PS 29 John M. Harrigan School | 425 Henry St | Brooklyn, NY 11201 | (718) 330-9277800-123-456

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

Did You Know….is a new PS 29 initiative facilitated by the IDEA Committee that will highlight, display and share information about significant events, people, customs and more all year long. Each week, a Did You Know….fact will be posted on our bulletin board which is located on the 2nd floor landing atop the stairs. Did You Know….will also be shared & discussed in the classrooms. Be on the lookout for Did You Know….in the PS 29 weekly newsletter, and of course here on our blog, as well.

If you have an interesting fact or tidbit you would like to see featured in Did You Know….email it to us at

DYK May 8, 2017

Did you know that Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, will build more than 100 fences and installations around New York City this fall for a large-scale art project called “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”?

Weiwei is the son of writer Gao Ying and poet Ai Qing. During Chairman Mao’s anti-intellectual campaign, Weiwei’s family was exiled when Ai was only one year old. The family lived in exile for twenty years under harsh conditions. In order to survive as a child, Ai learned many of the practical skills that he would later apply to his art – such as making furniture and bricks. The family had been able to keep only one book, a large encyclopedia – Ai’s only source of information and education. After Mao’s death in 1976 Ai’s family was allowed to return from exile, and 19 year old Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy to study animation. In 1981 he moved to the United States.

“I was an immigrant in New York in the 1980s for ten years and the issue with the migration crisis has been a longtime focus of my practice,” says Ai Weiwei. “The fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping and evokes associations with words like ‘border,’ ‘security,’ and ‘neighbor,’ which are connected to the current global political environment. But what’s important to remember is that while barriers have been used to divide us, as humans we are all the same. Some are more privileged than others, but with that privilege comes a responsibility to do more.”

27aiweiwei-master768 Ai Weiwei



DYK May 1, 2017

George Alexander Doumani, born April 26, 1929, is a Lebanese Palestinian geologist and explorer. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.  He contributed to the International Geophysical Year in 1958 in Antarctica. He made other trips to the southern continent in the early 1960’s. His findings helped prove the continental drift theory.  Two Antarctic mountains are named after him: Mount Doumani and Doumani Peal. In 1999, he published a book about Antarctica, The Frigid Mistress: Life and Exploration in Antarctica.

Doumani is one or more than a hundred notable Arab-Americas whose achievements are on display, along with some 500 artifacts, in Dearborn, Michigan at the Arab-American National Museum.  “Of all things I have achieved, I think the greatest honor for me is to be recognized by my own people,” Said Doumani at the museum’s opening in 2005.

George-Doumani mount doumani

DYK April 17, 2017

Emel Mathlouthi is a Tunisian singer-songwriter whose song “Kelmti Horra” (“My Word is Free”), became the Tunisian revolution’s anthem in December 2010. Mathlouthi grew up listening to an eclectic mix of music — from traditional Tunisian songs to her father’s record collection of European classical music and some jazz and blues, old jazz and old blues from America, like Mahalia Jackson and Jack Dupree.
Mathlouthi started performing when she was 15 and joined a band in college. But she says there was no way for a young independent musician, let alone a woman, to get heard in Tunisia. In 2008 she moved to Paris and began working on the songs for her first album, “Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free), which introduced her groundbreaking marriage of sounds steeped in Tunisia and electronic beats.
In the summer of 2007, at the iconic Place de la Bastille in Paris, where the French Revolution began, Mathlouthi sang “Kelmti Horra” to an audience of tens of thousands. A video of the performance reached Tunisia and resonated with protesters in the streets. “She has so much courage to sing that around that time,” says MC Rai, a 35-year-old Tunisian singer and composer based in San Francisco. “When the dictators in Tunisia, the old regime, were in the top of their power — and for her to even have the courage to sing that, when she was living still between France and Tunisia — I thought she really was a true artist, because that’s what the art is about.” Four years later, Mathlouthi returned to the streets of Tunisia to sing “Kelmti Horra” just hours before President Ben Ali fled the country.
On December 11, 2015, Mathlouthi performed during the award ceremony of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, which was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. On February 24, 2017, Mathlouthis released her second album, “Ensen.”Emel Mathlouthi2

Tunisian-French singer to perform in Hanoi

DYK, April 3, 2017

In February 2015, actress Jamie Brewer became the first model with Down syndrome to ever walk the runway at New York Fashion Week.  Jamie strutted down the runway in a dress made by fashion designer Carrie Hammer who told USA Today that Jamie was selected for being outstanding and inspiring in her field.

Born in California, Brewer was always interested in performing arts. She took up acting classes in 1999 and did theatre training that included improv, drama, musicals and comedy. Speaking about her career, Brewer says: “It’s a true inspiration being a role model for any young women to [encourage them] in being who they are and showing who they are…”.   Jamie is best known for her roles in the FX Horror anthology television series American Horror Story where she portrayed characters in seasons 1, 3 & 4.

Brewer has also been active in the Down Syndrome community. She served on the ARC Governmental  Affairs Committee for Texas to improve legal rights and recognition for disabled people. While on the committee, spoke with Senators at the Texas State Capitol to persuade them to pass the law for Texas to abolish the word “retarded” from state legislation and to improve recognition of the needs of people with disabilities within the state. The effort was successful and Texas now uses the term “Intellectual Developmental Disability” in their legislation.

Jamie Brewer Jamie Brewer Emmys



DYK, March 26, 2017

Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of a former slave, revived the nearly forgotten genre of refined Southern cooking while offering a glimpse into African-American farm life in the early 20th century. Born in a small settlement called Freetown in 1916, Lewis was one of eight children. The farm had been granted to her grandfather, a freed slave. Growing, gathering and preparing food was more than just sustenance for the family; it was a form of entertainment. Without fancy cooking equipment, the family improvised, measuring baking powder on coins and cooking everything over wood.

In 1976, Miss Lewis turned the focused, close-to-nature cooking of her childhood into the first of her four books, “The Taste of Country Cooking” (Knopf). The book, considered a classic study of Southern cooking and one that sits on the shelves of America’s best chefs, helped put an end to the knee-slapping, cornpone image of Southern food among many American cooks. John T. Edge, the author and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, said that because of her devotion to educating a nation about the nuances of Southern cooking, there was no question that the group’s first lifetime achievement award, in 1999, would go to Miss Lewis. He pointed to her recipe for shrimp and grits, a Southern classic. “It’s just butter and shrimp, but it requires great butter and great shrimp, and a puddle of that over stone-ground grits,” he said. “This pays homage to the frugal South, but it’s also worthy of damask dinner cloth.”

In a 1989 interview with The New York Times, Miss Lewis said: “As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.”

edna lewis

EL cookbook 1 EL cookbook 2 EL cookbook 3

DYK, March 20, 2017

Born to a prominent British Jewish family in 1920 in London, Rosalind Franklin decided to become a scientist when she was 15. She passed the examination for admission to Cambridge University in 1938, but her father disapproved of university education for women and refused to pay. An aunt stepped in and said Franklin should go to school, and she would pay for it. Franklin’s mother also took her side until her father finally gave in.

At 26, Franklin had her PhD and began working in x-ray diffraction — using x-rays to create images of crystallized solids. In January 1951, Franklin began working as a research associate at the King’s College London in the biophysics unit. There, Franklin and her student Raymond Gosling made an amazing discovery: They took pictures of DNA and discovered that there were two forms of it, a dry “A” form and a wet “B” form. One of their X-ray diffraction pictures of the “B” form of DNA, known as Photograph 51, became famous as critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA. The photo was acquired through 100 hours of X-ray exposure from a machine Franklin herself had refined. Franklin’s colleague Maurice Wilkins shared her data, without her knowledge, with James Watson and Francis Crick, at Cambridge University.

Upon seeing the photograph, Watson said, “My jaw fell open and my pulse began to race,” according to author Brenda Maddox, who in 2002 wrote a book about Franklin, titled Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA. Watson and Crick used what they saw in Photo 51 as the basis for their famous model of DNA, which they published on March 7, 1953, and for which they received a Nobel Prize in 1962.

Rosalind Franklin

DYK, March 12, 2017

Naomi Shahib Nye is a poet and writer who published her first poem at age 7, shortly after she learned how to write. Born on March 12, 1952 to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas.  Her experience of both cultural difference and different cultures has influenced much of her work.  She says, “For me the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.” Nye is a leading female poet of the American Southwest and one of the most influential contemporary Arab American writers today.  Her children’s writing is also acclaimed for its sensitivity and cultural awareness. Her first young adult novel, Habibi, received the Jane Addams Children’s Book award in 1998.  After the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Nye became an active voice for Arab-Americans, speaking out against both terrorism and prejudice. The lack of understanding between Americans and Arabs led her to collect poems she had written which dealt with the Middle East and her experiences as an Arab-American in one volume.  19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was declared “an excellent way to invite exploration and discussion of events far away and their impact here at home”, by Publishers Weekly 




DYK, March 5, 2017

Born March 2, 1957 Dr. Mark Dean is a computer scientist & engineer and is one of the original inventors of the personal computer with IBM.  He is also responsible for creating the technology that allows devices, such as keyboards, mice, and printers, to be plugged into a computer and communicate with each other.

As a child in Tennessee, Dean excelled in math. In high school, Dean even built his own computer, radio, and amplifier. Dean was the first black person to become an IBM Fellow which is the highest level of technical excellence at the company. He holds three of IBM’s original nine PC patents for the IBM personal computer released in 1981, and currently holds more than 20 total patents.  In 1997, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  Later in 1999, Dean led a team of engineers at IBM’s Austin, Texas, lab to create the first gigahertz chip—a revolutionary piece of technology that is able to do a billion calculations a second.

Currently, he is the John Fisher Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee.  He was previously CTO for IBM Middle East and Africa and was an IBM Vice President overseeing the company’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California  prior to that.


DYK, February 26th, 2017

Born on February 28, 1948, Steven Chu is an physicist, Nobel Prize winner, and advocate for renewable energy. As a young child, Chu loved to build things—from model airplanes to metal girders. In 1997, Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their independent pioneering research in cooling and trapping atoms using laser light. Chu explained in an interview with why this is important: “The ability to cool atoms down to very low temperatures allows us to hold onto and move them with incredible control. This control has allowed us to make new measurement tools such as precise atomic clocks and sensors that can measure gravity and rotation with extraordinary precision.”

Chu served as the 12th United States Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013. Under Chu’s leadership, the energy department took a central role in implementing funding for renewable energies attempting to redirect the country’s energy consumption away from traditional fossil fuels. In his resignation announcement, he warned of the risks of climate change from continued reliance on fossil fuels, and wrote, “the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; we transitioned to better solutions”.

Chu is the first person appointed to the U.S. Cabinet after having won a Nobel Prize He is also the second Chinese American to be a member of the U.S. Cabinet, after former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.



DYK, February 13th, 2017

The Harlem Renaissance was a period during the 1920s when black American achievements in art, literature and music flourished. A period of great diversity and experimentation, World War I migration saw the movement of thousands of blacks from the farmlands in the south to the cities in the north in order to find new opportunities and build better lives. Many made their way to the New York City neighborhood of Harlem in Manhattan which became a cultural epicenter for black artists, authors, performers and scholars.harlem renaissance

The term ‘Renaissance’ derives from Latin meaning “be born again, rise again, to be renewed.” The Harlem Renaissance was perceived as a new beginning for blacks in America and a period of intellectual growth which inspired black authors, artists and musicians. Significant figures in the Harlem Renaissance were Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Bessie Smith, Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes. W. E. B Dubois, the 1st black person to receive a Ph.D. and from Harvard University was the editor of the NAACP journal The Crisis which published the poems, stories and visual works of many artist of the period. The Harlem Renaissance was more than an art and literary movement. It involved racial pride fueled by the militancy of forward thinking blacks, demanding civil and political rights.

Pictured Above:

Langston Hughes was a poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He’s best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He’s work is known for insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the 1920s to 1960’s

Claude McKay, born in Jamaica, was writer and poet. His 1922 poetry collection, Harlem Shadows, was among the first books published during the Harlem Renaissance.

Zora Neale Hurston is one the most distinguished writers of 20th century black literature.  Her best known work, Their Eyes Were Watching God is regarded as pioneering work in black & women’s literature.



DYK, February 1st, 2017

Bob Marley

Robert “Bob” Marley, born February 6, 1945, was a Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, musician, and guitarist who achieved international fame and acclaim. Bob Marley was a committed Rastafari who infused his music with a sense of spirituality. His music pushed for social change, singing about empowerment and equality for blacks throughout the world. His thought-provoking lyrics backed by the rhythmic beats of reggae music sparked movements for change and justice. Since his passing in 1981 Bob Marley has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1999 Exodus was voted album of the century by Time Magazine and his song One Love was designated song of the Millennium by the BBC. In 2006, the New York City Department of Education co-named a portion of Church Avenue from Remsen Avenue to East 98th Street in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn as “Bob Marley Boulevard”.