Sunday, April 29, 2012

Will wonders (and honors) never cease?

This past week a call came announcing that I've been selected to receive this year's
        Fannie Lou Hamer Award

at the African American student's graduation ceremony at Zellerbach Hall, at the University of California, Berkeley.  That will be on the afternoon of May 19th.

Never having understood how these selections are made, there's genuine surprise and humility -- and sometimes puzzlement.  For instance, I've never fully understood how the choice was made for the honorary doctorate(!) at the California College of the Arts last spring, and was never satisfied that it was deserved.  Having never watched the DVD of the ceremony  --  it still doesn't seem to fit somehow, though I'll be ever grateful for having been so honored, for whatever reason.

But this one is less mysterious:

This followed an event of a few months ago at which I was a panelist for a service organization, Senior Moments. The engagement had naturally grown out of having served as the Black History Month speaker for the African American Employees Network at Safeway Corporate offices.    It was a good working day.  After all, I'm engaged in outreach assignments from time to time, and this is my busy season.

In the more recent event, the lectern was shared with an old friend, Jerry Lange, a former PBS talk show host, journalist, and author; and also a professor from the Black Studies Department of U.C. Berkeley.  The audience was warmly responsive.  Apparently, it was the professor who is responsible for this important nomination for the Hamer Award.

... and this one feels good.  Fannie Lou Hamer, the courageous political organizer who headed the Mississippi Freedom Party that dramatically challenged the Democratic Convention in 1968 by demanding seating for her delegation to represent her state.  Her daring move -- 4 years later in 1972 -- made possible Shirley Chisholm's historic run for the presidency of these United States as the first woman to make the attempt -- and with yours truly seated with the California delegation in Miami's huge Convention Hall.  And, having been elected to represent my congressional district by people who had threatened our very existence as we moved among them to become the first black family in the community through some 20 traumatic years before!  That's how fast social change was occurring at the time.

Having been found worthy of this award is such an honor!

I'm expected to make a two-minute acceptance speech to the graduates -- and this time we're ready.

"The future is formed by what we do or fail to do, individually, in the present." 
... and will finish with a grateful "thank you" and have one-and-a-half minutes to use elsewhere!

Whoever dubbed these "the Golden Years" wasn't just blowin' smoke through his ears. This is serious stuff!  Could this be compensation for thinning hair, sagging everything, and a creeping suspicion that one day I'll wake up to find that lots of folks have made some glaring errors in judgment and all these wonderful tributes will have to be returned to the proper honorees?  Meanwhile, I'm lining them all in a row on my library table -- and when I'm feeling unappreciated I can point to them and say, "See?"

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