Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Taking photographs….Filming….Editing….Producing…I feel like I’ve entered a communications major’s dream! As an intern, I will have the opportunity to participate in all the activities mentioned. I will also have the opportunity to work with many talented professionals with the hopes of picking up essential skills. One of the main reasons I’m so excited about the HFB project, however, is that it’s ambitious AND practical. It’s ambitious in the sense that it will be an ongoing process that will require effort and energy from its participants. But HFB is also a practical way to learn about local history and make our Virgin Islands’ community a better place.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
In Spanish a common greeting is ¿Cómo estás? translated to "How are you?" or "How are you doing?" Years ago I noticed that often people in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean extend the greeting further by saying, "¿Cómo estamos?" or "How are we doing?" I never forgot noticing that and think about it often. A simple shift from the first-person singular to the first-person plural and we have a view of ourselves based on community. It's not about how are you doing? And then how am I doing, but how are we doing? It's a simple, but profound shift and it happened to me today at the house.
I met a neighbor today that just so happens to be the brother of my daughter's godfather. Batsbo (his dread name) was kind enough to help me cut some of the larger branches from a rotten tree we trimmed and put them into the bin. I have to mention that shortly after he began chopping another man who lives in the neighborhood walked by and after hailing up Batsbo he said, "Lion, your cutlass needs to sharpen". He continued walking until he remembered that there was a file in his bag. Who walks around town shirtless with a file to sharpen machetes in his bag? Very curious about that.
Anyway, as we continued collecting and cutting branches, I commented to him about the trash on the sidewalk, wondering why the persons who put the trash out to be collected didn't make sure it stayed in the bin. Or after seeing that if fell on the street, why wouldn't they pick it up? It was about they, and them, and those people. And then it hit me. This is my house. I am they and them and those people. Even if I didn't put it there, the trash is on the corner of the block where my house is and if I leave it there, I am just as guilty. I am them which means that I am we. If we extend that further to living on a small island, whatever trash there is, whether it be literal or societal, is really just on the corner of our block and it's really our job to clean it up.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
I hadn't noticed it at first because of the bush. After we cut back some of the bush, peaking out under some rusted galvanize, I could see a structure of rubble stone. A structure of what? One always hopes for a well, but after taking all the galvanize off we realized that we were unearthing an outhouse. Our friend Nathan who was helping us cut some trees quickly added, "You know people excavate outhouses. There are lot's of history in them and sometimes people even hid things in them". Hmm. So we didn't find a well in the literal sense, but perhaps will uncover something much more unexpected.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
In my first week of being an intern for "The House That Freedom Built" project, I was exposed to different aspects of filmmaking. From camera operations to getting funding for maintenance, restoration, and renovation. Under the direction of Ms. LaVaugn Belle, I've been able to further develop a creative eye for taking pictures and videos. We watched films and videos and Ms. Belle pointed out several camera techniques. Although, I've been watching films for a long time, the techniques she shared became more noticeable. For example, some films shift the audience's attention by changing the focus on an object and blurring everything else that would seem distracting such as people or other objects in the background. With a simple switch of the lens of the camera and a focused object, the subject comes to life. Because I've never worked with a professional camera before, the technique is very new to me but it is an example of one the many things that I look forward in learning about.
Being chosen for an internship for this project is an opportunity to improve my film skills, learn more about our history, develop a creative eye, and to learn the fundamentals behind film-making. In my first week alone, after being exposed to just a little bit of the project, my curiosity and interest have expanded and I look forward to making this internship a memorable learning experience.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
The house is located in an area of Christiansted that is forgotten, abandoned both physically and psychologically. It is a part of an amnesia in our social memory. Why? Most people when they ask where the house is and I begin to tell them, don't have any visual references in mind. Their images and memory stop at about Company Street. Through my research I've learned that the town was designed to have a social, commercial and even racial divide. All the main buildings that had the most importance to colonial commerce were located near the waterfront. The laborers were placed in areas in the back streets. The first freed blacks were placed there by law in the 1700's as a form of urban segregation and control. How is it that we don't remember them? Them, the people who worked extra hard on Sundays, their only day off, week after week, to purchase freedom for themselves or for a loved one? How is it that we don't remember them?
Friday, May 13, 2011
Why vagrants are good:
They go through your garbage and collect all REUSABLE items, like aluminum and bike tires.
Why vagrants are bad:
They go through your stuff and collect all USEABLE items, like your tools that you were using to get the last bit of vinyl off your original pine floor!!!!
NEVER, EVER leave tools at a job site, even if you think they are well hidden and small.
At least it was an inexpensive lesson I learned as the tool they stole was about $35 to replace.
It feels a little creepy to know that when I'm not at the house there are people, primarily men who are drug addicts, that are combing through everything there. But there was one good thing that surfaced through them sifting through our trash: CHANEY!
Chaney, a word morphed from "china" and "money", are the fragments and shards of plates from Danish colonial times that children ground and used as play money in games. It's a serious collectors item and local jewelers use them to make fantastic pieces. As an artist I have referenced them in previous work entitled "Collectible".
I think the chaney might have been in some of the trash that was taken out of the house. Pedro, a wonderful man who has been helping out as a contractor, found it with his keen eye. What drew his attention to the bag was how it was knotted, "Ah hah, somebody's been collecting something," he said. He was right. I wonder if these pieces were collected from our site, or another. Regardless, most historic properties in the Virgin Islands have them all over the yard.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
One of the biggest challenges I'm facing is the urge and at times need to get things done for the renovation, but not being able, whether it be to have the time, energy or resources to do the filming of the documentary. There is a ton of stuff that has happened already that I wasn't able to get clearance to film, couldn't organize a cameraperson or was just too focussed on getting done to stop and think about filming, like getting the damn vinyl off the floor! It's a conflict I need to resolve quick. I just got a great suggestion to just tripod it. Get in the habit of bringing the camera setting it up and pressing record. Meanwhile, here is a cool pic of the original floors (wide-plank pitch pine) that I may just be able to save! If I can only get that last bit of vinyl off....
Sunday, May 8, 2011
I should have taken more pics, but I just wanted to be rid of it. Here is a list though of the strangest things we found in the house:
a dread lock
snuff from Copenhagen
small plastic bags (for crack, weed, etc..)
lighters in every color imaginable
Brow soda bottles (are these vintage yet?)
a gold cufflink
a set of Encyclopedias from 1987
a drawing on the wall of Betty Boop
Monday, May 2, 2011
This is a quick pic of my new interns: Kadeem Hendrickson and Wyndi Ambrose. They are star students at the University of the Virgin Islands and will be working on the production of the film. This is from our first meeting. You'll be seeing a lot more of them!