro had intellectual mentors other than Marx and Lenin.

Bankrupted

Fifty three years later Castro died on November 25, 2016. It is unlikely history will absolve Castro of the terrible legacy he has left Cuba. Today Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship in which the populace at large has access to decent health care and education, but little else. By every other measure, Cuba has been bankrupted.

Such a denouement seemed unlikely in 1953. After serving two years of a fifteen year prison sentence, Castro went to New York and raised money to fund an expedition from Mexico mostly of Cuban exiles (and the group’s doctor, the Argentine Che Guevara.) Castro landed in Cuba with 82 men in November 1956 and was attacked by Batista’s army. His force reduced to fifteen men, Castro went into the Sierra Maestra Mountains at the opposite end of the island from Havana.

What followed was one of the most heroic and romantic stories of the 20th century. With only fifteen men, Castro launched a guerrilla war, attacking isolated army barracks and ambushing army units sent out to capture him. He built up his guerrilla army in the Sierra Maestra, equipping his men with captured weapons. Because his guerrillas often went without shaving gear, they grew long beards and became celebrated as the “Barbudos,” the “bearded ones.” “Our beards and hair belong to the revolution now,” Castro told his followers.

Castro waged his war in the North American media as much as he did in the mountains of Cuba. He often submitted to interviews with media outlets like the New York Times and television stations. Castro sounded like a Hispanic Thomas Jefferson, talking of liberty, the right to free expression, the need for elected representation, the necessity of dissent.

Castro’s guerrillas won battle after battle against overwhelming odds. When Batista sent 10,000 men into the Sierra Maestra to destroy the insurgents, Castro defeated them with only 300 guerillas. Che Guevara successfully attacked Santa Clara in central Cuba with 300 men, a city defended by thousands of soldiers armed with tanks and artillery.

On January 1, 1959 Batista fled Cuba. Castro then rode a tank from the Sierra Maestra down the central highway of Cuba, to be cheered by millions of Cubans along the way. “Havana went out to cheer,” wrote historian Hugh Thomas in his excellent historical tome, “Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom”, when Castro arrived in Havana amidst the applause of a million Cubans. Castro rode to the biggest military base in Cuba and promised not to become a dictator himself.

“We cannot become dictators,” said Castro. “We shall never need to use force, because we have the people, and because the people shall judge, and because the day the people want, I will leave.”

While Castro spoke, someone released several doves. One dove flew to Castro and rested on his shoulder the entire time he spoke. Castro was then 32 years old.

Frozen in time

“To many people the month of January 1959 in Havana was a unique moment of history,” wrote Thomas, “golden in promise, the dawn of a new age; great projects which had already begun; however, in a way that most of them scarcely appreciated, it was also the end of an era.”

This was the image that liberals and leftists kept frozen in their minds as they came to the defense of Castro over the decades to follow – Castro being cheered by millions of Cubans thronging to hear him, the bearded insurgent in the hills who sounded like Thomas Jefferson, the victorious guerrilla standing triumphant with the symbol of peace, a dove, perched on his shoulder as he spoke to thunderous applause.

Within months of arriving in Havana Castro began tightening the screws. There were mass executions of Batista war criminals. Over time newspapers were shut down, opponents shouted down by mobs or imprisoned, and massive numbers of Cubans fled the country. Cubans who talked of liberty, like Castro did at his Moncada trial, found themselves in prison. Cubans who took up arms to fight the new dictatorship, like Castro did, found themselves in front of firing squads. In 1968 Castro, who had taken power as a bearded insurrectionist, ordered “mass shavings of long-haired men and the departure of mini-skirted girls, who were said to have made ‘passionate love in their school girl uniforms’, to forced labor camps in the countryside,” wrote Thomas.

The new tyrant proved the accuracy of the old dictum that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Castro had talked of improving the lives of Cuban peasants. While they went hungry in collective farms, Castro lived opulently in beach front homes, dined on gourmet dinners, and wanted for nothing. The country became his experimental laboratory where Castro failed at genetically improving cows, grew watery strawberries the size of softballs that no one would buy, and set up a “coffee cordon” around Havana that died out, because of bad soil.

Backed wrong side

Castro’s biggest mistake was backing the wrong side in the Cold War. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Russian subsidies went away, Cuba’s standard of living during the “special period” plunged below that of Haiti.
“Lower than Haiti?” asked historian Thomas. “It seems possible.”

History is unlikely to absolve Fidel Castro. In 1959 he was an internationally recognized hero, an almost messiah-like figure to Cubans, and was overwhelmingly popular in the United States. Only 90 miles away from the world’s richest economy, Castro could have built a parliamentary democracy, a strong export economy based on sugar cane converted into ethanol, brought social justice to the Cuban masses, and been remembered as a Latin George Washington. That is likely to be history’s judgment on Fidel Castro: the man who had the world at his feet, and then blew it.

For the Princeton girl runner

20160815_101745-2
Pic:R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

I’ve been thinking about the girl who was murdered in Princeton while running. She was 27 – a girl to me. And she was a runner. A girl runner – different from boy runners in that many boys/men, even the fat, slovenly ones, take to the road in a bluster. All cocky delusion, huffing and puffing  and seeing themselves sinewy, smooth … athletes.

Girls are different: Often we run to empower ourselves, sometimes we run to achieve a kind of female perfection – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually … PERFECT. Running makes you think you can get there. Yes, we feel free on the road: hair streaming in the wind, body sun glistened. Yes, we experience the runner’s euphoria, the inner peace – on our high arches or on our feet that are not built for the road at all – pronators! Yes,  we run to be with ourselves , have no one barking at us, except the occasional mutt on our running route. But still  … the pictures that society has emblazoned on our brains bark at us.

Was the Princeton girl runner a lover of her body and mind? Did she feel free to think her own thoughts? Did she feel fearless on the road? Pensive? Relaxed?

Did she wear the expensive, state-of-the-art, breathable, technology-boasting, body-encasing leggings and tank tops that scream FOXY, or did she favor slipping into a soft, old, faded concert tee and a pair of loose fitting gym shorts from high school or college? Did it really make a difference what she wore?

Look at those thigh muscles – beautiful! She runs up that hill with determination, her body now closer to, hugging, the earth, to make the running up that hill easier – to get less push back from the wind. Primal. Animal moves.

When the Princeton girl runner ran did she: Sprint? Lope? Traipse? Do a little pogo , in exuberance, when she thought she was absolutely alone and no one could see her?

Did the girl runner enjoy running in her new home, the big metropolis (New York City!)? On its cement-hard streets,  Central Park paths? Did she miss her family and bounding down the gray dusty Princeton roads, the canopy trees blessing her as she, just a wisp of a girl really!, raced past their gnarly roots – most of which run deep into the earth, a mystery achievement! The roots are looking for water, minerals and other sustenance from the soil. A life all their own, undetected by eyes…

Just like  girl runners alone in the city or in the country. Just like the Princeton girl runner whose last minutes of life, remain a mystery to us. Yes, we know the facts: She was found naked, her hands, feet and head burned – authorities say her killer did this to destroy his/her DNA, the evidence.  She had a routine: every weekend she visited her mom and went for a run on Sunday before returning to New York. But the facts convey nothing. We’ll never know her thoughts as she fought a losing, losing battle… we’ll never experience her pain: bones crushed, blood flowing, physical trauma,  physical shock, then finally death – not surrounded by loved ones after a life lived well, but lying in the dirt, like roadkill.

Who will sustain her parents now?

Her poor father!  In the newspapers he talked so highly of his daughter – so proud of her intelligence, her tenacity, her career at Google, her relatively new life in  arguably the greatest city on the planet! NEW YORK CITY! A city swimming in over-achievers, Type A personalities! Just like his daughter! She had so much promise!!! Dad intimates to the newspapers.

Who will pick Dad up off this road, the road of  infinite sorrow and loss? Does he have an old pair of his daughter’s running shoes?  Does he grab them and slam them into his chest, where his breaking heart is? 

The girl runner’s killer left her in the woods –  away from the road she was running on. Was she raped? Authorities are investigating. We know she put up a fight. She was a big city girl with a big city job running in her puny little hometown. She had run marathons. She was an athlete. She was on the cusp…Didn’t her killer see her for what she was?  The killer saw a slip of a girl running, twiggy as a yearling, easy to bring down. Under the magnificent tree canopy in deafening silence. No one was around. She was all alone, a single daisy – a crawling ant – in the dirt.

The murderer burned her feet – the feet she used to run on country roads, city streets, under the sunshine, under rain clouds, maybe even under thunder clouds! When the Princeton girl runner ran in New York City did she marvel at the Empire State Building, smile at the trees and children playing catch in a pocket park?

A wisp of  a girl, the apple of her father’s eye. A girl who that morning woke up in the bedroom of her childhood home, smelling all the old familiar smells, listening to her mother’s voice, grown a bit husky through the years, a life lived to its middle.

Not like her.  The girl runner died at 27.  Just five years out of college. A kid. Just a kid.

A high achieving kid, through and through – the kind of girl, I bet, who ran all kinds of races in her head: career, classroom, relationships … her dad keeping score for her too in Princeton. Did all the races tire her out? Look at her pictures in the newspapers. She looks beautiful in some photos, thin and tired in others. Her brown eyes expressionless, even sad.

She was raised in  an upper-middle class Worcester County town – the best we’ve got! exclusive, 99% white, loaded with 1-percenters! The evening before she was murdered her dad took her out to dinner to the best, most expensive, most exclusive feeling restaurant in Worcester! The Chop House! Money and status…and love.

I was a runner in college, a little younger than the Princeton girl when I ran. No teams, no races, no marathons for this non-athlete – even though I could run comfortably for an hour. Running for myself. By myself. With my thoughts, my impressions. In Amherst, while a student at the University of Massachusetts. To be awed by the Amherst countryside  – to see the tobacco leaves fat and heavy in the rain, to see the cows in the barnyard together, big snouts touching big rumps.

I felt POWERFUL. FREE. ALIVE. ANIMAL. HAPPY running in Amherst. Even when I was sad, off road. Which is why I kept running! I was on the road every day for an hour and in the gym every other day. To feel equilibrium that physical exertion brings to body and soul  … I lost my period! From running too much! It happens to us girl runners a lot. The pursuit of excellence and peace backs up on us and we become … borderline anorexic.

Did it happen to the Princeton girl runner?

In the UMass classroom I fidgeted…jonesing for my daily run! Eating a quick light dinner. Couldn’t wait to be out running! I ran in all weather – torrential downpours, major snow storms …I remember the streets where snow plow blades had packed the snow down good and flat. I was out with the snowplows! All that Amherst running…listening/not listening to myself.

Nature sings her song! And it all feels so simple and easy! To put on a good pair of running shoes and head out into the world! Whoosh!!! Girl runners grab their sneaks and bound out the door all over the world, every day. Many are killed by stalkers, serial killers, ex-spouses.

The city sparkles, the countryside soothes, both beckon, and we girl runners run toward the beauty! Sun light, bright city street lights, filigree branches against window panes. Who’s there behind the ever green bush, behind the branches that hold the dozens of little brown sparrows that fly there at night to sleep. They look like little pine cones!

The  girl runner sprints by, then catches her breath!

Vendetta: Bobby Kennedy versus Jimmy Hoffa

… By James Neff

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

(InCity Times Book Review)

In 1975 former Teamsters President James R. Hoffa mysteriously disappeared. Hoffa has not been seen or heard from since, except from for the people who kidnapped and presumably killed him. Hoffa’s life was defined in large part by his decade-long feud with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was convinced that Hoffa was a tool of organized crime.

Hoffa’s disappearance coincided with his efforts to regain the Teamster’s Presidency. It was widely speculated – but never conclusively proved – that Hoffa was in fact assassinated by organized crime to prevent him from regaining the Teamster’s Presidency.

The two men could not have been raised in more different environments: Kennedy was the son of one of America’s richest men, attended elite pre-college schools as a teenager, and attended Harvard. Hoffa’s father died of a stroke and his mother was left with four children to raise in an era where there was no social safety net. She took in laundry to make ends meet.

Hardscrabble poor

“Hoffa and his brother Bill, eighteen months older, trapped birds, snared rabbits, and caught fish for the supper tables,” writes Neff. “[T]hey harvested apples, pears, strawberries, hickory nuts, and walnuts – anything within arm’s reach or a few steps inside a fence.”

Eventually, Hoffa’s mother moved the family to Detroit, where she worked in an auto factory. Surrounded by immigrants who scorned the Hoffas as “hillbillies,” Hoffa and his siblings found themselves fighting off bullies. Hoffa dropped out of school at the 9th grade. It was in this savage world of poverty and brutality that Hoffa came to see life as a Darwinian jungle where only the fittest survived.

Hoffa eventually got a job at a produce plant, where he led a walkout against a very exploitive management and negotiated a fairer deal for his co-workers. The striking workers evolved into a Teamster’s local, and Hoffa’s career as a union organizer was launched.

Not hagiography

Hoffa owed his ascension to the Teamster’s Presidency to Kennedy. Teamsters President Dave Beck was charged with misusing Teamster’s funds to enrich himself after Kennedy (then Chief Counsel for one of the rackets committees) investigated Beck’s finances. After this cleared the way for Hoffa to become Teamster President, Kennedy turned his eyes towards him.

Kennedy was convinced that Hoffa was an evil figure. Kennedy was “driven by a conviction of righteousness, a fanaticism of virtue, a certitude about guilt that vaulted over gaps of evidence” wrote Neff, quoting longtime Kennedy friend and biographer Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

The rest of this book is taken up by Kennedy’s pursuit of Hoffa. After John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960, he appointed his younger brother Robert Attorney General. RFK began an all-out war against the Mafia, which some historians believed backfired into President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. RFK continued to pursue Hoffa, who was imprisoned in 1967 on jury tampering charges. The animus Hoffa felt towards the Kennedys was summed up by Hoffa’s venomous remarks upon hearing of President Kennedy’s assassination: “They killed the son of a bitch. I hope the worms eat out his [President Kennedy’s] eyes.”

Neff went out of his way to be balanced. Much of what has been about the Kennedy brothers since the 1960s has been hagiography, depicting them as iconic figures. Neff portrays Robert Kennedy as a flawed human being, driven by a righteous vindictiveness to put Hoffa in prison no matter what. Hoffa’s wrongdoing, such as allowing mobsters to loot the Teamster’s pension fund to finance Las Vegas casinos, seems to have been downplayed as well for the same reason.

Readers looking for the details on JFK’s 1963 assassination, the 1968 murder of Robert Kennedy, and Hoffa’s 1975 disappearance will be disappointed. These subjects are touched on only in passing; Hoffa’s disappearance is summed up in only two pages. Earlier in the book Neff spends a great of time reviewing the Mafia’s acid blinding by crusading journalist Victor Riesel, a sidebar that pretty much went nowhere.

This is not the last we will hear on the Kennedy-Hoffa feud. The subject is too important to the development of the labor movement in mid-twentieth century America. Neff has substantially enhanced the record. The definitive book remains to be written.

Gordy – always in style! … 21st Century Lynching …

Demo at City Hall 7-7-16
Worcester protest – July 7, 2016. Lots of folks participated in this collective call to stop racial killings by police and to create a more equitable Worcester.

… and Racism in Worcester

By Gordon Davis

On July 6, 2016, two Black men were murdered by the police. Alton Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge. Philander Castile was killed in Minneapolis. As of this date 509 people have been killed by the police in 2016.

The majority of the people killed by the police are white people, people with dark skin are killed disproportionately more often. This is evidence of racial profiling. The inference is that stopping racial profiling will help everyone including white people.

In the late 19th Century and earlier 20th Century the Jim Crow laws of the racist Southern USA were enforced by the means of lynching Black people from a tree. Today the so called New Jim Crow, such as mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline, is being enforced via the 21st Century’s new form of lynching, police killings.

On July 7, 2016, about 100 Worcester residents protested the racist killings of the day before. The protest was organized by Massachusetts Human Rights Committee, and the Progressive Labor Party organized the event. Other groups and individuals participated.

The protest in Worcester was one of several protests nationwide. There will be at one more protest in Springfield at its City Hall on Monday, July 11, 2016 starting at 3 PM.

One young man, apparently from Clark University, led the chant “No Justice, No Peace.” A lady protestor shouted out several times “‘racist cops’ means ‘fight back.’ ” Another speaker made the connection between income disparity and racism. This speaker sought economic equality as a means to abolish racism and other forms of discrimination.

Worcester’s problems with race relations were also raised in the speeches: the racist incident in which a City official used racially offensive language during a road rage incident, the malicious prosecution of the Black Lives Matter protesters and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney’s attack on the Mosaic Complex were mentioned.

A lady came up to me and congratulated me for my opposition to City Coucilor Gaffney. She said he was arrogant, privileged and a frat boy. I told her I agreed.

The protesters made plans to meet again. Some wanted to discuss body cameras for the Worcester Police and the details of WPD Chief Sargent’s “Broken Windows” policing policy.

As the protest was winding down, a group of mostly young people started to walk to the Worcester police station as a means of venting the anger at the police. I would not be surprised should they demand and got a meeting with Chief Sargent. Sometimes the militancy of the young is quite amazing.

As I am writing this column I heard on the news that two police officers were killed in Texas. I personally condemn this type of individual “lone wolf” activity. Political action is done by the people in a mass way: demonstrations, rallies, petitions, meetings, etc.

The struggle for justice is a class struggle usually lasting decades. The same can be said for the struggle for racial and gender justice.

Gordon is parked in Yum Yums cuz I want to post now!

The War in Afghanistan, President Obama and Worcester PeaceWorks

By Gordon Davis

President Obama has broken his promise to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

This is not a surprise, but it is sad and it is discouraging. It means that the misery of war in Afghanistan will continue for an indefinite time. Only death, misery and refugees will be the product of the President’s decision.

When the United States went to war with Afghanistan in 2002 it was to avenge the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. George Bush was President when the Taliban was defeated and Al Qaeda went into hiding.

Worcester PeaceWorks was formed immediately after 9-11 by many in the Worcester peace community. Claire and Scott Schaeffer Duffy and Kevin Ksen played major roles. We held rallies in Worcester and went to the huge, anti-war rally in New York City – a worldwide event in which millions of people participated.

Worcester PeaceWorks tried to get the Worcester City Council to pass a resolution against the War in Iraq when several soldiers from Worcester were killed. The City Council would not hear the petition, citing Rule 33 of the Worcester City Charter.

Since then President Obama has killed or captured almost all of Al Qaeda who were responsible for the 9-11 attacks and withdrew troops from Iraq.

Worcester PeaceWorks, for the most part, stopped functioning after President Obama’s election in 2008. The Worcester Catholic Worker movement, including Mike True and the Center for Non Violence, continued to have anti-war demonstrations at Lincoln Square. The Progressive Labor Party would every so often call for an end to “imperialism” – as it did during the beginning of the Civil War in Syria.

President Obama ordered a drawdown of forces from Afghanistan with the hope that a government friendly to the USA would be able to rule Afghanistan after the American troops leave.

This has not happened.

After more than 10 years no government set up by the USA has been strong enough to defeat the Taliban.

This effort at nation building in Afghanistan has proven a failure.

There is no clear American policy there except to protect the suspect American friend, President Hammid Karzai, living in Kabul.

The people of Afghanistan are suffering, as can be seen in the thousands of refugees seeking asylum in the European Union.

Killing people with drones has done more harm than good, especially when so many civilians are killed. There is an insight of another of the irony in one Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama, killing another Nobel Peace Prize winner, the International Doctors Without Borders.

It looks like we have lost in Afghanistan, like we did in Vietnam.

It is time we get out and take those who want to leave with us as refugees.

It makes no sense to continue with the misery of war when we cannot win. 

The USA has avenged the 9-11 attacks and punished the perpetrators. It is time to declare “mission accomplished” and stop the killing and misery.  

Unfortunately, many in the Peace community, including Worcester activists, do not want to oppose politicians who are considered to be “progressive” candidates. 

Like the BlackLives Matter activists, the peace activists should compel the candidates to declare their intentions with Afghanistan, Israel and Syria.

Beauty

CAM00353

By Rosalie Tirella

Four or so weeks ago, outside my Worcester inner-city three decker, I made a new friend: Beauty, a little Chihuahua-mix from across the street. She was funny-looking cute in the way only mutts can be: long, thin body, a head that was disproportionately big for her shoulders, a kink in the middle of her tail, no taller than a beer can. The great thing about Beauty:  she was wearing a sparkly blue collar attached to a sparkly blue leash, which was held by a little girl, about six years old. One of the little kids in my neighborhood, just like you see all over Worcester inner-city neighborhoods: teeny, slips of children, undernourished, dull, pinched complexions, sometimes hair not combed out, running pell mell across busy city streets not much higher than the car tires that whiz by them. These children are so vulnerable looking you are scared for them. At first you see them as sickly and you despair for the city (they’re Worcester’s future). Then you see them as beautiful – the most exquisitely delicate of children, bones made of glass, eyes made of sea shells, hair of silk … They are the glass ornaments with which you’d adorn your Christmas tree, they are the wind catchers you’d hang from your kitchen window, in a special spot, so the morning sunlight can shine through them.

This little girl with the Chihuahua was wearing a dollar store short set; her shoes looked like slippers. But, she was full of spirit! She was running to beat the band to meet me in my parking lot, with Beauty trotting confusedly, but proudly ( little head up!), next to her. I had just got home from working and was unloading my car. The girl was smiling, seemed interested in me and Jett, my husky mix, who always travels with me. She watched me as I organized my bags and put Jett’s lead on him. She began to follow me, walking right uo to the front door of my building with me.

I smiled. I knew the pattern! Lots of inner-city kids growing up without the physical trappings of a middle-class childhood –  vacations at the Cape, big backyards filled with swing sets and the latest electronic gadgets and toys – are like this little girl.  They have personalities that absolutely sparkle, that seem to burst out of their tiny bodies! They lack the material shit their rich, spoiled and, ultimately, boring counterparts have so they create their own fun. Make their own childhood castles, their unique kiddie worlds. They are curious, aware, intuitive … sharp. They are interested in – sometimes fascinated by! – the people around them. Human toys! They want to engage you! Chat! Listen to your voice and what you have to say! Years ago, growing up in Green Island, I used to be one of those little kids! Not so young, maybe 10 … Saturday mornings I was running down Lafayette Street, making my way to the little old lady who fed 20 cats outside her flat, watching them run wild atop this little hill of garbage in her back yard. Fascinating! Then I’d run down Bigelow Street for my next adventure – to visit the weird old lady whose mouth hung down stiff on one side like it was just waiting for a cigar to be slipped in and who always wore heavy black man’s shoes. One of her legs was shorter than the other, so the soles of one of her heavy monsters was much thicker than the other.  Fascinating! This lady always began her friendly chats with me on her back porch with: NOW YOU KIDS LISTEN TO YOU MOTHER … her voice gravelly, husky, gruff from the cigarettes she smoked incessantly. I’d spend a half hour with this chain smoker, looking at her big, black man’s shoes that were always polished and shiny, and her thick ankles – always in tight fitting (you could see the red band the socks’ elastic top made on her white skin) ankle socks. Wanda was always such a know it all! So much fun to listen to her pontificate! Then I’d move one door down and say hello to Wanda’s neighbors, the old couple in the flat next door. They weren’t as chatty as Wanda with the crooked mouth but they were soothing, very domestic, like the little old couple you’d find in a Gingerbread house in the middle of enchanted woods! The wife used to sew beautiful little pillow dolls with plastic cupie doll faces. She’d show me her latest projects – dolls with dresses made of the prettiest cotton fabric, wearing bonnets she made specially for them. Bonnets trimmed with white lace to match the lace at the hem of their dresses! I adored these handmade beauties! Wanted all of them, which she had placed all over her husband’s and her bed and sofa. They had taken over their tenement! She knew I coveted her pillow dolls and would sometimes give me one of her less pretty babies. For Christmas or my birthday or First Holy Communion. Special occasions like that. I’d run straight home to show my mom, cutting through the big field between our buildings, not watching where I ran because I was so excited, coming home with brambles,we called them “pickers,” all over socks andthe bottoms of my slacks!

Ma! I’m home!!! Look what Elsie gave me!!!!!

These days, summer of 2015, this little girl, proud owner of Beauty, reminded me of me! Curious about the people around her, shy but open, wanting to learn what you liked, who you knew … people like me, now a middle aged lady down the street, stoking HER curiosity, HER imagination. I knew and loved the pattern!  So I obliged!

Hi! I said to her with enthusiasm. HELLO!

Is that your dog? she asked me, looking fascinated by the entire Rosalie-Jett production/catastrophe!

Yes! I said, His name is Jett. You’ve got such a cute dog! I love his collar! What’s your dog’s name? 

I could tell right then and there he didn’t have one! She was about to improvise! Looking at the sidewalk and then looking at me, glancing at my dress, my face, then my legs, she blurted: BEAUTY!!!!!

I wanted to scoop her up and hug her!  Kids and their not-so-secret compliments! I wanted to cry!

But instead I said: That’s a great name! I love that name! Smiling, now setting my bags down to seriously chat with my new friend, I said: How old is Beauty? She’s a great friend! I love her blue collar! It matches her leash!  I wish Jett had one like that.

Shyly pleased with my compliment and still basking in the glow of her ingenuity, the little girl walked her little dog around me smiling. I opened my car door and got Jett’s doggy treat jar out. I twisted off the cap and took out a little piece of liver snap and offered it to Beauty. She was too nervous to eat it.

I’ll bring you some treats you’ll like tomorrow, I told Beauty. Then said goodbye to my new friends.

The next day I had a bag of goodies ready for Beauty. At the end of my day, just as I had expected, Beauty and her little girk owner rushed across the street, oblivious to traffic, to meet me and Jett. My heart sang! Innocence amid the crack houses, the yellow police tape, the guy men with their pants right off their asses so you saw their underwear.

Here are some snacks for Beauty! I said to the little girl (who never gave me her name, whose name I didn’t ask to know), giving her the dog treats. Looking at the skinny dog, Beauty, noting the ridges of her little back bone and how they protruded through her thin coat, I realized Beauty is the last to be fed in this household I declared for all the universe to hear: I’LL HAVE FOOD FOR YOU TOMORROW! I WILL! FOR YOU!!!!

I went upstairs to my apartment and wanted to collapse on my bed. The city is overwhelming, too stimulating, like electricity going through me! Instead, I immediately began putting together a beautiful puppy package for Beauty: A big blue stuffed dog toy shaped like a bone. It squeaked when you squeezed it. A plastic pup canister with red paw prints on it that I filled with Jett’s dog food. And then – the piece de resistance! – a big water bowl that looked and acted like a water cooler! (pictured above). It was topped off with a huge, clear plastic  jug, that once filled would keep the water flowing and, I believed, serve Beauty well – and fascinate her little mistress. Then, lastly, a blue water/food bowl that looked too cute! I put it all on the dining room table for the next day.

The next day my building had graffiti sprayed all over it by gangs. It had been tagged – by  gang members and drug kings who have been shooting at and killing each other with impunity all over Worcester this summer. Last week there were bullet casings found on our street. Before that, up a ways, one kid fired his gun at another kid. They were both in their cars, driving their cars.

I, in a panic, called my cool landlord and shouted: THE BUILDING HAS BEEN TAGGED! GET DOWN HERE NOW AND PAINT OVER IT! COVER IT UP. NOW. PLEASE. PLEASE.

He is my friend. So within a half hour he was downstairs calmly painting over the convoluted letters that were like a slap in the face to this end of the street, home to about 10 little kids who ride their bikes all over and … BEAUTY AND HER OWNER.

Ten minutes or so later, my cell phone rang. It was my landlord:  COME DOWN HERE, ROSE.

What now?! I cried as I threw on my shoes and ran downstairs. At the bottom of the stairwell I met my landlord and a little black boy, about 11. The boy was shaking, then he got still, like a small animal, or a bird, in physical shock.

I looked at my landlord. He said: Take him upstairs. He was just chased down the street by a guy in a van, with a gun.

What?! I cried. I’ll wait with him in the hallway upstairs. Did you call the police?

Just as my landlord was about to answer my question, a car pulled up in front of our building: the boy’s relatives. They had come for him. He went out to them and got into the car. My landlord called 911. The cops were on the scene in minutes. They talked to the relatives and the little boy.  A few hours later the police caught the guy who had been chasing the boy. They found him hiding in the bushes next door. With his gun.

For days I was too stunned to write this…but then the shock wore off and I am so worried about Beauty and her owner!

WHERE WERE THEY?! I DID NOT SEE THEM ANYWHERE!

My heart dropped to the soles of my shoes. I worried about them and all the cute, skinny little kids in my neighborhood and Worcester’s inner city neighborhoods, with their innocent faces and social little personalities. Beauty, that funny looking little dog, no higher than 6 inches at the shoulders, and her little girl owner were in the back of my mind all day, as I ran InCity Times. When I got home, they were not on the sidewalk near my house waiting for me like they used to be. I went upstairs and felt very alone.

So I decided to TAKE ACTION!  I began working the phones, calling all the politicians in town. I told them about the little boy my landlord and I gave shelter to – from a storm made of kids with guns and disrespect and no love for anyone, not even themselves. Self-destruction! Confusion!  Children being chased by other children with guns! In my neighborhood, in our city! I cried to them. I’ve seen it! Just yesterday! The expression on that little boy’s face! He was quarry.

THIS IS MADNESS. STOP THE MADNESS.

Everyone responded to my fears and pleas in politician triple-speak. Such useless bull shit! Fuck you all! Except for Worcester Mayor Joe Petty, a guy totally underestimated by his opponents, who said to me, like he’s said before: I’M LISTENING, Rose. I’M LISTENING. I COULD HEAR HIM LISTENING, INTENSELY, OVER THE PHONE. Within 24 hours we had Worcester Police  Department fiot patrols on my street. The neighborhood has quieted down, calmed down. People are not on edge 24/7 – though we are all watching our backs. Joe Petty is Worcester’s Quiet Man. Like John Wayne in John Ford movies, he doesn’t say much but he’s got integrity, is modest, and will always rise to the occasion. I think he’s heartbroken over all the senseless killing and shooting, too!

And so, today, it’s quiet, though I’m AWARE, like half the city, of the potential for mayhem. Just three days ago a mom and her two year old child were shot while sitting in a car. BOOM. A toddler. Not much smaller that Beauty’s owner, I bet.

BTW: I have decided to name the little girl, BEAUTY.  She’s the real deal!

My landlord says: Don’t over think it, Rose. Do your thing. The unofficial Mayor of Green Island, Lorraine Laurie, says the same thing: Just run your life, Rose. It’s a gang thing – take it from your big sis!

I love Lorraine but she’s wrong.

It’s MY THING, TOO.

And yours.

We all have to take responsibility for the little kids in our struggling neighborhoods, though few do, which is the problem.

Two days ago I saw Beauty, and her owner and a new addition to the troops –  her teeny little brother – about three years old. Totally adorable! Like his sister, sweet and friendly in such a heartbreaking, tentative way… . He was walking Beauty! Not his sis! She was beside him, though, overseeing the walk. Very serious. To see such BEAUTY on parade in a hood like mine, in a world like ours, takes my breath away.

Running to them, over-joyed, I GUSHED: HI! I have so many great gifts for BEAUTY!

Power to the people! 25,000 march against racism in NYC. Thousands more march in Washington D.C. … Worcesterites join them! Welcome to the NEW Civil Rights Movement!

NYC_12-13-14 Young Faces from Worcester in New York City. Photo courtesy of Robert Blackwell Gibbs.

Our young people are part of a new nation-wide civil rights movement! Go, Worcester young people, go!!!!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN/LEARN MORE ABOUT AMERICA’S NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, START NOW! Email Gordon at hellowithfire1@aol.com and he’ll connect you!

By Gordon T. Davis

The demonstrations against the killing of unarmed Black men are a good thing.

This fight against racism will eventually benefit everyone, as it will cause a review of police procedures and policies throughout America.

Our criminal justice system is rigged in such a way that no police officer who kills anyone is ever indicted. This should change to a new standard: any police officer who wrongfully kills someone should be fired. The standard will be a long struggle before it’s effectuated. And it might never be accomplished without an overhaul of our justice system.

On November 13, 2014, there were demonstrations for racial justice in Worcester, Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. At least 25 people from Worcester went to the NYC demonstration. The trip to New York was organized by Communities United Collective (CUC) – a group formed shortly after a Support Ferguson Mo rally in July of 2014 on the Worcester Common.

The CUC consists of mostly relatively young people of all races who are too young to have participated in the civil rights movement of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  All of the people in CUC are enthusiastic and this showed when they and students boldly blocked the streets of Worcester and made their voices heard at the Worcester City Council meeting.

A weakness of the CUC seems to be that they are never certain from meeting to meeting what is needed to be done, but their description of the rally in New York by some of the people who went shows their enthusiasm and hope:

Jules:

The Millions March was a peacefully organized Rally. It was very successful. We shut the streets down and raised awareness. This won’t end until justice is brought to those who ripped families apart and took the lives of the innocent. If I had to do it again, I’d do it a thousand times over.”

Jonathan:

The bosses have to have heard and that is why they are discrediting the marchers in any way that they can. This was no rowdy bunch of hoodlums. This was an extremely well organized political action. I expect reforms to come in the long term. This is just the beginning of a growing movement. The police can’t do this anymore. The people aren’t going to let them.”

Ed:

“… I thought it went really great, and it was amazing how many people came out in solidarity. I think our point of why we’re fighting got across, but we still have a ways to go, and we need to take that people-power past protesting.”

Robert:

“Uplifting while sorrowful! It was moving to see so many like minds there for the main cause. The police were calm, but we knew what they really wanted. When we all took Brooklyn Bridge and shut down both sides to traffic it was a show of real power.”

********

The rally in Washington D.C. might indicate a difference in tactics between the old guard civil rights activists and the young activists. For example, a group of younger demonstrators from St. Louis wanted to go up on the stage where the TV cameras were and speak. The people running the rally said that the people from St. Louis needed VIP passes to get on stage!

This new civil rights movement apparently has reached a critical stage. What is next? More blocked streets, more teach-ins – or something else? Will there be a division between the younger and the older civil rights activists?

Hopefully, our new Civil Rights Movement will have the lasting power and the effectiveness of the old.

**********

This Baby Boomer considers herself old guard. And we old guard-types had great musical spokespeople who sang what we all felt: Dylan, Baez, Havens, Hendrix, Odetta, Young, Lennon, to name just a few. YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY NEED TO FIND THEIR DYLANS, THEIR LENNONS, their own musical/political geniuses! They’re out there – we just know it!
– R. Tirella

Merry Christmas! Now gimme that gun!

My neighbor’s seen a kid with a gun; I’ve seen a kid with a gun (please see my column below: THE WAIT. THE WEIGHT.); a friend of mine, driving a little too aggressively through Kelley Square, had a gun pointed at him by the fellow motorist he had cut off seconds before …

Suffice it to say: SOMETIMES IT FEELS LIKE WORCESTER IS AWASH IN GUNS!

Thank goodness for:

Gun buy-backs!

This Saturday in Worcester and surrounding towns!

The Worcester Police Department and UMass hospital hold their 13th annual Goods for Guns gun buy-back event.

9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

At the Worcester Police Department, 9 – 11 Lincoln Square

Give the nice policeman any operable firearm and he’ll give you a holiday gift card to local stores and supermarkets! That way you won’t have to rob them to acquire their merchandise and food items! Don’t worry about the police! It’s all done anonymously. No questions asked!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

So many guns in America, so little time! That’s why the program has been expanded! Now collecting guns in the pretty towns of Grafton, Leicester, Millbury, Northboro, Shrewsbury and Westboro!

Leicester will hold its gun buy-back 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday at 90 South Main St., Leicester.

Millbury will hold its gun buy-back from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday at 127 Elm St., Millbury.

You know what to do! DO THE RIGHT THING!

– R. Tirella

FERGUSON AND THE MEANING OF NO TRUE BILL

By Gordon T. Davis

Who will believe in the justice system after the prosecutor for St. Louis County defended the No True Bill for the indictment of Officer Wilson, who admittedly shot an unarmed Black man, Michael Brown, killing him?

This is what I heard when Mr. McCullough gave his press conference:

1. Michael Brown was shot outside of Officer Wilson’s car by Officer Wilson

2. Michael Brown ran away from the car

3. Officer Wilson gave chase

4. Brown stopped running and turned around

5. Brown’s hands were visible and held no weapons

6. Michael Brown was unarmed

6. Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown four more times, killing him.

The question that everyone is asking is how there is no probable cause for a crime. Mr. McCullough weakly said that the physical evidence did not match the testimony. He did not say how the physical evidence that Michael Brown was unarmed and shot twice while at the car and four times after running from police was evidence of no crime.

The testimony of witnesses had a consistency: Michael Brown tried to run away after being shot and he was unarmed. When he stopped running, his hands were visible.

There is outrage through the country and within Worcester. On the night of the No True Bill more than 100 people demonstrated at Worcester City Hall. At least two more demonstrations are planned for November. A movement of people is needed just to effectuate temporary changes for the better. However, because of the systemic issues, the whole justice system might have to be changed.

Ferguson MO reminds me of the killing of Worcester resident Cristino Hernandez by the Worcester Police in 1993.

There was an inquest into his death.

The judge ruled that there was no crime, but he also ruled that the police used excessive force.

Even with this ruling, the two police officers who killed Mr. Hernandez were never fired, let alone disciplined. However, based on the excessive force ruling the family of Cristino Hernandez sued the City of Worcester for wrongful death. This is a possibility for the Brown family.

The issue of race is to a large extent significant. There is a stereotyping of dark-skinned people and lower income people. The stereotype is that we are dangerous and our lives are not important.

White cops and, to a certain extent Black cops, do not see us as people, but as targets. The laws give these policemen the license to kill us with impunity while on the street.

This license to kill us has to be taken away. In many ways it is like the “stand your ground” laws which allow cops and others to kill anyone when they “believe” their life to be in danger.  That standard should change to someone’s life “actually” being in danger instead of the “belief” that someone’s life  is in danger.  It would make the killing of the twelve-year-old boy in Cleveland by the cops a crime, as the cop who shot the boy was never in mortal danger.