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April 2011

On The Road to a Virtual Voyage!

I figured a  “Throwback Thursday” would be a most appropriate time to wax nostalgic and invite you to join me on my next virtual vacation!  This weekend I will set off on a wondrous adventure “across the pond”  touring southern England!  As if that weren’t fabulous enough, I’m traveling with my daughter Sara, just the two of us, as her graduation gift before she heads off to college next month! 

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  During my 25+ years at ABC7, many of you have watched Sara grow up over the years - here’s the nostalgic part - and during that time she has become an incredible traveler! 








She took her first cruise before she was 2 - at 4, she was climbing pyramids in Mexico!

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At 6, Sara accompanied me and my Mom on a trip to Spain - 3 generations in our mother country! At 10, Sara was sightseeing through ancient Greece; at 12 she experienced the glaciers of Alaska!

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                         Alaska july 26 to aug 5 2008 146 (2)


I took her to President Obama’s first inauguration - we explored the holy land together with members of our congregation.

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I chaperoned a high school choir trip to Ireland, and back in the states we took road trips to our national parks and the entire stretch of Rt. 66!  Sara’s 18th birthday with a destination party to the “Happiest Place on Earth!”

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I now invite you to join us on our next adventure, as I share our discoveries in London and many other historic places in the UK.  We arrive at Heathrow Airport Monday August 4th; posts on Facebook and Twitter soon to follow!  As this is an “interactive vacation,” feel free to make suggestions, ask questions or give advice - this is the first time in the UK for both of us!

 https://www.facebook.com/RozVaronABC7   https://twitter.com/rozvaronABC7 

One more thing - a heartfelt thanks to my incredibly understanding husband for giving Sara and I this special bonding time while he stays at home.  Besides, someone has to watch the dogs, right?!


Bon Voyage!




On The Road to the Jewish Deep South - Memphis

The last day of our tour was packed with an emotional wallop.  We visited the National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis.  This was the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968.  To say that this exhibition was powerful would be an understatement. Never before have I been moved to tears by a museum exhibit.

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No photography is allowed inside the museum; I will do my best to bring these images to life for you. The permanent exhibit chronicles the American civil rights movement over 400 years - from the early slave revolts to the present day recipients of National and International Freedom Awards.

There are quotes - from Frederick Douglass in 1852, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress," to President Bill Clinton, "Though we march to the music of our time, our mission is timeless."

You can learn how the NAACP was founded in 1910, and how the landmark decision in Brown v. The Board of Education in 1954 ended legalized segregation.

You can sit on a bus next to Mrs. Rosa Parks and understand more about the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955; or you can sit at the Woolworth's lunch counter with several African American college students, who staged a sit-in protest after being denied service in 1960 in Greensboro North Carolina.

**Chicago connection:  There is a section on the aftermath of the brutal murder of 14 year old Emmett Till in 1954.  There is a section on Dr. King's work in Chicago during the mid 1960's, addressing racial problems in the urban north, and the beginnings of the Poor People's Campaign.

Undoubtedly, the most compelling part of the exhibit is about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  His powerful "I Have a Dream" speech has even more meaning in this setting.  You feel the emotion from the marches, the protests, and a replica of a jail cell where Dr. King wrote The Letter from Birmingham Jail on the only means available - tissue paper.

As you make your way to the end of the exhibit you find yourself in a time warp, staring at rooms 306 and 307, just as they were in 1968.  Dr. King was standing on the balcony of room 306 when he was assassinated.  The building accross the street was an old boarding house; it is now an expansion of the museum.  Inside you can see the bedroom used by James Earl Ray, and the bathroom where the fatal shot was fired.  The bathroom window is left open several inches, just as it was when police found it in April 1968.  Chilling.

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Several days after Dr. King's death, a wreath was placed on the railing in front of room 306.  One has been there ever since.

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On The Road to the Jewish Deep South - The Mississippi Delta

Being from Chicago, we like to think of our city as "The Home of The Blues."  The Chicago blues festival is said to be the largests free blues fest in the world!  We had Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, and still have Buddy Guy - but Guy was born in Louisiana, Taylor in Tennessee, and Muddy Waters in the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues.


Our tour today begins in Indianola Mississippi at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Riley B. King was born September 16, 1925 in a small town near Indianola.  He grew up playing guitar and singing in church with the St. Johns Gospel singers.  He also played for tips on Saturday nights along Church Street.  To do both was frowned upon, so he left for Memphis and began his career as B.B. King.  This state-of-the-art exhibit follows King's journey from the early days (his debut single, "Miss Martha King" was recorded at black-staffed and managed radio station WDIA) to his current concert tours.  Being a music lover, I could have stayed here all day learning and listening.  I was most moved, though, by the emotional story of this musical icon.  **Fun fact:  B.B. King's guitars are named "Lucille."  The story goes, around 1950 King was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas.  Things got out of hand and a fight broke out, knocking over a kerosene stove that set the hall on fire.  B.B. almost lost his life running back in to save his beloved guitar!  When he found out the fight started over a woman named "Lucille" he gave that name to his guitar to remind himself to never do anything that risky again!



Our lunch at the Crown Restaurant is filled with southern hospitality.  We are joined by Steve Rosenthal, the newly elected Jewish mayor of Indianola!  How (and why!) does a Jewish man become mayor of a southern town of less than 12-thousand residents - 70% African American?  Mayor Rosenthal's father immigrated from Lithuania.  Like so many Jewish immigrants in the south, he became successful in retail.  Steve continued in the family business, catering to all the townsfolk, black and white.  When he ran for office in 2010 he became the first mayor to win all 5 wards with 80% of the vote.  He attributes this to the good relationship he forged with the entire community over the years.  As mayor, his primary goal is help residents become more self-sufficient and less government dependent, through improvements in education.  As far as being one of only 5 Jewish families in town - Rosenthal states, "If you want a good Jewish lifestyle in Indianola, you have to work at it!"  - something he's not afraid to do.




Our appetites satisfied, with drive 30 minutes to Greenville to visit the Hebrew Union Temple, once the largest congregation in Mississippi.  This reform congregation now has only 48 members, but they are passionate about preserving their history.  President Richard Dattel and Vice President Benjy Nelken tell our group how they grew up in an "oasis of tolerance;" a liberal community free of anti-semitism.  They show us the Century of History Museum within the synagogue, filled with photos and artifacts from temple members involved in the Civil War, both World Wars and Vietnam, to name a few.  **Chicago connection: Each year the congregation hosts a deli luncheon fundraiser, serving 15-hundred corned beef sandwiches.  The corned beef is trucked in from Vienna Beef in Chicago! 




We continue to Cleveland MS and the classroom of Dr. Luther Brown, Director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.  Here we learn that the Mississippi Delta region was still a 90% swampy wilderness at the time of the Civil War!  By 1900, African Americans owned 2/3 of the farm in the Delta.  Between 1870 and 1930 the Delta region had more lynchings than anywhere else in the south.  We also found out that while the Delta is widely known as The Birthplace of the Blues, it also gave birth to Rock 'n' Roll!  **Chicago connection:  Dr. Brown is from Elmhurst!  He graduated from York High School.


At our final stop we come full circle.  Nearby Dockery Farms was established in 1895 by Will Dockery to produce cotton.  As B.B. King stated, "You might say, it all started right here."  This plantation community of several thousand workers gave birth to the Blues; their songs would influence popular music all over the world.



Barbecue tonight at Rendezvous Restaurant in Memphis.  One more stop tomorrow.