Shirley Washington, Florrie Flood and Jocelyn Powell, volunteers for AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, were outside Bredenbeck's Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia to rally support against changes to Medicare. Backed by a large sign featuring the diverse faces of its constituency (50 plus demographic), one volunteer explained their presence as a way to acquaint the community with AARP while another spoke earnestly about how prescription drug costs, higher premiums and higher deductibles negatively affect Social Security pensioners. "Health care is just outrageous." They invited your correspondent inside to sign a petition to my Congressmen and enjoy a free ice cream cone! I obliged. Watch video interview here.
Under the watchful eyes of a score of officers from the Philadelphia Police foot and marine patrols, the PA Fish and Game Commission and the US Coast Guard, serious but festive protesters stage a family picnic and paddle on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to mark the third anniversary of the Lac Megantic Ontario oil train derailment that killed 47 people. Coryn Wolk of the Clean Air Council points to data showing the outdated tank cars are subject to puncture even at the low speeds they move through Philadelphia, putting 700,000 residents in the potential blast/evacuation zone at risk. Clean energy groups participating in the action are urging people to contact their elected officials to stop such oil trains from passing through Philadelphia and shift toward of wind, geothermal and solar energy. Watch video here.
Your correspondent was staying with an old Quaker friend in Maine and her 11 year old grandson came over one evening for an overnight visit.
At the Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival, a Humane Society advocate asked people to try going “meatless” on Mondays as a step toward ending the keeping and killing of animals for their meat. Short 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.
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."
Lolita is an orca “killer” whale who has been performing at the Miami Seaquarium (http://miamiseaquarium.com/Shows/Killer-Whale-and-Dolphin) since 1970 and Gigi Glendinning is the founder of 22reasons.org (http://22reasons.org), an organization that teaches “compassion and reverence for all animals” who believes Lolita deserves a rehabilitative retirement where she has round-the-clock veterinary care and the opportunity to return to the sea.
Glendinning was out advocating at a booth at the Chestnut Hill Garden Festival on Sunday with a niece costumed as a killer whale. Kids were invited to paint a life size illustration of a killer whale on a huge tarp on the ground. 22Reasons and several similarly missioned organizations are mounting a petition drive and urging parents to NOT buy tickets to shows like Lolita’s where animals are forced to perform. It sends a contradictory message to children, Glendinning maintains, to attempt to instill respect for these animals while simultaneously mistreating them.
According to Glendinning, Lolita was illegally captured and is being illegally contained in a concrete pool so small her tail touches the bottom and where, as a member of an exceptionally intelligent and social species, she is deprived of necessary social contact and subject to many confinement-related afflictions.
She presented your correspondent with a copy of the book, “Death at Sea World: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity” by David Kirby (St Martins Press 2012) about killer whales in the marine park industry, their advocates and the brutal and sometimes lethal attacks on trainers over the years, attributed to captivity-related aggressiveness of the orcas. Watch video interview here.
The Sheet Metal Workers Union has been protesting Chestnut Hill College’s use of non-union, Delaware-based contractor DJ Wagner. Eddie Guinan, a sheet metal worker who is manning the picket this day, says Chestnut Hill Hospital, down the street used union workers [for its recent renovations] and that Chestnut Hill College should do the same. The police were called one time and he thinks it was the college’s way of letting the union know that they don’t like the picket.
Guinan believes that a college that is charging students $41,000 a year naturally wants the best educated teachers and should also want the best educated- that is, union- workers. Union standards and wages, he says, protect his ability to pay his bills and take care of his family. He contrasts that with non-union workers who may only get only 32 hours, not 40 hours of work a week and without benefits. Guinan works in heating, ventilation and a variety of specialty projects but work has been difficult to find in recent years. He credits the Republicans with doing their best job in the last four years of crushing the unions.
NOTE: A comment has been received that the non-union work is being done for the Sisters of Saint Joseph (who run Chestnut Hill College) at their convent.
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/
Sherry Canary, of the musical group “Hot Club Canaries” takes DJango Reinhardt songs and puts lyrics to them. And she writes her own songs in the gypsy jazz idiom. She does a lot of collaborating as a member of an Internet group FAWM February Album Writing month., http://fawm.org Members compose 14 songs in 28 days and listen and comment on each other’s work. Participants include all kinds of composers from housewives to professionals. Canary also participates in “skirmishes” - writers have only one hour to write the music, the lyrics, produce it and get it online. Watch video interview and singing here. In another video, Canary sings her composition satirizing the world's dictators, "Coffee with Gadaffi." The Hot Club Canaries perform at the Mermaid Inn on Thursday May 10, 2012