Travel Plans

February 12, 2017

Since Cambridge is about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Chestertown, the new Harriet Tubman Museum (opening next month) is on my list of places to visit. I’d like to couple it with the planned commemoration that will mark the anniversary of an event that highlighted the city’s painful past, a huge fire that almost obliterated the African American section of the town.

The city’s mayor, Victoria Jackson-Stanley, who is exactly my own age, is spearheading the planning, with her goal being “not to dwell on the past, but rather to release the city from its hold” (The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, Feb 12, 2017, p. 21). Pain, loss and forgiveness are intertwined, the reason why one must revisit the past in order to try to figure out how to cope in our roles and relationships today.

Jackson-Stanley remembers the blazing of the fires and the sounds of the gunshots on July 24, 1967, the night that her dad had warned them not to go out at all, the night that so much of their heritage and livelihood went up in flames. She was 13 and Black. The only things I remember about 1967 were that I had had 4 English teachers that year, when I was in 8th grade, at a time when one’s personal developmental changes dictate the necessity of stability. I’d felt the loss. I remember going to a Girl Scout event in NYC (my first trip there) and realizing for the first time that my family must not have had much money, since my homemade Girl Scout skirt was the wrong color. The darker, dingy-looking, light-forest green was the closest (I’m certain) that my mother could find before she sewed my homemade skirt, but it was different from the thin cotton, bright Kelly-green of the standard uniforms. I was ashamed as the difference hit me. I’d been crossing the street, en masse, with seemingly a hundred other Girl Scout Cadettes, with the instant realization punching me in the gut about how much The Wrong Color marked me. Too many teachers and a wrong skirt: the life problems of a 13 year old white girl.

I want to go to this planned event in Cambridge because I know how important commemorations are. We need to face truths.

For “exorcisms” (“Exorcising a Painful Past” – the title of the article in The Baltimore Sun) to occur, we need to make showings of support. Last year, when the flying of the Confederate flags was all over facebook, one family member unfriended me for my stand on banning them. I shouldn’t have been shocked – Chestertown is a lovely little college town, but has its own deep history of racism – but I was. Another extended family member said that we should “move on,” that we “don’t live in the past.” Which was why the Cambridge mayor’s comment resonated with me. She will be criticized for dredging up “old stuff” that is “done.” It’s not “done.” She needs me to show up with support for her and for her story. So I’m making my travel plans, and in the meantime, am looking for folks on the streets of our town to see whose story I can perhaps be privileged to listen to.


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Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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