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 City Lore                                                                August, 2011  


• Place Matters Awards • Live from the POEMobile • West Indian Carnival
• Angola Prison • The City Lore Classroom


Dear Citylorists,

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

Bowery Mission
Bowery Mission, photo by Molly Garfinkel

• Place Matters Awards and Dance Party  Place Matters is thrilled to announce the recipients of the Third Place Matters Awards. Join us for a celebration on October 6th at the Museum of Chinese in America for an evening of klezmer music to celebrate these six extraordinary places in Lower Manhattan:

Streit’s Matzos, 148-154 Rivington Street, Lower East Side
Streit’s Matzos is the oldest family-run matzo manufacturing company in the United States. Five generations of customers have celebrated Passover with their "unleavened bread."

Bowery Mission, 227 Bowery
The storied Bowery Mission is one of the earliest instances of the American institution, the "gospel rescue mission"—private protestant charities that provide food, shelter and clothing to men in need, while encouraging them to seek religious conversion. As the Bowery district rose to international notoriety as a home for the city's most destitute residents, the Bowery Mission became emblematic of Christian charity and evangelism.

Tenement at 109 Washington Street, Financial District
From the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, the area west of Broadway, and extending north from Battery Place roughly to Chambers Street, was home to New York City’s largest Middle Eastern (largely Syrian and Lebanese) community. A few blocks from Ground Zero, this humble tenement survived not only the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but more recently, 9/11. It is emblematic of the stalwart spirit of NYC’s resilient immigrant communities.

Economy Candy, 108 Rivington Street, Lower East Side
Since 1937, this Lower East Side emporium has been a pilgrimage site for those seeking confections of every sort – neon marshmallow peeps glow from the counters, hollow chocolate bunnies patiently perch on beds of plastic grass, and bins stacked nearly to the ceiling contain every jellybean flavor on record, gleefully surrounding sweet-toothed shoppers.

Chinatown Senior Citizens’ Center, 70 Mulberry Street, Chinatown
With the Cantonese opera club performing daily in the orchestra room and animated tile games of tian-jiu and ma-jian, the Chinatown Senior Citizens’ Center embodies Chinatown’s spirit and its history. Over 300 people congregate each day in the former Public School 23 building, also the first home of the Museum of Chinese in America. The oral histories of the residents helped to inspire and launch the Museum, in whose new home the ceremony will take place.

The Ear Inn (The James Brown House), 326 Spring Street, Tribeca
Although 326 Spring Street is a designated New York City landmark and listed on the National Register, the lore surrounding the Ear Inn is as significant as the Federal style building that houses it. The house was built in 1817 for James Brown, a Revolutionary soldier who some claim is the African American man in the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware. Bought by customers and neighbors in 1977, and called the "spiritual hub of West Soho," the Ear Inn became a wide open canvas for Bohemia, and hosts a vast array of performances.

What: The Place Matters Awards and Dance Party
 Wednesday, October 26, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Where: Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), 215 Centre St., Manhattan (N, R, Q, J, Z, and 6 trains to Canal St.)
Admission: Free, RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Call Molly at 212-529-1955, x303 or
Funded by American Express

PWEZI ANBA TONÈL:  An Evening of Haitian Poetry and Music

• Live from the POEMobile – An Evening of Haitian Poetry and Music  After wonderful evenings lighting up the walls of the Hellgate Bridge and Terazza Café in Queens, the POEMobilerides into Brooklyn this Saturday night. Join us for a performance of poetry and music by Haiti Cultural Exchange and La Troupe Makandal. Josaphat-Robert Large, poet, novelist, and winner of the prestigious Prix littéraire des Caraïbes, writer and performer Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, poet and short story author Denize Lauture, and Haitian-American poets Jennifer Celestin and Yolaine St. Fort will read their poems on the subjects of life, death, homeland, and love accompanied by building-sized projections of text from their poems projected from the roof of thePOEMobile. Entrancing rhythms from Master Drummer Frisner Augustin and La Troupe Makandal punctuate the evening.

If you want to grab a bite before (or after) the show, City Lore recommends the following restaurants in Prospect Heights:
Kombit Bar & Restaurant (Haitian)
Franklin Park Restaurant & Beer Garden
Chavela’s Cafe Mexicano
The Islands

Bowery Arts & Science is grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for its New York City Cultural Innovation Fund award powering the POEMobile.

When: Saturday, August 20, 8:00pm, rain or shine. 
Where: Five Myles Gallery, 558 St. John’s Place; Brooklyn, NY 11238. Take the #2/3/4/5 to Franklin Ave.
Admission: Free
For more information and reservations: City Lore 212-529-1955, x 308
Follow us on Twitter @POEMobile.

West Indian Carnival
Photo by Martha Cooper

• Behind the Scenes at the West Indian Carnival  With Labor Day approaching with its bevy of West Indian carnival celebrations, our featured tour on City of Memory takes you behind the scenes. The virtual tour takes you to Mas Camps where celebrants make the costumes and plan events leading up to the Labor Day parade. We also want to invite you to enjoy some of these events in person. You can print out the tour on City of Memory to start out. But you might also call some of the Mas Camp social clubs like Sesame Flyers to find out about performances at the clubs and visit some of the panyards where the steel drum bands practice late into the night in a party atmosphere with plenty of street food. The Dimanche Gras where the lavish costumes are paraded and judged behind the Brooklyn Museum is always a treat. Click here for the full calendar of events. Leading up to the carnival, there are also calypso performances tents which feature Trinidadian calypso monarchs and comedians. Check out the events at Tropical Paradise Ballroom (718-941-1879 for more info), and enjoy the Tropical Paradise Restaurant to round out your evening.

Photo by Hal Cannon

• Music from Angola Prison on NPR  In April 2010, I joined Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center on an unforgettable road trip to visit sites that John and Alan Lomax uncovered in their legendary collecting expeditions beginning in 1910 with John Lomax’s work with cowboy songs in Texas and stretching into the 1930s and ‘40s at Angola Prison in Louisiana. The two were on a quest for folk music in its "purest" form. The elder Lomax believed prison walls were a filter against the "polluting" influences of popular music. Inside Angola’s walls, prisoners found not only isolation, but the perpetuation of a plantation-like farming system that had the effect of preserving many of the work songs from the days of slavery. Prisoners worked the fields in large groups and often sang as they worked. At the prison, the Lomaxes discovered Leadbelly, recorded work songs, and influenced the trajectory of American popular music.

Traveling to the Angola prison rodeo and into the prison itself last year we discovered that the penitentiary is a very different place than in Lomax’s day, yet music remains an important part of life for many of the inmates. Listening to the prisoners – most in for life without parole – was so powerful because their situation led them to seek meaning in life in new ways – for many, music was part of that search. Recently, NPR’s All Things Considered featured some of the music we recorded from Angola with the gospel group Voices in the Wilderness, and inmates Michael Palmer and Daniel Washington. Listen here. The story and project were cosponsored by City Lore and the Western Folklife Center, and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

City Lore Teaching Artist Residency
Photo by George Zavala

• The City Lore Classroom  Often less visible to our members and friends are City Lore’s artists in the schools programs, bringing an array of diverse artists and art forms to over 5,000 public school children each year. We recently completed a 12-minute video to convey our approach and highlight some of our fine cadre of teaching artists, George Zavala, Lu Yu, Yah’ya Kamate, Cecilia Ortega, Kwok Kay Choey, and Jenna Bonistalli. In this fine portrait by Meerkat Media, you can follow a classroom of beautiful children on a field trip to the Chinese Scholars Garden in Staten Island.

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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