Harvest Trilogy

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson bleeds once again

As crowds react to the grand jury decision explained in the strangest possible manner, and in code statements formulated to discredit witnesses who were NOT police officers, by Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County MO. Prosecutor who sounded more like a defense attorney for Darren Wilson, protesters have released a statement.

According to ATTN.com, this statement has permission by those who drafted it, and signed it, to be spread far and wide. (Also, read the released grand jury transcripts here)

Update: Ferguson protestors have released a statement:
The Results Are In
An Open Letter from Protestors On The Grand Jury Decision (11.24.14)
In Ferguson, a wound bleeds.
For 108 days, we have been in a state of prolonged and protracted
grief. In that time, we have found community with one another, bonding together as family around the simple notion that our love for our community compels us to fight for our community. We have had no choice but to cling together in hope, faith, love, and indomitable determination to capture that ever escaping reality of justice.
After 108 days, that bleeding wound has been reopened, salt poured in, insult added to the deepest of injury. On August 9th, we found ourselves pushed into unknown territory, learning day by day, minute by minute, to lead and support a movement bigger than ourselves, the most important of our lifetime. We were indeed unprepared to begin with, and even in our maturation through these 108 days, we find ourselves reinjured, continually heartbroken, and robbed of even the remote possibility of judicial resolution. A life has been violently taken before it could barely begin. In this moment, we know, beyond any doubt, that no one will be held accountable within the confines of a system to which we were taught to pledge allegiance. The very hands with which we pledged that allegiance were not enough to save Mike in surrender.
Once again, in our community, in our country, that pledge has returned to us void.
For 108 days, we have continuously been admonished that we should “let the system work,” and wait to see what the results are.
The results are in.
And we still don’t have justice.
This fight for the dignity of our people, for the importance of our lives, for the protection of our children, is one that did not begin Michael’s murder and will not end with this announcement. The ‘system’ you
have told us to rely on has kept us on the margins of society. This system has housed us in her worst homes, educated our children in her worst schools, locked up our men at disproportionate rates and shamed our women for receiving the support they need to be our mothers. This system you have admonished us to believe in has consistently, unfailingly, and unabashedly let us down and kicked us out, time and time again.
This same system in which you’ve told us to trust--this same system meant to serve and protect citizens-- has once again killed two more of our unarmed brothers: Walking up a staircase and shot down in cold blood, we fight for Akai Gurley; Playing with a toy after police had been warned that he held a bb gun and not a real gun at only twelve years old, we fight for Tamir Rice.
So you will likely ask yourself, now that the announcement has been made, why we will still take to the streets? Why we will still raise our voices to protect our community? Why will still cry tears of heartbreak and sing songs of determination?
We will continue to struggle because without struggle, there is no progress.
We will continue to disrupt life, because without disruption we fear for our lives.
We will continue because Assata reminds us daily that “it is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Those chains have bound us-all of us- up for too long. And do not be mistaken- if one of us is bound, we all are. We are, altogether, bound up in a system that continues to treat some men better than others. A system that preserves some and disregards others. A system that protects the rights of some and does not guard the rights of all.
And until this system is dismantled, until the status quo that deems us less valuable than others is no longer acceptable or profitable, we will struggle. We will fight. We will protest.
Grief, even in its most righteous state, cannot last forever. No community can sustain itself this way.
So we still continue to stand for progress, and stand alongside anyone who will make a personal investment in ending our grief and will take a personal stake in achieving justice.
We march on with purpose. The work continues. This is not a moment but a movement. The movement lives.
This letter was written and signed by numerous protestors and supporters, too many to list. Permission is granted in advance for reproduction by all outlets.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How can you help 90 year old vet? Love Thy Neighbor

I just can't let this go, Seriously. While men in power bleat over bureaucracy, one man continues choosing being a good man over being a good citizen. Ninety year old veteran, Arnold Abbott, has been serving his country all his adult life. He is truly a good man who knows that helping people means to get out there and do, not sit around and argue semantics on paperwork. (Write or call Mayor Seiler and tell him he needs to sit down with Mr. Abbott and the two pastors of Love Thy Neighbor, and come to a compromise that helps the homeless of Fort Lauderdale) (Read the entire story to date on my correspondence with Mayor Seiler here)

So he's been cooking, preparing, and passing out meals to homeless people at the park and the beach. As he does, it seems the Fort Lauderdale police have nothing better to do, no actual harmful crimes to foil than citing this man for "sharing food publicly", an activity that is banned in the city. I guess I couldn't offer you a lick of my ice cream cone without getting handcuffed. Sorry. It's really tasty, too.

Mr. Abbott has stated he is not concerned with these citations. Said even though he could face a possibility of 6 months in jail and $500 fine each time, he'll still continue to feed the homeless. This is a man who walks the walk. How can we not admire that?


How can you help? That is the question. I have the answer. Donate to his organization, Love Thy Neighbor. This organization is in honor of his late wife, Maureen, who he says (in the video above) used to be able to spot a homeless person a mile away, and she'd always help. You could always volunteer if you happen to live in the city, but if you don't, donating is the next best way to put actions to intentions, just like Maureen Abbott, and just like Arnold Abbott.

You can keep up with Mr. Abbott on Facebook, and also check out the above shown YouTube video about his work.

I leave you with this thought. Be the change you wish to see. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ringing the breakfast bell

Sometimes, I need a little break from the ugliness of the world. So thought I'd share this lovely video of a good guy who feeds the local deer daily. How sweet is this? They definitely know when he comes out and whistles, it's time to eat!


Actions must match Mayor Seiler's Words

Still watching and waiting after a back-n-forth between myself and Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Jack Seiler. 

He has expressed over and over that he does care about the homeless in his city. I truly want to believe him, but I need to see actions match words. We all do. As he sent me his latest reply shown here, Can the Homeless Feeding Fiasco in Fort Lauderdale Teach Us All?" the following was going on.

On November 17th, IfYouOnlyNews.com published this story;

Ft. Lauderdale Spends $25,000 Of Taxpayer Money To Bus Homeless Out Of Town

Under fire from all directions over the recent arrest and citing of three persons, a 90 year-old-vet, and two pastors (more than once) for feeding the homeless, it looks now, by this action, that the city of Fort Lauderdale has decided if they just bus the homeless out of town, they'll become someone else's problem, and maybe, just maybe, it will take the focus off of them. This is the equivalent of sweeping a mess under a rug, rolling that rug up, and tossing onto the side of the road two miles away from one's house in the hope that no one notices. Mayor Seiler told the Sun Sentinel, “We’re not pushing them out. If somebody has a network of support, a group of family and friends that will provide for them back home, that’s probably a good place for them to be.”

I ended our conversation with suggesting that the mayor sit down with Mr. Arnold Abbott (the vet arrested publicly for feeding the homeless outside and away from 'designated' areas), and talk with him hear his side, and come to a compromise that helps everyone do the right thing. Because, as I pointed out previously in quoting Aristotle, sometimes being a good citizen and a good man is not the same thing. In this case, being the good citizen means ignoring the needs of people who may not be able to get to these special, designated areas. And as I also stated before, what is the difference between feeding strangers at a public park and feeding friends and family at the same public part via a picnic or barbecue? Neither of these last two requires compliance with city regulations for food safety. 

Mayor Seiler, the world is STILL watching. Busing the homeless out of town doesn't solve the problem of homelessness, and it doesn't solve your problem, sir, either. This reeks of desperation. Stop. Breathe. Rethink, and take my suggestion to sit down with Mr. Abbott, and also those two pastors cited for feeding the homeless. It's time for a Food Summit. It's time to accept that there are people in need, and enlist the community, who obviously want to help,...enlist them in aiding with this issue in a way that actually helps the homeless. You gave me quite a list of programs in place specifically for the homeless population. Well? Help these community leaders help the homeless. LEAD! Stop just reacting. 

 

 

 


Monday, November 17, 2014

Can the homeless feeding fiasco in Fort Lauderdale teach us all?

Search: Licensed under Google for reuse: 'Arnold Abbott feeding homeless' www.motherjones.com
My hat is off to Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale for continually responding to my email inquiries. I have to admit my surprise, but it's a good surprise. I initially let quite a bit of my anger and outrage spill through in the first letter, but after that, I dialed it back, and stayed within respectful boundaries, and we seem to have arrived at a point where I believe he knows that something must be done to address this situation with Mr. Arnold, and the wrong visited upon the homeless of his city through policies that, although designed to help, may, in some cases, hurt. So I've left it suggesting a meeting of the minds, a "Food Summit" of sorts between the mayor and Mr. Arnold. Please find below the response from Mayor Seiler, and my final word on the subject....for now. (Read the full history of correspondence here)

From:  Jack Seiler (Jack.Seiler@Fortlauderdale.Gov)
Sent: Mon 11/17/14 9:03 PM
To: Michele GWYNN (megwynn@msn.com)
Thanks for your input and for caring about the homeless. We truly appreciate the concern and respectful approach, and we recognize that this is a very difficult and emotional issue.

The City Commission did not realize that requiring the homeless be fed in safe, secure, sanitary and healthy conditions would be distorted by the media as an attack on the homeless. The City Commission did not ban feeding the homeless in the City of Fort Lauderdale and did not make it illegal to feed the homeless; the City Commission only regulated the location of those feedings. In fact, there are numerous locations where homeless feedings may be legally held in the City, including our downtown. You can read the ordinance online at our website: FortLauderdale.gov.

Further, the cycle of homeless and homelessness on the streets of Fort Lauderdale is unacceptable, and this City Commission will do everything possible to get them off the streets and into the right programs, to the appropriate facilities, and to the proper resources necessary to turn their lives around.

This City Commission also does substantial charitable work for the homeless here in South Florida, volunteer at the local homeless assistance center, contribute financially to assist homeless programs and benefits, and work on several successful homeless veterans programs and projects. You can find many of those programs listed on our website at FortLauderdale.gov.

Your assistance is also appreciated, and we welcome volunteers, partners, charitable contributions, donations, and all levels of support.

Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving.

John P. "Jack" Seiler
Mayor
City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
And my final word
Mayor Seiler,

I, too, appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, and correspond with me on this issue. I hope that with the attention the situation has brought to this, that it helps both sides. I can see that you do care. I'd like to offer one last suggestion.  Have a sit-down, yourself, with Mr. Abbott. It's this kind of hands-on compassionate approach that everyone can appreciate. He cares. You care, and somewhere in there, he had to make a decision between being a good citizen or a great man. I'm sure he wasn't thinking that, exactly, nor was he thinking he would just arbitrarily defy city ordinance. He acted then, and continues to act now on his heart. It seems that it is the same heart that beats in you. So please, have a sit down with this man, and work things out together. Show the world that Fort Lauderdale can do, through its good intentions and compassion, on a local level, what the nation seems to be having so much trouble accomplishing - compromise for the good of all. Lead the way. Set the example. I'm sure you don't want to see a veteran with a heart punished for stepping up to the plate,...and well, handing out plates..of food! This is a defining moment for you. It's up to you now. We're all watching and waiting....

Thank you for your time.

M.E. Gwynn

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fort Lauderdale's "No Public Feeding of the Homeless" problem persists

According to Local10.com News, three more people were cited in Fort Lauderdale, FL for feeding the homeless. (An Open Letter to Mayor Seiler on the Arrest of 90 Year Old Vet for Feeding the Homeless)

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

This time, it went down far more peacefully, however, the city's policy about not feeding the homeless in public is becoming both a PR problem, and a national shame. Despite all the good cited in his email to me about Fort Lauderdale's progressive policies to assist the homeless, Mayor Jack Seiler and city leaders are failing to see this for what it is, a public shaming of both good Samaritans and a censure on being homeless. The stigma seems to be that doing this in public, in very public places like Stranahan Park, is prohibited. Mayor Jack Seiler cites food safety. Okay. I'll buy a little into that. We surely don't want people being fed by those who would not take the proper precautions to ensure that temperatures are correct and such. But let's compare that to say....eating garbage? Which is safer?

And what, exactly, is the difference between being fed charitably at a church or some indoor building versus the park? A permit? Aren't their restaurants near the park? What about food trucks? I think we may have a solution here. Arnold Abbott and those emulating his good deeds simply need a food truck with a permit where they can distribute their free meals to the homeless in a way that might satisfy the city. But then I think, will that satisfy them? I mean, don't people have picnics in the park? Can't they invite friends? What's the diff between a picnic with friends (which doesn't require a permit), and cooking for lots of homeless 'friends'?

Listen, sometimes laws are stupid. Sometimes, they make zero sense, like the reversal of Citizens United by the Supreme Court, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Stand Your Ground which never seems to help the right people, and the "Do Not Feed the Homeless in Public"-style rule in Fort Lauderdale.

Aristotle said "it's not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." And we all know Jesus was a hippie rebel who would easily shame the leadership of this city over this.

Still waiting on second reply from the mayor. I believe his heart may be in the right place, but his head is in the politics of it. The two don't jibe, and he'll need to choose. This problem won't go away until he does. "Mayor Seiler, your citizens are trying to do right by their fellow man. What they do helps not only the starving man, but the city, itself. A desperate and hungry soul will do anything to get one bite of food, including committing a crime. A fed soul will not harm others, and will be grateful. A fed soul will reach back and help others. A fed soul will pay it forward, have a chance, be open to a helping hand that would lift them out of their desperate situation with an opportunity to work, to better themselves. A fed soul then becomes a help to its community instead of a burden. I always say if one cannot or will not help, then get out of the way and let others who can and will, do. Do not criminalize charity. Do not criminalize being homeless. You say that's not what your city is doing, but this news report shows otherwise. Actions need to align with words. The nation is watching."

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Reply from the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale on Arnold Abbott

Regarding my recent letter to the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Jack Seiler, about the arrest of a good Samaritan, Mr. Arnold Abbott, a 90 year old veteran whose crime was--feeding the homeless, I received the following reply,

Michele:

I appreciate the opportunity to clarify much of the misinformation that has been prevalent in the media recently regarding the homeless.
Contrary to reports, the City of Fort Lauderdale is not banning groups from feeding the homeless.  We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community. The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner.
While the ordinance regulates outdoor food distribution, it permits indoor food distribution to take place at houses of worship throughout the City.  By allowing houses of worship to conduct this activity, the City is actually increasing the number of locations where the homeless can properly receive this service. 
At two recent outdoor food distributions, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety.  Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody.  Had these activities taken place indoors, at a house of worship, they would have been in full compliance with the ordinance.
Experts agree, however, that homeless individuals need more than just food.  The homeless need shelter, clothing, and comprehensive medical and social services in order to help them get back on their feet.
To set the record straight, few cities have done more for the homeless than Fort Lauderdale.  We are taking a comprehensive approach by working with numerous agencies, non-profit, charitable and faith-based organizations that, like us, are dedicated to effectively addressing this complex and important issue.  Our overarching goal is to provide a long-term comprehensive solution for the homeless population.  While aiming for that goal, we are concurrently working to protect public safety and maintain quality of life for our neighbors, businesses and visitors. 
Our efforts include:
  • Fort Lauderdale was the first City in South Florida to establish a dedicated Homeless Assistance Unit as part of its Police Department.  This Unit makes approximately 8,000 referrals a year working with the homeless to provide them with access to housing, critical medical care and social services.  The award-winning initiative stands as a model that has been replicated by local, state, and national police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country.
  • Fort Lauderdale is home to the only full service comprehensive Homeless Assistance Center in Broward County.  The Center has been operating here since 1999.  Recently, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance allowing the Homeless Assistance Center to expand its size and scope of operations to accommodate more beds and serve more homeless.
  • The City maintains an active partnership with Mission United, an organization dedicated to providing housing and social services to homeless Veterans.
  • In addition to Mission United, the City maintains partnerships, provides resources and support to Broward County, the Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Salvation Army of Broward County, United Way of Broward County, Hope South Florida, and the Task Force for Ending Homelessness.  These partnerships represent an outstanding example of how homelessness needs to be addressed – by bringing together a variety of agencies and organizations to collaborate, share resources, and leverage strengths in a unified effort to comprehensively impact homelessness through the coordination and delivery of essential programs and services.
  • Fort Lauderdale is the only city in South Florida and one of 235 communities in the United States taking part in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort to move disabled, chronically homeless people from the street to a place of their own. Using the motto "Housing First," the campaign reverses the traditional approach that required the homeless to go through addiction counseling and job training before earning a roof over their heads. 
  • Through the Housing First program, Fort Lauderdale is providing the most vulnerable homeless individuals with housing, medical, and social services.  The program is funded by a $441,000 federal grant that the City of Fort Lauderdale secured from HUD.  It is currently providing permanent supportive housing for 22 chronically homeless people. 
  • The City is proud to report that our initiative was recently re-funded by HUD.  During the current year, we will have an additional $455,000 to continue to operate and expand this effort to serve even more chronic and vulnerable homeless in our City.
As part of our comprehensive strategy, the City has passed new ordinances that aim to reduce the public safety hazards and inappropriate nuisance activities that are negatively impacting our community.  As a City, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our public spaces are accessible and can be safely enjoyed by everyone – families, children, residents and visitors. 
Our quality of life in Fort Lauderdale and our economic viability are directly linked to our stewardship of public spaces.   The City continues to provide leadership in the implementation of innovative ideas to protect our quality of life while ensuring continued funding for programs and initiatives that address humanitarian needs.
The City, our neighbors, and our businesses have a long and distinguished history of compassion toward those in need. 
If you would like to make a contribution to local non-profit agencies that help fund homeless assistance, substance abuse, and community support services in Fort Lauderdale, please visit: www.fortlauderdale.gov/give
Again, thank you for your interest in this important humanitarian issue.
John P. "Jack" Seiler
Mayor
City of Fort Lauderdale
I can fully appreciate his words, and the work he states the city is doing for their homeless population. Still, it doesn't really address what they are doing about the arrest and fine to Mr. Abbott. So, of course, I sent another letter. Let's see if we get a reply and some resolution that we can all feel good about. 

Mayor Seiler,

Thank you for responding. I appreciate that. The only thing I didn't see in this list of good deeds for the homeless in Fort Lauderdale was you addressing the issue of Mr. Arnold Abbott. If I gather correctly, you're saying he was justly fined and not arrested for feeding the homeless 'outside' of a place of worship or designated area? Is that correct?

If that is so, and I do understand the idea behind ensuring food safety much in the same was as any restaurant would have to do, I would still like to hear what is being done in regards to Mr. Abbott. His actions are really no different than one neighbor feeding another, whether it's in their home or out on the lawn, down the street at a park....

I get the feeling that you are not comfortable with being perceived as the mayor of a city that would punish a good Samaritan, so considering the age of the gentleman in question, his service to our country, and his continued service to his fellow man, couldn't the city see its way to dropping the charges, and instead, helping him get established at one of these houses of worship or near where he tries to help so many? Mr. Abbott is a rare and kind heart in a world where too many are only concerned for themselves. And the state of Florida could use some good press after these past couple of years of unarmed teens getting shot, voter role purges by the GOP for non-existent voter fraud, and attacks on women's reproductive rights to name a few. I urge you to do the right thing. I realize from what you've written that a city ordinance was broken, but how many are broken daily by those actually doing harm, selfish harm at that? This man, Mr. Abbott, was actually walking the walk of a true man of Christ. That's saying a lot coming from me because I don't consider myself religious by any stretch. But his actions speak for him. He cares. So please, show that you, and the city of Fort Lauderdale, care by dropping the charges, and helping this man, who has so little time left on this earth, help others.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An open letter to Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler

This meme is going around on Facebook. It is remarking upon the recent arrest of a 90 year-old WWII veteran named Arnold Abbott who was arrested last week for the horrible crime of feeding the homeless. Yes, that was sarcasm. In this world where cops are gunning down unarmed teenagers for jaywalking, or cop-wannabes are fatally shooting kids walking home with a bag of skittles, and citizens are killing the black kid in the car next to them playing their music too loud, Fort Lauderdale is trying to put the good guy in jail. Honestly, what the f**k? Florida, the state where a retired cop killed a man for text messaging during the previews at a movie theater. The state where they purge voter lists and rig elections. The state of the infamous 'hanging chad' scandal... Florida needs to pull its head out of its arse. So with that in mind, I fired off this letter to the mayor in the vain hope that somewhere inside that husk we call a politician, a man with a conscience might still reside and be reached.

If you'd like to help Arnold Abbott get back to the business of being an American hero, the info is above. Call or write to Mayor Seiler. Let your voice be heard.
I'm not sure if you'll even open this email once you've read the subject line, but if you do, thank you. I'd like you to take a moment and reflect on the values of the Democratic Party and people you represent. Since when is arresting a 90 year-old veteran who spends his time on this earth helping feed the homeless the right thing? He's doing what is morally right by any standard or chosen faith. I don't know if you're a religious man, and I would never characterize myself as religious since I do not subscribe to any religion, but I respect wise people, and there's a saying I recall from my grandmother. Jesus said "'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." I take that to mean not only the literal takeaway, but also this: What we do or do not do to or for someone else in their time of need, we bring upon ourselves. Mayor Seiler, you happen to be fortunate in that you have a roof over your head, and food to eat. There are far too many not so fortunate, and for multitudes of reasons. We cannot and should not judge, but we should help. You're not helping when your officers treat a gentle man with a good heart as a criminal. Instead of arresting this gentleman, your city should be helping, and if you cannot see it within yourselves to help, then at least get out of the way and let the more courageous do what needs to be done.

Shame on you for criminalizing charity and homelessness. I challenge you to live one week as the homeless do; with no comforts, no money, no food, no hope, and see how you fare. Then let a man like Arnold Abbott, a man who served our country, and continues to serve the men and women of our country through his good works, come and offer you a meal. In that moment of utter hopelessness and hunger, tell me you think he needs to be arrested for the crime of feeding you. I dare you.

Now, please do the right thing. Drop the ridiculous charges, and let Mr. Abbott go about his work.