The Heinz History Center's exhibit From Slavery to Freedom tells the story of brave African Americans who fought for freedom and escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. This story isn’t new, but Sam Black, director of African-American programs at the Center, wanted to do something different.
“I wanted to look more into the African-American life experience,” he explains. He was curious how 19th-century African Americans lived, what they did and what they ate. So he contacted culinary historian and Maryland native Michael Twitty, who became an adviser to the History Center’s exhibit.
On Saturday, Twitty will visit the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, in Avella, to discuss the centuries of tradition, commonly cooked into one meal.
From behind the stove, he will narrate an often-overlooked thread of the slavery story, what everyday life was like for African Americans more than two centuries ago. Over the course of his two-hour demonstration, titled “Beyond the Big House Kitchen: A Culinary History of American Slavery,” Twitty will cook a meal of fried chicken, okra soup, kush and hoecakes, the latter a type of cornmeal pancake that enslaved Africans made using the blade of their hoe as a skillet.
Food can reveal a lot about the way people lived. Twitty’s research has traced African-American cooking methods and ingredients back to West Africa, the region from which most of this country’s enslaved people came. There, Black explains, men traditionally had the job of food preparation. However, on plantations, the slave owners wanted the men to do more intense physical labor in the fields. African Americans were forced to conform to the European model, and food preparation became a woman’s job.
Some plantations allowed slaves to have gardens near their cabins. They preserved their West African roots by cultivating traditional ingredients, like hot peppers, greens, okra and peanuts. Many continued to farm these heirloom crops after they escaped the plantations. Sometimes they had to substitute, for example, swapping sweet potatoes for traditional African yams, which were not readily available in the United States.
The demonstration starts at 11 a.m. and is free with regular admission, which costs $12 for adults, $11 for senior citizens, and $6 for students and children ages 6-17. Admission is free for children under 5.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter is located in Avella, in Washington County, about an hour west of Pittsburgh.
Got a Huffy Bandit? Schwinn Fair Lady? J.C. Higgins Deluxe?
The appraiser is Craig Morrow, who owns the nearby Bike Heaven museum and shop. From noon to 2 p.m., he’ll be stationed at the Science Center’s temporary outdoors Bikes Plaza (right near the dinosaur, right on the Center’s back lawn, along the Riverfront Rrail).
If you’ve never visited Bike Heaven, it’s worth hitting the coaster brakes for (and neither you nor your bicycle has to die — or be good — to get in). The warehouse-sized joint, located along the Riverfront Trail about a mile downriver, has an astounding collection of bikes spanning the entire history of two-wheelers, plus vast stores of paraphernalia, ephemera and memorabilia. It’s a working repair shop, as well.
Morrow calls Bike Heaven “the world’s largest bicycle museum and shop.” Bikes from Bike Heaven’s collection are included in BIKES.
Robert King, one of Louisiana’s “Angola Three” inmates, speaks here Saturday about his 29 years in solitary confinement and his efforts to help others still trapped there.
The talk, titled “Solitary Confinement: Torture in Our Prisons,” is part of a program running 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and other groups.
Forty years ago, King, then an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as “Angola”), was convicted of murdering another inmate. His conviction followed by a year the convictions of inmates Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, for the killing of a prison guard.
King, now in his 70s, will discuss his continuing efforts to highlight the injustices of the U.S. penal system against African Americans and poor people.
Saturday’s program will also include family members of prisoners now living in solitary confinement — imprisonment of 23 or 24 hours a day in cells as small as 6 feet by 9 feet, often with other restrictions associated with high rates of mental illness and suicide.
As documented in a new report by the federal General Accounting Office, http://solitarywatch.com/2013/06/01/gao-report-questions-widespread-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-federal-prisons/ solitary confinement has been rising in the U.S. for decades https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/05-7, and lately has come under increasing criticism http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/new-report-confirms-solitary-confinement-federal-prisons-largely-unchecked.
Saturday’s program — whose other sponsors include the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the PA Council of Churches and Amnesty International Group 39 — includes a light lunch and an author signing of King’s 2008 autobiography, From the Bottom of the Heap.
A free-will donation is requested. Registration is preferred; contact 412-315-7423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
East Liberty Presbyterian Church is located at 116 S. Highland Ave., in East Liberty.
Putting a new spin on the lunch break, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater yesterday introduced Friendship to the midday dance party. On Wednesday, the artsy work crowd from the East End neighborhoods descended on Penn Avenue’s Quiet Storm restaurant for Beats n Eats Volume I.
DJ Nate da Phat Barber manned the turntables in the vegan/vegetarian restaurant’s lounge, playing mostly hip hop and house music. A crowd of about 20 people, sitting at tables, bopped along from their chairs and swapped pleasantries between bites of tempeh and tofu.
The patrons — many greeted with cheek smooches and a friendly “How have you been?” — all seemed to know each other. “Everyone eats lunch so we’re all here anyway,” said Kelly-Strayhorn executive director Janera Solomon, “and it’s never too early to dance.” This group was mostly made up of dancers, but the theater’s monthly shindig is open to all “Penn Avenue creatives,” from designers and architects to visual artists.
Kelly-Strayhorn Theater also offers these gatherings to remind the neighborhood it's here. “A lot of East End people don’t know we’re open,” said box-office manager Jackie Baker, who stood outside the restaurant, handing out information, free tickets and Ring Pops. The theater, now named after two Pittsburgh greats (dancer Gene Kelly and composer Billy Strayhorn), first opened in 1914, as a movie theater. Before its current incarnation as a 350-seat live arts venue, with a specialty in contemporary dance, it had been frequently in and out of operation.
After the minglers had finished their meals and had a chance to catch up, Solomon took the mic to thank everyone for coming. “There’s only one rule with this party,” she said. “We have to dance.” DJ Nate kept the beats coming as most attendees abandoned their tables and hit the floor. This lunchtime dance party will continue with volumes 2 and 3 on July 10 and Aug. 14. For more information visit kelly-strayhorn.org.
Historical re-enactors heeded the shouted commands of artillery captain Andrew Gaerte. It had been two decades since a cannon was fired on the site of old Fort Pitt.
The unloaded “British six-pounder” was aimed at Mount Washington. When loaded, this type of cannon could have fired a cannonball almost two miles. “We could hit the West End Bridge, easy,” Gaerte said. After the multi-step preparation, he ordered, “Take aim … fire!”
Geese scattered from the river as the shot shook the city for a brief moment.
As the gunpowder settled and ears rang, Heinz History Center president and CEO Andy Masich explained the historical importance of cannons. They protected the Point, Pittsburgh’s desirable confluence-front property, so commerce and culture could thrive in the city. A 1763 inventory counted 40 cannons at Fort Pitt. Yet the Fort Pitt Museum (which is run by the History Center) had been without an active replica cannon since the mid-nineties.
The Museum has been training volunteers to safely reenact the firing, using proper protocol.
Wednesday's demonstration was for the media, but additional firings await.
The cannon will be publicly fired for the first time on July 4 to kick off that day's Downtown fireworks. It will also fire on Aug. 9 and 10 for the opening of the Museum’s Unconquered exhibit; on Sept. 14, to commemorate the 1778 Treaty of Pittsburgh and British Major Grant’s defeat; on Oct. 26 for King George III Ascension Day; and on Nov. 23 for the 260th anniversary of George Washington’s arrival in Pittsburgh.
The Center’s Café Scientifique will open its doors to sci-fi geeks, neuroscience nerds and anyone else who has ever wondered, “Should I be preparing for a Zombie apocalypse?” The speaker is Dr. Timothy Verstynen, assistant professor in psychology and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University.
This discussion might leave participants weighing the nuances of that eternal question: Does sci-fi imitate science, or does science imitate sci-fi? That's because the traits that make zombies so iconic —their stiff lumbering stride, their inability to talk or experience pain — actually have some root in the scientific realm.
For Night of the Living Dead -heads, it’s that elusive quality that makes zombies so clumsily terrifying. For modern neuroscientists, these features can be explained as the result of a surreal convergence of neurological impairments.
This talk is hosted by the Science Center’s Café Scientifique, a program that calls in experts to give free anti-lectures where jargon is shunned and questions are encouraged. The Café Sci website asks participants to register by May 30, but walk-ins won’t be turned away. The talk starts at 7 p.m. and dinner items will be sold for attendees whose appetites are awakened by talk of the undead.
The Carnegie Science Center is Located at 1 Allegheny Avenue on the North Shore. For more information call 412-237-3400 or check out carnegiesciencecenter.org.
The free annual hands-on expo for all things rugged or just plain recreational is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you ever wanted to try a climbing wall, in other words, now’s the time. Plus things as low-impact as horseshoes.
Likewise kayaking, fishing in the Allegheny, dragon-boating, yoga and more. (This year, borrowing a page from the restaurant world, the fest will test a smartphone-based “no wait” reservation system for boats.)
There’s also lessons in the esoteric martial-arts discipline of capoeira (and the rather slower art of tai chi) and lawn games in the GameZone organized by festival sponsor Dick’s Sporting Goods: croquet, bocce, Ladderball.
Venture Outdoors will even have bikes on hand for you to ride. Or take to the water on the RiverQuest Explorer, a “green” boat that teaches about the health of the watershed.
Everything you need to know should be here.
Commuting can be a solitary enterprise, the bike kind no less than the car-bound variety. But on National Bike to Work Day, you can rally in two-wheeled solidarity with your fellow working-stiff cyclists.
Local organizer BikePGH is sweetening the pot with a dozen Hydration Stations from Downtown to the East End. Each station features “breakfast beverages” (hmm, wonder what those could be?), snacks and swag bags stuffed with bike-related goodies.
Even if you don’t bike to work every single day, Bike to Work Day lets you show your support for safer streets and a more bike-friendly Pittsburgh.
Bike to Work Day also kicks off Car Free Fridays season, when BikePGH encourages us to set aside one day a week to leave the internal combustion engine at the curb.
BikePGH is also touting its I Bike, I Walk, I Vote campaign as well as the National Bike Challenge. In the latter, cities and individuals compete to see who can log the most trips and miles in commuting and recreation.
Learn more about it all here.
The final public meetings for OPENSPACEPGH — the city's planning effort for open space, parks and recreation — will take place over the next two weeks. A public comment period will also open tomorrow and last until June 7.
OpenSpacePGH is a component of the city's comprehensive plan, PLANPGH, and will help guide city development by determining which areas are best left protected as open space.
The meetings are free and open to the public and will educate residents on the findings of the draft plan — which can be found here or at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations. Residents can also comment on the plan online. The city is also encouraging residents to share ideas about priorities for open space programs in various neighborhoods.
OpenSpacePGH meetings will take place on the following dates and locations:
Tues., May 7: 6 to 8 p.m., Kaufman Center, 1825 Centre Ave., Hill District
Wed., May 8: 6 to 8 p.m., Kingsley Center, 6435 Frankstown Road, Larimer
Thurs., May 9: 6 to 8 p.m., Knoxville Elder Ado, 320 Brownsville Road, Knoxville
Tues. May 14: 6 to 8 p.m., Schenley Ice Rink, Overlook Drive, Squirrel Hill
Wed., May 15: 6 to 8 p.m., Propel Northside, 1805 Buena Vista St., North Side (parking lot accessed off of Brighton Road).
For more information, contact Andrew Dash, Senior Planner, Department of City Planning by phone at 412-255-0760 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Pete Jordan, the former Pittsburgher best known till now as the zine-maker “Dishwasher Pete,” returns Monday with a new book about another obsession.
Jordan comes at biking neither idly nor as a recreational rider. He studied urban planning in Amsterdam, and he says more bicycling is a big way to make cities more livable (and, not coincidentally, more environmentally sustainable).
However, he's not concerned with weekend warriors in Lycra on fancy road bikes, but rather with everyday people riding everyday bikes to everyday places, like work and the grocery store.
In Amsterdam, where he lives with his 7-year-old son, biking is simply the way things are done.
American friends have often asked, on his return visits, whether he saw a big difference with biking today. So many more riders, eh?
“Actually, it was kind of hard to tell the difference,” Jordan recently told CP via Skype from his home in Amsterdam. Where he lives, the streets are filled with bikers all day. In supposedly bike-friendly New York City, at rush hour, he’s seen the bike lanes filled … with pedestrians.
Asked about typical reasons Americans give why biking isn’t more common here, Jordan offers some surprising insights.
American motorists, for instance, often complain that cyclists don’t follow traffic rules. Amsterdam cyclists, too, have an anarchic reputation, one stretching back a century: They ignore stoplights, don’t employ lights for night riding, and eschew helmets. Yet there’s almost no conflict with motorists.
Jordan says as an everyday biker in the U.S., he averaged one run-in a day with a motorist. In Amsterdam, he hasn’t had one in years.
Partly, he says, that’s because most drivers are bikers, too, and know what’s up. He adds that while U.S. traffic laws treat bikes as cars, even though they’re much smaller and slower, in Amsterdam, bicycles are their own class of vehicle, which helps traffic flow.
Jordan also cautions against dismissing Amsterdam’s bike-topia as something that can’t be replicated here because it’s “always been this way.” In fact, he says, three decades back the city made a conscious choice to become more bike-friendly, and actually began changing the streetscape to do it.
Amsterdam wasn’t afraid to “radically realign the city to promote cycling,” he says. Bike-friendliness in Amsterdam is measured less in painted bike lanes than in bike lanes separated from motor traffic by curbs or other barriers. And there are more of those every month, Jordan says.
“They have no problem with taking an intersection out and completely redoing it with a roundabout,” he adds.
As part of his nine-city U.S. book tour, Jordan returns to Pittsburgh on Mon., May 6.
He’ll read from his book at the Brew House, 2100 Mary St., on the South Side, starting at 7:30 p.m. (For some reason, the event isn't listed on his publisher's web site, but Jordan has friends in Pittsburgh and will definitely be here.)
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Love this episode. I'm already looking forward to visit. :)
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