Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way
Walnut Room? This way, please.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Olney City Hall

 Although this building is currently in use as the city hall, that was not always the case.  And, however I search my memory and databases and Olney newspapers, I cannot recall its former use, or find reference to it.  What I do recall is that during the time my mother worked for what was then known as the Department of Public Welfare, her Olney office was in this building, and shared space with the highway patrol officer.  I am estimating a circa 1922, based on its resemblance to the building below.
The Municipal Building in Breckenridge in nearby Stephens County is similar, and it was erected 1922.  
 The Olney building features Roman ionic columns, and has a relieving arch design on the windows of the lower floor and the center door.  The weight is diverted around the arch, and then down to the ground, which reduces weight on the window head or door opening (locallocalhistory.co.uk).
 Flat lintels are inside the arches, which also feature a white keystone.  This side of the building has been altered in recent years.  At one time, another building stood next door, but I don't recall what it was.  The Hamilton Hotel building was on the corner, to the left in this photo, and Lunn Funeral Home occupied a space in the block, maybe even in the old hotel itself.  The Rexall drug store was on the bottom floor of the hotel.
 The relieving arch design, and the flat lintels, are more readily apparent in the close up.
 The parapet is topped with a cartouche.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Already a Health Professional Shortage Area, Mississippi cuts public health social workers

A couple of years ago, I spent some time researching the potential for a grant.  Just about every county in Mississippi is a designated Health Professional Shortage Area--meaning, counties without adequate public health staff including nurses and social workers.  And now, social workers have been cut.  Ya'll all know why: the failure of our elected leaders to manage the budget in a responsible fashion.  In the mantra of "no taxes" for the wealthy, the poorest of the poor, chronically ill and disabled and elderly, have no social work services in the department of health in Mississippi.  Professionals who have dedicated their careers to public service (the real kind--serving people with critical needs, not the kind where you get elected and then ignore the people who are your employers while you rack up a nice pension, health care benefits, and a hefty salary at the expense of the taxpayer while denying those same opportunities to the taxpayer) lost their jobs this week.  People with chronic illness, like diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, and a host of other illnesses have no access to a social worker.  If one imagines how devastated those social workers must be, imagine how devastated the clients are.  It's a rocky road to travel with a social worker's services; alone, it is frightening and difficult.  I know; I worked public mental health services for most of my career, serving people with profound and disabling mental illness and mental retardation.

Some elected officials (and you know which ones) are blaming the snarled air traffic slowdown from laid off air controllers on President Obama for not "choosing" where to make the across the board austerity cuts they deemed necessary rather than raising taxes.  As someone who avoids air travel like the plague these days, I have no doubt it was a hardship on those folks who had to travel or chose to travel.

Maybe while they are sitting in the airport sipping their $5 lattes, or $9 cocktails, they can spend a few minutes to lift up the elderly and disabled in Mississippi who depend on public health services that are not there anymore.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

#firstworldproblems

My friend sent me an email a couple of days ago, telling me about a currently popular cartoon about whining about inconsequential things--thus, the #firstworldproblems.  I don't Facebook, or Tweet but I can use my imagination.  I recall when I was on Facebook a "friend" posting about how you could just not find good dosas in New York City.  What's a dosa?  The friend replied that I would not understand.  Oh, I see, I am so not in the know that I would not be able to understand if you actually bothered to explain it to me. Sounds like #firstworldproblems.

This morning I was going to post what I thought would be an entertaining post about my current physical difficulties and it taking me an hour to feed the dogs this morning, what with using two canes, trying to juggle one dog food bowl at a time to get 5 dogs fed all by myself.

I sat down to read one of my favorite blogs, Africa is a Country.  After reading the first paragraph, I found myself teetering between humor and amazement and annoyance.  See for yourself (emphasis mine):
The historian Margery Perham once wrote that “the basic difficulty” with the British colonial technique of indirect rule, of which she was a major architect, was “the great gap between the culture of rulers and ruled.” “People do not understand what we want them to do,” she wrote, “or, if they understand, do not want to do it.” The only thing for it, according to Perham, was “to instruct the leaders of the people in the objects of our policy, in the hope that they will, by their natural authority, at once diffuse the instruction and exact the necessary obedience.”
Imagine that: people do not want a foreign power to come in, take over, and tell them what to do.  One could think that the issue of colonization was history--a relic from earlier times...but one would be wrong, so read the entire article!

And in another striking example of my point about empowerment is the story of the school children demanding lessons in the face of economic cuts:

After two weeks without lessons, Blantyre’s school children decided they had had enough and organised their own demonstration across the city in support of their teachers. Dressed in bright blue and green school uniforms, they marched on Sanjika Palace before staging a sit-down protest on the road right outside the Malawian stock exchange. Stones were thrown at the Joyce Banda Foundation school, where classes were unaffected by the strike action, and angry pupils chanted their demands for equal provision across private and public schools.
This extraordinary collective action by Blantyre’s schoolchildren went scandalously unreported internationally. The Western media doesn’t know “empowerment” when it sees it, because it’s learned so well the old lie that the African poor (especially women and children) are waiting to have this thing called empowerment brought to them by Western NGOs.
I talk about this issue in my classes--empowerment is when people who are affected by inequality created and continued by governments or corporations do something to change those circumstances which result from policy.  Neo-liberal governments have hijacked the term empowerment to disguise charity and mental colonizing of people and calling it "empowerment."  It allows a government to abdicate its responsibility for citizens.  Great examples of so-called "empowerment" are the road building project in San Mateo and the garbage collection in Khayelitsha.

Feeding 5 dogs while walking on two canes?  #firstworldproblems.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"No More Hurting People"

I felt an overwhelming sadness this morning as I looked at the picture of 8 year old Martin Richard, who was killed--murdered--by a young man barely past his childhood himself.  Martin was holding a sign that said "No more hurting people. Peace."  His teacher had taken him and his classmates on a peace walk following the murder of Trayvon Martin.

One summer in Abilene, my friend Jane and I had a week-long Peace Camp for Kids.  It was an interesting mix, with varying outcomes, but one that will stay with me forever.  A little girl who was Hispanic was the only child in the group to "get it" during an exercise on building a community.  What did she "get?"  That we build our communities and structure our lives on separation, difference, greed, and indifference to those differences.

Everyone was having great fun "building" their communities--three different groups.  But while the other kids got caught up in "game" she began with a critical eye of an 8 year old--or maybe 10 year old, I don't recall for certain, to observe that the "rules" were not fair and one group had everything and two groups had nothing.  That was the point of the game: to look at how systems can oppress and harm, or nurture and grow.

Earlier this weekend, I had posted about Counting the graces and that I am tired of people hurting people.  I wasn't talking about a bombing, or shooting.  I was talking about abuse of power, and the sense of entitlement that one feels when the person has no conscience about doing things that hurt other people in order to get what that person wants.  But ultimately, the decision to hurt people at any level is made when we disregard the inherent dignity and worth of each of us--in our daily lives.  It is not enough just to leave flowers and toys and notes at a makeshift memorial--those that have become all too common all over the world.  We need "no more hurting people."

As I went to the kitchen this morning to fetch my orange juice, my gaze fell upon a poem that has been on my refrigerator since 2002 and my second trip to South Africa.  It is about the intentional destruction of District Six, a multicultural community in Cape Town that was bulldozed in preparation to establish apartheid.  I do not know the author, but the final verse:

In remembering, we do not want to recreate District Six but to work with its memory:
Of hurts inflicted and received, of loss, achievements and of shames.
We wish to remember so that we can all, together and by ourselves,
Rebuild a city which belongs to all of us, in which all of us can live,
not as races but as people. 
 
 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Counting the graces

Several years ago, I became virtually acquainted with a young woman who was planning to teach in remote Alaska.  She had stumbled across my blog about my 5 weeks on St. Paul Island, in the Pribiloffs in the Bering Sea.  We corresponded for a time, and when she took a teaching position on Little Diomede, I followed her blog.  Through that, I found one of her friends who currently lives in China, and I enjoy reading about the experiences of her and her family while there.  She began signing off on her posts with the phrase "counting the graces" in which she thanks Father for the experiences of the day/week/whatever has come during that time.

I know there is much power in being thankful for the experiences that come our way, even when we don't like them, don't want them, and in fact, grieve because of them.  I have always tried to take the learning in a situation and grow from it, with deeper understanding of myself and others.

More and more these days, it is a struggle to do that:  I'm tired, and tired of having to deal with unkind people who give not a whit for whom they hurt; tired of people who feel such a sense of entitlement that they think they can do anything and it is okay; tired of people who feel such a sense of entitlement that they see no reason to demonstrate accountability, knowledge, skill; tired of people who abuse power in ways that harm others.


Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend 5 weeks on St. Paul Island, providing behavioral health services to the community.  It was a time when I felt that my clinical skills and training served me well, in allowing me to be of service to a community without a behavioral health provider at the time.  Though it was difficult, it was also rewarding, and infinitely of benefit.  It was the kind of "difficulty" that one can embrace in terms of learning and personal growth.  It was a life-saver to me, giving me a brief respite from what had become a very toxic environment, and the opportunity to search both within myself, and outside of myself for greater understanding, growth, and learn to live with that toxicity in a way that did not kill me, and ultimately allow me to triumph over it.
There are always ways to look at each situation: it is always the same picture, but the interpretation is the key.  For example, the photograph above.  Is it that there is always an opening, even when we are surrounded?  Or is it that regardless of which stand we stand on, when those flood waters are released, we are caught and there is no escaping them?  Is it a hunkering down in the safety of one corner of the solid rock, and clinging to the strength it provides to weather the worst storm?  Or is it to surrender to those waters, and float out, following the currents and waves to move around the rocks rather than through them, trusting the journey?

I'm trying to imagine what R or M would say in this situation.

counting the graces
thank you father
for red birds outside my window
two surviving baby kittens
my sister who cares selflessly for our parents, and is willing to take care of Randy's father as well
friends who have my back and friends who stab me in the back
the painful opportunity to remain in the inquiry and not in the circumstances
the fact that I can always choose, even when I am tired, and even when there are consequences
that it will always turn out.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Richland Parish's First Library

 In the early 1920s, the majority of the Louisiana population did not have access to a library.  Through the Carnegie projects, that was remedied in many rural areas in the US, including for citizens of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  The original Richland Parish Library, the oldest parish library in Louisiana (Dot Golliker, 1998, files.usgwarchives.net), was established in the old high school building (Luke J. Letlow, Richland Roots).  Lambda Kappa Club, a women's civic and cultural club, was instrumental in organizing the first parish library by applying for the Carnegie funds awarded to Louisiana.  The Richland Parish Library Association was founded in December 1925 and the first library opened in 1926 (Letlow).
 The building in these photographs was constructed in 1928, honoring Mrs. Nonnie Roark Rhymes, who served on the library board.  She died in 1927, and her husband, R. R. Rhymes, funded the brick building in her memory.  Outside of Orleans Parish, Richmond was the first parish library to be housed in its own building (National Register of Historic Places nomination form, based on research collected from the Richland-Beacon News by Innes E. Green).
 The building featured
...12 over 12 windows with semicircular fanlights, outlined in bricks and accented with keystones...cast concrete door surround with 'Memorial' cut into the top...Richland Parish Library in a linear concrete panel. (NRHP nomination)
The library suffered during the Great Depression--as did everything and everyone for the most part--and was threatened with closure in 1935.  Assistance from the state library (mainly in the form of providing librarian assistance and bookmobile) kept it going, and by the following year it was fully functional again (NRHP nomination).
The building has been altered twice; in 1948, the rear was extended to enlarge the one room building and a room added to the north elevation (left in the photograph).  In 1953, the room on the south (right in the photograph) was added.  The brick in the 1953 addition is lighter than the original, although the 1948 additions more closely matched original brick.  The architect and builder is unknown (NRHP nomination).

The building was in use as a library until 1971 when a new parish library was constructed (Golliker).  It was saved from demolition in 1989 and restored/renovated in 1991 by the Original Richland Restoration Society which formed in order to save the building.  Currently, it serves as a public meeting hall and display hall for art, particularly for local artists.

The United States Postal Service could take a lesson from the residents of Richland Parish, Louisiana, about the importance of saving--and using--historic treasures that belonged to the people who lived in those communities.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013