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'Abdu'l-Bahá's journey through Canada

On September 9 the 239 Days team tracked to Hamilton!  We went to support the “Peace Train” celebration of the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey through Canada. We first entered into a large hall that was occupied with 800 people.  

The celebration was at the Liuna Train Station, which was fitting as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had passed through Hamilton by train on that same day 100 years ago.

The event had a variety of musical performances, which included the Hamilton Children’s Choir, Adam Crossley, Nabil and Karim, Asher Lenz and many more. There were also acting performances by local youth. The youth focused on the importance of people their age making an impact on the world. 


Children were also incorporated in the celebration through videos, singing and acting. But what I liked the best was saved for the very end. On the last performance children from the audience were asked to march behind each other all around the room as if they were joining the “Peace Train.”   

The entire celebration was just under two hours but the hard work put together by the organizers was well acknowledged. Everyone in the audience enjoyed all the performances and kept talking about them long after it was finished.

Gazalle Ardekani

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What’s new in 239 Days in America

You may have noticed that at the top of each Daily Feature there is a greyed-out tab called “STORIFY.” It looks like this:

Storify is a new web app that enables people to “curate” social stories. That means that we can take all of the tweets that we have sent during each day, all your responses to them, and all your comments on Facebook and 239days.com and put them all together in one place at the end of each day. This way we can archive all the conversations we have and keep them forever. 

For example, here’s an image of the Storify we have completed for Day 60, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is in Philadelphia. Click here to go to the actual Storify page.

Storify has sharing buttons of its own along the top right of the Storify page. You can comment on the page directly to Twitter and Facebook, and you can share it, and you can even embed it in your own web pages if you like. Join Storify yourself to follow thousands of other social stories.

Every day we choose the best comments and tweets to include in our daily Storify feed. The more you comment on the social networks we use, the more you will show up in the feed. (But only if what you say is interesting enough!)

If you want to find out more about Storify go to: www.storify.com

Please let us know how you like it!

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The Making Of: How They Roped Me In

My name is Gazalle and I am the Social Media Editor at 239 Days in America. On the 12th of January I ran into Caitlin by coincidence. It was a dark night in Toronto and I was meeting a few friends for dinner. As I was paying for parking at a lot near University Avenue and Adelaide someone called my name. The person was wearing a hood. After I got over my fear I realized it was Caitlin Jones!  She mentioned she had emailed me about a social media position for a project called 239 Days in America. I never got the email because she had sent it to the wrong address.

239 Days in America sounded like an interesting but confusing opportunity. It was hard for me to grasp it. It seemed like they wanted to tell a story using many social platforms. The problem was that these crazy lunatics were talking in the present tense about something that happened 100 years ago!

I joined the project because it seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Coming from a corporate background in digital media to a digital humanities project has been quite a change but I’ve seen this project unfold over the 50 days. I am enjoying the features just like everyone else, but since our project is supposed to be a “social media documentary” I think we need to do a better job at bringing YOU into the conversation. 

I will be posting regularly on this blog to share with you the insides and challenges that we are facing, and I really want to invite your comments, thoughts and criticism of what we are doing.

Gazalle Ardekani

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‘Abdu’l-Bahá Arrives in America

The wait is over! ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has arrived safely in New York. Our main site www.239Days.com is now live.

Our first feature has been posted chronicling ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s arrival on the SS Cedric. Each morning we’ll publish a new Daily Feature; this will continue throughout ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s 239-day journey through America. You will encounter him as Americans of the time did—little by little, day by day.

We are also tweeting out the highlights of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s daily itinerary in real time. Please follow us on Twitter, and, if you haven’t already, join the 239 Days in America community by liking us on Facebook. And please, share 239 Days in America with your own social networks.

As we ramp up in the upcoming weeks, we’ll release more social media components of 239Days.com. Stay tuned!

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America on the Horizon

As the Cedric neared American shores, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá received Marconi wireless messages from California and Chicago. “We shall be at sea another day,” he said to his travel companions. “Steam power is truly a wonderful thing. If there were no such power, how would the vast oceans have been crossed?”

 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent much of the final days of the trip talking about the need for love and unity among humankind, and the destructive effects of prejudice, blind imitation, and disunity. Each morning, he said prayers with his travel companions. While the long journey from Egypt had mostly been recuperative, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá found he had little appetite, limiting himself to tea and soup. 

On April 10, a wireless message arrived from New York welcoming ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America. The Cedric was just over a hundred miles from shore. At 9 p.m. that night, the lights of Long Island and New Jersey appeared in the distance. The Cedric anchored offshore near the breakwater, ready to enter New York harbor the next morning.

239 Days in America begins April 11. Please join us!

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The Making Of: How It All Began (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this blog post, I told the story of how my good friend Jonathan Menon and I decided to use Twitter to deliver “real time history” about the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to America. All this despite a confession that I loathe Twitter. This was two years ago. Now, a few days from launch, I thought I’d share something of how 239 Days in America evolved. 

My disdain for Twitter arose from the fact that I saw it as part of the continuing slide of literacy and communication that has come with technologies such as email and texting. (I once got an email resume from a student looking for job in the media industry with the one word subject heading: “hey…”)

But Jonathan and I quickly realized that Twitter just couldn’t do the story justice on its own, and that unfolding a narrative solely via hourly tweets would grow thin pretty quickly. We decided to focus Twitter’s use on delivering a “real-time itinerary” of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey, so you could follow his activities—where he goes and whom he meets—every day. Daily magazine-style articles would accompany it. Twitter would present events in a real-time flow, while the articles would flesh out the story in rich biographical detail.

You’ll get to read these articles starting April 11th. We hope you enjoy them. 

Here’s the rest of the story in fast-forward: We got considerable advice on evolving our social media strategy from a guru in the field, found an executive producer who chased much needed resources and money, added discussion forums, and added two wonderful full-time staff to coordinate details, develop content, manage the social media strategy, and promote it all. I’d like to send out a BIG THANKS to all of them now.

239 Days in America has only just begun. It will unfold over 239 days. We will present a range of content each day, but a social media project depends on an active network of interested people to make it successful. 

We hope you join the conversation. And please, share us with your own social networks!

Rob Sockett

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The Age of Lights

The Cedric gleamed as it pushed through the white open waters. Up on deck, a band played music in the morning and evening. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá enjoyed the music, praised the musicians, and treated them with a generous  £4 tip.

The morning of April 5, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá strolled up and down the deck observing the volcanic peaks of the Azores through his field glass. By afternoon, his companions, as well some curious observers, gathered in the salon of the ship to be in his company. Among them was an American newspaper publisher. He first asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about Persia and then inquired about his journey to America.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained the purpose of his trip: “I am going to America at the invitation of peace congresses, as the fundamental principles of this Cause are the equality of the rights of men. As this age is the age of lights and the century of mysteries, this lofty purpose is sure to be universally acknowledged …”

The newspaper publisher was delighted. He wanted to kiss ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s hands, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gently stopped him and instead presented him with his prayer beads.

Stay tuned for our next update, April 6.

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The Making Of: How It All Began (Part 1)

About two years ago, I had dinner with a good friend and business colleague of mine, Jonathan Menon. He presented me with an intriguing idea for a project that would use Twitter to deliver “real time history.”

There’s one thing you need to know before I continue: I loathe Twitter. I was delighted when the satirical site The Onion published an article on the ‘Nadir Of Western Civilization’ which lists the following as the penultimate moment before the apocalypse: “Twitter will be used to communicate a series of ideas so banal they will instantaneously negate the three centuries of the Renaissance.”

But Jonathan’s a convincing guy. Besides, we did have a long track record of creating pioneering web projects. If there were any unorthodox things to be done with social media, we were the ones to do it.

The subject matter would be the 100th anniversary of an event close to our hearts: the visit of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America. As Bahá’ís, the occasion is of great consequence to us. It is a compelling and improbable story. In 1912, an aging Persian man, just released from 40 years of imprisonment at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, traveled across North America for 239 days, and confronted Americans with a vision of human nature, social unity, and the nation’s future that was 100 years ahead of its time.

Jonathan proposed we reconstruct this little-known period in history, essentially hour-by-hour, for the entire 239 days. Using Twitter, it would be delivered in real time, shifted precisely 100 years into the future. 

We would soon dub this little experiment a “Social Media Documentary.” For the first time, Twitter made sense to me. At least for this single, one-time, never-to-be-repeated use. I even got a Twitter account.

Rob Sockett

Stay tuned for Part 2: The project grows…and grows…and grows…

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Onward to America

‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to enjoy his daily routine. In the afternoons he would have tea with his fellow passengers, as the Cedric cruised west through the Mediterranean. One day, the discussion turned to the subject of transportation itself. They conversed on the wonders of ships and trains, and the newest form of transportation: the airplane.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá—who was known to applaud material development—warned of how progress, if left unchecked, can have the gravest of consequences. He warned of a future when: “Those who have provided the means for transporting arms and ammunition, and the instruments of wars and massacres on earth, will do so in the air.”

It was a theme ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would return to throughout his trip: the relationship between materialism and militarism. On this day, he was ominously prophetic: “There will come to exist such instruments as to cause all the means of destruction in the past to be looked upon as children’s playthings.”

On the morning of April 3, the ship passed through the Strait of Gibraltar. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the field glasses and surveyed the land around him. The ship slid past by the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, that famous piece of land known as the Rock of Gibraltar. It pressed onward, leaving Europe and Africa behind.

Stay tuned for our next update, April 4.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity

On March 28, 1912, the ship taking ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America made a stop in Naples. Italy and Turkey were in the midst of a brutal war over Tripoli. Fellow passengers urged ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to stay on board lest he be mistaken for a Turk. He and his companions complied, surveying the city’s magnificent gardens from the ship’s deck.

The Cedric remained at port for two days. On the second day came unfortunate news. A physician decided that three of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s companions had eye infections and must remain behind. One of them was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s grandson, Shoghi Effendi.

The next morning the ship returned to the open water. “These Italians took us for Turks,” he said.

But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the misfortune with equanimity: “There is a wisdom in this matter which will become known later.”

Stay tuned for our next update, April 2…

The S.S. Cedric passes the Rock of Gibraltar destined for America.

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