Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 42: Illinois


my favorite photo of my grandfather, Robert Wahlfeldt

Springfield

where his cousin lived she was just his age they are back to back in a
studio portrait white bow in her hair circa 1909

where in 1908 a black was accused of killing a white another black of
raping a white

where the Lincoln home the Lincoln tomb the Lincoln depot the
Lincoln pew are tourist attractions monuments to the martyred
Illinois man who freed the slaves

where in 1908 a mob finding the prisoners gone burned the transporting
car destroyed 24 black businesses 40 black homes killed
2 successful blacks and also accidentally 4 whites

where he would later take his wife and child to visit the cousin the
Lincoln home the Lincoln tomb

-excerpt from Blue Front, by Martha Collins, 2006

Visit Martha's site to read more

Earlier this week I heard Martha Collins read at the Fine Arts Work Center. I hadn't heard of her before and didn't know what to expect. Provincetown is very open, but not racially diverse. Martha's words washed a like a wave of reality through the room. Her book Blue Front is a book length poem about a lynching that her father witnessed when he was 5 years old. It takes place in Illinois (my home state). I couldn't help but think about my grandfather Robert as she read. I left sensing how incredibly difficult, yet urgent, it is for contemporary artists to find new ways to share these stories- as Martha has.

"During the Sixties, Wahlfeldt took up the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. He helped pressure the Danville Illinois City Council and the Mayor to appoint a city Civil Rights Commission, to investigate discrimination and police abuse. After the Klu Klux Klan had burned a cross in the yard of a local civil rights activist, Wahlfeldt organized a guard duty detail armed with shotguns, to protect the activist from further attacks."
- excerpt from Robert's obituary in the Industrial Workers of the World newspaper, May 2008

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

GPW ....... His spirit, work and inspiration live on....
J

nc said...

Your grandpa looks SO cool. I'm so sorry I didn't get to meet him.