ACE Director's News Vol. #4

April 4, 2020 | by

Director's News #4

ACE and Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic challenges all of us to confront the unforeseen realities of global threats to human life even as it calls attention to cultural inequities that remain status quo for most of the world’s populations.  At the Association for Cultural Equity we remain deeply committed to doing the work that enables greater understanding and respect for all life and we believe that cultural equity goes hand-in-hand with social issues around health, economics, climate sustainability, and safeguarding cultures. 

As culture is a reflection of all aspects of human behavior and expression, through the arts, humanities, and sciences we engage with this challenge and will emerge better, more aware, better prepared for the future.

 During these difficult times, we at ACE send our best wishes for everyone’s health, stable environment, and the freedom to express and maintain one’s culture. 

SoHT Cover

In late March, ACE released Songs of Hard Times: Up, Over and Through (1936-1982) through the Alan Lomax Archive's Bandcamp site. Compiled by curator Nathan Salsburg, the 20-track digital album features songs about difficulties, worries, and troubles—and various approaches of enduring and/or transcending them.  Drawn from the Caribbean, Spain, Italy, Scotland, England, and around the USA, the collection includes six previously unreleased performances, perfectly capturing the power of song to get us through hard times. 

Nathan also continues to produce the Been All Around the World podcast (now in its second series), to further share Alan Lomax’s seemingly bottomless collection of songs.

Following on the heels of Songs of Hard Times, inspired to offer respite and solace under quarantine, ACE launched "Trouble Won’t Last Always," a daily song offering from the Lomax collections regarding hardship, loneliness, endurance, and/or transcendence.  Listeners are invited to follow, record and share their versions of the songs, which include the Georgia Sea Island Singers' Exodus-themed “Moses, Don’t Get Lost”, Memphis Slim's "Life Is Like That", with Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson; Texas Gladden’s “Cold Mountains”, Virginia's Peerless Four’s "Trouble In My Way”, "And Must This Body Die," a lining hymn led by George Spangler at a meeting of the Indian Bottom Association of Old Regular Baptists, Mayking, Kentucky, and Aunt Molly Jackson’s "Roll On Buddy."  Using the hashtag: #outlasttrouble, we hope to build a shared online community, where songs collected by Alan Lomax will help everyone endure these days.  You can follow along via InstagramTwitterFacebook, or directly on our YouTube channel.

What we've been up to in the past few months...

ACE Executive Director Jorge Arévalo Mateus hosted a Global Summit on Cultural Equity at the Folk Alliance International conference in New Orleans, January 22-26, 2020. Partnering with FAI, the summit focused on the theme, The Story of People and Place, and included workshops and panel sessions, such as "Beyond Welcoming: Cultural Listening, Creating Safe Spaces, and True Invitation".  As a leader in cultural equity issues through its programs and practices, Dr. Arévalo presented the contexts and methods for how ACE does cultural equity work that truly creates safe spaces and invites all voices to be heard.

JAM at FAI

“Scientific study of cultures, notably of their languages and their musics, shows that all are equally expressive and equally communicative. They are also equally valuable; first, because they enrich the lives of the people who use them, people whose very morale is threatened when they are destroyed or impoverished; second, because each communicative system (whether verbal, visual, musical, or even culinary) holds important discoveries about the natural and human environment; and third, because each is a treasure of unknown potential, a collective creation in which some branch of the human species invested its genius across the centuries.”

—Alan Lomax, An Appeal for Cultural Equity (1972)

Unesco-ICH logo

Last December, Dr. Arévalo Mateus and Senior Research Fellow Robert Baron attended the UNESCO-ICH (Intangible Cultural Heritage) conference in Bogotá, Colombia as ACE representatives.  While ACE awaits accreditation approval to provide advisory services to the UNESCO-ICH Committee, participation at the conference provided introductions to more than twenty-five international cultural state leaders, officials, and NGO representatives. We are particularly looking forward to establishing ACE’s place in this pantheon of international NGOs and organizations, as we seek to cultivate fruitful and reciprocal cultural relationships and projects. 

notebook cover

Earlier in January, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress issued a challenge to users this month to review 3000 of the some 7000 pages of recently crowd-sourced transcriptions of Lomax's notebooks. ACE supported this all-important work through its social media networks-- and you can help too! Please visit the By the People crowdsourcing platform developed by the Library of Congress. It's a perfect way to shelter in place and help.   

ACE’s Endangered Cultures Initiative is an exciting new program that seeks to identify and give emerging leaders from underserved and under-recognized cultures around the world the intensive training and support they need to engage in the recovery, retrieval, and sustainability of their threatened traditions and cultural practices. This ambitious and critical program is working with a team of cultural advisors and activists to draft an ethics statement and formulate documentation and repatriation protocols. The advisors include Dr. Mu Qian (Uyghur, China), Dominic Raimondo (Dadinga, South Sudan), Lamont Pearley Sr. (African-American Blues folklorist, NYC), Jade Banks (African-American folklorist, Pennsylvania), and Chief Baba Neil Clarke (African drumming musician and educator, Brooklyn). Chris Mulé (BAC) is assisting as facilitator.  

Centro Studi Logo

As of September 12, 2018, Alan Lomax’s collection of recordings, photographs, and field notes made in 1954-55 reside at the newly formed Centro Studi Alan Lomax, Museo Internazionale delle Marionette, Palermo, inaugurated on Sept 21, 2019. Founding Members are Giorgio Adamo (President),  Sergio Bonanzinga (Secretary), Odysseus Chairetakis, Raffaele Di Mauro, Rosario Pernicone, and Anna Lomax Wood (Vice President). The Centro is dedicated to curation, research, online dissemination, and publication. It will repatriate materials to their source communities in Italy, support local and regional revitalization of musical traditions, and expand the scope of its collections. 

In a series of public gatherings, exhibitions, banquets, and processions held between January 17-20, the Comune of Cardeto and the Bagpipe Association of Calabria, Cardeto welcomed the return of the recordings by Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella with photos and notes by Lomax, to the people of Cardeto made possible by the Centro Studi Alan Lomax in Palermo. At the same time, the 2°Raduno dei Suonatori della Tradizione-Residenza Etnomusicale (second annual reunion of Italian bagpipers) was held, and the Feast of S. Sebastian, patron saint of Cardeto was celebrated. Anna Lomax Wood, Odysseus Chairetakis, and Edmund Wood attended from the U.S., Giorgio Adamo from Rome, Sergio Bonanzinga and Giuseppe Giordano  from Sicily, and Raffaele Di Mauro from Naples were in attendance.  It was a packed three days, an unforgettable occasion not to be missed. On the night of the 17, the three Americans were hosted at the headquarters of the Associazione Zampognari, where dancing and singing to the bagpipes went on night long before and after a banquet of local pork, sausage and cheese, and spaghetti prepared in the traditional manner by the President of the Association.  The following morning we convened at the elementary school, where an exhibition of the Cardeto photos had been mounted. Many of those present found their parents, grandparents, and relatives in the photos, and the Centro was able to record these names for the Italian catalog.  A lunch hosted by a local folklorist in his inn was then given, followed by another meeting at the town hall and museum, where we listened to many of the recordings made, More identifications were made, and the lyrics dictated and interpreted by the locals.  Many tears were shed to hear these long ago voices singing lullabies, serenades and work songs, in melodies, voices, and polyphonies that defied description or classification.  All were astounded and moved, and the mayor committed the town to an initiative which would encourage young girls to sing these long forgotten songs.  After all, if the bagpipes are still flourishing beyond anyone’s expectations, why not these gorgeous songs from this Grekanico town of Cardeto, place of the thistles, which has survived sackings by the Moors, depopulation from the plague and Mt Etna’s eruptions, being burned to the ground by the Inquisition, and the suppression of their language and religion, and still carries on?

Winston Fleary

Carriacou, Grenada: On January 22, Anna Lomax and family flew to Carriacou, Grenada, W.I. to attend the wake and funeral of a longtime family friend, esteemed colleague, and the folk cultural leader of Grenada, Winston Fleary, who died on December 5, 2019 in Carriacou.  Winston was a poet, playwright, and dancer, singer and drummer in the Big Drum tradition. He had been trained by the legendary Sugar Adams. His death left a huge hole in the lives of Carriacouans, their communities, and his immediate family, and his wife Esther, who are still in mourning. A traditional wake was held, with the singing of hymns alternating with Big Drum.  The following day the funeral was held in the island’s Anglican church, with addresses by some 20 people including Anna, and a long service. Then we all followed Winston to his burial ground on Fleary land.  Winston Fleary will never be forgotten.  Anna and family stayed on to work with Winston’s nephew, Trevor McIntosh Fleary, who is heading up the preparations for the anticipated repatriation of Alan Lomax’s 1962 recordings in Grenada and Carriacou, as part of a celebration for Winston, in October.  Now, with Covid-19 and the island on lockdown for months, we cannot yet say whether the repatriation will take place. Research Associate Violet Baron went to Carriacou in March to give further support to Trevor and to do fieldwork that will add to our understanding of the importance of tradition in Carriacou in changing times.

In Memoriam

Lambros Comitas, Professor of Anthropology at Teachers College, Columbia, faithful and esteemed ACE Board Member for over 30 years, and beloved friend of Alan Lomax and Anna Wood, died in March 2020 at age 92.  He is mourned and missed by dozens of colleagues and students. Read about his career and his many contributions here.

Lambros loved the Greek poet Constantine Cafavy, and he lived and died by the poem, “Ithaca”, the Ionian island of his birth and land of Odysseus.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon- don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitementstirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
the sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her, you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/ Phillip Sherrard