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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

 “A chameleon is the opposite of a leopard; the world is full of chameleons and leopards.”  Zambian proverb for February 27.  From the calendar “African Wisdom for Life” by Annetta Miller.

Ok don’t ask me what that means but I wouldn’t mind hearing what you think this means. I think of how hard it is to see leopards in the Kenyan wild lands but when you do they are so majestic. 

I know many of you are getting tired of hearing about the tornado.  Well today is a better day already because the sun is shining. 

Every day I drive on Hardy street which is the main drag of Hattiesburg that passes the USM campus.  As I drive past I see the bareness of the landscape and I mourn the loss of the trees (I think I need to write a haiku about that).  Next I look to see if the piano from one of destroyed music school buildings that was called the Jazz Station is still here.  And it is!  It hurts to see it as it is such a poignant reminder of what happened to the music and fine arts program. 

Storm winds danced in rage
Playing jazz to angry sky
Piano silenced.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“It is difficult to wake up someone who is sleeping.”  Ghanaian proverb for February 26.

It is hard to shake off the doldrums that Hattiesburg seems to be in since the tornado.  For one thing it is has been raining for the majority of days since the storm struck on February 10th.  It is still the main topic of conversation whenever we meet anyone. The reminders are there as you can’t drive anywhere without seeing damaged homes buildings.  Or feel the openness caused by the loss of trees. 

For the first two weeks there was a lot of euphoria as people from all over town rushed to help clean up debris, cut fallen trees, and serve meals.  There were more people than work in some cases since the community was still organizing to get the recovery going.  Now as a friend, who was amazingly upbeat about getting his house fixed and is living in his damaged house without heat, said dejectedly  “the novelty has worn off.”  Actually I think the whole town is depressed. 

I am writing this as the rain is pouring down again after just a few days of beautiful sunshine.  Severe thunderstorms, hail, and possible tornados are predicted.  Every time that word is announced on the news I cringe.

Due to the rain dampness and mold is spreading in the damaged buildings as many of them only have temporary roofs and are without heat.  Power has been mostly restored where the damage was not too extensive.

On Saturday we were helping to clean up a two story large church complex heavily damaged by water.  It was so moldy and damp in this formerly beautiful building that it was hard to work.  And there were people who had been working there for days.  My heart goes out to them.

For me I have turned to my photography and haiku to help heal some of my depression. 

This is a photo of Mount Carmel Baptist church whose ministry to one of the poorest parts of our community has been seriously disrupted by damage to their own structures.

I wrote this haiku after a friend, who used to attend this church before he moved away, remarked how he loved seeing the sunlight come through the stained glass windows.  

Bright stained-glass windows
Darkened, shattered by the storm
Beauty in limbo.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"It is not the highest mountain that a man climbs but the depths from whence he came." Sierra Leonean proverb for February 25.

I find this a rather unusual translation for a proverb from Sierra Leone where the tallest mountain is more like a tall hill.  Freetown, the capital, is hilly like San Francisco and sits on a huge, beautiful bay.  For many people who have only pathways to their houses they do a lot of climbing, going to and from their homes.  So they know what it is to be fit and able to climb.  We lived in a Freetown neighborhood called Hill Station and had a wonderful view of the ocean and the houses below when we were in S.L in 2008-09.  We didn't have a car so we, too, did a lot of up and down walking whenever we wanted to go somewhere.  

Despite this I really find this proverb very special.  There are so many people who start life at a tremendous disadvantage and who have to face steep climbs if they want to get anywhere in life.  A lot of them don't and are not equipped to handle these challenges.  All the more reason why I believe people need a helping hand.  This help can come from another person, the community or even the government.  "Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps"  is not always possible for many people.  Here in the South, as we remember Black History this month, I think we also need to really understand the depths from which Blacks have had to climb up after centuries of slavery and slave-like conditions.  And it is amazing what they have been able to achieve.  But neither should we think that it is easy for them.  They are still climbing up and it is all right to give them a helping hand so they can become healthy, productive, citizens.   On a recent MPB (Mississippi Public Broadcasting) radio program people were interviewed  about how far the South has come in Race Relations since the 60's.  The white person didn't see any problem now as all that bad stuff was in the past and behind us and the black person who felt there still was a long way to go to achieve any real sense of equality.  

 WABG 960 AM, located in an empty field just outside Greenwood and on the way to Money, Mississippi, has been keeping the local African American community informed since the civil rights days.  As we drove past the station they were playing a song by Randy Weeks.  "Emmet Till, Emmet Till, does your soul wander still 'ore the flatlands of the Delta?"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let me start with the African proverbs for the last few days. 

"A wise monkey is a monkey who does not monkey with another's monkey." Sierra Leonean proverb for February 24. From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller.  Very good advice!

"It is best for us to be like a tall tree." Kenyan proverb for February 23.

"Perseverance in work brings rewards." Tanzanian proverb for February 22.

"If sweetness is excessive, it is no longer sweetness." African proverb for February 21. 

I think all of us use words to express ourselves.  For some of us this is very natural and easy.   And for others, like myself, it has always been difficult.  And frustrating because I feel things that I can't always express myself in an articulate way.  I guess that is one reason why I love photography so much as it is a way to express myself visually when I cannot do that easily with words: also why I choose to accompany my photographs with proverbs (and use someone else's words).

A few weeks ago a friend of mine (who will not see this post as she prefers to stay away from such electronic contrivances) told me about Richard Wright's haiku.  My friend writes haiku to accompany her photographs and R.W. was someone she turned to for inspiration.  Here is a site to look at: terebess.hu/english/haiku/wright.html

I was surprised that this champion and spokesman for African Americans turned to this classic form of art in the last 18 months of his life, while ill and self-exiled in France.

His work also inspired me especially as for the last few days I have been struggling with the effects of the tornado on my community and not being able to express my feelings about it.  In the foreword to his book
Haiku: This Other World - by Richard Wright he writes to his daughter “Julia, you can write them too. It’s always five, and seven and five - like math. So you can’t go wrong.”

So with this in mind (and mind you I have never been able to write a word of poetry) I decided to try to write some Haiku to go with some of my tornado photographs.  I am expression the less hurtful side of the experience with the
more artful one.  Maybe a little like R.W. explored nature late in his life rather than the rage found in his earlier writings. 

I will post a few more in the next few days.  Let me know if you like them. 

Frank was our friend's dog who survived the storm in their damaged house.

bed spread, a greyhound
calm under portrait of same
Frank, after the storm

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A little more on the tornado.  Both Bob and I are now back working on our own projects after trying to volunteer and help wherever help was needed last week.  It is doesn't mean that the need has gone away but fortunately the volunteers are still out there, many of them coming from other areas of the country.  A lot of them have had experience with tornadoes and know what it is to need help.  The tornado was on the ground for more than 20 miles so when i drive to other parts of the town and i am surprised to see so many other affected areas.  When we meet a friend the question is always "how did you fare in the storm?"

Today I took a photo of a grand piano that was damaged when the USM Jazz Station building was demolished.  It symbolizes the fact that "the show must go on" especially since it was the music school that got hit the hardest by the storm. 

Here are the African proverbs for the last few day. 

February 20  "The integrity of a person is seen, not in falling, but in rising after each fall."  African proverb

February 19  "You can use what someone is doing today to judge what he will do tomorrow." Nigerian proverb

February 18  "He who lets a snake into his house should know how to get it out."  Tanzanian proverb

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Our community experienced a tornado.  We are fine but two blocks away my neighbors are not.  We were without power for a day and internet for several days.  Anyway I am going to catch up on the days that I missed and then I will write more about the tornado tomorrow. 

The photograph below means a lot to me since so many people had their homes damaged or destroyed. But then their were so many volunteers that have used their hands to help the people who needed help. 

February 17  "A good name shines in the dark."  Swahili proverb

February 16  "Be a neighbor to a human being and not to a fence."  Kenyan proverb

February 15  "A thorn tree is climbed by its knobs, not its thorns."  South African proverb

 February 14  "The heart that truly loves has no room for grudges."  Ghanaian proverb

February 13  "Imitation has destroyed many a person."  African proverb

February 12 "Be sure you stand on solid ground before you stretch out the hand to grab something."  African proverb

February 11 "Slips outnumber falls."  Kenyan proverb

February 10 "The heart of a wise person lies quiet like limpid water."  Cameroonian proverb

February 9  "A calabash with holes cannot be filled."  Kenyan proverb

A home in rural Liberia.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Everything is life." Malawian proverb for Friday, February 8. From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller. 

Short and sweet!  We only have one life and we need to live it well!

Reminds me of another proverb which is on page 8 of my book "Life is in community"  African proverb

This photo was taken at Maasai Blessing ceremony in Kenya.  It was a basically a very well organized Women's conference where the women came together to talk about their problems.  About 300 women of all ages lived together in a compound for several days, going to meetings, dancing, singing, and participating in rituals handed down by their ancestors.  Life is very hard for nomadic women and child and mother mortality is high.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It is easy to stand in a crowd: it takes courage to stand alone." Zambian proverb for February 7. From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller. 

The proverb today is very meaningful to me.  I appreciate all the people around the world who have stood up to oppression but especially here in Mississippi for those who fought for their rights during the 60's.   I am reading a classic book "Coming of Age in Mississippi" written by Anne Moody and published in 1968.  Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down.  I thought I had heard these stories so many times but her story was just so real and embellished.  She told the story like it was.

These delegates to constitutional convention were speaking out at great risk against their authoritarian government in Togo in the 90's.
"Do not burn your house down just because a rat annoyed you." Nigerian proverb for February 6. From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller

 I have been really upset at how the Obama administration has used drones to target and kill US Citizens thought to be terrorists without any real oversight.   I was also thinking that the "rat" in the proverb could be the "war on terrorism" and we are using the threat of terrorism to destroy the ideals of this country.  http://www.salon.com/2013/02/05/when_liberals_ignore_injustice/

Open Society has also just come out with a report of how third countries were used to torture suspected terrorists at the request of the CIA.  Just listen to this clip and you will be shocked http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkSCYFyN8hg  and then go on to read the report.  It is hard to believe the Obama administration would allow this but I think it can still happen through most of it happened under the Bush administration.  Power corrupts is such an over used phrase but it is still so true.  

sorry I went so political!
"Charity is a matter of the heart, not the pocket." Swahili proverb for February 5. From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller

I now live in Mississippi and we are I think "number 1" on this so congrats to all you fellow Mississippians.
Catching up on the days I have missed.  Thought some of you might still like to know what they are.

"The one who tries to swallow a large stone has confidence in the size of his throat." African Proverb for February 4. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

I am a little behind.  It was a beautiful weekend in MIssissippi and it seems like spring is already here.  Is that climate change?  I hope not but it probably is.

Anyway here are your proverbs for Sunday  February 3
"In the moment of crisis the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams."  Nigerian proverb

and for Monday February 4. 
"The one who tries to swallow a large stone surely has confidence in the size of his throat."  African proverb

The last one seems so African.  Some of the  proverbs seems very familiar and universal so that I like it when they seem different and more specific to just the African culture.  Also I like how visual they can be.  Your imagination can run a bit wild.

The photo today goes more with the Sunday proverb of building bridges and it is of a transportation hub in Lagos, Nigeria.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Habit is a tall mountain, hard to overcome or pull down."  African proverb  for February 2.  From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller

I guess this is referring to some of our "bad habits."  It really is hard to change those but worth it.

It's interesting but there are not that many tall mountains in most African countries, especially West Africa. They say that landscape influences our culture.  It probably explains a lot of our cultural differences.  This is a more typical landscape in Africa.  This one with Baobab trees is from Senegal.

Friday, February 1, 2013

So here we are the entering the month of February, 2013.  The proverb today, the first, is from Uganda.  "The long, sure way will take you to your destination." From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller.
But it would be great to get together.  Hope you enjoy your time in Florida.

Young boys play their traditional instruments at a church service, Ngora, Uganda