Thursday, September 22, 2011

CULTURE POST-Hip Hop and Country Music in Mexico; Clogging and Peace Vigiling in NC: Wired and Waiting in West Texas; Remembering Stetson Kennedy, Troy Davis, and Hans Scholl

Sparta, NC     Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention,  July 2011  
I'm trying to fly and travel less as it becomes more apparent that the planet might be trying to purge itself of human life. I'm writing this from Texas which had record breaking heat for three months this summer combined with a terrible drought. I got out of Arizona earlier in the summer during the largest forest fire in the state's history, but then Texas had major fires as well (A wildfire was burning a few miles from where I was staying last week!).  

A friend of mine doesn't fly at all and only makes long trips by train. I'll never call myself an "environmentalist" until I sell my truck, but I have made some progress-- used Amtrak once this past year and did cut out my annual trip to Panama (full disclosure--the school in Panama where I worked closed).

For now let's enjoy the benefits of the global warming trotting lifestyle and look back at summer 2011--first stop on the cultural express is Magdalena de Kino in the Mexican state of Sonora, (just south of Nogales, AZ) for the annual Kino Cultural Festival held last May.

 ACT 1--The HIP HOP Group Danza Urbana, who are studying Hip Hop at their university in Hermosillo, Sonora, are shown here in their first ever public performance! Here's  a short video I took of Roger showing his moves.

Ever seen a priest doing HIP HOP (okay not a real priest), well be sure and check out this video clip and watch out for the guy falling from the sky. When Danza Urbana finishes, the CIRCO MUNDI folks take over.

                                     AND OF COURSE THE JUGGLERS!

Some of the spectators at the festival
A father and son selling fake beards, mustaches, and eyelashes.

ACT 2--I'd never seen this before in Mexico, a band performing country music from the U.S., (many Charlie Daniels songs). They were excellent!

Onward to North Carolina and the Blue Ridge
I grew up in the small town of Elkin, NC (pop. 4000). Here's the first train to roll into town in 1911.
The only train I ever rode here was the one I hopped as a teenager. Me and a buddy got caught
and the train workers were so nice they let us ride in the engine!
A view of Elkin from across the Yadkin River.
For several years a group of local residents have been holding a peace vigil in Elkin every Thursday at noon. Though small in number,  I consider their turnout equivalent to 100,000 protesters in New York City. They said they get quite a few thumbs up and very few one finger salutes.
Here's shot I took of downtown Elkin hanging on in hard economic times.
Elkin used to have a textile plant employing nearly two thousand, and a furniture
plant, where I briefly worked (both plants now only have skeleton crews).  
ACT 3--Check out these video clips I took last July in Sparta, NC,  
of some great clogging and music at the Alleghany County Fiddler's Convention.

Then the crowd joined in the fun! I'm the one in the video doing the fanciest footwork (just kidding).

In 1917 the Yadkin River in Elkin froze over with 8 inches of ice, I've never seen any ice on it.
The old Reeves Theater in Elkin. Aw the memories--throwing popcorn from the balcony with Mr. Reeves stopping the movie and coming out on stage to calm down us down. The last movie I saw here was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".  The store to the left, Diana's Bookstore, and other community members are trying to save and restore the theater to be used a community performing arts center.
The Salt Flats of West Texas
One of the benefits of working in West Texas is stopping in for some chow at the historical Salt Flats Cafe (opened since 1929). It's located in Salt Flats, TX out in the middle of nowhere, west of Guadalupe Pass. If you've seen the movie "Glory Road" there's a scene filmed at the cafe.  The friendly woman who runs the place grew up right there on the grounds. Well I was enjoying my lunch but for some reason she didn't come to refill my ice tea. I grew up in NC where an ice tea addiction is common and you get spoiled having your cup topped off every few minutes. She never reappeared so as I got up to pay my check and request a tea refill for the road I spotted her behind the grill and quickly realized the reason for my predicament--she was surfing the world wide web on her computer!

Remembering Stetson Kennedy. 

On Aug. 27 a great American passed away, Stetson Kennedy, just shy of his 95th birthday. I was fortunate to get to know and spend time with him as he was a close friend of my wife.  His bio on Wikipedia states "William Stetson Kennedy (October 5, 1916 – August 27, 2011) was an American author and human rights activist. One of the pioneerfolklore collectors during the first half of the twentieth century, he is remembered for having infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s, exposing its secrets to authorities and the outside world. His actions lead to the 1947 revocation by the state of Georgia of the Klan's national corporate charter.[1] Kennedy was the author of eight books and the co-author of a ninth.

I often quote something Stetson once said to me, "The American people are the only oppressed people in the world who think they are free".  Interviewed in the Folio Weekly (, Dec. 29, 2009, by Anne Schindler) Stetson reflected on activism as a perpetual fight, "Struggle is all, it's what keeps us going. Win or lose, struggle is the way to go out". 

The article quoted  Carol Alexander on Stetson's legacy, "What is most remarkable to me is his idealism...As people get older they burn out and soften up. But Stetson is a warrior. He's a a front liner, and true warriors never soften up". The article continued, "Activism has a definite life cycle. For some it's born of youthful passion or campus activism. For others it's driven by midlife political interests or parental concerns. And for a few, it's kindled by the free time and perspective that retirement affords. But most activists eventually wear down. Some are burned out by defeat, others stop when they've won an important battle. But win or lose, most eventually weary. Kennedy by comparison, has remained vigorously, even defiantly active. His politics absolutely current--and surprisingly radical".

Remembering Troy Davis

Yesterday Sept. 21, 2011 the system put to death Troy Davis, a man widely believed to be innocent of murder charges, just shy of his 43rd birthday. The state of Georgia ignored a massive campaign by Davis supporters, the NAACP, Amnesty International, and others and carried out the execution. The US supreme court refused to halt the execution despite a four hour delay (there was no dissent).

Wikepedia has this to say about Davis's early lifeDavis was the eldest child of Korean War veteran Joseph Davis and hospital worker Virginia Davis.[9][10] The couple divorced when Davis was very young,[10] and Davis grew up with four siblings in the predominantly black, middle-class neighborhood of Cloverdale, Savannah.[10] He attended Windsor Forest High School, where one teacher described him as a poor student.[10] He dropped out in his junior year so he could drive his disabled younger sister to her rehabilitation.[9] Davis obtained his high-school equivalency diploma from Richard Arnold Education Center in 1987. A teacher noted that he attended school regularly but seemed to lack discipline.[9] Davis's nickname at the time was "Rah," or "Rough as Hell" , but some neighbors reported that it did not reflect his behavior; they described him as a "straight up fellow" who acted as a big brother to local children.[10] 

Remembering Hans Scholl

Today, Sept. 22, marks the 93rd birthday of Hans Scholl, who along with his sister Sophie and others founded the White Rose group in Germany which carried out an underground campaign of resistance against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis until they were caught and executed. An earlier blog post focused on the White Rose:

In their third leaflet, Hans Scholl and the White Rose had this to say to the German people:

“...why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right - or rather, your moral duty - to eliminate this system?”

If Hans Scholl were alive today and living in the U.S., what might he have to say?