A Half Acre of Paradise

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If you live in or around the Detroit area, you can’t help but be aware of the urban gardening movement that has been underway for a number of years.  Detroit has been recognized as a model for the development and execution of an urban garden program.  Detroit is blessed by having the benefit of highly structured urban/community garden programs as well as many gardens planted and maintain by the citizenry for the benefit of the immediate community.

I  have a history of gardening going back to the early 80’s.  I got away from it for awhile, but I got back into it in a serious way when I was diagnosed with diabetes.  That,  plus all of the recalls for infected foods from afar.  It made perfect sense to me, that I, like so many others, needed to take control of my food supply chain.  I started small and over a period of 3 years the garden expanded from about 40 sq. ft. to 200 sq.ft.  Last year, I heard about Detroit’s urban gardening programs and this year I joined “The Garden Resource Program”, a collaborative program that is supported by The Greening of Detroit, Detroit Agriculture Network, Earthworks Garden/Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and Michigan State University.  For a membership fee/donation of $10.00 I received:

  • Seeds
  • Plants
  • Subscription to a Quarterly Newsletter
  • Subscription to a E-newsletter
  • Invitation to participate in garden group events, workshops and community efforts.

They have a “Community/School” garden program that costs $20.00 a year and you get nearly 3 times the amount of seeds and plants. The intelligence that they provide is very user-friendly.  This year my garden excelled and I think that it is due, primarily, to the urban garden program.

My Garden

 

Not being a novice it wasn’t like I was there to learn but to share…

. 

I shared a lot but I learned a lot more.  The main thing I learned was that, though I was a single family gardener, I was connected to a very large family…a community, really…that I could draw from.

Everybody had a story, an experience, some wisdom to share. 

Now this might not be so unique, but when you consider the type of press that Detroit typically gets, this is one story that really should get more play. 

Another significant benefit of participating in the program was the tremendous yield from this year’s garden.  I expanded from about 200 sq.ft. to 400 sq.ft. because of the quantity of seed/plants I was going to get from the organization.  Following their guidelines, I was able to start harvesting vegetables on Memorial Day and I am still getting tomatoes and peppers at the time of this posting.  I shared so much from my garden…giving to my family, friends and neighbors…that I truly felt that I was feeding an entire community…this was my contribution to society.  I gave away plenty and what I got back was immeasureable.  I have a totally different idea now as to what we are here for.  So the lessons that I got from this year’s garden were a direct reflection of what I put into it…

 

Kind of like “life”, right?

They Make It Easy!

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After being somewhat inactive for the last two years, due to illness, I am very happy to be back writing about life, experiences and things that mean a lot to me.  Hopefully, you all enjoy my musings and if I can use the number of visitors to my sites even during my absence, many of you do.  Today I would like to talk about one of my favorite subjects…Keep Growing Detroit!  There is something about this time of year (mid-April) where I am acutely aware of their existence and all of the good things they have done and continue to do after all of these years.  It’s kind of like Memorial Day or Independence Day where just before the holidays you might feel a little more patriotic than other days.  It’s a great feeling and where there are a lot of reasons why, there is one primary reason that validates their existence…their being…their worth, they make it easy!

Yes, they make it easy for anybody to garden.  Anybody with a dream…a desire…a plan, whatever, they make it easy!  I was at the cold-crop distribution last Thursday and I happened to witness a Keep Growing Detroit volunteer take a “senior” gardener by the hand and help her navigate the gathering of shoots and seeds.  It was obvious it was her first time and I was impressed and moved by the patience and guidance this particular volunteer gave this elderly lady.  Maybe she has had some gardening experience but her uncertainty was just enough to warrant the care and attention she received.  She couldn’t buy that type of customer service.

 

That’s not the only way they make it easy.  As a member of Keep Growing Detroit I can participate in…

 

  • Community Garden Workdays
  • Learn & Earn Workshops
  • Gardening/Cooking Classes & Tours
  • Exclusive Grown In Detroit Events & Programs
  • Garden Resource Program Events and Plant Distribution (Seeds; Cold Weather Crops; Hot Weather Crops; Fall Crops)

 

What does it cost to partake in all of this fun?  An easy $10 for a family garden or $20 for a community or school garden.  To be a full participating member you must live in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park.  Even if you don’t live in Detroit you can use Keep Growing Detroit as your vehicle for volunteering in Detroit.  People come from all over the metro area to help make Detroit’s urban farming initiative into one of the most recognized programs in the country. And that’s not easy to do since there are hundreds of communities and programs nationwide that foster urban agriculture activities.  Don’t have time to volunteer?  Donations are always welcome!!!

 

There are over 1400 gardens in the tri-cities area and I think that the people at Keep Growing Detroit know each and every one of us.  I would love to see their LinkedIn page…talk about a network.  These guys are so involved…so in touch with the city, their efforts make it easy (there’s that phrase again) for us to just be gardeners.  They are on the side of urban agriculturists who include beekeepers, chicken farmers, and goat or sheepherders.  From teaching to selling Keep Growing Detroit has been making it easy for over a decade and it looks like it will keep going and growing in Detroit for a long time.

 

For more information on Keep Growing Detroit contact them at (313) 757-2635 or keepgrowingdetroit@gmail.com.

July 5th

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It’s Saturday, July 5th and for some reason I feel compelled to see the garden at the school. I usually take a (sometime) leisurely 2-mile walk with my pet, Joe Dawg, but feeling I guess a little fleet of foot and bored with the same old walking routine, I set out for Nolan Elementary-Middle School. Part of my walk is very familiar still as it is the path that I used to walk, morning and evening, on my way to accumulating 10 miles a day. Joe made this trip with me one time last year, so it was like his first time all over again. We stopped at nearly every telephone pole, flower bed, shrub and weed on the way there. Fortunately, no other dogs were out at the time we were walking, so there were no conflicts encouraged by Joe Dawg’s aggressiveness.

Arriving at the school, with the sun peeking over the tree tops, the garden kind of had the look of the opening scenes from the movie Camelot…it was so lush looking, so green, so rich and deeply hued. I was a good 50 yards away and like a movie camera my gaze fell on all of the beds in order from left to right. Even at that distance I could see activity in each bed. As I neared I could see a watermelon vine was trailing along the top of one bed. There was kale that we had already started to harvest. The strawberries were doing well, but unfortunately, we didn’t get every ground cherry that dropped from the stalk last year. The kids liked them, but I don’t think Ms. Bonnie (Bonnie Odom-Brown/B.E. Culturally Exposed) will be too happy to see them. The potato bed, which is the bed that most captures your attention from afar, is magnificent. It is full of leaves and flowers that let us know that there is a lot going on underground. A close visual second, right now, are the squash plants. They dominate the bed and are bearing fruit that are ready to be picked. In total we are growing a very wide variety of plants.

The Nolan Elementary-Middle School 2014 “Planting the Seeds” garden includes…
• Green Cabbage
• Red Cabbage
• Collard Greens
• Mustard Greens
• GRP Greens Mix
• Broccoli
• Dinosaur Kale
• Curly Kale
• Garlic (3 varieties)
• Onions (2 varieties)
• Potatoes (3 varieties…Red, White and Yellow)
• Sweet Potatoes
• Green Beans
• Yellow Wax Beans
• Sugar Snap Peas
• Watermelon
• Strawberries
• Eggplant
• Tomatoes (8 varieties)
• Romaine Lettuce
• Salad Bowl Lettuce
• GRP Lettuce Mix (Mesclun)
• Spinach
• Beets
• Radishes
• Carrots
• Ground Cherries
• Green Peppers
• Yellow Sweet Peppers
• Red Sweet Peppers
• Hot Banana Peppers
• Habenero` Peppers
• Jalapeno Peppers
• Rosemary
• Parsley
• Basil
• Sunflowers (2 varieties)
• Wildflower Mix
That’s a total of 40 vegetables (includes squash and zucchini) and flowering plants in 13 beds that students from the 3rd grade up to the 8th grade are managing. If everything grows as planned it will be a wonderful year. We do have to thank our friends at Keep Growing Detroit for the majority of the seeds and plants.

One thing that this year’s garden has had going for it has been the weather. It has been perfect since the month of May. We’ve had plenty of sunshine and just enough rain for everything to grow well. The moderate weather has been a boon to us as so far as we have had neither extreme heat nor continuous days of rain.

We have also had great support from our annual sponsors, Maura Ryan-Kaiser of Snelling Staffing Services and Mark Guimond from Michigan First Credit Union. Snelling employees are out there every week lending their assistance, doing whatever is needed. They are great role models for the kids.

So this is where we are as of the July 4th weekend. We are not growing corn (knee high by the fourth of July) but many of our sunflower plants are about 18 inches. Everything is green in our world and it’s fabulous!

Evening Pictures (I had to come back without the dawg)
Click on each picture to enlarge.

 

Camelot?

Camelot?

The closer we get, the better it will look!

The closer we get, the better it will look!

Watermelon and Zuchinni

Watermelon and Zucchini

Beets, Tomatoes and Spinach

Beets, Tomatoes and Spinach

Spinach and Tomatoes

Spinach and Tomatoes

Ground Cherries and Strawberries

Ground Cherries and Strawberries

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes

Green and Red Cabbage

Green and Red Cabbage

Broccoli

Broccoli and Collard Greens

Big Lot at ground level

Big Lot at ground level

Potatoes...another look!

Potatoes…another look!

Squash

Squash

 

Black History Month “They Call Me Mister Tibbs”

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As some of you may know, as a young lad, my world was very small and insulated…“Neverland”.  There was so much  happening right around me, but as a child, rightfully so, I was so unaware.  I still think that’s a good thing.  A child should be able to be to look at the world…his or her world, through their own eyes and also through the filtered eyes of their parents.  So you can imagine how big my eyes grew when I saw the movie “Blackboard Jungle” which was shown on TV one special Friday night.

What was so special about this Friday was that a few weeks prior to its showing, two events drew the attention of the media and so-called concerns of citizens in Detroit.  One event happened at my junior high school, Nolan, and the second event took place exactly one week later at the neighborhood high school, Pershing.

The Nolan event was a fight where one student had a knife.  It was a table knife that he had stolen from the school cafeteria.  I was right there when the knife was pulled and at the same time cops pulled up.  We ran like the proverbial roaches from light in all directions.  It was a fight between two black boys…you know the situation, friends for life, before and after.  The incident, so you know, was small potatoes in the hood but it became a big deal even in a city as big as Detroit was then…because of the knife.

The fight at Pershing again was between two black kids and this time it was a switchblade, as I recall.  The “establishment” went absolutely crazy!!!  There was a media explosion…editorials, exposé’s, re-hashes of past times and there were meetings and panels trying to figure out what had suddenly gone wrong with our kids and society.

And that is why on that special night the local television station showed the movie.  It was supposed to show what it is like in classrooms across America.  Blackboard Jungle wasn’t the only cautionary tale about high school life.  But it had one thing that most of the “ripped from the headlines” movies didn’t have…a great cast.  It featured Glenn Ford (Teacher) a young Vic Morrow (Bad Kid), Ann Francis (Wife), Richard Kiley (Music Teacher), Jamie Farr (Kid) and of course…Sydney Poitier!  It also featured the song that “marked the rock and roll revolution”, Bill Haley and His Comets “Rock Around the Clock”.  It was Number One on Billboard for 8 weeks, not bad for a boy from Highland Park, MI.

The first time I saw this movie I was still a child, eleven years old, with my insulated brain.  My world wasn’t like this and as enlightening as it was on a social level it was also kind of scary.  It felt so good that Detroit as I knew it, was not like the schools portrayed in this movie or any other.

So here I was watching a movie where blacks were in an integrated environment and were more than a backdrop.  I wasn’t crazy about the stereotype of blacks singing gospel songs at the drop of the hat, but he was an intelligent young man that in more ways than one I could relate to.

After that I paid more attention to the actor, Sydney Poitier.  I couldn’t help but notice that his roles and movies were pretty reflective of what was happening at the time.  Hollywood had a foil that they could use as an embraceable voice to society and he was good, make that very good at doing just that.  Most of his major roles were exercises on civil rights.  And he had many firsts in roles, billings and awards. Here’s a short list of his socially trailblazing movies…

·        Blackboard Jungle 1955

·        Edge of the City 1957

·        The Defiant Ones (with Tony Curtis) 1958

·        All the Young Men 1960

·        A Raisin In the Sun 1961

·        Pressure Point (with Bobby Darin) 1962

·        Lilies of the Field (Best Actor Oscar) 1963

·        A Patch of Blue 1965

·        To Sir With Love 1967

·        In the Heat of the Night 1967

·        Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? 1967

Sydney was the consummate actor and he could stand his ground with any actor and this list of movies notwithstanding, his range as an actor was incredible.  I am sure some roles were his by default, especially since he, as most actors of his generation, worked constantly.

So, in a retro-fitted way Sydney Poitier became that role model that a lot of people, including myself and probably a few people in my immediate family bought in to.  “Blackboard Jungle” did demonstrate in a raw kind of way that an “intelligent, savvy, street-wise, mentally strong black man, whether or not he was always socially correct”, could deal with white society (the establishment) at any level.  Many a time you would hear parents/adults admonish a black child or young adult saying “you should be like that a… SIT-NEE POE-TEE-AIR”.  That stopped around the time he married Johanna Shimkus, of course.

His accurate portrayals, of young black men at different emotional stages, like the role as Walter Lee Younger, in the film “A Raisin in the Sun” were impressive!  Walter Lee, who really wanted to be in charge of his own destiny, was hustled out of his money by actor Roy Glenn and so went his dream of getting out of the ghetto.  This film is loaded with great actors too.  Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands and Lou Gossett, Jr., were the featured performers.  I was 11 also when this movie came out and because it wasn’t “Godzilla or War of the Worlds”, I missed it.  But I saw this and another flick “Nothing Like a Man” starring Ivan Dixon, 3 times each in high school…Pershing High, knife fight, Pershing High.

I was really seeing more of what the world was really like through his movies.  Some fit right in with my little insulated world, like “A Patch of Blue”, the interracial love story, for one.  With the diversity surrounding us, just on the three blocks we lived on, we had a unique, yet special view of the world. Not special like we were the only ones to have such an existence, but like if we could have it why couldn’t everybody else live in harmony like we did.

The world changed as I got more mobile and uniquely so did Sydney’s roles.  First there was “To Sir With Love!”  This was a movie I totally resisted seeing at first.  I thought it was wimpy.  I knew the theme “black man raises the level of life and expectations of working-class kids and families”…another savior film.  This was not a movie that could have been distributed everywhere in the states so it was a little daring.

If you are old enough to remember the fashion and look of the times, Mary Quant cosmetics, etc., then you know how the look in film transferred to the kids walking the streets between Woodward and Van Dyke Streets between 7 and 8 Mile Rds.

My friend, Tessie Green, dragged me to see it one snowy Saturday afternoon. It was playing at the Palms Theatre.  The place was packed…there was such a mix of young and old, white and black, men and mostly women theatergoers.  It was good…admittedly; it was a great story and very well acted by all.  With just the right amount of sentiment and racial/social references.  What a success for the middle-class!

I remember when my buddy, future brother-in-law, Rickey and I went to see “In the Heat of the Night”.  Even in “Neverland”, it was hard not to know what was going on across the south and ghettos everywhere.  You saw “Burn Baby Burn” scrawled or posted everywhere as cities were burning down.  Racial tensions were high and here comes a movie that hangs it all out there in living color.

The opening scenes of the movie show us a man sitting at a lonely train station unaware that his life was going to change in a blink of an eye.  A black man, all alone, when a murder happens?  This is not a good thing, even if he wasn’t black, so this sets the stage for a journey that two men take as they learn about race relations, dignity and pride, two words that you always think about when you think of Sydney Poitier.

It was a fascinating movie, with great performances by Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, William Schallert and the great Beah Richards.  It had a lot of plot twists and devices that showed the good and bad of the old south.  Bad traditions and social stereotypes were displayed to the naked eye.  The movie manifested everything I had feared about the south.  Nobody I knew at this time was singing, “Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton”.

In this movie, a man is briefly stripped and denied everything he stands for.  The words I had heard many times before, “I don’t know why you try so hard…you’re still a nigga to dem,” were marching through my mind.  As it is in most movies the good guy does win out, but you had some doubt as to how until Sydney’s Virgil exclaimed, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!”  No more “boy” stuff as many a black man has heard and not just in the south.  Women had R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  Men now had D-I-G-N-I-T-Y!

Powerful words, said at the right time.  That single line has been recognized by the American Film Institute also.  It is ranked #16 on the institute’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes, a list of top film quotes.  And an untold amount of black mens backbones got a little firmer and straighter and they sought to take back or hold onto the two things that they were born with.

I never saw “Guess Who’s Coming Over for Dinner”.  That was too much like life in Neverland.  Only, we had breakfast and lunch thrown in there for good measure.  Integrated families, neighborhoods and schools were part of the existence.  Socially, I thought I was already past it.  But what was good theatre of polite chatter in a sophisticated world, totally different words and attitudes were being used and displayed in the real world.  I was personally surprised when I found this out. My naiveté was exposed once again and though they were merely speed bumps on the road of life, lessons that needed to be learned were learned.  Nonetheless, social consciousness was again raised and attitudes were again exposed, by a Sydney Poitier movie where people had to ask themselves “what if”?

Subsequent to the start of this project, I discussed its status with my brother Isaac and he had a few more suggestions, like

  • No Way Out 1950
  • The Edge of the City 1957
  • For the Love of Ivy 1968
  • A Warm December (directed by S. P.) 1974

I didn’t initially remember “No Way Out”, but after hearing his re-telling of the movie outline, I definitely remember it now.

So that’s my story for Black History Month.  I hope that it as enhanced your appreciation for a noteworthy black artist…a black artistic historical figure, whose impact on society and my life via his movies/roles is undeniable.  Ladies and Gentlemen…SIT-NEE POE-TEE-AIR!

Where Were You The Day John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated?

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Picture of President Kennedy in the limousine ...

Picture of President Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Main Street, minutes before the assassination. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was Friday, November 22, 1963 and as a family we were still mourning the death of our dear grandmother, Alberta “Suey” Walker.  It was a very strange time to be a kid.  Family members, associates and childhood friends were dying and coping was extremely difficult.  You were allowed your one good cry and after that “your life” goes on.

So this Friday was no different than any other Friday to me. It was the last day of the week and there was the weekend. Thanksgiving was approaching and Christmas was not too far away.  I think I had a fried egg sandwich for lunch. I just loved the way my locker smelled on the day of and a few days after I had a fried egg sandwich for lunch.  I was the happiest kid in America!

I was coming out of the lunchroom and heading to my next class when a friend walked up to me and told me that President Kennedy had been shot.  I got to my classroom where we were again told that our president had been shot and school had been dismissed for the day.  We should head home immediately.  I, like many of us, was stunned!  Was this the sign of the apocalypse…World War III…Armageddon?  Yes, Armageddon…that’s it…God was punishing us!  If only I had stayed awake in my bible-studies with the Jehovah Witnesses maybe I would have a chance?

My friends and I left school running.  We fully expected to see people marching with guns attacking each other.  The revolution was on.  None of us took a direct route.  We hid behind trees, under bushes…I even crawled a few feet on my belly, army-style, to prevent capture, torture or death.  My mind was twisted…so very twisted. I was so afraid. The first president that I was old enough to relate to was gone…shot dead in Dallas.  If it could happen to our leader, who was going to save and protect me?  Suddenly, I was that little kid that whenever he was troubled he would just climb up on grandma’s lap.  Grandma’s gone, I told myself, now what am I going to do?

When I got home, the sky was becoming increasingly darker.  Even with the lights on, the house seemed cold and dank.  The television was on and they kept showing the assassination over and over again.  There were no commercial breaks.  We all spoke just above a whisper and crept around.  It was just as if a family member had died.  Didn’t we just go through this?  I’m still hurting from losing my grandmother and now this?  Come on man, GET OFF MY CASE!

Nothing was normal from that point on and in a way hasn’t been normal since.  And all it took was one man…with one rifle…8 seconds…BAMclick, click, clickBAMclick, click, clickBAMclick, click, click and it was over.

I think it rained for several days.  It felt like “the lord was crying” and we were drowning in his tears.  Living, even for a 13 year old, became more of a challenge.  We lost our sense of security on that day, as people, as a nation.  Will we ever feel that secure ever again?

Tell me, where were you the day JFK was assassinated?

A Recollection: The Gettysburg Address

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (Photo credit: casually cruel)

This has been an unusual month for me.  For the first time in a long time I’ve reflected on the Gettysburg Address.  You know, there used to be a time where you were basically inundated with stories, reflections, memoirs, about significant dates and times in the media, school, church and other institutions about significant moments in history.  Unlike today, to use a word, our holidays and historical events were institutionalized and were generally celebrated the same way, all of the time.  I didn’t know it as a kid, in a way, we were taught to perpetuate a system…of so-called traditional holidays and events that sustained a social order.

Now, I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this, but I was watching Channel 56, Detroit’s PBS station, airing of a documentary about the Declaration of Independence.  Watching the show, I discovered a lot of things about the purpose of the speech, its importance, the expectations and the actual reaction that I didn’t know.  It was all pretty dramatic in the PBS way and extremely captivating.  It illuminated the varied back stories of many of the players of that time.  One key part of history that I previously didn’t know was the importance of the relationship President Lincoln had with his butler, a black man.  Even though he was thought to be a free man, he was still subjected to the prejudice and racism of those times.  His proximity to the president did not make it any easier for him and there were times when Lincoln had to fight to have him at hand.  And this is where I started “reflecting” I went back to a time when I was still in elementary school and my older brother, Isaac came in from his school with the homework assignment to memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address.

Now we were the type of kids that shared homework with each other.  We would all sit around the dining room table, most of the time with our heads down closely to our papers, pencils scratching on paper…you know the drill…nowadays it would be called “nerdville”, but back then it was called being A-students.  Very Eisenhowerish!  Anyway, Isaac came home with his assignment and as I recall we all stopped working to listen to Isaac work on the piece.  Isaac was a pretty good orator and for the longest time, he was the only one in the family that aggressively pursued the limelight.  “Four score and seven years ago…” we heard the starts and stops as he was learning it.

He was doing all right too, improving every step of the way, that is, until our father woke up!  My father was a very intelligent man, but sometimes when he would try to help, he could set you back for days, if not months or years.  So when daddy awakened, we all scattered and basically Isaac was left by his lonesome to deal with him.  I can’t remember everything, but for some reason I remember laughing a lot!  My father, who was a smart man when he was sober, always thought he was smarter when he was drunk.  And as long as you were not the object of his attention, you were allowed to laugh…secretly.  You couldn’t get too carried away with your glee because tomorrow it could be your turn with the beast.

Because of this little recollection, I gave Isaac a call and we discussed this event and the speech.  Not surprisingly, he remembers the rehearsals, the speech and the importance of the address.  Why don’t we acknowledge the speech in the same universal way today?  I have another question for Isaac also.  Since Nolan at the time was a pre-dominantly white school, why does he think he was picked to recite the speech?

IsaacIsaac’s Response

Arthur, yes I do remember having to recite the speech, and the drama that went into doing it.  I do not remember any discussion about how or why I was chosen.  On reflection it seems appropriate given the changes going on in our society.  When I enrolled at Nolan Jr. High, the school was about 3% African-American so to demonstrate the significance of the Address perhaps I was the default choice.  I remember struggling to remember the words.  The 267 words of the address seemed like thousands, and all of you were so supportive, listening time and time again, as I recited over and over, the words President Lincoln spoke.  And yes there was Daddy “offering” his help.  He did offer me some advice that worked, though.  He showed me how I could remember the address by singing it instead of reciting it, and yes, it really did help.

The biggest problem wasn’t just reciting the address, it was understanding “it’s” meaning.  To understand the address I had to try and understand the meaning of the Civil War.  Was this a war about freedom?  The right to establish individual and societal freedoms.

Was this a war about equality?  The acknowledgement that African-Americans were whole people, not the 3/5th of a person, that they had been designated.

Was this a war about slavery?  The right of all people to live free from subjugation by other peoples.  There was very little said, or discussed, when it came to the subject of slavery.  It was as though, with all the talk of American exceptualism, no one wanted to talk of, or teach about, America’s shame.  (I wonder if that would have been considered playing the race-card?)

So with not having an understanding of the war, and not having heard President Lincoln’s original address, I had to establish my own points of emphasis in delivering the speech.  I chose the opening line, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and this from the close, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I thought that summarized the speech very well, and for an 11 year old, I was quite proud, but on reflection I see I may have missed the point, perhaps altogether.  Yes the beginning and the ending are important, but I believe, the real significance is here, “…but, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here…”

And though the address was given in commemoration of the fallen Union soldiers, it must be noted that the casualties were almost equally divided between two camps.  So many people, White people, Black People, Native Americans and others sacrificed so much.  At Gettysburg alone more than 7,800 people lost their lives, almost 40,000 were wounded, captured or missing.

Compare those numbers with this, from the start of the war in Afghanistan in October, 2001 until August of 2008 the “wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost 4,683 American lives and resulted in 30,490 wounded.  That’s over a period of nearly 8 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted just 3 days, July 1 to the 3rd, 1863.

But more than a remembrance of what had occurred there, President Lincoln used his address to remind America of what we were fighting for:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”

11 year old Isaac didn’t really have a grasp of the significance of what he was reciting then, but I have a better understanding of the Address now.  I look around and see the same battles, for the same reasons, being fought today and it saddens me.  But the fact that we are still fighting, that we haven’t given up or given in, lifts my spirits and gives me hope.  Hope, “—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

Here is the complete Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Okra – Superfood Superstar

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Okra – Superfood Superstar.

Your Woman Gone Too?

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For some special friends…

Billy and Dad's Music Emporium

James Baldwin (1962):

In all jazz, and especially the blues, there is something tart and ironic, authoritative and double-edged. White Americans seem to feel that happy songs are happy and sad songs are sad, and that, God help us, is exactly the way most white Americans sing them . . . Only people who have been “down the line,” as the song puts it, know what this music is about. I think it was Big Bill Broonzy who used to sing “I Feel So Good,” a really joyful song about a man who is on his way to the railroad station to meet his girl. She’s coming home. It is the singer’s incredibly moving exuberance that makes one realize how leaden the time must have been while she was gone. There is no guarantee that she will stay this time, either, as the singer clearly knows, and, in fact, she…

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