Saturday, July 16, 2005

S.F. Bay Cruise with LaborFest -- big union event and a return to the "Being of the Reluctant Rosie" ...

A few weeks ago I accepted an invitation for a cruise on the Bay. I didn't realize at the time that this will involve union folks, historians, union people interested in the new national park, two other Rosies and moi. Learned of my "star" status when I ran across a flyer advertising the event.

Am having the usual mixed feelings about playing this role, but it's becoming less awkward for me -- and provides an opportunity to get folks to re-visit that period of history with the benefit of having now lived with the enlightenment provided by the social revolution of the Sixties. I've become a rather important part of the truth-telling brigade that may keep us from forgetting some important and painfully learned truths.

When will I ever have a chance, again, to spend 3 hours with members of previously segregated unions? Most of those I'll see tomorrow and interact with might have no idea of the nature of human relations in the workplace during WWII and, for some, the years following. Perhaps their unions are still not welcoming to non-whites (only more cleverly manipulated) -- and if only one or two can gain some understanding of and appreciation for a time before laws were changed and access won -- the afternoon will be worth the time taken.

Besides, I'm beginning to get a kick out of carrying this particular torch. And mostly because I find so few able or willing to express those painful truths. We do have a tendency to paper over the troubling parts of our past -- thereby risking the probability of having to relive that which we should have grown beyond long ago in some systematic way.

Am still very ambivalent about unions and the Labor Movement ... even when I have no idea what we could possibly have done without them. But the rank and file, after all, reflects all of the best and worst of the general population. It's easy to forget that in our zeal to add our voices to the Progressive power bloc, we may not be taking the necessary time required to consolidate our gains as African Americans. I sense that -- in this struggle for economic power and social equality in the time of yet another war -- something precious may be in the process of being lost.

This opportunity to raise important questions -- even when the answers remain beyond reach -- is one I shouldn't under-estimate; and I don't. Having a chance to do that on a Bay cruise on a lovely summer day is beyond expectations.

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