Weekly Update 2.10.19

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Frederick Douglass,
American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman

     We hope this email finds you well, WeCAN readers. During the month of February we are sharing African-American history from within Windham County, Vermont; this week’s offering centers around Frederick Douglass and his trip to Brattleboro.

From an article by Anne Dempsey, in the Brattleboro Reformer February 8, 1994:  
     Before and during the Civil War, former slave and black orator Frederick Douglass traveled the speakers' circuit for the anti-slavery movement. By January 1866, the nation faced new challenges. The war had ended. Lincoln had been killed. Vice President Andrew Johnson had taken over the helm. Many newly freed black people found themselves homeless, hungry and unemployed. Douglass had new issues to address.
     On Jan. 4, 1866, Douglass spoke at Brattleboro's town hall. Before a full house, he stressed the importance of voting rights for the black population. He eulogized Abraham Lincoln for his signing the Emancipation Proclamation, winning the war against slavery and supporting the Freedmen's Bureau. He criticized Johnson, who opposed the black vote and supported southern states that instituted racist laws (called Black Codes). Johnson also restored to former Rebels land that the Freedman's Bureau had promised to newly freed blacks.
     Both Brattleboro papers supported Douglass' praise of Lincoln, but sidestepped his criticism of Johnson. The Vermont Phoenix described him as "modest in demeanor, quiet in manner," while expressing "his thoughts with grace and force." The Vermont Record noted "his sentiments were. . .endorsed by hearty applause." It also remarked that Douglass was a "radical," wanting too much too fast, "but radical men are useful in preparing the public mind for great questions and great changes."
     Over President Johnson's protests, Congress did adopt a number of reforms Douglass had publicly advocated, in Brattleboro and elsewhere. During the summer of 1866, Congress began dismantling the Black Codes. Black males gained voting rights in 1870. But for most former slaves, the dream of owning 40 acres and a mule never was realized. A runaway slave himself, Douglass gave these thoughts on his escape in "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave Written by Himself":

     ‘The thought of leaving my friends was decidedly the most painful thought with which I had to contend. The love of them was my tender point, and shook my decision more than all things else. Besides the pain of separation, the dread and apprehension of a failure exceeded what I had experienced at my first attempt. The appalling defeat I then sustained returned to torment me. I felt assured that, if I failed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one -- it would seal my fate as a slave forever. I could not hope to get off with anything less than the severest punishment, and being placed beyond the means of escape. It required no very vivid imagination to depict the most frightful scenes through which I should have to pass, in case I failed. The wretchedness of slavery, and the blessedness of freedom were perpetually before me. It was life and death with me. But I remained firm and according to my resolution, on the 3rd day of September, 1838, I left my chains and succeeded in reaching N. Y. without the slightest interruption of any kind.’"

     To discuss the life and works of Frederick Douglass in more depth, we recommend attending the Reading Frederick Douglass 2019 Event on Monday, February 11th at the Rockingham Free Public Library in Bellows Falls at 6pm (details are below, in the body of this email). We look forward to seeing you there!


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Weekly Update 2.4.19

“I don’t think I have to go into a detailed appraisal here of the great artistic merit of Negro folk music or of its unquestionable significance for all of mankind….Even in capitalistic America, where there exists racial discrimination of revolting proportions, where many “cultured” whites refuse to recognize the Negro as a human being—even there our folk songs constitute, as strange as it may seem, an object of national pride for many Americans. These songs are striking in the noble beauty of their melodies, in the expressiveness and resourcefulness of their intonations, in the startling variety of their rhythms, in the sonority of their harmonies, and in the unusual distinctiveness and poetic nature of their forms.”
Paul Robeson (1949)
 an African-American bass-baritone concert artist and stage and film actor who became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism

Dear {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}} --
     Happy February, WeCAN readers. In this month’s Weekly Email Update we will be taking a look at Black History in Windham County and throughout Vermont. If you have any information or websites you’d like to share with our community please feel free to email them to admin@wecantogether.net. We look forward to hearing from you. 
     The following excerpt comes from local historian Anne Dempsey’s five part series on Black History in Brattleboro, VT that ran in the Brattleboro Reformer in 1994: 
     Even before George Washington became the first President, African-Americans lived as free people in Vermont, where slavery was prohibited in the state's 1777 Constitution; in 1786 Benjamin Wheaton bought land in Brattleboro and was the first African-American man to do so. 
     From 1786 to 1806 Wheaton's town taxes helped care for the poor, pay the minister's salary, and build roads, bridges, and schoolhouses. In 1791 he took the Freeman's Oath, Vermont's prerequisite for voting. He was a literate man, owning a number of books, a brass inkstand, and a share in the Brattleboro Library.
     In 1803 he purchased a pew in the town's meeting house which, at that time, stood across the street from the First Congregational Church. Wheaton's profession is not known, though he owned many tools commonly used in furniture-making. Whatever his trade, Wheaton felt secure enough to purchase land adjoining his property early in 1806.
     In March of the same year the agenda at the annual town meeting included this item: "to see if the town will consent that a pest-house shall be opened and adopt some other measure to prevent the spreading of small pox which has made its appearance in this town."
     Benjamin Wheaton died later that same month (March 1806). Some of his outstanding bills at the time of his death were for services rendered during his "last sickness." It can be assumed that Wheaton contracted and died from smallpox.
     Wheaton had no heirs. Consequently, the town purchased his land from his estate for $51. This money paid Wheaton's doctor bills, his tab at the general store, and the balance of notes and interest on his property.
     A notation on the land deed reads: "to be used by the town of Brattleboro forever as a road, common, or green and for no other purpose." This land today is known as the West Brattleboro Common, a triangular green that borders Western Avenue in West Brattleboro.
Brattleboro Reformer, February 7, 1994.



Note: There are many new additions to the email this week. Please take a few moments to scroll through to the end and find a new meeting or event to attend!


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Weekly Update 1.28.19

“The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. It is staggering that the President has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
via her Statement on Special Counsel Indictment and Arrest of Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone
Saturday, January 26th, 2019

     Many of you, our awesome WeCAN readers, have asked us to post a list of ways one can help Federal Employees and Government Contract Workers during the shutdown (despite the Bill passed this week, government issued back pay still excludes more than a million contract workers who are predominately janitors, security guards, and food service workers and only extends a functioning government for 21 days)*.

  • Donate to GoFundMe's Government Shutdown Direct Relief Fund here: https://www.gofundme.com/govshutdown.
         The money raised will be distributed to nonprofit organizations across the country that are offering general relief to government workers, including but not limited to food, counseling, and housing support. This fund will also provide donations to the National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit that is supplying diapers to new parents impacted by the shutdown. Additionally, due to the concentration of federal workers in the DC Metro Area, a portion of the funds will be transferred to the World Central Kitchen, providing free meals to federal workers affected by the shutdown.
  • Donate Your Time or Money directly to World Central Kitchen here: https://www.worldcentralkitchen.org/join-chefsforfeds/
        Over 800,000 government workers have been impacted by the ongoing government shutdown. World Central Kitchen has opened a kitchen and cafe in Washington, DC to serve federal employees in need at 701 Pennsylvania Ave NW (near the US Navy Memorial). They are now bringing the effort nationwide through a series of partner chefs, restaurants, and food trucks. Chef Jose Andres spearheads this global World Kitchen initiative which is actively looking for satellite members. Check out this link if you are interested in starting a #ChefsforFeds kitchen here in Vermont. 
  • Donate to Local Food Banks:
    Use the Vermont Food Bank's local agency search engine here: https://www.vtfoodbank.org/agency-locator to find your nearest Food Shelf and make a donation. Contact your local Food Bank to see what items they are in need of before you make your trip, if possible, as food banks are significantly depleted right now and have specific needs for their communities. 
  • Contact Your Local State and Federal Representatives (and Beyond-Local Republican Representatives) and Ask Them to Support "Bill H.R. 339: The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act; to Provide for the Compensation of Federal Contractor Employees That May Be Placed on Unpaid Leave as a Result of the Federal Government Shutdown, and for Other Purposes".
         The bill aims to provide up to $600 per paycheck in back pay for furloughed federal contracted employees, including janitorial, food, and security workers. It has the support of Democrats in the House and Senate. The text suggests that the bill would work as such: "if a Federal contractor that provides retail, food, custodial, or security services to the Federal Government places the employees of such contractor on unpaid leave as a result of any lapse in appropriations which begins in fiscal year 2019, the Government shall provide compensation to such employees at their standard rate of compensation for the period of such lapse.”.

 Thank you for your activism and action on behalf of your neighbors and community. Every small amount donated matters



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Weekly Update 1.21.19

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces the beggars needs restructuring."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Beyond Vietnam”, 1967

     We hope you are staying warm during this snowstorm, WeCAN readers. Take a moment between shoveling sessions, if you can, to make a plan for Monday, January 21st: this year's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of ServiceMake it a Day ON, Not a Day Off! There are many ways you can participate in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. You can join a project already planned in your community; you can develop your own project with family, friends, and neighbors; or if you work for an organization that mobilizes volunteers, you can make King Day the day you train new volunteers to be deployed throughout the year. 
     You may be asking (or will be asked by others): 
What is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Why is it a "Day of Service?" 
Legislation signed in 1983 marked the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Each year, on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is observed as a "day on, not a day off." MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King's vision of a "Beloved Community."


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