Showing posts with label Sanford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sanford. Show all posts

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Travon Martin Project touches raw nerves.

On the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, United States, George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American high school student. George, a 28-year-old mixed-race Hispanic man, was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily living and where the shooting took place George was told not to follow the youth but he followed anyway.  Responding to an earlier call from Zimmerman, police arrived on the scene within two minutes of the shooting. He was taken into custody, treated for head injuries, then questioned for five hours. The police chief said that Zimmerman was released because there was no evidence to refute the claim of having acted in self-defense. The police chief also said that Zimmerman had had a right to defend himself with lethal force. An arrest was finally made after the incident became national news and protesters filled Sanford. George was given a trial and found not guilty.

Producer Beth Marshal wanted to create a show that deals with the huge divide that Trayvon Martin's death caused in Central Florida and the country. Her son is about the same age as Trayvon and if her son was seen walking through suburban Sanford, quite frankly he would be alive. The show opens with Billy Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" as the audience entered the theater. The song referenced "blood on the leaves" in a sorrowful anguished voice. The show opened with a congressional hearing about the ban on certain items. There were long heated debates about how these items needed to be outlawed for everyone's protection. One committee member had smuggled the item into the hearing like a knife into a courtroom. The committee erupted in chaos as he showed them the hoodie which is quite functional on a cold evening.
John DiDonna acted as the show's narrator. He talked about Sanford's past and how racism has been woven into the fabric of the towns history. Back in 1946, the city of Sanford ran Jackie Robinson out of town while he was playing for the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers AAA team, which trained in Sanford. Then there was the story of schoolteacher Harry Tyson Moore, who was the founder of the first branch of the NAACP in Florida's Seminole County, where Sanford is located. Moore fought tirelessly for racial equality in Sanford, including voting rights for African Americans. That made him a dangerous man to many white people in town. On Christmas night of 1951, the home of Moore and his wife Harriette Vyda Simms Moore was fire bombed. It was the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary. Moore died on his way to a Sanford hospital and his wife died 9 days later of her injuries. In Sanford's more recent past, the 2010 case of Sherman Ware had some troubling similarities to the Trayvon Martin tragedy. On Dec. 4, 2010, 21-year-old Justin Collison, was captured on a YouTube video leaving a Sanford bar, when he walked up behind an unsuspecting Ware, a homeless African American man, and punched him in the back of the head, which drove Ware's face into a utility pole and then onto the pavement breaking his nose. Sanford police questioned Collison who was not cuffed that night and had possession of the video but did not arrest him. You see, Collison's father is a Sanford police lieutenant and his grandfather is a former circuit judge and wealthy Florida landowner.

20 years ago when I moved to Orlando, the Ku Klux Klan held a demonstration at the Jewish Community Center in Maitland.  There was a heated debate at the time about if there should be a counter demonstration. Some argued that by counter demonstrating, we would be giving the KKK the attention they wanted. Hundreds of counter demonstrators showed up verses six or so KKK members hiding behind robes. Janine Klein spoke of isms in her monologue in the show. She was a Jewish school teacher and did grow up facing racism. In the talk back after the show she said that she realized that she wants to be more of an activist to help bring about change. Silence isn't the answer.

The talk back triggered an amazing conversation with the audience. One woman in the audience was of Cuban heritage. One of her cousins had light skin and she was treated differently than all the other children with dark skin. So there was racism even within a family. Sheryl Carbonell, from the cast is inter-racially married to a white police officer. He has been bitten, beaten and shot at on the job. 14 incidents were all caused by black men. None of these incidents were ever covered by the media. The Jordan Davis shooting happened during production of the play. It is clear that these type of shootings continue. Kerry Alce who plays Trayvon said that he is desensitized and frightened by all the shootings of black children. The talk back was every bit as powerful as the production itself. Change only happens when you open a dialogue.This is a daring production that certainly opened that dialogue. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King

There are only 2 shows remaining of The Trayvon Martin Project...
October 4, Saturday at 7:30pm
October 5, Sunday at 2pm
at the Valencia College East Campus Black Box Theatre building 3 (701 North Econolockahatchee Trail Orlando FL).
Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 students. Proceeds from this event benefit The Travyon Martin Foundation.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Case of the Cervical Spine

Jillian O'Connor and her daughters hired me to sketch Dennis O'Connor, their father and husband as a gift for his birthday. On the evening before the court date, Jill sent me an e-mail to let me know that the trial would be in courtroom G of the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford. Unfortunately I didn't read the e-mail until 1:30pm after I had written several articles. Court had started at 9am. Jill decided to sit in on the trial. This was the first time she had watched Dennis in a courtroom in 30 years. I called her in a panic and asked if the trial was still underway. She whispered that it was. I rushed to get dressed and quickly drove up to Sanford. I knew I was up against the clock since the trial would likely shut down for the day at 5pm.

I had to take my shoes off for security when I got to the courthouse but all my art supplies slipped through without a hitch.  Courtroom G is rather small with just 2 pews for spectators. There was a full jury but I knew better than to try and sketch them. Jill sat in the back pew wearing a red dress. I had seen Dennis in one photo and I spotted him as the lawyer on the far right with the yellow legal pad. I quickly sketched him in and then focused on everyone else. Judge Alan A. Dickey presided. For much of the time he seemed to focus on his computer the same was true of the court officer and the woman seated next to her. The most active person in the courtroom was the stenographer who often moved to get closed to anyone who was speaking.

The case involved a cervical spine injury of Samantha Stringer Bobbitt. Blame was implied again and again in the cross examination of a medical expert named Dr. Jones, who was paid $4000 for his time in court. Earlier in the day Dr. Scharfman had been examined as a medical expert. I actually used to go to Dr. Scharfman to try and handle constant headaches I suffer from due to a pinched nerve in my neck. The doctor prescribed a series of drugs, three of which I still take today so that I can function. Over time the drug cocktail seems to have lost it's effectiveness and I have stoically resigned myself to the fact that living is painful. However whenever I sketch, I forget about the pain as I wrestle with the creative process. So, I identified with Samantha's plight as they outlined six years in which she went to numerous specialists to try and control her pain. The human body is a frail and delicate structure with a nerve filled tent pole of a spine to defy gravity. Age and trauma either from daily chores or an accident can  cause those nerves if pinched to constantly send a signal of pain to the brain. It seems odd that so much expense went into finding a blame for the pain.

No expense was spared to create graphics to sway the juries opinions. Dennis's team of lawyers had a large dry mounted poster made up of a view of someone's back with hundreds of acupuncture needles protruding out of it. The opposing lawyer said that he didn't even object at the use of the image because of how creative Dennis's argument had been. Dennis knew Dr. Jones socially but on the stand he had to try and sway and challenge the doctors opposing opinion.

At 5pm the judge called for a recess. Dennis introduced his wife to the judge and he explained that this was her first time ever in the courtroom. After the jury left, the judge chastised the lawyers, saying the trial was taking much too long. He said if they didn't pick up the pace, then he would call a mistrial. After the judge left the lawyers justified their days work reassuring each other that it was hard to cover six years of medical treatment in a single day. The court officer noticed I was still sketching and she asked if I was actively involved with the defendant or the prosecution. I paused, not sure what to say, it was obvious she planned to kick me out of the courtroom. Dennis's assistant council covered for me saying I was involved in the presentation materials. If Dennis wasn't suspicious about what I was doing, he must have suspected after that little power play. In the end, I'm not sure of the outcome of the case of Samantha's spine, the backbone of truth was lost in a mountain of detail and grey innuendo. I do know a lot of money is involved.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sanford Art Walk

On every fourth Friday between 6pm and 9pm, there is an Art Walk in Downtown Sanford that features fine and funky art. I went to the June Sanford Art Walk with storm clouds looming. As I walked down 1st Street it began to pour, so I slipped inside the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Galley (211 East 1st Street, Sanford FL). As I was looking around, the woman behind the counter asked if I was Thor. It was Mary K. Shaw. I had sketched her once as part of the Sketchbook Project Library which was set up for a few days at Urban ReThink. I had never met her in person, yet she was a Facebook friend. Since she knew of my sketch a day project, I felt comfortable asking her if I could sketch the gallery to promote the Sanford Art Walk. It was hard to find a spot where I wouldn't be blocking any art. I snuggled up next to a water pipe and got to work.

There are artist's studios all around the outer edge of the gallery. I particularly liked the work of Cherie Dacko. Her " Bent Realism" distorted faces as if using the liquefy filter in Photoshop. Features melted and swirled. She also incorporated fabric that gave the work an added dimension. I got to meet the artist and she used to work in the front studio that had a window to the street. Passers by would actually stop in to complain saying they found her work disturbing. That is a major accomplishment to get such a visceral reaction.  She now has a studio upstairs where she can work in peace. I purchased a bottle of "Cheer Wine" which is actually a local soda that I have never been able to find in a supermarket. I met Joe Waller, who makes "Cheer Wine" in his home state of North Carolina But I never had the chance to taste it. Now I knew what all the fuss was about.

For the Art Walk, two Folk Artists were exhibiting their colorful work in the far corner of my sketch. That evening there was also going to be shuffleboard matches at the Sanford Senior Center with vintage attire encouraged. The shuffleboard is rain or shine, thanks to covered pavilions, so anyone can come out and rattle the sticks and pucks tonight. Free and fun til 9pm. A small French Bulldog named Frankie was the welcome ambassador to the Folk Art. He slobbered on my bag and checked on my progress fairly often. A Day of the Dead mask of Lady Catrina was made by an artist who wears it in October and walks 1st Avenue to promote the gallery. This is the place to be come Halloween. There were $20 magnets by Artist Carl Knickerbocker. I had one of these on my car once but it was stolen. Tin can fish swam through the cavernous gallery and black face iron sculptures stood behind an ancient travel chest.

The theme for the month at the Sanford Welcome Center was,“Art Show About Nothing”, abstractions abounded, they didn’t care what it was, as long as it was NOT SOMETHING. It's a different theme each month. A small card on the counter had a map that showed all nine stops on the Art Walk. Having experienced just one venue, I have every reason to go back. Tonight's Art Walk (Friday July 26, 2013), theme is “Breakable”- a tribute to all things breakable, broken or pieced back together. This is Central Florida’s only monthly juried art show with both a “Best in Show” award chosen by a panel of judges and a “People’s Choice” award chosen by the attendees of the show. Head to downtown Sanford, pick up a map at any gallery, and mingle with the artists as you enjoy live music, food and lots of ART. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Zimmerman Not Guilty

Saturday July 13th was the 40th World Wide SketchCrawl. I deviated from the planned itinerary and went up to Sanford Florida to see if there were people waiting outside the courthouse for the verdict in the case against George Zimmerman.  The courthouse was surprisingly quiet.  Dark storm clouds loomed heavy and grey. Just hours later, jurors would announce the verdict that George Zimmerman was not guilty. I didn't follow the trial on TV but I was there when the first protests happened.  On the morning of the final deliberations, prisoners shouted "Justice for Trayvon" from their cells.

Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed Trayvon Martin in a Sanford neighborhood. Zimnerman was a citizen neighborhood patrolman. He called a police dispatcher, saying that he saw a suspicious youth with a hoodie walking through his neighborhood. The dispatcher told Zimmerman to stay in his car, that police were on the way. Zimmerman got out of his car anyway, stalked Trayvon and shot him to death. The youth had skittles in his pocket.

The jury was entirely made up of women.  Though found not guilty, Zimmerman certainly isn't innocent. It is unlikely that he will ever again walk the streets of Sanford on patrol. He is easily identifiable with his round face and small eyes. He is a pariah, and will likely disappear from public sight very much like Casey Anthony, the mom accused of killing her two year old daughter. Though found not guilty, she is still embroiled in law suits. She owes $800,000 and hasn't worked since her case was settled. She filed for bankruptcy, but in March, a lawyer filed a motion asking for a Florida judge's permission to sell "the exclusive worldwide rights in perpetuity to the commercialization of Anthony's life story." Casey didn't want any part of it. She had to pay $25,000 to settle the case and keep her story to herself.

George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, will likely be charged with perjury. She lied saying that the family had no money for lawyers fees when there was $135,000 in the bank. Money was being transferred out of George Zimmerman's account in an effort to hide the money. This isn't the last day in court for the Zimmermans. TV reporters kept asking people to express their anger, shock and resentment as if this is the only thing that is news worthy.

Spike Lee used Twitter to send out George Zimmerman's home address during the trial. He got the address wrong and ruined the lives of an elderly couple,  David and Elaine McClain, who had to suffer the abuse of false public scrutiny. They have nothing to do with the Zimmerman case.  There were threats on social media and notes left on their doorstep.  They had to leave their home fearing for their safety. The woman suffered a heart attack after the stress and strain.  This false address is still being re tweeted endlessly. The Internet, rather than bringing people together is helping tear us apart.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sacred Slave Stories

"Sacred Slave Stories," created by Dario J. Moore, tells the stories of actual slaves through original music and the emotional impact of dance. The Center for Contemporary Dance has received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which it will use to produce Moore Dance Project's "Sacred Slave Stories" for Orange County schoolchildren. This is the second year that "Sacred Slave Stories" has received a grant through the program. The contemporary dance program will be presented to 1,000 students from Orange County Title I public schools throughout February in partnership with the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford. Student presentations of "Sacred Slave Stories" are further supported by funding from United Arts of Central Florida, the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation and Target Stores.

I went to the Center of Contemporary Dance to sketch a rehearsal of "Sacred Slave Stories." The personal stories gathered are harsh and real. A woman related how severe a beating she got when she ate some bread she found while she was cleaning a home. The contemporary dance was narrative and powerful. A dancer raised a fist in anger but was held back by his lover. Male dancers moved huge imaginary loads on their backs, pausing under the weight. The dance is meant to convey hope while acknowledging the harsh and brutal realities of slavery.

The Center for Contemporary Dance  presented its 2012-2013 Season Preview, which took place  on Sunday, November 18, 2012 at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park.  This season preview introduced  the organization's Eleventh Annual Season of Dance, and included sneak-peek performances of upcoming works in the 2012-2013 event season.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Justice 4 Trayvon

An estimated 8,000 people gathered in Sanford's Fort Mellon park to rally for justice in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Reverand Al Sharpton had flown to Sanford to support the cause. Originally the rally was going to be held at the First Iconium Baptist church, but organizers realized that the church couldn't support the expected crowds. With such a huge crowd, I realized I couldn't get close to the stage. Instead as community leaders spoke, I wandered inside the crowd that filled the stadium sized field of grass. I didn't look towards the stage, instead I looked back at the crowd of people behind me.

I decided to sit down and sketch these three teens holding signs for Trayvon. The Hollister T-shirt was similar to the one worn by Trayvon in the photo seen everywhere. They were about his age and probably went to the same school. Grief counselors have yet to advise students on how to handle the events surrounding the shooting and death of their classmate. A teacher calling roll, called out Trayvon's name having forgot he wouldn't be coming back. She broke down and cried. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain followed and shot the unarmed teen when he was walking home from a convenience store carrying iced tea and skittles. A witness heard Treyvon crying for help just before he was shot.

On March 23rd thousands of students from roughly 50 schools in Florida staged walkouts to protest the killing. Meanwhile, the petition demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman, Martin’s shooter, surpassed 1.5 million signatures, making it all time fastest-growing petition in’s history, according to the group. Supporters of Martin’s family organized a “Million Hoodie March” last Wednesday in New York City. Hundreds of participants wore hoodies to the march which sought to protest both the police handling of the shooting and racial profiling in general.

Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, stood on stage with Al Sharpton and tearfully said, "I stand before you today not knowing how I'm walking right now, because my heart hurts for my son. Trayvon is my son. Trayvon is your son. Thanks so much for your support." "This is not about black and white. This is about right and wrong."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Treyvon Martin Justice Rally

27 days ago George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed, the unarmed, 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was returning to a gated Sanford community in the city after buying candy at a convenience store. He was unarmed and was wearing a hoodie. Zimmerman called 911 and was told by the dispatcher that he shouldn't follow the youth. He followed anyway and shot Trayvon in the chest, killing him with his 9mm pistol. Zimmerman has said the teen attacked him and he shot him in self-defense. Trayvon was unarmed, only carrying Skittles and iced tea. A witness heard someone yelling for help. A shot followed and the yelling stopped. Trayvon was on the phone with a girl from Miami as he was being followed, the girl stated Martin said, “I think this dude is following me,” and then ran to get away from him. She said she heard Martin ask Zimmerman why he was being followed, and shortly afterwards the called ended. When she tried to call him back, there was no answer. Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime.

The day before the Rally, City commissioners voted "No Confidence" in police chief Bill Lee who did not arrest Zimmerman. The police chief said that he is temporarily leaving his job to let passions cool.
Reverand Al Sharpton came to Fort Mellon Park in Sanford to address the crowd. His mother had died that morning. He said, "My mother raised me to stand up and fight. She would have been ashamed of me if I wasn't here tonight. This mother has to bury her son. Mothers are not supposed to bury their sons. We love our children. We may not have as much as others, but we have each other!" The estimated crowd of 8,000 people cheered.

He continued, “Some people said to me in the media — ‘Let me get this straight,’ they said. ‘Reverend, it seems like there’s a lot of people who are angry — are you afraid of violence?’” Sharpton preached to the Central Floridian crowd. “I said, ‘No. I’m afraid of the violence you already had.’”

“Violence is killing Tray Martin,” Sharpton continued. “Don’t act like we are the ones [who are] violent. We didn’t shoot nobody.” Al began a loud chant that swept through the crowd, yelling "No Justice!" The crowd responded "No Peace!" The chant continued, growing louder as more people joined in. "Enough is enough!" he shouted. Zimmerman should have been arrested that night!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Talk like a Pirate Day.

To celebrate talk like a pirate day, Terry and I drove to Sanford where there was going to be a pirate costume contest. There was a group of unsavory characters gathered around the Visitors borough. Terry had on a black and white striped shirt some mighty fancy studded pirates boots and a real fencing sword. I was dressed up for a Gala reception I planned to draw later that night. A dog walked by with a pirate hat on and there were two other dogs in costume. All told maybe ten people had dressed in their pirate best. I convinced Terry to sign up for the costume contest. The hag announcer with her missing teeth, mispronounced Terry's name saying Thornpecker. Oh the indignity! Terry got to strut up the walkway past the judges brandishing her sword. Awards were given out in various categories and although I didn't compete, I was handed a silver piece of eight. Being the first incarnation of this event, it was understandably small but I trust tharrr be morrrre pirates next Yearrr!