Capitalize V, T, R for Views, Thoroughbred, Racetack

 Ellen McHale Ph.D

Date: March 23, 2015                Participants: 50s

              On Monday, March 23 , 2015, 12:30-1:30 pm, we at the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture were greatly honored to have folklorist Ellen McHale, Ph.D., present on her new book:  STABLE VIEWS:  VOICES AND STORIES OF THE THOROUGHBRED RACETRACK (Uiversity of Mississippi, 2015). This publication is largely based on the fieldwork she did at Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct Racetracts in New York State with the assistance of an Archie Green Fellowship in Occupational Folklore from the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
Dr. McHale began her presentation with a brief self-introduction in regard to her experience with the study of racetrack  folklore. She spoke about how the book is based on more than a decade of recorded oral histories pertaining to the occupations of those who compose the racetrack community. Pictures were shown all through the presentation of those in the various occupations about which she lectured: grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders, trainers,  outriders, horse identifiers, blacksmiths, horseshoers, and jockeys, for example. She elaborated on instances where entire families had different occupations at the track which helped to perpetuate certain occupational traditions. She explored the folkloric elements of the clothing worn by individuals in certain racetrack occupations as well as the language coined by others. She mentioned Irish and Latino American workers at the track but clarified that no particular ethnic group dominates the occupations at the racetracks. The Director of the New York Folklore Society and former Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Stockholm, Sweden, explained that the idea of luck is especially important in the career of hotwalkers, those who walk the horses after they have come off the track. These workers would not dream of changing the direction in which he/she walks horses due to the belief that it is bad luck to do so. Immediately following the PowerPoint presentation, students asked questions about the reasons why racetrack employees travel from track to track and whether going to the racetrack is still a popular activity in the states.  Dr. McHale informed the audience composed of approximately forty students, faculty, and administrators that these individuals travel due to the changing seasons, the weather, and the schedulng of the races in different parts of country. This folklorist  indicated that racetrack attendance may not be as popular as in the 1980s but that it is still an important recreational and, for some, gambling activity in the country. Everyone present was content with this informative and interesting culture-rich presentation and continue to appreciate the accompanying photo exhibt still to be found in the Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT.

  If you want more information about New York  folk lore, click this link:




Changing Foodways in Gentrifying Harlem

 Dean Monique Taylor


Date: December 1, 2014                             Number of participants: 26

NYIT Nanjing Campus Dean and Executive Director for the NYIT China Program’s Monique Taylor lectured on "Changing Foodways in Gentrifying Harlem" in the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture during the NUPT Fall Inaugural Event.  Early in Dean Taylor's presentation was the inclusion of colorful and detailed maps of Harlem.  Alongside the work of Jacob Lawrence presented on-screen, we were able to clearly situate ourselves in this part of New York while also gaining a deep sense of the pain and beauty that dominated this community's history.  Dean Taylor’s explanation of the Great Migration of African Americans from the south and of the Harlem Renaissance that followed facilitated our appreciation for this strong and enduring community.  Dean Taylor's elaboration of southern food traditions, their migration and later transformations in this environment due to the changing demography, was highly illuminating.  In addition, Dean Taylor's sharing of her fieldwork, especially in regard to the dishes she enjoyed this summer and the menus she collected on her feasting journey throughout the ever-changing Harlem, was a delight.  The audience also greatly appreciated the way in which the Dean enriched the presentation with the poetry, quotations, and music of Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, and Duke Ellington, respectively.


A Folk Arts of New York State Lecture on Furniture Making

Professor Christopher Dewart

Date: November 20, 2014                                         Number of Participants: 50

Professor Christopher Dewart – a professor of Furniture Making in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 1987 -- presented his lecture, "From Shaker to Ikea: A Folk Arts of New York State Lecture on Furniture Making."  He began with an overview of American history, establishing the foundation for the aspect of his talk regarding folk art.  He indicated that "American Folk Art is shaped by the indigenous Native Americans and by all the different cultures that arrived in North America: the Spanish, the English Puritans, the enslaved and indentured servants, and people fleeing persecution, poverty and war," as stated in his lecture summary.  The Professor asserted that it is necessary to look to traditions of the past in order to help create the designs of today.  For example, the religious group named the Shakers created extremely simple designs as an expression of the value of simplicity in their lives; these designs can be found in present-day Ikea© stores.  This New York folk group shares the simplicity of design and materials with another religious group, the Amish.  Professor Dewart shared a wide assortment of colorful and high-quality slides, not only regarding the work of the Shakers and Amish, but also of a variety of furniture designs from Asia and Europe.  In addition, as also stated in his lecture summary, he informed the audience that:


At MIT, we are makers 'Making'… MIT provides opportunities for the artist, the scientist, and the technician to work together to build better designs.  With many 'FabLabs,' a glass lab, blacksmith shop, several wood shops, welding facilities, electronics labs, and machine shops all available to both faculty, staff and students, MIT is producing important, innovative and sustainable design for the future.



Women of Courage

 Dean Monique Taylor

Date: November 13, 2014                                         No.  of Participants:30ds-zcxO) 

 Today's Center Event served as the opening ceremony for the Exhibit: Women of Courage Our esteemed Dean Monique Taylor and distinguished Nebraskan guests from the Center inXi'an joined us.  Professor Beverly Butcher began the event with a brief introduction about the Exhibit: 72 African American women who were born between the late 1870s and the second decade of the twentieth century (with the exception of one).  These 72 women represent a "cross section of the many women of African descent who made significant contributions of varying kinds to American society in the early and middle decades of the twentieth century" Professor Butcher.  Dean Taylor then shared her thoughts about those “women of courage” and imparted additional era-specific information.  She began with a book named "But Some of Us Are Brave," which drew our attention to the black community, specifically the disregard of black people's civil rights, especially those of black women.  These civil rights issues are shown time and again throughout a 150-year period.  She also introduced the two American Supreme Court cases that forever changed the treatment of black citizens in America: Plessy versus Ferguson and Brown versus the Board of Education.  These two cases taught facts that we as beginners and learners must know when we talk about racial and post-racialism problems.  Dean Taylor’s introduction was very professional and easily understood, especially for new learners.  After Dean Taylor’s presentation, one of the assistants presented Rosa Parks, one of the most famous civil rights activists of all time.  It was a successful kick-off for the Exhibit!


Video Game Literacy

Professor Christopher Patterson


Date: November 25, 2014                                         Number of Participants: 50

Tonight's English Corner featured a grand crowd of about 50 people.  Professor Christopher, the leading star for the night, began the EC with a question, or rather, a survey: how many participants are "gamers"?  Luckily, we did not have too many addicted gamers.  Professor Christopher showed us some games that he had played or had experience with, many of which aroused students’ interests.  He then presented studies that prove that gamers are not what we think them to be: people who are so addicted to their respective games that they have no regard or awareness of real life.  We learned that video games can also be considered an art form.  Professor Christopher also came to the conclusion that game culture has become more "male".  After the professor's talk, he posed discussion questions that would further our understanding of the content he had covered; the students and two other professors talked and debated.  One interesting thing about this EC was that there were some NUPT English-major students involved, and they shared their opinions about whether games can be a kind of literature and art.  Students who participated also talked about their experiences with games and expressed their understandings of balancing between games and academic performances.  It was a fantastic, fun-filled night.



Film Colloquium Poster, Fall 2014




Halloween Party 2014


Cultures of the American Gulf Coast: Work and Play in Story and Song from Louisiana to Florida

Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar

Students speak at an event

Date: May 15, 2014                                      Number of Participants: 35

On Thursday, May 15, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar, spoke on “The Life and Work of Floridian Folklorist Stetson Kennedy,” to an audience of approximately thirty-five students and faculty. Her presentation largely consisted of stories of growing up in St. AugustineFlorida during the early to mid-twentieth century in which Jim Crow laws were in place. She explained that her late husband was inspired to risk his life to change such thinking specifically by his infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan as described in his book The Klan Unmasked (University of Alabama Press, 2011).

On Thursday, May 15, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar and prolific author of numerous Critical Thinking books (The Critical Thinking Company) spoke on “Critical Thinking About Assumptions: Their Eyes Were Watching God,” in which she provided a model lesson demonstrating uncovering unstated assumptions which explored racial stereotypes in the Gulf South at mid-twentieth century. The audience was composed of professors, administrators, and an attentive thirty students, many of whom had read portions of this book as part of their Multicultural Literature Cultures of the American Gulf Coast course. Ms. Parks began her talk by describing the attitudes about beauty that predominated in early twentieth century Florida especially, but not only, in relation to skin color.

On Thursday, May 15, 1:45-3:45 pm, Sandra Parks, M.A., Independent Scholar, spoke with Professor Zhang Dongmei (Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology) informally on the life and work of Florida authors Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Stetson Kennedy in Dr. Beverly Butcher’s Multicultural Literature Cultures of the American Gulf Coast: Work and Play in Story and Song from Louisiana to Florida class. Three sections of this course had read chapters from Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (HarperPerennial, 1999) and the first chapter of Kennedy’sThe Klan Unmasked (University of Alabama Press, 2011). They will be reading chapters in Rawling’sThe Yearling (Scribner, 2002) during the final weeks of class.


The Campbell Brothers

The Campbell Brothers

The Campbell Brothers joined by erhu player Cao Jiawang play at the NYIT-NUPT Overseas Education Building The Campbell Brothers joined by erhu player Cao Jiawang play at the NYIT-NUPT Overseas Education Building The Campbell Brothers joined by erhu player Cao Jiawang play at the NYIT-NUPT Overseas Education Building The Campbell Brothers joined by erhu player Cao Jiawang play at the NYIT-NUPT Overseas Education Building

Date: May 15, 2015                        Number of Participants: 80

Thursday evening, May 15, 7:00 – 8:15 pm, The Campbell Brothers, based in Rochester, New York, but with strong Florida connections, where their family has a history of performing expressed their sacred steel guitar music in Concert on the first floor of the NYIT-NUPT Overseas Education Building before an audience or 150 students, faculty, administrators as well as the public. Erhu player Cao Jiawang, a graduate student at the Guangzhou Xinghai Conservatory of Music joined these artists for several pieces. NYIT-NUPT students especially were enthralled by this music which inspired many to participate not only with their voices but also with the waving of hands and jumping to the music.National Public Radio American Routes radio show creator and host Nick Spitzer, Ph.D., and Josh Kohn organized and narrated the highly successful program with Chuck Campbell (pedal steel guitar), Phil Campbell (electric guitar, bass), Darick Campbell (lap steel guitar), Carlton Campbell (drums), Daric Bennet (bass) and gifted Tiffany Godette (vocals). Many of the students proclaimed the event to be “fabulous” while professors used such words as “uplifting” to describe the spirit of the music as well as the quality of the interaction between the band and the audience members.


The Campbell Brothers Panel

The Campbell Brothers

The Campbell Brothers meet with over students at the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT

The Campbell Brothers meet with over students at the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPTDate: May 16, 2014                                    Number of Participants: 50

On Friday, May 16, 12:30 – 1:30 pm; 2:45 - 4:15 pm The Campbell Brothers had an Informal Meeting with fifty students, faculty, and administrators in the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT during which time the musicians and American Routes host Nick Spitzer explained the function of the music they play within the tradition of their church. The audience learned that the music is traditionally not only a means of spiritual expression but also complements the words of the preacher and enhances his message. They were also informed as to how the sacred steel guitar tradition evolved from the Hawaiian steel guitar. At least several of the students in the audience had read articles about the sacred steel guitar tradition in general and the Campbell Brothers family in particular. Guangzhou Xinghai Conservatory of Music graduate student Cao Jiawang accompanied the musicians and vocalist intermittently. All of the artists remained in the Center for the afternoon where they conducted a Workshop for Dr. Deran Browne’s Directing class during which they explored the appropriate use of music in filmmaking.

On Friday, May 16, 4:30-6:30 pm the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT presented a film colloquium during which Robert Stone’s documentary film Sacred Steel (2001) was screened. The experience was an enlightening and fascinating one as the film is largely about the Campbell Brothers and the history of their musical tradition and who also composed the audience of approximately thirty. The question and answer session began with Tulane University Professor of Anthropology Nick Spitzer, Ph.D., asking the Campbell Brothers how their situation had changed since the late 1990s when most of the film was shot. They indicated they are no longer House of God church members.

NYIT Artist-in-Residence documentary filmmaker Joanna Arong screened her award winning film Yugang Yishan (The Old Fool Who Moved the Mountains) (2007) mainly concerned with the music scene in Beijing juxtaposed with that of the outlying rural areas. American Routes Nick Spitzer, The Campbell Brothers, visiting Guangdong Xinghai Conservatory of Music Cao Jiawang, students and faculty were moved by the struggles of the musicians portrayed in the film.

French Louisiana through Cajun Music

Nick Spitzer

Nick Spitzer, Ph.D. introduces students to French Louisiana through Cajun music

April 10, 12:30 - 1:30 pm: Nick Spitzer, Ph.D., NPR’s American Routes creator and host, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, introduces French Louisiana through Cajun music.

April 10, 6:30 - 7:30 pm: Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy, and The Cajun Country Revival perform.

April 11, 12:30 - 1:30 pm: Informal meeting of assigned students with Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy, and The Cajun Country Revival; Louisiana folklorist and filmmaker Conni Castille.

April 11, 4:30 - 6:00 pm: Filmmaker Conni Castille presents I Always Do My Collars First (2006) and her Cajun/Creole cowboy film T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story (2012)

6:30 - 8:00 pm: American Routes host Nick Spitzer presents his film Zydeco (1986) about African-French Louisiana musical traditions and identity (1-207)


Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie

David M. Lutken, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell, & Andy TeirsteinActors on stage performing 'Woody Sez'

Date: March 20th, Thursday, 6:30 - 8:00 pm                              Number of Participants: 70

"Woody Sez", a play about the life of the musician Woody Guthrie

Students meet with the actors of Woody Sez

Date: March 20th, 2014 (Thursday, 6:30 - 8:00 pm)                                 Number of Participants:50

Assigned Students met informally with actors of "Woody Sez"

Sing with Your Lives: An informal concert and lecture on the life of Woody Gutherie


David M. Lutken, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell, & Andy Teirstein

The performers of Woody Sez play their instruments

Date: March 21, 2014 (Friday, 6:30 - 7:30pm)                             Number of Participants:45

An informal concert and lecture on the life of Woody Gutherie

I stood at the NUPT Administration Building Auditoriumwaiting for our musician guests. I knew they had arrived even before I saw anything when I heard their lively and beautiful tunes flowing into my ears. They are a group of people who sing with their lives, and they are DAVID M. LUTKEN, DARCIE DEAVILLE, HELEN JEAN RUSSELL and ANDY TEIRSTEIN (1). As the performers warmed up, I was totally amazed by their proficiency in instrument playing, as well as by their talent in improvising. Upon completion of their warm up, the audience was given a lively audio-visual feast.

The show is named “Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie”(2), which combines different pieces of music created by Woody Guthrie -- the noted twentieth century singer, songwriter, and folk musician -- along with the story of his life journey.

The audience learns that after a big fire burned down Woody’s home when he was just a little boy, his family moved to a smaller place. A song with a rising and fallingtune mainly sung by Helen expressed the sorrow of Woody’s mother. Woody lost his sister, Clara, in another fire, and Woody believed that both fires were caused by his mother. Later, he learned that his mother had Huntington's Disease, a terrible sickness that can cause uncontrollable rage and mental illness. In this song, we learned that day after day, his mother was drowning in her own tears. A description given by little Woody focused on his mother’s eyes; even though she opened her eyes, there was no glitter in them. The melody expressed the mother’s sadness, and Woody’s words reflected what sorrow looked like in a little boy’s eyes.

On 14th April, 1935, there was a dust storm falling on Woody’s hometown in Oklahoma. Throughout the night, dust covered everything. When the sky dawned, the people witnessed the horrible situation of their homes, and they decided to leave --never to return. The tune rose in intensity to represent the gravity of the dust stormwhich, of course, caused fear among the villagers. Later on, the melody turned into calm mixed with despair, which showed the feeling of the people.

In a subsequent act, we learn about a train heading toward California in 1937. I still remember the wonderful melody of the song “This Train.” The line “This train carries no liars” suggests that this group of people was honest and lovely. That California was deemed to be promising and filled with hope by the westward travelers was communicated by a high tune with a fast rhythm. Again, with the coordination of both the melody and the lyrics, the audience was able to picture wonderful scenery using their imaginations.

- by Ryana Yin, Center for Humanities and Culture Assistant

Studnets and actors from Woody Sez in a conversation

The Second World War (1939-45) was depicted in the play which darkened the world. People dying and running without having any place to call home created tension among the members of the audience. Moreover, the play illustrated that the police made it harder for the masses, and the working men were dramatically poor. “Mr. Banker came and took our farm away,” and “We don’t deserve to be treated this way” are lines from a song sung in the later acts which reveal the situation of people in The Great Depression (1930-41) in America, which is worth pondering by historians. Folk music often compliments the words that are written in history becauseit presents the lively life of folks in reality with the emotions of the people included. Through this performance, the audience learned that in 1945 Woody Guthrie was married and lived in Brooklyn, New York. His life was decorated with happiness, and, as a result, there came forth the bright “Car Song.” However, the happiness was destroyed by his daughter Cathy Ann’s death on her fourth birthday in an accidental fire. “What you truly fear just comes upon you,” and the show – through song -- delivered sorrow once again. Fortunately, Woody was able to uplift his spirit and start his journey of exploring and creating folk music again. The entire show “Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie” was touching, vivid, and full of passion enhanced by the musicians use of a variety of instruments including the guitar, fiddle, jaw harp, dulcimer and even spoons to play those wonderful Woody Guthrie musical creations. After the performance, the actor-musicians also improvised several songs according to the audience’s warm request. By attending this excellent performance, we not only enjoyed the beauty of music and stories, but also understand the significance of folk music towards human history and culture.


(1) The introduction of the musicians:

(2) The introduction of Woody Sez:


Fulbright Scholar Presentations

David Allen Sullivan

Fulbright Scholar and Cabrillo College Professor David Allen Sullivan speaks to students

Date: March 6, 2014                            Number of Participants:45

Fulbright Scholar and Cabrillo College Professor David Allen Sullivan (Ph.D., University of California, Irvine) gave two presentations at the NYIT Center for Humanities and Culture at NUPT on March 6, 2014 to audiences consisting of approximately two hundred students, faculty, and administrators.

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