Weequahic Tour and Liberian festival
Busy day today. I took Newarkology's walking tour of the Weequahic district, then went to fotograf Washington's Tree, then went to look for lettuce plantlets at a nursery in Belleville, then went further into Belleville to Kmart to replace my recently nonworking toaster oven, then drove back to Newark for grocery shopping at the Bergen Street Pathmark, and then home to put away (some of the) groceries, review my pix, and catch up with the computer work I would ordinarily do during the day. As you might guess, I needed a nap. And took it.
I'll talk about the walking tour over the next few days (I need to clarify with our guide the identification of some of the sights) and display some of the more striking fotos this week, then portion out the rest over the next few months, interspersed with pix of other parts of the city and environs. (I have about 125 usable fotos from the tour. 4 or 5 were too fuzzy, so I deleted them.)
The most unusual part of the day was something I wandered into in going to Military Park in Downtown Newark to take pix of Washington's Tree (which I will show later this week). After I parked (near the NJ Historical Society building) and walked into Military Park, I heard music and saw a bunch of colorfully garbed people at the southern end of the park, in the area of the JFK statue. I didn't want to intrude, but was curious as to who they were and what the occasion was. I spotted the Liberian flag and the top of a banner, both partly upside down, draped over the fence surrounding the JFK statue. (The flag is very easy for an American to recognize, in that it emulates the U.S. flag in having red and white stripes and a blue canton, but there is only one star in the canton.) The banner read "L.C.A.N.J.", which I assumed meant Liberian Something — Citizens? — of New Jersey. That piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. First, I have casually followed Liberian history ever since I learned in high school that Liberia was founded by freed American slaves. I've always thought that after slavery was abolished, Liberia should have been offered statehood. Second, the family that bought the house across the street from me, formerly owned by the Fiores but sold after the husband's death, is Liberian. James and I have chatted, and he introduced me to his wife (Staci? I'm so bad with names!) and his little boy, James. (I managed to remember the names of both father and son. Give me that much.)
So I walked closer to the singing and dancing, and looked for someone who might tell me what was going on. The group wasn't hostile, but wasn't outgoing either. I spotted a tall gentleman in a handsome loose-fitting African suit (see below), and asked. I managed, albeit with considerable difficulty due to his accent, to discern that this was the end of an extended celebration of Liberia's independence day, which falls on the 26th of July, sponsored by the Liberian Community Association of North Jersey, which is headquartered on Bergen Street. Just then, the woman president of the organization (Menseh M. Jones) wandered close enuf for my informant to introduce us, and I mentioned that my new neighbor is from Liberia, and speaks Loma. She said, "Loma — that's his tribe", indicating the gentleman I had been talking to, who then asked if I spoke Loma. I said no, but the family across the street from me speak Loma.
Ms. Jones asked what my neighbors' last name is, and I was struck that I knew only first names. She apparently did not know a James with a son James on Smith Street in the Vailsburg section of Newark.
I asked if it would be alrite if I took a picture of their gathering and the two said that would be fine.
I then went to find and fotograf Washington's Tree. After I'd done that, I headed back in the direction of the Liberian group (because there is no exit from the park directly toward my parking space because of the garage entrance). They were all starting to leave, and as the president approached, I asked if she had a card I might pass to my neighbor. She was glad to hand me one, which is how I know her name.
As the group dispersed, I took this second foto, past the retaining wall at the underpark garage entrance, of a portion of the group as it paused on its way home. Only in reviewing the foto tonite did I note what appears to be either a dead tree or a very large birch, with white bark, off to the left. I shall have to return to the park at some point to see which it is. I never noticed a birch in Military Park before, but I have seen enormous birches in British Columbia or somewhere else out West, in Canada or the U.S.
This closer view shows more of the traditional Liberian clothing sported by some members of the throng.
Another thread in the tapestry of life in Newark.
This being Sunday, "Church Day" here at the Newark USA blog, I am happy to report that I took pix of about 15 churches in the Weequahic area on the tour today. I had been running very low on pictures of churches.
Today's foto is of a literal storefront church that I might not have noticed to be a church had there not been a service going on as we walked by. The amplified speech of the minister attracted my attention.