Amherst Life Blog

Welcome to the Amherst Life Blog! Here we will be posting information on activities, events, arts, community concerns, local business, and a variety of other topics related to life in Amherst, Massachusetts. If you are new to the area and looking for housing, please check out our other blog too ------------>> Amherst Housing Blog ::.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Best Local Restaurant Award

Hadley, MA --- This year's "Amherst Life Best Local Restaurant Award" goes to... Mi Tierra! Family-owned, family-operated, they have the best carne asada, best enchiladas, best yellow rice, and the best beans the Valley has ever seen. And the friendliest staff, cleanest kitchen, and general buena onda that we at Amherst Life have come across to date. It is Salvadoran and Mexican fare at its finest!

Mi Tierra is quickly becoming a pan-American cultural center, and the owners may start featuring live music this year! And we local folk all need that! Gracias a todos de Mi Tierra! Que clase de restaurante!

Their contact information:
phone (413) 587-9820
206 Russell St (Route 9)
Hadley, MA 01035

(foto of this excellent dish by M. Carey at

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ongoing parking problem

We don't really care about parking; let's get it straight. What we care about is a town board who spends its time talking about budgets, speed cushions, and grants a few licenses here and there instead of listening to the needs of its residents. We have received over 60 emails from people in Amherst who have nowhere to park their cars over night and into the day. They are single mothers who can't leave their four kids at home to move their cars all over the town in search of a space to park their cars; they are elderly renters who have trouble walking when it is slippery; they are people who work from 10:30 pm to 4 am and have nowhere to park their cars so they can sleep during the day. We at Amherst Life find this problematic. And the worst part is that it is a situation that can be solved in five minutes. Give the people free 24-hour parking in the town garage. Five minutes shows the town that the selectboard and town manager (Mr. Shaffer) actually care about it's less-affluent population.

Bridging the Gap -- Issues in Private/Public Education

“Alternicize” Mainstream Education
by Shelley Etkin

There are varying opinions in today’s society about what the purpose of education is. Personally, I have many qualms with the institution of mainstream education as it is set up currently. I feel many schools present information in a narrow way that caters to only a certain type of thinker and learner, known as someone who functions in terms of mathematical and linguistic intelligence. Schools that are well off are obsessed with figuring out their statistical “level” by standardized tests and comparing themselves with one another. However, schools that receive poor funding are dealing with a myriad of issues within their institution as well as among the student body that prevent them from creating a scholarly culture.

In the Pioneer Valley area there are many alternative education initiatives. One example is the Montessori schools (named after an innovator in the field of education) in Amherst and Northampton. These schools strive to foster an environment of respect and creativity, in which each student develops on their own path and at their own speed, but still develop a love for learning. Children gain a sense of engagement in community and empowerment, learning from one another as well as the teachers in a hands-on, active way. Likewise, there is the Common School in Amherst whose philosophy is to “foster intellectual competence and strength of character within a setting that nurtures each child’s curiosity, identity, sense of self-worth, and respect for others.” The school has connections with environmental centers in the area and thus the kids inspired “with a sense of belonging to human culture and history, and instills in each child the confidence that comes from discovering, making and doing things for themselves.”

While such initiatives are valuable, we are still faced with issues of socio-economic class in terms of who has the desire to and is able to attend such schools. While I fully support the growth of these schools, and others like them, I feel we need to instill alternative methods and philosophies within our public school system. Additionally, the private schools should not slip under the radar as they currently are, catering to certain (often socio-economic) groups and learning/teaching styles. This means spreading resources so that all schools can have better access and smaller, more engaged classrooms. This means installing mentoring programs (on the small scale) and more accurately distributed funding (on the legislative scale) that helps foster an intellectual, communally driven environment in public schools.

Alternative methods can make kids feel engaged and an important part of a community. They can be empowered by a community that values them and their scholarly desires. This is what we should be focusing on in education reform if we wish to see institutional change and progress. We can make “alternicizing” education the civil rights movement of this generation and I am confident we will see the benefits on an individual, as well as institutional, level.

Shelley Etkin is a student in the Honors College at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. We look forward to reading more of her ideas on "alternicizing" education, and will field any comments/questions to her (please click on the "comments" link below -- you do not need an account to grace us with your reactions, ideas, etc.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Town of Amherst Looks at the National -- Article 1

Why are there so many white supremacists with last names like “Black” and “Brown”? In(bred)grained complexes? Look at this one:
Click Here

Don Black’s donation of $500 was accepted by “Dr. Paul” (does this guy have a degree?). The campaign manager was quick to stamp out speculation on Klan/Paul ties:

"Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights. If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he's wasted his money," Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said. "Ron is going to take the money and try to spread the message of freedom."

$500 from a white supremist, $500 from Fox TV, it’s all the same. Or is it?

Town of Amherst Looks at the National

How are Folks from/in the Town of Amherst Looking at the National?

How the local looks at the national and the global is a perspective that we are going to start embracing here at Amherst Life. Why? Well, for one, we find some patterns between (for example) the Town Manager, the Town “Selectboard” (such a gender-conscious name) and the present administration. We see parallels between the Amherst Police (how many African American and Latino drivers can they pull over in a day? how long are they going to let those three white men who live next to “Subway” sell drugs and stumble around the town? – don’t get us wrong, we don’t care if the police ignore these guys who are selling flowers that they picked from people’s gardens or stuffed animals without a peddlers license; we just find it interesting that if those were three African American, Latino, Native American, and/or Asian men they would be detained in a NY minute.)

Slight tangent... returning to point at hand... we see parallels between the Amherst Police/UMass police and the rise in police harassment, abuse, and violence against “minorities” (we have to keep reminding folks that the people that mainstream U.S. folks call “minorities” are the WORLD’S MAJORITY and that so-called “white” people are the world’s MINORITY) and we think that step one in creating some change in the “happy valley” is probably informing the happy valley that the cultural practices that these towns engage in (under the guise of “being liberal”) are forms of racism, classism, and sexism that permeate society. It also makes it easier for us to call you out (you being the Town Manager or the Selectboard) if we can show you what the same pattern is amounting to on a national scale. So, without further a due, Amherst Life goes National.

If you live in the area and are writing about local or national events, send us a line with your document attached (in Word is best):

We are trying to get a range of local experiences and perspectives on the national and the global.

Look forward to hearing from you all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

3 funny-lookin white men continuously spotted in Amherst center

Amherst, MA --- Who remembers the tune, “It’s the story, of a man named Brady...”? Yes, it’s from the Brady Bunch. But in Amherst, the meddley has a little twist: “It’s the story, of a Town Called Amherst, who has three scarey lookin white men selling drugs in the street... They sell stolen stuffed animals, crack, weed, fight, and stumble into popo’s beat... And in the end the town defends their freedom of speech! Yeah! It’s the story, of a town called Amherst...

Amherst Parking Situation

Amherst, MA --- After three weeks of writing to town officials and the Amherst selectoboard.... [drumroll].... absolutely NOTHING has been done regarding the request for 24-hour parking for permit holding center residents!

Do town officials not care about the renting population here? Is our elected body working for all of the residents or only the ones who own property here?

What they are saying is basically: ‘if the new parking ban leaves you without anywhere to park, get over it.’ It’s that simple.

So here is the deal. If you want a place to park, send us an email with your name, email, and address with a note of your own or the following pasted into he email:

“We do not have a place to park between December and June and want the town to open up spaces for us. The Parking Garage is full and it is not possible for us to move our cars at night and again before 8AM. We work late night shifts, we are single parents that can’t leave our children alone, we have situations that you are not thinking about.”

We will print out the emails and bring them to the Town Manager who has been anything but cooperative.

Amherst Life Wants to Bring in the Music!

Amherst, MA --- Amherst Life has returned to the chalk boards and is drawing out the plans for a new Center for the Arts in the downtown area. We are interested in purchasing the vacant building formerly occupied by Pinocchio’s restaurant, renovating it, and turning into a space for musicians, dancers, writers, film directors, photographers, sculptors, wood carvers, and whatever other form of art that crosses the mind. The plan includes an art gallery, a small performance space, a large performance space, a film viewing room, a café, and an area that will be used for teaching. We also hope to have studios for musicians and dancers. We want to bring in artists and feature performances every day of the week. As we are working on this project it would be great to know what you all from the town think – if we build it, will you come? Leave us comments or write to us at

Look forward to hearing from you

Apologize Through Positive Action, Not Manipulation

The students involved in an act of racial hatred issued an unseen apology (and they had a professor of Spanish literature read it at light speed on their behalf – cowardice?-- at the forum), and have since engaged in several not-so-brilliant attempts to manipulate and persuade professors and colleagues that THEY are the victims of this incident. It gets worse: they have created two equally non-brilliant methods of turning themselves into victims: 1) Spain is marginalized in Europe and Spanish students and professors are marginalized here because of their “multicultural” backgrounds, 2.) it should be o.k. to “quote” a Colombian festival called blancos y negros in which slave holders and plantation owners and their light skinned descendants painted themselves as black Colombians, and darker-skinned Colombians were forced to parody themselves by painting their faces white. To summarize: instead of issuing a REAL apology (nobody even saw it to begin with) the students have tried to sneak their way out of ANY responsibility. And again, they got away with it.

Those students either need to get involved in creating forums where we can discuss this kind of ignorance or deal with the wrath of equally ignorant professors, chairs, administrators who may very well eliminate the problem (though we are seeing that that will never happen unless it was a dark-skinned international student dressing up as a “white dude”, Abe Lincoln, or some other white “forefather”) instead of thinking about how they are complicit. The first step: look at the situation of inequality in Spain and Colombia (it does exist) and consider why in their rush to defend you, your professors, peers, and other representatives forgot about that situation. If you want to go back and change what happened, that is a start.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

UMass: On Perceived “Witch Hunts” in the Wake of Obscured Racism

UMass-Amherst --- The point of having a forum on racism at UMass was (and is) to turn a specific incident into a learning experience that can bring about institutional change. By focusing on the event alone, by declaring people's concern regarding a series of events a "witch hunt", by getting caught up in feelings that people are attacking Spain or Colombia as nations (let me remind you that the people offended by those images also felt attacked) you ARE MISSING THE POINT and PREVENTING CHANGE from occurring. You are making it worse.

As students, you are making it worse for us as a community because you are sidetracking the purpose – to look at the RESPONSE to this incident and recognize that students coming forward were threatened and intimidated by faculty and officials. As faculty, you are making it worse because – whether you believe it or not – you hold positions of power in this university. By threatening students, by ignoring them, by pushing the issue to someone else, by not informing your colleagues of what is going on YOU ARE contributing to the construction of a community of intolerance and ignorance, and you are condoning any type of hate crime. Finally, as friends of the people involved in the initial racist act at a Halloween party via costume wearing, you are also making it worse for your dear friends. Why? Because by insisting on the “witch hunt” or “out for blood” concept, by insisting that people have disrespected your nation by not understanding its cultural traditions, you are making it very possible for the university to say “well, damn, lets side step the whole problem and get rid of those two students – that’s why people are upset, ain’t it?” To re-phrase, you are making it easier for the university to cover up the fact that they DID NOT RESPOND IN CONSTRUCTIVE WAYS TO THIS INCIDENT BUT RATHER FOSTERED THE TYPE OF THREATENING AND INTIMIDATING BEHAVIOUR ADOPTED BY A HANDFULL OF PROFESSORS AND OFFICIALS (and believe me, covering up is exactly what they would like to do, as seen in the ZERO coverage allowed in our campus newspaper) and just get rid of your compatriots.

I’d like to conclude by saying that by insisting that this is a witch hunt or a hunt “for blood”, and by insisting that Spanish and Colombian nations are under attack YOU ARE ARROGANTLY AND IGNORANTLY overlooking the fact that people (MANY people) were highly offended, angered, disturbed, saddened by the images – direct or indirect – that they saw. By acting in this way, you are not allowing the victims to let their voices be heard and you are preventing change from occurring. By insisting that you as Spanish or Colombians or as the perpetrators involved in this incident are victims you are forgetting that MANY people were offended by the incident and the response to the incident. You are BLOCKING the voice of the real victims of racism from being heard, and that is, in many ways, worse than the original costume-wearing act because you know that something happened at a Halloween party that hurt people all over the country and you disregard them. You are fully aware of what you are doing.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Racism at UMass-Amherst

UMass-Amherst (MA) --- On Wednesday, December 5th, 2007, over two hundred students and professors met to discuss acts of racial hatred (all related and linked to a steady increase in acts that are occurring throughout the country), how these acts reveal institutionalized racism, and how to begin to organize so that we, the community, can meet and discuss specific incidents and specific concerns without being intimidated by students, professors, and university officials.

You’d think that blogs, local TV stations, and local papers would be showered with insights regarding what was one of the most productive and powerful discussions on racism that any of us from Amherst Life has participated in at UMass. A search through the UMass website and Google, however, will reveal that the three brief pages covering the event show no concern for detail and are largely uninformed.

WFSB Channel 3 was there. The UMass Daily Collegian was there. Why is nobody writing in detail about this? Why is the campus newspaper silenced? The answer: reputations are at stake, Professors, Chairs of Departments, and University officials are being called into question, and a dirty little “scandal” can disturb the imaginary “equilibrium” that never existed at UMass. What could be a learning opportunity for the community, a chance to raise awareness on the steady increase in acts of racial hatred throughout the university and the nation, is being pushed aside and obscured. Not only does this directly reflect on the University’s views regarding acts of racial hatred and the fact that the university itself is complicit by doing NOTHING (no statements, no support, no help in organizing a forum to discuss the issue), it reveals how local media is being manipulated and how the overall message is “get over it” and move on before people’s careers get hurt. Our response at Amherst Life: forget your careers and forget your guise of racial equality. From officials dressed in KKK garb in front of “I Love ALANA” posters (a campus organization for students “of color”), to the closing of the ALANA central offices, to HUGELY reduced funding allotted to “Opportunity Fellowships” for so-called minority students (a MAJORITY of the worlds population), to the present situation, the university’s reputation is lower than low, and now is the time to come together as a collective force to discuss these issues without feeling threatened and intimidated. This is an opportunity to listen and to make some changes on this campus. NOTHING is not an acceptable practice.

The conservative white backlash regarding a series of incidents involving acts of racial hatred is either 1.) obscuring events involving racial hatred and ignorance, 2.) defending specific perpetrators on the grounds of intent vs. non-intent, 3.) pledging allegiance to a first amendment (students are free to offend others, you see, and to call people out is suddenly impermissible even though the victims of racial hatred are also protected by the first amendment), or 4.) directly and indirectly threatening students who are voicing their concerns on these issues. AND THEY ARE GETTING AWAY WITH IT because nobody is covering these incidents as they arise. People are being silenced as professors and officials wipe their hands clean of any responsibility. And the most despicable twist is that -- instead of recognizing that specific actions occurred and were highly offensive, instead of looking at the issues that obscuring information can lead to (students being intimidated and threatened), instead of taking this situation and letting people learn from it – the countless victims of all of this are being re-victimized. The First Ammendment goes both ways: you are free to express and to offend, and you are free to EXPRESS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN OFFENDED BY A SERIES OF ACTS. You are free to express that you are offended and threatened by that series of events.

The issue is no longer the initial acts of racial hatred (and it is hatred because the act was perceived that way), it is the handling of the incident. It is the fact that the victims of this incident (anyone who was impacted by it, and that includes ANYBODY regardless of location, race, gender, class, nationality) are now being intimidated, threatened, and silenced which has prompted us to write this and to DEMAND that people’s voices be heard.

Our utmost respect goes out to the people who have had the courage (and it takes just that) to move forward despite implicit and explicit threats, to the organizers of the forum, people who spoke, people who responded, people who attended and listened and LEARNED.

We at Amherst Life welcome your comments so that dialogue can continue. We ask, in the spirit of the forum, that you not refer to the specifics of the incident, that you not refer to the names of specific people. The threat against people who have come forward to voice their disapproval with the situation is real and we do not want to jeopardize their well-being any further. We thank you for your cooperation.

To read more articles on racism at UMass, click here to return to the Amherst Life Blog Homepage:

The Issue is Institutionalized Racism at UMASS, Not One Event

Before we discuss the issue of accountability and condemnation regarding acts of racism at UMass-Amherst it is necessary to return to two points in the previous article. After those two points are addressed vital aspects regarding the nature of a system of white supremacy become clear. In the spirit of the forum that took place on Wednesday ("Costumizing Racism”), the goal here is to transform ignorance into a site for learning and draw out a plan to facilitate that learning so the community can be made aware of the implications of institutionalized racism.

The first point to return to: “And the most despicable twist [regarding this event] is that -- instead of recognizing that specific actions occurred and were highly offensive, instead of looking at the issues that obscuring information can lead to (students being intimidated and threatened), instead of taking this situation and letting people learn from it – the countless victims of all of this are being re-victimized.” Those who were offended and hurt by the initial acts of racism at a specific Halloween party (and there are MANY, across color “lines” and geographic locations) are now in a position where they cannot speak their minds and let their voices be heard, cannot educate the community, because they are being threatened and intimidated by students, professors, and university officials/administrators.

Second point to return to: “The issue is no longer the initial acts of racial hatred (and it is hatred because the act was perceived that way), it is the handling of the incident. It is the flip – that the victims of this incident (anyone who was impacted by it, and that includes ANYBODY regardless of location, race, gender, class, nationality) are now being attacked, threatened by professors and officials, and even the threat of legal action that has prompted us to write this and to DEMAND that people’s voices be heard.”

To re-state: the initial act of racism at a Halloween party is no longer the focus of the community’s concern. The individuals involved have been held accountable (though the degree to which has not been made public), issued an apology via a spokesperson (though it is true that the majority of the people offended by their actions never saw nor heard an apology of any kind), and have expressed that the intention and the thought that went into their Halloween costumes was not meant to offend (though intent vs. non-intent does not change the fact that people are angered by the act and the reaction on the part of students, professors, and UMass officials). Yes, we can condemn these students and demand more accountability. Yes, we can show that reference to the historical context that informed the decision to use a specific costume is framed within a period of slavery. We can argue that recognizing this is the first step towards learning from the incident. We can do all of this. But by focusing on the act itself, the despicable irony of the two points mentioned above is not pursued as a site to contend. Students, professors and officials calling this incident “a witch hunt” and a search “for the blood” of the costume-wearing people; an act of slander; and a platform used to disrespect specific nations (which, as is the case in the U.S. and throughout the world, have serious work to do to allow their people to have a voice) are MISSING THE POINT. The forum occurred in response to specific acts that motivated a series of what are arguably more serious acts: non-action, obscuring of events, silencing of students, direct and indirect threats against people trying to voice their feelings, pressure from people in positions of power to move on, a silenced campus newspaper, no effort from the administration to organize a space to discuss this issue and the issues it reveals as deeply embedded in the university.

By insisting on the idea that this is a “witch hunt” and an example of people “out for blood” you are blinding yourself and blinding your community to an even bigger issue. And that is that the people you are seeking to represent -- by focusing on the misconstrued idea of a “witch hunt” and by failing to look at the way this reflects on the university’s roles and history in all of this -- are going to be the ones that the university (professors and officials alike) uses to wash its hands clean of any responsibility. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE INCIDENT ANYMORE, IT IS ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE RESPONSE TO THE INCIDENT THAT REVEALS AREAS TO REFORM WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY. Instead of pointing a finger at the many people offended by the incident and the response to the incident, you might take a minute to 1.) recognize people’s position, 2.) recognize that those offended are being re-victimized, 3.) And look critically at the institution that could rid itself of any responsibility by focusing on the event that you blindly demand we focus on. The people involved in the initial actions at the Halloween party are REMOVABLE PARTS. In the eyes of the officials, the University gets rid of the initial problem, it shows that it is not a racist institution and it shows the community that it has gotten rid of the problem/taken responsibility of it. Clearly, there is more going on that needs to be identified at an institutional level

What do we mean by “an institutional level”? Look at the silencing that is going on. Denying people the right to express themselves, whether by overt threats or threats insinuated, is a problem. The problem (again, if seen at the level of institution and not individual act) shows the community the following and MUCH more 1.) a way of responding to and acting on incidents of racism needs to be clear and people in positions of power within the university (professors, chairs, chancellors, etc.) must be trained to deal with the situations in more constructive ways and ways that do not foster a community of silencing and threats, 2.) the University must give us a clear statement regarding its commitment to diversity (where is the school “Diversity Statement”, for example?), to recognize that inequality exists in the state and beyond its borders, and, as a public institution, to act on it, 3.) to provide a space for/funding for weekly educational forums that allow people to educate themselves and address issues of concern in a space that will not lead to threats and intimidation.

The message: the members of the community who are informed (which you must understand is small in number due to the silencing that we need to address) have moved on from the initial incident. The focus is the response to the incident from people in power and the need to start working on the three points listed in the previous paragraph as stepping stones for more work. This is not a witch hunt or a blood bath. It is a search to make change so that this kind of incident and the response to it does not repeat. By insisting on the concept of witch hunt you make it easier for the university to go back to what IT perceives as “the problem” and to deal with it in unfair ways that are not constructive to the parties involved in the initial acts and are not constructive to the goal of working with the issue. Damaged reputations can be healed by working toward fostering change at an institutional level. This, to repeat and to conclude, is not about one incident nor is it about the parties involved: it is about the reaction to it. By focusing on the construct of a witch hunt you are inviting the university to side-step the whole issue, wipe itself clean, and to continue to do NOTHING.

As a community, we should not let the students involved in the event be the scapegoats for the university’s lack of commitment to social justice and equality. We need to protect the students from the Halloween party in PRODUCTIVE ways (calling upon the nation is not constructive, calling people expressing their views “witch hunters” is not constructive). As a community WE NEED TO PROTECT THEM so that the university can see itself, see its problems, see what needs to be worked on, see how much we have to learn, and not CONDEMN them as if they do not reflect the kind ongoing practices exemplified in the resonse to the initial act. We need to protect them so that the university does not treat them as removable parts and ignore this issue. We are human, we make mistakes, we make changes based on those mistakes. If the university continues to act the way it has (notice that the UMass Daily Collegian continues to be silenced) it will get rid of what it perceives to be the problem and prevent change.

Again, Our utmost respect goes out to the people who have had the courage (and it takes just that) to move forward despite implicit and explicit threats, to the organizers of the forum, people who spoke, people who responded, people who attended and listened and LEARNED.

We at Amherst Life welcome your comments so that dialogue can continue. We ask, in the spirit of the forum, that you not refer to the specifics of the incident, that you not refer to the names of specific people. The threat against people who have come forward to voice their disapproval with the situation is real and we do not want to jeopardize their well-being any further. We thank you for your cooperation.

click here to read more articles on racism at UMass

Karnatic Jazz Encounter

A stunning performance at Bowker Auditorium. The Karnatic Jazz fusion group sheds light on a long history South Indian, African, and African American musical and cultural exchange. And the result is powerful. The South Indian component of the band seemed to be the strongest, technically and emotionally. And the violinist stole the show! She is incredible!! Check the group out at

Student Strike at UMass

The Strike occurred and UMass students are still waiting to hear if their demands will be listened to. More diversity, an end to undercover cops snooping into the dorms, fee rollbacks, contract with the grad. students who run the campus (it’s true, and most of them are better teachers and care more than the “real” professors for 1/5 the pay!), and could the school at least let the students use the STUDENT Union without charging them? That is the most ridiculous thing we have heard of!

Events in the Area

Please let us know of any events in the area that you would like the public to know about! We see that UMASS/5-Colleges have so many great things happening but their website is terrible and nobody ends up knowing. Send us a line at

Poetry Slam

Amherst Life is interested in organizing a Poetry Slam with DJs, music, dance, and much more. If you are interested in performing, please send us your stuff (it will not be posted on the site without your permission!)