Saturday, December 5, 2009
On December 1st, 1995, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, a watershed moment in the modern Civil Rights movement. Protests up that point were important but small: Freedom Riders on a bus, for example, or protesters at a lunch counter. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a mass movement, in which 50,000 people boycotted the bus system for more than a year, until integration was achieved. The mass movement actually started on Monday December 5th. People who were leaders of the movement all described what it was like to wait for the first buses that Monday morning, wondering if the masses of black people would agree to boycott. It was thrilling when the buses started to roll past empty! That night, in the first mass meeting of the Montgomery protest, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., stepped forward to lead the movement. In film of that night, we can see him hesitate for second, knowing that he is changing the course of history and of his own life. He steps forward humbly to do his part. December 5th, then, is an important day in the urbanist's calendar. A quirky aspect of the day in the New York Metropolitan area is that December 5th marks an abrupt shift in the weather, from fall to winter. There is usually a storm on that day. This has frustrated our efforts to have December 5th parties, I can assure you. Just as we know that the first weekend in June is likely to be fine for our Hike the Heights party, we know that December 5th will be blustery for whatever we have planned. In these uncertain times, I found today's snowflakes reassuring. Happy December 5th to one and all!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Main Streets, like every part of our commercial sector, are trying to get a piece of the holiday shopping action. In Orange, the Urban Enterprise Zone has hung signs telling people to come "Home for the Holidays." In Hoboken flyers have been announcing that there will be entertainment this week during special evening hours at participating boutiques. In Jersey City, which is also an urban enterprise zone, the mayor has been on television urging people to shop locally and save on taxes. I like these campaigns and intend to do my shopping on Main Streets. It will be a fun time for meeting friends and family, and taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhoods. But more important, I can find out what's up in America. What will the people be doing? How are they managing? There's no place like Main Street to find out what's up with "Main Street." As we face the expansion of another terrible war, more bad news about the economy, and the strains of the cold and flu season, I want to know what my fellow Americans are feeling.