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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

What a week this has been ... !

Started out on Monday with a call from someone from the National Park Service asking if I'd be willing to participate in a press conference on Thursday (tomorrow) when Ms. Lynne Cheney would be presenting a check to the National Park Service for one of its programs. This, as a "Rosie", of course. Nope. Besides having a full schedule, there was this thing about having a photo op with Republican Ms. Cheney that would not be politically correct for me (being the field rep for a Democratic legislator) -- not too cool, I think. Didn't bother to ask our staff. But I know that I'm so firmly identified with my role as a representative that this would be seen in a political light. It becomes less and less possible to have a "personal" life.

I believe this was also her book tour for a newly-published young people's book about Rosie the Riveter.

Spent the day today sitting in at the California Arts Council's meeting in San Francisco and being awed by the huge circular arrangement of the judicial chambers where the meeting was held. The room reeked of power! The great seal of the judiciary on the back wall spoke volumes. It's impossible to not be impressed. It was an all-day session (10:00 'til 3:00) that featured speakers from the NEA from Washington as well as local and regional arts advocates and organizations. Just sitting in that room gave me a feeling of the weight of the office of the vice-presidency, and I found myself wondering why I'd said "no" so easily? I'd actually forgotten about the invitation until a moment in the presentations when the feeling of awe for the office, itself, washed over me.

Attended another meeting later today at 4:30, this time a collaborative of nonprofits, unionists, political activists, several church groups, etc., and was just as awed by this exercise in the democratic process -- one that's being so foolishly trampled on by those who are presently in national leadership. This group was hard at work on getting an ordinance passed for Just Cause Evictions, getting a parcel tax measure on the next ballot with which to finance the schools ... I was reminded why I'd refused. The distance between is just too great. We are really living in a haves and have nots period, aren't we?

Learned some shocking facts at the Arts Council meeting:

In the current state budget, we have designated 3 cents per person for the arts. In the nation that figure is $110/per person. Canada budgets $238/per person. California ranks 48th in the country in moneys allotted for the arts. Small wonder that we're losing the movie industry to Canada. This, the most populus State, is losing on the quality of life issues.

We have the greatest number of citizens imprisoned, and our most recent moves to eliminate affirmative action will guarantee that -- though we are the most racially diverse state in the union, we're making sure that leadership will remain white by limiting who can and cannot enter the university system.  The controls lie in the fact that by raising the cost of tuition beyond the reach of all others, power remains with the white population.

Our school systems have all but eliminated vocational education and are dealing only with the college bound. All others are tracked out of the system in middle school. We are now seeing a 48% drop-out rate of Black and Brown students by tenth grade. It's appalling!

To demand standardized testing results without standardized resources is criminal! There is a case wending its way through our courts that will bring that issue into prominence at some point soon; hopefully.

Maybe my Martin Luther King birthday speech is beginning to write itself. At least the thoughts are beginning to form, and I'll spend all day Sunday moving it onto paper.

On Friday I'll be interviewed and photographed for the local papers. Friday evening we'll leave for the Democratic convention in San Jose (Black Caucus session is Friday night). Will skip the Saturday sessions to attend the memorial service from an old Walnut Creek friend who finally succumbed to Alzheimers. David Pierson was an artist whose oil paintings hang in my dining room and on my bedroom wall. He and his family figured strongly in my often misspent suburban days in the Fifties and Sixties. We struggled together with along with enlightened others through the Black Revolution -- across racial lines -- and, I believe, that ultimately we made a difference. I will miss him. But those stories are still ahead waiting to be told. I'm beginning to feel that there is need for that. Blogging is becoming important to me, finally. We each experience a life that is like no other. Mine has been extraordinary.

Would have been nice to have a photo in my album -- taken with the wife of the vice-president of the United States. If I live long enough, maybe I'll find one I'm more comfortable with... .

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