This blog is composed of images and writings related to the life and work of Faith Ringgold, her mother Mme. Willi Posey, and her daughters Michele and Barbara Wallace. There are pages with links to blogs composed of the materials arranged by decades. The blog, itself, will ultimately be composed of materials related to the life of the family in the 90s and the 21st century.

Wednesday

Photo-Essay: Mom and Dad 1970s


Mom and Dad II, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This is Mom and Dad back in the day at 409 Edgecombe Avenue. The year is 1977.
My Dad is Burdette Ringgold.  My mother Faith and he were married in 1962.  In 1963, we all moved from the Bronx to 145th Street, where for the first time we had enough rooms for one of them to be devoted to a studio for my Mom's art work.  Barbara and I shared the largest bedroom which had its own toilet attached, separate from the larger master bathroom.
My sister and I switched that fall from Our Savior Lutheran School in the Bronx to New Lincoln School on 110th Street and Central Park North.  And what a switch that was.

First, a new Dad.  Then a new school and a new neighborhood.  I was definitely reeling from the culture shock, thoroughly intimidated by my new surroundings.
And then in November of 1963, while Barbara and I were still scrambling to adjust to New Lincoln's distinctly secular and progressive approach to education in which, for example, we called our teachers by their first names, something truly awful happened, something I can no longer really imagine but rather can only recollect based upon previous recollections ad infinitum.
I suppose the best thing about it was that I was a child and therefore had nothing to compare it to.  But I can still remember something of the physical landscape of that day,  that it was in the fall and I recall, the leaves were already turning.
When 9-11 happened in 2001, as it happened I was again living in the same building on 145th Street in Harlem where we had lived then.  I thought of that previous day when President Kennedy had been shot and idly wondered if the experiences of school children were anything like the way it was for us.  I hoped that it was because I remember only that I felt very protected when Kennedy was shot, not at all in any kind of  personal danger.  But then Jack Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas which from my point-of-view at that time might as well have been Oz for all I knew about its connection to the part of the United States in which I was living.
The school day ceased to progress in a manner that was then entirely invisible to me but which I would always recognize from then on in times of emergency in educational settings.   The announcement was made in a quiet and dignified way that the President, John F. Kennedy was shot, and I had occasion to recall this in particular recently when reading a reminiscence of that very same day written by my former 7th grade teacher, Helen Myers.  It was good to learn that even though I had been only 11 years old that I had still gotten the essentials right.
    I can't remember then how long it was from the announcement of his shooting to the announcement of his death, or whether I received any further information until I was actually with my parents but I remember that the next order of business was getting us home as quickly as possible where my family (and I guess I would assume all the other children's families) remained glued to our black and white television sets and the two or three television stations we then had for the duration, which I would guess extended over a period of days.
    In the Christian tradition, getting a head of state properly buried, particularly if it also happens that he was assassinated while in office, was I would guess a protracted process, not a simple matter.  And children are easily amazed at how long adults can take to do such things at such times.  I think I can recall some aspects of the processional apparently patterned after that of Abraham Lincoln as called for by his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy.
     I don't know if I actually remember seeing John John saluting his father's coffin that day or whether it is all the times I have seen it replayed in various forms.  What stands out in my mind since then is that he wore those short pants that little boys up to a certain age were sometimes dressed in, and that that same boy became a man who died only a year after his own mother died of cancer.
    From 1963 to 1977 was not such a very long time.  Malcolm X was shot in 1965 and that was a highly personal occasion because it happened in Harlem and my family lived in Harlem.  My parents and everybody I knew were deeply affected by his death.  His processional, viewing and funeral all took place in Harlem.  Then Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968, and this isn't to say that a great many other things didn't happen in between these dates, including the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well but I run the chronology through my mind if not daily, certainly often enough just so I won't ever forget the order in which things happened.
    I asked my Dad whether he was sent home on that day, whether they closed the line down at General Motors in Tarrytown when John F. Kennedy got killed.  He said they did.  I asked because I know they rarely closed the line down and his coming home from work without completing his day was something that only happened on fewer days than I can count on one hand during the time he worked there.   He then mentioned, as well, that he had come home early on the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot but this time without authorization from the bureaucracy.  I gather the black workers, including him, refused to work.  His punishment was a 3 day suspension.  So much for the widespread love and respect for MLK in 1968.  But he says they didn't close the line down for Robert Kennedy either.  What a crazy time.

   Then I graduated from high school in 1969, went to Mexico during the first half of the summer, did not want to ever return to the United States but had to anyway, then spent the second half of the summer in the Sisters of the Good Sheppard Residence for girls in need of supervision across the street from Beth Israel Hospital in 17th Street.
Then I went to Howard University for one semester in the fall of 1969, personally delivered by my Mom with a suitcase full of new clothes and brand new bank account at the Howard University's campus bank.  Dad came to visit me sometime in the fall, was shocked at the free floating cattle market on display on the campus green right outside my dorm, which had just started to allow boys to visit on weekends, and advised Mom to bring me home immediately.
    I was back in New York at the City College of New York by February of 1970, working as an account adjuster at Best & Company during the day and attending night school.  I truly loved that job at Best & Company but they soon went out of business forever.  In 1974, I graduated from the City College of New York with a major in English and Creative Writing, under the careful tutelage of my mentor Mark Mirksy, now my colleague.
The summer of my graduation, the same summer in which Richard Nixon was impeached, I was working as a secretary in the office of the Editor-in-Chief of Random House at an exciting new job.  The world seemed to pass through that office.  I served coffee and did all the dictaphone typing.

In the fall of 1974 I had moved on to a job I liked even better on most days because I was no longer a typist and a server of coffee but a "research assistant" in the Book Review Department at Newsweek Magazine. Even more of the world flowed through these offices, which was known as "The Back of the Book," with Jack Kroll in charge.  It was during the two and a half years that I was employed by Newsweek that I met the people and made the connections that would lead to my free lance writing career at The Village Voice, a literary agent and a book contract at McGraw Hill for an as yet untitled book on the sexual politics of black women and black men.
At the birthday party for my Dad, and his sister Gloria in September of 1977, at which this picture was taken, I was presumably then engaged in writing the manuscript that would become Black Macho and The Myth of the Superwoman in 1979.  The contract money had already run out and I had just begun to work full time in the position of Lecturer in the Journalism Program at New York University.  I was living at Washington Square Village, NYU housing.  I had moved from 345 early in the summer of 1976 upon the occasion of the massively successful Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts, which was given by a committee composed of Margo Jefferson, Pat Jones, Monica Freeman and myself at the Women's Interarts Center on the Westside.
See more of these pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjsoulpictures/sets/

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Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures

Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures
Barbara, MJ, Michele and Mom in the background in sunglasses at a fashion show in the early 60s