Sunday, September 24, 2006

We take the show on the road ... .

Lucy, Cultural Resources Manager for four national parks in the East Bay Area; and I, Betty, Outreach Specialist for Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park (phew!), are honored to have been invited to conduct a workshop at the annual conference of the National Women's History Project -- this year to be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, the weekend of 19th, 20th, and 21st of October. We will have 90 minutes to meet with and inform women from across the nation about our work.

It was last year at a similar event held at Mills College in Oakland, that I was first exposed to this incredible organization and -- as the result -- was named one of the ten honorees, nationally, for the year 2006. At that time I appeared on a panel of six remarkable women from different disciplines and areas of achievement -- but purely as a replacement presenter because there was no one else from our park who was free to represent us. I'm sure that this is the reason that -- though hugely honored by the recognition and the trips to Southern California and Washington, D.C., that followed -- I've never felt quite firmly set in my own shoes, and just barely deserving. Silly, I know, but nonetheless a bit insecure. This year it will be different. I am firmly identified with my work, and certainly confident in my ability to inform others about it.

However, all that is to say that -- while there -- Lucy and I have been invited to visit Central High and to meet the staff there. One of the presenters at this year's conference was also one of the students who courageously dared to enroll during those tortuous years of social change in the Sixties. What an honor to meet this valiant veteran of this pivotal struggle in the quest for civil rights!

I know that Dr. Joycelyn Elders lives somewhere in Arkansas (Little Rock, maybe?) and wouldn't it be beyond my wildest dreams if she were also at the conference? I so admire her candor and her irreverence, and would love to meet her.

As a little girl, she lived in North Richmond and attended local schools. It's been a silent dream that at some point we can invite her here to meet with the children at Peres Elementary in that troubled part of the city -- to inspire them with her presence. Maybe we could install a portrait somewhere in the building and have her cut the ribbon or whatever it is that one does to hang a portrait (undrape?). But even more importantly, she lived for a brief period with the family of Charlie Reid (yes, an uncle by marriage) and one of her close friends was/is Charlie's daughter, Ivy, a relative and good friend and contemporary. I'd love to deliver Ivy's best wishes while I genuflect before this icon of our times, to assure her that we've not forgotten.

Just maybe .. .