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Posts Tagged ‘providence’

elelwa-cake

I lifted this from Beautiful Day, an organization I’d like you know about if you don’t already.

Founder Keith Cooper writes, “A couple months ago a guy named Scott Axtmann brought a great group of interns from his church (Renaissance) to visit our kitchen facility at Amos House. We did the things we usually do — greeted the trainees, chatted with our chef and other staff, then sat out in the dining hall to talk more about mission and share thoughts about resettlement, the job market, and being a part of positive change in our city.

“This is an aside — but if you live in driving distance of Providence and are interested in our work, you should stop by for this kind of tour. Plan to come after 5 on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. If possible give us a couple weeks warning. A tour doesn’t take long, but seeing something with your own eyes usually takes the strangeness out of it. I know we are intense and painstaking about the way we make granola, but making granola is still not rocket-science. Neither is job training. What I always find mysterious in our kitchen (though I know we’ve also been painstaking about creating this atmosphere too) is the laughter shared by a group of trainees and staff who don’t even share a language. This is always the thing that reassures me that we are doing something right. But please take this as an open invitation. These tours are part of our mission to connect more people with refugees. Our organization may lack a lot of things, but we’re rich in relationships with former refugees and would love to share our wealth with you.

“Anyway, during that tour Scott challenged me in the style some faith leaders have perfected—encouragement that leads to self discovery. In this case, he created space for me to say something I hadn’t intended to say. The gist went something like this:

Scott (to the interns): Keith writes a [something flattering here] blog for Beautiful Day about immigration and refugee resettlement.

Me (grimacing): Oh thanks Scott. Actually I’ve hardly been writing anything this year.

Scott: Really? Why not? You should be. [Then, to the interns, some thoughts about how critical it is for people of faith to welcome refugees and what a privilege it is. Scott has a contagious enthusiasm about our city that I love.]

Me: Honestly, I feel like I’ve lost my voice over this last year. I’m really struggling with it.

Scott: You had better get it back.

“Then suddenly we all had to go.

“That was back in July and I’ve been chewing on this ever since. I’m pretty sure I intended to answer his question by complaining about how busy I am, how many hats I need to wear. These things are true and I say them all the time. Saying I lost my voice instead provoked me to think about what’s happening to or in me. Beautiful Day works with marginalized people who, for the most part, are hidden and voiceless — most obviously because they don’t speak English and don’t yet understand much about American culture, but also because they’ve had experiences of being chased away, silenced, discarded, warehoused. We live in a country that has welcomed them, yet is also growing more ambivalent and sometimes openly hostile to them. I believe we all have something critical to learn from these voices.

“So how can I possibly advocate for voiceless people if I don’t have a voice myself?

“And another thought: isn’t saying I’m voiceless another way of saying I’m afraid. What am I afraid of?

“But, okay, Scott. Thank you both for the compliment and the invitation to think. Here’s my idea. I’ll try to start writing more often. I know I need to do this right now if only because we are heading into the holiday season when we hope (need!) to sell about 75,000 dollars of granola in 3 months. These sales are vital to our training program, so I need to be connecting and resonating with our customers.

“(And, a sideways invitation here: as part of this sales initiative, we are currently launching efforts to increase traffic to our website. Part of what helps attract traffic is interaction, so if you appreciate anything in this blog and what Beautiful Day is doing, please speak up and comment either here or on our Facebook or Instagram feeds. It’s okay if you disagree as a long as you’re not trolling. A voice isn’t very real until it’s in dialogue.)

“Along the way, maybe I can try to figure this out by writing it out. I know one of my fears is that I just can’t write an Inc-style business post where I try to play the confident hipster entrepreneur and wax eloquent on how great our product is, how well we are doing, how hard we work, and which fancy apps we use. Something about who I am and about working with voiceless people makes that impossible. Nor can I promise that it will be consistent or coherent or polished. It will need to just come out of what’s in my head at that moment with what time I’ve got available. But I’ll give it a try. Maybe I’ll rely on some of the internet’s favorite formats like top 10 lists. But I’ll try to let it be a real voice. I suspect I’m not the only one trying to retrieve theirs these days.”

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082518-surfing-Crescent-Beach

Summer has its own pace — sometimes slow and sleepy, sometimes fast and exhausting. The grandchildren like to go-go-go. The older folks wouldn’t mind taking a nap every day.

This photo collection starts out with my energetic older grandson, who learned to surf this summer. Suzanne tried it, too, because John bought her a surfing lesson for her birthday. She says her nephew was really a natural.

Today’s pictures are all from Providence and New Shoreham.

Suzanne’s neighbor has the goofy fairy houses, and the elegant used bookstore Paper Nautilus is also near her home.

The Painted Rock is a beloved island feature — too beloved these days. People paint over one another’s messages within hours, and even a decent picture gets no respect. There were few decent pictures this year, mostly spray painted graffiti.

On our morning walk, Sandra and I snuck up on the bird that was visiting the Manissean cemetery, thinking we’d get a great shot of a heron. You have probably already realized it was only a cormorant. But what a cormorant was doing in the cemetery is anybody’s guess.

I wrap up with a pre-dawn view. “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” (Wish I’d written that myself.)

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060918-piano-recital-Arlington

Everything happens in June — suddenly urgent yardwork, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Father’s Day, piano recitals, festivals, youth baseball. Sometimes there are two things you want to attend in two different states happening at the same time. That’s June for you. We could use a little of that weekend excitement in other months. (Blogger New England Nomad said almost the same thing. See the comments in his post.)

Above, my oldest grandson performs “Blue Interlude” and “Love Me Tender” for a piano recital in a setting with a delightful Old World feel.

Next are three photos from the annual Middlesex Jazz Festival in Concord. I especially liked watching the intrepid couple that got up to swing dance.

On the same Saturday as the piano recital and the jazz festival, I drove south to Providence for the hugely popular PVD Fest that Suzanne had been telling me about the last couple years: streets given over to pedestrians, performers of all kinds, costumes, food, fun activities for kids. I saw a lot of people wearing flower garlands in their hair and several in Native American dress.

It was a busy day. I slept well that night.

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Photo: John May / Team Williams LLC
The Shower to Empower Trailer offers showers, haircuts, & medical services to people experiencing homelessness in Providence, Rhode Island.

Yay, Rhode Island! Good idea!

I am told that if you ask homeless people about their immediate needs, one of the things you will hear is that they long for a way to take a shower.

Talia Blake of Rhode Island public radio reports on what Providence is doing about that aspect of homelessness.

“Providence has launched a mobile unit to give showers, haircuts, and medical services to residents who are homeless. … After seeing a trailer in the Midwest that was giving showers to the homeless, and a YoutTube video of a barber in the UK giving a homeless individual a shower, entrepreneur Bret Williams thought ‘why not do that in my home state of Rhode Island and take it a step further?’

“Williams, along with nonprofit homeless service organization House of Hope and city of Providence, launched what they’re calling the Shower to Empower mobile navigation unit. Attached to the back of a pickup truck, the trailer has two individual showers, heated floors, an area for haircuts, and an enclosed private medical space. …

” ‘The Empower message comes from the showers and haircuts. Being able to help them best better their situation, restore dignity, restore pride, you know their outlook on the day, on their life,’ said [John May, from Williams’ LLC Team Williams]. At the beginning, the trailer will be parked in areas around Providence for three to four hours a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with five staff members.

“According to a report in December by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a thousand individuals in Rhode Island are homeless.”

I once interviewed Jean Johnson, founder of the above-mentioned House of Hope Community Development Corporation, for my old magazine. What an inspiring woman! She’s retired now, but this effort sounds like something she would have loved to see implemented, although her ultimate goal was always to get people housed.

Listen to the audio version of the story here.

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051118-looks-up-at-blue-sky

Spring sunshine and blooms provide opportunities to take the kinds of photographs I like best. Here I share blossoms that I believe are quince, things I saw in the woods (baby oak leaves in mud, foam flowers, ferns, Sessile Bellwort, and a garter snake), murals in Cambridge, Mass., and a random indoor shot from the past month.

The carpet of cherry petals was shot in Providence.

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091817-panhandler-alternative

The Providence bus hub is in the center of town near shops, corporate offices, Burnside Park, restaurants, galleries, hotels, and other attractions. In bad weather it becomes an unofficial day shelter for homeless people, with the result that the whole area is a magnet for Rhode Islanders who need more help than a roof.

Panhandling has become a constant fixture there, and with businesses complaining loudly, the city has tried to address the issue in a variety of ways. Some of them have been ham-handed, like the short-lived initiative to put panhandlers in jail.

The latest approach appeals to me, despite seeming like a superficial way to address deep social problems. It involves a kind of parking meter, where the compassionate can donate indirectly to those who need help knowing that the money will not go toward anything that makes their lives worse.

Providence is also experimenting with a program piloted by Albuquerque, New Mexico, which pays people to do work around the city rather than panhandling.

A year ago, Edward Fitzpatrick at the Providence Journal described the thinking behind the effort to find constructive solutions.

“The Washington Post just wrote about Albuquerque’s ‘There’s a Better Way’ program, which pays $9 an hour for day jobs beautifying the city. In partnership with a local nonprofit that helps the homeless, the program employs about 10 panhandlers per day and offers them shelter. In less than a year, they’ve cleared 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks, and 100 people have been connected with permanent jobs.

“Republican Mayor Richard Berry told The Post that most panhandlers have been eager to work. ‘It’s helping hundreds of people,’ he said, ‘and our city is more beautiful than ever.’

“And now, the Albuquerque model is being looked at by both Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., a downtown property owner who just became chairman of the Downtown Improvement District and called a meeting on panhandling and homelessness. …

“Paolino said he does not want to address panhandling in ‘the Giuliani way — throw them out and not fix any of the problems.’ Rather, he wants to work with social-service agencies so that if people are homeless they get shelter and if they’re addicted they get treatment, but if they’re dealing drugs they should be apprehended, he said.

“ ‘Although this is a crisis, this is an opportunity,’ Paolino said. ‘These social-service agencies never had the business community working with them before.’ ”

That program strikes me as a good idea. I have seen it in action. I also like the meters. For me, it’s a great way to keep pocket change from weighing me down while reassuring me that small amounts will add up to something meaningful. The money goes to reliable agencies, and people in need of assistance can contact them using information on the meters.

More at US News, here, and the Providence Journal, here.

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Image: Ida Schmulowitz
Artist Ida Schmulowitz says, “I have painted landscapes outside from a pedestrian bridge overlooking a highway since 1983. I feel a very strong bond to this particular place.”

My friend and former boss Meredith Fife Day, an artist, put up an intriguing Facebook post not long ago. It was about the work of a Rhode Island artist who has been painting the view from the bridge at India Point over and over since 1983. No two paintings alike.

Meredith wrote, “Ida Schmulowitz of Providence has painted on site on a pedestrian bridge over the highway near her home and studio for more than 30 years. No camera. No sizing canvases to fit her easel. No hesitation to return again and again until the painting is finished. The paintings are on canvas and average 6-by-8 feet. …

“I had the good fortune of meeting the artist and writing about her work for Art New England 10 years ago. Here is an excerpt from that review:

“ ‘Applying paint in thin layers Schmulowitz often took a morning painting back out at sunset months after it was begun. A pale sky gone peachy-orange carries its history and alludes to color’s role in the passage of time. As highway shadows lengthened at the end of the day, their geometry became more explicit and their hue more saturated. Footprints left in the foreground from walking on the canvas to reach the upper edges mimic brushmarks. The confidence that comes with knowing a site, and developing over the years a vocabulary that expresses its essence, unleashes great intuitive force. That force explodes in these works.’ “

At her website, Schmulowitz explains, “I feel a very strong bond to this particular place (India Point). I’ve felt compelled to record it year after year in all seasons and times of the day. I struggle with trying to combine the structural essence of the place with my internal vision. Changes in the landscape itself, or shifting my vantage point just slightly, are the catalysts for creating a new series.”

I love the strong colors and shapes of the paintings on the website — and the way the shadows lengthen in views of the same scene. Choose from tabs “Bridge View,” “Park View,” “Highway,” “School View,” “Stop Sign,” and “Studio View.”

Photo: Sandor Bodo
The artist says that on the way home after work, “I lay the wet canvas flat and drag it back flat through the streets to my studio. This contributes somewhat to an imperfect surface, that I like to work with, and feel it is part of the process.” 

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