Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Cheryl Call

Cheryl Call photo with view of boats and mountains


Cheryl Call

Sitka, Alaska

Tell us a bit about yourself:
Born in the Bronx, I grew up around my grandparents. I remember my grandfather (who left Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos for NYC) feeding a big coal furnace and reading the newspaper and my grandmother (who left Montego Bay, Jamaica for NYC) tending the pot of rice and beans she served up at family gatherings. My dad was a seaman — from him I get my love of travel; my mom was a reader — from her I get my love of books. This love of books led to a doctorate in English from the CUNY Graduate Center. The travel bug got me on a train across Canada and a ferry to Alaska, to Sitka, where I met my husband (now passed away) and taught English at Sheldon Jackson College. These days I enjoy retirement: always reading, always traveling.

How long have you been a member of the Tenement Museum?
Has it been two years now? — As a frequent virtual visitor!

What was your first interaction with the Tenement Museum/what drew you here?
I’m told that a woman named Mary Bong, or China Mary, once lived in my house. She pursued myriad occupations — midwife, restaurateur, farmer, fishing troller, gold miner &mdash around the same time as the Levines, Rogarshevskys and Baldizzis. The COVID pandemic had broken out and, inspired by the online programs in your newsletter, I joined the Museum to learn more.

Does the Museum make you reflect on any of your family stories?
I love the photos of the markets and the family kitchens with stoves and pots and radios and doilies. They stir memories of my grandma and me in the A&P supermarket grinding coffee or at her cake mixer in the kitchen.

Do you have a favorite Tenement Museum tour or program?
My favorite tour is the one I just took. I was there — in person! — in March and was thrilled to sit on the cushy bed of one of the Epstein daughters and gaze at the photo of Paul Anka (heartthrob of my 12-year-old self) perched on the record player!

What does the Tenement Museum mean to you?
It so honors daily life, which is different for each of us, yet the same; it draws us so viscerally into immigrant history, reminding us of how connected we are.

What are some other cultural institutions that you frequent or support?
Sheldon Jackson Museum (Sitka); Wing-Luke Museum (Seattle); on-line art meditation at National Museum of Asian Art (D.C.)

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
From the beginning, I’m thinking of Clan of the Cave Bear. We humans have been on the move. Resources dwindle, conflicts erupt, we go looking for a future. This has been and always will be so. In celebrating this constant, the Tenement Museum encourages us to accept and embrace it.

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