Monday, June 03, 2013

Still vibrating from the excitement of the Chiodo installation ceremony on Friday ...

... and of the words by descendants of some of those represented in the "largest bronze sculpture west of the Mississippi,"  ... all most memorable.

Seeing grownup Ruby Bridges  again, and hearing her speak  thoughts on being included as the 6 year-old who broke the barriers to racial integration in New Orleans schools with the help of the National Guard so long ago.   She's now memorialized among the "Champions" for all time. Watching and listening to Ruby being serenaded by the children from the local elementary school named in her honor was warm and deeply touching.

Witnessing the dynamic Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, eldest daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, and her passionate recollections of their family life was most moving.   It's refreshing to hear descriptions of the lives of those we've so long been awed by-- and from those who knew them best and loved them most dearly. The impact of her father's being on the life of this stately woman is as deeply etched in her presence as is his image that this brilliant artist has so magnificently cast in bronze for all time.  

Among the local "Champions," was the father of a family of youngsters I grew up with.  He was Oakland's first black firefighter but oh so much more; Royal Towns.  Roy was my parents' friend, and his wife, Lucille, a  member of my mother's gathering of ladies who regularly met to play whist in a club called "The 500" for reasons unknown or forgotten by now.   He was the colorful father of my childhood friends, Mary, Gloria, and Roy, Jr, and the grandfather of Dale Adams, George and Dennis Bagby; the Wilson twins and younger brother, Steven, whose father was Lionel Wilson, Oakland's first black mayor who served as Judge Wilson in later life; and another grandson named "Something" Blackburn (whose first name escapes me in this moment) -- and now Royal Towns, or "Boo" (as he was known affectionately by family and friends), is immortalized in bronze as a "Champion of Humanity."  

It's eerie to find myself living into a time when those I knew personally are slipping into the past and being memorialized in bronze; having streets, public buildings, and airports named after them ... who knew?  The past, present, and future are no longer linear, but have a simultaneity that is mind-boggling.

... and renewing the friendship with Juliana Roosevelt, charming granddaughter of Franklin Delano and Eleanor, the first administration that I was ever aware of.  Juliana is a noted landscape artist and environmentalist based in Los Angeles, but who is working closely with Mario Chiodo's Studio and with upcoming projects thereof. 

Why am I so excited about this amazing Oakland project?  It's because we're beginning explorations for the continuing development of Rosie the Riveter WWII/Home Front National Historical Park and these are some of the visionaries whose imaginations may help to determine the continuing shaping of the next phase of the dreaming.

Nothing definite yet, but listening to the speeches of those most powerfully influenced by the "Champions" kept me spellbound for the full two hours of pure magic.  We're in the best phase of "growing a national park," where things are still fluid and anything is possible, and where things can turn on the utterance of a phrase or the discovery of an image or a long-forgotten story ...

What I wouldn't give for a Faustian bargain at this point!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Exciting weekend of firsts ... and, yes, I'm still having "firsts" even into my tenth decade... .

On Friday there was the installation of the third and final section of the noted sculptor, Mario Chiodo's, Remember Them, Champions of Humanity" in the Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park in downtown Oakland.  Two years ago we attended the setting in place of the first two of the three giant bronze statues --  with the third 40' high stunning piece unveiled on this day.  (For a history of this exciting arts triumph type Mario's name in the search bar on left side of screen above the banner to pull up earlier posts.)

Can't talk about it quite yet, but -- if only we can convince Richmond of this city's growing importance as a national park comparable to any other -- such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the GGNRA, etc., with a future resembling Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or New York's Central Park (yes, that big!) over the next few years of park development ... if only ... .

There must be enough visionaries in this city who can dream big enough
... and if there are, I intend to find them over the next few months and ignite a fire of inspiration enough to light up the sky over our magnificent 32 miles of shoreline!

Well maybe not all by myself, but with the help of other staff and some amazing friends plus a national agency providing enough wind at our backs to allow the continuing making of history.