“Each of Sylvia Maier’s] portraits is rendered against the outline of an American coin, the words “In God We Trust” and “Liberty” etched alongside the name of the child unlawfully killed. The juxtaposition of the nation’s identifiable ideals and the lived reality of discrimination and suffering so many Americans are forced to face is haunting.”
I grabbed Jillian Kaye’s illustration from her website, http://jilliankayeart.com/illustrations/, showing a pen and ink drawing of Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr in the Hamilton musical. My print arrived yesterday in a beautiful hand lettered envelop that added an unexpected pleasure to purchasing “Wait For It.”
“Could Obama, with that first-class intellect to go with a first-class temperament, with that pitch-perfect sense of humor, have been a better schmoozer and deal maker? Certainly. He was never very good at hiding his condescension for Republican leaders. But that party was united in a single goal — to defeat him at every turn.” Timothy Egan, The New York Times
If you reason in the way that Timothy Egan does, you would never be free. The terms of Egan’s logic require a person to press against never on towards the hope of maybe. Why? Were Barack Obama to accept Egan’s advice, he would be writing his own bill of sale: To think that any (wo)man should “better schmooze” with those committed to their defeat is too broken to lead.
Whether President Obama or any other black man or black woman, no free person should sacrifice their dignity and decency for the sake of a “deal.” When confidence and competence disturbs a self-designated opponent, their frustrations are misplaced. Racial logic is the only form that equates capability with “condescension.” President Obama was being very gracious when he accepted responsibility for the rabid rancor that characterizes our national mood. Despite his grace, the national mood isn’t the President’s fault, that burden belongs to Congress.
As a matter of “principle,” Wendell Berry removed his personal papers from the University of Kentucky archives in 2009. In doing so, Berry acted in solidarity with activists seeking to eliminate the University’s ties to the coal industry. Today, Wendell Berry, environmentalist, and good steward that he is, had this to say about the now shrouded fresco in Memorial Hall:
“Though I willingly would do so if it were possible, I cannot understand the University of Kentucky’s decision to hide Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s fresco in Memorial Hall,” Berry wrote in an opinion piece in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The reason given is only that it shows people doing what they actually did. Black people did work in tobacco fields. Black musicians did play for white dancers. Indians did seriously threaten the settlers at Bryan’s Station.”
Berry might have ended with a few bars from “My Old Kentucky Home,” the original, un-cut, 1853 rendition of the state song: “The time has come when the darkies have to part//Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.”He might also marinate on those “Black people” homegirl painted cause they didn’t make no money for that! Paying them defeats the whole point of subjection! You don’t get paid for laboring and fiddling when you’re chattel.
In 1934, when Berry’s cousin completed her fresco in Memorial Hall, a structure built to commemorate white casualties of the Great War, Wilbur Little, a veteran of that same war, became a casualty in Georgia. You might think of Mr. Little as a victim of the anti-lynching bill that couldn’t make its way through the Senate. Had he lived, he might’ve even had the opportunity to be denied the same Federal Housing Authority loan never assured black Americans from 1934-1968.
Since 1934, Ann Rice O’Hanlon has used her first amendment rights to tell her tale about happy darkies and villainous Indian marauders. In fact, she still tellin it, we just ain’t trynna hear dat shit. Her bullshit ain’t went nowhere! What ya’llgettin now is the “clean version.” Her uncut shit just got that “clean version” sticker on it. Shit, she got off good! Had O’Hanlon put her shit on a wall in the Boogie Down, 5-0 woulda called her “fresco” graffiti and taken that ass to jail. Mr. Berry might wanna go find some of them hoodlums who once terrorized New York with they spray cans. They might school him on how to live wit shit you don’t like. If they already dead, listen to some Promoe.
From your very own Big Blue Nation alum and proud granddaughter to 1942 graduates of Louisville’s Catholic Colored Highschool