Juneteenth | The More You Know…

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.

Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement, and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities, and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society. –from Juneteeth.com

Check out these resources for more information on Juneteenth:

Have a safe and happy weekend…

Reclaiming “the Grind”

Today was my first day (back) at work.

Last night, I had inexplicable anxiety about facing today. With the way I was feeling, one would think I absolutely hate my job or hate working. But I don’t. After almost 24 years in the university classroom, I’m happy to say that I still thoroughly enjoy most aspects of my work. I dislike meetings, grading marathons, and end-of-semester madness. But I enjoy crafting information and creating content. I love facilitating discussions and watching students evolve, find their voices, and exercise their agency. I love engaging with students, tracking their progress, and keeping in touch with them as they move on from the university and develop their personal and professional lives.

So WHY? Why was I inwardly responding with such trepidation to the “first day back.” I’ve had a productive summer of writing, lots of reading, plenty of relaxation, and completion of a few projects. Then, it dawned on me. That’s the problem with returning to work–the rigid schedule that forces me up and out of the house and “doing” constantly until I fall exhausted into bed each night only to wake up the next morning with too little sleep to do it all over again and never, ever finding time for my own intellectual pursuits. Until next summer, gone are the slow, quiet mornings of sipping tea, spending time with God and watching day break. Until next summer, no playing board games with the guys and binge-watching Scott and Bailey (or some other British drama) with my hubby in the middle of the week.

Summers make me feel invincible, like I can accomplish any and all things. This summer has been particularly productive, so I don’t want to disrupt that productivity. Although I’m excited by the prospect of returning to a routine for my son, I realize that returning to a routine for me means less productivity. Less creativity. Less giving of my time in ways I choose, instead of ways that are mandated or expected.

By the time I drove down the driveway this morning, I was okay. I have two more weeks left before students return and classes actually begin, and in that time, I will be implementing ways to take care of my intellectual and creative self and continue to get my own work done. I’ll also work on getting more sleep. I don’t ever want to feel like the classroom is a trap and a killer of dreams (literally and figuratively).

First Day!

Image from Pixabay

I’m amused.

Today was the “first day of school”–the international holiday (of varied dates) for parents everywhere. I laughed at how my son was so excited for this day that he could hardly get to sleep last night. I chuckled over the number of times this morning I had to dodge a preteen in hot pursuit of a sorely missed friend.

I was further tickled by how each group had its own personality: Elementary students super excited and not afraid to show it. The whole body of Middle School cautious, uncertain of the “appropriate” public response–not too little, not too much. High Schoolers, too cool to show any enthusiasm or interest in any of the morning exercises. Student Council openly enjoying their dual role as ambassadors and spirit squad.

Almost everyone was thrilled on the “first day” to see peers, to get back into a regular routine of study and learning, school sports, and so much more.

What amuses me most is that on the “first day,” it seems every child was running toward the school building, buzzing with energy, ready to tackle the year ahead.  But by the last day…

These same children will be running in the opposite direction–arms flying in the air–away from school and friends, drunk on the possibility of two and a half months of freedom. From school.

K-12.  A funny little bunch.

Happy Spring: Education Outdoors

The weather today was (and is) too gorgeous for indoors.  By afternoon, I couldn’t resist, so a couple of my students and I decided to take education outdoors.

English majors discussing issues they’re examining for their final projects.

How did you celebrate the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere)?

Month of Letters: Postcard Shower!

Obviously, I’ve been neglecting my posting responsibilities re: Month of Letters. But this is a low-stress, just-for-fun blog, right? No pressure. I’m here now and that’s what matters. 🙂 So far, I have kept my commitment to send a letter, note, postcard, and/or greeting card every day during the month of February. I focused my efforts on letters, but I did send a few postcards. I also received lots of great postcards over the last two weeks, so I’ve just got to share.

First, I must correct a minor error in my last post, Tiny Photo Gallery and a Piano-Playing Panda. I thought I sent the panda to my partner, but I found it days later sitting in a stack of postcards next to my desk. This polar bear with his penguin audience is what I sent:

Junzo Terada

Happy Animal Time by Junzo Terada

This is actually the (inside) cover of the collection, but it features the image. Since I scanned the wrong postcard, I don’t have a copy of this one. 😦 The good news is my partner loves the postcard! Now, who will get the “Piano-Playing Panda”?

In honor of Black History Month, I sent out a couple of postcards that feature prominent African Americans:

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) by Betsy Graves Reyneau (1888-1964), Oil on Canvas, 1943-1944

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) by Betsy Graves Reyneau (1888-1964)
Oil on Canvas, 1943-1944

“Mary McLeod Bethune believed that the route out of poverty for African Americans was education. In 1904, with her funds totaling $1.50, she acted on that conviction to establish a normal-industrial girls’ school in Daytona Beach, Florida. Within a decade, the school was thriving and on its way to becoming Bethune-Cookman College.

In the 1930s, Bethune served as adviser to the New Deal’s National Youth Administration and was a member of the unofficial “black cabinet” that sought to move the government toward curbing racial discrimination. In these capacities, she contributed to implementing some of the first meaningful measures toward requiring equal opportunity for black job-seekers in federal employment and the nation’s defense industries.

Hanging in the background of Bethune’s portrait is a picture of Faith Hall, the first major building erected at Bethune-Cookman. At the time the likeness was done, Bethune had no physical need for the cane that she holds. Instead, she regarded it as stage prop that, as she put it, gave her ‘swank'” (from the National Portrait Gallery website, Smithsonian Institution).

I sent Bethune to a colleague in New Orleans who served in the public school system for many years before transitioning to university teaching. She has always admired Bethune, so I’m sure she appreciates this surprise treat.

Harry T. Burleigh by Laura Wheeler WaringOil on canvas, not dated

Harry T. Burleigh by Laura Wheeler Waring
Oil on canvas, not dated

“Although his name is relatively unknown, Harry Thacker Burleigh (named Henry after his father) played a significant role in the development of American art song, having composed over two hundred works in the genre. He was the first African-American composer acclaimed for his concert songs as well as for his adaptations of African-American spirituals. In addition, Burleigh was an accomplished baritone, a meticulous editor, and a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).” (from the Library of Congress website. See H.T. Burleigh for more information).

Burleigh is on his way to a 14-year-old pianist who lives in Russia. I thought she would appreciate learning about another composer.

Here are the other postcards I sent over the last two weeks:

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Now, here’s my own little shower of received postcards (Click on each image for a closer look):

I received several more postcards (vintage churches, Alexander Pushkin Museum in Russia and more);  I’ll highlight those in later posts. For now, enjoy my little bit of postcard heaven!

Children’s Art

Street Car/Best Gumbo

Street Car/Best Gumbo

I’ve been at home sick most of this week.  I’m bored with staring at walls and ceilings.  I’m annoyed that nothing on my “I’m already behind” to-do list is getting done.  (As I usually do when I’m bored–and can’t read) I was flipping through photos on my computer when I ran across a set of photos of children’s art that the world should see.  Not the photos, the art.  Simmone Tassin, a young woman whom I am proud to say was once my student, organized “The Art of a Child: Inspired by the Works of Clementine Hunter” exhibition in response to the dearth of art programs in public schools.  Noting that art programs are often cut or severely diminished, Tassin’s goal was to allow children an opportunity to express their appreciation for art and demonstrate how it influences their lives.

Art is important to children.  You’d think those who make decisions about K-12 curriculum would realize how art in its various forms (music, dance, visual, theatre, poetry, prose, etc.)  balances out the curriculum, allows children to exercise other types of intelligence, raises self-esteem and provides a positive outlet for them.  I am grateful that my child’s teacher, Adrienne Saulsbury, is an artist.  She realizes the importance of  the “Three Rs,” but she also knows that children need creative expression, some time during the day when they can be FREE to express themselves without worrying about being judged or assessed.

Tassin’s children produced work that was inspired by their lives in New Orleans.  Take a look at the photos, and if you know anything about New Orleans, you’ll see that the children know their city well.  Unfortunately, I no longer have the names of the individual artists (and I took these photos with my iPhone, so they’re not exactly the best photos).

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Also, just a note: Clementine Hunter (1887-1988) was a self-taught folk artist.  Take a look at her work and you will find that the children really captured the spirit (and style) of her work.

Embrace art!