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 City Lore                                                                April 14, 2011  


• Triangle Commemorations • Islamic Poetries • In Search of Finah Misa Kule 
• Yiddish Music and Dance • First Soul of the City Trivia Contest


Dear Citylorists,

Please enjoy our Tours and Tales April 2011 e-letter!

Triangle Commemoration Procession
Triangle Commemoration Procession, photo by Steven H. Jaffe

• Remembering the Triangle with Bells and Tears  At 4:47 pm on March 11th 1911, a tragic sweatshop fire broke out on the 9th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. 146 people, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrant women died, many plunging to the deaths. The tragedy galvanized the American labor movement. I was pleased to be counted present exactly 100 years later, at 4:47 pm, March 11, 2011 at the site of the tragedy near Washington Square when performance artists Annie Lanzillotto and Lulu Lolo led the crowd in ringing hundreds of bells to honor of the 146 who died. Our featured story on City of Memorychronicles that moment when the bells were ringing at the spot where the bodies fell and the tears continue to fall.

Triangle Commemoration Procession
Triangle Commemoration Procession, photo by Steven H. Jaffe

That evening, Brian Jones, host for the Centennial’s celebration in the Great Hall at Cooper Union, described how in front of the Asch building that day the names and ages of the women who died were chalked – many, he noted, were teenagers. Young people, he said, have led most of the world’s movements for social change.

Just then the evening was disrupted by a group of college students, crying "I have something to say!" and "Let her speak!" Suddenly Clara Lemlich (March 28, 1886 – July 25, 1982), who had galvanized the fledgling labor movement in Cooper Union’s same Great Hall in 1909 took the stage in the person of actress Caitlin Belforti. She asked the audience to raise one hand and put the other over their hearts and repeat a line that helped usher in the labor movement in America:

"If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise."

The night was filled with moments like these. It closed with the audience singing "You can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the Union" and Solidarity Forever. As I began filing out, I ran into Ruth Sergel who worked for more than three years to create the event. "Ruth," I said, "that was so beautiful. And you hardly received the credit you deserve for this magnificent work."

"Well," she said, "I guess I forgot my tiara."

On that night at Cooper Union in 1909, Clara Lemlich forgot her tiara too.

Illuminated Verses postcard
Artwork by Samina Quraeshi

• Illuminated Verses: Poetries of the Islamic World  As City Lore and Poets House planned Illuminated Verses, I was reminded of a line from Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks:

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of

spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

Poetry, ubiquitous and revered throughout much of the Islamic world is a pearl often hidden and underappreciated by the West. For our audiences, we hope to crack the shell to reveal some of Islamic poetries’ most precious jewels.

Mr. Brad Bonaparte
Dr. Reza Aslan

On May 7th, join us for a day-long series of discussions and readings on themes including the Arabic Golden Age; the Sufi tradition and lyric poetry in the Middle East and Persia; poetry and the "theater of violence" in the Middle East; the Urdu tradition from Mughal courts to modern Pakistan; 20th century literary revivals in North Africa; poetry and nation building; the relation between early forms of the blues and the Islamic call to prayer. Participating scholars and poets include Najwa Adra, Ammiel Alcalay, Kazim Ali, Reza Aslan, Kaveh Bassiri, Clarissa Burt, Steve Caton, Sylviane Diouf, Syed Akbar Hyder, Rashida Ismaili Abu-Bakr, Pierre Joris, Persis Karim, Khaled Mattawa, Jawid Mojaddedi, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, Stefania Pandolfo, Frances W. Pritchett, Michael Sells, Mahwash Shoaib, and Suzanne Stetkevych.

When: Saturday, May 7, 9:00am – 6:15pm
Where: Tribeca Performing Arts Center at BMCC, 199 Chambers Street, Manhattan 
For more information:, or Poets House: 212-431-7920, or City Lore: 212-529-1955 x308
Admission: Free

Verses Illuminated: Evening Performance
A multi-artist celebration of the poetic forms of the Islamic world featuring readings by participating poets and performances by Lebanese poetry duelists, the Iraqi group Safaafir singing songs from the cafes of Baghdad, vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia performing classical and contemporary ghazals, Rumi singer Amir Vahab, and much more.

When: Saturday, May 7, 8:00pm – 10:00pm
Where: Tribeca Performing Arts Center at BMCC, 199 Chambers Street, Manhattan 
For more information:, or Poets House: 212-431-7920, or City Lore: 212-529-1955 x308.
Admission: Free

Funded by the Bridging Cultures Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom. With additional funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Click here for a full list of all the programs leading up to May 7th, including an exhibition and performance of the Shahnamah, a sweeping Persian epic poem; a mushaira, traditional Pakistani poetry reading, and much more.

Kewulay Kamara
Image by Robert Penn

• In Search of Finah Misa Kule: a Lost African Epic  In 2009, I traveled to Sierra Leone with the New York City performer Kewulay Kamara. Our goal was to chronicle his journey back to his native village of Dankawali in northeast Sierra Leone to reconstitute an oral epic handed down in his family, an epic set down in an Arabic script by his father that burned when the village was razed during the recent civil war. The documentary interweaves Kamara’s own boyhood story of watching his father set down the ancient tale with the epic itself, a medley of oral legend and myth that traces the origin of the Finah clan of warrior poets to a time before the birth of Mohammad. As it unfolds, Kamara sees the stories of the civil war as the latest chapter in the ancient epic. This documentary retelling brings in the history of slavery, colonialism, West Africa, and the savage civil war in Sierra Leone — all appear in this sweeping poetry history, which also describes how reconstructing the ancient stories may hold a key to a better future for the continent. As part of our Illuminated Verses program, join us for a work-in-progress screening of the documentary along with live music and dance with Kewulay Kamara and West African performers in New York.

When: Thursday, April 28, 7:00pm
Where: Poets House, 10 River Terrace, Manhattan 
For more information:, or Poets House: 212-431-7920, or City Lore: 212-529-1955 x308.
Admission:$10, $7 for students/seniors, free to members

• Yiddish Music and Dance  On Saturday, April 30th our good friends and frequent collaborators at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance present an evening of Yiddish music and dance. Come celebrate the CD release of Benjy Fox-Rosen’s Tick Tock, a new recording of Yiddish song from the acclaimed bassist/singer of the Luminescient Orchestrii and the Michael Winograd Trio. The evening will begin with a set Yiddish song by the mother/daughter team of Adrienne Cooper and Sarah Gordon. The evening ends with a Tantshoyz Yiddish Dance party.

When: Sunday, April 30, 7:30pm – 11:00pm
Where: Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, 140 2nd Ave (between East 9th St. & St. Mark’s Pl), Manhattan
For more information:, or call 212-571-1555.

Mick Greene and Huch McNally,
Mick Greene and Huch McNally,

• City Lore’s first Soul of the City Trivia Contest – Win a New York Streetgames DVD and Rulebook  At the class reading for my Writing New York Stories course late last year, Virginia Randall shared her marvelous trivia contest. We liked it so much we decided to try it out online. We invited Mick Green and Hugh McNally creators of to provide our first quiz. Please submit your answers in an email to can copy the questions into an email and answer them that way). The first three winners will be noted in next month’s eblast (along with the answers), and receive a copy of the new New York Street Games DVD and rulebook. Your answers should be numbered 1 to 10 and should have either a letter for the multiple choice questions or a word or phrase for the others. You can also submit your own Soul of the City Trivia Quiz for consideration for inclusion in future City Lore Tours and Tales.

  1. Miss Mary Mack was dressed in ___________?
  2. If you called "Chips" in a ball game on the street, you were:
    a. complaining that the stickball bat was no longer in good shape and needed taping on the bottom
    b. telling friends to watch out because the cops were coming
    c. declaring all players were agreeing that you would receive payment for loss/damage of a critical play item
  3. _______ is the basketball game where when you hit a shot, your opponent then has to successfully make the same shot with the same form or else he/she gets a letter from the name of the game.
  4. In stoopball when the ball hit the edge of the step and shot quickly back at you it was a _______.
  5. In NY you played with a spaldeen, in Philly the ball of choice was a _______________________.
  6. Name two differences between slapball and punchball _________________________________ and _____________________________.
  7. If you said "A my name is Alice" you might say, and my husband’s name is _______________________ we come from _______________ and we sell _________________________.
  8. In skelly/skully/skellsies after you traversed the board going from 1 – 13 and back, you gained a new power and you were now a called a ___________________.
  9. Four kids are playing punchball, with two people on each team. John and Bill are on Team A, Joe and Mike are on Team B. Team A is up and they have loaded the bases. John is at bat, Bill is on third. What do they call the runners on 1st and 2nd base?
  10. You might hope to take a banana step if you were playing
    a. Mother May I
    b. Monkey in the Middle
    c. Red Light, Green Light

Please forward this email to your friends and encourage them to join the City Lore’s email list!

Enjoy the City!


City of Memory is sponsored by City Lore and Local Projects.  It was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

City Lore is part of a cultural coalition called CATCH, to promote the City’s cultural heritage. Check out the web sites of our wonderful partners, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the Latino Children’s Theater, SEA, and theWorld Music Institute.

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