No Candlelight for Renters?

Are you enjoying all the cozy vibes this season with string lights and candlelight?

For those who own their residence, then it’s no problem. If you rent the place where you live, it might not be so easy. Burning candles is often prohibited in lease agreements.

I love the scents and soft light of candles. They are part of my daily routine when I do yoga, meditate or just want to relax. Especially this time of year when we’re losing daylight. Tomorrow is the winter solstice. Winter starts officially and we will have more hours of darkness than any other time of year. Creating our own light sources indoors is the best way to create hygge and embrace the season.

My first encounter with burning candles being prohibited was at my last apartment. Before signing the lease, I spoke with the owner of the property and negotiated an addendum allowing me to burn candles.

The next encounter I was not so lucky. It was around this time last year that I sold my mother’s house and rented her an apartment. Again, the lease did not allow burning candles. This time I was not able to negotiate anything. It might be the difference between renting an apartment in a smaller multi-family house from an individual versus an apartment in a large complex with hundreds of units and a corporate landlord.

Further, where my mom lives there had been a recent fire caused by a candle, which resulted in a lot of damage. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Candle fires peak in December and January with 11 percent of candle fires in each of these months.”

Because of the dangers caused by candle burning, I can see why property owners want to prohibit the practice. According to Statista, there were more than 40 million housing units occupied by renters in this country last year. That’s a lot of people who are potentially having lifestyle restrictions.

I wonder about that fine line between a lifestyle choice and a religious and cultural practice. How often do landlords enforce this provision in a lease? When they enforce it, do they enforce it uniformly? At what point could this restriction result in religious discrimination?

Are people allowed to have birthday candles? If someone has a birthday party and they light candles and blow them out right away, that is different from someone burning several candles for a sustained period of time.

What if someone is lighting a menorah for Hanukkah? Or lighting the kinara for Kwanzaa? Not all candle burning is the same, so I wonder how do property owners decide. Maybe there is no actual enforcement, until there’s a fire and someone has to pay.

Christmassy in Quincy

Thomas Crane Public Library Christmassy
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! It’s even feeling Christmassy too.

One of the things that I want to do regularly is take pictures of the ordinary. What I see day to day or even year to year.

The picture above is the main Quincy library. It’s a gorgeous building all the time, but even prettier when it’s decked out for Christmas.

Quincy ice skating rink
This afternoon an acquaintance and I had planned to go skating at the new skating rink in Quincy. There was a few hours wait, so we ended up not going.

Since it was unseasonably warm, we decided to walk around to catch up and enjoy the outdoor Christmassy vibes.
Quincy Town Hall Nativity Scene

We strolled by the Nativity scene at city hall and even saw the little baby Jesus statue! He was often stolen from the manger like some sort of item listed on a Christmas scavenger hunt, so I was surprised that he was there. Hopefully the display will remain intact this year.

What’s Needed at Food Banks

charitable organizations

The holiday season through the end of the year is when many charitable organizations are seeking donations. It’s also when many people want to support organizations whose missions they especially believe in.

One of my favorite organizations is Globe Santa and I’ve supported them for decades. They deliver holiday gifts to children in need. All children should feel the joy and delight of receiving at least one gift of their own.

Many of us also support food banks. I read an interesting post on LinkedIn written by Marco T. Lindsey about what people really need at food banks. His list started a conversation in the comments that also gave some good ideas. I didn’t read all of the comments, but I’ve noted some takeaways below.

MONEY: Money is the best thing to give. Food banks can best decide what they need. They need the means to buy it and may have discounted rates for purchases.

ASK: If you’d rather not give a monetary donation, look at the organization’s website and see if they have a list of particular items that they need. You could also contact them directly to find out what they need right now. The website list could possibly be out of date.

WASTE: A lot of donated food goes to waste and cannot be used. If it’s expired, it will be thrown away. One thing that I was surprised to learn when I volunteered at a food bank was that dented cans were thrown away. If a can was dented, then the integrity of the can was in question and the food might not be safe. I’m not sure if that is still the case or if all food banks abide by this rule, but it’s something to keep in mind.

One comment, shown below, that I found particularly insightful was by Sheila Freeman.

“As someone who has worked and volunteered for nonprofit organizations for over twenty years, there is one thing from your list you left off. Food banks only allow people/families to get food that will last for a week once a month, no exception. If you have kids they will eat this food in one day. The other thing heard staff who run these ministries say “if these people are hungry, they should take what we give them.” People who donates food have no ideal these are the policies in place when serving those in the communities. Another issue is these speciality bread shops give bread, a good variety in the donation, and anyone that buys it knows it is expensive but the food pantries throws away because it’s not bagged to last long, so much of it goes into the trash.”

I’m not sure that what she says applies to all food banks, but apparently at least some of them. And that makes sense that the bagged bread might end up going to waste.

It’s such a shame. Food waste is a huge problem in this country. It’s a double shame that so many people are in need of food at the same time that it is being thrown away.

Change The Massachusetts Flag

*See 1/13/2021 Update below! *

Today,  I’m home in Quincy, Massachusetts. This state, like the rest of the United States is on land stolen from Native Americans.

4th of July

Like last year on the 4th of July, it feels right to think about the founding of this country. I consider my birthday a personal new year and a time for self-reflection. Likewise, the birthday of this country is a time to think about the history of the United States — how we can do better now and in the future.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But it wasn’t until five years later, in 1781, when the Massachusetts state legislature became the first to recognize the 4th as an official state celebration recognizing the anniversary of the country’s independence.

Receiving a link to sign a petition prompted me to write this post today, on the 244th birthday of the United States. The petition seeks to change the North Quincy High School mascot from the Yakoo, an offensive caricature that stereotypes Native American culture. I signed the petition and immediately thought about the Massachusetts flag.

Massachusetts Flag

When I was in my 20s and working for the state, I remember looking closely at the flag. Previously, I had only noticed the figure of a Native American man standing. But that day, I noticed that there is an arm holding a sword over his head.  A sword over his head!

Taking the Indigenous peoples’ land was bad enough. The flag shows the violence of it. Why should this emblem continue representing our state? Should we be proud of this? I am horrified by the symbolism.

The seal, which is on the flag, goes back to circa 1639, when the Massachusetts settlers adopted it. The sword was owned by Myles Standish, known for his violence against Native Americans as a military advisor for the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony in the 1620s.

Many say the the original sin in this country was slavery. As an African-American, I can trace my ancestry back to enslaved African-Americas in Virginia and South Carolina. The exact year enslaved Africans arrived to colonies in the Americas is not clear. Some have said 1619. But that seems to reference English colonies. The European slave trade began in the 1400s and Christopher Columbus may have transported enslaved Africans to the Americas in the late 1490s.

However, looking at the time line, Native Americans were here for thousands of years before European colonizers arrived. The theft of their land and the brutality against them was a sin. Slavery was an additional sin and the timelines intertwine.

Further, when people deem the United States a nation of immigrants, that leaves people out. Some of us were already here. Some of us came here unwillingly. We are a nation of immigrants, and Indigenous people and descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the United States. Let’s include us all.

Take Action

Since we’re at a place in time where symbols of white supremacy continue coming down, it’s well past time to change the Massachusetts flag. Especially as the Trump administration targets the Wampanoag tribe’s land. Is the state of Massachusetts in solidarity with Native Americans or not?

Last year, WGBH reported on the issue and a suggestion for the change could be an easy one. Remove the arm and sword and add a tree. A tree flag was one of the ones used during the American Revolution. Ships sailing from Massachusetts also used the tree flag. So adding a tree would be consistent with Massachusetts history.

For 36 years, the MA Indigenous Legislative Agenda has been working on changing the flag and seal, along with other initiatives as well.

Let’s support current legislation (S.1877 & H.2776) and urge the MA Rules Committee to move the Mass Flag and Seal Bill out of committee. Click on the links to send a letter. See a sample letter below.

I am a resident of (city or town), Massachusetts. I am writing in support of (S.1877 / H.2776) the bill to create a special commission, made up of Native leaders of the area now known as Massachusetts and state legislators, to change the state flag and seal of Massachusetts. The time has come to remove the sword that has been hanging over the heads of the Native people of this land for 400 years! This legislation has been stalled for 36 years in the legislature. Even Mississippi is holding bipartisan discussions now to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag – which would leave Massachusetts as the last flag of white supremacy flying in the country. This image is a disgrace to the progressive traditions of our Commonwealth, an offense to Native people, and to everyone who upholds the value of racial justice for all. Thirty nine Massachusetts cities and towns have already voted at town meeting or city council to change the Massachusetts flag and seal, and an equal number of legislators now co-sponsor S.1877 / H.2776). Please vote favorably to move the legislation to change the Massachusetts flag and seal forward now.

*Updated 7/17/2020* Yesterday, there was a rally by Native American groups in front of the state house in support of this legislation and it generated some media attention. Governor Baker was asked about it during a press conference and stated that he is open to discussion.

*Updated 7/29/2020* There is real momentum behind this issue and the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved new legislation (S.2848) to create a special commission. Now it’s up to the House and Governor.

*Updated 8/4/2020* North Quincy High School has changed the image of the Yakoo mascot.

*Updated 1/13/2021* Resolve S.2848 was passed! A commission will study the current seal and motto and decide how to go forward. The people in the commission will include descendants of Massachusetts tribes among others. A final report should be submitted by October 1st.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Juneteenth 2020

Flowers and blue sky represent a day in June, Juneteenth

The exact year I cannot remember. But at some point before 2006, I learned about Juneteenth. At a family gathering here in Massachusetts, my cousin told us about the fun Juneteenth celebrations she went to in Texas. We New Englanders had never heard of it. But learning about it made a big impression. The 4th of July didn’t liberate Black people, so it really wasn’t a day of independence for us. Juneteenth was for us.

I started blogging in 2006 and wrote about Juneteenth that year.  After that, I wrote a few more posts about the day. In 2009, my post discussed how the Senate formally apologized to African-Americans for slavery and segregation. Below is part of that post.


The Congress acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws; apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws; and expresses its recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and calls on all people of the United States to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society.

DISCLAIMER.—Nothing in this resolution authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

As an African-American who is a descendant of slaves, I accept the apology. It’s not all that can be done. The disclaimer is huge. Reparations are still an issue. But it does have meaning. If nothing else than for the history books.

Eleven years later, Black people in this country continue dealing with injustice, cruelty and brutality. My belief is that until the United States truly reckons with the legacy of slavery, beyond a mere apology, but with formal hearings and reparations, this country will never heal.

However, it’s encouraging seeing more white Americans trying to understand the magnitude of wrongs suffered by Black people. Before change takes place, acknowledgment must happen. It’s starting.

For example, Netflix took down their paywall today for viewers to see Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” and “13th.” Hulu placed “The Gullah Way” on YouTube for free. I hope many take advantage and watch these shows.

2020 has exceeded all expectations in shining a light on the truth, so that everyone can see society clearly. And the year is only half over. Let’s hope 2021 brings more justice, compassion and kindness.