DC at Night

DC at Night

Friday, August 30, 2013

Folk Art From Mexico

Colorful woven hammocks
If you like Mexican folk art, you should head to the Mexican Cultural Institute in Columbia Heights to view the Guerrero 7: Seven Regions of Art and Tradition exhibition now on display.

The exhibit features arts from the state of Guerrero, which is located in southwest Mexico and includes the resort community of Acapulco.

The region serves as home for 4 ethnic groups - the Mixtec, Nahua, Tlapanec, and Almuzgo - each of which has a distinctive culture and cultural traditions.

Regional popular art varies wildly from the colorful embroidery of the Huipui dress of the mountain people to the rich past of mask making which goes back 2,000 years in the northern region.

If you visit, here is just a sample of what you will see.


Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
The exhibition will remain on view until Oct. 15.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Memorial to a March That Changed History

Fifty years ago, more than 250,000 people came to Washington to rally and march for jobs and freedom. The issue was black and white, specifically the role of those 2 colors in America's future. The images of that historic day were mostly captured in black and white photos. Today, thousands of Americans of all colors and hues followed the steps as they commemorated those who marched in 1963. Here is a series of black and white shots from some of today's events.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was the featured speaker. Today, that spot went to America's 1st Black president Barack Obama. Click here to view President Obama's speech. Click here to read the complete transcript of Obama's remarks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Still on the March, 50 Years Later

Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The event, which was sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Martin Luther King III, and the NAACP, featured a roster of speakers, including King, Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, the last living speaker from the historic 1963 day.

The speakers spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 50 years ago this month King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Despite the fanfare of Saturday's rally, which packed the mall from the Lincoln Memorial back to the World War II Memorial, it was only a prelude. The actual anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington will occur on Wednesday, and it will be marked by another rally on the mall, including a speech from President Barack Obama, who, as America's 1st Black president, is heralded by many as a living legacy of Dr. King's dream.

Here is a series of pictures capturing the 1st day of the 2-day commemoration.

Getting Ready

 The Signs

The Rally

The Future

Tales, Tips, and Tidbits
Here is a report on the day from CBS News.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Flashback: Shaking All Over

It's another Friday so here is the latest in our ongoing feature in The Price Do DC called Friday Flashback. Each Friday we repost a story published earlier in our blog, which began in June of 2011. So, if you have read this post before, welcome back. If you are reading this for the 1st time, we hope you enjoy this post blast from our blog past.  Exactly 2 years ago today, the East Cost was rocked by an earthquake that was felt from North Carolina to Massachusetts. Here is our account of the rare, strange occurrence.

The earthquake damaged the Washington Monument.  This is how it looks now with construction underway. It is expected to be re-opened to the public some time next year.

An afternoon that began with a friendly education-exploring lunch with a former colleague, then continued with an unexpected, impromptu tour of a historic Black section of D.C., finally climaxed today with a once-in-a-lifetime East Coast Earthquake, which shook and shocked Washington area residents and left several historic treasures with structural damage.

Here's my detailed where-were-you-when the earthquake hit story.

When I first announced that I would be retiring from education and moving to Crystal City, Paul Smith, whom I had worked with as part of The Talent Development Program out of Johns Hopkins University, contacted me, asking if I would like to join him as a consultant to a whole school reform program he would be handling at Dunbar High School in D.C.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about the project. One part of me simply wanted to enjoy my retirement. But another part was intrigued with being able to work with a problem-plagued, big city urban school like Dunbar. Paul and I stayed in touch through the summer, but were unable to get together because of my moving and travel schedule.  Finally, with school starting, we were able to coordinate schedules and plan a lunch at The Big Bear Cafe, a counter culture establishment on First Street.

I traveled by Metro to the nearest station to the cafe, and, since I was really early, decided to walk to Dunbar to check it out before proceeding on to lunch. After passing through the school's metal detector, I was directed to the office. As I was explaining my purpose in visiting to a secretary, I was approached by a nattily dressed man (at least nattily dressed by my South Jersey school standards) who offered his hand and introduced himself as school principal Steven Jackson. Somehow, from reading about Jackson both online and in the Michelle Rhee biography The Bee Eater, I expected someone larger in statue. But it was clear from his demeanor that Jackson was definitely in charge of his building. In a friendly, yet forceful way, he wanted to know what this visitor was doing in Dunbar.  I briefly explained my connection to Paul Smith, adding that I might be working here. Apparently satisfied with my explanation, he politely dismissed himself and returned to the open-door meeting his was having with 3 colleagues in his office.

After a brief discussion with the security guard manning the screening system, I left Dunbar and resumed walking the 4 remaining blocks to the Black Bear Cafe. There I was joined by Paul and we enjoyed an hour lunch with the time equally divided between catching up on the past couple of years and discussing the plans for Dunbar. Although we reached no definite conclusion about my involvement, I told Paul I was definitely interested and he promised to get back to me with a yes or no as soon as funding plans were finalized. (For those interested in financial aspects, I asked for $17.4 million a day and Paul was pretty convinced that might cause a stumbling block).

Paul left for a meeting at Dunbar and I decided to explore new areas of  DC by walking up Florida Avenue to a different Metro station. After about 4 blocks, I stopped to look at restoration work on a brightly painted Victorian row home and suddenly was joined by Bill, who described himself as a sort of informal historian of the area. "That's pretty incredible, what they're doing," said Bill, who explained that he was born in DC and, after extensively traveling the US and turning 50 years old, he had come back to live here. I explained that I had just moved to DC and was trying to learn all I could about the area.  "Oh, I could bore you for hours with that stuff," Bill said. And so Bill launched into a fascinating neighborhood history lesson.

"See that gate over there," Bill said. "That's LeDroit Park. It was a private guarded gated community back in the 1870s.  No one who didn't live there could get in.  The people got tired of having to walk around it and finally got it opened up.  Then it became an exclusive area for Black residents. Jesse Jackson has a home at 4th and T.  And Walter Washington, the first elected mayor has a home there, too."

Continuing our tour up the street, Bill pointed out work on 2 theaters.  "That there is the Howard," he said, "Everybody played there. Duke Ellington, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder. And that one over there is the Dunbar.

And so, for the next 20 minutes, Bill regaled me with inside stories about the historic Shaw Neighborhood - Ben's Chili Bowl, Howard University, and the whole U Street Corridor. Finally, Bill said he was heading for lunch and prepared to duck into a local Ethiopian Eatery. I thanked him for all his information and told him I might continue my walk all the way back to the Capitol. "Hmm. I wouldn't do that. There's a few rough streets that way,"he said.

"Just cut down that road," he said, pointing to direction. "Turn left and you'll come to the Shaw-Howard Metro Station.  That's a direct line to Crystal City."

On the Metro ride home, I had time to reflect on just how much fascinating hidden history there is in DC and how grateful I was to have outgoing, local "historians" like Bill around to clue me in.

Getting off the metro at my Crystal City stop, I decided to run an errand in the Crystal City Underground. And that's where I was when I encountered the great Eastern Earthquake (although I must admit, at the time, I had absolutely no idea what was happening).

As I was headed to the underground Rite-Aid, I experienced what I first believed was a large scale explosion, followed by shaking. At first, I thought given my proximity to the Metro, that a train had derailed. But when the shaking resumed, I quickly considered and dismissed the idea of a bomb. But any consideration of what exactly was happening was quickly replaced by 1 thought - I wanted to get out of that underground and out on the street. The next few seconds were a blur.  I remember the startled face of a Vietnamese hairdresser as she exited her shop and stared at me quizzically as bottles of beauty products tumbled from the shelves behind her. I remember 2 well-dressed black women who kept pace with my brisk walk, all the while struggling to comprehend our circumstances. "Oh My God. What do you think it is? What's happening?," they cried. I remember 2 guys imploring me to forgo my hasty exit and join them under the archway of their store door.   

Somehow, I restrained myself from running (maybe it was a false sense of Steve McQueen cool) and just kept up my brisk walk until I was able to jerk open the door to the street, where I joined thousands of Crystal City workers and lunch-goers who were already outside, trying to come to grips with the situation.

Obviously, my 1st thought was to get in contact with my wife Judy, who I had left back in our apartment about 4 hours ago. I dialed my home number on my cell and got - nothing.  Looking around, I saw that everyone else had their cells out and intuited that the phone system must be overwhelmed. So, still trying unsuccessfully to dial, I began the 4 and 1/2 block walk to our Crystal Plaza Apartment Complex.

On my walk, I found that my eavesdropping skills, honed during my 10 years as a reporter, came in handy. "Earthquake ... 5.9... all the way to North Carolina... did Bill and Julie get out? ... that's right an earthquake ... aren't there after shocks ... we'll just have to go back in later and get your purse ... I hope the kids are OK ... hey, hey get away from the windows ... no, we'll open back up, we're always open ... Well, I'm going over there, the bar looks open and I need a stiff drink ... where are the police and firemen? ... they'll let us know when we can go back in ... no I don't know if they'll let us go home"

I reached our apartment complex and found Judy outside with the rest of our neighbors who had been home at the time of the disturbance.  And, of course, Judy had her own earthquake tale to tell.  She had been ironing when she heard the apartment door shaking. "At first, I thought you had come home and couldn't get in the door," she said.  But when the whole 7th floor apartment started swaying and several statues plummeted from the top of our 6-shelf bookcase, she quickly realized there was something more dramatic in play than a klutzy husband. "The TV was really rocking and I rushed to grab and steady it," she said. "Then I went out on the balcony to find out what was going on. The concierges were outside.  They were really upset and hollered for all us to come down outside." 

Finally, we were given the OK to re-enter our complex and we threw ourselves in front of the TV (which, thanks to Judy's quick action, was safe and still working - I knew there was a reason why I love that woman) to find out exactly how an earthquake had found its way to DC to shake up our afternoon and that of most of the Eastern seaboard.

Travelers Tip:
I guess this incident and its aftermath again proved that, despite all our technological advances,  Nature still has mysterious forces we must always respect as we struggle to reckon with them.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Bill for Bill for a Bill

Until this week, my only personal story about both money and fame occurred in 1971 at Villanova University.

Then, I was a sophomore at Villanova. That same year, the Wildcat basketball team would go on a roll which would take them to the NCAA tournament championship game against era-power UCLA. I knew most of the team since I was an education major and the players all took classes with Education Professor William Ray Heitzman, who was a head scout for the basketball program. In fact, I was in a Heitzman class with all 5 members of the starting team including All-American star forward Howard Porter.

Anyway, one day I was in Bartley Hall at the edge of campus when Porter came up to me and asked me for a dime to use the pay phone. (Yes a dime for a pay phone. This story is taking place in 1971 after all). Of course, I gave it to him. Later in the year, the team lost in the finals to UCLA, but Porter was brilliant. However, it was discovered that prior to the tournament, Porter had signed a contract to play in the then-in-existence American Basketball Association and so was technically a professional and not eligible to participate in the tournament. Villanova was removed from the record book, Porter was disgraced, and I never got my dime back. But I did have a good story linking me to Big 5 and college basketball history.

However, my Villanova story dropped to number 2 on my money/fame list this Wednesday.

For the past 2 years, I have been working as an educational consultant at Dunbar High School here in DC. Although Dunbar is now plagued with the same problems that have beset inner city schools around America, in the first 60 years of the 20th Century it was recognized as the finest Black high school in America. It was the greatest single disprover of any contention that Black students couldn't learn at high levels. For example, 97% of the graduating class of 1955 went to 4-year colleges. It is still the only high school in the nation where 8 faculty members and alumni made such great contributions to America that they were placed on U.S. postal stamps. Its graduates include the 1st elected Black U.S. Senator, the 1st  Black general in the Army, the 1st Black admiral in the Navy, and the 1st Black cabinet Secretary, as well as the current DC delegate to the U.S.Congress and the Mayor of Washington.

This week, city officials, school staff, and alumni have been celebrating the fact that when students return to Dunbar next week, they will be entering a brand new, state-of-the-art $122 million high school replacing the prison-like structure built in 1976.

My mentoree Julian Dotson, my new best friend Bill, and me backstage at Dunbar.

On Wednesday, comedian Bill Cosby was on the program as the main guest speaker. Also scheduled to speak was young English teacher Julian Dotson, who was one of my consulting mentorees. Dotson was able to get me back stage to hang around with Cosby. During his hilarious talk, Cosby pulled both his pockets out to show the roaring crowd that he was not getting paid for his appearance.

When the program was over, Cosby returned to the green room. I didn't want Bill (I was sure I was now on a solid enough friendship footing to call Mr. Cosby Bill) to walk away with nothing. I remembered how badly I felt when Howard Porter took my last dime.

"Bill, I know you said out there you weren't getting paid, but that's not right. Here is $1," I said. "You can use it at Ben's Chili Bowl." Now I knew that Cosby wouldn't need it there. There is big sign at the front of the U Street eatery that Cosby helped make wildly popular which reads: "If your name is Barack Obama or Bill Cosby you eat free. Everyone else pays." But, as my Mom used to say, it is the thought, not the action, that counts.

Cosby stared at me for a second, then burst into that hearty, choppy laugh that only he has. "Give me that dollar," he said, snatching the bill out of my hand. He turned to Dotson. "Here, I'm making a contribution to the school."

With that dollar donation, the cost of the school bill was immediately reduced to $121,999,999. Cosby might claim credit, but I would always know where the $1 really came from. And it was a small price (get it, price ...) to pay for a great story about me and my new best friend Bill, a Bill who took one bill from me to reduce the bill of the cost of the new version of the high school that was once the greatest Black high school in all the land.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Speaking of Bill Cosby and Ben's Chili Bowl, Cosby showed up there today to help the famed eatery celebrate its 55th anniversary. Click here to read and view video footage about Cosby's visit.

Inspired By Its Past, Dunbar Gets a New High School

Dunbar when it was the nation's greatest Black school
It's a historic week for historic Dunbar High School. The school, recognized during the 1st half of the 20th Century as the finest African-American high school in America, is celebrating its new $122 million facility with 5 days of special events.

On Monday, DC Mayor Vincent Gray and DC delegate to the U.S. Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton, both 1950's graduates of the school, joined school officials and other dignitaries to cut the ribbon officially opening the state-of-the-art building.

Today, comedian Bill Cosby regaled a packed auditorium with his hilarious impressions of the school's storied history and possible future. Still to come is a presentation by author Alison Stewart on her just released book First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School.

All week long, alumni from as far back as the 1940's have been joining students as recently graduated as 2013 to tour the new school, which features a museum to commemorate the school's significance. In fact, history plays a large role in the modernistic design of the structure. Eight Dunbar alumni or faculty have been singled out on U.S. postal stamps. Giant posters of all 8 have been placed on a wall of the media center, where their visages can serve to inspire incoming Dunbar students. There are also 118 plaques placed around the school honoring various alumni for achievements ranging from being the 1st elected U.S. Senator to starring as an all-pro NFL tight end.

When the school opens next week under its inspirational principal Stephen Jackson, students will be housed in one of 4 academies named for distinguished Dunbarians. Those academies are:
  • the Vincent Gray 9th Grade Academy
  • the Dr. Anna J. Cooper Educational Career Academy in Administration and Counseling
  • the Eleanor Holmes Leadership Academy in Business and Public Policy and
  • the Dr. Charles Drew Academy in Bio-Medicine and Engineering.
Here is a pictorial look at some of the highlights of the new building and this week's events.

The grand new entrance

The enormous lobby

The treasures in the school museum

The 8 Dunbar alumni and staff honored on postage stamps

The 2-tier auditorium with seating for 600

Bill Cosby becomes an honorary Dunbar alumnus

The Olympic-sized swimming pool

The open-air cafeteria

The ecologically friendly bathrooms in the completely "green" school

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Of course, this week's opening has been a big news story in DC. Click here to read The Washington Post's account.

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