Sunday, October 01, 2017

Teach-in held some surprises ... 

... not the least of which was that over 60% of the University of San Francisco's student body is made up of women.  The audience for this seventh annual Teach-in on Diversity was largely female, and I sensed an atmospheric difference.  May have been my imagination, but it was clearly evident, at least to me.  Wonder if college campuses across the country now reflect this change?

I'd been invited to participate as a member of this year's panel of amazing young leaders, with me living out of context, again, as "the oldest park ranger in the National Park Service"  I now freely admit that I'm growing tired of that label, largely because it reminds me of those occasions in the Fifties and Sixties when I was introduced in suburbans settings as an African American woman to audiences who might not recognize me as such -- when, then, as now, that may have been the least important fact about me.  But I do admit that it IS a fact.

Isabella Borgeson: National slam poet and spoken word artist, community organizer, teaching artist
Carlos Menchaca: NYC Council District 38 representative and USF alumnus. New York State's first Mexican-American elected official and Brooklyn's first openly gay office holder.
Leroy Moore: Poet, founder of Krip-Hop Nation, co-founder of Sins Invalid, and member of the National Black Disability Coalition
Betty Reid Soskin: The nation's oldest National Park Ranger and long-time activist
What an exciting event this was!  

Isabella is a feisty lovely young Filipina poet with a passionate delivery of the spoken word and an irresistible story to tell.  Would have loved to see her sharing her poetry among other poets in an evening when the context was other than prescribed through sociology, but where art defined the show. She had stashed her papers at the end of the long table we shared, which placed them within reach as she stood at the microphone ... and the urge to rifle through them for more was so tempting, but this was not the time ... .

Carlos is a handsome young Latino elected official, and it was impossible to not view the future with hope after listening to his brief talk.  Will watch his rise, as surely this is a young man with a bright future ahead.

Leroy Moore is an unapologetic disabled writer/poet/activist living on SSI whose stories of worldwide travel seeking greater support and opportunities for others are both touching and profound.  He is speaking for those whose lives have been made the more difficult by physical limitations.  Leroy has suffered from cerebral palsy, but has surely lived a lifetime of purpose and achievement despite all.  It was impossible to not think of my Dorian as he spoke, and of my hope that his voice is helping to give shape to her future.

Moore was seated next to me and whispered that he'd been in my audiences on at least 3 occasions in the past, and I was reminded of how much I've allowed "audiences" to become less than personalized -- and vowed to change that if at all possible.  Maybe that's the price we pay for celebrity. It has been so hard to think of myself as such, but maybe it's inevitable, and there is need in the future to adjust to this new reality.  Maybe in the past he was buried in the audience where I would have not have met him.  Surely he is now among the unforgettable.

What an honor it was to again find myself among young leaders -- and to be accepted without hesitation -- as if age were merely a number ... .    

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