“I will continue . . . speaking out against a system that is not applied equally to all”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 10

An article published by The Marshall Project in July of this year includes data on different states’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and its potentially catastrophic effect on the country’s incarcerated population. The article notes that the prison population has dropped 8% since the beginning of the pandemic, but that this seems to be a result of prisons refusing transfers from local jails, parole officers refraining from sending parolees to jail for violations, and court closures, not because of policies put into effect in order to release the most vulnerable members of the country’s incarcerated population such as the sick and elderly (Sharma, Li, Lavoie, & Lauer, 2020).

I am now 25 years old and have known and loved countless people involved in the legal system. I have witnessed discrimination and injustices committed against friends and acquaintances in the name of the law. I have learned that incarceration is often used to punish people simply for being poor, black, or mentally ill. I have seen that this continues even in the midst of a global pandemic, when citizens are being encouraged to wear masks and stand 6 feet apart while incarcerated people are unable to do the same. I believe society can do better. I believe that mental illness, addiction, homelessness, and poverty should not be indicators that an individual deserves to have his or her freedom taken away. I will continue to learn and teach others about alternatives to the United States’ current criminal justice system, such as the prison abolition movement, while speaking out against a system that is not applied equally to all.

tenth and final part in a series

“I know jail is likely the worst place for a person like him to be”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 9

I am still 24 years old, and I recently admitted myself to a behavioral hospital in Philadelphia to cope with major trauma and changes in my life. Today, a new patient arrives in my unit. His name is Kai, he is an alcoholic, and he has been homeless for eleven years. Kai is extremely talkative and immediately opens up to several of the other patients. I learn that, before the outbreak of COVID-19, he was living in an extended stay hotel instead of on the streets. When the pandemic began to worsen, the hotel kicked him out, and he lost the construction job which had been paying him under the table. He used the remainder of his money to buy alcohol, and he spent his nights sleeping on benches in southside Bethlehem. He received three public drunkenness charges in the span of two weeks and was facing jail time and fines he had no way of paying when he decided he no longer wanted to live. He borrowed a gun from a friend and contemplated pulling the trigger. Instead, he walked to the local hospital and told the ER staff that he was thinking of killing himself.

After being released from the hospital, I kept in touch with Kai for about a week. I knew he was still facing charges, and he told me he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him. It has now been two and a half months since I last heard from him. I do not know if he is staying at another hotel or shelter, living on the streets, incarcerated, or if he is even alive. I know Kai has multiple mental illnesses including substance abuse, and I know jail is likely the worst place for a person like him to be. As far as I can tell, he is not a danger to anyone but himself.

ninth part in a series . . .

Fund the funky on “Giving Tuesday”!

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

“it’s a cool and eclectic and kind of funky place. So keep South Bethlehem funky.”
Kim Carrell-Smith

Southside Arts District Public Art project

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

“To me, I love the eclectic, diverse, family that we are in the South Side. It is the kiddos from Broughal practicing on their field, it is the Lehigh student sitting in the UC front lawn, it is the incredible skate park and both the kids and adults practicing some gnarly moves, it is the Roger Hudaks, Marianne Napravniks, Winston Alozies that are the heart and soul of our community. To me it’s the local businesses that consistently show up and give to our community and work tirelessly to make our community the best it could possibly be . . . it is our local non-profit leaders that continue to fight the good fight and meet our community needs. Southside is resilient. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Carolina Hernandez

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

“Nearly 383,000 people suffering from serious mental illness were incarcerated in 2014”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 8

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, nearly 383,000 people suffering from serious mental illness were incarcerated in 2014 (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2016). 

I am 24 years old, and the world has just begun to change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am following the news and have recently heard that Pennsylvania will consider releasing non-violent offenders from local jails and postponing trials in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons. My boyfriend receives a call from his father, who tells him that his younger brother has just been detained on a warrant because he was not paying legal fines from a vandalism charge he acquired two years ago. His brother spends 5 days in jail because many courts are closed and legal processes are moving more slowly than usual. Once released, his job forces him to quarantine for two weeks. This job does not pay him for the days he is unable to work, and he is now in even further debt with less money to pay his fines.

eighth part in a series . . .

On “Giving Tuesday” support public art on the Southside

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

“it’s a cool and eclectic and kind of funky place. So keep South Bethlehem funky.”
Kim Carrell-Smith

Southside Arts District Public Art project

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

Each year we work tirelessly to create opportunities for local artists to transform the streetscape of South Bethlehem into their canvas. Over the last three years the Southside Arts District has completed the following projects:

  • artistic designed flowerpots
  • downtown murals
  • Greenway ArtsWalk
  • artistic designed bike racks
  • public piano

 

 

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

 

 

 

 

“I am sure this experience had no positive effect on his alcoholism or mental illness”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 7

Nandini Sikand’s documentary INSIDE/OUTSIDE is especially eye-opening in the way it portrays the effect incarceration has not only on the person incarcerated but also on that person’s children. A particularly poignant scene shows one formerly incarcerated woman’s teenage son struggling not to cry when describing the time he spent away from his mother while she was incarcerated (Sikand, 2019).

I am 23 years old and working at a local gas station while attending community college. A local homeless man is outside panhandling for the third time this month. I go outside and ask him to leave, a request he normally listens to. Today, however, he responds belligerently, suggesting I call the police if I really want him to leave. I tell him I will, hoping I won’t actually have to. Ten minutes pass and several customers have come inside to complain. I call the non-emergency police number and report that a man I had asked to leave is refusing to do so. I make sure to include that he is not violent and likely mentally ill. The dispatcher informs me that an officer will arrive shortly. Another ten minutes pass and two police vehicles approach the homeless man, who is standing in the parking lot and smoking a cigarette. The officers immediately handcuff him, pushing him up against the wall and patting him down. The man remains in cuffs for nearly an hour before an officer comes inside to question me. I tell him the situation, and he takes down my information. They finally release the homeless man, who scurries away as fast as he can. I am told that I will be called as a witness and that he was charged with criminal trespassing. I never see the homeless man again (my witness testimony was apparently not needed), but I am sure this experience had no positive effect on his alcoholism or mental illness.

seventh part in a series . . .

“58% of the average daily jail population is either in custody for a parole or probation violation or a new charge”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 6

Though there is a shortage of data needed to definitively state the percentage of the jail and prison population who are incarcerated because of some form of probation or parole violation, a 2020 article published by the Prison Policy Initiative explains that the data that is available suggests that they make up a significant percentage of the incarcerated population. For example, in Philadelphia County 58% of the average daily jail population is either in custody for a parole or probation violation or a new charge while also on parole or probation (Sawyer, Jones, & Troilo, 2020).

Six months after my experience at court, I am visiting Derek in jail. I sit on the other side of a glass screen and watch as guards lead my friend to the bench on the other side. His once full head of hair is shaved, he has acquired several DIY tattoos, and he is somehow even scrawnier than I remember. There are dark circles under his eyes and when he smiles at me, I notice two of his teeth are beginning to rot. We talk about his two sons, both of whom are under three years old. I ask if his girlfriend has brought them in to visit. He shakes his head and fights back tears as he explains he doesn’t want his family to see him this way. In another six months, Derek is released. He is unable to keep a job and quickly turns to hard drugs like methamphetamine and heroin. He has another son with his girlfriend and, soon after, they break up. He takes his eldest son to Florida, where his mother lives, and gets sober. He no longer sees his younger sons, but he has a job and is finally able to pay off the remainder of his legal fees. I often wonder if his family would still be together if he had not been forced to spend a year away from them.

sixth part in a series . . .

“He is now legally allowed to carry the same amount of marijuana he received a felony for years ago”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 5

Earlier this year, my now ex-boyfriend applied for and received his medical marijuana card. He is now legally allowed to carry the same amount of marijuana he received a felony for years ago on his person or in his vehicle.

I am 21 years old, and I’m sitting outside of a courtroom, awaiting a preliminary hearing in which I am meant to act as a witness for the defense. The man on trial is a friend of mine, Derek. He is charged with aggravated assault after a drunken fight between him and another friend ended in a stabbing. He has spent the last several months awaiting trial in Northampton County Jail after being unable to post bail. He is facing a felony charge which could result in up to 10 years in state prison, and he is prepared to take a plea deal. Before the hearing starts, the prosecutor pulls aside our other friend, the one who was stabbed. She asks him if he remembers who started the fight. Every person in the courtroom hears him answer, “I don’t remember, it might have been me, I was drunk.” The prosecutor promptly drops all charges, and the court is dismissed as soon as the trial begins. Derek is no longer facing charges, but he remains in jail for the next year. This occurs because his involvement in the fight is considered a violation of his probation, which he was given after being charged with simple possession of marijuana.

fifth part in a series . . .

“I am hopeful that this might be a turning point in the United States”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 3

According to the most recent data from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Statistical Briefing Book, 41% of juveniles in correctional facilities are black (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2017).

It is the summer of 2014, and I have just turned 19 years old. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was around my age, was recently shot to death by a police officer in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and protests are being met with a militarized police force. I am watching the chaos unfold on the TV at my father’s house. I am disgusted and appalled, and I can’t help remembering the way my friend Trevor was treated by an officer all those years ago. I am hopeful that this might be a turning point in the United States. That society might awaken to systemic racism and police brutality. This is the summer I begin to conduct my own research regarding mass incarceration and the racial and ethnic disparities present in the criminal justice system. In this moment, I am determined to do what I can to educate myself and help expose others to the oppression and violence people of a different skin color and from different socioeconomic backgrounds face at the hands of law enforcement and the larger criminal justice system. I am still ignorant and naive. I have much more to learn.

third part in a series . . .

“Instead of driving me to the police station, the officer opts to call an ambulance”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 2

Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary 13th provides important historical context and contemporary commentary on the use of mass incarceration as a new form of slavery, segregation, and discrimination used against people of color in the United States (DuVernay, 2016). According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Black Americans make up 40% of the nation’s prison population (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020).

I am 15 years old, and in the midst of my rebellious phase. I bought marijuana for the first time at school earlier in the day and was smoking behind the church in town with some people I had just met. I begin to feel odd, my heart racing and my vision blurring. The group I am with announces they are going back to the concert we had been attending earlier in the night. I attempt to follow them across the street but suddenly I am frozen in fear. I cannot cross and can no longer move my feet. The group leaves me behind, and a police cruiser stops in front of me. The officer exits his vehicle and begins to question me. I cannot understand what he is saying, and I recite my mother’s phone number over and over again. He pats me down and finds paraphernalia and a bag with marijuana in my purse. I am handcuffed and led into the back of the cruiser. Instead of driving me to the police station, the officer opts to call an ambulance. I spend the night in a hospital room with the understanding that I’ll have to face legal consequences eventually. The next day, my father drives me to the station. I meet with the police chief, a woman who ran the DARE program when I was in elementary school, and she informs me that I will be enrolled in the Impact Program which is offered to co-operative minors charged with misdemeanor offenses. Pending the successful completion of this program, all charges will be dropped against me and I will face no further legal consequences.

In the decade since this incident, I have met countless people charged with similar offenses as juveniles. Not one of them had even heard of the Impact Program, and many faced crippling legal consequences which directly affected their ability to successfully graduate from high school and pursue higher education. A few had even spent time in juvenile detention for less serious offenses than those I faced. The main difference between these people and me? They were not raised in the suburbs and most of them were not white.

second part in a series . . .

“I wonder, for the first time, if the police really do exist to protect everyone”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

I am 12 years old, and my aunt Edith is telling me the story of how she was arrested for smuggling drugs from Jamaica into the United States. She explains that her husband at the time was a citizen of Jamaica who helped run an illegal marijuana smuggling operation and that, as his white and American wife, her job was to discreetly move packages across the border. She tells me that she spent a significant amount of time incarcerated in a women’s federal prison, but she does not go into detail about her experiences there, only telling me that she met a lot of good people. The detached manner of speaking she adopts while recounting some of her experience tells me not to ask any further questions. Several years later, when I arrive home from school high, my aunt returns the favor with a knowing look. She asks me no questions and leaves me to scavenge for snacks in the pantry before my father comes home.

I now know from my Crime, Law, and Justice course that the majority of convicted inmates in federal prisons and jails are inside because of drug charges (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020).

I am 13 years old and attending the neighboring high school’s Friday night football game with my twin sister and our friend Caitlin. We meet up with a few older guys and walk over to the neighboring Burger King after the game for some food. While there, a group of white kids begin picking on one of our friends, Trevor, who happens to be the only black kid in the group. The incident results in a tussle, and someone claims another group is on their way with guns. We immediately leave the scene and wait for our ride home, with Trevor accompanying us. We are all on edge, believing there is a group of people with guns on their way. As we huddle together in the emptying parking lot, a police officer slows to a stop in front of us. He gets out of his vehicle and begins to question Trevor. He asks him what he is doing with three young (white) girls and who we are waiting for. We chime in, informing the police officer that we are waiting for Caitlin’s mother to pick us up and that Trevor is merely waiting with us because we heard there were people with guns in the area. The police officer smirks, turns back to Trevor, and asks if he needs to check him for weapons. We look at the officer in confusion, and Trevor stares straight ahead defiantly, uttering a “no sir,” his voice barely above a whisper. At this moment, our ride pulls up, and Caitlin’s mother asks the officer what the problem is. He tells her that he was simply checking up on us and wishes us all a good night. Caitlin’s mother asks Trevor if he is okay and offers him a ride home. We spend the entire car ride home in silence, and I wonder, for the first time, if the police really do exist to protect everyone.

first part in a series . . .

Touchstone Theatre’s Christmas City Follies

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

Christmas City Follies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2020
Contact: Lisa Jordan
610-349-8583
lisa@touchstone.org

21st Edition of Christmas City Follies Goes Online

Touchstone Theatre’s quirky holiday classic comes to YouTube

BETHLEHEM, PA – Touchstone Theatre announces Christmas City Follies XXI, the theatre’s annual holiday-themed variety show, to be presented online for 2020. Follies will premiere on YouTube on December 20, 2020 at 7pm with a watch party and then be available to view through January 2, 2021.

A favorite of Lehigh Valley residents past and present, many locals and tourists alike have come to count Christmas City Follies as part of their holiday tradition, coming out to Touchstone’s cozy black box theatre for an evening of original sketches, characters, songs, and more. The show traditionally ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, with subject matter that has included family stories, dancing hippos, snow camels, holiday yoga, and kazoo-playing Christmas trees.

In the midst of an unusual year and an unusual season, Touchstone has elected to forego an in-person performance in favor of shooting this year’s Follies as a movie; the company will continue to create and perform material for its eclectic cast of characters, filmed as scenes on Touchstone’s property and around Bethlehem, using the Christmas City as its backdrop. The show will feature returning Touchstone favorites like the Old Guy, Little Red, the Better Not Shout Network, and the Shopping Cart Ballet, as well as a host of new music, personalities, sketches, and stories.

“Santa brought us all the gift of reinvention this year with our 21st edition of  Follies,” says artistic director Jp Jordan. “It’s exhilarating to be able to take on this work from a completely new perspective.”

The Touchstone company will also be performing an in-person “mini Follies” at outdoor holiday events across Bethlehem between Saturday, November 28th and Sunday, December 6th, featuring clownish characters delivering classic Christmas carols to shoppers. Locations include the Historic Bethlehem Museum and Sites new Christmas in the Quarter, the Sun Inn Courtyard’s Wintergarten, and the South Side Arts District’s New St. Christmas Tree.

Christmas City Follies is sponsored by Peoples Security Bank and Trust; the show receives additional support from the County of Northampton. Touchstone’s season is supported locally by season sponsor RCN. WDIY provides media sponsorship, and Working Dog Press provides print sponsorship.

Christmas City Follies XXI premieres with a watch party on December 20, 2020 at 7pm and will remain available online through January 2, 2021. Tickets are: $12 for individuals and $35 for households. Touchstone typically also offers a Pay-What-You-Will at the door ticket and instead will be offering a reduced $5 ticket for those who would benefit from a discounted admission. This year, tickets are a link that audience members will use to view the show online. Tickets go on sale November 20th and may be purchased at 610.867.1689 or online at www.touchstone.org

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

BAPL’s Josh Berk writes ’em too

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

I come from a family of book-lovers and librarians, so it’s no surprise that I became both. In addition to being the director of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, I’ve been writing books for children and young adults for over ten years now. My latest book represents a lot of firsts for me. It’s the first book I’ve co-written – as the entire thing was written in collaboration with author and friend Saundra Mitchell. It’s also the first time I wrote a book from the point of view of a female main character. Why did Saundra write the boy’s point of view and I wrote the girl’s? It just seemed like a challenge and a fun way to mess with expectations and challenge ourselves to leave our comfort zones as writers.

The third way that CAMP MURDERFACE is different than anything else I’ve ever written is that it’s a horror novel. I mean, it’s for kids, so it’s not too scary. And as you can probably tell from the title, it’s got a sense of humor about the horror. But it is a horror novel! There are hauntings and evil beings and a whole supernatural world to inhabit. I’ve only written realistic fiction and to be honest didn’t ever think I’d write a scary book. I’m kind of a big baby when it comes to scary books or movies. I read one Stephen King book and that was it. I have enough nightmares as is just being me, thank you very much! But Saundra asked me to collaborate on this new and scary project and scary it was!

I’m not saying I became a master of the genre, but I did stretch myself to write outside my comfort level in more ways than one. I hope the scary parts are scary, the funny parts are funny, and the kid characters relatable to anyone who is a kid (or has ever been one). There is a sequel—CAMP MURDERFACE 2!—coming out next year. I wanted to sub-title it “Like the First One But Worse . . .” But I was outvoted. Alas.

———-

Thanks to the Gadfly for profiling local artists on this here blog and for allowing me to share an excerpt of Chapter One from CAMP MURDERFACE with you here. It’s from the point of view of twelve-year-old Corryn Quinn. The year is 1983:

Summer truly starts the minute you can no longer see your parents waving goodbye.

I wave longer than anyone else. A dark thought runs through my mind. This is the last time I’ll see them together. They’re standing there with these big lying smiles. I can see the white of their teeth from a hundred yards away. Like everything is fine—better than fine! It’s not.

It’s not fine.

We used to go to Grandpa’s farm in the summer. Back then, we’d wave and wave goodbye, long past the time the old house became a bird-sized speck on the horizon. Now I’m going to camp. And my parents think I don’t know it’s because they’re getting divorced. I wave because I have to, but I don’t miss them. I’m not going to miss them either. They don’t deserve it.

Elliot on the other hand? Elliot, I’ll miss.

The night before we left, I even gave him a kiss. It wasn’t our first, but it was the longest and saddest one we’ve shared. I felt tears pop up in my eyes as I kissed him, and believe me, I’m not the kind of girl who cries easily.

My friend Joy from school will cry if she forgets her homework or gets a B on a spelling test. I didn’t cry even when I wiped out and sprained both my wrists. Plus, I always get As on spelling tests. Consistent. C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-T. Consistent.

But nine weeks away from Elliot, that’s worse than a million sprained wrists. That’s like spraining both my wrists and both my ankles and splitting my head open on a rock. Oh, I’m gonna miss him so much! So . . . the night before camp I bent down and leaned in and kissed him.

Right on the handlebars.

I can’t believe they won’t let me bring my bike to camp! Why can’t you bring a bike to camp? Elliot doesn’t take up much room. He can sleep in the corner! Or he can have the sleeping bag and I’ll sleep in the corner!

Alas, no. I’ll be out here for nine weeks without him. I hope I don’t forget how to ride.

Elliot really is a beautiful bike. He’s matte black and bright gold, with twenty-inch mag wheels, racing tires, and a slick silver stripe down the side. It’s a BMX racing bike, just like you see Danny Stark riding in all the magazines. He’s been the world BMX champion for three years running now (although his 1981 win was controversial).

All I’m saying is, if a quad reverse bunny hop over the finish line is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

I literally had to beg on hands and knees for Elliot. Hands and knees. Mom and Dad were not cool at all about it. Not cool at all. It was like they were trying to outdo each other with who could be more uncool. I’d have to say that particular contest ended in a tie. It’s too dangerous, they said. Too expensive. They had a million reasons. What they really meant is that it’s not for girls.

They’re wrong. But I finally got Elliot (note to self: Was Elliot a divorce-guilt present?) and now I have to leave him for a whole summer. He couldn’t even ride all the way to camp with me.

All the kids going to Camp Sweetwater got dropped off at the rest stop parking lot. We stood around trying to look cool while we waited for the camp transport to roll in. It was wall-to-wall kids and parents and weepy goodbyes, so there was no cool . . .

———–

Josh is the second Berk to be the Executive Director of the Bethlehem Area Public Library; his father Jack held the post for 34 years. His mother Rita was a librarian as well, including a tenure at Moravian College. Josh is a graduate of Freedom High School and most of his teachers have forgiven him. His first book for young adults, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, was set in a high school in PA coal country and was named to several “best of” lists in 2010 including Amazon’s Top Ten for Teens. His first book for younger readers, Strike Three You’re Dead, allowed him to write about his passion for baseball. It was a finalist for the prestigious Edgar Awards presented by the Mystery Writers of America. The character of Lenny Norbeck, described as “the worst little leaguer in the history of the sport,” may or may not have been based on Josh’s tenure at Northwest Little League. These days he coaches his son’s team, plays bass and guitar, and continues to write books for young people that blend mystery and comedy.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

POSTPONED: “Not for Sale” — Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Awareness week POSTPONED

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

must register here

Touchstone Theatre ensemble member Mary Wright has been guiding a group of survivors and advocates in creating poetry, artwork, stories, and music.

This event is part of the Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Awareness week. LVAT week is a seven-day awareness campaign. In 2019 the executives of Lehigh and Northampton counties declared the first full week of November as Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Week. The campaign provides an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities, and individuals to do what they can to address the problem.

The Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Collaborative is composed of several social justice organizations dedicated to fighting the fight on the front lines. The founding organizations of the Collaborative include Aspire to Autonomy, Bethlehem Rotary, Bloom Bangor, Crime Victims Council, LVHN Street Medicine, Marsy’s Law, Truth For Women, VAST (The Valley Against Sex Trafficking), and Valley Youth House.

NOT for SALE was originally planned as a live performance at TouchStone Theatre — was moved to digital due to COVID-19.

Love on the Southside

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Urban Arts Trail

As Gadfly said earlier, “How cool is this!” Tip o’ the hat to Missy Hartney and crew.

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Selections from Jennifer Sheehan, “Streets of Southside Bethlehem become canvas of new ‘Urban Arts Trail’.” Morning Call, November 10, 2020.

Under an awning on East Third Street in Southside Bethlehem is a piece of magical, musical beauty.

Vibrantly painted and cheerful, the piece, entitled “Love,” is the antidote for today’s world — a public piano begging to be photographed, enjoyed and of course played.

The piano is proof that sometimes, to appreciate art, you just have to hit the streets.

'Love' is a public piano, a new piece of public art that's part of the Southside Arts District's new Urban Arts Trail.
Photo: ‘Love’ is a public piano, a new piece of public art that’s part of the Southside Arts District’s new Urban Arts Trail. (Jennifer Sheehan/THE MORNING CALL)

“Love” is the latest newest piece added to a new “Urban Arts Trail” in Southside Bethlehem. From mosaics to murals, visitors can see a wide range of public art by simply walking the streets of the southside

It is a 2.75-mile trail that’s, for the most part, easy to walk and with plenty of stopping points along the way.

“Art is uplifting. It starts conversations,” said Missy Hartney, downtown manager for the SouthSide Arts District, Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation. “People want to be able to do things outdoors and get outside their houses. Being able to put this trail downtown is really important for the time we’re in.”

Hartney said she was inspired earlier this year by a walk with her kids on Easton’s Karl Stirner Arts Trail, a self-guided tour through outdoor public art following Bushkill Creek.

Over the past few years, the Southside’s sidewalks have evolved into a bit of a public art gallery with interesting sculptures, murals and painted everyday objects.

Hartney thought about all those pieces and how organizing a trail could help connect them.

“I thought what is we connected all these pieces downtown with an explanation of who created it and why,” Hartney said. “You follow the trail, stop along the way and have coffee or visit a public art gallery.”

The trail starts at 324 S. New St., which is a public garage. It’s easiest to park there. Then you can walk through the business district, checking out 31 different stops including murals, sculptures, artist-designed bike racks and more. Each spot on the trail offers artist information and details about the pieces.

The route is basically a loop between East Third and East Fourth streets. It’s a pretty easy walk for the most part. My daughter, Norah, and I walked it and started late morning, working a lunch break into the middle of the trail.

The first section of the trail focuses on the area around the Banana Factory, with several interesting pieces, including the whimsical mosaic/sculpture “Mr. Imagination Bus Shelter” and “Homepage to Humanity,” a trio of concrete sculptures.

Walking up Third Street you’ll see several pieces including a large mural of a steelworker and a trio of happy cartoon music notes.

Then you’ll see “Love,” Southside’s new public piano, created by artist Chris Colon. The piece is outside Northampton Community College Fowler Center, under an awning. The idea: Take an old piano and turn it into a functioning public art piece, using weather-proof paint and other elements. There are public pianos around the world, designed to provide the public a chance to just play and enjoy their beauty.

Colon’s piece was designed around the message of “Love.” The piece is joyous, vibrant and cheery, and quite fun to play.

After you reach the SteelStacks area, that’s when the walk gets a little more difficult. We also got a little confused with the trail’s directions here so it may be best to use your phone’s GPS at this point, which is what we did. This part is also uphill and it’s fairly steep, so keep that in mind.

Once you get up to the next segment of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with some truly beautiful art.

Our favorite: The largest mural, “Calma,” designed last year by artist Pau Quintanajornet. It’s outside Cafe the Lodge and highlights the cafe’s mission, focusing on mental health recovery. The cafe is a great mid-way point to stop for a cool drink or lunch. (Highly recommend is the Cuban sandwich.)

“The Hidden Seed” — a play about early Moravian history in Bethlehem — is back November 11

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It’s back!

“The Hidden Seed” premiered at Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound in 2019.

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“We mustn’t abandon the promise of unity. We mustn’t abandon the promise of the hidden seed  . . . The hidden seed is planted in every generation because those who want justice keep it alive . . . We did it . . . and now we are here to pass it on.”

Three 18th century female Bethlehem ghosts — a formerly enslaved West African woman, a Native American woman, and one of the original Moravian immigrants from Europe — agree to tell everything, the whole story of the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem not just the happy parts, without lying.

Yes, everything . . . the whole story . . . not just the happy parts . . . without lying.

“They [we in the audience] will only understand if you tell them the whole story, the whole truth.”

Like about Gnadenhutten, the Moravian Massacre.

Do you know Gnadenhutten?

96 Christian Native Americans killed at the Moravian Mission of Gnadenhutten, skulls crushed with mallets to save bullets.

This anguished cry of a distraught Native American teller cracks the smooth surface of pious Moravian history.

So, everything . . . the whole story . . . not just the happy parts . . . without lying.

Did you know there was slavery in Bethlehem?

Our rather matter-of-fact African American teller bluntly pierces the “miracle” of good treatment rationalized by the European with the hypocrisy of “You believed you could own us.”

“The seeds of our failure were sown side-by-side with our dreams.”

So much for Utopia. Maybe best that it be forgotten.

Or is the hidden seed of equality and unity still available to us?

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“End of the dry season”

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End of the Dry Season

Keeper of the Rain,
awakened from his
sleep by departure
of the Sun,
raises his spear
of thunder, delivering
a force of life
that renews the
crust of the earth
and clears the morning air.

Louise Holmes-Johnson
Bethlehem, Pa.

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“In the land of my ancestors”

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Nighttime in Kaduna

In the land of my ancestors,
as sunset signals the end of a day
and twinkling stars hide behind
a curtain of settling dusk,
wheels of steel beasts of burden
mold grooves in the hard red clay
and the untiring racket is
magically transformed into
a haunting melody.
Roadside merchants cajole
buyers to lantern-lit stands
as their haggling reechoes
in the dying light.
A swarm of crickets tune
their strings for their
nocturnal exhibition,
calming my fears like
a tranquilizing symphony.
Soon, a resonant call
for the day’s final prayer
is reverently answered by
followers of Islam.
And the fast pace of the
exotic language turns to
soft whispers tossed
wildly in the wind . . .

Louise Holmes-Johnson
Bethlehem, Pa.

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“Take me home, great steel bird, take me home”

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In June 1989, I traveled to Kaduna, Nigeria, to visit my daughter and her family in Nigeria. That visit forever changed who I am as an American black woman. When I returned home to the states, I was haunted by visions of that visit. Words related to that visit consumed me until I committed them to paper. Even now, I need only to close my eyes, and I am there.

Flight of the Steel Bird

Hurry, great steel bird, hurry
Carry me swiftly to the motherland
of my people;
descendants of great kings and queens
who are bearers of a rich history
I hunger to hear.
Let me walk on the shores of Africa:
birthplace of Queen Mother Nandi
and the pharaohs, Ra Nehesi and Taharka.

My ghostly companions are restless
as they hear the
muted drum sounds of ancient warriors
welcoming them back to the place
they called home
three hundred years ago.
The red clay earth awaits anxiously
to join spirits to hearts that were
left behind in
a thunderous parting storm.

Linger not over seas of torture
tainted with sacrifices of the
first journey:
brave lions who sleep with sharks;
maidenhoods of innocents
stolen by captains and
cries of babies
stilled with tears of love,
all victims of our early
struggle to freedom.

Take me home,
great steel bird,
take me home.

Louise Holmes-Johnson
Bethlehem, Pa.

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BAPL fundraiser! book sale tomorrow Saturday 10-2

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Saturday, November 7, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm Main Library
from Josh Berk:
 Since we aren’t able to host book sales as usual, we’re hosting a drive-up version of the popular BAPL book sale. The date is November 7 at the Main Library. It will feature lots of holiday books and other great items for sale. The sale scheduled to run 10-2 or until supplies last. The way it works is that you simply drive up to the Main Library at 11 W. Church St. and buy a bag of books for $5. We’ll have bags for kids and adults as well as popular themes, but the exact contents of each bag will be a little bit of a mystery. Please note that the sale is cash only and that no change can be given. Drive on up and get an assortment of surprise reading material for just a few dollars while supporting the library!
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The pandemic has of course hurt BAPL’s fundraising this year. If you can’t attend the sale, please consider donating. Our library is special. How many small city libraries do you know that have a publishing operation? And think of all the resources and programs on racism so relevant to a main issue this year the library has provided.

New BAPL book!

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Order TUG! here

“From the beginning,” author Catherine McCafferty says. “I felt very strongly that TUG’s story was the story of the Steel: hard work and friendship, loss and abandonment, then a renewed sense of value and purpose.”

The book will officially be released on November 14, 2020, as part of the Last Cast Celebration at the National Museum of Industrial History. Members of the Steelworkers Archive will help celebrate the book with a “Storytime with a Steelworker” as part of the day’s events. Children will also be able to meet the real TUG that day, as the vehicle will be on display at NMIH, mustache and all.

 

Bethlehem’s history comes to life in this picture book brought to you by the Bethlehem Area Public Library and the National Museum of Industrial History. TUG is a tow tractor helping Bethlehem’s steelworkers to do their very best. He is always there when the workers need him, but what happens when the steel mill closes? After the last cast is poured and TUG is left alone at the steel mill, he learns that no matter how much Bethlehem might change there is always more that he can do to help. Children can read TUG’s story and then visit him at the Industrial Museum, where he is still a working artifact helping with the heavy lifting 25 years after the last cast.

Order TUG! here

While ordering TUG!, consider also the BAPL books by Bob Cohen (see here and here) and Matt Wolf (see here)

“We’re all connected . . . You help me and I help you”

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Gadfly proposes that we think of this song as a kind of anthem for the Lehigh Valley
and that we start every morning with it.

Unity needed more than ever.

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“Lehigh Valley be Free” is the work of the Lehigh Valley Song Project that premiered at Touchstone Theatre’s “Songs of Hope & Resistance” event on July 24.

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DONATE NOW to support the musicians, artists, and producers who made the
Lehigh Valley Song Project possible!

https://bit.ly/LVsongdonate

“Not for Sale” — Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Awareness week

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Touchstone Theatre ensemble member Mary Wright has been guiding a group of survivors and advocates in creating poetry, artwork, stories, and music.

This event is part of the Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Awareness week. LVAT week is a seven-day awareness campaign. In 2019 the executives of Lehigh and Northampton counties declared the first full week of November as Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Week. The campaign provides an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities, and individuals to do what they can to address the problem.

The Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Collaborative is composed of several social justice organizations dedicated to fighting the fight on the front lines. The founding organizations of the Collaborative include Aspire to Autonomy, Bethlehem Rotary, Bloom Bangor, Crime Victims Council, LVHN Street Medicine, Marsy’s Law, Truth For Women, VAST (The Valley Against Sex Trafficking), and Valley Youth House.

NOT for SALE was originally planned as a live performance at TouchStone Theatre — was moved to digital due to COVID-19.