Brenda blog

August 7, 2006 at 12:14 am (Uncategorized)

As it appeared in the Sunday Sun-Journal:

On the morning of Aug. 2, I woke up and was low on Coffee-Mate, had no milk, and out of dish soap and toilet paper. If I go buy these things, I will be short on my utility bills. So, I thought I could see if I could at least get powdered milk from the food pantry. I haven’t been there since they moved to the street at the top of Kennedy Park.

russ.jpgAs I crossed Kennedy Park, I saw a group of people gathered at the Spruce and Knox streets side of the park. I saw many African women, and there were also white Americans there and a dog. I looked to see if there was a fight or an injured person on the ground; it just didn’t look right. Then I saw that they were gathered at the back of a truck which said: “Good Shepherd” on it. A woman was balancing a box on top of her head, and people were bending over boxes of food.

I wondered if it was like the SHARE program, where you pay $13 and get a big box of produce. I haven’t seen that since I came to Maine.

So, I walked over, thinking maybe the food bank was working out of a truck instead of the building now. I asked an American lady in the line (I picked her because she’d speak English and would be able to explain easier) and she said to get in line, it’s a giveaway from “the church.”

I went to the back of the line. A 40ish white man was in front of me and asked for a light. I happened to have matches because I was camping recently, but as I gave it to him, I said, if you smoke here it will bother my son’s asthma. He said he’d smoke “over there.”

Well, he meant that he would be pushing in close to the African women and children in front of him and blow his smoke on them instead. I touched his arm and asked him not to smoke so close to the children, which interrupted his rude yelling about the line not being straight enough or something.

He said if I hadn’t given him a match, he still would have gotten a light somehow, but then he did walk away, commanding to not let “them” cut in line, pointing out the lady who had just walked up behind me.

I turned and saw the pregnant woman who was now behind me.

In my Native American tradition, I’d be shamed to take food before a pregnant woman or an elder, so I let her stand in line in front of me. I also let a grandmother stand in front of me in line.

Then a group of white women and men lined up behind me and began talking loudly criticizing that “they” are taking too many boxes, have too many kids, cut in line, etc. At one point I turned and said it bothered me to have to listen to their hatefulness. I wondered, did they really think they wouldn’t get enough if someone else got some?

There was a truck-full; it was ice cream, Pepsi and ginger ale. I realized I would not die or even suffer one bit if I didn’t get a box of that. A carton or two of ice cream would be a special treat for my son, and I could even melt some ice cream into my coffee instead of milk.

The group behind me was complaining nonstop about being taken over by “them.” One person said, “We can’t even use the park. They’ve taken it over.”

I turned around and replied, “Well, I’m glad, because now I can take my son to the park, and he doesn’t have to listen to all that swearing.” She actually stopped for a moment.

As I heard them going on with their complaints, I said a silent prayer of thanks.

Thanks for putting me there as a buffer between these people, because surely if I hadn’t been placed in this spot, there would have been violence.

Thanks for letting me absorb the negative energy here, and help me to deal with it.

Thanks for the discomfort in my stomach, and thanks for the way my heart was pounding.

Thanks for me being a person who is emotionally and physically uncomfortable in the presence of hateful attitudes and white privilege.

“I’m going up there,” one woman said. She went up to the truck and said something, and then a woman in the truck loudly told the people in line “That’s got to stop! No cutting in line.”

The woman in the truck didn’t know who, if anyone, was actually cutting, but her statement made those behind me feel justified in their complaining.

I think a boy had saved a place for his mother and, when she came, the people behind me perceived that as “cutting” and unfair, and said, “They shouldn’t allow any kids in the line!” and on and on.

When I was up to the truck, I asked a lady to just give me two gallons of ice cream instead of a whole box, and maybe a ginger ale. I ended up with several individual bottles of Diet Pepsi also, and I left.

We did go over to the food bank, and did get a carton of shelf-stable milk so my son could have cereal, and we were also given so much food it was hard to carry. I am so grateful for the abundance I have received, and I hope that others are also getting what they need here in Lewiston.

In Native American gatherings, I would be disgraced if I were seen not allowing an older woman or a pregnant woman ahead of me for food. I’d be ashamed to be heard grumbling and complaining that someone might be getting too much.

We teach our children to make sure everybody gets some, not to compete for who gets the most first. I was thinking it’s possible that the African ladies in front of me have a similar way of doing things. I don’t know what their relationships and social structure are enough to say if someone is actually unfairly “cutting” in line.

If we follow the example of our local white American neighbors, we would indeed be yelling and fighting over whatever there is being offered, and pushing and shoving.

Is this what we want our immigrant neighbors to assimilate into?

These are my thoughts about my daily experience of life in Lewiston, Maine.



  1. A Critic said,

    …And then I thought I would ramble some more.
    And in case you didn’t get it the first few times, I’m a native Amenrican.
    And I’m not as evil as most of the white folk in town.
    And then someone white was smoking, and cursing while smoking, and smoke was coming out while he cursed, forming swear-smoke, which I would never do, and native Americans would never do, only white people who hate other races would swear-smoke and did I mention that I’m native American and 10,000 times more tolerant than you.

    Man, I need some Advil after that

  2. Bobbie said,

    Give Brenda a break today. I thought she was the author when I read it. She did a good job.

  3. K2 said,

    The fact is, most everybody needs to look in the mirror and evaluate themselves. Most people aren’t introspective enough (or at all) to know that most of their problems aren’t caused by others — they’re a result of choices they make throughout their lifetime.

    For every deadbeat Somalian in Lewiston, you know damn well there are plenty of white trash losers to go with them. Race is simply not an indicator of anything other than skin color.

  4. jarheaddoc said,

    I have this to say to ‘A Critic’:

    First and foremost, Brenda expressed an opinion, which last I knew, was her guaranteed right under our legal system. It certainly wasn’t libelous or slanderous or defamatory.

    Second, maybe you should read up on American history as far as what happened to the Native Americans and how the white man shit on them pretty hard to get the land those peoples lived on. The white man, an immigrant himself, decided that the natives had more than he did and oppressed said people.

    Lastly, K2 is exactly right. It’s pretty easy to point fingers at others and not at one’s self and project blame onto others.

    You sleep with those jack boots on, you oppressing slug?

  5. brenda said,

    Thank you for all your comments . If no one said what A critic said, I’d wonder what going on with this blog?

    I originally titled it “culture clash'”

    I had just returned from a powwow, and every time I do, there is some feeling of dissonance when I am in Lewiston, probably the same anywhere. Many Indians talk about living in two worlds.

    At the powwows, people talk about traditions like making sure the elders get fed before you get your food, and that has been an issue at some past powwows: sometimes an older person stays back & says “Go ahead” then when you do, others look at you and say, how could you eat before those elders? So you start quietly slipping behind older people in line.

    At the powwows, there’s the candy-dance, in which kids learn to wait, (delayed gratification) by dancing around the candy & waiting till the music stops, then when they do get the candy from the ground, they are supposed to look around and make sure everyone has a fair share, they’d be disgraced if they take large pocketsful & someone else has empty hands…
    so that’s the culture clash I was experiencing & why I mentioned Native American traditions.. …

    Did it seem like I was saying all white people are rude? well? That’s called “generalizing”- it doesn’t feel good, does it?

    ps, all this happened after Nadine was done, I think, because it was after Russ Dillingham took the pictures & left. It always happens after the reporters leave.

  6. Linda said,

    Brenda, I read your article with interest on Sunday (and again today). I thought you expressed yourself well. Whatever the pressures are to assimilate, I hoped your readers would remember that the “main culture” is already an assimilation. It may take time, but whatever strengths our culture has, they’ll be adopted by newcomers; and vice versa.

    Newcomers always feel like outsiders, and if they meet with scorn and unfriendliness, they’ll keep feeling that way. Assimilation or apartheid? Ultimately it’s not the newcomers that make that call.

  7. Nadine said,

    Brenda, great job!

    Yes, we had already been through. We were about 25-30 people back in line when we arrived (which was early). At that time, everyone in front of us was “white” and everyone behind us was “black” (I hope that’s politically correct enough for everyone, cuz I have no clue of ANYONE’s geneology without asking). So, basically we were the end of the first set of “white” people — even though my son and I are not “white” — though it may seem so.

    I did not witness what Brenda saw and heard. However, I did see that those ahead of me were not at all taking into account that there were ANY people behind them, nevermind a whole line — and by the way they were talking, they could have cared less if anyone else got anything at all. Many got a CASE of 24 pints of Ben & Jerry’s, plus soda. We opted for a bag instead of a box and no soda.

    Apparently, the people that Brenda encountered did not see this greed that happened amongst their own kind (presumably) and only saw those behind us following suit with what they saw the “white” people were doing.

    Either way though, there were no controls over who got what and I still think it would have all turned out the same no matter who was there when, etc.. I just wanted to voice my own perspective — and also, in defense, let you all know that Russ asked several children around us if they wanted their picture taken and they shied away behind their accompanying relative. My son could have cared less, is not shy, and agreed when Russ asked him.

    I have a t-shirt that says “never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”. I say in large groups, you will always find stupid people (“stupid” can be substituted with “greedy” “mean” “ignorant” or whatever other adjective you’d like).

    I guess my point is that none of it matters because conflict is unavoidable in public group situations — and that is very sad.

  8. brenda said,

    Thanks, Nadine.

    Courtesy? Do people give seats to pregnant women on busses & things like that anymore?
    Last week I was on a bus and a woman who was pregnant was standing up, and I wondered how the people around her didn’t think of moving over & letting her sit down? She seemed to not mind, but it bothered me to sit while she stood. I was in the back & she couldn’t have gotten her stroller up there, but near where she was standing, maybe if someone near her had moved over there would have been room for her to sit near her stroller? I wanted to say something but I didn’t.

  9. LaFlamme said,

    I’m totally enjoying being a guest in the blog. Makes me work harder to form an opinion. Give me a few hours, I’ll have one.

  10. "The Weasel" said,


    Go back to “The County ”

    PS Brenda….

    I was out there too. You forgot to mention the East African male who stood by his minivan and had his wife make repeated trips to the truck, as he continued to store his free booty. (Can you really fit 12 gallons of Ice cream in a downtown freezer?) It was emabarassing on all accounts. White, black or others. Perhaps Grand Poobah JB should change his media blitz from “It’s happening in L/A to “If it free, It’s for me. Come to Lewiston.”

    PSS Brenda……..Cuckoo Cuckoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. LaFlamme said,

    Ah, the Weasel missed me. I can tell.

  12. brenda said,

    Weasel, I didn’t forget- I just didn’t see that, if someone was doing that, address it, directly, tell the people in the truck. But I think you are generalizing – one East African man did it = so they all do?

    Who is Grand Poobah ? What does that mean?

    Weasel, are you obsessive about the time of day, everytime you address me? (2:00?)
    cuckoo cuckoo?
    Or is that your professional diagnosis? and if so, where did you get your degree?

    barnyard shrinks ?

  13. brenda said,

    oh, I just figured out, JB = Jim Bennett? What’s he got to do with it?

  14. jarheaddoc said,

    Brenda, I just put something together here about your blog and your being on line. If you had to make a trip to get something from the food pantry so you’d be able to pay for your bills, is the Internet one of your regular bills?

  15. brenda said,

    yeah, I got oxford networks dial-up recently, for about $18 a month. The ones that are around $10 -like pc online etc, require a credit card which I don’t have.
    I got my computer from LA Freecycle.
    I did’t pay my oxford networks bill yet this month, I’m hoping to sell some sewing work ythis week, so I can pay it before it’s late. I am working on filling out job applications right now today, in between checking this blog, but I ‘m probably not going to be checking back for awhile.
    I don’t have cable tv. I have tv from LA Freecycle also, that I use with rabbit -ears.

  16. "The Weasel" said,


    Don’t forget to pay your income taxes on your sewing wages. Do you pay your share of taxes on your ethnic items you make? I hope you do. The IRS can be very mean.

    PS. I really liked the blue t-shirt with the tattered edges you wore at the ralley last month. Very OOB, if I do say so my self.

    cuckoo cuckoo, cuckoo cuckoo

  17. jarheaddoc said,

    Wow, food or the internet and the ability to bitch about others. Good choice.

  18. brenda said,

    tattered blue t-shirt? I don’t remember, I’ll have to check what I have like that. thanks though. I was over there sitting with the openly breastfeeding lady. She’s my friend.
    Yeah,anyway, I was keeping track of everything for the taxes, I have a business advisor thru Aspire/ Women- Work & Community & she didn’t think I made enough money yet to worry about filing, but I have been keeping receipts to try ot get it together when I find out. I report everything, and save copies in the computer. I was thinking I might have to pay city taxes?

  19. brenda said,

    jd, I said, I didn’t pay the internet bill yet, Actually after paying rent, deposit, Northern Utilities, I had barely enough for the phone bill, but not enough for the internet so right now it is not paid. I got the toilet paper for $0.49 and a bottle of dishsoap at Save-a-lot with some change I found….

    My biggest problem in life though, is that I’m addicted to coffee with hazelnut coffeemate! Can’t live without it! Used melted Ice-cream for the last few days as a substitute. Life is rough. I know people with 4X as much money as I and they are NEVER happy. All I need is my hazelnut coffee-mate, and I’m happy. Can’t even get it at Victor News, either.

  20. LaFlamme said,

    Hazelnut Coffeemate, huh? Every once in a while, I’ll accidentally dump that crap into my coffee while preparing a cup at a local store. I can’t tolerate flavor in my coffee so I have to dump out the cup and start over again. I like my coffee to taste like something that came directly from the ground.

  21. Gil said,

    Brenda, have you chosen to live hand to mouth or is this an in-between jobs transition? Not being a smartass, sincerely wondering. It seems that there are a lot of jobs out there that pay reasonably well, and I was just trying to grt an idea of where you are coming from. Like I said. please don’t misconstrue this as being anything but curiosity as to who is behind the screen on the blog. If you don’t want to answer that’s fine.

  22. brenda said,

    Thank you , Gil, since you asked so nicely, I’ll answer you:
    I raised 2 kids while working part time & going to college in CA. Then when my oldest was 19 & my second was a teenager, and I was making progress on my degree- I fell for a guy & got pregnant! At the age of 42 I had another kid! When I submitted paperwork for transcript review to find out what I needed to finish and go on, They responded by mailing me a BA degree, I had taken enough classes. Since I just had a baby, I didn’t apply for a master’s program, but looked for a job with the county & the schools.
    Well, I worked at a school in CA, but I was not happy in that job for many reasons. The pay wasn’t much because they kept the hours down to cut the budget, but they knew that someone like me who cared about the kids & teachers would stay all day anyway, and that’s what the school district was counting on. I worked part-time temp night custodial when we were off -track, and made more money doing that than the teacher’s aid classroom work, and I liked the physical work, it was satisfying to get something done and see the results. Until I got a hernia.
    So I wasn’t happy at work, and I was paying all the bills- my man was keeping his paychecks (secretly saving for a car), and paying some of the bills as if he were helping me, rather than putting it together as a family…… the day he came home drunk (I’ve mentioned this before) and called me some names, I left. Took my last paycheck and bought a oneway train ticket across country. I wanted to see my family in Maine, where I was born, so here I am.
    I did go directly to the Dingley building for job apps the first month after I arrived, but didn’t get called and I should have called or gone back to check. I worked thru Bonnie services sometimes, I have been underemployed and – I know you are going to ream me for saying this- but I couldn’t really give an employer a commitment, as I think I should, because I didn’t have adequate & back-up child care. Most of my family & neighbors seem to be on SSI for mental problems, or should be, or have alcohol or drug prob’s or, if I like them, they are not available to watch my kid.
    Now I have found someone I like and feel good about having watch my son and I am actively looking for a job- in fact- ?
    oh, what am I doing sneaking back onto this blog? I have applications spread out here that I need to finish- bye!!!

  23. brenda said,

    not meaning to be a smart – ass, either- but, I hope you don”t mind me asking you back: do you really think people choose to live hand-in-mouth?
    As a choice, given all possibilities?

  24. Linda said,

    Jobs ARE tough. I’m sure they’re tough there, and even tougher here where I am. Sure, a person can probably find a job, but try finding one that has health insurance and sick time, and pays enough to support a household by itself.

    Wish you luck Brenda — I hope you are as lucky as I was when I came back to ME. I was offered a job being in charge of a bunch of stuff I knew nothing about — they must have been mad, but it worked out great. Think positive.

  25. brenda said,

    There appear to be a lot of jobs to apply for here, actually. I’m not trying to get all the perks yet, first get started working so someone can see that I like to work.

  26. Linda said,

    I see that Eric’s getting involved again over at the SJ (see Nick’s blog). What a bunch.

  27. Bobbie said,

    If things get any worde over at the SJ, Eric will start blaming people for all of the problems he’s having. Been there, done that with him. LOL

  28. Linda said,

    I just went outside to see what was happening — the sky is doing something ferocious to my north, with vivid lightning and rumbling. Hope it comes this way!

  29. Mainetarr said,

    I just went tot he SJ to see what was going on, and in my typical smartass style, I clicked on suggest removal on Eric’s post. Ha! Ban me, you bastard!!

  30. Linda said,

    Ha! great idea, I love it. Can’t wait to see if they do it.

  31. Mainetarr said,

    I did notice that all of Pat’s posts were deleted. That Dan is such an asshole. I wish he would come over here–or maybe he did (Priscilla).

  32. "The Weasel" said,


    Brenda = My Little Pony

  33. Rachel said,

    Hi Brenda,
    As I told you on the phone, I am very proud of you for standing up for what you believe. You should hear some of the anti-immigrant sentiments coming out of the mouths of Franco-American public servants and non-profit agency workers down at the local coffee shop. Well, I don’t want to get into that right now because it makes me angry, but it’s pretty bad when someone who works for Catholic Charaties declares in public that none of the Somalis want to work because one of her clients had difficulty filling out a job application, or when a cafeteria worker from the school department declares they are no longer allowed to serve pork rib sandwiches because of the Somali students. (Interestingly, I made it known that I had one of the cardboard-tasting sandwiches at my school earlier in the week.) But anyway, the point is that all of us come from somewhere else. PLEASE don’t use the arguement that when the Francos came here they worked for low wages to get by and the Somalis only want to collect welfare. If welfare were available at the time the Francos came here, some of them surely would have taken advantage of it also. I pay income taxes and soon will be paying property taxes, and I can tell you that just because someone is white does not mean they deserve what I worked for any more than someone who is black or anyone else. I would much rather my hard-earned money go to help an immigrant from a war-torn country then white residents who know every way to cheat the system and take advantage of my hard-earned dollars, even if they can work. And don’t say it doesn’t happen. The biggest critics of the immigrants are those who have been living off the system for generations, and that’s what really gets me peeved.

    Brenda, you are to be commended for setting an example!


  34. AO said,

    I just want to know, what the hell fun is blogging if you can’t bicker? Eric and Nick stinck! Bring in on, Prissy!

  35. Linda said,

    I’m back, storm’s over, I’m ready for another one.

  36. AO said,

    Sure wish we’d get one. The air here is just….dead.

  37. Linda said,

    Maybe you will. I can see full-on lightning to my south. The air is wonderful and cool.

  38. Gil said,

    Eric also removed one of my posts and sent me an email explaining why. Seems you are not allowed to even hint around at a banned blogger’s address. I wrote, in defense of discrimination that is not illegal/immoral, that if I chose not to hire a whiny sack from the 700 block of Main St, that it was discrimination, but not illegal. Eric apparently failed to see the humor in it and pulled it. I HAVE BEEN WARNED, in very strict terms. And apparently Pat/Dan/TiA, etc, etc, has been pulled altogether, once again.
    AHH, what fun.

  39. brenda said,

    Thanks, Rachel,
    You know, In CA I never ate pork, since chicken & turkey were cheaper, always available, & better for me, then I move here and pork is cheaper and hard to avoid? weird.

    I was wondering, what’s Selfish & Greedy? I f I had gotten:
    a box of icecream & soda for my Mom,
    and one for my sister and her sons,
    and one for my brother & sis-in-law and nephew,
    and my other brother’s kids who live in lewiston,
    and also one for my neice,
    each of those households live nearby, have kids in them & are my closest relatives-
    And if I got a male relative to carry it in the van, would that be so bad?
    Isn’t it more selfish to just get some for myself & my son to share? And forget the rest of my family?
    The charity was trying to get rid of the ice cream, so if I helped my family, by taking it to them,or just help myself, which do you think is more selfish of me?

  40. Asshat said,

    Weasel, that’s just wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Gak!

  41. Robert said,

    Its ad and scary to think of the undercurrent that exists in Lewiston. I can’t help but wonder how many times we’ll continue to dodge what eventually will be the “Big One” regarding the Somalian community. Lets face it, people are ugly and uninformed, and ever worse, the Smalian community has done nothing to defend themselves other than point fingers at others. If they would just use a little PR persuasion to show everyone that they are contributing members sof the community and that they want to be part of the community they could help their own cause tremendously. They dont need to lose their culture, but they do need to help educate us on their culture and what it means to be here.

    And I agree with those who posted, pointing out that its the Franco American community whining the loudest about the newcomers….how quickly they forget their relatives immigrated here from Canada not soo long ago…

    We need to wake up and do something before it is too late. I for one would love nothing more than to see the LSJ put more effort into SOmalian relations and education about their culture, maybe statistics on those gainfully employed in the community, business owners, homeowners…..The best fight against ignorance is education.

  42. Blumpkin said,

    holy shit! why didn’t I get in on this in the beginning?

  43. Blumpkin said,

    cra·zy ( P ) Pronunciation Key (krz)
    adj. cra·zi·er, cra·zi·est
    Affected with madness; insane.
    Informal. Departing from proportion or moderation, especially:
    Possessed by enthusiasm or excitement: The crowd at the game went crazy.
    Immoderately fond; infatuated: was crazy about boys.
    Intensely involved or preoccupied: is crazy about cars and racing.
    Foolish or impractical; senseless: a crazy scheme for making quick money.

    n. pl. cra·zies
    One who is or appears insane: “To them she is not a brusque crazy, but ‘appropriately passionate’” (Mary McGrory).

  44. Mainetarr said,

    You’re slipping Blumpkin.

  45. Sulu said,

    Blumpkin, where did you get your diploma? Where did you get your certification to conduct online mental status evaluations?

  46. Blumpkin said,

    I was Brenda’s instructor at WhackJob U. She was a prized pupil. She even supplied the ice cream and soda for the graduation gala. We sang songs and cleaned Kennedy Park afterwards. What a treat. Rev. Doug stopped by and gave her the best compliment when he said, “Holy Shit! You are crazier than me!”

    case closed

  47. Brenda said,

    Blumpkin, you got me mixed up with the other Brenda, sorry, I don’t do whackjobs…… can’t sing, never met Rev. Dog, don’t clean up after his shit….

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