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Posts Tagged ‘life’

I chanced upon Kicha’s Black History website while researching an African American architect who lived during the late 1800s into early 1900s. I was finding lots of words providing context about the African American experience during this period but very few images until I came across her galleries.

Her unique collection is a moving reminder of the power of images to document the stories of people and places that might otherwise be forgotten.

I highly recommend taking time to peruse the site  and view the wide range of photos and their accompanying text. You can scroll through individual photos or browse different albums.

The photos were taken by different photographers.  They capture a beauty and dignity as well as diversity not always depicted in today’s historical narratives about the African American experience or in most popular media recreations of the time period.

While I don’t know the website creator’s story, I say bravo to what she has pulled together.  I think the site does something important by presenting pictures of an American experience that many may not know but may be important to rediscover and celebrate as we continue to define who we are in this melting pot of a nation.

View Kicha’s Black History galleries:  http://www.ipernity.com/home/285591

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Blues 1

Blue Rose in the Hall

Maybe it was fear that made the young men shout “Nooooo!” as I stood next to a For Sale sign in front of a house in a suburb outside of Boston.  Fear of change, fear of something different coming into their midst.  And maybe it was fear that made a woman look me up and down as I questioned her entrance into a building (part of my job at the time).  As she left the building she made sure to look at me in that same way and I had to think, “Well, if looks could kill, I’d be six feet under.” And maybe it was fear that made the waitress do some things during a meal, such that once I’d left the restaurant with my friend (whose favorite restaurant it was), she said, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t expect that to happen.”

Now if I were to say that all of those fairly recent events happened, in part, because all the other individuals were white and I am black … well, I think there are folks who might say, as is often said today, why does everything have to be attributed to race?  Because race does matter.  As does class, gender, and economics. It all matters.  But here’s why race stands out for me:  slavery. “Slavery ended,” someone said to me once. “Why keep bringing that up?”

Born in the 1970s USA, I have never been a slave.  I have never been shackled or forced to give up a child or beaten if I tried to put pen to paper or pick up a book.  I’ve never stood in a market while an overseer pointed out my attributes so that someone might buy me as a companion for their children or an extra servant in the kitchen.  Never needed to carry papers proving freedom (or ownership), nor been branded, or had to hope that my master would free our children in his will.

As former slaves did about 150 years ago, I’ve never been in a position of celebrating freedom and, on the other hand, having to deal with the realities of having little but the clothes on my back and waiting for forty acres and a mule.  Never had to deal with “separate but equal” or segregated schools (my older brothers did who were born in the 1950s and 1960s).  Never been in a position or location where I had the right to vote but other forces, those perhaps suffering from fear of change, were putting strategies into place to prevent me from voting (my parents dealt with that).

Nor have I had to watch a loved one (or even a stranger) brutally beaten, mutilated, hung from a tree or a telephone pole, and burned.  I’ve heard a few stories from older family, watched the documentaries and read quite a few articles.  When I read the stories of lynching, especially in old newspapers recently digitized, and see the images, I cry.  I cry for the people who died, the people who watched and tried to help, and even for the people who watched and did nothing.  I did wonder what the people who did nothing were thinking? And what about the people who sang and danced and even cut off parts for souvenirs or mailed those parts to white politicians trying to effect some change?

For some, did the actions they witnessed mean nothing because the people to whom the deeds were done looked nothing like them?  Or was it just that they did not know what to do? Were some people truly scared or were they simply seeking pleasure in establishing control over another?  All of those incidents are part of the fabric of this country, as are the people, of all races and backgrounds, who fought to end slavery, the people who fought to end routine lynchings and the people who continue to fight for economic and voting rights for all people.

Yes, I do indeed bring up slavery and other injustices from the so-called past because of present-day incidents like in Ferguson.   Slavery is an institution, one of many, that this country has yet to deal with. I don’t care about politics or how people choose to identify themselves in this country as Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Libertarian and so on.   Political labels and tenets change over time.  But what about human behavior?  How has that changed over time?  Or has it?  Why do we treat people the way that we do?

You can “follow the money” in terms of why slavery was entrenched in this country for so long.  Economics, economics, economics.  In too many venues of late, I have read people saying stop talking about race and focus on the economic issues in a Ferguson.  Of course, economics is an issue and powerful factor leading to injustices happening in many communities.  But it comes down to a bit more than money to treat people as inferior or to hear their screams of pain and laugh or to make assumptions about their children’s ability to learn regardless of resources provided for education.  And it is about more than economics to see all those things taking place around you and to do nothing. To some extent, I feel little right to judge others because I do not always know what to do as I learn about the horrors around me, in this country and abroad.  I do know with regard to slavery and the seeds that were planted that continue to sprout, I do not want to forget.

I’ve been researching the past, including slave times, quite a bit of late for various projects as well as to better understand current events.  In the remembering, and rediscoveries, I don’t come to hate people who look different than me.  Not at all.  A part of me mourns.  I mourn the horrors, and I also celebrate the courage of so many different peoples, their hopes, their activism and their creativity in finding the beauty in this life.  And I celebrate such in the people who are active today.

As a final note in my Sunday ramblings, if you chose to read so far, … I came upon a 1920s newspaper article about a lynching. The reporter recounted that witnesses heard the dying man sing a song with his last breaths as the flames consumed him.  I looked up the song and came upon the following 1950s rendition by Sam Cooke.  A powerful piece.

 

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Spring will come! Meanwhile, here are a few projects that I’m working on.

1. New postcards coming to the Trinity Church Bookshop.  Most of my previous images have focused on details of the stained glass windows.  These new images highlight the wall paintings, murals and the interesting play of winter light across the unique architectural features of the building.

2. Moving forward with the InterludesInterludes is a collection of historical vignettes composed of words and images relating in someway to the life journey of Joseph A. Horne (1911-1987).  My research into his life began, in part, out of curiosity sparked by stories that he’d told his son and his son would later share with me.

Researching his life became a walk through history as I learned about orphan trains, immigration, the Depression, the Farm Security Administration, photography used at home and in war, and then there was the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives program.  What a delight to share with his son, “Hey, did you know your dad was one of the Monuments Men?”

In addition to my main chapters, there are “interlude extras.”  Please check out previous posts here:  interludes TOC.  Coming soon Mr. Horne’s correspondence in the 1940s and 1950s with photographic historian and collector, Dr. Erich Stenger, and the complexities of operating the Offenbach Archival Depot.

3. Collecting and Sharing “Lost” Stories. It’s not so much that most of the stories are lost.  I just think that some portions of these stories could be more widely known.

For instance, it’s not so much sharing the technical story of this stained glass window designed by Frederic Crowninshield in the 1880s (which was sadly dismantled in the 1950s).  What I’m looking forward to sharing is the story of the remarkable Bostonian for whom the window was created and whose legacy is still being felt today.

I’m also looking forward to sharing even a small portion of the story of an African American architect who started out designing stained glass in the late 1800s before moving on to design buildings, and even starting an architecture department, before his death in the late 1920s.  Researching this man’s life has opened my eyes to the role of African Americans in architecture.  It has also given me a new perspective on the complexities of life, within and across ethnicities, as America forever dances (and fences) with the idea of becoming a “melting pot.” Stay tuned.

4. More Food Photography.  Well, when you’re stuck in a “snow globe” after many successive snowstorms, and your favorite place to work at home is the warm kitchen, you can start to have a lot of fun photographing food.  We’ll see what the rest of this wintry culinary season has to hold for me and my camera.

chive sprouts

chive sprouts

Moro

Moro

That’s the scoop. Stay warm!

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in a recycled carry out container grows pea sprouts that are quite tasty with tomatoes and hummus.  In the gold goblet, upland cress is hopefully germinating.  Their sprouts from a previous harvest were quite fine on smoked salmon.  And I think in the clay pots I planted some combination of sunflowers and a spicy mesclun mix.  The sun shines on them bright so we’ll see what happens next. And, meanwhile, outside and down below, that same sun shines intense on a landscape covered in ice and snow.

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Oh, yeah, that’s me.  During this merry month I was born.  While I do not tend to shout that information about, it does give me a unique opportunity to share images of the people who brought me into this complicated, beautiful world.  I still have this dress.  It’s a soft pink, many layered affair, with a pink silk ribbon at the neck.  Of all the outfits I must have worn as a baby, it is the only one my mother kept.  As it hung in her closet until the day she died, it now hangs in my closet on its small white hanger.  I keep contemplating getting it framed.

In this image, my mother sits with one of her sisters.  When this image was taken, I do not know.  Probably early 1950s, well before I was born.  And this is her in the 1960s, I think.

She never dressed this way around me.  I think raising four children can wear a person down.  Thank goodness, she was persistent.

Here’s my dad as a little boy during the 1930s, and then twenty years later serving in the Korean War.

I heard he could have quite the temper as a young man but I only knew of him as a gentle soul and the person who would eat anything I put into his hands, even a Milky Way candy bar where I had licked away all of the chocolate.

Pop

When I was little I asked my parents questions about the stars in the sky and never really asked about how they met.  I’ve heard rumors that my mother set sights on him before he set sights on her. He was interested in one of her sisters but somehow my mom managed to be around whenever he came visiting.  Lucky for me.

By the time I came along there were two big brothers who were kind enough to keep an eye on me and the little fellow who followed not quite two years later.

What more is there to share? Well, as an adult I am notorious for finding the bright side, and I think it is in part because I had such a bright childhood with so many good people around me helping me laugh.

I’m grateful to have these photos to share and to help me hold onto the memories.

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… mad at some things that had happened around me.  Things that were kind of like bits of straw raining down upon a camel’s back.  What I felt was certainly legit but I also felt myself getting angrier than I needed to be.  I wanted to redirect that anger. A long walk, my method of choice, was out of the option because of the cold.  Yet I was determined not to do what I remember my mom having penchant for doing which was to sit in a literal and figurative dark place.  I was not ready to talk about what was bothering me.  There were no words quite formed for me to write.  What do do, what to do.  I decided to follow the advice I sometimes give to others when they tell me that they are tired of talking or that they cannot write (“I don’t know how to write. You’re the writer!”).  What do I suggest?  Draw.  So, I sat down to draw.  Now I almost stopped myself.  Why? Because I can’t draw.  Yes, I’ve dabbled in this that and the other thing but really even with the help of a ruler, I can’t make a straight line!  Then I took a deep breath and decided not to worry about straight lines. Curves can be cool.

As for what to draw … now I’ve been having this ongoing conversation with one of my little postcard penpals.  He’s my four-year old nephew living down in Virginia.  I’ve been sending him pictures of birds and squirrels and such.  He’s tasked with drawing me a fish.  Or a school of fish.  Maybe a shark.  As I sat at my desk in the bright sunlight, I drew fish for him and for myself, bright colored, imperfect, smiling fish.  My anger did not disappear but it came into perspective.  I have not sent the fishy bookmarks to the little guy.  I want to give him time to draw his fish for me and for himself in whatever colors of the rainbow he decides.

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Two of my favorite phrases that help me get through some days. 😉

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