This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

November 24, 2009

“When did you discover you are African?”

"When did you discover you are African?" PPR_Scribe

"MOAD Exterior." PPR_Scribe

That is the question asked at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

While I was in town recently for a conference, I dragged my old college roommate there. Although she has been a resident of the city since we both left Boston, she had never visited the museum. I remember being very excited about it when it first opened in 2005; in fact, I think I even wrote a post about it on my old blog. So I knew I couldn’t visit the city and not visit MoAD.

I am tempted to compare MoAD to the National Underground Railroad Museum and Freedom Center, which I blogged about this summer. That would be, perhaps, an unfair comparison.

The Underground Railroad museum is working with probably 10 times more space for one thing. The exhibits are more emotionally charged at the Underground Railroad Museum just by nature of their content, and are a lot more participatory than the exhibits at the more gallery-like MoAD. There are also probably important differences in terms of ownership of the real estate that the two institutions inhabit that might partially account for how MoAD is able (and unable) to use its building, though I do not know for sure what all these details are.

"Museum of the African Diaspora, exterior." PPR_Scribe

Given these differences, though, I do think that MoAD could better utilize its small space. The exhibit space was small to begin with, and configured strangely—Rule number one of any public space is that it should not be so difficult to find the restroom.

But I was happy to see that the space was being used as a community gathering area: During my visit there was a respectable group there to hear artist Richard Mayhew speak. We did not have time to listen to the lecture but did enjoy the retrospective of his work.

There were creative uses of some of the spaces: Both the stairwell and the elevator were covered in hundreds of images of the people that make up the African diaspora, for example. And the space itself is gorgeous from a design standpoint. The small gift shop was impressive. The staff was welcoming and knowledgeable—the two young Black men working there who tried to talk us into attending the lecture were especially wonderful to see. The place had the feel of an intimate, cozy, vibrant cultural salon. And the on-line museum is user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and educational.

That the museum exists is reason enough to be happy. Hopefully with more time—and more monetary support—the space can be transformed (and maybe enlarged) to better host its important themes.

It was definitely worth the visit.

"Ancestor Image Stairwell." PPR_Scribe

"Ancestor Image Elevator, detail." PPR_Scribe

"Transformation-MoAD Lobby." PPR_Scribe

November 21, 2009

Streets of San Francisco: Jazz Writing on the Wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 12:44 pm

"Jazz Graffiti." PPR_Scribe

The streets of San Francisco are no joke. If I had a few more days of walking while at my recent conference I would erase several years of being out of shape. At least I was rewarded on my walks with surprising wonderful sights, like this wall of graffiti.

"Lady Day Sings Forever on the Wall." PPR_Scribe

Closer shot: Billie Holiday sings urban art.

"And on keyboards, Thelonious Monk." PPR_Scribe

And a closer shot of Thelonious Monk.

"1300." PPR_Scribe

More jazz at the 1300 Restaurant: extremely upscale soul food and two rounds of Bourbon Street Sunrise.

"Fillmore Street, Jazz." PPR_Scribe

I will have to think of way to get back to San Francisco soon—perhaps for the Fillmore Jazz Festival next July 4th holiday.

November 18, 2009

I Drive Alone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 10:55 am

"Powell & Mason Sts. Line, San Francisco." PPR_Scribe

Back home again.

Conferencing was what it usually is—highly intellectually stimulating, only being the least of it. Catching up with old colleagues and meeting new ones, mourning those who have passed, cheering those who have achieved higher levels of accomplishments, ranting with those whose efforts have been thwarted, making connections for potential future collaborations…all of these things, too, are what makes attending academic conferences so much fun.

My old college roommate lives in San Francisco so I got a chance to socialize outside of the conference as well. I think I rode every mode of public transportation that exists in the city. Totally new for me, as I currently reside in one of the most car-dependent city of all major cities. On this graphic, my city is in the upper left hand bunch of cities with 70% to 85% of folks whose daily commute involves themselves in their car in the driver’s seat and no one else. Compared to San Francisco, which looks to be just about 40% public transportation commuters.

I have lived in two cities near San Francisco on this graphic: Boston and the D.C. area. When I lived in these places, I took public transportation a lot. In fact, for most of my time in Boston I did not even own a car.

But now? I’m not going to lie. My fellow Earthlings, I will say to you now: If the fate of our Earth’s survival rests on PPR Scribe giving up her single-driving car, then you may as well start saying your goodbyes right now. It’s not going to happen any time soon. I drive. And I often drive alone.

I’m not sure if I could ever go back. Public transportation connotes some things to me that are not in keeping with a progressive conservationalist mindset. In short: public transportation in my mind still equals not having a choice because of being financially strapped.

Any movement that seeks to make conservation more widespread will have to deal with people like me. Knowing what the “right thing” is, is not going to sway me. Shaming me probably will not, either. That’s a truth. Perhaps an inconvenient one.

I drive alone. Just like, apparently, a lot of other folks who make up about 80% of my area’s commuters (and I’d guess close to 90% of my area’s commuters who are able to make the choice).

Anyway, I have more thoughts to share in the recently quiet blog on issues other than my resource-gobbling shameful tendencies. And, of course, some great shots of San Francisco to post. Talk to you soon, fellow Earthlings.

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