"GOD SAVE THE QUEENS" HAT WORSHIP | 'WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH' EVENT
I had never even heard of Paterson and certainly didn’t realize its place in history; and before you think I am entirely ignorant – I am from Australia, and Paterson New Jersey had never rated highly or had even made my list of places to visit here in the United States. There are some treasures to be found in Paterson and I had the pleasure of visiting these over the course of two days. Right now if you were to visit Paterson you would spend a lot of time held up in traffic. It is however, well worth the wait! With all the recent rain the ‘Great Falls’ that I had no idea even existed, right here on the East Coast have transformed into an amazing torrent of water cascading down all part of the Passaic River below. The sound and the beauty of the water, with the mist combined makes for an awesome experience that just tantalizes the senses. The warm weather has allowed for perfect conditions, and in just the right light, very prominent rainbows add to the picture perfect scene. People have been visiting from near and far with the odd helicopter zoning in to get a closer look. Just on the next block on Market Street, is the Paterson Museum. This truly is one of the most exciting places I have ever been to. As you walk through the most amazing wooden doors I have ever seen, the transformed warehouse is host to some of the most ‘well preserved artifacts’ according to a visitor I met from Weehawken. There is a plethora of information available on a myriad of firsts. Did you know? Paterson was the first planned industrial city in America; John P Holland built and tested the first submarine in Paterson; and known as the Ryan NYP, the first engine that flew a plane from New York to Paris non-stop was built there. These are only the things that I can remember off the top of my head! My visit had me on information overload. At its height Paterson was an amazing and thriving industrial city. It was here that I also met Mohamed Kahalil. He is the first African American artist from Paterson to have artwork displayed in the White House and the first Arab Egyptian Muslim to have designed the Christmas ornament for the First Lady Laura Bush. It is only fitting that he should work in Paterson at the Museum and joins all the other ‘firsts’ that are there too. You can find Mohamed at the Museum working on a collection of pieces that will eventually be displayed in glass cases in front of prominent buildings in Paterson. These pieces stand tall and each one is different in its own right, however his signature symbol is very prominent: An eye with a spot in it reflects one of Mohamed’s own eyes that has a freckle. In one way or another you can find this signature trademark on all of his designs. His artwork uses everyday materials that are recycled and reused in one way or another. He has the creativity and vision to see in something as simple as a glass bottle, a piece of wood or a rusty nail; something that can potentially look amazing. He divides his time between the Library and the Museum with his artwork displayed in both places along with a number of venues in both New Jersey and New York. The RBRW team had the pleasure of attending “God Save the Queens” Hat workshop organized by curator Cristina Deutsch by Paterson Free Public Library and in line with ‘Women’s History Month’. This workshop looked at the significance of the church hat in the African American culture. The women were privy to an engaging talk, highlighting the transformation of the ‘church hat’ throughout history and its importance in making women look beautiful and feel special for one day of the week. Women who attended the workshop were able to make their own hats from an assortment of donated materials and the opportunity to afterwards have a makeover using Mary Kay makeup products. There were hats with flowing tulle, flowers, feathers and shells. The creativity was brilliant and the women not only had fun socializing but also learned a little historical information and were able to produce a final product that they could be proud of and take home. The workshop coordinators were supportive, helpful and encouraging and made these women feel good about themselves and with their efforts. Following the workshop, the women were ready to pose for photos and talk about their designs when interviewed. To transform something is to make a “marked change, in appearance or character and usually for the better.” My visit to Paterson showed me just that – a transformation: in nature, people and just within the city in general. Whether transformation occurs simplistically or in its complexity the process is certainly evident in Paterson and is exciting. Waterfalls, art and hats, seem like an unlikely way to highlight transformation. However, this whole idea of transformation resonates well with me and what RBRW is all about. Our non-profit organization helps with a holistic healing process of making over battered women from the inside out. It’s amazing how something as simple as a makeover in every sense of the word, can see reach through the complexities of the soul and transform a person: discovering inner beauty and radiating it outwards.