Category: class

Land Purchases Approved for Downtown North Area

By , August 12, 2014 1:57 pm

Exactly one person spoke favorably about the stadium deal during Monday’s public hearing, yet members of City Council went ahead and approved the three Downtown North land purchases anyway, two of which are directly connected — either in print or geographically — to the proposed stadium.

Raquel, the one voice overtly supporting the stadium, said that “Hartford is a dead city” and that if people are out of work, it is nobody’s fault but their own. It’s not the City’s responsibility to get people to work, she said. That was the message in between her continued support for the stadium. No statistics, no research. The City is here to provide entertainment, she implied, but not jobs.

Ten individuals — eight residents, one former resident, and one individual moving into Hartford soon — spoke against the stadium plan. One woman did not speak directly about the stadium, but said that the “city looks like crap” and that it is a “dead land.” Continue reading 'Land Purchases Approved for Downtown North Area'»

#younghARTford: Second Time Around

By , February 19, 2014 10:08 am

Enough Elephants in the Room for a Circus

Hartford is a small, diverse city. The 2010 census data indicates that 38.7% of its population identifies as black, 43.4% identifies as Hispanic, and 15.8% identify as white, non-Hispanic. The rest falls into categories of white, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and biracial/multiracial. Of course, we know these numbers do not reflect those who are not reached by data collectors; historically, blacks and Hispanics are undercounted.

Knowing this, questions were raised going into last week’s #youngHartford forum about the blatant lack of racial diversity on the panel.

Carlos Hernández Chávez, a local with a solo exhibit currently on display in the ArtWalk Gallery, posed a similar line of questions while in the audience of the Courant/Fox/HYPE-sponsored event: “I’ve been here [in Hartford] 47 years,” he said. “Hartford right now is over 50% Hispanic. How many of you are Hispanic here?” he asked the audience. A few hands were lifted. “That’s not 50%.”

Hernández Chávez said this was not about creating guilt for anyone, but this subject had to be discussed.

“How many dark faces do you see here?” he continued. “If we want to see Hartford thrive,” he said, “then “you have to look at that issue.”

But not everyone has been wiling to do that. Sidestepping unpleasant controversy is just easier for some, including those who had both an audience and a microphone but chose to use neither for the greater good.

That’s not to say that all of the panelists were complacent. Continue reading '#younghARTford: Second Time Around'»

Final Downtown North Design Meeting

By , December 12, 2013 5:13 pm

Artwork on structure walls at Heaven. It was proposed that these structures be removed or reduced in size. There were objections to the removal of this public art.

“This is about preparing an area for development,” said Thomas Deller, City of Hartford’s Director of Development Services. “Everything that’s here is being proposed as the maximum.”

The Downtown North Park Plan is funded, Deller said, by a sustainable community grant to “determine how we develop” the area “for growth and sustainability.”

As with the previous two public meetings, there were questions about who these proposed changes are for, even as the standing room only crowd was told that a steering committee included community members.

But all along, it has been evident that whole segments of the population have not been included in the planning process. At the previous meeting in October, very few residents not employed by the City were in attendance, and no regular users of New Ross, County Wexford Park were involved, even though this small park has its own Friends group. At that meeting, when I informed Tim Love, the Principal of Utile, Inc., that the park is currently used by skaters and others, and that a formal skate park was about the break ground, I was told that if this park was deemed not in the interest of economic development, the skate park could be moved.
I suggested that the parties involved in redevelopment reach out to the community.

That does not seem to have happened in the time since, but park users — including those who skate, do parkour, and use the space as a canvas for their art — caught wind of the plans to change a space without seeking their input. So, they showed up at last night’s final meeting, and they showed up in large numbers.

Regular users of Wexford, New Ross County Park — Heaven — showed up to the meeting where the park was given two minutes of discussion tacked on at the end just before the library closed.

Predictably, information about the skate park was presented last, for mere minutes, and then followed by the rushed Q&A segment. Continue reading 'Final Downtown North Design Meeting'»

Breaking Down the Silos in Modern Day Feminism

By , November 20, 2013 4:52 pm

Sandra Fluke, an attorney and women’s right activist whose name achieved celebrity status when Rush Limbaugh publicly referenced her as a “slut” and a “prostitute,” spoke to a group of students, academics, and community stakeholders in Hartford about an array of social justice issues affecting modern day politics and life. The discussion spanned from reproductive healthcare, Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey for the constitutional law enthusiasts out there), to social welfare programs, poverty, labor movements, and even immigration reform.

At first glance, these issues appear to stand alone as isolated social and political agendas. However, Fluke, a Georgetown Law graduate, demonstrated how each of these issues intersects with gender equality, providing a context for modern-day feminism that is often disregarded as being abstract or far-fetched. But as Fluke pointed out, what is a theoretical debate in one circle represents another community’s day-to-day reality of living on the margins of society – despite desires to break free from the structural barriers they face to legally proscribed rights.

Fluke cited the family cap on public assistance as one example. The cap is a policy that denies mothers and families who receive welfare additional assistance after the birth of another child. Essentially, it’s a child exclusion policy. Fluke said, “That child is cut off from any kind of basic assistance. Basic needs. If you think about why we have this policy [and] what that policy is about, it’s about controlling the reproductive choices of somebody who’s poor. It’s about saying we don’t want to have a lot more poor children, so lets try to tell poor people not to have more kids. …. [It] links to very racist ideas about who should be having kids and who shouldn’t.” Continue reading 'Breaking Down the Silos in Modern Day Feminism'»

Community Meeting Tonight about Trayvon Martin Case

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By , July 15, 2013 9:07 am

The Kabbalah House will be hosting a community meeting tonight (July 15) at 7 for anyone who wants to “meditate, yell, cry, reason, question, pray” or share their views on the Trayvon Martin case. Expect conversation about race, racism, justice, injustice, class, color divisions, and how to create serious change “beginning with our selves, our communities, and ultimately our society.”

Organizers have acknowledged the last-minute nature of this meeting and promise that other such conversations will be held at this venue in the future.

This will be outside in the garden, weather permitting. If rain, it moves inside. The Kabbalah House is located at 1023 Albany Avenue.


Blight Club

By , June 29, 2012 9:25 am

First Rule: You do not talk about it. Continue reading 'Blight Club'»

Student Transiency and Concentration of Poverty Tied to Academic Success

By , February 19, 2012 11:22 am
Miguel Cardona, Susan Marks, and Gary Highsmith (left to right)

Miguel Cardona, Susan Marks (Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools), and Gary Highsmith (left to right)

“We have a bad way of looking at things, that what gets tested is what gets taught,” Gary Highsmith, said at an education forum on Thursday. Highsmith is the Principal of Hamden High School, where he said students are taught things that are not tested, such as arts and music.

At a forum about inclusive housing policy and its impact on education, it seemed both incongruous and inevitable that the conversation would include the buzzwords of reform and accountability.

The forum — “Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: How Housing Can Help Close It” — held at the Lyceum explored the philosophy of housing policy as school policy, focusing on “Montgomery County,” a single example.

An inclusionary zoning policy — mixing housing affordable to those at different income levels — was adopted in Maryland’s Montgomery County (suburb of Washington, D.C.) in 1974. Heather Schwartz, a policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, conducted a longitudinal study from 2001-2007 of students in public housing who attended schools with very low-to-moderate poverty rates and those who attended schools with a moderate-rate of students living in poverty. Additionally, the moderate-level poverty schools received more resources, enabling smaller classes and more academic supports. The study found that while students in public housing at both types of schools scored about evenly for the first few years, students attending the schools with a low-to-moderate poverty level outscored their peers eventually. Students were placed randomly in these schools, taking out the option for more involved parents to steer their children into the “better” schools.

This study — and the speakers at the forum — failed to address some variables. Continue reading 'Student Transiency and Concentration of Poverty Tied to Academic Success'»

A Tale of Four Markets

By , September 8, 2011 7:51 am

The recent totally-unscientific-but-fun poll told me a few things: nobody buys all groceries from one vendor, Whole Foods is very popular, and people want food to be local and fresh. While digesting this data, I visited four stores in Hartford to see which ones most closely met your criteria of the ideal store; I looked at other aspects, including whether or not I could reasonably shop for basic food and household items. I looked at the two most popular grocery stores in the city, along with two that fewer people shopped at. Continue reading 'A Tale of Four Markets'»

The Great Food Swamp

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By , July 6, 2011 5:39 pm

This pig lives at Holcomb Farm, a farm that provides produce to Foodshare

It’s not accurate to describe Hartford as being a food desert. This term implies that food is unavailable. The obesity rate says otherwise.

Instead, we should be calling it what it is — a food swamp. Prof. Molly Anderson used this phrase during her presentation at a recent forum held at the Lyceum. Rather than a lack of food being the problem, it’s that there is, in these areas, “far too much of the wrong kind of food,” she argued.

Food security was the topic of discussion at the “IForum” in late June. Anderson, the keynote speaker, delivered her presentation, “A Home’s Not Just a House: Why Food Security Must Be Part of a Strong, Affordable Community”; a response panel comprised of Julia Pon, Margaret Williams, and Martha Page followed. Continue reading 'The Great Food Swamp'»

Art Without Walls or a Local Zip Code

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By , May 31, 2011 8:14 am
Hartford Museum Passport by Brian Cook

A prototype of the Hartford Museum Passport by Brian Cook

That Brian Cook left Connecticut is not unusual. The media has been fixated on how many people in his generation are moving out of state. Where Cook is unique is that he continues to actively contribute to the arts and culture of Hartford, which is more than some artists do while living just a few blocks over the city line.

If you have been to any venue with a pulse in the last few years, you’ve seen his work.

What also sets him apart is that he rejects the idea of himself as a professional artist, and says he has no ” plans to be one.” The result of this perpetual hobbyist mentality seems to be pure, unpretentious art. There’s no ego getting tied up in the work. There’s no distraction triggered by the schmoozing that frequently takes the place of actual creation. Cook could teach the professionals a thing or to about being earnest and getting a real kick out of one’s work.

As for his artistic background, Cook describes it as an organic process: ” I had an artistic mother and grandmother, and have always enjoyed doodling, writing poetry and sculpting in the sand. [...] About two years ago, having learned to use Photoshop as part of my job with a web startup, I began making flyers for some friends in Sea Tea Improv, Hartford’s beloved comedy troupe. I enjoyed doing it and got some positive feedback, so I tried to get better. I love Hartford, and want to use design for positive social impact. My first foray in this direction was an imaginary metro map for Hartford, with proceeds going toward Connectikids. I see the Hartford Museum [Passport] as a next step in this direction.” During this past snowy winter, when so many schools and businesses were having to shut down for several days due to the stormy weather, La Paloma Sabanera — a small, independent coffee shop — was under particular strain. Many of the shop’s customers are state employees, so even on days when La Paloma Sabanera was open, business would lag if the state closed or dismissed early. The proceeds of a poster Cook created especially for this “third place” would go to the store’s “snowy day fund” to help keep the business afloat.

Now — besides creating posters for events  and beloved local coffee shops — Cook is trying to get funding for a project designed to encourage museum attendance by Hartford youth. The Hartford Museum Passports are themselves part art, part bribery. With each museum visit, the passports would be stamped, validating the experience and incentivizing future ones.

The inspiration for this project is twofold. The museum passport itself comes directly from the way that an actual passport serves as a type of diary. Cook says, “I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot, in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, and always loved the appearance, language and symbolism of passports, and varying aesthetics of stamps from country to country. I actually look at my old passports fairly frequently, remembering visits by the stamps.”

Though he does not say it, a passport signals permission. It says, this is who I am and I can go anywhere. It provides tangible proof that a person can go places beyond his or her imagination. Continue reading 'Art Without Walls or a Local Zip Code'»

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