Teen Council goes to the Chicago History Museum!

What happens when you take 15 teens to the Chicago History Museum?

First of all– I was impressed by the connections and insight that the teens made in regards to engaging with history and their role in the results of important social political and cultural events that impacted our city as well as the country as a whole.

We spent time looking at photos in the Vivian Maier exhibition which captures the streets and people of Chicago in candid, everyday happenings.  These photos highlighted important historical events like the Democratic Convention of 1968 and the race riots following the assassination of Martin luther King Jr., but it also showcased the day to day moments that reveal the true life of the city.  Both themes were recognized and admired by the teens who could recognize neighborhoods and contemplate how these events affected the lives they are living today– both similar and different, complicated and commonplace.

This sentiment continued in our viewing of the Exhibition 1968 which showcases the overwhelming multitude of events and trends of the year that shaped the future of our country, still evident today. From these events, teens were asked to focus on one that really stood out or grabbed their attention. This event will be used as inspiration for an art project we will be working on in the coming weeks looking at identity, history and looking into the future. Additional questions included what did you learn today?  Who will you be in 50 years? What will you remember and what will have changed? to supplement generating ideas for a reflective art project.

Teen Council made a list of things they learned during their trip. Here are a few highlights:

> The largest population of young people were entering college and being drafted (baby boomers) a major drive of the energy of the 60s.

> If Robert Kennedy was not assassinated he would probably have been elected president.

> The first Miss Black America Pageant was held, giving black women a chance to role model and represent their beauty.

> Don’t put ketchup on a Chicago Style Hot Dog




The Vietnam War Lives On & On

My new position as the Assistant Education Coordinator at the National Veterans Art Museum has rekindled my interest in researching history and recognizing how relevant this history is in a contemporary context specifically through art. I think it is really important to understand the history of a place before and after war. For example long before 1954 when the Vietnam War started there is a long history of occupation and colonization by China (until the 9th century), France (1858-1940, 1945-1950), and Japan (1940-1945). The long enduring struggle of the Vietnamese people and a sense of ownership and freedom escalated into the Vietnam War.

Here is an incredibly brief look at this escalation: Ho Chi Minh, communist revolutionary leader, declared an independent Vietnam, called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and helped lead the defeat of the French Union at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.The Vietnam War started in 1954 between Communist Northern Vietnam with the southern allies, the Viet Cong, against anti-communist Southern Vietnam and the United States (who declared it our nation’s mission to end communism). U.S. combat troops were sent in 1965 after assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, first president of Southern Vietnam in 1963. After years of terror and violence, The United States withdrew forces in 1973, only two years prior when North Vietnamese overran the southern capital, Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam unified as a communist country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in 1976.

The Vietnam War ended years ago, but still remains as important as critical discussion as it’s influence on American culture from social politics to media and art. I am looking at the timeline of the history of the Vietnam War through the lens of protest music and the new lives that songs can have in different contexts and throughout time. Here is a small sample of songs from the beginning of my research:

>This selection of Vietnam War Protest songs begins with Eve of Destruction (1965) written by P.F. Sloan and performed by Barry McGuire which famously references the age that one could be drafted (18) versus the age that one could vote in the majority of states (21) “You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting”.

>Jim Morrison’s (The Doors) reaction to the Vietnam War with Unknown Soldier (1968) specifically references concerns in the way the public was receiving information about the war through the media. Images coming to the states from over seas from Vietnam were uncensored for the most part and it shocked the American public, causing immense distress. Veterans coming home from war were horribly mistreated from the misunderstanding of the images filtering through the media. Today the American public is “protected” from real images of war. For example this  The War Photo No One Would Publish” an article by Torie Rose DeGhett from The Atlantic, discusses a photograph taken by Kenneth Jareck on February 28, 1991 of an Iraqi soldier burned alive while trying to escape from his truck and how Jareck thought “The image and its anonymous subject might have come to symbolize the Gulf War. Instead, it went unpublished in the United States, not because of military obstruction but because of editorial choices”. What is right and wrong?

>I have also included I-Am-Fixin-To-Die Rag (1967) written by Country Joe McDonald, one of the more famous anti-war protest songs of Vietnam and the video is from an unplanned and impassioned performance of the song at Woodstock in 1969 which was featured with a bouncing ball, singalong in the 1970 documentary, Woodstock.

> War (1969) is a famous Motown song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong as “a blatant anti-Vietnam war protest” originally recorded by The Temptations, however is most known for the powerful performance by Edwin Starr. War remains a popular song today and has also been performed by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Bruce Springsteen.

>I chose to end the sample playlist with Orange Crush (1988) by R.E.M. one of my favorite bands growing up, but only from doing this research is it the first time that I recognized that Michael Stipe, lead singer, was singing about a young man going to Vietnam and Agent Orange, aerial herbicide manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense by the Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. It was been years since the Vietnam War ended, but contemporary artists are referencing what happened because the Vietnam War remains relevant and impactful today.

Please comment below for your thoughts, opinions, and feedback!

Moki Tantoco

Continue reading “The Vietnam War Lives On & On”