[Re "UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades," February 13]: If nothing else good comes out of the debacles in Virginia, I think the practice, history and pain of blackface has surfaced, and that will not be as easy to ignore and laugh off. In all the coverage of the Virginia governor and attorney general, however, I'm disappointed that the University of Vermont's Kake Walk tradition — thankfully long gone — has not received national coverage. No reason this state should get off free. Are there any Vermont officials, local or state, who participated? Would they own up to that?
I do wish the blackface discussion would also broaden out to point to the practice of dressing up at Halloween as an Indian with face paint, as a Chinaman with a stocking pulled over one's head, as a Mexican in a wide sombrero or whatever other ethnic-racial depictions occur at children's and adult's parties. That's to say nothing of the Washington Redskins, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, the Florida State Seminoles and their tomahawk chop, the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo, and so on.
There is pain in the genocide this country perpetuated on Native Americans. We don't admit to that, either.
Racism in this country runs deep.
Editor's note: The Washington Post did write about UVM's Kake Walk in a February 6 article headlined: "'It's a sickness': How our culture recognizes blackface is racist — but won't stop doing it." A week later, Seven Days published a story that included archival photos, including one picturing then-governor Phil Hoff.
[Re "UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades," February 13]: Imagine how amused I was to see the photo of that paragon of 1960s progressivism, governor Phil Hoff, honoring the University of Vermont's blackface Kake Walk participants, only seven years after my black roommate and I formed the Campus Interracial Club to protest segregated freshman housing at Miami University. Our cause prevailed.
Blackface at Essex Junction High School
Congratulations to Seven Days on Derek Brouwer's excellent article on the University of Vermont's annual exercise in overt racism and questionable taste that ended in 1969 ["UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades," February 13]. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that there was another educational institution in Chittenden County that also hosted a yearly celebration of "Walkin' Fo Da Kake," replete with blackface (in the '60s changed to dark green), the "Cotton Babes" music and ritual dancing: Essex Junction High School.
In 1969, I was a junior at EJHS and president of the student council. We met with UVM prof Larry McCrorey, who nobly endeavored to enlighten our tiny brains with the history of Kake Walk. Following this meeting, we voted to recommend the discontinuation of this dubious tradition.
The pushback from members of the community, some faculty and school administrators was considerable and immediate. But fortunately, there was enlightened leadership on the Essex Junction School Board, which supported us. The Kake Walk of late winter 1969 was the last at EJHS.
Missing Mardi Gras
[Re Live Culture: "Magic Hat Cancels Mardi Gras Parade, Relocates Festivities to Church Street," January 28]: I have attended the Mardi Gras celebration several times, even though I live almost two hours away. I applaud the later date — and would prefer an even later one, as the wind in March can be uncomfortable. However, canceling the parade is a big mistake. It was the highlight of the celebration, in my opinion. I am not at all sure that I would attend another year without it.
North Haverhill, N.H.
Improve Economic 'Habitat'
[Re Tim Newcomb, January 30]: Gov. Phil Scott's push to incentivize workers to come to Vermont is unlikely to boost the economy and is misdirected. We can boost the local economy by enhancing and supporting that which is already present. An apt analogy is that a landowner who wants more animals and plants on the property does not simply import that wildlife — the new will not thrive. Instead, the landowner enriches the habitat for the species they want.
To encourage Vermont's habitat for a robust economy, I urge that funds be devoted to boosting what already is here. For example:
Support education to give workers new skills, to bring students to Vermont colleges, to improve public school learning and to awaken the minds of preschoolers. These steps also provide employment for teachers and support personnel.
Upgrade infrastructure such as roads, bridges, internet, ample clean water, wastewater treatment and shared local transit.
Boost existing industry and commerce: Make it easier for business owners, be they farmers, loggers, industrialists, recreation and tourist hosts, entertainers, or artists.
Tend to the elderly and those infirm of mind or body.
Stop buying out-of-state services: Incarcerate in-state, and hire in-state consultants, engineers and advisers.
Enhancing habitat builds from the bottom up. Correspondingly, incentivize folks to come to Vermont with skills that encourage existing residents to stay and others to come. Encourage people with skills in child daycare, and those with skills to support senior citizens.
An acorn grows slowly, but the resultant oak is sturdy. Similarly, the payback from boosting what we have may start slowly, but the benefits are sure to be widespread and enduring.
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