Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Holyoke Fires Fundraiser

Food For Thought Books is having a 10% day on Saturday March 27th, during which 10% of our sales will go to the Lyman Street Relief Fund created by the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel and administered by New Alliance Bank in Holyoke, MA. We encourage others in the Amherst and Northampton communities to organize and host similar fundraisers to support our neighbors in Holyoke.

(Funds can also be sent directly to the Lyman Street Relief Fund at the New Alliance Bank. Checks should be made out to the “Lyman Street Relief Fund” and earmarked for account number 7070454149)

Over the last month and a half, Northampton residents and members of surrounding communities have shown tremendous solidarity with those affected by a string of arsons that took place in Northampton on the night of December 27, 2009 that left 8 people homeless and caused an estimated $850,000 of damage. Folks have come together to organize countless fundraisers, quickly raising over $60,000 (the fundraising goal set by Hampshire Community Cares) for those directly impacted by the Northampton fires. This outpouring of generosity and support is notable and well worth celebrating, and will certainly go a long way to helping those affected by the arson recover their losses.

However, Northampton was not the only community in Western Massachusetts affected by fires this winter. Only days before the Northampton fires, on December 23, 2009, an apartment building in Holyoke went up in flames leaving 42 residents homeless and sending at least 6 people to the hospital. This fire was not caused by arson, but was the result of a negligent landlord who did not provide his tenets with central heat forcing tenets to use electric heaters as their primary source of heat for the winter. Holyoke residents have rallied in support of their neighbors, providing for their immediate needs and gathering donations of clothes, furniture and other items to replace what people lost. They created the Lyman Street Relief Fund with the hopes of raising several hundred dollars for each household displaced by the fire (15 in all). Thus far, they have only been able to raise $2000, a mere fraction of what has been raised in Northampton. While the donation of goods is important, the people displaced by the Holyoke fire also need money to help them recover their losses and rebuild their lives.

We believe that the glaring disparity in the amount of money raised and attention given by the media and community at large for those affected by the Northampton fires versus the Holyoke fire raises important questions about the race, class, geographic divides that plague this Valley. How do racism and classism enable us to value the lives, homes and families differently across race, class and geography? What would it take for us to build mutually beneficial relationships based on solidarity, the sharing of resources, respect and equity, across the different communities that make up the Pioneer Valley and Western Massachusetts? We believe that these tragic incidents and the disparity in which they have been dealt with provide us with a valuable opportunity to explore these questions and begin cultivating genuine solidarity across the differences that so often divide us.

Given that the Northampton community has surpassed its fundraising goal of $60,000, we also join others who are advocating that any additional funds raised by Hampshire County Cares (the website that has been raising funds for those affected by the Northampton fires) be re-directed to those affected by the Holyoke fires. This is a great opportunity for residents of Northampton to stand in solidarity and share vital resources with our neighbors in Holyoke.


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