Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wanderers 2016.6.14


Peter Miller told the story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, founded by his great-grandfather, circa 1871 to 1878.  Fisk University in Nashville was a post US Civil War institution that helped popularize a new sound, pre recording industry.

Peter has some memorabilia from the period, family heirlooms.

I watched the first half of CBS Evening News tonight, which was about the interweaving of the Orlando massacre with charged political talk.  There's no coherence only sorrow in this picture, circuitry gone haywire.

I've been active on Twitter of late, more than usual.  My "geek ethnicity" takes me into social media, such that when Microsoft bought LinkedIn recently, I got lots of tweets about it, from the geeks that I follow.

I tweeted about my taking public transport, to and from Flying Circus yesterday.

Somewhat as a joke: I invented (in my own mind at least) the recursive term "phobophobia", the fear of having phobias, or perhaps catching the more contagious ones.

"I'm phobophobic" I could say at a party.  Sounds funny.  But "parties" and "funny" are not a chief order of business around now, given the terror.  Sorrow songs, not Jubilee songs, fill the airwaves.

Watching Mason's Lost Girls last night, a re-enactment (not a documentary) adds to my sense of "crazy world" (Spaceship Earth = Hospital Ship).  Koyannisqatsi.

George White, Peter's great grandad, was born in Franklin, New York, 1838, the son of a blacksmith. He left home at sixteen and eventually found work as a teacher and choral director.

When the Civil War broke out he rushed to Cincinnati's defense. He then signed up with the Union Army and was in many battles, dwindling to only a hundred and forty pounds at six foot five.

He ended up in the orbit of Fisk University, an enterprise he could support and that eventually led to the Jubilee Singers.

Ella Shepherd became the heart of this enterprise, of Cherokee as well as Afro-slave heritage (her mother was sold away as a slave a couple times, though they were eventually reunited).

The choir went on many grueling road trips, and became a real money-maker for Fisk, as well as other institutions.

I'm tracking the Brexit referendum through Twitter too, and like many in my network, wonder if Scotland feels chained to a jumper.  What if Scottish folks prefer to stay in the EU, but maybe opt out of NATO?

Scots don't get much benefit from obeying the Trident submarine conqueror-invaders, as some see them.  The Nukehead Nations are on the wrong side of history these days.  Nations remaining innocent of nukes get more respect.  Those who cling to them seem stupid.

Of course suggesting "Scotland", an inanimate object, has "feelings" is venturing into the realm of corporate personhood.  What used to be a mere metaphor might today have legal implications.

Most people still understand nation-state talk as a shorthand, not a metaphysics, nor a theory about the sentience of AI monster-creatures.

We had a number of musicians in the audience tonight, who asked intelligent questions.  Jubilee Singers past and present, may be found on Youtube.

Here's Peter's preamble, circulated ahead of the presentation:
JUBILEE! In 1871 a bedraggled group of ten black students from Nashville'sFisk University, among the first black colleges founded after the Civil war,set out for Ohio to try to save Fisk from bankruptcy by giving concerts.when these Jubilee Singers disbanded, they were professional, world-travelled adults, having brought the Negro spiritual to the knowledge of the wider world, singing before American presidents and European monarchs. They had raised $150,000 to save Fisk and other black colleges from disbanding, and to build the Fisk campus. Illuminated by careful records and by letters and diaries of the singers, it is an improbable story of success over adversity and an illuminating saga of race in America. My great-grandfather, George White, was the Jubilees' founder and leader, and their story was an important part of my family heritage growing up in the Jim Crow south.