Word gifts revised.

I’ve learned over the years not to expect thanks after giving a gift. It’s odd to me then that I would forget that simple lesson when I gave birth to my baby last Sunday at noon. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect a shower of words. However, uncharacteristically, I suppose I did expect a simple “how was the labor”.

For it was a pretty big event in my life; after a nearly 8-year gestational period I was able to get an amazingly compact, moving, and complex piece of work that inter-cuts oral history interviews with a play I wrote onto a public broadcasting station. The play is based upon my research with original court testimony about an Orange County desegregation case and was included in a new civil rights curriculum developed for the State in 2009.

I watched my 28:30 documentary with a dear friend, some pizza, and my two small dogs. At 12:35pmish my parents and my sister called to offer their words of joy. My dad, finally, “liked” on something that I created. Hearing the pride in his voice was a great moment for me. I emailed the films editor who I had given a director credit for his phenomenal efforts, because I couldn’t find his phone number to call him.

At 7:30pmish, because I had arranged to give 50 participants a gift copy of the film, I received an email from one participant asking for two extra copies of the dvd followed by some wonderful words for the films editor. I shared her accolades with him. Later she forwarded me an email that she sent out to her friends and colleagues in the community. Since I was not ccd in the email, I have no idea what the response to her email has been. Nor has she shared community reactions with me.

Later I saw a Facebook status appear that stated “Great Job Erica, I saw your film on KOCE.” I was fascinated to watch as four of the films participants liked on it, yet noticed that none of them reached out to me directly. I was happy when five of my dear friends from college Facebooked me to express their pride about what they saw on television.

Around 5:30pm on Monday night I received a phone call from a participant and the only positive acknowledgement of my work on the film for the day.

I had a nightmare last Tuesday night where my baby languishes and I am powerless to help her because she really isn’t mine. She belongs to the world, because that is the way I designed it, and I have got to let her go. I don’t expect or need accolades. It’s hard to explain. I don’t need anybody to tell me that the film is “good”. I already know that.

I suppose I yearned to be part of the larger community rather than just the person you email your DVD order to. I am extremely grateful for those who did share their congrats with me, but I realize how foolish of me it was to imbue need onto an inanimate object.

When an archivist works with a community, she has no right to expect to belong to the community she has chosen to document. However I volunteered my efforts for these many years, because of the passion that I developed for the story in graduate school. In my mind I suppose I am still that student, who was disenfranchised at a very early age from the community at-large because of the way I look.

I am happy that I continue to learn and grow as a person, extremely grateful that my employer continues to allow me to pay my mortgage, and thrilled to finally be moving on to tell other stories, because I did MENDEZ V. WESTMINSTER: FAMILIES FOR EQUALITY right. And that is good enough for me.

1 Comment

  • By Robin Byrd, October 11, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    I haven’t seen it yet but I’d like to say, “Thank you”. As a black woman who was bused the last semester of my eigth grade year for “desegregation” in an Indiana school district, I know it was a labor of love for you to volunteer your expertise and I appreciate it. There is a thing, that happens in the black community when we see a child of mixed race — we acknowledge that child, with a look, a smile, a nod — it’s quite instinctive… We are saying, “I see you…” That line had me going back to see Avatar a second time. 🙂 “I see you, Erica, and you are beautiful.” Thank you.

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