Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Week 17: Back to School

During my fourth week at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, I completed my first long distance HistoryMakers evaluation, gave a tour of the MCLM, supervised a researcher, and participated in the 3rd Annual HistoryMakers Back to School Program.

This week, we had a researcher who was studying black religion in southern California from 1900 to 1910 for his dissertation. One of his angles was checking for religious topics in the black newspapers from the time. He referenced Charlotta Bass in his proposal because she was the editor of the “The Eagle” at that time. This researcher from Cal State collected a significant amount of information from the editions of “The Eagle” that we had on hand. One of my previous interviews, Walter Gordon, Jr. was a civil rights lawyer who grew up in southern California. Gordon wanted to date Charlotta Bass’ niece back in the 1920s, but while he was pursuing her she decided to pass as white and not associate with him or any of her black relatives. In addition, Mayme Clayton’s papers include an obituary of Charlotta Bass. The opportunity to evaluate interviews with a regional focus has been very beneficial for me as a new resident of Los Angeles County and working with a collection that is rooted in southern California.

Dr. Ebenezer Bush (my 10th interview) is a dentist in Compton, CA. He is a Howard University, and Tuskegee University alum, with roots in Shreveport, Louisiana. Dr. Bush’s trajectory was very impressive to me. His journey from rural poverty to college, the army, and out to California to start his own dental practice was inspiring. On account of his age and his ambition, he was able to cross paths with some of the greatest African American figures of the 20th century, including Dr. Charles Drew and Dr. George Washington Carver. Dr. Bush’s life is a great example of being proactive in the world. He focused on the problems and people that he could make a difference with and was relentless in the pursuit of giving help to others.

I also gave my first tour of the museum this week. The group of three was very friendly and they showed a great amount of enthusiasm as I took them through the processing rooms with newspapers, magazines, sheet music, books, photographs, and scrapbooks. One of our volunteers, Carol, accompanied me throughout the second half of the tour and filled in some of the information that I forgot to say. It turned out that members of the group had spent time in Chicago and Tucson, so we had a nice chat about that. The group gave the museum a cash donation and the older gentleman gave me his card, in order to be put on the mailing list. He was a professor emeritus in mathematics from UCLA. I am very proud of the strength of this collection; people are always impressed by the breadth of materials included.

On Friday morning, I drove to KIPP Scholar Academy on the South side of Los Angeles for the Back to School Program. Two little girls walked me to the room for the presentation, every child had on a uniform, and they were listening to their principal discuss the behavior expectations for the presentation. She told them that they had to track the speaker, sit up straight, and raise their hands before asking a question, and if they did not do any of those things then they would be in her office to face the consequences.  I had prepared exactly what I wanted to say on notecards, but when I arrived everyone was so casual, I decided to speak without them. I was able to spend a few minutes conversing with the HistoryMaker, Mr. Steve McKeever. Mr. McKeever is an entertainment lawyer, turned record producer, from Chicago, Illinois. 

The principal introduced Mr. McKeever before I could tell her that I was supposed to introduce him. However, he went ahead and explained that I was going to say a few words before he began. It worked out really well, because I was linked (in sequence, at least) to the amazing stories that he told. Mr. McKeever discussed his desire to be in the entertainment industry from an early age and how his parents encouraged him to get an education first. He told the students how he knew Barack Obama and Stevie Wonder. The best part was when he shared his iPhone video of Stevie Wonder in a cherry picker 45 feet in the air feeling Dr. King’s face and the inscription on the MLK monument in Washington, D.C. When the presentation was over, I toured the school with Mr. McKeever and the principal, Tiffany Moore. They are doing amazing things at this school, and I was happy to have an inside look at the power of dedicated educators.

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