GENTRIFICATION FROM THE GRAVE

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Black burial sites are struggling for survival. Such struggles should be interpreted as elemental battles over the meaning, matter, and worth of black life, history, and memory. Take the Boyd Carter cemetery in Jefferson county, West Virginia, a historic African American burial ground that’s been active since 1902. In early April 2019, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection approved a permit for a natural gas pipeline extension to be placed within feet of the historic cemetery. If built, the pipeline would transport gas to a planned heavy manufacturing facility roughly a quarter-mile to the east.

In conjunction with the pipeline’s projected path, the state’s department of transportation has privately expressed its intentions to widen the road adjacent to the cemetery to transport heavy machinery to the industrial plant. Any road widening would most certainly disrupt bodies at rest.

With increasing frequency, it seems, local activists around the country are fighting to preserve historic African American cemeteries from destruction, desecration, and erasure by a rising tide of residential gentrification, heavy industry, and infrastructure development.

Whereas most commentary on gentrification underscores the problem of residential displacement, Boyd Carter descendants want to ensure that the ongoing dislocation of black burial sites is added to that conversation. Historic African American cemeteries often represent the last gasp of a rich history, a history that is often scarcely recorded elsewhere. If black lives are to matter in life, then they also must matter after life.

In just the last year, community leaders from Virginia to Florida, from Pennsylvania to Connecticut – and now West Virginia – have been engaged in several publicized struggles to ensure that such sacred sites are rightfully preserved. Insofar as the history of race has always been a history of access to space, African American cemeteries have served an important community function.

The fight to save Boyd Carter and other historic African American cemeteries around the country demonstrates that the movement for racial justice spans space and time. If black burial sites are struggling to survive, then so, too, is black history. Contestations over history, memory, and space reveal just how much is at stake in efforts to preserve the black past, present, and future.

*courtesy of The Guardian

To Die Is To Live

An Original by Adrienne M. Robinson

Death seems to take us to a place of emotional destruction. It shouldn’t but what can we do about our feelings when we live in the flesh?

Today, I went to a funeral and I immediately began to feel a heightened sense of sorrow. All that was on my mind was death.  Death to some means ceasing to exist but for me, it means to live on.  I see so many people lose themselves in the process of their loved ones passing that they forget to understand that death is not all bad.  We have to know that no one lives forever and for as long as I’ve been alive, it has never been accomplished.

Since death is knocking on everyone’s door, I find it best to do research on how I would like to finalize my plans to transcend into the next life.  Lately I’ve started to think about how my ancestors in Africa carried out their arrangements and did they grieve or celebrate?  Because when we die in the flesh, we actually live on in the spirit and in our generations to come.  So in light of my research, I’m still undecided about my last wishes.  I would need to consider cost, family and most of all – my respect for my culture.   I believe it should be a collective effort between family because they would need to be comfortable in carrying out what you want.

So as we age, we must begin to face the reality of something so permanent but yet so beautiful and plan a celebration to reflect on the beautiful life we lived and shared with so many.  As you plan, I encourage you to research your heart, culture and what will be best for you.

The Brawn, The Brave and The Battlefield

An Original by Adrienne M Robinson

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The Civil War was indeed a significant and key turning point in our American History.  Civil War as we know it, was a bloody battle that played heavily on sectionalism – the many differences between the North and the South.  Even though slavery was a major component of the war, it was not the core basis for the war.  There were other issues that erupted beyond reconciliation for both parties involved such as economic changes that propelled a growth in diversity, manufacturing factories and the instrumentation of transportation.  During these economic changes, rapid political arguments were being introduced by the Union.  Specific arguments that separated the North and South with divided lines known as the Missouri Compromise (this determined what states could legally continue with the operation of slavery).  Along with other fundamental disagreements regarding the principles of the Constitution, President Abraham Lincoln was forced to exercise executive order in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.  This led to the halt of the continual growth of slavery and allowed the freeing of a selected group of sustained slaves.

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When the Civil War began, it lasted a mere four years from 1861 – 1865.  Both Union and Confederate soldiers, although in opposition, shared a commonality on their willingness to illustrate their day to day life on the battlefield.  Soldiers shared their stories, views and actions through their lens by compiling letters in which we regard for historical value.  The adaptations in the many letters provided all share similar descriptions of battles uncensored, broken morale, hunger, depression and even a high sense of honor to fight.  Out of all the letters in guardianship that were written by the soldiers, we must accept them as an apparatus that provide a real life and honest time scope of the war as well as a strong source of information.  Why? Because the eyes of the soldier during this era was the only way to inform the world of what life was like during the Civil War on the battlefield.

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While these letters give a historical account directly from a soldier’s vision, there are some limitations that we must think about – credibility.  We must be able to consider that some embellishments were added to the actual truths because these letters were being sent home to wives, children and in most cases parents of the young.  Soldiers would either downplay a defeat or upscale a victory to give the impression of happiness as not to worry their families with grief.  No soldier wanted to tell how graphic a death was from a fresh battleground slaughter or how morbid it was to see a multitude of bodies lying methodically waiting for a proper burial.  To be honest, I don’t blame them.  But as we read a few excerpts from “Civil War Letters: From Home, Camp & Battlefield” by Bob Blaisdell, you will begin to visualize the intensity of the battle and the disastrous temperament of the war.  They are as follows:

A high-ranking officer is being challenged during his ending days of battle.  The Major felt it was necessary to write this letter to his wife explaining how important it was to continue his debt to those who fought before him and to honor our American civilization and the triumph of our government.  “Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again” (Maj. Sullivan Ballou, U.S.A. – 2nd Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers; Washington, D.C. July 14, 1861; Blaisdell pg9).

Another passage written by a Private who describes his camp life in between military battle and having little time to eat when food was available just before giving up and being captured as a prisoner of war while seriously wounded.  “I ran around until my boot was full of blood”, Pvt. Dwight  A. Lincoln – 42nd Illinois Volunteers; Nashville, TN; January 10, 1863; Blaisdell p94).

Here is a story of an Officer’s friend, that happens to be a Captain, being killed in battle from a gunshot wound to the head – he died 48 hours later.  The officer, quite naturally mourning, all while trying to be as descriptive as he could without sharing specifics on details and images of the Captain’s wounds.  “All that was left of my friend lay before me on a stretcher in an ambulance” (Lt. Oliver Willcox Norton, U.S.A. – 8th US Colored Troops -Chapin’s Farms, VA; Jan. 15, 1865; Blaisdell p192).

In the last letter, a Private at the 2nd Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) explains how there was no time for rest or preparation for food since leaving another location of battle.  He began to illustrate the contents of his knapsack and all that he would need to carry him through while doing non-stop marches under fire while returning fire at the rebels.  He also told how it was left up to him to act against the rebels as there was no support for him in the rear.  “It was a continual hiss, snap, whiz, slug” (Pvt. Alfred Davenport – A Camp Near Chain Bridge, VA; 5th Regiment; New York State Duryee Zouaves; Sept. 3, 1862; Blaisdell p69).

The contribution that these letters make to our understanding of the Civil War and the history of the period that other sources cannot give is the direct knowledge of being a primary source.  It gives us access to the raw emotion of the state of mind, strength, courage and honor during this harrowing and gruesome war; both leadership tactics of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant; the number of soldiers who died in honor and the location of the battles fought.  In addition, it also strengthened the literacy and writing skills of the soldiers who had no formal education.  It allowed the families left behind to keep in contact with their loved one as well as learn how their soldier survived the tumultuous of times.  Families were never apart for periods of times and this was a sure way to help cope with the separation.  It also helped relieve boredom and the remembrance for those who would never again return home.

Because the Civil War was a very bloody, death defying and scary era, it is most definitely a honor and a reward to have read the letters produced from the tragedies of this war.  These quotes/letters will always be a historical, symbolic and time capturing moment of the battles and camp life known to every fallen soldier of that time and to every veteran who survived to return home.

 

Blaisdell, Bob “Civil War Letters: From Home, Camp & Battlefield”. Dover Publishing US, 2012/Library of Congress

Why Art Thou Not Readest?

An Original by Adrienne M Robinson

As a young child leading up to my teenage years, you could find me curled up in a corner with a good book.  I loved to read back then and I love to read now.   Reading has helped me to develop a strong appreciation for literature along with a lengthy vocabulary and proper enunciation of words.  Reading is the fundamental key to losing yourself in an imaginative world of written art.  Being able to find the time to select an enjoyable book by visiting the local library was a delight for me.  I remember that I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to pen my name on an application for a library card.  I felt so grown-up and was allowed to pick out 5 books all by myself!  Wow! Time sure does fly when you are having fun reading.  Seeing that my passion for reading has evolved and developed into a hobby for journaling , I often wonder why I rarely see anyone with a good read these days?  I know, maybe it’s because of the internet and all of the perks of having information at the tip of your fingers? Or maybe it’s social media, where people get to create their own stories? Yeah, that’s got to be it! With social media on the rise, it will soon phase out books completely.  Then how will that affect the generation to follow? One thing is for certain for me and my children (well, 3 are adults and 1 is still in the nest) is that we will continue to grow our library of knowledge by unceasing to purchase books and keeping a library card handy.  We need to encourage reading more and less internet usage to expand the language of vocabulary and the imagination of the mind.

So let’s pay it forward and bless someone with a good book to read.

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Art, Media & Privacy Concerns

An Original By Adrienne M Robinson

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In the last 20 years, art and technology combined have created and introduced more audiences that have and will continue to become victims of identity theft, privacy violations and internet scams. Many artists today are beginning to use their crafts to create digital and technological art in the form of internet applications and programs for commercial profit. These applications and programs are helping to make everyday life easy for us, but we simply forget that we’re trading our privacy to maintain convenience. Surely, we are not thinking of this in the beginning before we hit the enter button after providing all our personal, private and confidential information; however, in the back of our minds, we know that the possibility is there that someone in the internet world is waiting and watching the information we openly provide. Sarah Atchison, author of “Privacy in the Cloud: The Fourth Amendment Fog” discusses how the Cloud has changed the way individuals record, store and collect their personal information and as technology advances with the capability of holding the most intimate details of information, the fourth amendment privacy protections become less equipped to respond to these technological advances. There is no way to argue against this finality because we are the culprits that are shaping the laws into relaxation when it comes to protecting our rights for privacy. When we continue to succumb to the idea that sharing our intimate details with programmed algorithmic systems somehow gives us the convenience that we are making our lives easier, we are setting ourselves up for failure. In contrast, Yo-Yo Ma, author of “Necessary Edges: Arts, Empathy and Education” seems to believe art and science can create a global community, one that will promote equilibrium. Yo-Yo Ma is correct; however, I am not concerned about the ethics of the arts and sciences, I am concerned for the mindset of the individual who is able to use these systems to be counterproductive when it comes to the ethics of these systems. When the art of technology surpasses its reasons for existence, then equilibrium can never be reached. As we begin to explore the ways in which victimization is done through the art of technology, we must first look at the evolution of its practices.

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One of the ways in which identity theft has become widespread is through the computerization of records and documents by government and private companies. Now that paper is becoming extinct, forms are no longer available to use to request access to information or stored documents. Because the government, medical facilities and employers want to modernize their systems of practice, they are hiring graphic artist and web designers to create websites that are programmed to house, track and access our information as we upload and submit it. Have you ever wondered who’s watching behind the keystrokes? Have you ever wondered how is the information being safeguarded? Well, if you haven’t you should! These are two very important questions that must be asked from time to time in order to preserve our sanity from wondering about our information floating around in the cyber world. Just to make sure that we are balancing the scale, we must conclude that even though we are a “share all” community, we still care about our right to privacy. Peter Singer, author of “Visible Man: Ethics in a World without Secrets”, argues that surveillance technology along with our personal privacy has changed and the information that we provide to everyday technological sources can be misused once in the hands of the wrong party. This argument supports the position of how we as a people are allowing ourselves to become susceptible to identity theft, scams and frauds by simply giving our personal information to those that we do not know. Singer poses a question, “New technology has made greater openness possible, but has this openness made us better off” (426)? I think not, because we have allowed ourselves to become obsessed with convenience and the need for immediate gratification, it is us who are jeopardizing our privacy by having a low sense of judgment with our personal information. These government, medical and private entities are experiencing internal and external breaches where the information of their clients and patients are being compromised. These are not isolated events; these breaches are becoming more and more common and will only get worse.

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A second system in which our information becomes compromised is with an online storage system that dates to the 1960’s but have become fairly popular in the last few years – The Cloud. The Cloud is an internet server that is not attached to your local computer and is used to store information and data that is maintained by a cloud computing provider with an internet connection. This system can be accessed domestically as well as internationally and can also be compromised if the provider gets relaxed. Paul Schwartz, author of “Legal Access to the Global Cloud” presents an analysis of cloud models that can be used to access data by the government or individual people. Schwartz says, “Increased use of the cloud and its international scope raise significant challenges to traditional legal authorities that permit access to data stored outside the United States” (1681). Schwartz is correct, there are challenges to the traditional legal authorities because policymakers are failing to understand the cloud and the different mechanisms it has and that is what affects the matters of national security in terms of our privacy. Just to add to Schwartz’s argument, Atchison points out that, “Congress must revise the legislative scheme to adequately protect information stored in the Cloud, particularly addressing whether consumers have a right to know when their information is being accessed by the United States Government” (1019). What Atchison is proposing is this, the consumer (you) who provide their information in good faith to a provider who is modernizing their systems by having computers store the information that they collect, should be given the security in knowing that Congress is going to protect our privacy and information. This is a valid request since all of us, at some point or another, have signed a privacy notice about our rights to have our personal data protected.

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A third platform for victimization is done by way of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the three main sites in which we are willing participants of identity theft. Social media was designed for us to connect as a society with each other by giving occasional hellos and goodbyes to people that we would normally not have the courage to spark a conversation with. Somehow social media has now become a worldwide frenzy that has evolved into a virtual diary. We load pictures of ourselves to create profiles, we give our birthdates to make sure we are age appropriate and we tell the exact location of where we live. Even though this is given out of pure fun these components are all a hacker needs to find out other specific information about you. With access to the name of your employer, address and telephone number, we are an open window for a breach. Nick Paumgarten, staff writer for the New Yorker and author of “We Are a Camera” understands that we are a society built around and shaped with technology and calls the film everything culture “The People’s Panopticon”. Paumgarten feels like we are losing value in the content that we are attempting to experience because we’d rather use the content for media exposure. This is relatable in a sense that the technology we have been privileged to develop is not being used in the inventive nature in which it was created but rather for a lifestyle of convenience and immediate gratification. And because we choose to use technology for this, we have allowed others to capitalize off our personal information and financial demographics. Paumgarten stresses, “Life is footage” (332). What Paumgarten means is that we live our life on display for the world to see. Everything about us, we make it public by inviting the world into our personal space. It is this very thing that opens the door for the wrong party to copy, edit and paste whatever picture, identifying marker or private thought that they deem important enough to use to violate our privacy and commit identity theft and scams. It is us that abandon our ethics by posting our most intimate details and then cry foul to the law and government when our information becomes compromised. The art of technology is supposed to be appreciated by bridging the gaps of communication between individuals, private organizations and the government. Rhys Southan, who wrote “Is Art A Waste of Time” tries to find the distinction between the ethics and aesthetics of art and how the world can best be improved through art. Because Southan and Ma both share the appreciation for technology and the arts, they tend to believe the world would be unlivable without it. Southan says, “…there are plenty of people drawn to the media and the arts who care about making the world better” (438). Granted Southan is speaking in terms of traditional art, this can still be said in conjunction to the art of technology. People gravitate towards the field of technology because it’s a lucrative field. It is malleable in a sense that it can be transformed into art through video games, internet applications, social media and the most common media outlet – television. All these forms of artistic technology help to make the world a better place, well until someone comes along and compromise the integrity behind it.

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As we conclude with the many ways in which our privacy can be violated using the art of technology, we must not forget about the most recent and controlled method of all – surveillance. Surveillance has been around since the CIA was founded in 1947, however, back then no one knew or even conceived the thought their privacy could be infringed upon by surveilled courtesy of the government. In the past, the government have used planes equipped with cameras but today, with the art of technology, these planes have been reduced to drones. Drones can go undetected to surveil any detail domestically or internationally without being seen. Just because it is used to countermeasure a foreign entity plans of strike, it is still a violation of their rights. When it is used domestically to spy on its citizens, because it is done without the citizens knowing, it is still a violation of their rights. These surveillance techniques still have the concept from the old days but now has expanded in ways that should be used for good within the practice of the law. In 1974, the Privacy Act was manifested by the United States Department of Justice to “establish a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies” (Privacy Act 1974, 5 U.S.C 55 2A). The Privacy Act seems to be for the common good of man and appears to allow for full disclosure of how our information is collected and used. This is good for those of us who have been scammed, violated and had our identity stolen. This is an act put in place to shield and protect us, at least that’s the principle. But what about the USA Patriot Act, it too is supposed to preserve life and liberty but all the while arming law enforcement with tools to detect and prevent international and domestic terrorism. We must believe that this is essential since the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York have left this side of the Western hemisphere vulnerable. Nevertheless, the Patriot Act has given law enforcement powers that could very well turn us into a police state. Police officers are now required to stop and frisk, ask for personal information without probable cause and are now capable of videoing every interaction they have with every encounter perceived. That is if they turn the camera on and if it hasn’t malfunctioned. If the police are trained and interact with the public properly, this can be a good thing because it protects all of those involved and leave no room for error. What if we were to turn the surveillance around and use it against the government? We can make sure that they are honoring their commitment to uphold the Constitution by following all the rules with integrity and honesty. If surveillance is good for the people, then it should be good for the ones who inflict power over our democracy. Singer notes, “…perhaps the inspection principle, universally applied, could also be the perfection of democracy, the device that allows us to know what our governments are really doing, that keeps tabs on corporate abuses, and that protects our individual freedoms just as it subjects our personal lives to public scrutiny” (426). This quote is very real and powerful in its words because it can be used in two ways: to prevent an uprising or be the start of one. However, we must adhere to these words because we as a people must hold those accountable that create, institute and carry out our laws of the land.

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In summation, the field of art has expanded and been introduced to all in many aspects through many outlets. With the rise of digital technology and the applications that require data in the form of our personal demographics, confidential information and financial assets, we are easily accessible to those who choose to do harm by violating our privacy and rights. Because we choose convenience over privacy, we really have no one to blame but ourselves but then again with the eradication of the old way of providing and accessing information, we are almost backed into a corner to follow the modernization of the digital art world. With social media tiptoeing into our lives, it has become a strange necessity to have because we have allowed this platform to change the way we interact and share our private lives with one another. For me, I must be honest and say that I have also traded my privacy for convenience. I have done online applications for employment, medical applications to start a virtual medical record and financial quotes for a mortgage. I have also created social media profiles but have only given a pseudo name with a blank spot for date of birth and location in the bio. Even though I subscribe to the art of technology, I do not share personal and vital information anymore unless I am transacting with a reputable business and person of contact. After having my bank account compromised, I was fortunate that my financial institution was able to see the remote transactions being done on the other side of the globe and refunded me all my monies back with no hesitation. Another incident that happened, in which I was completely unaware of, was someone in Georgia was incarcerated using my name, date of birth and social security number. But of course, she was not me. How I found out was through a denied mortgage loan. I couldn’t understand why because my credit was good, I had a reputable job and made a decent salary. After being informed of the status and handed the denial report, I did some research on my own and found this individual listed under Georgia Department of Corrections. After working with the mortgage company’s credit expert, they were able to obtain and help correct the information on my report to become mortgage ready. I shared these as examples to show, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, our information at some point will be compromised. In either case, my privacy was violated by being scammed with identity theft. I truly believe that even though we are vulnerable to the concept of victimization, we can still live a life of convenience and enjoy the wonderful world of art through technology. In order to do so, you must be willing to accept the fact that being a victim is the chance you are willing to take, knowing your rights if you are a victim and acting fast to remedy the problem. No matter how concerned we are for our privacy, the art of technology will continue to move forward in the sense that we must always provide access to who we are always.

 
Works Cited
Aitchison, Sarah. “Privacy in the Cloud: The Fourth Amendment Fog.” Washington Law
Review. Jun 2018, vol. 93 Issue 2, p 1019-1055. 37p.
Ma, Yo-Yo. “Necessary Edges: Arts, Empathy, and Education.” Emerging Contemporary
Reading for Writer’s 3rd Edition, Barclay Barrios, Bedford/St. Martin’s 2016. Pp 257-262
Paumgarten, Nick. “We Are a Camera.” Emerging Contemporary Reading for Writer’s 3rd
Edition, Barclay Barrios, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Pp330-342
Schwartz, Paul M. “Legal Access to the Global Cloud.” Columbia Law Review. Oct. 2018. Vol. 118 Issue 6, p1681-51. 82p. 1 chart
Singer, Peter. “Visible Man: Ethics in a World without Secrets.” Emerging Contemporary Reading for Writer’s 3rd Edition, Barclay Barrios, Bedford/St. Martin’s 2016. Pp 424-433
Southan, Rhys. “Is Art a Waste of Time?” Emerging Contemporary Reading for Writer’s 3rd Edition, Barclay Barrios, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Pp 434-441
http://www.Justice.gov/OPCL/privacy-act-1974