Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The pendulum continues to swing into the stratosphere ... and I'm hanging on for dear life ... !

Is this how celebrity happens? And, if so, why on earth did it take so long? In a very disconcerting way -- it appears to feed on itself -- creating its own energy and crowding out humility. But that part of me that tends to sit outside myself monitoring events as if from afar keeps things in perspective pretty well. If it gets too crazy I just remind myself that I'm outliving my hair and that -- given a few more years I'll be as bald as an eagle! That's when the giggles come.

The week continued to unfold with surprises around every corner. On the day after word came that my songs were available to me (and the cassette is now in hand, thanks to Charlotte), and that my film would be on its way soon; I arrived at my office and unloaded voice mail (had the weekend's accumulation) and here it was. Here was a call from the office of Rep. Barbara Lee asking if it would be possible to obtain 30 copies of the DVD. What DVD? Another story:

My co-worker, Naomi, and I had created a 4-and-a-half minute production intended as a discussion starter for our evolving outreach program (we specialists call this a "strategy"). Impressed? It turned out to be a barn burner; a little piece with a narration written and added to a cascade of images of the WWII period that shows ship launchings involving African Americans, news pieces; vintage photos from the albums of Marguerite Roles, widow of union official Mahlon Roles; and a background score by a jazz guitarist. It was never intended to be any more than something that we could use at Neighborhood Council meetings to get the community into discussions about that historic period. It's still in draft form, awaiting cleaning up of a faulty sound track. Naomi did the technical work. I provided content. We named it, "Lost Conversations ... and Untold Stories." It's causing a minor sensation with everyone who views it, because -- even in that short piece -- much of the information is previously unknown -- dug up from research studies collected here in the park's growing archives for scholars who will one day want to access it and add to the nation's knowledge of the period.

I'd given a copy to my friend who is chief of staff for Barbara Lee just before Christmas. I'd learned that the Congressional Black Caucus was planning a weekend visit to the Bay Area on January 26th as guests of the congresswoman and suggested that a tour of the new park might be an interesting field trip for the representatives. I'd talked about it briefly with our staff and we figured it was a workable plan. This park will be important to the telling of not only the story of the Rosies, but of the stories of black homefront workers on the west coast, and of the Japanese-Americans who were interned and later returned to Richmond; history that is little known and long neglected. The park tour plan got lost in the Christmas holidays and I'd heard nothing more about that possibility until the brief message turned upon Monday.

Now the phone message was asking if our office could supply them with 30 copies to include in the packets of the national representatives along with our little tour booklet and the General Market Plan Newsletter (added as an important afterthought). There wouldn't be enough time in which to fit a park tour, but they were greatly interested in a later tour for Rep. Lee and her staff when it could be scheduled. Meanwhile, our little DVD would take off across the country in the briefcases of every member of the Congressional Black Caucus. What a coup!

On February 23 I will appear on a panel at Mare Island, Vallejo, California, as a part of the Forest Service's Black History Month's observance. I'll use the little DVD to introduce my part in the proceedings. I'll be presented along with a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, and another panelist who will talk about the contributions of the late Rosa Parks.

But that wasn't all: Two days ago I received the hyperlink to that half-hour interview I did on January 20th for Pacifica Radio. And -- it really didn't sound as randomly nutty as I'd feared after re-reading the oral history from the Bancroft Library. I needn't have feared. It was lucid -- coherent. Truth carries its own power and when there are interested listeners, the words flow pretty evenly. When I clicked into the website I found that a production has been created around that little interview that begins with a poet reciting an interesting spoken word piece to music -- followed by Paul Robson singing "The House I live in." The interview ends with that great African American hero singing "Old Man River." Can you imagine? I don't think that it's been aired yet, but maybe I've missed it ... .

The Fight Against Racial Discrimination in the Richmond Shipyards:An interview with Soskin. (I found the site under Betty Reid Soskin and this title.)