The September 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee

 
 

National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website

 

 

In this issue:

Alarming Rise in Hate Crimes

Wave of Murders of Homeless Are A Warning Sign

Bumfights: An Incitement to Hate Crimes

Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street USA

Brazil Murders of Homeless Go Unsolved

Social Security Is NOT in Crisis

Time for Health Care for All

Cindy Sheehan's Unanswerable Question

Lawsuit Against California Hotel

Tribute to the Love Lotus Gave

A Mother's Plea for Homeless Son

Poor Leonard's Almanack: Carl G. Jung

Sept. Poetry of the Streets


ARCHIVES

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

 

 

 

 


 

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Thankful Memories of All the Love Lotus Gave

by Linda Lemaster

Linda Lemaster (at left) and Lotus Maynor at the Santa Cruz Courthouse after homeless activists were arrested for squatting vacant land. Alene Smith photo

Her willingness to let people into her heart and her home, when she had one, was an example of living by trusting the Great Spirit. Lotus often took in homeless and other people. Fed them. Hugged them. Listened to them late into the night. Earned her nickname, "Lotta Love Lotus."

I had not seen Lotus P. Maynor for three years, about since she began struggling with Parkinson's. She died this summer on July 22. Before then, we had been so connected in our community activities that folks who should have known better thought we were sisters. Our talents complemented each other. That energy made the line between work and play seem to dissolve.

Lotus had been my youngest child's first outside caregiver when I had tried to go back to college prematurely. I was hopeful, yet in denial about being a disabled person. The more broken down I got, the harder I pushed myself for my family. When I found Lotus' home daycare business, "Teddy's Garden," was in my neighborhood, my baby's needs could be met and I rediscovered an old friend.

Not just day care for the poor: a chance at right living.

So then I became a welfare warrior, since it was obvious (from being in it) that the alleged "safety net" system wasn't really capable of helping families get a new toehold into the mainstream, unless they really didn't need one. Lotus was there to help in so many ways, for twenty years.

Here's one recollection: Her family kept my kids long after a Halloween night agreement because I'd found myself in a hellhole jail in San Francisco, and could not get anyone to give me the time of day, let alone any idea of how long they intended to hold us. It was early afternoon and we'd been jammed into vans, driven round and round the City in circles, and finally -- over an hour later -- the cops poured us into the worst bottleneck of a jail I've ever seen.

We were jailed for feeding hungry people from the steps of San Francisco City Hall's polished brass entrance, in 1993. (Eat your heart out, Oz.) Most of us knew in advance we might get arrested, and prepared accordingly. I, however, was apprehended because I was freaked out by the sight of a very young woman who seemed to be getting twisted and brutalized by the police during her arrest. That upset me somewhat. I turned my eyes away.

Then, having to see these grown, young policemen -- uniformed, in high-topped boots -- throwing fresh salad onto those marble steps and stomping bagels rolling down those steps. They deliberately destroyed the food in front of people who were obviously hungry. Armed police were acting out this obscenity from the uppermost stairs, looking down at us.

All I could think of was giving them a tongue-lashing. Knowing my children were in safe hands, I was free to be my natural self without having to give up my main job as mom. No way could I justify bowing to that intense state terror-mongering.

I became concerned for police who get trained to do such things. One guy actually heard my words, but several others tossed me quickly into the van with the younger woman. She gave me the freedom to protest injustice.

Seven hours later, we sat behind bars in a holding tank that looked and felt like the white, rectangular inside of a huge toilet bowl. Seeing the architecture, I expected water hoses; they provided more subtle tortures. I was not allowed to call my son nor my childcare angel.
When I was finally allowed to call, after midnight, I was told I'd missed seeing the sculpted latex face of my son's super Frankenstein body art, and that no one had been able to get a camera.

From jail, I said, "Put him on the phone, please?" He wasn't too disappointed that I hadn't gotten home yet, though sad about me missing his creation, and he wanted to know about jail. Lucky mom I was. My son's caregiver gave a thousand percent and thus became "family" for me.

None of the publicly visible work and activism I've done in the past 18 or 20 years would have been possible if Lotus (with her daughter Kerry) and ultimately other women and a few men, had not been my substantial support system.

Lotus was there when the Union of the Homeless was launched in Santa Cruz in 1992. She had known Anders Corr when he was a youngster. He launched that chapter of our too-long movement to decriminalize homelessness and to honor people who are homeless. She didn't hesitate to put all her support behind Anders' vision of liberated land. Others followed.

Thus the Union began, thrived for some time, and provided strong, organized back-ups, food, and legal support groups for numerous actions -- including everything from mass civil disobedience to pot-luck picnics in the park, cooked by welfare mothers and held for "all the men outside."

When the Union of the Homeless evolved more, part of it became Santa Cruz's first Food Not Bombs collective. Then, Lotus' kitchen was where the midnight coffee got percolated for many long nights awake on the sidewalks of downtown Santa Cruz, for homeless people and activists in the initial rounds of our resistance to this City's batches of anti-homeless laws.

Telephone angel for Hungry Women United

Once, Lotus was the sole support person for Hungry Women United. Five others of us, several children in tow and Jane Imler at the helm, sojourned successfully to Sacramento, determined to stop then-Governor Pete "let them drink six-packs" Wilson's expected pay raise. We had been fasting together. It worked.

She helped organize us for the Poor Peoples' Summit at Mills College sponsored by Women's Economic Agenda Project in 1990. With Kim Argula's leadership, she anchored local resources so women could be free to go all weekend. It was like a magic vacation.

When I left office as Welfare Parents Support Group's first president, she became Prez, and was deeply instrumental in its growth, including significant contributions toward this area's acceptance of children in public gatherings, and she did incredible advocacy for pro-active "solutions" for welfare reform (read: jobs). She brought our Nonviolent Futures project back to life. She further linked our welfare moms with other kinds and "classes" of helping programs, including Coats for Children started by Maggie Reynolds.

Somehow, she helped get my son and I, homeless then, and many others from Santa Cruz County, the sponsorships needed to participate in Mitch Snyder's Housing NOW! March on Washington in 1989.

With welfare parents' young, successful bilingual food pantry, she leveraged volunteers and accomplishments into creating a "Pantry Network," still strong today, connecting all the various food programs dynamically.

She never gave up on anyone in the mutual helping and self-help programs we all created. The group's name changed to Welfare and Low Income Support Network during her leadership, creating stronger links with other California women's and self-help groups.

Of course, she did a lot of other things as well; she was a good community organizer. Her stint with Western Service Workers Association, though shorter than hoped because of growing health considerations, sharpened her natural talents. She taught me, "Don't assume any person ever means no until they say no."

Homeless Women's Slumber Party

Once, Lotus was in charge of "getting stuff" for our annual Homeless Women's Slumber Party. I was just a conduit between Linda Edwards, homeless street heat activist, whose idea the slumber party was, and Lotus, who became the networking brain that brought our party to life each year. People still think I did something. All I'd done was say "yes" about the first year being at my pad, and kept track of the names of interested folks.

Lotus did the real work -- getting everyone's needs met so they could have a night off, though they be women in a men's social order: Later there was still more work: figuring out how to finance it, getting all the food each year, anticipating how many of us would actually get there. Lotus did all that.

There were many contributors, of course. By the fifth and last year, Homeless Women's Slumber Party rented a motel's huge apartment suite, accommodating a mom with a very disabled son so both could be included, and having "children's time" activities that included swimming. Tables full of healthy food, and a few comfort foods, dressed each room.

We celebrated house hunting "graduations." Shared wishes. Got to know each other. I was surprised to learn how often the fathers and uncles were supportive, and pleased to see how easily single women and parenting women connect when given half a chance. Homeless Women's Slumber Party, doors open to both strangers and friends, would have ended the first year if not for Lotus' creative persistence.

And these delights are really Lotus' secondary accomplishments. I believe her willingness to let people into her heart and her home, when she had one, was an example of living by trusting the Great Spirit. She often took in homeless and other people. Fed them. Hugged them. Listened to them late into the night. Earned her nickname, "Lotta Love Lotus" in Robert Norse's street chronicles.

Whatever legacy I give my children and my friends; whatever important projects we moms and grandmas committed in those decades; whatever little consistencies in sleep and dreams and innocence my children knew, I owe mostly to a few good friends, with Lotus Maynor topping the very short list.

Linda Lemaster is a mom, journal writer, failed paper-pusher. She works for Housing NOW! in Santa Cruz, a grassroots voice. She hates being homeless during the rainy season. Contact her at linda4homes4all@sbcglobal.net


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