Segregation exists on the buses in L.A., but why? by Clarrie Feinstein

In Los Angeles, 92 percent of bus riders are people of color. Their annual median household income is $12, 000. A monthly pass for the metro bus and subway system is $100 and a daily one-ride is $1.75. That’s not cheap. But why do mostly people of color take public transit? Why is there such  disparity in L.A.? 

 LA bus (Flickr.com)

LA bus (Flickr.com)

In 2009, Jaqueline Carr wrote a blog called, Snobs on a Bus which attracted significant attention. Her central thesis was, in L.A. there is stigma around taking the bus. The sentiment may be true but is difficult to remedy a culture of supposed “snobbish” attitudes. Taking public transit in L.A. is still classist – if you take the bus it means you have less money. Or so, Carr explained in her blog. Class is intrinsically tied with race, and also contributes to racist attitudes for public transportation in L.A. The Atlantic argues there is “lopsided investment” in transportation that aids white travelers. Investing in the bus system allows greater diversity of riders than the rail system.  

The U.S. Census data shows that L.A. public transit riders are among the least-representative of the city in which they live. White people account for 32 percent of all L.A. commuters regardless of whether they drive or ride. But only 11 percent of public transit riders are white. 

A probable reason, according to LA Weekly, is demographic density. White residents live in more suburban or affluent neighborhoods where there is lower population density. Naturally, bus stops are not placed in lower populated regions. 

 LA traffic (Flickr.com)

LA traffic (Flickr.com)

Because of urban sprawl L.A. does not have one central downtown, but many. The layout of the city lends itself to a car-led society. L.A. has become ubiquitous with the word, traffic, because the city’s population is the largest in the U.S. and cars are the main mode of transportation. But buses are not immune of the road blockage. The city could potentially designate bus lanes in order for buses to bypass traffic and pick-up passengers from bus stops faster. The buses could be upgraded and have improved seating comfortability and air-conditioning. The bus-rider experience could vastly improve, and more people would feel inclined to use it. In some ways, the bus could be “destigmatized”. 

 LA subway map (Pinterest) 

LA subway map (Pinterest) 

But would this make car riders choose the bus over their car? Unlikely. In New York City and San Francisco there is minor disparity between white people and people of color when taking the subway. However, in New York City more people of color take buses because the MTA does not effectively run on a grid system in Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx, making bus use the faster option in those boroughs, where fewer white residents live. 

So why is L.A.’s transit system segregated? A lot has to do with access – what is affordable? Is it cheaper to take the bus or own a car and spend gas money? Gas spending per month is more than a $100 metro pass, guaranteed. With people of color disproportionally earning less than their white counterparts, taking the bus is the viable option. The social stigma around bus use is a very probable assumption. But the solution to the problem is extremely complex and requires an entire culture shift around transportation in L.A. For now, the car culture is alive and well. 

Like many U.S. cities, Toronto is expanding light rail to improve ridership accessibility– but does it make a difference? by Clarrie Feinstein

Toronto has a grid-like public transit system, similar to Manhattan’s. Except Toronto only has three subway lines. Buses and streetcars are heavily relied on for commuters to travel within the Greater Toronto Area. 

 Map of the Toronto Transit Subway System (Flickr.com) 

Map of the Toronto Transit Subway System (Flickr.com) 

Building new subway lines would be extremely costly. The Toronto Transit System would have to spend billions of dollars expanding the transit system, which it cannot afford. Most subway lines are in the cost-range of $200 million to $500 million per mile of underground subway construction. 

The solution to improve commuter accessibility across the city is light rail. While light rail functions similarly to streetcars, they are faster and can travel beyond the downtown parameters. Cheaper light rail lines cost about $40 million per mile and more expensive lines cost $100 million. 

 

 Toronto's light rail expansion map (colored lines indicate light rail)  courtesy of TransitToronto.ca  

Toronto's light rail expansion map (colored lines indicate light rail) courtesy of TransitToronto.ca 

Streetcars are often slow and cover short distances. Toronto’s rapid population growth and increased urban sprawl demands better and faster urban transportation, which light rail can provide. 

Historically, streetcars were an integral part of city transportation. Certain cities, such as, Boston. New Orleans, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Seattle preserved their busiest lines while Toronto extended their rail transit system after WWII (resulting in the continued reliance on streetcar transportation today). 

But cars, subways and buses eventually took over as other, more efficient, forms of transportation. Most cities demolished their streetcar systems, finding them to be inefficient. 

 Toronto streetcar (Flickr.com)

Toronto streetcar (Flickr.com)

Now streetcars have returned as a viable form of city transportation in terms of tackling energy efficient vehicle solutions. Today, cities are facing grave problems that need serious remedies. Light rail can address energy conservation, air and ground pollution, traffic congestion and high operational costs. 

Toronto is creating eight new light rail lines. According to CityLab, "billions of local, state and federal dollars have been invested in light rail lines in 16 regions across the U.S. with 144 miles of additional lines under construction, totaling a cost of $25 billion. Whereas, no region has invested in new heavy rail subway systems since 1993."

While light rail has not increased public transit ridership in most American cities, it offers a compelling alternative for heavy rail expansion. Toronto’s population is expected to increase by 35 percent in 2040 - the downtown will house over 3 million people. Heavy rail expansion would take decades to build and the demand for further reaching public transportation needs immediate action. 

 Light rail (Flickr.com)

Light rail (Flickr.com)

Gun control rally draws 200,000 (Straus News) by Clarrie Feinstein

 

In wake of Florida high school killings, a loud call for ban on assault weapons, other provisions

Nearly 200,000 took to city streets Saturday, intent on giving notice that gun violence has fierce opposition — and determined to make their collective voice heard by politicians. 

The atmosphere was thick with emotion as parents, children, grandparents, teachers — all sorts and all types — walked along Central Park West, chanting “Vote Them Out!” 

The protest, March for Our Lives, was one of hundreds taking place across the nation as well as abroad, with the largest demonstration in Washington, D.C., which was said to have drawn about 800,000.

The march was in response to the killing of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month. Since January 1, there have been 17 school shootings, more than one a week, according to a tally by CNN. 

On Saturday, thousands of young people registered to vote, hoping to pressure politicians to pass legislation that meets the demands of the anti-gun violence movement. Among the provisions many would like to see enacted include universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and the raising of minimum ages to buy a gun. 

“I am here to support the students, because my generation has failed them,” said city resident Tricia Kampton. “People who defend these acts of violence because of the Second Amendment are not justified. I have friends in upstate New York who own guns and are in the Washington, D.C., march today.” 

Kampton was accompanied by her son, Talia, a 10th grade student who participated in the school walkout on March 14. 

In the crowd, various signs read, “Arm Teachers with Pencils, Not Guns,” “Your Guns or Our Lives?” and “Never Again.” Young children walked with their parents, holding signs, pleading for gun reform. 

Sam Hendler, a 16-year old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who addressed the rally, called on people to replace apathy with action. Hendler emphasized that thoughts and prayers following mass shootings were “not enough.” 

Speakers from the Black Lives Matter movement added that gun violence disproportionately affects people of color and that shootings in the Bronx or South Side of Chicago must receive the same kind of recognition. 

Ally Margelony and Madayn Jurgensmier, high school sophomores from Connecticut, said it was high time for the passage of gun-control laws. 

“It’s ridiculous there has been no change,” Margelony said. “How was nothing done after Sandy Hook?” she added, referring to the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shooting in 2012 that killed 26, including 20 pupils.

Both students said the movement toward gun control had grown significant and that they want to ensure common sense laws are mandated. 

“It’s inspiring to be here,” Jurgensmier added. “It makes me optimistic that change will happen.”

Article can be seen here: http://www.westsidespirit.com/local-news/20180326/gun-control-rally-draws-200000

Gyrl Wonder Empowers Young Girls Of Color In High School And Beyond (BUST Magazine) by Clarrie Feinstein

“Be Uncommon, Change History” are the words that greet you in large black font as you enter the Achievement First Brooklyn High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It is exactly the message Tola Lawal, the director and creative force behind Gyrl Wonder, is instilling in young female students of color. The initiative, now in its third year, aims to empower and support those students to excel in their studies after graduating high school.

During the school year, the Gyrl Wonder Mentorship program focuses on teaching students about self-love and self-care. Each student meets weekly with a mentor to discuss building self-empowerment in and out of the classroom. There is also the Gyrl Talk series, which is a multi-platform dialogue experience that encourages girls to engage in discourse on current events, life, and personal progression. These discussions offer an open space for young girls to communicate and share their thoughts with each other.

At 30, Lawal is an alumnus of Pace University and worked in media for 15 years with MTV and BET. Her five-foot-three frame has a slight bounce when she walks, and her smile greets students and staff in the hallways. Without wasting time, she immediately launches into the importance of the organization. In its short life it has positively impacted these young women, something she wishes she had growing up in the Bronx.

How did Gyrl Wonder begin?

In 2015, one of my sorority sisters from university asked me to bring a program to this high school, saying that the girls needed an organization to help them work towards a goal. I actually had the domain for Gyrl Wonder since 2010 and always meant to do something with it. Now seemed like the perfect opportunity.

What makes Gyrl Wonder different in its approach?

We have a very holistic approach — a lot of other organizations are very niche. They empower girls with athletics or work in the STEM field. I want an organization that focuses on self-care and self-love. I want these girls to feel empowered in their own community and to give back to their communities. They’re our vehicles of hope for the future. We want to instill strong values and for them to feel represented in the culture with strong black female role models.

Some of these role models are?

Representation is everything. I want these girls to have true role models, women who lead their lives with integrity. We talk about Angela Rhye on CNN; Tarana Burke, who began the Me Too movement in 2007...yes, it’s been around for that long! We’re hoping to have Cleo Wade, a fantastic writer and artist, give a talk next month. There’s just so many.

Who were your role models growing up?

I’d say for my generation it was Oprah. Her story is an amazing one of resilience.

Do you wish you had something like Gyrl Wonder in high school?

I always longed for a girl power organization. When I went to college, I was president of the Black Student Union, Senior Class President, you name it. I wanted to build my community on campus. I love seeing the amazing things women can do when we work together — that’s where Gyrl Wonder stems from.

What is the biggest struggle for these girls?

Many don’t see themselves in leadership positions. They go to social media for inspiration and it gives them a skewed vision of what their capabilities are. Coming from a media background, I know how impressionable their minds are. It’s our job to rope young girls of color in and show them that making an honest living and pursuing a life with integrity is attainable.

What is some programming you’ve set up to achieve your goal?

We kicked off the year with Mentoring Matters, which was sponsored by LuluLemon. Mentorship offers support when we learn, so it’s very important that the students know they have mentors to help them grow. There’s a monthly conversation piece called Gyrl Talk. This month, we’re doing a partnership with FIT and bringing someone from the fashion industry to give a talk. There’s another organization called Our Periods Matter, which talks about reproductive health. And in April, I’m going to be doing Gyrl Wonder Takes LA, doing fundraising and programming there.

Seems incredibly busy!

It has to happen. These are non-negotiables.

Do you have doubts about the work?

Every single week, I’m like, “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.” And then there will be a email in my inbox from a congresswoman and I know this is what I’m meant to do.

Is this work producing the impact you want?

We’re getting there. Opportunities are endless. Give me two more years. Girls who have graduated have written to me, telling me how this initiative changed their lives. One student, Kayla, wrote to us saying, “Gyrl Wonder has really helped me put things into perspective. We are building community with each other and learning to support each other through thick and thin.”

What do you hope will no longer be an issue for young girls of color?

I hope that young girls of color start to feel secure in who they are and safe in their skin… to just have this unwavering passion that they can do anything that their peers can do. That’s black girl magic.

 

View article here: https://bust.com/feminism/194298-gyrl-wonder-interview.html

Ahead of her time, and others’ by Clarrie Feinstein

Exhibit at St. Paul’s Chapel celebrates and explores the complex, manifold life of Pauli Murray

 

Amid downtown’s skyscrapers, hotels and the still budding World Trade Center complex, stands St. Paul’s Chapel. Built in 1766, it is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. The chapel, part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church Wall Street, is grounded in Manhattan history — and allied to social justice and reconciliation. 

It is a fitting host, then, for an examination of Pauli Murray, the civil and women’s rights activist, lawyer, author, professor, poet and priest whose mixed ethnic heritage and struggles with sexual and gender identities would, were she were alive today, likely put her in the vanguard of debates about identity politics and intersectionality. 

Murray, who was born Anna Pauline Murray in 1910 in Baltimore and died the Rev. Pauli Murray 75 years later in Pittsburgh, is, so far, not as well known as some of her contemporaries. “Pauli Murray: Imp, Crusader, Dude, Priest,” looks to change that, at least somewhat. 

She attended Hunter College and worked as remedial reading teacher in city schools. She would start advocating for civil rights in the late 1930s, by trying to enroll in the then-all-white University of North Carolina. In 1940, Murray, the great-granddaughter of slaves and slave owners, was arrested in Virginia for sitting in the white-only section of a bus, 15 years before Rosa Parks would do the same in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Murray became a lawyer shortly after this incident. She would become deputy attorney general in California. She was later appointed to the civil and political rights committee of President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women. Murray also was the first African-American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest, in 1977. 

“She was ahead of her time,” said Ruth Frey, program officer for justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street. “I think she’d be pushing us now.” 

Throughout her life, Murray struggled with gender identity, saying she had an “inverted sex instinct.” Believing her tendencies to be more male than female, she changed her name from Pauline to Pauli to fit her more androgynous identity. 

The exhibit, in partnership with the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, is curated to emphasize each aspect of her person. The display works to highlights the various strands of Murray’s life and how she embodied not just one, but many, identities. 

And she was well place to recognize how social movements affected others and brought them together with her advocacy – and worked to promote true inclusion. 

“Often people are categorized and pigeonholed,” Frey said. “Many people would see Murray as being binary, but she encompassed all. These different fractions of her life create a full person. That message is needed in this time of divisiveness. More figures like Murray need to be known.” 

Murray, like many women and especially women of color, is scarcely mentioned, if at all, in high school curriculums. 

“I didn’t know about Murray,” said Maria Rodriguez, a 10th grader at Leadership and Public Service High School, just a few blocks south of St. Paul’s. “But learning about someone like her has given me a new role model. I’ve felt empowered to explore my own identity.” 

There is a longstanding partnership between Trinity Church and the Leadership and Public Service High School when it comes to community building and outreach. Trinity Church offered the high school advanced art class taught by Anne Schellhorn an opportunity be part of the exhibit. The students each created a triptych, each panel representing a different aspect of their identity. 

“We sat down and discussed what the project would like,” said Trinity Parish Center’s program manager, Jennifer Chinn. “How would we do a self-portrait about identity? What does it mean? What would the archetypes be?” 

Eventually they decided each panel represent; people see me as, I see myself as, and I want to be seen as. For a month, students worked on their art project now on view at the chapel. 

The curators specifically designed the exhibit to display the students’ artwork as a continuation of Murray’s timeline to indicate the continued impact her lifework has on various communities. 

“We’re carrying on her legacy,” said Frey, Trinity’s program officer. “Oftentimes, human beings like to keep things narrow. But Murray leaves everything wide open.” 

The exhibit is on view until March 21.

View the article here: http://www.westsidespirit.com/local-news/20180313/ahead-of-her-time-and-others8217&template=mobileArticle

The last dance (Straus News) by Clarrie Feinstein

On January 31, PMT Dance Studio, housed in a historic building on the northeast corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue, closed its doors for a final time. The building was sold to Extell Development and will most likely be demolished in the coming year. 

The building was home to various dance studios over the last several decades, including, it's said, Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham. Its last was PMT, an acronym for its founder, Pavan M. Thimmaiah, who opened his studio in 2001. While Thimmaiah is hoping to move his studio to a space at 25th and Sixth Avenue, the closure and, ultimately, the wrecking of the 14th Street building is distressing to many who have spent time at the studio or in other venues at the building. 

“People are mourning the closing of this building,” Thimmaiah said last week. “Some people have been coming here since the 1960s and have seen all the incarnations the space has gone through. I've just been consoling people. People came to the studio crying.” 

The studio's shuttering was first reported on the blog Jeremiah's Vanishing New York

Thimmaiah recalls a couple who met at the studio — she was the teacher, he was the student — who would later marry. “These are the stories that I love,” he said. “Just to see how this space changed people's lives. For some, dance gave them a purpose, or they met their partners here, or they just found they belonged in this community. We've cultivated the arts here in an original way. B-boys, dance crews.... Anyone can come in here and use the space to create.” 

PMT seeks to foster community, a place where artists can support their peers, which follows in the tradition of the building's history, Thimmaiah said. After the Stonewall riots in 1969, the newly formed Gay Liberation Front (GLF) used the space as a political activist outpost. It was home to Alternate U. – a free counterculture school and leftist organizing center. There were several classrooms on the second floor of the building. 

Meetings were also held there in the aftermath of the Snake Pit bar raid in 1970. But one of the most popular events for the GLF were the weekly dances, which provided a rare opportunity for LGBTQ people to dance together in public. 

Now the building, and three more to the north of it, are empty with just a Sol Moscot sign on display on the first floor of 69 West 14th. Nine storefronts there are shuttered. Thimmaiah cited forbidding rent increases for smaller businesses such as PMT, which are at a significant disadvantage when competing against tech giants such as Google, Amazon and others. Businesses are asked to bid between six to seven-digit figures just to have a seat at the negotiations table. That's why Thimmaiah started a GoFundMe campaign to support PMT's new incarnation, which he said would become a nonprofit in the coming months. 

“The scene in the city has really changed,” he said. “It's become so outpriced here for artists and that doesn't allow for individuality to be cultivated. The talent is going to other cities. When you don't have affordable venues, we can't offer artists the space to create. That's a real problem.” 

The sentiment is shared by Neil Greenberg, a professor of choreography at the New School's Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, who remembers when he rented studios for three dollars per hour in the 1980s, whereas now, even a moderately priced studio goes for at least $25 an hour. “It's much more difficult for artists to do the work they want to do,” said Greenberg, who has been in New York since 1976. “It's unaffordable.”

Greenberg is pleased PMT is relocating — it's a rare occurrence for a dance studio to be able to achieve in Manhattan. Thimmaiah is hoping to move into his new dance studio in March or April.

See the story here: http://www.otdowntown.com/local-news/20180220/the-last-dance&template=mobileArticle