Today I had a meeting with a non-profit group here in D.C. called Critical Exposure. I came upon them in my favorite way - totally randomly by talking to someone in a coffee shop and them recommending I get in touch with these folks. They do some really good work providing services to inner-city kids and teaching them all sorts of things including how to turn their cameras into tools for social change by exposing issues that they find to be needing improvement.
For those of you who are interested here is a link to their website: http://www.criticalexposure.org/
The meeting went well and I hope to be working with these folks in the future. I met with lovely lady by the name of Emma who has a photography degree already and is currently in the middle of earning her MFA in photo journalism here in Washington.
I offered to teach the kids who are more advanced in their photography knowledge some darkroom techniques and we are going to be in touch about that in the near future. Ideally I would do that on my next time around in D.C., which I think will be in a month or month and a half. We are also going to brainstorm about the possibility of their organization taking me under their wing as a fiscal affiliate. This way they can have a satellite educator who effectively takes their organization nation-wide and I could gain a non-profit status cover without having to establish one on my own and doing all the paper-pushing that is required for that. I'm really hopeful of that happening as I would love to be able to give folks a tax deduction on their donations of materials and start writing for grants that require a higher level of logistics than I have at the moment.
Prior to that I attended a rally organized by Soren S. Powell in support of dreadlocks. I met Soren by the lake at this years Rainbow Gathering where he explained to me that there is a rather racist and sexist law that allows ONLY black women to keep their dreads while serving in any of the US government forces branches. Weird, right? Soren is an intelligent and kind person and all he really wants is to keep his dreads, which he wears for religious purposes, while joining the US coast guard. Unfortunately the promise of rain must have scared off the majority of people who pledged to be there on his Facebook event page and the turnout was minimal. In support of his cause I am posting this link where you can sign his petition with only a name and e-mail required. That particular website states that he needs only 12 more signatures at the moment so I hope you take the time to sign it. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dreadygocoastguard/
While at the rally I had an interesting conversation with a Romanian woman (who was mostly staring into her smart phone the entire time, but was still cognitive enough to communicate). She is a dentist and said that she was a dental surgeon back in her home country. She left 20 years ago at the time of the collapse of the Soviet block and was rather upset that her credentials didn't hold up here in US and she had to attend school all over again. That led to the topic of the current healthcare overhaul and here's something I found very interesting. She was a staunch opponent of Obama and his plan to have people buy insurance on mandatory basis - that I can understand, in this country nobody wants to be shoved into having to do anything (even if it's really good for them and the society at large). However, in the same breath she was arguing that this country should have socialized healthcare like every industrialized nation on the planet has implemented already. Here's a kicker though - her main beef with the new laws was that if people are not going to buy insurance, or the small businesses will not provide it for their employees, once they need health services they will be punished, according to her, with a fee equal to the 2% of their annual income. She was furious about that! She argued the well known line that small businesses will not bare that cost and will be closing down left and right. What I didn't hear her saying is that she personally would be willing to pay taxes that would be much higher than those 2% in order to support the socialized healthcare that she was taking about... On one hand it was refreshing to hear someone talk about that system in this country, but on the other hand I'd love to see what she would say if any politician brave enough to try to push for that would lay out the actual costs needed to implement that and the real tax hikes that would have to be put in place in order to get that system going. In my opinion that was tunnel vision at its best.
On the side note - those who have known financial struggle are the ones most likely to help a fellow human in need. As soon as I briefly mentioned my current financial predicament Soren offered me all the cash he currently had in his wallet without asking for anything in return. It wasn't much, but it meant the world to me and I gladly accepted his generous donation. God bless him and his two beautiful children (he's a single father by the way).
As hospitable and comfortable as my stay has been here in the US capitol, I am ready to move on. big cities are rather draining for me. I find that people are rather hard to communicate with (with a few pleasant exceptions) as most of them have a sense of tunnel-vision to their lives - focusing on the immediate goals in front of them such as going to work, bar-hopping or god knows what. I am once again looking forward to the open road and adventures that it may bring me. Tomorrow I am going to be on my way to Baltimore MD were I am going to attend an arts festival and look for more exposure and real-life connections with artists and art lovers.
Prior to that I am going to swing by Burke VA - there I hope to pick up some darkroom equipment, chemistry and paper that a retired darkroom photographer is willing to donate to the cause. I still have some room in The Bus for that kind of stuff and will carry it with me in hopes of finding someone who can use it - let the redistribution of photographic equipment begin! I also will have an extra 35mm Canon, donated by my current host, so when I find that special someone who is willing to delve into the realm of darkroom photography I'll have all the equipment needed to get them started.
I am still looking for someone to host The Photo Palace Bus in New York City - I am not going there alone and with no place to park, that would be just reckless and amateur. If anyone reading this can help out with that I would appreciate it greatly. Otherwise NYC will have to wait till next time around and I'll make my way up to Maine and the Regional Rainbow Gathering there to continue my documentary of that subset of Americana.
All the very best to all my devoted readers and those who are just coming upon this blog for the first time.