[Robyn Emerson, long-time Texas Forums member, social activist, organizer of the Tavis Smiley Presidential Forum Watch Parties we are hosting at the LBJ Library recently launched a blog, “A World that Works: Where the Possibility is Brought to Life.” The following is her second post on her brand new venture. I am posting it in full here with her permission because it is such a lovely “bird to bird” tribute – Robyn to Lady Bird – and to introduce you to Robyn.]
This past week the nation and central Texas, myself included, paid tribute to the life of Lady Bird Johnson.
When my parents relocated our family to Austin from Lexington, Ky I can only imagine their feelings being similar to George and Weesie, that they were movin’ on up. It was the mid 70’s and the world was an oyster for my parents. My father and several other African Americans across this country were taking advantage of opportunities previously closed off to them.
Family members from Kentucky would come down to visit us from time to time. Just like my father, the quintessential showman and travel & culture enthusiast that he is, he would take each and every one of our guests around the “must sees” in Texas. That would take us, in 300 degree Texas summer weather no doubt, in our brown station wagon with no air conditioning on a trek across the state and on international trips to Mexico, the Alamo and all things “Johnson” – the Johnson Space Center, LBJ Library & Museum and LBJ National Historic Park.
I learned at a very early age about this man with a funny name to me – Lyndon. I mean I really learned about this man, his wife with a funny name also, his daughter with the same name as Charlie Brown’s friend and on and on. Family member after family member would come and we’d plan out the excursion. Where should we go first? How long will they be here? What is the must see? Always, never got cut from the list, was a visit to the Library & Museum.
I took on a sense of pride for this place. From my grandparents, to Aunts & Uncles and our many cousins that have come we were their access to the displays about his life, his influence and his legacy. I can remember one time telling my parents let’s not get a docent this time, I’ll do it. And I did, but not only there. I also took great pride in sharing with my family the man that died before I was born’s childhood stories. I joked about it as I got older that I was beginning to think I was a JohnSON instead of an EmerSON. I mean my non-paid co-tour guiding was more than the innocent people that came for the experience bargained for. It got to the point that just about the time I knew the paid tour guide was going to tell us about his favorite song I’d start singing it in advance, “I’m singing in the rain, Just singing in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…” Just about then my mother would say, “Zip It!”.
Today, I have the honor of working with the LBJ Library & Museum through one of their initiatives, Texas Forums. Through the use of and the introduction to various tools or resources we work to engage people in dialogue about issues that affect their lives. I still walk through those doors with great pride and an inside chuckle comes over me as I pass the docent’s desk every time.
The LBJ Library & Museum under the remarkable leadership of Dr Betty Sue Flowers is creative in the support of programs that keep the spirit and legacy of LBJ & Lady Bird expressed.
I am, however, a little perplexed by the dismal demonstration of gratitude or respect recently in regards to Lady Bird’s passing from the African American community. Now I can understand some slight confusion we may have on the impact this woman had on our community given the story being told over and over was that she was an ecologist, an environmentalist. That hasn’t ever been “our issue” although the grim reality is that it is “our issue”. This may be acceptable as an explanation for people of my generation or younger but not so for my elders.
Out of sheer respect a greater representation by blacks & browns was due in my opinion. It could not have been, by any means, a small feat to be LBJ’s wife during his presidency. We were reminded at Lady Bird’s funeral of them being thought of as nigger lovers. That didn’t make the obits as a positve attribute but if signing the Civil Rights Act and instituting the Great Society meant that, then they were every bit ones. And I thank them.
The Civil Rights Act is the same act that was recently up for renewal. In all of the showboating to demonstrate who was the greatest champion for it we forgot who made the “RE”newal part a consideration. Two main goals of the Great Society social reforms were the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. New major spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation were launched during this period.
The law of attraction states that you attract whatever you put your attention to. I am wondering where is our attention directed? Is it on things beautiful? Is it on what’s possible?
I urge us to come together and hone our attention toward loving ourselves! Toward families! Toward eductating ourselves in all ways! The Jamestown Project urges us also in their Appeal to the American Imagination.
Just as LBJ recognized that we could have continued speeding down a road that led toward the increased coarsening and degradation of our culture, or we could seize upon that moment of national soul-searching to change course and turn onto a path that leads to renewal. He chose the road to healing and transformation. By his side was Lady Bird.
I was taught please and thank are the magic words, so PLEASE let’s not let this moment pass us by and THANK YOU, Lady Bird, for your attention to all things beautiful, your steadfastness and your service.