Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Name Is Gary

 “It’s important to lighten up the corner where you are.”  I think a lot of that is taking place in Gary,” Ken Edwards

I first met Ken Edwards when he was project director on the Gary Centennial Committee.  Born in Methodist Hospital (what’s now called the North Lake campus since there’s a branch in Merrillville), Edwards grew up in the Tarrytown and Tolleston neighborhoods and graduated from Purdue Calumet.  In September of 1997 he was working for a South Holland software company but still living in Gary when he had an epiphany at his father’s funeral in Midtown.  His dad’s hand car wash on Eleventh Avenue employed, in his words, “guys who were hanging around on street corners.  An enormous crowd came.  So many people talked about how my dad had touched their lives.  It was so poignant it inspired me to devote more time to my community.”  As I wrote in “Gary’s First Hundred Years:
            “Edwards quit his high-status job and became an independent entrepreneur. He got involved with God’s Grace Church at 4580 Broadway not only as a singer but eventually as an assistant pastor.  He made a conscious effort to make his expertise known locally, and eventually his diligence paid off.  He did a needs assessment, for example, for the Gary Housing Authority.  Living in Miller, he helped establish the Charter School of the Dunes.  Involved in after-school tutoring with Gary Art Works, an organization that shared quarters with the Charter School near the end of Lake Street, he branched off into setting up supplemental educational services with services with students struggling with the ISTEP.”

James Wallace and the Office of Diversity, in conjunction with the Black Film Festival, has arranged for a World Premiere of Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk’s documentary “My Name is Gary” on October 17 with a special showing of a trailer on Wednesday, September 24, as well as a skype session with the filmmakers.  The announcement calls “My Name Is Gary” a “loving and well balanced tribute to the people of Gary.”  Frederic and Blandine couldn’t have described it any better.  I am so excited. 
houses demolished: below, the mayor and the lieutenant governor look on; NWI Times photos by Jonathan Miano

Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann and Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson toured the 800 block of Virginia Street where two vacant houses were razed, the first of an estimated thousand structures, thanks to a $6.65 million grant from the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program.  They were at the site when the wrecking ball began reducing the first house to rubble.

After food shopping at Jewel with Toni, I discovered that L.A. Nails in Chesterton closed down, so I tried Aqua Spa nail salon and loved how they first soaked my feet in warm water before cutting the toenails, following by a cleaning with soap and a brush.  Total cost: $8.00 plus tip.  Before heading to school I picked up a 6-inch cold cut 6 Subway for 4 bucks.
above, Ray Smock; below, Senator Robert Byrd

IUN celebrated Constitution Day with speakers, cake, t-shirts, and an America banner for students to sign.  I enjoyed the cake and turned down a t-shirt since I got one last year.  Ray Smock wrote an essay for the Washington Times entitled “The Power in Senator Byrd’s Shirt Pocket” – West Virginia’s Robert C. Byrd carried a copy of the Constitution in his pocket at all times.  Smock also hosted a Constitution Day program at Byrd Center for Legislative Studies featuring author Clay Risen, who wrote books about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the history of American whiskey.  Ray wrote: In my introduction to Clay Risen I will ask the audience what Whiskey has to do with the Constitution and then answer the question for them. The story of whiskey in America is American history in liquid form. It was central to the economy. And what does it have to do with the Constitution?  How about TWO Constitutional Amendments, the 18th and 21st.”  I replied: “Near as I can tell, your two favorite holidays are Groundhog Day and Constitution Day.  What they seem to have in common are permanence yet uncertainty.”  He agreed.
Poet William Buckley gave me his drawing of steel being loaded at Burns Harbor plant of Bethlehem Steel (now ArcelorMittal).  Though retired, he is hoping to obtain travel money for a conference in Philadelphia where he will publicize his Sylvia Plath journal.  IUN brags about being associated with such prestige publications, so I told him Vice Chancellor Malik should be open to persuasion.

IUN has set up a monthly workshop to guide those going up for tenure and promotion – too late for Anne Balay but the result, perhaps, of the travesty of her never having been mentored by anyone, a clear violation of affirmative action guidelines.
 Jimbo with Anthony Forbes as Melvin Nelson looks on
At bowling Bob Robinson reminded me that the Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts is well under way (I’m glad I have OnDemand).  Over the summer he attended a Roads Scholar seminar in New York on the Roosevelts and visited both Sagamore Hill and Hyde Park.  Against Da Legends the Engineers won game one and had a chance in the finale except that our two final bowlers had splits while theirs struck.  Also their second bowler, Brad, bowled way above his average.  My first ball sucked all night, but I picked up some hairy spares, including a 1-5-10 (still don’t know how I managed that).  It’s always fun to bowl against Anthony Forbes, who mentioned that his dad got him into bowling when he was 15 and in need of mentoring and a diversion to keep him out of trouble.  His nine year-old daughter bowls at Camelot of Saturdays at the same time as James.  None of Anthony's relatives has an interest in bowling, but he is proud to be continuing his dad’s legacy.  Anthony asked his teammate, Marshall, why his nickname was Jackie.  It is because his dad, Marshall, Sr., called him that to honor his hero Jackie Robinson.

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