Archive for the ‘Public Figures’ Category

Edward R. Murrow Park

The late Edward R. Murrow was the first journalist to have Federal parkland named after him, when a tiny triangle of land on Pennsylvania Avenue just west of the White House was dedicated to him almost 40 years ago. And during today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the park to see it.

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown district, it is just opposite the former U.S. Information Agency (USIA), which Murrow headed from 1961 to 1963. The USIA’s successor, the International Communication Agency, is now headquartered in the same building at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Edward R. Murrow was born Egbert Roscoe Murrow at Polecat Creek, North Carolina in April of 1908. He was the youngest of three brothers born to Quaker parents. When Murrow was six years old, his family moved across the country to Skagit County in western Washington, just 30 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border. He attended high school in nearby Edison, excelled on the debate team, and was president of the student body in his senior year. After graduation from high school, Murrow enrolled at Washington State College, where he was also active in college politics. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1930, he moved back east to New York.

It was in New York that Murrow joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) as director of talks and education in 1935, and remained with the network for his entire career. He first gained prominence as a broadcast journalist and war correspondent during World War II with a series of live radio broadcasts from Europe for the news division of the CBS. During the war he recruited and worked closely with a team of war correspondents who came to be known as the Murrow Boys.

A pioneer of radio and television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of reports on his television program See It Now which helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Fellow journalists Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss, Bill Downs, Dan Rather, and Alexander Kendrick consider Murrow one of journalism’s greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news.

Regardless of your political persuasion, most people can agree that we could use a lot more honesty and integrity in our current news reporting. I guess you could say that society needs another Edward R. Murrow. Unfortunately, there was only one.

         

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

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Two of the most well known murals in the city are located on either side of the iconic restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl, located in northwest D.C.’s Shaw/Uptown neighborhood, next to The Lincoln Theatre, in an historic building at 1213 U Street (MAP).  The one on the east side of the building, entitled “Alchemy of Ben Ali,” depicts the restaurant founders, Ben and Virginia Ali.  But it is the other one that became controversial, leading to its removal.

In 2012, the Ali family commissioned its first mural with backing from the city’s graffiti prevention initiative, MuralsDC.  A few years later, however, public pressure to redo it started to grow as sexual assault allegations began to accumulate against one of the prominently featured people depicted in the mural – comedian Bill Cosby, who was accused and has subsequently been convicted of sexual assault.  Last year, the mural was first whitewashed, and eventually replaced.

The old mural featured local disc jockey Donnie Simpson, D.C.’s Chuck Brown – the Godfather of Go-Go, President Barack Obama, and Cosby.  Three of those men returned on the replacement mural.  Cosby, who had been a longtime friend of Ben’s, did not.

The newer mural, entitled “The Torch,” painted by D.C. muralist Aniekan Udofia, who also painted the original mural, celebrates D.C. history and black culture.  The mural depicts abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman holding a lantern that spreads light onto the other figures in the mural.  In addition to the three holdovers from the previous mural, those figures, who were chosen through a public voting process on the restaurant’s web site, are:  boxer and activist Muhammad Ali; former D.C. mayor-for-life Marion Barry; comedian and D.C. native Dave Chappelle; singer Roberta Flack;  comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory; actress and singer Taraji P. Henson; D.C.’s non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton; the late singer Prince; longtime local newscaster Jim Vance; D.C. rapper Wale; local radio disc jockey Russ Parr, and; former First Lady Michelle Obama, who now accompanies her husband.

But Virginia Ali, Ben’s widow, says the decision to repaint was based on the state of the mural alone, which she contended had become so soiled, damaged and weather-beaten.  Which means, years from now the mural may need to again be replaced.  So despite not making the cut for the current mural, I still have a chance.  I’ll just have to be patient and wait.

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Original Mural

The Whitewash

The Torch

         

         

         

         

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

Emma G

During today’s bike ride, I stopped to watch a street performer playing music outside of the Metro Center transit system station (MAP), located in Downtown D.C.  I had heard her briefly once before, at Christmastime at the Downtown Holiday Market.  But at that time, despite wanting to stay and listen longer, I had to get back to work.  Today, however, I was able to stay for what for me turned out to be an hour-long beginning-of-the-week concert.  The performer’s name is Emma Ghaemmaghamy, but she is more commonly known as Emma G.

Emma G moved to D.C. almost three years ago from New Zealand, where she was the lead singer with the Auckland-based hard rock band Static Era.  After arriving stateside she worked for a few months or so at various jobs in Massachusetts and Connecticut before moving here.  But since arriving in D.C., she’s been focusing all of her time and energy, and her soul into the reason she moved here, to establish a music career in America.  She now works full time as a singer, songwriter, musician, vocal teacher, and actor.  She plays in various local clubs, bars and numerous community events throughout the city.  For example, just recently Emma G was one of the winners of the 2018 Sing Into Spring competition.  And as a result, along with Summer Pearson and Eli Lev, she sang on national television the opening song at this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, which took place earlier this month here in D.C.  Within the last year she has also played at The Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and Arena Stage.

Her career also takes her far beyond our national capital city.  Since moving here she has also completed two tours of California, as well as a nationwide New Zealand tour entitled “All Roads Lead To Home (not Rome).”

Emma G’s music crosses the confines of individual genres.  She describes her music as “always having had a bit of tug and war between rock and pop”, but more recently also incorporating a whole bunch of funk, hip-hop and rap songs.  Her current sound she describes as “having a hint of aggression and sassiness but with a funky edge – kind of Pink meets Adele meets Tracy Chapman”.

A lot of her music also conveys a social consciousness, and not surprisingly for D.C., a certain political aspect as well.  For example, she has described her recent song “Superhero” as being about “using love as a superpower to win out over hate, bigotry, racism and sexism.”  And her studio single “Sold (Take A Shot)” she has described as her “anthem to women in particular with the messaging of ‘my body my choice’.”

It states on her website that she “is known as the ‘Kiwi girl’ who plays great songs.”  But if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to hear her in person, her music is available on iTunes, AmazonGoogle Play, Spotify, and SoundCloud.  And you can even download a free copy of her recent album entitled “Real Talk – Live in Washington, D.C.”

As I was enjoying her musical performance this morning in front of the metro station, I also watched the commuters as they came off the escalators and passed by her on their way to work.  And I felt sorry for many of them.  They seemed to be so caught up in their rush to get to their destinations that they didn’t pause to enjoy the music.  Many of them didn’t even look up to see her smiling, or hear her intermittently greeting them and wishing them a fantastic day.  They simply zoned out and followed each other like lemmings heading off a cliff or, in this case, to their jobs.

But not all of the passersby were oblivious to her presence.  I saw many of them start smiling once they saw her, or when they first heard the music.  Some waved.  A few even gave her a thumbs up.  And some of them exuded an air of familiarity in their interactions with her, much like regulars in a neighborhood bar.  They are the ones I envision having a good day and being happy throughout the day.

At the beginning of this post I wrote that Emma G is a street performer.  But with all due respect to that genre of entertainer, I would come to find out that she is much more than a street performer.  She emits a personal kind of gravity that draws you in.  Her contagious smile automatically evokes smiles from others.  And her music makes you feel like it’s going to be a good day.  She not only performs, but seems to also possess the power to make other people happy.  Experiencing her perform was a great way to start out my Monday at the beginning of a new work week.  And I think it’s going to be a good week.


The sound quality on these videos is not very good because I took them with my cellphone.  But you can
view and listen to her official videos here!

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

FBI-WFO (5)

The FBI’s Washington Field Office

In honor of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who would have turned 98 years old today, on this bike ride I rode to the FBI Headquarters building, and from there to the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is located at 601 4th Street(MAP).  Mr. Zimbalist was an actor who is arguably most widely known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the television series “The F.B.I.”, which premiered on September 19, 1965 and closed with the last episode on September 8, 1974. The series was an authentic telling of fictionalized accounts of actual FBI cases, with fictitious main characters carrying the stories.

Mr. Zimbalist developed and maintained a strong personal relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the real-life Director of the FBI at that time.  Although he was never seen in the series, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover actually served as series consultant. Mr. Hoover requested technical accuracy for the show, and that Agents be portrayed in the best possible light. Actors who played F.B.I. employees were required by Hoover to undergo a background check. Mr. Zimbalist passed his background check with ease. He subsequently spent a week in D.C., where he was interviewed by Hoover, and at the F.B.I. academy in Quantico, Virginia. Hoover and Zimbalist remained mutual admirers for the rest of Hoover’s life. Hoover would later hold Zimbalist up as an image role model for FBI employees to emulate in their personal appearance.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, Inc. honored the character of Lewis Erskine in 1985 with a set of retired credentials. On June 8, 2009, then FBI Director Robert Mueller, presented Mr. Zimbalist with a plaque AS an honorary Special Agent for his work on the TV series.

Other notable people with a connection to the FBI and also share today’s birthday with Mr. Zimbalist are: G. Gordon Liddy (former FBI Agent and Watergate conspirator), who turned 87 today; Dick Clark (host of American Bandstand known as America’s oldest teenager, on whom the FBI maintained a file and conducted investigations in 1962 and 1985 into threats of violence against him), who would have turned 87 today; Abbie Hoffman (political activist who was investigated by the FBI), who would have been 81 today; Richard Crenna (actor who performed on the “This Is Your FBI” radio program) would have turned 90 today, and; Mandy Patinkin (actor who played FBI Agent Jason Gideon on the TV series “Criminal Minds”), who turned 65 today.

         

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

Mayor Marion Barry’s Headstone

After dominating his city’s political life for most of four decades, former D.C. Mayor Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr. passed away on November 23, 2014 at the age of 78.  But for the first couple of years after his passing, there was no public memorial or monument, or even a private headstone at his gravesite in Historic Congressional Cemetery.  On this lunchtime bike ride I rode to the cemetery to see the headstone that was finally installed at his gravesite.

The headstone was designed by Cora Masters Barry, Barry’s wife, and his late son, Christopher Barry, who subsequently died of a drug overdose without seeing the monument completed.  It was created by Andy Del Gallo, who has worked on a number of notable projects, perhaps most prominent of which was chiseling “‘I have a dream,’ words spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”, into the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the spot where king stood when he delivered the famous speech.  But when it came to creating a suitable grave marker for the “Mayor for Life” of  D.C., the artistic process took some twists and turns.

A spokeswoman for Barry’s family, Raymone Bain, said the process of marking Barry’s grave took longer than expected in part because the original design had to be scrapped for not conforming to the cemetery’s requirements. His son Christopher’s death was another setback.  But finally, one day short of the two year anniversary of his death, a memorial headstone was installed.

The headstone Barry’s gravesite is located amid rows of headstones and obelisks, many of them inscribed with the names of people who lived and died in the 19th century.  Barry’s grave is located in an adjoining section on the same row of the graves as Leonard Matlovich and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The black stone memorial includes an image of bronze relief of Barry with the words “Mayor for life, beloved forever.”  It also is inscribed with a Bible verse, found at Mark 9:35, which reads, “If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all.”  It is also inscribed with a statement about Barry by Maya Angelou, which reads, “Marion Barry changed America with his unmitigated gall to stand up in the ashes of where he had fallen and come back to win.”  Lastly, another inscription on the headstone, a quote by Barry himself, reads, “Most people don’t know me … the don’t know about all of the fighting I’ve done to manage a government that was progressive and more oriented to uplift the people rather than suppress them.  That’s what I want my legacy to be.  I was a freedom fighter, and a fighter for the economic livelihood of not only black people but all people.”

And that is indeed part of his legacy.  But it is not his complete legacy, because that is a complex amalgam of good and bad, of success and failure, of a public life and a private life that cannot be easily summed up.  The Washington Post, in an article published shortly after Barry’s headstone was unveiled, described his legacy as “civil rights activism and drug use, job creation and womanizing, part history lesson and part punchline — that defies simple labels.”

The creation of a private monument for Barry underscores how little the city has done to formally memorialize its most famous public figure. City officials have said they have plans for a statue of Barry, although it is not yet clear where it will be placed or when it will be created.  So aside from naming the city’s summer jobs program after Barry, who started it, it has yet to bestow Barry’s name on a school or other significant public structure, and there is still no public memorial or monument to the “Mayor for Life”.  And with the city’s changing demographics, deciding on an apt gesture toward Barry’s four terms as mayor – as well as his additional service as a council member and school board member, and his 1960s civil rights activism – grows more complicated and less likely as time goes on.

         

         
The two photos below show how Mayor Barry’s unmarked grave looked almost two years after his death.
MarionBarry02     MarionBarry03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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.

National Police Week Tributes (Part 2)

I enjoy various aspects of how National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day are recognized here in D.C.  Things such as The Annual Blue Mass at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church and the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service provide a level of solemnity.  And the arrival of the Police Unity Tour, and seeing different National Police Week Vehicles on the streets of the city, are also highlights.  But perhaps the most meaningful and poignant aspect of the occasion is the leaving of mementos and tributes by visitors to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

As I walked through the memorial and took in both the memorial and the tributes people have left there this week, I try to imagine the stories behind the items.  Some of the items are very official looking, and remind me of the honor due to the officer memorialized there, and the debt of gratitude owed to not only that person but all the others who are also inscribed on the walls of the memorial.  Examples of this include plaques, flags and patches.  Other items left at the walls are so personal and intimate in nature, such as photographs, letters and stuffed animals, that I feel almost like I’m intruding.  I was also particularly moved by the helmet for a police bike officer which someone had left, along with blue and white roses which had been laid on top of it.  Regardless of the official or personal nature of the tributes, all of the items left at the memorial add to the experience, and make visiting the memorial during this week especially worthwhile.

Finally, as this year’s National Police Week is coming to a conclusion, I’d like to encourage everyone to please take a moment to remember all of the Federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation, as well as the more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers currently serving throughout this country.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

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

National Police Week Tributes

There are currently more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States, about 12 percent of whom are female.  These are the highest numbers ever.  And according to the preliminary FBI’s Uniform Crime Report from January 2015 to June 2016, an estimated 507,792 violent crimes occurred nationwide, an increase of 5.3%.  So with an increasing number of officers dealing with this much violence, which is also on the increase, the consequences can all too often be tragic.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 20,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.  As of April of this year there were 21,183 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty whose names are engraved on the walls of The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  This includes 768 officers from New York City, the police department that has lost more officers in the line of duty than any other. Texas has lost 1,706 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont, with 23.  In addition to local law enforcement officers, the total number also includes 1,117 Federal officers, as well as 689 correctional officers and 39 military law enforcement officers. These numbers include 309 female officers, six of whom were killed in 2016, including a local female police officer named Ashley Guindon, who was killed in February of last year on her first day on the job.

With this week being designated as National Police Week, and the corresponding activities going on here in D.C. during this time, there has been a significant increase in  the number of visitors to the memorial.  And many of the visitors include families of the fallen as well as fellow police officers who knew or had a close connection to the officers being honored at the memorial.  So with the increased number of visitors with direct connections to the fallen officers whose names are chiseled on the walls of the memorial, the number of tributes being left at the memorial increases during this week.

I wrote in this blog last year about Tributes Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, but because of the ever changing nature of the visitors to the memorial and the tributes which are left there, I visited the memorial again this year.  The following photos show some of the thousands of those tributes.  I find them interesting because some are official in nature, such as plaques, uniforms, or even car doors from police cruisers.  Others, however, are very personal.  These include family photos, letters from children, and even stuffed animals.  Cumulatively the tributes show the magnitude of the commitment and sacrifice of the fallen officers, who were more than just names on a wall.  They were people.  And these people truly deserve to be honored.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

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

Note:  There was such and outpouring of respect, as evidenced by the number of tributes left at the memorial, that when I finished my visit I realized I had so many photos that it would be best to break it up into a couple of days.  So come back tomorrow for  part two of National Police Week Tributes.

National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service

This week is National Police Week, which began yesterday and ends this Saturday.  And today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  In observance of the event, during my lunchtime outing I attended today’s National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, which was held on the West Front of the United States Capitol Building (MAP).

Today’s memorial service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, was the 36th annual national service to honor law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty during the previous year.  Overall, 118 officers who died in 2016, and 66 were “victims of malicious attacks.” That represents an increase of almost 40 percent from the previous year.

As is traditional, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to: designate May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day; to direct government officials to display the United States flag at half staff on all government buildings; and to invite state and local governments and the people to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.  The ceremony I attended at the Capitol Building began at 11:00am, and was attended for the very first time by both the President and the Vice President.

The activities began with a lining of the route by hundreds of various motorcycles officers from around the country as busload after busload of spouse and other family members of fallen officers proceeded down Independence Avenue and across the front of the Capitol Building along 3rd Street before entering onto the Capitol Grounds to attend the ceremony.

The highlight of the service for me was when President Trump spoke about Officer Ashley Guindon, a local police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty last February on her very first day on the job, having been sworn in just the day before.  My youngest daughter and I went out to pay our respects and help line the route when she was killed.

Some of the other highlights for me of the service included the music.  The service opened with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by a retired New York City Police Officer, and country music star Kellie Pickler also sang.  The rest of the service included addresses number of speakers, including President Trump, Vice President Pence, othrpoliticians, law enforcement officials, and clergy.  Finally, a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was held immediately following the memorial service.  The service and wreath laying were very moving and thought provoking, and served to remind us all of the service and sacrifice of those sworn to protect and serve.

         

         

         

         

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

Sometimes it’s the little things and details that will catch my eye. Here’s one last photo from today’s National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service that I think is particularly poignant and provocative.  It’s of the wife of a fallen officer who was sitting in the grass and leaning back, and I think it hints that there is a very emotional story behind the image.

trapezeschool02

The Trapeze School of New York

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day in 1859 that a man named Jules Léotard made his first public appearance as the world’s first flying trapeze artist. He was just 21  years old at the time, but Léotard had been practicing since he was a little boy.

Léotard was born in Toulouse, France, the son of a gymnastics instructor. After he passed his law exams, he seemed destined to join the legal profession. But he had also been experimenting with trapeze bars, ropes and rings suspended over a swimming pool in his father’s gymnasium, and the years of practice paid off. He was the first to turn a somersault in mid-air, and the first to jump from one trapeze to the next.

If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because he was also the designer of the skin-tight one-piece garment which was eventually named after him. Léotard himself called the garment a “maillot”, which is a general French word for different types of tight-fitting shirts or sports shirts. Léotard’s maillot was an all-in-one knitted suit. It allowed freedom of movement, was relatively aerodynamic and there was no danger of a flapping garment becoming entangled with the ropes. Even more importantly, it showed off his physique to its best advantage, making him a huge hit with the ladies and inspiring George Leybourne to immortalize him on the popular song, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.”

In his memoirs, Léotard vainly wrote: “Do you want to be adored by the ladies? A trapeze is not required, but instead of draping yourself in unflattering clothes, invented by ladies, and which give us the air of ridiculous mannikins, put on a more natural garb, which does not hide your best features.”

The first known use of the name leotard for clothing came in 1886, many years after Léotard’s death at the age of 28. It is still worn today by acrobats, gymnasts, dancers, figure skaters, circus performers, athletes, actors, and exercise enthusiasts throughout the world.

In recognition of today’s anniversary, on today’s bike ride I wore only a leotard.  No, I’m lying.  Not even I would want to see that. Actually, on today’s ride I rode to the D.C. campus of the Trapeze School New York, located near Nationals Park at 1269 New Jersey Avenue  (MAP) in southeast D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood.  If you’re thinking of joining the circus, or just looking for a couple hours of unique fun, I recommend giving them a try.

trapezeschool01     trapezeschool03     trapezeschool04
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]