Every year Grand Illumination night at the camp ground is a magical evening that never disappoints. This year it will be held on Wednesday, August 17 at 7:30 p.m. The first Illumination Night was sponsored by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company in 1869 which built the first planned community in the United States, a summer resort town known as Cottage City. Were this 1869, the occasion of Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent visit to Martha’s Vineyard would not be to promote his new memoir, A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life, but to be honored on Governor’s Day by both the secular and religious communities.

Coming to Martha’s Vineyard was one special duty the governor performed in those days. On this night, in order to impress him, competition would have been keen between summer cottage owners in and off the Camp Ground to have the most beautifully decorated porches displaying oriental lanterns, from as far away as China, Japan, Honolulu, and as close as New York and San Francisco, hung from the eves of cottages all over town lit by small candles. Later, Grand Illumination Night became centered in the Camp Ground around those brightly painted tiny cottages, and Gov. Patrick may have had the honor of lighting the first lantern before cottage lanterns were lit around the Tabernacle.

So, when the sun begins to set in shades of blue, gold and red in the evening summer sky, when throngs of wide-eyed children in tow and thousands of excited visitors inch toward the Tabernacle, and families lay out blankets and picnic on the grounds waiting for the rousing community sing; when the band conductor raises his baton and the concert begins, wait! The secret person who will light the first lantern will appear and the night is on. You have arrived in a place more enchanting than any on the Island. Be there by 7:30 p.m, and look for the Hearthingtons, dressed in period costume, and the women carrying those refined parasols from a period unfamiliar to us but a reminder of the ageless traditions this historical community shares.

We all continue to build our family histories on the Island as old-timers or newcomers. All share the same desire to be a part of a vital community that nurtures belonging. Maybe it was seeing George and Lois White’s family a couple of weeks ago, seated at a table of 10 at brunch with their two sons and four of their seven grandchildren, forming the perfect family photo op that continues to inspire me to write about such families. The Whites had come together for their annual summer reunion. The White’s son Anthony and his wife, Viv, their son Graham, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, Mia, who will matriculate at the Rhode Island School of Design this fall, and Simon, a ninth grader, were all there, and the grandparents were beaming. Together they were forging memories and closer bonds with family along with the White’s other son, Barron, and his wife, Jeanne, and their daughter. Petra, a fifth grader. This week, George and Lois’s third son, Dr. George White, Jr. and his wife, Desiree, both college professors, were on the Island with their three children. Noelle is a junior at Georgetown University; Noah is a junior in high school, and Nolanie a ninth grader. I can only imagine the wonderful conversations that take place around their table. To create those memories and hold families together is the essence of what we hope life will deliver in all its richness.

Run and Shoot Filmworks is celebrating their ninth annual Vineyard African American Film Festival this week. Founded by husband and wife team Floyd and Stephanie Rance, they have been showcasing outstanding films all week, 60 in all. This visionary couple provides aspiring and established filmmakers a nurturing environment to test their creativity. Macy’s is the presenting sponsor. Other sponsors have included CNN and Saatchi & Saatchi. All three companies have made long-standing commitments to identifying and nurturing filmmakers. This is always a powerful destination to see new films and learn about the process of filmmaking. Registration is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the Mansion House, 9 Main street, Vineyard Haven. This is How We Do It: Commercial Production Workshop is offered from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, August 12 with Sheldon J. Levy, deputy director of broadcast production, EVP, New York city. For festival information and a complete itinerary, please go to

Faith Ringgold, renowned African American artist, feminist and leader in the vanguard of the women’s arts movement and the black arts movements, will be on the Island on Saturday, August 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. at L’Elegance Upstairs Gallery, 73 Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. She will be signing several of her children’s books. Her dolls, books, and five of her quilts will be on sale. The owner of L’Elegance, Fred Collins, purchased one of Ringgold’s quilts, Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima, in 1983. His quilt is part of Ringgold’s traveling exhibit, and it will be on display but not for sale. Ms. Ringgold has redefined the arts culture through the medium of the painted quilt as well. This promises to be a most exciting exhibit and sale of objets d’art emanating from an artist with a wild and fertile imagination and extraordinary creative process ,who arguably is one of the most gifted of American artists. Don’t miss it.

Oak Bluffs is a tightly knit community of friends and families who have summered on the Island for generations as well as newcomers who quickly feel at home here. This week I learned of the deaths of two members of our community. Nineteen-year-old Edward Taylor Coombs, the son of Forrestine and Eric Coombs of Horsham, Pa., who has close family ties to the Island, was killed in an automobile accident on Saturday, August 6, along with another teen in Horsham Township. Mr. Coombs, a skilled lacrosse player on athletic scholarship, had just completed his freshman year at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Mr. Coombs was the nephew of longtime summer residents Kathy and Richard Taylor, Sharon and Franklin Redd, Shirley and Edward Redd, Eva Hornsby and Cassandra Hornsby of Oakland, Calif., and a host of relatives and friends. A funeral Mass was held Wednesday, August 10 at St. Catherine of Siena Church.

J. Hayward Wheaton, a summer Island resident since 1950, informed me that his wife of 37 years, Doris Paris Wheaton, passed Saturday, April 16, 2011. She is survived by her brother, Calvin R. Paris, and his family, her grandchildren, Jason and Lauren Arcudi, Hayward’s daughters, Leslie and Adrienne, as well as her daughter Remi. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to both families.

We wish a speedy recovery to Ruth Boneparte Scarville after she suffered injuries from a automobile accident on Saturday, August 6. Ruth’s injuries required transport and hospitalization at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Her sister, Millie Henderson, who was driving, and her daughter were not seriously injured.

Voices for Obama is a program set for Thursday, August 18, at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs: The Obama Victory Fund 2012 invites you to hear speakers Geraldine Brooks, Greg Craig, Alan Dershowitz, Ken Edelin, Geoffrey Fletcher, Charles Ogletree, Richard North Patterson, Alexandra Styron, Rose Styron, and Kate Taylor, with a special guest, Democratic National Committee chair, congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Doors open promptly at 5 p.m., program will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $100 to $1,000. A reception and dinner will be hosted by Ron and Judy Davenport at 32 Temahigan avenue. Please RSVP online at, or find out more at 617-717- 4655 or by e-mail to

At the Oak Bluffs library on Saturday, August 13, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Storytime with Kate Feiffer, author of Double Pink, who will read from her new book, My Side of the Car and make a craft. All ages are welcome.

The library’s kids craft on Tuesday, August 16, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. has an Illumination Night theme.

Saturday, August 20, is a story and guided painting workshop with Bettie Eubanks. Preregistration is required and children must be able to be on their own.

Rev. Dean K. Denniston Jr., lay minister at King’s Chapel in Boston, will speak at the Union Chapel, Sunday, August 14 service, preceded by organ preludes by Garrett Brown at 9:40 a.m. Union Chapel is located at the foot of Kennebec and Circuit avenues in Oak Bluffs. It is nondenominational and welcomes all to participate. Summer attire is acceptable.

At the Tabernacle’s 9:30 am. Sunday worship service, Rev. Dr. Robert M. Randolph, chaplain to the Institute at MIT, will preach. All are welcome.

At the 9 a.m. service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Oak Bluffs, the Very Reverend John P. “Jep” Streit will be celebrant on the next two Sundays, August 14 and August 21. The Rev. Streit is Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston where he is well known for his outreach and inclusiveness among Boston’s diverse ethnic and religious communities. Prior to the Cathedral post, he served for 11 years as Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University and has been a parish priest. Soprano Kathryn Aaron will be guest soloist. Aaron, a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, is soloist at Trinity, Southport in Connecticut. Trinity Episcopal Church is located across from the Steamship Authority in Oak Bluffs. .

Don’t miss the opportunity to paint your own lantern at the Camp Ground for Grand Illumination Night, on Tuesday, August 16, 10 a.m. Fee is $15.

On Thursday, August 18, at 4 p.m. there will be a children’s concert at the Tabernacle. Admission is free.

There will be a screening of the film The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates and Race, Class and Crime in America at the Oak Bluffs Library on Thursday, August 18, at 5 p.m. When Henry Louis Gates, preeminent Harvard professor of African American History was arrested attempting to unlock the door and enter his own house in Cambridge, after being reported to the police by a neighbor as attempting a break-in, it caused a stir throughout the Harvard community that Gates was being racially profiled. He was represented by Charles Ogletree, law professor at Harvard Law School, who wrote the book about the incident, The Presumption of Guilt, on which the film is based. Contact Shelley Grodner Seidenstein at 201-259-9922 if you wish to attend.