February is Black History Month in the United States…a time to focus on the contributions and achievements of African Americans not only in the past, but to hear stories of those who are still with us, still writing their stories. George O. Davis is such a person. Part of his work involves helping to expose museum visitors to the stories of others.
00:43—Davis’s Pathway to CAAM ==========
22:23—Rundown of the museum’s features and a few current exhibits. By the time this episode drops, a couple of those will be on their last days. Here is a link list that includes information on the artists mentioned in this episode and exhibit dates:
SOMEWHERE IN THE DMV—Why in theeee WORLD does it sometimes take friends and family coming to visit before I venture out and about the these D.C., Maryland and Virginia streets?
When friends say they are coming into town and that they’d like to visit some spots around the city, that’s when I usually remember “OMG, I have zero idea what to show them!”
And then the internal questions: Should I show them this place? Should I show them that spot? Should I take them here… Or what about there? Will they think this is fun… Or will they fall asleep standing up?
That was a recent predicament before a pal of mine came to town for business. Now, lookie here: I have lived in this area for a decade. And when Friend conveyed a desire to see parts of the town, I drew a blank.
It’s that whole idea of living somewhere for so long, you eventually slack off on exploring new local terrain on your own…and when you do, it’s because family member or pal visits the area. Well, maybe this isn’t your issue, so I won’t put my -ish on you, lol.
After wheel-traipsing around the National Mall monuments in pouring nighttime rain, and with more showers in the forecast, looking into an indoor activity option seemed a better bet for our next brief jaunt. Driving around trying to see the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the MLK Memorial can be pretty awe inspiring past the Golden Time of Day, but isn’t the best during inclement weather. Washington Monument is best for a drive-by view… but one needs to walk up to the Lincoln and MLK memorials to get the full visual and inspirational experience. T’wasn’t happening that weekday night.
I’ve seen the Obamas’ portraits reproduced online, so it really didn’t occur to me to visit them in person. But I figured Friend would want to see them—and I was right!
So we had a National touristy mission: to see the images of POTUS 44 and Michelle Obama, get to the MLK memorial if it wasn’t raining too hard, and to the airport. But I’m not here to talk about all of that—just the Gallery.
The Portrait Gallery is located in the Penn Quarter of D.C., which overlaps with the historic Chinatown neighborhood. The Gallery is right across the street from a major Metro stop (Gallery Place/Chinatown) and across from the Capital One Arena and less than a mile from the National Mall. Its really easy to find… and a walk to the Mall might be nice for a spring day, sans rain.
Anyhoo, our mission at the Portrait Gallery was accomplished quick-fast, thanks to the greeters at the Gallery’s door—this older brotha and sista. He reminded me of a loving uncle who crafted creative cussing combinations—the same one who would offer me popsicles at each visit—even when I was thirty-damn years old. Brotha-Unc pointed us upstairs and to the right before we could even form our lips to ask. We all had a good laugh over that. Thanks, Brotha-Unc and Aunty-Ma’am.
Up the stairs and to the right—Brotha Unc’s directions were spot on… To the presidential portraits… and it wasn’t too hard to find a line of folks waiting to see 44’s up close—and to snap photos.
After taking in portraits of Bill Clinton, which is on loan to the museum (I really liked his), JFK, and quick-peeping those of Daddy and Dubya Bush, Jimmy Carter, and quick glances at folks like William Howard Taft and Ronald Reagan, it was on to Ms. Michelle. We left the presidential portraits through a pod of youth wearing MAGA hats, then through a diverse showing of humanity… up the stairs… to the right… and merging with a casually, but thickly scattered group—each person, dyad, triad or more waiting for turns to behold Michelle’s portrait.
The young-us sometimes say representation gives them life. Methinks I know what that means. I felt it when I saw the Obama’s portraits. It’s a buoyancy that allows the spirit to take flight and soar… or just stamps a cheesy grin or hallelujah shout into your soul.
Info: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. every day…well most days of the year.
If you go on Christmas Day, you’ll be SOL.
(Forgive me for that, Baby and Grownup Jesus…Amen.)
A one person play. Haven’t been to very many of these, and was a tad skeptical after accepting an opening night invitation to a production about the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
How in the world would a one-man play keep my attention for 90 minutes? I doubted it was possible. But I was open to the idea, else I wouldn’t have left home for Olney Theatre Center as the rain fell that evening.
Curiosity is what drove me through that rainfall. I wanted to see if I’d learn a little something-something new about the first black United States Supreme Court Justice. I had never seen a play about Thurgood Marshall. Never read a book about him either. Never have really done much study about him aside from Brown v. Board of education section in history books, and an occasional browsing of the Internet. Outside of that, my knowledge about this legal icon of the civil rights movement was paltry.
Didn’t know his first name was Thoroughgood before he shortened it to Thurgood.
Didn’t know he was married two times. Didn’t know his first wife died of cancer at age 44. Didn’t know they dealt with a few miscarriages.
I did know he went to Howard University because the University of Maryland law school didn’t admit tax-paying black folks because of their blackness. In place, ostensibly, was a separate but (not) equal facility for training black lawyers. Some tried to pass it off as good enough.
But it wasn’t. And Thurgood Marshall became a force of intention to change that by using the law as a weapon to achieve actual equal justice under the law instead of some oppressive, inequitable, pseudo-facsimile. After all, those words “Equal Justice Under Law” were (and still are) engraved into the front of the Supreme Court building.
The theater was cozy and intimate, and the actor who portrayed Marshall, Brian Anthony Wilson, managed to pull in this one-man-play doubter and convince her that even her (my) attention could be held for 90 minutes with one man talking the whole time.
And Justice Marshall’s theatrical mouthpiece reeled me in from start to finish. First he’s as an older gentleman, slightly lumbering and leaning on a cane, then memories spring forth along with a more animated, agile gait in tandem with lively words, Wilson-as-Marshall leads a trip back in time to his younger years.
Childhood in Baltimore.
Rejection by the University of Maryland School of Law.
Howard University Law days.
The footwork required to build what would become Brown v. Board of Education case.
Marriage and sacrifices.
His first wife’s death.
His second marriage and children.
Supreme Court appointment.
That’s a sketch of what the play covers in 90 minutes. However, there are so many events, solemn and defining moments, and slathers of good humor in between those lines. And a reminder, in my mind, that while the law can intentionally be used as a weapon to bring about justice for all, it can also be wielded, depending on the benched interpreter, as a weapon to roll back the march toward justice for all.
I hate to end on that depressing note, so I’ll end with a surprise:
As I left a post-play reception, I opened the doors on my way out of the main theater building. Two people were also opening the doors in the opposite direction.
Well, whaddya know? One of them was “Thurgood!” Or Brian Anthony Wilson. And he consented to a selfie! 🙂
Check it out Thurgood at Only Theatre Center! By: George Stevens, Jr. Directed by: Walter Dallas
July 19-August 20
Tickets: $55-$70. (Prices depend on selected day/time.)
Mark this event on your calendar, because it spans “from sea to shining sea.” National Park Week is your chance to partake in some of the United States’ national treasure sites, from beautiful natural locales, to spaces where a nation grappled over its past and its future, and pathways tread by those who sought liberty.
National Park Week runs April 15-23, 2017.
Visitors can enjoy free entry at every national park during the weekends that bookend National Park Week: April 15-16 and 21-23.
If you live in or are planning to visit Washington D.C., a newly restored National Historic Site will be open to peruse during the final weekend of National Park Week: The home of Carter G. Woodson, the man known as “The Father of Black History.” In 1915, Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History which is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Woodson purchased and lived in his home on 9th Street, Northwest near Q Street from 1922 until his death in 1950. Negro History Week, the precursor of Black History Month, was also established in 1926 while he lived and worked in this home.
The first of a three-phase revitalization project was being completed as Black History Month 2017 drew to a close.
“I know there was a significant amount of work done,” says Carter G. Woodson Home superintendent Tara Morrison.
Morrison says all of the bricks on the home’s facade were taken out, identified by location and catalogued. They were then repaired and placed in their original locations. Historic moldings, frames and decorative pieces were also removed, repaired an replaced. During the first phase of the restoration, fixing structural damage from natural happenings, such as the 2011 earthquake, were a first phase priority. Exhibit development and interpretation will happen during the next two phases.
Not only was the process of structural restoration a painstaking one, but Dr. Woodson painstakingly worked to increase popular consciousness about African American history, work which happened in this home on 9th Street, NW.
Woodson historian and author Pero Dagbovie describes it as a clearing house of historical information about black people.
“He would ship things to people throughout the country who would write him asking for materials on black history. Of course, it wasn’t like things are today where you can just go on the Internet and download anything you want. He singlehandedly launched this movement from this space…”
Dr. Woodson dedicated his life to this mission.
“I mean on average, they say he worked about 18 hour days and didn’t sleep a whole lot, and committed his entire life to popularizing and legitimizing the study of black history at a time when African American history in the broader American society and academy was not seen with great respect, and he used to refer to this movement, this black history movement as a life and death struggle, literally,” Dagbovie says.
Dr. Woodson’s home will be open on April 21-23, the final days of National Park Week. Space is limited. Call (202) 690-5152 to make a reservation, or visit the Carter G. Woodson Home site for more information.
Home is where the heart is, so said someone somewhere. Home can be here, there or everywhere at once. Warmth is what my heart-cockles feel in those special hearthy-homey places and spaces.
For me, home conjures a desire for a warmer holiday season—specifically Christmas.
Memories of Laker games, concerts, tennis matches and hockey…
Familiar sites along the street—using utility poles to visually hawk wares and services…
Chicken joints I never frequented, but recall folks in the neighborhood swearing those fried fowls were the business!
The liquor store along a familiar street from my youth. For better or worse, booze barns speak every language in every neighborhood.
A memorial to local legends, the Beach Boys.
Their childhood home in Hawthorne, Calif. was demolished to make way for “The 105” or Glenn Anderson Freeway. But some folks got together to to memorialize the location where they crafted some of their works. This group—one to help change the musical landscape and put everyday parts of sunny Southern California on the map in some ways. I grew up not too far from that area. Never realized how close! I literally caught a bus one block south of their home while traveling to the local Hawthorne Mall (which has since closed down).
By the time I was born, I’m sure the neighborhood’s demographics had either significantly changed, or were about to. The Beach Boys’ tunes struck my fancy as a kid after I started listening to an oldies station in our area. Their songs sounded so light and airy. Whenever I want to steal away to a carefree bubble, I put their songs on. Whenever I want to feel appreciated for being a California Girl, I play that song… even though I can’t help but wonder if, in those days, that vision of beautiful ones included young ladies who look like me.
When I am out in the field for work, I usually gather way more than enough tape than I need to turn a story around. What a waste if I don’t at least try to use at least some more of what’s gathered to tell more of the story.
That’s the goal of Extra Tape… even though I’m not using tangible tape to record anything anymore.
So let’s get to the story… The rector of a congregation in Silver Spring, Md. arrived to church and found hate-based messages written in two places on the church campus. Both messages read “Trump Nation whites only.” This congregation and its supporters and allies are pushing back with love:
Montgomery County, Md. Police are investigating what they call “hate-based vandalism,” and are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest or arrests.