Saturday, April 18, 2009

Student Conservation Association (SCA) doings ... .

This afternoon -- 5:00 'til 7:00 -- I will get to experience myself as one of the subjects in a 15-minute documentary created by a group of high school girls in a multimedia workshop. The project was conducted under the imaginative leadership of Carla Koop, a member of our ranger staff at Rosie the Riveter WWII/Home Front NHP.

After the release of a timely story in the Contra Costa Times, we've received enough calls from members of the community and beyond to cause no little concern about whether the Richmond Museum of History with a 40-person room-capacity for seated guests will be able to accommodate the crowd!

We've learned that among the guests will be Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner. She will present commendations to the kids (how exciting it that?), and from the telephone calls I've received at home, we may have to run the film at least twice.

There's a part of me that is always scanning the horizon for my replacement; until something like this happens. Then I wonder just how anxious I am to leave the stage ... .

Watching young minds grow and having some sense of contributing to that process is heady stuff. These feelings of pride and humility must be what teachers experience in their later years. Maybe I, too, am a teacher or sorts.

From my young friends from the California College of the Arts ...

Dear Betty,

I hope all is well, and thank you for meeting with us at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial Park two weeks ago. It was an honor to be amongst your presence.

Our lunch with you marked our final meeting with community leaders of Richmond, and thus we have reached a conclusion of what our final project will be.

As we mentioned to you before, we have decided to create a book of illustrations, bio's, quotes, and info on the wonderful people we've met in Richmond. We are honored to ask your permission to include you in our book.

We have a number of interview questions we would like to ask you if you are interested in participating. I will include them in this text. If you choose to participate, feel free to answer the questions by email, or we can contact you by phone. Just let us know what you are comfortable with and what is most convenie
nt for you.

We hope for this book to be resourceful and informative to the community of Richmond and beyond.

With warm regards,

Madeleine Tonzi

Kathrine Canton
Aria Caton
Camille Hoffman
Sasha Gainor

Katy Chmura

Here are the questions for you to consider if you choose to participate:

What is your role within Richmond?

Besides being a resident, of course. I moved to the city from nearby Berkeley (in Alameda County) while serving as a field representative for two members of the California state assembly; Dion Aroner, and later for her successor, Loni Hancock. I was responsible for all of West Contra Costa County and after a year or so decided that I needed to live in the community in order to best serve both it and those I represented. That evolved into my current position as a NPS park ranger where I've become more and more deeply involved in helping the city to discover and honor its colorful history.

How does your background and practice contribute to the health of Richmond?

I suppose the fact that I am a member of the African American community and therefore one of the many cultural groups who reside here, and partly because I am by nature a very open person of an age where I'm given permission to express that candor, I seem to have the capacity to release the same in those around me. That means that I've found a way to maximize that openness within the context of the work that I'm doing. That's an amazingly empowering way in which to move through life. I'm not at all sure that all of those elements could have come together before my present age (87). I seem to have outlived the need for artifice. I'm no longer becoming, but in a constant state of "being." Perhaps this translates into my community life.

What do you want to share with others about Richmond's history?

It's probably the fact that Richmond played such a pivotal role during those years (1941-1945) when the great mobilization occurred. Total strangers were brought together in this place from many parts of the nation to build the supply ships that would change the course of WWII. In the process the city found itself unwittingly participating in the greatest social upheaval of a kind that re-shaped the country for all time. Extraordinary ordinary people came together under an inherited system of racial segregation yet found the ways to transcend -- to struggle through the next 20 year of confrontations -- both militant and peaceful -- to create new social patterns that eventually changed the course of history. The Greater Bay Area was the nerve center for the war in the Pacific. Richmond was the nerve center of that nerve center with its 4 shipyards. By virtue of the social forces unleashed here for the first time, Richmond later became the cradle of social change. One day the descendants of those humble home front workers will realize that legacy and the city will rise to its rightful place as the "place where it all happened."

If you could send a message to your community, what would it be?

That the time spent in fighting crime and violence would be better spent in replacing it with more positive elements. We choose our reality; I truly believe that. What we choose has the capacity to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must free ourselves of externally-imposed images and re-direct our energies into creating and being what we want to see.

Where do you think the heart of Richmond is? and why?

I'm not sure that I've been here long enough to answer this question. Or, maybe a more honest answer is that I'm not sure that anyone knows that yet. My sense of the city is that it is a community in search of an identity. Having started out as a company town; been taken over by the great mobilization and the war; having only now become engaged in any kind of collective introspection; its heart may still be undiscovered. That there is one I do not question. Maybe -- if I live long enough -- that question will be answered.

What growth do you hope to see in Richmond's future?

I'm not sure that I'm as interested in growth as I am in consolidation. I'd love to stop the calendar and the clock long enough by some magic to figure out where we'd like to go. This new national park and my own work on its behalf -- I'm more and more convinced -- will help to shape whatever future is out there to be explored and actualized by helping to forge a shared history of a fascinating community.