Monday, September 15, 2014

In What manner has your investigations been a contribution to the ...?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1

In a closed room...it had taken years to get to this place.  One is facing your jury...in ways understood and not you have picked these people to judge...your work.  One is defending-years of study. One is defending ones life.  After hours days weeks years of writing...the penultimate question is posed.  " In what manner has your investigations been a contribution to the study of...? 

One must chose a subject, a time period...one must have access to primary materials...one must...dare.




What ones knows. What one can prove.  What one takes on Faith.   What one believes to be true.  

In the vernacular..." so back in the day inside Market Five Gallery,  or  The Flea Market at Eastern Market or outside on the plaza in front of the flower stand "Blue Iris- Angie and Isiah's " one saw this man in the French beret painting away.  He would speak, but for conversation it was best to talk to his wife...she would tell you stories.  He would too - if in the right mood.  He was resolved too live and too work on his own terms...He had painted...his work was in the collections of...he was...he  had study at...with...he taught at...

So, later you wondered  "WHY" there was never stories written about...not just this man or that women. but this community.  You had been asked once  years before in that room...in front of  your jury "In what manner had your investigations been a contribution to the disciple of... the study of...to the field of...

So one of the stories that this man told was about having these patrons...

                                 National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Bill and Camille Cosby Loan Private Collection to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art Selected Works 

One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art never before seen in public will have its first public viewing later this year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue” brings together artworks from two world-class collections: the National Museum of African Art and the William H. and Camille O. Cosby Collection. The exhibition, which opens at the museum Nov. 9 and remains on view through early 2016, is a major part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, celebrating its unique history and contributions toward furthering meaningful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora.#CosbySmithsonian

Simmie Knox
Born 1935, United States
Portrait of Bill and Camille Cosby
The Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr.
Photograph by David Stansbury, permission courtesy of the artist




So back in the day at the same time he had painted or was painting...Mr. Knox and his wife were also holding it down and keeping it real at Market 5 Gallery and The Flea Market at Eastern Market.


Roberta Knox

                                                                Simmie Knox
*Tom Rall archives


To quote Chinua Achebe...

"There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."



Sonda Tamarr Allen

Turtle's Webb

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.