Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sandwiched between other experiences was this class of graduate students from the California College of the Arts ... we met at the Rosie Memorial ... .

Over time the Memorial has become a feature of the curricula of the school.  It started out small but has now grown so that this is the second class we've hosted over the past two weeks, with other visits over the past two years.

On our bus tours of the scattered sites, I usually save the Memorial for the final experience.  It is so moving, and so easily made relevant to today's young people through the time-line which tells the story of the home front -- from the outbreak of war in 1941 until peace came in 1945.  The thoughtful preparation done in the design phase by historian and project manager, Donna Graves, artists Cheryl Barton and Susan Schwartzenberg, dramatically brings vibrancy to an era that was all but forgotten until recent years.  It skips nothing, and provides the foundation for our national park interpreters to give voice to the history that forever changed the nation as my generation lived it -- and for all time.

It sometimes feels as if we (African Americans) have been invited -- albeit late -- into a national dialogue that will be seen one day as having solidified the social changes made during those earlier painful struggles for human rights and human dignity. 

Now I'm beginning to feel the need to find those other voices out there that are on the same or a similar path in order to not feel quite so alone on this new edge that may be finally leading toward eventual reconciliation.  These stories require many voices in order to deal with the complexity they present.

There are freshened dissonant voices rising that seem determined to renew the alienation and separation, and, through our National Park Service, we've empowered our response to it through keeping alive the nation's history through the urban park concept with the creation of sites like the Rosie the Riveter Memorial; the Montgomery to Memphis Trail; the De Anza Trail; the marking of the Underground Railroad, etc.  These sites, when added to the scenic wild places already set aside, enhance powerfully the American story, though most were only developed since 1981.  The City of Richmond now takes its place among those recently-developed urban park sites -- and -- if it works out as I suspect and hope it will, this community may become the first unit of the Greater Bay Area cities in what will eventually evolve into a National Heritage District that will include the numerous sites that are spread throughout the area's 9 Bay Area counties that meet at the bay's shoreline -- and that will support the interpretation of the WWII Home Front stories for a new generation of Americans.

I so agree that the National Park Service is "America's best idea."

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