Lives and reality
"Activism is my rent for living on this planet"
-- Alice Walker
To the Addict Who Robbed Us On A Landscaping Job
You could've turned to greed, tried to pull out
a lawn mower or tuck weed
wackers under each arm.
That leaf blower, a cooler porridge-
shoulder straps, detachable chute.
We didn't think twice as you zigzagged
up the road,
mumbling to some music.
We turned our heads, and
you were wind, just like the machine on
What black comic won't deem dope
fiends too slippery,
but you trailed an aura-wake-
heat streaks woven
across South Orange Avenue from University
Heights to the project my mother rose in.
Know we could have pursued even brought back the power blower (and saved ourselves) for a fix- worth of bills. But rightfully, you would have blown if our rusty pick up came clanking your way.
We left it to the summer's judgement- fearing our small boss and sour
there was likely
a man brown as all of us selling you something so sick you'd risk
stealing from we who carry axes, stakes and blades for a living."
-- Kyle G Dargan from Boquet of Hungers (with permission)
"Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity."
-- Sean O' Casey
Let's talk about action and life and lives and reality. If I were to sit down and tell you about my day-to-day interaction on the streets of this city. You would say stop, enough, I can't bear it anymore. You would turn your head away and then the rest of you of who you are would follow. Let me tell you of sexual predators, and the dealers and their tender ages. If I were to whisper about the young lap dancers on the corner and the guns and blades and drugs hiding everywhere in plain view. What would you say? What would you do?
This paper did a fine job interveiwing and writing about our cleaners at QUEST, who happen to be Latin Kings working on giving back to the community in which they live. They all have kids (or most do), they all have jobs. Legal Jobs. Donating their time to help a small non-profit who deals with kids who remind them of themselves. Outcasts -- loners defiant and unhappy. This moved this group of men to step out and step up and give their time and energy to try to show that indeed anything is possible.
Redemption is just around the corner if you choose to follow it. No one is bad if they can choose to be better. The Bible is full of stories of choice. Good versus evil -- joy versus sorrow. Indeed the man in charge here has called himself Choice. And he talks about the glow he sees in people. The do-gooder's shine. "You know it when you see it," he says. And indeed he carries his glow brilliantly.
All of you who so freely pass judgment, shame. Remember Jesus saying, "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone." All of you who feel the need to cast aspersions along with mud come on over. What are you doing to better your small circumscribed world. Again Choice said, "She seems to be doing this on her own." And indeed -- she who happens to be me is going the road alone far too often.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery"
-- James Joyce
On violent crime
Here's a small tidbit of information for you -- Schenectady is one of the top five cities in the nation who have not left the churches of the past, the organized religions. Some 67% of you belong to one church or one temple or the like. Yet with all the choir singing, on your knees praying and Hallelujah shouting, our violent crime statistics are almost unbelievable. This city has for over 8 years continued on an upward trend of violent and property crimes, and following this spiral into 2013 is the expectation that things will only worsen.
Our violent crime ratio has exceeded the national crime average by 176.89% and property crime by 89.15%. Schenectady is higher than the violent crime rate in New York by 185.07%.
The source of actual data is the F.B.I. report of Offenses Known to Law Enforcement. And you can't argue with that. And this can be found on Liveable Cities Information Sites, and you wonder why our housing market dipped 29% last year? Puhleese!!!!
Oh yes, we also have the 7th largest Police Department in New York State. No. 7. How about that? Things are not going too well on that front either. And what exactly is the plan for the future? A real plan, similar to the Schenectady Foundation's Golden $1 million dollar award. (Sort of reminds me of Charlie Bucket's Golden Ticket). The problem, of course, being that $1 million or $2 million is only a beginning, a launching of hopes for a real future for this town. Still, Schenectady Foundation is holding out the makings of a huge giant step forward. And that's starshine, folks, magic starshine.
I visited with our superintendent of schools, Larry Spring, and he is truly a good, dedicated man; we talked for over 80 minutes. I hope to keep the connection alive. Cause I believe QUEST can play a central role in education in this city. My kids were so excited that they went and told their school principals, now they want to write to Mr. Spring about what they like -- don't like and wish they could have at their respective schools.
Also there was that amazing story about the Latin Kings cleaning QUEST and my kids were really chuffed about that. Some of their teachers brought that article to school to share with classes. Now this is community and this uses the newspaper and community events to teach and keep kids interested. Bravo community unity!!
I want to thank the Chamber and particularly Gail Hopper for making me feel so special at the Good News Awards. As to Ms. Jessica at News Channel 13, I will be calling you! Hold that phone.
I brought two of my grown-up youth to this lunch celebration. A sister and brother who had grown up at QUEST. Together they had maxed out at over 25 years attendance. And the young woman now works at QUEST, her mom is a board member, and her 2 sons grew up at QUEST right from the get go. I mean that literally as I was at the hospital when both children were born. And what fun we had, discussing appropriate clothing, whether that nose stud should come out and Yusuf, (male -- 21 years old) astounding me with his upper class fashion savvy.
The two of them were ready hours early and we were quite a trio as we entered "River Stone Manor" 45 minutes early. Oh well it was a beautiful day and the grounds were gorgeous. So we got to sit outside and watch the river and all the various flora and fauna. Lunch was serene and conversation sparkled. There were 300 of us eating a simple meal, and then supporting each other during the awards ceremony.
A different kind of community but community unity just the same. Though I must admit I surprised Mr. Gaddy as we all stood up and sang "America the Beautiful." He didn't know I could sing. He looked at me in semi-astonishment and said, "You should use your singing voice more often, it's much better than your gumpy voice." LOLOLOL
"Three things come without asking: fear, jealousy, and love."
-- Irish Proverb
And speaking of love let me tell the story of Rashaun and his monkey. Rashaun is a 4-year-old boy who can count to 40, no prodding or help needed, knew the alphabet at 2 years of age, and rides a 2 wheeler ( no training wheels) with aplomb and panache. The love of his life is monkey, "Mr. Monkey or alternatively monk-monk."
As he has begun to spell he has recently learned that monkey starts with M, Mr. M has become monkey's nickname. Monkey used to fit inside his own little house but Boogey (R's alias) was worried that Mr. M. could not breathe well being zippered in so that phase of monkey life is gone. But his sartorial splendor is apparent daily. All of Boogey's clothes are passed down to monkey. He has his own clothes bin and monkey's clothes are changed daily. He even wears nifty pajamas to bed. Yesterday Rashaun took monkey for his first bike ride. Sitting astride the two metal bars between the seat and the handlebars. But never fear, Mr. Monkey-aka Monk-Monk-aka Mr. M was tied in securely so he wouldn't fall out.
"Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry."
-- The Voice of the Silence
In my readings I came across this story about Father Coogan working with the toughest crowds and drug cartels in Mexico. He is exhausted and poor and every day is a struggle, but he gets up every day and continues on. One of his favorite singers is Lou Reed. What some priests woud have considered off limits with its cursing, junkies and transvestites, Coogan saw as vital to understanding the world. The 62-year-old man pointing to one of his favorite songs said, "This is it. This illuminates for me the situation of ghetto life."
Street Hassle -- about a woman about to overdose.
"You know some people got no choice
And they can never find a voice
To talk with that they could even call
So the first thing they see,
That allows them the right to be,
Why, they follow it
You know it's called bad luck."
-- Lou Reed
I am proud to say that way back in the day Lou Reed and Ultra Violet stayed at my home. We were working together on an installation abut women's rights for the State Museum in Albany. Father Coogan went on to explain that people used to believe they had to buy their way to God's love, but that Jesus message was that God did not need our money. He then emphasized that when the wine ran out Christ did not punish the family.
"He discreetly took care of the failures," Coogan said. "And best of all," he added "Jesus did not simply create more of the mediocre wine they were drinking." "No," he said, "if we're going to offer wine, we're going to offer the best wine." He then looked out over the heads of his parishioners, "How great it is when things fail," he concluded, "because it shows us what we are capable of."
Amen, simply Amen, and I say why can't we apply that magnificent philosophy right here, right now, and show what we as a unit, big and small, rich and not so rich, all colors and genders and religions or not, moving together learning from our failures and making space at the table of abundance for every one. Lets accomplish this.
To the Terry family, I am staggered by your losses. Please know that there will always be a place for you at QUEST's table.