Saturday, August 1- Gaps in my education
This would have been the date of our Gospel Choir performance at the Acoustic Blues Festival. For how many years has an amazing succession of musicians have helped fill the gaps in my education about Black American history? Many. At the beginning of the Festival Manager Mary Hilts, a white Port Townsend resident, sent this message along with participants’ quotes and video links I’ll be coming back to for a long time.
Dearest participants of Port Townsend Acoustic Blues (this and last year) –
This morning after deep soaking the garden, I should be loading bins of art, instruments, string lights, tablecloths, lamps, pens, tea, coffee, vases and flowers into my car and rolling the two miles out to Fort Worden. After a quick stop at the Centrum office to meet van drivers who would head to SeaTac to pick up faculty artists, I’d be heading over to the front desk to pick up keys. Then I’d back my car up to the back porch of 204 and meet the crew and décor lead Kat to unload the bins so she, the crew and our work-traders could make the place look like home again. After meeting Helen and Tracy with her stunning new oil paintings to hang up south, I’d leave 204 in trusted hands and roll back over to the office to meet Alanna and finalize packets, drop keys inside, and track all incoming flights making sure there were no delays. After we’d heard from van drivers that all faculty had been picked up, we’d have let KC our back-up transporter-in-wait, know she could head over. And then finally, YOU would all arrive – and Alanna and I would have exhaled a deep sigh of relief and thrown our arms around each of you, welcoming you home again. You’d settle in, maybe head down to the beach for a minute to take in the salt air, then we’d all gather in the dining hall and share our first meal together. After that we’d gather in the Wheeler Theater and talk about the week ahead, and finally we’d gather in the halls of 204 and the lounges of 203, and play music until we fell asleep on our instruments.
But this is 2020 – the year Covid-19 shook us to our core and 2020 – the year Amy Cooper woke us to the tool of blatant racism, and the year we watched George Floyd take his last breath under the knee of racist indifference. 2020 is the year after so very many years, that we finally and collectively said – enough brutality on Black people.
So here we are, check-in day for our beloved blues week. I could have put together something online to satiate our hunger for gathering. But blues is Black music and I have not been able to wrap my head around the idea of calling our beloved musician friends to ask them to sing some songs for us during a time when the ugliest of racisms is busting out across the nation, threatening protest marchers for Black Lives Matter. It is a time when the word lynching has made the headlines again, several times.
I needed to pause. This is not a time for business as usual, or even business as adjusted to Covid-19. Since the cultural shift took hold, I’ve been reading online and finishing some of the books I ordered from Mark Puryear’s suggested reading list after last year’s Deep Story sessions. I’ve ordered more books. I joined several weekly meet-ups to talk about systemic racism and how to take advantage of this cultural shift of consciousness and support the movement in ways that make real changes. I am part of our new board and staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee at Centrum. We are researching professional DEI Training for our entire staff and board, something we have talked about for a long time, a time that has finally come. As an arts and cultural organization, we are committed to deeply understanding the systemic roots of racism so that we may dismantle them and be better, more welcoming stewards for all of the people who walk through our doors. As an educational organization, we have a responsibility to honor the histories within the music and arts we present. In addition to offering classes in the tunings, techniques and styles of the great blues musicians at blues week, we include offerings about blues history – a history created under the oppressive pressure of racism. Last year we launched the Deep Story project, birthed after a year of conversations I had about racism with videographer Jamaine Campbell. I asked Mark Puryear if he could put together a program based on racism in blues and he agreed. We included a panel made up of our esteemed faculty who shared personal stories of racism in their lives while Jamaine moderated the discussion. We looked forward to continuing these sessions this year.
Anti-racism work has taken a front seat right now as we are so far behind in our awareness and it is so essential to make our programs truly welcoming to all. Covid-19 has actually made time for this work possible because of how it has stopped or stretched time.
Blues music is the driver of the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues program and sharing passion for this music that brings us together in such a spiritually uplifting way will only be made deeper with deeper understanding. Jontavious Willis and I have talked recently about collecting some things to offer you. He has been busy with an exciting project we’ll be telling you more about soon and how it relates to PT Acoustic Blues week. And we have some things up our sleeves we hope to share with you online later this year. When they are finalized, you will be the first to know!
In the meantime, as musicians who love the blues, I encourage us all to build a deeper understanding of systemic racism and how its micro-aggressions keep us from connecting with each other on a deeper level. I’ll leave you with a few quotes from last year’s Deep Story sessions. Below that, links to a few videos that help us work toward understanding how systemic racism weaves into our culture, how we got here and how it still plays out. And finally, two documents, one – the list of recommended reading Mark Puryear shared last year, and one with anti-racist resources that Joe Seamons shared in his and Tina’s video below.
I am learning – I don’t pretend to know how to lead even myself on this journey, but I am fully committed to anti-racism and making all of us feel welcome. I so look forward to gathering with you again, sharing songs and celebrating in an environment of diversity, equality, and inclusion.
With all my heart, I wish you well.
“In addition to celebrating blues, we want to investigate its story with our critical thinking skills, to look at racism and racial inequity through the lens of the blues, at what we call structural racism” – Mark Puryear
“The blues was a struggle” – Sharde’ Thomas
“Blues is what kept people from going insane on the weekend” – Sunpie
“They couldn’t talk about it so they sang” – Jontavious Willis
“Blues is the music of survival” – Guy Davis
“The music is a small portion of what the blues is, it is a lifestyle, not just a pastime” – Jontavious Willis
“Your spirit is the great equalizer, its’ about sharing your spirit” – Sunpie
Joe Seamons with Tina Dietz “Exploitation & Disrespect in American Dance Music: A Community Discussion” password = 5K#v1^*E
Jerron Paxton Performance with commentary password = 6x.1*Q=2
anti-racism resources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PrAq4iBNb4nVIcTsLcNlW8zjaQXBLkWayL8EaPlh0bc/preview?fbclid=IwAR0NFxlUwYwyp3ysdGEgJQAZaVOfa8Klz1jBUYZXrBkzzRIJDKQp4GkVLks&pru=AAABcqO1Xj0*2AqU1RvXviBp3yheEVVCfg
Sunday, August 2 – Hitting consensus
The PHLUSH Board meeting today is pleasant and productive. The notes I take show the group hitting one consensus after another. I have new enthusiasm for my remaining months supporting the Board with program management.
Monday, August 3 – Tracking aerosols
An highly instructive video from Vox science reporters on how COVID has spread. There’s an animation of what happened in that Wuhan restroom. Shows what impeccable contract tracing can teach us!
Tuesday, August 4 – Does Fauci ever get tired?
Weary, for sure, but not tired. (He jogs every day.) Here the editor of JAMA interviews the indomitable Fauci. The watershed in the droplet-aerosolization controversy is discussed.
Wednesday, August 5 – No rest in restroom!
I update the resource list Restroom Modification and Redesign for COVID-19. By dating ever new entry, I see how much we thought we knew in the beginning that has proven inconsequential. Like fear of surfaces and compulsive cleaning. SARS-CoV-2 hangs in the air we inhale, damnit! Never take off your mask in a restroom and get out as soon as possible!
Thursday, August 6 – My red bench
Sat on the red bench watching the tide build a wrack line of huge mounds of late summer seaweed. Wonderful to catch up on month’s of Helene’s news.
An account by Jessica Plumb in today’s Rainshadow Journal captures the wonder and complexity of the costal ecology of the PNW. Like her film Return of the River, it’s a deep look at the Elwha, particularly developments in the last couple of years. Good pictures of the split Glines Dam. Karl, Nancy and I explored the area below the dam the day before it was removed.
Friday, August 7 –
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/116021495″>The Unknown Sea: A Voyage on the Salish (festival cut)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user23372870″>Deep Green Wilderness</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
One more for my reading-while-cruising-the-Sound-with-Internet list. A lengthy (25 min read) and fascinating account of Heiltsuk basic rights and food culture. Of Roe, Rights, and Reconciliation.
Saturday, August 8 – What went wrong?
- How the world missed COVID-19’s silent spread. Symptomless transmission makes the coronavirus far harder to fight. But health officials dismissed the risk for months, pushing misleading and contradictory claims in the face of mounting evidence.
- Europe Said It Was Pandemic-Ready. Pride Was Its Downfall. The coronavirus exposed European countries’ misplaced confidence in faulty models, bureaucratic busywork and their own wealth.