Posts Tagged 'Harrisburg'

Pennsylvania Snapshot

This is the Pennsylvania I’ve seen through my camera lens in recent years. Is it the Pennsylvania you know?

All across PA. 2011 through 2012

All across PA. 2011 through 2012


The rogue anthropology adventures continue. I have moved to Duncannon, PA, which is across the Susquehanna and 25 minutes north of Harrisburg.

Duncannon is in Perry County, a primarily rural area that is still in commuting distance to Harrisburg but feels worlds away from our previous neighborhood, the very urban South Allison Hill. There’s more to be said about both locations, but I’m still processing the Hill and just getting to know Duncannon, so stay tuned.

My jobs are also in flux as I begin to freelance for a different newspaper and the Head Start school year ends. (If you know of writing or education job openings let me know!) It’s been hard to think coherently enough to write blog posts with so much transition, so hopefully things will calm down in a few weeks and I can begin to write more.

In the meantime, I’ve been more active on Twitter, so you can follow me there! @rogueanthro

On the Susquehanna River

The Susquehanna River has been a backdrop to much of my life in the past year. It was down the street while I explored Wilkes-Barre last summer; it’s along my path as I write about goings-on in Columbia, and it’s a mile away as I live and work in Harrisburg.

So I didn’t have a hard time finding a photo to enter in the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s “Treasured Towns and Landscapes” contest for images from the Susquehanna or towns along it. And last week I found out that my photo won second place in the towns category! It’ll be part of a traveling exhibit that starts in Williamsport in May. The exhibit will come to Harrisburg in November and Marietta in December, so if you’re in Central PA you should check it out!

Below is my winning photo, “Good night, bazaar.”

Good night, bazaar.

St. Nicholas Parish Bazaar, Wilkes-Barre. July 2011

Sunday Morning in Harrisburg

This morning I walked the 0.9 miles from my apartment to Harrisburg’s Unitarian Universalist church on Market Street. I wove my path around discarded mattresses and couches on the sidewalks, observing sunken rooftops and wondering if the broken and boarded windows outnumbered in-tact ones. I mentally drafted my next Friday 5 post on similarities between my neighborhood in Harrisburg and the “Third World” countries I’ve lived in.

I arrived at the church and was welcomed by the pastor, who once irritated me with a trite sermon about this being a middle-class congregation. I don’t attend regularly, but from what I’ve seen most of the members are middle-aged or older and probably don’t come near Market Street for any reason other than church.

Twenty minutes into the morning service, the pastor—who had been sitting in the pews with a woman whispering in his ear—rose and told us that a shooting had just taken place on the street in front of the church. (I hadn’t heard a gunshot or sirens.) The police had advised that we continue the service.

When the “music for the soul”-themed service ended, we were told to exit through the back kitchen door so we wouldn’t flood the crime scene. “That’s something you should never hear at church,” a woman behind me said.

To me, that comment showed a limited vision of the significance of the shooting that had just happened. What we had just heard about was something you shouldn’t hear about not just in church, but anywhere–because it shouldn’t happen.

Since the time the announcement was made, I’d been thinking about which way to walk home, the possibility that people involved could be related to my Head Start students, and the fact that besides getting to and from church, hundreds of people live and work in this neighborhood every day.

That means every day watching over your shoulder. Every day wondering who might get shot next. It means that every day, for we who cannot insulate ourselves in SUV’s and gated communities, violence and insecurity are not abnormal blips on the radar, but lived experiences carried deep within our skin and bones.

Two Capitals

Something similar about where I live in Harrisburg and where I stayed in Phoenix last month is that an interstate is only 1/4 mile away from either spot. They snake all around Harrisburg, making it necessary to get on the interstate just to go to the grocery store. I’m not used to highways being such a major feature of cities.

A big difference in these automobile-filled urban centers, though, is that Phoenix drivers pay attention to bicyclists. Moreover, if there’s not room on the road, the sidewalks are a reasonable option for biking. Not so in bankrupt Harrisburg, where broken glass bedazzles the cracked and crumbling sidewalks.


Interstate 10, Phoenix Arizona. January 2012

Preschools from Palestine to Pennsylvania

Watching pint-sized preschoolers at play, I think about how I’d never have expected to work with kids this young if you asked me a few years ago. When I went to Palestine, most youth work I’d done had been with teenagers. I approached the art class I taught at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization with a healthy dose of fear amidst my excitement. Though my students were ages 8 to 13, the core program at TYO is a preschool. It was there that I first got exposed to the importance of early childhood education and the value of school-readiness programs for children who don’t have other learning opportunities.

In fact, the similarities between Head Start and TYO were among the chief reasons I applied for this job. As a substitute, my training sessions are sporadic, but when I’m in them the kids in Nablus are frequently in my mind. What is the difference between training in human services in Harrisburg and orientation to childhood development in Palestine? Both are holistic—discussing how to consider home life and family circumstances in students’ behavior and development, yet doing so in Palestine is inescapably political. You can’t know why a child regularly wets the bed, for example, without learning that Israeli soldiers have entered their home at night and blasted through the walls to arrest a neighbor.

In human services in Pennsylvania, we may look at the context for what we see at work—like when an infant arrives at daycare with only socks and no shoes, despite the fact that his parents know he will be expected to go outside for an hour each day—but we don’t necessarily talk about how that context is at its root a political problem. Some families can’t provide the basics for their kids not because the parents are any less capable, but because our society is set up so that some people are born into poverty. People who weren’t born into poverty can also end up there through what we blindly call “tough luck.” Either way, the possibility to get out of such circumstances is restricted by unequal access to education, family resources, unavailability of jobs, and so on.

The way we identify problems determines how we strategize for solving them. Programs like Head Start are important to improving individuals’ lives, but we must also understand and address the political dimensions of poverty in order to change it on a larger scale.

Mohammed in Action

Mohammed, an 8-year-old in my TYO class. Spring 2010.

Friday 5: Occupy PA

In August I wrote a list of five places I’d never been to in PA. I’m going to two of them today! I’m heading for State College in the morning and I’ll be in Erie by nighttime. Those places are both stops on the Occupy Pennsylvania Tour that I’m going on for Pennsylvania from Below. PA from Below is a grassroots media organization that I’ve been part of since around the time I moved to Palestine. We report on issues affecting poor and working people across the state. We’re going to the occupations as a way to hear people’s stories of economic plight and fight. Here are the areas we’ll be covering:

  1. State College (Students are occupying a building on Penn State’s campus
  2. Major cities (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia)
  3. Central PA (Harrisburg, York, Lancaster)
  4. Lehigh Valley (Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown)
  5. Northeast PA (Scranton) and Northwest PA (Erie)
PA from Below is an all volunteer effort. We receive no grants or payment for what we do. Our biggest expense is the gas to reach a statewide coverage area. If you think that poor and working people are underrepresented or misrepresented by commercial media, please consider supporting the telling of Pennsylvania’s untold stories by contributing $5 (or more!) to our work. Our goal is to raise $500 for this trip.

Occupy Allentown, 10/29/11

Occupy Easton, 10/29/11


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