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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

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The End is Near? - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

With discrimination on the rampage in Milwaukee, with violence in our cities, with massacre of Palestinian children in Gaza, with wars and fighting in too many places, with climate change, severe earthquakes and tornadoes, with fires burning out of control, with money running this country, with rich getting richer and poor poorer at a rapid rate in the USA, one has to wonder if the end is not coming soon. Many have said it for many years and maybe now there is some sense to it.

Personally I believe the end of the world will not come for some time, until humans can create almost like God creates. Then the Alpha, coming from God, will return to the God, the Omega.

One person, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Society, when I warned her, of the possible great act of destruction the Society may be making by spending 5 to 6 million dollars of the poor for a thrift store in the suburbs, wrote back saying she does not read or listen to me. She also expressed her belief and trust in the “administration”. This is said despite the fact that St. Vincent de Paul is the largest lay organization in the world and its main mission, home visit to those in need, are carried out by lay persons, not administrators.

When dialog, common sense are replaced by blind faith in highly paid administrators does this mean the end is near?

A WE energy truck hits a basketball pole in the local park and it is removed not replacing blaming basketball players who have been chased from the park does this mean the end is near?

When Palestinian children living in a UN sponsored school are hit by bombs with shrapnel by Israelis’ armed by the USA, does that mean the end is near?

The worst epidemic of deadly Ebola virus is out of control in West Africa and spreading to other countries does this mean the end is near?

I do not know the answer but believe these trials and suffering are human created for the most part and not God created. Thus we must have a revolution of the heart of each person before the end is near. This is what I think. But if the end is near I am not ready yet God. I am still too dependent on others and myself and not on You, God.


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Letter to Holy Father - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Now that it is confirmed that Pope Francis, the Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church is coming to Milwaukee in 2015 it is time to write him and invite him here:

Dear Holy Father,
I recently heard that you are coming to the USA in September 2015. I would like to invite you to Milwaukee, WI. Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the USA, one of the poorest and with the highest number of African American males that are criminalized. Sadly the government and Church have segregated African Americans in North Central Milwaukee where there is high employment and poor education. Where once the Catholic Church was flourishing in this area, including many African American Catholics and 17 Catholic Churches there is now three Catholic churches and lots of former African American Catholics. The local Society of St. Vincent de Paul now wants to invest over 5 million dollars of money for the poor on a Thrift Store in the suburbs, based on the “Trickle down” economics, not in this area You concern for poor and marginalized can have a real impact here in Milwaukee.

Also, Milwaukee is the home of the only Catholic Jesuit University to host Department of Defense training programs for Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force, Marquette University. It is the regional training center for teaching war and “reflexive killing”, killing without use of conscience. (Notre Dame is the only other Catholic University hosting all three departments of the military.)

On the other hand, Milwaukee is ‘city of festivals’ on the Lakes, hosting major cultural and ethnic festivals for the diverse ethnic population of Italians, Irish, Germans, Polish, Native American, Greek and many more. My wife and I live in a large house on the West Milwaukee and use our empty rooms for hospitality for family, friend and people in need. We both were educated by Jesuits and including high school I have 13 years of Jesuit education, which can be a curse or blessing. I was taught to practice our Catholic faith but as St. Ignatius said this sometimes involves “rejection, insults, poverty,” and these days being ignored and marginalized.

We live close to Miller Park, the home of our major league baseball team and close to Marquette University. We can accommodate you and some of your party here where you will find good Italian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and other good cooking.

I can back up statements I made above with documentation. However, the real reason for this invitation is that you give all of us, even poor and marginalized a good kick in the butt to live our faith in our daily lives.

May the blessings and grace God only gives to the poor and marginalized be with you,

Bob Graf


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Four White Managers and No Men’s Clothes - Monday, July 28, 2014

Three Holy Women in
North Central Milwaukee

Last week Brian and I took the Hosanna Catholic Worker truck to pick up a woman, Yolanda, Pat and I had just visited. She and her two children are new to town so she had no way to pick up the beds and kitchen chairs we gave her at our home visit.

When we got to the SVDP thrift store, Brian went wandering around the store while Yolanda and I went back to voucher pick up area. A very nice woman helped us out. There was some confusion about the voucher so the woman helping us called over a young man she said was the manager. He was not quite sure what to do, since he had only been at thrift store for a few months but the problem was easily solved when he realized I was the Vincentian that made the home visit and I had my voucher pad with me. He asked me to rewrite the voucher to clarify the confusion. I did and all was well.

While Yolanda was doing paper work with the store woman I wandered into men’s clothes area. I feel a little guilty about shopping for clothes at the Goodwill store off Hwy 100 but, not liking to shop, have always found much more selection at Goodwill. The men’s section of the store had been moved to a little cove that used to house home ware like cups and glasses. There were only a few racks of men’s clothing and nothing in my size. I feel guilty no longer for shopping at Goodwill. I thought what will happen if they do build the five million dollar thrift store in Greenfield. Where will they get men’s clothing from?

When Yolanda was done I went with her to the front cashier to check out. I noticed a sign on the counter saying who the “Manager of the Day” was. The name was not that of the manager that had helped us out. I saw a more a middle age man with that name on his shirt. I asked him if he was the “manager of the day” and he said yes. I than asked him about the woman who I thought was the store manager. He said she was at the “corporate office” which I took to mean SVDP central office. I than asked him about the man who had been the long time assistant manager. He said this person was still a manger but it was his ‘day off’. By now I realized there were four white Caucasian managers at a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store that serves mainly Hispanic and African American people.

When we got to the loading dock the same woman who helped us in the voucher section was there to help us load stuff on the truck. I asked her if she was a “manager”. She just smiled back at me and said she was not a manager but could do most of the jobs at the store. She was African-American as was the other workers, except perhaps for a few Hispanics.

This story reflects on the Board of Directors at St. Vincent de Paul. Except for one person, who is President of two conferences in North Central Milwaukee the board is all Caucasians, and all but one, I believe, do not live in the city of Milwaukee. The one African American on the Board is opposed to suburban five million dollar store but cannot even get his motion to ‘discuss’ calling a President’s meeting seconded by his colleagues.

If you see a pattern here of white middle class persons dominating over low income Hispanic and African Americans that is the story of Milwaukee and why it is the most racially segregated city in the USA. This is why 300 persons, many African Americans and many Vincentians, signing a petition to build the thrift store, at low or no cost, in North Central Milwaukee rather than at high cost in suburb of Greenfield, is drowned out by the few white suburban people who want to invest five million dollars of money belonging to the poor into a thrift store in the suburbs that will serve the white middle classes. Of course they say money will trickle down to people in need in North Central money but how many of us still believe in the trickle down theory. So this is my story about four white managers and no men’s clothes that could fit me.


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A Little Bit of Self-Suffering - Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Gandhi quote of day from India was “My method of conversion, not coercion; it is self-suffering, not the suffering of the tyrant.” This quote reminds me of a couple things in my life. One is a lesson of garden. If a garden is hurting from anything, weather or bugs, it suffers through the storm till it can heal itself. Another one is a lesson of life that with adversity and suffering it does no good to lash out on others but take the suffering in and make the best of it until healing.

A more grounded example is Dawn of the DMZ community gardens. When her homes for the disabled were unjustly blasted a few years ago by a reporter she quietly endured the lost of persons and finances it cost her until she restored her homes again. Now she is facing a loss of one of the DMZ community garden, incidentally called the healing garden, unless she can come up with more soil and plants for the garden. She quietly has put the word out to friends, taken out a personal loan and praying and hoping for the best.

Once I was with her when she was in the city development office checking on grant they had promised her if she spent so much to improve one of her houses. She did all that she needed and more but they were not going to give her the matching grant she sorely needed. I got upset at the city officials for their refusal to give her the grant, they even saying they hand ‘lost’ her file. She calmly presented her point and when she could see we were going nowhere just said it was time for us to leave. Without the promised grant it took a year or two to have enough money to complete the house she calls the ‘project house’ but she did it.

Self-suffering is not looked on as a virtue in our society and we, I, find it hard to practice. But like the parables in the Gospel at the Liturgy say today sometimes we must give all or sacrifice all to get what we want, be it a precious pearl or basketball rims in the county park. So bring on the self-suffering, but just a little bit at a time.


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Just Keep On - Saturday, July 26, 2014

Today my goddaughter, Sophia,and I got in a few good hours of garden work, mostly of pulling weeds and thinning plants. But there was picking of mint, chives, parsley, kale, lettuce and grape leaves. This picking left a lot to clean, some to dehydrate, some to eat and some to refrigerate. I am not sure how cost effective my garden is but know the bounty of vegetables, herbs and flowers is great. All you need to do is “just keep on gardening” and all will be well with the garden. This recalls the movie “Finding Nemo” where the song “Just keep swimming” is memorable.

I wish the “just keep on” philosophy was just as clear in the rest of life as it is with gardening. As I said to one of my neighbors today if we “just keep on” struggling for racial equality in our local county park we will get it, maybe. He was of many who consider African-American basketball players as ‘outside’ people but would not think of the golfers, bike trail users or golfers as ‘outsiders’. For years Asian and white males who use the basketball courts were not consider “outsiders” although they lived outside the neighborhood. About five or six years ago when African American males started playing basketball on the courts there was a ‘problem.’

However, when people do not understand discrimination, racism and think it ended after the civil rights campaign or when an African American male was elected President it is hard to argue reason and facts with them. Gandhi says we must appeal to the heart for effective nonviolence. How do we do that we are trying to restore rims or trying to locate a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store where it is needed, North Central Milwaukee, not where it is not needed in a middle class suburbs? I know reason, logic, facts, mission statements and talk do not matter. “Just keep on” works with gardening but how do we reach the heart of those who discriminate and do not even realize it. How do we ‘just keep on?’


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Scar of Racism Doubled - Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prayer Vigil Today for
Young African-American male
shot and killed

The other night I wrote about the Scar of Racism left in Doyne County Park when after five years or more years of effort the local politicians and a few people in the neighborhood were able to aroused enough fear of African American males in the neighborhood, blaming them for anything that happened or did not happen they were able to get the county to take down a basketball pole, backboard and rim to prevent youth and young adults from playing full court basketball in the park.

Yesterday I noticed a remaining basketball pole was bent over in the park. The two boys playing basketball did not know what happened but after talking to the WE Energy people I found out they had hit the pole with one of their trucks. They said the county parks were aware of it and would repair it. Today when I went to the park the pole, backboard and rim were completely gone leaving only another scar of racism on the asphalt. I asked the same WE Energy Workers what had happened and they said the County Park came by and removed the pole, board and rim. I asked why and they said that the basketball board in the rim was a ‘cause of troubles’ and that is why it was removed.

This was the final proof I needed to confirm that the five plus years work by politicians and few neighbors was not about safety of neighborhood but about preventing African American basketball players from using the park to play basketball, full or half court. These few people that have scared so many with racial hatred cannot possible blame the WE Energies on African American basketball players but it is the these young adults that were blamed for not repairing the rim.

Since the full court basketball rim was taken down July 7th blaming basketball players for gun fire in the park, an incident on July 4th that police records show had nothing to do with basketball playing, the purveyors of fear of African American males have tried to take down all the basketball poles, backboard and rims. With We Energies hitting a pole they have succeeded in taking down two of the four rims.

I wrote an email today to Milwaukee County Park officials, County executive and Mayor of Milwaukee saying today’s removal of the pole, rim and backboard, blaming African American basketball players was the last straw. I am old and do not want to organize a civil rights action or legal action against the County. But I must. If we allow racism to be used to fear and segregate people we will only segregate more people and this will lead to more violence.

African American young adult males are criminalized, cannot find jobs, experience poverty and poor excuse and have a high death rate. Just today I was at three prayer vigils for young adult males who were shot and killed in North Central Milwaukee, the most racially segregated area of Milwaukee, the most racially segregated.

Tonight the Mayor and Police Chief were on TV throwing insults, “they are not men” to persons responsible for shooting and injury two youth in a van in North Central Milwaukee. Calling a few young African American young adults names and insulting them will not stop future violence. Unless we get at the sources of such an environment one rim at a time it will continue. May the three young men shot and killed on the street rest in peace and may their families find comfort in faith and hope. But I pray for the Police Chief, Mayor, County Executive, Parks People and local politicians so they were realize that playing the blame game, stereotyping young men, insulting them will not solve the root cause of violence. An environment where young African American men can get jobs, get a good education, have decent housing with beds stove and refrigerators, find it easier to be good, get healthy food and play basketball without fear of rim being taken down can be the start of change in the environment. It is hard enough to be poor and black why make it harder. The scar of racism was doubled today at our County Park.


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When will the Killing Stop? - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Palestinian children killed by
Israeli forces

My heart cries out for the children of Palestine, who live in the imprisoned area of Gaza as they die about one per hour average and they and other Palestinians are killed and uprooted. I can understand why the people of Palestine in the Gaza strip are standing by their elected government and saying we will fight till death or we get freedom by withdrawal of the blockade of our borders. Israel seems intent on killing as many people as possible and destroying as much as they can before there is a cease fire.

Our president, Senate and House of Representatives stand firmly with Israel giving them the money and military might to keep the war going, as they have done many times in the past. The people of Palestine have lost so much they have no reason to stop fighting back until the blockade is lifted and they have the right to pick up the pieces of Palestine that are left and to create a homeland for Arabs on part of this territory, known as Palestine since the time of Christ and Roman Empire. Jesus was a Palestinian Jew as we know.

Today I was listened to a reporter from New York Times describe of how Israel started this war, why and how it will end. Without the USA saying no to More money and military might Israel will continue this process of exterminating Palestinians’ in this region. I had a hard time listening to honest reporting and it would be so much simpler if Israel as the ‘good guy’ and People in Gaza Strip the ‘bad guys’

There are three prayer vigils for homicide victims in North Central Milwaukee tomorrow morning. When will the killing stop?


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Right Thing To Do For A Friend - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It was hot and humid today, what a change of weather for spring and summer so far. There was a little rain this afternoon so the sun and heat were maximized for my tomato plants.

I heard yesterday that this has been the warmest climate in the world so far this year. I like to call the weird and intense weather we are having this year ‘climate change’ but in light of all the world there is some ‘global warming’ mixed in.

Some things change and some do not. After all our lessons in history you would think ‘racism’ has decreased due to awareness but it is not. Tonight I attended a dialog with other persons from Milwaukee County about racial discrimination but rather than be upset about talk and no action about racism I got home feeling supported and encouraged. I met a number of people there who I had mutual friends and acquaintances with, something nearly normal about Milwaukee County culture. In this case the small town feeling this awareness brings was rewarding. The people attending this dialog ‘got it’ and we were able to share our experiences of racism rather than talk about whether it existed. On a hot humid day that was refreshing.

One of the lessons learned is that racism has a tough time when people know each other. If the adults in the neighborhood would have only talked and met the young African American adults playing full court basketball they would have not been so quick to tear down the rim, backboard and pole. If the executive council and central office of St. Vincent de Paul would only listen to people they claim to be serving they would not being making a five million dollar investment in the suburbs for a thrift store rather than build one at a fraction of the cost in the neighborhood in need. It is hard to be racist to a friend.

Racism occurs when one person or group of person claims to know what is best for another person or group of persons. “We will make our neighborhood safer but not having full court basketball playing” or “we will make money for the poor by investing five million dollars in the suburbs.” Try telling something like this to a friend on the other side of the issue who is a friend. It will not work and only works due to stereotyping and stigmatizing unknown persons.
Be a friend to someone in need or “Walk in their shoes” and you listen and learn what the right thing to do for a friend.


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Understand Israeli - Palestinian Apartheid In 11 Images - Sunday, July 20, 2014

Israel’s Wall of Apartheid

This weekend arrived with tales of joy, hope and tragedy. Today we attended Pulaski Polka Days in which both my grandson marched in the Pulaski High School Marching band. Yesterday I talked with Dawn of DMZ community gardens and she told me of her hope to get sun loving plants and soils for the DMZ Healing Garden. Also today brought new of the bloodiest day yet of Israelis recent invasion of the Gaza strip in Palestine. The death and injury toll hurts my soul that has Middle East ancestry in my blood. The recent death tolls, especially of the young children reminded me of a blog site I saw the other day called Palestine. Understand Israeli – Palestinian Apartheid In 11 Images. The implication of the information in the 11 images may be controversial, as comments at the bottom suggest, but the cold hard facts of the tragedy of apartheid are hard to avoid. With the money and guns of the US this apartheid could not go on. Yet as a country we are not outraged as the children die. The images speak for themselves and maybe a few more people knowing of this tragedy will help End Apartheid by Israelis to Palestinians.


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Scar of Racism - Saturday, July 19, 2014

Scar of Racism

I spent today helping a friend helping other friends to paint the outside of their house to meet the codes of city inspection. On the way home I stopped at Doyne Park across the street. Driving in to the park I had a clear view of the three basketball courts. Again today, as most of this week, there were only a few in the park playing basketball, golfing, on the soccer field or on the playground. It looks like there was never a fourth pole, backboard and rim allowing full court basketball playing. But if you look closely on the court you will see a scar where the basketball pole, backboard, rim and net used to be.

Full Court basketball playing, as far as I can discover, had been in this County Park since the early 70’s when it was built on where a garbage dump used to be. When I moved in the neighborhood about eleven years ago I do remember any concern about youth and young adults playing full court basketball. I did notice that the white and Asian youth and young adults were joined by some African American basketball players. I saw no problem with this and was surprised after the renovation of the park in 2010 when suddenly there was a cry that the full court basketball playing and basketball players in general, bring crime and violence to the neighborhood. It soon became clear that when some talked about ‘basketball players’, especially ‘full court basketball players’ there were really talk about African American young adults.

During a neighborhood meeting a few years ago when I asked some neighbors why did not just talk with the youth who were playing basketball about the issues, they said they were warned by local politicians not to do so. When I talked to one of the groups playing full court basketball I found out they were a group of family and friends who used to play basketball in another neighborhood that was mostly white. One day they showed up and the rims were gone and thus they started for another court and came to Doyne Park.

The fourth rim was down and up for a while but in 2013 all four rims were restored and all was well, so I thought. Some gun fire in June and July, not related to full court basketball playing, was an excuse for the local neighbors to decry basketball playing in the park. The County Park, this time, succumbed to people, not all the neighbors, who blamed African American male basketball players for everything in the neighborhood that was undesirable. Not only the rim, but the backboard and pole were taken down to stop full court basketball playing. Now some of the same neighbors want all the basketball poles, backboards, rims and nets down. There was no connection shown between basketball playing by blacks and crime and violence but reason does not matter when there is racial hatred. Young African American males are becoming an endangered species as they are often the victims of gun violence and fill our prison system.

No one will call it discrimination or racism but the scars are there, scars of racism, if you look closely at the basketball court.


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Way to the Heart? - Thursday, July 17, 2014

We cannot change anyone but ourselves but we can create an environment where it is easy to reach and affect someone’s heart. How do reach a person soft or hard of heart? This might sound silly but recent experiences have confirmed my opinion that the way to another heart is our own vulnerability to endure suffering, rejection and insults without reaction or retaliation.

St. Ignatius of Loyola prayed for poverty, rejection and insults if it was God’s will. He got it, even being thrown in jail twice by his own Church. I am not able to pray for it but hope to endure such suffering, like Martin Luther King Jr., without fight back with same tactics. What I am talking about I guess is the creative nonviolence Gandhi speaks of.

Something I am getting better at is not reacting to persons attacking the messenger to ignore the message. I got a long ways to go in this area but stood firm when friends recently told me to give up on the struggle to build a thrift store in North Central Milwaukee rather than in suburbs or not to struggle against the people who are trying to take down the basketball courts in neighborhood park. I cannot stop but what I can try to do is not to react to attacks on me so they can ignore the message. Doing this has not been easy and I found out that even when I do not react people will still stereotype or stigmatized me. Every stigma has part of the truth but, as I have discovered, Stigma Stains the Soul if you are not aware of it and that every stigma has small truth in it.

It is a paradox that the way to another heart is enduring suffering, rejection and insults but unless the seed dies it will not rise.


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Tomatos are Still Waiting! - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Inside Orchid Outside
Still 13 flowers strong

Dear Weather Friend,
A few weeks ago you wrote a response to my comments about the strange weather conditions we are experiencing. You explained to me how Lake Michigan affects weather in parts of the city. You said that soon my tomato plants would get the hot and sunny weather they are looking for. Now it is July 15th and weather is in 50–70’s this week, significantly cooler for this time in the summer. I heard recently that the State of New York which does not get tornado’s had its first tornadoes recently. The national news reports extreme weather all over the country, extreme rain storms out East the and worst drought in history in California. Maybe your part of Texas is ‘normal’ but the rest of us are experiencing extreme weather.

In this strange weather patterns outside something good is happening inside my house with the orchids. One of my renewed orchids is still clinging to 13 beautiful flowers after a month or so and the others are doing well. Maybe the lack of an air conditioned summer is good for the orchids. I do have to note that flowers in my rain garden in front and garden in back are doing good, a little slow but blooming as scheduled.

When weather makes national TV news night after night something must be happening. I should be making better use of these nice spring days to work on my garden. But instead I find myself stuck in the house working on computer in our struggles to Stop Racism, one rim and one thrift store at a time.

Will it ever be hot enough, when we have time, for us to go swimming? I am starting to doubt it. But I just want you to know that our tomatoes are still waiting for hot and sunny weather.


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The Ugly Face of Racism - Monday, July 14, 2014

Wisconsin has the highest rate
of incarceration of black males

There was an excellent opinion in Sunday’s editorial section about a Wisconsin epidemic: imprisoning black men. The article presents the facts and the challenge to all us and talks about our need to fix the problem statewide. However, as the article points out the main contributor to incarceration of young African males is Milwaukee, especially North Central Milwaukee. Racism starts with small issues as the two below.

Like with any social justice problem of such proportion I like to break the problem down to smaller size, something we can do about it. For me now there are two issues where I can be service to Stop the Racism representing this article. One is to restore the basketball rim and board for full court basketball playing at Doyne Park in my neighborhood. Some years back when African American males started to play basketball, full or half court, at Doyne Park there was a move to take down the basketball courts, at least the full court one which is popular with young adults. Some of us fought this move based on racial prejudice although those trying to rid the rims kept associating basketball playing with violence and crime. It looked line in June of 2013 we were able to Resurrect the Rims, all four for full and half court playing. For a year all was well, basketball players were respectful and there was no crime reported in the whole neighborhood. After a firing of a gun in the park on July 4th the rim and backboard for full court playing was taken down. Although the incident was Not related to basketball playing the local Alderman, known for his prejudice in trying to prevent a health clinic for people with mental illness in ‘his” neighborhood with neighbors blaming basketball playing for all problems tried to get all the basketball courts and rims down. As I pointed out last night Racism has turned the park into a wasteland.

The other issue that further racism is the building of a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store in the suburb of Greenfield, where it is not needed for millions of dollars of money that should go to poor, rather than build one in North Central Milwaukee where it is needed and would cost very little. I have written a lot about this violation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul on these Diary of Worm postings and on the web page,

If we win or lose these two issues to stop ‘racism’ it will send a message to all who promote racial segregation. Racism just does not happen. It is promoted by small steps like ridding a county park of full court basketball playing when blacks start to use it; or building a thrift store where there is no needy. Even if people admit it or not, it is racism. The battle, civil rights struggle, sends a message that some of us know it is ‘racism’, especially people who suffered effects of racism, like the needy in North Central Milwaukee or young men looking for healthy recreational activities. We will struggle to restoring one basketball court or one thrift store. We have seen the ugly face of racism and will not rest until all persons are treated equally.


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Racism Turns Park into a Wasteland - Sunday, July 13, 2014

Children playing and full court
basketball playing, July 26,
2014 while ‘adults’ meet nearby
to rid park of rims.

When I first moved into this neighborhood on Wells St. about 11 years ago I was attracted by the park, Doyne Park. Since I was retiring soon I thought I would make good use of the nine hold par three golf course. However, after I moved in I heard that then County Executive Walker, now Governor Walker, was proposing in his budget to close down this par three golf course as a tax saving measure. When it was discovered that the savings was minimal from closing the course since fees took care of most of the operating course, the golf course was left open, although care went down.

I took my than young grandchildren over to the park to practice golf, to use the playground or shoot some baskets. I did notice the mixture of basketball players going from all white and Asian to a mix with African American males.

Around 2009, Doyne Park, except for the Golf course was closed about a year. I did not know why, but afterwards found out the park was closed in order to build a new and improved soccer field for the near exclusive use of Lutheran High School’s girl’s practice field. When the park was restored in 2010 there was a new play area and new basketball courts. The courts were nice and there was an increased basketball playing by youth and young adults of all races, especially African American males.

After the rims were restored there was a neighborhood meeting with local politicians, including County Executive and Alderman, about all the crime in the neighborhood. When checking the police reports in the area I actually found out there was more police incidents on Wells Street and park when the basketball courts were down than when they were up. During the course of neighborhood meetings it became clear that the County Supervisor and a few neighbors of the park had worked out a deal, they thought, to not put back the basketball court and thus cut back on the increasing use of park by African American males. After some discussion and division one rim was taken down to avoid full court basketball playing, which did attract young adults’ males of all ages. The County Supervisor retired but the new one keep the rim down for full court playing down. Finally in June 2013 the State of Wisconsin passed a law restricting the interference and power of County Supervisors on things like the County Park System.

In June 2013 all four rims and basketball and followed was a peaceful year of the park full of basketball players, golfers, girls soccer team players, playground users as well as walkers and bicyclist on the bike trail. There were no police incident reports of any crimes on Wells street or park for the year.

Than in June 2014 there was a reported incident of someone shooting a gun in the park and another one on July 4th resulting from an illegal picnic and large drinking party in the park. Although there was never any direct connection between the gun fire and basketball playing neighbors who wanted to end basketball playing when African American males started to use the park, quickly organized and with help of local politician, especially local alderman used fear tactics, some would call racist, to get one backboard and rim down on July 7th and now are working to get all the backboard and rims down.

Police cars and sheriff cars started to watch the basketball playing and words of fear scared off many from the park. Today, abut 4:30pm on a sunny day when I made my daily check, sometimes twice a day, at the park there was no one playing golf, no one playing basketball, no one at the playground and no one at the playground. I kicked out some young people driving a car on the bike trail, which is illegal, and talked a little with the part time attendant at the golf and concession station.

In my opinion racism is ruining Doyne Park and only can lead to more resentment, violence and crime. Doyne Park was a garbage dump turned into a park for all. Fear of African American males is turning into a wasteland. The three pictures below say it all.


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Sign of Contradiction:ArmyHat, Made in Vietnam. - Saturday, July 12, 2014

Somewhere along the line I started to collect contradictions but I do not remember what I did with them. Here is one I observed today. My friend, Dan, came over today to work in the garden with me. Dan is a 10 year veteran of the military but receives no special benefits from the military except health care at VA. Dan was in the Army for ten years between the Vietnam War and the beginning of the first Gulf war with Iraq. With help of Vet’s House here in Milwaukee he makes due and is not homeless.

Today he came over wearing a new looking Army cap. I asked him about it and said he got in very cheaply from another veteran that needed a few dollars. I was admiring the hat and he took it off and showed me the inside stating that it was an ‘authentic’ military cap. While looking inside the hat he saw were it was made. It was made in Vietnam. We wasted many human lives and much money to defeat the people of Vietnam. We lost and now they, along with their ally and our enemy in the Vietnam War, China, are big business partners.

A modern day Army hat made in Vietnam, a country we tried so hard to defeat the people, a true sign of contradiction, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.


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Endangered Species Banned From Basketball - Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Banning Black males from
basketball does not make
park safer

Last night I was too upset to do a posting. I went to a neighborhood meeting, the third called in the last four years by the same person. The first one I did not attend was all about taking down the basketball rims that were restored after renovation. The basketball courts had been up for over thirty years but the basketball players had evolved from all white youth and young adults, to a mixture of Asians and whites and then a mixture including African American youth and young adults. This person with others managed to get one rim down so there would be no full court basketball playing. But by pointing out this was racial segregation we were able to get all four rims restored.

All was going well till about a month ago when there was gun shot fired in the park, but no injury and no suspect. The same person called another neighborhood meeting to take down one of the backboard and rims so there can be no full court basketball playing. Although people of all ages and all races use the basketball courts it was clear the talk was aimed at African American basketball players. One of the boards and rims was taken down. I did not attend this meeting since I was caring for my godson and his brother and it was clear from email exchanges before meeting the sole purpose of meeting was not park safety but to take down backboard and rims. People used the word ‘basketball players’ as meaning African Americans and associated it with violence.

On the fourth of July there were more shots fired from fighting at a large gathering with drinking in another area of park. There is no picnic area in the park, just basketball, soccer field and playground with bike trail. Last night another meeting was called by the same person and this time he finally got majority at meeting to ask County Parks’ Director to take down all the backboard and rims. This time I attended the meeting and when it was clear the purpose of the meeting was take down the basketball backboards and rims to prevent basketball players (African Americans) from playing. I got angry and called the group on what I clearly considered racism, associated basketball playing (African Americans with violence). During the meeting in the park we could see African American males playing basketball on the remaining courts.
I wrote another email to director of Parks calling it what is was and saying how banning young African American adults, already an endangered species from playing basketball in Doyne Park was not going to make the neighborhood safer. But it might not do much good since the City Alderman of the areas, the County Supervisor, Sheriff’s department and Police all want to please those crying for an end of basketball playing.

What is really sad is that the people at the meeting could not see the racism they were displaying by focusing on eliminating basketball playing now that African Americans were in the park not safety and welfare of all.

My anger and being so upset did not help them but just gave them more excuse to deny racism. The fact that Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the USA and taking down basketball courts to keep blacks out of the neighborhood will not help with reducing violence in the city, but may encourage more youth to lose hope. If only they could understand that “Basketball playing, even on a full court, does not lead to crime and violence.” I have done research on the subject but common sense and rationale reason does not matter. When hate and racism is involved it is best not to react but to just keep silent and take the blows of racism nonviolently.


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Stop Racism Now - Monday, July 07, 2014

James Groppi leading African-
American males in Open Housing

Where is Father Groppi when we need him? In the 1967–1968 school years I was a graduate Jesuit seminarian student at Marquette University. There was much happening in the civil rights and peace movements at the time. In Milwaukee, an archdiocese priest, Father James Groppi, led civil right marchers from the North side of Milwaukee to the South Side for an Open Housing ordinance in city of Milwaukee. After 200 nights of marches, the City of Milwaukee passed an open housing ordinance in 1968. It is considered a great victory in the civil rights history of Milwaukee and one of the bridges between North side and South side is called the James Groppi Memorial Bridge.

Now the area where Father’s Church at the time, St. Boniface’s, stood in North Central Milwaukee is the most racially segregated area of Milwaukee, the most racially segregated city in the United States. At the time there were 17 Catholic Churches in this area and now there are two. It is the most improvised area of Milwaukee, one of the poorest cities in the USA. There is high unemployment and violence and criminalization in the area. (See M.A.P.S.).

James Groppi was marginalized by the Catholic Church and left the priesthood, got married, had three children and died young at the age of 55 from brain cancer. His legend, like that of other great civil rights, leaders lives on but his work has been canceled by the new racism, ‘new Jim Crow’ of our times.

I left the Jesuits in 1968, got married, had two children and try to keep the battle against racism alive. At present we are struggling on two fronts, one is trying to stop the St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Thrift store from being built in Suburbs to have it built in North Central Milwaukee. (See Trickle Down or Trickle Up Also in my neighborhood we are struggling to save all four basketball backboard in the County park across the street. However, those who promote racism use different words to accomplish the same end, racial segregation. SVDP leaders saying they are spending millions and millions of dollars in the suburbs to make money to help the poor in North Central Milwaukee. Although they have no evidence of this or it does not make common or business sense and it is clearly a violation of Mission of St. Vincent de Paul Society they continue, never mentioning where the thrift store is needed and they are not placing it, is racially segregated. Those who want to stop “full court basketball playing” at the County Park only said it was a danger and nuisance to the park that existed over 4o years when some of the basketball players on the court became young African American males. Banning ‘full court basketball’ became the code word for ‘banning African American males.

I feel we are fighting loosing battles on these two civil rights fronts. However, I learned from James Groppi and many others that we must persist in fighting racism in any form it takes, especially when it is in our own city and backyard. It may not be the overt racism of the 60’s but nonetheless it is racism. Racism needs to be stopped Now. There is a saying in the battle against street violence that answers the question: Where is Father Groppi when we need him? It is: “We are the ones we are looking for.” Stop Racism Now!


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Persistance Pays - Saturday, July 05, 2014

In the conversation between
the stream and the rock, the
stream always wins,not thru
strength but by Persistence

It is hard to stay positive in this day and age. There is an increasing amount of injustice, inequality and violence but most people seem blind, or maybe numb, to it. Even the simplest thing like spending 5 million dollars to purchase, renovate and operate for one year a thrift store in the suburbs by St. Vincent de Paul Society, dedicated to one on one personal contact with poor and needy, seems like a good idea to some. They just cannot see or hear the cry of the poor. Marquette University, a Jesuit Catholic University, teaching young men and women how to kill without the use of conscience seems hard to grasp to anyone that knows anything about Jesuit education yet it happens.

When research, facts, religious teachings or common sense are brought to the table the people promoting these unjust or immoral projects just do not want to hear, or if they do, hear, ignore. Creative conflict and dialog are a thing of the past. All truth seems just a matter of ‘your opinion, my opinion’. While I admit that my ‘opinion of the truth’ is my own, I know that conscience and truth are a universal and we should all be struggling toward the same truth.

“Together we stand, divided we fall.” Working together as Vincentians, as neighbors, as people seems to be a thing of the best. The going thing I hear is “do you own thing”, let me alone and I will do my own. Or another refrain is ‘just let it go’, ‘back off’. I put out some new information on the St. Vincent de Paul properties and a good ally, someone I respect and he respects me, wrote back that this new information I had just learned had been repeated by me over five times to the same people. I appreciated the person’s response but it just shows me how deep stigmas and labels run these days. I am aware of repeating things but it was not this case. One reason I repeat things, over and over again, especially when I am ignored, is that I found persistence pays off. I do not like being so persistent but have found out by being persistent is the only way to get through to some persons. They might not still hear the message and continue to label the messenger but often they just give in to stop the message, especially if there is truth to it, to stop.

When I owned a direct mail advertising sales business I did not like selling but I was good at it. I believe I had a decent product and persistently try to sell the business person over and over again until they finally purchased an ad. Often they were happy with the purchase and service provided and would be good repeat customers. But as one customer told me that without my constant persistence he would have not purchased the first ad.

Jesus tells a few parables in the Gospel where the persistent person finally gets his or her way and even ask us to persistently plea with God.

Perseverance might not be a pretty virtue but it sure beats ‘giving up’ or ‘backing off’ in getting something done. If one listens to one’s conscience it even works better. Persistence pays.


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More Free or More Asleep - Friday, July 04, 2014

In today’s newspaper, July 4th, the Declaration of Independence from 1976 was printed. One line always strikes me: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

If we now understand ‘Men’ to be men and women of all ages, races and nationalities, simply human beings, this statement, in my opinion, shows how far from this idea we have gone in the United States. Does a child born into a home with no stove, refrigerator and beds in a section of the city that is racially segregated and improvised really have the same right to the “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” than a child born to a well-to-do family in the suburbs? Does a young military trainee at Marquette University who is trained to kill without conscience on instinct and thrown into the ‘endless wars’ of our times really have the full right of life as a young man or woman that does not have to go the route of military training for an education? Does a family improvised, struggling for food and survival, have the same right to the “Pursuit of Happiness” as a family living in a safe environment whose only concern for food is not eating too much? Does a child born in Honduras after the US military coup that brought down the democratic government and installed a repressive one have the same right to life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as a child born in the USA?

Our ancestors who wrote the Declaration of Independence lived in tough times with no representation in government. Now we live in a time when corporations are considering persons and money wins elections and gives some more rights.

Yet today, with less basic human rights, when all ‘men’, human beings, are not considered equal, where the color of one’s skin and the amount of money they possess makes a difference of how they live, we do not consider a ‘revolution’, violent or non-violent. Rather we thank our military for making us safe by violence and war and we close our eyes, ears and hearts to suffering and despair around us. Are we really more ‘free’ or more ‘asleep’ than our ancestors?


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Sustainable Grape Leaves - Thursday, July 03, 2014

Carolee’s first Grape Leaf

My daughter-in-law wrote on Facebook today that she went out on their land in Northern Wisconsin, picked some grape leaves, stuffed and wrapped them and cooked them. Grape Leaves. This is Middle Eastern tradition that was passed on by my mother’s side of the family, of Lebanese origins. My brothers and sister and their families really like to eat them but for many years it was only when my mother cooked them. Before she died she passed on the way of making them to my wife and my younger brother. I know how to pick, wrap and now cook them. Some years ago my wife put together the recipe that had been passed on for years and it cannot be found on at Stuffed Grape Leaves.

An interesting thing about grape leaves, with or without grapes, is the vine can be found everywhere and in abundance. I saw some growing in India, Guatemala, Venezuela, Palestine and elsewhere. We have some growing on the fence in the backyard, some growing in the park and many growing on the bike trail called ‘Oak Leaf trail’ by most and by me the ‘Grape Leaf Trail’. They are a truly sustainable food, coming back year after year and the more you pick them the more they grow.

Around here June is the best month to pick them but this year, due to late spring, they still are fresh. If you pick them new ones will grow in the spot but if you do not they become too big, old and holey. Holey grape leaves, full of holes, are not good to pick. So the last chance to pick grape leaves is coming up soon.

After we picked grape leaves we clean them and freeze them. When we are ready to eat them, we take them out of the freezer, blanch them in hot water and they are are ready to wrap.

When my two grandsons were very young they liked to pick them and wrap them but were fearful of eating them. I told them that was unfortunate because unless they ate them they could not be part of the Graf Family Grape Leaf Club. So my youngest grandson tried one, like it, and so did my other grandson. When my granddaughter was very young a stuffed grape leaf was given to her at a Christmas celebration so she had no doubts they were good. She is the youngest member of the Grape Leaf Club and I am the oldest.

My younger brother, by eighteen years, is coming to town tonight with his two young adult sons. They are coming for Summerfest, the biggest music festival in the world, but maybe I can get them out to pick some grape leaves. My wife always says we picked too many and they are only for special occasions but every year they are all consumer before the June picking month.

Grape leaves are served best with a Middle Easter yogurt called Lebane with cucumber and mint and with pita bread which I can now buy fresh at the local Palestinian store. Look around your yard and park and you will probably find grape leaf vines. (We mostly used the ones with grapes.) Grape leaves, like manna, are a gift from heaven found in nature. Pick them when they are middle size, stuff and eat them when you want. Grape leaves are sustainable and gift of nature.


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Easier Not Harder for Poor and Marginalized - Wednesday, July 02, 2014

My friend, a low income woman who lives with tremendous pain found out today that her little income from State and Federal government will be cut, due to a technicality. I gave up awhile back knowing how government monies to low income people works, but do know that it is becoming harder and harder to get and there is less and less given. My friend is struggling, despite her pain and illness, to live independently and be a less burden on society by staying independent and getting the help she needs is getting harder and harder. I referred her once again to some advocacy groups, but even some of them are reluctant to help unless they can get some income from it.

What is happening to my friend is happening to poor and people in need, especially African Americans throughout the city. I got an email from a local Peace and Justice group of how they plan to form small discussion groups of 15 persons to discuss over the next year or so the issue of racial segregation in Milwaukee. We do not need more talk but we need some actions on racism in Milwaukee.

The rims are still up at the park across the street and Society of St. Vincent de Paul still has not got the 3.2 million dollar bank loan to create a thrift store in the suburbs where it is not needed instead of in North Central Milwaukee where it is really needed. I consider these battles against racism worth the struggle. But most, even some really good and dear persons, are just willing to talk, discuss and listen to ideas of how to help the poor or racially segregated. But to do something is another story.

One friend warned me about repercussions for my involvement is keeping the rims (code word for African Americans) in the park. I guess I am a little worried about vandalism to my property but to a guy who has been fired from his job, banned from a major institution, kicked out of university and loss a degree, arrested, jailed and imprisoned, suffered stigma and marginalization for peace and justice issues what more can people do?

I am not bragging or feeling invincible but once you suffer poverty, stigma or marginalization you can live easier without being afraid. Now if I could only figure out how to stop making it harder and harder for poor and marginalized to survive in society? Making it easy for poor and marginalized to live life is not easy.


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Long Line of Lilies Blooming - Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Sometime ago a friend gave me some lilies. I forgot the name of this kind but I planted them in front of gardens in front of house and in back. The first year they bloomed I saw they were yellow and lasted a long time in the summer. The second year I noticed there were many more of the lilies then I planted and even more the year after. I finally realized they were an invasive flowers but in a good way.

I had some Wisconsin sun flowers, tall and small yellow flowers, planted in the rain garden, not knowing they were invasive. They almost took over the whole rain garden until I finally planted them in along the side of rain garden towards my neighbor’s driveway and walled them in by building an underground brick wall. They spread by underground roots and I need to keep watch that they do not invade other areas of rain garden.

However, these lilies are not like the Wisconsin sun flowers. They spread by growing more next to each other and do not jump areas or spread underground. Also they last much longer and are larger and prettier than the small and tall Wisconsin sunflowers.

These lilies are like love or good deeds. As they grow in beauty they multiply in an orderly way. Now I have a long line of lilies blooming.


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