Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letter to New Bedford Harbor Trustees re: reconsideration of funding harbor development

We are urging the  New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council to reconsider the allocation of funding  toward the development of New Bedford Harbor by focusing specifically on the needs of the City of New Bedford and its residents.

We know that the Riverwalk is not simply a ‘recreational project’ but rather a multi-tiered initiative which not only adds to the harbor infrastructure but also provides diverse opportunities for development, work, and leisure.  This project is not only vital for the quality of life of our residents, but also a crucial piece in our projected plans for a creative economy and sound tourist base. The Riverwalk, as extension of Fort Taber Park and Riverside Park, establishes a continuum, creating an environment that holistically restores, conserves, and protects  the natural resources historically  enjoyed by the harbor and river.  This priority is essential;  only after it is served can we consider human service enhancement as ancillary benefit. Certainly, they are not mutually exclusive.

The citation that  “no-action” alternative assumes that the Harbor cleanup …will be completed in approximately twenty years”  (per page 12, Round IV Grant Applications packet) itemizes a most generous timeline.  The Boston Harbor Island Project saw progress in far fewer years; the creation of an artificial reef between Spectacle Island and Long Island, moving of the outfall pipe from the harbor entrance at Deer Island to 16 miles out, and restoration of Spectacle Island from an oozing dump to an attractive ecosystem were completed in less than twenty years, inviting a range of species—dolphin and shark among them--to populate the area.

The EPA/General Electric Hudson River Dredging Project has already made vast strides in clean-up and restoration since its inception in 2009. 
Your  predicted scenario for New Bedford, under an umbrella of Natural Recovery,  assumes a theoretical recovery period of 100 years.  Human intervention can considerably shorten this span and bring life into the harbor once again.  Funding the Bottom Habitat for Marine Species would ensure that the first steps were taken toward this end.

Furthermore, your funding of this project will remediate the environmental deficits New Bedford must currently deal with while incorporating a sound human ecology into an enhanced ecosystem.  Anything less is a serious slight to the citizens who have contributed to the local, regional, and global economies while reaping concomitant toxicity. This is not only an environmental issue, but also a stand for social justice.

You are trusted with New Bedford harbor; let’s keep the lens where it belongs-on the City of New Bedford and its people.

Claudia Grace                        Captain Thomas A. Grace
President                               Treasurer

sent Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Theaters of War: Closer to Home

It historically has been easier to detect the arenas of war.  Signposts were evident: crosses burning, shrapnel flying, molotov cocktails exploding, wounded victims howling, boots thumping out rhythm antithetical to heartbeat.
No longer so, as technology and bureaucracy fuse to assail us surreptitiously from a distance.  White paper is signed, slashing government health and medical assistance.  A coda raising the retirement age is added to the dirge, as if it were really needed; we'll have to work until the bury us under the pile of bills incurred in the inevitable crush to hold onto our wellbeing and the American dream home. Of course, the military industrial complex will not be spared, but rather cut back to pre-Haliburton levels.  No more ergonomic design experts; one helmet per head. What will we have to defend but a broken people, its middle-class backbone twisted in its writhing to survive. 
What are the outcomes?  Revolution?  Civil war?  I predict that the 60% who did not vote will continue plodding along, hypnotized by the mantra "this is the best country in the world". They will still consume what they can, blinded by official fairy tales of "farmfresh" food and images of  smirking  politicos joking about their wives' "domestic policy". After all, we're not irate Brits or those fanatic French. Individuality is cherished here in the U.S.A.; we can become whatever we can be...without that government interference.  The terrorists brought trouble to our doorstep, and we wove ourselves closer together under that blanket of smoke and ash.  We're Americans, dammit, and we will do what it takes to keep the corporations cranking out jobs. We counted pennies in the Great Depression; we stood in lines for work and food.  We can do it!
They often  forget that today we search online to connect with jobs that don't exist, to consume things that can't possibly fill the void.  Televised media provides little relief; a news bit of a dire scenario or scandal in the cult of celebrity inserted  between ads for discount flooring and holiday gifts. The most popular show in America involves dancing with stars; local yokels rehearse their versions of American idols.  Our plateau of normalcy is founded on fantasy and escapism.
Of course, there is always the snap, the moment when the sleeper awakens, the dangerous moment when these subjects become aware that they are only objects in the elite's machinery. These many oppressed can turn against the poor, victim against mirrored victim, or finally confront the oppressor by taking hold of the reins of power alongside the former "other" with whom they now have so much in common.
Imagine a theater of war populated by middle class families, gays, blacks, latinos, native americans, youth and all the disdained masses vs. the bastions of power, the pillars of society.  It needn't be bloody; it's a question of numbers exercising their constitutional right to shape their own destiny in a preemptive strike.
That is a visualization worth manifesting.  It may become real, if we're lucky, before the next Katrina leaves us gasping for breath, wading through the effect of shoddy practice and misappropriation, cowardly lack of leadership and neglected responsibility to our very human condition.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Layering the Colors--Cropping the Edges

Genetics informs us that we are not as hardwired as we once believed.  The mapping of the brain is profoundly affected by diverse environmental factors; nurture trumps nature in this malleable landscape.  Despite social pundits and clinicians who stubbornly cling to behavioristic determinism, science calls us out of the darkness in the true sense of education, self-actualization.
The binary relationship between being and becoming widely manifests itself in that socialization of hyphenated ethnic-Americans wherein we are all called on to shed our history and embrace collective identity in the U.S.A.  This collective identity, however,  is illusion and nowhere is it better revealed that in our electoral, medical, and judicial processes. The poor, the disenfranchised, the underserved are meted out far different playing cards in these arenas.  Inadequate protection and representation both are endemic to programs designed to band-aid the frayed edges of our social fabric. Correspondingly, collective destiny is illusory, as some Americans writhe in pain, squat in squalor, and assuage their emotional confusion with body/mind-numbing substances while others gloat in glory of  predictable wins, minimized losses.
Our system tells us that we are one; the pluralistic nation attempts to bind together each stripe of difference under the red-white-& blue. Some minorities, mistrusting this authoritative stance, may choose to isolate. Those who embrace many-into-one aspire to "normalcy", homogenization.  Either choice entails commitment to layering the colors of self into an acceptable foreground against the national background. The community's pillar and the community activist, the patriot and the pundit alike must crop the edges of their individual rhetoric lest they be labeled outlier, outlaw, other. We can cite, for example,  many instances of fear-based propaganda aimed at slandering President Obama.
If we were able to release our fear of the other and reconcile the outlaw as a transformational, intellectual force, couldn't we redirect the attention paid to photoshopping our national image into an economic driver grounded in our perceived and possible differences?  Being would then be celebrated rather than secreted or negated. The neural and social pathways would open to becoming one human race populating part of one planet Earth--far more than the boundaries of our borders and flag might suggest.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Global-Local Challenge

Examination of our social and cultural values must, of necessity, begin at home or be brought back to the environment we shape with our actions and inaction.  A young Canadian cyclist, logging some of his  20,000 planned kilometers in our region, clarified the need for remedial action.  This athletic youth has gifted himself with a commencment present of a trek through his nation and the US, building muscle and mind, observing as he goes.  Although he apparently enjoyed his brief stay with our hosting family,  his observations of our city were not so kind. "Disruption emanated from the streets...broken glass that seemed to guard every entrance to the path", he entered into his online travelblog. The path itself was the bicycle path he couldn't enjoy, forced rather to pedal in the streets which seemed chaotic.  This student of the environment had picked up on what we live with, and what some challenge, daily: the mirror of an apathy convinced nothing will change, work out, succeed. It is difficult to believe that New Bedford once had wealth, that whaling capital, was the city that lit the world. It is still harder to believe that it's still the richest fishing port in the U.S. The well kept homes, tidy gardens, familial tenements exist, but between them are the cracks, the metaphorical slivers of glass that keep that edge of grace ragged, torn, threatening.

Statistics reveal that 60% of regional residents didn't vote in this week's election.  The percentage is higher in our city.  The wealthy, the "white flight" middle class, some city workers live in the 'burbs.  The ctiy itself is populated with newly arrived and second/third generation Portuguese and Latino folk.  The short-statured Guatemalans bicycle or walk through town, avoiding both being robbed and reporting it when it does happen.  The police in their native land were not so kind; the cops and immigration agents here rounded up undocumented factory workers and shipped them back, away from their children,  a few years ago.  It won't be forgotten. The Portuguese around us are endowed with an alternate reality provided by their own print and broadcast media, bank, shops. The insulating blanket of food and family shelters them from need for active civic participation in the macrocosm.  If they should step on a sliver of glass, it had to be placed by a "gang member" who moved here from Boston. These ethnic groups are victimized not only by those who take advantage of them, but also by their own refusal to fully live here.  This city, once the city that lit the world, is darkened, shrouded in silences of vacant shops, quiet streets, sleepy social clubs and bars.  Citizens retreat rather than challenge; withdraw rather than win; collapse into their own microworlds rather than cooperate in the community.

The official story is that we now move to the beat of a creative economy.  Artists dribbling down here for the cheaper studio space, the anticipated wind energy construction project, the AHA! nights drawing folks to the free art/history/architecture while tempting them with spending opportunities--creative thinking on our feet to salvage identity.  The director of this creative economy is an artist from Canada; so is the coordinator of the most visible, grant-garnering arts organization. Have they stayed despite the broken glass on the path? Are they, as well as the larger immigrant groups,  part of the "disruption" the cyclist cited? Could the greening of the city be not only sustainable and monetary growth, but also some of  those who arrive new at an oppportune time, green to the process, eager to participate, to commune, to extend the comfort zone? The Portuguese, Cape Verdeans and Latinos, mocked as greenhorns decades ago, conformed or withdrew.  The 21st century, this Age of Aquarius, pours its universally blessing waters over all.

Change simulates chaos; progress mandates letting go, moving on; triumph involves stretching, adjustment, even pain.  The cyclist knows this; surely the best you can do sometimes is to avoid the shards that might deflate your momentum.  If this should happen, as it might, know you can rest, write, and hit send.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Edge of Grace

I have been prompted many times to develop a blog which would consolidate the variegated threads which comprise my writing life--poems, poetic drama, creative nonfiction, reporting, investigative journalism, features, editorials, reviews, interviews, proposals, curriculum among them.  I beleive that the colleagues, family and friends urging me on are motivated by their desire to see me broaden my scope and source of feedback beyond their informed opinions.

A confluence of forces has come together to spark the creation of  Grace's Edge.  My astonishment  over my saturated social networking commentary is not the least of these; my quota of available leisure time in an overscheduled life a beneficent touch.  I'm driven by a reactivated passion for thinking ourselves clear of  the morass of feeling and bias stimulated by the predicted yet shocking results of the U.S. Senate and Congressional elections. Yes, they were predicted, but not necessarily predictably in the nation of great orators and intellects, forgers of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, civil rights. The shocking is not hyperbolic; what's overstated is the ranting, the racism, the reduction to lowest common denominator--whether that is "taxed enough already", the vitriolic signifying fools, the faux "news"--which won at all.  Even a modicum of assent in that direction is beneath the noble ideals and practical values our country purportedly espouses. The grace which has carried us through challenges and crosses, the faith and hope which rise anew with each moral choice, is there in abundance.
Yet we live on the edge of that blessing, the hem of grace.  This blog beginning is my exploration of our social foothold by examination of our cultural footprint.

And so the adventure begins....