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Friday, November 12, 2004

Life goes on ...

Yesterday the group of teachers from across the nation gathered in San Francisco in an extended seminar. They're working with something called "Expeditionary Learning" (and, sorry, but I have no idea what that means). A part of their seminar consisted of a day in Richmond visiting the Rosie National Park, the archives, a trip to the memorial, and a Q&A with resident "expert" (on what I'm not sure), moi.

It rained all morning but they doggedly maintained their schedule of activities despite all. They'd arrived in three busloads to the Harbormaster's Buildings at the shoreline where they were to have their bag lunches and rendevous for the visit to the NPS Reception Center. I met them there.

Turned out to be easy and fun to do. There were about 40 teachers from as far away as Chattanooga and Maine. We met in City Council Chambers where I gave a short presentation to the entire group -- followed by a Question & Answer session. They were then taken to the archives to examine letters and artifacts that have been donated by former Rosies over the past two years. They entered the archives in small groups of six while the balance of the group remained in the Q&A where I got to learn something about their work and their hopes for the kids they're working with (all ages).

The sharing has become easier now, and relatively painless in terms of what it dredges up for me. Having put much of those times to word here now, means that I've probably discharged much of the destructive energy and they're lost their power to harm.

Today I have an appointment with the city photographer to be posed standing beside one of the new markers for the Bay Trail and the new national park. Worked over the past year as an advisor with the development agency's planning staff, the result of which are striking 18' markers in the shape of the prow of a ship -- lean and graceful and no more than 18 inches wide - with a permanent large plaque in full color attached at eye level -- telling the story of the war years. They're wonderful! There are 8 of them spread out along the edges of the park boundaries at the shoreline. Today I will be joined by Antonio Medrano, a Latino retired highschool teacher, who also served as an advisor with the planning group. Both Antonio and I have had the honor of having our words used in two of the plaques -- describing aspects of the state of civil rights and civil liberties at that time. Together, these graceful sculptures tell the story of the homefront struggles. Today's photos will be used in the weekend papers to announce the dedication ceremonies being held on Wednesday, November 17, at the site of the installations.

Yesterday I experienced a few seconds of discomfort when a newsman from the El Cerrito newspaper announced his presence in the room at the beginning of our plenary session -- but the feeling left quickly. In fact, it is only in this moment that I recall his image there in the third row ... .

As I've become fond of saying of late, "I had no idea that I'd live long enough to be black history!" but that seems to be what's happened. Even being a reluctant Rosie has its rewards. My directness and non-confrontational style may serve to release others to tell how it really was, before we paper over the truth of those times with platitudes and genericism and lose this opportunity to re-visit the ugly parts of our national past and make the necessary adjustments for the sake of future generations.

Meeting those young educators yesterday was a reminder that we've always had those who were working hard to "get it right" and that we still do. Maybe we will prevail after all, even when the shadows grow long for some while others are stepping up into the light and leading the way. It has always been so, or so it seems this day... .

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