Two Heroes: Rosa and Joe
Two great friends recently passed on: Rosa Bogar on Sep. 2, and Joe Schwartzberg on Sep. 19. Rosa was 77; Joe was 90. My life is richer for having known them both. Their impact is far more than can be expressed in a few words, so my purpose here is simply to introduce them to you.
Here is Rosa Bogar’s eulogy, the featured death in the Sep. 18, 2018, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Rosa Bogar Mpls STrib001.
Here is Joe Schwartzberg’s obituary, also from the Star Tribune.
I have a file about Rosa, and its contents reveal that I met her in 2006. We happened to be seated at the same table at the annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast earlier that year. She was retired, and had a most interesting story, and over the years we kept in touch.
The eulogy in the newspaper accurately catches the Rosa that I knew as a true hero, someone whose example I hope I can follow.
The last time I saw her was May 1, at an event we’d invited her to attend, on the topic of Forgiveness. I took the below photo, which she probably wouldn’t prefer, but as you can tell she and the others were seriously engaged in what the speaker had to say (forgiveness is difficult, as you likely know, especially when you have to do the forgiving….) By her choice she came to the event by bus, was glad she came, and I gave her a ride home after. She didn’t reveal anything about her ailment recurring, but apparently she was terminally ill. Life was apparently winding down for her.
May 26, 2018, she sent me a copy of a letter from the archivist at the Hennepin County Library, accepting Rosa’s “personal papers and photographs for public use at the James K. Hosmer Special Collections.” A handwritten note with the letter was succinct: “I’m most proud of my collection. Check it out!” I will, and I’ll give the archive my own Rosa Bogar file.
Rosa can’t speak for herself, now, but as we visited over the years it seemed to me that her twin passions were recognition for the very real accomplishments of those of African descent in this country. Her card identified her: “Rosa Bogar/Founder/Visionary. Ancestral Wrap. Honoring African American History and Culture. Headwraps and rags deeply rooted in the culture: “wrap heads” of this truth.”
She was among those featured in the 1996 book, Heroes Among Us, by columnist and author Jim Klobuchar.
She also sought reconciliation for injustice: things like the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968, which happened in the community in which she grew up was very important to her. Back in 2008, she sent me a article about Orangeburg and her recollections of it: Orangeburg 1968002.
When I drove her home on May 1, she gave me a gift, shown in the below photo. Simply water bottles, which she apparently distributed at the Orangeburg observance she attended in 2018. They’ll not be discarded. Thank you, Rosa.
Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg
The last photo I took of my friend, Joe, was March 13, 2018, at his home, with photos of part of his collection of personal doodles.
Joe and Rosa never met, but had their paths crossed, I am sure they would have had a very interesting conversation: he from Brooklyn, she from Orangeburg, he an internationally known and highly respected academician, she with less formal education, but well known in her community, with a passion like Joe’s for justice and community.
My context with Joe was active membership with Citizens for Global Solutions MN, at whose website you can view an interview of him in 2014. In his final years, his passion was passing along his knowledge and experience with the Workable World Trust.
As Joe’s years dwindled down to months, then days, he endeavored to leave behind a compiled record of his work. One result is his personal “kaleidoscopic account” of a long life actively lived: JES Kaleidoscopic Sketch 2018-08-15.
In his papers was a remarkable draft of a proposed “World Constitution“, handwritten in 1955 when he was 27 and a student at the Sorbonne in Paris, just beginning his career.
His cover letter to myself and others said “should you choose to study my Constitution, bear in mind that it was written in the early days of the Cold War and at a time when the UN had only 60 members [today, 193]. Matters that one thinks little about today (e.g. decolonization) receive greater attention in my 1955 work than they would if I were writing it in the recent past…When I wrote my Constitution I did so with a view to what I supposed had a reasonable chance of being accepted by the nations of the world in 1955. I think we should continue to ask ourselves that question in 2018.”
For some reason, Joe sent me and whomever else the following link on August 7, 2018: The Memory Mystery from The Daily Paradox. I have to think it had some special meaning to him, which he wished to share with whomever was on that particular list.
Over the years, Joe’s “signature” became his Affirmation of Human Oneness, which he had translated into over 40 world languages. You can see them here. For years, at events, he would post his hand-made Principles of Global Peace and Global Justice. One year I took photos of all of them, and if you’re on Facebook you can see them in an online album here.
In the last few months, he invited me to ask for a doodle which I might like to have. His doodles happened as they do for most of us when we’re sitting in meetings of one kind or another. His were uncommonly artistic, and diverse in their content, and when pressed he didn’t reveal that he had anything particular in mind when he was drawing them. (He comments on them in his “Kaleidoscopic Sketch”.)
The doodle I requested, and received, is below, 5″x8″. As with Rosa’s bottles of water, this doodle will be treasured.
Thank you, Joe.
Both Joe and Rosa left behind not only memories, but good examples. They were among many teachers I’ve had in my life.
Who were some of yours?
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