Archive for the ‘Organizations’ Category

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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.

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Capital Bikeshare Program

Over the past few years I’ve found out first hand that biking around D.C. is a great way to get to know the city and explore all that it has to offer.  It’s also a fun way to exercise and stay healthy.  I go for a ride everyday.  And I have a convenient and secure place to store my bikes.  So I chose to own my bikes.  But another alternative to owning a bike, especially if you’re only an occasional rider or don’t have anywhere to keep one, is to rent a bike.

Renting a bike in D.C. has been something that has been possible for quite a long time.  Dating back to the early 1940’s, bike rentals were available through bike shops and gas stations at different independent locations in the city.  But today the Capital Bikeshare Program provides a network of stations that makes renting a bike easy, convenient and affordable.

Capital Bikeshare, which first began in 2010, makes over 3,500 bicycles available for rent at over 400 stations across D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.  Whether it’s for a short trip, a commute to work, to get to the Metro, running errands, going shopping, visiting friends and family, or for any other reason, you can simply rent a bike at any nearby station.  And then when you’re done, you can return it to the same station where you started, or to any other station near your destination.

You can join Capital Bikeshare online or at one of their convenient a commuter store locations.  Membership options include a day, 3 days, a month, a year or try their new Day Key option.  This gives you access to their fleet of bikes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free. Each additional 30 minutes incurs an additional fee.

The city’s increasing amount of bike lanes and biking infrastructure combined with the convenient availability of bikes makes it easier than ever to get out there and explore our nation’s capital.

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

Left – A bicycle rental shop on 22nd Street, near Virginia Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C., on a Sunday. (Library of Congress Control Number fsa2000056770/PP.  Contributor:  Marjory Collins.  Circa June/July 1942.)
Right – Bicycles for Rent, Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress Control Number fsa1998024089/PP.  Contributor:  Martha McMillan Roberts. Circa 1941.)
Center – Washington, D.C. Renting bicycles at a gas station on East Potomac Park. Notice the “no gas” sign on the nearest gasoline pump. (Library of Congress Control Number fsa2000056780/PP.  Contributor:  Marjory Collins. Circa June/July 1942.)

Note:  Historic photos obtained from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and used with the permission of the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information/Office of Emergency Management/Resettlement Administration.

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Red Cross Memorial Memorial to Workers Killed in Service in Vietnam

The first American Red Cross Field Directors were sent to South Vietnam in February of 1962.  The last Red Cross staff members to serve in country departed just over 11 years later, in March of 1973.  During the intervening years there were five men and women of the American Red Cross who died in Vietnam in service to the Armed Forces.  And on today’s bike ride, I went to see a small memorial to them, which is located on the grounds of The American National Red Cross Headquarters, which is located at 430 17th Street (MAP), just a few blocks from the White House.

The five Red Cross workers killed while serving in Vietnam were Vernon M. Lyons, Paul E. Samuels, Hannah E. Crews, Virginia E. Kirsch and Lucinda J. Richter.  But other than their names and the dates of their deaths which are inscribed on the memorial, there was no information  about who they were or how they were killed.  So I looked into it later, and this is what I found out.

Of  the five Red Cross workers killed, Vernon Lyons was the first.  One of 300 American Red Cross field directors, hospital personnel and recreation workers serving in the war zone at that time, he on August 29, 1967, when his jeep exploded a mine near Danang.  The 48-year old Lyons, who was from Wichita Falls, Texas, was serving as an assistant field director attached to the 1st Marine Division.

Paul Samuels was killed on January 25, 1968, at the Khe Sanh Combat base, in northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam, during the initial stages of the Tet Offensive.  At the time of his death, the 44-year old was serving as an American Red Cross field director.

Little information is available about Hannah Crews other than that she died in a jeep accident in Bien Hoa on October 2,1969.  Similarly,  the only information I could find on Lucinda Richter was that she died of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder,  in Cam Ranh Bay on February 9, 1971.

Virginia Kirsch, or Ginny as she was known to her friends, was perhaps one of the most tragic stories because she murdered by someone she went there to serve.  The 22-year old from Brookfield, Ohio, had been in Vietnam for only two weeks serving as one of 627 in-country recreation workers, affectionately referred to as Donut Dollies, when she was stabbed to death on August 16, 1970 in her billet at the headquarters of the 25th Infantry in Cu Chi, 20 miles northwest of Saigon.

An investigation determined that she was murdered by an Army soldier named Gregory W. Kozlowski, who was arrested and charged.  However, an Army Medical Review Board eventually issued a finding that Kozlowski was unable to determine right and wrong at the time of Ginny’s murder and that he was unable to cooperate intelligently in his own defense.  As a result, charges against him were dismissed and he was never prosecuted for Ginny’s murder, the first in the history of American Red Cross service overseas.

Because Lyons, Samuels, Crews, Richter and Kirsch were not in the military at the time of their deaths, their names are not inscribed on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  But their service and their lives are not forgotten.

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Note:  After the charges for killing Ginny Kirsch were dismissed, Kozlowski was discharged and placed on the Temporary Disabled Retired List and his medical records were transferred to the Veterans hospital at Wood, Wisconsin.  Twelve years later Kozlowski was arrested for the murder of a man in Milwaukee.  He was ultimately found, again, to be mentally ill and remanded to a series of mental health institutions within the State of Wisconsin.  However, after years of treatment and therapy, the psychiatric doctors deemed Kozlowski to no longer be a threat to either himself or others . In January of 2008, the Circuit Court granted Kozlowski a conditional release to a group home in Milwaukee. There has been no further information regarding his whereabouts since that date.

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David’s Tent

Over the years as I have been riding a bike during my lunch breaks at work, I have periodically seen a large white tent erected in different parts of the downtown area of the city.  On it’s side there has been a sign which reads, “davidstent.dc.org“.  I first saw it about four years ago in President’s Park on The Ellipse near the White House.  Since that time I have intermittently seen it near John Marshal Place Park just off Constitution Avenue, as well as various other sites.  It is currently located on the National Mall just east of the pond in Constitution Gardens and about 100 yards due north of the National World War II Memorial (MAP), and within view of the White House.  On this ride I stopped in to learn more about it.

Jason Hershey founded David’s Tent DC in 2012 as a non-denominational Christian non-profit organization dedicated to performing public worship services.  That first year a service was to be held in the park at McPherson Square, but at the suggestion of the National Park Service it was moved to The Ellipse instead.  And although the Park Service had never given a permit for more than 14 days in that area, they granted David’s Tent a 45-day permit.  So it was that David’s Tent began with 40 days of continuous worship and praise.

When the organization decided to hold another event the following year, it again was located on The Ellipse.  However, that year the Federal government shut down due to the fact that no budget had been passed.  And in addition to closing most Federal departments and agencies, the first things to close were the National Parks, including the National Mall and The Ellipse.  I vividly remember during that time the news stories of attempts to keep World War II veterans from being allowed to visit the closed memorial that had been made to honor them.  Amazingly though, David’s Tent was allowed to continue uninterrupted.  That year they did it again for 42 days, which equates to being 1,000 hours long.

David’s Tent has continued ever year, and gotten bigger and longer in each consecutive year.  In 2014, the service was extended to 50 days, during which they prayed for each state for one day.

This time is the organization’s most ambitious event to date.  The tent was pitched in its current location last September 11th, and David’s Tent is committed to performing nonstop worship music on the National Mall for 14 months straight, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, until Election Day this November.  This weekend, they will reach the one year mark on their way to the goal of a 422-day worship service.  Hershey, the founder of David’s Tent, says there’s no political agenda behind the vigil despite its significant start and end dates, and its notable location in the heart of our nation’s capital.

David’s Tent is inspired by the biblical story of King David, who pitched a tent near his palace and hired more than 4,000 musicians and 288 singers to worship there continually throughout his 33-year reign. David made worship central for his nation, and it is said to have brought blessing on the whole nation. David’s Tent DC is attempting to do the same here in America.  So if you’re in downtown D.C. during the next few months, I encourage you to stop in, learn more, and participate.

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

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Giraffes Petroglyph

A petroglyph is defined as “a carving or inscription on a rock that is created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.”  They are found world-wide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples.  So aside from possibly the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, you might not expect to find a petroglyph in D.C.  But on this lunchtime bike ride, that’s exactly what I did.

As I was riding on a driveway through the courtyard of a building located at 1145 17th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, I saw a petroglyph depicting a couple of giraffes.   Hiding in some bushes and ivy and partially obscured by a tree, the giraffes seemed to be peeking out at me from behind the foliage.  So naturally I had to stop to get a better look and find out more about it. 

It turns out that the building with the petroglyph in the courtyard is the National Geographic Society’s headquarters.  One of the most well-known and largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world, the Society’s interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history.

The Society’s headquarters building also contains a museum that features a wide range of changing exhibitions, from interactive experiences to photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers, and scientists.  The museum is centrally located in downtown D.C., just a few blocks from the White House.  And admission tickets can be purchased in person at the museum ticket booth or online.

I’ll have to go back to the museum on another day when I have more time to spend so that I can more thoroughly enjoy it.  But for today, happening upon the giraffes petroglyph and finding out about the museum was enough.

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

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The Florida Embassy

There are a total of 178 embassies and diplomatic missions in the national capital city, and 177 of them belong to foreign countries.  The remaining one belongs to the state of Florida, which is the only one of the 50 states to have an embassy in D.C.  Other states, specifically California and Texas, have tried but have not met with success.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I visited The Florida Embassy, which is located at 1 2nd Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  It is at the corner of East Capitol and Second Street, directly behind the Supreme Court building.  And it offers an excellent view of the dome and the Statue of Freedom on top of  the nearby United States Capitol Building.

Also known as “Florida House,” this unique embassy is located in a restored 1891 Victorian house, and since 1973 it has been a privately-owned and funded education and information center that provides meeting, classroom and reception space for visiting Floridians, students, dignitaries, elected officials and those doing business in the nation’s capital.

On today’s visit I was greeted by a very friendly summer intern, who gave me a tour of the embassy building, as well as the art and antique furnishings it contains.  The embassy also provides information about Florida’s congressional delegation, and other famous Floridians, as well as many other programs and partnerships that support and showcase the Sunshine State’s education, business, arts and culture, and of course, hospitality.  And I was able to learn about all of this while enjoying a complimentary glass of cold Florida orange juice.

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Honor Flight Veterans

On this Pre-Memorial Day weekend bike ride, as I was riding through the plaza in front of the The Lincoln Memorial (MAP), I noticed a number of people who were all wearing matching yellow T-shirts gathered on the steps of the memorial.  It turns out they were all U.S. military veterans, and they were brought to D.C. by the Honor Flight Network.

The Honor Flight Network is a coalition of non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many military veterans as possible to D.C., at no cost to the veterans, to visit and reflect at the national memorials to the respective wars in which they fought.   Top priority is given to bringing veterans of World War II to The National World War II Memorial, as well as any veteran with a terminal illness.  The veterans are generally escorted by volunteer guardians, who assist them on their flights and while they are here in D.C.

Some of the veterans I saw today were World War II veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, like the ones I saw a couple of years ago at an impromptu parade.  Others served during the Korean and Vietnam wars.  The veterans had just been dropped off by buses, and were conducting a brief prayer service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before visiting The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and The Korean War Veterans Memorial, and then moving on to the World War II Memorial.

Although the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is for remembering the military members who died while serving in our country’s armed forces, witnessing this inspiring and moving event involving surviving veterans was a good beginning to the holiday weekend.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower

As I was riding past The Lincoln Memorial on this lunchtime bike ride, I noticed a tall three-sided tower in a grassy area on the other side of where some tour busses were stopped on the street that encircles the Memorial (MAP). The tower appeared to be made up of shiny sheet metal bricks, and next to it were an Army-surplus tent and several signs with information. So naturally I rode over to get a better look and find out more about it.

It turned out to be a memorial known as the Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower, and is sponsored by a group named Veterans For Peace.  The organization was founded as a non-profit organization in the state of Maine in 1985, and was initially made up of U.S. military veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War and other conflicts, as well as peacetime veterans and even non-veterans.  It has more recently expanded, with active chapters and members in communities throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Vietnam, as well as a very active offshoot in the United Kingdom.

The Swords to Plowshares tower is a touring memorial dedicated to all of the victims and veterans of war on all sides of all conflicts.  The 24-foot-tall tower was modeled after the 115-foot-tall World War I-era bell tower on the campus of North Carolina State University.  One of the cleverest aspects to the design of the touring tower is that it’s covered with over a thousand inscribed memorial “plaques,” which upon close inspection I discovered were made from recycled cans that had been cut and turned inside-out. The plaques are loosely attached to the structure, which causes them to move whenever there is the slightest breeze, resulting in a shimmering effect which, in part, is what initially caught my attention.

I was told that wherever the tower appears, visitors add personal inscriptions to the plaques. They then ring the large old bell, which originally came from the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, but is now located in the center of the structure.  And share their stories about the many ways people suffer on all sides of a war.

The arrival of the installation in D.C. coincides with the Memorial Day weekend, as well as with the Veterans For Peace “Lobby Days,” during which the organization lobbies members of Congress on a variety of issues of concern to the organization. These issues include the Obama administration’s priorities in the national budget, the continuing effects of Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, and the increase in hate speech in society, particularly during the current presidential election season. The tower’s presence also is timed to coincide with the arrival of the annual “Sam’s Ride For Peace,” led by 91-year-old World War II combat veteran Sam Winstead. The Marine Corps veteran and avid bicyclist rode the inaugural 350-mile Ride for Peace, from Raleigh, N.C. to D.C., in the spring of 2012, so that he could “ask our leaders to stop wars.”

The Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower will only be on display here in D.C. through May 31st, so you’ll want to make it part of your agenda for the Memorial Day weekend if you want to see it while it’s still here. But if you can’t see it in person, you can follow it here on Facebook.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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Bloodstained Men Protest

On this lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding through Lafayette Square and past the plaza in front of the north portico of the White House (MAP), I noticed an unusual looking protest.  From a distance it caught my eye because the men protesting were dressed in all-white outfits with what appeared to be red stains on their crotches.  I also noticed that the demonstration was not only getting a lot of attention, but was also prompting double-takes or shudders from some of the tourists and other passersby.  So naturally I rode over to take a closer look and try to find out more.

It turned out that the protest was by a group called Bloodstained Men and Their Friends, which is traveling around the country to protest against infant male circumcision in the United States.  And they have more than 60 anti-circumcision protests scheduled throughout this year.  That includes this protest at the White House.

Two of the main Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam, require that males be circumcised, while Christians and nonbelievers are mixed on the topic.  Others believe that circumcision has health advantages for men completely separate from religious belief.  Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, and that the benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it.

However, the organizers of the protest consider the procedure of infant male circumcision to be a violation of human rights, and want this country to follow the advice of the European medical community, which has condemned American doctors for infant circumcision.  They also contend that in the United States, the legality of the practice is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Despite being practiced in many African and Middle Eastern countries as a cultural custom, the Federal government passed a law in 1996 against Female Genital Mutilation.  In fact, just this week the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which considers it an international human rights issue, announced on its web site that it is encouraging people to come forward and report cases so that it can proactively investigate this illegal practice.  Bloodstained Men contend inasmuch as the 14th Amendment says that the law has to be applied equally, infant boys should be entitled to the same respect of their bodies that girls are.

However, the Bloodstained Men philosophy is not strictly anti-circumcision.  Although they do not advocate the process for anyone, the group believes the decision on whether to be circumcised should be left to the individual once he is an adult.  They also believe that protesting isn’t their main mission.  Rather, protesting is a means by which they seek to start a dialogue about the subject in hopes of educating people.  By this measure, I think their protest was a success.

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Little Free Library

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I ran across a “Little Free Library.” It is located in the 400 block of 13th Street, near the intersection with D Street (MAP), in the southeast section of D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and is part of a burgeoning global literary movement which began in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, when  a man named Todd Bol built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading.  He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard.  Everyone loved it so much that he built several more and gave them away.  And thus, a movement began.

Little Free Libraries first began popping up in the D.C. metro area a couple of years ago. It has since spread throughout the city and to the suburbs. There are currently 31 Little Libraries in the city, 140 in Maryland, and an additional 180 in Virginia. Worldwide there are over 30,000 Little Free Libraries. In addition to the United States, these little libraries are also providing access to free literature all around the globe, in such countries as Tanzania, India, Brazil, Italy, Ghana, Spain Vietnam, and Guatemala, to name just a few.

Little Free Libraries relies on people to build and fill their own little libraries so that the movement continues to expand. Library creators are called Stewards, and it’s up to them to choose what their libraries look like. Some look like fancy mailboxes, while others look like birdhouses, or even doll houses. The creativity is limited only be the imagination of the Stewards. Stewards also choose what initially goes in them. But that can quickly change as people add and subtract from the offerings available. Stewards can also register their Little Library on the website and add it to the online Interactive World Map of libraries.

The libraries don’t require membership cards, nor do they have late fees or time limits on the books that anyone can “check out.” In fact, if you like the book, it’s okay to keep it. So next time you’re going down the street, keep an eye out for a Little Free Library. You may just find a great novel waiting for you there.

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