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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Guess I could use a little less Eleanor Roosevelt and Fanny Lou Hamer and just a bit more Paris Hilton in my persona these days ...

Self promotion can prove so embarrassing. I never know when I've crossed the line between factually sharing my truth and slipping into unnecessary crowing. So I fall into periods of silence. My fingers go mute on the keyboard and I sit and stare or play online Solitaire for hours ... or complete NY Times Crossword puzzles ... (they'll never believe me ... .).

I've not been blogging for days -- surely not for the lack of something to say -- but for not knowing how to write the outrageously sensational everyday facts of my life without being obnoxious in the telling.

For instance, do you know anyone who, as a mid-octogenarian, has just become a bonafide park ranger for the National Park Service? True. At an age where others have been retired for at least 25 years, I'm starting a brand new career. And I do mean -- a uniformed, properly hatted and badged capital "R," Ranger working as a Community Outreach Specialist Assistant. I lacked the necessary educational credentials to qualify for the Outreach Specialist position. The management team is now in the process of evaluating applicants for that supervisory position, and then I'll be in the awkward position of training him/her on just how to go about supervising me. But hey! Them's the rules and I say good luck, young person, whoever you are. Together we'll make this work.

After a number of years of working as a private contractor for the National Park Service, funded by a grant to a nonprofit Trust (and being encouraged by the staff to do so), I applied for the new position (the job I've been holding for some time now) and received 100% on the acceptance announcement of my job application. They closed the interview process and sent certification that I'd been officially hired pending security checks, etc. It's almost beyond imagination.

There will be few changes in my job description, actually, since the position is a new one in one of the most recently congressionally-designated national parks in the system. It is one that I've had a chance to shape and mold (to my own abilities, maybe?). It means that my work will help to define the role for the rangers who will follow me in the years and decades to come. It means that I'll continue to be working with a great team of NPS professionals who -- in concert with the city, the business and corporate entities, the school systems, and related local, regional and state agencies -- will spend the next decade creating another of the growing number of the urban national parks that have been preserved to tell the story of our peoples throughout a rich collective history. Such a privilege. I feel so honored by the trust extended by my colleagues -- trust in my ability to continue to contribute despite being seriously over-birthdayed!

Tonight my little 4-minute DVD, " Of lost conversations and untold stories," will be shown simultaneously on two large screens in the grand dining room on the 14th floor of the Emeryville Hilton on the East Bay shoreline. The occasion is the annual scholarship banquet being hosted by the Kaiser Permanente African American Professional Association. Someone in that organization discovered it on YouTube.com and the result is that I've been invited to be a guest of honor -- to be introduced before a group of people for whom the piece has resonated. These materials are theses and essays culled from the archival materials now accumulating within arms reach of my cubicle. Those writings from present-day researchers can now become a source of great pride to African Americans who've not benefitted by our history of homefront and battlefield heroism -- largely because the information was not revealed until now. Makes one wonder why it took so long? But then I remember that it has only been 67 years, and that's simply not long enough for events to be recognized and valued as history. My present role in all this may simply have been effected by good timing and may not be attributable to exceptional talent at all.

Now that's a sobering thought.



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