Category Archives: Around Town

Personal posts — some social justice (Not in Our Town), some faith-related (Princeton United Methodist Church), some I-can’t-keep-from-writing-this

Artists and musicians reveal racism

bainbridge exhibit

An architect/artist and a composer/musicologist offer revealing insights into how white people appropriated African-American labor and African-American culture.

“Creation Myths,” a new installation by Hugh Hayden at the Princeton University’ Art Museum’s new Artt@Bainbridge gallery on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer, “evokes themes of cuisine, leisure and education and explores the intersections of these themes with slavery’s bainbridge-housecomplex legacy.”  It will be discussed Thursday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 p.m. in 50 McCosh Hall, followed by a reception at the Museum and is on view now through June 7.

In the “I’m sorry I missed it but at least i now know about it” department was a three-day musicology conference sponsored by the university’s music department: Within and Without: Les Six at 100, les six imagewhere Harvard’s Uri Schreter presented a paper, “‘Snobs
in Search of Exotic Color’: Blackness and Transgression in the Music of Les Six.” With in depth technical analysis of musical scores, he aims to prove that despite enduring beliefs in French “color-blindness,” French notions about blackness were articulated in nuanced ways that perpetuated long-standing, exoticized representations of the black Other.”

Schreter:  In the years after World War One, Les Six rose to fame as the enfants terribles of the French avant-garde. Much of their rebellious image hinged on their appropriation of African American music, which has often been claimed to transgress racial and social boundaries. But were they actually inspired by the so-called “black jazz”? In this paper, I demonstrate that at least in some works, the composers drew on a French, diluted form of “white jazz,” while presenting it as an exotic symbol of blackness. By doing so, they pushed black jazz to the periphery of French culture and reinforced the “sonic color line.”

By comparing the French music-hall with compositions by Les Six and recordings of contemporaneous African American musicians, I demonstrate that several works touted as being influenced by jazz, such as Milhaud’s Caramel mou (1921) and Auric’s Adieu, New-York! (1919), actually drew on French popular music. This study of the reception of jazz in Paris provides a unique vantage point for understanding the crystallization of French perspectives on race. The risqué and modern character of jazz appealed to many audiences, but it also sparked turbulent debates about race, class, and national identity that reflected postwar anxieties.

The political and economic systems that have enabled white supremacy to flourish are relatively easy to trace. But to excavate the cultural systems that spawned white supremacy requires artistic scholarship (Schreter) and creativity (Hayden). To those who try to cut funds from the art and music studies that are part of a liberal education, TAKE NOTE. 

 

e. e. cummings on ‘who is an artist?’

eecummings_amiscellanyrevised9
“a dog in the manger….Aesop knew” by e.e. cummings

“An Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself;

and the agony of the Artist, far from being the result of the world’s failure to discover and appreciate him,

arises from his own personal struggle to discover, to appreciate and finally to express himself.”

…e. e. cummings in The Agony of the Artist (with a capital A)
as quoted in BrainPickings.org,
a 14-year-old blog by Maria Popova.

‘Don’t let the failure of your imagination limit your ability to serve your customers’

close-up-person-cutting-cheese-with-knife-round-chopping-board_23-2148166558

My friend Hugo Campos, writes Susannah Fox, is originally from Brazil and taught me a lovely phrase in Portuguese about someone who holds all the cards, who seems to have all that they need to create change: “Está com a faca e o queijo na mão.” It means: He holds the cheese and the knife. This person has what they need to execute their vision. You want to be that person.

Details here. 

Image credit:
<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food”>Food photo created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt;

 

Dear Abby: elders need to share family history

dear abbyDear Abby:

In your column today, “Not Interested” kvetches about his mother, “obsessed with family history and preserving attachments to relatives…her house is stuffed with furniture, books, legal documents, photos, and the like. Each has a story that goes with it.”

Instantly I identify with both of them, the young person who yearns to accomplish goals in the future, and the old person who wants to pass down her heritage (memories, objects, collections, pick one) to her descendants. I was that young person, dealing with a memory-preserving mother, and at age 79 I still share the lofty goal of :making a difference’  with the time I have left to me.  I am that old person, yearning rather desperately to leave ‘something of me’ behind.

Abby, your advice was practical but insufficient. You tell the son to find other relatives who might want the collection. You tell him not to make any promises he does not intend to keep.

As a former print journalist, I honor your word limitation. But you failed to acknowledge the deep almost desperate desire of elders to preserve their heritage. Perhaps later you can suggest ways for young people to help us do that. Videotape us telling our stories. Photograph our objects and make a book for us to keep. Set up storytelling sessions with our grandchildren. At the very least, be lovingly polite about our desperate need – as we face the end of our lives — to pass along a bit of ourselves.

And on the other side, we elders need someone to help us face the River Styx. Someone to remind us that, regardless of the objects that anyone keeps or does not keep, whatever we said or did in the past is what they will remember.

PS. Here’s a shout out to my sister, RosalieAnn Figge Beasley, and family genealogists everywhere. Those of us who don’t want to do that work now — we are likely to be grateful later.

 

 

 

Retirement’s Not Just a Rocking Chair

 

ingrid reed

Though I am moving to a retirement community, don’t think I will sink into a rocking chair and be quiet. None other than Ingrid Reed, former director of the Eagleton Institute New Jersey Project at Rutgers, preceded me there, and she is still making waves. In her column for the Princeton Packet, Pam Hersh reveals that Reed has organized, and will moderate, discussions on local politics and why they matter.

Held at the Princeton Public Library, the dates are Wednesday, October 2, and Tuesday, October 15, both at 7 p.m. in the Community Room. Title: New Jersey’s November 5 Election: Why Should We Care?

Why Should We Care? We need to care about all the elders in our state who can’t afford to move to retirement communities. Aging in place without funds is no fun, and it will be a growing problem for government.

Swimming upstream in the workplace

At the time, I didn’t notice it, how hard it was. In the ’60s and ’70s, we moms didn’t even think of having it “all” or “leaning in.” We thought we were lucky to have a smidgen. We were swimming ‘in the water.”

Then I read Tom Watson’s account of how the Watson dynasty built IBM  (“Father, Son & Company..”)  and I came across my old yellowed copy of a Rockefeller funded book project to encourage women to enter the workforce entitled (get ready) “How to go to work when your husband is against it, your children aren’t old enough, and there’s nothing you can do anyhow.”

You may have my copy of the latter. It was put out by Catalyst, founded in 1961 to make workplaces better for women. That was the year I graduated from college and — newly married and out of the workforce — I had NO idea how hard things were for women.

Watson’s book is a good read. But if somebody like Watson had published his autobiography in the ’70s, I might have recognized how badly the deck was stacked against women.  Everywhere where you  might think Watson would refer to “they,” “employees,” “managers,” whatever term — he uses the pronoun MEN. There simply weren’t any women in his ken. All men. 

That was the way it was, then. It was ordinary. When my husband went to a summer training program at IBM, the class picture had two women and 30 men.  It was in the water.

Artist as Serene Warrior: Makoto Fujimura

MakotoFujimura_August2016_Photoby_AndrewHKim_resized-400x400
Makoto Fujimura. Photo by Andrew Kim

“Art helps you put your guard down. Artists are amazing warriors, says Kate Shin, owner of Waterfall Mansion and Gallery, in a video about Makoto Fujimura, an artist and an evangelical Christian who has a studio in Princeton. “The Holy Spirit was speaking through this painting.”

I was alerted to his work — why had I not heard of it before? — by an article in Pasadena Now that previewed a talk by Fujimura in a church setting. It had special meaning because June is when the Christian Church celebrates the Holy Spirit with Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday. It’s exciting to me that a Japanese artist links the message of Christ to a many-layered art form, Nihonga.

Nihonga involves pulverizing minerals to turn them into pigments, used in many layers, each taking a long time to dry. It is a slow process, and a spiritual one. In this inspiring video, Fujimura says:  “All of us are pulverized in some way as we are made beautiful…in experiences that challenge us. Beauty through brokenness that is captured in the surface of Nihonga.

Fujimura’s book, Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Lifeissues “a call to cultural stewardship, in which we become generative and feed our culture’s soul with beauty, creativity, and generosity.” In 2017 he illustrated the Four Holy Gospels, honoring the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Follow him on Facebook here. Read excerpts from his book Silence and Beauty here.

David Brooks, in a New York Times column, compares Nihonga to Kairos time, qualitative rather than quantitative. “When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time — slowly, serenely but thickly.” Slow and serene? That’s not how I am, it’s how I yearn to be.

 

Waking up to racism at reunions

 

James-Johnson-1881-circa-table-of-goods_AC057_SP1_41_horiz_d_1

Beyond the beer bracelets and the colorful jackets, the organizers of Princeton Alumni Reunions have included some displays and events that explain the history of white supremacy — the political, economic, and cultural system that manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

On view today at the Frist Campus Center is the photographic story of James Johnson.  This is a somewhat positive story about a formerly enslaved man who worked at the university, in various capacities including as an entrepreneur selling snacks, from 1843 to 1902. A Princeton woman paid to keep from having him returned to his former owner. (He repaid the debt).

PTI

Until 5 p.m. today, on the south lawn of East Pyne Hall,  experience a solitary confinement cell in an exhibit organized by the New Jim Crow of Trenton and Princeton. This exhibit, also, has a positive spin. It is co-sponsored by the Class of 1994 and the admirable Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI).  PTI offers a panel on Friday, May 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Andlinger Center. 

PUAMOSE_30941In the Art Museum, now and until July 7, resonate with the problems of immigrants at the border in an exhibit: Miracles at the Border, 

 

walkingtours_stickers_d

You may have noticed odd stones in the sidewalk on campus. They are part of the (In)Visible Princeton Walking Tours, five self-guided tours on your cell phone covering the experience of minorities (African-Americans, Women, and Asian-Americans) as well as standard Tiger traditions. Download and take any tour anytime.

Back by popular demand are the “performance theater” Race and Protest tours. When I took one last year there was some confusion, among those who signed up, about the format. The theater artists tell location-based stories. If you read this TODAY, May 31, meet at the Art Museum for an hour-long tour at 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. It’s well worth going. Or read about my experience here. 

And – if you are a townie – join Not in Our Town Princeton at the Princeton Public Library on Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. for Continuing Conversations on Racism. At these monthly sessions you can learn about – through discussion with others — what white supremacy really means.

 

Equity in Princeton? Find out Wednesday

ppsA public forum to assess progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2018 Equity Audit Report for the Princeton Public Schools will be held on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 4 pm in the John Witherspoon Middle School (217 Walnut Lane, Princeton), in the All-Purpose Room (ACC).

The event is organized by the Youth Advisers of Not in Our Town Princeton, the local anti-racism organization, in partnership with the Princeton Public Schools. With the participation of school administrators, teachers from the schools’ equity teams, members of the Civil Rights Commission, and Board of Education, the forum aims to assess progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Equity Audit Report issued in 2018 and will include both pre-submitted questions from students and questions from the audience.

“We really wanted students and community members to hear about the progress that the district has made around equity from the people who have been doing the hands-on work to try to move the schools forward. They are the ones who can truly speak to where the district has grown in terms of working on equity and where it still needs to improve,” said Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz, one of the forum organizers. “We have really appreciated the commitment and willingness of the district to helping us coordinate this discussion.”

Introducing the report by Marceline DuBose, the educational equity consultant who conducted the audit during the 2017-18 school year, Superintendent Steve Cochrane wrote, “Equity is the most essential goal of the Princeton Public School District. . . . The work ahead of us to diversify our curriculum, diversify our staff, overcome bias, and foster inclusion is not easy or quick.”  How far the district has come in one year is what the forum organizers hope to determine.

Says Rubin-Stankiewicz: This event is free to the public so please come out and share your thoughts on the one-year progress of educational equity at PPS !