Posts Tagged 'Chesapeake Bay'

A Story Quilt and a Spirited Ceremony

Apparently it was a well-kept surprise to Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither that she, along with her extraordinary documentary story quilt, were the honorees at a spirited dedication ceremony this past Wednesday. The artist received various accolades, too many to enumerate, celebrating her Black Watermen of the Chesapeake quilt. Imagine being asked to show up for a “small” dedication ceremony to find a hundred friends, family, local students, community members, and other supporters there to tell you how much of an impact you have had on their lives. Music and poetry framed the ceremony, including a rendition of Ave Maria by Banneker-Douglass Museum’s own Gen Kaplan, winter and water-themed selections by Bates Middle School choir, and a capella spirituals. Oh yes, there were tears.

 Let me back up a little; when I say her quilt, what I mean is her vision, her expertise, and her talent. But Dr. Gaither did something remarkable: She shared all this with the community and allowed anyone who wished to add their story, their photos, and their stitches to the quilt. She is the first to say that this was a community project. This particular documentary story quilt, as there are quite a few more, tells the stories of African American men and women who spent their lives working the water of the Chesapeake: Their struggles, their triumphs, their families, their LOVE of the Bay. As Jeff Holland, Director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum said, “this is our history,” no matter who you are. If you live by the Bay, you will be touched by these stories.

If you haven’t seen the quilt yet, well, you have to wait until March when it returns to its home state – this piece is traveling! Its first stop is in Hartford, Connecticut then back to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

Reflecting on this past Wednesday, though, I can say what a great way to start the day! If you weren’t able to attend the dedication ceremony, check out some of my photos below. Then get in the car, and go to Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis to check out some of her other pieces while they’re still on exhibit!

— Aleithea W.

The Bates Middle School choir sings for the audience

Karen Rowe and Olivia Gray from the organization Quilt: Art to Mend the World (from my hometown, Riverale, MD!) lead the audience in a spiritual

Dr. Gaither stands in front of (only a small section!) of the Quilt

Mr. Ted Mack prepares to present Dr. Gaither with an accolade with the entire quilt in the background


Preserving the Chesapeake Bay – My time with Earthwatch

Nearly a year ago, I spent a week at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland as apart of the HSBC Climate Partnership program administered by Earthwatch Institute

As many preservationists will tell you, the field is not limited to historic buildings (the “bricks and mortar”), but to preserving landscapes as well. Especially here in the Chesapeake Bay region, many of us find it impossible to separate our cultural identity from our environment. We thrive on our relationship with the Bay and its associated icons, such as the Great Blue Heron, the Blue Crab, sailing and other maritime activities, oysters and oystering, otters and dolphins (yes, dolphins!), turtles (like, of course, the Diamondback Terrapin), and lush riparian (or streamside)  forests. 

At the weeklong workshop, we not only learned theories about global climate change, but also participated hands-on in on-going sustainable forestry research taking place at SERC, including the impact of deforestation on the carbon balance in our region. We identified, classified, mapped, tagged, and measured hundreds of trees growing near the Rhode River. The goal of this particular project was to track how healthy the forests are in this area in light of the historical past use of the land for agricultural purposes. Some of the forest cover is new growth, after having been logged for farming purposes as late as the early twentieth century. Researchers will use this data to help North American forestry management deal with the ever increasing human impact on the landscape.

 On another occasion, I had the chance to canoe the Rhode River with the SERC staff during which I learned of human impact on the tiniest of flora and fauna in the Chesapeake Bay and the research at SERC charged with stemming the tide (so to speak) of negative change. 

Below are photos of my week-long adventure at SERC; it was the middle of autumn and quite extraordinary. – Aleithea

Me standing in front of a root system of an enormous fallen tree

Me standing in front of a root system of an enormous fallen tree

I climbed this 50 meter tower to view the landscape. Researchers use it to study the tree canopy.

I climbed this 50 meter tower to view the landscape. Researchers use it to study the tree canopy.

View of the Rhode River from the top of the tower

View of Edgewater from the top of the tower


With two feet back on the ground, a view of the tree canopy

With two feet back on the ground, a view of the tree canopy

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