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Friday, February 19, 2016

Class of ?  Maybe 1938? Can't recall ...
Living life "One day at a time" has gained a deeper meaning over past weeks ... .

There are more items on my To Do list than usual, and each holds excitement and fulfillment within, and I wouldn't know where to prune -- were that to become necessary:

l. Tomorrow I will be installed in the Castlemont High School Hall of Fame by the Alumni Association at a luncheon in Oakland, the city where I grew up, but it will be in absentia.  My acceptance speech (4 minutes on a DVD) has been prepared and sent to the organization where Mr. Darryl Bartlow will represent me.  Me?  I'll be at work, as advertised, giving my presentation at two o'clock.

2. On Tuesday evening, February 23rd, we're presenting the story of the tragic fire that destroyed Kaiser Dormitory 0 and cost the lives of 8 black male shipyard workers in Richmond; this in the hope of raising awareness of the community toward the need to memorialize those lives as representative of the 37,600 civilian deaths that occurred on the Home Front during WWII.  That will happen during a study session of the Richmond City Council.  I will present that history through a PowerPoint. It will be this year's observance of Black History Month, and will be reflective of this community's rich history,  to a city unaware of its own stories in many ways -- since the happenings are so recent.

3. Next week I will be the guest speaker at a meeting of the Berkeley Breakfast Club in the beautiful historic building designed by architect Julia Morgan -- at seven-thirty in the morning!  Then will be back at the Visitor Center for my eleven o'clock talk.

4 Then there is the honorary chairmanship of the LifeLong Medical Association at a banquet in the Rotunda in downtown Oakland to be enjoyed.  No speaking commitments connected with this event, just being "honored at," I think.

5. ...  and then we're into March 5th when I'll be the guest at the Boilermakers International Union banquet in San Francisco in the evening -- preceded by filming at the Visitor Center by their team that morning that (I'm guessing) will be shown at the dinner.  The honored dignitary will be the international Head of the Union, President Jones, who will be in the area for this event.

6.  On March 9th I have a commitment to be at the old Mint in San Francisco for an event that I have little or no information about at this point, except to just be there.

7.  Learned yesterday that I will be giving the keynote speech for the Naturalization Day ceremonies on March 24th in the Craneway Pavilion (for the third year), and I'm so grateful that the speech has been saved on my hard drive so needs no further work.  This annual event is co-sponsored by the Office of Homeland Security and the National Park Service. It is such a moving experience for the new Americans who are welcomed into citizenship, and for me, as well. 
From the raised lectern, whatever cynicism I've experienced as an African American over the decades tends to evaporate  before those upturned radiant faces of every race and ethnicity that are before me in that brilliantly sunlit space.  To be privileged to represent my country in this ritual is humbling and dramatically deepens my patriotism to match theirs; a consistently memorable experience. 

During the rest of this month and the next there will be all the usual 3 to 5 one-hour presentations to give in our theater while the team of 3 filmmakers do their work documenting my work -- and adding weight to the proceedings.  They've been accumulating footage for months now, so I suspect that there may not be many more sessions to film.  Then will come the editing and that's something I'm not involved in.  Have mixed feelings about viewing what's been captured thus far, but will either need to step out of the room or willingly expose myself to that experience at the Rosie Trust dinner in April.  I'm responsible for a 15-minute talk -- as a part of the dinner program -- plus being subject to a few minutes of the work especially edited for introduction of the film project at this time.

Somewhere in there -- some time in April -- there will have to be enough space cut out for cataract surgery and recovery.   There's the long-promised trip to Yosemite with Dorian, now scheduled for a couple of days the week of April 5th, returning in time for the Rosie Trust Annual Dinner on April 9th ... .

I really am beginning to see myself in the third-person, since so much of me is now split off into an entity I'm only just meeting along with the rest of you... .

Can't see time to accommodate that deep depression yet, can you?

Maybe next year.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


This has been one of the busiest weeks of my new year ...

... and one of the most exciting!

Besides my regularly-scheduled programs in our theater, on Wednesday we tucked in an extra presentation for 10 rangers from Santa Monica augmented by a group of 25 rangers from the East Bay Regional Parks District.  The little theater was filled with receptive faces and lively eyes of the young, and  it was a great morning.

On Thursday morning we experienced our first distance learning trial from Richmond with an auditorium full of high school students in Eugene, Oregon.  Being a first, it presented some unexpected problems on their end -- after a week's practice run by our staff and theirs there were unanticipated snafus with the use of the technology.  We diddled away at least 20 minutes trying to get the audio and video synchronized, but it finally worked out.

I've suspected all along that my presentations depend upon being able to see real live faces -- and this time involved peering at a tiny screen on a laptop -- faces that never came "alive," so neither did I.  We need to work out the bugs before trying this again, but it makes possible another way of communicating with groups and reducing the distance between generations.  Failure was not the result of not trying hard enough, it was simply that we were in uncharted territory.  The solution will surely be worked out soon.

Friday brought another memorable experience as I was presented with eleven other honorees to the California State Legislature in their Black History Month observance.  The only disadvantage was that I'd not been able to attend a celebratory banquet the evening before with the others, where our hosts and hostesses read our biographies before the group.  Sacramento is 90 miles from my home, and with a day that held both the Oregon experience as well as one of my regular one-hour theater presentations, trying to take in the dinner would just be more than could be managed comfortably.

This meant that I dropped into the experience as a total stranger -- as in the middle of the movie -- on Friday morning, and I just never quite caught up with the proceedings, and learned little about the other honorees despite the fine descriptive introductions we each received.  'Tis the pity!   Nerves tend to shut down ears at such times, and mine were used up listening for my name to be called, so I missed the details.  These were all such high achievers and I'd loved to have had a chance to know  each of them personally.

After a somewhat lengthy program with short speeches by the twelve African American legislators, we were escorted down the aisle by our hosts to receive beautiful framed Resolutions extolling our virtues and worthiness -- before being marched to the Senate chambers for further recognition.  California has two African American senators.

It was a lovely ceremony.

I was reminded of how important these rituals are and how much we need heroes as a people.  It's difficult to see oneself in such roles, but as I was walked up the aisle on the arm of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond -- I imagined myself for just a few seconds watching the proceedings from the gallery high above -- and being impressed by not only the implausibility, but also by the grandeur of this moving ritual in this historic space created as the People's site of governance and celebration.  To be so honored was humbling... .

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