Friday, October 7, 2016

Day in Court: Civil Disobedience Update

Catz and I celebrating our resolution! 

Day in Court: Arrest Update

BOSTON - Oct 5th 2016
Phew! Here I am with one of my trench-mates, Catz. We left the West Roxbury Court House feeling pretty elated and very, very fortunate. She and I, along with a young man, who was underage, had been #182, #183 and #184 to be arrested trying to stop this crazy-bad pipeline. His case was resolved separately. And we had quite a wrangle figuring out what to do about our legal situation following our arrest on August 31th, 2016.  The DA's office was not happy with ResistThePipeline.org  and had upped the ante of consequences. But on this Tuesday, as over 20 fellow protesters were processed at different stages and for various charges, we were lucky. Our charges were reduced to a civil infraction rather like a parking ticket and if (I mean when !) we don't get arrested in the next six months it will be completely dismissed! No record! Huge thanks to the legal team: Mark MacMahon, Joshua Raisler Cohn and court support from Resist! 

We went right back to work to ResistThePipeline.org! After lunch we held up banners with other pipeline fighting-folk at Spectra's offices in Westwood. There Spectra hosted a "safety meeting" with first responders. Can you say vertigo? Wish I could have been inside to witness the spin! Likely to need dramamine. More on that later.  We stood in silent witness across from Spectra's corporate offices, taking care not to trespass by standing in Frugal Fannies parking lot. As we held "Stop Spectra" banners in a blustery wind, our elected officials came and shook each of our hands and thanked us, in full view of the windows of Spectra's regional HQ. We felt they had our backs! One of the officials in the room later described the safety measures he heard at the meeting as "horseshit."
Oct 5th. We are standing across from Spectra, HQ. Our Boston Delegation shook our hands in full view of Spectra's reps.

Below is a press release I wrote for Resist on our Civil Disobedience.

WEST ROXBURY, MA - One crop that has not failed in this summer's record drought was nonviolent resisters of new fossil fuel infrastructure. And? The number of those ready to commit nonviolent civil disobedience, risk arrest to help halt climate change and stop Spectra's corporate bullying in West Roxbury continues to grow. To date, 200 concerned citizens have peacefully but forcefully broken the law to stop Texas-based Spectra's construction of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. In the next two weeks alone, over 50 protesters will make court appearances at West Roxbury District Court. Charged variously with Trespass, Disturbing the Peace Reckless Destruction of Property and Disorderly Persons, some defendants will be offered and take plea deals. Others will refuse the "deals" and chose to go to trial. Yet others may chose to defend themselves and make their court appearance a broader statement.

“We tried community meetings, rallies, day time and night time vigils and protests. We marched in the heat of summer and through the snow. TV stations covered us and we talked on radio shows. We knocked on doors, leafletted, wrote letters, gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, sent letters to the media and made multiple visits to politicians. We were completely flummoxed by the fact that our elected officials are powerless to protect us," said Mary Boyle, lending a backstory to the development of civil disobedience in West Roxbury.

Pipeline outside of Spectra's HQ in Westwood.
" Nonviolent civil disobedience seemed like a worthwhile tool to use. Civil disobedience actually stops construction and brings attention to our outrage. Our call to action is not a self-centered, knee-jerk, NIMBY but rather a forward thinking, rational and responsive, 'Not here. Not anywhere!' ” - Mary Boyle, West Roxbury neighbor leader, activist and pipeline opponent.
"Bullying that endangers the public safety of my friends and neighbors, while contributing to climate change during one of the hottest summers on record made civil disobedience an imperative for me. " - Norah Dooley, from Brookline, activist and pipeline opponent.
"Why are we allowing Spectra to build more dirty energy infrastructure when we need to be taking it down and building clean energy infrastructure?” - Hendrix Berry of Jamaica Plain, when asked about her decision to risk arrest.
"This pipeline represents the failure of our government to have an energy policy that does not risk the future of my grandchildren." - Reverend Martha Neibanck of Jamaica Plain, when asked about her decision to risk arrest

When resisters refuse to comply with orders to remove themselves from construction sites they are engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. When common law is leading to destruction of people and their homes as ‘sacrifice zones’, jeopardizing global food systems, waterways, air quality, and forest vitality, accelerating coastal erosion, permafrost melting, coral reef bleaching, titanic forest fires, and city-engulfing flood rains it is time to "disobey." from Resist the Pipeline's website.




###
BACKGROUND
The West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, a new “off-ramp” from Spectra’s existing Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline,  will carry fracked gas from shale deposits in Pennsylvania though New York, CT and Rhode Island. Fracked gas is a fossil fuel whose extraction has caused significant environmental damage and whose main ingredient, methane, is a highly toxic greenhouse gas (over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years in the atmosphere).

Capable of carrying gas at up to 750 psi (pounds per square inch)-- more than twice the pressure of the pipeline that exploded in San Bruno, CA in 2010, killing and injuring many residents and causing widespread property damage--the WRL is a “transmission” pipeline meant for rural or secluded areas.  It is  similar to the pipeline that recently exploded in a rural area some 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, knocking out four other nearby pipelines and seriously injuring a man when his home was destroyed by fire.  The accident is still under investigation, but Spectra says it may cost upwards of  $100 million to repair the damage.

By comparison, the West Roxbury Lateral runs through residential neighborhoods, only feet from some homes and near schools, businesses, a nursing home, under a soccer field in Dedham, and across from an active quarry in West Roxbury where regular blasting over the years has caused damage to homes in the area.

As with all natural gas pipelines, Spectra won approval for the WRL, with little opportunity for public comment,  from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), whose commissioners have all served as executives in the natural gas industry.  The project has met strong local resistance from both citizens and elected officials, including Mayor Walsh, the Boston City Council, State Representative Coppinger, State Senator Walsh, and Congressman Lynch.

Both the City of Boston and Town of Dedham have filed lawsuits against the project, citing numerous flaws in the environmental review and approval process and seeking an overturn of FERC’s approval. Hearings or trials are expected this fall in the D.C. Circuit Court.

At the urging of many of their constituents, U.S. Senators Markey and Warren have also voiced some concern to FERC but not strong opposition to the project, a stance that has perplexed and disappointed many residents..

To date, 194 people have been arrested in peaceful civil disobedience against the WRL. They include Michael Butler, the Select Board Chair from Dedham who was the first to be arrested;  Karenna Gore, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore; Tim DeChristopher, well known climate activist; and dozens of local clergy. West Roxbury neighbors and their concerned allies.

Meanwhile, other community groups are fighting other gas infrastructure projects still in the planning stage, particularly in eastern Mass. and including Spectra’s  proposed compressor stations in Weymouth. Opponents cite evidence that much of the new gas is actually intended for export, not to meet local needs.





Friday, September 2, 2016

Arrested Developments: Stopped construction. Was arrested. Going to trial.

 In the trench, stopping Spectra.

Arrested Developments: Stopped construction. Was arrested. Going to trial.

On Wednesday, August 31st we halted construction of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. For over an hour we enjoyed our small victory. This project jeopardizes the health and safety of local residents and of our neighbors across the globe by ramping up greenhouse emissions and fueling climate change. Residents and local politicians have unsuccessfully fought this project using every legal means for three years. All else has failed, and so it made moral and strategic sense to me to stealthily approach, evade a police detail and jump into an open worksite. I will admit that I was challenged (as in, scared witless?) by the thought of the depth of the trench. I do not like heights and I do not bounce like I used to. Also, I am kinda klutzy so I was elated to have accomplished the first part of my mission without getting hurt or hurting anyone. The second part of my mission is to convince you all, Dear Readers, to fight to halt climate change.

Best "trench-mates" you could ask for: Brendan and Catz.
For over an hour I was in the trenches with now 16 year old, Canton High sophomore, Brendan Matulis and my new friend, Catherine LeBlanc. Brendan's birthday was Sept 1 and he was concerned that, despite his youth, people would understand he was taking action following the dictates of his conscience alone. We all were clear in our purpose and honored to be able to do our part to halt climate change and stop a Texas fossil-fuel corporation from bullying our neighbors! All thanks to the movement of ResistThePipeline.org who were on the street above us, celebrating Mary Boyle's birthday, singing songs, praying and witnessing in solidarity with representatives of the Standing Sioux Tribe's struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. ( read more about Mary Boyle and the issues at my blog.)

After an hour, Brendan, who as a minor, was handled differently under the law, climbed up a ladder out of the ten foot trench while Catz and I waited to be removed by by Boston firefighters after being "checked" by EMTs. There were at least four dozen EMTs, police officers and firefighters surrounding us. It was an impressive waste of resources and/or a silly display of power. They cajoled, joked, reasoned and fumed at us to leave of our own accord. We declined. Finally, we were extracted by "basket" and whisked away in BPD Transport Wagon. We were charged with Trespass and Disturbing the Peace and spent the day in West Roxbury District 5 jail. With a $40 fee we were released on our own recognizance a little after 4pm. Physically, the worst part was the zip tie handcuffs as I was waiting to be" processed" which included a mug shot, removing my wedding ring for the first time in a decade and being finger-printed on a new-fangled computer system. For over an hour and still restrained, I was all alone and my wrists hurt so I distracted myself singing.  Revels songs and South African freedom songs from my days with Mystic Choral and NoonDayFarm singers came back to me. Dunno how anybody else felt about it, but I enjoyed the echoing acoustics of the cell. Maybe my singing can explain the additional "Disorderly Person" charge?
Six officers ( and there were more) to arrest one old lady. Do I look that dangerous?
The next day we were to be arraigned first thing in the morning. I thought I'd do a little chalking in front of the West Roxbury District Court. I've done it there before and had provided my Memo proving its legality from the Law Office of the City of Boston to a Court Officer just a few weeks ago. (Chalk art is a whole other issue you can read more here.)

Yesterday, as I was chalking -@stop spectra- on the sidewalk, a court officer approached us and asked "If there was a problem." and I said no, I was exercising my 1st Amendment rights and using chalk. She seemed cool with it so I finished up, put my chalks back in the car and we headed to check in with probation.

At the Probation window, in the kind of coincidence you just can't make up, my elder brother's probation officer was the man who checked me in. He was equally surprised to see me. My brother, who is severely mentally ill, was charged with Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault while in his group home a few years back and successfully completed his probation in Lemuel Shattuck Hospital this May. Mr. Frank Omogrobe had been very helpful.  But that is also another story - read more here)

When our case was finally called and we stepped up to the bar and were addressed by Honorable Kathleen E. Coffey, First Justice, West Roxbury Division, who has always struck me as a compassionate and honest woman. It was she who created the Mental Health Court that has helped our brother and many others to stay in the hospital, where they belong and NOT in a jail.  

After, the clerk read our charges, adding Disorderly Conduct to our rap sheet our lawyer approached the bench ( or the bar?) and Judge Coffey led off the proceedings by saying,
Post-arraignment photo behind pre-arraignment chalking at courthouse. 

" It has come to my attention that your clients were drawing on the sidewalk outside this courthouse and I just hope that is was chalk and not paint, etc. etc."  - Judge Coffey

I wanted to reassure the judge right away, exonerate my co-defendant and explain about it being temporary sidewalk chalk. When I tried to speak, our lawyer, quite rightly, shushed me and said that he could not speak to that issue as he knew nothing about it and it was not part of the case before us. 

Attorney Mark McMahon was blindsided. We hadn't told him anything about chalking. McMahon told Judge Coffey that he would not make any statements about any alleged incidents. Her question was a crazy, unexpected curveball. If I had used paint? It was serious. Less then 10 minutes before, in a case before ours, two young men had just been led out of that same courtroom in shackles for tagging with spray paint.

Judge Coffey was insistent and even issued a veiled threat "You could un-complicate this easily and just tell me or?...We could launch a police investigation ?...(pregnant pause) Do you really want to complicate this? Just to find something out that you can easily tell me." But our lawyer, Mark McMahon, stood fast and said neither he nor his clients would make any statements about anything unrelated to the arraignment before  the court, so the judge allowed us to confer and come back in a few.

Wow. That was a shock - just 10 days before, I had gone through the whole song and dance about chalking in Boston with a court officer right in front of W.Roxbury Courthouse  The officer even made a copy of the memo I carry with me.  Atty. McMahon pointed out to me that graffiti is vandalism, when permanent materials or damage is present and if the "destruction of property " is over $250? It is a felony. Jump back!  

We returned to court and told Judge Coffey what she wanted to know. She had toned down a bit and said, " I am not trying to abrogate anyone's 1st amendment rights here, I am just looking for information." Atty. McMahon told her that only one client was involved and that she (I) had assured him it was chalk. Then the Assistant District Attorney offered us a deal.  We could have six months of probation if we accepted a "stay-away" order of keeping 500 yards ( that is 1/4 mile!) away from any Spectra worksite. Atty. McMahon argued strongly against the stay-away. The Judge herself offered a compromise of 100 yards from the specific 10 Grove Street in West Roxbury site - a nexus of protest and work completion. But the DA refused. 

At this point it is really hard to agree to be 500 yards  away from any Spectra worksites which are so are common in the Boston area. And in West Roxbury, it is a 5.1 mile pipeline and they could be working anywhere. 

It just seemed an egregiously wrong condition.  Why should a citizen limit her freedom of motion based on the ubiquitous actions of a Texas based corporation? That is just more bullying as far as I can see.  In the end, neither Catz nor I could take the deal and that means we will be going to trial. Sometime in October. More information as things develop. And,  next week, Karenna Gore, Tim DeChristopher and 4 other West Roxbury Pipeline resisters will be in the same court for their pretrial hearing on Sept. 6.

I would be deeply grateful if you would help spread the word, participate, educate and/or donate at ResistThePipeline.org.  Civil disobedience is, among other things, a kind of low-budget PR. We put ourselves forward to get the word out, not for personal attention. I tell this story to engage and inspire you; to motivate more people to be active. As George Monbiot says, the climate crisis is real and it is already here. We all need to do our part.

Here is a link https://youtu.be/190J51UjJi4 to a great 2 minute video below made when over 100 of us came to Stop Spectra's work in June 2016. Our dear friend Marie-Laure is featured.




"Since August 2015, a residential neighborhood of West Roxbury, MA has become an epicenter of fossil fuel resistance and the fight for a livable climate. Spectra Energy is building a dangerous, high pressure (750 psi) natural gas pipeline across the street from a rock quarry from which seismic waves emanate due to weekly dynamite blasting.   This project jeopardizes the health and safety of local residents and of people across the globe whose lives are already being ravaged by climate change. Residents and local politicians have unsuccessfully fought this project using every legal means for three years. All else has failed, and now we’re shutting this project down in the streets. 

With 175 arrests, this is one of the largest campaigns of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience in the country. We’re building a culture of resistance to the fossil fuel industry that will spread across the region. We’re sending a message to all those involved in the current build-out of new fossil fuel infrastructure: We don’t want it. We don’t need it. Earth can’t take it. Shut it down."


And here again is a video segment on the climate change disaster of leaking methane throughout Boston and the Commonwealth. http://www.wcvb.com/news/tens-of-thousands-of-gas-leaks-across-the-state/41283404


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Risking Arrest on Aug 31st

Henry David Thoreau

Two wrongs make a right. Sometimes. 

The West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline is wrong for our common climate and so wrong for the West Roxbury neighborhood it intersects. These two wrongs make it the right time for no business as usual and civil disobedience.

Our West Roxbury neighbors have been fighting this pipeline for over two years. Residents have engaged all available means of regulatory and political action, including ongoing acts of principled nonviolent civil disobedience, which have led to over 175 arrests.

And now they are resisting the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. Boston's Mayor Walsh, and the entire Boston City Council are opposed to this pipeline and ruled against it.  The Commonwealth’s Attorney General's Office did a study and determined that we do not need the extra gas.

And yet? Spectra, a Texas-based, fossil-fuel, pipeline corporation has, with the help of a FERC, a five member board that is the US federal agency regulating the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas and a Federal judge have taken Boston land by eminent domain.

Today, this dangerous, 750 psi pipeline is almost completed. What does this say about our democracy? The diminished ability of our democratically elected officials to save us from the depredations of corporations is almost as alarming as the climate and public health issues raised by the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. The time to act is now !

What's the deal with the "psi" numbers?

The West Roxbury Lateral pipeline is built to carry 750 psi of gas under residential streets. The psi of gas coming into your stove is 0.25 psi - one quarter of a pound per square inch. The psi of gas running under your street is about 22 psi. So, 750 psi is 34 times the pressure of a gas main that can already turn a few homes into a crater. So wrong for a neighborhood. Not that it is right for any place on the good green earth. And the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline ends with a metering and regulation station across the street from an active blasting quarry, West Roxbury Crushed Stone at 10 Grove Street. Sheesh. You can't make this stuff up!

National Grid, who have contracted this pipeline should fix all the gas leaks before building any new fossil fuel infrastructure! There are 1,462 gas leaks in Boston alone! 15,749 state wide! Check out this map and leak finder here. Best of all, we pay for the leaked gas! Natural gas is neither natural or clean. Fracking is an eco-disaster and methane gas is a super pollutant that adds exponentially to our greenhouse gas emissions. In signing the Paris Accords of November 2015 the US agreed that we would:
  1.  Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  2. Increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
  3.  Make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."
In April 2016 a high pressure Spectra gas line explosion in Salem, PA incinerated 42 acres. In  2010, in San Bruno, CA, a  PG&E gas line explosion turned a residential neighborhood into an inferno, killing 8 and destroying 38 homes. The pressure in that pipeline? 400 psi. The predicted West Roxbury "incineration zone" ( this is an industry term) is 30 city blocks.  

A rather large nutshell

So that, in a rather large nutshell, is why I am putting my body in the way of heavy equipment to stop this crazy project and to do my part to halt climate change. All that and, I hope to alert the general populace to the reality that the climate crisis is here and we need to get seriously active. The mainstream media refuses to connect the dots of the recent weather extremes to climate change. As George Monbiot of the Guardian, said last week, the climate crisis is here. By getting arrested I am asking our elected officials and everyone I know, to step it up! We need to keep up with climate reality and take sustained, strategic action.

Eight months ago in Paris, 177 nations promised to try to ensure the world’s average temperature did not rise by more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial level. Already it has climbed by 1.3C – faster and further than almost anyone predicted. In one respect, the scientists were wrong. They told us to expect a climate crisis in the second half of this century. But it’s already here.

Mary Boyle is my hero.


But back in the day, Henry David Thoreau was the poster boy for civil disobedience. His legacy of CD was used to bring legitimacy to a movement that in the late 60s and early 70s was characterized as being peopled by "drug-crazed-unwashed-hippies." That image was used to undermine a large, broad-based movement to undo the military-industrial complex that included the straight-edged and clean BerrigansMuhammad AliDr. Benjamin Spock and Martin Luther King. This image washing was where as dead-white-guy Thoreau was useful and in reviewing The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail   the NYTimes said ".... its protagonist, though of the 19th century... speaks to today's concerns: an unwanted war in another land, civil disobedience, the interdependence of man and nature, education, the role of government and the governed." from Juan Coles blog

"When President Polk imposed a poll tax to pay for his Mexican War, Henry David Thoreau declined to pay. He had authored, in the first year of the war (1846), a work he entitled “Civil Disobedience,” staking out the right of individuals to decline to obey unjust laws. Thoreau went to jail for a night over the stance he took on the poll tax, until someone paid his bail. There is an anecdote that his friend, the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, came to see him in jail. Emerson exclaimed, “What are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what you are doing out there?” Thoreau believed that in times of an unjust law and an unjust war, honorable persons will likely be in jail."

But then Thoreau was a misanthrope and said to have been a bit of prickly fella. Not a guy you’d have coffee with-unless you were buying. For him. A bit of a free-loader. He is no longer my role model but I am well aware that like Henry, my privilege and good fortune allows me to risk arrest. I am an old, middle class, white woman.  And would never ask anyone why they are not getting arrested. Still, I appreciate this chance to be my friend’s proxy in this action.  And to tell you why I am getting arrested and what you can do support. 

Mary Boyle

On Twitter, Mary Boyle is the "Mary" behind the #standwithMary hashtag with the intent to #stopspectra. She describes herself as a "grey-haired woman with a bun" yet she has a Twitter handle. And, she knows how to use it!
"I saw my neighbors begin a vigil against this Spectra pipeline project on a Monday night in December of 2014 and thought -yes! This is what you do." - Mary Boyle

Mary Boyle will be celebrated on her birthday, as she vigils with friends old and new, this Wednesday, August 31, 2016. Ms. Boyle has been vigiling every morning that construction is done Mon. to Sat. since the Texas-based Spectra Energy won a lawsuit against the City of Boston and took land by eminent domain. When Spectra first broke ground in Boston, in September 2015 for their 750psi, fracked gas pipeline through her residential neighborhood and next to an actively blasting quarry, Mary Boyle, a 40 year-long resident of West Roxbury, was there in opposition with signs and waving to passers-by.

"It is important to me that injustice be named. Spectra has decided that my neighborhood can be a sacrifice zone." - Mary Boyle
For two years she had been researching, petitioning, meeting, making phone calls and organizing. She did everything one could do to stop a very bad thing from happening.

"I have always been horrified by the harm caused by fracking. I had great sympathy for those closely affected by it, far away in Pennsylvania. I never thought I would be fighting that same fight, right on my street." - Mary Boyle

Mary is a retired educator and at group orientations her explanations of the intricate timeline and legal issues surrounding the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline are thorough, articulate and powerful.
When you hear her speak it is clear that her sense of justice in all things big and small makes her shy away from being an "icon" or a figurehead. There is no false modesty in her disclaimers as Mary readily acknowledges the support and inspiration of her neighbors and fellow activists.

"Even if the work looks like it is almost done, I have no choice but to point to it and call it the outrage that it is."   - Mary Boyle

Although Mary demonstrated for civil rights and against the Vietnam war many years ago, this campaign as a local activist in an environmental concern, is a first.  Mary Boyle knows she is "one in a number" who stand up against injustice. She knows that it is a winning strategy to be inclusive and build community.  Mary has stood as a witness every day of construction since September 2015 - over 200 days! 

"I don't know that I could do what I have done without the folks who vigil with me."- Mary Boyle

from left to right: ML, Mary Boyle, the author and Andrea Doremus
 "There are still steps that can be taken to stop Spectra." - Mary Boyle

So please get the word out to all you know. And check out the websites Resistthepipeline.org  and  SWRL.info to see how you can support this local struggle that engages us in so many of the important issues of our time; climate change, democracy and justice.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Storytelling - Summer 2016!

With some fellow pirates at Boston Seafood Festival.
Wow. This summer has been a wonderful and crazy, busy time. I have been lucky enough to have work all summer long as a storyteller in many different venues and in several capacities.

The summer started with me telling stories as a pirate for SaveTheHarbor.org.  In full costume ( so hot!) I visited beaches and sailed to the Harbor Islands all the while telling stories that reflected the rich history of the harbor and the life of an early 18th century woman pirate, Mary Read.  The amazing activities available to the people of the Commonwealth on their beaches in and around our harbor still blows me away. I am honored to be even a small a part of it. As I travel from beach to beach, I witness people engaged with their common resource through kayaking, fishing, swimming, surfing and all manner of environmentally sound programming with natural life.

Wollaston Beach
All this activity peopled the shores as I told and exchanged stories as part of the Better Beaches summer crew of SaveTheHarbor/Save the Bay.org, Boston's premier, non-profit public interest harbor advocacy organization. Save the Harbor is directed by Bruce Berman, who leads and is supported by thousands of citizens, as well as scientists, civic, corporate, cultural and community leaders in a mission to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment and share them with the public for everyone to enjoy. This summer I visited and performed at beaches from Lynn to Hull and saw a lot of the great beaches that are closest to Boston in South Boston and Dorchester.  I buried treasure, shared booty, told riddles, taught some handy knots and other piratical "skills."

At the TADPOLE Playground with ReadBoston.org
As I have for the past 17 summers I have been a storyteller with ReadBoston.org's Storymobile. Here is an excerpt from a blog about the Storymobile experience contributed by OWD summer intern Nick Zaffiro:
" On the Tadpole Playground in Boston Common, a mass of rambunctious, chatty, and excited kids have gathered. There are over 600 kids in attendance – a small event for the Tadpole where the Storymobile can attract upwards of 1,000 attendees. Why are they here? Why are they so excited?
Stories! And books, too.
Anyone might be suspicious that books or stories could wrestle the attention of a sea of pre-schoolers crowded around an outdoor playground. But storyteller Tony Toledo removes those doubts. In long, flowing hair and floral Hawaiian shirt, he stands poised before a microphone at the bottom of the park’s grassy slope – a natural amphitheater whose trees provide cool shelter from the hot July morning.
The kids are arranged by group, each designated with the vibrant color of a camp or program. One little girl looks absentmindedly at the pond, until Tony Toledo takes the mike. A call and response brings everyone (kids, parents, camp counselors, passersby) to life and their focus to him, including the distracted girl.
“Story time!” he shouts.
“Story time!” the crowd responds, the little voices of the children coming together.
Then Tony begins his story, performing the “Coyote Song” from memory. Tony yelps whenever the coyote has his tail stepped on – the coyote’s true song – and it elicits an infectious laughter from the crowd....
Storymobile events aren’t simply about gathering and entertaining children; instead, the program aims to inspire kids to be creative and imagine. That mindset is the bridge to literacy, which the program promotes by giving books to every child who attends.
“[The Storymobile] provides high quality literacy programming to low-income children throughout Boston in the summer, when children are most at risk,” says Katie Sullivan, who oversees ReadBoston’s Storymobile program..."
This wonderful work takes me all over the great city of Boston. The program features free storytelling every weekday for 6 weeks in day care centers, summer camps, libraries and parks. http://www.readboston.org/ READ BOSTON Storymobile: Professional storytellers perform and each child gets a new, high quality, picture book. I was one of several storytellers performing in 50 sites all over City of Boston every weekday and some evenings too!

In the field, at the dig of a pit house in Cortez, Colorado. Sleeping Ute Mountains are in the background

In mid-July, I was in Colorado for an amazing 1 week storytelling adventure at CrowCanyon.org with 10 young women from LA on an Earthwatch.org archeological citizen scientist team.  It was my first time ever in the western US and my first time on an archeological dig. Among many amazing experiences, we heard stories from a Zuni storyteller and I taught personal storytelling to the teens on our team. I had a wonderful co-facilitator and am hugely thankful to Laura St.Andrews for her kind support.  Nichole Cirillo of Earthwatch created the program and she deserves a shout out as well. The teens were delightful, just the best group ever! The experience deserves a whole blog to itself. Also in July, I was honored to be part of a wedding ceremony on beautiful Chebeague Island where I was the officiant/storyteller.

All in all, a very rewarding, super busy, summer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where I am, now...

Wow! This is my first blog of 2016. It has been a crazy 6 months since I last wrote. Since October I have published a new picture book. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and ace illustrator Alex GerasevMy Bad Bad Dog will be available in book stores starting in May.

This year I have been freelancing for Young Audiences and teaching three classes this semester as an adjunct professor at Lesley and Tufts University. I am now a Union Steward for the adjunct faculty union I helped to start last year. At Lesley U, Faculty Forward, SEIU 509 I feel I can contribute towards concrete social change.  StoriesLive.org has morphed and is developing into a new entity. I have joined Fractured Atlas and along with artist-educator storytelling colleagues we are in an exciting 6th season. All great projects and very rewarding.  And this blog truly was lost in the shuffle.

 So, picking up from where I am now...
"Construction of self" is the overarching theme at Suffolk U


Here is an interview I did about an exciting event I am involved in on this Friday,  “Where I Am From” Story Slam  April 22, 2016 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm | $10  Suffolk University students and GrubStreet writers join together to tell compelling personal narratives on the theme “Where I Am From.” Our story-tellers navigate the all-too human stories of self and identity. Like memoir, story slams have become a unique yet popular way of telling true stories that offer individual insight into universal experience.  CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS! Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students/seniors. Free admission to members of GrubStreet and Suffolk University community. I will be the emcee. Read about the slam and storytelling, below.


What is your role in the upcoming "Where I am From" event?

I will be the emcee and slam coordinator with Professor, Amy Monticello. Additionally my role is to inspire and coach the Suffolk team. I just gave an introductory presentation on the art of storytelling to students in Prof. Monticello's, "Creativity and Innovation: Literary Citizenship," which is a 100-level course in Suffolk's core curriculum designed to teach students how to solve problems using creative processes. I spoke from the perspective of an artist, event producer, educator and gave a brief survey of the neurology of storytelling - which is fascinating.

Will you be sharing a story at the event? if so can you share the topic/subject?
As emcee, I may share a short story in between performers. Mainly I try to keep out of the way and make the evening work for performers and audience. If there is time I'd like to tell the story about my great-grandfather (Where I am From) and how shameful it was that I had an anxiety disorder around driving which I overcame. In the end I had a surprising boost that seemed to come from the very place of "where I am from."

As an author/story-teller, can you share the value, for you, that getting up in front of a live audience offers you (that perhaps a printed book does not)?

Telling a story is a full body/mind experience. The art of storytelling is a performance art and exists in the moments of live transmission of story - a collaboration between both the energy and imaginations of  storyteller and listeners. The listener and teller co-create a kind of "theater of the mind" from the low tech but hard-wired cues of the vocalization, posture, facial expressions and words and images of the storyteller.

Why do you think story slams have become so popular in recent times? is it about memoir? 

Well, yes and no. The need to connect with each other is hard-wired in humans. I guess you could say that the recent interest in memoir is one expression of that need to connect. "We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say-and to feel- ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought." —John Steinbeck  And I believe "It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story." —Native American saying. All literature and stories are about what we are doing here, in this life, on this earth, and how we make meaning of it.

We don't say so explicitly but we do believe that "If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life." —Jean Houston. So storytelling has an intrinsic therapeutic value, even when taught and practiced as an art form.  Like novelist Ben Okri,  I also see that "A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose it’s moorings or orientation… Ben Okri also said and I often quote him: "Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger." The stories we tell and hear have civic and social impacts, whether we acknowledge it or not.


What are the challenges to a story-teller to get up and share your story live on stage? The first challenge is that we need to know what our experience means to us. We need to know our story. Then we need to believe that our lives have meaning for others. The next challenge is to remember that the performance it is not about you but about your story.

Has there been a moment either telling your own story or hearing some other one, that has taken you a-back? if so, please share.
I have heard hundreds of stories that have simply floored me. We have heard so many wonderful stories doing story slams -funny, poignant, tragic and transcendent. Stories from taxi drivers, electricians, teachers, students, short order cooks and Holocaust survivors.  And I have heard many stories from high schools students that absolutely blew me away. One girl survived the aftermath of a coup in Haiti that was brutally violent. She stepped over dead bodies walking to school and that was just one part of her odyssey. When she finally moved to Boston she was cruelly teased and bullied. Her response to her bullies when she responded with stoicism and they were surprised enough to question her, was - "I have seen much worse. " There are tons more stories where that came from. Come to Club Passim on May 7th to hear this year's StorieLive.org students.

What "coaching" advice would you offer a new / potential slam story teller about to get on stage for his/her first time?

My best note is to be present in the memory of your experience. Do not speak from a text or script. And if you can speak from that experience, you will find that the images, facial expressions, vocal variety and elements of effective performance will follow from your engagement. And huge part of successful storytelling is in sounding as if you are telling your friend what happened even if you have told it one hundred times.



Monday, October 26, 2015

Boston Harbor, Summer and Fall - 2015

Teaching knots and pirate lore at Carson Beach, August 2015 Photo by: Joe Prezioso, SaveTheHarbor.org
At the beginning of this project, what I didn't know about the Boston Harbor would have filled several volumes. The history of the harbor is as rich and as varied as the centuries and the waves of people that created it.  This summer,  my usual work expanded as I was invited to be a storyteller for Save the Harbor, thanks to a grant from MassHumanities. The amazing activities available to the people of the Commonwealth on the beaches in and around our harbor blew me away. I was honored to be even a small a part of it. As I traveled from beach to beach,  I witnessed kayaking, fishing, swimming, surfing and all manner of environmentally sound engagement with natural life. All this activity peopled the shores as I told and exchanged stories as part of the Better Beaches summer crew of SaveTheHarbor/Save the Bay.org, Boston's premier, non-profit public interest harbor advocacy organization. Save the Harbor is directed by Bruce Berman, who leads and is supported by thousands of citizens, as well as scientists, civic, corporate, cultural and community leaders in a mission to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment and share them with the public for everyone to enjoy. By the end of this month I will have visited and performed at beaches from Lynn to Hull and seen a lot of the great beaches that are closest to Boston in South Boston and Dorchester.

The wheelhouse of the Provincetown. Thanks, Captain Mark Aborn!
 USS Wyandot - circa 1966

This past Saturday,  I went on a cruise to Spectacle Island, one of the many Boston harbor islands that are now a National Park. Save the Harbor sponsors several of these great outings that are free and open to the public and draw hundreds of folk of all ages and stages of life.  I signed on as pirate Mary Read who sailed during the Golden Age of Piracy as 'Mark'. At the dock, our boat, the  Provincetown loomed high and as I looked up at the bridge, a fleeting wish to get to visit passed through my mind. Imagine my delight when less than 10 minutes later  I was invited to the wheelhouse of the Provincetown to use the PA system and announce my plans to share stories. What a blast! The last time I was in a wheelhouse was 1966. Our father, who was in the Merchant Marine had taken a job as the navigator of a ship bound for the South Pole. We went the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he had worked for years and for the first time actually boarded a ship.  We had lunch and spent the better part of a day exploring his vessel, the USS Wyandot. I remember we had the run of the bridge. Ever a geek, I was fascinated by all the controls and nautical paraphernalia. Confused by seeing two wheels, one metal and one wooden, we were told that the "old fashioned" wooden wheel was necessary due to the extreme cold the folks on the bridge would experience. I also remembered snagging some neat paper forms for "ice reports" which had descriptions and drawings of the many different forms of ice they would encounter.  That flood of memory receded as the Provincetown's whistle blasted and I got to watch as the captain smoothly moved the boat from the dock and we were underway in Boston Harbor! There is something about the way boats move that I just love.

Below decks on the Provincetown ( it was a chilly day) I interacted with people from all over Greater Boston and beyond, telling and listening to stories. One fellow was from LA where he was a water treatment specialist. He was interested in the story of Spectacle Island and had his own to tell about an LA landfill that now is a Botanical Garden.  Many families were on a boat or visiting a Boston Harbor Island for the very first time. The excitement level was high! Once at Spectacle Island we hiked a bit after sharing some stories from the summer programs.   I told stories about the islands and pirates at the Krystle M. Campbell Memorial Gazebo, a somber reminder of the tragedy of the everyday from a peaceful look out.  On the return voyage, I told more ghost stories and trivia about the islands, and the surrounding bay including: Bumpkin Island, Minot's Ledge, Deer Island Long Island, Thompson Island, Georges Island, Little Brewster Island and Nixe's Mate. Here are some of the questions I answered with stories. These are just the tip of the stories that inhabit the islands and harbor of Boston.

Q&A Trivia, Ghosts and Haunts: What Boston Harbor Island?
1.    Where is the Lady in Black said to roam?
2.    On what island is her body buried - where does the Lady in Scarlet moan?
3.    If you light a fire, during the winter,  the ghosts of hundreds of Native Americans will surround you? They died in 1676-77.
4.    On which island does a little girl call for “Shadwell!” and why?
5.    On a stormy night, you may hear the distant ringing of bell and a man’s voice cry “ Stay away!” in Portuguese? [Va embora!] (not an Island, but in the Harbor)
6.    Don’t respond to the cries of drowning boys off the shore of this island, they died 100s of years ago…
7.    He predicted the fate of what island when he met his own fate at the end of a hangman’s rope.
8.    The first hospital with ramps for the handicapped in 1902 on what island?

ICYM me all summer? I will be performing with an amazing line-up of storytellers at the Hull Life Saving Museum on October 29th 2015. Harbor Haunts is performed every other year around Halloween. Most of the stories will come from Edgar Snow's work. He recorded local legends of ghosts, pirates, storms and shipwrecks. The evening will include legends about Boston Light, A Lady in Black, The “Fantom” Fiddler and The Legend of Minot Light among others. The Lifesaving Station provides a great atmosphere for storytelling. I will tell the story of Ocean Born Mary.

On November 20th at 3:30pm I will perform a show for upper elementary ages in the Children's Room at the Winthrop Library in Winthrop MA . I appear in full costume as Mary Read telling stories about ghosts, heroes and pirates of Boston Harbor.

Thanks again to MassHumanities and all the crew at SaveTheHarbor/Save the Bay.org for inviting me on what has been a voyage of discovery, in my own "backyard." What I now know about this beautiful public resource could fill a book.

Raymond T. Dooley is the guy in the middle.
 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Magical moments: serendipity-sfx and storytelling

Magical moments: serendipity-sfx and storytelling

By Norah Dooley

The tent outside Boston Children's Museum was shady and cool and a small breeze blew through on the 90 degree Tuesday in July. The tent is beyond the Milk Bottle and just past the entrance to the Museum.  It is a lovely spot and across Fort Point Channel one can see and easily reference the Boston Tea Party Museum ship as the kind of ship pirates sailed on. You also can see visitors learn about some per-Revolutionary rabble rousing and drop reusable boxes of "tea" over the sides, on the hour.

"The passengers saw a long boat leave the pirate ship and quickly close the distance between the ships. "
Appearing as Mary Read, an 18th century, English born, cross-dressing, woman pirate,  I was at the Children's Museum to represent Save The Harbor/ Save the Bay and tell stories about our beautiful harbor, the sea and the Golden Age of Piracy. At one point during my two hour stint, I told the story of Ocean Born Mary.  Below is an excerpt and here link to a full version of the story that is similar to the one I tell.

 Ocean-Born Mary A Classic Tale of haunted New England

    The year was 1720 and the place was Londonderry, Ireland. A small sailing vessel called “Wolf” departed from the port, bound for the New World. Here, weary passengers and immigrants would have the chance to reunite with relatives from another Londonderry, this one in New Hampshire. But fate was not kind to this travelers, for as they neared the harbor of Boston in Massachusetts Bay, on July 18th, 1720, the ship was overtaken by a band of Spanish pirates. They scrambled aboard the vessel, seized jewelry, clothing and valuables and then, at the command of their captain, a buccaneer named Don Pedro, they prepared to murder everyone on board. Just as the pirates raised cutlass and pistol, Don Pedro ordered his men to stand down.
Beyond the terrified screams of the passengers, he heard another sound... the unmistakable wail of a baby. Below decks, Elizabeth Wilson lay abed, holding a tiny baby in her arms. The child has been born the day before.  Don Pedro found her and looked down into the face of the infant and sheathed his sword. He said he would save the Wolf and all on it if they would name the child Mary after his mother. Elizabeth agreed. And Dom Pedro took a cup of water and baptized her right there. Then he strode above deck.

"Stand down and harm not a hair on any head." Dom Pedro roared at his crew. " "Stand down  Save your shot. Sheathe your swords. To the boats! " He ordered his men off the Wolf and back to their ship. They left and all on the Wolf breathed again and pulled themselves together, glad to be alive.  But all too soon there was a cry ," They are coming back! " The passengers saw a long boat leaving the pirate ship and as the oars flashed it quickly closed the distance between the ships.  Don Pedro appeared on deck again, this time with a large package that he gave to Captain Wilson, "Mary's" Father.  Unwrapped it  revealed a bolt of beautiful, sea-green, silver threaded,  brocaded silk. "For her wedding dress!" he said and turned on his heel and left...
As I came to the moment in the story where the pirates return, I pointed across Fort Point Channel and... a long boat magically appeared! You can't make this stuff up. Coming from the Boston Tea Party Ship, with oars flashing in the bright noon sunlight, I found I was pointing at and narrating the movements of an actual long boat heading straight for our side of the channel. It was an exact replica of the picture in my head. This sure made it easy to explain to my young audience what a long boat was. In my 25 years of storytelling, it was the best serendipity-sfx I have ever experienced.

Storytellers and performers! I wonder what serendipity-sfx you have experienced during live performance ? Doorbells, thunder, loud knocking or a cry in the distance? Please feel free to share some in the comments below.