April 30, 2007

At Atlanta's Inman Park Festival: Vivi marches to the beat of the band

The Inman Park Butterfly led the quirky and irreverent street parade this past weekend at Atlanta's annual Inman Park Spring Festival and Tour of Homes, a two-day celebration of parades, entertainment, dancing, and open houses on the last weekend of April.

The city's largest street market featuring a juried arts and crafts show shared the route of knockout gorgeous Victorian mansions (marked by the coveted signature butterfly, a service mark of the Inman Park Neighborhood Assn., Inc. and attesting to restoration or renovation in compliance with historic elements).

Though now an intown Atlanta neighborhood, Inman Park was the first planned residential suburb developed in Atlanta, and it is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On the heels of the parade Butterfly, and in its 33rd year, the nation's oldest adult marching band — Abominable followed close behind.

The band brought the joy of the unexpected through music and street theater while marching along little streets for no reason except the loony joy of it. Music, drums, pageantry, unbidden, unbought. A moment of delight and generosity and laughter among humans.

Thousands of spectators lining the route went wild...

... clapping or jeering at signs...

... floats, more bands, police on bicycles, politicians, and a juggler on stilts (he told me, while bending v-e-r-r-r-y low, that he chills in Tel Aviv when traveling in the middle east!).

My friend Vivienne (Vivi), age 9, paraded with the "Marching Abominables In-Training," a group representing four local elementary school bands.

Sporting her mom's large straw hat (with flowers) and clad in a pink sequined dress (with faux fur), Vivi's Teva sandals and leopard-framed shades served her well along the sunny one-mile route.

Recipe for a glorious afternoon — running alongside a parade, meeting friends, and gorging on the sights: human, canine, garden, park, and handiwork. Y'all, be sure to join the Inman Park Festival next last-weekend-of-April.

April 24, 2007

59 and counting: happy birthday Israel!

In Israel, the week preceding Independence Day, Israeli flags sprout steadily, large and small — on cars, in windows, on doors, in gardens, on baby carriages, hanging from porches, and dropped from skyscrapers all the way down to first floors. A network of silent choristers chiming in, We are here!

The struggle to maintain independence — a life, a homeland, normalcy — is daily in concrete ways, and, for those for whom it is possible (for example, not serving on the fronts or not in the paralysis of grief or mourning for a loved one hurt, maimed, or killed in battle or an act of terrorism), it’s a joy to forget the existential reality for a few hours.

After yesterday's Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, the Israeli flag at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl was raised from its half-mast position after sunset, marking the transition from grief to celebration as the country rang in its 59th Independence Day.

This segue in national message and mood showcases celebrants nationwide flocking to events ranging from dancing and singing to prayer services and barbecues and from teach-ins to Times-Square-like revelries streaked by kids spray-painting shaving lotion (the significance of which totally eludes me).

Whatever. Happy, happy birthday. And endless more. Never ending. Everlasting. For eternity.

April 16, 2007

In Atlanta: Remembering Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes

On Sunday, April 15, memorial services in some parts of the world marked Holocaust Martyrs' and Heros' Remembrance Day. Israel fell silent as a two-minute siren sounded across the country at 10 a.m. Each year on this day, the Nation is called to stop activity, stand, and remember the 6 million slaughtered Jews, among them 1.5 million children, and millions of other victims of Hitler's Final Solution. The siren follows memorials at the Knesset (parliament) and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

What is the sound of a siren?
The media describes the siren sound as wailing. I disagree. A siren is a thing, not a human or living being. And on this day especially, we need to be very clear about the difference between things and humans and living beings. Today, we're addressing evil and responsibility, and while “Some are guilty; all are responsible” (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel).

When I am in Israel listening to the siren — its sound strong, steady, and clear, I stand mute, wet-eyed, immersed in reflection, memory, resolve. And, if I am outside, I observe traffic stop — the drivers and passengers stepping out of cars, busses, taxis, and trucks, and pedestrians standing still. Some people, usually foreign workers and tourists, keep going. And I think, probably they have no idea why this siren is sounding, and why people have stopped moving and are standing silently. Sometimes ultra-Orthodox Jews keep going, too. They have their explanations.

Sometimes the street scene turns weird! 

The remembrance siren caught me driving [in Tel Aviv] on Gordon just before Dizengoff. My watch was wrong and I didn't know it was 10 a.m. I was taking Shusha to the kennel [to board during...] the conference, so when I opened the door to stand at attention she thought we had arrived somewhere and popped out. I didn't respond. She looked at me thinking I would direct her, warn her, but I was involved in tragedies, in thoughts. So she crossed the street and tried to look the lady standing at the gate in the eye. But the lady didn't look back. She crossed over again closer to Dizengoff, peering at first one and then another person standing at attention, clearly confused. A man at the door of his Mazda didn't notice that she jumped into his car and jumped out. It was a minute where she was the only thing moving on that busy street, and she bothered no one. But because I couldn't give my total attention to the awful history, and she was so curious and funny, it was the first time I didn't cry on Holocaust Day (Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary).

Observing this day 
in Atlanta with Sherry 
More than 100,000 Jews call greater Atlanta home
We headed to the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, in midtown, to the exhibit on “Creating Community: The Jews of Atlanta from 1845 to the Present” and a concert in memory of the Shoah victims.

Since Jacob Haas, the first Jew who lived in Atlanta, opened a dry goods business with Henry Levi in 1846, Atlanta's Jews have experienced both acceptance and discrimination. We inched our way along the displays and video booth showing Atlanta Jewish residents at prayer, home, work, and play, and building community while contributing to the city, state, and region. The artifacts and messages sparked memories; mine, of the Jewish experience and Sherry's of the African-American experience.

Facing down terrorism long before 9/11
Sherry, a child during the 1950s and 1960s in rural Atlanta, knows a thing or two of rejection and discrimination. The great-granddaughter of a slave, Sherry began public school in a segregated classroom. She was among the first students to integrate her local high school desegregated a decade after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.

The night before she and sister Janice were to enter high school, a cross-burning on their yard and bomb threats by the Ku Klux Klan kept her father up till morning, a shotgun in his lap. Yet when the well-scrubbed neatly dressed sisters waited for the school bus, the driver passed them by, the white kids leaning out the windows screamed, Nigger! Hattie Pearl piled her daughters into the car and drove to school where the gentle, soft-spoken woman notified the principal, “I’ll take you to the U.S. Supreme Court if the driver doesn't stop for my children.” And, the next day and after, he did.

We are here!
The museum concert in memory of the Shoah victims featured the popular prayer-poem-song Eli, Eli by Hannah Senesh; the Hungarian-born paratrooper trained in Mandatory Palestine to rescue Jews was caught, tortured, and shot dead by a Nazi firing squad in Yugoslavia. Also featured were the Kaddish (mourner's prayer), the Hatikvah (Israeli national anthem), and the Yiddish Partisans Hymn, the unofficial song of Jewish partisans across occupied Europe, written in 1943.

Never say this is the final road for you.
Though leaden clouds may cover over skies of blue.
As the hour we have longed for is so near;
And our marching steps will thunder: We are here!
As the hour we have longed for is so near;
And our marching steps will thunder: We are here!
. . .

Related post
Sherry's Baby Pictures

April 15, 2007

Donovan meets US Senator Barack Obama in Atlanta

My friend Carolyn and I joined a crowd of 20,000 people at the Georgia Tech campus today. We came to listen to Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate for the election 18 months away.

A marching band, singing, and the National Anthem preceded long-time Civil Rights activist and Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founder, Reverend Joseph Lowery, who asked everyone to hold hands and bow their heads, and then gave the invocation.

Obama regaled the multiracial, multi-generational crowd by saying that before declaring his candidacy he checked with his two higher powers: God and his wife.

National challenges and proposed solutions. Among challenges facing the country, the candidate cited the lack of universal health care, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, and the petty politics in Washington. Also, a failing educational system, pollution, energy dependency, a sluggish economy, and the struggles of the middle class.

Obama outlined highlights of his political agenda: universal health care and more money for preventive medicine, raising the minimum wage and allowing more unions to organize, paying teachers more, and helping the U.S. automotive industry to increase fuel efficiency. The crowd cheered loudest when he condemned the war in Iraq. "But we're not going to be able to even get started on some of these problems unless we bring an end to this senseless war in Iraq," Obama said.

Remembering earlier struggles and campaigns. The rally evoked for Carolyn and me memories of our student years. I remembered hearing John F. Kennedy give a campaign stump speech in my girlhood neighborhood, New York City's Upper West Side. We both felt nostalgia for the wondrously heart-lifting and faintly dispiriting rallies and protest marches we participated in during the 1960s Civil Rights and Vietnam War era — I in Boston and she in South Carolina, Atlanta, and Washington, DC (in the 1969 March on Washington).

Reunion with Donovan! One of my sweet chance encounters today was bumping into Donovan (posing with me on the left). I met him, his mom, and younger brother, Davis, last summer at an interview with John Lewis, my Georgia US Congressman. (I took a photo of Davis at the interview, and added it to my previous blog entry on Incident, a powerful poem I was thinking about a lot during that dreadful summer when my cousin was killed.)

Donovan has big plans — attend law school, become mayor of Atlanta, then run for the US presidency. On hearing such an itinerary, Carolyn, an attorney, offered to visit his class (she does this often to encourage young people to explore law as a career) and gave the aspiring candidate her number. This evening, his mother emailed me this: "... Donovan did get a chance to meet Obama." Then she sent me the photo at the top of this post!

Feeling good inside about being an American. I don’t yet know who I’m supporting for the nomination. Yet so far, Obama is one of the candidates I’m following so I came to the rally for the chance to get a good look at him — what he says (and doesn’t say), the substance versus slogans that form his messages, and how he relates with people — his language, tone, attitude, sense of humor, and body language, which tell me what he thinks of himself and the rest of us.

At the rally, I was feeling good inside about being an American. I had a renewed sense and hope — the kind I had in the sixties, that seemingly intractable systems and priorities can change, and that we might embrace the prophet Mica's vision, as Reverend Lowery evoked in his prayer, that we "beat our swords into plowshares.” And I sensed and hoped that our government would increasingly model and reward equal respect and tangible encouragement to any Donovan — no matter the age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and faith tradition or none.

April 07, 2007

BlogHer Business 07 — I was there

The boats carry war-, world-, and sea-weary, freedom-craving, hope-filled immigrants. Among the millions that poet Emma Lazarus tagged “tired, poor and yearning to breathe free,” I picture my maternal grandparents and their two daughters — the sweet sixteen elder, my mother, arriving in New York City. To greet them, Lady Liberty, the "mighty woman with a torch... mother of exiles," was standing in the port harbor. Here, on Ellis Island, the great registry hall opened as an immigration station in 1892, and in the next 68 years it was in operation, agents processed 12 million immigrants.

Even today, arriving in the Big Apple by airplane, I think about my mother’s maiden journey here — what it might have been like; and then, her arrival and early years on its strange shores.

I got the word in Tel Aviv
So when I opened Elisa Camahort’s email invitation to volunteer at the BlogHer Business 07 conference March 22-23 in New York City, I pounded my fists into the Tel Aviv air, shouting “yes!” (I had been wrapping up my part-time life there — the balance I live in Atlanta; it’s a bihemispheral thing...) I thought, soon I will be returning to the city where I grew up… to participate in a conference that focuses on a medium… that helps me integrate my life in two hemispheres! And (surprise!) I blogged about the conference where more than 200 women (and about a dozen guys) would explore "How to Succeed in a Social Media World."

Brain overload: a good thing
Bright, savvy, engaging, sympathetic, experienced, and resourceful peers, mentors, and talented presenters addressed the evolving communications paradigms and technologies. From the opening keynote session on the State of the Social Media World, and throughout the case studies and breakout tracks on topics such as Should You Blog? the players identified and grappled with the key issues, questions, and solutions.

Petite Atlantans (l. to r.) Toby Bloomberg, me, and
Stephanie Roberts frame BlogHer panelist
and fellow blogger
Penelope Trunk

Close ups
Among social media veterans and newbies, media and tech giants, mommy bloggers, professors, and students —

The traveling team: unflappable Kristin and Nathan, age 6 weeks, cuddled in mommy’s sling.

Ewan Spence, attired in a kilt, represented Scotland and The Podcast Network.

Vlogger Bill Cammack, whose BlogHerBiz conference views are among his site Categories.

Fellow volunteer — gentle, funny, soulful artist, and inspiration Jen Lemen.

Angela LoSasso, Home and Home Office Web Content Manager, Hewlett-Packard Company, who financed her college education by playing professional women's softball in Italy! [NOTE: For Angela's reply to my request for her review of this description of her athletic accomplishments, please see my comment at the end of this post.]

Roxanne Darling (coach, communicator, and systems analyst specializing in health and technology), who listed on one side of a business card, the essential tools for podcasting and sharing files on my blog.

The mix of race and age (and species!) of participants — moderators, panelists, and discussion leaders was incredible, and I noted and thoroughly appreciated that many women (and men) were of color. Absolutely magnificent.

Yahoo! Corporate blog editor, Nicki Dugan; FastCompany.com senior editor, Lynne D. Johnson; and Weblogs, Inc. editor, Karen Walrond (all shown above) discussed How to Embrace the Social Media Culture.

Carmen VanKerckhove of New/Demographic and co-host of "Addicted to Race," a podcast series, shared how she is tackling "America's obsession with race."

Ja-Tun — singer, performer, and hip-hop artist took notes the first day until her multi-tasking mother, Professor Kim Pearson, arrived. This witty, fun, and hip writer and educator is "... interested in the use of interactive storytelling as a means of encouraging more informed and engaged civic participation."

To visit or revisit conference proceedings, click these transcriptions (blogged "live") and audio podcasts.
  • Audio Podcasts for 4 General Sessions State of the Social Media World, Case Study Interviews, Making the Case to Engage, and Is the Ethos of the Social Media World Changing How We Conduct Business Online and Offline?
Kudos to co-founders and uber organizers Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort, and Jory Des Jardins. Bouquets to event planning goddess Kristy Sammis. Bows to programming advisory committee members Maria Niles, Toby Bloomberg, Elana Centor, Susan Getgood, Marianne Richmond and Lena West.

Maria Niles reports that animal companion, Zoe,
much preferred the conference to a kennel.

April 01, 2007

Warmest holiday greetings

To all who celebrate Passover, Easter, and the Prophet Muhammad's birthday,

During this season of the blessings of birth, rebirth, freedom, and hope, may we and all peoples dig deep within ourselves and our communities to learn our histories, teachings, customs, and traditions.

And in so doing, may we find understanding, compassion, and empathy — for ourselves and every "other." And in this process, may we pursue peace with our neighbors and justice for all, vigorously and relentlessly.

(Photo of Niki de Phalle's sculpture of Louis Armstrong in the exhibit
"Niki in the Garden" at the
Atlanta Botanical Garden, 2006)