Saturday, December 23, 2017

Meet Uzikee Nelson

(Published on Facebook on November 20, 2017)

 Today (Nov. 20th) I was the guest of artist Uzikee Nelson, pronounced UZEE-key. He took me on the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail in Northwest, or NW, Washington, DC.

You can see the two of us standing in front of the Josephine Butler Parks Center. The sculpting there is called 'El Dorado Gold' and its crown glows in the sunlight! It is located east of of Meridian Hill Park, which is locally known as Malcolm X Park; just across the street.

There is also a great sculpting of his in the 1400 block of Belmont Street, NW. It is dedicated to Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X--see photo. That same Marcus-Malcolm sculpting is seen on ALL of the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail plaques in the city--see images.

We also visited the famous Pitts Hotel which is now marked with a plaque. Get ready for the Uzikee tour in Washington, DC! (Photo credits: Anthro21 LLC).







  













Their Name Is On the Wall

(Posted on Facebook December 18, 2017)
Millions of people have visited the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC which opened last year. But few people know of the African American Civil War Museum & Memorial in mid-town Washington, DC.

In the photo is Luanne from Illinois. On Saturday December 16th 2017 she visited the African American Civil War Museum & Memorial in Washington, DC to find the name of her great-great grandfather Reuben Robbins, whose name is on the memorial because he is a veteran of the US Civil War, an African descendant who was part of the US Colored Troops (in the photo she is also seen holding a photo of him). She also found out that he had two brothers who also served in the United States Colored Troops, also known as the USCT.

The USCT were responsible for capturing Richmond, Virginia on April 3rd 1865 to end the US Civil War. At that time Richmond, VA was the capital of the confederate states of America, commonly known as the Confederacy, and the Confederacy fought in opposition to the United States of America, commonly known as the Union. The USCT were the only successful fighting force to capture Richmond, VA and their victory produced the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee days later at the Appomattox Court House.

This part of history has been forgotten but stands as evidence that African descendant people fought to free themselves from abuse and slavery. You can learn more from the museum's website: http://afroamcivilwar.org/

Do you have a descendant listed on the wall?

Meet Railroad Generations

This year I encountered Railroad Generations.  Their goal is to become the largest social organization for African American transportation workers. I was amazed at how many people, throughout the world, have a railroad story. I made posts to their Facebook page and re-posted what I shared below.

RE: A. Philip Randolph (Published on Facebook December 15, 2017)


"At the banquet table of nature there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take, and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything; and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.”
A. Philip Randolph







RE: The Warmth of Other Suns (Published on Facebook December 19, 2017)


"The Warmth of Other Suns" is a book by Isabelle Wilkerson and is a great read. It tells the lives of African Americans during the time of what many now call 'The Great Migration.' What's important is that the book shows how important the railroad was for African American families in moving from towns filled with violence, hatred, racism and abuses.

Here is a list of the awards the book has been given:

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER
LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
HEARTLAND AWARD WINNER

If you can only read one chapter of this book, you will not be sorry!



RE: From Superman to Man (Published on Facebook December 23, 2017)


The history of the railroad and the life of the Pullman porter can also be seen in another book classic titled "From Superman to Man" by Joel Augustus (J.A.) Rogers. This book earned respect worldwide for the hard work of African American women and men on the railroad.

Pullman porters were known and respected for decades for being well read as well as well traveled. Literacy was high among African Americans in the early 20th century especially among Pullman porters.

The standard book description states: 

"Joel Augustus Roger's seminal work, this novel first published in 1917 is a polemic against the ignorance that fuels racism. The central plot revolves around a debate between a Pullman porter and a white racist Southern politician."

Another review mentions:

"A fearless and penetrating discussion of America’s Greatest Problem The most debated points of the race question as the relative mentality, physical and facial beauty, sex instinct, chastity, odor, truthfulness, health, honesty, of negro and Caucasian; as well as politics, the slavery of white people in Colonial America and elsewhere, intermarriage, religion ancient Negro civilization, race attraction and repulsion, lynching and other aspects all scientifically dealt with in an interesting argument between a southern United Sates Senator with pronounced views and a polished, well-educated, universally traveled Negro when the two happen to meet under peculiar circumstances." (Source: The Amazon Book Review).

Rogers died in 1966 and in his lifetime he belonged to the Paris (France) Society for Anthropology, American Geographical Society, and the Academy of Political Science; in addition, he was also multilingual, mastering German, Italian, French, and Spanish. He had no formal education. (Source: Blackpast.org).


Saturday, December 9, 2017

This Year I Went on Tour

[A photo of the Statue of Freedom, that is on top of the Capitol Building in 
Washington, DC. Photo credit: National Park Service.]
"Thank you, Johnny, for a wonderful tour of the neighborhood where I have lived for 50 years. Your encyclopedic knowledge of the early history of African American social organization was very enlightening and was exactly what I was hoping I would be getting. Very professionally presented! I would recommend you to anyone interested in this area." --Marcy L. from Washington D.C.

Looking in hindsight to 2017, it was a good year!  This year I launched several new tours in Washington, DC.  It was tourism mixed with anthropology and ethnic marketing.  What I did this year was in the plans and was not by chance.  

It all started with coordinated meetings with very important people in Washington, DC and from other parts of the world.  The first tour I launched was a heritage site tour in mid-town Washington, DC visiting sites related to the historic African American community that created what we now know as Shaw, located along U Street in NW Washington, DC;  I launched in August.  U Street is a result of Camp Barker and the community around it created by the 'freedmen' who were freed by the 1862 Washington, DC Emancipation Act which came months before the famous Emancipation Proclamation.  

This act compensated owners of enslaved people for being loyal the Union (the name also of the United States at that time) and the result was a camp was where the formerly enslaved came to live. The freedmen created a village with a school, church and all the things needed.  The next step was that many began formal training to join the United States military in fighting the US civil war.  This was a major step for the Union forces.  History shows that the Union forces won the war by including the African descended freedmen; known in history as the United States Colored Troops (USCT).



Next I launched a tour visiting the homes of six women that made American history and world history.  This theme is important when doing ethnography.  We cannot have a holistic view of history unless we include the history of women.  I called the tour "Great Women of Washington, DC," and it was the best seller!

 
The first home on the tour is that of Mary Ann Shadd Cary.
 

Cary was born into an abolitionist family in America and in her life she was an active abolitionist working in both Canada and the USA. She was also a teacher, writer and publisher, suffragist, lawyer, and US Civil War recruiter. Born free she devoted her life to the anti-slavery movement. Her home in Washington, DC is a recognized national landmark. She is also the second woman of African descent in United States history to earn a law degree and was the first woman of African descent to vote in a national election.


I hosted an event in early December 2017 for kids about Benjamin Banneker and his Dogon ancestry. The image on the poster is a rendition of an elephant mask from Cameroon. I chose the mask because I want to continue to support indigenous people and their wisdom of earth and our universe.
 

In the colder months I enjoy museum tours. This is an area of concern as not all museums support tour guides bringing tourists to museums, but there is a growing DEMAND from the public to learn specific areas of history that are within museums from a tour guide-


To get people interested I began sharing facts on Washington, DC and the city's heritage sites that they did not know existed.  Many people were not aware of the amount of sites until they came to town to see the new national museum. Here is some of what I would share in my emails and flyers-

Did you know that in May 2016 the Washington Post reported that Washington, DC broke a new record by receiving $7.1 Billion dollars from tourism?

In 2017 Washington, DC became one of the top two destinations to visit in the United States because of the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) -- which opened in September 2016. 


My first major tourism effort in Washington, DC was the Ethiopian Millennium Day in 2007. We were told afterward that we hosted nearly 20 thousand people for the entire day. It was a great time and widely supported. I worked with the leading organization as a fund-raiser and advisor. My work secured Starbucks Coffee Company as the principal event sponsor. The image below is of the mayor's proclamation for Ethiopian Millennium Day. (Photo Credit: Office of the Mayor District of Columbia).



1.

In January 2014 I produced a coffee tasting event celebrating sustainability. It featured an Ethiopian Coffee ceremony and was held at the original Tesla showroom in downtown Washington, DC. The event showcased Ethiopian and Haitian coffee; 'Haitian Blue' originated in Ethiopia. The coffee ceremony is traditional indigenous culture. It was hosted by husband and wife team Tebabu Assefa and Sara Mussie (below on the right) of Blessed Coffee. In the center is Cafe Kreyol founder Joe Stazzone. (Photo Credit: Anthro21).



2.

In October 2014 I hosted a mask making event to teach traditional indigenous culture. I did the event with the help of DC Cultural Tourism's Art4All program. It rained that day and not everyone showed---however it was an amazing time and went better than expected! (Photo Credit: Anthro21).






3.

In January 2015 I facilitated a meeting with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to the United States of America, His Excellency Dr. Newry on behalf of a client to bring tourists of African descent from the USA and Canada to select sites in the Bahamas. (Photo Credit: Anthro21).




4.

I worked to make John G. Parker , abstract painter, a featured artist in the September 2015 Washington, DC ArtAllNight event. This arts festival has become a major attraction for DC.

(Photo Credit: Shaw Main Streets).




5.

In July 2016 I was an invited guest to witness Ethiopian Airlines reactivate direct flights from New Jersey Liberty Airport to Togo afer 15 years. This photo is with Ethiopian Airlines CEO Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam.  (Photo Credit: Anthro21).




6.

In February 2017 I conducted a tour for the Washington Informer newspaper's Heritage Tour in the National Museum of African American History & Culture. I am here in the photo with the Washington Informer's publisher, Mrs. Denise Rolark-Barnes.  (Photo Credit: Anthro21).



7.

In March 2017 I was asked by Dr. Ephraim Isaac, from Princeton University, to give him a tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). This was an honor because Dr. Isaac is the founder and first professor of the African American Studies at Harvard University. In recognition of his merits, the "Ephraim Isaac Prize for Excellence in African Studies" is given every year to a Harvard University graduate who writes the best essay in African Studies.

CLICK HERE to watch the the video of his visit.







Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book review: "Gifts of the Dineh"

In honor of Indigenous People's Day (October 9th), I  decided to review a children's book that shares the culture and history of indigenous people.  

The book "Gifts of the Dineh" (cover seen on the left) is written by Barbara Simons, and illustrated by Marla Bagetta. It is the story of a sister and brother who visit their grandparents on an reservation.  While there, they meet other family, eat new food and learn about the language and traditions of their elders.

The greatest part for me was reading how the grandmother spiritually connected to all the other grandmothers from the past when making the rug (shown on cover) that she could see in her mind.

'Dineh' (dih-NAY) means 'the people' in the Navajo language.  This book is a great introduction for children to the current reality of Native American people in the United States.  It also allows for an easier conversation for parents with their children about the past.   For teachers the book gives great examples of indigenous culture. The book is 16 pages with great illustrations and I really enjoyed reading the book because it did not humiliate or dehumanize the Dineh.  I recommend this book.