Monday, May 4, 2009

Oral History Blurb

Here's my attempt
Oral History is a complex history, a human history, and a voluminous one. Perhaps it is best understood by approaching it the way one might approach an archaeological site, examining it layer by layer, piece by piece. “Oral” tells us that it is spoken, that there is a voice, one human voice that drives it, one voice with which it all begins. “History” tells us that this one voice speaks of past events, of memory and all its shifting, unreliable whims. But it is this unreliability, this personal quality that makes Oral History so valuable. It complicates the sterilized, official story, challenges it with the perceptions of traditionally ignored participants, the individual human voices, our voices. We are all witnesses to history and our individual stories balance the “facts,” bringing us closer to, if not the truth, then perhaps a truer understanding.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Titles for Exhibit

ps to my last post:

Titles are so often difficult! But, because of the idea of voices, layers, and other things, that were mentioned in class last Monday, I've started noticing things that may go along with that idea. I was reading a poem this past week by Nick Flynn, called "Radio Thin Air." In it he says, "Marconi believed/we are wrapped in voices." And I just wanted to share that with everyone, because I loved that, "wrapped in voices," and the idea that in all these oral histories, there are many voices surfacing, and those who experience those stories and who are drawn into them, are literally wrapped in the voices that speak them.

Anyway, just wanted to share that!

(Brian Gadbois)
I was born in Manhattan, on Christopher Street, probably the gayest street in the city, I never knew if my father was straight or maybe he went both ways. I grew up in the Village ‘till I was about five and then I moved to the Berry Project. I lived in the Berry Project until I was 11 and then I moved to…my dad bought a house in Eltingville and I moved there. Um…what else do you want to know? Eh? And then I went to the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, uh…I went to my junior year. I had a teacher who was a pervert and I was going out with this girl in school and I was only 4’11 and this guy…uh…I went into the bathroom and I came out and this girl was in there and she was a little Italian girl, cute little Italian girl, and I was looking for her and everyone was looking kinda funny so I knew something was going on, and I asked where she was and they said in the bathroom and I walked in and she was crying and it turned out that this teacher…she was in a play, she had to unbutton the top button of her dress and he said “you’re doin’ it wrong” and he went over and unbuttoned a couple of other buttons to her dress and…uh…I was a very non-violent person but I took a chair and broke it over his face. And he told me there was nothing he could do to me because he was a real perv…and…he told me he’d get me back the following year and get me thrown out of the school so uh…I quit high school, I went to the Navy.
This was the very beginning of an interview I did back in March (I think) with one of my father's friends. I just loved how he kept asking me what I wanted to know, but then he would just continue right on, one story into another.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Separate But Not Equal - Carol P. Bartold

On September 4, 1954, eleven black students entered the 10th grade at Milford High School in Milford, Delaware. Civil rights leaders in the state decided to test the May, 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision reached in the Brown vs. Board of Education. The decision struck conventional wisdom of providing a "separate but equal" education for black public school students.

I interviewed Orlando Camp, one of the original eleven students who enrolled at Milford High School in 1954.
"There were no black high schools in Milford. There was Jason High School in Georgetown and William Henry High in Dover. This was a real coup for us as minority students because we felt, for the first time, that we would have the opportunity to get a quality education. And theat was the only goal we really had in terms of integration. We did not consider the mixing of the races as something we were advocating."

"On the fourth or fifth day of the first week of school the crowds began to multiply outside the school to the point there were hundreds of people standing outside, protesting, calling us names. We started going to school in State Police cars."

"This is an example of the separate but equal school, William Henry High School. It's all modern, all glass and state of the art. "

My thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for giving me access to supporting material, including the papers of Governor Caleb Boggs. I also thank the Graduate Student Senate of Sarah Lawrence College for funding to cover travel and research.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Christina's Mission Statement

We go through each day surrounded by untold stories. Maybe there was a time when they could not be told; maybe they were told but since forgotten. Through oral history, we find the memories that are submerged beneath daily life, and give them a way out so others can hear them. By sharing the histories of individuals, we become closer to discovering a history of ourselves in the vast context of our world.

Exhibition Title Ideas:
Archaeology of Memory
Beneath the Lives You Know
Talk to the Story-Keepers

Words for Titles:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Land of the High Sky

This is the Land of the High Sky, you know, very open and freedom lovin’ and free enterprise spirit.

If we can’t show people how to do it in Texas, then I don’t know who can.

I’m an engineer in my background and I enjoy solvin’ problems. Also, the people in this industry—phenomenal group of individuals that, have an incredible work ethic, who don’t mind taking risks.

Hold on a minute. Larry, Hi. Yeah. Larry, I gotta call you back. I’ve got a young lady in here, doin’ an interview. What? Look, if you’re not excited about it, I’m not gunna be excited about it. Let me know about that acquisition. Alright. Yup.

You do big things, you have to take risks.

Take me for example. I mean, I was doin' fine, workin' here in oil and gas. Comfortable. But then President Bush called me up. And so, you know, when the president asks you to be Secretary of Commerce, you don't say no. Hahaha. So, I have lots of stories from that. Two come to mind. (holds up two fingers).

One. (hold up one finger). I was meeting with President of China…here’s a guy from West Texas meeting with the President of China…he’s responsible for 1.3 billion people, you know, 20% of the people living on the planet. He said Thanks for comin. Appreciate you bein’ here. Enjoy your stay in Beijing, in Shanghai. But if you want to come back as our friend, go West. Figure out what I’ve got goin’ on out there, where I’ve got 800 million people livin’ in poverty.

Powerful statement, really powerful.

I did go west. Met two blind brothers. I befriended them. I still stay in touch with them. They are two Chinese boys that have grown on up now. They’re doin’ good. Both of em, blind. Legally blind. Helped one of em get surgery, he can now see at some level. It’s all part of a neat story, it’s a much bigger story. But. Kind of just bring it back to focus to leaders of the world and the challenges they have.

(picks up phone) Sarah, yeah. Could you come in here and bring me some water. (hand over phone) You want some water darlin’? Alright. Thanks hon.

And the other story would be meeting with President Putin after 9/11. And, he asked me, How has America been so successful after 200 years. It’s a pretty interesting statement. Facts are, we’re a young country. Huh! And uh, and I told him, I said, well, I think, I don’t think, I mean, it’s our people. Extraordinary people. It’s our freedoms, grounded in our constitution. The people in America are good people that wake up each morning tryin’ to do the right thing. You can put all the rules and regulations and laws you wanna put in place, but if the people aren’t basically good people, then it won’t work.

….Thanks Sarah. And uh, call Larry’s office and tell em to fax that spreadsheet.

So, yeah. We’re here to serve other people…That’s it. That’s it. I mean, I’m here to make your life better, not me, you. Pretty simple. I think it’s why I stay so busy. Whether it be church activities, United Ways, or, president’s library, or stayin’ in touch with young people, doing interviews for nice young ladies that come through here, hahaha. (wink) I’m just tryin’ to impart a little bit of that wisdom that got imparted to me. You see?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How to Talk to People

There were a few times, like when I’m riding around in a patrol car, and because, again, they look at you and they go, “Oh, look, a woman police officer,” the first thing in their mind is that they can challenge them, you know? And we…I guess, you know, there was women police officers but it was not a lot. And…I guess people are so used to the fact that women should be behind a desk, at home, whatever, so they don’t look at us and take us seriously. Um…I remember one time we were driving down the block and we stopped at a…in our patrol car, and we stopped at a traffic light. We were in this area where it was all Projects. And we pulled up…we stopped at a stop light, and this guy who looked like some war veteran, with his army fatigue jacket, he’s walking, you know, he comes up to the window, and he goes, “I wonder what you would do if I decided to take your gun now.” Right?

So again, we’re back to that verbal command and, you know, how we look at this thing. So I…I looked him straight in the eye and I said, “You’re gonna have to try that and you’ll find out what’s gonna happen to you.” Then he…he looked at me, for like a couple of seconds, and he didn’t even look at my partner. My partner was like a…um…like a 5’8”, 5’9” guy, um…and he didn’t even like, address it to him. He just totally looked at me and said that. And when I responded, he didn’t expect that response. So he just goes, “Oh…have a nice day officer” and he walked away. You know? So I said, “Okay! One for me!” because, you know, it’s the way I responded, that kinda put him in shock.