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Thursday, April 24, 2008


Thursday brings one more day of sleuthing -- wandering through this bonanza of historic photographs of black life in the S.F. Bay Area, 30's through 70's ...

Careth "Diddy" Bomar Reid, Electra Kimble Price, and moi (and others as they join with us) now devote 3 hours each week to excitedly pouring over printouts of old negatives; trying to identify literally thousands of brides, grooms, fraternity sisters and brothers, church goers, choir members, cornerstone layers, debutantes, etc., so that somehow, somewhere we'll begin to make a dent in this priceless collection of images of African Americans who were drawn to life in the Bay Area (mostly) from long before World War II through the Seventies.

What is becoming clear -- at least to me -- is that we're going to have to grow our little group to include more brains with attached active memories if we're going to come anywhere near to accomplishing this task within the next decade! I believe I have some ideas for how to multiply our numbers soon.

Today we came up with the 7th Street office address of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; with 8x10 publicity photos of legendary blues singer, Jimmy McCracklin; with a marvelous picture of an event hosted by "100 Black Men" held at Slim Jenkins Lounge in West Oakland; with photos of Mrs. Vivian Osborne Marsh and journalist, Taria Hall Pittman; with the executive board of the Fannie Wall Home & Day Nursery on 8th and Linden; group photos of fraternity and sorority activities, etc. It was another satisfying day, but that's such a small number when one considers that there are more than 10,000 still to be processed! That there will be many WWII home front photos still to be recovered keeps me working breathlessly. The documentation for black history is under our fingers every Thursday from noon until 3:30, and only time (the one thing we don't have) will deliver those identities to us.

Tennyrate, the work and Dorian's balding has dulled the euphoria produced by the billboard announcement, and I'm back in the properly humbled column again. It didn't take much. However -- there were a few moments there -- yesterday -- as I walked across Frank H. Ogawa plaza -- away from a meeting with the director of the Older Americans Day celebration and toward City Hall and a brief meeting with a member of the Oakland city council where we were to talk a bit about historic sites in her district. Four young black men were passing nearby ... and as we crossed paths one of them said, "...she's a park ranger. That must be a great job. And she looks so good in that uniform." They were obviously speaking loudly enough for me to hear. I turned back to them and grinned, saying, "...it is a great job, and thank you kindly, sirs!" Felt good. This was the kind of tribute young black men are so good at delivering. It nudged alive young Betty. But my ego isn't strong enough to warrant such a tribute. It was surely the thought of such a job that rang their bell, right? But for just a minute there ...

I didn't feel a day over 65!

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