November 12, 2006
I’m writing to you now to give you an update and to make an end-of-the-year request for your support. Your generous contributions have meant that our one full-time staff person (myself) and a dedicated core of volunteers headed up by my long-time friend and colleague, Catlyn Fendler, along with like-minded foundations, both locally and in Texas, are bringing the work of the Keepers of Love and the Images of Divinity projects to fruition this coming year, 2007. The Keepers of Love project is the ongoing work on race and reconciliation both in California and East Texas. The publication of the book, Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves is one of the major events coming up this next year. (The publisher requested the title change.)
The epilogue to Love Cemetery is centered on the vision of a handful of nineteenth-century Creole poets who wrote for the Tribune of New Orleans, a bi-lingual, multi-racial newspaper that was published at the end of the Civil War just after Emancipation, in the tumultuous period between 1865 – 1868. (Sybil Kein, Creole). These Creole poets hailed the newly-created federal Reconstruction effort of 1866 as the opportunity to create “an unprecedented United States,” a nation truly devoted to equality and to the human rights of all people regardless of race.
Their vision seems prescient to me. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, we need to lower our buckets down into “the great wells of democracy.” (Manning Marable, The Great Wells of Democracy). We need to draw up inspiration from the “brief shining moment” of these nineteenth-century poets who were vigorously engaged in a nation-wide debate about how the bitterly divided United States might become a new kind of country after the Civil War. Before the violent white response that ultimately ended Reconstruction, the Creole poets saw a way to de-construct the problems created by attempting to found a democracy on theft, genocide and enslavement. They urged us then, and they urge us now to return to the dream of “a composite citizenry” committed to liberty, equal rights and justice for all.
What’s important about the story of Love Cemetery is not only the buried, lost history that it unearths – the African American history, and to a smaller degree, the Native American history – but the call for racial understanding, responsibility, and reconciliation that’s made implicitly throughout its pages. The story of this one small group of Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American-descendents working with the African-American community to reclaim their ancestral burial ground is the “grain of sand” that contains a universe of possibility.
At the recent Bioneers conference of 12,000 participants (9,000 by satellite link), Paul Hawken ended the closing plenary by calling for the entire 2007 conference to be devoted to race and reconciliation. He echoed the feeling many of us have --- that white people need to become willing to talk to other white people about the long shadow of theft and slavery that continues to entrap us in this country as long as our history remains ignored or unknown. Love Cemetery is about igniting that conversation.
With the publication of Love Cemetery and the simultaneous publication of a new edition of Longing for Darkness (both next June 2007), I am being offered the opportunity of a nation-wide platform to articulate the Creoles' vision of a Democracy that has yet to exist.
There are few ways to predict how many thousands of people could be inspired through the national media should this story capture their attention. I serve on two university sponsored steering committees in the South on truth and reconciliation and I can tell you that there is outstanding work being done by a host of people throughout country, especially in the South. The possibility of amplifying their call for inclusion, truth-telling, new ways of resolving conflict, restorative justice, environmental justice, and healing is enormous. The potential for success and for service are unlimited. This is why I’m asking for your help, your ideas and your financial support.
It is essential to use this time between mid-November 2006 and June 2007 to prepare and orchestrate the many interlocking events that will bring the vision of Love Cemetery and the Keepers of Love project to people all over our country. In no way am I talking about a conventional book tour but rather a series of workshops, retreats, talks, study groups, and circles that will have the added value of helping to benefit a number of organizations and institutions whose work I support.
This level of production and travel goes well beyond our current capacity and requires professional help. We need to build a new website, create interactive materials, return to Texas to continue our work with the community, produce a mini-documentary from existing video footage, and coordinate the logistics of these events around the country.
Our end-of-the-year goal is $60,000. There are 600 people’s names on this list and this is a private list of people who have attended an event we’ve done, taken one of my classes, been in one of our study groups, attended our conferences, gone on a pilgrimage with me or read my books. It is never sold or shared nor did I get it from anyone else. If six of you donated $10,000 by mid-December, we would meet our goal. Alternately, if each one of you donated $100 via Paypal or snail mail when you receive this letter, we could meet our goal before November ends
Consider yourselves my subscribers. For your $100 donation you will get your own, signed, personally-inscribed-by-me copy, hot off the presses this summer. By the way, $100 comes out to .27 cents a day for one year. Of course if any of you are moved to make a larger contribution, it will be gratefully accepted. If you need more information, please contact me directly at (415) 451-7497 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your consideration. In gratitude,
Professor in Residence, Center for the Arts, Religion and Education/GTU
PS: Checks and on-line donations should be made out to the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education with “Keepers of Love” on the memo line. All donations are fully tax-deductible.
An important note: Until the end of this calendar year, December 31, 2006, your donation to the Keepers of Love project will trigger a matching grant for our sponsor CARE. Through an unusual set of circumstances, any amount donated to the Keepers of Love at this time will trigger the same size donation to CARE, the Center for the Arts, Religion and Education to support their work. This opportunity for a match doubles the impact of your giving. I am happy to provide any additional information you might want from either CARE, KOL, or IOD: budgets, to letters of recommendation, or the Texas Historical Commission’s Archaeologist’s report on Love Cemetery.
FYI: Reciprocity. I’m assigning a percentage of any and all royalties I might earn from Love Cemetery to non-profit funds so that others may be helped both in California and East Texas.
All photos by Madelon Galland. Potluck at nearby community center after work day. Nuthel Britton in chair at Love Cemetery. Doris Vittatoe through Ohio Taylor's headstone. Gail and Greg Beil and Walter Edwards.