Ferguson, Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, two years after these names were first in the news, they still sting the ears. Until the Flood just finished its run at the Saint Louis Repertory Theater. Written by and starring Dael Orlandersmith, this one-woman, one-act play is both short and intense. Ms. Orlandersmith portrays a host of Saint Louisans, black and white, young and old, male and female. Each new voice adds another viewpoint to the events of two summers ago, when long simmering problems came to a boil and thrust Saint Louis into the unwanted glare of the national spotlight. In the intervening two years some good has come out of that summer’s tragedy, the Black Lives Matter movement was born and has gone national, federally mandated local municipal reform has corrected some of the most egregious inequities that helped to precipitate the troubles in Ferguson and this play that reminds us once again, less we forget, of our community’s feelings of both outrage and shame about the events in Ferguson.
Sunday Morning Breakfast, painted in 1943, in oil on fabric, by Horace Pippin is on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum. This newly acquired artwork marries modernist abstract design with an evocative, but simple narrative in a scene drawn from the artist’s childhood memories. It is a fine example of African-American domesticity, for which he is best known.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the national holiday set aside for the remembrance of the man and his acts. It is a cold day, but also a bright day here in Saint Louis. I re-watched Selma last night, the story of the fight for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Led by King, the story centers on the lead-up to the march from Selma to Montgomery. The cast led by David Oyelowo (King) portrays a virtual who’s-who of American Civil Rights leadership. In the movie, the political tactics employed by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the white reaction to these tactics form the central story of the movie. King’s personal life is also a major theme. Some of the violence of that time is terrifyingly portrayed. What we don’t see or rather hear are any of King’s lofty speeches, I was surprised to learn. Director Ava DuVernay was forced to paraphrase many of those iconic words that are owned by the MLK estate, those words had already been licensed to a potential Spielberg biopic. Selma was critically well received, except for at last year’s Oscars. Snubbed, it received only one Oscar for the song, Glory. This year, in true Jim Clark fashion, the Oscars have doubled down and nominated no black artists.
Glory mentions Saint Louis by way of Ferguson and not in a good way. The Michael Brown shooting was a tragedy here that should have acted as a wakeup call for Saint Louis, instead, it sparked a national debate. Black men are still being shot by the police, at an alarming rate, at least now though many more incidents are being scrutinized and not just hushed-up and swept under the rug as they once were. I imagine though that just like Selma, over fifty years ago any change for the better is not so much a reflection of anyone’s change of heart, but is due as much from the introduction of video. Any change for the better is still good, no matter how it is wrought. It is a cold, but sunny MLK day here today. Let’s pray that this sunshine portends brighter days to come.
Anne came home last night. She took the Greyhound bus from Ann Arbor to the Lou, via Toledo, Fort Wayne, Indy, Terre Haute and Effingham. The trip took about as long as it would to drive, with more generous stops than we usually take. Her review of the bus ride was kind of meh though, not too bad, but not that great either. I picked her up at the relatively new downtown combination bus and train station, which at least on its exterior is a step up from its two predecessors. The photo with this post is from last August. Greyhound was celebrating its hundredth anniversary that year with a PR tour that included many of the coaches that had seen service over that century. This one is their latest design. It was a hot day when we visited their tour, but the interior of this bus was nice and cool. Some of the drivers were chilling in the back.
Ferguson is making the headlines in town again this week, on the first anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white policeman. There have been quite a few protests around town, mostly peaceful, many law-abiding. Of course it is the exceptions that get all the media attention. On Sunday night, there were three shootings in Ferguson, one involving the police. There was also looting and arrests. Monday was punctuated by multiple protests around town that precipitated many arrests, but all remained peaceful. The county had declared a state of emergency on Monday and taken over policing from the Ferguson police. The other development last night was the reappearance of the Oath Keepers, a group of white vigilantes that were heavily armed. They had appeared last year too, but for only one night. Let’s hope that this was their second one night stand.
“They just won’t go away”, said FOX announcer, Joe Buck, of the Saint Louis Cardinals, after they had tied Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, for the second time. That game that series was a highpoint in recent Saint Louis history. I think that the same can now be said of this year’s Ferguson protests. We spoke with, actually listened to at length, to a black man that we have known since he was a boy. Dave and he have been friends for most of their lives. He is currently actively involved in the #Ferguson movement on multiple levels. He contributes both as an organizer and as a medic. As an organizer he seems keenly aware of the movement’s protest strategy and nonviolent goals and as a medic, he has been an eyewitness to this last week’s most violent confrontations. His recount of these confrontations are different from what we have seen in the media. He has always impressed me with his caring nature. I guess that is what has drawn him to this struggle, he cares. In his telling, he reminded me of a 60s Freedom Rider. His halting, deadpan explanations of events added a veracity, a sincerity to his telling that spoke truth. Joe Buck ended that Game 6 broadcast with his father’s statement, “We’ll see you tomorrow!” Yes we will, yes we will.
In the world of retail, yesterday was Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, but today is Shop Local Saturday, a day where conscientious shoppers eschew big box chain stores for the little shop around the corner. Originally, Anne wanted to go to the Maplewood business district and do some early Christmas shopping there. She was even onboard with cycling there, not that cycling to Maplewood would have given us many miles. Then I read in the paper that their big Christmas street party is the next weekend. So we tabled that idea for later.
Nat, one of our Facebook friends, did a shout out about the Rock-n-Roll Craft Show that she was doing on Cherokee Street. That sounded much better to me. After another cup of coffee, we mounted-up and headed-out. We rode through Forest Park and Tower Grove Park. We also rode through the Shaw neighborhood and South Grand, both scenes this week of demonstrations and violence in the aftermath of the Michael Brown grand jury announcement.
Everywhere was quiet, but none more than Tower Grove Park, which was eerily so. Tower Grove Park is sandwiched between the Shaw neighborhood and South Grand. We arrived safely at the Rock-n-Roll Craft Show, which featured live music and crafts for sale. Go figure. Anne went in to shop, while I waited outside with the bikes and all of the other people with Y-chromosomes. On the way home the weather really warmed up and both parks were full of people.
Dave landed in Saint Louis on Wednesday night. It had been snowing that night, but he made it through fine just the same. Although, he did complain about his car’s traction. Dan wasn’t going to try to fly back from LA, so it was only going to be the three of us for Thanksgiving. Even Joanie had gotten a better offer. Later that night I got a frantic sounding text from Dan. He had been participating in the downtown LA #Ferguson demonstrations, the ones that the LAPD had cracked down on and arrested 150 people. I don’t know how close he was to that and I’m not sure that I really would want to know. Long story short, nothing happened and he made it back to his studio OK. On Thursday, Anne performed yeoman service in the kitchen and prepared a very delicious Thanksgiving meal that we all enjoyed. I did the dishes.
Actually, I’m still working on the roasting pan. I think that using a hammer and chisel is next on my list. I don’t blame Anne for this and in no way mean to impugn her culinary abilities. The problem you see is our stove. It is thirty years old and is the last man standing of the all new set of kitchen appliances that we bought when we purchased this house. It’s a gas stove and its electronic ignition is failing. It still works fine, when the stove is cold, but if it is warmed up it doesn’t work at all. This is fine for the burners, we can always light them by match, but the oven is another story. We use it so infrequently and generally only for single dish meals that this problem could have been around for a while. Anyway, for our safety, if for nothing else, it is time for this stove to go. At least Anne and I know what to get each other for Christmas this year.
I don’t usually shop on Black Friday, but this year I did. I didn’t go to the mall. Anyway, Galleria looks like it is being shut down today by Ferguson protests. I bought new tires for Dave’s car. The back tires looked OK, but the front ones were down to their tire wear strips. I decided to get four new tires. Hang the expense! When I called the auto shop this morning, they had just finished beating back the shoppers that had been camped outside their store all night.
It warmed up today, at least in a relative sense. It got above freezing. We went for a bike ride in the park. Near the end of it, as we were still riding into the wind and before we turned for home, I suggested stopping at the Boathouse again. Anne was in for that too. We partook of the raspberry liqueur flavored hot chocolate again, but instead of the bread pudding, we shared a much more sensibly sized slice of chocolate pudding cheese cake. At least it seemed more sensible at the time.