Monday, February 6, 2017


   St. Benedict the Moor parish has its roots in Bronzeville, a name given to the African America neighborhood where the church is located. Marquette University had its beginnings at the location, but after M.U. moved, the property became the home of St. Benedict the Moor Parish and boarding school. Bronzeville no longer exists as it was because of its destruction by urban renewal projects and the construction of a freeway through the area. A renewal is well underway.  The boundaries of Bronzeville were: North Avenue, State Street on the South, Third Street on the East and 12th Street to the West.  (Ivory Abena Black, p. 11)  In his promotion of urban renewal, Mayor Frank Zeidler in 1959 decried the wretched living conditions of the inner city of which Bronzeville was a part. (Gurda, p. 365)

    The Parish sponsored boarding school for African American children boasts of famous students such as Lionel Hampton, Red Foxx, Harold Washington (the first and only Black Mayor of Chicago), and N.B.A. basketball star -“Downtown” Brown.  A hospital, St. Anthony, was built next to the church to service the community.  (1930 ).  Twins were born to baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron  and his wife Barbara at St. Anthony’s but only one of the twins survived. (1957) (Bryant, p. 224)

  Aaron lived in Bronzeville with other black ball players because of Milwaukee’s very rigid unwritten discrimination code which still exists.  A 1955 Milwaukee Human Rights Commission reported on Milwaukee housing:

All those restricted within the arbitrary confines of the racial ghetto must find shelter as best they can within its circumscribed bounds. (Bryant, p .94)

A St. Benedict the Moor parishioner remembered Marquette Olympic champion of the 30’s, Ralph Metcalf, jogging from Bronzeville to the Marquette campus.

   A generous white woman who volunteered to teach sewing at St. Benedict the Moor school is remembered commenting on Aaron’s move to an adjoining suburb – “They are where they are supposed to be.  Just because he is rich and famous doesn’t mean he can live in Mequon.”  White ballplayers lived and were idolized in the suburbs.  Warren Spahn lived in Wauwatosa.    

   The legacy of racism in Milwaukee appears in many forms. The dirtiest jobs were given to blacks and immigrants.  Immigrants were able to advance from these positions but not blacks.  (W. Ozzane, p.162)   
   During the Great Depression there was competition for jobs.  A 1934 strike at Wehr Steel Foundry involved white workers insisting that blacks not be hired. Blacks trying to cross the picket line were met with violence with the police supporting the white pickets.  Wehr sponsored a black baseball team. (Trotter, Jr. p. 162, photo of the team p. 147)  A parishioner’s father worked at Wehr and was told to expect a long strike.

   Historian John Gurda reports that Milwaukee reached its pinnacle of prosperity and population in 1960 and the years just before and after. (Gurda, p. 354 )  The success story is memorable because of Big League  Baseball.  The Braves won the World Series in ’57, the National League Pennant in 58, and tied for the National League championship in ‘59.

   But there is more to the story.  In 1958 a young black man, Daniel Bell, was shot by a Milwaukee police officer at the outside edge of the Bronzeville neighborhood. Despite protests the officer was exonerated; he and his partner claimed that the young man threatened the officers with a knife.   In 1979 one of the officers involved confessed that a knife was planted on the victim.  The young man’s family received some monetary compensation from the city.  We continue to suffer similar tragedies as the movement of history is not guaranteed to be progressive.


   A group of 40 parishioners attended the play presented by First Stage Theater – Welcome to Bronzeville.  After the play we went to a central city restaurant for dinner. The venue for the play was the Todd Wehr Theater provided by the Wehr Foundation from surplus profits from the blood, sweat and tears of blacks at the Wehr Foundry.

   Reaction to the play was positive.  Bronzeville was depicted as a loving hard working family community gifted with a taste for music and camaraderie

  Survival in a racist city was and is heroic, but the play emphasized family – and kids growing up.  The lovable child actors were superb.  Famous jazz singer Billie Holiday was shown to have been required to live in a private home because of the segregation at Milwaukee hotels. The play depicts the positive influence of police sergeant Felmers Chaney.  A St. Benedict the Moor parishioner agrees.  He was black and was trusted by the community as were other black policemen.  The white policemen were not trusted. Chaney later became an official of the NAACP and a civil rights leader.

DINNER AT THE TANDEM (1848 W. Fond du Lac, Milwaukee)

After the play we went to dinner and discussed our experience.
As in the Bronzeville of the past, we connected with each other, blacks and whites, over good food and music.  We remembered Bronzeville, the tragedies and the joy, parishioners who have passed – Club owner Bonnie and Pedro her husband, the Alumni of St. Benedict the Moor.  We gave thanks for the memories of Bronzeville; the spark of the divine in a racist city.  We gave thanks for the jazz, the good food and camaraderie hosted by Kokomos, Thelma’s Backdoor, Moon Glo, and the Flame.  Bronzeville wasn’t the Harlem Renaissance, but that’s OK.  Bronzeville’s Hank Aaron batted 393, and hit three home runs in leading Milwaukee to victory over the New York Bronx Bombers in the 1957 World Series.   

     *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

This article is the view of a longtime St. Benedict the Moor parishioner based on interviews with other parishioners, on published material and on parish members attending the play – Welcome to Bronzeville – performed by First Stage Milwaukee.

Black, Ivory Abena, Bronzeville A Miwaukee Lifestyle, Publishers Group, Milwaukee, 2005

Bryant, Howard, The Last Hero – A Life of Henry Aaron, Pantheon Books, N.Y. 2010

Gurda, John, The Making of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Historical Society, 1999

Ozanne, Robert W. The Labor Movement in Wisconsin, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1984

Trotter, Jr. Joe William, Black Milwaukee, University of Illinois, 1988

Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 2017 - LA CULTURA CURA

Resistance to Official Government Bigotry

January 14  Marches for Immigrant, Refugee & Worker Rights  

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Voces de la Frontera 

  Cesar Chavez Park, San Jose, California

SEIU workers at the  march in San Jose, California

January 16th - Martin Luther King Day in San Francisco, California

Street art for children expressing their dreams:  Hillary Clinton for President

January 20, 2017  -  Inauguration Day - San Francisco, California

Inauguration Day rally, United Nations Plaza.  F.D.R saw the U.N. as a means to peace as opposed to nationalistic fascism that Trump advocates.

“We are more united than ever; this is the first day of resistance.” San Francisco Labor Council leader.

January 21 -  Women's March in San Francisco

“All over the Bay Area on Saturday massive crowds overflowed sidewalks, streets and parks … (declaring) they would oppose the new administration’s agenda whenever they see It opposing them.”  

San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday January 22, 2017   


Questions from Monique – our 7 year old grand-daughter:  
Why are we doing this?  
Will anyone notice? 
Will it do any good?  
Satisfied with Mama and Grandma’s responses, she went with them to protest. 

Simone Weil, notable French philosopher of the 1930’s and 40’s, quoted by Howard Zinn, A Peoples History of the United States, p. 412.

Whether the mask is labeled Fascism, Democracy, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, our great adversary remains the APARATUS – the bureaucracy, the police, the military.  Not the one facing us across the frontier or the battle-lines, … but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us slaves.  No matter what the circumstances the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this APARATUS and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and others.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Working Catholic: Family Stability, Part III By Bill Droel and John Erb

In this and previous installments on this blog site we attempt to put a small frame around the expansive topic of family stability. We now come to a controversial juncture.

The Lifestyle Variable

Income parallels family stability. Family stability parallels lifestyle. That is, some lifestyles are more conducive to family stability than others. It is important to repeat that the relationship among these three factors (money, lifestyle and stability) plus other factors is not an easy cause-and-effect. That is, we cannot say that because there is a strong association between a specific lifestyle and stability, a change in lifestyle automatically causes more stability or less stability.

Further, we recognize that people do not wake up each morning and choose a lifestyle. It is like one’s spirituality. Despite what the self-help gurus imply, one’s spirituality is to a significant degree conditioned by one’s heritage, by the surrounding culture and by many experiences. A lifestyle too is in part an imitation or rejection of one’s parental example, an imitation or rejection of one’s cultural environment and a continuation of or break with one’s many experiences.

And finally—because this is controversial—this essay does not measure love; as if anyone can do so. All types of families cherish their members and love their children. Just as sadly, all types and income levels of families are capable of callousness; a parent in any income bracket can be distant from his or her children.

Family living arrangements or lifestyles can include a two-parent married family, two-parent non-married family, one-parent family with one partner for that parent, one-parent family with multiple partners for the parent and more. Upper economic class families, for the most part, are of the two-parent married type and, as this essay shows, those families are relatively stable over the years. The median income for one of these married-couple families, presuming each parent is employed at least part-time, is $104,000. Many families in the lower economic categories are likely to be two-parent non-married families or one-parent families. These families have greater degree and duration of instability.

Interestingly, the education gap is a mirror image of this family stability index. In excess of 90% of college graduates use the institution of marriage and those families tend to be relatively stable. Those who lack a degree do not always marry. These families have higher instability.

The non-married type of lifestyle has been increasing. In fact, last year the majority of living arrangements in the United States were between unmarried couples. Interestingly too, there is no longer a race gap when it comes to marriage. That is, white families now have a percentage of non-married or single heads of the household that approximates the percentage among black families.

And as our chart to follow will show, a clear majority of Americans are economically stressed.

A Political Variable; Maybe Not

Pundits incessantly speak and write about a polarized citizenry. Our chart provides strong basis for a proposition that the polarization is not so much driven by cultural philosophies, as it is by economic insecurity. The number of Americans who are economically stressed continues to grow. Outsider political candidates will continue to appeal to the economically stressed. Yet, so-called Beltway insiders and many pundits dismiss these outsider challengers. That is because they are not really in touch with the financial realities facing a majority of Americans.

To repeat once more: Our chart (in the next installment of this series) shows that economic stress visits the majority of families—sometimes almost constantly.

Stay in touch through INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a print newsletter on faith and work.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Working Catholic: Family Stability By Bill Droel and John Erb

Part II
In a series of essays on this blog site we examine the factors that determine family stability or instability, which as we previously wrote, are namely income and a few socio-cultural trends. We stress that these factors do not form a neat equation nor does one of the factors necessarily cause another; simply that a few stability factors parallel one another.

The Geography Variable

First, wages and cost of living vary from state-to-state, from region-to-region. New York City is, for example, higher income and higher cost; Mississippi or Alabama is lower income and lower cost. To have a top 1% income in the New York City region requires nearly $1.4million annual (much higher for the top 1/10th%). Meanwhile, an annual income of about $100,000 equals top 1% in parts of Mississippi and Alabama.

Second, higher income families are concentrated within specific metropolitan areas and specific areas of a state. So too, lower income families are concentrated within certain city neighborhoods, certain rural areas or certain state regions. In the mythological Lake Wobegon Chatterbox CafĂ©, an unemployed farmhand can sit at a table with the town banker. That is unlikely anywhere else. Higher income people do not share the same space as middle income or lower income people—not even at the football stadium, or the airport, or at church.

Third, some commentators refer to cultural/political geography. They mean our country can be divided (or color-coded) into, on one hand, East Coast and West Coast and, on the other hand, Middle America. This essay and its accompanying income chart imply that such geographical politics is metaphorical at best. Our important concern is stability for the majority of families—East Coast, West Coast and Middle America.

The Education Variable

Prior to 1980 young adults in our country were adequately educated to meet the needs of the marketplace. That is, a sufficient number had sufficient education in the trades, accounting, secretarial skills, engineering and more. Since 1980 the needs of employers have steadily outpaced educational attainment. Thus, as is often said today, a college degree is a necessity. The word degree is crucial.

With individual exceptions, income strongly parallels a college degree: Those who have a degree also have some family security and a modicum of upward mobility. Those without a degree more likely experience instability and remain stuck at their family’s income level. 
There are two related points to make about a college degree and income.

First, those young adults whose parents hold a degree are more likely to attend college than other young adults and they are much more likely to complete college. A young adult whose parents did not complete college is not as likely to enroll in college or once enrolled is more likely to drop out. Mentioning this college degree gap feels un-American because education is thought to be an economic leveler. A young adult who studies and works hard can, the theory says, do better economically than the previous generation. According to the American promise, no one is condemned to their parents’ income level. Unfortunately, this promising theory has not been the reality. Those born between 1960 and 1980 have, on average, a 60% chance of exceeding their parents’ income. Those born after 1980 have, on average, a 50% chance of ever exceeding their parents.

The second related point tells us that not all college degrees are equal. About 8% of those billionaires who hold a U.S. passport also have a Harvard University degree. Other Ivy League schools account for a similar percentage of billionaires. The remaining top 10% in income also hold degrees from Ivy League or major state colleges or in fewer cases from one of the well-known Catholic colleges. On the next step down, that of an aspiring upper-middle class family, the student’s degree comes from a Catholic college or a less prestigious state school; followed by other schools, public and private.

A quick digression about dropping out of college: In a public, four-year college about 60% obtain a degree within six years; about 40% have dropped out. In a private, four-year college the graduation rate is about 65% within six years; about 35% never finish.

A community college can be a start, but the full bachelor’s degree is the factor that parallels a better income. In Illinois, to take one example, only about 21% of community college students complete a program there within three years. Of those who begin at a community college only about 15% go on to a bachelor’s degree within six to eight years.

Why do students drop out? Tuition becomes too expensive; the tension between studies and a job becomes unmanageable; someone in the family is ill; the student or spouse loses a job; a baby is born. As significantly, though not as frequently discussed, is a student’s lack of confidence in study habits like perseverance, curiosity, concentration, resourcefulness, creativity and more. They are unprepared to take apart a textbook, to know what is important in class and what is not so important, to write paragraphs that flow one from the other, to stick with a problem, to manage time knowing when to take overtime on the job and when to concentrate on school. Rather than confidently finding help with their studies, too many students drift away.

To be continued…

Monday, January 2, 2017

Patty Crowley - Lay Pioneer (1913–2005) by William Droel

Comment by Bill Lange

This forty-two page booklet is an excellent tool for discussion and for discerning the role for the laity in these dark times.  Patty Crowley, a Roman Catholic, was the co-founder of the Christian Family Movement (CFM) with her husband Pat. This is an account of the 'run-up' to Vatican II in Chicago and the post Vatican II 'burn out'. 

This short story of Patty's life has something in it for all faith groups doing organizing for social justice action.

Some quotes from the booklet:

“The birth control issue has ‘escalated into a position far beyond its importance.  War, peace, poverty and social justice seem more urgent … to Christ in the world.’”  Patty Crowley p. 24

“Patty likewise anticipated Vatican II’s emphasis on autonomous lay leadership as she considered relationship to the Chancery.” p. 29

 CFM analysis was inspired by the Cardijn movement in Europe; the mantra was experience based – observe, judge, and act. p. 6.

The Communion hymn for Patty’s funeral intoned – “CFM – emerges. Amen.”  “To spread a simple notion. Amen.”  “Observe, Judge and Act. Amen.” P.4
“In keeping with Vatican II theology, Christians who tackle social problems should ordinarily cooperate ecumenically.” “The Crowley’s understood this kind of practical ecumenism.”  p. 30

“In the summer of 1960 she (Patty Crowley) started a Democratic Women’s Club in Wilmette to promote the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.” p. 33.

This booklet can be ordered from the National Center for the Laity, P.O. Box 291102, Chicago, IL  60629 for a nominal donation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Working Catholic: Gaps, Part One by Bill Droel and John Erb

For some time now, we have thought about the meaning of income levels in our society. Our main point in this essay is not so much the preciseness of the numbers, although we consulted several sources. This multi-part essay is one attempt to put lots of discussion into one format. In our professional settings (a financial advisor’s office and a community college) and in informal conversations, we sense that most of us have only a vague notion of economic realities in our country. Despite comprehensive books about inequality, despite newspaper articles about factory closings or about new business ventures, despite national political campaigns, most of us are fuzzy about how our situation compares with others and about our own prospects for economic stability and about the reliability of our economy’s promise: “Hard work will be rewarded.”

In normal conversations people do not speak too specifically about their income. Even in those situations where personal income is revealed, many people lack an up to date perspective on how their family compares to others. For example, $85,000 per year was once considered a good income, but for most Americans today this amount is often not enough to dispel economic stress.

Does our $85,000 income example include a pension or a retirement account? Probably not, because as each year goes by many more families have no guaranteed pension. That means families who deserve a secure retirement have to dedicate about 15% of earnings toward retirement savings. Social security benefits, under both Democrats and Republicans, have been reduced, and continue to trend in that direction. Thus, an individual’s own savings becomes more important for security in retirement.

In addition to concern about retirement, our $85,000 family is likely stressed these days because of health care insurance. There has been a 25% increase in insurance cost over the last five years for the middle class, even though the insurance mechanisms have supposedly been reformed.

And finally, there is college education for this family. Its cost was not proportionately a big part of a family’s budget even 20 years ago.

So, if a seemingly secure family is budgeting for retirement in a responsible way, has adequate health care insurance and is saving for college, there is not much left over on an $85,000 income.

The Gaps

It is true that the overall U.S. economy has doubled within the past 35 years. It is true that the average income has increased. The income gap, however, is growing. When it comes to income increase, 70% of it now goes to those in the top 10% of income. More dramatically, the top 1/10% is gaining income far ahead of all others, including the next top 4.9%.

For half of all U.S. families, their share of the growing economy has shrunk significantly. This bottom 50% of families earns 12.5% of the country’s total income. The top 1% in income actually gets 20% of the total income in our country.

In addition to an income gap there are parallel social gaps. We stress that there is not an easy cause-effect relationship between these other gaps and the income gaps. That is, it is wrong to say that if every family changed their behavior on this-or-that, those families would increase their income. Or that if somehow a family would simply move from here to there, that family would increase its income. It is wrong to say that if only government had this social policy instead of that social policy, families would get with it and they would improve their income.

Nonetheless, some social and cultural gaps strongly parallel income gaps. Specifically, there is general correspondence (though not hard cause-and-effect) between income and one’s geography, one’s cultural setting, one’s educational level and one’s family stability. 

To be continued…

Monday, December 19, 2016


For a tree there is hope, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that its tender shoots will not cease.  Even though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump die in the dust, yet at the first whiff of water it may flourish again and put forth branches like a young plant.  (Job 14: 7-10)

From the beginning 'till now the entire creation as we know it, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth and not only all creation but all of us ... for we must be content to hope that we shall be saved.  Our salvation is not in sight. we should not be hoping for it as if it were - but we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet ...  (Paul, Romans: 8: 18-35)

And remember Job when he cried to his Lord, "Truly distress has seized me, but You are the Most Merciful of those that are merciful."  (Qur'an 21:83

From the bloggers - Bill & Joanne Lange & Bill Droel