Monday, May 19, 2008

Archives, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Capitol Hill

I now know that I have adult ADHD. If you ask me to sit down and focus on a subject for longer than 15 minutes, I will scream. But if you ask me to multi-task five projects and have everything done by the end of the day, I will do that and do it well. I know this because this is the second summer that I have attended training seminars, and I simply can no longer learn in a classroom setting. I went online to verify what my learning style is, and after taking three assessments I confirmed what I have recently discovered about myself: I am a visual learner. Give me the material and leave me alone, because after five minutes of hearing your voice drone on and on, I have tuned out. When I teach, I always stop talking after a few minutes and do an exercise to get the students to interact, give them time to reflect, and allow them an opportunity to ask questions.

But, I didn't use to predominately be a visual learner. I think that I was equally balanced between the three dominate learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and tactile. However, I suspect that the birth of my son, more than 18 years ago, changed me from the person who could sit for hours listening to a lecture, or needed absolute silence to read and write, to a mom who could read and write with "Thomas the Tank Engine" on the television, the telephone ringing, the dishwasher whirring, and the handyman banging at the door. So I tell my students, if I move from topic to topic every five minutes, blame it on the birth of my son. No, I'm really not that bad, I do stay on topic when I lecture and teach.

After the training session this morning, I spent the afternoon at the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University going through the Georgia Douglas Johnson collection. Johnson ran a salon affectionately referred to as "The Half-Way House," on 14th and S St., N.W., Washington, DC, during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and perhaps even longer. Johnson became a mentor and friend to some of the writers who would later become primary voices in the Harlem Renaissance: Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Bruce Nugent. In addition to letters in the collection from Toomer, Hurston, Nugent, and Stanley Braithwaite, there is a sexually suggestive letter from W. E. B. Du Bois that I had heard about from my mentor, Claudia Tate, and finally had an opportunity to view with my own eyes (although some researcher swiped the original, and now a photocopy is in the file). I always contend that if I had been Du Bois's contemporary, he would have been my man. Some of my students have harangued me for admitting this: they tell me that "Du Bois was an elitist, he was not black enough." However, none of them ever say to me: "he was really smart." And I have to confess, I have a weakness for really smart men. Hey, what can I say, my dad is really smart.

Still searching for property in Capitol Hill, and I may have to face the hard cold fact that I may not be able to live there. Back in 1996, I recall yearning to live in Capitol Hill. I was married then, and it seemed like an unrealistic move: small child, gentrifying neighborhood, higher than average crime rate, bad parking, blah, blah, blah... or so I was convinced by my child's father. Now that I am single and just yearning to be within a stone's throw of the Library of Congress, I am priced out from purchasing anything large enough to hold my books.

Now I have thought about getting rid of my books and finding a small place that I can afford. Hey, but the problem is that too many books in African American literature that I need for my research and teaching are "missing" or "lost" at the Library of Congress. Therefore, my personal library is becoming increasingly more valuable to me. It is really a problem for scholars, writers, and students when the Library of Congress does not have the books you need. Oh, well, it's time to start compiling my list and send out the formal letter. If any of you are also finding that books are "missing" or "lost" at the Library of Congress, send the bibliographic information to me at I will add your books to my list and send it to someone who is in a position to investigate why so many doggone books are missing.

Peace to all. I hope that you are finally experiencing some warm weather. It's raining far too much in metro DC. I found myself also looking for real estate in Florida this past weekend because I was so tired of the rain and clouds.

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