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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

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As you know from your earliest history classes, the first immigrants arrived in Virginia in 1607.

For good or evil, depending on how much you identify with an indigenous heritage, immigrants have made America what it is today. The migration started as early as 1607 in Virginia.

That’s what came to mind when I read this news story about the contribution of immigrants to the economy of present-day Virginia.

Katie O’Connor writes at the Virginia Mercury, “A new report from the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis says immigrants are key contributors to the state’s overall economy, despite challenges that include health insurance access, discrimination, language barriers, ‘brain waste’ and housing costs. …

“As many parts of Virginia struggle to find enough workers, many immigrants are ‘relatively young, well educated, fluent in English and more likely to participate in the workforce.’

“The one million immigrants in Virginia make up 12.5 percent of the state population. … And while immigration from Mexico tends to dominate the national debate, Virginia’s immigrant population comes from a wide variety of countries.

“ ‘Mexican immigrants make up just 5% of all immigrants in Virginia, fourth after people born in El Salvador (11%), India (9%), and Korea (6%),’ the report says. ‘Looking at continent of birth, rather than country of birth, there is a similar diversity. Forty-three percent of Virginia’s immigrant population was born in Asia, the largest group from any continent.’ Most of them are also between the prime working ages of 25 and 54. …

“ ‘Immigrants participate in Virginia’s workforce at a much higher rate than U.S.-born residents — 72 percent compared to 65 percent — and at a rate six percentage points higher than the national participation for foreign-born residents.’

“But the report also points to public policies that would help address the challenges immigrants face. More than one in three noncitizen residents lack access to health insurance in Virginia, ‘even worse than in the country as a whole,’ the report states. …

“Immigrants face all the challenges that come with lack of health insurance, like large medical bills and a lack of preventative care. Virginia is also one of only six states to require legal, noncitizens to work for at least 10 years before they qualify for Medicaid.

“Housing and poverty remain problems for the state’s immigrants, as does what’s called ‘brain waste’: when people aren’t working jobs that match their educational attainment.

“ ‘In Virginia, 21 percent of college-educated immigrants 25 and older are working in low-skill jobs or are unemployed. This is well above the average for U.S.-born Virginians,’ the report states. ‘Lawmakers, employers, and workforce development officials all have a role to play in reducing this needless inefficiency and maximizing opportunity for the state.’ ” More.

When a much-needed resource is right under our noses, it’s penny wise and pound foolish not to help it flourish.

Hat tip: Economic Policy Institute on twitter.

P.S. I can’t resist adding this poem by Emily Dickinson from today’s Boston Globe:
“These Strangers, in a foreign World,
“Protection asked of me—
“Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
“Be found a Refugee—”

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Photo: Virginia Arts Festival
The original fire curtain of the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia, depicts the Boston Massacre and the death of Crispus Attucks, the first to die in the Revolutionary War. Attucks was part African American and part Native American.

Don’t you love seeing old things restored and given new purpose? It’s not just the sight of a lovingly renewed object or building that’s inspiring, but the sense that anything that once had value can be brought back after years of abandonment.

Nicholas Som writes at CityLab, “Behind the modern walls of the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia, century-old murals hide in darkness. Three pastoral scenes, created on the theater’s original 1919 walls, were uncovered in 2004 during the restoration that brought the theater back to life. But because of their age, exposing them to light and air could ruin them.

“ ‘Trying to find ways to create access to them without damaging them has been challenging,’ says Anthony Stockard, artistic director at Norfolk State University. So they’ll remain out of sight, sealed and preserved until a plan to display them safely can be established.

“Much like the murals, the history behind the Attucks itself is not immediately apparent from the brick and white terracotta that form the theater’s facade. But ask around Norfolk, and it won’t be too long before you find a city native with some kind of connection to the building. The place the Attucks holds in the collective memory of Norfolk’s African American community has not disappeared, even after years of vacancy, name changes, and collapsing ceilings.

“Appreciation for the Attucks is especially perceptible this year, the centennial of the theater’s construction. A steady stream of stars — from Leslie Jones of Saturday Night Live to basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — is lined up to speak or perform, complementing the typical artists the Attucks welcomes every year. Ticket sales have accordingly skyrocketed. …

“ ‘The Apollo of the South.’ That was the nickname the Attucks garnered, referencing the famed Big Apple music hall. With national sensations like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald frequenting the stage, the Attucks was more than worthy of the designation. …

“Perhaps the Apollo Theater should be known as ‘The Attucks of the North.’ Because unlike the Apollo, the Attucks was funded and designed exclusively by African Americans, an extremely rare occurrence at the time. Twin City Amusement Corporation, the original developer, was formed by a group of black business owners. They approached local architect Harvey Johnson, who went on to help found what became Norfolk State University, to draw up the plans.

“Johnson always intended for the Attucks to be more than just a performance venue; in addition, it doubled as a silent movie house and contained 21 upstairs offices for African American businesses (Johnson himself set up shop there after its completion). They named the theater in honor of Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American descent who was the first person to die in the Revolutionary War, and depicted his death on its fire curtain. …

“The end of World War II brought changes that even the Attucks could not survive—at least, not in the same way. Young soldiers with money to spend returned to the city, and as Norfolk began to desegregate, the once-vibrant Church Street declined.

“Eventually, the curtain fell on the building’s time as a theater in 1953. … Denise Christian, project manager for the Attucks’ restoration, helped devise a three-phase approach. The first stage addressed the most pressing concerns: the blighted roof and the preservation of the historic curtain.

“Once pieces of the ceiling were no longer falling and the curtain had been cleaned and stored, the team moved on to the reconstruction of the auditorium seats, which had all been removed during the room’s years as a storage space. They decided to build around 700 new seats for comfort’s sake, though the theater originally squeezed in many more. Significant repairs also had to be made to the balcony and box seats.

“Finally, the Attucks was equipped with the modern trappings necessary for a multipurpose theater to succeed in the 21st century. A new three-story wing behind the building provides banquet rooms, dressing rooms, a green room, and a loading dock, transforming the Attucks into a place for events and arts classes, not just entertainment. …

“For Stockard, personally, being selected to co-chair Attucks100 by Norfolk mayor Kenny Alexander has felt like the culmination of a career-long dream, a ‘bucket-list moment. …

” ‘There was sort of a sense of nostalgia, of realizing these bricks were laid for and organized by African Americans,’ he says. ‘It was revolutionary for them to invest in the arts and entertainment that way—not just being the act, but being the producer and provider, and being able to control the place they had in the community.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Shirley Curry via Kotaku
A grandmother who plays the Skyrim video game has made more than 300 popular YouTube videos about her pastime. Her videos are said to be soothing.

File this article under “Never Too Old.” It’s a 2016 Kotaku story by Alex Walker that showed how one woman in her 80s became rather cutting edge.

“Unsurprisingly, Skyrim: Special Edition quickly became one of the most popular games on Steam over the weekend,” Walker reported. “And given that she had already established herself as a channel for older gamers and Skyrim fans, it made sense that Shirley Curry, aka Grandma Shirley, would return to Skyrim.

“Her 300th video highlights just how prolific the 80-year-old gamer has been when it comes to updating her YouTube channel. Her first Skyrim ‘Let’s Play’ was uploaded on September 18, and since then she’s received a Silver Play button from YouTube  —  a button given out to channels with more than 100,000 subscribers. …

“The Virginia-based grandmother … gained a following for [the videos’] calming, almost meditative quality.” More here.

I also saw this report from Elizabeth Tyree & Annie Andersen of WSET ABC television. They quote Grandma Shirley saying, ” ‘One of my sons gave me my first computer and he gave me a game, and he taught me how to use both and I got so addicted, I was playing that game day and night, day and night. He would say, “Mom you have to eat and sleep sometime,” Curry said.

“The Rocky Mount senior isn’t the only mature gamer. But she may be the only one with a huge cult following on YouTube.

” ‘It just went viral. I got on my email and it was like 11,000 emails and I didn’t know what to do. I sat here and cried,’ Curry said. …

“Her newfound popularity and the demand for her YouTube can be overwhelming.

” ‘Now, I just make my 30 minute recording. That’s about all I get to do. Because then I spend so much time reading comments and replying,’ Curry said.”

It’s good to have role models. I took up blogging in my 60s. It wasn’t because of the two old gals in wheelchairs who used to blog about politics in funny, unexpurgated language. But seeing them out there sure didn’t hurt. What other seniors have taken up something fun and different?

 

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Graffiti is not what it used to be. At the Studio 360 radio show, Jack D’Isidoro recently reported on an American city that wanted to be a tourist destination for murals on every wall.

“For decades, street art was bemoaned as a symptom of urban decay and detritus — a sign that system had lost control. …

“Times have changed, however; mainstream culture now recognizes that street art can be iconic, sensational, and good for business.

“But what if it was created with the intention of being a public good, as a tool that could revitalize and beautify a neighborhood? Richmond, the capital of Virginia, decided to find out.

“Now in its fourth year, the Richmond Mural Project brings internationally renowned mural artists to install pieces (with the building owners’ permission) throughout the city. The mission: create the highest concentration of murals in the world, turning Richmond into a global destination for street art lovers.

” ‘I thought, “I can make a change in Richmond,” ‘recalls Shane Pomajambo, a Washington, D.C., art gallery owner and organizer of the project. Initially, he had met with the mayor and city council members with the intention of creating an arts district within the city, but it quickly expanded into a wider effort …

“With a total of 84 murals since the project’s inception, it’s inspired local artists as well, who have added to the impressive displays across Richmond’s brick walls.”

More at Studio 360, where you can also see more Richmond murals.

Photo: Richmond Mural Project
A mural by the artist Ever in the city of Richmond, Virginia

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Over at radio show Living on Earth, “Steve Curwood spoke with farmer and author Audrey Levatino, who has written Woman Powered Farm: Manual for a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle from Homestead to Field. …

“CURWOOD: Why did you decide to write a book about farming specifically for women?

“LEVATINO: Well, women were coming up to me at the farmers’ market and asking about what I did and were very interested. Many of them wanted to know how to get into farming and growing things themselves, and so they wanted advice and instructions on how to get started. …

“CURWOOD: Audrey, what do women farm more typically as opposed to men?

“LEVATINO: That’s a great question, and that’s another thing that I really investigated when I was writing the book. And many women get into this farming business. It starts off as just wanting to provide the best and healthiest, most local food that they can for their families. So women are growing a lot of different things, but in many cases it is healthy, delicious, seasonal food. They know exactly where it came from, so that their children and their husbands and their neighbors can have the best food possible.

“But the other thing that I discovered as I got further into my research and interviewed lots of women farmers in my area and around the country is women are just amazingly creative: they grow herbs and other medicinal plants to make cheese, salves and tinctures. Women also tend to farm — when they do livestock — smaller animals. You know, things that are a little more manageable. And sometimes it’s for fiber — sheep and llamas and alpacas — other times it’s for milk, such as using goats to make cheese.” More here.

Audrey’s farm, Ted’s Last Stand, is located near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photo: Michael Levatino
Audrey Levatino grows specialty cut flowers and sells them at local farmers’ markets to florists and restaurants, and for weddings.

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The American Booksellers Association has a surprise for anyone who thinks that independent bookstores are a dying breed.

According to their website, “In 2014, the American Booksellers Association welcomed 59 indie bookstores that opened in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is the largest number of new stores joining ABA in a single year since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.

“The new stores include nine branches or satellites of existing businesses and five stores selling primarily used books. In another sign of the health of independent bookstores, 29 established ABA member businesses were bought by new owners. …

“Bookends and Beginnings, which was opened by spouses Jeff Garrett and Nina Barrett in June in Evanston, Illinois, has succeeded despite the presence of what some might assume to be obstacles: potential competition from an enormous Barnes & Noble a few blocks away, campus bookstores associated with Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, and multiple small, used bookstores throughout the neighborhood.

“The general bookstore offering new, used, and bargain books is in the former location of the well-known antiquarian bookstore Bookman’s Alley. …

“It was Garrett, a rare library collections expert, who introduced one of the store’s surprise top sellers: a carefully curated selection of international children’s books in 26 different languages. Barrett said the success of these books makes sense because of the surrounding area’s diverse demographics, including Skokie, which Barrett described as ‘the biggest melting pot you can imagine.’ ”

The Booksellers Association offers more shop profiles and a complete list of new stores, branches, and satellites joining the association in 2014, here.

While we’re on the subject, you might enjoy a WordPress blog by Wendy Welch, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, in Virginia, here. In addition to writing book reviews, she has many stories about life in her town and about the book trade in general.

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Cousin Claire sent me a good link. I had heard about the trend of tying farms to housing developments, but according to the Smithsonian magazine, Development Supported Agriculture is striking a chord with Millenials in particular.

Shaylyn Esposito writes, “A new fad in the housing world is a concept called Development Supported Agriculture (DSA), or more broadly, ‘agrihoods.’

“DSA is the child of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in which consumers pledge money or resources to support a farm operation, and in turn, receive a share of what it produces, but take the concept one step further by integrating the farm within residential developments. Instead of paying for access to a golf course or tennis courts, residents pay to be a part of a working farm—helping with the growing process and reaping the crops it produces. …

“The largest demographic of those trying to reconnect with the farm is Millennials, those born from the 1980s to the 2000s who ironically grew up farthest from the farm. As the average age of farmers continues to rise, it is this generation that is stepping in to fill the gaps.” More here.

Among the cohort of Millennial farmers are Sandy and Pat’s niece, now at the the Letterbox Farm Collective in the Hudson Valley. I blogged about her here and here.

Photo: Willowsford
This DSA community in Ashburn, Virginia, is hoping to fill 2,200 homes. Sounds like too many to be serious about the farming side of things.

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