Saturday, August 4, 2018

Slow Saturday Special: Globe Sharecropping

Days never finished, master got me working, someday master set me free.....  

"Urban farm’s organizers hoping to plant deep roots for community" by Thomas Oide Globe Correspondent  July 27, 2018

On a perfect summer afternoon in Dorchester, a group of about 25 people could have enjoyed the nice weather by going to the beach or exploring the city. They did neither; they were shoveling dirt instead.

The two dozen men, women, and children were laying down soil for the Common Good Project, a cooperative urban farm and farmer’s market being built on two empty lots on Arvale Road, a short dead-end street off Harvard Avenue.

Organizer Kafi Dixon envisions the two lots, covering about 13,000 square feet, becoming a place where people in the community can come for fresh produce. She said she has bought a house next door, to be used eventually as a space where the people who run the farm can live and take classes in cooperative business development.

Dixon does not own the lots, but has a license from the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development to develop and farm them. Her hope is that the project will be run by African-American women and other community members. Eight women, including herself, have signed on, she said. She aims to eventually own the land.

Dixon has already put in a fair amount of backbreaking work on the land. With the help of two student interns, she cleared both lots, which previously resembled mini-jungles of brush and weeds.

Gregory Dorfeuille, director of social action for the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and a co-organizer of the event, said the farm will eventually serve as a place where the community can come together.

“When you think about gardening for a community, what do you think of?” Dorfeuille said. “You think of health. You think of food. You think of development. You think about growth and a sense of community.”

Or quiet times alone tending the plants.

Ladi Olaoye, an engineer for Steward Health Care, said he hopes the space will help area families become more educated about living a healthy lifestyle.

“I’m a big proponent of using natural products and eating fresh produce,” Olaoye said.

Dixon wants the farm to be a place where African-American women can be inspired to go into agriculture. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, less than 1 percent of farmers in the United States in 2017 were black, and just over 25 percent were women.

Dixon wants to see those numbers climb, which is why she brought Tuskegee University seniors Tracee Hatcher and Ashley Perry to Boston to work on the Common Good Project.


Hatcher, who is studying food and nutritional science, hopes to own a vineyard one day, and Perry, who studies animal sciences, wants to work for the US Department of Agriculture. Both said they’ve enjoyed their experiences in Dorchester, and hope they can persuade Tuskegee students to work on the project next summer.

“It’s been amazing to get that experience, help the community, and apply agriculture as well,” Hatcher said.


"In 1972, the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiment came to light as the Associated Press reported that for the previous four decades, the US Public Health Service, in conjunction with the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, had allowed poor, rural black male patients with syphilis to go without treatment, even letting them die, as a way of studying the disease."

Kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth, huh?

Dixon said 30 members of the Black Student Union from Tufts University, as well as several others in the community, will help lay compost and soil for garden beds in August. After landscaping, she said, she plans to plant cool-season crops such as kale, pumpkin, mustard, and collards for the holidays.

Even though nothing has been planted yet, Dixon could sense the community coming together over the project.

As she spoke, two children who live nearby scurried over to the mound of soil, grabbed shovels, and helped spread it over the lot. They didn’t know what they were doing; they saw people and wanted to help.....

They lose that when they hit adolescence.


Look at what they found tilling the soil:

"Man found dead on a Dorchester street; homicide detectives investigating" by Travis Andersen and Emily Sweeney Globe Staff  July 27, 2018

Boston police homicide detectives are investigating the death of a 77-year-old man who was found dead Thursday evening with apparent stab wounds on Shandon Road in Dorchester, officials said.

The man’s body was discovered around 6:15 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Police on Friday afternoon released a surveillance photo of a man they’re trying to locate in relation to the probe. Boston police said in a statement accompanying the photo that investigators are “seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the individual pictured above in connection to an ongoing death investigation.

Jose Torres, 60, said he was friends with the man, whom he knew by the nickname “Villalba,” a municipality in Puerto Rico where he hails from.

“He was a good person. He didn’t have a problem with nobody,” said Torres. “Nobody.”

Torres said his friend recently retired from his maintenance job at a local cemetery and lived a quiet life with his wife. He spent his time sitting outside and enjoyed chatting with his neighbors about politics and issues involving Puerto Rico. He occasionally would walk to the store nearby to buy a lottery ticket, and also kept a garden in Mission Hill where he grew tomatoes, Torres said.

“He’s a good man,” said Torres. “I’m not joking, he was so good. I don’t know what happened.”

Torres said the front doors to the apartment buildings are locked, and residents must use a keyfob to enter, unless someone buzzes them in. And there are security cameras all over the complex, so investigators should be able to see who walked into the building that day, he said.

“We want to know who came here,” Torres said.

What if the murderer lives in the building?

Denise Young, 57, used to live at Franklin Hill Apartments and now lives in Taunton. Her daughter still lives here. Like the other residents, she was shocked by what happened and left with many questions. She said she hopes the security camera footage will provide answers.

“I am very shocked,” she said. “There’s cameras everywhere, so…there’s cameras.”

In an earlier release Friday, police said they were actively investigating the case..... 

I would hope so!


I wonder if they knew him over at Necco:

"Laid-off Necco workers look to rebound" by Thomas Oide Globe Correspondent  July 27, 2018

REVERE — For 38 years, Angela Colon worked on the production line at the Necco plant in Revere. It was her first and only job after moving here from Puerto Rico in 1980.

Colon and more than 200 others are now jobless after they were notified on Tuesday afternoon that Necco had been sold to another candy manufacturer and was closed. On Friday, many of them gathered outside the plant to collect their final paychecks and their belongings.

“It’s crazy, because one day you have a job, and then from one day to another day, they say no more,” said Wendy Merida, who worked in shipping at the factory for four years. “We are shocked. What are we going to do now?”

Related: "When I told him many workers are immigrants who only speak Spanish, the state has sent in a rapid-response team to help displaced workers find new job and is confident the workers will land on their feet thanks to a white-hot economy, Necco workers may find themselves with a sweet ending, after all"

There is plenty of $ugar to go around.

Also see: "One person who’d been inside the factory: Jeff Lemberg, a Curry College communications professor who wrote a 2002 story about it for the Globe, just before Halloween. “I was hoping to find chocolate rivers and Oompa-Loompas,” Lemberg said, “but it was just a bland factory run by a small team of Central American women in hair nets.” 

That must have been before the excrement pellets were “too numerous to count.” 

The workers were originally told the plant would stay open until Nov. 30, Merida said. On Friday, two workers, Dexter Main and Francesco D’Amelio, filed a federal class-action lawsuit against owner Round Hill Investments LLC and its affiliate, Sweethearts Candy Co. LLC, saying the sudden termination without advance warning violated the US Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Outside the factory, the mood among the workers was light, despite the circumstances. Many gathered beneath trees to get relief from the heat, smiling and chatting with each other.

Colon said through a translator that the other workers “were like a family,” which made the closure and loss of jobs hurt even more.

Mayor Brian Arrigo of Revere and US Senator Ed Markey both visited the factory and pledged their support to the workers.

“We’re going to be fighting for you every single step of the way,” Markey told a group in the parking lot.

Too late, Ed, the battle is over and the war is lost!!!

Arrigo’s staff handed out fliers for an employment information session to be held at Revere City Hall on Monday afternoon. The mayor said his office is planning a formal job fair for the workers in mid- to late August.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help these folks and make sure that they know that there are opportunities for them,” Arrigo said. He said several employers have contacted the city about various job openings.

Meanwhile, there is some dispute over compensation for the former employees.

A letter from Necco told employees their final paychecks included payment for the present week, the previous week, unused vacation time, and any severance pay. It also offered to extend company benefits until the end of August, but deducted the premiums from the paycheck, but only some of the employees actually received compensation for vacation time, said Juan Figueroa, a leader in the workers union.

“This is not going away,” Markey said. “We are going to put a spotlight on this company until these workers get everything that they are entitled to.”

A representative for the firm could not be reached for comment Friday.

Several recruiters mingled in the crowd, talking about employment opportunities with the workers.

Marcia Diaz, a placement specialist for staffing firm Marathon Staffing, said it will be easy to place many of the former Necco employees in jobs, even the ones who speak only Spanish.

“One of the factories we have, all they want are Spanish speakers,” Diaz said, but despite the visits from Markey, Arrigo, and the recruiters, Merida said she was still concerned about the workers finding jobs, especially the older ones.

If they are Puerto Rican and not illegals, that's fine. They are citizens of this country, and as part of the first foray into U.S. empire-building are entitled, since it was a deal they didn’t ask for and didn’t want.

“It’s going to be hard for them,” Merida said. “They’ve been doing the same thing for 30, 40 years, and now you’re going to teach them something else? It’s going to be hard.”

Yup, well, welcome to AmeriKa.

Round Hill Investments bought Necco, the country’s oldest continuously operating candy company, for $17.3 million at an emergency auction in May. The company did not identify Necco’s new owner or say whether candy production would resume.

Necco has been making Necco Wafers since 1847 as well as Sweethearts, Mary Jane, Thin Mints, Clark Bars, and the Sky Bar.

This is just a thought, but maybe it is TIME for them to GO, I mean, look at the unhealthy product they are making and selling, or is the $ugar indu$try $till that powerful?


There is always seasonal work on the Cape.

"Stay or go? Decision time nears for displaced Puerto Rican families" by Cristela Guerra Globe Staff  June 28, 2018

A program that has paid for hotel rooms for thousands of people who fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is coming to an end on Saturday, leaving the families with two choices: Go back to the island or find a way to stay.

FEMA has been contacting Puerto Ricans who’ve been staying in hotels through the Temporary Sheltering Assistance Program, including some in Massachusetts, to offer one-way flights back to the island. The deadline to travel is July 1.

Since last fall, FEMA has spent more than $84 million on the temporary lodging needed after Maria devastated the island in September. The Category 4 storm left thousands without access to basic needs such as gas, power, and clean water. Today, power remains spotty on the island and many homes are without roofs. Despite the slow recovery, some who fled the hurricane’s aftermath have already returned to the island on their own, while a handful — 160 individuals — have accepted the government’s travel vouchers, according to a FEMA spokesman. Still, others say they will try to find a way to stay.

For those hoping to settle here permanently, housing search assistance will be provided through regional administrative agencies and a new Massachusetts Evacuee Transitional Assistance program, which can be used to pay for initial rental payments, security deposits, moving expenses, furniture, and a short-term rental stipend, but with the deadline for the end of federal assistance looming, community advocates and nonprofits are trying to find last-minute housing for single adults.....

Related: The Fiend at FEMA

We are told that “What [they are] doing is torture.”



"One day after a judge approved a temporary halt to evictions for Puerto Ricans living in Massachusetts and other states in the wake of Hurricane Maria, families faced confusion and frustration Sunday as they struggled to figure out their next move....."


Puerto Rican evacuees seek to have hotel stays extended

Judge orders FEMA to extend stays for Puerto Rican evacuees

Of course, they can't really go home because Puerto Ricans are still facing the aftershocks of a grossly inadequate disaster response by the federal government after Hurricane María (why was that so flawed?). The New York Times will tell you how that happened as they nervously prepare for another hurricane season (one emergency response exercise simulated a mass-casualty catastrophe at hospitals, while another exercise in mid-June simulated a full-scale disaster). That's when Beryl hit, and the remnants dumped two to three inches of rain for 10 to 12 hours, causing a landslide in the northern town of Naranjito. 

The official death toll of 64 was a severely undercount, as a Harvard study says 4,600 have died in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, and that is an American tragedy as well as man-made

"Puerto Rico’s government released new information on Tuesday that added detail to the growing consensus that hundreds or even thousands of people died as an indirect result of the storm. The issue is clouded by the fact that the federal government and US states and territories have no uniform definition of what constitutes a storm-related death. The death count has had political implications. On Monday, two Democrats introduced a bill to the Republican-controlled Congress that would establish federal procedures for counting deaths after a natural disaster, saying that will help improve the federal response and be key to allocating federal funds. The $2 million project would allow the US Federal Emergency Management Agency to hire the National Academy of Medicine to do a study on how best to assess fatalities during and after a disaster, given that the process is currently left up to US states and territories....."

Related: Virgin Islands hurricane recovery efforts hobbled by cash shortage

It's nice to know you are not alone.

Why isn't the power back on yet?

"Turmoil slows rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s power grid" Associated Press  July 20, 2018

SAN JUAN — Ten months after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s electric grid, the local agency responsible for rebuilding it is in chaos and more than $1 billion in federal funds meant to strengthen the rickety system has gone unspent, according to contractors and US officials who are anxious to make progress before the next hurricane.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has seen two chief executives and four board members resign in less than a week in a messy fight over how much the bankrupt agency should pay its CEO. The agency’s fourth CEO since the hurricane lasted less than 24 hours on the job last week, before resigning amid public outrage over his $750,000 salary.

How do you say looter in Spanish?

Governor Ricardo Rossello on Wednesday named the former head of Puerto Rico’s water and sewer agency as the fifth head of the electric company since Maria, at a salary of $250,000 a year. Jose Ortiz starts work Monday.

That still seems like to high a salary, but I suppose Puerto Ricans see it as a good deal as they ponder life in the dark.

‘‘In spite of missteps in the past, everybody will see that we have the right person at the right time,’’ Rossello said.

Yeah, he's there to ‘‘make transformational changes.’’

The turmoil has fueled delays in launching $1.4 billion worth of work that includes replacing creaky wooden power poles vulnerable to collapse in the next storm, the chief federal official in charge of rebuilding Puerto Rico told the Associated Press.

‘‘There is no permanent work that’s been done,’’ said Mike Byrne, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistant administrator for field operations. ‘‘What I’m worried about is the next level, the permanent work, the going in and building the grid the way I’ve been tasked to do by Congress.’’

From shut-down medical equipment to the spread of waterborne diseases, the cascading effects of power grid failure likely led to hundreds of deaths in the aftermath of the Category 4 hurricane.

When comes the cholera crisis?


Time to protest:

"Puerto Rican Day Parade shows post-hurricane concerns" by Rebecca Gibian Associated Press  June 11, 2018

NEW YORK — The National Puerto Rican Parade in New York turned into its usual boisterous celebration Sunday, but many participants also saw it as an occasion to express their more somber concerns over the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

Along the parade route in the heart of Manhattan, people carried signs with tributes like ‘‘New York Stands with Puerto Rico,’’ ‘‘You will not be forgotten,’’ and ‘‘Decolonize Puerto Rico.’’

Many also waved Puerto Rican flags and danced as they made their way down Fifth Avenue.

Nora Ortiz, 53, of Brooklyn, and other paradegoers voiced frustration over what they said was an underreporting of the death toll in Puerto Rico and a tepid emergency response by the administration of President Trump. ‘‘No one wants to admit that almost 5,000 lives were lost in Hurricane Maria,’’ Ortiz said.

Julio Pabon led a group of demonstrators who chanted ‘‘Respect Puerto Rico’’ as it passed Trump Tower. They also waved flags in the direction of the luxury high-rise.

‘‘Maria unmasked that we are a colony,’’ said Pabon, 66, of the Bronx. ‘‘I’m just tired of the way my island has been treated.’’

Like many people, Anya Garcia showed up with her extended family. She said she has been coming to the parade since she was a toddler. ‘‘We’re three generations strong here,’’ said Garcia, 35, of Brooklyn.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, were among the dignitaries on hand for the event. Cuomo has been an outspoken proponent of the need to help Puerto Rico after the September storm.

Cuomo said the state is currently organizing a rebuilding effort using state college students and other volunteers. The governor said he had already broken the news to his children that he’s taking them to Puerto Rico this summer.

‘‘They said, ‘Great. We can work on our tans.’ And I said, ‘Not exactly. We’re going to be rebuilding homes,’ ’’ he said.

Also on hand was a marching contingent made up of people who are on the US mainland only because they were displaced from their homes on the island.

This year’s parade comes a year after a controversial one, when the parade organization decided to recognize Oscar Lopez Rivera, a former member of a militant group responsible for a series of bombings. That led some sponsors to withdraw their support and some politicians like Cuomo to decline to take part.

What a difference a year makes!

Before the parade, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. had said it needed to take a political tone. He and the group he was marching with planned to be in black T-shirts that reflect the Harvard study’s estimate of the dead.

‘‘It would be a missed opportunity this Sunday . . . if we don’t show an act of solidarity, an act of protest, an act of defiance,’’ he said, ‘‘to let the world know we still have a president and Congress that still has not done right by 3.5 million Americans.’’

Maybe the bond and debt holders could cut 'em a break, 'eh?

Trump last week attended a meeting on disaster preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington.

Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not mention the hurricane victims.

The president thanked Governor Rick Scott of Florida for helping with recovery efforts and noted that the power company was ‘‘in bankruptcy prior to the hurricane.’’ He said the recovery was a ‘‘tough job.’’

The administration was roundly criticized for its performance after Maria struck, and hundreds of thousands in the US territory remain without electricity.....


There is a program that exists to save Puerto Rico, but only if Puerto Ricans celebrate unity and resilience.

UPDATE: Foreclosures Resume in Puerto Rico