More than Violent Acts

promise.jpgHartford cares. Hundreds from Hartford and surrounding towns showed up to prove this. In the crowd, I spotted a former student of mine from a few years back, a former professor of mine from even more years back, and two colleagues–one from each place I’m employed at. There was an unofficial bloggers’ seating section, where innocent, objective reporters were being plied with strawberries by an unnamed city official. Under canopies, a dozen community groups set up to hand out literature, candy, magnets, and let people know what they offered. Knox Parks Foundation, Rebuilding Hartford, My Sister’s Place, CREC, Community Renewal Team, and Hartford Public Access were among these organizations.
A “Wall of Commitment” (giant posterboard) was set up for attendees to write on. Many used this as a place to publicly promise to make changes in their actions as related to Hartford; others used it to say what they are already doing (what organizations they are affiliated with) or what they think about the city.
The two-hour long program moved rapidly, lagging only during the extended candlelight vigil toward the end. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra performed several times during the night– a pleasant surprise for me, since I’m not the type to seek out orchestra music (or whatever kids these days call it).

Ted Carroll, President of Leadership Greater Hartford (organizers of the event) gave the greeting, which also moved along. I don’t want to be the person to point this out, but there is some irony in thanking the Hartford Courant and WTIC radio for being media sponsors of this event, since the Hartford Courant along with other local media are part of why the national media picked up on recent incidents, causing damage the Hartford’s reputation. Some on the Courant staff have written meaningful columns after this, but we should remain critical of any outlet that would post video without any context. We live in the age of the internet, when material is quickly picked up and dispersed. Few bother to investigate their sources, as Christine, Heather, and I were discussing. False information gets spread nearly instantly, and is difficult to rectify later. It’s fine to be diplomatic if a company is giving money, but let’s not forget their own role in why the event has to happen at all– even with such a great showing of people from Hartford who do care about our community, I have to wonder how much damage this will undo.
MIRA and Mind Evolution, both spoken word artists, earned robust applause from the audience. MIRA performed “I Wish We All Had Daughters,” and Mind Evolution, “When I Grow Up.” There was dance, drumming, a puppet of what I believe was a Phoenix (it was a bird of some kind, I think), and a series of “conversations” (interviews and speeches).

Rabbi Donna Berman announced that there would be a second Hartford Cares gathering held at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in July. That one will allow the community more of an opportunity to be active in the conversation.

From my chats with people, there was a lot of surprise about the number of people in attendance and the racial diversity. A few thought that the “cheese factor” would have been way higher than it was. Actually, until the grand finale of dozens of adults and children crammed on the bandshell stage, singing and swaying, it really was not corny. And for those who must know, there was absolutely no singing of Kumbaya.

I’ll Pahk My Cah up Yah…

I’ll admit to being either very lucky or very picky about my residential parking situations. Let’s go with picky. In my old neighborhood, I had access to a lot with a designated space, and eventually parked in a one-car garage. The reason for moving into the garage had to do with my car getting broken into twice, and of those two times, once it was stealthily borrowed, let’s just say. In all, I had to replace an ignition, passenger window, windshield, radiator, and hood due to these two break-ins. But on the bright side, as far as I can tell, nothing was stolen out of the car (besides the radiator, and oh, the car). This was in a lot with fairly decent lighting and lots of people in the vicinity. It was stolen maybe twenty feet from where I was sleeping.

Given that experience, when it came time to move, I was extremely picky. When making calls, I hung up as soon as someone said “on-street parking” or “we can’t guarantee a spot.” I don’t drive all the time, but I’m not quite ready to get rid of my car yet. It’s a Honda, and if it does what a Honda is supposed to do, should last awhile still. It’s got too many miles to appeal to most buyers at this point. Where I am now, there’s gated parking, a designated parking spot in a very well-lit area, a camera near my spot, and probably a quarter of the residents have to pass my spot to leave. I didn’t demand all that, but it’s much more security than I’ve had anywhere I’ve lived in recent years. And I still lock the car and put on the anti-theft steering wheel bar.

I was this selective because I had heard plenty of stories from friends and foes alike regarding ticketing, towing, and theft. Some people have to park blocks away. Several streets have parking on one side only, and that changes depending on what day it is. I remember wanting to look at housing on a certain lovely street in the West End, but knew I’d be handing over half my paycheck every month because my inability to remember what day it is would result in tickets. I can just hear the cops chuckling to each other– “I don’t have money to take the kids to see that new Hannah Montana movie.” “Don’t sweat it Earl. Go ticket the blue car down on Oxford.” “Right.”

Kultura Borikua and more

The party will be at the Wadsworth on Thursday July 3rd. On the first Thursday of every month, the Wadsworth Atheneum hosts Phoenix Art After Hours, which is the downtown version of the Creative Cocktail Hour. It goes from 5-8pm and costs $5 (The film costs extra). This month they will be providing salsa music by Kultura Borikua, a gallery talk (about art) by Professor Robin Greeley (author of Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War), and a showing of the film Lovesickness (Maldeamores).

Hartford Cares Vigil

I tend to link to articles by bloggers who are cheerleaders for the city, and having been a cheerleader (decades ago), I’d like to say something about what that means. Despite appearances, cheerleaders are not delusional. We are well aware when our team is losing. We know when the team is struggling. And, we know when it’s kicking ass. Because the cheers aren’t along the lines of “We suck, we smell, our championship has gone to hell,” we might seem to be in denial of reality. But, I think the purpose of the Cheerleader is to accentuate the strong points, urge the team toward success (or improvement), and make the whole trip a bit more interesting. I am thinking about Heather Brandon, Helder Mira, Luis Cotto, Jude, Amy Bergquist, and Julie Dixon while writing this, but also those without blogs who are cheering for Hartford in other ways.

There are dozens of government and community organizations that exist to improve the city and the lives of those in it. Some of the groups receiving better publicity, unfortunately, all seem to be centered around the Yuppies (young urban professionals). Like Julie, I think it’s better to have them involved than not involved, but it is easy to see why those whose understanding of Hartford is only through the media, might believe that there’s not much going on here in the way of community. I’d like to see the more media savvy groups reach out to lift up other community organizations– not just the careers of young professionals. That would be terrific goodwill.

One organization that has the right spirit in this moment is Leadership Greater Hartford. LGH, formed in 1977, has their goals right on:

*Provide current and emerging leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to be effective in a changing world;

*Create a network that reflects and embraces the wide diversity of leadership within the community;

*Provide a forum for people from different experiences to come together and undertake collaborative endeavors;

*Engage members to assume important community leadership roles for the future.


Mark Twain and Blue Hills Branches of Library to Close?

This is strange. I just remember reading that there was a proposal for the Twain branch to expand. Now, I’m seeing a report (but only one) that the Hartford Public Library is closing two branches because of budget problems. There’s nothing on the library’s website, nothing about this anywhere else. That’s odd. We’ll file this one under rumor for now.

updated: The Courant has a lengthier piece up about this now. Ugh.

The way to improve things around here is not by giving kids fewer safe places to go during the day. Just saying.

Growing Green Co-op Open House

I received the following in an email from Imani:


Join us Saturday, June 28th from 10am-2pm for a peek of the progress on our newly renovated community space located at 197 New Britain Avenue (next to Alchemy). Come meet some of the farmers participating in our year round farmers market and register for our summer youth activist camp beginning in July.

Board Members will be available to answer questions about co-op member benefits, why you should join our community and how you can get involved. Children’s activities will be planned and plenty of parking is available at the Trinity College Hockey Rink right next door (the market is located directly between the co-op community center and the rink).

Come find out what’s up with our new “BICYCLE RECYCLE” project led by our very own bike enthusiast Rob Graves. We will mark the first official day of our year round farmers market featuring local honey, produce, maple syrup, sprouts, flowers, (sign up for a weekly flower share!) eco-friendly cleaners and body care products, organic linens, local artisans as well as featured Green Business members of the Co-op! Knox Parks will be our featured environmental organization offering information about their Rain Barrel Fundraising Project. Bring your CFLs, batteries, old cell phones & ink cartridges to be recycled. If you are an artisan, a farmer, an activist, an entertainer or a volunteer – who would like to be involved, just let us know!

Co-ops are formed in response to a local need. When government and the economic marketplace fail to provide quality goods and services to the public, people have historically cooperated to provide for themselves and their families. The Growing Green Co-op is a consumer driven co-op that has evolved out of a desire for availability of high quality, local, sustainable products as well as the desire to support local, sustainable businesses through our Green Business Referral Network. We are a vibrant community of extraordinary like-minded folk who are determined to grow our local economy- including the development of our own “CT Currency” while walking more lightly on the earth. The co-op serves as the vehicle to connect others sharing similar desires and needs. Welcome!

How to Build Community (Against All Odds): Part Two

This is a continuation from Part One:

Imagine other cultures through their poetry and novels
: Although La Paloma Sabanera closed in December 2007, there are still many places in the city to explore other cultures through literature– the Hartford Public Library (main and branches), The Jumping Frog, and the Catholic Bookstore are just a few places where books can be found. There’s also several free book tables/carts in 56 Arbor Street.

The literature is just one place to begin.

Listen to music you don’t understand*Dance to it
: The Artists Collective has dance and musical workshops for youth. Last year, one of my students gave a presentation about his involvement in The Artists Collective while growing up in Hartford, and after listening, not a person in the classroom could even entertain doubts that this young man was profoundly and positively affected by his experience.

The Charter Oak Cultural Center is home to many musical, theatrical, and other cultural events, ranging from Punk shows to Juneteenth commemorations. (more…)


This Saturday, the West End Community Center (461 Farmington, near Sisson Ave) will be hosting the Cultural Fair and Carnival from 11am-6pm. The proceeds of this day of drumming, dance, rapping, jumping houses, pony rides and more will benefit the West End summer youth program.