Remember the Public Enemy song, “Fight the Power” from way back in 1989, with the line, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps”?
Several of the heroes who appear in sign form in the 1989 music video for that song have since been honored on postage stamps such as Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X. The USPS’s Black Heritage Series has been going strong since 1978, with this year’s contribution honoring Shirley Chisholm.
Two of my heroines are Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee, who both died recently. Since the USPS only features Americans on its stamps who have deceased, its time to nominate Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee for stampdom.
Ultra Violet already has a petition going for Maya Mail. Anyone up for starting one for Ruby?
My sister teaches 2nd grade and initiated a Flat Stanley project with her students. Are you familiar? The idea is based on a 1964 children’s book, Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown about a boy who gets squished by a bulletin board and then is flat enough to slip under doors, be flown like a kite, and best of all, be mailed in an envelope.
An adorable Flat Stanley, colored with crayon, and a letter arrived in my mailbox in October with a request to take the paper boy on an adventure and write back to the students about the experience. The idea is to help children learn about different places around the world. So great. So up my alley.
Despite being Ms. Paper Mail, Ms. Make Mail, I let the letter languish in a pile of unanswered mail. For months. Yes, we’re all hypocrites sometimes.
But I finally got my act together in May and sent the students an absurd and fictional letter about why my response had taken so long. It had to do with Flat Stanley escaping on the subway and reuniting with us many months later. In the process I shared lots of details about my family’s life here in Brooklyn and some of the ways we spend our time. It was so fun to write and the students apparently loved it.
Even hypocrites can turn things around.
Viva Snail Mail!
My daughter is loving Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad book series these days, and I so get it. They’re a treat to read!
Along with the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou this week, we also lost designer, Massimo Vignelli. The two icons died a day apart, both building inspiring lives in to their 80′s.
As Vignelli’s life was winding down, his son put out a request for “Dear Massimo” letters and people from all over the world sent mail, telling Vignelli how his life and work inspired and informed who they are. Such a beautiful tribute, one that Vignelli was able to experience in writing. A living memorial is such a gift.
Maya and Massimo, thank you both.
A beautiful tribute by Gemma Green-Hope to her grandmother who, among other things, was a “brilliant letter writer.”
Shirley Chisholm! This is a clip from the documentary Chisholm 72: Unbought and Unbossed which I strongly recommend. As our nation’s first African American Congresswoman and the first African American woman to run for President, Chisholm is a hometown heroine here in Brooklyn.
Shirley Chisholm on a stamp! This portrait is by American painter, Robert Shetterley, from his series, “Americans Who Tell the Truth.” He started the paintings after the Bush Administration’s response to September 11th, 2001 because he felt compelled to exalt Americans who inspired him. So glad Shirley is part of that crew.
Buy the stamps. Send Shirley Mail!
Over spring break we had a fantastic trip to Philadelphia. I love that city! A highlight for my kids was the Smith Playground and its 40 feet long giant slide and indoor play mansion, where I spied this VSM approved toy.
Envelope by Vik Muniz, 2002.
Watch artist Vik Muniz’s Ted Talk from 2003 and also take a look at the excellent 2010 documentary, Wasteland, about an ambitious and wonderful art project Muniz collaborated on with a group of trash pickers in Brazil.
Have you ever written an angry letter that you never sent? I have and its very cathartic. An article by Maria Konnikova in yesterday’s New York Times, The Lost Art of the Angry Unsent Letter, is all about the benefits of writing down your feelings and then stepping back from what you wrote. Maybe cooling off a bit. And then perhaps deciding not to send that sentiment. This arc from anger to articulation to reflection is much less likely to happen in the age of tweets and posts and emails but nevertheless, is useful. The next time you are f@&*ing pissed at someone, write it all down with paper and pen in a letter. Then wait a bit, like a day or two, and read what you wrote. It may help you to figure out what you’d like to express to that person in a healthy way, when you’re not so hot under the collar.