Friday, July 03, 2009

Fourth of July weekend is at hand--and I believe I'm ready ... .

Today will be a work day in that I'll be meeting for lunch with two professors from the Black Studies department of the University, and another from Dominican College in Marin County. I've been hopeful over the past months that a way might be found for that to happen. I've been flying off the seat of my pants for years now, working from memory and little else in the interpretative areas of my position. Being blessed with a remarkable memory and reasonable ability to articulate those recollections has formed the basis of my qualifications of this late-blooming career as a ranger with the park service. But it worries me at times. Could it be that I've simply out-lived all those who might challenge my assumptions and conclusions? Just because I've lived long enough to be able to see the patterns and know how it all turned out may not be sufficient to warrant the kinds of attention and validation that my declarations get from the public.

I'm confident in my positions, and am rewarded every time I see an elder on one of my bus tours smile quietly -- a comforting affirmation. I'm reassured by the silent "amens" that I see around me. It appears that over the years I've been able to use candor to release conversations across the racial barrier in ways that I've seen only rarely over my lifetime. I suppose that's my gift if there is one operating here.

Last week a professor, Prof. Waldo Martin, from the Black Studies Department at the University of California visited with me at the office, returned for a tour on Wednesday, and invited me to lunch today to meet one of the other professors, Prof. Leon Litwack, whose studies of black life on the home front during WWII I've read and reread over time. This will provide the chance to explore just how one might go about involving African American graduate students to do some advance study around the premise that the modern civil rights movement found its roots here in the Greater Bay Area as the result of the human forces -- black and white -- brought here to work together to forge the home front effort that may have saved the world. It's an amazing story, and one -- in all of its complexity -- that has been largely omitted from the history of the times. Their story provides the baseline against which one must measure social change in this country that led, eventually, to the presidency of the first black American. What happened here in this place where social change was fast-tracked (and remains so) enough to change the racial dynamics of the nation.

Today's coming together of two men whose work in the university can bring validity to the life experience of one who lived the history but whose only advanced degrees were gained by an alert mind, a lifetime of social activism, and by mothering four children. This may be the beginning of that validation. I worry about what might happen in the event that I die leaving my part of the work incomplete so that the foundation out of which that history can be brought into the present will go with me. Those men have the education, but I have the megaphone. So in a very limited way -- I must bring those things together in order for the work to go on.

Besides, I decided on my 86th birthday to speak only in declarative sentences for the rest of my lifetime. I may give new meaning to the word pomposity over the next few years as I draw back into a more normal expression of "elderness." But for today's lunch, I see no need for reticence. I need to hold onto enough edge to be able to inspire the young to help to bring that history alive into our time.

Wish I'd known decades ago how all this stuff works ... that, individually, we're relatively powerless human beings who must combine forces in order to bring the change needed to move us forward as a people. The reason being that life experience out of which real change comes is collective, collaborative, in the aggregate so must contain all of the elements -- both positive and negative -- in order to be broad and strong enough to carry us along into the next phase of social evolution.

1 comment:

Mage said...

Dear Betty Reid Soskin....Thank you so much for writing this wonderfully powerful blog. I just recieved the A Hoy award, and one of the instructions says to pass it on. You are an inspiration....tho it was very hard for me to find the spot to leave you a note...I wished to share your passion and enthusiasms with everyone. A note to you telling you about the award is on my blog.

And too, I hope the luncheon went well.