Thursday, January 15, 2004

Time moves so swiftly ...

I've been joking about the fact that -- on the downhill side of the years past fifty -- Christmas comes every six weeks. Time does speed up as the years pile on. Feel breathless at times from the effects of the rate of change. The collapsing of time this weekend is having a strong effect on me, trying to remain contemporary while being asked to dip into years past, causes some shift in the fault lines of age -- and I'm feeling just a bit off balance... .

Tomorrow morning at ten o'clock the West County Times reporter will come to do a profile for release in Monday's edition. The photographer will come at around one to do his thing.
At 4:30 I'll attend a meeting with a group created by the Redevelopment Agency's Rosie project to go over ideas for signage for the areas leading to the new national park. At six we'll leave for San Jose and the Democratic Convention. The important evening event is the convening of the Black Caucus at seven-thirty. This will give me some idea of what issues will be involved in the creation of the platform. These discussions are rich and often contentious and never dull.

Have already decided to skip Saturday's agenda in favor of attending David Pierson's memorial service. That will plant me firmly in the past -- but it will help me to get into the space from whence the speech must come. However, the leap-frogging between such emotional levels is dizzying. I'm hopeful that this will enhance and not hurt my ability to deliver my thoughts at the Monday event. It is a tremendous opportunity to share that trajectory I've lived through, beginning with that naive young frightened mother, and ending with the return to Walnut Creek as a person of note. And I say that with more of a sense of wonder than of false pride. There's just not room in my life for that.

It took many good and not so good people all leaning together into the winds of constructive change to make that possible. Dr. King was surely one, but then so were a lot of ordinary black men, women, children, who were willing to lay their lives on the line for the right to vote and for the right to have the kinds of educations that would lift them out of poverty (didn't do so well with that one, did we?). African Americans throughout the country, and a lot of good "people-of-no-color" came together to bring about the change that I'm now enjoying. A lot of those folks are still living in the suburbs all over the nation, and some that I know are still working hard to break down the barriers that divide us. Meanwhile, I chose in the late Seventies to return to the inner city to do my work -- and all else has blossomed from that decision. I've never regretted it for a minute.

I'd give anything to be able to sit down with Dr. King, Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Fanny Lou Hamer, and yes, Malcolm X, to give a report and get their feedback. It is so humbling to recall the sacrifices those heroes made during those torturous years. I so regret not being able to let them know that little people like me listened and learned, and that forty years later -- we're still fighting the good fight -- with a bit more sophistication garnered from years of working behind those doors they opened for us to move through.

But their work and ours is far from finished. I'm sure that we all know that. Assessing that unfinished agenda and finding ways to address it will surely take up the balance of my life, and perhaps those of my children -- and maybe yours... .

But first there's a war to stop, an environment to save, and a country in political chaos to somehow re-orient. And maybe the problem is that we haven't the time or the capacity to achieve all that if we don't take them on simultaneously. I fear the fall into Fascism and Corporatism and away from the path toward world peace and racial harmony for which Dr. King gave his life. I'm far less hopeful that we will back away from the edge in time for me to witness this transformation, personally. Except that -- just maybe -- this awesome rate of change will work in our favor. Do you suppose?

(Maybe I just wrote the closing remarks for Monday's speech...)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

What a week this has been ... !

Started out on Monday with a call from someone from the National Park Service asking if I'd be willing to participate in a press conference on Thursday (tomorrow) when Ms. Lynne Cheney would be presenting a check to the National Park Service for one of its programs. This, as a "Rosie", of course. Nope. Besides having a full schedule, there was this thing about having a photo op with Republican Ms. Cheney that would not be politically correct for me (being the field rep for a Democratic legislator) -- not too cool, I think. Didn't bother to ask our staff. But I know that I'm so firmly identified with my role as a representative that this would be seen in a political light. It becomes less and less possible to have a "personal" life.

I believe this was also her book tour for a newly-published young people's book about Rosie the Riveter.

Spent the day today sitting in at the California Arts Council's meeting in San Francisco and being awed by the huge circular arrangement of the judicial chambers where the meeting was held. The room reeked of power! The great seal of the judiciary on the back wall spoke volumes. It's impossible to not be impressed. It was an all-day session (10:00 'til 3:00) that featured speakers from the NEA from Washington as well as local and regional arts advocates and organizations. Just sitting in that room gave me a feeling of the weight of the office of the vice-presidency, and I found myself wondering why I'd said "no" so easily? I'd actually forgotten about the invitation until a moment in the presentations when the feeling of awe for the office, itself, washed over me.

Attended another meeting later today at 4:30, this time a collaborative of nonprofits, unionists, political activists, several church groups, etc., and was just as awed by this exercise in the democratic process -- one that's being so foolishly trampled on by those who are presently in national leadership. This group was hard at work on getting an ordinance passed for Just Cause Evictions, getting a parcel tax measure on the next ballot with which to finance the schools ... I was reminded why I'd refused. The distance between is just too great. We are really living in a haves and have nots period, aren't we?

Learned some shocking facts at the Arts Council meeting:

In the current state budget, we have designated 3 cents per person for the arts. In the nation that figure is $110/per person. Canada budgets $238/per person. California ranks 48th in the country in moneys allotted for the arts. Small wonder that we're losing the movie industry to Canada. This, the most populus State, is losing on the quality of life issues.

We have the greatest number of citizens imprisoned, and our most recent moves to eliminate affirmative action will guarantee that -- though we are the most racially diverse state in the union, we're making sure that leadership will remain white by limiting who can and cannot enter the university system.  The controls lie in the fact that by raising the cost of tuition beyond the reach of all others, power remains with the white population.

Our school systems have all but eliminated vocational education and are dealing only with the college bound. All others are tracked out of the system in middle school. We are now seeing a 48% drop-out rate of Black and Brown students by tenth grade. It's appalling!

To demand standardized testing results without standardized resources is criminal! There is a case wending its way through our courts that will bring that issue into prominence at some point soon; hopefully.

Maybe my Martin Luther King birthday speech is beginning to write itself. At least the thoughts are beginning to form, and I'll spend all day Sunday moving it onto paper.

On Friday I'll be interviewed and photographed for the local papers. Friday evening we'll leave for the Democratic convention in San Jose (Black Caucus session is Friday night). Will skip the Saturday sessions to attend the memorial service from an old Walnut Creek friend who finally succumbed to Alzheimers. David Pierson was an artist whose oil paintings hang in my dining room and on my bedroom wall. He and his family figured strongly in my often misspent suburban days in the Fifties and Sixties. We struggled together with along with enlightened others through the Black Revolution -- across racial lines -- and, I believe, that ultimately we made a difference. I will miss him. But those stories are still ahead waiting to be told. I'm beginning to feel that there is need for that. Blogging is becoming important to me, finally. We each experience a life that is like no other. Mine has been extraordinary.

Would have been nice to have a photo in my album -- taken with the wife of the vice-president of the United States. If I live long enough, maybe I'll find one I'm more comfortable with... .