Thursday, October 02, 2014

(welders tool is embedded within)
Just every now and then I begin to feel overwhelmed by an increasing amount of public attention ... .

... the past several weeks have been just such a time.  Everything seems larger than life as I'm been living it over the past decades, and waaaaaay beyond the edges that used to hold that life.

I tend to withdraw a bit, do some reassessment of the landscape, and (if possible) gradually move back into the foreground.

A few months ago I received word by a phone call that the Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO was holding their annual banquet in the Craneway Pavilion -- a vast cathedral-like venue in the Ford Assembly Plant which abuts our Visitors Education Center here in Richmond.  The reason for the call was to get me to hold the date of September 19th since I would  be one of this year's 3 honorees that evening.  Rep. George Miller would receive the Life Achievement Award, and the Legacy Award would be given to me.

The evening arrived and every standing or sitting public official from State, County, City, and from the Labor Movement itself was present in that cavernous room.  Every declared candidate for any political office in this election cycle was also present and accounted for.  It was a grand evening!

The drama of the evening, for me, was not the "Who's who" in that grand space, but that this handmade crystal 15 inch (lighted from within!) beautiful one-of-a-kind trophy was presented by a group of of today's Boilermakers Unionists who stood with me on the platform to make the presentation.

Rep. George Miller and me
The bronze plaque gives, after many decades, status to the little Jim Crow segregated Union, Boilermakers Auxiliary #36, created under the flawed social system of the early forties -- the time of the greatest mobilization of workers since the building of the pyramids or the Great Wall of China. 
By their action (through me) that powerful Union legitimized our participation by closing the circle (finally) with all of us enclosed within.  Rev. Willie B. Smith, Secretary Mahlon Roles and his wife Marguerite, Spencer Jordan, Zola Adams, Christine White, Martha Ford Montgomery, plus thousands of black shipyard workers who gave their all without fairness of opportunity or recognition, and I,  are now counted  as legitimate contributors to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Great Arsenal of Democracy after more than 70 years.  The little temporary office building that held us was unceremoniously torn down immediately at the end of the war, so that past has been obliterated as most or all of those other lives passed into eternity over time.  I believe that I may well be the last one standing ... .

This tribute may have come in my name, but it is really a tribute to today's International Brotherhood of Boilermakers who went back into their past to own that blighted history; to forgive themselves; and then continue to open the way to greater unity.  I'm told that today's Boilermakers is the most racially diverse division among all of today's Unions.

The plaque reads:

    Betty Reid Soskin
         Boilermakers Auxiliary Local #36
in honor of your Home Front service
and your dedication to preserving
a transformative chapter in U.S. history
for women and people of color

(signed by the international president of
the Brotherhood of Boilermakers Iron Shipbuilders
Blacksmith Forgers and Helpers)

In all of our names, I am so grateful for this recognition.

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