Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shoutin' Down Heaven: Praise Song for Becky Mensah

It was being born...in Africa- Cape Coast, Ghana.  It was losing a mother when only a little girl.  It was leaving home, crossing an ocean a kind of middle passage where on the other side was a world of folk with no knowledge and to many thoughtless questions.
It was Dignity....It was Dignity...that had you answering question when only a child about your home land.  It was saying "NO My people in the land of Kwame Nkrumah do not live in trees like monkeys...."NO" NO" . It was after to many questions like this that school and formal education in that new land was left behind.

It was coming from folk with infinite grace focus beauty and determination that you made a way in this "New World" with ancient eyes.  It was becoming a 'market women' at festivals, on the streets on D.C. and being a founder in the 1970's, one of the pillars of the exhibitor community at Arts and Crafts festival at Eastern Market that you found freedom.  You found a way ... an in doing so you helped make a way for many many others. You did this with joy, honesty and an ability to mix combine blend and create phrases of such arabesque beauty that left no one who heard them used- deluded that you would tolerate being treated poorly by anyone. It was giving birth to you daughter Olivia...it was Olivia ...It is Olivia...who delighted lifted and made you even stronger.

It was that day I saw you standing outside the market door turning purple because of the cold, while the rest of us where inside. And you just smiled. Vous etiez si forte si belle...You were determined , you needed to make money your daughter was sick, you were not going to let anything defeat you. You held it down for all of us that day. More than that you set a bar of what could be done.  What it is possible to endure.

It was the stroke you had and came back from about ten years ago.  It was the friends you made Kim Betty Daniel Eleanor Angie Linda Bernadette Katrina... It was the food you cooked  spicy chicken stew with fou fou. It was your love of dancing.  It was the stories you told.  It was Olivia winning honors and graduating from high school and entering college.  It is your radiant smile that you greeted folk and the world with every day...
that will be missed.


Sonda Tamarr Allen

Turtle's Webb
Becky Mensah and Linda Brown in 1988 at the reception at Market 5 Gallery in Eastern Market for Tom Rall's wedding.


Becky Mensah passed away on July 21, 2014.


Go Down, Death

James Weldon Johnson1871 - 1928
 (A Funeral Sermon)
Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.

Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.

And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.

And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.

And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired--
She’s weary--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.

And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.

While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death.  She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.

And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.

Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mary Belcher "The Artist" Rock Creek Park

There are many reason "WHY" I took years out of my life to write about the folk that exhibit at Eastern Market.  The infinite fatigue of the visible being made to seem invisible.  The inability of folk to put together the picture...because it is too complexly beautifully diverse ....

Last weekend Mary Belcher came by my booth  - she wanted me to see something.  Now I want you to see something.   What makes a community...who maps the details of its diversity...




The Artist

She painted the illustrated park map and other D.C. scenes

Nearly every weekend, Mary Belcher sets up a booth at Eastern Market and sells prints of her paintings of Washington scenes. When visitors spot a tall illustrated map of Rock Creek Park, they linger, looking for familiar spots.
“I can tell when people are from the suburbs,” she says. “They say, ‘Oh, look. It’s a map of Rock Creek Parkway.’ ”
Belcher, 62, moved to Washington in 1970 from Ohio. In exploring the park, she soon found what she calls her “power spots”: settings with striking natural beauty (Pulpit Rock) or historical resonance (the former site of Blagden Mill). She also got involved with efforts to protect a historic cemetery that lay partially on parkland, sparring occasionally, she says, with the National Park Service. Today, she can see the park’s treetops from her home studio in Adams Morgan.
The map project began in 2001. It was born out of her frustration with traditional maps: “boring, flat things that didn’t really give you a sense of the experience.”
Courtesy of Mary Belcher
Courtesy of Mary Belcher
To guide her painting, Belcher consulted an 1866 map by Maj. Nathaniel Michler of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congress had directed him to scout locations for a public park and a new executive mansion, far from the stench and heat of the city’s core. Michler’s renderings of the Rock Creek valley — a “wild and romantic tract of country,” he wrote — were the beginning of a nearly 25-year effort to create the park. Belcher sells the map for $395 framed, $300 unframed.
Her artistic project is ongoing. There are thousands of other sites in the park she’d like to paint. But capturing those scenes will be a challenge.
“There’s four borders on the picture,” Belcher says. “The park is a 360-degree experience.”
On the map: Prehistoric stone quarries, which Belcher notes on her map, were discovered along the steep banks of Piney Branch in the 19th century.