Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Just can't wait to get on the road again"...to Mound Bayou...

Nothing says "Mound Bayou" like this picture: A vision when it was established in 1887, and the vision keeps growing.  
 No matter how busy my week, nothing makes me jump out of bed faster in the morning than knowing I am going to Mound Bayou.  It is probably one of the rare times in my week that I am early getting to work.  We have a new partner in our service learning work with the City of Mound Bayou, from Health Exercise Science and Recreation Management.  It was my privilege this morning to introduce Dr. Rockey to Mayor Johnson, and a couple of other folks from the City.  It is a pretty incredible feeling when I step out of my car and meet people I have come to know over the past year since I have been working with the City, and they hug me and welcome me back to the City.  It reminds me of something I once heard--though I don't recall from whom or where--that "relationship is that, without which, you do not know that you exist."  It is in and through relationship that we are who we are, and I think more importantly, who we can become.
 In South Africa, I learned the term "ubuntu."  The philosophy originated much earlier than that mentioned above, and means something akin to "a person is a person through other people; I am because you are, and because you are, I am."  There are a variety of translations of what ubuntu means, but the philosophy is always essentially the same: We need each other to become who we are meant to become.
I had seen this park across the street from the City Hall since my first visit last year.  Today, I asked the Mayor about its significance, thinking it one of the greening projects.  It is, but it is more than that.  It represents the city's early beginnings: the Mound, and the Bayou that gave it a name that would become known throughout the world.  

Booker T. Washington wrote, "Outside of Tuskegee, I think I can safely say there is no community in the world that I am so deeply interested in as I am in Mound Bayou." (The Mound Bayou Mississippi Story, The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, Delta State University, n.d., para.1). 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cardinals and Flamingoes: A new twist on birdbrain

 I am thinking as we get older, we probably are slightly less flamboyant year by year.  Cardinals for 2011.

Flamingoes for 2012--definitely a more subdued look.  But when else does a grown-up get to play dress-up and perch a flock of birds on your head?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Party

Saturday in New Orleans was pouring rain.  We headed over to Canal Street for the party and I decided not to take my camera.  For one, it was pouring rain and I did not think it would make for very good photos.  We were thinking to attend the party for a while, and then leave before the parade started as we did not want to get hung up in the rain for 4 hours.  One of these days, I think I will have to invest in a pocket point and shoot for those times I don't want to drag around the Nikon D90, but I did have my iPhone.  I was amazed at the beautiful architectural detail in the house.

After we left the party, we stopped to do a little shopping so that I could cook dinner.  I could not pass up the opportunity while in a big city to get some wild-caught Alaskan halibut.  I made halibut in white wine with garlic, tomatoes, and mushrooms, jalapeño white cheddar grits, sautéed spinach with feta, and sourdough bread.  I don't care if I did do the cooking, the halibut was amazing--my best ever I think.  I'm sure it was due to being in the city of food, New Orleans, and all the good cooking vibes around.  Couple that with excellent fresh ingredients (and all that butter) and no wonder it was such a culinary delight.  I'm going to be a chef in my next career, and a historian on the side.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Time is it in London? Part 2

 This one is my all-time favorite.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Clocks of London

A few years ago we made an unexpected trip to London when a colleague who was scheduled to report on our research from the response to Hurricane Katrina was injured and could not attend the conference. At the last minute, I filled in for him so we did not have to cancel the presentation.  We had spent several years on the research and it was pending publication.  We only had a few days there, and the quickest way to see much of anything was to do the hop on-hop off tour bus.  I confess to doing more of the hop on than the hop off, but I was fascinated by the variety of clock "architecture" present in the city.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Youth Summit Plans

We traveled to Mound Bayou again on Saturday to meet with a group of youth and adult sponsors to do the first planning meeting for the upcoming Mound Bayou Youth Summit in June.  Some of these youth attended the Historic Preservation Workshop in October.  The Youth Summit is a way of involving youth as participating stakeholders in the community, in terms of civic pride, community development, and engaged participation in the future of the community.  It was an incredible day!

The team leader, Dr. Moore, started off the introductions for the purpose of the planning session and how we would proceed.  First, we asked them to generate a list of what they wanted the Youth Summit to accomplish and what type of things they wanted to include.  All adults left the room to leave them to their work, and when they finished, they would let us know.  Each member of the adult team had a specific area: Dr. Simmons-personal identity development; Dr. Brooks-challenges youth face making healthy choices; Alderwoman Spann-civic engagement and local community concerns; Ms. Sims-teaching the history of Mound Bayou to others; and mine-economic development and youth entrepreneurship.

They generated their lists on each area, and shared them with us.  Our next task is to take the areas, refine them to a specific focus to be covered during the youth summit, and finalize our agenda.  At the end of the summit, the youth will select one or more projects to engage in over the coming year, and at the next summit in 2013, they will present the results of their work.  The mentors will be working along side of them for the year as they need us or resources.  At the next meeting, each youth present was challenged to bring one person with him or her so we can grow the group.  Ultimately, we hope this project will spread to surrounding counties and we will produce a regional summit.  This group of students and citizens are grounded in their history, culture, knowledge and experiences and it is a joy and celebration to have the privilege to work with them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Poor Monkeys Lounge

 Yesterday when we finished with the planning session for the upcoming Youth Summit, we decided to try to find Poor Monkeys, one of the last original juke joints left standing and operational.  It sits next to a field, down a gravel and dirt road just a stone's throw from the Blues Highway.
 Owned by Mr. Willie Seaberry, the joint got its name from his nickname:  He was called Po' Monkey from the time he was a child.
The name originally was a 'jook' joint.  Jook is a word from the African-influenced Gullah dialect off the Carolina coast, and meant "disorderly" or "wicked."  Juke joints were places for relaxation, dancing, and socializing after the day's hard labor ended for rural workers.

Poor Monkeys is famous now, having had several articles written about the place, and Mr. Seaberry, in the New York Times, not to mention all the YouTube videos, interviews, and blogs.  Tourists visit from all over the world, but it is still the spot where locals enjoy a few beers and dance after the work is done.  Notice the white sign below the rules of the establishment?  There is a contribution box for donations for having taken pictures.  We pulled out our ones, and deposited one for each photo we took--we operate on an ethics code!  As Chris got back into the car, he said, "I wonder if there is even any money in there?"  Mr. Seaberry said he may be famous, but he is still po.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What did this inspire?

Legend has it that a certain gentleman had a few pints too many at the local pub one night.  On his way home, he looked up at this tower and had the inspiration for something well known to all of us.  Can you figure out what it was?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Downtown Biloxi: Post Katrina

As usual, the post over at MissPres this morning got me thinking--this time about downtown Biloxi after Katrina.  I spent a week there working in the Disaster Recovery Centers of the area following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  I stayed at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino, which we promptly re-named the FEMA Hilton, our headquarters for our stay.

 It was near dark when I arrived the first night, so I did not really have an inkling of what it would look like until the next morning.
While dragging my luggage through the parking garage and over to the hotel, I ran into a man in the elevator wearing his MEMA shirt.  He looked down at my luggage and asked, "Checking in or out?"  In.  He replied, "First time or return?"  First.  And you?  

He was in his 7th deployment, and still smiling and pleasant.  I thought it was my first lesson in disaster work.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wilmer, Alabama: Church Town

 Wilmer, Alabama is a small unincorporated community on highway 98 out of Mobile.  We passed through on our way home from Florida about 10 years ago.  I was fascinated with all the store-front churches along the short spanse of the community visible on this narrow little 2-lane road.  Why did one little community have so many churches?  Who attended?  No larger than this community appeared to be (it is so small, the only numbers I can find are rolled into the Mobile County report), how many folks could there be in each church?  Perhaps it is fitting, as the town is named for Richard H. Wilmer, an Episcopal bishop.
 Do you wonder if there is a lot of schism in the community?  'Cause I'm thinking if there is so much brotherly love and desire for salvation going on here, how come there is a church every 6 feet?  What prompts someone to just up and start a new church right next door to a church?  Above is the Miracle Deliverance Tabernacle, which also sported its big US flag on the church wall.  They could have just been zealous patriots, as this was probably pretty close to 2001.  I always had the idea that when Jesus said render to Caesar what was Caesar's and to the Lord what was the Lord's that he was suggesting politics and religion were not in the same domain.
 If you are not desirous of a miraculous deliverance, you could step next door to the Final Harvest Full Gospel Church, which has something of a note of...well, finality, to it.
 Services here at The New Testament Church are held at 3 p.m. and on Thursday rather than the traditional Wednesday.  That could have been an effort to accommodate neighbors, or possibly Pastor Art was just not an early morning person.

Don't you get a kind of 'other-world' feel to the Living Waters Tabernacle view?  Given it was the same exact day, nano-seconds apart from taking the other photos, I have to wonder about this one.  Was it just the humidity of the moment or some actual time-warp where we were about to be pulled into another dimension?
Possibly the only building in the community that was not a church--at least as far as we could determine.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Smitty's Produce Stand Mound Bayou

During the January class in Mound Bayou, one of the student's service learning projects was to document all of the community assets--a process known as Asset Mapping.  It goes beyond a community needs assessment, to locate and determine the assets in a community in terms of kin/relationship, economics, education, political system, religion, and associations.

 Photo courtesy Glenn Sudduth
Mr. Curtis Smith, aka "Smitty" has grown and sold fresh produce at this corner for quite some while.  On the particular day the students were in this area of town, Mr. Smitty was working out of his truck--it had been cold and rainy for days.  One of his customers graciously allowed the students to take her picture.
Photo courtesy Glenn Sudduth
 Mr. Smitty insisted on getting out his table and setting up his normal stand so that we could get capture the typical view for customers.  Debra and I bought produce last October from him, and again on this trip, and both times, he had his tables filled with beautiful fresh produce.  He was generous with his time, and sharing information with the students.
Photo courtesy Glenn Sudduth
Debra cooked those greens all day long, and added the turnips--and the magic southern ingredient, bacon drippings.  The candied sweet potatoes were superb--there is a reason Mississippi is famous for its sweet potatoes!

I know I posted about the wonderful meal on the earlier entry of "Sister Debra's Ethnic Soul Food Kitchen" but you did not get to see where those yummy dishes originated.  I hope Mr. Smitty is open next Saturday when we are back in Mound Bayou.  I have a hankering for some more greens, turnips and sweet potatoes--along with a little cornbread baked in my cast iron skillet.  Some things from growing up with southern poor people's country cooking just never leave you.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Austin, Texas Capitol Building

Interior view of the dome.
 The Texas capitol building was completed in 1888 as the "winning design in a national competition."  The Renaissance Revival building was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers, who also designed the Michigan and Colorado capitols.
 The Goddess of Liberty statue was placed atop the dome in 1888.  The exterior walls are "sunset red" grant, quarried from nearby Marble Falls.  The quarry donated the granite, and the state provided 1,000 convicts to be used as stonecutters.  In 1885, the granite cutters union objected to convict labor and Scottish stonecutters were imported to complete the quarry work.

The building also has cast iron columns and beams, and masonry walls.  Construction was paid for with 3 million acres of land in the Panhandle, which would later become the XIT ranch.  The capitol building is the largest gross square footage of all state capitols and the second only to the nation's capitol in DC.  It is, however, 15 feet taller.
Whilst our South African friends were visiting the US for their first time, this Texas officer introduced them to such Texas sayings as "Jeet yet?" and "Sgweet."  (Translation: Did you eat yet?  Let's go eat.)