Dee Servance was canvassing door-to-door on a bitter cold winter night to raise support for a paid sick leave bill in Philadelphia. As it is now, low paid workers who get sick have to miss out on needed pay or come in to work sick, neither of which is good for anyone. The bill is before Philadelphia City Council and now that members are up for re-election, Servance’s organization, Working Families, which has worked on getting the minimum wage raised and on Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s successful campaign, is urging citizens to call city council members who have not yet come on board, to support the bill. The bill would require employers with 10 or more employees to allow employees to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Watch video here.
Michael Galganski is the founder of the Free Dominion Political Party. At the Philadelphia 12th Democratic Party Ward meeting on October 2, 2014, he announced he is running for the Philadelphia 8th district city council seat in 2015. Galganski describes his party’s philosophy as “dignitarian” and his platform calls for abolishing taxes and returning the economy to a gold standard. About other members of the party, he says there is a woman he met online from Strawberry Mansion who is now the party’s secretary and a likely candidate for office herself. Galganski’s Facebook page:
Andrew, a Scotsman who has been out of the country for the past few years, says he probably would have voted in favor of independence from Great Britain in the recent referendum were he home to vote. In hindsight, with the vote split 55 to 45% against independence, he thinks that it’s best that Scotland is not independent just yet because if the vote were reversed with 55% in favor of independence, he does not believe that would be enough of a consensus. Watch video interview here.
Family members chanted outside the Presidential Palace in Quito, Ecuador calling on the government and President Rafael Correa to take action in locating loved ones who have been disappeared. (Kidnappers have been reported to force their victims into the sex trade or hold them for ransom) Watch video here.
Victoria Carrillo solicits memberships and petition signatures door-to-door in Chestnut Hill for the Clean Air Council of Philadelphia. The long established organization advocates for recyclling, bike trails, fracking restrictions and such to combat air pollution and its serious effects like widespread childhood asthma. Watch video interview here.
While tying up bags of compost at the Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough, Raisa Williams, a retired dean at Haverford College, recounted how she was one of fourteen thousand Cuban children brought to the United States in 1960 as part of “Operation Pedro Pan.” Although her mother had been a staunch supporter of the Cuban revolution, things began to change. Amid rumors that she might not be able to stay in school unless she complied with a government requirement to be sent somewhere summer- long to perform community service, Williams’ parents opted for the 14 year old Raisa and her 11 year old sister, to come to the States through the Peter Pan program of Catholic Charities in conjunction with the U. S. State Department. Once here, the girls would be able to apply for visas for their parents.
What she thought would be a couple months separated from her parents, stretched out to two years. For a young girl, this was an adventure and she was relatively content at a camp in Florida where she studied English and other subjects. But when it became overcrowded, she was transferred to an orphanage in Pottsville, PA. “The orphanage was – an orphanage.”
And Cuba? “I love the place. The people have suffered enough. It’s no fun to be in a dictatorship for the last 50 years. You can’t talk. You can’t say anything. But when I was there in 2011, people were beginning to be very vocal about things.”
“Lo que me estrano de Cuba es sol, la calidad de la persona, el modo que son simpatico…la musica….” She hopes to live there again one day.
It appeared that Rabbi Yitzchok Gurevitz’s faith in the accuracy of the weather forecast was rewarded last evening. Skies cleared just before the public lighting of a large Hanukah menorah at 6:30 pm on a grassy area beside Chestnut Hill Plaza at the bottom Germantown Avenue above Cresheim Drive.
Twenty some people such as Norm and Leah Schwartz of Mount Airy who brought their granddaughter, braved the near freezing temperatures and driving winds which had blown out the afternoon’s rain and sleet, to celebrate the first night of Hanukah. As Gurevitz, leader of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northwest Philadelphia, lit an oil wick candle, they sang prayers to mark the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the successful revolt of the Jews against the Syrian king Antiochus in 165 BCE in Judea and the rededication of the Temple that had been desecrated at his orders.
Hanukah is a special holiday, Gurevitz explained, because Jews are called upon to observe it not just in the home but outside with the community at large. (In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court got involved in the national Chabad movement practice of lighting menorahs in public places made controversial by the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, when it allowed a public display in Fountain Square, Cincinnati)
Referring to the case, Gurevitz emphasized the menorah as a symbol of freedom for all people and interprets the freedom message at a personal level- “the freedom to be the best that we can be, the freedom to be the most we can be.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a celebrant placed a large boom box atop his car parked in the adjoining driveway and broadcast festive Chanukah music as those gathered huddled against the cold, schmoozed, and enjoyed latkes (traditional potato pancakes) with hot cider.
For the next week, one additional electric candle will be lit every day in reenactment of the Chanukah story that oil found in the reclaimed Temple, sufficient for only one day, miraculously lasted eight days. Electric current is coming courtesy of Yu Hsiang Garden restaurant next door.
The Mexican-American and Spanish speaking communities rallied in Norristown Monday evening for immigration reform. They demanded that Congress pass the immigration legislation that is now stalled and overshadowed by the Syrian crisis. They also gathered signatures on a petition calling on the Norristown police force not to assist in raids by federal immigration authorities.
Amidst chants of "Si, se puede" ("Yes we can") speakers discussed how 400 local families have been torn apart by deportation. And parents, joined by their young children testified about how their arrests and the threat of deportation were causing their families severe emotional and economic stress. A Norristown public high school student described her constant fear that her parents might step out to the grocery store and she might never see them again were they to be arrested and deported.
Under the proposed “Dream Act,” undocumented youth who complete college or do two years of military service could earn their way to citizenship over the course of six years.
Calling for human rights and dignity for all, rally participants lit candles as dusk fell, then circled and sang out loudly in Spanish and English, the civil rights anthem, "We shall overcome."
Christina Lee of BonLynn Cleaners was listening to a Korean language radio station when I asked her about the current tense situation in the Koreas. Lee came to the U.S. in 1986 from South Korea and does not know anyone living in North Korea nor of anyone who travels there. From what she has seen on Korean news, she believes the current North Korean leader, 29 year-old Kim Jung-un, is too young, which she thinks could be very dangerous. But Lee’s friends and family in South Korea don’t take North Korea’s [militaristic] threats seriously. She thinks reunification is inevitable but that it will bring tension and be accompanied by economic hardship, similar to when East and West Germany were re-united. To make the transition a lot smoother, she believes, the two Koreas must come up with a clear plan and follow it step by step.
Watch video interview here. (Sorry for shakiness of camera)
When Joanne Thompson arrived at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, she was taken by the display of hundreds of t-shirts mounted on wooden crosses, flapping in the wind. From someone coming out the church door she learned that each shirt bore the name and age of each of the 312 people killed by a gun in Philadelphia in 2012. She pointed out a sign at the sidewalk calling for Mayor Nutter to take action. Although Thompson, personally, has not been affected by gun violence, “it’s horrible”, she says and affects the whole community: everyone has to fear for his or her own safety or that of a child. The display is being mounted by an organization called, “Heeding God’s Call.” www.heedinggodscall.org/