Did you know that Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland to fund raise for the abolitionist cause? And it got awkward because the people with money were the landed gentry — the Protestants, many with AngloSaxon roots — while he, as a member of an oppressed group, identified with the poor Catholics.
I learned this in a fantastic book by Irish writer Colum McCann entitled, Transatlantic.
Boston is a very racist city with a shameful past, particular around bussing. It hurts me (somewhere below the collarbones) to think about it. It’s getting worse, with hate groups on the rise, giving credence to something I heard Robin DiAngelo say in an interview* today and that is that we’ve reverted to a pre-Civil Rights state here in America.
Back in the early nineties, when I was a lot younger and also a lot stupider about matters of race, my Black boss, who was from Mississippi, said she experienced more racism in Boston than where she grew up. At the time I was inclined to think that hyperbole.
Thanks, Ellen and Doris for providing reference (here are my listening tips: 1) fast forward through four minutes of ads and intros at the outset and 2) if you have been thinking about anti-racism, you can maybe skip the first fifteen minutes (or listen at 1.5 speed, which is what I did)).
As you know, I routinely use magazine cut outs in my collages — National Geographic, Vogue, Living Magazine to name just three. I also use screen shots.
I think because I’m not selling my work, copyright issues have never come up. However, this week a montage of recent collages got this weird notice on Instagram about 71 nations banning my reel.
Huh? I assume the Paris Collage Club pictures do not trigger copyright claims nor, obviously, do my own photos. When I looked over the slideshow what stood out were photos of Jared and Ivanka. Is someone scouring the internet looking for unflattering pictures of them?
I’ll post video here just to see what happens. I have transformed the duo’s images in a way that arguably skirts copyright problems. I don’t know. I don’t really think about this stuff much.
By the way, this spooky portrait shows up in the Jared/Ivanka Monster series. I love it so much and I wish I’d noted who the photographer was. Cut out years ago.
Below is a prompt-response from last week. There was a line in a shared poem that was structured: “All of my __________s are ______________ing.”
All of my thoughts are turning black, a black run through with quivering rust. An alive black, in other words, like a gleaming blob of paint or an oozing puddle of oil. Rust signaling metallic processes of age.
All of my thoughts sprout wings, but not to soar and gain drone-like perspective above tree-lined streets, car lights at night like traveling jewels. No, more like a statue of Mercury, whose sandals are cutely adorned with wings but who, being carved out of marble, is going exactly nowhere.
You could take a trip to Barcelona. You could call in a chit for Aspen. You might even consider Great Barrington, somewhere with wi-fi, somewhere hospitable to dogs. But no, bench and pillow, table, puzzle and cloud-cover — at last! — all conspire to keep you in place.
I watched a video about a table upgrade. Some guy started by pouring black paint in its center. The table was round; the paint in five gallon cans. Next, pea green, poured around the black center. Orange, white, more green, a band of black, and ending with a rim of white, he walked in circles, pouring paint. And then, I guess we were supposed to be impressed, he used a garden rake to perform a basic paper-marbling technique. He dragged the paint first one way, then at exactly right angles, the other way. The tines made furrows of color. Green flirted with white, orange intersected waves of black. Some sort of design. But that black center didn’t give way and the effect did not please in the end.
My thoughts are the black paint being run through by an amateur crafter overly pleased with himself, dragging little furrows of white and green into my darkness.
This morning, I refuse specifics. My friends do not and vary in their beliefs. One predicts a pardon, another shakes her head and gravely pronounces, “No consequences. There will be no consequences.” Some feisty part of me believes that someone is gonna nail the bastard. Orange run through with black.
Representation, espionage, a special master? Threats of riots. Lists so long and so classified, they cannot even be described in public. Quick! Someone speak to me of roses. How they vary — climbing, vining, shrubbed or miniature, fragrant or not, astonishing in their delicate feminine beauty. The tall Betty Priors that graced our lot line in the 90’s have long since perished, a struggling native magnolia in their place. This summer even the reliable hosta struggle and wilt.
Struggle and wilt, go my thoughts. Even the ones that were chlorophyll-informed. Looking to sun, subsisting on sun, not quite the opposite of black paint run through with rust, but almost.
Is it possible my thoughts are hiding from me — fey, mercurial, interruptive of ambition and sense? Maybe. But I think I’d feel more relief if that were so. Instead, a metal-tined garden rake is drug across my forehead, trying to turn darkness into a DYI design.
K and I went to Charleston five years ago to celebrate my 60th birthday (Did you say FIVE YEARS AGO?)
One of the places we toured was Boone Hall Plantation.
I was reminded of the tour this morning because as I was driving to pick up my new glasses I listened to most of an NPR interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones talking about her enormously influential 1619 Project.
In the interview, Hannah-Jones talks about the anodyne history offered in public schools. How much is missing. How Black history is American history is Black history. And how certain words either romanticized slavery or further demeaned the enslaved.
One of those words was “plantation.” It’s a word that calls to mind Tara of Gone with the Wind. It makes us think of long, beautiful live-oak-lined allees (which Boone Hall has), instead of snake-infested rice fields and all kinds of human misery. The better term, she suggests, is “labor camp.”
When K and I arrived at Boone Hall, they were setting up chairs for an outdoor wedding. I was appalled and said so on Facebook. There I was schooled by a local docent / historian who said that without the income produced by such affairs, many significant historic sites would’ve been turned into condos and golf courses. Okay, but still.
A Boone Hall employee sitting on a chair outside the first of many slave dwellings proudly announced that Boone Hall was “the second most romantic setting for a wedding in America.”
Without thinking, I said, “What’s number one — Auschwitz?”
If I’d been thinking, of course, I would have named an American setting. Perhaps Riker’s Island?
That’s it. That’s the memory.
Small add on — the first time I ever saw an eagle was at Boone Hall.
This popped up on my Instagram feed moments after I posted.
This lament was written to the prompt of a black and white photo depicting a waterfall with rowboat suspended as if weightless at its base.
Color me grey. Remove gravity. Add rushing water, but make it still. Strip the leaves off spring trees and tell them to rustle. Pick the ants off fists of peony-buds so that the flush of pink stays tightly balled inside. Put one paddle in my row boat instead of two. Hide all partners. Put sky in the water. Remove sky from above the horizon. Dangle untruths like earrings on beauty queens. That old saying, “If you piss on my foot and tell me it’s raining, it ain’t raining,” comes to mind. Gravity might have governed once. Now we float above institutions and look down and wonder how they ever worked.
We ready ourselves to row and row hard, really put our backs into it, only to discover that there is only one oar. The old push to get out the vote is so cute anymore. The sticker on your lapel not a badge of much if your vote can so readily be thrown out. Men on the national stage are pledging to do just that and they’re not laughed at or removed with a cane.
One Texan speaks up and makes good trouble. He’s not even shouting. The armed men on stage point and holler with a Klan-like vicious unity. Get out! Get out! Get out! A Texan in a blue oxford shirt surrounded by arms raised, cameras filming the moment of infamy. Theirs, not his. Get out! Get out! Get out!
The water of time keeps falling over the ledge. So there is gravity — just not in America — where up is down and down is up and nothing rushes anywhere except violence. DNA of grieving parents required to ID some of the ten-year-old bodies. What does that tell you?
It almost sounds like armed officers escorted the shooter inside. You’re not “containing” anything if the perpetrator is locked in a room with an entire classroom of kids.
Why won’t shadows behave anymore, as in calling evil evil and not publishing a nuanced view of evil’s view of good. The Fourth Estate. Give me a break. Get in your boat and row. With one oar, you’ll go in circles, illuminate nothing, perpetuate everything.
The sidewalk rolls up in protest. A press conference of lies. Parents demonized instead of the supposed good guys with guns called out for their cowardice.
Beer bellies hemmed by holsters. Angry men raise their arms and point. Get out! Get out! Get out! as if demanding answers was the problem and not a room full of dead fourth graders and their teachers.
I hear the children playing at the near elementary school the day after and wonder, Have they been told, and if so, how, in what words, with what omissions, and with what false assurances of safety.
How the mind splits. It happened to them. It having happened to them means it can’t happen to me. Nice try. The Boulder shoppers gunned down at one son’s regular grocery store. A man shot in front of my brother’s Glendale pharmacy, the flowers lining the sidewalk in ineffectual witness.
What did their parent tell their elementary-school-aged children when I can’t even tell the story to myself?