CB Bowman: Courage to Leap and Lead (Part 2)

This is part one of a two-part episode. Tune in next week for part 2 with the wonderful Mary C. Curtis.

Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist and educator based in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. She has contributed to NBC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Root, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and talks politics on WCCB-TV and NPR-affiliate WFAE in Charlotte. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press, and was a national correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.

Curtis is a Senior Leader with The OpEd Project, at Yale University, Cornell University, and the Ford Foundation, and at the Aspen New Voices Fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Kiplinger Fellow, in social media, at Ohio State.

Mary was chosen to be included in The HistoryMakers, the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events, and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society; it is available digitally and permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

Her honors include Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications, awards from the National Headliners and the Society of Professional Journalists, three first-place awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Thomas Wolfe Award for an examination of Confederate heritage groups. Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.”

CB Bowman: Courage to Leap and Lead

This is part one of a two-part episode. Tune in next week for part 2 with the wonderful Mary C. Curtis.

Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist and educator based in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. She has contributed to NBC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Root, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and talks politics on WCCB-TV and NPR-affiliate WFAE in Charlotte. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press, and was a national correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.

Curtis is a Senior Leader with The OpEd Project, at Yale University, Cornell University, and the Ford Foundation, and at the Aspen New Voices Fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Kiplinger Fellow, in social media, at Ohio State.

Mary was chosen to be included in The HistoryMakers, the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events, and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society; it is available digitally and permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

Her honors include Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications, awards from the National Headliners and the Society of Professional Journalists, three first-place awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Thomas Wolfe Award for an examination of Confederate heritage groups. Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.”

Fighting unwinnable battles in an American culture war

As usual, Michelle Obama stole the show. The former first lady returned to the White House to unveil the official Obama portraits that will forever hang on its walls, and she used the special occasion to deliver remarks that hit the perfect tone.

“For me, this day is not just about what has happened,” she said last week. “It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house. And she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady.”

All over the world, you could hear young girls and women, particularly those of color, cheering.

She referenced the sentiments of her “hope and change” spouse in saying, “if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then, again, it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too.”

Now, whenever the former first lady speaks simple truths, a few trolls find fault with her words, seeing in them victimization, not the obvious celebration intended by the speaker. But then, those naysayers were the ones who never appreciated the style and class the Obamas brought to the people’s house while navigating the uncharted role of “the first.”

Michelle Obama’s speech was not about how bad we were but how far we’ve come, and isn’t that something Americans can point to with pride?

Apparently not.

The first Black president and first lady — an inspiration for so many who had felt left out — are merely ammunition for those who insist on fighting a “culture war” they feel they’re losing.

America’s cultural education also needs a ‘truth’ upgrade

When I visited Monticello, the home of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, it was certainly impressive. But there was so much information shared by the friendly tour guide about the great man’s genius that a lot was left out about just who was making the Virginia plantation turn a profit. Who was building the furniture and brewing the beer? Who was doing the planting?

When I asked the kindly woman for more details on the lived experiences of the enslaved men, women and children at Monticello, her attitude grew decidedly chilly. And when I asked about Sally Hemings, who bore Jefferson’s children, beginning when she was a young teen and Jefferson was in his 40s, well, the docent’s face lost what little color it had and her rehearsed spiel descended into an unintelligible word salad. Then she changed the subject.

Blessedly, if I were to visit Monticello today, there is an exhibit devoted to Hemings, acknowledging the woman, known in Jefferson’s time but disappeared or downplayed by histories, at least until historian Annette Gordon-Reed’s books and other scholarship fueled conversations that DNA testing confirmed.

It wasn’t just embarrassed guides at Monticello that misled for so long. Anyone relying on other cultural interpretations would have been clueless. In 2000, I wrote about a CBS offering, “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal,” which portrayed the relationship between a man of power and privilege and the woman he owned as straight out of a romance novel, complete with swelling chords and actor Sam Neill as Jefferson in a Fabio-style wig, locks blowing in a wind machine-generated breeze.

Disturbing, if a ratings grabber.

History, what is taught in the classroom, is vital if we are to understand the present. Right now, the country is embroiled in a contentious discussion over how much truth about systemic racism to allow in classrooms, with, unfortunately, little consideration of how and why promoting “fairy tale” history can damage schoolchildren of all ages and races.

But education extends past hours sitting at a school-room desk. Let’s face it, a lot of folks absorb what we see on TV or in the movies as kind of true. We half-listen to a museum guide without questioning the motives of the people who crafted monuments and museums that shape memories of the dead.

Keeping It Positive: Summer Entertainment in the City

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s summertime in the city and a number of performances are here to cool you off. Our Keeping it Positive Contributor, Mary Curtis shows us the cool spots to hang out for your cultural fix.

Africa Umoja at Blumenthal

Jazz at the Bechtler

Keeping It Positive: No Cultural Hibernation!

CHARLOTTE, NC: There’s no hitting the snooze button here in Charlotte. Winter is prime time for great cultural events. Mary Curtis has the rundown on three exhibitions you’ll want to visit.

Keeping It Positive: Kid Friendly Arts, and Something for Adults, Too

CHARLOTTE, NC: The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is reaching out to the next generation of arts lovers. They’re holding a Family Day on January 11 from noon to 4:30 PM. It’s a chance for families to enjoy the museum and get hands on with creativity. It’s another event that Mary Curtis says is “Keeping It Positive”!

 

More Information: Discovery Place Science After Dark Improv Event

For Beverly McIver, art is life — and the other way around

The subject of an HBO film and a Charlotte exhibition at the Mint Museum Uptown — which closes Jan. 6 — McIver opens up about her work, family and more.

Amanda Smith dances into history

Amanda Smith, 22, always knew that she loved to dance — to music, to TV shows, in grocery stores, everywhere — when she was a young girl growing up in Orange County, Calif. When she was 12, she got serious. That’s when she decided, she said, “I want to do this as a profession. … This had my heart.” She swept her computer analyst mother and accountant dad (“very analytical people”) into her dream and overcame their misgivings about the entertainment world, particularly classical ballet, the slice that still lacks many prominent role models for African American women.