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Mass. Low Wage Workers Take a Hit; When Worlds Collide; Celebrating Pete Seeger; By the Numbers; Worth Quoting

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Andy Morris-Friedman photo
The Pete Seeger celebration

Mass. Low Wage Workers Take a Hit

The recession and its aftermath were especially rough on low-wage workers—and in Massachusetts, they’ve fared particularly poorly, according to figures recently released by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Nationwide, between 2009—the official “end” of the recession—and 2013, workers whose incomes fall in the lowest 20 percent saw their inflation-adjusted hourly earnings decline by 68 cents, or six percent. Massachusetts’ low-wage workers saw their adjusted income decline $1.18, the second biggest drop in any state but Maryland ($1.24). New Jersey saw the third biggest decrease, of $1.16.

Low-wage workers’ earnings dropped in all but three states: West Virginia, Mississippi and North Dakota.

 

When Worlds Collide

Some of us just wrote a long research paper and called it a thesis. Adewunmi Oke, a student of dramaturgy working on her MFA at UMass Amherst, has organized a theater festival, focused on issues of race and sexual identity, for hers.

The day-long Black/Queer/Diaspora/Womyn Festival, on  March 1, will include staged readings of Sharon Bridgforth’s con flama, which uses jazz and the blues to tell the story of a queer black girl and her family’s migration from the South to Los Angeles, and trey anthony’s Da Kink in My Hair, which is set in a Toronto hair salon and “explores the relationships Black women have with their hair and their personal stories,” Oke explains. 

The festival will also include panel discussions with the artists and faculty members from the Five Colleges. The first, called “Queering Blackness in the Diaspora,” will look at the intersection of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality and nationality in Bridgforth’s and anthony’s writings, Oke says: “More times than not, the terms, as well as those who identify as ‘queer’ and ‘black,’ are pitted against each other. It’s taboo to identify as queer and as a person of color. Try adding being a woman to the mix; that’s even more complicated. By the way our society acts, it’s as if these multiple identities are fixed and separate. Only certain people can fall under these umbrella terms. Once a handful of people color outside the lines, that’s when it becomes an issue.”

The goal of her project, Oke adds, “is to acknowledge that identity is not fixed and shouldn’t be contained to fit inside of a box.”

A second panel discussion, “The Survival of the Black Queer Woman Artist,” will also feature the two writers.

The Black/Queer/Diaspora/Womyn Festival takes place on  Saturday, March 1, from  10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Curtain Theater at UMass Amherst. The event is free and includes lunch. More information can be found at  www.facebook.com/events/612912205423788. To reserve tickets, emailbqdwfestival@gmail.com.

By the Numbers

 

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That’s the percent by which revenue at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut dropped between 2004-2005 and 2012-2013 ($819.8 million to $542.8 million). Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino also saw a fall in revenue—of 31 percent—between 2006-2007 and 2012-2013 ($916.4 million to $628.8 million). The figures cast doubt on the view that casinos are perennially high revenue producers, especially now that their numbers are increasing. Representatives of the two Connecticut casinos say newer casinos in Rhode Island and New York City have drawn customers away from their casinos, and they admit that if they are successful in their bids to start up casinos in Massachusetts, they may wind up in competition with themselves.

$6,678,446

That’s the total of contributions made by Comcast and its employees to all members of the U.S. House from January of 2001 through December of 2012, according to a recent report from MapLight, a nonprofit focused on the influence of money on politics, using data from OpenSecrets.org.

$853,525 

That’s the total of Comcast’s contributions to members of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC will have to approve Comcast’s recently announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion, which would merge the two largest telecommunications companies. 

How much have Western Mass.’ Congressmen received in donations from Comcast? According to MapLight, Rep. Richie Neal received eight contributions totaling $13,000 in the 2002-2012 election cycles. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern received one contribution, for $2,000. Neither serves on the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Mass. Sen. Ed Markey, who served on that committee during his time in the House, received 39 contributions totaling $58,250 from Comcast and its employees during that period. In 2013, Markey was elected to the Senate, where he serves on the Communications, Technology, and the Internet subcommittee. He has received no donations from Comcast as a senator. Massachusetts’ other senator, Elizabeth Warren, has received two contributions totaling $2,750 from Comcast executives since taking office.

 

Celebrating Pete Seeger

There was standing room only as more than 600 people packed the First Congregational Church in Amherst Sunday night, Feb. 16 for the Pete Seeger Celebration. Thirty-five individual performers and three choral groups took part in the memorial tribute to folk singer and social justice activist Pete Seeger, who died Jan. 27. Among the well-known Valley musicians who lent their talents were Lorre Wyatt, Charlie King, Sarah Pirtle, Annie Patterson and Peter Blood. “Pete Seeger didn’t just belong to those who knew him personally,” said Blood. “He belonged to all the world, and everyone who knew him felt his loss.”

 

Worth Quoting:

“This is not really competition. This is a state-sponsored monopoly that’s being granted to a company with no competitors around.”

—Northampton mayor David Narkewicz, whose city has been denied “surrounding community” status as gaming giant MGM Resorts International pursues plans to build a casino resort with theaters, restaurants and retail businesses just 15 minutes away down Interstate 91 in Springfield

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