Springfield is only 20 miles away from Northampton, but sometimes it seems so much farther. At Arise we've nicknamed that distance the "Tofu Curtain"-- not because there are no poor and homeless people in Northampton and Amherst (there are!) but because the pervading culture beyond that curtain can be very hard for poor and working class people to swallow-- sorta like tofu, if you ask me.
Yesterday I went to Arise to do some copying for my job and met Ira McKinley, a homeless community organizer from Northampton. Suzanne had run into him at the Haymarket Cafe in Northampton, and invited him down to Arise. What a pleasure! Ira had a DVD with him of a cultural event for poor and homeless people that he organized last year. Homeless people showed artwork, read poetry, played music, did juggling and participated in a fashion show. Next year, homeless people in Springfield are going to be a part of it! And Ira will be helping recruit Northampton poor and homeless people for a project we have in mind for later this year.
I added a link to his blog, Social Change in Mind, on my blogroll-- check it out-- Ira's doing more organizing than writing right now, but that's fine with me.
Genuine community organizing is hard enough to find, but homeless organizing, led by homeless people, is even rarer. So glad we found each other.