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One-Way Ticket: A Must See Exhibit at MoMA

20150628_112117[1]So…the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is opening in about 10 minutes.

What do I suggest you do if you’re in NYC today?

Go see the Jacob Lawrence Migration Series exhibit.

For real.

It closes tomorrow.

I found time to see it while in NYC this summer for an amazing professional development session at Teachers College (that’ll have to be another post I realize).

Between TC classes; meals with friends; missed subway stops as if I hadn’t lived in NYC for five years; and just fullness, I took a breath when I entered the exhibition hall…and teared up.

Clearly, I’m obsessed with (im)migration. My vision got blurry with tears looking at photos from a NYT article about the ongoing (im)migrant crisis in Europe.

Why people choose to stay, why people go, why people are in transit is something that I think about every day.

This exhibit addresses why the largest movement of Black bodies the US had ever seen began in the first place. We, my ancestors and I, chose to leave the South and our homes for numerous reasons.

And with this decision we changed the course of a nation. We spread the blues to Northern cities, made Harlem a literary hub, created a Detroit that would birth a Motown, and just did the damn thing in the face of crazy odds.

My ancestors faced brutal violence and oppression when deciding to leave the South. Isabel Wilkerson’s beautiful book The Warmth of Other Suns details just how much.

I faced a 20150628_112628[1]need to see more than Houston, Texas. My diaries and college papers tell me that much.

I explain away the pitiful photos I took at the exhibit with a I needed to be in the moment, not documenting the moment.

All the more reason for you to go if you can.

It’s worth it.

There’s a justification as to why Museum of Modern Art is my favorite museum in the world. They brought together this entire series under one roof for the first time in twenty years. Thanks, Tracy of The HeSo Project, for introducing me to it all those years ago with your museum pass.

Motown, The Musical

My mom used to say when I was growing up that music wasn’t that important to her.

She couldn’t understand why my Dad would pack the sound system’s storage compartments with all genres of music, wake up and immediately turn on music, and just enjoy the sonorous sounds of Fela, Ray Charles, Santana, and whoever else he felt like listening to.

My mom did care about music though. Her actions showed that much. If “her song” came on the radio while she was driving, I was the one who needed to turn up the volume. When Apple technology was invented, who gave me a list of songs she wanted downloaded “because they still sound good from the computer”?

Momma.

And when Motown, The Musical shimmied its way into The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, who was right there in her seat dancing?

Momma.

MotownIf you have a chance, try to go see Motown, The Musical while it’s touring around the States It opened on Broadway back in 2013 when I was preparing to leave NYC for Venezuela. Because of moving costs, I didn’t have the time or finances to go see it then though I desperately wanted to.

Of course, I chalked it up to “Oh, well, there will be other amazing shows” and went and had an amazing time in Venezuela.

Thus, when my mom e-mailed me asking about Motown in Houston, I grabbed at that opportunity the way toddlers grab at candy: with no shame.

Motown is simply inspiring. Berry Gordy definitely had some personal, romantic drama that he glosses over in the musical, but he paints everyone with respect and love. I have nothing but respect for that in an age where public excoriation seems to be the norm.

Plus, you can’t help but admire a man who built a company that changed the music industry when Blacks were still facing severe discrimination.

The music Gordy and Smokey Robinson were behind also got my mom dancing in her seat to the point where I had to warn her not to get all in the other woman’s space who was sitting beside her. People came dressed in 70’s costumes, cheered when beloved songs came on, and just enjoyed.

Motown was not simply a few hours of entertainment. It was an inspiration.

Anthony Bourdain’s “Close to the Bone” Speaking Tour

If ever in Houston there are two places that you have to go to: Jones Hall and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. 

BourdainI recently went to both to hear Anthony Bourdain speak and watch a Motown performance. Now, I love Anthony Bourdain. He grew on me when I first thought he was obnoxious because he’s willing to point out

1.) how people should look past stereotypes,

2.) the irony of these fancy restaurants using an oppressed group’s (re: Mexican) labor for food preparation, and

3.) how he has no time for the whole vegan, farm-to-table, let-me-spend-$300-on-a-snack-that’s-passing-for-a-meal-and-think-I did-something-good-for-humanity-today types.

That being said, I couldn’t help but wonder if I as a Black woman could do what he did: open a talk admitting that I’m probably drunk and then spend a good majority of it disparaging another celebrity chef, Guy Fieri.

Besides my sister-in-law, I didn’t see any other Black people in Jones Hall. That leads to a whole ‘nother conversation about what privileged spaces people choose to access and for what reasons.

Would people dress up, spend $40.00+ for tickets, drive across town and listen to me speak on what Bourdain spoke on? I don’t think so because of all of the negative stereotypes associated with being Black and female.

I have to respect Bourdain’s hustle though. He’s writing books, he has an imprint, he’s won rightfully deserved Emmys, and now he had my behind sitting in a chair that my Momma paid for asking myself these very questions as he spoke.

Regardless of my reservations (no pun intended), head to the Society for the Performing Arts whenever in Houston to see who’s in town. Going to hear Bourdain speak fed my creative spirit. It was one thing I missed while living in Valencia but got at home.

My discussion of the Motown Broadway show will be coming in a future post!

A Quick Trip to San Antonio

Travel Criteria:

  • Within Texas boundaries as a way for me to save money
  • A Megabus ride away (which was on time and clean, I love Megabus)
  • low key
  • great Mexican food (aka my other comfort food) readily available

Since San Antonio met all of these criteria and then some, my mom and I made a weekend trip to this city of about 1.5 million. Still tired from my return to Venezuela and a Christmas spent cooking everything under the sun (which I, surprisingly, loved doing), I actually did not map out an itinerary. I just wanted to see The Alamo and eat some great Mexican food.

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Philadelphia, I Have a Crush on You

Philadelphia is a city that would make me stray from my part-time lover, New York City. There was something about the people, the public artwork, the history, and the energy that made me feel right at home.

I first visited the 5th largest city in the United States as a prospective student for a graduate school. As soon as I got off the bus, I was intrigued. One, the buildings weren’t overwhelming in size as they were in New York City. Two, a quick ride around the city told me that public artwork was huge there.

According to one city bus tour guide, Philadelphia requires that all office buildings dedicate a percentage of their space to public art. The reason for the beautiful murals adorning the walls is simple: crime alternatives. In previous years, youth caught tagging buildings were given a choice of entering an art program and creating murals or paying a fine, serving time, etc. By the looks of Philadelphia, it’s easy to see what people decided to do.

I stayed at the lovely and conveniently located Alexander Inn. When not on the grad school campus, I was in easy walking distance of the historic Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It’s funny to see national park rangers in full, forest green uniform in the middle of urban locales, but that area is considered a national park.

Before leaving the city, I highly suggest going to the National Constitution Center. Mere steps from the Liberty Bell, the exhibit I saw there about Prohibition was the best historical exhibit I had ever seen. As a teacher, I always look to see how kid and adult-friendly exhibits are. This one had me mesmerized at the museum educator and curator’s talents.

When my bus pulled out of Philadelphia, I vowed to return for an extended vacation. The place is too steeped in history not to. Where else could I see people protesting potential US Postal Service cuts at no other than one of the first post offices in the nation? Warm people, art, and history. That’s all I need to return again and again.

Charleston, South Carolina

“We’re going in circles!” my youngest niece whined.

“We’re not going in circles,” I responded, tightening my grip on her slackening hand “we’re going back and forth.”

This was me in the midst of a short trip to Charleston, South Carolina. In theory, it sounded like a fabulous idea. My mom, my two nieces, and I would explore Charleston–a new city for all of us.

But traveling with children is a whole ‘nother beast.

And. I. Was. Not. Ready.

We were turned around because of me, and my nieces were getting cranky. Finally, we reached our destination and my nieces’ moods improved.

Charleston is a Southern town that dripped history like I was dripping sweat. Undoubtedly developed and made wealthy because of the slave trade, it’s not a place to be ignored. Case in point: one can see Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began, from Charleston’s shores.

When not enjoying the architecture of the conveniently located Embassy Suites–which renovated the original Citadel–my family and I were out and about. There was the tour of Charleston with the affable Alphonso Brown and his company Gullah Tours, sweetgrass baskets to be purchased (Tiny ones! They are expensive!), and outdoor markets to explore. Naturally, a trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, and a carriage ride that my nieces were excited about but promptly fell asleep on. Before taking a carriage ride, I suggest grabbing a treat from King of Pops first. It kept me cool (and my nieces quiet) while in the withering heat.

The following morning while savoring a delectable buffet style breakfast at the hotel, my mom and I vowed to return.

And as much as we love our Girls with a capital G–who were at this point happily polishing off pancakes, bacon, eggs, and every thing else in sight–next time we’re returning without kids.