We thank our partner ICNA Relief USA for the following update from Baltimore:

Greetings of Peace = UBUNTU

Baltimore; Reflections from the Field 

As I sat in my living room in Boston watching the media reports of the uprisings in Baltimore, MD, I was compelled to travel there to see how ICNA Relief USA could assist. My faith called me to respond. Understanding how media sensationalizes reports, I wanted to see firsthand the situation on the ground. What I found was a city under siege although very different than what was being portrayed by major news outlets. 


Upon arrival in downtown Baltimore there was an eerie abandonment of the city. I walked past blocks of businesses which were closed but oddly there were no vandals on the street. I stumbled upon what looked like an army base in the middle of the city however to my surprise it was City Hall Plaza. While approaching the scene; National Guard were in full combat fatigues gripping their assault rifles perched upon tanks – yes tanks invaded the streets of Baltimore! What looked to be a sea of blue; police stood in riot gear. I wondered what they were preparing for. I, myself felt threatened as I walked past a convoy of military vehicles; my heart began to race and my natural defenses alerted, not knowing what I’d encounter. 


I, a white Muslim woman arrived on West North Ave; Ground Zero in Baltimore and strangely did not find looters and rioters instead a resilient community attempting to survive. As I walked the neighborhood near the CVS which was burned during the uprisings, I didn’t feel threatened but what I saw was devastation which existed long before the murder of Freddie Gray. Rows upon rows of empty boarded up buildings which absentee landlords abandoned many years before. I saw children with nowhere to turn except the city block to play for their community centers closed, even before many of them were born. I observed red, black and blue colors united; so called “gangs” of youth sitting on stoops of boarded up buildings with nowhere to go. These young people the media described as thugs were united to keep the peace within their community. 


As I walked, I saw churches unloading truckloads of food to feed the community, I met organizers from Ferguson who were there to share lessons of a shared struggle and I was greeted with smiles as I walked past residents who were continuing with life as usual. For many who live in this community the events leading up to the murder of Freddie Gray were nothing new; it is a reality they live with on a day to day basis in this section of Baltimore which seems forgotten; plagued with some of the worst poverty in the country. When I reached my destination; Masjid ul-Saffat headed by Imam Hassan Amin which was established in 1971; I saw that they are a central organization in the community. Masjid ul-Saffat; home to the Muslim Social Service Agency (MSSA); has boots on the ground in serving the community. It was the perfect relationship for ICNA Relief USA to forge. This is an organization which has been serving their community since 2008 based on the teachings of Islam. 


ICNA Relief USA and MSSA teamed up to serve those hardest hit by the recent uprisings; senior citizens who are now been cut off from being able to access basic needs. The CVS which was destroyed during the uprisings sits across the street from a nursing home. There is another senior center directly across the street from a Save-a-Lot grocery store which is now boarded up and a third senior home within close proximity. These seniors; many of whom use wheelchairs or walkers are unable to travel far; now unable to shop for themselves, cut off from basic necessities. While ICNA Relief USA and MSSA were able to provide short term relief by providing basic food staples and personal hygiene products; the need will remain for some time. 


The Muslim response in Baltimore has been extraordinary; unfortunately not covered by mainstream media. There are numerous indigenous Muslim Centers and organizations who are taking a leading role in their community but lack the resources to bring about a greater systemic change. So remember there are always two sides to the story and often what we see on the TV is not so. I now have a better understanding of the institutionalized racism the residents of Baltimore face on a day to day basis which breads the environment we have today. ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnVOUTQ1xc8&feature=youtu.be

State Budget Cuts

The House Ways and Means Committee released its budget, and it funds the Shannon Grant at $5 million. Representative Brady of Brockton will be filing an amendment to increase funding to $8.25 million. Please call or email your Representative today or tomorrow and ask him or her to co-sponsor this amendment.

Let me know if you have any questions, and please forward this email widely! Contact information for Representatives can be found here: http://malegislature.gov/People/CityList

Please use the templates below to keep Shannon funding level for 2016

PHONE CALL SCRIPT TO REPRESENTATIVES:

[Ask to speak with a staff member in the Representative’s office]. Hello, My name is [name] and I live in [city/town in Representative’s district]. and I am calling to ask Representative [Name] to cosponsor Representative Brady’s Shannon Grant amendment. [Explain why you support the Shannon Grant] Thanks!

EMAIL TEMPLATE TO REPRESENTATIVES:

Dear Representative [name]:

I am writing to respectfully urge you to cosponsor Representative Brady’s Shannon Grant amendment in the FY2016 budget.

Since 2006, the Commonwealth has used the Shannon Grant program to combat youth violence, gang violence, and substance abuse through regional and multi-disciplinary efforts. Shannon Grant funds have been used to support law enforcement operations, to hire outreach workers, to fund job training programs, and to support after school programs in many cities and towns that are struggling with youth violence. Over 40 communities and more than 100 agencies have benefited from this program over the last five years, and in that time coordination between law enforcement and social and human services agencies has increased substantially. From a high of $13 million in FY2009, the Shannon Grant is currently receiving $7 million this year. The House Ways and Means proposal for FY2016 is $5 million.

[Describe how Shannon has affected you or your community.]

Thank you for your consideration of this email. Please let me know if you will cosponsor this important amendment.

Sincerely,

[name/title]

The former GH library branch building

Demand that Department of Neighborhood Development Seriously Commit to a Community Process for the Former Grove Hall Library and not “Fast Track” the selling of this property by disregarding neighborhood concerns!

 

The Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) recently conducted a community meeting “regarding possible re-use options for the Former Grove Hall Branch Library located at 621 Warren Street, Dorchester on January 15, 2015.

 

Given that DND staff did not respond adequately to a number of questions and points raised by a diverse audience of residents, representatives from community agencies and faith based institutions and concerned participants, we must demand that DND slow down their process to seriously commit to a community process regarding this site.

 

The first question that was raised during this meeting was “what is the life expectancy of this building?”  DND’s response was, “we are not sure, it was built around 1970…this building and property is probably assessed for around $1.5 million.”

 

We pointed out to DND that due notice had been provided to them about the substantial problems of the building’s roof and HVAC system with the latest emails had been sent to them on October 23, 2014 and January 15, 2015 detailing the issues and requesting them to review this history. There is no excuse on why DND could not specifically answer this basic question about the building’s status that they are trying to sell to unsuspecting buyers for such an overinflated assessment!

 

Many of you remember when the Grove Hall Library Branch moved to its 41 Geneva Avenue location and had its grand opening on April 4, 2009.  Prior to that grand opening, the GH Library Branch at the 5 Crawford St location (as it was identified for many years as opposed to the 621 Warren St. address that is being used now by DND for that site) had remained open for about a year after extensive roof and HVAC renovation work had been done at this site.  This roof renovation and HVAC work that was done at 5 Crawford St, GH Library Branch was conducted around 2007.

 

You may remember at that time before the renovation work was completed, we (as well as many library patrons and staff) had raised to City Hall that there were substantial leaks with water coming through the light fixtures in the ceiling and there were significant problems with the HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system while the building was open.  We were told that extensive roof repairs would be conducted and a new HVAC system would be installed for this building.  During the community process in discussing the problems of the roof and HVAC system, especially given the flat roof of the building, we were very clear that a "patch" approach to these problems would not address the issues and that a more substantial renovation would have to be done.  The amount of construction materials at the site during the renovation indicated that it was more than a patch job.  What was the scope of work that was done on this project and what was the expectation on what this work would accomplish?  Obviously that work wasn’t sufficient given the current issues that are impacting the building (which DND is aware of).
 
You may remember that once this building became vacant, there was the establishment of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that was approved by former Mayor Menino to address the status of 5 Crawford St. (621 Warren St according to DND).  This CAC was comprised of two residents from the Crawford, Howland, Ruthven, Wenonah, Waumbeck BlockWatch Association, two residents from the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association, representatives from Project RIGHT, Inc. and the Neighborhood Development Corporation of Grove Hall, Councilor Tito Jackson, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representatives Gloria Fox and Liz Malia, and three at large community members.  The Mayor also had the option to identify three additional members for the CAC if needed.  

 

This CAC held several community meetings and incorporated this input into its decision making process.  It was pointed out that the history of this facility being a learning and educational center for the community needs to be incorporated into this process since this area is disproportionately underserved despite being densely populated.  During this process, the Freedom House Building at 14 Crawford St became uninhabitable due to significant damage due to flooding due to rainstorms.  The CAC recommended that the Freedom House relocate across the street so that its much needed services could remain accessible to the Grove Hall neighborhood where it is today.
 

Next Steps –DND has set up a link that will take comments until a deadline of January 29, 2015

http://courbanize.com/dnd-grove-hall-library/comments

 

You need to submit your comments, but also tell them to extend their deadline.  You also need to tell them that this link is not transparent and it excludes many residents (especially seniors who do not have facebook, email access, etc.) from submitting their comments.  They do not need to set arbitrary deadlines that will limit community input.

 

You need to tell the city, before it takes action on this site, it needs to examine more carefully this facility now that it has been utilized by the Freedom House.  The city needs to reexamine the substantial renovation work that was completed for the Grove Hall Library Branch (of the roof and the HVAC system) before it moved over to the 41 Geneva Ave site.  Given how recent that work was done, the city should examine why there are problems now occurring with the roof and the HVAC system and what remedies can be taken to resolve these issues since there was a substantial city contract that had been awarded to address this situation.  I strongly disagree that the Freedom House should pick up the renovation costs to repair these issues that should have been resolved earlier through this substantial city contract.
 

You need to tell DND that they are not being transparent in this process, when they insist on calling this property 621 Warren St., when instead the Grove Hall Library Branch was at this site for decades as 5 Crawford St which was well known.  The US Postal Service designates addresses for properties by the street where the main entrance is (which is Crawford Street, there is no door on Warren St!).  They are trying to confuse you.

 

You should tell DND, that the CAC wanted Grove Hall to have the same access for its institutions as other Boston neighborhoods did, in which DND property was designated for community programs that provided much needed services. 
You should tell DND to utilize the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that was formed to address this site that included neighborhood resident associations (Crawford, Howland, Ruthven, Wenonah, Waumbeck BlockWatch Association and Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association), Community organizations (Project RIGHT, Inc. and Neighborhood Development Corporation of Grove Hall) and elected officials (Senator Sonia Chang -Diaz, Rep. Liz Malia and Rep. Gloria Fox, and Councilor Tito Jackson) as part of the RFP process.   (For more information, contact Project RIGHT, Inc. at 617.541.5451.x102 or email m_kozu@hotmail.com)
 
Michael Kozu
PRI Community Coordinator

Several outside lights are out on lilla Frederick pms school grounds and building

if these lights can be restored, it will be helpful in addressing public safety issues as students and staff leave the building especially afterschool activities or evening events..some of these lights have been previously reported
 
the main entrance light on the left as you first enter the school driveway
 
two lights on the court yard plaza
 
1 light in the upper parking lot
 
1 light on the walk way entrance between devon st and the upper parking lot (which is a continuation from Laredo st 
 
between 5-8 lights along the building from the art rooms and the gym and the rear delivery way (some of these lights may just need the timer reset)
 
1 light over the dumpster (rear delivery way)
 
2 lights at the end of the walkway near Normandy st, one barely lit the other not on
 
all of these lights impact students who particularly leave our afterschool programs and staff as they leave after dark...
 
thank you for your assistance in this matter.
 
Michael kozu
pri community coordinator
co founder of LGFPMS
617.541.5451.x102

Creston St.

I want to commend the bus driver and the school bus traffic supervisor for navigating
the long school bus 384 through Creston St. at the intersection at Creston St. and Blue Hill Ave. this morning.


Unfortunately cars were parked on both sides of the street near the stop signs and Creston Street seems to become more narrow at the intersection.  I did call 911 (around 9:30) requesting that a ticket be placed on the gray car parked near the stop sign.  However this situation is not isolated for school buses, I have seen mail delivery vehicles and garbage trucks (and I would be concerned about fire trucks) not being able to go through this street if vehicles are parked on both sides of the street.

 
My suggestion is to have no parking/ no stopping signs on one side of the street of Creston from Creston Park to Blue Hill Ave.  I think part of that stretch already does have no parking on one side, but I would extend it to the intersection of Creston and Blue Hill Ave, to prevent further delays that happen this morning for bus 384 and potentially other large vehicles, thank you for your assistance in this matter, the next email will include two pictures of today's situation
 
Michael kozu 617.541.5451.x102)
PRI Community Coordinator