Rising

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March 26, 2018, Prescott-

I attended a gathering, yesterday, at the Native American Baha’i Institute, which is 4 1/2 hours’ drive from here.  The occasion was an intensive flute making and playing workshop, by a long-time flautist, who is a friend.  Kevin visited our home, years ago, when Penny, Aram and I lived on the Navajo Nation.  His work is always worth supporting.

I will have more to say about the flute, and about the event, in my next post.  Today, though, a brief word is in order about the rising of those who have been subservient.

In the mid-1990’s, my mother-in–law would insist on the Victorian dictum, regarding children maintaining silence.  She would later come to regret that stance, but at the time, it was her way of keeping our son and his girl cousin in check. I disagreed, vehemently then, and do now. Children should be seen, heard, believed- and properly educated and guided.

Women have largely been relegated to a subservient role, over the centuries- across the globe.  Thankfully, this nonsense started to unravel, as far back as 1965, though people like my mother have never been content to have their voices go unheard.  The presence of so many strong women in my life has made such a state of affairs seem totally absurd to me, forever and a day.

When I was a senior in high school, one of the seminal events was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., fifty years ago, next week.  In my social studies and English classes, I would raise the issue of civil rights, to a largely deaf audience.  My school, at that time, had five African-American students.  I knew two of them, brothers, who were kept at home, the day after the senseless murder.  There were hoots and hollers, expressions of satisfaction, by young men who have long since overcome their prejudice, born, as all prejudices are, by ignorance and fear.  There were tears shed by more enlightened young women, who dared to date young Black men, from the next town over.  My hometown is a more open-minded place, nowadays, and people are increasingly, though not completely, expanding their circles of friends.

There is a new world, a better place, rising from various ash heaps.

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LX: Freedom, Borne of Fire

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July 17-18, 2017, Philadelphia-

After treating my mother to breakfast, at Saugus’ downtown cafe, Hammersmith Inn, I bid farewell to the town of my childhood, and headed towards Pennsylvania, and more family bonding.  My middle brother spent a good many of his working years in Pennsyvania, lastly in the Main Line precincts of Chester Springs.  Two of his children still live in the Philadelphia area.  He and my sister-in-law were here visiting, so this was a natural stop, for a day or so.

I took my now customary route, south and west, stopping first at Newtown, CT, where I have been intending to visit the small reflection area, where Sandy Hook Elementary stood, at the time of the massacre of 2012.  I was, of course, unable to do that last year, with my car trouble.  No such issue rose this year, so I stopped, prayed and reflected, with the new Sandy Hook Elementary School behind me, and many people carrying on the business of summer school.

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Freedom allows people to make some odd choices, as those who threatened the lives of the victims’ families did, in the wake of the tragedy.  Thankfully, no harm has come to any parents or siblings of those slain.

I drove down I- 84 & 81, at one point having to detour through Middletown, NY, ironically the place where I first took the dying Nissan, last summer. Again, there were no issues with my trusty Hyundai. I continued to a place which has come to feel much like home, these past six years:  Glick’s Greenhouse, Oley.  After a lovely welcoming dinner and some quiet time, I was honoured by this sunset:

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The next morning, with a breakfast to match the dinner, I bid farewell to my Oley family. For those who remember Cider, the Glick’s old collie, Manny- his successor, is getting the hang of greenhouse life.

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I headed south and east, into the Main Line area, and connected with my Georgia siblings, at their hotel, then went to a deli-style restaurant, in the town of  Wayne.  Nudy’s Cafe is a thoroughly tasteful establishment, with wonderful food and attentive, well-dressed servers.

After this repast, Dave and I headed to the Museum of the American Revolution, in downtown Philadelphia, experiencing relatively mild traffic, en route.  The first sight greeting the visitor, in the area of 2nd St and Chestnut, is a statue of Pennsylvania’s founder:  William Penn.

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The Museum of the American Revolution, itself, is less than a block from this little square.  It is just south of the domed building in the foreground.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The entrance posits the challenge that may well have been a battle cry, in the years just prior to the outright rebellion.

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I stood in front of the copper engraving depicting the First Continental Congress.

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The Declaration of Independence is adjacent to the museum entrance, as well.

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Inside, the Museum offers a complete, and well-balanced depiction of the experiences of both sides, in the conflict, and of those trapped in the middle- the merchants and the Quaker pacifists.  Most of the exhibits did not lend themselves to photography, being in dimmer light, with no flash photography allowed.  I did get a few shots, first being the Philadelphia Liberty Tree.

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The Patriots were not, at least initially, a unified force.  Disagreements between townsmen of the Northeast and woodsmen from the Appalachians and the Ohio Valley had to be mediated, with George Washington reportedly directly intervening, at least once.  The boy on the lower left recalled this, in his memoirs, later in life.

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The more iconic scene, of Washington crossing the Delaware River, is also given prominence.

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The plight of African-American slaves, who were not uncommon in the northern colonies, any more than in the South, in the late 18th Century, is symbolized by this portrait and commentary by Mumbet, a Massachusetts woman, who won her freedom in court, after her master assaulted her, for having listened to a reading of the Declaration of Independence.  This case resulted in the prohibition of slavery in Massachusetts.  Mumbet became Elizabeth Freeman, and lived out her days in Stockbridge, a town in the central Berkshire Hills.

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The American experiment is far from perfect, but has resulted in the most diverse democracy on Earth, and still has so much to share, with those who want to study our nation’s experience.  We will keep on going, experimenting, refining and retooling, hopefully so that the three generations shown below, and their fellows, will never again know oppression.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

NEXT:  Brandywine, and More of Downtown Philadelphia.

 

 

P.C.

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June 25, 2017, Bellemont, AZ-

We’ve undergone a wealth of name-changes, relative to how people see various groups, into which we classify ourselves, and others, since the early 1960’s.  It’s almost become so that many are almost paralyzed, when it come sot referencing people who “fall into categories of ‘the other’.”

I’ve spent the past 48 hours at a Baha’i camp, 1 1/2 miles west of this small village, itself 12 miles west of Flagstaff.  Several new friends, of different ages, were made, as is always the case.  One beautiful family of seven is “racially-blended”, if we are to believe the doctrine of political correctness.  The father of this family was one of the presenters at our Summer School.  He addressed racial identity and political correctness.  He is not a fan of P.C., insofar as it allows us to dance around the subject of racial relations.

When I was growing up, my parents told us never to use racial,  ethnic, or sexual epithets.  I was taught to address people by the name which they used to introduce themselves.  It was fine to call a person of colour a Negro, until people of colour themselves preferred Black, then African-American.  Using the pejorative form of Negro would have earned me an oral cleansing, and not with candy-flavoured mouth wash.

We Baha’is believe, as one of the central tenets of our Faith, that there is, as Baha’u’llah wrote. “but one race, the human race.”  Having said that, it is NOT WRONG, to stand firm against discrimination of any kind.  This runs the gamut- from denying people their basic human rights, based on pigmentation, height, gender, change of gender, economic status, or personal creed/religion.  It is also imperative to acknowledge someone’s basic goodness, in any area of endeavour or character feature.

“One race, the human race”, does not exclude people of colour, people of intense faith, people who hail from  desert wastes or from an urban wasteland, who eat mainly fast food or who eat raw food. It safeguards the human rights of people who adhere to our Faith, to previously-revealed Faiths or to no Faith at all.

So, political correctness has its limits.  These are tantamount to over-tightening a nut, on a wheel.  The nut becomes stripped, useless.  Not being able to describe a person, in terms perfectly acceptable to that individual and her peers, is a paralysis of denial.  My new African-American friend, his European-American wife, their four creative, lovely daughters and vibrant, disabled son should never have to endure the embarrassment of having to watch as someone, who claims to be their well-wisher, is tongue-tied, when it comes to describing any of them, to someone else.

This weekend was time well-spent.

Portrait of the Poet

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February 1, 2016, Prescott-

The Winter Scavenger Hunt prompt says “artist”, not “poet”, but a poet IS an artist.

Today begins the month “officially” set aside as Black History Month.  African-Americans certainly are not limited to any given point along a year, in terms of their impact on our nation’s history.  Yet, why quibble?  We do well to reach as far back as possible, in comprehending the spirit and drive that gives each individual, regardless of ethnicity or melanin level, the capacity for great achievement.

The first published African-American poet, Phillis Wheatley, was brought to Boston at the age of 8, from either Gambia or Senegal.  She was given the name Phillis by her captor, Peter Gwinn, and sold as a slave to a tailor named John Wheatley.  The Wheatley family taught Phillis to read and write, encouraging her to study the Classics.

Phillis began to write her own poetry at the age of 14.  She drew the favourable attention of both British and American leaders of both politics and thought, having audiences with the Lord Mayor of London and George Washington.  Thomas Paine published her work in the Pennsylvania Gazette, and she drew favourable commentary from Voltaire.

Things went sour for Phillis, after her master died.  Though she was freed, under the terms of his will, and married a Free African-American grocer, John Peters, the prevailing view of society was not favourable towards African-Americans.  The Peters’ struggled financially, John was imprisoned, in 1784 and Phillis, along with their infant son, died shortly thereafter, she being only 31.

Here is a sample of her poetry, which drew on both Christian and animist influences, as well as ancient Greek and European Enlightenment thought.

“On Virtue”

O Thou bright jewel in my aim I strive
To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare
Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.
I cease to wonder, and no more attempt
Thine height t’ explore, or fathom thy profound.
But, O my soul, sink not into despair,
Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand
Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.
Fain would the heav’n-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promis’d bliss.

Auspicious queen, thine heav’nly pinions spread,
And lead celestial Chastity along;
Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,
Array’d in glory from the orbs above.
Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!
O leave me not to the false joys of time!
But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.
Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,
To give me an higher appellation still,
Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,
O thou, enthron’d with Cherubs in the realms of day.[9]

Phillis had conflicting feelings about slavery, recognizing, on one level that it was the cruelest of institutions, while simultaneously expressing the view that captivity had served her well, by bringing her to Christianity.

In any event, I see Phillis Wheatley as the first great African-American woman, in public life.