Local History Groups :: Lead Systemic Change

A Statement from Montgomery History
June 4, 2020
Montgomery History expresses its sincere condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others in our country who have lost loved ones and suffered from systemic racism. As an organization we are committed to using local history to build safer, more welcoming communities. We believe understanding and coming to terms with our history, including acknowledging past and present injustices, will help us move forward and realize the full potential of all the people who call Montgomery County, Maryland home.
Exploring our shared history, and the assumptions embedded within it, exposes a painful truth: the ideology of white supremacy did not die with the abolition of slavery. It festered and assumed new forms: Jim Crow laws, white terror lynchings, “separate but equal” practices, mass incarceration of African American men, housing discrimination, voter suppression, and violence against people of color. We must acknowledge that institutions traditionally associated with cultural memory, such as ours, have contributed to and supported white supremacist narratives in the past. So while some of the institutional structures of racism have been partially mitigated by legal rules, the root problem persists.
Montgomery History will continue to forge a new, more inclusive narrative that celebrates diversity and provides a platform for all voices to be heard. We ask that you join with us by offering your guidance and vision. Share with us your stories, your ideas, and your aspirations. We invite you to participate in telling the story of Montgomery County so that meaningful change, informed by our collective past, will emerge from our grief and disillusionment. We are optimistic that history will look back at this point in time and see a community that chose a path to the future rooted in empathy, mutual respect, and dignity.
-The Montgomery History Family
Admitting bias is first step. Thank you Montgomery History!
Will all the other U.S. cities and counties named Montgomery step up?
I was raised in Montgomery County, Maryland named for General Richard Montgomery a Major General in the Continental Army who was killed in 1775 during the Battle of Quebec during the American Revolutionary War.  There were other earlier Battles of Quebec during the French and Indian Wars.  I had to review these facts quickly.  Thank you Wikipedia !
 Could Montgomery History host a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon open to the community? During “Wiki-Thons” groups and individuals create content and upload open source photographs to Wikipedia during an intensive seminar that enhances learning resources about a particular subject.  The history, communities, demography and diversity of Montgomery County, Maryland could be just such a subject. Volunteer mentors from the community who are Wikipedians assist the content producers.
About Diversity
There are many people living in Montgomery County – perhaps all Americans, truth be told – who represent an array of all the world’s indigenous gene pool. It has long been known that proving “racial difference” is a fog of nonsense by pseudo-scientists, mostly male, to perpetuate their social and economic position. Scientific racism endures, as this 2006 research analysis states, published by the  McGill Journal of Medicine.
So, ‘fess up, admit it, everybody has many types and ties to different blood, genes and intellect.  We inherit these traits and markers individually from our ancestors, not as a group. If you missed out on learning Biology or were prohibited by a church sect or cult from learning  the Science of Evolution here is a glossary of terms related to genetic evolution.
Change Concepts :: Concept Changes
I am wondering, has Montgomery Historical Society or any historical society ever prepared an exhibition with a theme examining how we are all “colored people” ?
That was the polite term used to define and segregate citizens of all ages when I attended the Montgomery County Public School System in the 1950s. And there were other terms, bullying pejoratives that are still in trade.
Can the various community groups dedicated to supporting local history and honest, transparent education come together and consider a suggestion:  Look into the historical association’s photo archives – and those of other local organizations.  Seek out personal archives and collections dedicated to honoring historical documentation. Discover an array of materials that highlight the concept that “Blue, Black, Purple, Yellow, Red and Brown People are Normal People” are “We the People”.
The June 4, 2020 Statement at the top of this posting was sent by email; I could not find it on the Montgomery History website.  As alluded to in the Statement, over the years, it is possible that intransigent curators and managers at the Montgomery Historical Society routinely ignored or did not actively search for images, oral history transcripts, artifacts and newspaper content that depict the normal day to day interaction of all kinds of local Montgomery County residents and visitors. Oh, except during Black History Month of course.
Or, they did, but few know about it.  Admitting past bias is not enough. Though it is encouraging that the message was crafted and distributed.
Controversy and Disruptive Innovation :: If not now, when?
Has Montgomery History already mounted such an exhibition, created videos or amassed such a truthful resource as I describe?  I admit, I have visited only once, in the late 1970s and saw the entrenched, staid focus on polite and white insular society. Has Montgomery History or the Maryland Historical Society ever offered an educational product or display exposing the rancid KKK and disguised fraternal supremacist groups that continue to exist in the county and state and country?
Has Montgomery History ever offered a program exposing the history of institution-based perpetuation of supremacy, which continues in these times?
When I participated in USG cybersecurity training and disruptive innovation simulations a decade ago, I learned that walking the perceived tightrope mindfully with a willingness to accept vilification, criticism and temporary failure during the process.  Discord with positive intentions can bring a group into creative change and social advancement. History Societies could lead honest and transparent public education.
Resources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto for TIFF and Fashion

 

Toronto at Night
Toronto at Night

 

 

 

The last time I enjoyed the  brisk bright nightlife district in Toronto, I was writing a story for Washington Flyer, an airport customer magazine.

 

 

 

On this recent trip,  my visit overlapped the opening week of TIFF  — Toronto International Film Festival — a bit like Cannes without the huff and Hollywood.

TIFF logoWe join the ecelictic mix of late night party mammals at the top of  Mr. Trump‘s hotel where the cocktail napkins are emblazoned with a large $ symbol.     The barman was studying for an exam, we guessed, since he was slow to loosen up and was consulting a book.

 

In the elevator going down, the vapid girl-star from the vampire flicks was nosing her thumbs into a crack berry while an assistant in a too-tight denim jacket worked media appointments on her mobile.  The big ‘ole body guard was Russian, Serb or Tra-jikastan.

Over at Four Seasons bar, the vibe was easier, but we didn’t like seeing the drink maker fish olives from the jar with his fingers.  Please!

In front of TIFF headquarters, people with and without tickets milled around in amoebic clumps, seeing and being the scene. On another day I went to Queen St. East (way East) to Jac Flash to buy  poppy strewn skinny jeans. tiff sked

At KitKat/Club Lucky  the mood is casual and off-hand chic.  Downstairs is a familiar bar; upstairs explosed brick walls, red check table cloths, cigars and single malt.  A tuxedo-wearing tenor from the London cast of Phantom might serenade the birthday girl at his table to exhuberant applause from the whole room gets into the act.  The scene for cigars and single malt.

The Old  Front St. neighborhood of downtown Toronto centers on St. Lawrence Market.  The two buildings — one 19th century, one modern — are crammed with food vendors, purveyors of gourmet bottled goods and the foodie crowd angling in for a free taste. Back in the day the market was a lot more earthy and real with Italian sons of butchers hollering out to visitors, ‘buy our sausage, not from the next guy’.

Approach the Cathedral Church of St. James, 106 King St. E. from the south through the Market Square courtyard and sculpture garden for a memorable prospect of the 306 foot tower and spire, the tallest in North America after St. Patrick’s in New York City.  2954699 city-photos.org

End the day at the ornate, opulent and sensually engaging Winter Garden. It’s all that a theatre should be.  Colored lights hang from the ceiling, real and artificial branches suspended on high create the effect of stepping into a midsummer’s night dream extending from the stage to the back of the house. I saw the interior of this theatre with a CBC radio reporter back in the day when dedicated preservation groups worked to save it from the developer’s wrecking ball. So glad it was saved.

Alien Weeds

Patterson Clark shared his harvesting and art making processes at the Annual Meeting of the Audubon Naturalist Society last week at Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

I admire his dedication and inventiveness.  Take a look at his brilliant art made of weed pulp paper and essence of weed ink, plus a ferocious amount of creative energy.

In my own quest to help native plants, I  usually pull Lonicera japonica out of the trees or bushes it is choking and weave  the vines into baskets.

Lonicera japonica aka honeysuckle.

More information:

Urban Jungle column in Washington Post

Invasive  Plant Species in the Mid-Atlantic – National Park Service

Japanese Calligraphy :: National Geographic Society

National Geographic Society

1145 17th St. NW, Washington DC

Workshop on Calligraphy

July 8, 2012, 1 to 3 pm

The workshop opened with a discussion and projected slides that explained the differences between Western Hemisphere and Eastern Hemisphere calligraphy and writing. The way language itself is represented by these different geographic areas reflects their approaches to writing down the concepts or things expressed.

The Western Hemisphere relies on alphabets that are combined in various ways to express words that represent concepts or objects.  The Eastern Hemisphere, at least in China, Japan, Korea and other areas where Chinese culture influenced social evolution, relies on characters or symbols to represent concepts and things, often these characters are based on pictographs.  For example, the character for “mountain” looks like E turned on its spine, with the three upward spikes representing mountain peaks.

Chinese characters are called Kangi and came to Japan in the 3rd century C.E.  In Japan, these characters have been simplified visually and organized structurally to match the phonetic letters or combinations used in Japanese spoken language.  This occurred in about the 8th century C.E. and the Japanese call their characters Kana.

The function of calligraphy is also different in the two hemispheres.  In the West, the emphasis is on hand-lettering for inscriptions, decorative scrolls and ceremonial documents or occasions.  In the East the design of the word and the spirit of the word or character are considered more important when it is expressed in writing.

Training differs too:  In the West, penmanship is on the decline.  In the East, school children practice writing characters all through their primary education and scholars practice calligraphy as a zen mental relaxation exercise.

The principal styles of calligraphy in the East are: tensho, the seal script used for official purposes; the reisho script for clerical work; the kaisho for regular use; the gyosho which is semi-cursive; and the sosho which is cursive.  There is also a running style which is a very fast cursive script.  The cursive calligraphy is nearly unreadable and mostly serves as artistic decoration or design on paper.

The Tools used in Eastern calligraphy are called the “Four Treasures” and are:  natural hair brushes set in bamboo “stems”, mulberry paper, ink stick and ink stone. Mulberry paper is quite thin and until a certain level of skill is developed, students should use newsprint to practice writing ink calligraphy.  Ink sticks are made from soot remaining from burned wood or coal.  The ink stone is a shaped stone on which ink and water are mixed for the calligrapher’s use.

Our workshop assignment is to practice the characters that express the Seven Virtues of the Samuri:  Loyalty, Honor, Honesty, Respect, Benevolence, Courage, and Rectitude.  We will also practice the character for Forever which includes all the various brush directions and line weights that a calligrapher needs to learn.  The workshop leader explains the development and brush strokes for each of these characters.

While Eastern Hemisphere calligraphy is usually written from top to bottom, right to left, accommodations have been made for novice calligraphers from the Western tradition and we may write our characters left to right.

Seated at long tables covered with plastic, we each receive a little ink in a plastic dish, a natural hair brush in a bamboo “stick” and several sheets of newsprint paper and a mulberry paper with grid markings to help us properly align the character brush strokes.  We also receive a very helpful model of the characters that represent the Seven Virtues of the Samuri with the strokes marked in numerical order for correct duplication.

We watched Ms. Lok demonstrate the proper way to hold a brush and approach the paper.  She demonstrated writing each of the eight characters we would be practicing.

Then, for the next 45 minutes, the room was silent while adults and children, parents and their kids, and several single adults practiced writing Kana and learned the character virtues of a Samuri.  The writing was achieved by paying attention to the meaning built into the brush strokes that become characters representing the virtues.

As part of my year-long Mandarin language training program in 2007-2008, I had to write Chinese characters every day, but we were using pens or pencils for this activity on gridded paper, which is very different from freehand brush calligraphy.  While I have studied Italic calligraphy and am familiar with brush work from my art training and practice, I had not approached Eastern calligraphy before.  Therefore, I was a near-novice, just like everyone else in the class.  It was gratifying to see that nearly everyone managed to approach the calligraphy and focus on the spirit of the characters while also following the guidelines shown for the order of the brush strokes.

The workshop leader Ms. Lok, and her assistant (her son), walked around and helped anyone who needed specific guidance. The workshop offered special insight into the language and visual representation of Japanese and its mother language, Chinese.   The workshop was interesting, completely engaging and an appropriate length for adults or children.  The children in the audience were attentive and well behaved. A workshop aimed just at children might have less background and more practice. Some of the adults assisted each other and Ms. Lok spent time with each participant demonstrating the finer points of brush control. An excellent experience by all parameters.

The Eye Has to Travel

At Silver Docs a few days ago, during the Documentary Film Festival at AFI in Silver Spring, I swooned over this film DV:The Eye Has to Travel about Diana Vreeland.  She was the editrix-empress of Vogue, long before the Devil Wears Prada.  The director of the documentary answered questions after the screening and revealed she is married to one of Vreeland’s grandchildren the access to contacts and family archives was fluid.  Said the film project grew out of a book she was already working on.  The images are fab — wry, witty commentary on the 1960s and 70s.

Ceret :: On the Mediterranean Coast

Colors of Catalonia
by Virginie Raguenaud

My friend Virginie Raguenaud is publishing this wonderful book about the artists who painted in    Catalonia.  I can’t wait to read it!

At the end of my trek across France through the Pyrénées Mountains, I rested in Ceret and sketched the fishing boats and old seaside buildings.  When I left town, I boarded a train in Ceret and transferred to another heading east across Provence.  During the interlude waiting for the long distance train, I marveled at the scenes around the  train station in  Perpignan which Salvador Dali dubbed the center of the world.

U.S. Flags and Henry Miller’s Air-Conditioned Nightmare

“It has become so to-day that when you see the flag boldly and proudly displayed you smell a rat somewhere. The flag has become a cloak to hide iniquity. We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it it means danger, revolution, anarchy. ”

Henry Miller portrait from Library of Congress.

Author Henry Miller wrote this in 1941 during a cross-country road trip of the United States of America.  He had lived in Paris during the 1930s and settled in California after returning to the States, as described in the  Air-Conditioned Nightmare.

I apply Henry Millers mid 20th century observations to the 21st century ornamental habit practiced by Congressional elites, Cabinet members and corporate executives  — the wearing small U.S. flag pins on their suit lapels.  Do they control the flag and what it stands for?

The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, Henry Miller, New Directions Publishing Corp, 1945, p. 37.

Henry Miller Online Resources:

A review of Air-Conditioned Nightmare that appeared in The Satirist.

Henry Miller website by Valentine Miller, his daughter.

Nexus, The Henry Miller Journal.

Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur, California

Sydney Botanic Gardens

Met marvelous painter Charlotte Thodey at the pyramid that houses tropical plants in Sydney’s botanical  gardens

Weird chattering flying foxes shelter in the botanic garden trees, considered a nuisance by some.

Heliconias, orchids of miniscule to generous size, rubber trees, ferns, jasmine displayed in several glassed spaces.

The gardens extend to the harbour area, a vast miracle of downtown oasis in a city where real estateis premium.

Maps of Antarctica and the history of exploration of Australia’s “Down Under” — the southern polar continent was on view at  the State Library of New South Wales across from the gardens, so that’s where I spent the rest of the afternoon.

Congee Beach to Bondi Beach

Last week of January, 2012, I hopped on a bus to Congee Beach and walked up the coast line on a really nicely constructed walking path that skirts the coast for 6 KM up to Bondi Beach. The point north of Congee is notable for a metal and concrete memorial to the Australians killed in a bomb attack on a tourist club in Bali.  Reported sightings of the Virgin Mother Mary have brought a home-made memorial nearby.

The walk follows the limestone cliffs, park land, playing fields, past houses with expensive views, old boat houses, and fancy flats.  There’s also a huge cemetery overlooking this segment of the ocean.

Bondi is famous for surfing and the sun-tanning body culture. The surf-life guarding tradition is active in all the beach front communities. 

Strolled through the Bondi Pavilion, built in 1928 and opened in 1929.  Wandered into a large exhibition space and spoke with photographer Hilton Luckey about Australian surfing traditions, the manly-matey culture, and the alt lifestyle back in the day.  Reminded me of Santa Cruz, Big Sur and points south during the mid 1970s when we would sleep in vans or under the stars, and pass the time hiking in the forests or lolling on the beach.  Did the strong gut ”’get-‘er-done” ethos from Australia migrate cross the Pacific?  I don’t know.

The coastal path was well marked and graded with stair and teak railings for elevated areas.  While the sun burned down, the physical part was easy for me and the infrastructure is so highly developed that there are filtered water dispensers and fountains every kilometer or so. 

After slurping down a chocolate milkshake from the beach bar at Clovelly (Shark Point on the map) I paused to paint a little watercolor.  My idea of paradise — walk, look, paint. At the end of the day, I watched young surfers, then took another bus back to town.