Mayor Donchez: “We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred”

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“My comments on Minneapolis”
Sunday, May 31, 2020


Almost 250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson, declared, “That all men are created equal.” Our nation has had a long and difficult history dealing with those simple and profound words. Since 1776 it has taken numerous conflicts and much bloodshed for us to live up to those words. And yet, have we? Once again, we are grieving as a nation and standing together to condemn the shocking violence in Minneapolis and the innocent loss of life, and those simple words of Thomas Jefferson, somehow got lost in translation or understanding.

I grew up in South Bethlehem. The words “all men are created equal” were words to live by in my neighborhood and in my world. We were a melting pot, a cauldron of hope where there was no room for racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We had our differences – culturally, linguistically, racially and religiously, and yet we were a community. When we had to, we locked arms across the many lines and boundaries of our differences and dedicated ourselves to unity. Because of that, we were able to achieve some early measure of social and economic justice and equality for many in our community.

Those lessons of social and economic justice and equality traveled with me and were a daily part of my 35 years as a teacher at Allen High School in Allentown. I made sure my students were tolerant of all who attended Allen High School – Black and White, Latino and Asian, Gay and Straight, Male, Female and Transgender, Rich and Poor, and all who made up the city, the Lehigh Valley and the country.

As the son of a police officer and as a Mayor, watching the images from Minneapolis have been tough. I have great respect and admiration for our police officers, so it was very emotional watching that Minneapolis police officer suffocate handcuffed George Floyd with a knee to his neck. I know that almost all police officers adhere to the law and would never hurt someone like that, and yet this behavior continues and it hurts – it hurts the police and it hurts every one of us.

The kind of behavior we have seen in Minneapolis has no place in America or anywhere in the world. We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred, and are deeply saddened by the loss of life of a fellow human being. This is not just a race issue, this is a human issue, and we are all connected by our shared human experience.

Max Lucado wrote, “If Jesus could teach us only one thing, it would be that a person has value simply because they are a person.”

This is not the time to pretend that there’s not a problem in America.

This is not the time to turn our backs on racism.

This is not the time to accept innocent lives being taken from us.

This is not the time to think this doesn’t affect you.

This is not the time to sit back and say nothing.

This is not the time to think that you can’t be part of the solution and the change needed for this to stop.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

This is a time for outrage, but it is not a time for violence. The hatred that comes with racism, bigotry, and intolerance will not be condoned or supported here in Bethlehem or anywhere else for that matter. We are one. Our anger and abhorrence must be converted to something more positive – to hope, to faith and to love.

To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Mayor Bob Donchez

“I have been silent for too long”

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Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly — Jason Schiffer (former chief of Bethlehem city PD and now chief of Lehigh U PD) had an excellent commentary on what we’re seeing across the country:

I am so saddened and sickened by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. This type of treatment of another human being can never be justified and can never be accepted. (1/x)

We cannot just go on with our lives now that the criminal responsible for his death has been arrested. That is not enough. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” (2/x)

I have been silent for too long. Either we take action against racist behavior, or we condone it. There can be no middle ground. (3/x)

The former officers who were on scene also had their knees on George’s neck. Every one of them bears the full responsibility of his death. (4/x)

They all had the power and the ability to do the right thing and they chose to condone his murder. It doesn’t matter that their police training taught all of them that restraining a person in that manner is both dangerous and against policy. (5/x)

It should not take a policy to teach the police to treat another human being with dignity and respect. If you are a police officer and have to be trained and taught to respect human life above all things, please turn in your badge. You are the problem. (6/x)

You are the reason for the civil unrest in this country. The people have had enough of being bullied, of being treated with disrespect,and of being murdered by the state. I am so sick of hearing “what about black on black crime?”. There is no comparison. (7/x)

When a police officer uses force against a citizen, that is the force of the state and the people must demand that the state not violate their rights. It is the very least that someone should demand from their government. (8/x)

I have taken some solace in the number of police officials who have been outspoken over the murder of George Floyd. We have been silent far too long. Our “silence has been betrayal.”

No more. (9/9)

Peter

Bethlehem Saturday demonstration peaceful but angry

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protest 2

photo by Dana Grubb

from Kurt Bresswein, “Hundreds pack together for Bethlehem protest against police brutality.” lehighvalleylive.com, May 30, 2020.

Chants of “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” carried through Bethlehem streets Saturday as hundreds of people packed together in solidarity to protest police brutality against people of color.

The group gathered at 3 p.m. at the Bethlehem Rose Garden on the Lehigh County side of the city, then marched east on Broad Street to Payrow Plaza between City Hall and the public library.

Rallies at both ends bookended the march, which shut down intersections as it passed. At City Hall, protesters blocked New and Church streets so no traffic — a LANTA bus included for a time — could pass.

Eventually, city police who have their headquarters in the City Hall basement responded to block off intersections around the rally and help motorists stuck in the jam.

“I know this is really risky during a pandemic, but I’m willing to take that risk to put this important message and these important people out there because of what’s going on, because this has been going on for so long and it just has to stop,” organizer Matty Fall told lehighvalleylive.com. “I feel I have an obligation to step up and say something.”

Saturday’s protest came together in one day, after Fall woke up Friday and knew she had to take action, she said. Her friend Michael Henriquez created a flier that organizers posted around Bethlehem and shared on social media. Helping to spread the word were grassroots groups with local members, like POWER Lehigh Valley, Make the Road PA, Lehigh Valley Stands Up, Lehigh Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Lehigh Valley Anarchists.

Participants were urged to socially distance themselves and wear masks. Many, but not all, complied as they crammed elbow to elbow for the rallies and march. Some brought children, some brought dogs. Many carried protest signs decrying police brutality and urging remembrance of Floyd and a host others before him who have been killed.

“We’re not trying to do anything violent,” Fall said. “We’re not trying to invoke any kind of violence. We don’t condone it at all.”

“We’re really just trying to get the message across that this can’t keep happening,” she continued. “We don’t want this to happen here or anywhere for that matter.”

Fall is a 2017 graduate of Liberty High School who earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Northampton Community College and is now studying criminal justice management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City with plans to attend law school.

from Tom Shortell, “Bethlehem, Allentown protests against Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd draw hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.” Morning Call, May 30, 2020.

The spark that ignited outrage over the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis on Memorial Day reached the Lehigh Valley on Saturday, with demonstrators in Bethlehem’s Rose Garden and downtown Allentown demanding an end to police brutality.

Speakers called on the community to demand justice and changes in the way police interact with people of color. They also told the audience to use the ballot box to effect change.

“We don’t just want you to vote,” said one. “We want you to get angry and vote out all the people who don’t care about us.”

Rafia Sayed of Easton marveled at the turnout as she and friends marched across the Broad Street Bridge in Bethlehem in a crowd that stretched for three blocks. The protest was her first, but she felt compelled to attend after watching another high-profile video of a black man dying in police custody.

“It’s like all Bethlehem showed up,” she said.

The Bethlehem rally was organized by POWER Lehigh Valley, Make the Road PA, Lehigh Valley Stands Up, Lehigh Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Lehigh Valley Anarchists.

Around 4 p.m., the crowd entered Payrow Plaza by City Hall, to the sounds of cheers and honking horns. All along the way, police were out of sight, giving the protesters a wide berth. But at City Hall, police were present and silent, even as some hurled insults at them. Organizers lined up as a barricade between police and protesters, keeping the protest peaceful even as it was angry.

Here it comes again!

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Allentown, November 20, 1918: “The city is on the verge of a recurrence of the influenza epidemic.”

Why? “The carelessness of a few.”

Flu 103

Flu 104

Flu 105

Allentown shut down for two weeks.

It has been open now for two weeks.

And the Flu is back in an “extremely serious” way.

Lack of social distancing. Lax quarantining.

The disease has not been respected seriously enough.

And now Allentown must consider shutting down again.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Gadfly learns about the Monocacy Farm Project

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Monocacy Farms

So, following an interest  kicked off by Mary Toulouse, Gadfly has been exploring community gardening.

Sometimes, though, you just wait and information comes to you.

The May 28 Fig Weekly called his attention to the Monocacy Farm Project, 395 Bridle Path Road.

In 2012, The School Sisters St. Francis sold a portion of their property in Hanover Township along the Monocacy Creek. True to their Franciscan tradition, the Sisters sought a sustainable use for their remaining farmland and committed to feeding the hungry, caring for the earth, and growing healthy community. Nourished by the support of local businesses, individuals, foundations, interfaith coalitions, and volunteers, the seed planted just 7 years ago has continued to grow. Today, the Monocacy Farm Project includes: community garden plots, production fields, a young apple orchard, a propagation greenhouse with rainwater collection, and solar power systems.

The Project’s Grow Healthy Community Initiative donates weekly supplies of organically-grown produce to area food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters throughout the growing season. Educational workshops for children and adults are presented throughout the year on gardening, ecology, health and sustainability. In 2019, the farm initiated a “Pick-Your-Own” program for those wishing to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. All donations received through the Community Gardens and Pick-Your-Own support the Grow Healthy Community Initiative.

Monocacy Farm Project

Mission

The Monocacy Farm Project seeks to use land and resources at Monocacy Manor in the Franciscan tradition to model stewardship and care of the earth, foster community involvement, provide educational opportunities, and serve the needs of the poor.

Project Goals

The primary goals of the Monocacy Farm Project are to:

  1. Provide area residents and low-income families access to affordable organic produce.
  2. Supply local shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens with donor-sponsored organic produce during the spring and summer growing seasons.
  3. Augment food security and facilitate self-sufficiency among low-income families through the promotion of home gardening programs.
  4. Provide educational programs to youth and adults on holistic health, nutrition and wellness in partnership with medical professionals, nutritionists, clinical herbalists and naturopaths.
  5. Provide annual workshops on sustainability, organic gardening, natural agriculture and permaculture.
  6. Provide interns and volunteers hands-on experience in organic gardening, production farming, and permaculture design.

Community Garden Program

Monocacy Farms makes community garden plots available to area residents wishing to plant and maintain their own vegetable gardens.  Farm staff compost and tractor-till the plots each spring. Mulch and well-water hydrants are provided free of charge by Monocacy Farms. Free instruction in organic and natural agriculture gardening methods is available to all those participating in the Community Garden Program. A donation of $100 per season is requested for a standard 10 ft x 25 ft. garden plot, and $175 for a 20ft x 25ft. plot. Proceeds are used to cover operating expenses and support the farm’s weekly donation of vegetables to area soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters.

Addendum: the beat goes on. Gadfly has also learned about the 4-H Lynfield Community Garden Club conceived by Penn State Extension, Northampton County 4-H, and Lehigh Valley Master Gardeners  through the Southside Vision program. The club is currently focused on teaching youth about horticulture and basic backyard gardening.

November 15, 1918: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” Not

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The war is over. Like the dread influenza epidemic seemingly
it has run its course, and is no more.”
Morning Call, November 15, 1918

There is nothing like an Armistice after a four-year war to presage a return to normalcy.

To the way it was.

Time to open up again.

And after a two-month siege with the Flu as well.

Two great converging battles simultaneously won.

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”

For a short period of time after the Armistice — the period from November 11 to December 1, 1918 — the Morning Call records the signs of Allentown and surrounding areas opening up again: schools open, temporary satellite hospitals close, postponed meetings are rescheduled, medicines now tout their efficacy for the lingering post-Flu weakness rather than as preventatives or therapeutics.

One touching example. Local art, community creativity sprouts again: “Jay Wellington resumed practice on his local talent play ‘Three Cheers’ on Friday evening at the Y.M.C. A. after an interruption of about six weeks made necessary by the influenza epidemic.” When the thespians are out, we’ve turned a corner!

Allentown dusts off the “All Clear” siren.

Flu 102

But not so fast!

Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Macungie: “Notwithstanding the raising of the ban against opening public places throughout most of our state, there are still numerous cases of influenza in this community.

Northampton: “It is reported that influenza is again gaining a foothold in the borough. The epidemic was practically stamped out when the quarantine was lifted.”

East Texas: “Influenza is prevalent at East Texas. . . . There is scarcely a home that does not have members down with the disease.”

Emaus: “From all indications the influenza cases are again on the increase in this borough, as many as 200 children have been absent from school in one day.”

Hellertown: “It was hoped that the influenza would give our town the cold shoulder, but nothing so fortunate is happening. Since the reopening of the schools the disease has broken out with a vengeance among the school children.”

In the same boat, Allentown, always restless under restriction, quickly needed to go back to the drawing board.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”