Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (The Fifty)


"Man it was awful," Jack Crittenden remembered. "You'd see a head floating across the water - just the head - or an arm."

For several days after the explosion, men with only minor injuries were given the task of clean up and body recovery. There were no living witnesses of the blast. No one who was on the boats or pier that night survived.

There is a great podcast of This American Life entitled 'The Job That Takes Over Your Life.' Listen to Act Three: The Port Chicago 50.

If you were a survivor of such a horrific night, would you return to work in the same unsafe conditions? 

Of the 328 surviving black enlistees, fifty men refused to return to work without a change in Navy procedures. Those fifty men were charged and convicted of mutiny. Mutiny, they were told, was punishable by death. It was the largest mutiny trial in the Navy's history.

From The History Channel:
"Six weeks of hearings followed in which the prosecution alleged that the men had “conspired each with the other to mutiny against the lawful authority of their superior naval officers.” The case caught the attention of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then working as a legal counsel for the NAACP. Marshall sat in on the last few days of the proceedings, and later argued, “This is not 50 men on trial for mutiny. This is the Navy on trial for its whole vicious policy toward negroes.” But despite the protests of Marshall and others, it took only 80 minutes of deliberation for the court to find the 50 black sailors guilty. Each man was sentenced to between eight and 15 years hard labor and a dishonorable discharge from the Navy."

These chapters have been a fascinating and painful look into the birth of the civil rights movement. How would you compare the racism and segregation experienced by The Port Chicago 50 to racism and segregation today? What about institutionalized racism and segregation?

Also, what, in your opinion, constitutes a "mutiny"?

And… When is doing something wrong right?

Let's read these chapters: Treasure Island, Prosecution, Joe Small, The Verdict, and Hard Labor. Check back here on December 18th.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (the explosion)


Work and Liberty

The Work...


The men at Port Chicago described the scene on the loading pier as frantic, stressful, loud, chaotic - bombs rolling and clanking together, winch engines chugging and smoking, nets swinging through the air, sailors shouting and cursing, officers urging the men on.
"We were all afraid of an explosion," Small later said. "But there was very little that you could do about it. I mean, you had a day's work to do." 

The Liberty…


"It was just a one-street place," Robert Routh remembered; a few restaurants, a movie theater. "They didn't want blacks there at all. The townspeople didn't care for blacks."
"We're suppose to be fighting the same enemy," he (the black sailor) thought. "I don't know who my enemy is."
When he'd joined the Navy, people told him, "You're fighting for your freedom!"
Now he wondered: "Where's the freedom?" 

Have you ever been put into a situation that you felt was unsafe? If so, what did you do?


The Lawyer

There were an enormous amount of rights abuses reported by African American soldiers and sailors, but Thurgood Marshall did his best to demand that the country did more to protect black men in uniform.

In the Constitution, all Americans, regardless of race, are afforded the same basic rights. The Fourteenth Amendment specifically forbids states from denying any citizen "equal protection of the laws." Segregation and discrimination were unconstitutional, and Thurgood Marshall became a lawyer in order to prove it in court.

The segregation and discrimination in the Armed Forces were a mirror of American society at the time. For many people, the explosion on July 17th and the mutiny proceedings that followed became a symbol of what was wrong with American society as a whole. The consequences of the explosion would begin to reshape the way the Navy and society thought about civil rights and social standards.


Hot Cargo

The working conditions grew increasingly dangerous. The men were being pushed too hard. And, on July 17th, rather than loading one ship, two ships were docked at the pier. It was a recipe for disaster.


The Explosion
"Oh my God, we're being bombed!" someone shouted.

At 10:18pm a massive blast was felt all over the Bay Area in California. Seismographs recorded the explosion as a small earthquake.

The pier was gone. Both ships were gone. Buildings were destroyed. Smoke and fire rose nearly two miles into the air. 320 people were killed and 390 others were injured, nearly all were African American sailors.




Let's continue…

Read the chapters entitled The Inquiry, Column Left, Prison Barge, and The Fifty by December 13th.


When is doing something wrong right?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (first three chapters)


FIRST HERO
Who are some historical figures who have contributed to society?
What are a list of qualities that heroic figures share?

Dorie Miller was an African-American mess attendant in the Navy. He received the Navy Cross, the highest honor given by the United States Navy, for heroically saving his fellow sailors during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The first chapter ends with Admiral Chester Nimitz's anticipatory remarks, "I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts." and Dorie Miller returning to his duties as a mess attendant, collecting laundry.

What impact did this opening chapter have on you as a reader? 

How is Steve Sheinkin setting the stage for his story?


The Policy

According to the United States Department of Defense website
When African Americans were allowed into the Navy again in 1932, it was as stewards and mess attendants.
The Navy began rethinking its policies when the nation entered World War II in December 1941. Navy officials had to deal with a shortage of manpower and well- focused political activities. But thousands of patriotic black men also clamored to join, inspired by the heroics of black sailors like Doris "Dorie" Miller and Leonard Roy Harmon.
One of the first American heroes of the war, Miller had been a mess attendant on the battleship USS West Virginia during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Though he had no gunnery training, Miller took charge of an anti- aircraft machine gun when its crew was disabled. Popular legend has it that he shot down several of the 29 enemy planes claimed that day. Ship's officers also cited him for his part in rescuing sailors who had jumped or been thrown overboard. Miller received the Navy Cross.  
Harmon, also a mess attendant, received the Navy Cross posthumously for valor during naval combat off Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942.
The Navy would remain racially segregated in training and in most service units, but enlisted ratings opened to all qualified personnel in 1942.
The first African American officers in naval history were commissioned in 1944. The 12 commissioned officers and one warrant officer became known as the "Golden Thirteen."

If you'd like to read more about the influence of African American-owned newspapers, check out 
Black America's Double War and The Navy: Where do we stand

What is your first impression of Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox?

What is your first impression of Joe Small?


PORT CHICAGO



Present day Port Chicago is called the Concord Naval Weapons Station. It is home to the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial and part of the National Park Service.




Let's continue…

Read the chapters entitled Work And Liberty, The Lawyer, Hot Cargo, and The Explosion by December 6th

I want to leave you with a question to keep in your mind as you read through this book:

When is doing something wrong right?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Befriend a turkey and it’s easy to have a totally different perspective.

This Thanksgiving, open a copy of Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends and flip to one of my favorite poems: Point of View. I read a quick blurb about this poem once…

It helps recharge my patience and prepare myself for the questions my genuinely curious distant friends and family may ask. The answers are usually something like this: “Yes, I have eaten meat before.” “No, I don’t miss it.” “How do I do it? Well, my desire to end animal suffering is much stronger than taste. Befriend a turkey and it’s easy to have a totally different perspective. Here, try this delicious vegan dish that I made — you’ll love it!”. It works every time.

There's always another way to look at things this holiday season.



Point of View
By Shel Silverstein

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless 
Christmas dinner's dark and blue 
When you stop and try to see it
From the dinner's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the view point
of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad,
Pork, lobsters, lamb chops too
'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

discover, read, write, share



Are you on Wattpad?

Wattpad is a social reading app that lets authors share their stories with a community of readers. It has recently attracted interest from investors and has seen impressive user engagement - the company says that 27 million of its 30 million users are active each month.


How did I learn about Wattpad? One of those 30 million users is my daughter.



Wattpad users are able to share and discuss stories, follow their favorite authors, and comment on specific words sentences and paragraphs of a story. It's like reading along with friends where you can commiserate and react as the story unfolds. Many of the stories my daughter is reading are serialized and the comments can drive the direction of the plot.

In addition to reading, Wattpad allows for easy self publishing. (Many of the authors are teens.)  There's also a "Fan Funding" area for authors to raise capital to fund their work.

What's more, there's a cool Wattpad Cover App for creating your own cover art.



Here's the thing about Wattpad... It's the easy, fun way to read across all your mobile devices. It's social and interactive. It's a great place to discover, share and create unlimited stories. Wattpad is a global sensation; teens love it.


I have fallen for it hard :)



call me Ishmael

Have you heard of Call Me Ishmael? And I'm not talking about the first line of Moby Dick by Herman Melville.



Call Me Ishmael is an awesome collection of anonymous voicemails from readers about books they love. The voicemails are cleverly transcribed on an old-fashioned typewriter.

Here are three examples of the many voicemails you might enjoy...












 Will you be the next person to leave Ishmael a message?


774-325-0503



Saturday, November 22, 2014

our wordless stories

“A memory is only a Prince Charming 

who stays just long enough to awaken 

the Sleeping Beauties of our wordless stories.” 

― Michel de Certeau


SOLUS - 
A short story of loneliness, adventure, and self sacrifice.


SOLUS from Identity Visuals on Vimeo.



From the cool cats at the Identity Visuals website:

The most challenging part of the film was the User Interface design. I had two key elements to communicate to the audience: 1) scanning each planet, and 2) a battery/fuel indicator. Each represented something vital to the film, one represents the search for life and a home, while the other is a reminder of our hero’s mortality. I’m always tempted to go way over the top when designing on screen UI elements, but for this short I wanted to communicate each idea as simply as possible. Through the films repetitive nature I hoped to slowly teach the audience the meaning of both UI elements over time. The planet scanning design came together quickly, but the battery life indicator proved to be very difficult. I probably went through a dozen iterations before finding a sweet spot, somewhere between hit-them-over-the-head-obvious and outright confusion.

At Identity Visuals we have a strong desire to tell beautiful, meaningful stories. I hope you enjoy SOLUS, because we had blast creating it!