Thursday, August 22, 2013

Escape back into my old world ... spent yesterday in Sacramento with my former boss and former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner ...

... and I'd forgotten what a pressure cooker that life is!  Since leaving the legislature Dion has become a powerful lobbyist (the best kind) who spends at least 3 days/wk and sometimes more in the Capitol -- meeting with legislators, old friends, reps from corporations and unions, and -- like yesterday -- participating in social events that further her (and our) causes.

The pace of life in those hallways and offices is unbelievably and awesomely fast!  I'd forgotten.  Several times during our time together I found myself sitting in (another former boss) Senator Loni Hancock's outer office while Dion was conferring with any number of people as she crossed them off her to-do list.  Loni's scheduler stopped by the reception desk to go over airline reservations for tomorrow; a union lobbyist popped in to press for time with Loni's Chief of Staff, only to be cautioned that "his people" were being too aggressive, and that urgent conversation was occurring less than 3 steps from my knees as I sat leafing through a magazine trying to look invisible.  A string of messengers from other offices kept popping in the door to drop off documents and memos into the In Box fixed to the wall in a place where they didn't need to even enter the room fully, but just reach in and breathlessly move on.  The numbers of men in 3-piece business suits and ties -- women in "business casual" as well -- all demanding attention and "time, time, time!" The corridors are alive with lobbyists and their targets -- legislative aides, attorneys, wanna-be candidates for public office next time around -- so that several 5-sentence  micro "meetings" occurred between our stepping out of Loni's office and getting in and out of the elevator to leave the Capitol building!  No exposure is wasted. 

This is what "making sausage" looks like.  I'd forgotten.

I'd been invited by Dion to attend a luncheon officially ushering in a speaker series sponsored by the 34 members of the Women's Caucus of the California State Legislature.  The lead-off for the series was Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg whose recently-published book has been on the NY Times bestseller's list for many weeks and is still climbing.

Her message to her audience held few surprises, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if this attractive and personable young woman isn't aiming for a life of public service.  Governor?  State Senator?  Perhaps, but since she's at the top of the food chain in the corporate world -- and (obviously) is still reaching for the brass ring -- I'd bet on a run for public office in the not too distant future.

Her book title, "LEAN IN", is the running theme of her talks, and it got me to wondering if that wasn't where we made our mistake (Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, etc.,) all must have been leaning out! 

... but it was good to be with my dear friend, Dion, on the long drive to and from Sacramento -- good talk; great rapport; so glad to feel the comfort of being with a grown-up again.  It feels like it's been years!

Monday, August 19, 2013

While it's true that I've outlived my rage without losing my passion ...
This is the 50 year anniversary of the bus burnings at Anniston, AL.

... it is also true that on these occasions when I re-visit those periods of anger and outrage all of the affect returns along with the memories.  The pain is full-blown as if I'm again trapped in the experience with no way to flee its agony.

The above statement is true only as long as I stay in this particular time warp and don't wander too freely into the once-lived; then all bets are off.

There is need to protect myself from that which I cannot go back and change -- even when I see the nation in denial that it ever was -- and that "it's all over now" -- and that there is no need for protective legislation or defenses against those things over which so many human lives were lost or stunted by social injustices too burdensome to overcome; yet we did -- despite all.

I'm guessing that the underlying angst started with that dastardly Supreme Court unraveling of the fabric of the great struggles of Black Americans for the simple right to vote.   What is being expressed throughout the South and beyond through Stand your Ground laws giving license to vigilante justice, and Stop & Frisk practices -- assuring the further degradation in the lives of young African American and Latino males.

Those things are playing in the background right now, and unlike those younger days when I could pick up a picket sign and join the marchers to mute the pain and straighten my spine, now I can only try to remind those around me of the dangers of peeling back our visible social progress to the quick against a rising tide of ignorance that continues to exercise the right of White Privilege to the detriment of all else.

While I do acknowledge the vast changes made over time, that's now being combined with a sense of hopelessness.  My logical mind is resistant to allowing those two concepts to co-exist -- I suspect that  the collision is going on somewhere in my head that reflects that which we're all living out in the great society.  Maybe my radar is simply picking it up more accurately than is true for some.

I admit to identifying with Mr. Allen, the White House butler, in more ways than one might suppose.  How could I not?

Surely there is room for these conflicting truths to co-exist as we sort out our next moves toward that "more perfect Union" that we've promised ourselves.

Meanwhile, the knowledge that I probably won't live long enough to see it is at the bottom of these feelings of helplessness, but that was never meant to be.  We only get to influence Fate through our tenure upon the Earth for microscopic bits of eternity.

Maybe my main reason for being, after all, is to deliver the Charbonnet/Breaux/Allen DNA safely through this century without spilling it or otherwise despoiling the human gene pool.   Maybe that's enough.

... but then what is the mission of those who so stubbornly stand in my way?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do you suppose ... ?

Took the evening off on Friday to see the Lee Daniels' new film, The Butler, starring the brilliant Forest Whitaker, and found myself catapulted back into the Sixties and before -- during a time of re-identification of racial ties; of life as a middleclass black at a time when to be such was to be suspect by the Black Nationalists among my acquaintances; of such schisms twixt generations and races and genders.  Of trying to live a black life in the white suburbs with mixed successes and failures.

From the opening brutal scenes of rape and senseless murder it was clear that this was going to be traumatic, and a trip back in time to the period of enslavement that features so prominently in my presentations of my personal history in the afternoon commentaries.  I probably don't need the additional pain to fix on at this point in life.

Turned out to be an important film -- but one with uneven performances by a cast that probably donated their talents for the sake of the story -- and it was evident.  Forest Whitaker's performance was remarkable but anticipated as simply another in a long line of great roles he's brought to the screen by his particular form of magic.  

I've written a couple of Facebook reviews of the movie, and in so doing unearthed painful feelings long forgotten, or, plowed under in the search for new places to stand, and unexpected re-setting of standards learned through years of struggle in a too rapidly-changing world.

It may be no more than this ...

We've finally produced enough black actors, screenwriters, directors, artists at every level of filmmaking, to now have produced enough films, documentaries, filmed essays, that give us a composite portrait of African American life.   The bench is deep, and deepening with each day. No one of their films -- from "Color Purple" to "The Help,"and "Fruitvale Station," can tell the whole story, but they're beginning to present to the world the complexity of black life in the full spectrum of the Black Experience up through time.  Each of these films contributes -- by providing the bits and pieces of the whole -- windows through which we can catch glimpses of ourselves as we move into an unknown future. 

I hope we, as a people, are beginning to understand that most of these films were created by black's for blacks, and that we needn't use the monetary measuring stick that defines success at the box office used for general film screenings.  I do believe we've found a new voice through which to process what is happening in our world -- both to ourselves and our children -- and that we must leave ourselves open to having them inform our continuing struggle for freedom and equality with open minds and hearts.

... but having said all that, I think I'd like to take leave of the re-living, and allow myself to pass the baton along to the young.  Not sure how much longer I want to carry the weight of social change, or, feel the urgency of times that are now moving too swiftly to find a proper footing.


But now I'm needing to get out of my pajamas and into my weekend garb to pick up Dorian at the BART station in El Cerrito.

And, yes, she called a moment ago and can be crossed off my worry list.

More on this later.
Sunday has progressed far enough along that the emotional storm may have subsided ...

Remembered how delighted I was on Friday on approaching the Ford building to discover that our maintenance crew (Thanks Randy, Brian, and Ken) had finally completed the installation of a new grand entrance sign for the Visitors Center.

It's impressive -- standing 7' x 14' in matching brick and large enough to not be dwarfed by this quarter mile-long amazing architectural wonder designed by Architect Albert Kahn and built during the years 1929 and 1931 by auto magnate Henry Ford to assemble Model A's.   The Ford Assembly Plant has been restored to its original splendor by Orton Development Corporation.  Our NPS Visitors Education Center stands behind this structure in the old oil house that supplied the energy for the building and now holds the exhibits related to the WWII Home Front; the little theater where we've established programming based on that history;  as well as stories of this city and across the nation of that era as lived by an "At War!" America.

The Ford Assembly building was converted to assembling tanks and jeeps during WWII.  Many of today's Richmond citizens descend from that heroic generation.  When combined with the 4 shipyards built by Henry J. Kaiser -- Henry Ford and the Santa Fe Railroads formed the basis of the city's defense-related industries.  There were 55 other such enterprises scattered throughout Richmond acting as subcontractors to those 3 giants who participated in the major corporate world of Roosevelt's "Arsenal of Democracy".

Wish I could pin-point the source of my uneasiness ... .

Woke this morning in a strange mood … hostile … tearful …

… without any sense of having had a bad dream, or, that there was anything that happened to set this up over the past 24 hours … yet I woke with that feeling that I remember from childhood -- when you've cried all the tears away and are left with only dry sobs.  Heaving spasms of grief that leave one with fatigue that only a long nap can begin to cure. The only hope for relief came with just ending this tragic day and waiting to begin another; exhausted.

Where is all this stored?  I don't think I've had this feeling since the day when my dog, Buttons, disappeared never to return.  It took years to recover from that one.  I'm not sure I ever did, when I think of it.

There's another image; that of my most-beloved baby doll, Bobbie, thoughtlessly left out in the rain in her orange-crate crib in our packed-dirt roofless playhouse overnight -- and discovered by my older sister, Marjorie, with hopelessly blistered face and kapok-filled body bloated beyond hope of recovery.   I couldn't have been older than six or seven at most.

Not only is it true that "children will listen," (thanks Stephen Sondheim) but children rarely forget, I suppose.

It was that kind of awakening.  The storm has been building for days, as I can see in re-reading my most recent posts.  Something is brewing -- and I know not what …

This promises to be the last busy week before a break.

This may be the first warning of something …

It may simply be that I'm tired and needing to recharge my batteries prior to upcoming fall events, and if so, a few days in Mendocino may be all that is needed for a rebound.

Seems "major," though.  Something primal ...

Maybe a cup 'o tea and a call from Dorian ... .