Freedom’s just another word...
Or is it? My dictionary defines freedom as “The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” We are lucky, here in the “land of the free,” though far too often we take our rights and freedoms for granted. We have the right to freely vote to elect the candidates of our choice; we are free to take to the streets to demonstrate or protest what we do not like; we are free to bear arms (definitely a hotly debated topic of conversation throughout the Upper Delaware Valley these days).
I tend to steer clear of political conversation and choose to keep my opinion on that topic close to the vest. “Not my strength,” I opine when asked. “Better for me to stick to what I know best—the world of arts and entertainment. As it is, I get into enough trouble by freely expressing my views on that!”
This week marks a milestone at The River Reporter, as we publish our 17th annual “Best Of” special edition—our readers’ choice awards, where everyone in the region has the freedom to express their opinion on the people and businesses that the community at large feels deserve recognition. This is an issue that folks look forward to every year for many reasons, and the readers’ freedom to make their voices heard (TRR received thousands of ballots) is honored here today.
One would think that the freedom to express love for anyone, regardless of race, religion or gender, is a given, but for many, this “right” has been a struggle. Thankfully, we live in “the home of the brave” and this country (IMHO) has come a long way. To celebrate, the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (www.artsalliancesite.org) has once again opened its heart and doors to the public, inviting us in to explore that freedom of expression in the form of “Be Mine Forever,” the fifth in a series of exhibitions “featuring photographs and poetry expressing stages of romance, heartbreak, marriage, and lasting love.” My program indicates that this year’s show is the final one in a planned series, which seems bittersweet, given that (for me) it is the “best of.”
Twenty-eight artists and poets are represented at the gallery, and curators Rocky Pinciiotti of the DVAA and Mary Greene of the Upper Delaware Writers Collective were both in attendance at the opening reception. “Each year, the poets, photographers and gallery goers all share the warmth and love this show brings to our town” said Pinciotti, and Greene added that the exhibit is “a perfect antidote to the snowy chill of midwinter.” Singer Sharon Paige performed torch songs, accompanied by bassist Bob Lohr and pianist Kevin Vertrees for a large crowd of enthusiasts, while attendees were given an opportunity to express themselves in the “Be Mine Photo Booth” and to contribute to “Love Lines”—a magnetic board on one wall that allows anyone the freedom to write a poem for all to see. This exhibit is free, open to the public, and runs throughout the Valentine’s Day (don’t get me started) season.
Freedom of expression is also on public display in Liberty, NY in the form of the “Green Door Project” (www.greendoormag.com). Sponsored by the locally grown magazine, the installation allows anyone who wishes to participate an opportunity to have their voices heard. For the next few months, residents have been accorded the right to write, and it appears that they are doing so in droves. I cruised by the other day to check it out before giving Green Door editor Akira Ohiso a call. “The art wall is asking residents of Liberty to voice their wishes for what is to become of the dilapidated theatre on Main Street,” he informed. “Poignantly, the youth have spoken... and I hope the grown-ups are listening.” Publisher Ellie Ohiso adds that “responsible living is more than the pages of a magazine. It is about being responsible in your community and how the smallest actions can exact change. Sometimes, it is about asking the right questions.” Here here.
Synchronicity being what it is, it came as no surprise to find myself in Callicoon, NY (www.cafedevine.com)—this time participating with another writers’ group (www.facebook.com/yarnslingers) expounding on their individual interpretation of a common theme: “Freedom.” Ten storytellers gathered to share thoughts, songs and tales in another packed house, eliciting laughter and tears, not uncommon for this diverse troupe. Yarnslingers is an open group, constantly striving to include anyone who wishes to express himself or herself in a public forum, with few constraints. Sometimes I wonder why I choose to take the mic, but the answer is usually the same. Nothin’ left to lose.