Readers’ Forum–Lowell Ward, Phil Safern and Richard Patik

For our exploration of The Notion of Family, several Politics for the People members have chosen a photo from the book to respond to with thoughts, words, a photo or a poem. Today our next installment is from Lowell Ward and Philip Safern.  Phil wrote about the book as a whole and Lowell chose one photo to discuss.

Lowell Ward:

The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. pg 100 Grandma Ruby and UPMC Braddock Hospital on Braddock Avenue, 2007.
The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. pg 100 Grandma Ruby and UPMC Braddock Hospital on Braddock Avenue, 2007.

As a black man who spent many years on the streets of Boston and in MA prisons and who finally is trying to change his life around, I can certainly identify with this photo of two people who are probably experiencing the oppression and poverty of inner-city life like the rest of us.  Despite the daily struggles of living in poverty, unemployment, and living in run down and dangerous neighborhoods, they are determined and proud to be who they are as individuals.  Defiant and unwavering, they both appear to be looking in different directions for a similar solution to all pervasive problems and a way out of the misery and pain we as working class people of color experience on a daily basis.  No matter what the obstacles and challenges are, we are determined not to surrender our individuality.  It’s the only thing the powers that be have so far been unable to take.  One of the ways I do this is to work with independent voters in MA and around the country to build a better life for myself and other Americans and hold Democracy’s feet to the fire!

Lowell Ward (r) and his grandson Amaree.
Lowell Ward (r) and his grandson Amaree.


Lowell Ward is a school site liason with Victory Generations and a mentor and tutor for Greenwood Shalom School.  He is an activist with the Massachusetts Coalition of Independent Voters.





Philip Safern:

The Notion Of Family by Ms. Latoya Ruby Frazier

A Reader Responds

First, let me say that this beautifully done work by Ms. Frazier deeply moved me; her beautifully done photographic images conveyed her unique perspective on the subject of family –  our human family.

Second, given the current human condition of our nation, it reminds me – Ms. Frazier’s book reminds me – that we are all brothers and sisters living on this very small planet, who only want to live in peace, with respect, with dignity and with human compassion – that we are all family.

Third, I so appreciate Ms. Frazier’s profoundly moving imagery, with an authentic artistic eye, unfiltered, genuine, bold, provocative, depressing at times, yet heroic and completely honest – I rejoice in her unique vision, and share in her own celebration of these unique and powerful images; let her be fruitful with more such breathtaking images – that we are all one family, always…

Yours truly and in solidarity,

Philip Safern

Dr. Lenora Fulani, Cathy Stewart and Phil Safern at the 2015 Anti-Corruption Awards
Dr. Lenora Fulani, Cathy Stewart and Philip Safern at the 2015 Anti-Corruption Awards

Philip Safern is an activist with the New York City Independence Clubs.  Phil is a retired postal worker and lives in Far Rockaway with his wife.


Richard Patik:

The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 48-49, Me and Mom's Boyfriend, Mr. Art, 2005
The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 48-49, Me and Mom’s Boyfriend, Mr. Art, 2005
 By: Richard Patik

In my stark reality, remote in hand

Five feet from Art, a remote too
I watch other people doing
Watching defiantly what goes on
Mr. Art, rounded down, having seen how the promises play out
Resigned not to be asked or expected or allowed or shown

Not in this reality

I turn my back on that dying fire, the fight gone out

‘Cause I can’t stand that degradation so close
It’s a contagion I don’t want to catch in God-forsaken Braddock
There’s a hollow wall between us a foot thickMany layers of solid walls between us thicker still

Constructed of history and experiences and powerless faces

I don’t want to look but LOOK I must

If I want to get out of here
‘We gotta get out of this townIf it’s the last thing we ever do’
I so want to jump out of my skin

It shouldn’t be so f’ing hard

I could say hi (or better yet he could)

But I want to dream while I still can
Before this millstone town gets a grip and drags me under
And strangles my soul
Give me access to the tools to build — as seen on TV

I won’t settle for a virtual smooth edge

I don’t want another powerless generation

To come along under me
Don’t want me nor they told what we can be
Because of who and where we are
This is no place to dream big — or at all

Here you try to survive — but not live

Give me (us) a chance — that’s all anyone needs

A chance to develop, to become
We have enough inside of what it takes
Just give more than an ‘as seen on TV’ promise
For a slice of this American Dream

In this god-forsaken steel town

Yes, and — in this reality

image1Richard Patik is an Oracle eBusiness Consultant, Musician, and Actor.

Politics for the People Conference Call

With LaToya Ruby Frazier

Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605

Code 767775#

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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