Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pre-Presidential Election madness

When I drove down to North Carolina last weekend from DC, I was sporting my "Obama '08" bumpersticker, which I had just ordered. I wasn't sure what to expect, reaction-wise, but as it turned out, the only negative reaction I received was in Northern Virginia on I-95, when a blonde White woman passed me giving me the thumbs down.

I wondered at the time whether she was hating on Obama (I assumed it wasn't me or my car she was dissing) because [A] he was Black, [B] he was Democrat, or [C] she was a Hillary Clinton supporter? I ultimately concluded it was [c] because he, Obama, poses such a threat to Hillary winning the presidency. In retrospect, she may even have been Hillary Clinton, for all I know.

When I got back, my daugher pointed out this wacko in the parking lot of Staples in Columbia, MD. He or she had festooned their van with American flags and had plastered it all-over with crude hand-written signs afixed with duct-tape saying "Stop Hilary" and "Preserve America: Stop Hilary" and "Safe-Secure-Sovereign." All signs miss-spelled Hillary with one 'L.' And I thought "Wow! Hillary has really got somebody spooked." Go figure.

the Greensboro Four

Photo (c) 2007 by the Incorrigible Curmudgeon

I drove down to North Carolina over the weekend to visit some very dear friends, one of whom is a wildlife biologist at North Carolina A&T University.

During my tour of the A&T campus, I was introduced to this magnificent statuary tribute entitled "February One," in tribute to the "Greensboro Four" who were the four civil rights activist described in the carving on the base of the statue:

"These four A&T Freshmen envisioned and carried out the lunch counter sit-in of February 1, 1960 in downtown Greensboro. Their courageous act against social injustice inspired similar progress across the nation and is remembered as a defining moment in the struggle for civil rights."

Left to right they are: David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), and Joseph McNeil.

The statue was carved by James Barnhill out of 6,000 lbs. of clay and cast in bronze. It was dedicated on February 1, 2001 on the 42nd anniversary of the sit-in. Of the four, three remain with us today. The one deceased member is David Richmond who died in 1990 at the age of 49. The lunch counter where they sat-in was secured by the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tin Roofs, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1980

(Tin Roofs, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
(c)1980 Jeffrey John Fearing)

I took this during my marathon 1980 vacation back in the day when you could buy a $500 ticket on Eastern Airlines and fly anywhere they flew during a two-week period. I was able to make stops in Greenville SC, Jamaica, San Juan PR, St. Thomas U.S.V.I., Los Angeles, Atlanta, and San Francisco.

While in St. Thomas, I was able to take a flight on a seaplane (a dream of mine) to St. Croix and back, getting to visit with an old friend from Howard who had recently moved there. This is one of the photos I took there.

I'm still a little bothered by the spatulate expanse of asphalt in the lower right of the composition. I was traveling light, with just my Olympus OM-1 with a normal (50mm) lens so I couldn't get a wide enough shot to frame the composition with some foreground detail on the right. Still I managed to effectively capture the steepness of the street (and of course the rusty tin of the roofs) so it works for me over all.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Girl on Beach, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, 1980

Girl on Beach, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, 1980
(c)1980 Jeffrey John Fearing

I took this picture during a trip to Jamaica in 1980. This was near the famed tourist area called Dunns River Falls. I was vacationing solo so didn't have anyone to watch my camera (and thus wasn't able to walk in the falls as the tourists were doing) so I photographed the falls and then found this beach nearby which appeared to be an area free from tourists, an area where Jamaicans could swim in peace.

This girl stood on the shore fully-clothed watching the people swimming and having fun. She had such a compellingly sad look, wistful and forlorn, that I was moved to capture the moment. I'm pretty sure I was shooting Kodachrome back then. I was using my Olympus OM-1 35mm camera in those days.

Flood, Arlandria, 1972

"Flood, Arlandria, 1972"
(c)1972 Jeffrey John Fearing

This photo is sort of my homage to FSA photographer Dorothea Lange. I took this and a series of images on Mt. Vernon Avenue in an area bordering Alexandria and Arlington, known as 'Arlandria.' Today it is more commonly know as 'Delray.' This is in Northern Virginia, directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

This was June 1972 and Hurricane Agnes had taken a path up the Chesapeake Bay, bringing it closer to DC than any hurricanes before or since. Most of the resultant damage was in the form of flooding. Four-Mile Run creek overflowed its banks and the water-line in this part of town reached the 2nd floor of some of the apartment buildings.

Today, the Army Corps of Engineers (can you say "Katrina"?) has taken steps to prevent such flooding again and so far so good. Mt. Vernon Avenue is now known for the Americana music club The Birchmere, which is a couple of blocks up the road on the left, just beyond the Esso station (At the time, gas was selling for about 29.9/gallon).

This was 35 years ago so I'm guessing the little girl in the rain coat is in her 40's now. I think I was still using my Mamiya-Sekor 1000-DTL 35mm camera then, using Tri-X film.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On being Vegetarian

I've been a vegetarian (Lacto-Ovo: I eat dairy products and eggs) half my life and this Michael Vick thing has just served to underscore why I made this choice.

I've never been strident or dogmatic about it, never tried to convert anyone, though countless crabs-in-the-omnivorous-barrel have tried to pull me back into the meat-eating fold. For me it's a personal choice, not for my health but for the animal's.

I just came to realize that for me to eat meat when I have so many healthy alternatives to choose from would be recreational consumption, eating meat because it tastes good (and it can, if memory serves).

This is not by way of indicting anyone who eats meat. Everyone has their reasons, makes their choices. Arctic peoples have no choice and neither do people who live in other places that do not support sustainable agriculture. We in this country have alternatives, though admittedly, vegetarianism is a life style that to some extent is a luxury available only for those of us who can afford to choose it. Or who are knowledgeable enough to find and prepare healthy alternatives to meat consumption.

I guess my point is: I don't see much of a difference between Michael Vick having animals fight to the death for his amusement, or the millions who enjoy the spectacle of bull-fighting the way I enjoy football, and raising animals to die for our pleasure at the dinner table.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Keep Austin Weird

Sunday I was wearing my "Keep Austin Weird" tie-die T-shirt (with my Obama 2008 button) knowing that I would be asked to explain my shirt to at least a few people, and of course I was.

I attended High School in Austin, Texas and when I went back this June for my high school reunion, the city was in the middle of 'Weird-Fest.'

I bought the shirt and the coffee mug and the bumper sticker because I identify with the concept and this is how I have come to articulate it as I see it:

Austin is one of the only places in Texas where people of open minds can feel at home. Keep Austin Weird is a movement in favor of keeping it that way.

I started to say 'where Liberals can feel at home,' but I've come to realize that although I identify as a proud and unabashed Liberal, liberals can be just as strident and dogmatic and intransigent as the conservatives, and just as big a pain in the ass.

The Washington 'R' Words

I live for football season. Every February when the Superbowl ends, I go into a funk (not a Hunter S. Thompson, shotgun in the mouth funk but a funk nonetheless) knowing that I have to wait till August to catch the real deal football again.

Now football is back and I'm reminded why my favorite team, the Washington 'R' words is such a guilty pleasure (I use 'pleasure' ironically). I have too many friends and connections in the Indigenous American community to be able to sing hail to any team that persists in calling itself 'Redskin.'The reasons why the term 'Redskin' is as offensive as the 'N' word or the 'B' word are too obvious to recount here. Beside which I firmly believe that the people who should have final say over whether a term is or isn't offensive, are the people taking offense, not the offenders.

Even the fight song makes me cringe: "Hail to the Redskins" to the tune of "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" with some Hollywood Indian stereotype tom-toms thrown in for some ethnic 'flavor.'

Then there's the issue that Black people who like myself claim some Cherokee ancestry have been disavowed by the new Cherokee leadership, all of which conspires to take the wind out of my football-loving sails.

Still, I'll be there each Sunday glued to my HDTV watching every R-words game, enjoying the games, win or lose, because its football and I'm a fan and I'm loyal to my team and to the game.