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Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Al-SharptonRacism terrifies me.  Ever since I was a little kid I was aware of the brutality of what racial hatred – or any other baseless prejudice – could cause because we lived in a neighborhood of blacks and whites.  It always seemed so crazy to me, even then.  I guess that’s why the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington – which my mother actually remembers and still talks about – is so important to me.   It is scary for me to think that at one time in our history women and blacks didn’t have the vote.  But Abraham Lincoln was fighting for this.  In a letter in the possession of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation to Michael Hahn, (the first Jew who was elected governor in American history), Abraham Lincoln “gently but firmly pushed for Black suffrage – and surprisingly, without making any distinction between the free-born and the freed…”

I am planning to board the PennLive bus to Washington with the others on Saturday.  It’s so weird to think that it’s been 50 years since the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place.  What’s even weirder for me is that we’re still encountering racism and prejudice.  All in all it is expected that around 100,000 will be at the march and rally for this commemoration, in part sponsored by Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (Martin Luther King III’s eldest son).  According to AP, the event is meant to be a tribute to “the significance of the original march and the ‘galvanizing’ of support for civil rights during that time,” the result of which was laws to protect people’s rights.

But as Homer Floyd, Chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee of the Greater Harrisburg NAACP and Pennsylvania NAACP, accurately noted that this event is “to kind of celebrate the successes and, at the same time, recognizing that there are many challenges that remain.”  And a Harrisburg resident, Junior Howard said that the march marked “another step on a long journey to the final destination” of racial equality and freedom. It’s a part of history.  It’s a part of who I am.”  And, truthfully, that’s exactly how I feel.

Summer: Things to Do with Kids in Harrisburg

WigglesIt’s not so easy figuring out how to keep one’s kids occupied for the whole summer.  That’s probably why my ex-wife has sent the three boys to me for a fortnight!  But I’m determined to make the most of it.  So I’ve been scouring the papers and the web for things to do with kids in Harrisburg in August.  So far I’ve taken the little one to Preschool story-time at Wildwood Park where he got sticky fingers making a bunch of cute crafts.  Then the other two joined us in the park just hanging out. I was surprised how much they all enjoyed the play time in the park.  I must take them again because it’s really beautiful out there.

Today there’s also The Wiggles. I’m not sure if my kids are really too old for this but the little one for sure wants to go.  He keeps saying “Wiggles, Wiggles, watch me giggle” and runs around giggling! It’s really cute.  His older brothers might enjoy just watching him watch it.  Anyway we don’t have tickets yet but we may take a stroll down to the Hershey Theatre later on and see what the situation is as we have nothing else planned for the day.

So it’s true.  It’s not easy to find things to do with kids in Harrisburg, or indeed anywhere during the summer. Stuff is expensive and crowded.  But with a bit of research and a good attitude, we may just manage to enjoy the last two weeks of the school vacation.

Touring in Harrisburg?

So while I had a great time in Manhattan, I did feel a bit guilty when I read in the local news about the attempt by Harrisburg officials to promote tourism in the area.  It’s true I’ve not lived in the region all that long, so maybe I should have had my vacation at home as it were and checked out stuff locally.  Still, Manhattan was so much fun.

This month for example there is going to be a tourism-promotion kick-off lunch at Skytop Lodge.  That in and of itself is quite a treat and, when I next get some time off I’m going to check it out.  I don’t necessarily need to go for the address by Susan Corbett that’s going to happen on March 25th, but I will spend some time there in the future, perhaps when my parents visit.  In fact, they keep saying they want to come see where I live but I don’t think any of us are embracing the prospect of us all sharing the same space, so the Skytop Lodge may be just the thing.

Fitted with a pool area, exercise room and business center, it is conveniently located at Route 39 North (not too near to me, but near enough) and has great reviews.  It has a spa, sauna and fitness center which is perfect for mom.  It’s also pretty near Harrisburg International Airport and very easy to access from there.  I think it will be the perfect place for mom and dad.  And then, I don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying my tourism out of my city!

Getting Back to Basics

I was never really one for being earthy or growing my own potatoes – that was more left to the ex-wife – but the kids have been showing a lot of interest recently and I want to encourage them in something as positive as this.  So I was really happy to learn about the nearby BeeHaven Roadside Market.  Set up by Rick and Jennifer Rutherford this past summer, I paid a visit to this cute oldsy-world general store and actually surprised myself by the delight and joy I experienced.

For me it was like taking a walk back into my childhood with the hand-printed sales signs, old ice-boxes housing eggs and meats, etc.  But for my kids, it was something altogether new and they got such a kick out of the whole encounter, especially when they noticed the candy sticks and other classic treats I remember from way back when.

All the stuff is sold by the locals – anyone who has made something they feel is worth selling and the whole store is just getting increasingly popular as the months go by.  There’s such a pleasant energy there, a feeling of being transported back to a simpler time, when one just sold a few goods in their store until teatime when they had made enough to live for the day.  Oh how things have changed.

True, it is unlikely that the Rutherfords will be able to retire with the money they make from this venture, but the BeeHaven Roadside Market will probably become the talk of many dinner party conversations in Harrisburg.

“We have gathered what we feel like is the best products from local vendors, ranchers and farmers,” said Jennifer. “It gives them another place to market their products. Out here, every opportunity helps.”

Laughter Returns to Harrisburg

I just found out that Eclipse and Mars just re-opened in Harrisburg.  It’s been a while since it was last around – in fact, way before my time – but now it’s all the rage and locals are very excited about the cool, improved clubs – Second Street Comedy Club and Buddha Buddha!  Different titles for sure, but similar ideas I hear.

I could for sure do with some comedy and that’s exactly what the former is going to offer, located above the Harrisburg Hardware Bar.  Food and laughter – that’s about as perfect a combination as you can get as far as I’m concerned.  Monthly they are going to feature top talent like Josh Blue, “the comedian who puts the cerebral in cerebral palsy,” who will be the grand-opening star.  What’s nice too is that all proceeds from the $10 tickets will be donated to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund, so while we’re having a laugh, we can feel good about it too!

No More Cash for Harrisburg’s Elderly

Last week The General Assistance cash grant program that had been in operation in Harrisburg ever since The Great Depression came to an end due, of course, not surprisingly, to a lack of funding.  This is going to be a huge issue for the approximately 70,000 elderly Pennsylvanians who have been receiving around $200 a month.  These include: the elderly; victims of domestic violence; disabled; etc.

I was actually hoping it wouldn’t come to this.  A friend of mine is one of the recipients – he has a lot going on – and he told me that it had been continuing these last few weeks even though it was meant to end at the beginning of July.  But he just got the official letter that it’s now ending. I don’t know what he’s going to do; he – along with the other thousands who were receiving the money – really relied on it.

We shouldn’t really be so surprised though.  A vast majority of social service programs have been cut back or eliminated.  Now the question is, how will these people be protected from really going under?  What is going to happen?  According to DPW spokeswoman Carey Miller, the next address for them will be their caseworkers for each case to be evaluated on an individual basis. There could also be food stamps and access to medical assistance to cushion the blow as well.  Whatever happens, I seriously hope the city and the Mayor have thought this through properly.

Hooray!!! No More Taxes!!

Finally some good financial news.  My job is a little bit unstable right now as there are rumors that around 20 percent of employees are going to be fired due to major company cutbacks.  I’m praying it’s not true and I’m busy looking for other work, but in the meantime, any good fiscal news is going to be very welcome by me.

So when I heard that in recent news, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a $27.7 billion no-new-taxes budget, I actually found myself cheering out loud!  No one was in the house; the kids are still with their mom and I was just enjoying a quiet evening in watching the TV.  It actually felt really good.

There is still going to be a slight escalation on spending for the 2012-13 fiscal year, but only 1 ½ percent and that apparently is going to be put towards debt (mainly), pensions and healthcare for the poor, as well as aiding in fiscal issues from this year.  In addition, there is an approved proposal of $50 million tax credit that is set out to assist students on low incomes get out of the state’s worst schools (which thankfully isn’t my kids as they are not in school in Harrisburg).  But still, it’s nice to know that Corbett is looking to help children in the region improve their chances through better education.

City Kindness in Disasters

It was pretty dire when the tornado hit our city a few months ago.  Thankfully, although the boys and I heard the turmoil, we weren’t directly affected in any other way.  But I had work colleagues who lost their homes and our office took a pretty damaging hit as well, forcing all staff to work from home until the repairs were complete and the building declared safe-to-work in again.

But that’s old news.  I vaguely remember hearing at the time that there were a lot of individuals and groups banding together to try to help, with money and time.  But I pretty much figured that it would only last momentarily as these things usually do.  Once the initial shock and noise dies down, people usually get back to their day-to-day lives and those who are impacted by the disaster somehow need to work out how to get back to their lives too, although it’s usually nearly-impossible.

So that’s why I was so happy to learn that donations are still flowing in via various groups which are trying to help Harrisburg’s clean-up and recovery effort.  And thank G-d really, is what I say.  According to secretary of the Alton-Godfrey Kiwanis Club, Diane Horning, there are still “dozens upon dozens of homes with temporary tarp roofs.”  In addition, she is concerned that not all the homes which were totally destroyed will be rebuilt, at all.

But clearly Horning is doing her bit.  Her Kiwanis Club is one of around 20 of the groups which are raising funds to help put Harrisburg back together again.  But rather than just practical help (which of course is very much needed), what she’s doing now is really cute, and I think helps those people dealing with this kind of mass destruction, take their mind off it for a while.  Her Club planned a pancake breakfast, the proceeds of which will go towards the Harrisburg recovery project.  Now that’s cool.  And it’s thoughtful.  At least, this kind of news makes me proud to be a Harrisburg resident.  In the face of disaster, kindness is shown.

Cops N’ Community

There’s a workshop taking place today I’m planning on attending. It’s a meeting between police and the lay individuals in our Harrisburg community.  The goal is for communication between community and the police (me and them in other words) to be strengthened.  It’s funny; I’ve never had much of an opinion about the police – positive or negative – I’ve always been quite neutral.  But now that I’ve got kids, and being a single dad, I feel that I should get involved in as many community happenings as possible.  So I was really pleased to find out about this workshop – “Cops N’ Community.”

Apparently we’re going to learn about law enforcement from their point of view and also how to potentially pinpoint obstacles that are detrimental to our relationships as well as how to increase safety in the neighborhood.  So it’s off to the Heinz-Maker Senior Center for me later on.  Hope it’s productive.

Beating Crime in Harrisburg

There’s definitely been too much crime in my city.  I really didn’t know about that before I moved in, but there again, it’s not exactly something I researched much.  I was just desperate to get far away from my ex.  But now that I keep hearing about all the crime, I’m seriously beginning to reconsider and look at the option of relocating.  It’s hardly the kind of place I want to be (part-time) bringing up my kids.  I mean, if people can go so low as beating up the elderly, what hope is there?

So, while I wouldn’t exactly say I was delighted to learn about the new measures our Mayor is implementing to try and beat this crime – I mean, I’d prefer we didn’t have the situation to begin with – learning about District Ed Marsico’s promise to provide the necessary funding to install cameras in the city as a deterrent, was good news overall.

Problem is though, I read recently that the Mayor isn’t too happy as this was meant to have happened already.  The money, it appears, just hasn’t come through.  Ms. Thompson thus plans on following up with him.  But apparently it might not just be Marsico’s fault.  He claims that it’s not just a case of putting cameras up – they need to be monitored. Oh politics, politics; it’s not my job, blah, blah.

Anyway the upshot is, I really don’t know what’s going to happen.  Tweeter JulieCBS21 recently pointed out that Harrisburg is ranked the 20th worst city for crime.    Of course, if you ask Ms. Thompson, she’ll claim the city is safe.  So I wonder what she would say to Heather Murphy’s claim on NeighborhoodScout.com that one’s “odds of being the victim of violent crime in Harrisburg are 1-in-62.”

Still, there are a lot of great things about the city.  The kids love coming; the restaurants are great and together with Thompson’s promises and Dauphin County’s generous donation of $25,000 to beat crime through various methods, I think things are going to look up.  At least, I hope they are.