2019 Life Logs, Day 155: African American Heritage Trail Tour on MV
Date: Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Weather: Sunny and Breezy; High 67 (MV), Low 47 degrees
Location: At Home in the Cottage, East Falmouth, MA
Martha’s Vineyard (MV) has a population that goes from 17,000 during the winter to 200,000 by August. There are many reasons that it is such a popular vacation destination, but one of those reasons is the beauty . . . the Aquinnah Cliffs (formerly known as Gay Head), peaceful countryside, dramatic ocean views. I have seen all of those things before, but today I went there to do a tour of the African American Heritage Trail. The markers on the trail are just simple plaques, but the stories behind those plaques are fantastic. It all started when a woman from Ireland, Elaine Cawley Weintraub, was a high school teacher on the island and saw a need to give African American students a sense of their history from the days of slavery to the present. Twenty-seven Falmouth Newcomers made the trip to Martha’s Vineyard today for this tour. We got off the ferry and piled into three mini-vans with three different tour guides. Elaine Cawley Weintraub was one guide, but the van I got into had a Christie Vanderhoop as our guide. Christie is part African American and part Native American. Her husband is also both African American and Native American and he is the post master at the Chilmark Post Office on the island. Chilmark is part of the island where the ‘rich’ people live. It is where the Kennedy property is located, where Carly Simon lives, where John Belushi lived and where he is buried, where Alan Dershowitz lives during the summer, and on and on. As Christie said today, everyone has to go to the post office, so her husband knows all of these people and as a result, he and Christie often get invited to special affairs with the rich and famous. So not only was she knowledgeable about the Heritage Trail, she added all sorts of interesting tidbits about the island and its people. It was a five-hour tour and I certainly came away knowing more about Martha’s Vineyard than I had anticipated learning. African Americans I had never heard of were honored, as well as more familiar people like Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Senator Edward Brooke, politicians from the 20th century, and the Obamas who vacationed their while in the White House. The Kennedys and the Clintons, neither African American nor Native American, also hold special significance to those groups on the island as the Kennedys have owned land there for years and the Clintons also vacationed there while in the White House. It was a fantastic tour, but the highlight of my day was at the end of the day when we when visited the Aquinnah Cliffs overlook. I was last there with Mark in July of 2016 and the photo of us has been the photo on my blog site since that time. I have never updated. But today I had a fellow Newcomer take a photo of me in the exact location where Mark and I stood almost three years ago and that will become the updated photo for the blog site. It is time to update from ‘we’ to ‘me’, and I feel good that the photo keeps the same background, same connection. I think that would make Mark smile.