A week at Martha’s Vineyard

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. Between vacation, hurricane Irene and just living life, it’s been a busy time.

First, my mom and I just got back from a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard a few weeks ago.  One of the reasons we went is because we missed the stop on a previous cruise a few years ago due to rough seas. Another was to attend the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival that happened to fall on the week of my mom’s birthday. I thought it’d be nice to take a vacation & see some independent black films at the same time. I’ve heard of Martha’s Vineyard many times, but I didn’t know much about it except for it being a place where wealthy black families owned homes & vacationed, a haven for the Kennedy clan and an obligatory vacation spot for every US president.

We stayed in a town called Oak Bluffs at the north end of Martha’s Vineyard. This town is the center of activity on the island, featuring restaurants, shopping, movie theaters, a carousel, bike trails, fishing, sailing, and beaches. It’s also known for these cute “gingerbread houses” a neighborhood of cottages that were built by members of the methodist church in the 1800s. Each having their own name like “shrimp house”, “The cat’s meow”, “the purple lady” etc.

gingerbread cottage

one of my favorites, named "the purple lady"

Oak Bluffs is also known as the town where most of the african american families lived on the Vineyard. There’s been an black presence on the island for generations. Some arriving as slaves, others as free blacks. Over time affluent black families purchased land & homes on the island. Except for famous african americans, mostly writers & politicans who lived or visited here in the past (i.e. the Obamas) or have vacation homes on the island, the african american presence is not well publicized.

While shopping we ran into a gallery that exhibited artwork and these beautiful quilts for sale by artist Faith Ringgold, whom the owner told me was scheduled to make an appearance. They would look great in my apt, but with prices starting at $2500.00 it’s way out of my budget. The last 2 are my favorites, they remind me of my childhood.

Some of y’all might remember that movie The Inkwell from the ’90s directed by Matty Rich about a couple of affluent black families on Martha’s Vineyard. (whatever happened to Matty Rich by the way?) While shopping at C’est La Vie, a black owned shop on Circuit ave that sells african diaspora products & clothing, notably “Inkwell” t-shirts, I asked the owner about the Inkwell beach, which was prominently featured in Matty Rich’s film. He showed me it’s location which happened to be only a block from the inn where we were staying. I then asked how it got its name and he said that back in the day, (I’m assuming during the Jim Crow era) it was thought by whites that when African Americans stepped into the water at the beach, it would turn black, into “ink”. Hence, they had their own beach, via segregation to an extent I’m assuming.

Inkwell Beach at Oak Bluffs

The beach is formally known nowadays as Oak Bluffs Town Beach. And it’s also pretty integrated though you still see lots of African Americans sunbathing there. I had to step my foot in the water just to test that “theory” and as I expected, the “ink” remained invisible.

dipping my feet into "The Inkwell"

Though we were based in Oak Bluffs, we did make daytrips into Edgartown, where the atmosphere is a lot more formal and upscale. The homes there more uniform in style and color, mainly white or gray, compared to Oak Bluffs, where each house was artistically unique & reflected the owners style & personality. Also Vineyard Haven, where the African American Film Festival was based, reminded me of a fishing village. Not as lively as Oak Bluffs, but not as stuffy as Edgartown either. It’s also the major entry port for folks coming onto the island via ferry. It also notable that with the exception of Stop & Shop which there are only 2 on the island, Martha’s Vineyard has no chain stores or restaurants. That sucks for the folks who love McDonalds  & the like, but the mainland is a short plane flight or ferry ride away if you just have to have that Big Mac.

The Vineyard is a great getaway spot, especially in the summer. I understand why people come here every summer or buy vacation homes or live here year round. The next time I come, I’ll probably rent an apt or a room with a kitchen to save money, as eating out nightly gets kinda expensive, and Martha’s Vineyard isn’t exactly a cheap destination. The best part of coming is the flight, only 30 minutes from LaGuardia airport.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurahartson
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 05:43:10

    it looks so scenic!


  2. Miss Moon
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 01:05:30

    I’ve always wanted to go to Martha’s Vineyard during the summer!!! It looks like you and your Mom had a blast (I hope you did!)… And those quilts are GORGEOUS (I would’ve asked if they had a payment plan! lol)


    • creative urbanista
      Sep 12, 2011 @ 01:40:32

      Those quilts were starting around the tens of thousands of dollars. The last quilt with the bridge was selling for about $60,000. The one above it, with the ancestors was going for $100,000. I need a bootleg “made in china” version, ’cause ain’t no way I can ever afford that, lol!


  3. pyaspirite
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 00:19:04

    Great account of your vacation and the history of the area. Makes me want to visit.

    Glad you had a great time. Belated Happy Birthday greetings to moms. ❤


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