My thanks to you, the interns and all of the members of The Springfield Institute for hosting today’s event and for bringing the voices and ideas of Charlotte B. Kahn and Paul N. Foster to the table, while allowing a forum for public discussion.
There were some concerns and excellent points brought up at today’s forum that stayed with me, and I hope will be revisited and addressed in greater depth in the future. It is my intention to be helpful and amplify some of the concerns I heard at today’s meeting as listed below.
- The need for citizens to know that when there is a specific issue or concern regarding the wellness of our community, they will have ready access to information and the city officials assigned to the particular task without getting a bureaucratic runaround. Who among us has not been put on hold and sent from department to department when trying to access a business, institution or government agency? Those of us who work in the trenches for little or no pay are especially discouraged when we must waste our valuable time going in circles in search of a clear and intelligible response to a community or personal concern. I refer in particular to the concerns brought up by the representatives of Gardening the Community today. I left uncertain as to whether their concerns were addressed in a tangible way. There appears to be a need for the development of more efficient government-citizen communication strategies;
- The dissemination of information regarding forums such as the one held today in a way that reaches and welcomes residents, not just those who are connected to agencies and have ready access to information. In this regard, we need to be aware of the digital divide, and seek other venues for the sharing information other than Internet and e-mail, as mentioned by Ms. Aida Ruiz, who suggested the use of radio broadcasts as one of the alternate ways to reach the Latino community, for example. The need to explore multiple modalities for communicating and networking.
- The importance of engaging the broader base of citizens in the discussion of what they feel their needs and the needs of the City are, as opposed to institutions or those with access and privilege deciding for them. The point was made that in order to encourage personal engagement and a sense of ownership of the issues and their potential solutions, residents must feel that their voices will be heard, their ideas valued and activated;
- When planning forums, we must take into consideration the time of day that will allow for the greatest attendance by residents;
- The need to build trust among those who have been previously segregated by class, race, ethnicity, mutual suspicion and competition where each is concerned with their own interests based in the fear of scarcity. We need to build coalitions that embrace collaboration over competition with a vision for the greater good;
- Ann Black made the suggestion that neighborhood associations be contacted and invited to participate in the dialogue – I’m not certain everyone heard her, so here it is for the record;
It would also be helpful to plan to have sound equipment and microphones and someone to take care of sound issues. If one cannot be heard or if it is difficult to hear each other, the purpose of the forums is profoundly compromised and the message of not being heard may be reinforced both literally and figuratively. I suggest contacting the Springfield Access station in advance for support with equipment and a sound technician.
As far as my comment on data, I reiterate, we need data, and lots of it, but my vision is to see data and testimony presented together in a way that it can reach the most people and reap the greatest benefit. I mentioned to Charlotte Kahn my idea of presenting data beside a performance work that demonstrates the core issues that connect to the data. For example, in Teatro Vida’s first performance, we used violence statistics, presented theatrically, to underscore the story line, which was a creative response to an act of intergenerational violence that took place in the Hungry Hill section of Springfield. It turned out to be a very effective tool in taking the audience on a journey of the greater societal factors that lead to violence. That data added to the dramatic tension of the piece and made the message and the youth generated text that much more meaningful and urgent. The youth helped to research the data and incorporated it into their script, and as a result became much more invested in the issue of how to creatively dismantle violence in our community. Data can magnetize funding, inform legislation, etc. but minds and hearts are changed when there is a human face on the numbers, the story behind the numbers and the impact the data has on all of our lives is presented in ways that support enduring understanding and comprehensive assimilation.
I thank you for this opportunity and send this in a spirit of collaboration with all who sincerely work together for the greater good of our City and all who live and work here.
Respectfully submitted as a resident,
Co-founder and Artistic Director
(a project of the Latino Breakfast Club)
Springfield, MA 01138-0722
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