Non-linear History: Manhattan’s Slave Market

20150706-063910.jpgMuch of my art is rooted in non-linear histories. This report then, is apt for this site. Here, finally, a spotlight is being shone on the North’s part in slavery. A historical marker in New York City’s Wall Street area now helps to tell the tale.

“Slavery was introduced to Manhattan in 1626. By the mid-18th century approximately one in five people living in New York City was enslaved and almost half of Manhattan households included at least one slave.” It adds that although slavery was abolished by New York State in 1827, it wasn’t until 1841 that all enslaved people were freed due to enduring rights for non-resident slave owners.”
Text and image of plaque below, excerpted from Hyperallergic.

Detail of the plaque remembering the Wall Street Slave Market

Seed Pop

seed pop
“Non-native Breadfruit” (from the Jamaica Series), Pen and inks on paper. 4 x 4 in © 2015

Recently I’ve been doing research on the plants of Jamaica. This is for a series of artworks that I’m working on. Many plants that are now on the island were actually introduced by its two colonizers, the Spanish and British. This drawing is of the breadfruit; it was brought to Jamaica to feed the slaves. The plant has no nutritional value whatsoever. As a cheap food source, it served its purpose of keeping the slaves alive at little to no cost.

On another note, there is a Bay Area company that is doing its part to save the bees. It creates and sells seed bombs. The idea of seed bombs comes from Guerrilla Gardening,  a method of planting begun by environmentalists who would simply throw balls of seeds and fertilizer into fenced-off neglected spaces like brownfields or land that was in zoning limbo. Hmmm, I’m looking at you, fenced off lands near BART stations! Read more about seed bombs and saving the bees here: Save the Bees With Seed Bombs

Ye Olde Arab Fling

Crawling out of the same old womb

they headed their separate ways

he, a seeker of fortunes,

she an itinerant with no place of her own

unlikeliest of pairs.

Magpie and dusky footed rolled into one,

he lined his world with trinkets, baubles,

blood red garnets, platinum, aluminum, bauxite,

until several of his houses, filled to the hilt,

exploded into a dizzying array of colors.

Blues of the bluest blues

floated along on the wind

radiating skyward, outwards.

She, his other half,

hungered for some safe place

folding inward

on gossamer wings

shining, iridescent

reminiscent of youthful treasures

like the barrette she’d been given

to contain her hair

on the cusp of dawn.

A slight wisp of a silver clip,

special even after it had lost its luster,

the glistening paper-like synthetic slowly peeling off

to reveal the transience of her gift,

adhesive and plastic,

glued onto a shiny metal base,

the cheapest of alloys,

tin really,

sparkling randomly,

releasing prisms into the air

raining diamonds

alongside shadows

upon the land.

Elusive, no two the same

never again seen

yet continuous in places

long discounted:

South America, the Caribbean,

Asia, Eastern Europe,

and now, today

this Arabic spring.

*****                    *****                    *****

One of the Four Rs & Into Cow Pastures We SailedYesterday I came across the old video in the link below. Although it presents some  of my ideas of what travel and tourism ought to be about – grassroots, local and community-based – it caused me to re-examine the idea, taken so lightly in the video: “Once these wheels were turned by slaves.”

Enjoy the people and the place as you watch the video. Make a toast to great rum everywhere. Most importantly, pay homage to the genesis and evolution of rum in Jamaica and the rest of the “New World.” My doing so resulted in the poem, Ye Olde Arab Fling.

http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/jamaica/17wz1p937?cpkey=67be0d62-10c0-4650-b540-910a25bb467e%257c%257c%257c%257

 

There’s a New Palette on the Landscape!

The rains have begun. Small streaks of verdant green are beginning to show through brown and golden grasses on hillsides and mountain slopes. There’s a new palette on the landscape. Goodbye summer sounds and colors. I will miss you. But there’s new joy to be found in the outdoors.

Tick season is over. No more checking your clothing, hair and skin for ticks after a good tromp through the woods or alongside stream banks, lakes and ponds. And the bird sounds I’m hearing now are different too – less querulous – methinks. Summer browns and gold, you were beautiful while you lasted. See you again, same time next year?

Last Saturday’s swath of golden grass along Monte Bello Ridge is, I’m guessing, already becoming less brittle, less gold. Little field mouse and rabbits that I encountered on my walk last weekend, have you found shelter from the rains? Are you as happy as I am to revel in this new season? Do you see the splashes of green that I imagine are starting to color your world?

Photo by Jack Kelly Clark.

There are olives to be picked before olive fruit flies get into the crop. Little pests! You arrived here about twelve years ago. How did you get here and why are you so destructive? Maybe this year I’ll join in harvesting the fruit before you invade the crop. Perhaps I’ll even learn how to remove the tannic acid from the olives to make them tastier and sweeter.

This fall is already shaping up to be a very busy one. There are several unfinished paintings in different stages, spread out around my studio. And there is the old camera I bought that I haven’t yet taught myself to use. But who’s complaining? Not me!

Up and over the hills at Rancho San Antonio, habitat restoration awaits: We will be installing protective cages around oak trees as we try to give them a chance to grow. Along Jasper Ridge a long awaited hike is finally taking shape, thanks to a lovely, yet unseen Stanford sophomore. Thank you, Laura!

Before I go, two sobering thoughts:

My beloved New York City – along with an extensive stretch of the eastern seaboard – and my old island home of Jamaica are still trying to recover from last week’s hurricane; and it wasn’t so long ago that we were buying and selling human beings in this country. Last week an American friend sent me a copy of this 1830s “For Sale” poster. It is a sobering reminder that in another time, in this place, President Obama never could have become president and he and I would have both been slaves.

For Sale

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