The Elmwood Village Inn
Her first husband was Native American, and this was the time when Karen moved out of her all-white neighbourhood. When she went to university she helped start the first black student union and moved into a Black neighbourhood in Tacoma, Washington.
In her early years Karen Powell also lived in communes and experienced political collectives, which she refers to as “intentional communities”. When her marriage to her first husband was breaking up she met a woman from Idaho who was a professor in Buffalo. A conversation with this professor gave her the first idea to consider moving to Buffalo. So Karen picked up her belongings and moved to Buffalo where she ended up meeting her second husband, an African American who was a math professor. Together they had three children and for about 20 years of her life Karen focused on discovering her spiritual path. For some time she lived in a craft collective in Rochester where she learned to express her artistic talents by sewing hand-made items.
Art in the hallway
From 1987 to 1988 the entire family moved to Prague since her husband had received a Fulbright Scholarship. Her girls were 11 and 9 years old and the youngest was just about 8 months old. Living in a different country under a vastly different system was a completely new experience for Karen. She even decided to stop colouring her hair and went gray, a bold move considering that hardly anybody in the former Czechoslovakia had gray hair. On the other hand, Karen noticed that the Czechs were very fashionable and enjoyed music and going out drinking on the weekends. People were also more well-read than they were in North America.
Karen’s daughters went to an international school and spent a lot of time with children of foreign diplomats. Karen’s Czech adventure includes fond memories of puppet shows, and she truly enjoyed her time with some of the Czech locals. She became close to various local residents and many of them have even visited her here in the United States. Like many other European countries, the former Czechoslovakia was a very racially homogeneous place, and the locals often stared at her mixed-race daughters. People simply did not hide their curiosity. However, the girls were very resilient and responded to any undue attention by doing impromptu stand-up comedy routines.
The living room is decked out for Christmas
Racial dynamics also becomes obvious in the treatment her ex-husband received. Africans were generally not looked upon favourably, and despite her husband’s extraordinary academic credentials he was often looked down upon. When people first met him, they were usually surprised that he was a scholar. Racism and prejudice manifested themselves in many different ways. Even the older girls still remember some of these transformative experiences to this day.
Karen in turn often asked herself what comes out of the human soul when people live under an oppressive system. Her various intercultural experiences made her wonder what slavery and racism do to people, and she became interested in life’s paradoxes. She became enthralled with issues of social justice.
The Elmwood Village Inn
About a year after her return from Prague, Karen realized that her marriage was no longer working. Until Karen divorced from her second husband, she had never sustained herself economically. Now she needed to have her priorities straight and follow her inner voice for her life’s journey. After her divorce she decided to apply to graduate school to pursue a degree in comparative education. She was accepted and was given a graduate’s assistantship which meant she received free schooling and a $12,000 stipend per year. So she decided to purse a degree in the sociology of education which focused on issues of social justice, race and render. Karen adds that she has always loved to learn, and with great motivation she started her doctoral work and was about to write her dissertation.
Finally in 1991, another life changing event happened for Karen Powell: She met Ed Powell, a radical sociologist, who was to become her third husband. Karen and Ed were together for 10 years until he passed away in 2001. From Karen’s description, Ed Powell was her true soul mate, and all her descriptions of him are infused with a deep sense of love and affection. Ed Powell owned a big mansion in Buffalo and opened his doors to many political activists. He had spent some time in Havana and asked Karen if she wanted to come with him.
The Master Suite