Yesterday, within the space of a few hours, I found myself being moved to tears by three stories. Today I will share them with you.
The first story, “Saving Nina Simone’s Birthplace as an Act of Art and Politics,” is a cause for celebration. I was aware that Simone’s birthplace was for sale, and had been fretting about what would happen to this significant historical treasure. To learn that four African American artists from New York City – Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu – have purchased it is such beautiful news it makes my heart jump for joy. Randy Kennedy’s story in the New York Times about the purchase (click the title to read) states, “They describe the purchase as an act of art but also of politics, a gratifying chance to respond to what they see as a deepening racial divide in America, when Simone’s fiery example of culture warrior seems more potent than ever.” Wonderful news for Western North Carolina and the world.
The second story, “In-Between the Color Lines With a Spy Camera: The Appalachian Urban Folk Photography of Isaiah Rice,” was written for Southern Cultures by UNC Asheville’s Darin Waters, PhD, Gene Hyde and Kenneth Betsalel. The article discusses Waters’ grandfather’s amazing photos, of which there are over 1,000 taken from the 1950s through the 1970s. It illuminates the significance of Rice’s work, which provides “fresh insight into the unique cultural context of an urban African American community in southern Appalachia.” A context that has, for the most part, been left out of what Waters calls “the collective historical narrative.” The significance of this cannot be overstated. “The stories of African American highlanders, both rural and urban, are yet being written, but the donation and digitization of photographs taken by Asheville native Isaiah Rice will go a long way in advancing a deeper understanding of Asheville, the region, and the experiences of its African American communities in particular. They remain a family album for all of us.” Transformative treasures.
The final story I will share today is from the Asheville Jewish Community Center, which, like other JCCs across the country, received a bomb threat earlier this week. In their weekly email, the JCC shared this, “Over the past week, the JCC has received a tremendous amount of encouragement from friends, neighbors and community organizations in the form of emails, online messages, telephone calls, and loving gestures of support. This morning the JCC received a warm visitation from local faith leaders delivering coffee, donuts, fruit, flowers, and love to our staff and community members. See the story covered by WLOS here. It’s wonderful to know that Asheville continues to come together during challenging times.” Very wonderful.
Here’s to bold and beautiful action and storytelling and solidarity and love.