Summary by Bill Thedford with Responses Collected by Lydia Bogar
This week, the Social Change Working Group presented a well-attended 2-day program on the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment, dated 1865, abolished slavery for all but criminals. Avi Bernstein opened the session on Wednesday 7/12 with Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed film “13th” from Netflix. The film exposed the expansion of criminal prosecution as a means to disproportionately subjugate the black population to coal mining, field labor, “chain gangs” and other low cost labor. After the film, Professor Smith collected questions from the attendees as a basis for Thursday’s talk.
On Thursday, Avi introduced Professor Doug Smith who presented examples of State and Federal criminal laws as well as court rulings leading to the incarceration of poor and predominately African American people. These laws effectively utilized this criminal exception in Amendment 13 to provide cheap labor and business opportunities (e.g., to independent prison operators and even corporations). The discussion on the second day expanded the scope of the talk to include the role of police in this process. The process was widened by Nixon’s war on crime and drugs and has expanded or continued through all succeeding administrations. It was observed that the number of African Americans in Federal and State prisons today exceeds the number of slaves in the U.S. before the Amendment was added to the Constitution.
No solutions were proposed, but the potential value of home release programs and volunteer youth mentoring were discussed. In addition, Michael Burns, a member of the Social Change Working Group, has created a bibliography of materials on the issue which can be accessed by clicking here: BIBLIOGRAPHY. The group has also compiled a list of action opportunities which BOLLI members might choose to explore. Click here: ACTION.
What BOLLI members say about 13th…
BETSEY ANSIN: “A Riveting, pounding film that forcefully presents the generations long dehumanization and punishment of black men, and their families. Carried some scenes with me all day and will convincingly talk it up! Would show this to my grandchildren over the age of 10.
CRIS ARONSON: My eldest son is an educator teaching in an ethnically diverse primary school. HIs students include those of Asian, African American, Latino and European backgrounds as well as those born and raised in the US. When Mal first joined the school district, he was looked upon with trepidation to say the least. Why? Because he is racially mixed (most people saw Black), sports an earring and is extremely fit. Parents weren’t certain they wanted this man teaching their children or being an integral part of the school. That was 19 years ago. For the past 10 years, he has been the most requested teacher in the school, receiving numerous district and State awards and is given more gifts at the end of each academic year than most children get for Chanukah or Christmas!
My point: once people have the opportunity to get to know someone on a personal level (especially true of “the Other”), prejudices based on superficial ifrst impressions and stereotypes can give way to honest knowledge and appreciation of that individual.
AVI BERNSTEIN: This is the first time that I have seen this inspirational, beautifully constructed film. The big question is what we do next and how.
ABBY PINARD: Nothing in it came as a surprise, but the film connects the dots to powerful and painful effect. Should be required viewing … I’m not an educator, so I wouldn’t presume to recommend for younger kids but at least high school.
SUE WURSTER: So powerful…and so disheartening. Our general lack of knowledge about so much of this makes me feel even more determined to push for significant change in our teaching of our own history in our schools.
LYDIA BOGAR:Touring restored plantations in the South Carolina, I presumed that slavery was a closed book. Reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and watching this film has awakened me to the nightmare and reality of Black Lives Matter. I am horrified and need to know more.
The remaining events in this series, New American Political Realities, are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, July 19 and 20, from 10:30-12, when the focus will be on “The Politics of Supreme Court Nominations.”
Please be sure to leave additional comments and/or questions below–whether you were in attendance or not!
Congratulations to Suzanne on the publication of her book!
Suzanne says that “the memoir is about the ups and downs of the creative process, its challenges and joys, its successes and failures. It also includes over 100 color images in color of my paintings, prints and drawings.”
Suzanne was the subject of one of our first BOLLI Matters member profiles. Just type her name into the blog’s “search box” to bring it up so that you can read more about her and her work. In addition, she has a beautiful website you can access in order to see many of her paintings. Go to: suzannehodes.com (or just click on the picture above).
The book is available at Blurb.com (less expensive) and at Amazon.
After the successful launch of our term’s end “Radio Free BOLLI” show last spring, the cast and crew returned for an even more spectacular lunchtime presentation on Tuesday, December 6. For the uninitiated, “Radio Free BOLLI” features the dulcet tones of members Judith Stone and Nancy Connery who provide a weekly “Home Cooking Jazz” show on Monday afternoons from 1-3 on the Brandeis station WBRS 100.1 FM.
This time around, Judith and Nancy–teamed, once again, with Sue as trivia maven, Emily Ostrower as show manager, and Megan Curtis as technician–provided a stroll down “The Great White Way” with Broadway numbers from shows spanning the decades. All along the way, BOLLI members won amazing prizes in the form of stunning, top-quality plastic refrigerator magnets–but the event ended with a grand prize drawing in which members won places in our winter seminars and even a spring term membership!
As the show got going, the audience did too–eventually just breaking out into a Broadway sing-along thoroughly enjoyed by one and all! It was an afternoon of hooting, humming, and simple hilarity–so watch for the springtime version of “Radio Free BOLLI!”
Be sure to join us for our spring edition of “Radio Free BOLLI” when we return to Broadway’s Golden Age for another rousing sing-along and trivia fest!
From left, our crew consists of Megan Curtis, Technical Director; Sue Wurster, Trivia Maven and “Gypsy” Dancer; Nancy Connery, Co-Creator and DJ Deluxe; Emily Ostrower, Production Manager and Prize Guru; and Judith Stone, the Other Co-Creator and DJ Extraordinaire.
During the last week of the fall term, the BOLLI Membership Committee sponsored lunchtime presentations celebrating ourselves and our activities, providing our fellow BOLLI members with entertainment, discussion, and more! First up, that week was our intrepid group of actors providing a program called “Going Solo.”
CAST (Creative Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre)On Monday, our CAST Our CAST members performed monologues drawn from plays (many of them one-character shows) featuring characters from real life. The performers provided the following glimpses of fascinating people–
Sue Wurster started off the program with a piece drawn from the play Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein by Marty Martin. The play, a single-character work, featured Pat Carroll in its off-Broadway run in New York in the ’70s and takes place on the eve of Stein’s eviction from her Paris apartment. In this portion of the work, she talks about the inner self as well as what she was trying to accomplish in her work.
We then moved back in time (and place) from the Paris of 1933 to the Amherst, Massachusetts of the mid-19th Century. In this scene from William Luce’s one-woman play, The Belle of Amherst, the reclusive poet talks about her father, her sister, and, of course, her poems.
In 1932, the National Geographic Society awarded its Gold Medal to Amelia Earhart for becoming the first woman (and the only person since Charles Lindbergh) to achieve a solo transatlantic flight. In this passage from Laura Annawyn Shamas’ one-woman play, Amelia Lives, the aviatrix reflects with some amazement upon the extraordinary public response to her flight as she accepts the medal for her achievement.
In Marcy Lafferty’s one-woman show, Vivien Leigh: The Last Press Conference, drawn from the Leigh’s own words, we are given a portrait of the troubled and gifted actress not long before the end of her life. Here, she talks about her most determined campaigns in life: marrying Laurence Olivier and landing the role of Scarlett O’Hara.
In a very unusual piece, First Lady, playwright Erica Christ has provided a unique look at the woman who used her position as Argentina’s first lady to fight for women’s rights and care of the poor. Here, Peron (after her death) reflects upon what it means to be a woman in Argentina…and more.
Twin sisters Margaret and Allison Engel have provided a vivid image of brassy Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins in their one-woman play, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. In this portion of the play, Ivins turns her humor on Texas politics as she tries to write about her father.
A scientist herself, Bette Winer was drawn to this particularly powerful monologue from Carson Kreitzer’s compelling play, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this passage, the scientist reflects upon the volatile age that he and his Los Alamos crew ushered in when they invented the modern devil, the atomic bomb.
So, is CAST a closed group? NO. Does one have to audition in order to be involved? NO. What if you’ve never been on stage in your life but are kind of interested in maybe trying some acting–is this something you could join? YES! And so, how would you go about doing that?
Just watch the Bulletin for announcements of our upcoming meeting times (next at BOLLI on Thursday, January 5 from 12:00 – 1:30) when we engage in lots of fun activity–we do some warm-ups, play some theatre games, engage in some improvisation, read scenes and/or plays, and so on. No experience necessary–just a desire to have some creative fun!
Years ago, Tamara Chernow, Eileen Mitchell, and I planned and organized docent-led tours of many different museums located in the area. Lunch was always included, and sometimes buses were provided as well. These outings were very popular for social as well as educational reasons. It was a huge job, and I guess you could say we “wore out.” Eventually, though, it seemed to be something worth bringing back to life. The result? Hidden Gems, the very first “off site” BOLLI course designed to tap into the rich cultural community we enjoy here in the Boston area.
This term, participants in our five-week Hidden Gems course traveled to museums with excellent docents who expanded upon the readings that the group read preceding their visits. But the first meeting of the course took place at 60 Turner Street when Nancy Alimansky provided our introductory lecture. She really set the stage for the course, offering us tips on how to “access” pieces of art. She focused on aspects of contemporary and modern art, providing slides and referring to the greatest of these artists. She even referred to the wonderful photographs hanging in the Blue Room, executed by our own artists and available to us all the time. Nancy clearly knows and loves her subject, making her the perfect example of what makes a good teacher.
After that wonderful opening session, we embarked on our visits to the Addison Gallery at Andover Academy, the Fuller Craft Museum, the Davis Museum on the Wellesley College campus, and Brandeis’ own Rose Gallery. Lenore Goldstein, Anne Walker, Joyce Plotkin, and Diane Winkelman have provided some details about each of our visits to these gems.
AT THE ADDISON GALLERY OF AMERICAN ART
By Lenore Goldstein
The Addison Gallery of American art was created by alumnus Thomas Cochran “to enrich permanently the lives of the students of Phillips Academy.” The Gallery is a teaching resource as well as an art center for the students and faculty of the Academy, for other students, teachers and scholars and for the general public. Its collection of more than 17000 objects of American art dating from the 18th century to the present is one of the most comprehensive in the world.
Our BOLLI class visited two exhibits—“Manzanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams” and “Eye on the Collection: Fall, 2016.” We were led by a terrific docent who gave us insight into many of the pieces in the museum’s collection. But it is the Manzanar exhibit that stays with me.
Manzanar was one of the War Relocation Centers during World War II. The purpose of Adams’s photographs was to provide propaganda showing that the Japanese (who, for the most part, were American citizens) suffered a great injustice but created a vital community within the Relocation Center in the desert. Most of his photographs were of happy, productive families engaging in happy, productive activities. That upset me. I understood Adams’ motive, but I couldn’t put behind me that the Japanese were prisoners who had been kicked out of their homes, lost their jobs, their possessions, their lives. And of course I thought of the Holocaust.
This museum has so much to offer. Opening this week is an exhibit called “The Deception of Perception.” It focuses on distortion and ambiguity in photography. This “Hidden Gem” is well worth a trip to Andover.
THE FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM
By Anne Walker; photos by Hannah Delfiner
Who knew? Wonders abound in the Metrowest, and I barely knew it! For instance, Brockton has one of the very few museums devoted entirely to “work of the hand.”
Fuller Craft Museum was an eye- opening experience. From the ultra-edgy “Steam Punk” installations to an appealing gift shop, it is a marvelous surprise. Gorgeous, satiny finishes on contemporary furniture, sensuous wood-grained bowls and platters, books recycled into expertly detailed hand-cut constructions were a source of unexpected delight as well.
One of the most surprising aspects of the Fuller Craft museum is that it is sited on a beautiful lake with walking trails and an outdoor collection of sculptures which we must see in the spring!
THE DAVIS MUSEUM AT WELLESLEY COLLEGE
by Joyce Plotkin with gallery photos byHannah Delfiner
Our trip to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College was timed beautifully – just after a three-year transformation of the galleries was completed – which enabled the Museum to double the number of art works on display. The Davis, opened in 1993, was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and features art objects from antiquity to the modern day.
We started in the basement of the museum and first saw an exhibit titled Partners in Design: Alfred Barr and Philip Johnson. Barr, who taught the first undergraduate art course in modern art at Wellesley College, and Johnson, Museum of Modern Art’s first curator of architecture, together were responsible for bringing modernism to North America in the form of the German Bauhaus movement which concentrated on stripping down objects to their simplest form (with no ornamentation) and focused on rational and functional design. The exhibit contains furniture from both Barr’s and Johnson’s apartments including a cantilevered chair that, when viewed at a particular angle, looks like it is floating on air.
Also on display were examples of kitchen and household objects stemming from the movement that was active in the 1920’s and early 30’s but was ultimately shut down by the Communists. It was interesting to me to see this phase of Philip Johnson’s work, as my husband and I recently saw, in Madrid, the Gate of Europe towers –the first inclined skyscrapers in the world – designed by Johnson and another colleague and completed in 1996. It was described by our tour guide as a building that typified the architecture of the future.
Our second stop was the top floor of the museum which hosted the most recent works of art in a beautifully re-decorated, very inviting, high-ceilinged gallery with natural light pouring in from the skylights above. As we entered the gallery, we were met by a terrific Alexander Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling and wandered through the fifth floor gallery observing a pairing of great paintings by Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner, interesting representative works by female artists Grandma Moses, Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson, a boldly colored Andy Warhol sculpture of Brillo and Campbell soup boxes as well as wonderful offerings by Picasso, de Kooning, and many others. Personally, what delighted me beyond the wonderful art was the fact that the Museum featured the works of numerous women. I hope the museum continues and expands the trend of acquiring and displaying works of art by women.
Since we did not have time to see the whole museum during our class time, my husband and I went back to the Davis two days after this visit to see all of the exhibits. We were delighted with the European and American exhibits and definitely recommend the Davis as an interesting destination for other BOLLI members.
THE HIDDEN GEM IN OUR OWN BACK YARD:
THE ROSE GALLERY
by Diane Winkelman
BOLLI’s new “Hidden Gems” class ended with the jewel in our own back yard. We were treated to a curator/docent led tour of the exhibits currently on view at the Rose. Learning about contemporary art with a curator who had recently come from the Museum of Modern Art in New York was extraordinary. Our initial view of the museum was of David Reed’s painting – from afar and then close up. The experiences were dramatically different. We learned about his use of paint to create large dramatic canvases that had never been seen all together in one room until this show at the Rose.
Each gallery had a show by a different artist. Sarah Sze’s: Timekeeper combined sculpture, installation art, and painting to produce a visually fascinating statement about time and perception.
Do go and explore the rest. If you get fatigued in museums, don’t forget to rest in Mark Dion’s room installation ” The Undisciplined Collector” … a permanent room installation that might make you feel right at home.
Thank you, Elaine, for a wonderful experience!
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