By Troy Reeves
2016 has had far more than its share of horribleness. Many of us are ready to leave this year far behind, even as we’re terrified of what the coming years may bring. At a time when many people are being told that their voices and lives don’t matter, we think oral historians have a vital role to play in amplifying silenced voices and helping us all imagine a better future. Before we say goodbye to 2016, Troy Reeves reflects back on some of the moments in which the support of friends, colleagues, and even strangers throughout the oral history world has helped to make the present survivable and the future imaginable.
Well, it has been a difficult twelve months. Andrew Shaffer and I both saw our mothers suffer through cancer diagnoses and recovery. We are both immensely thankful for those tasked with helping our mothers’ diagnoses and operations, and who assist with their continued convalescence. And I’m thankful for Andrew for carrying on with the social media during a difficult summer and fall.
I lost my father in July, and our Editor-in-Chief Kathy Nasstrom lost both her parents this summer. As we helped each other through our loss, we grew closer, which I did not think possible. So, I’m extremely thankful for Kathy, not only as the best damn developmental editor in the business but also as one of my best damn colleagues.
On top of that stress, the Oral History Association lost several key members in the last year. The organization’s executive director, Cliff Kuhn, passed away last November. And we lost long-time and well-known scholars Horacio Roque Ramírez and Leslie Brown since the 2015 OHA Annual Meeting in Tampa.
So, when #OHA2016—our 50th Annual Meeting titled OHA@50—commenced last month in Long Beach, the feeling of loss weighed heavily on me. But when I got there, my colleagues reminded me that family does not mean just blood. And they offered a shoulder for me to cry on.
So along with my extended family—my in-laws and “laws”—I’m truly madly deeply thankful for my OHA family. Some of them I have known since my first OHA (Anchorage, 1999) some I just met, or really got to know, in the last couple years. All of them offer more to me in terms of advice, support, friendship, than I can give in return. To list them all here would serve little purpose; they know who they are.
I’m also quite thankful for the aforementioned venue, the OHA Annual Meeting, for furnishing all of us a place to meet and discuss all the myriad aspects of our profession. Thanks here can focus on a few, specifically Gayle Knight and Kristine Navarro-McElhaney, as well as the program and local arrangement committee members; I will rank this year’s conference as one of my favorites as well as most memorable. A shout out must go, too, to the Mentoring Committee; they have forced me to meet someone new the last two years, which all long-time conference attendees need.
In advance of OHA@50, Andrew and I, with the help of OHA leadership, asked my aforementioned oral history family to state why they love the OHA and/or its Annual Meeting. We listed some of them last month. I won’t bore you with mine, at least not in its entirety. But this year in Long Beach, #OHA2016 was indeed my yearly dose of sanity. While it sounds cliché to say it, in my case it rings true: I’m not sure what I’d have done without it.
Featured image credit: Thank you by Free for Commercial Use. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.