I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to completing my first novel. To those of you who don't know me or my work and are visiting this page for the first time, welcome.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to share with you a little of my progress as I begin research on my new book -- a yet-to-be titled historical novel, set in the 1920s and involving the founding and establishment of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the predominently African-American labor union, led by A. Philip Randolph. Sleeping car porters worked on the railroads, cleaning and preparing sleeping cars and acting as valets and waiters for passengers. The union struggled for more than a decade before they received recognition and equity from the Pullman Company.

As part of my research, I'll be traveling by train from Oakland to New York City, following the path of those porters from years ago. This trip will include a visit to the A. Philip Randolph Museum in Chicago. Along the way, I'll be sharing with you what I learn and experience. Thank you for coming along.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Change I Need

It is Sunday, November 9, 2008, five days after the most important historical event of my lifetime and I feel irrevocably changed. It is not simply that an African American man had been elected president, which many of us dreamed of but could not have imagined, nor is it that the country seems to have finally, after almost a decade, chosen hope over fear and light over darkness. It is I, questioning the changes I need to make to be a part of the new world I see being born.

Most of my own life, if I were to be honest, I have been aware of my reluctance to assume leadership in any endeavor of which I have been a part. No doubt that I have feared failure, but sometimes because of lack of interest, sometimes because of doubts about my own abilities but mostly, there has been a reluctance to be the center of attention. Alone in the spotlight is not a position that has ever appealed to me and to a degree, I had accepted that I would always be an observer of history rather than a creator of it. I wonder if that choice has left me an excuse to remain mired in mediocrity rather than reaching for greatness. I am afraid now that it has done something far worse which is that it has been an excuse to remain silent when I need to speak up. Ironic for a writer.

I excused myself because it was (and still is) that as a teacher, writer and artist I believed that it was important that I allow others the space to think for themselves. As a teacher, particularly, I am aware of the power I hold over my students. As an individual, I am aware of my own personal power (one I have been reluctant to own or even acknowledge) which awes and often silences others. I have never been interested in domination, only cooperation but has that caused me to be silent when I should be speaking up? What price have I paid for peace? Have I allowed ignorance and prejudice to fester because I have to reluctant to confront it? It is tact or cowardice?

Suddenly, I am questioning the image that I have had of myself and I want to see myself differently. Not because a black man is president but because I finally feel a part of a world bigger than myself. I have a stake in it and I have a power to shape it into a world that I believe in and in looking at pictures of people, like myself, from all over the world, I realize that I am not alone in wishing for, hoping for a world that is far different than the one in which we now live. The world, for me, has already changed.

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© 2008 L. Rebecca Harris