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Thoughts from The Wire: The Underclass on Martha's Vineyard

Earlier in the week I went to Martha's Vineyard with my bf for a few days. While we waited for the Steamship Authority in Falmouth, my bf recognized Jamie Hector who played Marlo Stanfield on The Wire waiting too.

Originally written August 19, 2012.

I'm coming down from an amazing week. Life is always good. But sometimes it's damn good and that's how this week's been. Last night I went to see Bruce Springsteen for my first time ever. I'm not (or wasn't) a huge fan but my bf is. Suffice it to say, after being blown away in the first five songs last night, I am humming a new tune. Jersey represent!

Earlier in the week I went to Martha's Vineyard with my bf for a few days. While we waited for the Steamship Authority in Falmouth, my bf recognized Jamie Hector who played Marlo Stanfield on The Wire waiting too. My bf uses The Wire in his classes (he's a prep school English teacher) so he said hello to Jamie and shared how much he loved to show.

Then my bf and I spent four amazing days on the Vineyard that culminated in attending the Hutchins Forum at the Old Whaling Church (OWC) in Edgartown hosted by Skip Gates and moderated by Charlayne Hunter Gault. This year's topic: When Work Disappears, Equality and Opportunity in the African American Community. Panelists included Harvard Professor of Economics Roland G. Fryer, Jr; Civil Rights Attorney and founder of the Advancement Project Constance L. Rice; creator of The Wire and Treme David Simon; and President Emeritus of Harvard and former member of the Obama administration Larry Summers. 

As we awaited the doors of the OWC to open we, once again, ran into Jamie Hector who was attending the forum with his very beautiful and very sleepy three year old daughter. We shared a bench with Jamie and immediately launched into conversation about our time on the Vineyard. It was Jamie's first time out and he was taken, as my bf and I are each year, with the number of African American families out and about, living it up, doing our thing there. Jamie's reason for being there was to attend an Obama fundraiser with the with the cast of The Wire. Jamie stayed with a prominent African American family* who shared with him our folks history with the Vineyard. My bf who is also very familiar with the history, expanded on it and also shared information about the role that elite prep schools play in that world by being feeder schools to the Ivy's. We also chatted a bit about films. My bf and I are huge movie addicts and for the last two years we were on the Vineyard for the Run and Shoot African American film festival and attended a few screenings. This year we went out a week later due to schedule conflicts but thank goodness for that because it meant we were there to attend the Hutchins forum. 

Just before the Old Whaling Church doors opened, a few additional cast members of The Wire, including the creator, David Simon, rolled up and Jamie introduced us to them. One The Wire cast member in attendance, Andre Royo, is also in the film "G" which my bf also uses in his classes.  That lead to more interesting conversation.

When the doors to the church opened we went our separate way from Jamie that The Wire cast and found seats with a wonderful older gentleman who is a professor of African American Studies at a SUNY school. As the panelists settled on stage, Skip Gates made his way down the aisle greeting folks, giving hugs, and shaking hands including those of my bf and myself.

I'll write more about the forum in another post or perhaps in a full paper. It absolutely deserves its own space. For now I'll leave you with a few intriguing paraphrased comments made by forum panelists:

From his introductory comments: Poverty is disheartening but loss of work is destructive to communities. -Skip Gates

The Wire is the best portrayal of underclass life that I've ever seen. -Constance L. Rice

On the past and present state of the underclass: The Underclass are living as they are because there is no economic incentive to stop it from happening. -David Simon

Reiterating a comment from Roland G. Fryer, Jr: What Roland meant is that barriers breaking down do not come from the top. Rather they come from communities, from the people, like the people at this forum. -Larry Summers

*Unless until I find that Jamie has shared that families identity publicly, they'll remain anonymous in Astroland.

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