Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Posts tagged ‘Music video’

Did I find a Native American Artifact?

Just a rock? Or Native American Artifact?

IMG_7591While beachcombing on an island off the coast of Maine, I came across a rock, just one of thousands piled along the shoreline. What struck me about this rock was the straight planes and angles, as if a human had cut the rock rather than shaped by natural forces. The rock fit nicely in the palm of my hand. Black deposits appeared on three sides, the fourth side, none at all. Shaped like a wedge, etchings marked the narrow edge. New Englanders told me that some folks collect these rocks, as they are considered lucky because two straight white lines cross each.

When I returned home, I scanned the Internet looking for any evidence that the shape might reveal its history. I studied images of Native American tools, but I could not find anything like it. I checked with the folks at rockpiles.blogspot,com, where Peter suggested that the rock might be a hoe,

You can see the “edge” as a worked sequence on the upper edge, and you can see how the hoe was was attached to a handle – the dark staining is from organic material like leather that was used to tie the hoe to the handle.

Corn Festival and Artifact Appraisal

I still wanted to learn more about the rock and came across the Roasting Ears of Corn Festival, Eastern Pennsylvania’s oldest Native American Festival, held at the Museum of Indian Culture in Allentown. One of their many events included a chance for an appraisal of an Indian artifact.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I could hear the drums in the distance and joined folks streaming into the staging area. Children were taking turns at the tomahawk and spear throw, and dancers filled the central arena. Before looking for the appraisal tent, I headed first for the line for the roasted corn. Buffalo burgers and Indian taco were also on the menu. The blueberry frybread sounded good, so I ordered that, too, and found a seat at the picnic tables in front of the dancing circle. Later, I read about frybread in a Smithsonian article on the subject:

Navajo frybread originated 144 years ago, when the United States forced Indians living in Arizona to make the 300-mile journey known as the “Long Walk” and relocate to New Mexico, onto land that couldn’t easily support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans. To prevent the indigenous populations from starving, the government gave them canned goods as well as white flour, processed sugar and lard—the makings of frybread.

It seems that frybread has become a favorite at pow-wows and fairs, varying in the way it is prepared in each area of the country. Native American dancing, although energetic, is meditative with the rhythmic drumming accompanying the movements, and I fell under the spell in the soft summer air as I savored the blueberry frybread. Glad I didn’t know at the time could be as much as 700 calories!

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American Indian Cooking Demonstration

I have some familiarity with Indian history, having taken a course in Native American autobiography. In a post, My Favorite Book: Condemned by both the Left and Right, I write about the controversies surrounding the novel, Education of Little Tree. Alexie Sherman signed another one of my favorite books, Reservation Blues.  

Valuable Find

I found the Museum of Indian Cultures head curator, Lee Hallman, sitting behind his many collections of arrowheads, displayed in glass cases. Lee examined the rock and stated that it was definitely a tool, possibly a scrapping implement, that it was Native American but not valuable. I had thought that if was important I would give it to a museum in Maine. Lee said it might be worth a dollar, at the most.  Well, regardless of the monetary value, looking at the rock, I think about the hands that crafted it.

Curator Museum

Lee Hallman & arrow display

Now that I had identified my rock, time to stroll along the many tents and exhibits. At one of the tents, a musician played a large wooden flute, and the melody was so enchanting, I purchased the CD, Meditation, with the melody, “Love Mountain.” Several vendors were selling CDS so visitors had many choices of Native American music, current and traditional.

Lord of the Strings, Arvel Bird

The featured performer, Arvel Bird, played a magical combination of Native American and Celtic music, and I couldn’t image how I had the fortune to hear live someone who brought two of my favorite music genres together. Arvel’s biography on his website provides this description:

“Braveheart Meets Last of the Mohicans . . . at Woodstock” is a colorful description of this award-winning Celtic Fusion recording artist and his live performances. Arvel Bird, a violinist and Native American flutist, is known around the world for his dramatic connection between Celtic and Native American traditions, stirring up scenes that echo from North American memory. Dubbed “Lord of the Strings” by fans and music critics, his music evokes the soul of North American history and is thoroughly entertaining, but also enlightening and humanizing. In a language and experience that captures the hearts of all audiences, he’s emotional without being condescending, intellectual without being pretentious.

Arvel Bird

Given my Scotch-Irish heritage, I felt an immediate connection to his music. A skillful musician, Arvel gifted us with a joyful performance that reflected his passion for the violin. Celtic and Native American ancestral spirits would be deeply moved by his presentation of stories and songs. I especially enjoyed his classical piece, Tribal Music Suite: Journey of a Paiute, a Celtic and Native American Concerto for Violin and Native American Flute, that earned Arvel Best Instrumental Album.

I don’t usually believe in lucky charms, but somehow the rock brought me to this inspiring performance.

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Steam Train Journeys into History: Civil War Skirmish at Red Clay Creek

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A beautiful Fall day provided the backdrop for a journey into history on the Wilmington  & Western Line, which runs through the Red Clay Valley, a watershed area that includes just over fifty square miles from New Castle County, Delaware, to Chester County, Pennsylvania.  “Candy cane” lamps lined up along the platform of the historic Greenbank Station, painted in traditional cream and burgundy colors. A museum near the water tower displayed a model of an amusement park that brought visitors to the area back at the turn of the 20th Century and featured a collection of antique photographs and books of the railroad’s history.

Climbing the steps to board steam train, felt like stepping back in time. The wooden cars, painted royal blue with gold trim, each has its own unique history.  We sat on the benches of the converted open air coach, built in 1912 in Altoona and once part of the Pennsylvania commuter rail network. The train hissed and creaked as the locomotive chugged out of the station, the plaintive whistle sounding at the first crossing. The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia built the steam engine Number 58 in 1907 and in 1998 the engine was restored. The original route through the valley was laid out in the 1870s. We passed rolling hills, farms and woodlands, following the Red Clay Creek. We arrived at a waterfall and picnic grove where the Union solders and their families, dressed in period dress, strolled along the water’s edge.

Railroads played a significant role during the Civil War. The Jones-Imboden Raid against the B&O Railroad represented one of the largest movements of soldiers to a battlefront by way of the railroad. In June of 1861, Union Forces advanced by train from Falls Church, Virginia; Confederates fired artillery at the train near Vienna, making this the first time a train was engaged in warfare in American history.

The drama at Red Clay Creek unfolded as the Rebels, hiding in the woodlands, attacked the train with cannon and rifle fire. The Union forces poured out of the train, holding positions near the tracks.  At the outset the action seemed almost in slow motion because reloading rifles required that they insert each bullet one at time. While the Union held their line for a short time, Confederate reinforcements emerged from the forest, decimating the Union troops attempting to save the train. Passengers, becoming part of the play, fell under the command of the Confederates who boarded the train and occupied the coaches.

The music video captures this memorable ride into history and the tragic aftermath of the skirmish.

In Appreciation:
Confederate 
9th Virginia Cavalry, Company B
37th Regiment, North Carolina Troops, Company A
1st Regiment, North Carolina Artillery, Battery C

Union
2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry, Company G
71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company K

Special thanks to John Houck.

“I Have a Thing about Trains”

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Growing up in the 1950s, our family always had a train under the Christmas tree. The train belonged to my father when he was a boy, purchased by my grandparents in the 1920s. Lionel #318 0040, manufactured in the years 1924-32, displayed realistic detail, including brass trim. Two sets of cars could be attached to the engine: a freight and a passenger set. The cars authenticity, including handles, lights, ornate railings and mock stained glass made them especially fun to play with as we would give our stuffed animals and dolls a ride in the cars. The little engine chugged along the tracks, making a kind of grinding sound, and a large-sized transformer provided the electric, occasionally sparking as we adjusted the switch.

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The success of the Lionel Company making model trains for children mimicked the popularity of the railroads in the 1920s when train travel was central to transportation in America. Railroads carrying freight and people crisscrossed the United States. Train-hopping by hobos and migrants became a commonplace method for workers to move to new locations that promised jobs. This was the railroads’ Golden Era, and folks passed on myths and legends associated trains, such as Casey Jones and John Henry.  These folk songs became well-known in American culture, with the Wabash Cannonball one of favorites of country singers.

Now listen to the jingle, and the rumble, and the roar,
As she dashes thro’ the woodland, and speeds along the shore,
See the mighty rushing engine, hear her merry bell ring out,
As they speed along in safety, on  the “Great Rock-Island Route.”

Although rail travel is making somewhat of comeback today, folks think nostalgically about the old steam trains whistling across the landscape. So was our experience visiting the Strasburg Railroad and Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As we boarded the train, I noticed the striking interior of the car, with polished woodwork and decorative stained glass at the top of the windows.  As we rode along, the cadence of the wheels on the tracks produced a soothing rhythm as we watched the scenery glide by.

Maybe I’m a little sentimental cause I know that things have to change
But I’d still like to go for a train ride cause I’ve got a thing about trains.
Johnny Cash

Philadelphia’s May Day Celebration 2013

Honoring Workers Who Fought and Won the 8-Hour Work Day

images Many people believe that May Day is a socialist or communist celebration, when in fact the May Day holiday grew out of  the eight-hour working day movement in the United States in 1884. The struggle for a shorter workday began in the factories as the unions pressed their employers for shorter hours and higher wages. At that time, millions of people were out of work. During the convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions announced that eight hours “shall constitute a day’s work from and after May 1, 1886.” Honoring May Day is an important part of our American heritage, and in Philadelphia Elmwood Park provided the perfect place for a rally and celebration in front of the monument by Irish artist, John Kindness, which stands as a tribute to the American worker.

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Alexandria with John Jerzak, member of Friends of Elmwood Park who advocated for the labor memorial.

Jim Moran, Committee Chair of the May Day Committee introduced Alexandria Knox, proudly representing her union, the American Federation of Musicians, Local 349, Manchester, New Hampshire. Alexandria played a rousing version of Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes, beginning the afternoon’s entertainment. We were extremely fortunate that Alexandria, who is dedicated to the cause of unionization and solidarity, had agreed to play for the event as she is one of a very small number of totally visually impaired Highland bagpipers throughout the world. Next up Mike Stout & The Human Union Band  filled the air with energetic rock music with a worker message.  I was moved by their first song, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Song, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Bangladesh, where over 1,000 workers were killed in a building collapse. I immediately bought three of their CDs. Mike describes himself as

a socially conscious singer song-writer and community leader who leads crusades against local and global economic injustice, rallying people with his music, and he organizes them to take action.He tells his stories from the heart about people who are affected by unemployment, or social injustice or war.

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Mike Stout and the Human Union Band

Other musicians performed including K&A Mob, Tha Truth, Dina Yarmus and Maryta Fields, who sang the National Anthem. IMG_2489Pete Matthews-AFSCME DC 33, Gwen Ivey-APWU 89, Cathy Scott-AFSCME DC 47, John Johnson-TWU 234, Helen Gym-Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia Student Union, Chicago Teachers Union 1, Cathy Brady-Friends of Elmwood Park & SEIU HCPA were some of the scheduled speakers. A member of the Chicago Teachers Union, Andrew Heiserman, shared stories of  their courageous battle against the city’s austerity measures against the schools. . Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate, spoke about peace benches. Jim Moran presented the Aggie Moran Human Rights Awards to Sonia as well as to labor historian, Alice Hoffman, labor rights campaigner, Barbara Rahke, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. The “SRC 19,”  the activists arrested at the last School Reform Commission meeting in Philadelphia when the SRC voted to close 23 Philadelphia Public Schools, were also honored. Occupy Philly Food Committee provided a great selection of food: sandwiches, bbq, salads, cake and beverages.

Selected video highlights from the event:

May Day Celebrations around the World 2013

Philadelphia Performance Protest against Gun Violence

On March 29, Heeding God’s Call, held their Fifth Annual Good Friday Procession and Vigil to protest the continued gun violence in the city. Nearly 200 worshippers gathered late in the afternoon at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, where worship services began, and then “en masse” marched to Benjamin Franklin High School on North Broad Street for  the vigil.

Healing Presence Choir2

The Tabernacle United Choir and Arch Street Methodist Choir joined the Healing Presence Singers under the backdrop of the Common Threads Mural, which is representative of hope for the future. Holly Phares directed the choirs during the ecumenical service that included guest speakers from several faith-based organizations and  families who have lost children to gun violence. By joining together, the worshipers affirmed that it is possible for citizens to fight for legislation and social policies that would help bring peace to our streets and homes.

Marching

According to CNN, Philadelphia has one of the worst homicide rates in the country, with more than 80% of these crimes committed with a gun.

A young, black man, has a greater chance of being shot and killed in Philadelphia than he would have if  he were a soldier serving in the conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq,

An average day in US has 30 gun-related murders with another 162 wounded  based on the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, 53 people kill themselves with a gun each day. Our homicide rate of 4.7 murders per 100,000 people is one of the highest of all developed countries. Unfortunately, statistics of these daily tragedies mean little in the public consciousness and only when mass shootings occur, do citizens begin to take notice. This outrage that follows these shootings is followed by frustration as law-makers, indebted to the gun lobby, block even the most sensible gun restrictions, such as high-capacity magazines. If the Tucson shooter had only ten bullets, Christina Taylor Green would be with her family today.

At the rally in Philadelphia, parents of children who were killed by guns spoke of their loss.

While this was a peaceful demonstration, just a day before mothers in Indiana had to stand in defiance in front of a line of armed men carrying AR-15 semi-automatic weapons. The moms, advocating for restrictions on purchases of high-capacity magazines and legislation requiring background checks on gun sales, were protesting in front of the Indiana statehouse. An armed opponent admitted that his rifle was loaded. Some might argue that the Indiana protest was also peaceful, but the potential for violence, either because of accident, mental instability or provocation, undermines the tenants of democracy to live free from the threat of gun violence.

Numbers to reach US Senators at this link.

Once Upon an August Blue Moon

August 31, 2012

Watching the blue moon rise, a flock of birds flew across the scene reminding me that migration season is upon us and fall is just a few weeks away. The landscape will change from green to shades of orange, red and yellow, but for now I’m thinking blue. I searched for blue flowers to compliment the feeling of tranquility–that the moon will rise and the birds will begin their migration this time of  year.

Solace in the Face of Grief: Three Expressions of Comfort

In addition to experiencing the tragic loss of someone dear to us, grief visits us, as life sometimes overwhelms us with despair. As life events were making me feel that I had lost something, I realized I was experiencing feelings of grief. At first, I dismissed this notion as how could the loss of someone close compare with other tragedies? Nevertheless, I allowed myself to name the feelings as grief and look for comfort.

Years ago I came across a letter entitled Consolatio ad Uxorem  by Plutarch, a Greek who in 6111AD composed a letter of consolation to his wife on the loss of their two year-old daughter. I revisited the letter again to see if I could find comfort from what Plutarch had written so long ago.

With a close reading of his letter, I found three phrases that offered solace and peace.

“. . . something that you believe will make your grief easier to bear, that too you shall have, so it be done without excess or superstition . . . “

Plutach cautions his wife to beware of excess and superstition as the first steps toward reconciliation.  Experiencing grief, my emotions overcome logic and balance. Emotions flood my brain with excesses probably related with the flight or fight response. I find it almost impossible to draw on reason. It seems that these excesses compounded with superstition, which fosters the belief that one cause is linked to another without evidence, encourages illogical and discouraging thoughts to dominate. Thoughts cycle round and round, locked by emotions and driven by assumptions. Aware of this cycle, it is possible to disengaged from thinking in loops.

“any extravagance of distress in you, this will be more grievous to me”

In my feelings of grief, I’m constantly aware that if I allowed myself a selfish response by indulging grief, I would actually hurt people I am close to. This is not meant to say that we can’t let others know how we feel. Of course, we must do this, and loved ones want to offer comfort. Part of our comfort is accepting what others can give us, and sometimes holding back a bit of all that is overwhelming us might be a consideration. A friend of mind wisely once said when I suggested a disastrous possible outcome, “Don’t put that out in the air,” she said. I think what she meant is that some of our irrational thoughts gain momentum and validity, reinforcing what may not be helpful.

“we must not sit idle and shut ourselves in, paying for those pleasures with sorrows many times as great”

We can do nothing about some of the circumstances we find ourselves on this earth, such as living and dying. Sometimes injustices and life events are beyond our control. We can control our responses to these events. Should our grief overpower and destroy all the beautiful moments of life? Would our loved ones want us to suffer endlessly with their memory or difficult life outcomes? Does misfortune outweigh all the kindnesses shown us? How can we now bring some good on this earth by reaching out to others? We should not consider the small good a great evil, nor, because Fortune did not add what we hoped for, be ungrateful for what was given.

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We experience lovely moments on this earth as we spin around the sun in the vast universe of emptiness. We are precious, for if we were found on a distant solar system, we would be celebrated as miraculous. We live on this planet after fourteen billion years as our universe continually expands at exactly the perfect rate. Supernovas create the elements necessary for life, and like the supernovas, we exist in a flash of time.

Plutarch comforts his wife to resist those manifestations that darken our thoughts leaving us unable to accept soothing influences. That is all we can do and all we must do, for our moments are precious and soon lost to the passage of time.

Enya ~ A Moment Lost

Two excellent links:

Part One, When You’re Grieving

Part Two, Helping a Grieving Friend

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