Students Respond to Civil Rights Exhibit Tonight at the Menil

Posted May 19, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Dan Budnik photograph, The Menil Collection

WITS invites you to The Watchful Eye Reading, at 7PM tonight at the Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross. Writers in the Schools (WITS) has developed a unique program (initiated with the support of The Menil Collection in 1989) in which students visiting the museum write poetry and prose inspired by the work on view. WITS is one of many community nonprofits commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the Freedom Rides through the Freedom Now Project, Houston’s effort to retrace the Civil Rights Movement through educational programs and initiatives. At this event, The Watchful Eye, students will read their work inspired by the photographs in the Civil Rights exhibit The Whole World Was Watching. Award-winning journalist and author Mignette Patrick Dorsey will deliver the keynote speech. Following is a poem written by Brittany who tells us what courage is in her own words.


I am very brave

Who or what can

Stand in my way?

I am fighting for my rights.

I know right from wrong.

I am a black man

With a lot of power and

Might in my hands and

Yes, I have many worries.

I might not be understood

But I know my place in this

World. My eyes hold a lot of

Things. My future is in my

Dreams, and I’m happy to

Know where I stand.

By Brittany, 12th grade

“The Whole World Was Watching” Exhibit Opens this Saturday

Posted March 4, 2011 & filed under Notebook.


The Whole World Was Watching, a photography exhibit tracing the Civil Rights Movement, opens this Saturday at the Menil Collection and The African American Library at the Gregory School.  The collected works from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil portray a vivid and haunting  account of what it meant to be an African American living in the turbulent South, fighting  Jim Crow segregation. Reverend William Lawson, a forerunner of Civil Rights activism in Houston, will speak on the Menil bookstore deck; other highlights include songs by Heritage of Zion Quartet, music by Tierney Malone, and exhibit tours.

What: The Whole World Was Watching: Civil Rights Era Photographs from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil

When: Saturday, March 5 through September 25

Where: Receptions 2-4 p.m. at The African American Library at the Gregory School; 4-6 p.m. at the Menil bookstore.

Cost: Free and open to the public

Additional info: The Whole World Was Watching launches “Freedom Now Project,” Houston’s commemoration of  sit-ins, marches, and boycotts that changed the social landscape of the South and help shaped the history of  the Civil Rights across the country. WITS joins other nonprofits  to present a variety of educational programs, lectures,  activities, and events leading up to and extending beyond the May 16th  premier of the PBS documentary Freedom Riders.

For more information, visit the Freedom Now website and follow the conversation on Facebook.

Henderson Field

Posted January 11, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

On that airfield are WWII planes
A famous field of WWII
Planes like P-40’s, P-51’s
And a few dive bombers
The field is named after Marine Major Lofton Henderson
Who died in the battle
In the airfield are soldiers and flew planes
In the sky
There is a command post
Where the general stays
The P-40’s stay there because that’s where they fought
For the Guadalcanal

By Jesus, 4th grade


Where the Story Starts

Posted January 9, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

You never know when an unusual object might prompt a fantastic story. Perhaps that’s what the WITS field trips are really all about.

In a glass display case to the left of the Thunderbird versus Whale painting in The Menil Collection art museum’s Oceania section, you can see an exhibit of Native American face masks. Inside the case, on the far right, you will find a brown, fairly nondescript face mask with a circular mouth and two holes for eyes. The label on the wall identifies the mask as a one-time possession of Captain James Cook, a 18th century English mariner.

Captain Cook was a famous explorer in the Royal Navy. He charted many unknown regions on British maps for the first time; one of his trips recorded the coastline of California. He died in Hawaii in a skirmish with the native peoples; his death in the surf became a popular subject for contemporary painters. This mask once belonged to him. We can imagine him turning it over in his hands and perhaps installing it on a table or a desk as his ship bobbed through the seas.

Markers like this remind us that art is not only made by people, but also owned by them. As ownership changes hands, the meaning of the art changes to its owners. To Cook, the mask may have been a souvenir of his travels, connected to people and places he knew firsthand. To us, the historical context has largely disappeared; we appreciate these objects primarily as art, and secondarily as historical objects.

But by writing about an object, this mask for example, we can make it come to life. As times passes, our writing can become like Captain Cook’s mask; after the presence of its owner has all but disappeared, the art remains us to connect us to the story behind it.wits-blog-pics-002.jpg

posted by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools