Tracey Pratt runs for City Council, a talk on domestic violence, and the Vision Zero Working Group seeks members
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s April 27 Weekly Roundup—a fast look at local news published every Tuesday at somervillewire.news. Readers with Somerville-focused news tips or press releases or calendar items or letter and opinion submissions can send them to Wire staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call us at (617) 209-9511.
EXPLORING POLICING: REIMAGINING PUBLIC SAFETY IN SOMERVILLE
Activists and politicians agree there has to be reform, but differ on details
Tracey Pratt begins campaign for City Council
Tracey Pratt, co-founder of Just Us Somerville, announced that she will be running for the position of City Councilor at Large, on April 27. Pratt is an East Somerville resident who moved to Bonair Street eleven years ago, according to a press release.
“One of my main goals as city councilor will be to provide an open communication network so that all members of our Somerville community know their voices will be heard, perspectives considered and ideas respected. Through me, each stakeholder will have a seat at the table,” Pratt said, in a press release. “I’m looking forward to knocking on doors throughout the city to introduce myself and share my vision for a greater Somerville.”
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, Pratt and other people of color in Somerville felt frustrated with elected figures speaking on behalf of their community without consulting them. Beginning by meeting virtually, Just Us Somerville was formed out of this feeling.
“Initially we thought to hold a vigil to honor those slain at the hands of police brutality. We realized very quickly that the role of JUS was far bigger than a vigil and the organization was filling a void that the city desperately needed,” said Pratt.
State Representative Mike Connolly recently nominated Pratt to be a Black Excellence on the Hill honoree, according to the press release. She was nominated because of her work in Somerville, as well as for what she does as an educator in the Cambridge Public School System.
“As a 21-year veteran public educator, I’ll bring a unique perspective to the city council because of the various roles I’ve held within and outside of the Cambridge Public Schools,” said Pratt.
Somerville will move into modified Phase 4, Step 1
On May 7, Somerville will move into a modified Phase 4, Step 1 of the State’s reopening plan, because of a decrease in COVID cases and a higher level of vaccinated people.
According to a press release from the City, the following changes will be implemented:
- With any additional guidance noted below, all businesses in categories included through the State’s Phase 4, Step 1 as well as houses of worship will be allowed to operate at up to 50% capacity with social distancing and with all sector-specific guidelines followed.
- Included in the above are movie theaters and bingo halls, previously closed in Somerville.
- Event capacity limits at private residences will remain at 10 people indoors and will increase to 25 people outdoors.
- Event capacity limits at public event venues or spaces will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors with approved safety plans for social distancing, masking guidance, and other safety protocols.
- Singing (while masked) and woodwind/brass instrument performances will be allowed outdoors. As per State guidance, greater distancing requirements are required for wind and brass instruments and singing performances including at least 10 feet between performers and performers must be 25 feet from the audience for these performance categories.
- Indoor performances, subject to the 50% business capacity limits or event gathering limits above, will be allowed for all performance types except for singing and woodwind and brass instruments, which remain prohibited indoors until further notice.
- With the approval of the Somerville Licensing Commission, restaurants and bars or breweries can partner to offer outdoor dining with alcoholic beverages. All other regulations must be followed.
Somerville Poetry Open deadline approaches
Somerville Poetry Open 2021 is extending the deadline to submit poetry for a Somerville poetry book. The book will be a collection of writing developed by Somerville residents and students during the pandemic. People are encouraged to submit their poems by April 30 for publishing consideration at the site: somervillepoetryopen.com. Winning submissions will be published in an online e-book and hard copy book, coming out in May 2021 and edited by children’s book writer and editor Amy Maranville. Proceeds from the sales will be contributed towards the Somerville High School PTSA Scholarship Fund, for graduating high school seniors.
Since April is poetry month, Somerville Poetry Open 2021 has been featuring locally made poetry videos, with speakers giving talks and micro-lessons on a variety of topics. Participants included Lloyd Schwartz, current Somerville poet laureate, Porsha Olayiwola, current Boston poet laureate, and Alondra Bobadilla, Boston’s first ever youth poet laureate. According to a press release, now is an important time for youth to be turning to the arts.
“The last year has been rough for Somervillians, especially our young people. We believe poetry can help us all cope with the loss, trauma and isolation we are experiencing in this COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the grief and stress we are carrying from racial injustice,” reads the press release. “During this extremely tumultuous period, we invite all Somervillians to explore poetry with us. Take some time to learn something new from your poet neighbors, and to write something for yourself. Help us record our feelings, our thoughts, our artistry, our city during this unique moment in our history. In short, write a poem.”
RESPOND holds talk on domestic violence’s impact on children
The Chelsea Kiwanis Club and the Kiwanis Club of Somerville hosted an event on April 20 called “Recipes for Resilience: The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children—and the Ways to Help Them Thrive.” RESPOND Inc’s Jenn Wolter, manager of community-based programs, gave a talk during the program in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
According to Wolter, one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to the violence. Children exposed to trauma show emotional patterns that present like posttraumatic stress disorder. Other reactions include obsessive thinking, avoidant behavior, low self-esteem and loss of interest in hobbies or activities. There may be factors that can counter adverse childhood experiences, including having teachers that care, a predictable home routine, and having opportunities to have fun.
“More commonly, people are starting to use the idea of children experiencing domestic violence. A lot of times, you might hear ‘witnessing.’ But witnessing kind of ties us into a box and doesn’t encompass all of the things that we might want to think about,” said Wolter. “Obviously, there are those that might physically see things or overhear things, but they don’t have to necessarily be there.” She added, “They might also be witnessing the direct aftermath.”
City seeks members for Vision Zero Working Group
The City of Somerville is currently seeking applicants who will serve on the Vision Zero Working Group. This newly formed body was developed to advance the commitment to eliminate vehicle crashes that “result in death or serious injury.”
“Resident members of the Working Group will work with City staff to realize key Vision Zero strategies of prioritizing equity, engagement, and approaching roadway safety with a multi-disciplinary framework,” reads a press release. “Members of the local and regional advocacy community or anyone committed to safe streets and multimodal transportation are encouraged to apply. Areas of expertise that would be helpful among the membership, but that are not required for membership, include knowledge or expertise in transportation engineering or planning; related legal and policy experience at the local, state, and federal level; emergency response; maintenance of public infrastructure; active transportation; public health; public education; and other related areas.”
Those interested in applying can reach out to Alexandra Kleyman, senior transportation planner at email@example.com by noon on Friday, May 14.
The Somerville Homeless Coalition organizes virtual fundraiser
The Somerville Homeless Coalition is holding its first virtual Sleep In Sleep Out event from April 30-May 2. Staff and leadership call upon the public to join them in sleeping outside, “demonstrating solidarity with our homeless clients.” Anyone who wants to participate can choose where to sleep, whether it be in their backyard, living room, or a local campground. Brookline Bank is a main sponsor of the fundraiser.
The event aims to raise awareness of the homelessness crisis in Somerville. Over 100 people are signed up to participate, according to Felicity Beal, director of development. A client, Frankie, gave a testimony to the support he has received from the organization.
“When I came to the streets, I had decided that this is where I was going to finish my life out. But you guys kept coming out to me, every week, constantly showing up. Today is the first day that I have felt a glimmer of hope,” wrote Frankie.
Visit the link provided to register: https://runsignup.com/Race/MA/Somerville/SleepInSleepOut2021
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.