Destructive climate erupts at Clark meat-eater protest

Wondering what the future could hold for activism and divisive protests in our city? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, sometimes troubling (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Aug. 24, 2063 — He had been sitting there for decades, but in the end, it took just a minute for Dr. Sigmund Freud to be ignobly yanked face-first to the concrete. The doctor’s statue, which until yesterday sat amiably on a low bench in Clark University’s open Red Square, was the latest victim of protesters lashing out against the culturally promoted, but environmentally destructive, practice of eating meat.

As temperatures across the country topped 105 degrees for the 13th straight day, protesters nationwide have embarked on campaigns to eradicate monuments and memorials to anyone who had both contributed to the current climate change by consuming meat and passively committed aggressions against animals.

Next to burning fossil fuels, raising livestock for meat consumption is regarded as the second-largest contributor to climate change.

“Hey! Ho! Meat Eaters got to go!” Chanted the crowd of 257 people assembled in Friday evening’s twilight on Clark’s Red Square.

Sun Serials | Ray Mariano | Free to Read

The incredible journey of Augustine Kanjia continues … Beyond My Limit

I had only one pair of short pants, with two visible holes in the back.

Augustine Kanjia

They were overused, but I needed to dress up that morning. It was a Monday. My brother would not help me buy secondhand clothes, he rather gave me his big, old long-sleeved shirt — too big for a small boy like me. I was 12 years old then.

I tried to not worry about these superficial problems, because my grandmother had told me to be patient. “Your day will come,” Sobba Peppeh would tell me. She would give me examples of those who have succeeded and how they fared when small. Jesus was her biggest example for me to copy.

My brother did not bother worrying about my success; for him it was mine alone. He never asked about the marks I had scored in the test that had brought me here in the first place.

Augustine’s last chapter: A Good Result Leaves Me in Tears  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale

Little Free Libraries

A Mother’s Journey: The ‘Mini’ Series

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Last Sunday, Aug. 13, The Learning Hub, in partnership with Action! Worcester, launched a much-requested campaign: Little Free Libraries.

One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home, according to a 2010 study from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty members Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61 percent of low-income families do not have books for children at home.

In Massachusetts, where 43 percent of children are not reading where they should be by the third grade, the concept of literacy accessibility should be a priority. This is especially true in Worcester, where a lack of proficiency in literacy is coupled with financial hardship, language barriers and a lack of cultural services.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The sincerest form of thievery, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … A Good Result That Left Me in Tears

Our test results were around the corner. Life was still difficult at home.

It felt like there was no way out.

Augustine Kanjia

My grandmother still did not have a regular job, but she continued selling her food stuff. Many had called her by her nickname, “Soba Peppeh,” meaning the real pepper in the Creole parlance of Sierra Leone.

My garden work with Soba Peppeh had increased as her sales at the market doubled. I would cook for the house when the market occupied her. Mondays were very busy days for me. Fridays were for the market, too. My grandmother prepared more food and brought raw cassava, potatoes and their leaves. Boiled cassava and beans were on the side for sale.

Of course, we did not relent on the “Omolé” trade. Its money was coming in fast.

Soba Peppeh was versatile.

We did all these things, but always had time for prayer. I rejoiced when it was Sunday. Her church, the UMC church, depended on me for its bell. I would ring it before leaving for my own Roman Catholic church at my primary school, R.C. Motema. There was enough prayer for me in my grandmother’s church to help me pass my exam — but not to pay my upcoming high school fees.

Augustine’s last chapter: Another Lesson in Perseverance  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey: The sincerest form of thievery

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

“There is no such thing as a new idea,” Mark Twain famously wrote in his 1907 autobiography. “It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

He couldn’t have said it better.

Originality is an ambiguous concept, it seems, leading many of us to believe the thoughts and ideas we create are somehow impartial, uninfluenced by the world around us. It leads us to believe creativity is somehow only sparked from within and not an element molded by the experiences and lessons from life.

The world around us is a bottomless pit of discovery, with every new encounter leaving us a new impression and a fresh outlook. Yet, entrepreneurs and business owners tend to forget that their “creative spark” was ignited by their environment — by the people and conversations around them — and not from some untouched segment of their brain.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The inner-city detour, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … Exam Day Distress Becomes Lesson in Perseverance

Our production of the illicit home-brewed liquor “Omolé” did not take a backseat to my education anymore.

Augustine Kanjia

My grandmother had depended on Duran Kanjia, my military half-brother who came to help fill out my entrance form to high school. He also said he would help pay for the necessary exam, but he stopped responding to our letters to him. I was left to wonder about the change I could make in my life after I would have passed.

Sobba Peppeh (my grandmother’s nickname) had prayed for me at night and gave me the blessing we thought I needed to pass. She had even tried to convince me that blessed water (“from Bethlehem”) would help me be as smart as Suma Musa, the girl who had always topped our class from Grade 1 to 7. I would eventually find out it was only well water, from outside our new house, that was not quite finished, but doing fine. It was big and nice by our town’s standard.

I was anxious that night to get to sleep and dream of passing my exam with flying colors. But it was not possible. I only became more anxious. As we finished our nightly prayer, my grandmother wanted me to eat nothing to avoid having to go to the toilet during the exam. She thought perhaps they would not allow me to leave the class.

Our exam center was far; we walked for over an hour to get there. It was a big school called U.M.C. [United Methodist Church] Secondary School, Yengema. The buildings were big. For some of us, it was our first time entering the campus. I was timid and stayed close to some friends. Our teacher, Mr. P. S. Bobor, encouraged us to avoid panic. But I was visibly panicked. I feared the unknown.

Augustine’s last chapter: More Hopes, Less Success  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale

The Final Chapter for Worcester Public Libraries: 193-year-old institution being razed

Wondering what the future could hold for city libraries and the books that line their walls? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, July 19, 2052 — Scores of people gathered on the Worcester Common throughout the day Friday to witness the demolition of the Worcester Public Library Main Branch. Aside from the college campus depositories, the building, built in 1964, was the last standing public library in the city and the largest library in Central Massachusetts. The teardown is part of Beacon Hill’s cost-cutting plan to close and consolidate libraries across the Commonwealth.

Sun Serials | Ray Mariano | Free to Read

Begun in 2040, the “10-year plan” aggregates local libraries’ physical materials into four regional centers: Whately, Worcester, Waltham and Wellfleet. Samples of books, including works of local history and genealogy, have been reviewed, categorized and transferred to the Region C Information Distribution Center, formerly the Greendale Mall. Relocation and storage fees are being paid for by Amazon.com, which, in 2041, initiated its ambitious plan to purchase every copy of every known paper-based volume in existence.

Of the old C/W MARS regional consortium, which at one time included more than 149 libraries in Central and Western Mass., only eight buildings remain open to the public: Pittsfield, Leominster, Leicester, West Brookfield, Shrewsbury, Wales, Williamstown and Lenox. All eight are set to close within the next 12 months.

“I understand that it’s sad to see the old libraries go, but we need to start thinking about space in Worcester,” said state Sen. Edward Rodrigues, who voted for the plan. “This move eliminates on building upkeep costs, saves on librarian salaries and benefits, and all but cuts out book purchases. We’ve outsourced all of that — almost for free — and now we can put that prime CitySquare land back on the tax rolls for a new tenant.

In fact, proponents say CitySquare, the sprawling downtown development project, will finally be completed in the next few years.

More What if … Worcester: Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms

A Mother’s Journey: The inner-city detour

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

The gap between rich and the poor affects all aspects of American life. While it should never impact a child’s chance to receive a good education, there remains an obvious schism at the center of many a school-related controversy.

A pronounced funding rift is often cited as the main reason behind failing or underperforming schools, and more and more seems to be among the top determinants — along with parent engagement, which also lags in lower-income areas — of whether a child will excel in school or fall into the cracks of the nation’s achievement gap.

Founding The Learning Hub was an attempt to break through the barriers of financial disadvantages and shine a light on a group of students in inner cities that otherwise lack key supportive academic services.

From personal experience, I learned higher-income cities and towns equal more academic support services and better schools, while low-income towns and cities like Worcester consistently lack similar supports and struggling students are shuffled up through the ranks of what I see as a failing school system.

Last August, The Atlantic published, “Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School,” and it remains one of my consistent motivators since launching The Hub. The article looks at the state of Connecticut and breaks down the school system based on location. It ultimately leads to an unsurprising finding: schools in better neighborhoods receive better access to wraparound services while schools in poor neighborhoods are left wanting.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The look of leadership, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Augustine Kanjia’s incredible journey continues … Part 43: More Hopes, Less Success

I had prayed for my grandmother to start preparing to pay my school fees in time, but she was also compounded with several problems. Besides having to foot all the bills, she’d recently had a death in the family.

Augustine Kanjia

My brother’s choice of high school for me was a setback.

Duran Kanjia was one of the many children Pa Kanjia had from his many wives. He was the third child of the family and I was the last, having been born a few months after our father suddenly died in 1963. Duran was in the military since I was a little child. He had earned no promotions, and I was now in the seventh grade. He was simple and did not care.

He had just returned from Daru, Sierra Leone, where he was stationed. He was clearly a strategist but lacked follow-through. I loved him in his uniform and his love for his people. But I think our father’s death may have deterred him from continuing his education.

Duran was home with us on vacation. He did not care whether he had money. He put off everything to the future. “When I return to Daru I will send some money for that purpose or this purpose,” he would say to requests for help. Even when I was needy, especially for my school, Duran did not give a cent.

My grandmother at first was happy that he had come to our home in Motema, and so she called on him to help. He postponed the talks for two weeks — which was the deadline for paying the full amount of school and exam fees my grandmother had been trying scrape together.

Augustine’s last chapter: One Problem Opens the Door for More Problems  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 48]: The look of leadership

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

In the past I rarely found myself looking at the participants in a meeting and questioning the balance of ethnicity and gender in the room. But nowadays, it seems that is all I can focus on.

Raised by a strong woman, I never paid close attention to the roles Latinas played in my environment. I never doubted my abilities to accomplish things, because I was raised to view myself as a capable human being and not a statistical figure in society.

As I get older, though, and more involved in the community, more vocal about how I envision my future, I can’t help but realize how concerned I should be with the lack of diverse representation in my entrepreneurial community.

While my inner feminist is thrilled to read statistics from a recent Harvard Business School study, “Diversity in Innovation,” which claims that the “female labor market participation in the United States has nearly doubled from 1950, going from 33 percent to 57 percent in 2016,” my inner Latina is crushed by the same study.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The new home frame of mind, or scroll down to explore more of her story.