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Reader feedback 6.26.02

Community voices

Thanks and congratulations to City and Ron Netsky for the splendid interviews in “Jump Jim Crow” (June 4, June 11). Both the historical and personal dimensions of these reminiscences are indispensable to our community memory. Voices that I have known over the years came through clearly, which was for me a wonderful bonus. This is City at its best.

Bob Koch, Reitz Parkway, Pittsford

Southern literature

“Jump Jim Crow” is a wonderful piece of literature, better than some things you print. I grew up in New Jersey and have known Black people almost all of my life, but I never knew that things were as bad as they were.

Every one of the stories is good. I was especially interested in what Mayor Johnson had to say. It’s a good thing that an Urban League was finally started in Rochester. I wanted you people to know that the articles are appreciated. Thanks so much.

Andrea N. Frost, Johnsarbor Drive, Rochester

Seeing the truth

I very much enjoyed your "Jump Jim Crow" oral histories about the segregated South, especially those told by JW Johnson. I was fortunate enough to have Professor Johnson while I was an English major at the University of Rochester. While I knew he was originally from the South, I did not know the extent to which he witnessed segregation firsthand. The story he told City about his newspaper route as a young boy was among the most powerful pieces of writing I have read in a long time.

That he --- as a young, white child --- could see the dignity and truth of African Americans at such a degrading point and place in their history brought tears to my eyes. There was an aura of great wisdom that Professor Johnson possessed in his classroom that I could never quite put my finger on.

Now I can.

Thank you.

Caurie Miner Putnam, Talamora Trail, Brockport

Popick, parsed

Regarding Jon Popick’s review of “Ya Ya Sisterhood” (June 5): I don’t have any investment in defending the movie. I probably won’t even see it, but I strongly object to the misogynist and ageist attitudes and language in which he couches his review.

His use of the expression “people with vaginas” to refer to women is both vicious and vulgar. Is this how he refers to his own mother, sister, or partner?

Mr. Popick is undoubtedly trying to appeal to a youthful male following when he refers to older women as “old bags.” I have not heard that expression since the seventies and had assumed that it had disappeared from our language. As an older woman who has fought long and hard for equality for women and others, this kind of venom in City Newspaper, which I have always admired for its integrity and high standards, was a shock.

Mr. Popick needs to learn how to write. I have found his reviews sophomoric and at times downright incoherent. I suggest that he get himself invited to audit the film-discussion group at the Athenaeum to hear an informed, articulate group of elders, men and women, discuss films in depth with knowledge and clarity. He might just learn something from them about film reviewing.

Ruth Kennedy, Quaker Drive, Rochester

Planning the zoo

I read Ralph Code’s comments (The Mail, June 12) with great interest. He provided a straightforward piece on what the county can do in the case of city parkland. I should point out that some of his statements are being challenged, such as the city’s role in regard to land use within its borders. What Mr. Code fails to do is spell out what the county should do.

Most of us would agree that the county should take the lead on improving the zoo. Many of us parents would love to see a nicer facility. Mr. Code is correct when he says that legislators need to make difficult decisions that balance the benefits of the many with those of the few. The question becomes whether the zoo should be expanded, and to what extent.

Do we need to expand so that one-third of the usable park space at Seneca Park is now zoo? (I say “usable,” because approximately 90 acres is on flat or semi-flat land; the other 200 acres is river gorge.) Could the zoo be expanded to 20 acres instead of 36, and still protect pristine parkland?

Should the city and other community stakeholders besides the Zoo Society be at the planning conversation? Mr. Code makes the point that the city was invited to the planning table. First, when you are one among many, your views tend not to be strongly considered, so why bother showing up?

Second, why were the other stakeholders not invited to the planning table? Why were the neighborhood groups, Landmark Society, etc., not invited?

The required public-meeting process is not a sufficient way to provide good, detailed feedback. During the Seneca Park master planning process, conducted by the county in 1991, those groups were invited to and participated in the planning process: the same process that created Rocky Coasts.

We appreciate Mr. Code’s thoughts, but next time maybe we should include all interested parties, so that we don’t feel like something is being shoved down our throats.

Brad Cherin, Oakland Street, Rochester

In balance?

Jazz heaven

Heaven: The week of June 3 marked the beginning of a new era in Rochester. The Rochester International Jazz Festival swept enthusiastic citizens away to Jazz Heaven. Fifty artists appearing at 20 different venues was the hook, fabulous entertainment was the line, and exhilaration was the sinker.

The energy produced by the interaction between the musicians and the audiences was enough to light the city for the entire week. There was something for everyone. Easy, sit-back, close-your-eyes jazz; deep, gotta-contemplate-the-rhythms jazz; and hot, can’t-sit-still-in-your-seat jazz.

The venues were equally exciting. Who knew there were so many places to go on the weekend? The Pythodd Jazz Lounge at the Heritage House is truly reminiscent of its predecessor: up-close and personal jazz with a midnight show that made your mouth water with the flavor of the old days, when musicians came out to appreciate each other and then jam together to show off their talent.

The Montage Grill brought the essence of the New York-style jazz supper club to life, and Max at the Eastman Place enticed those with a quieter, upscale pallet to come in from the ’burbs to be bathed in ambiance.

If you didn’t enjoy yourself, you don’t appreciate jazz.

Hell: If you attended the festival, you quickly became aware that to see your favorite artist at a “Jazz Pass” venue, it was necessary to stand in line for a minimum of 90 minutes. Fifty different artists at 20 different venues, and if you were lucky, you saw just one musician you were anxious to listen to. If you were not so lucky, you spent your time waiting for hours, just to be told the show was sold out. Then you raced to the next venue to wait in line again, hoping you would be fortunate enough to get in. Don’t even consider sitting; that privilege was held for the people having dinner at that particular venue.

This was not the fault of the clubs; they deserve to make money. The responsibility is that of the festival planners. They did not anticipate such a large response. When ticket sales exceeded every venue’s capacity, they took our money with a caveat-emptor attitude. Twenty-five dollars – thirty-five, if you waited until the fest began to buy your ticket --- and in some cases, the best you could hope for was tired feet, high-priced drinks, and a long wait in line.

For some, the Rochester International Jazz Fest was more a test of endurance and patience than the marvelous bargain it was advertised to be.

Having experienced both the heaven and hell of the event, my decision to remain at peace, in heaven, was prompted by one of the shining stars of the heavens. Cleveland Cooper, owner and operator of the Heritage House, considered the misfortune of waiting jazz lovers. Though the Heritage House restaurant had shut down for the evening, Mr. Cooper allowed patrons to come in and sit down to wait for the midnight show once the early show was sold out. It was a pleasure to sit and snack on hors d’oeuvres while the wait continued. The Pythodd Jazz Lounge was also the only venue that offered a midnight show, creating the opportunity for night owls to experience jazz at its very best, laid back and relaxed.

The entire Rochester International Jazz Festival was, from the point of view of this patron, heaven.

L. Francis Thomas, Rochester

War and peace

Interviews with the linguist Noam Chomsky have been collected in the book “9.11.” According to Chomsky, the US is the world’s leading terrorist state. He points out that the US “is the only country condemned by the World Court for international terrorism.”

Obviously, other countries are not paragons of peacefulness. But I question whether the state of violence in the world could exist today if it were not for the war policies of our country. Chomsky makes some good points.

Greg Stark, Savannah Street, Rochester