COLUMN BY MICHAEL E. HILL
If there was ever a word to describe the fact that we are at Week Nine of our Summer Assembly, “resilience” may be the perfect choice. For all we have been through over the past year and a half to get to this place, where we can conclude an entirely in-person season, it seems more than appropriate that we conclude our Summer Assembly exploring this one word that says so much more about you, me and our global society.
This week we look at some compelling questions: What drives people to keep going when forces outside their control work against them? And what does that tell us about our humanity and hope for the future? We close our 2021 season looking at the resilience that emerged during a tumultuous 2020. From a global pandemic to the quest for racial equality, we reflect on a revealing, historic period by lifting up the stories and the lessons of those who refused to give up, give in or go away.
Our guides this week could not be more perfect. Lynsey Addario is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who covers conflict zones across the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. In 2000, she traveled to Afghanistan to document life under the Taliban. Given the past week’s events, I can only imagine what she might share with us. Francoise Adan is the Chief Whole Health and Wellbeing Officer for University Hospitals and the director for the UH Connor Integrative Health Network. She will explore a model of resilience she formalized for health care and how we might think about resilience in the midst of a global pandemic. Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian of the 20th century with specializations in African-American history, the modern African Diaspora, and women’s and gender studies. She will bring all of this to a riveting discussion of resistance and resilience in the face of racism. And we end the week with Evan Osnos, a National Book Award-winning author and staff writer for The New Yorker, who will take all we’ve been through to discuss the resilience of American Democracy and where we go from here.
Sometimes our morning lecture theme is so appropriate, it only makes sense to carry it forward into our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, which also explores the topic of resilience this week, and the questions remain the same. In these set of conversations, we add a faith dimension through the words and stories of Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Meyers, who has served as the Rabbi and Cantor for the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the site of one of the worst attacks on a Jewish place of worship in the United States. Irish-born international bestseller Colum McCann who uses modern-day narratives to explore the resilience from the grief of tremendous loss, and we conclude with a Chautauqua — and personal! — favorite, Diana Butler Bass. Dr. Bass is an award-winning author, popular speaker and preacher, and one of America’s most trusted commentators on religion and contemporary spirituality. I know her words of wisdom will be a fitting and moving coda to this group’s reflections.
And while we are in this deep and appropriate discussion about resilience, we know one of the tools is to have fun and to experience joy! We will get that this week with a dream lineup of four great big-name concerts: The Roots + Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue on Saturday, Old Crow Medicine Show on Thursday, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on Friday, and Smokey Robinson next Saturday, Aug. 28. I’m truly excited to see Jason Isbell, as my brother-in-law Paul has been promoting him at family dinners for a while. This week we also continue to build the impressive roster of guest dance companies that Chautauqua engages, as Parsons Dance visits the Amphitheater stage Monday evening. Our own Chautauqua Theater Company closes Thurgood with two performances this weekend. And as we progress through the week we mark the closing of the amazing exhibitions at our two world-class Chautauqua Visual Arts galleries — be sure to walk through the Fowler-Kellogg and Strohl art centers before they close toward the end of the week (you can find individual exhibition closing dates in this week’s yellow program listing insert).
Finally, I hope you will enjoy the bounty of our home Chautauqua County region as presented in our Culinary Week celebration at Miller Park, near Miller Bell Tower. We’re honored to provide a space for two local festivals — Jamestown’s Scandinavian Festival and St. James Italian Festival — to fundraise and showcase their wonderful food and culture, not to mention fund-raise, after two years of cancelations. Plus, we’ll have many of the beloved food, drink and craft vendors you may have come to know in previous years’ festivals on Bestor Plaza. (And if you need to work off any of those fantastic food offerings, don’t forget about the myriad ways you can experience Chautauqua’s recreation pillar!)
While I know it took great resilience to get to this place in our Chautauqua journey, being back together amidst the backdrop of a continuing pandemic, I also know that it’s been a joy for our team to be with you again. I’ll have one last chance to reflect in my last column of the season, this one bringing the words from our youngest Chautauquans. Watching them makes being resilient worth it all!
Have a great Week Nine, friends!