Monday, August 8, 2011

After some thought

When a section of a city is named for its history. History isn’t to be forgotten but it is to be celebrated and learned from. Not being from the neighborhood, as outsiders, it is hard for us to say what is offensive to a certain group of people. The only thing that we can go by, as outsiders, is history. The way we interpret a name is just that and it might not be the way native people interpret it.
I was in favor of the name “Heart of the Bottom” and partially still am but having time to mull over the idea of using that name I’m starting to see both sides of the argument more clearly. The idea that people will be offended by the term “bottom” makes sense because of the type of people that our project is targeted to more then just the people who know the history of neighborhood. I think that that alone gives us reason to question the name. I think it would be a good name for a history project but we are using very new technology and it seems that we are moving away from history and moving towards the future.
I think it’s a great name. but for our purposes I don’t think that it will represent the project as a whole.

The Black Bottom

The term Black Bottom itself is not necessarily meant to be derogatory. It is the term used for the lower part of Lancaster Avenue. The name did originate based on the fact that the area was predominately black in the 1920s and 30s. The western part of West Philadelphia and the suburbs are more white than they are black and that is how the name originated.

I, too, am torn on how I feel about the name. I do not like just calling it "The Black Bottom," but I think having it called something like "The Heart of the Black Bottom" gives it something more and makes it seem warmer.

The universities in the surrounding area have been trying to make the area a better and safer place both for the residents in the neighborhood and their students. They have been trying to redevelop the area to make it a more desirable place to live.

It seems as though people from the neighborhood are ok with the area being named the Black Bottom and even embrace it. People from the old neighborhood declared the last Saturday in August, Black Bottom Day and celebrate the day in Fairmount Park.

Black Bottom

I've been thinking about this all week and I'm still really torn. I can easily see both sides of the disagreement we had last week.

Here's my thoughts on both perspectives:

Against using any reference to the "Black Bottom"
- If some people in our class think that there is a racially negative connotation associated with Black Bottom, it's very likely that some portion of our "audience" will make that association as well.
- I generally think it's important to avoid making any group of people (grouped by gender, race, geographic location, etc) seem inferior in any way. Is "the bottom" a pejorative word? Does is imply inferiority, even if in the context of our project, we mean nothing negative by the title?

For using a reference to the "Black Bottom"
- I agree that it really isn't our place to assign a racial stigma to a term that people proudly accept for themselves
- I don't think the term is inherently discriminatory. I think WE are making it out to be so, which means we are the ones creating this potential racial tension, not the term itself.

Here are some websites/articles that reference the area called the Black Bottom. From everything I've read, The Black Bottom is just a very blunt recognition of a geographic area and what was once a racial majority in the area. It doesn't seem like there is any association of shame involved.

From the last link I just posted:
In 1976, six people from the neighborhood founded the Black Bottom Association. In September of that same year, the Association held a dinner party to celebrate their first “family reunion.” More than 100 people attended the affair.

The first Black Bottom Association annual picnic was held during the summer of 1984 at Belmont and Parkside Avenues. Two hundred people, contacted simply by word of mouth, attended the gathering. Many of the families had not seen each other since 1976. To this day, the Black Bottom Association has an annual picnic on the last Sunday of July.

In addition, On March 25th, 1999, the Council of the City of Philadelphia designated the last Sunday of August as Black Bottom Day in Philadelphia, “in fitting tribute to the great history and legacy of this great and historic community.”

Though the families may have been physically displaced, spiritually the former residents of the Black Bottom remain united.

To me it really seems like "The Bottom" is something that is very matter of fact, very rooted in the history of the area, and is celebrated for what it is and what it means to the people here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What is in a name....

A name is a descriptive marker used to identify a person place or thing and is usually I feel supported by the common collective, meaning that if a name, which is not official but a term such as a neighborhood moniker the appropriate use is based on the people using the term. Based on my discussions with Bishop Barnes and pastor Nichols the name was derived from the geographical location of the neighborhood in relationship to the river and the neighborhoods west of 50th. If an individual was traveling in the direction of 50th they were going up yonder and if they were do the opposite they were going to the bottom, lowest point next to the river. The term Black is an identifier to the racial majority of the neighbor that once used to be predominately Jewish. Both the Bishop and the pastor describe the term as a very proud descriptor, this is who we are and what we are and felt the term is not negative, unless the context of the statement spoken by the individual is negative. As for myself, to not recognize the name is disingenuous to the character and spirit of the neighborhood and ultimately our project. It is not up to us as non residents to alter or characterize a neighborhood based on our own outside perception but to report and discussed in neighborhood an open positive manor while not hiding the positive or the negative, let the words of the individuals profiled to speak for themselves and I don’t believe the name will be taken out of context.

36/42 Lancaster: Stories of the Black Bottom – I like this better

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hey Guys here are some pictures from my initial meeting with Bishop Barnes. Myself, the Bishop and one of his Ministers are going for a walk on this Sat at 8 am ( ugh I know), if you want to come along we are meeting at Dr King's statue on Lancaster - 38th I believe.

Project Title Ideas

Hey guys... I thought we could get some dialogue going on ideas for a name for our project. Hana mentioned "The Bottom" but I think a lot of us felt that that had too negative a connotation. I really like the metaphorical feel it has though.

I was looking at the map that James gave us and it describes Lancaster Ave as a "gateway." I thought that might be an idea, The Gateway.

Anyways feel free to post some ideas, hopefully we can come up with something we all feel invested in and that will represent our project well :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Possible Situations

I hope that nothing is “lost in translation,” so to speak. I will be interpreting parts of this subject’s life... and the viewers of this project will be interpreting my interpretations. This duality will either mend or be extremely uneven. It will be interesting to say which way it goes.

Regarless of what one is observing, it is important to not forget one’s individual epistemological constraints, especially since sensory ethnography is a fairly new phenomenon. This begs the question of to what extent someone can actually have an experience without touch and smell, two very important senses that will not be explored through this project.

The success of this project will be greatly determined by how deeply I will be allowed into the subject’s life. Since this is a bottom-up form of context awareness, the power is in the hands of the subject.

The accessibility of the project is important, especially if it is only on the street. The gallery will make it more accessible, but there is still the obstacle of not having a smart phone.

I also hope my schedule and the subject's schedule match up so I can get this started!