Rachel Parker and Joseph Miller

On May 20th, 2012 the West Nottingham Township, PA Historical Commission will be holding a ceremony honoring Rachel Parker and Joseph Miller.

In 1851, Rachel Parker, a 16 year old, free black woman was kidnapped from the home of Joseph Miller, a farmer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. As Parker was being taken to Baltimore by train, one of Miller’s friends, Eli Haines saw Parker and recognized the man she was with, Thomas McCreary, a slave catcher from Elkton, Maryland. Seeing how distressed Parker was, Haines and a companion followed them to Baltimore.

After Miller arrived in Baltimore, he and his friends managed to have McCreary arrested for kidnapping. Parker was transferred to the city prison for her “safe keeping”. Unable to secure her release, Miller and his friends decided to return to Pennsylvania, rather than remain in a hostile city.

On the train ride home, Miller disappeared. His body was found two days later, hanging from a tree in Stemmer’s Run, Maryland. An autopsy conducted in Pennsylvania found evidence of torture and arsenic in his stomach. While his death was ruled a suicide by Maryland authorities, most consider Miller to have been murdered.

Rachel Parker was eventually released, after spending more than a year in jail. She died in 1918 in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Joseph Miller was my great-great grandfather.

Additional information can be found at Underground Railroad in Central Pennsylvania and Window on Cecil County’s Past.

An article about the dedication ceremony was published in the Chester County Press.

on Transition Towns

prepared remarks for a panel discussion with David Korten and Tina Clarke On Building Local Economies at NY Green Fest 2011 on August 6, 2011


Looking at some of the major trends of the past twenty years paints a bleak future for our country. Those trends include the consolidation of mass media; the exporting of our manufacturing base; the Democratic Party’s abandonment of it’s New Deal compact; the bi-partisan embracement of military as well as financial imperialism; the re-emergence of immigrant scapegoating and the mainstreaming of racism since Obama’s election.

As those who rule America grow ever more isolated, ordinary people find themselves voiceless. As jobs disappear and homes are foreclosed, Americans are not only left powerless, other than the ‘Tea Party’, they don’t even have a forum to express their frustration. This is a recipe for social disintegration.

Many among us have been working hard in support of single payer, ending the wars, marriage equality, minority rights and against hydrofracking. These campaigns are critical for the survival of our civil society. But for the most part, they are single-issue campaigns with a strong, national component.

We need to think broader and smaller. To prevent society disintegration or to minimize it, we need to explore different models of building grassroots activism.

One option is Transition Towns. Transition Towns provides a model for local communities to positively address the declining availability of oil and the effects of climate change. Transition Town initiatives do not have to be bound by municipal boundaries; they are established within neighborhoods and on a regional basis. The beauty of Transition Towns is that each initiative sets it’s own programs and goals.

Transition Towns creates the opportunity for members of the community to meet, many for the first time, and work together to support local agriculture, promote local businesses, to develop alternative modes of transportation, to promote cultural activities as well as to work with existing organizations such as athletic associations, churches and civic groups.

The polarization of the national political discourse has resulted in a society that neither respects the opposing view point, nor acknowledges the shades of grey in-between. On a local level, Transition Towns can help re-build and nurture respect and trust within a community.

Earlier this year two score of us took the first steps to implementing a regional Transition Towns initiative. Those efforts have yielded groups working on aging in place; time-banking and working with a local municipality to find a cost-effective, environmentally friendly option for upgrading their sewage treatment plant. Other on-going projects that TT members participate in are community gardens and developing walking and hiking trails.

All of us here this evening are committed to improving our environment. Many of us here this evening are also committed to helping build the Green Party. All of us need to become engaged with or help start a local Transition Towns group where we live. Doing so will help build both of our causes.