John Lewis, RIP

Mr. Lewis, left, marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., right, from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., on March 21, 1965.Credit…William Lovelace/Daily Express, via Getty Images

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

–John Lewis

By Katharine Q. Seeyle, New York Times

Representative John Lewis, a son of sharecroppers and an apostle of nonviolence who was bloodied at Selma and across the Jim Crow South in the historic struggle for racial equality, and who then carried a mantle of moral authority into Congress, died on Friday, July 17. He was 80. …

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against police killings of Black people and, more broadly, against systemic racism in many corners of society. He saw those protests as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sidelines. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bubbling up with Red, White and Blue

Lava from Kīlauea on the island of Hawai‘i, from photographer Bruce Omori.

Happy Fourth of July! One of my favorite Red, White, and Blue images from Kīlauea on the island of Hawai‘i, from photographer Bruce Omori.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Long trek home

Mr. Ballestero, left, with his brother and his father, who turned 90 while his son was on his voyage. Credit…Juan Manuel Ballestero

Like few others, Juan Manuel Ballestero understands the long trek home. With all flights cancelled to return home in mid-March to Argentina for his father’s 90th birthday, he sailed 85 days across the Atlantic. He loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit, and rice and set sail. “I didn’t want to stay like a coward on an island where there were no cases,” Mr. Ballestero told the New York Times. “I wanted to do everything possible to return home. The most important thing for me was to be with my family.”

Seafaring is in his blood. He has been on fishing vessels captained by his father since he was three years old. 

In his solitary voyage, Ballestero experienced many difficulties. “On a particularly trying day, he turned to a bottle of whiskey for solace,” reported the Times. “But drinking only increased his anxiety. With his nerves frayed, Mr. Ballestero said he found himself praying and resetting his relationship with God.

“Faith keeps you standing in these situations,” Ballestero said. “I learned about myself; this voyage gave me lots of humility.”

When his spirits were low, Ballestero reports finding solace as a pod of dolphins swam alongside his boat “on and off, for some 2,000 miles,” reported the Times. 

After his 85 day expedition, Ballestero received a hero’s welcome in Mar del Plata. “Entering my port where my father had his sailboat, where he taught me so many things and where I learned how to sail and where all this originated, gave me the taste of a mission accomplished,” he said. While he missed his father’s 90th birthday, he made it home to celebrate Father’s Day. “What I lived is a dream,” he said.

To read the entire story, click HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The mystical art of Rosa Lee Tompkins

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Eli Leon Bequest; Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

“I think it’s because I love them so much that God let me see all these different colors,” Rosa Lee Tompkins once said of her quilting patchworks. “I hope they spread a lot of love.”

Tompkins’s quilts, observes New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, were “one of the century’s major artistic accomplishments, giving quilt-making a radical new articulation and emotional urgency. I felt I had been given a new standard against which to measure contemporary art.”

“Rosie Lee Tompkins” was actually born Effie Mae Martin in rural Arkansas in 1936. According to the Times profile, she was “fiercely private, deeply religious woman, who … was almost never photographed or interviewed.”

“A typical Tompkins quilt had an original, irresistible aliveness,” writes Smith. “One of her narrative works was 14 feet across, the size of small billboard. It appropriated whole dish towels printed with folkloric scenes, parts of a feed sack, and, most prominently, bright bold chunks of the American flag. What else? Bits of embroidery, Mexican textiles, fabrics printed with flamenco dancers and racing cars, hot pink batik and, front and center, a slightly cheesy manufactured tapestry of Jesus Christ. It seemed like a map of the melting pot of American culture and politics.”

Tompkins believed she was on a divine mission. “If people like my work,” she once said, “that means the love of Jesus Christ is still shining through what I’m doing.”

Tompkins had stellar imagination and creativity. “A remarkable early quilt from the 1970s is pieced almost entirely of blocks of found fabric embroidered with flowers — old and new, machine- and handmade,” writes Smith. “They bow to an ancient craft and, at the quilt’s center, a spare image of the risen Christ blessing. Above and to the right a circle of twisted bands and leaves suggests both a crown of thorns and a laurel wreath. Was Tompkins aware of this possible reading? Perhaps, but the main point is that her work is open to the viewer’s response and interpretation.”

To read the entire story, click HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

With ‘Chromatica,’ Lady Gaga comes home.

Excerpt from Colleen Dulle’s review of “Chromatica” in America Magazine:

Growing up in an Italian-American Catholic family, Gaga was formed with these ideas, and they continue to appear in her art and her public persona in ways both reverent and provocative. In a 2016 Instagram post, she thanked a New York priest for his homily, from which she quoted him saying the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.” While it would be presumptuous to say Gaga consciously incorporated such themes into “Chromatica,” an incarnational imagination is evident in much of her healing from mental and physical trauma: A healing that, her lyrics and interviews show, is accomplished through a “radical acceptance” of the realities of her body and her humanity.

In “Chromatica,” that vital and healing restoration of the self to the body is accomplished through dance: a physical manifestation of one’s emotions, driven by the transcendent power of music described in her duet with Elton John, “Sine from Above.”

Entire review is HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

People of High Character

One of my favorite questions and answers in the article, “Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind” — an interview between historian Douglas Brinkley and Bob Dylan in the New York Times.

 Why didn’t more people pay attention to Little Richard’s gospel music?

Probably because gospel music is the music of good news and in these days there just isn’t any. Good news in today’s world is like a fugitive, treated like a hoodlum and put on the run. Castigated. All we see is good-for-nothing news. And we have to thank the media industry for that. It stirs people up. Gossip and dirty laundry. Dark news that depresses and horrifies you.

On the other hand, gospel news is exemplary. It can give you courage. You can pace your life accordingly, or try to, anyway. And you can do it with honor and principles. There are theories of truth in gospel but to most people it’s unimportant. Their lives are lived out too fast. Too many bad influences. Sex and politics and murder is the way to go if you want to get people’s attention. It excites us, that’s our problem.

Little Richard was a great gospel singer. But I think he was looked at as an outsider or an interloper in the gospel world. They didn’t accept him there. And of course the rock ’n’ roll world wanted to keep him singing “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” So his gospel music wasn’t accepted in either world. I think the same thing happened to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. I can’t imagine either of them being bothered too much about it. Both are what we used to call people of high character. Genuine, plenty talented and who knew themselves, weren’t swayed by anything from the outside. Little Richard, I know was like that.

But so was Robert Johnson, even more so. Robert was one of the most inventive geniuses of all time. But he probably had no audience to speak of. He was so far ahead of his time that we still haven’t caught up with him. His status today couldn’t be any higher. Yet in his day, his songs must have confused people. It just goes to show you that great people follow their own path.

To read the entire Dylan interview, click HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 40th anniversary of The Blues Brothers

Forty years ago, the Blues Brothers movie launched a whole slew of fabulous performers into my life’s soundtrack: Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Elmore James, and the unmistakable growl of John Lee Hooker. Grateful for soul & the blues.

The movie still feels relevant, says star and co-writer Dan Aykroyd: “It’s anti-Nazi. It’s anti-racist. It venerates African American culture and recognizes African American performers and artists. And we were prescient about the militarization of police.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, John Belushi visited Dan Aykroyd’s “505 Club” – an afterhours speakeasy in Toronto run by Aykroyd, years ago. Belushi overheard the song “Straight Up” from Downchild Blues Band and said, “Wow, that’s cool music.”

“Well, John, you’re from Chicago, you know it’s blues music,” said Aykroyd.

“Well, I’m into heavy metal, Grand Funk and, you know, Cream,” said Belushi.

Aykroyd responded, “Well, you know it all comes from the blues.”

The two eventually performed as the Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live and history was made.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Hero

By Steve Beard

Frederick Douglass grew up under the perverse shackles of slavery on a plantation in Maryland more than 200 years ago. He never knew the identity of his father, barely saw his mother, and witnessed unspeakable violence and bloodshed before he turned 10 years old. He was proselytized under a warped version of Christianity that had a Bible in one hand and a bullwhip in the other. It was piety unrecognizable to the Prince of Peace.

As one who escaped the bonds of slavery, Douglass (1818-1895) would become the most eloquent abolitionist orator and the most steadfast defender of liberty, equality, and justice. “Douglass spoke as a man born into bondage in America more than forty years after the Declaration of Independence had proclaimed that all men were equal and endowed by God with liberty,” historian D. H. Dilbeck reports in Frederick Douglass: American Prophet, a new spiritual autobiography.

At eight years old, Douglass was sent to live with a Methodist family in Baltimore. The wife, Sophia, was kind and devout and treated Frederick with the love that children deserve. Bible reading, hymn singing, and prayers were commonplace. One night, he heard Sophia reading the Old Testament story of Job aloud. The desolation of Job’s life was spelled out: death, poverty, and relentless calamity. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Juneteenth celebrates ‘a moment of indescribable joy’: Slavery’s end in Texas

This carte-de-visite shows a group of slaves meeting by torchlight in a cabin. A sign on the wall reads “1 Jan-Slaves Forever Free.” The title in chain links on the sides read “Waiting for the Hour – Watch Meeting Dec 31, 1862.” (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

By DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post

Juneteenth … is one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It has its roots in the long-awaited moment of emancipation in Texas, where more than 250,000 enslaved black people received news on June 19, 1865 — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — that they were free. …

In 1865, Texas slave owners had refused to acknowledge the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Black people were in such a delicate situation in Texas,” said C.R. Gibbs, a historian and author of “Black, Copper & Bright: The District of Columbia’s Black Civil War Regiment.” “You have the collapse of the Confederate government. And roving bands of men who wanted to turn the clock back. A Union officer once said, ‘Given a choice between hell and Texas, I would live in hell and rent out Texas.’ It was just that bad in Texas.”

Then, on June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed on Galveston Island with more than 2,000 Union troops. He stood at the Headquarters District of Texas in Galveston and read “General Order No. 3”:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Black people who heard the news erupted in what Gibbs calls “a moment of indescribable joy.”

Read the entire article HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

George Floyd, RIP

A group of artists honor George Floyd by painting a mural on the wall of the Cup Foods at the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue south in Minneapolis.

“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did,” Bridgett Floyd, the sister of the victim,  said on the Today Show. “They murdered my brother. He was crying for help. I don’t need them to be suspended and able to work in another state or another county. Their license should be taken away, their jobs should be taken away, and they should be put in jail for murder.” Bridgett Floyd is hopeful that her family will receive justice in her brother’s case. “I have a lot of faith because I believe in the utmost, powerful God,” she said. “Faith is something that me and my brother always talked about because he was a God-fearing man regardless of what he done. We all have our faults, we all make mistakes, nobody’s perfect, but I believe that justice will be served. I have enough faith to stand on it.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment