Adj Marshall

Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

Reconsider Columbus Day

In Education, History on October 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm

“Commemorations sanitize further the messy history lived by the actors. They contribute to the contentious myth-making process that give history its more definite shapes: they help to create modify, or sanction the public meaning attached to a historical events deemed worthy of mass celebration. As rituals that package history for public consumption, commemorations play the numbers game to create a past that seems both more real and more elementary. “

~Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Last year I was inspired by this beautiful video asking people to reconsider Columbus Day by engaging in a critical view of the contentious holiday.  While the video urges us to visit ReconsiderColumbusday.org, a website that is no longer in operation, I will further challenge you to conduct your own research to learn more about this complex narrative.

Today many celebrate Columbus Day with little thought of  its origins. While there is much media attention given to why we should reconsider our celebration little attention is given to the historical construction of the holiday.

So how and when did Columbus Day come to have so much sway in the United States? The answer is an unlikely source.

The Tammany Society incorporated in New York 1789 consisted of gentlemen who’s taste for public attention via parades and lavish banquets inspired their celebration of any date that fit their calendar. Columbus’s landfall as they referred it was listed on their calendar as early as 1790. By what seems a historical accident the Tammany’s most lavish celebration occurred on October 12, 1792; 300 years after the initial first landing. Despite the societies promised to continue the celebration for years to come, the holiday all but disappeared again for nearly another 60 years, where it found a new cult following by the recently immigrated populations whom needed an icon to legitimize their importance within the American narrative of stodgy WASPS.

Both the Spanish, who has sponsored Columbus’s travels and the Italians, which Columbus was by birth latched on to the Columbus Day celebration sponsored by Sharpshooters Association of New York and spread it across the nation.  While 1866 marked the rebirth of the holiday and launched similar celebrations from Philadelphia and Boston to New Orleans and San Francisco the cult following was still minuscule with only 3,679 individuals claiming Italian heritage in 1850.

Silencing the Past

An unlikely population also took up the cause, the Irish American, which numbered 962,000 by 1850. Many Irish became parts of the Knights of Columbus by way of their Catholic association.  The Catholic religion which crossed national boundaries allowed these groups to find common ground outside their immigrant status in this Catholic male fraternal order. The Knights of Columbus which promoted the concept of citizen culture was just the right group to help these marginalized individuals find a home within the WASP nation.

The Catholics felt vindicated by their hero’s national recognition at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1892. By the 1890’s the US’s appropriation of Columbus had became a national phenomenon. In 1892 one of the 400 year Anniversary celebrations held in New Haven Connecticut attracted 40,000 people including 6,000 Knights of Columbus and was deemed a celebration of holiness and patriotism. As Columbus became a national icon he also became more white, this new white status  lent itself to those who claimed his history as their own including the marginalized  Italians, Spanish, and Irish Catholics.

This story holds particular importance for Rhode Island as it is the most Catholic state in the nation and the ethnic identity claimed by more people than any other is Italian.  This little bit of history I have provided was lent to me through Michael- Rolph Trouillot’s book Silencing the Past which documents the holes in the Haitian story of Revolution and Independence. The cliche “history is written by the winners” should serve as a continual reminder that history needs to persistently be reevaluated to determine the complex nature that makes up our current conceptualization of the past.

In 2009 Brown University chose to rename Columbus Day to Fall Weekend a protest to the nature of Christopher Columbus’ conquests and treatment of Native Americans. This was decayed by national icons such as Rush Limbaugh and the then Providence Mayor David Cicillini who stated ” it diminished the accomplishments of explorer Christopher Columbus, an important historical figure for Italian-Americans and As an Italian-American, I take particular offense to this decision”.

As Columbus day is reevaluated and actions taken to reconcile the new knowledge offenses are sure to be voiced.  We must remember what is true for you may not be true for me. The Columbus day we all learn about in school is one devoid of the negative repercussions that resulted from Columbus’ interactions with the Taino natives who were all but wiped out by the arrival of Columbus and his men on Hispaniola. As Columbus has become a national icon his image has been sanitized and his myth like status is all that remains.

I challenge you to complicate your own understanding of the days history take the plunge and learn more.

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The Big Adventure

In Art, Education, History, Physical Pursuits on March 4, 2011 at 9:40 am

Monkey Face part of my adventure in Oregon!

Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.

~ Joseph Campbell

While taking a lunch break from my welding project  last week I found myself in a discussion with a fellow band member of our need to not be tied down to one kind of work. This year has allowed me the the opportunity to search out a bunch of differnt kinds of work all of which I find fulfilling. I have facilitated community building and leadership trainings, taught rock climbing lessons to high school students and special needs individuals, designed and welded bike racks and trash cans, and am now about to head off to lead a service learning course on Health Policy at Berkley in CA.

Around this course and training I have built a 6 week adventure that will take me across the country and back. It starts in Chicago, Illinois  where I will participate in a training for the Health Policy Class and meet my co-facilitators, I will then head down to Austin Texas to meet up with my band the Extraordinary Rendition Band to participate in HONK TX for a week, from there I am headed to Bend Oregon to Rock Climb at Smith Rock for 2 weeks.

Charting a Hero's Journey

After my time camping and climbing I will head back to civilization to meet my with my co-facilitators in San Francisco, one from nevada and the other from Israel, to teach the Health Policy Class. Upon the completion of the class I will move on to Charlotte North Carolina to visit with a friend who works in the Arts field there and was instrumental in the beginnings of my artistic stirrings and questionings. My adventure I hope will open me up to many new insights and allow me to continue on my path of growth I have set out for myself this year.

I first encountered the work of David Campbell in Lina Chisholm’s Charting a hero’s Journey. The book is a publication of the International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership and was utilized as part of my studies in Ecuador . The book serves as a guided journaling prompt for those traveling for the first time, most often abroad. While my travel to Ecuador was not my first time abroad I still found it’s content quite useful in dissecting my experience while there. It gave me the space to be reflective about my intentions and the ability to recognize the personal conversations and changes that traveling was having on me.

Campbell speaks of the Monolyth, the basic elements common amongst all myths that chart a the heroines journey, a sort of rite of passage, in which the heros undergoes separation, initiation, and return. Linda Chisholm applies this structure to the experiences of the reflective traveler. From the following description you can see the parallels that can be drawn between Campbell’s story and that of a traveler in search of understanding their sense of self and their purpose and contributions to the world.

The Basis for Hero's Journey

“In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or “boon”), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).”

Traveling for me opens my horizons it allows me to see the world in ways I that expand my small city nature. As a life long Providenceite I feel comfortable in the city and often times attempts to find ways to challenge myself. Climbing is a major component of this but so is just getting outside Rhode Island. As I embark on this 6 week adventure I look forward to the insights I will gain and the new found knowledge of myself and the world I will bring back with me.