Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winter Cycling

As you may have seen outside, if you live in Milwaukee there's a bunch of snow on the ground. This happened prior to it falling out of the sky making for some pretty nasty conditions on the roads... If there is one thing that is more important than anything else about being a bike messenger in a snowstorm its keeping your feet dry and not letting the salt and other crap on the roads literally eat yourself and your bike alive. Its funny, when I deliver many of my packages, the clients sometimes ask, don't they let you drive your car in this weather? The answer is always well uh... I don't have a car so... yeah...

Anyway, after watching in horror as the salt and snow ate my nice Campy parts alway in the sea of white death, I decided that something had to be done, so much to my resistance, but out of pure practically, I now have my first single speed. The Univega after a few hours in the workstand finished up with no derauilers to destroy and a simple easy single speed design which should prove to be (1) Inconvient and (2) Milwaukee winterproof.

Heres the finished product, Univega ready for winter battle.

I also thought that I would stick this on the blog, I remember seeing it at the 2007 Bicycle Film festival, but for all of you who missed it, it's a pretty cool courier video!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving and other Stuff

So I was just realizing that I don't tend to ever write updates on whats really going on in my life on this blog, but instead ideas and thoughts that I have about whatever.

Me Married~

Anyway, I don't know if I mentioned it on my blog but I'm getting married! Elizabeth and I are thinking about having the ceremony on July 4th (the same as my parents) back in Pennsylvania with the reception in my parents backyard. (Just like the old parties that we used to have there when I was growing up) Its going to be pretty neat, we're trying to find a way to have a wedding that will have many of the Quaker wedding traditions that Elizabeth enjoys. Just this weekend Mom and Dad went and visited a Quaker meeting house for the first time in their lives to get a sense of what it would be like and I think they really enjoyed it.

If you don't know what a Quaker wedding entails, it is similar to a traditional ceremony where everyone sits in silence and when they are called to speak they stand up and address the congregation. Eventually, Elizabeth and I will stand up and say our vows, and with that we are married! Pretty sweet eh? Here's a picture of the two of us in our practice engagement photos!
So that's what were thinking with regards to that, as you know these plans have gone through revision after revision, but I think that we're starting to get it really hammered out.

Thanksgiving Trip~

Elizabeth and I took the trip down to Chattanooga, TN to visit my grandparents and cousins this past thanksgiving. It was a really good trip, she had never been through the mountains and taking her up Signal Mountain where my Uncle lives was really fun... The mountains down in Chattanooga are huge. (As you can probably see if you look out at the background of the picture). It was really good to get up there with my grandparents getting older and my cousins getting ready to start college and begin their lives.
While I was there I got to spend some quality time with my all of my family, it was good because the last time I was in Chattanooga was 3 years ago, and the cousins since then had grown like weeds and my grandparents got to meet Elizabeth and officially accept her into the family. I also got to spend some time with my Uncle David, who had came from out west to spend some time with the family. If I haven't mentioned him before he's a really cool guy, he's been living out of his car for the past 30 something odd years taking whatever sort of construction job he can find for a while until he has enough saved so that he can go hang out in the wilderness again. He's lived all over the American west, in nudist colonies, national parkland, you name it! He's a true free-spirit who continually inspires me to go out and live my dreams
On the way down Elizabeth and I also stopped down at Mammoth Cave National Park, which is home to the world's largest cave system. Its really neat,

Uncle David inspecting Cannons on Lookout Mountain

apparently, there are 312 miles of discovered caves with more and more being discovered each day. We took the New Entrance tour which took us down through the dark limestone walls and crazy rock formations, its pretty nuts it almost seems like your in another world!
We also got to do some riding, just like us, we never leave home without our bikes and this trip was no exceptions. Elizabeth got the chance to climb the infamous "W Road" its called that because at the top the road is actually shaped like a W, weaving up the mountain through tight switchbacks at steep mountain grades. Completing it made a Midwestern flatlander happy to say the least!

It was a good trip, but now its time to get back to work in Milwaukee, there are packages to be delivered and bikes that need to be ridden.

Mountain Complete!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Organize?

When did it all really begin? Where did this fire in my heart for fighting for the rights of low wage workers come from? As I drove down the street one early morning on the way to track practice my sophomore year of college, I passed the local temp agency, it was 4:30 in the morning and I didn't know anyone could possibly wake up that early in the morning unless it was mandated upon them. As I drove past that temp agency on 38th St in Indianapolis and saw the line for jobs wrapped around the side of the building, it was if my brain had been slapped with a vision of the reality, as a newborn would seeing light for the first time. Where had I been for all the time before that, how did I develop such a skewed and simple belief that if we just worked hard enough that the world was at our doorstep, that the factors of races, privilege and poverty did not exist? Was the quest bringing good to this crooked world really for me to do? Like Joah, I didn't want the job at first, after all, there were better paying ways of providing for my life than this, but just as Joah could not escape the belly of the whale, I could not escape my destiny in the struggle for the rights of low wage workers.

With great power comes great responsibility said Spiderman's mentor, God blessed me with an upbringing of privilege, growing up in a family that loved me dearly and had the means to help me get through college. With my education came my liberation, liberation from the confined and overly simplistic understandings that had once been my rock. It seems the structures of power and inequality seemed to only rear their ugly head when examined, this examination is always a choice that we have to make. As I drove by, looking into the glazed; half awoken eyes of the single mother in line hoping that a possible job today would yeald the means to turn the lights back on, I knew this would be my destiny. The only meaning my life that would be worth it would be to be the advocate for that line.

As I graduated from college and followed through with this fire, I knew that the root of justice was fundamentally based on economics, when you don't have a job that gives you enough to put food in your children's mouth, when the hell are you ever going to “save” up the money to go to the doctor? If your working two jobs just to make ends meet, when are you ever gonna have the time to be a parent and make sure the kids don't get involved in gangs. When the economy fails and your job is first to go, how are you going to make it? Do illegal options seem the best choice?

Economic justice is the not simply an aspect of the foundation for fighting for justice, it is the foundation.

The work started at Interfaith Worker Justice with the Labor in the Pulpits program organizing clergy to discuss issues of worker justice as they related to their faith on Labor Day Sunday. In 2007, about 100 congregations in the Milwaukee area talked about the importance of fighting for the rights of low wage workers, parishioners were challenged to think about poor folk in new ways, many these parishioners now are in similar situations now as recession and factory closures lead to more unemployed. Maybe at some point we will realize that were all in this together and that we rise and fall as one...

After that summer with IWJ it happened, the rubber hit the road, I kept the job with Faith Community for Worker Justice for a full year and the situation at Capital Returns crept up, Capital Returns (now Genco Pharmaceuticals) was a pharmaceutical recycling plant on the northwest side of Milwaukee which inventoried and disposed of unused and degrading drugs from places like Walgreen's and CVS. When the stories got out about what was going down at the plant something had to be done, the employees of Capital Returns had a plan and that plan was to organize a union. As I began to meet with the employees of Capital Returns with the United Steelworkers an organizing drive was created.

The situation down at the plant was bad, most of the workers were coming from the Welfare to Work (W2) program, a failed attempt to put people to work; however the jobs that were provided were as horrible as the program that had placed them there in the first place. Workers at Capital Returns were handling all sorts of dangerous drugs, pregnant women were grabbing raw old birth control pills out of boxes with no protection to their hands but food service gloves, an issue that may have lead to a number of miscarriages at the plant, as we heard the stories, the injustices seemed to creep up faster than pestering dandy lions in the middle of spring

Changes needed to be made, that was evident and the workers began to organize, after all this was their workplace, and if they couldn't be the ones to take the power back who would? They talked to their friends, brought back union cards, dug through the trash to find documents needed to detail workplace atrocities, distributed union literature and the in the organizing terms “leaders were developed.” Meanwhile, we worked on organizing the community outside of Capital Returns, we brought the situations that workers faced to churches, universities and local unions, and as the larger community became invested in the campaign workers felt that the power was theres, to win or to lose.

As the United Steelworkers received enough cards to file for an election we had a big vote yes rally. The workers called upon their friends and family, and with it college students, clergy and union fok gathered outside of the plant gates only as Milwaukee winters are, with 4 feet of snow on the ground and 15 degree temperatures, we got 100 people standing outside the gates of that wrenched place; the message was clear “Vote Yes!”

The feeling for the workers was monumental, once folks who had been broken down and beat up for their entire lives actually had a say in what was going on, although attempts to organize Capital Returns eventually broke down as a result of union busters running high dollar campaign, people from the plant began to have a sense of their own power to change the forces that seemed to ultimately govern their lives.

The feeling for me was similar, I once thought an organizer had to be the leader, but in the end it was never about me being the leader, it was about workers taking control of the forces which they at one point thought were unattainable. I am confident that at some point, Capital Returns will have the voice of the workers in charge.

As I continued organizing we worked on the Paid Sick Day referendum, where every worker in the City of Milwaukee would have Paid Sick Days through their employer, in an effort concerted with 9to5, the Working Womens Association, the referendum passed this past November by a landslide, this monumental reform has now made Milwaukee the 3rd city in the country to offer this important benefit.

Finally, I ended up working with AFT Healthcare which is where I stand now, organizing nurses to fight for the very same reasons that the workers at Capital Returns did, to have a voice that could shape the course of their lives, to be the voices of change in their workplace. As we stand now we are working on trying to get a neutrality agreement with the hospital so that nurses can freely and fairly organize their union so that they can be advocates for themselves.

Through faith, optimism and a never ceasing belief that a better world is possible will I continue the work of justice in our world because to not do so would be turning my back on the sanctity of everyday life. So to all the students and young idealists out there keep dreaming and keep fighting because its our world to live for and we rise and fall only as one.  

Monday, November 17, 2008

Balance of Sprituality

I hope that you liked that Carl Lewis youtube video posted below, maybe we can use his words of motivation to go on and fight out the next few years of organizing work that we have to do! 

Anyway, I went to Church yesterday and had some really good reflections.  The sermon that Pastor Tim spoke about was the balance of spirituality and the need for each and every one of us to have encompass two different forms to be truly whole. 

The first being to be in deep communion with God, this means spending time in meditation and prayer. This can come through a number of different ways. The first being the tradition of the Quakers.

The Quaker tradition empathizes being quiet and knowing that God is speaking.  So much of the time that we spend in prayer it is simply us speaking, talking to God, but never keeping our mouths shut enough to listen to God's reply.  The Quaker tradition does this through silent communal meditation  where we allow God to speak to us, whatever is relevant and important in our lives at the moment, the Quaker tradition teaches us the importance of listening as well as speaking.

Furthermore, I believe that deep communion with God can also be found within the tradition of Catholicism and although I have never been Catholic the traditions of ritual and transcendence that are so ever popular in the Catholic traditions allow us to transcend the everyday to a place of holy reverence.  The space that many Catholic churches encompass with elaborate decor and imagery take us out of the everyday as we enter the place of God, there is nowhere in my opinion that allows us to feel in a haven of God more than in a Catholic Church. With this combination of steadfast tradition and time spent in deep prayer as well as the physical space that we enter in a Catholic church, I find that I am able to attend to a sense of yearning for God that doesn't come out of my own tradition.

There however, I think is a balance of spirituality amongst the personal and the social and when it comes to the social context of my faith, I feel that it can be best attained in my own tradition: United Methodist. 

When I enter Memorial United Methodist on any given Sunday I feel the great attention to community that is played out in the space, a deep commitment to others who have attended there for so long and a sense that the Kingdom of God cannot be found within ones self mutually.  The strong commitment to social justice and the poor, our work within our neighborhoods and communities is so ever important in the United Methodist Church.  At Memorial we take time out in the service to spend children's time with the kids so they too feel apart of the community.  When Pastor Tim says its time to peace, we may never know when he'll be able to wrangle everyone back together to get back to the service. 

In order to fulfill the complete commitment to Christ as Christians, we must be able to attend to all aspects of our faith, to the spiritual and to the social.  All of the traditions that I mentioned are all doing degrees of both.

While the Quakers spend time in silent mediation with God on Sundays, they are also highly active in the anti-war movement and anti poverty measures, the commitment that the Friends have to social justice is fantastic.

The Catholics while also having a very deep understanding and commitment to ritual and tradition, they to are active in their communities through the running of one of the largest social outreach programs in the city through the facilitation of food pantries, prison and drug ministries. They also have created one of the largest documents of any faith on social commentary called Catholic Social Teaching. This teaching was largely responsible for the liberation theology that spawned up in Central and South America when the poor realized that God had preferential treatment for the poor which gave them the power to build the uprising against hyper capitalist regimes in the Reagan era.  

The United Methodist Church while also attending to the community of Christ, will also hold breakout sessions on how to walk the Labyrinth, how to understand God more fully and personally, and spends significant time trying to develop the spiritual side of its members. 

For if we are to be Christians that can hold onto our foundations, we must have a solid grounding in both the sacred and secular aspects of our life and live them out in a Christ-like way.  All of our traditions attempt to figure out that negotiation in very positive ways, we just need to be accessible to them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just thought I'd post this as well

An Open Letter to the Left; It ain't over yet!

As we watched the election results pour in on that fateful November evening, each and everyone of us must have been thinking something different, all with intense feelings a paradigm shift for our country and our world.  Could this be the end of a disastrous era of an American hegemony that has strangled the world of its children, ideas and resources?  Can we have really after 8 years of struggle really be as King said "free at last!"? 

So much emotion, so much happiness but what does it mean? Could the world that we have been fighting for be at our footsteps with the election of a President that stands for change, one that organized workers on the decaying post-industrial streets of South Chicago?

What Obama and the left needs now is to not be complacent. We know now that our work has only began and we certainly can't count on allowing our elected officials to be the change that President Obama campaigned on.  It is even more important now, as our neighborhoods suffer from economic crisis and fear that we organize.  More than any time now, America is ready for things to be different than the way that they have been, and though this we have the unique opportunity to unite as one people and address the problems that are facing all of us throughout our global communion.

We have an amazing opportunity right now to be the change in which we wish to see in the world, but being the change is a challenge of unprecedented proportions.  A new president will help, but we must not let us become complacent and lazy in our work towards social change.

So lets go out and organize!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What in the world are we doing here?

As I open a new page in my life and transition from one job to the next there's quite a bit of a paradigm shift from what I've done to what I am doing now.

In short I took a job as a bicycle messenger and quit my job as an organizer (although I stiil put in a few hours when I can to assist in the religious organizing aspect of the campaign that I was working on with nurses wanting to organize at one of the area hospitals.

It was a difficult decision for me to make in the end.. I've always thought that there are two very important aspects to any job; most important at least in my opinion is to make sure that my occupation is doing something to progress and alleviate the pain and suffering of others around me... After all, if your not doing anything that is helping others what the impotence for doing it in the first place?

I think this belief stems from my belief in the fact that the times in which I feel the most spiritually connected and ultimately happy are the moments when am in direct union and solidaridity with the people that need it most. Having a job that fulfills that solidarity is crucial to the creation of a better society and world, but also it puts your mind and body to work for good!  

However, my decision to become a bicycle messenger has largely challenged these assumptions that I once had. Why afterall did I have this intense longing to preform this job instead of the one as a labor organizer after all? Now I deliver packages from law firm to  law firm which contents may be for the most part questionable in moral standards at best.

Through it though I have found myself instensly happy and fulfilled, afterall I get paid to rode my bike and I don't even have to race if I don't want too!

So in the end what to make of this decision? A feeling of an unfulfilled dream, a job that wasn't nearly as stressful, a yearning to get out of the office? Or maybe a feeling that happiness and the capability to help others in ways that didn't seem so direct, that there are people at your job who you can be in solidarity with, that there when you are happy with what your doing, you can show your happiness and spread it to others by doing great things outside your job... that maybe in order to be able to help others the greatest involves you being the happiest that you can be, that when others are hurting and suffering it requires you to be on top of yourself to be able to effectively help! 

Since I took this job last week I have found that I am much happier and in the end I can actually do more to help others... I guess in the end the moral is to do what you love no matter what and the byproduct will allow us to be the sunshine in all the lives of others that we touch!  :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A letter to Sarah Palin on Community Organizing

Last night, like many other Americans, I was really interested to see what Gov. Palin would say in her acceptance speech, and although I have never had any plans on voting for the Republican ticket, Palin did seem like a good one in my mind and to a certain extent I liked Palin, her husband was a United Steelworker and seemed to understand the importance of building working class power.

Then she had to say it, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities." The attack that she made was obviously centered at Obama who spent his time in between undergrad and law school organizing displaced Steelworkers. Then I was pissed, and I was offended as hell as someone who works to improve our community.

Palin might have just as well have given every community organization, non-profit and grassroots organization the bird. We as community organizers have been the people on the ground in the face of the flood of economic destruction caused by big politicians and people like herself that have no regard for the people at the bottom; who care so much for America and its people that they are willing to take jobs that don't pay the big bucks, but instead empower the people who are most marginalized. When public funding is cut for programs that help alleviate poverty that many Republicans are notorious for, they simply think that the problems disappear, I can assure you that they don't and its the community organizers that then step in to help empower folks in poverty and help them build a voice.

Let me give you a little history lesson Ms. Palin, it was the community organizers that were the ones that overcame and eventually got rid of segregation laws in the civil rights movement, it was the community organizers that fought for workers to get the 8 hour workday, it was the community organizers who founded the inner city food pantries, homeless shelters, it is the community organizers in Milwaukee and Ohio that collected the signatures necessary to get a Paid Sick Day referendum on the ballot that would guarantee a standard for workers getting Paid Sick Days with their jobs to take care of their kids, and yes, it was even the organizers that built Mr. Palin's union that you seem so proud of.

Since you probably don't know what a community organizer is let me explain it to you very clearly. The main objective of a community organizer or any organizer is to build power amongst people who have none, to inspire new leaders in the community to stand up for the issues that they believe in, to get people to believe that they are worth more and have more power to fix the issues facing their local community than they believe they do, community organizers job is to empower their communities to get involved, to join "PTA" and change the way that things are going.

Ms. Palin, democracy is a government of the people by the people for the people, political leaders like yourself are the people that we elect to do what we want done. But community organizers are us, whether by profession or not, we attempt to make a difference in their communities.

Ms. Palin, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about and obviously don't have the experience to lead this country. And the more you try to separate yourself from everyday people involved in our community, the more your going to get your ass kicked in this election. We are taking back this country, and as we do it you might begin to understand the power of community organizing and the importance and responsibility that it holds in making positive social change.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A long time coming

Oh Boy! How long it has been since I have written my last blog post! Over a whole season of the year! My apologies to all who have read my blog in the past.

So much has happened since my last blog post. The Capuchin Volunteer Corp, the program that I was apart of that allowed me to work at Faith Community for Worker Justice finished up in mid July and left me in a place where I really had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. Dreams of heading out to the mythical and idealistic American West were thwarted by an all consuming and overriding college debt that keeps me one step away from pure freedom.

I must say that I have never been a financial guy; you know one that kept meticulous count over how much money you have in the bank and whatnot, but what I have found is that debt might as well be a form of slavery, because it has the ability to build a wall between you and the dreams that you have for yourself. So my determination on the matter is that if debt is the wall between true freedom and involuntary servitude, it must be broken down.

So I have to say I have come to accept a new financial practice. Simply no debt! May be harder than it sounds but I'm going to give it a whirl.

So I got a job working with the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, a union organizing position working on area hospitals to get them union representation. This does a number of things, it allows me to work for positive social change in our health care system while simultaneously making enough to hack down on some of this debt.

What else has been going on? Elizabeth moved to Detroit a few weeks ago where she got a job working with an organization that provides IT and other computer related stuff to area non-profits and C(4)'s on stuff related to the elections. From what I can gather, she really likes the job, Detroit however, is providing an interesting experience for her. Living in the City of Detroit has got to be a hell of a trial by fire. It is certainly a testament to the troubles of globalization and disappearance of unions in a formerly economically viable urban center.

The house that she's living in is a mansion! Originally it was set up to be a single family house, but her and her roommate Molly (a former Cap Corp volunteer) have the top floor and I must say that the house is absolutely astounding! The intricacies of the woodwork and molding in the structural frame of the house is certain evidence of high class housing before the jobs left the city.

Its definitely difficult not having her here in Milwaukee like she was. Adjusting to a long distance relationship has certainly been difficult for both of us. But I think were going to cope in the end and pull it though. Were certainly a great match for one another and I guess they say that love conquers all. (I assume that includes distance as well).

I moved back into the neighborhood that I was originally living in when I originally moved to Milwaukee. Its an area called Riverwest, which sort of serves as the fringe arts and culturally beautiful neighborhood of Milwaukee's north side. I moved in with a friend of mine from mNSC (the group that puts on the free vans and markets) and a friend who I did some organizing with at UWM with SDS and the Student Labor group they have going on there.

Anyway, that's really whats going on in my life right now. I will keep you posted on the way that organizing goes with the nurses at our next project in Milwaukee.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Workers Memorial Day

Location: Zeidler Union Square Park

Some will be wearing memorial ribbons. Some will hold candles. Some will read the names of those who died on the job last year in Wisconsin, plus the names of our fallen Wisconsin military.Many will note the surge of US based deaths both in rural mines and urban construction and remember the Mother Jones motto: "Mourn for the Dead, But Fight Like Hell for the Living."

At 4:30 p.m., participants are encouraged to march to the event in solidarity, a brief distance from the state office building at 819 N. 6th St. to Zeidler Union Square Park, the workers'' park, between 3rd and 4th Sts. on Michigan St.At 5 p.m. citizens will join the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, WisCOSH (the nonprofit worker health and safety group), and the Progressive Students of Milwaukee for the annual Workers Day Memorial ceremony on Monday, April 28.

A home-made dinner will take place afterward at the nearby American Postal Workers Union Hall, 417 N. 3rd St. Cost is $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door. Breaks are availabe for seniors, students and low-wage workers.

For more information and dinner tickets, contact WisCOSH''s Jim Schultz at 933-2338

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Responing to Uncertainity

So I have been having many conversations with different folks in my generation that are really unsure with what the future holds for them, I being one of them realize that many of us who are just graduating college, getting out of volunteer corp programs and whatnot face the daunting task of trying to figure out where we stand amongst the world of opportunities that are available to young people.

It seems that were supposed to have everything figured out when we graduate from college or soon there after, have a plan to attend a masters degree program or whatnot. Maybe get a job doing something that we hate, where do we fit in? With tons of money in college debt many of us our constrained to finding something that will allow us to alleviate that or defer it.

I am writing this to assure all of us who feel crippled by the multitude of choice that is available at this time in our lives. My mom, in a letter wrote that she want you to make sound decisions so that my life would be easier than hers, that she and my dad made mistakes and could have made their lives easier. But is that the real goal, is a life that is easy neccessairly the way in which we want to go? In life it seems like there must be some sort of struggle in order to survive. Last Sunday, my pastor told the story of a botanist who was studying the emperor butterfly attempt to escape from its cocoon to transform. Realizing the butterfly's struggle, the botanist assisted the butterfly by taking a scalpel and cutting open the cocoon. The butterfly opened its wings for the first time and immediately feel dead, apparently through the struggle of opening the cocoon produces the juices needed for a butterfly to survive.

I think a lot of things in life are like that, we learn through the struggle and without the struggle we never learn. Is there a right or a wrong path, who knows? Will the decisions that we make now ultimately affect the rest of our lives... yeah maybe... to some extent... but a path toward meaning does not come through an established path. If anything, it comes through a creative one.

So we must ask ourselves, which is the path that we are looking for? The easy one or the other one? Maybe a mix of both, maybe a little of each one... but in the end know that we will be okay and survive this time of liminality, that we will find meaning and it will be great!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good music you should know about

A couple of nights ago, Elizabeth and I went to go and see one of the most amazing shows that I have ever seen. Many of you who are probably really into music probably have already taken the Pabst Theatre for granted, but its got a beautiful light and Ora about the whole place. It seems that when the music starts, and the effects get going with the music that you could be at the gates of heaven in a celestial bliss.

Although, I have never written or read too much about music and would definitely not consider myself to be a proficient, you should still check these folks out.

We went to go see Jose Gonzalez and Mia Doi Todd on Tuesday. Together, they made one of the best shows ever. If your into very earthy folksy guitar picking music with beautiful ambient vocals this just might be your thing. Jose Gonzalez has always been one of my top picks and despite his name, he is actually from Sweden. With a classical guitar and very well thought out vocals it was definitely an amazing show.

The best kept ssecret of the whole thing however was a not as well known lady by the name of Mia Doi Todd who has been producing albums for about 10 years now. She began the show with this really amazing song called River of Life- the song, which was played with a foot organ, guitar and bongo drum sent my senses through bliss. I don't know if you ever had the feeling of so much emotion emulating from something that your body reacts and your cheeks begin to tingle, but that's what happened. Her new album Gea is amazing and if you get the chance to check her out make sure that you do. Her website is

If you really like these artists with a very organic, folksy feel, you may also want to check out these guys to:

Sun Kil Moon: soft and poetic, post industrial sounding-

Alexi Murdoch- my all time favorite

Laura Viers- beautiful- very down to earth

The Wailing Jenny's- women's folk band out of Winnipeg, Manitoba

Happy Music Listening!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Milwaukee's Movement for Social Change

I just thought that I would take some time to reflect on the movement towards social justice in the city of Milwaukee. One thing that is nice about the movement here in this city is because of its size, it is very easy to figure out the movers and shakers relatively quickly.

There are so many things going on that we have to be excited about in this city. Being the optimist that I am the movement has gotten tons of neat stuff going on, from voter registration drives, solid coordination amongst labor unions, rock shows featuring big artists centered around uniting the city for good jobs and opposition to immigrant raids, active student organizations at Marquette that say no to sweatshop labor, challenges to law that don't allow felons to vote, a Paid Sick Leave referendum that will give all workers in Milwaukee Paid sick time, an active sanctuary movement, a momentous presence against the war, a real attempt to bridge divides in racial disparity through free markets by students at UWM, to a hundred different union organizing campaigns, clergy mobilization by MICAH, Interfaith Conference and FCWJ. Things are happening right now and its good to be apart of it all.

Some good organizations that are apart of this that you should know about include some of the following.

9to5-Working Women's Association
Voces de la frontera-Immigrant Worker Rights Center
Students for a Democratic Society- Student anti-war group (UWM)
Progressive Students of Milwaukee-Student anti-war group (UWM)
The United Left- Leftists uniting!
Food Not Bombs- Radical food for the poor group
Milwaukee Free School- offering free classes for community
Arab Anti-discrimination committee- anti discriminatory group
LGBT Center- focused on issues facing the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and transgender community
Peace Action- City Wide Anti War Group
ACLU- Legal Action
AFT Local 212- Anti War Union
Veterans for Peace- War Veterans United for Peace
WISCOSH- Protecting and enhancing workplace safety standards
Justice 2000-Drivers License justice
Good Jobs Livable Communities- direct action focused around good jobs
New Hope- Program to help to ex-felons
Milwaukee Junior Cycling- Bicycle racing for underprivileged kids
Faith Community for Worker Justice- Workers issues from faith context
Lutheran Human Relations Association- focused around human right issues
Human Rights Coalition-pushing for human rights committee in city
American Jewish Committee-Looking at social justice from a Jewish perspective
Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council- Fair housing in the city
US Labor Against the War- Organized labor opposing the war
Milwaukee Area Labor Council- Central Labor Council for Milwaukee
Milwaukee Network for Social Change- Free Vans and Free Market promoting free culture
Peace and Justice Studies at Marquette- educational aspect around peace issues
Marquette Campus Ministry-promoting justice issues from religious stance
Catholics for Peace and Justice- Catholics working for a better world
MICAH- Milwaukee Inner City Congregations involved in making a difference
Interfaith Conference-Uniting people of faith around social justice
S.U.F.U.R-Students for Immigrant Rights
Milwaukee Fair Trade Council: united around Fair Trade issues in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Bicycle Co-op- bicycles for everybody
Milwaukee Housing Trust Fund: Affordable housing for people in poverty
ACORN- Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
Running Rebels- Inner City High School Students united around change
Urban Underground-United around justice in the streets
Citizen Action, WI- focusing on racial disparities in the city
Campaign Against Violence- working to make the streets of Milwaukee a better place to live
WISPIRG- Wisconsin's Public Interest Research Group
People's Book Co-op- radical educational bookstore
Cream City Collective- radical book store in riverwest
4th Street Forum- educational seminar informing people of Milwaukee about community issues
Urban Ecology Center- raising environmental awareness in the city
Broad Vocabulary-radical feminist bookstore in Bay View
Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin- supporting bicycle advocacy in the state

I apologize if I missed your group, there is so much good stuff going on it is sometimes hard to get it all down at once.

With all of this momentum and amount of organizations here in the city that are working toward positive social change, we all really have the opportunity and the obligation to get involved in our local communities.

Sometimes it seems arduous, I mean with all of these different groups here in the city working for change, it may seem like all of the bases are covered and their is nothing left to do. However, when we look at the state of our community when it comes to poverty, discrimination, environmental issues, and education, what we really see is that we are not winning as the people.

No matter what your political backing is, your beliefs are about the state of Milwaukee, there is something that we offer here that creates a better and brighter future here in the city that is working toward building a better Milwaukee.

Have some pride in your city and get involved! If any of these groups sound like they interest you, feel free to contact me and I'll put you in touch with the right people to get involved.

Together, even though we are fractured around our issues we make up the movement, the movement for change, the movement for optimism, and the movement for a better world! When we all do our part to get involved, we are doing our part "to be the change that we wish to see in the world"

Friday, February 1, 2008

Update on Capital Returns

If you have been following my blog at all, you may have heard about the Capital Returns Campaign that I have discussed relatively intensively.

I just wanted to give you an idea of what is going on. Monday, Jan 28th the United Steelworkers went to Capital Returns with enough signatures to file for voluntary recognition of a union and after the company refused to grant recognition, the Steelworkers went to the National Labor Relations Board to file for elections.

With that said, the workers of Capital Returns will have the chance to ultimately decide if they wish to have a union will be held in the beginning of March. Before that however, the company is going to do everything in their power to make sure that the workers are intimidated and scared enough to vote against the union.

That's where you come in! On Feb 20th, 2008 at 3:00pm at Capital Returns (6101 N 64th St) we will be having a mass rally to show that we all support the struggle of the workers at Capital Returns.

The company will be doing their part to intimidate the workers, do your part to show the workers how much this community supports these workers!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Presidential Nominations

Okay, okay so I admit. The political primary elections have swept me up like a Oklahoma tornado. My once beloved act of watching football, and especially the first week of the playoffs was all of the sudden swished away by the roaring of debates in Iowa and New Hampshire. Instead of watching the Seahawks beat the Redskins last week, I turned my new full attention over to my new favorite 'football' team, Barrack Obama who had an close second place finish in the tight last game in New Hampshire.

So why do I like Obama you may ask? It's pretty easy, Obama is the only real presidential candidate with any sense of winning that has some spunk behind him. His huge following of young people and idealism towards real change makes a young idealist like myself smile a mile wide. Could we really have a potential president that actually started his career doing just what I do? A grassroots organizer? How exciting! A president who knows what its like to be working on the streets trying to empower poor people to stand up for themselves and realize the immense amount of power that they have when they're organized?!

I don't want to do too much political bashing here, but Mrs. Clinton just doesn't have that appeal, her insider Washington persona just doesn't sit well with the people that really want a new kind of government that really listens to the people and not the lobbyist. The establishment, in this election just won't do. Over the past 7 years we have had to put up with politicians that have sold their ideas to the highest bidder and I applaud a personality in politics that says lobbyist determining the agenda are a thing of the past.

With regard to John Edwards, I really really really like him. He's a very youthful guy that really plays up on the importance of the America's working people. He has come out strongly against the possible new CAFTA agreements that would do no good for the Central American workers or American workers. I love that he has that hometown personality and is so in support of labor rights. He too has denounced the power of the lobbyists and stated how important it is for working families to have the largest voice in American politics, the only problem is that with such a low percentage of the vote in the early primaries, his chances of winning seem slim to none. I do however think that he would make an excellent vice president to Barrack Obama should he win the nomination.

Now by reading my blogs and my work as a community organizer, you probably realized by now that I lean pretty hard to the left. And like I said, I don't want to do too much bashing, but here's a little of what I think about the candidates on the right.

John McCain if I had to pick out of the Republicans is probably my top choice, mostly because so many of the others just give me the creeps! I like some of John McCain's ideas, especially on human rights. As a solider in Vietnam and a POW, he really knows first hand what it means to be tortured and how inhumane torture is. I remember a few years ago he proposed a bill in the Senate that would try to protect the civil liberties of incarcerated 'enemy combatants' against interrogations that involved torture. He also, among the republicans seems to have the most logical and sane ideas about immigration, even though he discusses cracking down on undocumented migrants, he took quite a bit of fire for not being tougher on those issues and refused to relent. However, his lack of a plan for universal health care and pro market beliefs make me feel as if he's a no go.

Mitt Romney is a totally different story. I find the guy to be downright scary and quite frankly, just not a very nice guy. His political attack ads that he has pushed on everybody who dares face him has in my mind portrayed him as a mean spirited guy that's willing to beat up anyone that comes in his way. If he were to become president, I would certainly be scared, given the United State's already shaky international relations with Iran especially make me think that if he picked the same fight that he is doing with other republicans we just might have nuclear warfare in Iran. Also his very right wing beliefs about the free market and what comes across as racist remarks regarding undocumented immigrants make him probably what I would consider my very last option.

Mike Huckabee is a guy that really perplexes me, okay... well maybe not. As a former Baptist Minister he makes me think that he might be okay, okay maybe not. The moment that I hear that he is also a Republican make me add 1 and 1 together to equal another Bush. The Christan Right loves this guy, but the Christian right is not Christianity. His hard nose attacks on the immigration issue make me wonder if he actually ever did read the Bible that he supposeably espouses when we read that "the foxes have holes and the birds have a nest, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head." As a Christan, Mike Huckabee makes me scared that with one more right wing Christian in office that campaigns on his theological superiority may be the death of potential people that might turn to Christianity, but have more compassionate and left leaning principals like love your neighbor as yourself.

Anyway, as the political playoffs continue with football playoffs, good luck Obama and Edwards, your the two top candidates in these books!