yesterday i got to help do some work at the new york residence of president franklin roosevelt. It is called the Roosevelt house of public policy located smack dab in the middle of one of the more desirable real estate areas of manhatten. Walking from the bus station, you go from the freak show that is port authority and times square, through business areas and then hit the east side where the shopping choices are, “you can have whatever you desire, you just need a larger than normal bank account”
living in Switzerland has given me great appreciation for fine watchmaking, so it is nice to see some of the brands I enjoy displayed in the windows. As I walked by the brands and stores of luxury, i admired the quality and attention to detail, but figured the prototype wearer would have to be an uber thin woman who starved herself to wear the design well.
I would also sneak a peek into the eyes of the people walking past me. i wondered if they were really happy with all they have at their disposal? there was a sedimentation of sorts on their hearts, too many secrets, bones in the closets? too fast a life? this was just east side nyc? too high a price on the soul to "make it?" it was an interesting phenomenon to observe.
When I got in and did the work, for a chaperone, i had a veritable history guide in a woman named Deborah. she is a walking, talking, living encyclopedia of knowledge who educated me in such an amazing way with the history of the work projects and franklin and eleanor's lives.
i was most impressed with the images from the late 1930’s taken by some of the better known names in photography. They were given jobs to document what was happening. They showed the story of people learning, growing, eating, and coming out of a place of despondency.
the images, give me hope that photojournalism will never really die off as someone takes the time to take an image for everyone to see in a world that makes me want to vomit with “selfies.” Wouldn’t it be easier for people to just carry mirrors around with them? So the irony of seeing the current president in a “selfie” moment with a baseball player who will be paid handsomely for his “corporate sponsored” selfie – just makes me want to puke that everything is for sale anymore.
I must confess I was ignorant to what the WPA works project really were, as well as the roosevelt's core value in human rights agenda. I just knew of how during the great depression the president had the foresight to give jobs to people. I didn’t realize it was jobs for what people were good at, not just road and dam builders.
When people ask “why are you not in America with Agrowbox and agrowvillage?” I have to respond, “too many rules, too many lawyers and too high a start up cost to change anything in the system. The “c” word is not a popular word with beuracracies. The biggest issue is one I don’t have an answer for, and that was shown to me yesterday. People have to want to change. Now, three or four generations into what were programs to help people. I ask, “why doesn’t the government bring these programs back? We are giving way the money, but it will not change the people.”
I digress, wishing I was a better writer, but my heart was touched yesterday in that building. the woman that seared it the most was named carrie kirk: here is her story….and picture. Try to see it in person
"carrie kirk, an ex slave who claims to be 101 years of age, is a regular student in a WPA literacy class held in the sterling library in cleveland, ohio. "mother" kirk, as she is know by class members and others, was born march 31, 1837 on a plantation owned by a family named alexander near charlotte, nc and was one of four hundred slaves employed on one of the largest plantations in that state. kirk work as the plantation nurse and seamstress. during the civil war, kirk was hired out for $100 a year, as a seamstress in a large factory where confederate uniforms were made. national archives, dc"
I thought about my problems and issues in life while looking at her taking a literacy test. In a sense, what she was doing I deemed heroic in a country that has lost the meaning of the word.
For those who made the time at the FDR possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart - this was also the first time i saw the sculpures of franklin and eleanor by carolyn d. palmer in person. go see them in person and enjoy the amazing detail -the iphone images do them liittle justice.