I woke suddenly somewhere around one o'clock in the morning with one of those flashes of insight that occurs when least expected.
Maybe it was noticing the picture of my great-grandmother, Leontine Breaux Allen, which hangs in my hallway -- as I was setting into place a beautiful plaque awarded to me by members of the California State Legislature at the recent Central Labor Councl of the AFL-CIO. It would be hung next to her photograph and just above that of an Allen/Breaux reunion photo taken some years ago.
Whatever it was, somewhere in the night she "visited" through a dream and I was awakened to a state of aliveness that rattled my psyche!
In my talks I always end with my personal timeline which starts with my great-grandmother's birth into slavery in 1846; travels through her gaining of freedom at 19 by the Emancipation Proclamation and living until her death in 1948 at 102; proceeds to my mother's birth in 1894 and death in 1995 at 101; then to my birth in 1921 through to the present. The story ends when I was 27 years-old and the mother of two children at the time of my slave ancestor's passing. When I describe the sequence to my audiences -- I can see their near-disbelief in realizing (as do I) how quickly those years passed -- how fast time flies! The story of three women who lived from the years of slavery through to the Mars probe -- and were adults together at one time.
Suddenly found myself imagining that sequencing of our combined lives into a template, moving that template forward by 100 years -- starting in 1946 and moving into the present. The chilling mind picture that formed was disturbing of any further sleep.
Those warnings of climate change, global warming, rising sea levels now undeniably happening as we speak, were suddenly italicized!
It is the current generation -- by those things we either do or fail to do -- that will determine whether our grandchildren will inherit a livable world.
My work suddenly took on a new urgency, and a rightness previously unseen by me, and surely not fully understood.
There must be others who share this sense of immediacy -- this feeling of helplessness and frustration in a world too caught up in the quest for personal wealth, political power, and the need to control others -- and without the will to collaborate and cooperate in a common effort to save ourselves and the planet Earth.
... but tonight I'll attend a San Francisco State banquet in San Francisco as a guest of my friend, Careth Bomar Reid, with whom I work on Fridays on the E.F. Joseph photo collection -- and try to convince myself that those street corner evangelists of my childhood -- with the sandwich boards shrieking of the "Signs of the End of the World" were not right, and that --whether or not we come to terms with the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels -- was not related to his warnings ... .