Wealthy Noho Activist Gives It Away
The popular radio show Marketplace recently delved into an aspect of economics that rarely gets considered—giving away one’s inheritance—when Northampton native Jessie Spector was invited on to discuss doing just that.
Spector is executive director of Resource Generation, helping wealthy young people use their resources for social change. Noted the show’s host, Barbara Bogaev, “She’s inherited a little more than $500,000 from her grandparents; so far she’s given away about a third of it, and plans to give away the rest in the next three years.”
An economic justice activist who has spoken about her financial privilege before (see “Raise My Taxes: A wealthy Northampton activist brings her powerful message to the Occupy Wall Street protests,” Valley Advocate, Oct. 13, 2011), Spector (daughter of Northampton City Councilor Paul Spector) plans to give away about $400,000. “I’m giving the money to dozens of mostly small, grassroots-based organizations around the United States,” she explains, that “organize around LGBTQ issues, economic justice issues, racial justice issues.”
The full interview can be found at www.marketplace.org/topics/your-money/giving-away-your-inheritance.•
Documentary Looks at Valley’s Hidden Workforce
For obvious reasons, it’s hard to say exactly how many undocumented immigrants live in Massachusetts, although the non-partisan Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates the number at about 190,000.
In the Valley, those immigrants play an important, if largely invisible, role in the local economy, particularly as farm workers. This week, a new documentary film, The Testimonio Project, that shines a light on the lives of some of those people will premiere in Northampton.
The Testimonio Project is a collaboration of Just Communities/Comunidades Justas, a Springfield-based immigrants-rights organization, and the American Friends Service Committee of Western Mass. Working with Northampton Community Television, AFSC interns interviewed half a dozen undocumented workers in Springfield who are active in Just Communities. Intern Lorena Nañez, a Smith student, completed the project, whittling down about 10 hours of footage into an hour-long film.
In it, the interview subjects talk about their expectations when they came to the U.S., their family lives, their experiences with racism and workplace abuses. Some use their real names; others use pseudonyms. Some show their faces, while others are filmed in shadow.
“It took a lot of courage for them to come forward and tell their stories,” said Maria Cuerda of Just Communities. “Their stories are very dramatic and demonstrate what a struggle it is to be an undocumented immigrant in this country.” But the people interviewed also are working to improve conditions, from contacting legislators and testifying at the Statehouse about the need for immigration-policy reform to working on community issues, she said.
Jeff Napolitano, program director of the AFSC, said the film will remind viewers “that our economy works because we have folks like the people interviewed who exist on the margins, but their labor provides a great part of the economic engine of Western Massachusetts” and the entire country. He hopes it will help counter the stigma of being an undocumented worker, he said. “These are people with families, these are people struggling just like lots of people who were born here are struggling with work, struggling to provide for their families. But these folks struggle a lot more because of the legal restraints on them.”
“My hope is that people see the strength of this community and join us to support overturning policies that at heart are very racist,” Cuerda said. “We really need allies to bring the message home to our representatives, both in the state and federal government.” That work includes fighting the “Secure Communities” program, which uses fingerprints collected from people who are arrested to identify undocumented immigrants, and advocating for a bill now pending in the Massachusetts legislature that would allow undocumented workers to get drivers’ licenses. (Just Communities plans a rally in support of that bill on Saturday, Sept. 21 at noon at All Souls Church, 449 Plainfield St. in Springfield.)
The Testimonio Project will be shown on Friday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Frances Crowe Community Room, 60 Masonic St. in Northampton. The free showing is part of the Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars’ Peace and Justice Film Series.•
Chicopee Woman Sues New England Patriots
A civil law suit has been filed in Hampden County Superior Court by Chicopee’s Kimberly Chartier, the widow of Jeffrey Chartier, who allegedly died of cardiac arrest while attending the New England Patriots home opener at Gillette Stadium in September, 2010. Chartier, who is suing several parties, including the Patriots, is seeking $10 million in damages.
Jeffrey Chartier, an employee of OK Baker Supply, was a season ticket holder since the 2000 season, the Springfield Republican reports. He attended the 2010 season opener with his then-six-year-old son Tedy, who was named for the former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
According to the suit, Chartier “died as a result of cardiac arrest that was by agitation and stress caused by an interaction with a security guard at Gillette Stadium, who inappropriately and unprofessionally confronted Jeff Chartier and his son Tedy in a harsh, unprofessional, confrontational, disrespectful, and antagonistic manner.”
Two NFL officials allegedly invited Tedy Chartier onto the field before the game. Soon thereafter, a security guard, who has been identified as Arthur Sherman, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, confronted Jeffrey Chartier for not having a pass allowing his son on the field, the suit says. The confrontation continued for 15 minutes. Chartier then had a heart attack.
Security for Gillette Stadium events (including home games for both the Patriots and Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, as well as concerts and tradeshows) is provided by TeamOps, the Foxborough-based company that works all football, basketball (men’s and women’s), and hockey (men’s and women’s) games for Boston College and Harvard University, as well.
Chicopee lies 90 miles west of Foxboro, and has a median household income of $44,856, according to the website City-Data.com. This is almost $20,000 less than the median for all of Massachusetts.
With a value of $1.635 billion, the New England Patriots rank sixth on a Forbes list of most valuable sports franchises worldwide. (The Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are the only American teams that ranked higher. Rival Spanish soccer clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the latter the world’s richest team, are both owned by their club’s members.) According to Forbes, Robert Kraft, who owns both the Patriots and the Revolution, is worth $2.3 billion.
After the incident, Kraft wrote a letter of condolence to the Chartier family, reports the Republican, and former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett attended Jeffrey Chartier’s wake. A moment of silence was held for Chartier before the second home game of the 2010 season, and an autographed Tom Brady jersey was donated “for auction at a Chicopee benefit for the family” as well.• —PR
Herbicide Spraying in Northampton Protested
Despite the support of the approximately 100 community members and organic farmers who gathered together on August 20 at Florence Fields to voice their opposition to the City of Northampton’s proposal to spray the athletic fields with the herbicide Roundup, the city will proceed with its original plan to treat the fields, Mayor David Narkewicz announced last week. The demonstration, which was organized by Grow Food Northampton, was held following a letter the organization sent to its supporters voicing concerns that the herbicide would threaten the organic status of the surrounding farm fields.
“For the last few days, I have been carefully listening to citizens with a wide range of views, researching the issues, and meeting with our Florence Fields contractor and landscape architect,” the mayor said in a press release. “I believe that any use of chemicals should always be considered carefully … I am persuaded, however, that a limited, one-time application of herbicide now, a year before the fields are in use, is the best way to create a strong turf field that will minimize the need for any treatment, organic or inorganic, once the fields are in use.”
Shortly before the protest, Mayor Narkewicz had postponed plans for the city to begin spraying the athletic fields pending further review “with the city departments and the contractor.”
Following the demonstration, Grow Food Northampton’s executive director Lilly Lombard told the Advocate she was pleased with the event, noting that the “Florence Fields are at the epicenter of organic food production.”
Lombard, who had thanked the mayor several times during the protest, and several supporters spoke to the crowd for over an hour as others chalked slogans such as “Stop the Spraying,” and “Soil Matters” on the nearby bike trail, sang songs, strummed guitars and banjos, held signs saying “Drift happens,” “Round down,” and “Happy to see my tax $$$ spent on organic turf,” and chanted “Hey hey! Ho ho! Monsanto’s Roundup’s got to go!”
One of Monsanto’s best-selling products, Roundup is marketed as an “unsurpassed weed and brush control that’s rainfast in as little as one hour.”
Mayor Narkiewicz said the spraying could begin before the end of the month, depending on wind conditions.
The Florence Fields site includes not only the new athletic fields, which were being worked on throughout the demonstration, but also the abutting Mill River and Florence Community Garden, where 300 community members are active, as well as several small plots of farmland, including Slow Tractor Farm, Bare Foot Farm, the Sawmill Farm Collective, and the Crimson and Clover CSA.
“There is an extremely delicate balance here,” Lombard told the concerned crowd gathered on August 20. “It would be a shame to shock it with Roundup!”• —PR
Local Kids Do Good
Last fall, the non-profit Hilltown Families organized a field trip for local kids and parents to the Food Bank of Western Mass’ headquarters in Hatfield, where they helped prepare for its annual Will Bike 4 Food fundraiser and also heard from a staffer about the work the organization does.
“One of the things we learned is how hard it is for families to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And then organic fruits and vegetables—that’s a hard one,” said Sienna Wildfield, Hilltown Families founder and executive director.
The realization inspired Hilltown Families’ latest project: on Sept. 7, the group, working with the Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation, is organizing a “Kids Day of Community Service” at Atlas Farm in Deerfield. Participating families will help glean organic produce left over from Atlas’ harvest, to be donated to the Food Bank, and will also help the farm prepare for the winter season. Jerod Shuford, the Food Bank’s education coordinator, will be on hand to talk about food security in the Valley and ways families can help support his organization.
The event is a chance to help families learn and volunteer in their community—a key part of Hilltown Families’ vision. “Our mission is to create sustainable and resilient communities by nurturing and supporting a sense of place in our kids,” Wildfield said. “If a child is learning through their community and volunteering, as they grow up their lens to the world is through their local environment, their local community. That becomes something very precious. It’s something they want to protect.”
Hilltown Families’ Kids Day of Community Service takes place on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. To register, go to hadleykidsdayofservice.eventbrite.com. For more information, go to www.hilltownfamilies.org.• —MT