Thursday, June 27, 2013

More magic ...

So strange.  "Young Betty," is still being discovered -- validating memories that are by now so ancient that I experience them as dreamlike -- no longer as reality once lived.  The Artist Betty has been buried for so many years that I experience her as a very separate being now; like someone I once knew ... .

The song this young graphic artist is referring to is one I wrote and performed in 1965 at a church benefit (for which a vinyl disc was created of all the performances).  It was held in a high school auditorium, and I believe it was the first time of sharing my work in public.

None of my songs was ever published, so it's a mystery of just how that obscure composition made it to Chicago and into the year 2013, but it miraculously has.

The song was inspired by letters home written by my young friend, Susan Sanford, who had left the university with other young white activists from our community to spend the summer teaching in a Freedom School in Canton, Mississippi.  It was Freedom Summer, 1964. Susan was wearing a string of pearls every day under her tee-shirt -- pearls I'd received on my wedding day, and which needed 're-anointing' through something that would imbue them with meaning.  My marriage was failing slowly, and the events in the Civil Rights Revolution were providing a way to re-direct my passion.  Writing songs was providing a way to process all that was happening to me at the time. 

The story was about a black woman in whose humble home those students would gather in the evenings to talk into the night about their experiences.  There was mention of church burnings and "cotton flamin' 'neath summa skies," and  "shrouds 'o white - no name namin'" (the Klan), and about her summoning the courage to actually go to the courthouse to "sign her name for freedom."

Ironic that Mike Tewz' message would reach me on the day that the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Rights Act.


Sure it is. 

Michael Tewz, Artist and Musician, reaches across the years with an inquiry. Magical!

From: ‪

Date: Sun, Jun 23, 2013 at 12:38 AM

Email submitted from: at /rori/contacts.htm

So happy to be sending this message,
And I hope this email finds you well ...
I recently found a very old & very rare/obscure record that has a song by Betty Reid who I believe is Betty Reid Soskin.

Recorded LIVE at the Berkeley Community Theatre, October 9, 1965 & the song titled
"Sign My Name To Freedom" - by Betty Reid.

The song can be heard here @7 minutes 45 seconds

as I write this I have been listening to the song on repeat for about an hr. It is quite simply ... Beautiful.

On her wikipedia page it states that during "1960s she wrote and performed songs, many dealing with civil rights and peace."
I wonder if it is common knowledge around your parts that Betty Reid recorded this? Were any of you aware of its existence? ... This entire record is a very rare document of America Folk music & I believe it should be added to a higher archive.

I am quite sure that I have reached the right Betty Reid but there is a small chance that I have not. It is interesting that this song was recorded in Berkley & that Betty stayed in the N. California for so long.
Another interesting/fascinating aspects of the song are the lyrics. If i'm not mistaken, it is about signing up for the military which is basically the summation of her entire life.

Anyway, if Betty gets to read this I just want her to know that Im a huge fan of her music, and I would love to speak with/interview her. I think this could make a great piece for NPR/Radio.
Betty ... You are a treasure. Thank you for the time machine. You managed to send a smile a thousand of miles & 48 years into the future. ... I LOVE THIS ...
I could listen to this song on repeat ... forever.
sending you love from Chicago.
Mike Tewz

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Okay.  Down girl!  Paranoia will get you nowhere ... there are lots of real dangers to confront, and invasion of privacy is not the one to get your dander up over ...

I'm fairly certain that the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson message was probably one forwarded by someone who's been reading my stuff and figured I might be interested in being updated on the Edward Snowden debacle.

Besides, I have very few secrets left undisclosed, and all claims to privacy are probably hopelessly irrelevant by now, and to complain at this late stage is rather foolish, wouldn't you say?

Besides, who on earth is interested in an over-ripe under-sized vintage park ranger, anyway?

Have I told you that someone announced on Facebook the other day that she'd picked up a copy of Robert Ripley's "Believe it or not" and I'm on page 162 as the oldest ranger in the National Park Service?  Since it probably takes about a year to go from the publisher to the library shelf, they have no idea that I'm now even a year older.
And, the week before that I learned that I've lost my standing in the National Park Service as the "oldest ranger in the system" since a 98 year-old gentleman was hired in the maintenance department at a national park in the Northwest!  All you seniors be sure to keep your resum├ęs updated.  You never know when an offer might be made and you'll be back in the saddle.  And, no, I have no idea who the new elder is, but I suspect that he may have been a valuable volunteer who was elevated to ranger status.  It would please me to tell him that I'm really relieved to be moved back from the edge a few feet by his ascendance in the hierarchy of rangerhood!

There are so many fascinating things happening in my life right now, and I need to be sharing that.

At ease, girl!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Saturday's Juneteenth Parade ... a celebration that came late into my life  ... .

This is an African American holiday that hasn't held much meaning until recent times.  It is really a Texas event -- marking the time when black folks in that part of the country learned of the Emancipation Proclamation and that -- nearly 300 years of enslavement -- freedom had come at last.

Having grown up in California since the age of six, there was much black history that escaped notice until young adulthood.

Our unit was sponsored by BWOPA (Black Women Organized for Political Action) and I was among those honored to "bop" to the music over a blasting sound system playing Aretha's "Respect" and waving rhythmically to the crowd as we passed -- following the unit of colorful Black Cowboys on horses and just ahead of the city's public safety vehicles.

I've pretty much recovered from the paranoia of the last post, just in time for another attack brought on by opening my inbox today and discovering -- not in my spamcatcher -- but among those messages from (presumably) my regular correspondents with whom I've had prior contact.  Except that today's messages had one having to do with the current flap over Edward Snowden of the National Security Agency leak and the disappearance from the airport in Moscow -- with a long message from former CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson, and her husband, Joe Wilson -- a no-reply message by way of the Guardian; United Kingdom to which I've never subscribed.

Since they are surely not of my world,  so there would have been no way for their names to be in my address book (so why are they in my inbox (???).

I suppose it's a case of these  noted figures from far beyond the borders of my modest life and times sending their message out to millions of people in all corners of the world -- and that it's all purely an instance of the power of the medium to spread its message ... and not personal at all ..

Times have surely changed since that Emancipation Proclamation got waylaid for those 3 years when Texas's black folks were cheated out of 3 years of freedom while the rest of the South got on with their lives - finally out of bondage.

... it feels eerie ... .