Rituals: Vote 2016

Dear America

I am standing in line to vote. It is the longest voting line I have ever waited in and admittedly not the longest citizens will wait today. It is winding, not unlike our first political cartoon that shows a fragmented snake, (1754, Pennsylvania  Gazette) split into seperate colonies. Below the image a proclamation from Benjamin Franklin “Join, or die.”

At the time this was a call for unity. A call for a fragmented people to come together. Today, that snake looks awfully familiar. For the last year I have had it coiled within me, an invisible knot in my chest, twinging when I thought about today. 

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Alex and Mike: A Love Story

A few months ago two friends of mine asked me to do a reading at thier wedding, and after I offered to write it for them they said yes. I wanted to share the piece with you along with a recording of a portion I had to cut due to time constraints (and that it didn’t quite fit in with the broader piece). 

Here is the final reading from the ceremony this weekend. 

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Ten.

August 14, 2006. This story begins in a stately building on the corner of 18th and Massachusetts in Dupont Circle. On this particular humid day, typical of a Washington August, a young twenty-three year old woman walked into her first day at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While the specifics of her emotions are lost to time, they are likely tinged with a combination of relief (she has a job!) and excitement (she has a job in her field!).

That was then. This is now.

I have always been a big believer in loving what you do.  Every day we get out of bed and head to a workplace to spend a third of our weekly waking hours as means to support ourselves. In these hours we have a choice – to let our work become rote, a black hole of time filled with disengagement, or to find work that stimulates our mind, bringing passion and joy along for the ride. It is a luxury, perhaps, but something that I feel is essential.

10years

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Kindness, Humanity, Hope: Hello 2016!

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Sunset from Pacific Grove, California. Credit: Priya Chhaya

Hello 2016!

As we closeout this second day of the new year I have to say that 2015 sped by. There were marriages and babies. Trips and a lot of theatre, and perhaps more importantly, I spent the year doing exactly what I had resolved: In 2015 I took control.

At the start I decided to let my choices and needs dictate how I spent my time-challenging myself to say yes (and at times no). We can say, for the most part, that I was successful.

But what about 2016? Well from a pop-culture standpoint I can’t wait to watch Downton Abbey’s last season (in the UK this is so 2015 already), the X-Files reboot, Hamilton the musical in August and yes, more Star Wars.

I am also looking forward to visiting Colorado and India (at the end of the year) with some other adventures along the way.
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Talking Honestly About the Past

It’s been over a week and I’m still thinking about the Slate Academy symposium “How Do We Get Americans to Talk Honestly about Slavery.” Why? It’s not just because the subject matter resonates with a lot of current events on race and class. It’s not just because the panel mimicked how I think about public history i.e. through a broader lens of objects, oral histories, literature, and popular culture. Rather, it is because the conversation presented to us represents a lesson on how to talk honestly about the entire past, period.

A culmination of a podcasting series for Slate Academy the live symposium brought together experiential historians, museum professionals, divers, authors, critics, and a pop culture icon to investigate the process of myth-making surrounding slavery. The strength of the symposium lay in participants ability to delve beneath the surface of history to identify ways to encourage a dialogue in the face of resistance. To investigate, as culinary historian Michael Twitty says, how “slavery is not a blip, but a chronic condition.”
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Change is Gonna Come

Oh my, my, my. What a difference a day makes.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

Rainbows in New York City. #LoveWins (Instagram Filter) | Credit: Priya Chhaya
  

Twenty-four hours ago while, on a bus to New York City, I wrote a blog post which I probably will never share beyond my family. Incredibly pessimistic, the post reflected on heritage, hate, and deflection born out of frustration and my own anger at another tragic series of deaths.

Then today happened. Not only did we see that #lovewins, but we heard President Obama, in his eulogy to Reverend Pinckney, proclaim:

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2015. Another Year. Another Resolution.

At the start of 2014. I sought to be more productive, to experiment more, and resolved for a year of joy.

So how successful was I? It’s hard to say. In terms of productivity I’ve been living in a year of distraction. I took a trip to India in the summer which was followed by a few days with my sister in Portugal. I went to Cabo for a bachelorette and then to Monterey (CA) and Savannah (GA) for conferences. September brought with it my sister’s wedding which, after a year of planning, was filled with a relative amount of stress, laughter, and a new family member. I tried to write, but got hit with writer’s block for months, but at the same time made progress on some other long term projects I hope to share at a later time.

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Nothing says Williamsburg more than #snotogo #wmhomecoming

A post shared by Priya (@priyastoric) on

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One Step: From 2013 to 2014

Optimism. Focus. Growth. Three ways to approach 2013. Three tools to infuse the way I tell stories, both beyond and of the past. Three ways to embrace the future.

New Year resolutions are tough. As goals for the next 2-300 or so days they are choices of self-determination. Dictates on change. Guidelines for choices you want to make in the year to come.

They are often lofty and almost always fall to the wayside before February.

Last year instead of resolving I sought to qualify. I chose three words that would be a touch point for how I manage inevitable change and tell my stories. Three ways to accept the unpredictable and embrace it.

In this I have been mostly successful. 2013 was a year of personal change which often pulled me away from writing. My focus was directed towards family matters and I made the conscious choice to look for personal growth offline (though it seems my use of Twitter is perhaps on an uptick).

In the last year I’ve written 13 posts here on …this is what comes next. A few were cross-posts from either Fangirl or the Indian American Story. Others included links to reflections on the PreservationNation blog.  Collectively these posts (which are listed below) mark my love with learning through place (this year I traveled to Boston and Paris) and finding ways to teach my new niece an appreciation for the past. Some of my favorites? This interview with a Kristina Downs on Native American Heroines (originally on Fangirl blog), my look at Cloud Atlas, and a two-part post on returning to historical places and the resonance they bring on PreservationNation.

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Stand Up, Speak Up, Speak Out and…Get in the Way

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. -Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (August 28, 1963).

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I’d like to say that I spent my day at the edge of my seat watching the news coverage and the live streaming…but I didn’t. I spent most of my day watching my three week old niece cry, sleep and overall just be adorable.

While the television wasn’t on I did follow my Twitter feed, read reactions on Facebook, and read transcripts of the speeches by Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama. This morning I listened to the short remarks by the only still living speaker from that day in 1963: Representative John Lewis.

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Thinking About the Future: The Voting Rights Act of 1965

writingLet’s kick this conversation off with a little bit of background:

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). This section requires certain states and localities with a history of discrimination to submit changes to election practices to a judicial authority before it can go into effect.

While the act as a whole enforces the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, this particular section was meant to prevent the poll taxes, literacy tests, and other Jim Crow tactics that infringed on the rights of African-American citizens to vote.

What’s the overarching argument about the case? In the years since the law’s enactment, and particularly with the election of Barack Obama, this provision is no longer necessary. [Read Supreme Court Case Explained or this response from Representative John Lewis]

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