D. James Dee Moving On

It’s not always easy to figure out how to preserve a lifetime of talent. The Soho Photographer, D. James Dee, has been working from the redbrick building at 12 Wooster Street since 1981. He’s been working in the New York area since 1974 photographing artwork for galleries and artists – and he’s soon closing up his shop.

Saying goodbye wouldn’t be so painful, if it weren’t for the 250,000 photos, slides and transparencies of artwork that he has in the building. The boxes are a glimpse of New York history from the 1970s to the present. These profiles in history by everyone from Apple to Shapell capture a piece of the city that could be lost. He worked with Soho galleries like Holly Solomon, Paula Cooper, OK Harris and others. He’s had many take a look at his archives including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Getty in Los Angeles and Fales Library at New York University. So far no one has jumped.

As D. James Dee explained, “I just don’t know the right person. It goes in a Dumpster sometime in July if nobody takes it. And I’d hate to see that done, because it has to be useful to somebody.” Time will tell if anyone takes this slice of history.

Achievement First: Part of the NY Charter School Movement

Achievement First was established in 1998 by a group of individuals from New Haven who wanted to give urban students the same academic opportunities as their affluent suburban counterparts by changing the system. Thus Amistad Academy was born.

Since its establishment, the Academy garnered outstanding Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) results. In addition, these students have beat state averages in both reading and math, proving that wealth has nothing to do with intelligence and success in the educational system, if, as co-founder Dacia Toll – also Achievement First’s co-CEO – realized.

Toll’s priorities today are to develop and expand Achievement First and the success of all their schools. She is responsible for all internal and external operations and relations, as well as planning; coaching; training; recruitment; outreach; fundraising and more. The experience she brings to the helm includes being the leader of Amistad Academy’s founding team and serving as school principal from 1999 to 2005.

Elm City College Preparatory, a second school, was opened in 2004, expanding the original model to elementary grades. The following year it moved over into Brooklyn as well, first, opening two new schools there – Achievement First Crown Heights Charter School and Achievement First East New York Charter School – and then a little while later the Amistad Academy High School and Amistad Academy Elementary School. This encouraged the opening of Connecticut’s first K to 12 public charter school. Two new middle schools and an elementary school in Bridgeport and Hartford, followed. Today, Achievement First boasts 20 academies under 10 charters in 4 cities. In the 2011-12 academic year, it serves 6,210 students in grades K to 12.

Some of their schools in NY include:

  • Achievement First Apollo Elementary School
  • Achievement First Brooklyn High School
  • Achievement First Brownsville Elementary School
  • Achievement First Brownsville Middle School
  • Achievement First Bushwick Elementary School
  • Achievement First Bushwick Middle School
  • Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School
  • Achievement First Crows Heights Middle School
  • Achievement First East New York Elementary School
  • Achievement First East New York Middle School
  • Achievement First Endeavor Middle School
  • Achievement First Endeavor Elementary School

4th of July Activities Around NYC

fireworksIf you’re lucky enough to find yourself in SoHo, or New York in general, on the Fourth of July, there are thousands of activities that you can enjoy. These include boat rides that will allow you to enjoy the Macy’s firework show, trips to the Statue of Liberty and more. Many important locations are actually open on the Fourth, which may surprise some people. You can enjoy a visit to: the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, CitySights NYC Bus Tours, Times Square, Central Park, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art and more.

As we prepare to have fun today, it’s important to also reflect on our founding fathers and on why we celebrate this great day. America declared its independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776. It’s pretty amazing to think about our thirteen colonies going up against a giant like England and declaring ourselves independent. The authors, including primary author Thomas Jefferson, spent a few days refining the language. John Adams actually wrote to his wife on July 3 “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

He may have been off by a few days, but the point remains the same. Certainly, their signatures on the Declaration of Independence are extremely valuable. Shapell Manuscript Foundation actually has an authentic and very rare calling card in its collection that says “Mr. Jefferson.” He often insisted on being called “Mr. Jefferson” rather than “Mr. President.” Interestingly enough, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration who were later presidents, both died on July 4, 1826.

Jefferson's signature at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation
Jefferson’s signature at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation

Hope it’s a wonderful day for everyone celebrating the Fourth of July in the great city of New York.