When you sing in community, and every singer is dead in the center of the pitch, a hole opens up that everyone can pass through. On the other side is no magical land, no lush gardens, no brilliant light, but there is a palpable sense of other space that is resonance.
Last week, I saw a film about the life of Julius Rosenwald, an early twentieth-century businessman and philanthropist who financed a series of rural black schools, built and run with the oversight of the Tuskegee Institute. Rosenwald otherwise had a life such as that from which the myth of the American dream is made. He started as a merchant on the streets of Chicago, worked his way up in the “rag trade” and eventually became chief of Sears and Roebuck. In the meantime, he made large matching donations to black YMCAs and attracted the attention of Booker T. Washington. Washington took him on a tour of Tuskegee, and soon the two formed a partnership, building what would be called the Rosenwald Schools, funded by Rosenwald and each school’s immediate community, staffed by Tuskegee-trained teachers, and erected by the black communities they served.
There is a particular magnetism in things. I feel the way they cling to me especially now, as I travel from one country to another by train, wanting nothing (I tell myself) but to travel lightly, and instead weighted down by what I cannot throw away. Even as I am having an “experience” (travel), I am tethered to my objects. There are the essentials, or what must come with—my dog, for instance, a toothbrush, underwear, and some clothes—but a lot more of the inessentials: three dog toys, a pair of yellowed goggles, a cigar box full of art supplies that includes two pairs of scissors plus an X-Acto knife, a curved sewing needle and bits of ribbon, thoroughly read copies of the London Review of Books, and a board game with instructions only in Spanish, a language I do not read. The last item I managed to offload onto a friend I met up with in Croatia. A best friend, to be sure (who else takes on the burden of your things?), who begrudgingly agreed to bring this and a heavy, hardcover exhibition catalogue back to the United States ahead of me.
“It began as the one way I could speak for a time during my childhood. I first stepped foot into a dance studio as a seven-year-old. During that time I was mute for a few months from the culture shock of moving back and fourth between the United States and Japan. My mother thought that perhaps expression through the body would help me use words again since I didn’t want to talk in either English or Japanese.”
A month ago, a billboard advertising Lifetime’s latest cautionary tale-style movie, to join the ranks of such films as The Bride He Bought Online and I Killed My BFF, appeared on Hollywood Boulevard. Although some past Lifetime movies have drawn some media attention prior to their release–The Pregnancy Pact, in particular, gaining a serious online following before it even aired in January of 2010–the attention this new film, A Deadly Adoption, received had nothing to do with its uncanny resemblance to real events (though both films claim to be inspired by true stories). Instead, it was the two heads hovering at the billboard, over a pregnant woman standing on a dock, which propelled the Internet into wild speculation. At the helm of this Lifetime movie, both looking a little resolute and a little alarmed in profile on the billboard, were comedians Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. The tagline: “The birth of a plan gone wrong.”