Archive | Higher Ground

Here’s a good cause for Christmas


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 (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.



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 →

What kind of country do you want us to be?

#ivoted The #EarlyVoter line @oclslibrary's South Creek Branch wraps around the building. As frustrating as it can be to wait in line, I'm very proud to see so many exercising their rights to vote! #election

I love our country.

Yes, we have our problems. But the majority of Americans are people who just want to live their lives, and are kind and neighborly, given the opportunity.

Then we have the haters and victims, a group that has always vacillated somewhere between 25-30%. They’re the perpetually peeved Fox news watchers, the gullible Breitbart fanboys, the deluded white nationalists. They’re coming out of the woodwork for their presumed moment of glory. They won’t get it, not at the ballot box. God only knows what they’ll do after the election, but they’re not going to win. Not this time.

One of my friends told me how worried she was, how she could hardly sleep. I said other than door knocking and phone banking, there was nothing left to do. Every rational person in America knows that Orange Hitler is an existential threat, and if they don’t step up this time, we’ve already lost. “They’ll do it,” I said. I believe they will.

The Latino community certainly knows. Despite the Republicans doing everything they can to suppress the vote, we’re seeing record-breaking turnout in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Look at these pictures:

They kept this Las Vegas supermarket open for hours, until everyone got to vote. And the internet sent pizza!

We don’t know what the Republican crossover vote is yet; in Florida, there was an exit poll reporting 28% of their early voters for Clinton. I’m optimistic.

What do we want, exactly? Do we want good schools for kids, better health care, help for families? Or do we want to keep stripping the government for parts, like a scrap metal dealer? Do we want to be less belligerent to other countries? God knows, I don’t want American empire, or drone attacks in Yemen. But this threat who’s the other option on the menu — we have to deal with him first.

Getting her into the White House is (believe it or not) the easy part. These Trump people have guns, they are convinced the only way the Great Cheeto could lose is if the election was “stolen” from them.

We’ll worry about that Wednesday. Meanwhile, if you have a few hours to spare, call your county office and volunteer to drive people to the polls. Call your friends and persuade them to vote.

How friendship changed a poster child for white nationalism


The Washington Post has done some remarkable work this election cycle, and this story about the son of the founder of Stormfront is one of their best. It’s long, but well worth the read for those of us with family members like this:

Years before Donald Trump launched a presidential campaign based in part on the politics of race and division, a group of avowed white nationalists was working to make his rise possible by pushing its ideology from the radical fringes ever closer to the far conservative right. Many attendees in Memphis had transformed over their careers from Klansmen to white supremacists to self-described “racial realists,” and Derek Black represented another step in that evolution.

He never used racial slurs. He didn’t advocate violence or lawbreaking. He had won a Republican committee seat in Palm Beach County, Fla., where Trump also had a home, without ever mentioning white nationalism, talking instead about the ravages of political correctness, affirmative action and unchecked Hispanic immigration.

He was not only a leader of racial politics but also a product of them. His father, Don Black, had created Stormfront, the Internet’s first and largest white nationalist site, with 300,000 users and counting. His mother, Chloe, had once been married to David Duke, one of the country’s most infamous racial zealots, and Duke had become Derek’s godfather. They had raised Derek at the forefront of the movement, and some white nationalists had begun calling him “the heir.”
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