Posts Tagged ‘Poverty’

Walk for Hunger 2009

It’s time again for one of my favorite events of the year, Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger. I’ll be walking with my wife Susan and son Peter.  At least one of us has participated every year since 2004.  This year will be the first time all three of us will walk together as family.  It is important to us to remember the many people who are suffering from the lack of food including families like our own with young children.

Having a child makes us realize how
important good nutrition is for the development of children like Peter. With the cost of food rising, it is getting harder and harder for low-income parents to buy good food for the kids.  Hunger affects children’s physical and mental development and perpetuates the cycle of poverty.  We believe that no child or adult deserves to go hungry.

As a result of the global economic crisis more and more people are unable to make ends meet. They are forced to go without food in order to pay their rent, utility, and medical bills. The demand for emergency food has never been greater with pantries and meal programs supported by Project Bread serving 43.4 million meals last year alone.

Here are the ways you can help:

  • Go to the Project Bread Walk for Hunger website and sponsor us for the Walk.  Donations in any amount small or large are welcome.  Together we can make a difference.
  • If you live in the Boston area, register to walk or volunteer.  If you’re already signed up, let us know as we’d love to see you on May 3rd.
  • We always welcome good thoughts, prayers, and moral support in addition to or in lieu of donations.

Project Bread helps by using the funds raised in the Walk for Hunger to support 400 emergency food programs across the state.  These include some of favorite places to volunteer like:

  • Haley House which provides meals daily to homeless men and the elderly as well as a bakery training program to promote self-sufficiency for underemployed people with barriers to employment.
  • Wednesday Night Supper Club where a hot and nutritious meal is served once a week to guests with respect anddignity.
  • Greater Boston Food Bank where food discarded by supermarkets is salvaged for stocking food pantries.

We hope you can support our fund raising and walking efforts in any way you can.
Previously:

Book Review: New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg

Following up on Ric Burns’ New York, I read New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2007) edited by one of the stars of that series Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.

This collection of essays looks back with some nostalgia and some disgust at the City in the 70s, 80s, & 90s.  For most of the authors, New York once was full of crime, sex, and drugs, yet the rents were low and the City maintained its own character.  Today they sneer that interlopers have moved in, built luxury lofts, priced out everything that made New York unique and replaced it with typical American suburbia. Most of the essayists to some extent sink into insufferable self-importance which makes this book hard to read at times.

There’s a lot of hyperbole, but there’s truth mixed in.  And there’s still a lot to love about New York.  Each borough gets its own tribute, with the one on Staten Island being the most illuminating since I know little about that area.  There are also great stories on graffiti, civil rights, art, rock music, and ethnic foods.  If you love New York, this book is worth checking out.  If you hate New York, this book isn’t going to change your mind.

New York calling : from blackout to Bloomberg / edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.
Publication Info. London : Reaktion, 2007.
Description 368 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.

Movie Review: New York: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns

New York: A Documentary Film is an 8-part film made by Ric Burns that debuted on PBS in 1999 (except for episode 8, which is from 2003).  Thanks to Netflix, I’ve finally seen this epic documentary about my ancestral homeland and one of my favorite cities.

Ric Burns’ style is similar to his brother Ken in that their is a rich wealth of archival images, photos and films, supported by contemporary film interspersed with interviews with a variety of experts and dramatic renditions of quotations by historical figures.  It’s an effective technique, albeit one that could use a few adjustments.  I particularly like hearing from the experts, a grab bag of historians, writers, politicians, architects, and New Yorkers.  Standouts among the crowd include urbanist Marshall Berman, soft-spoken historian Craig Steven Wilde, and architect Robert A. M. Stern (as an aside, it seems to me that architects are often great speakers as well).  I would prefer longer clips of these people speaking about New York in place of the narration, no offense to David Ogden Stiers.  It would be one way to reduce the cliches that plague this film.  If you had a dollar for every time the words “Capitol of the World” are uttered, you could take me out for dinner at a fancy restaurant and probably get change.  Similarly, the contemporary film of soaring over the Manhattan skyline is overused creating a visual cliche.

These are minor quibbles though.  I would expect that many viewers would criticize the filmmakers for leaving things out although it would be impossible to cover every detail of city as large and historic as New York.  I would have liked to have seen more about New York’s role in popular culture such as radio, film, tv, and sports, not to mention more details about the four boroughs not named Manhattan, but so be it. I also felt that the 70 years covered in episodes #6 & 7 could have branched out to include more than road building, public housing, and white flight, since so much else happened in those times.  But then again this is the time of my life, and my parents, and my grandparents so I’m much more connected to it through personal experience and stories

The film covers New York History chronologically, with each episode culminating in a Big Event that kind of ties together the historical and cultural processes discussed in the episode.  These include 1. the Erie Canal, 2. the Civil War Draft Riots, 3. the Consolidation of  Greater New York, 4. the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire, 5. the construction of the Empire State Building, 6. the Great Depression and the 1939 World’s Fair, 7. the 1975 Fiscal Crisis, and 8. the World Trade Center & September 11th Attacks.  I think a more effective approach would have been to ditch the chronological approach and made the episodes specifically about these events: what led up to them, what effects did they have, how they influenced the people and their times, et al.  Episode 8 about the World Trade Center does in fact follow this method by tracing the history of the buildings construction, use, and desctruction, subtly creating a microcosm of New York history from the 1950′s to 2001.

Each episode also has a Big Person, a New Yorker of great prominence and influence who somehow personifies his times (and they are all “he’s”).  These include 1. Alexander Hamilton, 2. Walt Whitman, 3. William Tweed, 4. Al Smith, 5. F. Scott Fitzgerald, 6. Fiorello LaGuardia, 7. Robert Moses, and 8. no one really but high-wire artist Philippe Petit is the surprising heart of this episode.  I like this aspect less if only because it seems to lead to lionizing “great men” and repetition of more cliches (with the exception of Robert Moses about whom opinions were more neutral to negative, appropriate since Moses was eeeeeeeevil).

My overall impression Ric Burns’ New York is positive.  Episode 4: The Power and the People and Episode 8: The Center of the World are standout episodes that particularly bring the history of the city to life.  The former episode covers some of my favorite topics such as immigration and labor, while the latter profoundly recreates the horror of the September 11th attacks, but also the hope and heroism in the aftermath.  If you like New York, history, and/or documentaries check this one out.

Two Commentaries on Immigration

“It is just so difficult to think that they don’t want us” in Larry James’ Urban Daily written in response to a municipal law requiring proof of citizenship from tenants.

Supporters of the ordinance claim that these hard working, undocumented families use up the scarce resources of the community, including public education and health care. Few will acknowledge the fact that these families pay all sorts of taxes, including sales tax, federal withholding taxes, property taxes and Social Security taxes that they will never be able to reclaim. Undocumented workers are in essence paying for my retirement, with no hope of receiving such benefits themselves no matter how hard or long they work.

The New Bedford Raid and Its Aftermath in Dispatch from the Trenches focuses on how corporate policy — aided and abetted by the government — perpetuates the illegal immigration problem.

It’s the picture of city officials so blindly pro-business that they could walk through that hell-hole of a sweatshop and come away thinking only about how they could help Insolia make more money that puts the 19th century attitudes of modern America into sharp relief. Not one of them appears to have considered for a moment that there was anything wrong or at least suspicious about the crowded, filthy conditions or thought to wonder if these rows and rows of Hispanic women were all legal. Not one of them so much as asked a question about how the workers were treated or raised so much as an eyebrow over an obviously unhealthy workplace. Neither was of the least importance to them. They were focused on one thing and one thing alone: help the owner make more money.

Update on Walk for Hunger 2007

As previously mentioned back in February I will be participating in Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger for the fourth consecutive year in just about two & a half weeks on Sunday May 6. Due to some incredibly generous donations by a handful of sponsors I’ve already reached my original goal. On the one hand I’m tempted to call it day because I don’t like asking people for money and people don’t like being asked for money. But on the other hand I think what if I can just get a few more people to contribute some money? How many more meals can be served to impoverished Bostonians at the Wednesday Night Supper Club or the Haley House? How many more poor families in Massachusetts will be able to have their pantries stocked because of donations to the Greater Boston Food Bank. Additionally, Susan won’t be able to walk this year so it would be cool if I could raise more donations than I normally would.

So I’m asking again. Even if you’re just a casual reader of this blog please consider putting in a few dollars at my personal walk page. Write me an email at liammail at verizon dot net if you prefer to donate by check. 400 emergency food programs in Massachusetts and countless number of our fellow human beings will benefit. You can learn more about Project Bread and the Walk for Hunger online.

Thanks!

Movie Review: Dark Days

Legends are told about the Mole People who live in tunnels under New York City with fantastic and sensational details such as rival clans of Mole People who dine on rats and may even have taken on mole-like features. British filmmaker Marc Singer’s film Dark Days takes a more humanistic approach to documenting the lives of actual inhabitants of a shanty town in an abandoned railroad tunnel on Manhattan’s West Side. Over several years he got to know the very human people who found shelter underground. This stark black & white film is in many ways their own story as the homeless worked as Singer’s crew in filming, and the film is itself a serious of vignettes mainly with two people talking very naturally about their lives. While some parts seem a bit staged — such as one woman who never turns her back to the camera, even when talking to someone behind her — for the most part it is a peak into the lives of the tunnel community.

What strikes me is how their lives appear to be normal in many ways. They live in simple huts of wood and plasterboard which are so well maintained that they could be small apartments in New York. They have stoves, fans, and televisions. One man says they have everything but running water, but even that can be improvised as one man displays by taking a cold shower under a leaky pipe. The residents of the tunnel keep pets. One man shows the pen full of puppies he’s bred, another shows photos of various dogs and rodents he’s kept as pets. They go to work and they go shopping. Of course work means salvaging fully functional electronic goods discarded by the privileged and reselling them. Shopping means searching trash for food, including an entire bag full of fresh doughnuts outside of a bakery. We learn that Kosher stores are the best because they don’t mix the foods with coffee grounds.

Of course, this is not a normal life. Singer lets the camera tell the story, scanning over mounds of trash within the tunnel. I can’t even imagine what the stench is like in there. Surging over the trash are packs of large and hungry rats, a constant source of distress to even the most experienced tunnel dweller. And in case you forget what the tunnel was built for, Singer captures the frequent passing of Amtrak trains, bells clanging, perilously close to some of the shanties. This is a hard life, a dark life both literally and figuratively, where people have gained some security but at a great cost. Over all of this is the scourge of drugs and addiction.

Unexpectedly, this movie has a happy ending. In a cruel and officious manner, Amtrak officials and armed police inform the tunnel residents they are being evicted because Amtrak has plans to reopen the tunnel. Yet through the intervention of Singer and the Coalition for the Homeless, all the subjects of the film are able to secure subsidized housing. The final scenes show the formerly homeless moving into their new apartments, looking happier than we’ve seen them, and hopefully a bright future in front of them. I think it’s no accident that as the film ends we see one of the men standing by a window, the sunlight that was absent for the entire movie flooding over him.

An Assemblage of Assorted Articles

Once again I’ve read and collected news articles and blog posts that are worth sharing but have absolutely nothing to connect them together except maybe that they teach us something interesting. Enjoy!

Anyone Have a Tissue?

Stories like this one from the Boston Globe really make we want to weep.

Not even homelessness deterred 9-year-old’s devotion to school.

“School is about learning, and learning is a special way to know what you’re supposed to do,” Brenda said yesterday. “And this is why I like school: You know lots of lessons and different things. You get to see . . . your friends. You go to special places, like school trips.”

Walk For Hunger 2007

I’m kicking off my fund raising drive for this year’s Walk for Hunger. I just sent this email to my family and friends and think maybe I can get some more support through the blogosphere.

“On Sunday, May 6, I will be participating in Project Bread’s 39th Walk for Hunger. This will be the fourth consecutive year Susan and I are doing the walk. I’m hoping that you will support me!

I feeel that poverty is the most important issue we’re facing today and participating in this walk is one way I can help hungry people in Massachusetts. The Walk for Hunger is one of America’s oldest fund-raising walks and one of the only walks that focus on social issues.
The money that I raise by walking as much as I can of the 20-mile route will directly help hungry people. (Funds raised through the Walk support more than 400 emergency food programs in 136 communities in Massachusetts.) Money from the Walk sponsors programs like The Wednesday Night Supper Club where once a week homeless people are served a warm sit-down meal as well as the Greater Boston Food Bank where food discarded from supermarkets is salvaged to help stock food pantries that supply food to hungry families.

Visit my personal Walk Webpage to learn more. You can donate online or if you prefer to send a check, send me an email (liammail at verizon dot net) and I can let you know where to send it. Also, if you want to join in the Walk you may sign up online. We’d love to have you walk with us.

Thank you for considering sponsoring me, and for your support of hungry people!

Thank you!
Liam”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 984 other followers

%d bloggers like this: