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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Tuesday at QUEST

“If your success is defined as being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference then we don’t want successful leaders- we want great leaders who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unbought, unbound, and unafraid and unintimidated to tell the truth.” —Dr. Cornel West, Distinguished Faculty, Princeton University

Let me tell you about Tuesday at QUEST, a fine day, a good day until it came time to leave. We had 12 children I needed to take home, more than I could possibly fit in my van.

So it was decided one staff member would stay behind and I would make two trips. It was a lovely evening so the staff member and five children were going to stay behind, as we were locking up I noticed a strange man sitting on our steps. A white male with a dirty white beard and longish white hair. As soon as he saw me he stood up and starting walking through our parking lot towards the cut through to Albany Street. And then he saw the little girls, and he stopped as he had run into a brick wall. He stared at these children transfixed and trembling, he did not move so we decided those waiting would have to wait inside. We put kids and staff inside and locked doors, they could not get out but no one could get in. And we left and as we were driving through the cut through, someone noticed the man had came back.

“Oh god, look at him!”

He was banging at the doors trying to get in. So we turned right around, and back we went. We understood from the folks inside that he had been going from door to door trying to gain entrance and as soon as we arrived, he ran, I mean RAN off. The was the night we fit 12 kids and three adults in the van. We had a merry time, if a wee bit squashed, singing all the way home. Too many in the car? Yes, but better than split up and scared and worried.

You might say, “Call the cops,” but they don’t arrive in a timely manner, I mean, we needed them instantly, teleported to exactly where we were. We are now doing exercises in safety and eluding people of ill intent. Of course, we make sure our kids don’t get too smart and use the same tactics to elude us. I called in and filed a report. But, frankly I have not seen police cars hanging near by, and really what we need is foot patrol. We will keep you posted. We think that we are getting the spill over from the house next door that burned. The two nuns who had been so valiant in bearding the mayor, sent Mayor McCarthy a note saying, “Honest we didn’t start the fire.” “Our intentions were good but our prayers were sinful.” LOL

Wednesday at QUEST with Jim and sister Linda watching the world and — QUEST is turning into an over the rainbow Never Neverland full of bright colors and sparkling people. From one to seventy two we encompass all colors, ages, religions and backgrounds. We come together in harmony and companionship, and we push hard for the best for our city and our little plot of land. We are a small nation standing in the midst of poverty and violence but we are growing and shining and overcoming.

Last week I saw a man in a suit. Standing across the street he was watching us and he was visibly stunned and moved. I crossed the street on a beautiful sunny day to see what he was seeing and there in our parking lot was a carnival of color and life. Just like a movie.

The man turned to me and said, “That’s your building isn’t it?”

“Yup,” I said.

"Is it always like that?” he asked.

“Of course,” I say, “That’s my family, that’s my life, that’s my heart.”

I wrote this on our Facebook page last week. And here are two comments:

1.) That’s why we love you, it don’t matter who we are, or where we come from, you gave us a place to come together as one. And for that we thank you very much.

2.) BOOM!!

Seven cases of bullying that we know of in the last three weeks, one ended with a 13-year-old girl with a broken wrist.

Big brawl last week on Bridge Street. Man getting shot in the face on Bridge Street, who later died. And some fool talking 'bout the good Christians guarding the gates. Apparently the police didn’t buy that either 'cause when I arrived there was this shiny black car parked in the lot with two well dressed men who looked like businessmen sitting there.

But out came the badges they were sitting and watching Chestnut Street, “The whole Vale Neighborhood ma’am.”

“Wonderful,” said I. I told them about the pedophile. And they said they would keep an eye out and they would let the department know. And to call 911 upon seeing him again. Now that’s police work. Bravo.

I of course still keep watch like a mother hen, or like the mother duck I saw two weeks ago. A very, very small duck indeed. Perhaps a wood duck leading a line of teeny tiny ducklings across Nott Terrace. Must have been at least 12 babies. All the cars stopped, it was really a Kodak Moment. Make Way For Ducklings, right here in Schenectady.

And yes, we are like those ducks, a small group in the midst of chaos and danger. But staying together. Impervious to all, looking only for the right way to travel.

And then there’s the food. Hunger seems to be growing and growing. We drop off a large load of Panera products. The line for those products weaves throughout the projects. One day we did hot dogs and macaroni salad.

The hotdogs and beans were easy. Just put the hotdogs in the buns and the beans on top. But the macaroni salad? Well we ran out of plates and then the boys were holding out their hands and saying, “Just put it in my hands.” That did it, we went and got more plates. People are hungry.

Then there was the day we put out two tables and covered them with food. Gone! 10 minutes! Ten minutes, I kid you not! My car drives up and people gather. I will repeat myself: PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY!!!!

Remember when we bought the beds for a family for Christmas? I was so proud, but then I found another family, and another family, and they started piling up like the dirty clothes the kids were sleeping on.

So many children with no beds, sleeping on the floor or whatever came to hand. And us collecting air mattresses and handing them out to kids who were jumping up and down, “Mommy, look a bed, I got a bed!”

One family the mom takes turns feeding the two girls, one child one day, the other child the next. But we catch her in the local corner store buying LOTTO, and oh yes lying in bed with a john (this was a great day) naked and surrounded by weed. And I don’t mean flowers. Every time I think I know it all, along comes something new that leaves me in disbelief and shock.

Kids with black eyes, kids with no shoes, no underwear, no food, no beds, 8-year-old caring for 1-year-olds. Kids on the street at midnight.

And then there’s this written by a 17-year-old child with twin babies.

“Bitches be like, 'Why my baby growing up so fast.' 'My kid got a smart ass mouth.' But when your baby was 3-to-4-months-old you was giving him watered down soda and hot sauce, cursing recklessly, and had them going to the store at 4-years-old. Maybe, it’s not your kid. Maybe it’s YOU!!”

Thank you, Starleen.

Then there’s the house that was once next door. But no real investigation. I learned from the TV it was arson. Well really, how else does an abandoned building catch fire at 6 in the a.m.? Maybe a fire for crack, even cooking a can of soup. But either way it’s very early in the morning. And the fire was in the back of the building, where all the activity happened.

Lots of these folks are now trying to move over to our stairs, and we simply cannot let them get too comfortable. When I did call the fire department to offer any assistance (like any concerned citizen) they sweet talked me and "yes ma’am'ed” me but finally said, “This is really police business, not ours.”

Wait a minute: Aren’t you professional fire investigators; isn’t this a suspicious fire we are talking about?

So they came to my home with a photo of a black male teen supposedly their one and only suspect.

“No,” I said.

“But,” they said.

“No,” I said again. I saw him get arrested on the driveway between Albany Street and State Street, I even wrote about it in my blog. It looked like something from a mime routine, everywhere they looked, more weed, TA-DAA, under the hat, in the hair, in the pants—and on and on. But just weed, and just a kid.

“Look,” I said. "The people who used this building are not kids: prostitutes in full bloom, plying their trade; one man with a pit bull, here every day; one 40-year-old who sits on the back steps and make phone calls from a list he has. The small woman with no teeth at all always walking the streets and begging."

She was very particular, only money and only money in amounts of $15 or more. I knew her well because she would get high then pull her pants down and defecate in the backyard. 108 phone calls, complaints made to the police these past few months about criminal activity in that building. Not one person but many. They would line up whip out their penises and in unison point them at QUEST and whiz away.

The police, in a later conversation, did acknowledge knowing the toothless, small woman stating to me she was drug addicted and an alcoholic as well as suffering some minor retardation. She is always extremely well-dressed and well-known by law enforcement, and she is still on the street. She has lost her home (the house next door) of the past few years and though I pity her, I do not want her on my property or near my kids.

Saturday June 14 — We celebrated our Community Unity Day. Make no mistake others may use and have used that name but it always was a QUEST catchphrase, used for years in this paper and for this blog. I said it once and I will say it again, “Imitation is the best form of flattery.” As to the non-profit who usurped us for their own program thanks for the advertising of our program, we appreciate it.

Our Saturday was filled with kindness, respect, and the most amazing face painting ever seen in this part of the world. Kids came from other venues and immediately cleaned their faces of former daubs, and stood in line to be upgraded. Two face painters, two lines and long waits. Results are on our Facebook page — QUEST Schenectady.

We had disability programs and many came in wheelchairs or with canes and some by bus from a center. We had raffles and food and games all free, and an amazing DJ who volunteered all the way from Boston, Mass. We had parents and aunts and uncles and folks I’d never met, but hope to meet again.

The giveaways were stupendous. And more special thanks to Leroy Moore who came all the way from Berkeley, Galif. to respect Krip Hop Nation, an international arts and activist group representing the undeserved and physically and mentally challenged. What an amazing guy, and carrying an equally amazing cane.

Thanks to John McKnight and CEPI and the Kings and Queens and Northeast AIDS program and TJ, and Mohawk Ambulance and Shameeka and Katie, and Chester.

No fights, no anger, no alcohol, just love and peace, a regular nation of like minded people coming together to show this community how it’s done.

And we do it RIGHT
the first time and everytime.
We are one with each other
We are one with the world.

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