It was right there under my fingertips ... the answer to the "Lena" dilemma ... .
On a hunch that there would be understanding and agreement, I emailed Robin Gregory, the jazz singer who will be "Lena" in an homage to the original, giving her the link to my blog and asking her to read the relevant entry (below). Though we've met, she is still a relative stranger to me, so I had no inkling of what her reaction might be.
I sent as attachments two accounts of the Camp Robertson incident with the assurance that it was the single paragraph account from Lena's daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, that I would rewrite in the first person for her to use as a preface to her presentation in the persona of Lena Horne. Inspired? I thought so, but only if I could convince both the artist and the coordinator of the stage performances on the evening of the USO Dance.
The National Park Service is only one of many partners in the sponsorship of the annual Home Front Festival; the Richmond Chamber of Commerce is lead on the USO dance, and there may be some sensitivity on the part of some about what may be seen as a last minute intrusion in their signature event. There is, after all, some hint of the old skunk at the garden party aspects to this insertion into their (until now) benign nostalgic revisiting of an era now enshrined in 'Good War" bunting.
An email to stage manager Elmina Green with copies of the information sent to Robin was convincing enough for there to be both understanding and consent. The need to include an honest statement reflective of the times was apparent to both if we were to honor the memory of this iconic figure now consigned to history - and in truth. There's no escaping the fact that -- as 3 women of color -- our race has influenced the issue.
So it will be.
Robin's email -- sent late last night assured me that she is not only willing, but grateful for the opportunity to perform this preface to her songs.
I am quietly thankful for the chance to enter this vignette of resistance into the record as we honor one of my personal heroes.
And, this year I will attend the USO dance, both in body and in spirit, and for the very first time.