HARLEM — 2004 — It was “Showtime at the Apollo” and every act was on edge. Please the tough audience and you got applause, a chance to go further in the competition. Suck and you got booed off stage. Waiting their turn, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, fresh off a plane from Florida, listened in dismay as act after act drew resounding boos.
CHICAGO — 1970s — Folk was ancient history and rock pulsed with sound and light. Unless you were James Taylor, the concert stage was too big for you and your guitar. Then a short, big-eyed kid from the North Side began tuning up.
Steve Goodman played lightning guitar licks. His reedy voice soared. Swept up in heartfelt rhythms, he shook his head, bounced and bobbed, lifting amazed audiences with sheer spirit and song. …
PHILADELPHIA, MAY 1838 — The bride was from the South, the groom from the North. The wedding invitation featured a slave in chains. Two preachers, one black, one white, presided, but it was the guests who sparked the outrage.
Some were black, some white, rumors said. Sitting side-by-side! Singing together! Someone had to do something! Luckily, abolitionists had gathered that week in Philadelphia. Many had come for a wedding.
ESCALANTE — THE CALCULUS OF HOPE
AMERICA — 1983 — The report card was grim. Our schools were failing. “A rising tide of mediocrity” put “A Nation at Risk.” Marching to the rescue came the education experts, piling jargon high and deep. IEP. Hands on. Self-esteem. Meanwhile in an inner city classroom, one teacher had his own answer.
Ganas is Spanish for “desire,” but at Garfield High in East L.A., ganas came to mean drive and determination. “Ganas,” read a sign above the blackboard. “That is all I need.” …
WHAT THE MOON TAUGHT ONE ASTRONAUT ABOUT ESP
On his way home from the moon, Edgar Mitchell had a vision. As the Apollo 14 spacecraft slowly revolved, earth, stars, and sun passed in his window. Suddenly “I realized that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft had been manufactured in an ancient generation of stars.” Mitchell felt “an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connectedness. It wasn’t them and us, it was ‘That’s me. That’s all of it. It’s one thing.’”
DIDRIKSON — THE OTHER BABE
EVANSTON, IL, JUNE 1932 — Collegiate women from across America gather for Olympic tryouts in track and field. With temperatures topping 100, some sit on ice blocks or worry about heat prostration. But one team takes the heat in stride. Her name is Mildred, but everyone calls her Babe.
“IMMIGRANTS — WE GET THE JOB DONE!”
A question haunts American history. Who built America?
Who built the skyscrapers? Who dug the mines? Who forged the steel that became bridges, wove the fabrics we wore? The question has a broad answer — immigrants. Poles, Italians, Germans, Swedes, Slovaks, Greeks, and more. Arriving from throughout Europe, they built this country for bottom dollar wages.