Changing Classes, Changing Vacations

I was born to two African-American strivers. My dad had been born poor and my mom came from people who had “clawed their way up,” according to my maternal granddad, from “dirt poor to lower-middle-class.” Family difficulties early in her life, however, meant that Mom grew up working-class instead. My parents shared a great love – of each other and for upward mobility. They intended to take advantage of every opportunity afforded to them by the Civil Rights movement. What does this have to do with vacationing? Everything! People often forget that how you spend your leisure time is a key class indicator.... Read More

My Summers on the Cape

Working, Not “Summering,” on Martha’s Vineyard Summer rolling around means vacations for many. But for others it means seasonal migration to restaurant and hospitality work. When on the Cape recently, I stopped by a Black Dog store, to check to see if the clothing was still made on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. A considerable controversy arose when the son of the founder of the Black Dog Restaurant and store decided to outsource the silk-screening of the T-shirts off the Island, eliminating precious jobs. The Black Dog symbol does not provoke me to reminisce on my times vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard,... Read More

Vacationing Broke

Being poor can feel like you’re stuck, and when everyone you know disappears into the world when they have the chance, you realize how truly stuck you are. When you’re young, it’s simple stuff like not being able to go to day camp, anywhere on spring break, or to anything but the free stuff you flipped and wrote essays for all school year. When you’re a young adult, you start to feel guilty for not exploring the world, for only being able to experience what’s right in front of you. You feel guilty about all the spring breaks you couldn’t... Read More

Housing Is a Right not a Luxury

While most of us know that housing in the Boston area is getting more and more expensive, you may not have realized that between 2000 and 2007 Boston was the most rapidly gentrifying city in the country, outpacing both New York and Washington, D.C. And the rate of gentrification is not the only challenge that Boston residents face. A study released in January 2016 by The Brookings Institution found that Boston has the greatest income inequality of any large city in the United States. Based on 2014 census data, households that earned in the 95th percentile made just over $266,000, while households earning in the... Read More

10 Facts About Housing Affordability

5 Things to Make You Furious About Housing 1. Realtors and their allies in government keep track of the growing size of single-family homes. But bigger is only better if you’re well-off. The federal government doesn’t track the size of apartments, but numerous articles predict smaller units. A 500 sq ft condo, anyone? 2. Want an apartment? How about engaging in a bidding war to get it? Rentberry (free to landlords) is a new app that pits tenants against one another and then adds a monthly fee to whatever astronomical price a desperate renter agrees to. 3. A recent issue... Read More

Inclusion, Preservation and Lottery Odds

Somerville used to be a place where many of the residents were people who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. As I’ve told many younger folks in recent years, from 1978-81 I rented an eight-room home with three other young adults for $250 a month – that’s total, not per person! In today’s Somerville*, the descendants of those very same people who could only afford housing in Somerville in the past – as well as more recent immigrants to the city – can’t afford to stay. (The average monthly rent in Somerville is $2,384, Ed.) Change happens and is inevitable,... Read More

Mother Jones in Philadelphia – 1903 and 2016?

I first met Cheri Honkala a couple of years ago at a Philadelphia protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Not knowing what she looked like, I had locked arms with her and two or three others trying to block an entrance to the Federal building. We managed to keep the door closed despite the first powerful push from Federal police on the inside. It was then that I turned to the woman next to me and asked if she had been arrested before. When she said “hundreds of times” and I learned her name was Cheri, I blurted out, “Oh,... Read More

When Skinny Isn’t So Cute

Growing up as the daughter of a farm worker, we often had dinners of biscuits and milk gravy. I always thought I was having a great meal! While we did grow a lot of vegetables and canned as many as possible, we often ran out before the next season. Sometime there would be a little piece of meat to flavor the gravy or, if not, saved bacon grease. Usually the only meat we had was pork that we saved through salting it down and hanging it in a little shed to last for the year. The only time we had... Read More
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