Lowell Week in Review: April 21, 2018

Earth Day Parade 2017 in Lowell

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day which marks the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Lowell will celebrate with a downtown Earth Day Parade and Festival. The pre-parade activities begin at 11:30 am at Lowell National Park Visitor Center and the parade kicks off at 12:30.

In the past, the route has proceeded from the Visitor Center, up Shattuck Street, right on Merrimack, right on Central, and left on Warren to the parade’s end at United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) at 35 Warren Street where the festival will continue until 4 pm.

The parade will feature marching bands, puppets, costumers and environmental groups. Event leaders, which include UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, and dozens of partner organizations, invite families and individuals to show up and join in the parade.

Prof Mary Murphy of University College Cork

Lowell: City of Learning

To coincide with Earth Day this year, more than 50 organizations have joined together to launch the first-ever Festival of Learning in Lowell. Its purpose is to highlight the many opportunities for learning in the city, not just in classrooms but in countless settings across the community.

The driving force behind this effort is UMass Lowell political science professor John Wooding who hopes the Lowell Festival of Learning will lead to the city’s designation as the first UNESCO-designated Learning City in the United States.

The Learning Festival began Thursday night with a reception and lecture at the Mayor’s Reception Room at City Hall. In his opening remarks, Mayor William Samaras said Lowell has a great heritage of learning outside the walls of the classroom, citing the 100-year old Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series and the work of Dr. Patrick Mogan who called Lowell an “educative” city.

A delegation from Cork, Ireland, a current UNESCO City of Learning, was on hand to support Lowell’s effort, so Mayor Samaras was followed by John O’Halloran, the Deputy President of University College Cork, who urged Lowellians to aggressively pursue this opportunity and who explained that the people of Cork realized that learning happens in many places, both formal and informal. Embracing these opportunities makes “good people and good citizens.”

After the opening remarks came a lecture by Professor Mary Murphy of University College Cork’s political science department. The topic was “What Brexit Means for Ireland.” It was a fascinating review of the political, social, historic and economic repercussions of Brexit for the Republic of Ireland which will remain in the European Union and for the six counties of Northern Ireland which will accompany the United Kingdom out of the EU.

In the coming days I’ll write a separate post about Professor Murphy’s lecture, but she closed by placing the Brexit vote in the larger context of movements now sweeping Europe and the United States that speak to those “left behind by globalization.”

Richard Howe leading Lowell Walks tour along Pawtucket Canal

Other events that were part of the Festival of Learning included a panel discussion on the sustainable urban university; a bike maintenance workshop; a Lowell Walks history tour (led by me); a screening of the Lowell High documentary, “Days of Division;” a screening of the film, “Seed: the Untold Story;” a group bike ride; the Cambodian New Year Celebration; and today’s Earth Day parade.


Next Friday kicks off ArtWeek here in Lowell and across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Launched in 2013 by the Boch Center as a Boston-based celebration of creativity, the event expanded statewide in 2017.

In 2018, Lowell will be a full participant in ArtWeek with a dozen events including Lowell Walks tours on Saturday, April 28 and on Sunday, April 29, both at 1pm from Lowell National Park Visitor Center. The topic of both walks is City Hall Monuments. The 90-minuted guided walk will visit the many civic and ethnic monuments on the grounds of and in the immediate vicinity of Lowell City Hall.

Also included in ArtWeek is Lowell’s annual Points of Light Floating Lantern Celebration which takes place Saturday, April 28 from 6 to 10 pm at Ecumenical Plaza (282 Suffolk Street). Launched last year as one of the most exciting new events in Lowell, Points of Light allows attendees to decorate floating water lanterns that are then launched into the Western Canal as darkness falls. Throughout the celebration, musical and dance groups will provide entertainment and businesses and cultural groups will sell food and treats, all in the heart of the Acre neighborhood.

Marie Sweeney with co=bloggers (from left) Paul Marion, Richard Howe and Tony Accardi

Honoring Marie Sweeney

On Friday, April 27, 2018, at 6 pm, The Brush Gallery & Studio will honor Marie Sweeney for her service to Lowell’s cultural community. The event will feature a panel discussion with Marty Meehan, president of University of Massachusetts; Lewis Karabatsos of the Lowell Historical Society; Janet Leggat, former director of Lowell Festival Foundation; and Karen Frederick of Community Teamwork. Entertainment will be provided by Ralph Funaro and by Fermata Nowhere, a UMass Lowell women’s a capella group. Tickets are available online.

Lowell: A Greater Gateway

Over the past several months, the city of Lowell has joined with Urban Planning students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to conduct research and community outreach to help suggest ways to make Lowell a more welcoming place for all, especially new immigrants and refugees.

On Monday, April 23 from 6 to 8 pm at the Lowell Senior Center at 276 Broadway, the students will showcase their work in a science fair-style event that will include an overview of the group’s research in housing, transportation, the environment, urban design, economic development and more. The event is free and open to the public.

Crisis in Cameroon

Fru Nkimbeng provided a recent update on the crisis in his native Cameroon which is located in Central Africa. Once a German colony, Cameroon was divided between the French and the British after World War I. While Cameroon achieved independence in the late 20th century, the French/English division persisted, not only linguistically, but also legally and politically. The divide has grown worse in recent years as the French-speaking majority has systematically oppressed the English-speaking minority.

Many Lowell residents are from Cameroon or are descendants of Cameroons. In 2002, Lowell became a sister-city of Bamenda, the leading city in the English-speaking portion of the country. In 2017, the Lowell City Council passed a resolution condemning human rights abuses by the Cameroonian government. More recently, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution condemning the human rights record of the French-speaking government in Cameroon.

On Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 6pm at UTEC at 35 Warren Street, the Southern Cameroons of New England will hold a fundraiser for refugee support. The main speaker at this event will be Professor Patrice Nganang of Princeton University, a Cameroonian-American writer, poet and social activist.

Eileen Donoghue, Steve Panagiotakos, Phil Shea – 3 former state senators from Lowell in 2014.

City Manager Donoghue

With no city council meeting this past week, City Manager Eileen Donoghue had some extra time to prepare for her first council meeting which will be this coming Tuesday night, April 24. The agenda for that meeting includes a number of votes by the council including one related to the land swap with the National Park Service for the Hamilton Canal District, several subcommittee reports, and nine council motions. Check back here on Monday morning to read Mimi Parseghian’s council meeting preview.

Lowell High seems to have grabbed much of Donoghue’s attention since becoming City Manager ten days ago. Back on April 12, she attended the community meeting on the new Lowell High project at which she gave an update on the field house gas leak that cause the school to close to students for three days right before April vacation. Then Friday there was a City Hall press conference on that same topic. According to the Lowell Sun, Donoghue announced that the three gas heating units in the field house will be replaced with new units at a cost of $255,000. The work will be done after school hours and may take up to seven weeks to complete.

The Sun also reported that there will be a public meeting of the city’s School Building Committee on Monday, April 30 at which the three downtown high school options will be reviewed, and that the city council is expected to vote on the recommendation of the local School Building Committee the following night at the May 1st Lowell City Council meeting.


Thanks for reading. This year I’m running for reelection as Register of Deeds of the Middlesex North District. Please consider making an online donation to help my candidacy.

Dick Howe