Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 121]: Maura Healey, what a doll!

Our fair Massachusetts Attorney General lady is no wallflower, that’s for sure. Assault weapons, corporate corruption, saving the environment: she continues to have her say on the big topics — and nobody even needs to ask!

She’s a firecracker, that Maura Healey. Imagine if you could package all that ambition into a gift for the holidays?

Ah, but you don’t have to — that’s what Hitch is here for. Check it out.

Kanjia: Why Gambia’s president may refuse to leave despite election loss

The Gambia had been ruled by Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who served initially as prime minister then as the republic’s first president, for more than 30 years.

Augustine Kanjia

The country’s main political party was the People’s Progressive Party [PPP]. From the mid-1960s to the early ’90s the country was relatively quite stable and citizens accepted the status quo. Gambians were very proud of their country and had no will for political change. Peace was plentiful. The country was safe.

But since the July 1994 overthrow of Jawara — the legitimate president, re-elected in 1992 — by then army Lt. Yahya Jammeh, the country has become confused, more corrupt and paralyzed by one person.

The nation recently conducted an election which, as usual, Jammeh was expected to win easily — his confidence in winning again this time likely stemmed from the fact he’d jailed his main opposition, Oinou Darboeusa, for protesting on the street before the election. In fact, President Jammeh was accused, regularly, of rigging elections (including by Darboe, who’d lost to Jammeh in 2011).

Jammeh got the surprise of his life after the Dec. 1 general elections. He at first congratulated his opponent, Adama Barrow, and offered advice, but Jammeh later changed his mind and has since refused to hand over the presidency. The struggle continues.

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Gambia’s first president, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara

Augustine Kanjia, who spent years uncovering corruption as a refugee journalist in Gambia during Jammeh’s rule, examines what Jammeh might be thinking, what’s next for the West African nation, and how America’s electoral issues pale in comparison to those in Gambia.

The people of Gambia for 22 years have been living in fear under President Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, who has earned the title Dictator. Who dares to talk loud where one is never sure if the person next to you is a government informant? Year after year, Gambians have become more fearful of Jammeh. When his name is heard on the streets, many look over their shoulders.

Stearns Tavern

Editorial: In praise of a community that came to the rescue

It’s right there at 140 Mill St., on the corner of Mill and Coes. It’s large by comparison, but does not look out of place.

It’s surrounded by fence and retains visible scars from its most recent ordeal.

In a few years time, when the Stearns Tavern is the centerpiece of a city park, we suspect and fear the details of how the historic building was saved from destruction may become just a footnote. This would be a shame.

While the continued development of downtown Worcester has garnered much well-deserved recognition this year, we believe the effort to save Stearns Tavern merits more attention, truly showcasing community at its best.

Mariano: Flag burning is a very emotional issue

Editor’s note: Please continue to enjoy this free preview of the Sun’s newest feature, and be sure to check back in coming weeks to find out how you can keep on reading Worcester’s best commentary without becoming a Sun member when the preview ends.

Ray Mariano

Ray Mariano

Growing up in the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, protests, some involving flag burning, occurred with some frequency. At that time, people felt their government leaders were lying to them. They were angry and their emotions were boiling over.

I was never comfortable with burning the American flag. Even as a young protester, burning the flag seemed the exact opposite of the point we were trying to make.

Most of us were saying that we loved our country and it was because we loved it that we expected more from our leaders. I always thought that we should have raised the flag high and let leaders know that this was OUR country.

As a young elected official, I remember being confronted with the issue. As the City Council was considering whether to pass some sort of law prohibiting flag burning, I turned to my dad for advice.

Sina-cism: Time for Jill Stein to go back to Town Meeting

As a fundamentally friendly and open-minded guy, I really wanted to like Jill Stein and her Green Party. I favor competition, whether in business, life, sports or politics. Many, myself included, had hoped for a viable third party in the recent election.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

Moreover, I view candidates and parties as continuing forces whose fortunes and ideas rise and fall. Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater stood no chance in 1964, for example, but played a huge role in shaping Ronald Reagan’s victory 16 years later.

But I am done flirting with Jill Stein — and I’ve never even met the woman. At least, I don’t think I have. At some point during my tenure as a mild-mannered reporter, columnist and editorial writer for a once-great metropolitan newspaper I may have crossed paths with her. If so, neither database nor diary hints of it.

The end of the would-be intellectual affair was confirmed by the recount debacle that Stein engineered in the wake of the 2016 election. But the warning signs have been there for some time.

Randell: OPEB contributions leave much to be desired

How do you feel about the city touting $2.1 million in contributions now knowing the liability increased more than $78 million in one year?” Bill Randell doesn’t feel great about it, that’s for sure. Find out why.

Editorial: Worcester Art Museum’s new gallery shows its mettle

Three years ago, Higgins Armory on Barber Avenue gently closed its ornate old doors. Years of financial strain had finally forced the museum to surrender.

As heartbreaking as that was — the armory was a labor of love for more than 80 years and a thoroughly Worcester original — there was a glimmer of good news.

The Worcester Art Museum agreed to take in the core Higgins collection, and promised to do all it could to properly care for and showcase the magnificent treasures. The art museum even said it would take pains in the coming years to incorporate armory items into its existing holdings, displaying pieces together in order to tell a fuller cultural story than either of the two museums could do on their own.

WAM, which is unveiling its revamped Medieval Galleries this weekend, has been as good as its word.

There’s chivalry on Salisbury Street — and swords, shields, and gleaming suits of armor. And museum officials promise more progress in their embrace of the Higgins collection in the years ahead.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 120]: Let it grow! Let it grow! Let it grow!

You don’t need Ebenezer Scrooge’s tortured soul to take an enlightening peek into Christmas future.

Just take a downtown Worcester stroll, maybe make your way down to the Canal District, where visions of sugarplumbs and pot brownies may soon be dancing in neighbors’ heads. On the bright side, your holiday shopping will for sure — maybe as soon as next winter — be much more interesting.

Meantime, Hitch pounds the pavement for this year’s perfect gift.

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 28: The Kanjias’ First Snow

We were put in a hotel when we first arrived, since no house was ready for us. To me, Worcester looked like the cleanest city in the world. I loved it.

I felt the hotel would be our home for a while, but it was only for three days. The children and I would leave the room to look at the trees that beautified the place like flowers. Flowers were not visible then, it was the colorful tree leaves that showed. Yes! It was fall — a season I would learn more about — and the leaves had changed colors. Our case worker, Chris Lamboi, was also from Sierra Leone. We thought he was going to be a very good source for development and enlightenment into American life.

Our apartment was ready, Chris came to tell us. I could not believe we were already leaving our luxurious room. Our bundles were not much; I had acquired nothing to bring over here. I had a few books and my neckties. And my photo album. Theresa, my wife, would tease me, saying, “You take delight [only] in [old] photos, addresses and phone numbers.”

This place was very cold for us, and we had no heavy clothes for it. We huddled in the corner of the room and waited for Chris to come back and take us home. Once he picked us up, we drove across the city, looking everywhere. My two kids asked me loads of questions. I didn’t know what to say, except to make up answers from what I’d learned.

For example, Mary asked, “Daddy, what seasons do they have here?” I tried to say what I knew. I said with confidence (but not in correct sequence), “Summer, winter and spring. We have the dry and wet seasons” in West Africa.

Our new house was on Ellsworth Street, not far from Kelley Square. The traffic was quite confusing. I had never seen such crazy traffic like Kelley Square, with no traffic lights. That was not my worry because I had never seen a traffic light in Sierra Leone. In Senegal and Gambia, sure, but never in my homeland.

Chris spent a long time talking big during our ride. He said he had been driving in Worcester for ages with no accident record, and that Kelley Square was no trouble for him. But we sat at the intersection for more than 10 minutes waiting for Chris to drive through. At last, we were free. It was evening.

Augustine’s last chapter: Goodbye, Gambia Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 34]: The gift of reflection

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Giselle Rivera-Flores

The holidays are officially here, and while many people are out enjoying their gift shopping and hot cocoa sipping, maybe even relaxing by the fireplace after a long day at work, I am frantically wondering, “How the hell am I going to get this all done?”

Work has become life. It gets harder and harder to turn off that Woopreneur switch inside. Finding a balance between work and life has been a struggle from the beginning of this journey, and while I often do well fitting both business and leisure time into my day, it’s becoming increasingly hard to do.

The struggle, though, helps remind me that above all, family comes first. I try to remember that to achieve professionally, we must achieve personally. Creating memories and building upon the foundations of what is important to our family is an essential part of happy success.

Considering the time of year, I want to give my fellow entrepreneurs some friendly advice about surviving the holidays and getting work done before it’s time to put on that ugly sweater.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The original Woopreneur, or scroll down to explore more of her story