I have just returned from an archeological site across the pond near my house in Southern Rhode Island that I was asked to produce a film about. The site is called un-dramatically, RI 110 and dates back to 1100. As Dr. Paul Robinson, Principal Archaeologist and Edward F. Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission have written the site is “a large, complex and important Late Woodland period Narragansett Indian coastal village that contains rare evidence of Narragansett daily life before the beginning of European settlement.” Roger Williams wrote in 1682 that the name “Narragansett” came from ‘a little island’ not far from the Salt Pond Site. So, buried under five feet of dirt and primed for sub-division was quite possible the ‘birthplace’ of the Narragansett people.
So much history is ‘buried under five feel of dirt’ both literally and figuratively. So much history is ignored because of whose it is, what theories obscure it and the apple carts it may overturn. And yet to hear those stories that have not been fully told, to fill in gaps that we intuit, brings a fuller, richer and deeper sense of history and of who we are, both individually and collectively. To hear about the contribution of underappreciated work of the gay, pacifist, Civil Rights/ Labor organizer Bayard Rustin and his contribution to the 1963 Washington March and to American culture in general makes the cultural tapestry of protest more vibrant and multi-faceted. To understand how the March on Washington was not only a march for ‘racial’ equality, but for economic equality gives us a fuller appreciation for the motives of its organizers and of the depth of their intelligence. To hear stories about who went and who were inspired by the speakers’ words gives faces to the real people whose courageous acts affected us all.
As we approach the Labor Day holiday, it is important to realize that it is not simply a day for last minute school shopping, the final day to wear ‘white’ or the end of ‘summer. It is a day whose origins are also buried under five feet of dirt at a time when union membership is in decline while created at a time of union ascendancy. Most of us have ourselves and have had ancestors who worked for wages in factories, small shops, fast food restaurants, hospitals, gambling casinos etc. Maybe one thing we can do for them and for us, is on Monday, Labor Day, to pause for a second to unearth these stories, to appreciate the underappreciated and to meditate for a while on those who labored, what they did and how their success at organizing was a large part of the reason why we enjoyed the economic and social successes we’ve had.
- Marc Levitt, Host & Co-Executive Producer