Archive for the 'History' Category

Wrestling Demons

Three books just out challenge us, once again, to confront the evils of the Holocaust: Philip Schultz’ The Wherewithall, a long poem about the Shoah set in 1968 San Francisco and 1941 Poland; Peter Matthiessen’s In Paradise a novel about a group of Buddhists who sit meditation at a selection platform; and Martin Goldsmith’s Alex’s Wake: a Voyage of  Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance about his family’s odyssey on the SS St. Louis.  All three courageous authors wrestle the demons that continue to disturb us, whether second-generations directly and indirectly effected by The Shoah, or those of us simply citizens of the global village struggling to understand.

These books  deserve our attention. Reading at least would be a fine way to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day ( it begins at sunset April 27 and  concludes at sunset April 28). Which one will you read first?

Girl in the Obama print skirt

Our drive to the nation’s capital was book-ended by listening to the excellent audio recording of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration written by Isabel Wilkerson. The audio version  performed by Robin Miles brings to life the complex characters whose lives are portrayed in vivid detail, testimony to the tenacity of African Americans to endure and resist racism.We stepped out of that narrative into one of the greatest multi-colored street parties any city has known: the second inauguration of President Barack H. Obama.
The mood was already festive Sunday night, Inauguration eve at a jam-packed party hosted by  founders of http://www.globalgiving.org , the online charitable marketplace. Here are just a few of the many projects they seek donations for: solar lighting; clean cook stoves, rainforest restoration and preservation.
We chatted with a young woman wearing an “Obama” skirt, a marine- blue cotton pencil-skirt with ruffle. President Obama’s face shown in red and black among maps of African countries in the background. She was hesitant to wear it, she said, but we assured her it was the perfect outfit for the occasion. The skirt wearer had worked for a non-profit in Kenya where the fabric was designed. She told us how an elderly ancestor of President Obama greeted visitors who made the arduous pilgrimage to her remote rural village.
We were on our own sort of pilgrimage, as were hundreds of thousands of others.The feeling on the streets of D.C. that night was giddy, if also poignant. Restaurants were packed.  “There won’t be another black president in a long while,” cried one slightly inebriated reveler. He was right; it gave us pause. Better enjoy this moment now!
Early Monday morning people of all colors streamed into the streets and swirled into one great river of humanity on the Mall. We tucked in with a group of friends near the Washington Monument.  So many jubilant faces, young, old, in between, smiling and making space for one another even though the jumbo-tron near us didn’t work well. We could hear cheers from the crowd closer to the Capitol flowing across the Mall. “We were made for this moment,” said our president.
Later, at the parade, a booming voice announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States!” We rushed the gates in time to see the back of Pres. Obama’s beloved round head. Later,  both Joe and Dr. Jill Biden walked by on their way to the White House. We had a clear view of them.  “He looked directly at me,” shouted one young student to his friend. We felt that way, too.
Next day, despite the bitter cold, we visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Crowds continued to swirl; the city was full of the nation’s citizens. Everyone wanted their picture taken in front of these two great figures, an act of affirmation, as if to say, “We are here; we are part of these United States.”
We caught a glimpse of what this nation could really  be when everyone’s included. And it was beautiful!
 

In Memoriam Robert Long, October 15, 1954 – October 13, 2006

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LOVE POTION NO. 9

This is the most beautiful day
Of all time: 80 clear degrees,
Summer sunlight jazzing a slope of trees
Like broccoli against the so-blue sea, boats,

Tiny jewels adrift, silent on the horizon.
From my car parked in front of a church
I can watch the most beautiful boy
I have ever seen mow the lawn: he’s blond, maybe 16,

Very tan, skinny, just wearing baggy black shorts,
And all the long young muscles move
Under his warm brown skin
As he shoves the big mower around,

His kid’s angel face placid and purposeful . . .
All the way back along the fast hilly highway
Stands of evergreens and oaks soak up the sun,
The radio blares, I am happy

Thinking of the boy and the sea. Racing
The twist of roads home, the beautiful gargle
Of twin camshafts at 6,000 rpm tells me
That this is all I need: 5 p.m. melon-colored sunlight

Slanting over the silver hood. What greens
In the trees, what a rich cerulean sky, what joy
Kicking it down into third
And screaming around the curve,

Soundgarden on the radio, and the retinal image
Of the grass-mowing kid even better than Tiepolo,
Better than Brahms, reachable, ecstatic, true.
O this is the world I want without end.

— Robert Long, “Blue”
POET * FRIEND * EDITOR

 

Bob Moses, ALGEBRA Project Founder, with Omo Moses and Albert Sykes of YPP

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In August, Bob Moses, founder of the ALGEBRA Project,  spoke at Canio’s about his new initiative and book, “Quality Education as a Constitutional Right.”  Dr. Moses is a legendary civil rights leader and education activist.
It was standing room only!

Joining Dr. Moses was his son, Omo Moses, and Albert Sykes, a graduate of the ALGEBRA Project.  Both are members of the Young People’s Project (YPP).  The Mission of YPP is to use Math Literacy as a tool to develop young leaders and organizers to advocate for quality education and life in their communities; thereby offering all children the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Begley Discusses Dreyfus

Louis Begley discusses his latest book,

Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, published by Yale University Press.

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Louis Begley  gave an exceptional presentation on the complex forces at work in France at the turn of the 20th Century, which fomented the unjust conviction and imprisonment of Jewish officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus.  Begley drew parallels  with events in the United States at the turn of the 21st Century.  If you missed it, stay tuned for an upcoming East End Ink program. A condensed version of the talk will also be available via podcast.


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Vanishing Landscapes