RECALLING A LEGACY LEADER

In the early 1960s, the Ecumenical Institute moved into an abandoned seminary in Chicago’s East Garfield neighborhood in order to facilitate ‘a model community’ in which all members cared for each other, regardless of economic circumstances. While Fifth Avenue is an obscure diagonal street on Chicago’s west side, the name “Fifth City” originated from the Institute’s goal to reconceive the nature of community organization and development. To go beyond the four geographic “cities” composing the urban setting of downtown, inner city, neighborhoods and suburbs in order to empower citizens. 5th City aimed to be a replicable demonstration of the capacity of local people to transform their own communities.

“Rebirth of the Human City” described the process: “Community residents began meeting in a dilapidated basement, patiently covering blackboards with lists upon lists of the community’s problems and the possible solutions…. The decision to build 5th City gave birth to songs and rituals and to the Iron Man.” Iron Man Plaza

This statue still stands today as a witness to those residents who decided to drive their very lives like stakes into the ground of the city and take responsibility for its rebirth. Plans are being proposed to refurbish the Iron Man Plaza at Jackson & Homan.

Ruth Carter was a dynamic teacher and director of the Fifth City Preschool, the first 5th City project, chosen to address the “victim image.” The following is an excerpt, written in 2000 from the book The Circle of Life.

“In the early 1960s, I was a mother with small children, and I was eager for them to have the best chance in life. I shared that concern with others in my neighborhood, and we decided to do something about it. We heard that there was an idea to organize some kind of day care in our neighborhood, and we were invited to be a part of it. We worked with the staff of the Ecumenical Institute to develop the curriculum.

Ruth Carter & 5thCity PreSchool

Ruth Carter [right] & 5th City Preschoolers

We knew that our kids were smart and that with help, we could be teachers. In those days, there were no books to tell us how to set up a school for infants and toddlers. This was all before Headstart and there were not even guidelines for care for three and four year olds. We wanted to care for all the children, so we created our own road map.
 

After all this hard work and fun focused on our own kids, you can imagine how surprised we were when we were asked to come to New York City to give our advice to a group that was planning a new television show. We went and had a wonderful time telling those folks what we had done with small kids and how we had done it. Their show became “Sesame Street.”

Working with a whole family methodology, the Fifth City Preschool continues to provide excellent quality care. With a current enrollment of 60 children, the Preschool is regenerating the next generation of community leaders.

On May 4, 2017, the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] had the privilege of hosting a performance of My Soul Cries Out: Stop! This grassroots play seeks to spark community transformation throughout Chicago. It was written, directed and produced by Denise Gathings, a Chicago Police Officer and lifelong resident of the Fifth City neighborhood. She is the daughter of Ruth Carter and the multi-talented cast are descendants of Ruth.

My Soul Cries Out Cast

Denise Gathings [in white jacket] at the podium with cast

The stories in Gathings’ play draw directly from her day-to-day interactions with local youth as a community police officer. The raw, powerful scenes authentically capture the pressures on the street that too often build to violence and its painful aftermath. There performing and singing in ICA’s GreenRise 5th City room were Ruth Carter’s legacy of community leadership.

The play closes with the hymn I Shall Wear A Crown by Thomas Whitfield:

I shall wear a crown.
When it’s all over
I shall see His face
When it’s all over
I’m going to put on my robe, tell the story how I made it over

An inspiring story and play for which Ruth can be proud.

GOING ALL THE WAY

GOING ALL THE WAY

And here’s to the men and the legends we’ve known
Teaching us faith and giving us hope
United we stand and united we’ll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all….
And when the day comes with that last winning run
And I’m crying and covered in beer
I’ll look to the sky and know I was right
To think someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
by Eddie Vedder

Someday finally came just before midnight [central time] on Wednesday, November 2, 2016.

Cubs fans had seen 8th inning heartbreaks before; I was there at Wrigley in 2003. This time the threat was with only 4 outs to go, not 5. I had texted my brother at 9:30 Wednesday night to stop counting outs. It was hard not to.

Eddie Vedder was there in Cleveland, easily seen on TV in the front row. I started wondering if he was going to have to write a new verse to his song, first performed in public on August 2, 2007, another Cub year that didn’t have a happy playoff ending.

But this year there was divine intervention, when the heavens opened for a 17-minute rain delay. Yes, the player who hadn’t been hitting used this “Cubbie time out” to motivate his teammates to remember NEVER QUIT. A new Cubs legend was born out in the top of the 10th. Thank God, they scored 2 runs since they needed both.

Our son TJ grew up at Wrigley Field listening to Harry Carey sing the 7th inning stretch. tj-family-brickUsually the Cubs were losing in the 7th and Harry would end by yelling: “LET’S GET SOME RUNS!” It was always plural, since Harry knew one run might not be enough for our bullpen.

One game, when TJ was 5 or 6, the Cubs were actually winning by a large margin in the 7th so Harry didn’t add his signature call. TJ looked up at me and asked: “Dad, why didn’t Harry finish the song?” He had grown up thinking “Let’s Get Some Runs!” was the last line of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

That’s our “family brick” on Sheffield just to the left of TJ’s hand in his World Series celebration photo. We finally got enough runs.

I tweeted at 11:57pm November 2nd with the official Cubs World Series Champions logo: “Season ticket holder since 1985; worth all those games to raise our son a Cubs fan to never quit.”

Yes, we went all the way! Now TJ, Lynne & I really can’t wait until next year. Let’s Get Another One!

world-series-game-at-wrigley

RETURNING TO A SUPERIOR LAKE

RETURNING TO A SUPERIOR LAKE

It’s been two years since we were last in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Here on the shore of Lake SuperiorUP Beach I was inspired then to start blogging. After blogging weekly for a year and then monthly for another year, this is my 2nd year anniversary of sharing my perspectives thru U2Cando!

It’s only fitting to be drafting this 64th blog here in Grand Marais as I look out at a calm lake this sunny morning before starting the journey home. Another good vacation but one I’m not yet ready to end. Can’t help but think what it would be like to spend two months up here in the UP [preferably September & October not January & February].

Writing and reading before a mid-morning beach walk. Deciding over lunch where to hike or kayak in the afternoon.UP red sunset Starting dinner in time to be done for sunset on the deck and finally hoping it will be clear enough for a plethora of stars as it was last night.

Now you may understand with that daily schedule why I’m hesitant to start loading the car and would rather grab the latest Daniel Silva thriller and head out to the deck instead. Perhaps there may be time at least for a short beach walk before departure.

Two years ago I wasn’t even thinking about climate change; now Lake Superior is my safe haven. I now prefer sweatshirt weather in the UP to worrying if Chicago’s heat may send me to the ER a third time. The lake and the wind were too cold this trip to even consider a “Superior” swim however short.

I did get some quality “dog time” these five days with Minnie & BowWow. They are the resident philosophers of my inspiration blogger Jan, who was blogging daily two years ago when we visited. Now she is an award winning blogger and still an inspiration.

Au Sable LighthouseYes, there was a lighthouse visit as we hiked the trail to the Au Sable Lighthouse in the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. Although we missed the National Park’s 100th Birthday Party by two days, I still tweeted congrats on job well done in saving our national treasures.

I know where I will hopefully be a year from now. Not sure when we’ll be returning to the UP but even if it’s another two years, I’ll look forward to this as a “Superior” memory to relive.

May your voyage be a safe one, well lit and with the wind at your back.

 

REUNITING & REBOUNDING

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
— “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne

Yes, I know my June blog is a few days late. But then I’ve been planning to write about my 45th Reunion of the Province College Class of ’71 since the first weekend of June. I just waited for the June 30th concert by Jackson Browne and James Taylor at Wrigley Field.James & Jackson at Wrigley I bought tickets months ago as an early 37th wedding anniversary present. You see I did “find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means” and we’ve been filling in the “missing colors in each other’s paint-by-number dreams” since we met in 1975.

Lynne joined me for this June trip back to PC. Five years ago, I went by myself to reunite with classmates and catch up on our respective lives. She had met a few of them over the years but had not really seen where our college formative years played out. We both enjoyed the long weekend in Rhode Island, the conversational flow of memories and the ‘70s soundtrack.

There were classmates missing because of distance or early death; spouses who have left widowers; and health concerns that persist. But for a few hours over three days, the years did not seem that long ago.

I had a prelude to the memories in April when I was asked to speak at my high school, Fenwick in Oak Park [IL] to seniors who had been admitted to Providence College and were now on the clock to choose. Since both Fenwick and Providence are Dominican institutions, that makes me a “Double Friar.” For someone raised by the Order of Preachers, speaking is not that challenging. Picking the right points does require some thought. Hopefully, sharing my vocational experience at PC was helpful to those Fenwick students making their first major life decision.

It seemed to surprise some, as well as a slightly younger woman PC grad on the June golf cart tour of campus, when I shared that one of my first organizing campaigns was protesting at my college graduation urging the trustees to approve making PC co-ed, which they did. I hadn’t thought about that in decades but I guess equal access was embedded at an early age.

We did our best to avoid talking current politics at the reunion given some strong opinions just under the surface. But there were multiple memories we all had of Draft Lottery night in the midst of the Vietnam War. Many of us had met and bonded as ROTC candidates.PC Class of 71(2) Then came that day junior year in September 1969, when we each on our own had to decide to sign-up or not. I chose to start questioning the war which led to questioning many subsequent governmental actions over the years ahead.

I heard a James Taylor song for the first time this week, even though he wrote it over 25 years ago. When I blogged weekly for a year, I would add to the U2Cando playlist with lyrics to end each blog. These lyrics seem to be a good fit for remembering the past as well rebounding for the future.

And if Jackson asks, I’m not ready to surrender. Love could still be a contender.

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.
We are bound and we are bound.
“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor

GIVING THANKS

My first journal entry was on May 4, 2000 at an altitude of 35,000 feet on my way to Belfast as the first stop on a sabbatical. I have continued my journal writing over the years, most recently this past September on my return flight from Austin, Texas. I usually write while traveling; reflecting on family life and work challenges as well as observations on that business or vacation trip.

Attempting to construct this third monthly blog, I am overwhelmed with multiple and diverging reflections this Thanksgiving Day. I know that writing has become integral for me in processing life and that I really need to do this blog. Still I wonder: how did I manage to blog weekly for a year?

My primary anguish today is the diagnosis yesterday that my sister-in-law’s struggle this year with oral cancer has now reached the hospice stage. Can I adequately comfort my brother through this traumatic time?

Seven years ago, my wife had started her chemo treatments for breast cancer and dealt with her hair falling out that Thanksgiving morning. I am thankful every morning that she is here to kiss me. How can I console my brother for the mornings he faces ahead?

There are decades of Thanksgiving dinners when we all gather and take each other for granted. We do stop now and then to remember those from past holiday dinners who are no longer at the table. Yes, we can give thanks for the time we did have together. But that doesn’t make their absence any more tolerable.

I don’t know if these lyrics will offer any solace for my brother. But we should consider them in our own lives while we have the chance.

Joe & Ginny Oct 2009

Joe & Ginny Wysocki / October 2009

If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her
Did I try in every way to show her every day
That she’s my only one
And if my time on earth were through
And she must face the world without me
Is the love I gave her in the past
Gonna be enough to last
If tomorrow never comes
So tell that someone that you love
Just what you’re thinking of
If tomorrow never comes

Garth Brooks, K. Blazy, Kent Evan Blazy

BLOGGING FOR JUSTICE OVER A YEAR’S WORTH OF SEEKING

BLOGGING FOR JUSTICE OVER A YEAR’S WORTH OF SEEKING

This is U2Cando Blog #52. So I’ve reached my goal of blogging every week for a year. To my early followers, thanks for your loyalty. To my latest followers, I will return. But I’m cutting back to a monthly commitment to share my future perspectives.

I do want to acknowledge Jan Wilberg, who inspired me last summer with her award-winning daily blogging. What happens on her Red’s Wrap she admits is all over the map. Jan writes about what seems important or interesting at the moment.

That’s what I’ve been striving to do this past year. I wrote about folks from my past, new encounters, and threw in some political harangue. I didn’t know when I posted my first blog that I would also start a weekly U2Cando playlist of song lyrics. When Bono & U2 came up on my son’s playlist while riding in his car with Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, it seemed to be timely for the vocational search I was on still seeking justice.

So as I go on vacation and hiatus, my Top 10 list [with direct links embedded in each title] clearly needs to start with that first blog last August: DOES ANYONE HAVE BONO’S CELL NUMBER?

Gale Cincotta Reclaims America October 13, 1980

Gale Cincotta
Reclaims America
October 13, 1980

Last week, I tweaked the lyrics to a Steve Earle song to mention my mentor Gale Cincotta and embedded a link to my seventh blog, RECLAIMING AMERICA, on her posted last Columbus Day weekend. One of my followers Michael Westgate (author of Gale Force, an oral history on Gale) reminded me that August 15th was the anniversary of her death in 2001. I didn’t remember that as I wrote my most recent blog on August 15th; but I sure felt Gale’s spirit in the composing.

Remembering Gale last October, led to other memories from my days as editor of DISCLOSURE that I recalled in blog #8, FROM THE ROOTS, about other leaders who fought for their community. With a nod to Van Morrison, it’s always proper to “lift your glass and raise it high to the beauty of the days gone by.”

Romero Mural in Ciudad Romero

Romero Mural in Ciudad Romero

This past year saw the Vatican take the next step to finally canonize Oscar Romero as a martyred saint. My 14th blog last November, STILL RESILIENT IN EL SALVADOR, shared reflections from a 2012 community empowerment tour on which my wife and I witnessed the strength of perseverance.

The big news of the year for me was half-way through my blogging year when I announced in blog #26, OUT TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE, that I had accepted the position as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)-USA. This blog introduced the only lyrics I used twice from Sing for the Climate. If you have never seen the video, do yourself and the world a favor and check it out. On September 22 and 23, 2012, more than 80,000 people in more than 180 Belgian communities sang this song urging politicians to take more ambitious climate measures.

Addressing climate change has become a core mission for me now. Fortunately, I have some influential thought leaders to quote from. My 27th blog, THIS BOOK CHANGES EVERYTHING, led to a book review for SHELTERFORCE of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. As I said then and still do, if there has ever been a book you should read, this is it.

Over the next couple of months, my work will be engaging others in dialogue as requested by Pope Francis and recorded in blog #44, SHOUTING FOR JOY. That should offer sustenance for my September and October blogs.

TJ, Mom & Dad 7-26-15You can’t go a year without having birthdays. Most recently, I used blog #49, GROWING OLDER BUT NOT UP, to wish my son, TJ, well. The tweet link “Let’s Get Some Beers” got some likes.

The blog that received the most views all year was #25, HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY, my birthday and Valentine’s greeting to my wife, Lynne. She not only got me through this past year but also has provided love for what will be 40 years this October. And yes for those of you keeping score, Van Morrison is currently leading the U2Cando playlist with four songs to Bruce Springsteen’s three.

My birthday this year was a milestone, acknowledged in blog #18, CROSSING THE GREAT DIVIDE. I look forward to sharing my thoughts at the end of December on how my 66th year winds up.

So those are my ToP 10 blogs. I enjoyed writing all 52 of them. Whenever you read them, I hope you enjoyed them too. Remember U2Cando!

I’m completing my year of blogging for justice with my favorite hymn. It’s set to an Irish tune that you may have heard in a pub but it’s sung fairly often at our church, Old St. Pat’s.

Old St. Pat's

Old St. Pat’s

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

Canticle of the Turning
Author: Rory Cooney
Tune: STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN

GROWING OLDER BUT NOT UP!

I like to joke that I was raised by Dominicans, but gave my son up to the Jesuits. I had a great education; so did he. Attending high school at Loyola Academy he learned it is always a “Great Day to be a Rambler!” Going on to college at John Carroll in Cleveland, he had the opportunity to play Division III football there at Don Shula Stadium.

Daddy Bear & His Cub

Little did we know that he would also get to briefly meet Shula in 2007 at Super Bowl XLI and play American Football in Switzerland only a few months later.

Theodore J. Wysocki III turned 28 this weekend. TJ has been a blessing to Lynne and me. This blog’s headline is from the Margaritaville T-shirt we gave him for a present.

TJ had an early international trip to Ireland and Scotland when he was almost 3 years old. He was very comfortable being abroad, even walking out of an Edinburgh hotel on his own as we said good bye to colleagues in the hotel’s pub.

A trip to Puerto Rico became a memorable “Mom Adventure” as TJ and Lynne took two buses and a jitney to find a museum outside of San Juan. TJ kept insisting the hotel would send a cab for the return trip, if Mom would only call.

TJ, Mom & Dad 7-26-15TJ grew up at Wrigley Field. I have already apologized to him for buying season tickets to the wrong Chicago team since he would have been at three Stanley Cup finals by now. I did teach him not to buy that Cardinals’ Bud but to enjoy Old Style from God’s Country.

My favorite story occurred at a Cubs game when TJ was about five. The Cubs were actually winning in the 7th inning so Harry Carey did not end signing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with his usual tag line. TJ turned to me and asked “Dad, why didn’t Harry finish the song?” You see TJ had been at so many Cubs losses (including last Sunday), he thought the last line of the lyrics was “Let’s Get Some Runs!”

I have shared my favorite music with TJ; so we’ve gone to see Bruce and Jimmy Buffett in concert. Our first concert together was Garth Brooks, when TJ was 11. He’s introduced me to the Red Sox favorite Drop Kick Murphy. He put Zac Brown on my iPod; TJ will be there when Zac performs again at Wrigley in September. TJ

So for TJ’s birthday song, I’m going with this addition to the U2Cando playlist.

Happy Birthday TJ!

I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today. Life is good today.
“Toes”
ZAC BROWN BAND