Saturday, September 06, 2008

So many loose ends to tie up ... so little time ... .

If you've been left wondering what in the world happened to the Eugene O'Neill/Paul Robeson issues; most of that has been accomplished and accounted for:

Managed to get Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor of the Berkeley Daily Planet to write a great prologue to be read from the stage before the opening of the curtain for act one (hopefully) and also inserted into the program for the audience to have and to hold. Would copy it here, but have a feeling that the content should be held until after the performances. I'm totally satisfied with the way it all came out. As planned, there will be a facilitated Q&A at the end of each of the 3 performances that will allow audiences to debrief and exhale before leaving the theater. In that way, O'Neill's work will have accomplished what it was meant to accomplish -- a deeper understanding of a troubled time in the not too distant past. It will also offer a chance to measure social change between the way life has evolved since 1924 when "Chillun" was premiered on Broadway to threats of violence, and life today as lived in Danville, California.

How I'd love to be able to post here a brief but critical email exchange between the play's director and the author of the prologue described above. It struck straight at the heart of the debate when the director questioned the writer about his comment about this being a "flawed script" as compared with merely a troubling play. The director expressed a deeply sincere interest in their expressed differences. What followed was priceless and struck at the heart of those questions about racial intermarriage that have escaped expression except when approached through the arts where troubling truths can become accessible. When I can get their permission to do so, I'll post it here. I suspect that we're somewhere in the middle of this conversation, but it probably can't be hurried for the sake of coherence. Life unfolds as it will and there remains much to tell in this story.

The intention was always to use this controversial play of "All God's Chillun Got Wings" as a way into conversations on race that I'm increasingly convinced we're ready for. That was not merely my concern but was the shared goal of the committee, the director, the cast, and me. I feel affirmed in that belief.

My work with the O'Neill committee is now complete, I believe, and today I'm back to leading a Saturday morning tour for the Uppity Ladies from the Red Hatters Society at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park.

Since my last entry -- and at their invitation -- I've met with the Koshland Fellows of Hunters Point in San Francisco to talk about their plans to create the Hunter's Point Wayside Walkway that will begin the telling of the story of Hunter's Point shipyard's role in World War II. What an evening it was! This group of remarkable young woman leaders were excited about bringing their history into the growing story of the great mobilization of those times and are using the model provided by what we've done in Richmond in our Bayside Trail markers documenting that history. I brought along a copy of "Lost Conversations" which was well received, and presented the Betty version of the story of the home front to an appreciative audience of activist women.

Richmond's scattered park sites are providing the national story in microcosm, and the rest of the Bay Area is now taking note and adding their voices. Bechtel Corporation's MarinShip from across the Bay is participating in the 2nd Annual Home Front Festival the weekend of October 5th in Richmond. April Harris, Ph.D. of Santa Rosa Community College has begun the work of documenting that history with a group of excited residents of that community and other educators. Those untold stories will now get an airing and what has until now simply been "the past" will be moving into a revered place as "history" as this park and a relatively young city slowly but surely comes to life.

Photos: 3 of the 9 Bayside Trail markers that ring the shoreline in Richmond from Ford Point to Shimada Park. Together they tell the story of the homefront. It was a project of the Richmond Redevelopment Agency and was the result of over a yearlong study led by historian, Donna Graves, that created the concept and saw it through to completion. I served on that advisory committee and am pictured here with Antonio Medrano, with one of the 18' markers. We're currently in the process of doing a similar installation for the "under redevelopment" Macdonald Avenue -- the "old main street' of the city.

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