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Georgetown University Plans to Address History of Slavery & Engage Descendants

September 1, 2016

Following the establishment of a working group in September 2015, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia announced today its report and next steps in the university’s ongoing process to acknowledge and respond to its historical ties to the institution of slavery.


Part of this history includes the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved people who worked on Jesuit plantations in southern Maryland. Proceeds of the sale went to the Maryland Province of Jesuits and were used to pay off debts at Georgetown.


“I am grateful to the many members of our community who have thoughtfully and respectfully contributed their perspectives and shared their insights,” DeGioia writes in a letter prefacing the report. “I look forward to continuing to work together in an intentional effort to engage these recommendations and move forward toward justice and truth.”


Specific next steps include:


Georgetown will offer an advantage in admissions to descendants of slaves with links to the school. Statement said said applicants would get the "same consideration we give members of the Georgetown community," usually a term for descendants of alumni.


The university will create a memorial for slaves whose work benefited the school, including the 1838 sale of 272 slaves who worked on Jesuit plantations in Maryland. The slaves were sold to plantations in Louisiana for $115,000, worth about $3.3 million today. Proceeds were used to pay off Georgetown debts.


Descendants of those slaves will be included in an advisory group for the memorial's creation.


The school will rename its Freedom Hall for Isaac, one of the sold slaves, and Remembrance Hall for Anne Marie Becraft, a black woman who created a school for African-American girls in the 1820s.


Read more here.

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The Gifts of My Father

August 15, 2016

In the end, it's all about breathing, isn't it. A not terribly unexpected middle of the night call on the 30th of June from a nurse at Brighton Gardens let me know my 94-year old father had "no respiration."


Almost two months now, reflecting on how best to honor his life, I'm realizing it's through how I live and what I value that I can best share my father's gifts.

Kurt Beermann, 2013 (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Kurt Beermann, 2013


Like many only children, I am a mix of both parents' talents and characters. That's becoming more and more a mantle of choice now that I'm officially an orphan.


Never known as an outdoorsman (in fact, rarely seen outside his 3,000 book-lined study, and the only 'sport' I ever witnessed was mowing the lawn) my father always did appreciate nature, or more to the point, the critters he encountered. 


He could spend hours reasoning with a spider, nursing a wounded bird back to health, hand-tweezering fleas off one of the family's many cats, or counting the chipmunks that camped out in the tool shed.


Not especially fond of mice, however, the attic was generally well-outfitted with traps. But they got the last laugh when my dad stopped driving (thankfully) at 90. Sneaking out, a family of seven made themselves a new, much safer home in the carburator of a stationary Saab. With only 4,000 miles on a 10-year old car, the new owner didn't flinch when he lifted the hood.


And earlier this year, he followed the daily activities of Freedom and Liberty on DC's Live Eagle Cam with the enthusiam of a spectator at an Olympic sport. But when it took almost three months for them to leave the nest, he observed dryly, "Their parents must be very disappointed."


Kurt Beermann, 1935 (Photo by: Leopold Beermann) Kurt Beermann, 1935

For more than three decades he taught history and political science at Gallaudet University, penned a thesis on the French Revoution, wrote numerous historical articles and erotica (unpublished), and was a sign language interpreter and translator for the State Department. But it was the 50's and 60's and, as in most family TV shows, dads were generally seen grabbing a briefcase and hat as they kissed their apron-clad wives good bye at the door.  It was more or less like that. Didn't much matter what he did for a living. Dinner was at 6.


He was an avid stamp collector, and frankly, a collector of almost everything else as nothing was ever thrown away without deep regret. Always generous with me but never wasteful.


He taught me how to recite poetry at six, play chess, take photographs the painfully slow old-fashioned way with a light meter and waiting two weeks for developed film to arrive in the mail.


He taught me to say what I mean and do what I say.

Kurt Beermann with the author, 1955 (Photo by: Rita Beermann) Kurt Beermann with the author, 1955


He showed me the beauty of books and instilled an admiration for the most gifted of storytellers. With a nod to their place in history, he shared a love of great art and music. Especially music. Opera and most especially Giuseppe Verdi.


And from the moment he landed in New York City at age 16 with his parents from Nazi Germany, my father was proud to be an American. Having learned English at school in Hannover, he landed a job within two weeks and was, from that point on, self-reliant.


For a man whose childhood preferences and habits accompanied him throughout a long life, how readily he embraced his adopted homeland always impressed me.


But Kurt Beermann's greatest gift was choosing Rita Baumgarten to be my mother.

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The Sweet Magic of Michel Richard

August 14, 2016

Award-winning chef, Michel Richard died August 13, 2016 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC. According to his publicist, Mel Davis, Richard died of complications of a stroke. He is survived by his wife Laurence and their six children. He was 68.


To the world, he was an innovative French chef who transformed American palates. Washingtonians knew him best as Citronelle and Central’s master chef/restaurateur but first he was Michel Richard, teenage master pastry chef from Brittany. 

Eldest son Michael with Michel (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Eldest son Michael with Michel


While regularly indulging his sweet tooth with a chocolate éclair from the town’s patisserie shop, Richard often stopped to admire a local painter’s technique outside the nearby church.  As Richard explained, “With its Catholic traditions, in France the patisserie shops are always near the churches.  For Christmas, Easter, Name Days, these are all special occasions to buy desserts.” It was there Richard developed a life-long love of painting (starting with Impressionists Monet and Van Gogh), and he soon began drawing ocean scenes that reminded him of Guingamp, the seaside village where he was born. 


With a repertoire (learned from his mother) that included crepes and cooked rabbit (which he killed himself) prepared for his four siblings, by age fourteen, Michel began apprenticing in a restaurant-run patisserie in Champagne, where he perfected pastry creams, puff pastry and his beloved éclairs. From there, to Paris, Richard was soon working for master pastry chef Gaston Lenotre, and to whom he dedicates “Sweet Magic.” 


Richard enjoyed a brief stint as starving artist “painting near Montmartre, but not selling much” after serving as a chef in the French Army.   Soon he was offered an opportunity to come to the United States.  

Michel with his notes (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Michel with his notes

After opening eateries in New York and Santa Fe, he opened his own Michel Richard patisserie in Los Angeles in 1977. He opened Citrus in 1987, the restaurant that put Michel Richard on the culinary map. The year it opened, the eatery was voted The Best Restaurant in the United States by Traveler's magazine. In 1988, Michel Richard was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's "Who's Who" in American Food and Wine. A long list of awards and honors followed.


One of the first things Richard discovered here, “Americans are more inclined to bake at home than the French.  Yes, the French always have Camembert after dinner ...  and baguettes with butter in the morning dunked in café au lait. But the regular baking of cakes and cookies and pies, that’s American.”


Butter, sugar, flour, water, cream, eggs and chocolate, all of the very best quality, these are the ingredients of Michel Richard’s famed baking. Toss in a few things he learned to love about America: the microwave oven (“my favorite toy”), brown sugar, maple syrup, chocolate chip cookies, and honey. “And not the kind of honey my grandma drizzled on my baguette when I was three.” He laughed, “I put the bread under the table where it stuck like glue.”

(Photo by: Michel Richard)


In 2010, with the help of long-time friend and noted food critic, Peter Kaminsky, Richard published Sweet Magic, the playful tale of the boy who would (always) be chef, complete with instructions on preparing French classic desserts like Buche de Noel along with some personal inventions including “Floating Islands with Melted Chocolate Morsels."


He tempted us to believe life IS just a bowl of Cherry ... Clafouti.


Thanks for the sweet magic, Michel.

Michel with Mel Davis (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Michel with Mel Davis

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