March 09, 2007
How Dr. King Touched My Life
Dustin Foster - Dear Mom (and everyone else reading),
I’m currently sitting in the Atlanta History Center after having just viewed the Martin Luther King, Jr. papers. The collection includes many of his speeches, sermons, and annotated books. What is so amazing about viewing these documents? his notes. His sermons and speeches each contain a number of revisions that show King’s constant search for improvement of both himself and his message. Our experiences with Dr. King these last few days have been vast. We visited his home, his birthplace, his final resting place, his church…we’ve even met a man who marched with Dr. King, whose friends died fighting for justice, equality. I ask myself what this means in a nation where so much time and energy could be spent on hatred and misunderstanding. The land of the free? I think not, but certainly the home of the brave. What these men and women have done, following in the nonviolent traditions from Mohandes Ghandi, can be considered no less than extraordinary, but somehow it should never have been needed to be done at all. This trip has, for me, been a rollercoaster of elation, love, warmth, hatred, violence, and death. Seeing videos of lynchings juxtaposed by the lovingly erected memorials of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King leaves too little room for escape. It’s too hard to forget, it has to be carried, and the load is heavy. You begin to see what they were fighting for, and why the fought so hard, and why people continue to fight.
Well, enough of that, I guess, these things are supposed to be joyful, right? The truth is, I’m having one the best weeks of my whole life. I’ve met so many wonderful people and grown closer to ones I had already known. We’ve seen so much. I’ve been saying that I cannot wait until I see another civil rights special on television: “I’ve been there, I’ve been there…” It is truly amazing how a college course or class trip can completely expose your inadequacies as a human being. I’d thought I was doing pretty well in that department, but I’ve found I still have work to do. I’ve spent so much time focusing on ridding my life of hate that I overlooked its subtler forms of assumption and misunderstanding. Hmmm, I seem to keep falling back into this thoughtfully melancholy vein. We’ve had fun though, seriously. It just seems to take a back seat to all of the important history we are trying to see, but I’ve complemented this with some more artistic deviations. I’ve seen two plays so far: Some Men off Broadway and A Chorus Line at Howard University. I won’t go into too many details, but both productions were good. We—that is, Andrew, Kevin, and your humble narrator—were quite lucky to see A Chorus Line, because it was a special preview the night before it opened. Afterwards, Kevin called his friend Cherelle who proceeded to round up about eight of her girlfriends for a night on the town. We had tea and talked at a Hookah Bar in Adams Morgan. The girls were beautiful, fun, and just a pleasure for the heart and mind. Being in a group of nearly fifteen where I was one of three men is something I have not experienced for some time…I loved it.
Last night, we ate and laughed at Ms. McIntyre’s mother’s—the Rev. McIntyre—house. We had an absolutely wonderful time eating a lovely and filling dinner, telling stories, singing, reciting poetry, and learning about love. The McIntyre home is full of warmth and appreciation for the human spirit in all of its intricacies and differences: a theme present throughout this journey. I can say, that on one warm winter evening in the living room of near strangers, I felt loved, understood, and welcome. I can only hope to someday repay these kindnesses present throughout this week and throughout my life through my own actions, understandings, and purpose.
Our first full day in Atlanta began with a bus tour of the city. The group was fortunate to have the lovely Mrs. Richardson as everyone was able to learn a little something from her vast knowledge of Atlanta. Highlights of the bus ride included the Governor’s home, the CNN center, the Georgia Dome, the 1996 Summer Olympics Village and Centennial park. The first stop on the tour was at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park, the most visited tourist attraction in Atlanta. We first visited the tombs of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. Then we moved into Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where King’s father preached. In the church we were fortunate to meet a dynamic park ranger who had been to jail with King and was active in the fight for freedom. He spoke on the sacrifice that was made by countless of unnamed Americans of all hues so that we could all gather as one today. We took his powerful words with us to our next stop at Morehouse College, where we visited the school’s chapel. We were greeted by a statue of King, pointing us forward. Behind it was his famous “I Have A Dream” speech on the wall of the chapel. Inside the chapel we were awed by the oil paint portraits of various leaders, which included King and his wife.
The last stop of the tour was at the Wren’s nest, home of C.J. Harris. As we toured the home, the class was able to learn about Harris and storytelling.
After lunch, the class decided to visit an ATL hot spot, the Atlanta Underground. The Atlanta Underground is a mall beneath the streets of the city. With a street alley vibe, the Underground contained novelty shops, urban clothing stores, an arcade, nightclubs, a visitor’s center, and many restaurants and eateries, to include the Coca-Cola inspired Johnny Rockets, home of the original hamburger.
Some really good food came later in the evening. The class was invited to the McIntyre home for a delicious home cooked meal cooked by Mrs. McIntyre. With stomached filled, the group gathered in the family room for an experience we will never forget. After a brief reflection on our trip, Mrs. McIntyre took advantage of the talented minds in our group and encouraged us to share our talents amongst each other. The McIntyre family began with a beautiful rendition of “Perfect Praise.” Royce kept the energy alive with a powerful solo performance. Professor Timmerman, Trey, Marcus, and Alex spoke from their minds and shared their thoughts with the group. Through them the group was able to contemplate on brotherhood, greed, and bringing people together. Dustin also shared his original poetry which left the whole room snapping praise and approval. The evening was definitely a bonding moment for the people on this trip and none wanted to leave the warm atmosphere of the McIntyre house. Mrs McIntyre made sure we knew her door is always open. It was a great ending to a full first day. We all went to bed excited for what our second day in Atlanta had in store.
March 07, 2007
Frederick Douglass' House
We went to the home of Frederick Douglass and explored the grounds on which he lived. He had lived in that location for over 20 years and it was interesting to see how he lived in that time period.
Also while at the home it provided good views of Washington D.C. The site was located on a large hill, so we could see the Washington Monument, the Pentagon, and the Capital Building. It was really interesting to see all of the sites of the city from one place.
According to our tour guide, this was one of the only areas of the city in which one could get such a view.† Many pictures were taken of the city and as we wrapped up viewing the house and the surrounding city we headed on to our next stop.
Big Ben's Chili Bowl
We started the morning off with a little slice of history on “Black Broadway.” Eating at Big Ben’s chill bowl. Ben’s had very tasty food that had survived since 1958. I was eating a Big Ben’s chill burger sub. It was a massive sandwich, which was delightful.
Looking around this Ben’s I saw and vast amount of famous people eating at this fine dining; Chris Rock, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby, Dr. Dre, and Nat King Cole. The Lincoln Theater was located right next door so Ben’s really never ran out of costumers.
Ben’s saw the changes of their block with the riots and introduction of the Metro. I had a great time eating there and as we were finishing up we watched clips of news and a rap video that had Big Ben’s chill bowl in them. It was good to see how well known Ben’s really is. Now as we left full of great food and our stake in history we took the last picture together in front of Ben’s just as so many had done before.
March 05, 2007
The Blue Note
By Marquise Triplett
After an amazing tour of Time Square, we continued our experience of New York by going to a live jazz club called the Blue Note. We arrived at the club around midnight from the subway. The city seemed to just come alive. People, cars, and cabs were everywhere; the streets and sidewalks were packed. The line was getting longer and longer to the club as we continued to wait. “This must be a popular hot spot!” I said. The show was supposed to start at 12:30 am, but it did not. They were so late that we did not get in until 1:00 am.
The place was amazing. It was kind of dark, but they had blue like candles things on each table. The place filled up fast, as everyone waited for the band to begin. I was shocked to see so much diversity at this jazz club. There were Asians, Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and even some Europeans here to hear a jazz band. Many people also wore black too. Some people like Dr. Timmerman and Daniel King were sleep even before the show had even started. The drinks were expensive. Martinis were $13, mixed drinks were $12, coffee drinks were $10, and beers ranged for $14 to $6. Knowing that I am not old enough to buy liquor, I order a green tea which was $3.50. Shayne, Daniel, and Jeremy ordered juices and pop which were all the same price, however, Leander and Marcus order tap water which was free of course.
Around 1:45 and 2:00 am, Maurice Brown started the show with a great trumpet performance. Others on the keyboard, the guitar, the bass guitar, the drums, and two saxophones joined him. They were terrific. The sounds and the beat were so moving that I could barely stay in my seat. Some others were not as moving as me as the all day got to them. The professors and the some students left and called it a night. Ms. McIntyre, the other students including myself stayed the rest of the night. They played about eight selections. Some had some singing in them too. The last selection was a New Orleans original. Two guest, one on a trumpet and the other on a saxophone, played in it also. We left about 4:00am. I will definitely be going to more jazz clubs from now on. But what a first night we had!!!
Emailing/Facebooking on the Street
A group of twenty-one people stand near the corner of West Broadway and Chambers with their luggage piled variously about them; we are a spectacle. However, I look around at the people and cars rushing past, uncountable, and realize that the most surprising thing is not our group, but the fact that such a group on a street corner in NYC causes no one to even turn their heads to wonder. Some of the students are talking, I see a student has pulled out his laptop and is online - on the street. I do the same and fire off an email to my Wabash faculty colleague and friend Warren Rosenberg, a New York native who will be jealous when he learns I’m at this corner, sending him an email message, in his city, and he is not. YES!
Prof. David Timmerman
The Invisible Man
It is now 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The train is hurriedly making its way to Washington DC. Half of the students are asleep. It has been a busy day. The concept of an immersion trip is unusual to say the least: a combination of planned touring and individual excursions throughout the day and night. Today, the students of Wabash left the hostel and Manhattan Island early in the morning to take in our final moments of the state of New York. Before we left however, we were able to see a monument dedicated to the memory of Ralph Waldo Ellison and the “Invisible Man.” The statue located close to a river was a constant reminder of the struggles that African-Americans faced during Ellison’s era through the modern day. Yet, the piece was quite surprising because of the way that the “black man” was portrayed was rather ambiguous racially- a topic that lead to a highly heated discussion of both the book and the artwork. The statue, though basic was sophisticated in interpretation, it did not give Ellison’s story away, but required a close examination of its details and written messages to understand. After we left the monument the group headed for Pennsylvania Station, taking a small break to say goodbye to our tour guide and presented him with a school shirt for his invaluable services. After arriving at Penn Station, the group went separate ways for lunch and then reassembled in time to catch the train where I am writing, impatiently waiting for the train to arrive in Washington and for our adventures to continue.
A Blog for Sunday
Royce V. Gregerson
By 10:00 a.m. we were all downstairs in our Sunday best, for me a suit and tie. Then it was on the subway and back up to Harlem for the 11:00 service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a historically African-American church. When we arrived at the church, an usher outside told us we would have to wait outside until our reservation was confirmed. A reservation? At a church? To top it off, my suit was not warm, and it was starting to snow. But eventually the 9:00 service let out and we were admitted. We were seated in the balcony, but I liked that because we could see everything that was going on.
After church we went to an excellent soul food restaurant in Harlem called Sylvia’s, where there was live soul / Gospel music. After one incredible plate of catfish, collared greens, candied yams, and sweet tea, it really felt like Sunday after church. The owner and foundress, Sylvia, even came out to meet all of us. She was a very sweet lady.
Later, I went to a Catholic church near our hostel, the Church of the Ascension, for evening Mass. It turned out to be their “Jazz Mass,” and the music was much more on the contemporary side than Abyssinian.
Afterwards, someone announced that tonight would be Martini night. At first, I assumed this was some cheesy acronym for a new church program, but it turns out the man was serious. In the church basement there was dinner and cocktails. I got a chance to chat with several locals, including a couple that had just moved to the West End from Germany, students from Columbia University, and a med student who came all the way from Cornell.
March 04, 2007
Going to the Laugh Factory
Tonight I am going to a world famous Comedy Club. It should be an awesome time. People on SNL and the Dave Chappelle Show are going to be headlining. So it should be a diverse mixture of comedy tonight. Hopefully, this will be a great night to remember.
This morning was a special treat. We had 18 young Wallies dresses in their finest- mostly coats and ties- worshiping at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. They experienced a sermonic form- something we covered in class in significant detail- in all its richness and power. We then hiked a mile down Malcolm X Bvld. to Sylvia's restaurant (The Queen of Soul Food). We enjoyed a fantastic lunch and live music. Oh, and we met Sylvia too.
Showtime at the Apollo
Yesterday, we got the chance to attend a free taping of Showtime at the Apollo. Being there was kinda cool, but it was also really tiring. Because they were preparing the show for air, they had to re-record scenes several times. There was a minor performing artist who graced the stage...she was so minor I forget her name. There was a young girl from California who was promising. However, the older talent was not so promising. One Spanish rapper performed a reggae song...needless to say he asked to leave the stage. The other performers were pretty good though. The winner sang Beyonce. Overall the show was decent.
March 03, 2007
Making a Landing
Can you land at La Guardia with twenty-one people, each with two or three pieces of luggage, and all take the same city bus across town to where you are staying? If you're a Wally you can, and we did. Is it possible for two professors, twice their age of their students, to hang with them til 4 am listening to an incredible jazz trumpet player Maurice Brown and his mixed style band... you bet!!! We did and we loved it! Finally, is it possible to get this same group of 18 students up, out the door, and on the subway train to the heart of Harlem less than 8 hours later? Done.