Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Angel in the Infield

Don’t ask me how this happened, but as an undergraduate at the University of Hawaii back in 1994, I wound up writing for the on-campus OPELE Foundation, an organization designed to recognize and empower the African-American community. My work revolved around the quarterly newsletter, where I mostly edited drafts of student interviews and current-events articles. Grant proposals were not my kuliana/forte, but I gave at it when needed.

Being half-Mediterranean, I’d never seen myself as entirely white, but in the OPELE office, I was hands-down the whitest person there. I did, however, enjoy the spirit of inclusion. I never felt like the unpicked player on the softball team. Sure there were inquiries. Was I Chuck’s girlfriend? No. Was I radical left-winger who wanted to immerse myself in racially heated issues? No. Was I a wanna-be Sweet Honey In The Rock gospel singer? Sort of. But in all honesty, I think I was just there to chunk off some tuition debt via work-study.

The perks that came along with the job abounded. I rubbed shoulders with Maya Angelou at her divinely appointed visitation, along with Sweet Honey in the Rock, at Andrew’s Amphitheater. I sat in on a down-and-dirty lecture given by Walter Dean Myers. But the zenith of my OPELE career involved coordinating a weeklong humdinger—fully loaded with inspirational readings and live entertainment. The culminating soiree at the Campus Center ballroom strutted a line of noteworthy guests including Anita Pointer, Hiawatha Hemphill, Sonya Wiley, and (gasp!) Danny Glover.

Aside from all the pre-event phone calls and red-tape paper trailing, my primary duty was to whip up the evening program and handcraft the written introduction for Mr. Glover, which after several hundred revisions, I had finally felt satisfied to hand over to one of my most-admired actors.

That’s when the hard drive crashed.

I lost everything before I had a chance to save it on one of those early 90’s floppy disc thingies. The event was two days away and I was curling into the thumb-sucking fetal position underneath the carcass of yet another crashed PC.

I rewrote the program and the introduction, and on the eve of Mr. Glover’s arrival, it was brought to our attention that we needed to provide his transportation from the airport to the campus. With our budget maxed, we had to think fast, and after calling several pricey limo services and upscale taxi companies, I found the solution living under my own roof: my very own, built-in police escort. Much to his delight, my HPD spouse became Danny Glover’s personal chauffeur.

The evening was a raving success. I savored my brief but meaningful moments with Danny. His warm laugh and sincere eyes made a lasting impression. The after-party, held at Ralph Lauren, gave me ample time to hob-nob with the others since Danny left early with his (and my) HPD escort to a hotel suite in Waikiki.

Tucked away somewhere in a box of college memorabilia is my OPELE program with Danny’s handwritten words of inspiration and encouragement.

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