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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Looks like Boys Day at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial ... .

I do so enjoy interacting with youngsters -- especially those who are from other cultures.  We always seem to be able to surmount whatever generational differences that may lie between us in short order.  

These were middle school Latino boys who are enrolled in the PAL (Police Athletic League) summer program which includes sleeping on board the SS Red Oak Victory, the last ship built in the Kaiser shipyards during World War II.  

That was yesterday.  Today I met with a group of about 8 young African American men (18-22) and one young woman who  are members of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and who are doing a remarkable job painting and cleaning up the old ship and the dock against which she's moored.  This is a paid summer job sponsored by a city program called Youth Works.  They are proud to be engaged in such meaningful work on this iconic ship.  They're doing such a fine job that praise is being heaped upon them by everyone who is observing their work and the purposeful way they're going about it. 

I went aboard at their invitation today, and shared a brief history of World War II Richmond, making the assumption that these would be the stories of their grandparents who may have arrived in the West as migrant workers to help to build these 747 ships.  Since I'm a contemporary of those grandparents; I can make those stories live for these grandchildren.  Maybe in the telling I'm adding a layer of dignity to those lives.  It is such a privilege to be able to spend even these short periods with the young -- you can see the lights turn on behind their eyes as they listen!  I share my own stories as well over brown bag lunches.

Summertime is going to be rich and exciting for us all, I think.  This park-in-the-making has come such a long way in its development since it was legislated into being in the year 2000, and the community is gradually awakening to the importance of its history in the context of the national stories.  The National Park Service is "America's best idea," and being a part of bringing that to life in this place is magical -- and such a privilege ... .

Photos by Ellen Gailing

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