Star-Spangled Baltimore

As Gabby Douglas stood on the Olympic podium in 2012 and listened to national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, how did she feel? What did she think of the U.S. flag she wore around her shoulders?

Baltimore’s free Star-Spangled Spectacular opened September 6–16, with an event where tall ships, Navy gray hulls and the high-flying Blue Angels came to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner. Many local parks and museums continue to present artwork by African Americans: renditions of the anthem from prominent black voices, and exhibits highlighting the African American contribution to the sewing of the flag.

“We anticipate the Star-Spangled Spectacular being the largest tourism event in the history of Baltimore,” says Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore.

Relevant African American attractions themed […]

By |October 30th, 2014|Blog

Exploring History and Culture in Memphis

I knew Memphis was special the moment I stepped off the train. As I drove through the city — the sights, smells and people began to become a part of me, and I wanted to absorb the entire experience as much as I could. Having read about Memphis for years, I knew that I was looking forward to the barbecue, soul food and a storied music scene that has flourished over the past several decades. Little did I know that my southern journey would leave a deeper, lasting impact.

Many people know Memphis as the city where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

On April 5, 2014, a day after the 46th anniversary of the death of Dr. King, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel reopened […]

By |October 27th, 2014|Blog

Communities Uprising from Traces of Broken Spirits

Beer, cheese and the Green Bay Packers are the first things that come to mind when Milwaukee is mentioned. As a native, I know that there is more to the city than that. I have sought and found many of the little known pockets of Milwaukee that are full of a fascinating history that goes beyond refreshing micro-brews, delectable dairy products and that once highly admired NFL hero who can’t seem to pick a team or retire soon enough. It’s always a good time to explore hidden cultural jewels. So, let’s take a virtual walk down Milwaukee’s cultural past.

Just a few blocks north of downtown Milwaukee is a neighborhood called Bronzeville: once forsaken, but never forgotten. This was where African Americans migrated from the South from the early 1900s […]

By |October 23rd, 2014|Blog

Exploring the Fertile Berkshires

Photo: Adrian Franks at

As a kid, I occasionally binged on Super Mario Brothers and played pastry chef with an Easy Baked Oven, but rolling in the grass was always the main stage. I grew up steps from a flowing river park dotted with pecan trees. Under those enormous branches, plenty of tails were pinned on donkeys and many meals sowed and reaped.

The lush park of my youth was once lined with shotgun houses, and home to a tight knit community that lived off the land and cherished family. On a recent trip to the Berkshires, an collection of 32 hamlets in western Massachusetts, I contemplated my relationship with nature and solidified my commitment to annual tree hugging trips. Of course, Great Barrington’s mid-20th century Briarcliff Motel […]

By |October 21st, 2014|Blog

Topiary Gardens by a Man Named Pearl

Bishopville, South Carolina is home to less than 3,500 people, yet last year it was host to more than 15,000 visitors. They traveled to this small, impoverished town to wander the gardens of a man named Pearl. There, on a former cornfield that was cleared in 1981, you will find the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.

I do not recall exactly when I first saw the 2009 PBS documentary A Man Named Pearl. But I will never forget the image of an older, tall, sinewy, physically fit black man on a high ladder with a saw creating art after dark among the trees. There are many things I can perceive in abstraction, like story ideas or multiplication tables. But my mind cannot manipulate space in the way his hands shape and […]

By |October 14th, 2014|Blog