Communities Press City Council on Biomass Incinerator

On Wednesday, August 11, 2010, community groups from Springfield, Massachusetts came together to ask the City Council to revoke the siting permit for Palmer Renewable Energy, which would use demolition waste streams as an energy source. As previously showcased by The Springfield Institute, neighborhoods in the City have two primary concerns about using this technology:

  1. That the incineration process will decrease, increase harmful particulate matter, reduce air quality and lead to adverse health effects for the community like asthma and other problems.
  2. That demolition waste is not a clean, renewable energy source which State and Local governments should be promoting.

For more information about community organizing around this issue, visit Springfield


Wednesday Rides #3: Mason Square and McKnight

We are grateful to Khali Maddox-Abdegeo (video above) and Eli Colgram (both from Universal Community Voices Eliminating Disparities) for guiding us through the Mason Square and McKnight neighborhoods last week. Highlights from our third Wednesday Ride include: A warm welcome at Arise for Social Justice, A hidden mural at Nation of Islam Mosque #13 (right), a visit to State Representative Ben Swan’s office (where we picked up Hal Swan), some oral history of Springfield from a McKnight resident and history buff, and growing numbers of riders! Enjoy this streetscape video (above), with music by Springfield native and UMass grad, Taj Mahal (Farther On Down the Road).

Click to check out Ride #1 and Ride #2, and you can also use our new category (Wednesday Rides) to see a running list of all our posts. Join us this week as we revisit the bike path from its Northern tip (and see if the drainage project is complete). We’ll gather at the YMCA on Chestnut Street at noon, and depart shortly thereafter.

Monday MOCHA Walks & the Real Food Challenge [video]

The Men of Color Health Awareness movement (MOCHA) kicked off their Monday walks last night (weekly at 6:30PM, at the mini-track behind the YMCA).

We had a great discussion about the Real Food Challenge, thanks to Myles Postell Reynolds (video below).

Springfield Wednesday Rides kicks off (There’s a river here!) [Updated x2]

Last week, James, Marcos, and I did a test ride (route map below) for a new movement: WEDNESDAY RIDES. What’s the point?:

  • Get in shape
  • Create safe spaces
  • Promote alternative transportation
  • Get to know different neighborhoods
  • Network
  • Raise eyebrows
  • Have fun!

Every Wednesday at noon (at least through August) we’ll gather at the Springfield YMCA on Chestnut Street and have a casual group ride through a different neighborhood each week. All are welcome. You will have aceess to the Y’s locker room. Bring a helmet.

Many people have said, “Sounds awesome, now I need to get a bike!” Let me know if you’re in that boat. The Y will negotiate discounts with a local bike shop if we have enough people. You can also check Craig’s List or the only bike shop with a Springfield address.

Coincidentally, the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council just started weekly rides, too. Check out Ciclovía, Thursdays at 4:30PM.

Update: According to The Intruder, guided walks along the river began on June 30th. These walks also take place on Wednesdays, at 12:15. (Thanks, Sheila!)

Update 2: Here are some bilingual materials about the Holyoke bike movement from tonight’s Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council meeting (below, click to enlarge). For more info: Liz Budd,, 413-437-0864.

In memory of Hakeem Duke: A remarkable man, a symbol of disparity


At a recent MOCHA (Men of Color Health Awareness) convening at the Springfield YMCA, there was a new face. The man, who introduced himself as Hakeem, explained how inspiring it was to see so many men of color gathered for such an important purpose. He said he hadn’t seen a movement like this since he participated in the Million Man March in 1995. He also made a special point of saying that he felt he was meant to be there….

A few minutes later, Hakeem collapsed and lost consciousness. Despite the heroic attempts of his peers to revive him, and the rapid 911 response time, he never regained consciousness. A massive heart attack was the cause of death.

I have since learned a little bit about Hakeem’s (aka Edward Douglas Duke) life, and it is remarkable: a wife, 3 brothers, 2 sisters, 32 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, and many, many friends. Karate master (his childhood friends called him “Joe Jitsu” based on the Dick Tracy cartoon character), Nation of Islam devotee (he saw Muhammad Ali and Elijah Muhammad when they visited Springfield).

Life expectancy at birth (2005), Source: CDC

Hakeem was 61. Nationally, life expectancy is 70 for African-American men, 76 for White men, 77 for African American women, and 81 for White women (2005). In Massachusetts, life expectancy for African-American men is 73. The fact that Hakeem died even before his peers in other parts of the state and country may be partly explained by trends in his hometown. Among the 30 largest communities in Massachusetts, Springfield has the highest rates of premature death per capita (Source: MADPH).

Hakeem lived a very full life, and left many loved ones behind. His life and death are powerful reminders of MOCHA’s critical and urgent charge.