Archive | Higher Ground

Obama commutes most of Chelsea Manning’s sentence

President Obama commutes the majority of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence

Activist groups have been working hard to lobby President Obama to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence and he has heard them. New York Times: President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world,… Continue Reading →

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Get me through December

Athenae at First Draft:

A week ago I sat at the bedside of someone I loved, listening to a respirator hiss. I read from All The Light We Cannot See, because there was nothing else to do. I re-read familiar books at this time of year, and they’re all stories of what happens when even hope is exhausted. When all you have is momentum. When, even falling, there is enough left in you to fall forward.

I’m so tired. I know you are, too.

I’ve been saying it since Nov. 9 and I mean it: It’s our job now to save as many as we can. That’s all we’ve got. But that’s all we’ve ever had. The poor family with their baby in the horse’s stall, they weren’t thinking about eternal life, about remaking the world in the image of God. They wanted their baby to live. These stories come from a time when more children died in the winter than survived, when you had 10 children and raised six. No one is ever thinking about glory.

So be it resolved that if we are merry this year — and I don’t grant we are — it’s not an act of reckless abandon or naive optimism but of deliberate falling forward, of momentum enough to land in front of where we started. Save who’s in front of you, next year. Save as much as you can. Don’t worry that you’re not doing enough or that the job’s too big. Reach out as much as you can. Ask for help, if you can’t.

It’s only in hindsight that we turn the darkness into a story, into what came before the light. It’s only afterward, when we can put it in order, that we see the blackness as temporary.

In the midst of it, when we don’t know the light is coming, how do we act?

Toys for Tots SOS

I guess it’s the post-election funk, because I forgot this year, too. Donations are WAY down, folks. Way down. If you can’t make it out to pick up a toy, that’s okay: Give money here.

Here’s a good cause for Christmas

ferguson-library

I believe so deeply in the ability of libraries to affect a child’s life, and it’s one reason I was so happy to give to this cause. (Like my mother, I’m a sucker for anything that helps kids.) I was thrilled to see this in my inbox this morning. What wonderful news! I hope you’ll think about donating:

Two years ago, we at the Ferguson Municipal Public Library were doing everything we could think of to help the people of Ferguson, Missouri at a time of overwhelming need. You cared enough to notice, and cared enough to help. You recognized the special role we, as a library, can play in helping our community heal, and in bringing our community together. You were one of nearly 12,000 people who gave $10, $20, $40 or more, resulting in $450,000 of donations, all told.  That was more than our yearly budget!  There is a well of gratitude in me that I cannot begin to express.  Thank you.

But you’ll want to know some specifics.  The first thing I did was hire a Children’s Services and Programming Librarian, Amy Randazzo, and she greatly increased our capacity to build responsive programs for Ferguson.  That’s exactly what we needed!  We increased our programming budget more than ten-fold, and now can target specific needs.   Some of our best work includes, of course, opening up the library as a school in August of 2014 for a week, when the local schools were shut down.  We found out then what kind of library we wanted to be, and have been chasing that vision ever since.  When we saw the people of Ferguson needed to be able to tell their stories without a media filter, and that future historians would need those stories, we worked with Storycorps to record and archive the unedited voices of our people.  When we saw the need for tough, informed conversations about race, we hosted the Readings on Race book club, because when different groups are talking past each other, each with their own language and set of facts, a book provides common language and shared facts.  When we saw the need for young adults to have more and varied economic opportunities, we began holding computer programming classes, robotics classes, and any other program we can think of that leads to practical skills and, eventually, jobs.

You changed what kind of library we are.  We were struggling, frankly, when I started on July 1, 2014.  My predecessor had watched her tax-based funding drop dramatically with the housing market, and Ferguson was on the slow end of that recovery.  No more full time staff, almost no programming, and a community with real, tangible needs that a library could meet.  Your donations helped us blossom, growing into a library that worked hard to meet those needs.  For the last two years, we have been blessed with the chance to be a different sort of library.  We are now community focused, with lots of programming, and responsive, with the freedom to run with ideas that help our people.  That is all thanks to you.

We’ve also used those funds to increase our capacity to help our people.  Among our own staff, we turned part time jobs into full time jobs, opening up positions for a full-time Circulation Librarian and a full-time Cataloger.  With a donation from HP and help from a grant, we replaced our PCs that were – literally – held together with duct tape and wire, and expanded our capacity more than twice over in the process.  Your donation also allowed us to address needs that were 20 years overdue.  We put in handicapped-accessible doors, finally, and they are beautiful and slidey and wonderfully welcoming.  We got new carpet – yay! – that is so much more inviting than the (frankly dangerous) patchwork of worn and ripped carpet we had before.  We updated the once-grungy bathrooms with a unique design that specifically addresses the particular challenges of serving the public, a design I hope other public organizations might notice and find useful.  And, we replaced some 20+ year old HVAC units.

That’s a little sampling of what we’ve done with the money you gave us.  We account for every penny.  We agonize over how to make the best use of it.  We use it to increase our capacity to serve our people.  Libraries are like that.

We continue to do the best we can for our community, and we have you to thank for that.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Again, you are amazing!

We’ve made an updated video that I hope you’ll watch, so you can see what we’ve been up to in vivid, camera-that-came-with-my-phone quality, at

Now (yes, you knew this was coming), we want you to help us again.  We are looking at that donation money running out, and we want to extend our expanded capacity as long as we can.  We are an independent library, not part of the city government, so we have to find our own opportunities to sustain the library.  Therefore, we’re seeking resources from many sources, and that includes asking you for help.  We know that you understand the importance of our little library, and the work we have done for the people of Ferguson.  Please do help us keep this work going, if you can afford to, at http://tinyurl.com/FMPLDonation (our Paypal Donation link).  Thank you.

Scott Bonner

Director, Ferguson Municipal Public Library

2015 Library of the Year

Jail Guitar Door

This sounds like a great project:

It all starts with Wayne Kramer, guitarist for the legendary punk pioneers the MC5 and onetime prison inmate. His time behind bars inspired The Clash to write “Jail Guitar Doors,” which in turn inspired British rocker/activist Billy Bragg to start the charitable organization named after the song, which brings musical instruments into prisons for use in rehabilitation. A meeting between Mr. Bragg and Mr. Kramer inspired Mr. Wayne to start Jail Guitar Doors USA, the American cousin to its U.K. version.

Mr. Kramer and wife Margaret Saadi Kramer organize events throughout the year to raise funds for their cause, including a concert called “Rock Out!” This year he was joined onstage by Marshall Crenshaw, superproducer Don Was, Jill Sobule, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (who hosted the event) and more. Backstage I caught up with many of the musicians to discuss the healing power of rock ‘n’ roll.

Thankful?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING #thanksgiving2016

Not sure what to be thankful for this year, except maybe that I’m still alive. Looking forward to losing my health insurance and watching as the GOP vultures destroy Medicare and Social Security, just as I’m within reach.

It’s going to be a long, hard fight. I hate these fuckers.

Republican electors are being called upon to vote their conscience

United States Capitol

Since the election, there has been much talk about the idea of “faithless electors;” that is, those in the electoral college who defy the pledge to vote for Trump and instead vote for another Republican. ] They call themselves “Hamilton Electors.” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #68 that “the office of President will never fall to… Continue Reading →

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