Monday, May 28, 2012

52 Week 22: George Washington Carver – The Inventor

Sic Parvis Magna

I’ve always been fascinated by inventors; people who take existing things and find innovative uses for them or who create from whole cloth. People like Marconi, Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci and George Washington Carver have managed to play an indelible role in human history simply by their willingness to dream and dream big.

From humble beginnings as a slave in Missouri, he managed to claw his way to greatness through sheer ingenuity and persistence. Despite being denied higher education due to his race, he never gave up his dreams of making a difference. He was especially interested in botany and agriculture and would later become the first black student and teacher at the Iowa State Agricultural College. He would then complete both his Masters and PhD in Botany and would come to prominence with his work At Iowa State.

Carver’s most famous contributions to the field of agriculture and botany would take place under Booker T Washington’s patronage at the Tuskegee Institute. He developed innovative crop rotation methods and introduced alternative crops for farmers that would help repair the damage done by the proliferation of cotton production. Carver performed extensive experiments on different uses for crops such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans and other crops. 

His tireless work in this field eventually made him one of the most famous black Americans during that time and in 1916 was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England.
All told, Carver discovered close to three hundred uses for peanuts including as adhesives, axle grease, bleach, shaving cream, synthetic rubber and more. Most importantly, though, he was an honest man, who lived an upstanding life. This is most reflected in the 8 cardinal virtues he compiled as ones his students should strive toward:

·         Be clean both inside and out.
·         Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
·         Lose, if need be, without squealing.
·         Win without bragging.
·         Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
·         Be too brave to lie.
·         Be too generous to cheat.
·         Take your share of the world and let others take theirs

Wise words to live by, indeed.

Greatest Quote:
“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world."

52 Week 22 - A River of Gold


Some kind of metal
Made from the glue in our hearts
Comes forth within us
Corrupted Mankind`s soul

Monday, May 21, 2012

52 Week 21: Booker T Washington - The Scholar

The Great Accomodator
Booker  T. Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author and leader of the African American community. He is primarily known for founding the Tuskegee Institute. Booker T Washington was one of the last of the slavery era leaders of the pre-Civil rights era.

His experiences as a slave greatly coloured his views. Despite having to work from an early age, he never let his thirst for Knowledge wane and this would serve him well during his life.

He was more moderate in his view of how to attain civil rights and was sometimes accused (particularly by DuBois) of being an accomodationist to the white majority. He advocated vocational schools and other skilled trades for Blacks and I think he deserves a lot of credit for this. Washington argued that the surest way for blacks to gain equal social rights was to demonstrate "industry, thrift, intelligence and property." In this way, he aimed to give his fellow blacks the opportunities to prove their worth in business and other endeavours.

He was heavily criticized for this and I have some sympathy for his position, as he argued that Blacks were heavily outnumbered and that confrontation would lead to disaster. Nevertheless, he still worked tirelessly in various civil rights causes. I admire him most for his advocation of hard and honest work. I’m also a fan of his numerous books, particularly his Autobiography, ‘Up from Slavery’. His focus on education and industry played an important part in the foundation of the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Below, I have excerpted a small portion of his most famous address. The rest can be seen here.
                 "There is no defence or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand per cent. interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—“blessing him that gives and him that takes.”   
   There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:—
The laws of changeless justice bind

  Oppressor with oppressed;

And close as sin and suffering joined

  We march to fate abreast.

He worked tirelessly to lift up all oppressed peoples and for this he is rightfully honoured.

Greatest Quote:
Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.

52 Week 21 - Plastic Mountain

Plastic Poison

Some kind of plastic
Wrapped all around me and you
Spiritual poison
Made of mistakes and regrets

Friday, May 18, 2012

52: The Outtakes - Ashes to Ashes

Soul to Keep

Some kind of nature
A lost soul within us when
All we are is dust
The Way of all Flesh...
 These are the outtakes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

52 Week 20: Althea Gibson - The Hard Court

For the love of the game

Tennis was my first sport. It was the first sport I played and the first that I watched with an avid interest. It was the early ‘90s and truth be told, there were very few players of colour to look up to. Tennis has a reputation (not unlike golf) of being a ‘country-club’ sport, for people far removed from the worries of day-to-day survival. I suppose that was true in my case, as we were the few among my circle of friends that could afford to play the sport. 

I’ve always thought that there was something pure about the sport. It is a one-on-one battle of wits and wills between you and your opponent. Ultimately, a combination of lack of skill and gravitation to more plebeian pursuits (football) put an end to my playing days, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for tennis. It’s gotten a lot easier lately with the increasingly large numbers of players of color plying their trade in the game.
Of course, in Women’s tennis, the figures of the Williams’ sisters loom large, but before the Williams’ Sisters, there was Althea Gibson. Just like Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Baseball, she broke the Tennis color barrier that had long separated the races in the sport. She was the daughter of a sharecropper, but didn’t let hear early difficulties hold her back. She paved the way for other Black tennis players such as Arthur Ashe and the Williams’ sisters.

She was the first African-American woman to compete on the tennis world tour and in 1957, she was the first Black woman to win at Wimbledon. She has been inducted into the International tennis hall of fame and was honoured at the 2007 US Open for her contributions to the sport. Despite the fact that she is not as widely known, this has no bearing on the nature of her accomplishments. 

Greatest quote:
I hope that I have accomplished just one thing: that I have been a credit to tennis and my country