Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Pays the Piper

A regular theme here at Broken Turtle is that corporate funding for the arts comes with strings. That is not to say that craft and inspiration can’t break free and project a progressive vision from time to time, one that speaks with an honest heart about a shameful outrage against an American city. Such was the accomplishment of Ten Months: The Wilmington Voices Project, a three-person show portraying the memories and lasting legacy of the 1968 rebellion/riots in Wilmington, Delaware and the ten-month occupation by the National Guard following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Conceived and Directed by Anne Marie Cammarato, the play will continue from March 31 through April 4 at the Delaware Theatre Company.

The work was not so much composed as harvested from memories and archives buried for forty years. The actors, Taïfa Harris, Erin Moon, and Ben Cherry, shift deftly among a host of characters: a white man who romanticizes Wilmington’s history from the Lenni Lenape to the DuPonts, a teenager rapping the words of Wilmington poet Devon Morrison, an aging African American man, wondering where his city went.

I do believe that such authenticity is a starting point for empowerment and change. But let me quote from a letter I published in today's News Journal to tell you what happened:
My enjoyment of Anne Marie Cammarato’s poignant exploration of painful memories in “10 Months: The Wilmington voices Project,” was dashed by the corporate propaganda inserted in the discussion following the show.
The Rodel Foundation-sponsored discourse led to a pitch for “Race to the Top,” which could rip up union contracts, fire principals and teachers wholesale at schools that serve the poor, and bribe cash-strapped school districts to surrender community control. The Rodel Foundatin, Eli Broad (ex-director of Notorious AIG) and their corporate partners have dominated education discussions in our state and marginalized less-powerful voices that might better advance community needs.
Diane Ravitch, assistant Secretary of Education for presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and formerly an advocate for such schemes, has now reversed herself in the face of their sobering results. Ravitch now concludes that high-stakes testing, “utopian” goals, “draconian” penalties, school closings, privatization and charter schools don’t work. She writes that “[t]he best predictor of low academic performance is poverty–not bad teachers.”
Today, it was announced that Delaware and Tennessee are two of the eventual 16 state winners of the “Race to the Top” competition and, along with it, $100 million in funds. Now, when government joins with communities to support their needs, that’s great. But when the government foists a corporate agenda on public education, that’s real tea party material.  It remains to be seen, much in the same manner as the recent Health Care package just signed by President Obama, if the “Race to the Top” will more benefit the community or the corporations. There has certainly been very little real debate locally, other than a column I wrote, “So-called school reform serves corporate ends,” back in April 2008, and some recent remarks in Delaware Liberal blog.

Back to the arts, many folks say we should avoid overt messages. It’s amazing how corporate sponsors don’t seem to feel that way.


  1. Phil, you really had ought to visit the debate that goes on daily at Kilroy's Delaware then you won't have to embarrass yourselve with blind links to Delaware Liberal.


  2. Thanks for the heads up about the take-no-prisoners site at Kilroy's Delaware. I am happy (and not the least bit embarrassed) to include a link. And thanks for keeping up with and pasting from my previous commentary on the Vision 2015 boondoggle.