Black Rock Star Superhero

During today’s lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding in the 16th Street Heights neighborhood in northwest D.C., I saw a mural on the side of a building at the corner of 14th and Randolph Streets (MAP).  So I rode over to get a closer look.  The eclectic nature of the things in the mural indicated to me that there might be a good story behind it.  So later I researched the mural.  And I was right about there being a story behind it.  The mural has undergone several distinct phases to become what I saw today.

The mural was originally entitled Washington Pizza, and was located on the side of the Washington Pizza restaurant.  It was created by Alicia Cosnahan, also know professionally as Decoy, a local artist who creates a lot of local graffiti and murals.  In its original incarnation it showed a family eating, what looks like a couple of colorized local rowhouses, and an another person eating something.  It was topped off by a scrawled and odd-looking no parking warning.

For the 2014 release of “Mayor of D.C. Hip Hop” Head-Roc‘s album of the same name (which, by the way, contained a song entitled “Mayor for Life” in tribute to former four-term D.C. mayor, Marion Barry), local muralist Pahel Brunis modified the mural, which was then retitled “Black Rock Star Super Hero.” Some graffiti text reading Head Roc covered the family, and a likeness of Head-Roc, covered up the cool pizza-eating person.  Thankfully, he also covered up the scrawled “Washington Pizza parking only!”

Later that same year, on the morning of November 23, “Mayor-for-Life” Marion Barry died.  That same afternoon, Head-Roc, along with other local rappers, performed an impromptu musical tribute to Barry at the vacant lot in front of the mural.  As the music played Pahel Brunis returned and once again modified the mural, this time with a tribute to Barry.  It wasn’t planned.  He just grabbed what supplies he had at home and showed up.  Three hours later he had painted a large portrait of Barry on top of the rowhouses.  And that’s how the mural looks today, at least for now.

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Paradise In Pots

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped to take a break at the Enid Haupt Garden, located just behind the Smithsonian Castle, just off the National Mall at 1000 Jefferson Drive (MAP).  As I was entering the grounds I saw a sign for an outdoor potted plant exhibit located on the garden’s western patio entitled Paradise In Pots.  The exhibit included hundreds of tropical and warm weather plants, most of which are currently in bloom despite the increasingly cooler autumn temperatures.

The exhibit is only temporary, however, because they will have to take the plants in before the really cold weather arrives.  When they take the plants in, they will be taken back to an off-site facility in Suitland, Maryland.  The facility, known as the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Complex, actually includes fourteen greenhouses and serves as the production and maintenance facility for thousands of seasonal plants that are displayed in gardens, grounds, and indoor and outdoor horticultural exhibits throughout the Smithsonian Institution museums and properties.  The Suitland complex also houses the Smithsonian Orchid Collection, tropical plant specimens, interior display plants, and thousands of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, plus hundreds of poinsettias and other holiday plants.  They grow the nectar plants as well for the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History.

So the next time you step outside your office or visit the museums downtown, take notice of all the plants – inside and outside the buildings. It is most likely that every one of them came from your newest neighbors on the Suitland Campus; the staff at the Greenhouse Nursery Branch!

         

         

         

         

         

         

              

    
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

christlightoftheworld01

Christ, The Light of the World”

During this lunchtime bike ride I found myself in the Edgewood neighborhood in northeast D.C., near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.  And as I was riding I saw a statue in a garden that to me looked vaguely like a different pose of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  So I stopped to get a closer look and find out more about it.

It turns out that the 17-foot-tall, 10-ton brass statue is entitled “Christ, the Light of the World.”  Located 3211 4th Street (MAP), it is in a garden in front of the headquarters for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  It was originally the idea of a woman named Marjorie Lambert Russell, who lived in Topeka, Kansas.  In 1936 she wrote a letter to Bishop John F. Noll, who was the founder of a publication entitled “Our Sunday Visitor.”  Bishop Noll frequently used the pages of the newspaper to advocate for important Catholic causes in the United States, and she suggested that that the publication begin a drive to erect a statue of Christ in our nation’s capital.  Russell pointed out that since D.C. had many statues of famous people, one should be erected to represent the greatest person who had ever walked the earth.  Along with the letter she enclosed a dollar bill, which was to serve as the first donation to fund the statue.

The idea appealed to Bishop Noll, who published her letter in the newspaper. The idea caught on with its readers, who soon began sending in donations for the project which would eventually total more than $150,000.  Bishop Noll later arranged for the statue, designed and created by University of Notre Dame art professor Eugene Kormendi, to be placed outside the National Catholic Welfare Conference headquarters, which at that time was located at 1312 Massachusetts Avenue in downtown D.C.

Bishop Noll presented the statue to the conference, and was present at its dedication ceremony in April of 1949, where it was dedicated by The Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, and accepted by The Most Reverend John T. McNicholas, Chairman of the National Catholic Welfare Conference Administrative Board.  Half a century later, in 1989, the statue was moved to its current home in front of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offices, where I saw it today.

christlightoftheworld02[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Despite it being cold and overcast today, with intermittent light rain, I went for a bike ride at lunchtime anyway.  That’s because I had made plans several weeks ago for today’s ride.  Today I rode to the Southwest Waterfront because after years of planning and additional years of construction led by PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette, a local team of accomplished mixed-use developers, the first phase of the multi-billion dollar District Wharf development project opened today with a big celebration.

Today’s grand opening kicks off four days of free musical entertainment and headliner bands, including the Bacon Brothers, featuring Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael.  Other musical acts include Go Go Gadjet, White Ford Bronco, Pebble to Pearl, and Oh He Dead, as well as the Howard University Gospel Choir, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, and the Children’s Chorus of Washington.  Other activities include restaurant openings from some of D.C.’s hottest chefs, debuts of iconic shops, and lots of waterside entertainment and activities, including marching bands, stilt-walkers, paddleboarding presidents, kayak rentals, and free group yoga sessions.  And there was a daytime fireworks show today.  And there is another fireworks show scheduled for this Sunday evening.

Located at 690 Water Street (MAP) in D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s vision of an entryway for the nation’s capital has now become a destination.  Comprised of parks and piers, The Maine Avenue Fish Market, dozens of new restaurants, retail shops and services, a distillery, a water taxi hub, as well as two new music venues, The Anthem and  Pearl Street Warehouse, The Wharf is expected to become one of the busiest and most popular centers of activity in the national capital city.  and after today’s bike ride, I will be able to say that I was there at the beginning of it all.

         

         

         

        

         

         

         

          

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

NOTE:  One more thing.  I would also like to note that The District Wharf is very bicycle friendly.  There is a free valet service, and there are plenty of bike racks throughout the entire area.  So there is no need to attempt to secure your bicycle the way the one on the photo below is.  Can you tell what is wrong in that photo?

    

Charles Hamilton Houston House

As I happened to be riding down Swann Street in northwest D.C.’s U Street Corridor neighborhood during this lunchtime bike ride I noticed an historic marker sign on a wrought iron fence in front of an otherwise non-descript brick row house.  So as I am prone to do, I immediately stopped so I could read the sign and find out why it was there.  From the sign I discovered the house, located at 1444 Swann Street (MAP), was the childhood home of Charles Hamilton Houston.  Later as an adult, Houston lived there again along with his wife, Henrietta Williams Houston.  Later after the ride I researched him to find about him.  In addition to information on the sign (below), here is what I learned.

Charles Hamilton Houston was born on September 3, 1895, here in D.C., to William Le Pré Houston, an attorney, and his wife, Mary Hamilton Houston, a teacher.  And as I would find out, his parents’ occupations would greatly influence their son’s life.

Houston attended segregated local schools, graduating from the academic (college preparatory) program at M Street High School (now Dunbar High School) at the age of 15.   He then went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1915, before returning to D.C., where be began teaching English at Howard University.  The following year, however, Houston joined the Army and served as second lieutenant in France during World War I.  Upon returning from the war in 1919, Houston began attending  Harvard University Law School, where he  was the first black student elected to the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review, and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, a fraternity which was founded by and for black students.  He would go on to graduate cum laude with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1922, and receive the Doctor of Juridical Science the following year.  That same year he was awarded a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship to study at the University of Madrid.  In 1924 he again returned to D.C, and joined the faculty at Howard University Law School and his father’s law firm.

From 1929 through 1935, Houston served as Vice-Dean and then Dean of the Howard University School of Law.  During this time he worked hard to develop the school, turning it into a major national center for training black lawyers.  He extended its part-time program to a full-time curriculum and gained accreditation by the Association of American Law Schools and the American Bar Association.  During this time Houston served as a mentor to a generation of young black lawyers and influenced nearly a quarter of all black lawyers in the country, including former student Thurgood Marshall, who became the first black justice on the United States Supreme Court.  Houston believed that the law could be used to fight racial discrimination and encouraged his students to work for such social purpose.

Houston left Howard in 1935 to serve as the first special counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), serving in this role until 1940. In this capacity he created litigation strategies to attack racial housing covenants and segregated schools, arguing several important civil rights cases. Through his work at the NAACP, Houston played a role in nearly every civil rights case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court between 1930 and Brown verses Board of Education.  Houston played a significant role in dismantling Jim Crow laws, especially attacking segregation in schools and racial housing covenants. He earned the title “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow”.

Sadly, Houston died from a heart attack on April 22, 1950, at the young age of 54.  It’s a shame to think had he lived how much more good he might have also been able to do during the civil rights movement.


[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Droplet and Turning Point

Foon Sham is a Chinese born artist who was educated in the United States and is now a local resident.  For over thirty years he has passionately and meticulously carved and sculpted unique layered works of art.   Many of his works can be found in fine art galleries.  But fortunately for the public examples of his work are also on public display right here in D.C. 

Located due south of the fountain at Dupont Circle, at 19th & L Streets (MAP) in the city’s Downtown neighborhood,  are two outdoor public art pieces entitled Droplet and Turning Point.  Ranging from nine to eleven feet tall, the pieces evoke water-collecting vessels intended to represent the collecting, holding and filtering of excess rain water, and thus symbolizing the function of the rain gardens of which they are a part.

Commissioned by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District with grant assistance from the District Department of Energy and Environment,  five rain gardens were constructed in 2015, adding nearly 3,000 square feet of green space which can filter tens of thousands of gallons of runoff annually. The gardens also provide a refuge for butterflies and other pollinators with native vegetation and a resting spot for people with the garden’s integrated seating.  Foon Sham’s sculptures are the focal point of two of these gardens, and add another layer of interest and beauty to the area.

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Police Public Relations

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Miscellaneous

Police Public Relations

I don’t know how to get in contact with her at this point, so I’d like to use this blog post to take the opportunity to thank the police officer driving patrol car #2084 from the 2nd District of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department.  Police officers have to make many important decisions on a daily basis.  So your decision that the convenience of parking in the bike lane in the 1600 block of L Street while you ate your lunch outweighed the potential danger to the many cyclists who had to merge out of the lane and into vehicle traffic to get past you must have been a difficult one to make.  

Oh, I’d also like you to know that I think the sarcastic comments you made through her vehicle’s loudspeaker when you saw me take the photo were a particularly classy touch.  And you have no reason to fear your comments went unnoticed.  I heard you, as did more than a hundred other nearby pedestrians who were part of the busy downtown lunch crowd. 

So continue to represent your department and profession in all you do.  It doesn’t go unnoticed.

Charlottesville to D.C. March and Protest

During this past week I stopped by McPherson Square Park (MAP) during my daily lunchtime bike rides a couple of times to try to talk with some of the protestors who recently marched from Charlottesville, Virginia, (my hometown) to D.C. (where I currently live), and are now camping out in the park.  They marched to D.C. in an effort to speak out against the type of white supremacy that was on display at the “Unite the Right” rally last month in Charlottesville, which ultimately turned into a violent clash between white supremacist protestors and a significant number of counter-protestors who showed up to oppose them, and which resulted in 19 injured and three dead.

On my first visit to the park I tried several times to engage individual protestors in conversation in an attempt to better understand their perspective on the issues in general, and their point-of-view on the recent violent incidents in Charlottesville in particular.  Unfortunately, they seemed much more interested in talking with each other than with anyone stopping by from the outside to talk with them.  So I stopped by again the next day.  Sadly, I was equally unimpressed with those I encountered on the second day.  They remained off by themselves, with most seeming to be in his or her own little world as they were preoccupied with their laptops or their cell phones.

The March to D.C. started in Charlottesville with nearly 200 marchers on August 28th.  But by the next morning there were only 35 marchers.  And by the time the group got to D.C. there were substantially fewer.  The number has increased by protestors from the D.C. area stopping by the park to bolster the original group from Charlottesville.  But the march and subsequent protest lost most of the momentum they started out with, resulting in the group being as unimpressive as the individuals I encountered.

Also, like most of the marches and protests I’ve seen here in D.C. since the beginning of the year, they appeared to be blaming or focusing on President Trump regardless of what the issue happens to be.  They even have gone so far as to, for their purposes, rename McPherson Square to Impeachment Square.  It seems like it’s never a matter of right verses wrong anymore.  Now it’s almost always right verses left.  I’m glad we live in a country where you’re free to agree with someone or their cause, and still feel disappointed in them.

         

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

UPDATE:  Despite vowing to maintain a permanent protest vigil in Farragut Square Park until at least the end of September, the small group which arrived September 6th and set up tents in the park were gone in only four days.

The “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice”

On today’s 54th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, a rally and march was held here in D.C.  Entitled the “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice”, the event was organized by organized by Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.  Participants gathered in the field just west of the memorial to Reverend King and opened the event with a rally.  They then marched from the King Memorial, past the White House and the Trump International Hotel, and on to the U.S. Department of Justice Building a little over a mile away from the beginning.  And on today’s bike ride I rode over and attended the rally, and then rode along with the march.

The march was deemed non political by its organizers and much of the press.  But it was anything but non political.  When I first arrived at the rally I heard the speaker on the stage at that time describe his divisive view of who was and was not a Christian.  Included along with many other, he denounced evangelical as not being Christians.  He then used the remainder of his time to criticize President Donald Trump, announcing that he also was not a Christian.  The rally was so political, in fact, that an alternate rally was held at the National Press Club by other prominent religious leaders who did not share the political opinions being expressed at the march.n

In the end, I found it disappointing that an event that was billed as non political was as political, although not as passionate, as one of President Trump’s recent rallies, such as the one held in Phoenix last week.  But it was even more disappointing that a rally and march intended to be an interfaith event was used to denounce people of faith if they disagreed with the liberal politics of those who helped lead the event.

         

         

         

         

        
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Titan Arum

Three corpse flowers (Amorphophallus titanium), also known as titan arum or the stinky plant, are currently in the process of blooming at The United States Botanic Garden on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building here in D.C.  I have been stopping by daily for the past couple of weeks to monitor their progress.  But on today’s bike ride I was pleased to see that the largest of the three plants is now in full bloom.  Peak blooms for the second and third plants are currently predicted to be between tomorrow and August 30th.

The three plants currently on display, which vary in age from five years up to 12 years old, have never bloomed before.  And this appears to be the first time in North America that an institution has three corpse flower plants all blooming at the same time.

For more information about corpse flowers in general, please see my blog post about the most recent previous bloom at the Botanic Garden, which occurred in 2016.

         

    
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]