2001-05-12 / Columnists

Guest Editorial

Guest Editorial

I Am Hoping 4 A Miracle By Timothy Aaron-Styles

I am hoping 4 a miracle. Not one of the earth-shattering, universe-tilting kind. No, not a miracle to suddenly end racism, sexism or specie-ism. Not a miracle that will, in the blinking of an eye end poverty, homelessness, selfishness, brutality, greed, narcissism or just plain lying.

The miraculous phenomenon I am hoping for has simply to do with the staying of a building’s execution here in Rockaway.

A building is scheduled to be demolished into oblivion--forever placed in the annals of forgotten memories and days long gone.

A building with all its historical significance and individual stories to hush up and tell. A building whose palled demise rings forth notions of progress and forward movement for this Peninsula and its inhabitants.

I am hoping 4 a miracle that the execution of this particular building, scheduled to be demolished for grandeur plans of progress, will be stayed and the building rededicated to hold a place in the community’s planned future and hope.

You know, a long time ago, in a southern city called Atlanta during the early and late seventies, there once was a cultural institution named The Neighborhood Arts Center, where all disciplines of the arts were taught, performed, exhibited, demonstrated and preserved.

This old school building re-dedicated and resurrected as a cultural arts institution dedicated to perpetuating the arts has in common: Jim Alexander, Isaac Hayes, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Cade Bambara, Monty Ross, Alice Lovelace, Ed Spriggs, Steve Bowser, Freddie Styles, Joe Jennings, Pearl Cleage, Asante, John Riddle, John Eaton, Latonya Richardson, Carol Mitchell-Leon, Kenny Leon, Carlos Glover, Ann Mitchell, Thomas Byrd, Malaika Adero, Charles Riley, Liz Omilami, Afemo Omilami, Tony Riddle, Nikki Finney, Jomandi Productions with Tom Jones and Marsha Jackson, Ra Kabeer, Bill Nunn, and Akbar Imhotep—just to name a few—individuals all who have played, and still do play, a part in America’s cultural and artistic legacy, especially that of African-Americans.

This building in Rockaway which has been relegated to the space of antiquity and obsolescence ---this building scheduled to be decimated---executed by bulldozer and crane method—could be Rockaway’s very own cultural arts institution where film/cinema, theatre, photography, music, arts and crafts, writing, etc. could be taught and practiced.

A place where young cultural creatives could be nurtured. Where promising artists could be identified and developed. Where Rockaway history could be documented, housed, preserved, and perpetuated. Where culture could exist, thrive—be consumed, studied and appreciated.

Art transforms. Art instructs. Art documents. Art teaches. Art inspires. Art nourishes. Art sustains. Art saves. Art heals. Art encourages. Art unites.

Methinks one of the ways to move a community forward and upward---to heal and revive a struggling and/or stagnant community---is to feed the people art and culture. Teach them---share with them---creativity and its power to bring into fruition something from nothingness. Its potential to bring order from chaos. Nurture the creative spirit and its ability to envision something when all apparent perceptions indicate nothing exists.

"An empty canvas is a magnificent Impressionistic masterpiece waiting to be discovered. Waiting to be seen."

It’s all really about vision. There’s a story that goes that the Great Artist of the Universe said to Abraham to look out in the four directions of the planet and as far as Abraham could see he and his seed would inherit.

Well, here’s the thing: if Abraham could only see four feet in front of him that was all he was going to get. But Abraham was a visionary. He saw all the way out there beyond his mortal vision. Abraham had that artist’s (The Artist---not Prince) spirit indwelling.

How far can we see? The Creative Spirit allows one to see ALL the possibilities and options. Order in the midst of chaos. Light among the darkness. A clear, legible, concise and coherent word among Babel.

So my desired miracle is a vision, of sorts. My desired miracle is based on my hope that others, too, can see and buy into a vision that the Addabbo Center on Beach 67th Street is perfect for a cultural arts institution to serve the entire Rockaway population.

And, mind you, it’s not really my vision. Look at me as just a vehicle---an instrument--- through which the idea is manifesting. I am the brush in the hands of Chagall. The middle C key on Duke Ellington’s pianoforte. The pen in between the fingertips of Maya Angelou, Khalil Gibran or Langston Hughes.

The building is there and it has history. Close your eyes for a moment please. Imagine. Can’t you see? It’s the perfect building for a cultural arts institution. Emphasis on "institution." Not community center.

Imagine the Guggenheim, The Schomburg, MOMA, The High Museum or The Smithsonian. Or even PS 1 or the Jamaica Arts Center. That’s what I mean when I say: institution.

Actually several years ago, when I first returned to Rockaway before leaving again in 1998, I had put together a little "proposal" for such a place and shared it with then Assemblyman Meeks, the Rockaway Music and Arts Council and even the then administrative staff down at Gateway National Park.

Anyway---I am hoping for a miracle. I have come to learn in my travels, adventures, sharing, growing, learning and living that, in addition to vision, it’s all about timing.

It’s time for some miracles. One at a time.

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