The Alternative Historian


Thoughts, Ideas, and Other Musings by an Alternative Historian

Day Three: Rallies and Other Controversies

Solidarity picket, rally, and speak out in front of Renaissance Hotel.

Solidarity picket, rally, and speak out in front of Renaissance Hotel.

Nothing gets the heart started in the morning better than a good rally. Workers at the Renaissance hotel here in Long Beach are waging a campaign to form a union. Members of the OHA organized an informational picket in front of the hotel. Between 40 and 50 people came as well as one puppy. If you ever have the chance to picket with a puppy, I recommend doing so. We had a great time and I  hope the message got to management to do the right thing.

Controversy seemed the order of the day. The first panel I attended was “Alan Nevins is not our Grandfather: The Roots of Radical Oral History Practice in the United States.” The panel was put together by Daniel Kerr who wrote an accompanying article in the Oral History Review with the same title. Alan Nevins and Columbia University are often credited with founding oral history in the US, but Kerr and others on the panel make the compelling point that a practice of first-person social narrative existed in many populations long before and independent of Nevins.

From Radical Roots to Creative Futures: A Participatory Roundtable was a continuation of the above conversation showing a sample of how oral history is being used today in ways Nevins wouldn’t recognize. The roundtable began with exhibits of various works and moved into small groups were we discussed how oral history connects to social change. An exciting discussion that raised questions of the purpose of oral history. Is it an end goal or a means of reaching a needed end for a group? That depends, I believe, on how the outreach is done. One provocative question I don’t have the immediate answer to is whether or not organizing skills and oral history skills overlap. That deserves a good deal of thought so look for posts in the future.

A day this good could only end one way: In n Out. A cheeseburger and Animal Fries topped everything off. Please don’t tell my doctor but it was worth every increased cholesterol point.