I know their examples inform my way of thinking to this day. They were not only intelligent and well-informed, but they were dogged and unafraid to stand up to anyone, tirelessly speaking truth to power. And, usually, with a wicked sense of humor.
Final Friday is a gathering of like-minded individuals who believe in such things as civil liberties, social justice, and democratic participation in the process of governance.
This may sound a little dry, but Final Fridays are good, old-fashioned, pot-luck, BYOB, let down your hair a bit, gatherings. In fact, it was one of those aforementioned women, revered Texas journalist and humorist Molly Ivins, who kept the tradition of Final Friday at her home for many moons.
Many identify Ivins as the originator of this event, although veteran political journalist Dave McNeely identifies Virginia and Sam Whitten (educators and staunch advocates for public libraries and intellectual freedom in Texas) as the first hosts. Truth be told, the real roots of this tradition lead back to the Texas Observer.
Characterizing itself to this day as “the tyrants’ foe,” the Texas Observer was founded in 1954 to “focus on issues ignored or underreported by Texas’ mainstream media. Our goal is not only to unmask corporate and governmental corruption, but to foster social and economic justice in Texas by promoting democratic participation and encouraging open government.”
Over the decades, the journalistic excellence of the Observer has led to investigations and hearings in the U.S. Congress and Texas Legislature, unmasking wrongdoing and correcting injustices. The December gathering in San Antonio, hosted by Bob and Joanne Comeaux, welcomed the Observer’s founding editor, Ronnie Dugger, as guest of honor.
Robert Comeaux is an integral part of making this regular gathering happen in our town. Bob is an interesting fellow.
He’s also known as “Bob The Union Guy.” I know, seems a little odd here in Texas, us being a “right to work” state, and all. Bob has organized in over 39 states for more than 40 years. He’s the guy who brought the first successful unfair labor practices suit against a little company called Walmart back in 1976.
He’s a compendium of progressive history and a fighter for the underdog. Now retired, he and his lovely wife Joanne are a part of the intricate tapestry that makes San Antonio such an interesting place to meet and get to know people.
Regardless of who originally started this tradition, it is a great excuse for a gathering that is being carried on right here in San Antonio and around Texas. We first learned of the group from a mutual friend who hosted the monthly party when District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal was honored for his stand on the adoption of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.
Needless to say, it was a mob scene of well-wishers. But what was really great about this? The councilman was there for a relatively short time – on to the next appointment, as always – and left a wonderful group of folks behind for fellowship and conversation. What’s not to love? Food, drink, intelligent and passionate conversation? I was hooked.
Of course, we now find ourselves in the heat of election season, plowing our way toward the primaries in March and the big mid-term elections in November. Politicians are everywhere we turn.
Final Friday is happening again, and there will most assuredly be a turnout of those who would lead us in attendance. And in case you hadn’t noticed, politics in San Antonio can be a blood-sport. Many of our fellow citizens will hold their noses in disgust. Many will wonder why in the world anyone would want to talk to people widely perceived by the general public as no good, pandering, ne’er do-wells.
I suggest that these Final Friday gatherings, and others like them of varying political persuasion, are an opportunity to learn. Instead of getting all of our information from TV, newspapers, talk radio, blogs – and yes – even online magazines, why not wade into the fray and actually have a conversation face-to-face?
Ask the hard questions, look them in the eye, measure the sweat on the upper lip. In the age of monster PACs, robocalls, and mud-slinging commercials costing a small fortune, many of us have given up the responsibility of even trying to know our representatives. As mama said, they are no different from you and me, they put their pants on one leg at a time, too.
Think about it, the little guy can still get to know these folks on the local and state level. Be a part of the solution. It’s as easy as going to a barbecue, or a Final Friday gathering. You never know who you might run into. It is a truly interesting experience. Perhaps we’ll see you there.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Molly Ivins: “When politicians start talking about large groups of their fellow Americans as ‘enemies,’ it’s time for a quiet stir of alertness. Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.”
If you have an interest in attending Final Friday gatherings, you must RSVP. Be prepared to bring something to share for the table and BYOB. Contact Bob Comeaux via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tami Kegley has lived the life of an artist. Through multiple careers — dancer, percussionist, performance artist, sculptor, goldsmith, gallerist — she has pursued her need to create. The Great Recession brought changes, and now she’s back and discovering the art world of San Antonio, one happening at a time. The Rivard Report is one place that you can follow her trails, as is www.artblogsa.com.