My hometown is the best town. If you know anything about Northern NJ you know the towns are tiny. So when I say Hackensack I include about a 15 mile radius from the middle of the Sack.
As Astroland readers know, I care much about popular culture. Well Hackensack, NJ is all over popular culture. Here are a few ways that are particularly meaningful to me:
Fountains of Wayne - "Hackensack" (2005)
One of my oldest friends, Eric, included this tune on one of my birthday cd compilations that he creates for me each year since as long as I can remember.
Gilmore Girls, Season 4, episode 11: “In the Clamor and the Clangor” (2004)
GIL: Dude, we have a gig at CBGB’s. LANE: CBGB’s in New York?
GIL: No, in Hackensack. Joke, dudes, the one in New York.
LANE: Oh My God!
Kool n the Gang - “Celebration” (1980)
My first favorite song, besides "Tomorrow" from Annie was "Celebration". If that song came on while I was in the car, I refused to get out. Longtime member of Kool n the Gang, James “JT” Taylor was born in South Carolina but spent years in Hackensack and graduated from my high school (earlier than me). For years he owned a hair salon on the corner near my high school. He’s no longer with Kool n the Gang but was with them for most all of the big hits.
Church Revels in Wonderment (1980) - Stevie Wonder
Everyone knows I’m obsessed with Stevie Wonder but not everyone knows why. Of course it’s mostly because he’s simply the best musician of all time in addition to being a humanitarian and an inspiration. But it’s also because of my growing up he would pop into the church I grew up in, Mount Olive Baptist Church (MOBC), from time to time. While there he would sit in with the choir or sing a solo.
Stevie Wonder’s former partner is Kim Brewer. Kim is the mother of his daughter Aisha (Aisha currently sings backup for him and is the inspiration for Stevie’s hit "Isn’t She Lovely" 1976. Kim sang backup for Stevie way back when and that’s when they met. Anyway Kim’s sis was MOBC’s church secretary for many years. Stevie would, of course, visit Kim’s family in Hackensack from time to time and they would bring Stevie to church with them.
My entire family loves Stevie Wonder. After 35 years on this earth this past Thanksgiving I finally figured out that the easiest way to end a family argument is to somehow weave into the conversation that no one compares to Stevie. With that statement there is instant agreement, beef is squashed, and we move on.
Archie Bunker’s Place - “Archie All Alone” (1980)
Archie: Yah you can do that. But first you better go to the linen chest out there and get some stuff for the bed here. Gees who the hell stripped this bed?
Stephanie: Aunt Mabel from Hackensack.
Archie: Oowd Mabel from Hackensack. How did she think I was ever going to use my bed without no sheets and Blanket and pillow cases here? [Stephanie leaves the room.]
Archie (cont’d): God them people from Jersey is brutes.
Super Man: the Movie (1978)
“Superman asks if Luthor even cares about the second missile’s target, which is revealed to be Hackensack, NJ, before Luthor drops him Superman into his pool to drown.” ~from Superman (1978) Synopsis on IMDB
Thelonius Monk - “Hackensack” (1964)
“The town was home to the original Van Gelder recording studio at 25 Prospect Avenue where the jazz musicians Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk recorded some of their landmark work. Monk recorded a tribute to Rudy Van Gelder entitled ‘Hackensack’.” ~from Hackensack, NJ on wikipedia
Miles Davis and Johnny Griffin also recorded at the original Hackensack studio. Check out Interview: Rudy Van Gelder (Part 3) (2012) for additional information.
White Manna (opened in 1939) Is an amazing little (both the burgers and the diner are little) burger place that has an entry in Roadside America. Hint: you gotta know how to order.
Also check out my companion #PuttingHackensackOnTheMap Pinterest board to view some of my fav spots in my little city.
My hometown is the best town. If you know anything about Northern NJ you know the towns are tiny. So when I say Hackensack I include about a 15 mile radius from the middle of the Sack.
(It is critical that you watch the video while you read this post.)
You may have noticed there were quite a few changes here in Astroland this November 2013:
- On a recommendation from a friend Astroland now features the occasional poll care of polldaddy.com. The goal is to make Astroland a bit more interactive in a way that does not require too much effort from readers.
- On a recommendation from another friend, Astroland now uses an add-on from disqus.com so that readers may leave comments. The only problem is you have to register with disqus.com to do so. Nevertheless it is still cool. I plan to celebrate when Astroland has its first comment and perhaps turn that into a post. So friends: make the first comment good.
- On a recommendation from a third friend (I got a lot of wicked smart friends) the domain www.tamiarashima.com links to Astroland. That makes Astroland big time now!
- Also worth mentioning, I’ve added new friends to the email distribution list that I send when I post. A few friends provide offline feedback and commentary which is unbelievably motivating (hence my prolific November).
- Finally, but certainly the best news of all, Astroland now has a much needed editor!!! Very recently my grad school advisor told me a good editor - one that will help me develop my writing, edit for spelling and grammar, but not change the tone or style of my writing - is paramount to my writing endeavors. Someone said “seek and ye shall find” right?! …I think it was Jesus!? Maybe!? Anyway, I sought and I found janicanne, an amazing colleague, friend, social justice warrior, and future Astroland contributor. I’m super grateful for her and you should be too. The first post she edited is Until that Time Comes. Let me know if you notice a difference.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jr. You often hear folks who were alive on that day describe exactly where they were, what they were doing, wearing, saying, and smelling at the moment they learned of that national tragedy. We’ve had similar moments since, most all linked to tragedy: the Challenger disaster - tragedy; 9/11/01 - tragedy; when Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election - awesomeness; Newtown, CT - tragedy; and for me and many others April 15, 2013 - What a Day.
Omitted from that mini list is another such moment that I cannot forget. I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing, what I’d just finished eating, and who I was with the evening the George Zimmerman verdict came back. It had been a beautiful Saturday evening and I was in the North End, with a good good friend, having just eaten for my first time at a cool Italian restaurant, Antico Forno… Sigh. That’s another moment many of us will never forget.
You never quite know when another such moment is coming and I had another such moment this week. I don’t know if this moment will be shared by as many folks as the aforementioned moments, but I imagine this moment will be shared by some. You see, George Zimmerman was arrested this past Monday and is now facing a felony weapons charge, amongst other charges, for pointing a gun at his girlfriend with whom he lived. One point I wish to make clear: GZ was immediately arrested and charged with a felony for pointing a gun at his girlfriend. Remember that back on February 26, 2012 the same George Zimmerman was released the same evening he admitted to shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed child, who was walking home through Trayvon’s own neighborhood. George Zimmerman was not arrested for 46 days.
I’d like to believe I’d remember this moment no matter what. But what made that particular moment, this latest incident in the George Zimmerman ridiculousness, even more historically significant for me is that I was hearing this news as breaking news. It was provided by Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. I sat in his presence along with Ms. Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon’s mom), Mr. Jahvaris Martin (Trayvon’s brother), Attorney Daryl Parks, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, and many others. We were brought together at a symposium hosted by the Harvard Law School entitled Checking under the hood: defining Trayvon Martin’s legacy, from conversation to legislation. This and other symposia will continue to take place throughout the country, and quite possibly the world; because as the the amazing and poised and graceful and so so strong Ms. Sybrina Fulton said to attorneys Crump and Parks immediately following the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, “We won’t let this verdict determine Trayvon’s legacy. We will define Trayvon’s legacy.”
Once again I have lots of notes from the symposium. Should anyone which to see them, please send me a message and I will share them forward.
As a conclusion, it’s worth mentioning, in spite of the Jonathan Ferrell and Renisha McBride incidents, I have to feel hopeful. I just have to. At the UVM Women’s Summit last week, Dr. Angela Y. Davis spoke about the catalyst for change that was the collective optimism during the Civil Rights Movement. To paraphrase her words, there was a certainty in folks hearts and minds that a change was gonna come. This past Monday, attorneys Crump and Parks shared many reasons for legal and political hope based on what is occurring legislatively with regards to Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and beyond. At the Million Hoodie March in March 2012, Ms. Fulton said “My son was not committing any crimes. Our son is your son … It’s not about [a] black-and-white thing; it’s just about a right-and-wrong thing.” I’d like to believe that as people truly begin to internalize the comments made by Ms. Fulton that there is hope socially as well. Until that time comes…
Special thanks to janicanne for editing this post.
Last week I had the privilege of spending a day with Dr. Angela Y. Davis but this post is only peripherally about Dr. Davis: my #1 shero. I’d prepared many questions for Dr. Davis for that day. My hope was to ask at least one so I ranked those questions. I did get to spend some 1:1 time with her, and also conversed with her during the small group session as she requested attendees provide resources and tips on what keeps us fortified, strong, and centered as we actively engage in social justice work - which can certainly take a mental, physical, and spiritual toll. Nevertheless I did not, at any point throughout the day, have the opportunity to ask Dr. Davis my question.
During Dr. Davis’s lunchtime keynote she commented how today we are incredibly disconnected from each other despite the prevalence of, and ease with which we access, social media and other forms of technology that is meant to bring us together. A paraphrase of her words, she spoke about how we lack a “collective imagination” today that was prevalent in the long 60s and asserted that has negative implications for activism today.
My prepared question for Dr. Davis was along those lines. As a student affairs educator and practitioner, and specifically one that is social justice focused, I am always on the lookout for students who are out there, doing the good work, so that I can support or even join them. Over the summer I’d learned about two such groups, the Dream Defenders and the Dream 9. So my question for Dr. Davis was to begin by sharing a bit about those two groups. This was not because I believe she does not know them, but because I was sitting at a table with many social justice student educators who did not know them. Then I planned to ask Dr. Davis what her thoughts were about how we can better support these student movements and make way for them to rise by passing the proverbial torch to them (not to discount the leaders of the past but making space for these up and coming leaders to be the focus at significant events such as the March on Washington 50th Anniversary Celebration). Finally, if as she expressed social media is not enough, what lessons and tools can we use from the activism of the immediate and more distant past to raise the level of awareness about these kids who are out there doing our thing such that they have more presence and power on a national (and imagine international) scale?
Well not having the opportunity to ask her this question, I reflected on it seeking to answer it myself using my own knowledge as well as channeling the spirit of Dr. Davis through all she’s shared. I came up with a simple answer that relies heavily on the power of community. It is to use whatever platforms I have to tell their story in hopes of getting others to tell their story - and on and on and on…
This past summer I learned of the Dream Defenders through this impactful video. It was after the Zimmerman verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, then watching Fruitvale Station on the heals of that verdict, and concurrently learning about Marissa Alexander and Roy Howard Middleton - there was just so much and I, and many others, felt so sick with grief and despair. My friends and I attempted to channel that disgust into writing and other projects but we weren’t moving through the sadness and anger quickly enough to get back to action and productivity.
I can’t remember the exact day I saw this video or learned of their work but I do recall it a turning point for me. I remember feeling overcome with emotion and pride and excitement over the work that these students were doing. When prompted in a staff meeting to share something on the internet that is making me happy, I shared this video. I began donating to the Dream Defenders and have since had the privilege of spending an hour on the phone with one of their amazing political directors. Coincidentally that conversation happened the evening after which I’d spent the day with Dr. Davis.
Please take a look at the information below. Know that these students have not gone away. They continue to work today to bring changes to Florida’s legal system as well as to impact the legal system on the national level.
The last thing I want to share in this post is that in Dr. Davis’s keynote she spoke about how renewing the 66-year-old Assata Shakur’s place on the FBI’s Most Wanted List was not about Ms. Shakur having been, or continuing to be, a threat. Rather that act was about sending a message to young people today about what they (law enforcement) will do if you become involved in the movement. So just imagine for one second if these kids are receiving that message without concurrently receiving the message from those who came before them, or those that are in solidarity with them, that they are supported, that they are loved, and that we are so incredibly proud of them and their work?!
…so send the message with me that, as Dr. Davis said, “[existing order] I don’t give a damn.” Do this by learning about these students and telling their story forward.
About the Dream Defenders
From Dream Defenders: Learning from History
- Like SNCC activists in the early 1960s, the Dream Defenders risked their academic futures, arrest, and personal safety by sitting in Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office for 31 days demanding the legislature hold hearings on the “Stand Your Ground” law, which they won. Now, the Dream Defenders, along with the NAACP, have taken their fight to the United Nations, asking whether “Stand Your Ground” laws violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by denying, what Dream Defender Legal and Policy Director Ahmad Abuznaid described as “the most basic and fundamental right — the right to life.” ~Vincent Intondi
“After staging a sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office at the Florida Capitol for the past 31 days, the Dream Defenders are ending their round-the-clock vigil.” They are joined here by Julian Bond, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and former chair of the NAACP, amongst many other things (including being my former professor at UVa teaching the course the History of the Civil Rights Movement.
“Director of Dream Defenders Phillip Agnew and leader of United We Dream Sofia Campos were ready to represent our generation at the commemorative events of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. But at the last minute, they were cut from the speaking roster because of ‘time’.” This is the two minute speech he would have given as well as a call for others to create a two minute speech of their own. Many did just that (scroll to the bottom of the page to view #OurMarch #MarchOn video submissions).
Yesterday was so unbelievably and unquantifiably (I just made that up) special. You all know that Dr. Angela Y. Davis is an inspiration to me in so many ways. Yesterday I had the honor of spending time with her in three different settings. She was the keynote at the first ever UVM Women’s Summit and provided a moving address. Then she facilitated a small group workshop entitled Women of Color in Higher Education - “Ain’t I a Woman?”, finally I attended a small group dinner with her and other UVM faculty staff and students.
I have notes upon notes upon notes. Should anyone wish to view them let me know and I will share. Here I’ll just share a few quick things:
-Dr. Davis began her keynote quoting Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come
-She made a lot of music references including speaking about the motivation behind her book Blues Legacies and Black Feminism…
-She spoke at length about building community being the foundation for everything
-Dr. Davis expressed gratitude to all sharing that we only know her name because of the work that other people did on her behalf
-She challenged the prevailing narrative that the long 60’s are a beginning middle and end of the Movement and that the resultant victories are irreversible
-She spoke at length about her critical prison work
-When I had the opportunity to chat with her and I told her I work at Berklee she asked me “why are you here?” and I said “I’m here for you!” and she laughed. Then she went on to tell me that she knows Esperanza Spaulding very well and that Terri Lyne Carrington is one of her dearest friends.
-Last but not least, while my students are infinitely talented and unbelievably special, UVM students are likewise awe inspiring in their activism, knowledge, and commitment to social justice. Their questions and comments were so powerful and thoughtful. I was so incredibly proud of them and of my connection to that wonderful institution. …one student was moved to tears as she was provided an opportunity to ask Dr. Davis a question. She collected herself and went on to ask a question about the politics of respectability. They are bad!!
It’s been a friggin’ roller coaster of a week. Good good things have happened right alongside the most tragic of things as well. Life can be so incredibly crazy. For me there is no better reminder that we have to be good to ourselves and extend love and kindness to others as much as we possibly can. Right now I’m thankful that I have Astroland because Astroland gives me great joy, and we all need joy in our lives…
For this, my November post, I am inspired by three random moments that, linked together, are the heart and soul of Astroland.
The first moment was a result of a colleague who’s also a good friend traveling to a place that we both once called home albeit not at the same time. Due to that commonality we have mutual friends, one of which she stayed with during her visit. My relationship with this colleague/friend is relatively new having only begun this past summer. However our mutual friend and I worked together on a small team for a few years and he and I share a bond that began in 1985 - which is way long before we ever crossed each others paths.
I’m told they had a conversation about me that went something like this:
Mutual friend: You know she’s [me] like us?!
New colleague/friend: Yeah I know.
Mutual friend: No she’s like us. She’s a cool kid. She likes the Goonies and stuff. She’s a cool kid.
New colleague/friend: Yeah, believe me. I know.
Mutual friend: Ok. Just making sure.
The second moment was when another work colleague who I am just getting to know caught my Star Trek reference as I shared the probable name of my not so distant future doggy. The conversation then veered off into nerddom and comic books and comic films and such - per usual. There’s always space for more cool kids in my world so I shared a bit of my own personal geekdom, hopefully without going overboard. Although it is a fact that card carrying cool kids do not judge one another except perhaps to out cool kid one another.
The third moment came as I listened to this past week’s edition of Pop Culture Happy Hour entitled Making Toddlers Into Nerds. Check the episode out. It’s excellent. My mid-month followup post will be in response to this episode where I will share how I became a nerd. Trust me it’s a great story but you’ll have to wait.
Suffice it to say my only consistent goal in life is to introduce the children (proverbial) to the wonderfulness of being a cool kid by providing points of entry to many of the fantastical worlds that await them in books and films and museums and musicals and amusement parks and festivals and so on. They say everyone has a God given purpose right?! Perhaps this is mine?!
About that last bit, I’m only half kidding. I do mean it when I say this is a consistent goal of mine. Just ask my niece and nephew who frequently hear me comment “my work here is done” only after moments such as me introducing them to the The Lord of the Rings trilogy in one long film festival style sitting complete with auntie provided commentary; or after insisting they watch a classic like The Monster Squad in preparation for Halloween.
So that’s the half that I’m not kidding. The half that I am kidding is there really is more to it than just the mere introduction. There is an imperative as well and it connects back to this past roller coaster of a week that I and many others experienced.
As I said earlier, life’s crazy. It’s up and it’s down and it’s left and right and then back straight all over again. For me it’s imperative that I stay connected to who I authentically am, even if that does not fit into someone’s predetermined outline of who someone who looks like me should be. So I proudly rock the moniker Black girl nerd because it’s that nerddom that provided me, way back when, with some of the most fortifying life lessons. Those lessons, even today in 2013, help me endure through tough times until the inevitable brighter day arrives. In my opinion, it’s only fair that I make way for others to learn those lessons and have an amazing life as well.
So I’ll leave you with just two of the many lessons. These two are particularly meaningful after this week. They are:
"Goonies never say die." ~Mikey, the Goonies
"Life’s tough. Wear a helmet." ~Eric Matthews, Boy Meets World (Disclaimer I posted my blog, Girl Meets World, back before I had any knowledge of HTML formatting, so it is a bit of a visual mess. But I don’t want to go back and fix earlier posts because they tell the story of the evolution of Astroland. …I also wrote that post way before they announced the spinoff series Girl Meets World.
One last thought: Believe me I know that sometimes life can get so tough that it takes our breath away and we don’t want to fight for it anymore. I don’t want anyone to think that I am making light of those situations and believe the remedy as simple as popping in a film or reading a book - although sometimes it is. I wish I had something more eloquent to say about that, but that’s all I have for now. Maybe more on that later.
— Melissa @ MSNBC (@MHPshow)
I was born and raised in NJ but went to undergrad in VA. I knew nothing about Go-Go music until I got down to VA. Go-Go (e.g. Chuck Brown) and Bounce music (e.g. Big Freedia) are two of our many funk/R&B/hip hop subgenres and they share certain similarities. Both are high energy. Both are characterized by call-and-response. And both are regional: Bounce music is a common sound of New Orleans and Go-Go is all the rage in the DC/VA/MD area (or at least it was way back when I was in college). I’m certain it was an S.A.B. party where I first heard the signature sounds of Go-Go: that cow bell and the other lo-fi percussive instruments and that defining rhythm that forces you to move - quickly. I digress. This past weekend the MHP Show had Big Freedia on to wade through the murkiness that has become the mainstream fixation with a certain dance move originally associated with Bounce music. While mainstream may be what many artists’ aspire to, the discourse surrounding this move has become antagonistic and mean-spirited. Taken out of context the media has latched on to the negative aspects of a subculture that, at its core, is an art form and is rife with beauty. Luckily we have MHP to bring it back around to the truth and to illustrate the humanity in the totality of our experiences. Thank you MHP Show for doing your best to tell our whole story.
— Melissa @ MSNBC (@MHPshow)