Tag Archives: Pleasant Street


Gospel Festival



And some “Rose” religion for you!:


ICT editor Rosalie has this beauty in her kitchen, blessing all who enter her home. Her Polish immigrant grandmother bought this Jesus, Mary icon with holy water bowl from a traveling icon salesman in Green Island decades ago!

In the early part of the 20th century salesmen went door to door in Worcester’s Roman Catholic immigrant neighborhoods selling all kinds of religious items to the Poles, etc. The immigrants were deeply religious, some praying, like my Bapy, hourly! She went to her little Polish church on Ward Street daily for Mass, and she made all the Novenas (the Catholic church has a ton of them)! Bapy lived on Bigelow Street with her family; she bought this statue on a kind of layaway plan, giving a nickle a week to the traveling salesman, who would come right to her tenement door for payment, until the statue was her own. I think it cost her $3 or $4 or so. A pretty penny for Bapy!


Here she is, with part of her family, wearing her ubiquitous apron – the lard-stained, body-covering apron that never came off her body! She was always cooking and baking for everybody – her family, my grandpa’s friends from Dudley – all meals from scratch! She made rabbit stew in a big white porcelain pot – it contained the rabbits that my grandpa raised on their back porch (he used to take their furry feet before skinning them to eat and make lucky charm rabbits feet key chains for my mom!). Bapy made cabbage soup with cabbage, onions and all the peasant foods – filled with healthy goodness – she bought at the open air market on Water Street.  She chopped up the mushrooms that my grandpa had dug up for her, along with the blueberries he picked!, in the wilds of Worcester!

Meals were religion to my Bapy, too!

Always begun with a prayer of thanksgiving!

Once my grandpa, who worked in the mills in Dudley, brought home a friend from work for lunch – a Black guy he used to go fishing with. They had gone fishing that day, had caught some fish that my grandfather wanted my Bapy to cook up for them. In Poland, their homeland, there were zero Blacks! My Bapy had seen few in America – and was afraid of them!

Grandpa would have none of her nonsense! This guy was his pal and she would welcome him at their kitchen table and make them a tasty meal! My grandpa, a sweet guy who never had sharp words for anyone, shouted in Polish to Bapy: WOMAN! SEE OUR FISH?  COOK THEM UP! WE WANT TO EAT!! … GET US SOME BOTTLES OF BEER!!

My grandmother, who was adored by my grandfather who let her boss him around in the house and was content to sit at the kitchen table nursing his beer while watching his feisty little wife (Bapy was 4′ 11″ inches tall!) cook and fuss about, was SHOCKED at his command!  She was never ordered about! She was indulged by grandpa!

Slack jawed, looking back at her frowning man, Bapy went to the icebox, got grandgather and his pal their two bottles of beer and put them on the kitchen table. Then she went to their pantry shelves and got two glasses and put them on the table. She took the fish they had caught, still covered with that film that live fish have as they swim in the water, and went to the pantry to prepare them.

She made the guys a most excellent lunch! She really did love to cook!

My grandpa’s Black fishin’ buddy visited often.

“He was a nice guy,” my mother once told me.


In the above pic the family is on the roof of their Bigelow Street building. It was called The Block cuz it was a huge BLOCK of tenements – specially built for poor immigrants. Large families were crammed into small drab rooms – made lively (and sometimes foreboding!) with their religious icons and the saints calendar pictures they cut out and framed like this one my grandpa made and gave to my mom who gave it to me …


The family portrait, above, was taken during World War II when Bapy’s son, my Uncle Joe, was home on leave from the U.S. Navy. My auntie is wearing his hat; my mom is next to her, to the left. Grandpa is in back, in neck-tie and cardigan, so proud of his American son – fighting for his country!

Text/pics: Rosalie Tirella

Today we caught up with Piedmont’s Chris Bettencourt – owner of The Raven …


… club on Pleasant Street. The side wall of his club will soon be home to a  WONDERFUL mural painted by artist Susan Champeny!!!  An artist who always INCLUDES THE REGULAR FOLKS OF THE COMMUNITY! The mural will depict the musical figures and history of the neighborhood’ s CONGRESS ALLEY!!

If you want to help Susan with her mural and be a part of this mammoth, cool, cool inner-city project stop on down to the RAVEN this WEEKEND – Saturday and Sunday, 3 – 6 p.m. You’ll see Susan work … she first puts her mural onto parachute material …you can help her or watch her paint …  learn a lot! Have FUN!

Chris is the nicest guy you wanna meet! He is totally invested in the hood, waiting for a true Piedmont renaissance!

He is hoping to put on a concert starring some of the Woo folks of the 1960s and 1970s who made Congress Alley rock back in the day! Now Noho singer Roger Salloom and ol’ ICT contributing writer Jack Hoffman are gonna be asked to lend their talents! If you are interested in helping to plan this musical celebration, talk to Chris!

Check it all out this weekend!

(note: Chris is still waiting for the City of Worcester to issue him easement rights, etc.  Hurry up, Woo!)        – Rosalie Tirella


Chris! Sept. 3, 2014



Open house at Planned Parenthood, Pleasant Street …

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts Education Open House featuring:

Let’s Be Honest: Communication in Families that Keeps Kids Healthy

Presented by Mindy Craver, Senior Parent Educator / Professional Trainer

Come participate in a sample of Let’s Be Honest, an interactive workshop for parents and other caring adults of adolescence designed to learn how to create a comfortable environment of trust for talking about sex and sexuality. Find out how this program can support your parent groups!

Also learn about our other education program offerings and our clinic services.

Tuesday, November 12

4:30-5:30 pm

PPLM Central Massachusetts Health Center

470 Pleasant St., Worcester

· Parking available in the PPLM lot, access from Dewey Street

· Light refreshments will be provided

In Piedmont today: anti-violence/peace speak-out in loving memory of Nathan Otero

TODAY (OCT. 17)!    5:30 pm

Winslow Peace Park – at the corner Pleasant and Winslow streets

Please join the family of Nathan Otero, the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center and community members in speaking out against youth violence in our community and continuing the discussion on building solutions in our neighborhood and city .

Our Neighborhood Peace Park is become the place in Worcester where people from across Worcester come to speak out against violence and injustice.

Let’s continue to support the growth of Women Together/Mujeres Unidas’ dream.

Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center …

… Board of Directors (public information/record). The usual suspects: We have Mary Keefe (of course!), Kevin Ksen (of course!), etc. Call them/visit them today! Ask them: Who’s the new executive director of the center? How open will the hiring process be? Will the center be more welcoming – open its door to all folks in the hood, even the ones this bunch doesn’t like? Will the center be more helpful to the very poor folks who make up a big chunk of Piedmont? Will the center be more hands on such as: giving out emergency food, clothing; running after school programs, ESL classes, GED classes, citizenship classes? Will there be more FREAKIN’ LIFE AT THE CENTER???

There are so many folks in the community who think Mary Keefe would not have won the race for state rep if  the other two candidates, Kate Toomey and Diana Bianchiaria,  BOTH had not run  for the seat. A guy in the hood told me: “The chubby ladies split the vote.” We agree.  If either Kate or Dianna had the East Side all to themselves, we would most likely have a different state rep. today. And most folks think Kate and Dianna are more main stream Dems who are more in line with the goals and values of the majority of the folks in the district.  Time will tell if I endorsed the right lady! – R. Tirella


The Piedmont neighborhood’s The Raven club forced to eat crow!

By Rosalie Tirella

Imagine you are a cool, young, handsome guy. Imagine you are a cool, young, handsome guy who digs music. Imagine you are a cool young music-loving guy who wants to bring cool music to Worcester’s masses – especially to young people. So, because you are young and cool and hopeful, you buy a club. You buy the old Cardinal bar in Worcester’s Piedmont neighborhood, on Pleasant Street/Congress Alley, and rechristen it The Raven because you are an Edgar Allen Poe fan and, with your shiny long jet black hair and angular attractiveness, you kinda look like a crow.

Then you – in this case Chris Bettencourt, 35 – watch your dream – and nerves – unravel, courtesy of the rough neighborhood to which you have hitched your dreams, the unsavory punks from the ‘hood who want to piss all over your dream, a half-hearted police force that will allow the punks to defile your dream, a missing-in-action neighborhood center staff, and a city manager’s office that seems too busy to bother about your dream.

This is what is happening to Bettencourt! Right now, as you read this! Chris still has his dream and his biz, but on many days he can often been seen sitting on the black metal bench outside his establishment sucking so hard on his cigarette, shoulders hunched, head down, that you’d think he had just checked into Deb Ekstrom’s Community Health Link/detox center, a 10 minute walk away. But no. It’s just the shitty side of Piedmont wearing a good man down.

Take the following facts:

* The area The Raven is trying to survive in looks … foreboding. Yes, Chris has a nice new trash barrel and bench outside The Raven and his small parking lot is always clean, but things across the way and up the way still look dumpy. The kind of dumpy that if the parents of one of The Raven patrons saw it, they would drive straight to Clark/Holy Cross/Assumption/WPI, pull their kids outa bed, shove ’em in the trunk of their Beamers and drive ’em straight back to their comfy homes in suburban Connecticut, New Jersey or Pennsylvania where they would staple gun Biff and Buffy to their bedroom doors for the next four years. It looks that tough.

* Weapons are being brandished. One night a neighborhood punk pulled a knife outside The Raven. Chris told the knife-wielding punk: take one step on my property and the you’ll deal with my door guy. The punk walked away, but true to punk nature, he then went on to slash the tires of five cars – five cars belonging to Raven patrons/kids.

* Chris turns to the people in the City of Worcester who are supposed to help, be there for a good guy with a good business: the cops and The Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center, on Pleasant Street, just a stone’s throw away from The Raven. Well, the cops come and say: we can’t do anything about this. Kevin Ksen, annoying uber neighborhood volunteer who for this year, to the annoynace of many city folks, has planted his wide ass in a chair at the Neighborhood Network Center, comes to The Raven to give Chris advice. Kevin Ksen tells Chris to have a good game of basketball with the knife-wielding punk. Befriend the poor victim of society’s ills.

Chris later told me: The punk is 35! Play basketball with him? Are they nuts??

I hear ya, Chris. Message to Kevin Ksen: The guy needs a job, not an enabler. The guy should apologize, retire his knife, get a job and then after a hard day’s work … play a game of hoop with Chris.

* Then there was the group of 20 guys – TWENTY!!! – just hanging out at the corner right by The Raven. Up to no good. The Worcester police were called; the cops said they couldn’t do a thing. Chris, feeling a tad overwhelmed at this point, called the cops again. This time the cops who came did in fact arrest the entire bunch except for one kid, a homeless dude.

* And we won’t go into the recent rash of fires in Piedmont that have made everyone in the neighborhood as jittery about their homes/apartments as Chris is about his club.

So, to see Chris sitting on his black bench outside his parking lot smoking like a chimney, a lost soul looking for an oasis in a desert of grime/crime, is heartbreaking. He says he wants to sell The Raven. He says he is looking for a partner to help him run the place. In truth, he is looking for someone to support him as he goes through all this crap. Someone who can be at his side the next time the bad boys ride into town and want to screw with his salloon. Chris is the Gary Cooper of Piedmont. This is his “High Noon.” No freaking deputies to be found! Anywhere.

Let me say this: It takes a truckload of guts to do what Chris Bettencourt is doing, to open up a club in a sometimes violent, inner-city neighborhood.

What makes all of this especially heartbreaking is The Raven is kind of a Worcester icon. It is located on Congress Alley, the tip of the Crown Hill neighborhood. Back in the 1960s Congress Alley was Worcester’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood, a place where Worcester’s young artistes came together to make music, poetry, paintings and protest the Vietnam War. A place where Woo’s hippies hung out to strum their acustic guitars and listen to their own beat poets because the cool old historic homes of Crown Hill were not yet reclaimed and rehabbed. They were just elegant junk, waiting for kids to move into them and decorate their lovely tired old maple and oak walls with tie-dyed curtains, macrame plant hangers, feathers and love beads and copies of The Whole Earth Handbook. There was even a relativley famous 1960s Worcester band called Orpheus that recorded a a couple of albums while they hung out on Congress Alley. They even record a song about the scene. It’s called (what else?) “Congress Alley” and sounds like a Byrds song, all jangly and cool.

So, good people of Worcester, we say how we want to be up and coming and cool and attract young people to our gritty environs, but we are letting Chris Bettencourt and The Raven dangle in the wind! New people and their NEW ideas are what make a city grow and thrive! It’s not just bricks and fancy crosswalks. It’s the peeps, peeps! Chris and his Raven club are a shining example of what Worcester should be in 2012 and beyond. Let’s not let the dude down!

Worcester’s Peace Makers and beyond

By Michael True

Civil wars and drone attacks dominate the news, as negotiations to end hostilities in Afghanistan and Israeli/Palestine collapse. In Syria, the government victimizes its own people, including children, in an archipelago of torture chambers.

At the same time, peace activists and organizations transform conflict, and work to build a global civic culture. The popular media, however, provides few accounts of caregivers such as United Nations advisers and Doctors Without Borders who daily risk their lives to heal and to support vulnerable populations. Similar initiatives involve Peace Brigades International and Christian Peacemaker Teams who accompany workers and ordinary citizens to protect them from war’s violent network.

Over the past forty years, four hundred colleges, universities, and research centers are engaged in studying and developing theories and strategies essential to peacemaking, including conflict transformation, respect for human rights, and nonviolent intervention.


Activists and organizations in the Worcester area provide aid and services to victims of violence, and teach peacemaking skills. At Clark University, Assumption and Holy Cross colleges, courses in peace and conflict studies focus on the history of successful nonviolent campaigns over the past century that led to the overthrow of dictatorships in the Philippines, Yugoslavia, Egypt, and Libya.

The Center for Nonviolent Solutions, initiated in 2009, sponsors free workshops for students and teachers in the Worcester Public Schools. Last fall, through a grant from the Massachusetts Humanities and in cooperation with Clark University’s Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, the Center sponsored a Teachers Professional Development Institute on Nonviolent Movements in the Modern World, which provided free graduate credits for teachers in the Worcester Area. At the concluding session, teachers from grades fifth through twelfth reported on how they incorporated aspects of the course in history and literature classes on the Troubles in Ireland, the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., and nonviolent resistance to the Nazis.

In a summer program at University Park Campus School, students will learn skills in mediation and cooperation preparing them to become peer mediators. The goal of the a Summer Academy for ninth graders is to “increase the peace” in school, at home, and on the streets as they in turn work with middle schoolers. The curriculum includes games, activities, and discussion related to the following questions: (1) How might we express anger in healthy ways? (2) How can we speak up against bullying and discrimination? (3) How could we become better peacemakers in our families and the community? The Center is also providing a Peer Mediation training for tenth graders from University Park Campus School.

Through its Community Mediation Services, the Center for Nonviolent Solutions sponsors thirty trained and experienced mediators available to assist people in transforming conflict to reach their own mutually acceptable agreements. Any case, with the exception of court-appointed or divorce, is welcome. More information is available on the Center’s website: www.nonviolentsolution.org

With support from local foundations and individuals, the Center also affirms and cooperates with local organizations that share its mission and provide help to people in times of crisis, including 1. YWCA and Daybreak, committed to empowering women and combating racism.2. Abby’s House, providing hospitality and counseling for women in need.3. St. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker, offering hospitality to homeless people as well as education and internships on issues of justice and peace.
4. Dismas House, a half-way house helping former inmates return to full citizenship.
5. Goods for Guns, Injury Free Coalition for Kids, and the Men’s and Women’s Anger Management Program at University of Massachusetts Medical School, in association with city agencies, cooperate in sustaining peace in the community.


Throughout the U.S., various organizations construct peace through on-the-ground community-building and legislative lobbying. Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) with a national office in Nyack, New York, and a regional office in Connecticut, for example, have been active for almost a century through Children’s Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) and workshops and training sessions in nonviolence.

In recent years, School of Americas Watch, Ft. Benning, Georgia, and Voices in the wilderness, Chicago, have devoted themselves to resisting injustice and militarism, working “to build a new society in the shell of the old” and to offer alternatives to violence in particular settings. Similar commitments inform communal efforts involving members of the following organizations:

1. The Catholic Worker Movement, through over 100 houses, farms, and homeless shelters in the U.S. alone, feeds the hungry, houses the homeless, and engages in nonviolent resistance to war, militarism, and injustice. Several members have endured years in prison for civil disobedience against the manufacture and distribution of nuclear weapons. As a result of recent protests against drone attacks in the Middle East that kill innocent civilians, members from Ithaca, New York, spent time in prison; as did other members at the NATO summit in Chicago, for demonstrating against ”the militarization of the globe at the expense of human and environmental needs,” Newsletters from Houses of Hospitality in Los Angeles, Hartford, Des Moines, and Lower Manhattan document their commitment to healing the social order and working, as their co-founder, Peter Maurin said, to build a society “where it is easier for people to be good.”

2. Pace e Bene, Oakland, California, co-founded by a Franciscan monk, leads nonviolence training sessions recently for national protests in Chicago during a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NAT)). The organization publishes a manual for nonviolence training, supports Vietnam Veterans Against War, and maintains offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Montreal.

3. War Resisters League (WRL), New York City, has maintained active programs and provided rich resources since 1921, including its annual leaflet, “Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes.” The latter flyer points out that in 2013, 47 % of the national budget will fund U.S. military appropriations larger than all military budgets in the world combined. WRL also supports war tax resistance, organizes demonstrations against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and publishes information on events and activities important to the history of nonviolence in the U.S.

4.American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Philadelphia, a Quaker organization, maintains regional offices in Northampton, MA and Concord, NH, as well as in other parts of the world. Founded in 1917 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, AFSC a model for other peacemakers, through its programs and legislative lobbying to halt discrimination and to promote economic justice. An AFSC exhibit in Providence, now through August 25, 2012, “Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan,” includes free exhibits, programs, and films at the University of Rhode Island Providence Campus, 80 Washington St. More information at sene@afsc.org

5.Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), Prescott, Arizona, involves academics from throughout the U.S. and Canada, including peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies programs at Notre Dame, Berkeley, George Mason, Tufts and Brandeis universities, as well as the three local institutions mentioned above. Since a Pastoral Letter of American bishops, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” 1983, encouraged Catholic institutions to become centers for peace research, Catholic institutions such as Georgetown, St. John’s and St. Benedict’s, University of San Francisco, and many others have developed sophisticated programs. Traditional peace churches, Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren, which sponsor Swarthmore, Goshen and Manchester colleges, respectively, were among the first institutions to initiate peace and conflict studies. The International Peace Studies Association (IPRA), co-founded by Kenneth and Elise Boulding, Johan Galtung, and other scholars from around the globe
has grown substantially since 1965, ,preparing students for internships and professional appointments at the United States Institution of Peace, Washington, D.C., and other agencies involved in peacekeeping initiatives.


Through UNESCO, UNHCR, and UNICEF, the United Nations is responsible for peacekeeping around the globe, with teams involved in dangerous areas on the verge of war and others involved in rebuilding civil society after a war.

Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), Minneapolis and Brussels, pays experienced peacemakers from many countries to intervene in dangerous environments, such as Sri Lanka, Mindanao, Guatemala, and Sudan. Its training for staff has received wide recognition for its effectiveness. The goals of the Nonviolent Peace Force include creating a space for fostering lasting peace between warring factions, and protecting civilians made vulnerable because of deadly conflict. Nobel Laureates, activists from every continent, and women’s religious orders, whose nuns work among vulnerable populations in the Philippines and Africa, have been particularly supportive of Nonviolent Peaceforce since it began in 1999. A recent initiative is “Unarmed Civilian Peacemaking: Being There When It Matters Most,”

A noteworthy characteristic of the organization is the modesty of its claims. “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once,” according to one member,” but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”
Other agencies with particular missions and responsibilities operating internationally include the following:

1. Albert Einstein Institution (AEI), Boston. AEI is a major research center devoted to reducing reliance on violence as an instrument of policy. Founded by Gene Sharp, its publications on the strategic use of nonviolent action in diverse conflicts are available in forty languages, many of them free on the internet at www.aeinstein.org AEI’s scholarship and research, in films, such as “How To Start a Revolution,” publications, and consultations has been widely effective in promoting and sustaining movements to promote and to sustain democratic governance. Its insights nonviolent theory and strategy have been successfully applied in bringing down dictators in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and in resisting injustice, oppression, and genocide in many other countries.

2. International Peace Research Association Foundation (IPRAF), Atlanta. IPRAF provides small research grants and fellowships for Third World Women to gain graduate degrees at major universities throughout the world in peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies. In association with the International Peace Association Foundation (IPRA) and the United Nations, it supports a bi-annual conference of scholars, researchers, and activists, including its Nonviolent Commission, to benefit the educational needs of faculty and students around the globe.

3. Doctors Without Borders/Medecin Sans Frontiers (MSF), Geneva. MSF, with five European operational center and nineteen national offices, has 26,000 physicians working in seventy countries upholding people’s rights to medical care regardless of race, color, creed, or national borders. Providing care in particularly acute crises, it also promotes international awareness of potential humanitarian disasters. It received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. A number of its members have sacrificed their lives in ministering to vulnerable and endangered populations, as it sustains programs in its outreach to other countries and regions.

4. Amnesty International (AI), London. Initiated in the 1960s, with members in 150 countries, including national centers and local groups, AI received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 “for its contribution to securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world.” Regarding people jailed for their religious and political beliefs as “prisoners of conscience,” AI has been responsible for the release of thousands of prisoners. Opposing the use of torture and the death penalty, it upholds the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and similar international agreements, and also recognizes gay men and lesbians imprisoned for their choice of sexuality as “prisoners of conscience.”

5. Human Rights Watch (HRW), New York City. HRW, initiated in the 1970s, opposes capital punishment and advocates freedom of religion and the press and basic human rights. Its reports draw international attention to abuses through fact-finding missions exposing social and gender discrimination, torture, military use of children, political corruption, and abuses by criminal justice systems. Its stories of successful interventions are powerful reminders of the importance of witnessing to incidents of violence, as a preliminary means of addressing and correcting injustice. Among its sponsors are the George Soros Foundation.

* * *

In a world where violence threatens the lives and fortunes of people in neighborhoods, communities, and nations, professionals, activists, and ordinary citizens often risk their lives to construct peace cultures in violent contexts. Although occasionally recognized for their courage and effectiveness, they deserve wider recognition, through student initiatives, projects, and events essential to the common good. Their challenging and inspiring stories demonstrate the complexity of building, constructing, cultivating peace.
Through education and action, they encourage resistance to injustice and humiliation, resolution and transformation of conflict, and nonviolent social change, without killing or harming people. In doing so, they affirm the eight components of peacemaking cited in the UN document “Building a Cultures of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World,” which was adopted by 189 nations in the General Assembly in 1999.

Slowly, yet purposefully, we are trying to learn a new language that redefines the nature of peace, not as a “void” or “absence,” but as a “presence” or, in the words of Denise Levertov, as “an energyfield more intense than war.” This is the good news, amid the bad news surrounding us in a violent culture.”

What makes you happy, Worcester?

By William S. Coleman III

When I was given the assignment of writing this column, I thought I would ask people around the city: “What makes you happy?”

I met a woman who has lived in Worcester for seven years. She told me, with a coy look in her eye, that when she moved to Worcester she had no expectations, and Worcester hasn’t disappointed her yet!

While driving around the city, I stopped people randomly and had them tell me what makes them happy. Some of their responses: Continue reading What makes you happy, Worcester?