Whither goest thou from the Common, America?

On August 19, tens of thousands of people marched the length of Tremont Street from Roxbury Crossing to Boston Common.

They marched because at that very hour a “free speech” rally was due to take place. The rally boasted a lineup of white supremacist and alt-right speakers.

In the wake of Charlottesville, in the wake of the President’s failure to condemn white supremacist violence, this was too much to take.

And so they marched.

They marched against hate. “RESPECT EXISTENCE OR EXPECT RESISTENCE,” read one sign. “WHITE SILENCE IS UNACCEPTABLE,” read another. “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” read many.

They marched to take this President to task. “NO TRUMP. NO KKK. NO FASCIST USA.”

Yet the march was about much more than just the events of the previous week. Ours is a moment in which the soul of America appears up for grabs. History may turn on the choices we take at this hour. That America might be saved, those who marched on August 19 demanded that America confess and make restitution for its sins; that our country acknowledge and come to terms with its history; that each and every one of us take a good long look in the mirror, see who we really are; that we summon our better angels and achieve once and for all America as it ought to be.

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived but if FACED WITH COURAGE need not be lived again,” read one sign, quoting Maya Angelou.

For too long, the scourge of white supremacy has remained indelible to the American fabric.

That’s why sign after sign read, “SMASH WHITE SUPREMACY.” Because that is what our country’s salvation requires.

Where we go from here depends on what we choose to make of this moment. Progress demands that we face our history.

That this is no small task is one of the enduring legacies of this country’s history of white supremacy. In an otherwise diverse country, too many of us (and here I am speaking to white people like myself) never have to encounter somebody who is different. This means we never have to test our assumptions, to determine if our ideas and understandings about this country hold up against those of somebody who has experienced life from a different angle. White supremacy means we never have to see ourselves as others see us. White supremacy means we are permitted to flee from the reality of this country if we so choose, to flee from its history.

So long as we are permitted to do that, to flee from our history, lasting progress and racial justice will remain nothing more than a dream.

So it is to that end – making America the country it can be – that I applaud everyone who showed up on August 19, who marched from Roxbury Crossing, who, I hope, will continue to march, will continue to demonstrate, will speak up, will take a stand.

Andrew T. Jarboe

Jamaica Plain resident

Letter in response to “Disappointed in Lynch vote”

My 9 year old patient couldn’t read. He was withdrawn and spoke very little in school. His teachers were worried about him. His mother told me that his father had been stopped at a traffic checkpoint. Since Father had returned after deportation to his Caribbean home, he was arrested, convicted and sent to a prison Georgia. The family could not travel, because Mother was already working as hard as she could to keep homelessness and hunger at bay. The children had not seen their father for 1 ½ years. My patient had been especially close with his father.

Of course Father had returned here after deportation. The impossibility of supporting his family in his country of origin had not improved since he left the first time. His family was here. Now his son was paying the price, in mental health, of criminalization of undocumented people going back to the 1990s.

A brutal 1996 law, abbreviated IIRAIRA (see  https://www.vox.com/2016/4/28/11515132/iirira-clinton-immigration) made it a felony to re-enter the country after deportation. Under President Obama, prosecutions for this action, like deportations, skyrocketed to become the most commonly prosecuted federal offense, comprising an astonishing 52% of all federal prosecutions (http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/crim/446/).

Casting undocumented people as criminals was a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s campaign. While repeated studies  show that immigrants, including the undocumente, commit less crimes than native-born citizens, Trump’s campaign, now administration, link crime and undocumented people at every opportunity.

So-called “Kate’s Law,” a bill recently passed by the House, utilizes the shooting of a young woman in California by an undocumented man who returned after multiple deportations, to cast undocumented people who return as violent menaces. The bill dramatically increases prison sentences for re-entry after deportation. It feeds the narrative of dark hordes overrunning our country, who are to blame for our ills. Aside from its implicit racism, this narrative is a dangerous distraction from seeking true solutions to the issues that are harming US residents. Among these issues are stagnant wages, job losses, addiction, inaffordability of quality education and health care insecurity.

I believed that my Congressman, Rep. Lynch, understood this dynamic. As a union man, I thought he knows about workers being divided against each other by race or immigration status. I heard he supported the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act,” which acknowledges the state-sponsored violence in a country of origin for many undocumented who return after deportation, so I believed he knows why people come back.

Instead, Rep. Lynch voted for “Kate’s Law,” endorsing that undocumented people – and their children  – should be punished even more harshly for the desperate violence and destitution in their countries of origin, from which they flee.

Undocumented people have been dehumanized and criminalized in this country for decades now, even as they pick and prepare our food, care for our babies and elders, clean our homes and keep our restaurants and hotels running. The many undocumented people I know are rightfully proud of being good, loving and family-centered people.

I hope Rep. Lynch reconsiders.

Julia Koehler

Jamaica Plain resident

Developments driving out artists

I am an artist living and working in Jamaica Plain. I am fortunate enough to have one of the few studio spaces available in JP at 128 Brookside Ave in the midst of what was, (formerly), a thriving Arts community in the Brookside/Amory street area of Jamaica Plain. As I’m sure you are aware, this area is currently undergoing a great deal of speculation and development. As a result, my fellow studio-mates, neighbors and myself are growing increasingly concerned as to our future prospects here. To compound my concerns I recently attended several Boston Zoning Board meetings at which 2 projects in our neighborhood, including one at the site of the building next to ours, (120 Brookside Ave), breezed through the approval process. 30 Artists, Musicians and small business’ are being displaced as a result. Despite all the hard work that my neighbors and myself have devoted to maintaining the long term affordability and quality of life in the area, It was clear that the city’s overtures regarding our concerns have been summarily dismissed.

This is a direct result of the inflated market fueled by the City of Boston’s plan to turn the J.P. Washington street corridor into one- big-luxury-condo and, in the process, drain our community of the character that makes it such a unique place to live. Similar to what has transpired in Fort Point and the Fenway, this kind of aggressive development will bring profound and irrevocable change in the diversity of our neighborhood.

In response, we are currently in the process of organizing ourselves and our many allies into an advocacy group for maintaining our presence in the community. In addition to preventing any further displacement, our ultimate goal is to try and create a “safe” zone or place where the Art community is no longer at the mercy of a malevolent market.

I will continue to keep the Gazette well informed as it’s an issue of great concern for us and the JP creative community at large.

Brendan Killian 

  on behalf of the Artists at 128 Brookside

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