Monday, February 15, 2021

Putting a Price on History

 Greetings Reader!  Some time back I wrote about how a historic photo of Harriet Tubman was being auctioned by a major dealer.  Happily, the photo, along with other items in the album, was jointly purchased by the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, you can read about it here https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/smithsonian-library-of-congress-rare-1860s-photo-harriet-tubman-180962818/

Can history be rescued again?  This time, it is a humble document--a ledger showing signatures of people who received a piece of mail while incarcerated.  Who's signature?  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Where and when?  The Birmingham Jail in 1963.  Yes, the place where Dr. King wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."  You can read a draft of it and hear him read it here:  https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/letter-birmingham-jail

Fine Books magazine, which brought my attention to this sale, introduces it with the following statement "Black History Month, observed annually in February, recognizes the African-American struggle for freedom and key events that empowered the Civil Rights Movement. In honor of Black History Month and the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Hake’s will open its February 24-25 auction with a unique and highly important testament to the great civil rights leader’s courage and resolve. Never before seen publicly, the lot consists of four logbook pages from the Birmingham Jail, hand-signed 12 times by Dr. King during his 1963 incarceration."  Really?  Profiting from the record of incarceration of Dr. King is "in honor" of Black History Month.  These words are posted here:  https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/news/mlk-signed-birmingham-jail-logbook-offered-hakes-feb-24-25-auction

So let's look at the auctioneer's listing, which is here:  https://hakes.com/Auction/ItemDetail/244390/LETTER-FROM-A-BIRMINGHAM-JAIL-MARTIN-LUTHER-KING-MULTI-SIGNED-BIRMINGHAM-JAILHOUSE-LOGBOOK-PAGES

The auction link doesn't make a claim about this sale being "in honor" of anything so I'm not sure where Fine Books got that idea, of if there is a printed catalog I haven't seen linked stating this.  Auctioneer Hake's does provide the provenance of the ledger, stating "The oral history passed down through the consigning family states that these pages were salvaged by a jail employee who was instructed to destroy the ledger but had the foresight to preserve these pages, eventually passing them to the family's history buff patriarch where they have been held until now. This offering marks not only their first appearance in commerce but their first public display."

Foresight to preserve the pages...mmhmm.  And proffer them up for sale in the year 2021, in the immediate months after the protests over the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor?

So Internet, let's do this.  These papers documenting how Dr. King was able to stay in touch and communicate with the Civil Rights movement must be preserved at a location that can make digital copies part of the available worldwide curriculum and preserve the physical copies in the highest archival state.

Heading over to social media to start making some noise about this.  Look for me @Bookcharmer on twitter and signal boost if you can. 

The angry archivist Bookcharmer 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Philando Castile

 I woke up in the night, my brain too busy with some thoughts that need conscious as well as subconscious sorting.  

First, I can tell you that I along with millions other sighed in relief after both Harris and Biden had sworn their oaths, the Inauguration capped off in style by singers and the latest poet supernova, Amanda Gorman, dazzled us with her light.  After four years of hearing vitriol and outright lies from the highest office, it was a restorative morning that offered the promise of a better path forward.  We stumble forward imperfectly.  Gorman's phrase "it isn't broken, just unfinished" resonated with me the days after.  So why couldn't my brain enjoy a full night?

The fallout of the attack on the Capitol remains a sore, unfinished business.  Salt is being liberally applied to the wound as perpetrator after perpetrator is not only continuing to roam free instead of being held for trial, but often in the comfort of their own homes.  I'll point out the actions of a young white woman named named Riley Williams, who has been documented in many places as being the person who stole a laptop from Speaker Pelosi's office.  Source:  https://www.npr.org/2021/01/21/959446771/woman-charged-in-theft-of-pelosis-laptop-released-from-jail

Did you catch the last part of that web address?  Released.  From.  Jail.  The article further states, "Williams will have to wear an ankle monitor and can only leave her mother's home for work and some other court-approved reasons."

Excuse me?  She can still go to work? How is this possible?  This is the Alice in Wonderland upside down world where a white woman can steal federal property, be documented doing it on camera, and gets to return to her family home where she isn't even under complete house arrest? 

There have been many tragic police involved shooting in recent years, and one that is outstandingly horrible is the case of a young black man, Philando Castile, who was shot by a police officer who had pulled him over.  And article by the New York Times reported that Castile "In a 13-year span, Philando Castile was pulled over by the police in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region at least 49 times, an average of about once every three months, often for minor infractions."  Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/us/before-philando-castiles-fatal-encounter-a-costly-trail-of-minor-traffic-stops.html

Who was Philando Castile?  To the children at the school where he supervised the cafeteria, he was Mr. Phil.  Now he is recognized by the Rockefeller Foundation as a "school food hero" because he was known for paying for food for children who couldn't afford lunch.  Source:  https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/remembering-philando-castile-school-food-hero/

You can see the argument my brain was having:  Philando Castile, taken from his community.  Riley Williams,  returned to her home with an ankle bracelet. 

The even sadder coda to this contrast is that the officer who shot Castile, was acquitted.  According to this npr report  Yanez "separated" from the police department where he worked, even receiving compensation for unused personal leave.

So I lay awake for awhile last night.  I thought about the news coverage of the attack on the Capitol, about the news coming out about the individuals who abetted the attack, some of them sitting lawmakers.  I thought about how the invaders, once they had achieved their goal of disrupting the electoral ballot counting, didn't appear to have a plan other than random destruction and looting once they got inside.  

But who they are--their identities are known because of the photo and video coverage, and many of the rioters have even posted their own photos claiming their acts. And the expectation that the people who have fallen for Trump's rhetoric are limited to just one type of person....well, turns out his appeal cut a much broader swath than many of us wanted to recognize in the American public.  People of means who had the resources to travel across the country to participate in a riot meant to disrupt our peaceful transfer of power.  

It's naive now to say 'who knew'? It is daunting to see how many people gleefully chose violence over peace, disrespect over unity, chaos over being constructive.  A lesson I take away is how much faster people of good conscience must stand up the truth.  I've seen two elections stolen from Democrats, Al Gore and Hilary Clinton.  No, they did not run perfect campaigns, and neither of them are perfect people.  But I know both of them would have been better presidents and done more good for our country and our planet than the Republican leadership that evolved from those debacles.  We have to stand up faster, harder, and more authoritatively and put an end to the "whataboutism" arguments and hate that passes for discourse.

Maybe I'm writing this for myself more than anyone out there, to remind myself that as a woman with a fetching touch of silver in my hair, I can throw my weight around a little and ask more of myself and my community.  


Monday, January 18, 2021

Wednesday

On Wednesday January 6th Democrats woke up to the great news that the Georgia senate runoff election results were showing decisive wins for Democrats Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.  Your Bookcharmer sailed off to a day in the library branch, lunch packed, gloved and masked up, but a bounce in my step that such a crucial election, one that will flip the majority leadership of the Senate, was looking to be a definitive Democrat win.

Days in the branch, are busy, to be sure.  It is a great thing to be beloved by your community, but that means you better be ready to hustle for them.  You might be surprised to know that in my "high tech" community, many of our patrons still need to use a telephone to place holds and schedule appointments to pick them up.  Indeed, not everything is online.  Or maybe a patron is quite tech savvy, but needs someone to walk him through resetting a password on a database that is less than user friendly.  Then hurry and make some picture book bundles, participate in an online meeting, fulfill a research request...so a day in the branch is going to be a lot of tasks that don't provide a lot of time for following breaking news.  Maybe that's a blessing.  

The events of January 6 2021 when a horde of violent protestors attacked the Capitol will take a long time to unspiral--a bare bones timeline appears at present on the NPR website:  https://www.npr.org/2021/01/15/956842958/what-we-know-so-far-a-timeline-of-security-at-the-capitol-on-january-6

It doesn't get into the threats against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi or the insulting acts committed on the physical building.  The article points out the lack of advance planning/protection on the day when the election was being certified.  More will come in following days, but it is obvious from news coverage that the outgoing president incited this mob and it is possible that the damage to the Capitol and the threats against Democratic congresspeople, and, of all ironies, the Republican Vice President, were quite real and nearly realized.

There is so much to try to process and understand and take in...while not letting this last stab at the heart of Democracy by the evil that is the outgoing Party takeover the joy in the reality that our country will have a Democratic president in less than 48 hours as I type this, and its first woman as a Vice President.

I'm mostly writing this post just to document my own level of shock and more shock that the building where our government functions was the target of people that want to destroy it.  Their arguments?  Specious and ludicrous.  Their methods?  Tragic and base.  The racist act of carrying a flag of a failed state into the Capitol.  

The mirror held up on January 6 also showed the truth about all the protests this summer in support of Black Lives Matter, when protestors all over the country were subjected to police violence while peacefully protesting https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/usa-law-enforcement-violated-black-lives-matter-protesters-human-rights/ 

And as our country seems to keep forgetting, we are in the middle of a FUCKING PANDEMIC that has taken the lives of almost 400,000 people in the U.S. alone.  The latest news for the US and the world is being tracked by Johns Hopkins University https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

And the protestors?  No masks.  Horns and MAGA hats, sure.  But no masks.  And some of them had come from different parts of the country, turning their hate fueled trek into a super spreader event.  

I'm sorry just to throw links at you--I'm still trying to figure out what to focus on, and trying to balance this latest event with all the events of the past year, like the House impeaching Trump in December 2019 and the Senate acquitted him in early February of 2020.  

I write to you from the West coast of the country, aka the Left Coast.  I write in the concluding hours of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  

I don't know how much I will sleep between now and when Biden/Harris are inaugurated and Warnock and Ossoff are sworn in to office.  In these next 48 hours though, I know I will be trying to make some art, do some reading, go to work, and think about what needs to remembered about these Wednesdays in January.  



Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Most Beautiful Thing

 Hi.

It's been a while since I've done a book review for you, and the one I have for you now--the book is so good I've had to sit with it a while.  People who do a lot of text ingestion, aka reading, for work purposes know you have to really change your mindset to enjoy reading for pleasure again.  Irony, I know.  But when you have to read reviews, reports, e-mails, gulp down information for easy mental access later...to slow down and let an author's voice into your consciousness becomes a much more deliberate act.  And it is getting rarer that I have the ability to do that easily.  But when you have a writer like Arshay Cooper bring you his story, well...

I came across this book because I recently joined athlete and entrepreneur Steph Curry's bookclub on Literati, which is called Underrated.https://literati.com/book-clubs/stephen-curry/  This was the first book I received.  If you aren't tuned into the Bay Area or national basketball scene, Steph Curry for the Bay Area is like Michael Jordan was to Chicago in the 90s.  Unparalled, iconic, an athletic force so great that the skill and talent and knowledge of the sport is obvious to someone who last touched a basketball in 1986.  Beyond Curry's athleticism, he is a community maker and I thought heck yeah I'm in when I read about his book club.

Cooper's book is about his experience growing up as a young black man in Chicago, attending public schools and being recruited on to a high school rowing team, which turned out to become the first all black high school rowing team.  I leave to your enjoyment of the book the story of how this came to be.  What I want to focus on is what he says about the sport and some of the ways he relates to it.  When writing about pushing his through pain towards the end a race, he writes "I have felt pain all my life; it's my normal. (155).  

That line had me in tears. A few pages later he recalls "After a race, your whole body starts to malfunction, particularly your back.  I hate being tardy, so I am speed walking in pain to school."  To give you a bit of context, he's walking on the paved streets of Chicago, known for its ridiculously long blocks.  And I don't recall much mention in this book that (as my lived experience) in Chicago the weather is hateful 75% of the time.  Freezing in winter, muggy moist in summer, maybe 8 days each fall and spring where walking isn't a chore.  But his focus in this book isn't his personal discomforts, it is how he and his teammates rise to and meet the challenges, which range from disrespectful behavior from competitors to facing deeply held fears about water and swimming.

There are moments when he describes racing that I felt I was right there on the boat with him.  He shares the jokes and stories of his teammates, you meet his family and learn about how he lives.  He shares his hopes for love, his concerns about his friends,  his awkward relationship with his father, the experience of disappointing a coach.  In short, he doesn't hold back in opening up his heart and his life.

How do you do this, Mr. Cooper?  To know yourself and your story so well to be able to reveal yourself at the center of the huge sociological storm that is Chicago? He does, and writes of it and his hopes and dreams not only for himself but his teammates and his friends.  

We take the talents of our young people for granted in America.  There is a systematic reduction of opportunities for young people of color, in particular.  It shouldn't need proving that young black people are wells of talent, but in a country where young black men and women--Mike Brown, George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Armaud Arbery--have been murdered in cold blood, we need to hear and recognize not just the humanity but the wellspring of talent that should be supported and realized.  So bring this book along with you to share with people who don't live in Chicago, who don't know young black people, who need the chance to move on from the murky veil of fear fanned by racism. 

America and sports...whooo, the problems that we could talk about!  Sports should not be the only way young people can distinguish themselves and learn the pleasure of mastering challenges. But this book brings up the most important aspect, which is that a group sport can build so many dimensions of personal and social emotional growth.  It can be a gateway to travel, to new experiences.  It can teach people to rely on themselves and others.  

Give yourself the gift of this book, Arshay Cooper's A Most Beautiful Thing, published by Flatiron Books.  May I insist you purchase it from your local independent bookstore, or bookshop.org?  Thank you. 

So that's my book review, friends. Just a few quick thoughts before singing off since it has been so long since I wrote you.  Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been declared the winners of the 2020 election, and even more than Christmas and New Year's I am looking forward to their inaugeration.  A vaccine for C19 has been developed by multiple companies and is being delivered and distributed.  We've got a long way to go before Inaugeration Day and more people get the necessary two doses of the vaccine, so please...keep wearing your masks, washing your hands, and practice being a homebody.  


Friday, October 30, 2020

Listening and Love

 Hi.


It's been awhile, I know, I hope you are okay.  Mr. Bookcharmer and I are doing well in our bubble, although the ache of missing family and friends will definitely get sharper as the holidays approach.  But, we have an election to get through first.

Whew.  I can't even tell you all the nonsense that has happened because it became impossible to keep up with the insanity, and harder even to see the abuse and poor behavior I could stand to witness via the news.  I'll just give one example that history should not forget:  The 45 campaign stranded rally attendees, in Omaha, in late October, outside, at night, for hours.  As https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/28/politics/donald-trump-omaha-rally-cold/index.html reported, "Omaha, Nebraska (CNN)When President Donald Trump left Omaha on Tuesday, thousands watched and cheered in the frigid air as Air Force One took off into the night sky. But for these loyal supporters, their experience at the Trump rally was far from over.

For the next several hours, hundreds and hundreds of people who attended the rally were stranded, as a chaotic scene unfolded on dark roads on a remote stretch near the Omaha airport. They waited for buses that didn't arrive, unable to reach the site because of a clogged two-lane road.

President Trump took off in Air Force One 1 hr 20 minutes ago, but thousands of his supporters remain stranded on a dark road outside the rally. "We need at least 30 more buses," an Omaha police officer just said, shaking his head at the chaotic cluster that is unfolding.— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) October 28, 2020."

Yeah, you go ahead and focus on your day after reading that madness.  So, we've donated, we've voted, we discussed the propositions on the ballot with fellow Californians....and now we wait.  As long as this year has been, as long as the past four years have been, the next four days, wow.  

So I'm writing to say hello, to just check in with the blogoverse, and also to capture a little something I wrote this summer, and then I'll leave you with a message from an artist I'm coming to enjoy very much.  And probably a little commentary.  Ready?

So this summer I took an online course about Love as a Force of Social Justice.  The class itself was a bit disappointing--online learning is pretty lonely, as millions of schoolkids are experiencing.  Considering the Major University hosting the class, I had expected a bit more of a dynamic learning experience.  Be that as it may, I had time to think about the main topic, which is how do we build a loving community?  Here's a fragment from an assignment response I wrote back in July:

The artist Corita created a piece in 1985 titled Love is Hard Work, you can see it here:  https://corita.org/piece/85-06 . I have been inspired by Corita for many years and she has an amazing canon of work, but this is the piece that comes to my mind most often when I think of her.  Just four words in the sense that, as people often say, love is just four letters.  But I think this piece with its broad strokes of color and short message brings us the message that _working_ to love someone is an important part of understanding, and a part of the process of coming to agape.

If it was easy to love, agape love would be everywhere.  Why is it hard?  Because to love, we must listen.  For anyone now weary of "listening" to long meetings, webinars, town halls, newscasts...really listening takes a lot of energy.  There is passive listening, active listening, but how do we listen with our whole beings? 

How do we learn to listen?  Who are the models for listening?  How do we know when listening has taken place? 

The act of love for social justice I have witnessed in the summer has been a progression from outcry to creation.  Across the country, people have taken to the streets during a time of pandemic to spread the message "Black Lives Matter."  I have held my breath in fear and sometimes wept at seeing how protesters have been confronted violently by police, been driven over by fellow citizens, been arrested for proclaiming their love and respect for Black Lives.  

Love is hard work, indeed.  But the results are showing--sculptures to a racist governments have been pulled down, the 8cantwait policing reform is under discussion across the country, people are rethinking how they want community safety to be carried out.  But none of those conversations would have happened without the profound and robust response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.  

Love is hard work, because instead of falling into despair, we have to act. 

So that's what I wrote back in July, and I continue to hold on to Corita's words, that Love is Hard Work.  This is a nice foundation for the artistic message you can see here, a billboard by artist Christine Wong Yap that reads How Do You Keep Your Heart Open? 

https://christinewongyap.com/work/2020/how-do-you-keep-billboard.html

She writes of this installation:  "To keep one’s heart open is to embrace a mindset of abundance, rather than a mindset of scarcity; to opt for connection and generosity, rather than self-preservation; and to work towards belonging, rather than othering."

This is an admirable artistic and philosophical practice. It requires trying again, giving people grace/space, a willingness to continue reaching and being available.  

And how do we as tired humans do this?  I think you have to believe in yourself and be steadfast in the face of doubters and disparagers.  I have seen the importance  of this in recent local political campaigns, where women of stellar character and valuable insight, have been misrepresented in advertisements by political action committees and poor journalism.   The organizations behind this behavior are not Fox News or a MAGA pac--one is business PAC and one is local newspaper.  In California.  Yet, these women who are running on platforms of equality, human rights, and environmental protection have lies and veiled racist phrases circulating.  I remain consistently impressed by long time friend Sally Lieber and new on the political scene candidate Raven Malone for standing up for themselves.  They both inspire me with their ability to call out the duplicitous information being printed on mailers and in newspapers and stay focused on the mission of their campaigns.  

So good people who are thinking of running for office in the future--I want you to believe in yourself and I want you to do it.   Wherever you are in the community--believe in yourself and keep your heart open to listening and being able to learn.  

So, that's all I have for now.  Wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay well.   



Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Country of John Lewis

Good morning.

Taking the morning to watch the funeral of Congressman John Lewis, right now watching the broadcast on NBC, where right now Jon Meacham is speaking and in his praise for Lewis has just said "This is not sentimentality, this is history."

We are fortunate that so much documentation about John Lewis exists across so many formats, including his autobiographical works and his writings.  This morning brings news that

I'm ready for catharsis this morning, to weep for the people who have been dishonored and whose lives have been stolen by hate and racism. 

The church bells are ringing now as people enter the church. 

The service is beginning now in Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The pastor already has the entire group of people attending on their feet applauding for Lewis. 

Can you imagine the joyful reunion Lewis will have on the other side? 

Rev. Bernice King is speaking now, speaking to the country, to the world, from the church where her father preached.

Jennifer Holliday is singing now and the broadcast is showing footage of people gathered outside the church. People inside are lifted to their feet at the power of her voice. 

Rev James Lawson Jr. is welcomed to the speaker's place with applause. He is giving a master class on the history of the Civil Rights Movement and his voice becomes a towering presence as he calls for honoring Lewis by fulfilling the promises of the Constitution.  He calls for us to be loud as long as women and children are in poverty, as long as our country continues to be violent, as long as our economy is shaped by plantation capitalism. 

A message from Former President Carter is read.  Kathleen Bertrand is singing and raising the audience.

Xerrnona Clayton is speaking now.  She is sharing the story of how she was the matchmaker for John Lewis and his wife Lillian and it is like hearing a cherished family story.

William Campbell, former mayor of Atlanta is speaking now, reflecting on the first time he met Lewis.

Jamila Thompson, Lewis' Deputy Chief of Staff is speaking and her voice is thick with grief.
But in recounting what is what like to work with him, says with a huge smile "He was always in our business." Sharing the spirit and energy of being around him, and sharing the names of staff who worked with him for many years.  Sharing his work ethic and legendary memory and that she has saved the voicemail messages from him on her phone.

I'm going to stop chronicling for now because I know Obama will be on soon and I'm going to give my full attention to the rest of this powerful service.

Lewis wrote an essay published in the NY Times today that concludes:

"Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide."

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Public Art Now

Greetings, greetings.  I write again from my couch, my after hours desk since the armchair is for work hours and the dining table is a carnival of mask sewing and letter writing.  I should give you a proper update on COVID-19 (it's bad) but I can't just now because I've had a question rattling around in my head for a few days and last night my subconscious presented me with an answer.

Right now across the U.S. and parts of the globe, the outrage for how people of color have been treated is manifesting in many ways, including in the form of response to public art, or visual culture if you will.  And it is happening in so many places and in so many ways it is hard to keep track, but most notably the statue in Richmond Virginia of Robert E. Lee has been the spectacular canvas for uncommissioned public art (some call it graffiti) as well as project images at nighttime.  This statue, just this afternoon of July 1, 2020, has been taken down. 

In the past weeks, several public sculptures of conquerors/colonialists/lost causes/racism have been taken down in public acts of protest.  The dialog on social media has been fascinating as people advocate/complain/try to digest/explain.  The comment that has stuck in brain though:  Did you ever learn anything from a statue?  Forgive me poster of this question, I'll try to track you down but I foolishly relied on my ever overburdened brain bank to remember who posed the question.  The question really stuck with me though--I've been mulling it over for a few days because part of the question also involved the aspect of what did you learn from the statue itself, not from any signage or plaques on/nearby? 

So first, shaking down the memory bank.  Sculpture.  Have a seen a sculpture recently?  My most recent specific "going to a sculpture"activity was waaaayy back in early C19 times, before the shelter in place order, when a good friend and I agreed to meet for a walk on a rainy afternoon on a nearby famous campus and she famously said "I'll meet you at the Gates of Hell."  This particular nearby campus is known for being awash in Rodin, so we had plenty of sculptures by him to review, including aforementioned Gates of Hell.

But what did I know of that giant sculpture, and did I really stand to interpret it, before immediately seguing into gossip with my pal and steering her toward what I wanted to see, the Arizona garden?  Reader, I did not.

So I had to work my brain a little harder.   Sculpture, sculpture.  Fountains probably don't count in this in moment, and I've only seen the Trevi fountain in pictures, anyway.  Sculpture....and suddenly I was awake at 2 a.m. and rush of memories came back in surprising detail.

My first year at San Jose State University was luckily the same year that the monumental sculpture of Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos was unveiled on campus.   I had not known prior to accepting the position at SJSU that the world famous image of Smith and Carlos and Peter Norman on the medals podium, Smith and Carlos barefoot, each with one hand gloved and raised in protest, heads bowed as the national anthem played, was a watershed image in civil rights and university history.  But I was there that fall day on campus when this huge, literally larger than life sculpture by Rigo23 was unveiled and the two men who had taken their moment of triumph on the world stage to speak for others were there to see it, almost 40 years after.   Interestingly, the presence of the sculpture on the campus was due to student activism--initially when the student athletes, who were part of the famed Coach Bud Winter Speed City track team, returned to campus, they were not warmly welcomed by parts of the community by their actions were defended by President Robert Clark. 

But to get back to the statue--to see this representation of the two Black athletes, the details true to life through the use of 3D scanning technology to create the ceramic tiles mounted on a steel frame and the faces made of bronze.  If you look closely at pictures or get to see it in person--what do you see?  It is more than raised fists--it is the button they are both wearing for the Olympic Project for Human Rights, it is also the fact they are barefoot, taking their shoes off to represent the poverty and injustices faced by Black people in the late 1960s.  I know these details because I was there to see the statue unveiled, to hear both men talk about their lived experiences, and then to have it be part of my work life landscape, a gathering place, a destination, a reminder. 

As Maureen Margaret Smith writes in her article "Frozen Fists in Speed City" the sculpture represents many things to many people.  For the University as an entity, the opportunity to show delayed respect to students that went on to become civil rights icons, and in that moment of commitment would lose countless financial opportunities for sports celebrity.  I recommend reading the autobiographies of both John Carlos and Tommie Smith for how they have negotiated their legacy and their current work.

I can't let this discussion go by without mention of Dr. Harry Edwards, whose name I did not know that fall day in 2005, but would come to know in 2016 when this organizer of the Olympic Project for Human Rights came to campus to initiate the process of donating his archives to the SJSU Library.  Nowhere on the sculpture do you see the name Dr. Harry Edwards, but he played a pivotal role not only in this protest but in protests that have happened in the past fifty years where people who use their bodies to play the sports, win the races, make the points are not respected off the field. 

Ok, I'm a little tired and I'm not doing justice to this topic at the moment, revisions to come in the next draft.  But think about it--what have you learned from a sculpture? 



Further reading:
Beyond Bronze https://sjsunews.com/article/beyond-bronze

Smith, Maureen Margaret. "Frozen Fists in Speed City: The Statue as Twenty-First-Century Reparations." Journal of Sport History 36, no. 3 (2009): 393-414. Accessed July 1, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/26405221.

Fifty years later, Peter Norman’s heroic Olympic stand is finally being recognised at home.
https://theconversation.com/fifty-years-later-peter-normans-heroic-olympic-stand-is-finally-being-recognised-at-home-102112