BETTYE FOSTER BAKER
The streets of Oak Bluffs are brimming with happy faces as vacationers disembark from the ferry for the last time this season and race toward town to catch that last taste of summer. Celebrating the good, carefree life if only briefly is about to come to an end for vacationers. Many, including seasonal residents, will cram every uncommitted moment into this last week on our beloved Island. Hardly another five o’clock, brunch, dinner or event can be penciled-in on most calendars, but the smart ones are chillin’ out to give rest a real work-out (Is that an oxymoron?) before the last big celebration — Labor Day.
From that point on (retirees excluded) there will be meetings, deadlines, events, ceremonies and of course preparation for the holidays and yet another set of calendars will be filled with those reminders to keep us on track. Did I forget about the presidential election? That’s one effort that will involve the retirees, many of whom have taken on responsibilities to elect their favorite candidate, some working hours that they never dreamed possible at this stage in life as they register voters, host events, maintain order in the campaign headquarters across the country and yes, canvas and vote. Needless to say, I will be running headlong into the fray in Gettysburg, Pa., and writing opinions like mad and, yes, people do care. That’s what makes this country so great.
If the summer of 2007 was the summer of love, given the 40th anniversary of the 1967 counterculture revolution, a defining moment of the 1960s when traditional values were turned on their heels, including social experimentation including communal living — the summer of 2008 has to be the summer of Realizing the Dream, the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who dreamed that one day our nation would begin to look not at the color of one’s skin or gender, but at the content of their character. There is no better example of his vision than the 19-month race for president of the United States between an African American, Barack Obama, and a former first lady, Hillary Clinton — yes, a woman. The grueling campaigns they conducted will forever define what the nation can become and will become in this 21st century. And though we were here on holiday in this very special place, Martha’s Vineyard, its significance was not lost on us.
How inspiring it was on Founder’s Sunday at Union Chapel to see the principals dressed in period dress, hear writings, and sing hymns from the 1891 Union Chapel, Cottage City Hymnal, Many Voices. Then there was a prayer, Thank You, Union Chapel, written by the Rev. Dr. John D. Schule, Union Chapel board member and former minister of the Federated Church in Edgartown and set to music and sung by Lisa Umberger, accompanying herself on the autoharp. Lisa focuses on writing music and singing for churches, spiritual retreats and conventions. She believes God gives you things when he wants to give you things. She calls it perfect timing. One must be patient.
Dr. Schule, a year-round resident, characterized Union Chapel, founded in 1870, with one word — love — and elaborated on its importance as a place of interdenominational and later with the growing middle class African American community summering in Oak Bluffs as a place of interracial worship and Christian unity. The prayer was at once meaningful to those who sit under the chapel’s lofty ceiling on Sunday mornings and hear the depth of thought, experience and wisdom.
Artist Suesan Stovall had a smash of a show this weekend at her new innovative venue — the Groovy Sue Garage Gallery off New York avenue in Oak Bluffs. How did we get to Groovy? Suesan was given the nickname Groovy by a Cape Verdian acquaintance that captured that infectious and wonderful free spirit. Suesan, a totally warm and centered person, presents a unique artistic voice. This art is not about being prettified, it’s about speech and power and historical references that too often are not allowed; but there is nothing censored here. It is just truth and spirit. The framed boxes Suesan creates represent a kind of pictorial lost and found, historical objects and events that have had a pull on her life, projected through an eclectic, mixed-media approach that could only come from an internal history of personal experience and object representation guided by the inner soul. She characterizes her work as assemblages, reconstructions out of garbage — objects whose value was lost, but not to Ms. Stovall.
We are greeted at the gallery entrance by a bouquet of flowers on a child’s antique tricycle on the one side, and at the other, a framed photocopy of Geronimo and a buffalo; where a hatchet is affixed below, labeled: Here before Columbus. Most interesting is the collection Suesan has amassed from friends and associates who know she seeks discarded objects for her work. A particularly striking find is a collection of photos of a New York woman, Faith Dale, a virtual travel log of her life and experiences around the world including time spent at Martha’s Vineyard. The photos were found in the trash on the Island and given to Suesan. They were somehow exposed to water and the result is an exquisite transformation of the images achieved by this natural phenomenon. Suesan has been unable to find Faith Dale or anyone who knows about her, but she has artistic plans for these extraordinary images. Please call Suesan for an appointment to see her powerful work at 323-662-5362.
Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority had a huge turnout at the third annual AKA luncheon held at Cornerway Restaurant in Chilmark, organized by Dr. Thelma Baxter and Olivia Baxter. Sorors (members) from all over the country were in attendance. National officers present were Dr. Eva Evans, former national president, and Dr. Gloria Dickinson, former international regional director. Golden Sorors (50 year members) present were: Eva Evans, Nora Whitman, Gloria Hopkins Buck, Mary Louise Williams, Georgia Teller, Joan Byrd, Rosemarie Davis, Margaret Williams, Elizabeth Quick, Gloria Manning, Emma A. Massey, Delores Plemm, Georgia L. Tiller, Johnnie Marshall, Patricia Tutt, and Bettye Baker.
Oak Bluffs summer resident Dr. Connie Batty found pleasant surprises at the luncheon. During the introductions, she recognized the name of Ava Washington, from Dallas, Tex. Ava is a good friend of Connie’s daughter Judith and has recently returned from visiting Judith in Japan! Another person at the luncheon now living in New York recognized Dr. Batty as her fifth grade teacher.
My great-nephew, Joseph Wyatt, sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, arrived by fast ferry for a week’s visit. Joseph graduated from the Thatcher School an independent school in Ojai, Calif. as valedictorian and winner of the Thatcher Award and other awards. This summer Joseph has kept busy working three jobs in Philadelphia.
Joseph was A Better Chance Scholar (ABC) and his main job this summer was with the Mid-Atlantic office of A Better Chance, the oldest and largest nationwide nonprofit of its kind. It works to find and place young talented students of color into independent day and boarding schools to give its scholars life-changing educational opportunities to help them reach their potential and ultimately place people of color into positions of leadership in America. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick was A Better Chance scholar. Joseph said he cherished the opportunity to give back to this organization. He was in charge of summer recruitment. As random e-mails find their way to him, he knows word is spreading about their work. Joseph continues to distinguish himself.
Joyce Burnette, co-author of Adam’s Belle: A Memoir of Love Without Bounds, the memoir of Isabelle Washington Powell, will be signing her book on August 30, 7 to 9 p.m. at L’Elegance, 73 Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. Come out and meet Joyce and remember our Oak Bluffs and Island icon, Belle Powell. Her grandson Tommy Powell, his family and Evelyn Horad will all be on hand to shed light on this remarkable woman.
Dr. Robert Douglas, professor of pan-African studies and art history at the University of Louisville, has completed his latest book, Resistance Insurgents and Identity: The Art of Mary Evans, Nelson Stevens and the Black Arts Movement (African World Press).
Ed Hamilton, also from Louisville, Ky. is a sculptor, whose most famous work, The Spirit of Freedom, a memorial to Black Civil war veterans, sited in the Shaw neighborhood, near Howard University in Washington is on the Island as well. His latest work, Abraham Lincoln, is a twice size life-scale bronze in a seated position mounted on a sculptured rock. The piece has three bas-reliefs, two 4x6 dealing with the Lincoln’s youth — his Kentucky connection and the Civil War. The largest, 6x6 will deal with slavery. This work, commissioned by the state of Kentucky will be dedicated on June 4, 2009 and will be sited on the new development on the Ohio River Waterfront.
Thursday, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. will be movie night at the Oak Bluffs library. Amy Adams and Frances McDormand star in a romantic comedy set in London just prior to World War II.
The Reverend Dr. Charles Adams will conduct the last service at Union Chapel on August 31 at 10 a.m.
Dr. Rev. Dr. Edward VanderHey, of Sanibel, Fla. will preach at the Tabernacle on August 31 at 9:30 a.m.
See artist, Myrna Morris and her acrylic/mixed media work at Cousen Rose Gallery this weekend.
Many summer residents will be leaving the Island after Labor Day. What fun I’ve had writing about you all. And, by the way, don’t forget to open your gifts.