Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Words, References & Meanings

Hilton Head Howards versus the Vineyard LeVays (p. 6)
After the Civil War, many blacks bought land on Hilton Head Island and, similar to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, developed their own self-contained community.

sycophantic relationship to the well heeled (p. 6)
A sycophant is "a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people"--a "suck up" or "ass kisser," in other words.

Romare Bearden (pp. 11-12)Romare Bearden (1911-1988) was an African-American artist and writer from Charlotte. He also played baseball with the Negro League and once refused an offer to play for the Philadelphia Athletics if he would agree to "pass as white."

wharf (p. 21), lift (p. 32)
Both brothers use regional idioms like "wharf" ("town") and "lift" ("elevator") that might be perceived by some as pretentious.

James Bradley Scott's The Bonds of Freedom (pp. 27-28)
Taylor's famous father: fictitous character and book

Harvard Review (p. 33)
Harvard Review publishes poetry, fiction, essays, drama, graphics, and reviews. It is published twice yearly, in spring and fall.

twenty-twenty Brayburry (p. 48) & Oak Bluffs (p. 67)
The fictional LeVays live at a fictional address somewhere on Martha's Vineyard. When Taylor refers to her father having a "place over in Oak Bluffs," however, this is a real town on the island.

Weber's theories on social dominance (p.55)
Max Weber (1864-1920) was a "German political economist and sociologist. [...] Weber believed that social hierarchy was inevitable, and that its analysis lay in the relationship to be found between the analytically distinct dimensions of status, property and political or organizational power."

bell hooks (p. 58)Gloria Jean Watkins (born 1952), "better known by the pen name bell hooks, is an American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination."

Exeter and Harvard (p. 60)
(As some might argue, the "best of the best" as go reputations.) Phillips Exeter Academy is a private boarding school for grades 9-12 located 50 miles north of Boston. Historically, Exeter was the primary feeder school for Harvard; today, more Exeter alums attend Harvard than any one other college.

Desert Storm (p. 75)
An historical glitch in the play. Cheryl notes that her father supposedly died 18 years earlier during Desert Storm. Given that the Persian Gulf War, also known as "Desert Storm," began August 2, 1990, history here coincides with the 2008 publication of the play, but not the setting of play, which, according to the playwright is probably 2003. (See "Questions for Lydia.")

Chanel and Ferragamo (p. 77)
High fashion: Chanel for handbags and perfumes, Ferragamo for hand-made shoes. Sold today at stores such as Bloomingdales, Saks, and Neiman-Marcus.

The Black Dog (p. 90)
The first year-round restaurant on Martha's Vineyard. The Tavern, opened in 1969 and now with multiple locations, features local fare with entrees in the $30 range.

galleys (p. 94)
"A galley is simply a collection of unbound signature pages. A bound galley is a galley that has been bound into book form. Bound galleys are generally produced after a manuscript has been typeset but before proofreading, and are used by publicists to send to book reviewers, distributors and book clubs that like to see a copy of the book three or four months before its official publication date."

Lilly Pulitzer & Kate Spade (p. 97)
Trendy clothing and handbag stores.;;

D.H. Lawrence, rainbows, and lesbians (p. 101)
Flip is probably referring to Lawrence's 1915 novel, The Rainbow, which focuses on the sexual relationships of its characters (lesbians included). Controversy resulted in an obscenity trial, and the book was subsequently burned and banned.

Jack and Jill (p. 102)
Jack and Jill of America is an organization of "elite" (as Taylor notes) black families that includes 218 chapters around the world (most in the U.S.) and around 30,000 members.

mojitos (p. 109)Trendy cocktail made with rum, lime juice, sugar, mint, and soda water.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Words, Pronunciations & Meanings

These are words that Eileen and I noted from the first read-through. Note: you must have speakers (turned on) to use the links for pronunciation.

an academic (Taylor, p. 8)
a professor or, more likely in Kent's situation, a scholar or someone with scholarly interests

aesthetic (Kent, p. 12)
Mom collects these butterflies just because they are pretty ("aesthetic").

Aspen (Taylor, p. 17)
upscale ski resort for the rich and famous; of the town's residents, only .44% (yes, less than 1/2 of 1 percent) are African Americans

based on casual reports or stories

cotillion (Dad, p. 33)
formal dance; often a way to present eligible young women ("coming out" to "proper society")

a tea of high quality

discourse (Taylor, p. 58)
"canon of hard feminist discourse" refers to the those (white) feminist writers she would have been required to read in college; as a noun, emphasis is on the first syllable

entomology (Taylor, p. 30)
the study of insects

entree (Kent, p. 65)
Kent suggests that Taylor had entrance into/access to (entree) a world of priviledge because of her father's status.

Ferragamo (Kimber, p. 77)
very expensive, handmade Italian shoes

histrionic (Kent, p. 43)
melodramatic or over-the-top

inequities (Taylor, p. 87)
injustice or unfairness

to use deliberate effort to gain favor or acceptance

Johns Hopkins (Taylor, p. 30)
The first research university in the U.S. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the school is extremely selective. Note that the name is Johns (with an "s").

criss-crossed pattern of (wooden) strips

Kennebunkport (Dad, p. 35)
a small town on the coast of southern Maine that it is summer home of the Bush family

written communication that is false and damaging

lox (Cheryl, p. 37)
salmon that is cured and thinly sliced; often served with cream cheese on bagels for breakfast

melanin (Kent, p. 20)
Kimber is light-skinned ("melanin challenged"); the amount of melanin in the skin determines its darkness

Ngo Dinh Diem (Dad, p. 26)
the first president of South Vietnam (1955-1963)

no hypocrisy in your lamentations (Kimber, p. 56)
"as long as you have a good reason to bitch"

NYU, Columbia, and Princeton (Cheryl, p. 16)
NYU and Columbia are very selective and expensive private universities in Manhattan (New York City); Columbia is an Ivy League school. Princeton also is Ivy League but is located in New Jersey.

octoroons and quadroons (Dad, p. 57)
1/8th and 1/4th black respectively; an octoroon would have 7 white grandparents and 1 black grandparent; the Plessy of Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896 Supreme Court) was an "octoroon"

pageboy-Birkenstock-unshaved ass (Taylor, p. 57)
Taylor is suggesting that her professor is a (steroetypical) radical feminist and/or perhaps lesbian

Pavlov (Cheryl, p. 25)
as in Pavlov's dogs, which automatically react in preconditioned ways to certain stimuli

pea-sized gland at the base of the brain that secretes hormones

postdoc (Taylor, p. 30)
If Taylor is on a postdoctoral fellowship, then she has completed her Ph.D. in entomology. At the end of this fellowship, she probably will teach and/or research at a university.

provincial (Taylor, p. 11)
lacking urban polish or refinement

Pulitzer (Dad, p. 28)
Prestigious annual awards for excellence in writing and musical composition in the U.S. According to the Pulitzer's own website, the correct pronunciation is "PULL it sir."

Reich (Taylor, p. 58)
the Third Reich = Hitler's Nazi Germany (1933-1945)

social stratification (Kent, p. 6)
dividing black society into classes based on economics/income, education, ownership

Swahili (Kent, p. 12)
language spoken in Kenya and several other east African nations

sycophantic relationship (Taylor, p. 6)
sucking up to those with money and power (the "well heeled")


hypothetical utopian (Taylor, p. 55)
theoretical but impossible to achieve "perfect" society

Whitcomb (Kent, p. 12)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blacks at Harvard: Economic Divisions

"Most Black Students at Harvard Are From High-Income Families," News and Views, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, July 1, 2006

In the late 1960s major universities were recruiting low-income or so-called ghetto blacks. Not so today. If Harvard has set the pattern for others, it appears likely that most blacks currently enrolled at our elite institutions of higher education come from middle- or high-income families.

Many, if not most Americans, believe that the 1960s protest movement that produced aggressive college recruitment of “ghetto kids” continues today bringing significant numbers of low-income and often underqualified blacks to America's elite campuses.

But the conventional wisdom is false.

In a 2004 interview Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard, told the London Observer, “The black kids who come to Harvard or Yale are middle class. Nobody else gets through.”  
"Ivy League Generosity Will Lure Affluent and Brightest Blacks Away From State Universities," News and Views, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, January 3, 2008
Once upon a time back in the 1960s, Harvard aimed to recruit high-potential black students from the so-called urban ghettos. In recent years, it appears that the vast majority of black students at Harvard come from upper-middle-class to affluent families. Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, has stated his belief that very few of Harvard’s black students are the descendants of American slaves and that most black students at Harvard were from middle-class or affluent black families. A 2006 study by researchers at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania found that more than one quarter of the native-born black students at 28 selective colleges and universities came from families with annual incomes over $100,000. Therefore, the new Harvard financial aid plan is likely to add more relatively affluent black students to a group that is already relatively affluent.

Blacks at Harvard: Immigrants Preferred

"Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but Which Ones?" by Sara Rimer and Karen W. Arenson, New York Times, June 24, 2004
While about 8 percent, or about 530, of Harvard's undergraduates were black, Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Harvard's African and African-American studies department, pointed out that the majority of them — perhaps as many as two-thirds — were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples.

They said that only about a third of the students were from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country, descendants of slaves. Many argue that it was students like these, disadvantaged by the legacy of Jim Crow laws, segregation and decades of racism, poverty and inferior schools, who were intended as principal beneficiaries of affirmative action in university admissions.
But few black students are surprised. Sheila Adams, a Harvard senior, was born in the South Bronx to a school security officer and a subway token seller, and her family has been in this country for generations. Ms. Adams said there were so few black students like her at Harvard that they had taken to referring to themselves as "the descendants."
"Study: Universities prefer foreign black students" by Kate Carroll, The Daily Princetonian, March 7, 2007
Blacks at Ivy League schools are over three times more likely to be immigrants than blacks in America's general population, a study published in February's American Journal of Education and coauthored by Princeton researchers suggests.

African-Americans on Martha's Vineyard

Note: The following article (presented here in two pieces for linking purposes) caused considerable controversy with its generalizations about life on Martha's Vineyard.

"Black and White on Martha’s Vineyard" by TourĂ©, New York Magazine, June 21, 2009

As liberal as it is, the Vineyard is about as racially integrated as a college dining hall—blacks and whites get along fine, but they generally don’t socialize. “There’s not a lot of overlap between black and white,” says radio executive Skip Finley, who started vacationing in Oak Bluffs in 1954 and has been living there full-time for the past decade. “I don’t think anybody’s insulted by it. I’m certainly not.” It’s an arrangement that springs largely from the self-segregating impulse among black Vineyarders, who have come to the island to connect with each other. “We have people here who are black and upscale and racist,” Finley continues. “They don’t want to be around white folks, and they don’t have to.”
Oak Bluffs has become the summer meeting place for scores of what could be called the Only Ones—black professional and social elites who travel in worlds where they’re often the only black person in the room. The Only Ones typically break into fields or companies that admit few blacks, move into neighborhoods where few blacks live, and send their kids to mostly white schools. They are not running from their own—they’re chasing after the best they can get. They aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist.
Read more: Summer Guide 2009 - The Liberal Politics and Self-Imposed Racial Segregation of Martha’s Vineyard -- New York Magazine

Several Only Ones say there’s nowhere in America that makes them more proud of black people.
This is particularly true among parents, who talk about the importance of introducing their children to other black upper-class families so they can know they’re not as peculiar as they might feel.
And while the Only Ones embrace each other, they can be dismissive of other blacks. “If you’re too Southern Baptist, too dark-skinned, too street, you might not be insulted by a white person but you may be insulted by a black person,” says Columbia law professor Patricia Williams. “It resembles the way in Britain race and class are inflected. If you’re a Nigerian prince and you speak the queen’s English, you’re okay, but if you’re an island hoodlum, then there are no bounds to the expression of racism.”
This kind of race-inflected class conflict flared up in the early nineties, when thousands of partying black undergrads moved the traditional Fourth of July party from Virginia Beach (from which they had been ousted) to Martha’s Vineyard’s South Beach. There were wild bacchanals full of public drunkenness, girls strolling around wearing very little, and guys ogling them with camcorders glued to their eyes or snakes wrapped around their necks. ... As another person remembers it: “People had more grills in their mouth than their ride, and it blew up the island.”
A series of community meetings were convened. “No one said ‘Where all these loud niggers coming from?’ But that was the vibe from black and white Vineyarders.”
"African American Community Blasts Magazine Article" by Mike Seccombe, Vineyard Gazette, July 17, 2009
“My family has lived on the Vineyard for seven generations and I don’t recognize MY Vineyard in the article, Black and White on the Vineyard, written by Mr. TourĂ©,” she began, then went on to condemn its “appalling inaccuracies which misrepresent the Island in a divisive way.”
“The gentiles live in Edgartown, the Jewish population is in Chilmark, the Native Americans are in Aquinnah (Gay Head) and the blacks live in Oak Bluffs,” she wrote.
But the beauty of the place was “that most people who are seasonal visitors or year-round residents have friends of all races and socialize across the board in all activities, enclaves, mainstream and fringe groups.”
That was the essence of most responses: that while the black community, like most people here, tended to be relatively well-educated and well-off, this was a tolerant, integrated and generally unaffected place.
"Not So Black and White" by Irene Sege, Boston Globe, August 15, 2009
“Martha’s Vineyard has been a place where African-Americans have been able to come and relax and be acknowledged for all their accomplishments. For me, that’s wonderful,’’ says Rice, 46, an orthodontist-turned-stay-at-home-mom from Manhattan who vacationed in Oak Bluffs as a girl. “It’s a very small-knit community. Obama went to Columbia. A lot of people go to Ivy League schools. Travel in the same circles. Why wouldn’t he come here?’’
Hunter-Gault, 67, who now lives here half the year, thought she’d discovered what she calls “this paradise for black people’’ when she first visited in 1970. “Even though the civil rights movement opened up opportunities, when you go on vacation you don’t want to fight the civil rights movement,’’ she recalls. “It was a place that was very warm and hospitable. You didn’t think about being black."

Monday, September 14, 2009

McCarter's Audience Guide

This is the "Audience Guide" prepared by the McCarter Theatre for its 2007 production:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oak Bluffs: History

Oak Bluffs was first settled in 1642 and was officially incorporated in 1880 as Cottage City, Massachusetts. Before its incorporation, it was part of Edgartown. The town re-incorporated in 1907 as Oak Bluffs. Oak Bluffs originally began as the center for tourism on the Vineyard. While the other towns were more focused on industry, Oak Bluffs became a Mecca for travelers from around the world as early as the beginning of the 1800s. It also became a center of the thriving 19th Century Methodist movement.

In 1835 this community served as the site for annual summer camp meetings, when Methodist church groups found the groves and pastures of Martha's Vineyard particularly well suited to all-day gospel sessions.

Wesleyan Grove, as the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground was called, rode the crest of the religious revival movement. By the mid-1850s, the Sabbath meetings here were drawing congregations of 12,000 people. They came for the sunshine and sermonizing in hundreds of individual church groups.

Each group had its own communal tent where the contingent bedded down in straw purchased from local farmers. Services were held in a large central tent. The communal tents gave way to "family tents," which reluctant church authorities granted only to "suitable" families. But the vacation urge could not be checked. Family tents turned into wooden cottages designed to look like tents. And the cottages multiplied, trying to out-do each other in brightly painted fantasies of gingerbread. A new, all-steel Tabernacle structure replaced the big central tent in 1879. It stands today as a fine memento of the age of ironwork architecture.

Within 40 years of the first camp meeting here, there were crowds of 30,000 attending Illumination Night, which marked the end of the summer season with stunning displays of Japanese lanterns and fireworks.

Wesleyan Grove struggled to hold its own against such secular attractions as ocean bathing, berry picking, walking in the woods, fishing, and croquet playing. There were efforts to ban peddlers, especially book peddlers. A high picket fence was built around the Camp Ground proper. By the 1870s, Wesleyan Grove had expanded into "Cottage City" and Cottage City had become the town of Oak Bluffs, with over 1,000 cottages.

Steam vessels from New York, Providence, Boston, and Portland continued to bring more enthusiastic devotees of the Oak Bluffs way of life. Horse cars were used to bring vacationers from the dock to the Tabernacle. The horse cars were later replaced by a steam railroad that ran all the way to Katama. One of the first passengers on the railroad was President Grant. The railroad gave way to an electric trolley from Vineyard Haven to the Oak Bluffs wharves, and the trolley eventually gave way to the automobile.