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On the occasion of the 91st anniversary of the birth of Arnold Sparks, Sr.

February 15, 2014

February 15, 2014

Arnold desk 2-14 webArnold would be 91 if he were still alive today. In many ways that man remains a mystery to me, but in many ways I realize that I am my father’s daughter. My dad was a gadget guy. I’m not a gadget guy, says the owner of an iPhone, an iPad with an Adonit cover/keyboard and stylus, a MacBook Pro, and a Kobo e-reader. Okay, maybe I own a few gadgets, but I wait for the second or third gen at least—my dad was an early adopter. I remember the big, clunky, expensive VCR he tried to pawn off on me when he wanted the sleeker, newer model for himself. I am so different than he was.

Arnold was a visionary man, one of a group responsible for starting Negro History Week, the forerunner of Black History Month, in El Paso, Texas in the mid-1960s. As I remember it, the first guest speaker was Barbara Jordan, who at the time had just been elected the first African American woman to serve as a state senator in Texas (she later went on to a seat in the US Congress). Last fall, when we passed the life-sized statue of her in the Barbara Jordan Terminal of the Austin-Bergstrom Airport, I remembered a part of her speech that day that stuck in my young brain. She said that when she was in her office people would come by to stare at her, saying they wanted to see this rarity with their own eyes. She would reply, well here I am, right here “in living color.”

The bronze sculpture in the airport’s terminal named after her was not in living color, but it was a striking tribute to her significant contributions to changing the course of Texas and American history through a steadfast dedication to civil rights and promoting the welfare of workers. I’m glad that my dad and his friends and colleagues on that first Negro History Week committee were that kind of early adopter.

I may have to admit that you hear a family strain of dreaming when I say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” A thousand of those types of thoughts come and go, but the ones that become more than a mere burst of neuronal charges often need some helping hands to shape them into concrete being. Sometimes, fortune strikes, like it did almost ten years ago when my grad school writing circle and I determined not to let go of one another, because that was Simply Not Done.

Even though illness has prevented me from joining them this weekend for our annual President’s Day weekend retreat, I am glad that it is taking place on my dad’s birthday. You see, he was a writer, also. Only he didn’t have determined friends who would believe in his work even when he didn’t. His potential in this direction was never realized. Perhaps he would be less of a mystery to me if it had been.

I am a mystery to myself, but thanks to my fierce and loving writing family that refuses to let go, some unspent potential is channeling itself through me.

Happy birthday, Arnold.

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One Comment
  1. Kim Clements permalink

    Very nice tribute to your Dad, Brenda. Sounds like he was quite a man.

    Kim

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