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No Fade Into Black

 

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Making history is one thing; preserving it is another. We like to assume that anyone of historical value is not only documented, in a book or biography or official records, but more importantly, remembered. That means that people talk about them in the future, regularly measure their impact, pass them on.

 

 


 

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But history is not a democracy. Important figures very often slip through cracks of consciousness or circumstance, especially in L.A., and especially in black L.A. Back in 2002, when local media was busy reporting on the anniversary of the '92 riots, one television reporter confessed to me that when he asked a young man in South Central about this thoughts on the meaning of Rodney King, he got a blank look. "Rodney King?" the man said. "You mean Martin Luther King? Which one is which?"

Nobody would ever confuse my father with another Larry Aubry. I'm glad for that. It's that singular name--Aubry, with no 'e'--and my father's equally singular temperament. He's an activist whose fierce idealism has always held other activists accountable, or has at least given them pause. Not that my father's trying to watchdog. He simply puts social justice for black folks at the top of his agenda and keeps it there. It made sense for him in the 1960s, when he joined the county Human Relations Commission, and it makes sense now. His mission doesn't mean that he doesn't interact with anybody else--to the contrary. He put together interethnic coalitions long before it became fashionable to try. I'm not merely expressing family bias when I say that he's one of L.A.'s more forward thinkers.

Which is why I was so gratified that earlier this month, the Southern California Library on Vermont announced that it had archived the "Larry Aubry papers." It means my father will be officially remembered, by an institution that's expert at giving local progressive figures their proper place in history. 'Papers' is a kind of solemn word for mostly xeroxed copies of the weekly columns my father's written for the Los Angeles Sentinel since 1986. But looking through those four big boxes of copies (some columns are actually typed on a typewriter or handwritten, complete with scribbled-out mistakes), I saw a rich narrative of the city, of him, and of the black condition at large that says quite a lot about all of us.

My father was 75 last year. He's still writing. History is still being made.

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