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What the eye doesn’t see, the heart does not grieve over, is an old saying and it is never a truer statement when the winter cruelly reveals a blighted, forgotten and neglected landscape.
Poverty is not merely an economic reality. It is also a political one in which years and years of attempts to solve the situation have still not improved conditions for millions of people struggling to make ends meet – not only here but across the country.
Once a vital center for of manufacturing and commerce, it also played a large part in the slave trade and the export of goods thanks in large part to the Appomattox River and the canals and waterways which were constructed to make it navigable.
It was a settlement in the early 1600’s, and became an incorporated city in 1748 and was occupied by the British in the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783. It became a destination for many freed slaves and during the American Civil War. The city was besieged for nine months in 1864-5 and heavily bombed, destroying large parts of what was then the second largest city in Virginia. It was also a major railroad hub.
A failure on the part of city governance to secure extra land to enlarge the city, as well as several major industries moving their operations to areas where labor was cheaper, led to a steady decline in tax revenue for Petersburg. The middle class dwindled, and the working class became more and more impoverished.
The old town is seeing new life as cheaper rents have led to many small specialty stores, restaurants and artsy establishments making this a destination for tourists. The old town is rich in history and good use has been made of some renovated buildings which have been refurbished as apartments and lofts. Some of the old cobbled streets remain in use which lends authenticity to the setting.
Pocahontas Island, which played a vital role during the slave trade years and is the oldest black community in the country, is in sore need of attention: one, a house which was important in the Underground Railroad, and another, a museum dedicated to Black History in the area would make great additions to the cultural history of our country.
The Visitor Center as well as several other historical sites no longer receive funding and rely on non-profits and donations to remain in good running order which is a terrible shame.
It seems, sadly, that black history is regarded as something separate from “white” history, as if the one had nothing to do with the other. We are all products of our historical narrative, it is the past, we cannot change it or white-wash it, but we can attempt to build bridges to honoring the struggle and acknowledging that African Americans shouldn’t be sidelined because their struggle was real and every bit as painful as the white men who battled the British and later, their own compatriots during the Civil War.
So next time, make Petersburg a destination, explore, walk around, and enrich your life experience because this is OUR history too – and be sure to pay a visit to the historic Blandford Cemetery if you enjoy graveyards.
The oldest grave dates back to 1702 but more than that, thirty thousand Confederate soldiers are buried there. There is a palpable air of grief that hangs in the air. I left there with a very sore heart, not only for those whose voices were stilled forever, but also for a city that needs a real helping hand.
Image above from http://www.drivei95.com/Newsletters/October_2009.html
Image on right from http://www.historicPetersburg.org
Other interesting information:
Amazon will donate .5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to HPF whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.
(The above was taken from http://www.historicpetersburg.org/
and I share it in an endeavor to promote the wonderful, rich history of Petersburg.)
Bob Dylan‘s recent nomination as winner of the Nobel Prize for literature came as a bit of a surprise for many, yet those who have listened to his music over the past 40-plus years, are all cheering on the sidelines. We know that this is not a tortured soul who struggled to write; his words and ideas flow from an unnamed, inchoate source, words like waterfalls feeding the barren landscapes of our minds, the imagery conjured up out of our perceptions and experience and coalescing into anthems that served us well in turbulent times. His many, many songs found a niche in our hearts as he wrote about the human experience: the common bond of love, hate, revenge and stories that make up our cultural psyche.
My favorite poet songwriters are Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison who bring a depth to their writing; Dylan’s sometimes facile meanderings have not always resonated with me, but that is my preference since it mirrors my own inner search to find meaning in my life. The subtle references in their songs to a deeper inner struggle, and a profound connection to something greater than themselves makes them timeless. They are not mere story tellers like Dylan; they probe the intellect and and the choices we make in life, the struggles and joys, the love and angst that make being human worthwhile.
Other writers such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins (and there are many more from the era of Folk Music) achieved the same kind of wordsmithing beauty that soothed the aching heart, and it was set to music that speaks to cross-generational lines.
How fortunate was I to have grown up at that time, when music meant something, when it wasn’t just a beat and nonsensical rhymes filled with trivialities, innuendo and scatological references. The evanescent quality of today’s music does not appeal to me at all, it has become a background noise which I prefer to avoid.
To date there has been no word from Mr. Dylan about accepting his Nobel prize. This is his choice. He never tried to appeal to the mainstream and always followed the dictates of his own sensibilities. Whether he publicly accepts or rejects the honor makes no difference, his poetry is forever part of our culture.
Image of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/artists/bob-dylans-20-musical-heroes/
We watched the movie, The Siege of Jadotville last night. I am not an aficionado of “chick flix”, being more of the “blood, gore and guts” type of girl. I don’t do horror and zombie movies either; I prefer real dramas.
Well, I was in for a surprise. I watched, stunned, as the story unfolded. The movie left me with such a deep, sad sense of injustice and futility that I struggled to fall asleep.
The Siege of Jadotville happened in September 1961, and it is based on true events. It was a time during which there was much unrest all over Africa as many colonial powers were being forced to relinquish their grip on the suppressed people of the benighted continent.
The United Nations decided to intervene in a conflict in Congo-Leopoldville, a state founded after independence was granted to the former Belgian Congo in 1960. They sent a troop of 155 UN soldiers, all Irishmen, untested in battle, to combat the mercenaries who had been employed by the State of Katanga which had seceded from Congo-Leopoldville. They were to protect the remaining Belgian settlers in the mining town, only to discover that they were unwanted because it was felt that the UN was meddling in the politics of the country.
The movie captured the terrifying ordeal of the A Company as they were ultimately abandoned during the five day siege. They received scant assistance as the powers-that-be played political games, leaving them to eventually surrender. Upon their return to Ireland they were reviled as cowards and were never given the recognition they so justly deserved.
The movie is based on the book by Declan Power, The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle; a gripping drama that will horrify you when you realize how small and insignificant we are when human lives are used as pawns in the game of power and politics.
Featured Image at top of page:http://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/siege-jadotville-review/
The short-haired woman with the cropped salt-and-pepper hair struggled up from her comfortable chair in the living room and shuffled painfully to the front door of the farmhouse. Her short legs and long upper body were strangely out of proportion, as if someone had forgotten to lengthen her bones when she was growing up.
“Yes?” she inquired, peering shortsightedly at the young man standing quietly at the door.
“Oh, it’s you!” she smiled at the visitor. “Come on in, momma’s waiting for you.”
The livingroom was a shrine to a past era: sepia portraits of long dead ancestors, dusty, chipped porcelain figurines on the mantelpiece, and faded framed prints on the walls lent an air of genteel decay to the room. It smelled musty in there, of old woman – a mixture of lily-of-the-valley talcum powder and old underwear – and the visitor held his breath for a few seconds, then expelled it in a rush. He hated visiting. It was a chore.
The young man pecked the wrinkled cheek of the older woman whose skin felt like aged soft chamois, and he smiled.
“Edith, how are you?” he said very loudly.
She nodded, “Yes, I am, thank you!”
“Mavis, bring a whiskey!” she commanded her elderly daughter.
“Momma, it’s not yet time to tipple! You know what the doc said!” Her sing-song country accent sounded faintly accusatory.
“Oh hush now, just bring me that drink and bring sonny – what’s yer name, hon? I forgot…”
“It’s Jakey, Edi, Jakey!”
“Bring him a soda.”
Jakey turned to his Mavis who stood hesitantly in the doorway.
“I’ll have a whiskey too,” he said.
The woman disappeared, her thighs making a swishing noise as they rubbed together on the cheap polyester capris. He heard her go into the kitchen and then turned to focus on Edith.
“Have you signed that paper yet, Edi?”
“What was that?” she cupped her hand behind her ear. “What?”
“The deed of transfer, Edi, to put the farm into my name…”
Mavis returned, handed her aged mother a glass, who swigged the drink down in three straight gulps.
“My daddy loved me, y’know,” Edi mumbled. “He didn’t want me handing the land over to Jakey, remember?”
Jakey narrowed his eyes and sipped at his glass delicately, as if he were a southern gentleman calling on his girl.
“Never understood how the brakes failed on that old Buick,” Edi mumbled and then grabbed at her mouth as her dentures slipped.
“Jakey, you shouldn’t wear her out, you know how quickly she tires of company,” Mavis said, exasperated by his persistence.
“When did you die, Jakey? Why do you always come here same time, every day? Is there no rest for you in the place you disappear to every day? You break my heart, you do!” Gram complained, her voice beginning to slur. “If only you hadn’t been so greedy!”
“Momma, daddy died sixty years ago, don’t you remember?”
She turned to look at the young man, but the chair was empty.
“Damn ghosts,” she thought.