Senior Lecturer in History
Liverpool John Moores University
After reading the article co-written by Kyle de Beausset and Howard
Manly on the recent town hall meeting to discuss the Boston Police
Department’s Safe Homes Initiative (“Police Safe Homes plan leads to
heated debates,” Feb. 28, 2008), I did indeed feel ashamed to be an
adult in our community, or an elder in any part of the world, for that
matter. While we find local violent crimes that our youngsters commit
to be abhorrent and upsetting to our sensibilities, we — the older
generation — don’t exactly provide our children with shining examples
of how we ourselves resolve conflict. One only need examine the
aftermath of 9/11 and the Iraq war to see that retribution with little
or no discussion is a tool we employ quite regularly. Why are we
shocked that such methods are commonplace on our inner-city streets?
While the rule of law should be upheld and bad behavior by our children should not excused, we adults need to reconcile that our children learn from what we do or neglect to do, and what we teach them or neglect to teach them.
The civil rights movement didn’t eradicate racism or bigotry. On the contrary, through nonviolent dialogue and discussion, it exposed their existence to be unjust and wrong, and that was the victory. Solving our differences with thoughtful debate and discussion, not violence, must be both practiced and taught to our children along with other important values that prepare them to take their place as contributing members of society.
The elder generation should be ashamed of how our children have turned out, because it’s our job to look after them until they can look after themselves. That means the elder generation is in some measure culpable for poor high school graduation rates, poor college matriculation and cyclic recidivism between our prisons and city streets. Gov. Deval Patrick has said, “We get the government we deserve.” Well, that concept applies to our kids, too.
Parents, teachers, mentors, administrators, policymakers and the larger elder population need to commit and recommit to our kids. And as state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson said, the solution to our problem should not be akin to just catching the drippings of a leaky pipe with the pail. Shame on us! We all need to appreciate that the gravity of violent crime on our streets is no different than 9/11 and be ready to rationally discuss real solutions, not band-aid measures. Our children deserve better, and frankly the voters grow tired of just swapping the pail every time the water spills over. When that happens, the most vulnerable of us needlessly die because we didn’t have the will to fix the problem.
Thank you for Daniela Caride’s excellent article about Parkway Academy
of Technology & Health, Ms. Anna Portnoy and her 11th-grade class’
production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (“‘Macbeth was a G’: West Roxbury
school puts new spin on Shakespeare,” Feb. 28, 2008). It’s difficult to
evaluate the difference that an inspiring teacher and literature can
make in a young person’s life, yet here we could see that the students
themselves felt that they’d achieved something important and that
they’d learned important lessons. Those lessons were about cooperation,
teamwork and determination, and they were learned through a play that
had to do with the danger inherent in easy options like corruption and
Can Shakespeare’s plays transform lives? Of course they can — they’ve done so for 400 years. Can teachers transform lives? Yes — but only if they’re dedicated, supported by their establishment, and allowed to do just this sort of work. The PATH students gave up their free time and their job time, and Ms. Portnoy gave up many hours to this task.
Wouldn’t it be great if the school had drama as a regular part of its curriculum? Wouldn’t it be good if the arts were funded in our schools? We have to ask why they aren’t.
Thanks so much for the article on Shakespeare at PATH in West Roxbury. The fact that a group of 16-year-old kids pulled together to put on a very difficult play shows the power of the arts to transform young lives. They have surely gained in confidence and learned the benefits of hard work from taking on such a challenge. They’ve learned about teamwork, and that they can inspire an audience. When will we learn that the arts can teach on so many levels, and that we need to fund them in our schools?
I just wanted to point something out in the Banner’s recent editorial
about former Gov. Mitt Romney and his sons (“Romney’s last stand,” Feb.
21, 2008). Yes, lots of reports will tell you that neither Mitt nor any
of his sons have served in the military — I would say it’s safe to say
the majority of American men have not. For one thing, there is no
longer a draft. On top of that, the United States has not needed an
immense military force for years now.
But all six Romney men have served two-year-long missions for their church. This is their family tradition, and it’s not the kind of “service” where someone else pays for it and a lot of holiday-ing goes on either. They do understand the meaning of serving; just because their choices didn’t include carrying a gun, that doesn’t make them any less service-oriented.
I myself am from Canada and have done both. First, I served almost three years in the Canadian Air Force. Shortly after, I served a mission for the same church of which the Romneys are members. I served where I was assigned to serve, and thereby grew to love the people of Arizona. Girls serve for only 18 months.
I would share this comparison with my friends: In the military, I learned about discipline, about being part of a team where your superiors told you what was expected of you, and if you didn’t comply, there were consequences. We followed orders. As a missionary, we had rules to follow as well, but we relied on self-discipline to get us through the challenges before us. I found the latter to be the harder of the two.
I do not agree with the impression readers were given by the Banner’s editorial that there is something deficient in the service and commitment level of the Romney family. And, I will add, a number of Mormons — both currently and in the past — have served their countries in a military fashion. It was their choice, and they served their countries well. Some, like me, have done both.
Ted Langston Chase’s article on Paul Cuffe, an African American who,
despite the odds, became successful in his own shipping business in the
1800s, was a valuable feature for Black History Month (“Sea captain
Paul Cuffe made waves in business,” Feb. 7, 2008). Learning about Cuffe
reminds us that there have always been those who have been able to go
beyond all the disadvantages that have been the lot of people of color
in our history. Cuffe became a highly respected businessman and
frequent correspondent with wealthy and influential people of European
descent, not just in New England, but also along the eastern seaboard
and in some circles in England, particularly as he pursued their
support for his vision of a colony in Africa.
A few items in the article bear closer examination, especially Cuffe’s vision for a colony in Africa. Although the colonization movement was at its height in the early 1800s when Cuffe was seeking support for his plans, his vision differed radically from the larger movement, the purpose of which was to rid the country of the free people of African descent for fear they would instigate revolt among their enslaved brothers and sisters.
As historian Rosalind Wiggins put it, Cuffe’s plan for Sierra Leone was to create an agricultural and commercial economy that would promote “trade in goods, rather than humans.” Cuffe and his supporters believed that the colony would not only give opportunities to new settlers, but would also, by growing cotton and products to sell in the United States, undercut the Southern economy and in the end make slavery less profitable.
Cuffe sent only one ship of freed people to Africa in 1815, a voyage for which he paid most of the passage for the 38 travelers himself. His hopes for another voyage were waylaid first by the ending of the War of 1812 and then by his own illness. Cuffe’s dream was supported by a number of wealthy ship-owners in Pennsylvania, some of whom were Quaker, although James Forten, the wealthiest African American in the city, was incorrectly identified in the article as a Quaker. Forten did, however, have many close relationships with Quakers, and his daughters and granddaughters were active in the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society with many Quaker women.
Cuffe himself had practiced Quaker ways and attended Friends meetings well before 1808, the year he became a member of the Westport meeting; in fact, his father and mother attended the Dartmouth meeting and had brought their children up according to Quaker principles. Cuffe loaned money to the Westport meeting when they needed to build a new meetinghouse and was in time repaid.
By 1785 Quakers had, after 100 years of struggle, finally removed from their membership ranks those who refused to free those they enslaved. Yet as much as Friends believed that no man had a right to own another, they faced yet another struggle in understanding the relationship between freedom and social and political equality. Cuffe and his family were accepted more widely than others, yet sat in the balcony of their meetinghouse, as was the custom in most churches of the time. Similarly, while Cuffe is buried in the meetinghouse burial grounds, the site is noticeably separated from the others.
Donna L. McDaniel
Co-author of the forthcoming “Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans and the Myth of Racial Justice”
I always appreciate when people take the time to write an email, pick
up the phone, or stop me in the street to have a conversation about the
important issues facing our city. I welcome your feedback on how we can
work together to build a better Boston for everyone.
To keep our conversation going, I have an out-of-the-ordinary request. I want to take a seat at your kitchen table and meet with you and your neighbors face-to-face.
Last week, I officially announced the launch of my Kitchen Table Conversation Tour. For the next year, I will be visiting with groups of residents at their kitchen tables and in their living rooms to field your suggestions and observations about how we can make sure our city is moving in the right direction.
What I am hearing loud and clear from many residents is that they are tuned out and turned off from local government. Many people have lost interest in what our local leaders are doing, and, even worse, they feel like city government is losing interest in them.
The goal of my kitchen table conversations is to get people tuned back in to what is going on in their neighborhood and across their city. Through your personal input, I also aim to end the disconnect between city policies and the needs of everyday residents, families and small businesses. I look forward to meeting with people in their homes and sharing their stories and ideas with you in the months ahead.
If you would like to host a gathering at your house, please contact me at Michael.F.Flaherty@cityofboston.gov or call my office at 617-635-4205. I hope you will save a seat for me at your kitchen table.
Michael F. Flaherty
Boston City Councilor-at-Large
Last week, I announced my continued commitment to launching a citywide
dialogue on civic engagement in Boston on May 3 at the Boston
Convention & Exhibition Center.
The problem we face is real. Barely one in 10 voters in the last city election bothered to show up to the polls. Participation in community groups, civic associations and neighborhood watches is on the decline. That great torch of civic leadership that was passed to my generation is being kept aglow by hands that are too few and too tired.
With that in mind, we will host the 2008 Boston Civic Summit, an unprecedented gathering of community leaders, new and old, with two goals in mind: first, to offer those dedicated leaders better support and training to make their work more effective; and second, to begin a conversation on strategies to increase civic participation throughout our neighborhoods.
We need people who recognize their role in making our city a better place and people who are ready to do something about it. This summit will be about solutions, not problems. We want people who are already involved in civic associations and in neighborhood watches, people who are engaged in friends of groups for our schools, libraries and parks, as well as other people who care passionately about our city. This event is most surely not about me or any politician; it is about the people we represent.
Many have expressed great excitement about this effort, but also some skepticism. I am so encouraged by all the feedback I have received, particularly the constructive criticism. Your ideas will help to make this event more successful and I hope that people continue to debate and discuss this summit as it takes shape.
I am so confident in the team of leaders that we have assembled thus far who will help to guide our efforts and set our agenda. The formation of an Advisory Committee is just our first step. Over the next several weeks, we will be reaching out to an even greater number of people to help fill vital roles as presenters and volunteers and on an outreach team to ensure that all of our city’s voices are represented.
But all of that is yet to come. For now, please share your thoughts and ideas with me, and send me your contact information so we can keep you informed as this event moves forward. Visit www.bostoncivicsummit.org and e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Let’s build a better city together.
President, Boston City Council