Arrival: 2013 New York Stories 1

I really had to practice some self control when I arrived at Laguardia Airport in Queens outside New York City. Super Shuttle took an hour to arrive at the airport. Shame. And the driver was no bargain even with GPS. Shame. He almost left the back door open. I visualized my luggage, strewn across the BQE-Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

I  did look to my left and saw soccer players playing under the dark of night lit by powerful lights. What a pleasure.

We took the Kosciusko Bridge into the Lower East Side. Darkness . . . Illusion of brightness in the bright lights.

Back to the driver. He jumped over a stop and had to double back. I really wanted to get in the passenger seat and direct him. We were a few blocks from my hotel so I grabbed up my bags knowing I was a few moments from freedom. I yelled to the driver, “There’s my hotel on the left.”

I jumped out of the van and yelled at the other passengers, “Good luck, ya’all!”

They looked at me like frightened birds, appearing as though their last hope had ejected from the shuttle.

So here I am back in my homeland . . .  bright lights, big city . . .  Singing a different song having lived in so many places . . . But so quickly returning to the core of my New York self.

Downtown Pittsburgh ALIVE in the Noon Hour

Yes, sometimes you have to go downtown to PENN DOT (we called it Motor Vehicle in Queens, NY). And that “work” trip turned into an an urban adventure. Walk! Walk! Walk!

I KNEW I was in downtown Pittsburgh on a weekday in the noon hour when I was cussed out by someone. Up. Down. In. Out. That’s city life. With the good comes the bad.

So some good. People filled the streets, the concrete and asphalt teeming with people. I passed an African American man seated drumming on a corner. There’s often so much more ethnic diversity at the center, the downtown then on the edges, the suburbs.

In the parking garage, I ran into a woman from Johnstown, BEYOND Pittsburgh. She was all a-jitter about to step to the city streets. She wasn’t used to the city and talked about getting lost getting into the city, asked if the 1st floor was street level, and finally wistfully asked me as we parted was this her floor. I gave her a few words to soothe her before she fluttered off into beautiful chaos. I launched her off into the hectic city and said, “Try walking around after you’ve found your destination.” I hope my suggestion did not fall like seed on fallow ground. I hope she gave downtown Pittsburgh a try. Dance with the city. Dance with the city.

Here’s some Los Lobos, which is what makes me think of cities across America–a love song.

If you don’t live in a city, take a deep breath and give it a try. Launch off. Dive in. JUMP.

Monongahela River Weeds and the Ghosts of an Industrial Past

At the Waterfront in Homestead, Pennsylvania, I discovered a trail with the Monongahela River on one side and a mall on the other side.

Homestead was an access point for immigrants who worked in the Homestead Steel Works during the 19th century. The immigrants moved from the river’s edge  up the hill to 8th Avenue. Fast forward into the future, and I spotted a robin on a limb on the trail re-framing the past for leisure and recreation. The rivers edge is covered by trees and weeds, some flowering.

It’s great heading out the woods for a hike but we can find places to walk in urban places like Pittsburgh.

Photos by Dianne Glave on an iPhone

Pittsburgh 2: Forged Steel, Flowing Rivers

Water is the equivalent of the allure of the proverbial sirens. Finding my way to water is a compelling obesseive draw. There’s something in my DNA that always lures me back to the water. A river, an ocean. I get happy about a glass of water.

It’s Jamaica, it’s the Caribbean you know. Clear blue blue water surrounding an island. Can’t shake my roots. Don’t want to.

I also think of the cottonmouth water moccasin in me. I know: cottonmouths are in the South not the cold wintry waters of Pittsburgh rivers. Doesn’t matter. WATER.

I drove for more than hour on the edges of the SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh getting so close to the water but still so far. I could almost visualize the steel works from the past with a clear path to the river now dotted with  modern-day REIs and Urban Outfitters. One hundred lefts into dead-ends with no access to the Mongahela River did not stop me. I was stymied too many times by smooth railroad tracks blocking my way to the murky river. I thought to jump the tracks landing on my feet close to the river’s edge but remembered that third rail is a killer:

Billie Joel’s “All for Leyna” from the Glass Houses CD was playing in my head: “She stood in the tracks, waving her arms, leading me to that third rails shock . . .”  I wound my way to West Homestead but still no water. Hills. Curves. Houses clinging to hillsides. That’s Pittsburgh. Not to be deterred. Still trying to find the water; I could not quite make my goal. And finally: Waterfront. Who would have thought the divining rod inside my head in search of water would land me behind a TGIF by the river?

Pittsburgh is an old soul. It feels like an ancient city in the Roman Empire. A city colonized. By the steel. By chain restaurants and stores. Past. Present. Invisibly one. The water, the steel, the hills are officially stuck under my fingernails.

I would even love the the deep dark blue of the (Wide) Sargasso Sea, real or imagined. The Three Rivers of Pittsburgh come close.

Photo by Dianne Glave

2012 State of Diversity and the Environment Blog Carnival

Welcome to the third Rooted in the Earth Blog Carnival!

People of color faced many obstacles in 2010 and 2011 including higher rates of unemployment during the Great Recession and increased conservatism concerning diversity/ethnicity in the US. There has also been much to celebrate with an African American president and a growing Latina/o population. I wondered in 2012, the new year, if the same ups and downs are true, when it comes to those working and serving for diversity (people of color) and the environment. Personally, I can count more than twenty people of all ethnicities I can reach out to with expertise concerning people of color and the environment. Five years ago, the ranks were thinner. At the same, time I sense some (justice) fatigue among the ranks.

I am sending a call for blogs responding to a the state of diversity and the environment in 2012. I will include your name, organization, a personal/non-profit description, and blog/website. The blog carnival is broad enough to include stories about nascent environmental movements among and concerning people of color, projects-in-progress that will help to grow the movement, ideas for the future, and more. For those who do not blog, please contact me directly so we can work together to add your perspective to the blog carnival.

Submit your blog to 2012 State of Diversity and the Environment by January 19th. All blogs will be subject to review based on suitability to the topic.

Dianne Glave

Magnolias in Pittsburgh: Walking Part 1

I took  “Walking Pittsburgh: The Ultimate Walking Tour of Downtown Pittsburgh,” a Publication of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on a cold December day.

I often slide into  jaded mode: living and working in a city rejecting being a tourist. Nope. I am going to get to know my new city even if I creep along doing it.

Magnolias in Pittsburgh in December

So I started off with a friend on a cold day in December on a walk in downtown Pittsburgh. The surprise: we discovered  magnolia trees with buds in the Theater District in the dead of winter. Turns out to be a sculpture. Fooled me.

Monongahela River

My walk, my narrative started at the middle of the walk because I was entranced and bedazzled by those magnolias. I was born in New York but the South runs ruby-red in my veins.

Going back to the beginning, the first part of the walk had us at Point State Park. I stood at The Point where the Three Rivers meet: the Ohio river forks into the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in Pittsburgh.

I wondered how many African Americans stood there before me, before The Point became Point State Park in 1974. I imagine the long history of Pittsburgh going back to the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763) to the American Revolution (1775–1783). Some African Americans were indentured servants, others enslaved, and a few actually served in the military. I am sure some gazed at the Three Rivers just as I did. Instead of concrete, asphalt, and steel, they saw many more trees. I imagine an African American man in a buckskin coat and leggings with musket in hand sitting under a river birch.

We made it to the Strip District, the last leg of the walk. The sky was gray, the air grew colder. Regrettably, we turned back retracing our steps.

Next is the Cultural District, Grant Street, Mid-town, North Shore, and Market Square. I’m headed to Station Square this weekend.

I found a Visit Pittsburgh: African American History Guide. I’m thinking those walks will wait for the spring, after the winter thaw.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

I always feel sad when I remember a visit to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. The eternal flame was not lit. The foundation for the flame was cracked. The precious historical ephemera documenting King’s life were in a small exhibition moldering because of poor ventilation. I smelled the decay. Sadly textiles, photos, and papers were disintegrating. I don’t think I can ever go back.

But then comes some hope: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial near the Basin in Washington, D.C. I visited the memorial in fall 2011. The trees–cherry blossoms, elms, and crape myrtles–stood bare like bone thin sentries bordering the memorial. I saw the stone representation of a mountain in a carved boulder from across the street just steps beyond the Lincoln Memorial. I walked past  the King Memorial because this massive expressionless cold stone couldn’t be it! I felt nothing. I tracked back and walked through the center where a part of the boulder had been cleanly sliced down the middle creating a passageway. Walking through felt claustrophobic, perhaps how King felt in a prison cell in Birmingham, Alabama, part of the fall-out of the broader mid-century social movement against vice-like racism.

Something changed when I walked into an open circle, freedom, when I saw the likeness of King rooted in stone. King once said, “Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope” in “I Have a Dream,” his most famous speech. The words are carved into the statue, the idea of the mountain and stone made tangible. On the other side of the statue are the words, “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness,” a paraphrase. World renowned writer Maya Angelou was certainly hot about the paraphrase because she argued it made King sound pompous, really the antithesis of his public persona in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Between the statue and the boulder are many of King’s quotes in an arc at feet level etched in grey granite:

  • “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
  • “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
  • “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
  • “I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”
  • “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
  • “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
  • “It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”
  • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  • “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”
  • “We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs “down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
  • “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”
  • “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

As I walked away back through the split boulder, I was blessed and moved by what felt to me like sacred space. The monument renews the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. as an icon in service, in life and death, for equal rights and desegregation for African Americans during the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s. Millions of tourists, so many people, will pass through the stone remembering the legacy.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Monuments in Our National Parks

Korean War Veterans Memorial: Reflection of Soldiers on Granite Wall

Audrey and Frank Peterman wrote a wonderful book titled Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care. As a couple, Audrey and Frank visited and continue to visit national parks. Out of their experiences and hard work, they are two leading black environmentalists in the US. They continue their life’s work encouraging people, particularly people of color, to visit national parks. Take a look at the Legacy on the Land website and facebook group that grew out of the book.

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The many memorials in Washington, D.C. are part of the national parks system in the US. I have long been inspired by the Petermans so visited the Korean Veterans War Memorial and the Lincoln National Memorial. I was moved by the words “Freedom is not free” at the Veterans Memorial.

I never get tired of hearing Audrey say, “Visit your national parks!”

Photos, all but the book cover, by Dianne Glave

Do You Know Where Your Water Comes From and More?

Chattahoochee River

I live in East Point, Georgia. At my home, my tap water does not magically appear in a glass. My filtered water comes from somewhere, piped from river to faucet. My water comes from the Chattahoochee River–actually starts further north–that feeds Sweetwater Creek in Austell, Georgia, which is about 20 minutes from Atlanta. The water moves by pump to the Ben Hill Reservoir, about five miles from creek. This liquid essential to life on earth is processed at the East Point Water Treatment. I press a button on my fridge and water from the Chattahoochee, so far away, flows into my cup for tea. I am grateful because people around the world do not have such easy access to clean water around the world.

I do my best to get my drinking water from the tap and not bottled water so I’m not adding plastic to the swelling landfills. You are probably drinking the same filtered water I do when you drink from the bottle. And there are chemicals in the plastic bottles that potentially threaten our health.

We are also facing drought around the world. Here in Georgia we have to live with cyclical drought. I was told a few years go that I might not get water piped into my home because of drought. Trust me: that was unnerving. Georgia seems unwilling to share their water from Lake Lanier with Florida and Alabama because of fears around drought. These issues over water rights will probably get worse as climate change continues to escalate across the globe.

To learn more got to EPA’s Drinking Water for kids and rent the the documentary Tapped.

So I ask you: where does your water come from? Learn the source of your water, and for that matter your food. Consider drinking tap rather than bottled. And heed the warnings about global warning, which is impacting access to good clean water in as far away as Africa and as close as Georgia.

A Citywalk Challenge

I challenge you to tap into your adventurous side to wander and explore cities around the world. It is a great way to experience the outdoors on urban landscapes, and get in some exercise.

Some years ago, I wandered Milan without a map. Unlike Venice and Rome where tourists are part of the regular scene, those in Milan spoke little English since the economic emphasis was corporate and not tourist. I used facial expressions and hand gestures to communicate. I connected with people even briefly. I looked up at the intimidating houses of couture which seemed to lean over me. I stopped to listen to musicians entertain people in the streets. And I eventually found my way back to my hotel, falling into my bad happy and exhausted by my adventures.

You don’t have to go to Europe to wander a city. There are great places right here in the United States. Here are few photos from a recent trip to Chicago:

I started in Lincoln Park, walked towards downtown using the skyscrapers as my guide, traced the shores of Lake Michigan, and finally made my way back tracing a path along the Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Walk.

Lots of sun and sites that could not have been fully appreciated inside a car.

So I challenge you to walk around, maybe even aimlessly without a map, in one of our great cities! Urban landscapes await.

Photos by Dianne Glave