I decided it was about time to finish Storming Caesars Palace in an effort to have a clean slate for 2011 and began Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony at...moreI decided it was about time to finish Storming Caesars Palace in an effort to have a clean slate for 2011 and began Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony at about the same time. The opening lines of Silko's book bewildered me, and I set it down to read it when in a more meditative mindset:
Their evil is mighty / but it can't stand up to our stories. / So they try to destroy the stories / let the stories be confused or forgotten. / They would like that / They would be happy / Because we would be defenseless then.
On finishing Storming Caesars Palace, the meaning in that passage seems so clear and is something that comes up time and again throughout my research. It is essential to preserve histories and the stories of the voices that a hegemonic culture would sooner gloss over and destroy.
Orleck's book is an essential counterpoint to Reagan's "black welfare mother" driving her Cadillac and getting rich off public funds, now a popular and harmful stereotype in public discourse. It is the story of the women who ran Operation Life, a community group that was deemed the most successful and effective model in its delivery of social and health services to the poor community of Las Vegas.
Thanks to her interviews with the women of Operation Life, Orleck expertly sets the backdrop of what it was like to be an African American in the South in the 50s and 60s. It is both riveting and infuriating to read about what the women and their families were up against from the very beginning. The intersectionality of racism and sexism here is glaring and appalling.
Despite constant setbacks, the women of Operation Life worked for nearly twenty years to develop their community and bring about true reform. I'm so grateful that this story has been preserved - it's essential to understand that poverty is not just about "BOOTSTRAPS" but things such as deeply embedded structural racism and sexism. There is a history and a politics to this kind of thing that needs to be preserved if we are to ever bring about true reform and change.(less)