A Portland woman found a simple way to help new Mainers make music

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street, which is back open after police closed down the area around Monument Square this afternoon. (More below.)

What we’re talking about

Troy Bennett today published a great story and video about a local musician who found a pretty simple way to make the world a little better.

Jenny Van West collects old instruments from musicians around town who don’t need them any more, and gives them to people who do — specifically, new Mainers.

Troy writes:

Mainly, she helps Portland’s asylum-seeker community who have a lot of time on their hands while waiting for the glacial wheels of the federal bureaucracy to decide their cases. While sitting in this holding pattern, they are barred from looking for work but are free to make music.

Currently, there are six people on her waiting list. She has a line on two guitars being donated soon, but needs four more.

This section jumped out at me:

In these days of paralyzed governments and celebrity politicians only out to gratify themselves while polishing their own egos, we need more Jenny Van Wests. We need what Pete Seeger called teaspoon brigades: many people doing small, teaspoon-sized feats of heroism, making their own communities — and worlds — better places for us all.

After I left her house, she sent me a message via Facebook.

“Looking at all the bad stuff going on in the world, our country, our towns or neighborhoods,” she wrote, “how many of those things happened because people sat down and played music together? Exactly none.”

You can watch the video here.

ICYMI

Part of Congress Street was shut down today over a suspicious package left at Planned Parenthood  — The package ended up being a box for art supplies, the Press Herald reported.  

The one thing you need to know to understand Black Lives Matters protests — Samuel James writes in The Bollard: “Though you can’t know what it’s like to be black in America if you are not, that’s not necessary in order to help. The closest person to me in my life is a woman. I am not a woman, but that doesn’t stop me from helping her in time of need, defending her if necessary or loving her. I am capable of doing all of this because I listen to her talk about her experiences without superimposing my own. I don’t tell her that something didn’t happen to her just because it didn’t happen to me.”

Portland wine bar named one of America’s best new restaurants — Bon Appetit named The Drifters Wife on Washington Avenue as one of the 50 best new restaurants in the U.S.

‘Meet the Philly genius who turned a dumpster into a pool’ — Somebody do this here, please.  

Tour Portland’s “deteriorating” elementary schools — Wednesday evening Portlanders will have the opportunity to tour Presumpscot and Lyseth elementary schools, two of the four schools that the city is considering borrowing millions of dollars on the bond market to renovate. The tour begins at Presumpscot, located at 69 Presumpscot St., at 5 pm and is expected to run for three hours. It will give residents the opportunity to assess for themselves the need for renovations at Portland’s aging public schools: a subject of perennial debate.  

The four schools have myriad issues including leaky roofs and noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to an assessment done by an architecture firm. But tomorrow you can judge for yourself.   

Big ideas

The fitting welcome for Trump on his Portland visit? Disavowal, repudiation — The BDN’s editorial board writes: “As Trump visits Portland on Thursday, the appropriate welcome would be nothing less than complete disavowal and repudiation from the Republicans who represent Maine in Congress.”

This is Your Life, Brought to You by Private Equity — This really interesting visualization tells the story of how private equity firms have entered our daily lives since the 2008 financial crash.


 

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.

Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.