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Archive for inspired by Americana

sketch journal 070417 . Let Freedom Ring

My country, ’tis of thee,’
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring

~ Samuel Francis Smith (1831)

letters to my daughter . 110816

It’s not a perfect democracy. Not a perfect process. And they’re never perfect candidates. But this right — this privilege — is one of the reasons this whole experiment got started… “in order to form a more perfect union.” So, even when our citizenship stretched us. Even when it requires us to step outside what’s easy. Even when it requires us to make a hard choice, we VOTE. We speak our voice freely at the ballot box. Because many in our world don’t have that privilege. And many died to make sure we do.

see . Seeing Ourselves at the National Civil Rights Museum


It took me a few seconds to realize what she was saying. They were sitting in a school desk and Bug was helping Baby Girl “sound out” a word. Sound by consonant and vowel sound, they put it together… “Nigger.” I think my heart just broke when I heard it spoken out loud by my sweet little girl. “Mommy, what does that mean?” It was the first time the children had heard that word.

We were about mid-way through our visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee last month. The museum is located at the site of the Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968. We were in a portion of the exhibit called “The Children Shall Lead Them” which chronicled the efforts of children like Ruby Bridges, whose attendance integrated schools in the South. They recognized Ruby’s story from some of their studies at school.

Part of the exhibit included school desks where visitors could sit and look at letters or paperwork from the time. We had gathered around a desk showing the “Little Rock Nine”, the nine students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. My oldest and I were focused on a letter from a white senior written to Ernest Green, one of the nine, asking him not to attend their graduation. Mr. Green had visited Mississippi State University in 2014, and I was telling Drummer Boy about the lecture. Bug and Baby Girl, in the perpetual reading lesson stage they are in right now, had focused on the next piece of paper under the glass. It was a copy of lyrics to a song children were taught during the time of the Arkansas Nine. The title included the word “nigger.”

It was the first time the children had heard the word “nigger,” and I supposed I’m thankful that they learned it at a place like the National Civil Rights Museum. That reading lesson was just one of many conversations our visit to the Lorraine Motel has facilitated over the last few weeks. And, the moment of hearing “nigger” spoken aloud by my daughter was just one of many moments that brought me to tears as we took in the exhibit. It is a very moving and challenging place, but one that is absolutely essential if we are to do the necessary work of learning from our own past.



I’ve had several friends ask me what kind of experience the museum was for small children. Mine are young — fourth, second and first grades — and it was definitely a lot for them to take in. I am sure there was much they did not understand, and quite a few times they did not have the patience to listen to what I tried to explain to them. Still, I am very glad we all saw it together, and it will serve as good groundwork for when we can see it again as they get older.

The exhibitions are incredibly well-done and well-organized with displays, artifacts, video and audio throughout. There are several interactive walls that my children called “big iPads” where they could tap, drag and cater their experience to what interested them. (Or just be amazed by the fun of sliding things around when the information was beyond their attention spans.)



The museum includes displays from Freedom Summer, the Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Memphis Sanitation Strike, March on Washington, information about the slave trade and its impact on the history and economics of the United States, as well as artwork and music related to social justice themes. It also includes an interactive smart table called “Join the Movement” where information about other issues beyond civil rights for African Americans are shown in quotes, images and video.








Without a doubt, the most moving portion of the museum for me was the Mountaintop Theatre, followed by viewing the hotel rooms where Dr. King stayed before he died. In the theatre, we heard Dr. King’s “mountaintop” speech given at the Mason Temple on April 3, 1968, along with commentary from those who were with him both on that evening and the day after when he was killed. The prophetic words of Dr. King, heard in his own voice in that particular place, created a true flood of emotions from shame and sorrow to honor and resolve…

“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The restored hotel rooms, viewed right after hearing the speech, were a very quiet and almost hallowed place. Hardly anyone spoke, and even my children found the need to whisper. Viewing the exhibits related to Dr. King’s death — the hotel rooms, the balcony and the wreath from the parking lot (now a courtyard with interactive video kiosks), the rooms across the street where it is believed James Earl Ray stood to shoot — definitely produced the most questions and confusion for my children. But, honestly, they produced the most questions for me as a Southerner and a human being as well. Although the ensuing discussions were very challenging as a parent, I’m so grateful to have taken the opportunity to begin some of those conversations surrounded by actual sights and sounds from those for whom the struggle for civil rights was a matter of life and death.

This quote from Rev Martin Luther King, Sr was displayed as the last image in the viewing area in front of his son’s hotel room in the Lorraine Motel. It brought me to tears, and I snapped a photo of it because it was such a poignant reminder that civil rights are not just about policies and speeches and national movements. Civil rights are about people. They are about my children. They are about me. There is no more poignant reminder of that fact than the words of a father about the son he’s lost — a lesson I hope I’m taking from the National Civil Rights Museum into each new day.



summer of water . friday 070414


Happy Independence Day!

summer of water . thursday 070314


We are excited to be heading into a long 4th of July weekend and then a week at the beach in Gulf Shores, AL. I’ll be continuing to paint along with my little sidekicks and I’m sure we’ll share some of our beachfront adventures. Very blessed!

We Hold These Truths


As we head into a 4th of July weekend of family fun around the Pond, I decided to create a little desktop wallpaper in celebration of freedom and equality. As I read news from around the world and hear the stories of others online and in books, I’m continually reminded of the privilege afforded to me simply by having been born a citizen of the United States of America. Freedom is a continual process. May we pursue it with vigor.

[To get the desktop wallpaper, click the image above or download it here]

photo 070412 . Stars and Stripes

one patriotic thing

Happy Flag Day! The American flag is sort of a landmark of branding design, isn’t it? Bold, simple, representative of way more than the shapes comprising it, often evoking strong passion wherever it is depicted. Even when the shapes and forms are changed from the original, the simple message still remains.

I’ve always like this American flag print from House Industries (an American icon, in itself) featuring the Goliath font from Photo Lettering, Inc. American-drawn.

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