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The Farming of Bones

I haven’t been to a city library since the pandemic started. For a long time, they were closed. However I’ve done very well sharing books with reading neighbours by using a little free street library a mere block away. I’ve learned they read some worthy books around here.


Stuff happens to me that never happens to other people. By sheer coincidence, after just finishing ‘The Feast of the Goat’ by Mario Vargas Llosa, a novel based on the Dominican Republic during dictator Trujillo’s era, what do you think falls into my hands?


A harrowing but fantastic can’t-put-down read by Edwidge Danticat called ‘The Farming of Bones’ about the destitute Haitians who crossed the border from Haiti into The Dominican Republic during Trujillo’s rule. Those who did struggled for survival doing the dirty and dangerous jobs no one else wanted, meanwhile suffering outright racism.


Danticat’s book didn’t end the way I wanted it to. A love story, the lovers don’t get to walk off into the sunset, get married and live happily after. If that’s what you want, it isn’t the book for you. It isn’t a pleasant story, but it reads true…

Black lives matter…

photo by Chandra

I find interesting stuff when I look through my files. I just came on a column I wrote in 1992 which my then-editor called: ‘Prejudice and bigotry return’. Why did I write it?? Maybe it was because Kim Campbell, as Minister of Justice, declared we don’t have prejudice in Canada and I wondered what planet she lived on. It was also probably a time when the economy was hurting and when things are bad, bad stuff happens.

Growing up in Montreal when I did, we were the wrong faith and suffered for it, however I wasn’t even aware of the racism suffered by our small black community. It was only en-route to Los Angeles by bus in my late teens that I learned about the extent of discrimination against blacks in the U.S. and was appalled.

My introduction to ‘White Only’ facilities

I want to share this column with you because of the present pandemic, the depressed economy, and ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstrators trying so hard to fight racism which, unfortunately, still thrives.

Sign at children Rafi and Chandra’s home

Here’s what I wrote in March, 1992:
‘Unfortunately prejudice and bigotry don’t go away. They continue to fester just under the skin and as soon as trouble hits, like right now, the disease surfaces and again, we’ve lost our dignity. Neo-nazism proliferates in newly united Germany and foreigners everywhere are attacked by hoodlums.

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith reports a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. during 1991. Meanwhile in Canada, 12-year old native hockey players are not welcomed in Quebec families’ homes. Two Rotarians stalk out when their club, God help us, accepts a female member.

Women and children suffer the consequences of male frustration caused by unemployment. Crisis centres are overloaded with calls from the bruised and battered.’

Black Lives DO Matter


The article is too long to ask you to read it all so I’ll end it here. It could have been written right now. Don’t you agree?

Porgy and Bess — the opera

Muriel2017Many important issues were covered on Broadway in those 1930s musicals — issues which society would not have been comfortable confronting in other ways. Just as comedy was, and continues to be, used to help us deal with the unbearable, musicals often presented audiences with differing views than their own. Audiences were thus encouraged to look at and rethink their own attitudes.

 

 

‘Porgy and Bess’ the first and only opera created by the famous American Gershwin brothers, was written and first performed in 1935. Unfortunately, George died of a brain tumor in 1937, so no more operas followed. The magnificent songs alone make it worth seeing, however, this masterpiece is so much more than only beautiful music.

 

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Eric Owens is Porgy and Angel Blue performs Bess (The Gershwins would have been pleased by the casting)

 

 

GeorgeGershwin1898-1937

George Gershwin, 1898-1937

The Gershwin brothers, whose parents

IraGershwin1896-1983

Ira Gershwin, 1896-1983

immigrated to the U.S. from Russia, like my own — for good reason, well understood discrimination, prejudice, antisemitism — and racism. For this opera, they insisted that all performers appearing in black roles, be black. This at a time when opera singers in the U.S. were white only and using white performers in black face was common.

 

Marian Anderson1897-1993

Marian Anderson 1897-1993

 

 

Contralto Marian Anderson waited until 1955 to be able to perform in a Metropolitan Opera. Before that, she performed in concerts in Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

The libretto of Porgy and Bess, set in 1920‘s South Carolina, makes a powerful statement regarding the vulnerability of the black community’s attempts at survival. All this years before Dr. Martin Luther King came along. Shamefully, the struggle still continues today.

But, if all you want are songs, Porgy and Bess has glorious songs: ‘Summertime’. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Got Plenty O’Nothin’, and then some. Definitely worth seeing! (I saw the Metropolitan’s Live Broadcast at a local theatre, and yes, all black roles were performed by black artists — as the Gershwins would have wanted..)