You’ve lived a life that can only be called … riveting.
As a child, you survived the most destructive flood in American history. In the
wake of the Great Flood your family joined the Great Migration, moving from
Louisiana to Oakland in search of opportunity and relief from racism.
During the 1940s you broke down barriers by opening one of the only Blackowned
record stores in the country with your first husband. Meanwhile, you put
up a front against racism in the Air Force and even at home, where you received
death threats for integrating a suburban neighborhood.
In the 1960s, you built a reputation as a songwriter in the Civil Rights movement
while helping the Black Panthers feed the people of Oakland. By the 1990s you
were driving the agenda for two California state assemblywomen while helping
plan the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
Following a public talk by the park’s superintendent, you screwed up your
courage and talked to her about racism in the war effort, which was too often
obscured behind Rosie’s smiling popular image. How did she respond? By
hiring you! You became the oldest and undoubtedly one of the most courageous
rangers in the whole National Park system, educating visitors from around the
world about history, not just as you’d learned it, but as you’ve lived it.
Rosie had better move over and make some room. We think you’re the one who
I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, entitled
to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 5, 2022