Monday, March 26, 2018

Pennsylvania NOW has a dynamic new team of officers!

At the March 24 Pennsylvania NOW conference: Our new President of Pennsylvania NOW, Samantha Pearson; past President of Philadelphia NOW and Candidate for Lt. Governor, Nina Ahmad;our new Treasurer of Pennsylvania NOW, Karen Shore Barnosky; our new Secretary of Pennsylvania NOW,Jenne Ayers.

See Pennsylvania NOW for photos and bios of all new officers. From the the candidate bios posted on the Pennsylvania NOW website

Samantha Pearson for President
Samantha Pearson is an innovative outreach and engagement professional with a range of experience in government affairs, policy research and development, constituent outreach, event and program planning, and public relations. In her current position as Project Manager for At-Large City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Samantha plans and executes Council Office events and programming for citywide outreach initiatives and legislation in addition to creating and managing design collateral to educate and provide resources to citizens across the City. A strong women’s rights activist, Samantha is serving her second term as Board Secretary for the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She also dedicates her time to Vision2020 as Strategic Partnerships Chair for the 100th nationwide anniversary celebration of women’s suffrage. Incredibly proud of the women behind #MeToo, Samantha is a founding member of the US Clear Lines Festival on Sexual Assault and Consent. A firm believer in mentoring the next generation of women leaders, Samantha is also a Girl Scout Troop Leader to a group of ambitious and inspiring Brownies in the Frankford area. In years past, Samantha has also served on the board of Young Involved Philadelphia with a focus on GOTV and voter education efforts as well as tutored young teens through Mighty Writers. She also received the Moxie Women Next Generation of Leadership award in 2016.

Krishna Rami for Vice-President
Krishna Rami works as the Special Aide to the Chief of Staff in the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office where she supports the management of the Mayor’s overall priorities and agenda for the Administration. She previously worked as an Analyst in the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement where she helped build relationships to create an infrastructure of trust between community and government and create equitable spaces for people of all backgrounds. Krishna serves as the Executive Vice President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women which tackles racial, economic, and social justice issues. She also empowers and mentors girls as a Girl Scout Co-Leader in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. Krishna is originally from Chicago, but made Philadelphia her new home after graduating from Drexel University with a Bachelor’s degree in International Justice and Human Rights. During that time, she spent eight months in Senegal where she conducted research focusing on girls’ access to education and completed internships for local organizations working with survivors of domestic violence.

Jenne Ayers for Secretary
Jenne Ayers is an associate at Philadelphia’s Ballard Spahr law firm. In 2014 at 26 she ran unsuccessfully for Philadelphia City Council. Ayers is the daughter of former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. She previously worked on Joe Khans campaign for Philadelphia district attorney and as a Michigan voter protection director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. She graduated from Masterman High School in Philadelphia and Harvard University and has a law degree from Yale Law School. She is the current President of Philadelphia NOW, and a nominee to the Philadelphia School Board.

Karen Barnosky for Treasurer
Karen Shore Barnosky is Institutional Giving Coordinator at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she works to gather support for the school from corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Previously, Karen worked as Development Associate for the Peggy Browning Fund and as a graduate intern with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. Karen received her BA Fine Arts, cum laude, from Mount St. Mary’s University and her MS Arts Administration from Drexel University. In addition to serving as VP for Membership in the Philadelphia Chapter of NOW, she worked as a volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and actively volunteers for the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

It’s a new day for Pennsylvania NOW!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Why is Elena Ferrante writing a column for The Guardian?

Why is Elena Ferrante writing a column for The Guardian? “Elena Ferrante” is, of course, a pseudonym or as she is sometimes called, “a fictional character,” camouflage for the author (or authors) of the novels attributed to Ferrante.

If these personal columns by “a fictional character” were powerfully written, I could see a justification for their existence, but this is generally not case. Some of the reflections are similar to those of Ferrante’s characters, but these jottings are not embedded in a compelling story; instead they stand by themselves. They are often written in a pedestrian style, very different from the emotionally charged prose of Ferrante’s novels.

From the Guardian column on motherhood with its generally monotonous sentence structure:
The first time I got pregnant, it was difficult to accept. Pregnancy was an anxious mental struggle. I felt it as the breakdown of an equilibrium already precarious in itself, as a revelation of the animal nature behind the fragile mask of the human. For nine months I was on a seesaw of joy and horror. The birth was terrible, it was wonderful. Taking care of a newborn, by myself, without help, without money, exhausted me; I hardly slept. I wanted to write and there was never time. Or if there was some, I would concentrate for a few minutes and then fall asleep fretfully. Until slowly everything began to seem to me marvellous. Today I think that nothing is comparable to the joy, the pleasure, of bringing another living creature into the world.

Compare this excerpt from Ferrante’s Guardian column with the descriptions of pregnancy in her novels, such as Elena Greco’s powerful description of giving birth in Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay:

For Elena, problems began after her relatively easy first pregnancy. “ I had atrocious labor pains, but they didn’t last long. When the baby emerged and I saw her black-haired, a violet organism that, full of energy writhed and wailed, I felt a physical pleasure so piercing that I still know no other pleasure that compares to it. [But soon after] the state of well-being ended suddenly…the baby became troublesome (TWL, 237-38).

Or Leda's description of the birth of her first daughter in The Lost Daughter:
"the most intense pleasure of my life…But then came [her second daughter] Marta. She attacked my body, forcing it to turn on itself, out of control. She immediately manifested herself, not as Marta but as a piece of living iron in my stomach. My body became a bloody liquid; suspended in it was a mushy sediment in which grew a violent polyp so far from anything human that it reduced me, even though it fed and grew, to a rotting matter without life” (LD, 110).

Or Lila's description of her pregnancy with her second child in The Story of the Lost Child:
"Your own body [is] angry with you and in fact rebels against you until it achieves the most terrible pain imaginable. For hours [Lila] had felt in her belly sharp cold flames, an unbearable flow of pain that hit her brutally in the pit of her stomach and then returned, penetrating her kidneys” (SLC, 216).

Not only are ideas about motherhood in Ferrante’s novels more complicated than those in the Guardian column, but the emotionally charged prose of the novels is very different from that of the columns. I cannot help but wonder if the person who wrote the columns is the same person (or persons) who wrote the novels.

The only justification I can think of for publicizing the reflections of the fictional character Ferrante is that her publishers want to make sure they keep Ferrante Fever burning in anticipation of the upcoming HBO series based on Ferrante’s novels. There are signs that Ferrante Fever may be waning and the columns may be an attempt to counter that, but I question whether many readers of these columns will be motivated to read Ferrante's extraordinary novels.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I had not expected this: Only 5 more Democrats filed for committeeperson in 2018 than filed in 2014!

Center: Steve Paul, Chair Democratize Philly

I had not expected this. In my book Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party, I predicted that the green shoots of democracy which emerged in the 2014 committeeperson elections would take root in Philadelphia neighborhoods and result in a revitalized ward system in 2018.

On January 15, 2018 a group of progressive organizations announced the formation of Democratize Philly, a coalition initiated by ADA to recruit and support progressive candidates to run for Committeeperson. In January and February organizations such as Caucus of Working Educators, Neighborhood Networks, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Moving Philly Forward, Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Philly for Change, Reclaim Philadelphia and 3.0 ran workshops on how to run for committeeperson.

The level of activity and degree of enthusiasm appeared to be much greater in 2018 than was the case in 2014, suggesting that discontent with the undemocratic Democratic Party may be finally reaching a tipping point.

However, the numbers suggest otherwise. Dave Davies reported that 3,267 Democrats filed to run for committeeperson, only five more than in 2014. And only 513 Republicans filed for committeeperson, down from 788 four years ago.

Davies turned to Jen Devor, who ran committeeperson trainings for an explanation of these disappointing numbers. Devor suggested that perhaps fewer incumbents were running and so the mix contained a larger proportion of newcomers. She suggested that longtime committeepeople might not be running because "it’s a more competitive race this time around.“ Maybe. But there are other reasons long time committeepeople might be retiring. I am stepping down after 32 years as a committeeperson in the 9th ward because I think old folks should not be hanging onto these positions for 30, 40 years but should make room for a younger generation to fill these slots. I know others in in my age cohort who are retiring for this reason. I am happy to report that an energetic young woman will be running for the slot I’ve held for decades.

We won’t know until we learn the number of incumbents who chose not to run(for whatever reason), just how disappointing the 2018 numbers are. We also need to know where the newcomers are concentrated. According to Davies' report, City Commissioner Al Schmidt said that the neighborhoods with the highest number of candidates appeared to be in the Northeast and South Philadelphia where there are contests for ward leader.

Are they candidates who are running simply to support a particular candidate for ward leader, which is likely to be the case in the Northeast? Or are they candidates with a vision of how the ward system should operate or a political philosophy they would like to advance—-as is more likely to be the case in South Philly? The numbers are not what I had hoped to see; however, there may be a significantly higher number of people with a deeper commitment to political change than we had in 2014.