My Question Is… What Is It?


Special note: I humbly and respectfully ask that if the good people of La Puente, California read this article that they understand I don’t mean to denigrate them. As indicated below, the dynamic I encountered with them is part of a flow which I’ve been coming across in increasing doses over the last fifteen years. It’s something we should all learn from. I have great admiration for the efforts and accomplishments of the leaders of La Puente. But we all need to look in the mirror now and then. And what we see will reflect more than just ourselves.

Recently, I wrote an article offering my professional services — as a longtime educator with the best references in the world, and deep experience serving communities of color in the past — to the primarily Latino town of La Puente in Los Angeles County, California. I spotlighted the Mayor in that piece, but I followed up with specific offers to her, all City Council Members, City Manager and select other colleagues with the missive below.

I’m sharing this because the response and lack of response should be instructive for any socially-conscious souls, certainly all activists should deeply consider the dynamics that are clearly observable. I never take unrequited outreach personally these days, and I pray that those I’m referencing here will not find my naming names offensive. I’m not sharing this experience to blame anyone, but the impact of the lesson to be learned here would be lessened without specific references being made.

The a to z list directly below — essentially — represents an offer from someone willing to devote their life to the Collective Good in a realm that is sorely in need of support on several scores. That’s why I made sure that my gratis gesture covered a lot of different bases.

I had submitted my resume prior to sending the missive below. And I not only had seven excellent references embedded in a PDF document, I offered to provide 101 additional testimonials upon request. I underscored that ALL of my references would confirm the fact that I’m the real deal, that I would make good on every single promise made. That would confirm that I was trustworthy, a man of my word, and a professional educator and community activist with a great track record respecting the a to z areas touched upon.

Hi again, Cece.

One last bit of blah blah from me to possibly pass on to Mayor Lewis.

It’s submitted unedited, and I titled it…

I could….

  1. I could provide great ideas for seniors to embrace, activities designed to create hope and enthusiasm and pleasure. The fact that I’m the youngest 75 on the planet would be an asset.


  1. I could offer ESL classes at the convenience of members of the communityseven days a week.


  1. I could create plays with youngsters and their loved ones, and produce dramatic fare regularly (on a zero budget).


  1. I could supplement the library’s offerings with donations from my personal collection.


  1. I could raise funds as you see fit.


  1. I could serve as an academic adviser and connect students with contacts of mine at institutions of higher education nationwide.


  1. I could encourage reading in many ways. I could conduct regular reading sessions for youth and others, and try to secure free volumes which might be requested through my long standing contacts in the publishing world.


  1. I could knock on doors in the community, and via visits to homes help parents to self-educate about environmental issues in gardens and around the house.


  1. I could secure the services of grant writers gratis.


  1. I could recruit enthusiastic volunteers on an ongoing basis.


  1. I could supervise a 24-hour hotline (for the focus of your choice).


  1. I could offer home schooling options for select families.


  1. I could screen documentaries on social issues, and conduct discussions following viewing.


  1. I could run Poetry Slam sessions.


  1. I could get my youngest son (who has great connections these days in the realm of music) to get bands to play free intermittently in La Puente.


  1. I could conduct Nutrition classes for interested parties.


  1. I could get my partner (or someone else) to visit once in awhile to teach a cooking class.


  1. I could write and edit for your online presentation to the public.


  1. I could arrange for debates on our collective crises in conjunction with local school authorities.


  1. I could market the offerings of La Puente through writing for different publications, etc.


  1. I could provide a range of after-school offerings ranging from chess and backgammon instruction to pick-up basketball and speech arts classes.


  1. I could contribute significantly to youth and their loved ones getting involved in civic engagement.


  1. On weekends I could lead short spiritual retreats. Nothing that would require overnight commitments. Just a few hours taken out to help others to get off of their treadmills, and get down with really appreciating who they are, and how utterly beautiful life is, how sweet they themselves are.


  1. I would LOVE to teach a Creative Writing course and a Journalism class. Those are particularly dear to my heart, and so I’ve singled them out as offerings above and beyond what I’ve touched upon above.


  1. I could work with the Regional Chamber of Commerceas per their needs and interests.


  1. I could help select local politicians with campaigning for higher office in the state… so that the demographic residing in La Puente gets the best possible representation down the line.


Gracias for your kind consideration,


Not a single soul responded to the above. Meaning, I didn’t even receive a “Thanks, but no thanks” reply. I’ll die of embarrassment and regret if I suddenly to receive some positive response. And if I do I’ll apologize profusely in public and move Heaven and Earth to get into their good graces, and get with whatever program they’d like me to embrace with them in solidarity. I’d be thrilled to be shocked, to be off here. But I don’t think that that’s likely to happen. Hearing from them.

And the reason why I say that with some degree of confidence is the reason readers should pay special attention to this piece, and think about what it means for activists. That’s preferable to my simply telling readers what to think right now; I can always discuss my thoughts at readers’ convenience.

The reason why I can easily say that I won’t be hearing from anyone is that I’ve been through this dynamic thousands of times. Not hundreds, but thousands. No hyperbole. Not always with a municipality, though quite often with town and city officials. Sometimes with non-profits, sometimes with educational organizations. Sometimes with individuals associated with groups all along the spectrum.

When I’ve run this sort of thing by activists in the past, they very often are inclined to make excuses for the targets of my outreach. Sure, there have been times when I’ve been at fault. But that’s not been the case with the vast majority of interactions. There’s something else at play that’s not being acknowledged today. Something that’s crucial for us all to get a handle on.

My question is What is it?

Richard Martin Oxman had been an educator for half a century, and an activist for longer than that. He’s currently working as Director of the Flannery O’Connor Academy, a home schooling set up mainly for teens, but he’ll hand over the reins of that operation to colleagues if any reader can get some municipality in the U.S. to embrace his volunteer gestures. Cities in dire straits have ignored his outreach repeatedly, even in realms where he has a track record of having contributed positively back in the day. Find a way for some community to enter into dialogue with him, and he believes everyone will benefit… even those residing in other countries.




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