Monday, April 16, 2007

Have been working hard all week on a project that grew out of our trip to Little Rock last fall ...

Many entries back (around October 22nd) I mentioned the hope that we could find some way to bring together those wonderful Central High students with students here in West County in a dialogue around civil rights. It's going to happen, though not in the form first considered. I'm working now with school district folks here to create a teleconference that will accomplish something similar, if a little less impressive. The cost of moving students around was far too costly for both school districts, but what with the technology available to us, such a conference is not only possible, but in the works even as we speak.

Since Central High is not only a highschool, but a National Park site as well, we have the infrastructure to work with and we've found a positive response from everyone.

This fall will see the first annual Home Front Festival here in Richmond -- and simultaneously, Central High will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Little Rock Standoff. To bring kids together to talk about that will be absolutely mind-blowing! Central has been doing an oral history project whereby students have interviewed parents and grandparents who were a part of that dramatic history.

Richmond has yet to process its World War II history and the arrival of racial segregation that came as the result of the city growing from a sleepy small industrial town of 24,000 to 108,000 -- mostly blacks and whites from the southern states --- in response to world events and the needs of the huge war effort. The great migration brought with it changes that are still being lived through and by an unknowing population that has had little opportunity to learn the lessons of the monumental social change that ensued. Today's Richmond children have had little connection with the lessons of the past, or of the heroism and sacrifices endured by their parents and grandparents during the war years.

What an opportunity this presents to re-examine that period, and how to put shape to that important debate is what I'm struggling with right now. Everyone says, "Yes!," but finding the way to implement what we all see as a golden opportunity remains illusive at best.

As an outreach specialist for the parks (on a contract) I'm clearly in a position to open the doors to possibilities and to bring together those who can actualize the vision. Beyond that I'm relatively helpless to deliver. I've met with the president of the local community college, have appointments with a former member of the school board and the superintendent of schools for the county -- that's next week. I'm in touch with the teacher/counselor of the kids at Central High and the National Park Service staff in Little Rock, and with some of the media people here ... but once I've done my part -- it must be implemented by the educators, and only the educators. Knowing when to pull back and let go will be the challenge.

I think that's called, "Punting!"

Photo: Another of Dorrie's works, this one is a tryptich (sp.?), of linoleum block prints that I bought to hang when I can find the time to re-arrange my growing collection ... .

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