Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cinco de Mayo 2011
The Chinese are celebrating the Year of the Dragon while here in my city we may well be entering the Year of the Dinosaurs!

Received a call from former city Councilman John Marquez, a civic leader in the bordering town of San Pablo where the majority population is Latino.  He was announcing that -- as head of the planning committee for this year's Cinco de Mayo parade -- I'm being invited to serve as co-Grand Marshall, along with 97 year-old much-beloved Joe Gomes who served 40-odd years as a city councilman in San Pablo.  Now this is something I surely was not anticipating, but am greatly honored by.  Cinco de Mayo is the annual colorful parade and weekend festival attended by thousands and co-sponsored by the neighboring cities of San Pablo and Richmond. 

This is particularly important in this year of political turmoil at city hall where the council meetings have become toxic to the point where one can easily imagine that slur-by-slur, salvo-by-salvo, and verbal brick-by-brick (thrown!) the racial barriers of old are being brutally reconstructed after many decades of the painful struggle to dismantle them.   'Tis the pity!

Short-sightedness among some members is so marked that Council meetings are now a battleground where competing political forces are laying bare long-held fraying of the social fabric -- but this time the partisans are not black/white but conservative/progressive, or corporate/non-corporate with folks lined up in some surprising ways in which racial identity has become irrelevant; something I would have considered progress not so long ago.  Dormant problems were re-kindled by the recent city elections when cruelly divisive race-baiting measures fueled by seemingly limitless corporate moneys caused what may be irreparable harm.

Full recovery is still some distance in the future, but maybe this invitation is one of the embers that indicates an effort at beginning the healing process. 

That I, an African American, would be honored by this invitation from the Latino community to serve as a Grand Marshall for their biggest celebration of the year might well be answered, in kind, by someone from their community being so-honored by a similar invitation for our Juneteenth celebration this year.

Maybe that's just too much to ask in our current political climate, or is it?