Oak Bluffs: Showing how much we care

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As I look out onto the front yard at all the beauty, the flowers — purple lilacs, bright pink rhododendrons, the driveway lined with the yellow yarrow and purple iris, I can’t help but wish the news in our world was as beautiful as my physical surroundings. But between the coronavirus and the seemingly worsening demonstrations that sometimes turn violent to protest the death of George Floyd, I wonder if it is even possible. I think many of us living here have been lulled into that dream world of “could never happen here.”

We need to wake up, stand in support of those who are treated wrongly, whether they be citizens or law enforcement. I still remember the lines of that song from the movie “South Pacific” that I heard more than 50 years ago. I quote some of those lines here: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are 6 or 7 or 8 …“ Let us teach love, honesty, and tolerance.

Make sure you are flying our flag on Flag Day, June 14.

Our sympathies to the family and friends of Jasmine Reed, who left us way too early last week. Sincere condolences to her brother Philip and her large extended family. We are truly sorry.

So many people and organizations across our Island are making their feelings and beliefs known as we confront coronavirus and the death of George Floyd. Tom Dresser expressed his thoughts in the following way: “The first Saturday in June is National Trails Day. Traditionally, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank has organized a cross-Island hike to explore various Vineyard sites. This year that walk was canceled due to the coronavirus. I plan to take my own cross-Island hike. My intent is to make this solemn, solo expedition in memory of the 100,000-plus who have died from COVID-19. The financial pain wrought by the pandemic is real. Primarily, I want to walk to reflect on the untimely death of George Floyd, which has brought such upheaval across our country.”

Tom continues to send more excerpts from his book, “The Rise of Tourism on Martha’s Vineyard.” I am sharing some of his writings with you:

“The popularity of the Methodist Camp Meeting Association and the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Co. expanded dramatically by 1900. The two communities merged to form the town of Cottage City (1880), renamed Oak Bluffs (1907). The Sea View Hotel welcomed tourists to the Vineyard. The Tivoli featured dancing to local tunes such as “Tivoli Girl” and the “Oak Bluffs Galope.” A Toboggan Slide intrigued the populace. An Observation Tower loomed over Ocean Park; bathhouses lined the beach below. The Flying Horses, the oldest continuously operated carousel in the country, remain the only vestige of that halcyon era. (And it is not open this year, due to coronavirus.) Ice cream parlors, bowling alleys, and curio shops flourished along Circuit Avenue, satiating crowds of tourists who savored the sights and sounds. The Martha’s Vineyard Railroad transported tourists between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown’s South Beach. Carriages carried tourists through pristine villages up-Island, and out to the variegated clay Cliffs of Gay Head. President Ulysses Grant visited the Vineyard. Martha’s Vineyard had arrived as a prime vacation destination, with an array of amusement park activities amid a spectacular Island landscape.”

This year, however, will be different, but we’re sure the Vineyard will return to its prior popularity for tourism. Tom will give a virtual book talk of his book at the Edgartown library on June 16 at 7 pm.

Because they have been unable to hold any meetings since March, the Martha’s Vineyard Neighborhood Convention officers began looking for meaningful ways to contribute to the Island’s immediate needs during this time of pandemic. The officers and members at large agreed that supporting agencies that provide food to families and individuals would be a good choice. They want you to know that a $400 donation was made to the Island Food Pantry, and a $600 donation was made to the Good Shepherd Parish food distribution program. They gave according to what they knew about each agency’s need; the IFP has received a number of substantial gifts this spring; they felt a little extra help for Good Shepherd was in order. The admiration for each agency’s dedication and effort exceeds the contributions. As the board stated, they are honored to participate, and are mindful that without your faithfulness, they could do nothing.

Our Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse has also issued the following statement on their website: “The truth is, our words are not good enough, our thinking is chaotic, our hearts are hurting, we are outraged, and we feel inadequate and unprepared to face and take on the realities of systemic racism, white supremacy, discrimination in healthcare, and brutal injustices against the Black and Brown citizens of our country. We need help. For many years, the Playhouse has produced and presented African American stories on our stage. Our lives have been enriched infinitely. At our theater, we practice zero tolerance of racism or discrimination of any kind. We need to do more. Arts build strong communities. We hope to do better. Black Lives Matter. We condemn the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans. We stand in grief and sorrow and anger with our Black colleagues, friends, audience members, Island neighbors, and Black communities everywhere. We are committed to listening harder, learning more deeply, and creating fiercer plans for our future. Above all, we believe in the power of love.”

We send birthday smiles for the month of June to Woodside Village residents Louisa Luening, Ann Hearn, Carol Loud, Joan Burden, Suzanne Walker, Agnes Bryant, Samuel Drake, and Mary McManama.

Birthday smiles to Jaime Young and Gerry Moriarty on June 14, Glen Field on the 15th, and Davy Debettencourt on the 16th.

Enjoy your week. Peace.

If you have any Oak Bluffs Town Column suggestions, email Megan Alley, meganislandmegan@comcast.net.