Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Me and W. Kamau Bell and the Elmwood Cafe

January 30, 2015
W. Kamau Bell Citizen Radio LIVE in NYC! Photo by Anna Matsen

W. Kamau Bell
Citizen Radio LIVE in NYC! Photo by Anna Matsen

W. Kamau Bell, one of my favorite comedians, educates people about race and racism. He started educating me before one of his shows at La Pena by offering a discount (I love discounts) for coming with a person of a different race (uh, oh. Who do I know that is of a different race that I could invite to the show? Big consciousness-raising moment for me there. ) He is going to have a public discussion with the Elmwood Cafe about their racism. Go read it.


Scraper Bikes Exhibit in Berkeley

July 1, 2011
Red, fuschia and yellow Scraper Bike

Scraper Bike exhibit in Addison Street Art Windows

Oakland’s Scraper Bikes are on exhibit in Berkeley in the Addison Street Art Windows next to Freight and Salvage across the street from Berkeley Repertory Theater.

The Scraper Bike Movement “seeks to capture the creativity of youth living within dangerous communities. It gives them a positive outlet that is fun, educational, and promotes healthy lifestyles. The Scraper Bike Movement offers youth a sustainable group of peers that is positive and motivating.” And they are fun to watch! (Trigger warning for ableist language and, I believe, homophobic language.)

Baybe Champ’s blog, The Original Scraper Bike Team is well worth checking out.

Cool Hand Luke wrote posted an excellent article and video link at 38th St. Notes about the Scraper Bike Movement.

Or here’s another video:

Scraper Bike Riding Peace in Oakland from New America Media on Vimeo.

Here’s an instructable for how to make your own:

I like seeing the Scraper Bikes around town, and I admire these boys and young men, but I wish they would wear helmets!

BlogOakSphere Party Report 2011

January 7, 2011

Last night I attended the 4th BlogOakSphere Party at Disco Volante. I had such a good time that I didn’t leave for the other Thursday evening event I was supposed to attend.

The first good thing was the special drinks menu: The drink names were take-offs on Oakland Blog names, with a couple of politicians for good measure. “Living in the OJ” and “Ranked-Choice Don” (You can’t figure out the ingredients), for example. Unfortunately for me, I drove myself to the party so I had to content myself with “We Fight Booze,” fancy Italian soda.

The famous Tina Tamale and Consuelo of facebook artist page Oakland convinced me to look at Old Oakland as a place to move to within walking distance of almost everything. There is an Old Oakland Neighborhood Group, and an Old Oakland Farmer’s Market and many different types of places to live.

I got to meet a woman I thought was named Marlene Lee who explained to me that Lee is her middle name. Leaving me with the question of “Who are Oakland’s Asian bloggers?” There seemed to be some under-representation at the party and in my blog-reader. Suggestions, dear readers?

Cool-hand Luke is even cooler than I thought he was. He really loves Oakland. Max Allstadt has started a blog with doable ideas to improve Oakland, and he’s planning to just let the commenters discuss it. Dianna of City Homestead recommended her neighborhood to move to. Abel of Ella Baker Center and Oakland Geology recommended the Alameda County Leadership Academy as an amazing experience.

Thanks to V. Smoothe and her friends for putting on such a great party.

I’m going to post this pre-maturely and fix it later. Check back, ok?

The letter to the Salvation Army

December 24, 2010

I explain in this post what I’m doing, and I include here the letter I’m sending to inspire you to pick up your own teaspoon. (scroll down to the definition of “teaspoon” on that link.)

Salvation Army
Major C. Patrick Granat
Alameda County Coordinator
Oakland Corps
P.O. box 510
Oakland, Ca 94604-0510

December 23, 2010

Dear Major C. Patrick Granat,
In previous years, this envelope would contain my usual large annual donation to your organization. Please check your records to find out how much I have given for how many years. I want to explain what you did that makes this year different.

It has come to my attention that the Salvation Army discriminates against homosexual people they employ. I’ve discussed this with a surprisingly well-informed red kettle bell-ringer who explained that the Salvation Army quit offering benefits to domestic partners so it wouldn’t appear that the Salvation Army condones homosexuals being in loving committed relationships.

I don’t want to appear to condone hate or discrimination.

Your job requirements also discriminate on the basis of religion. There are other local charitable organizations that provide shelter and transition to stable housing without discrimination. I have re-directed my donations to one of them. I have blogged my reasoning publicly. I read that donations to the Salvation Army are down this year—maybe it’s because of the discrimination?

Please let me know when you change your policy, start advocating for gay marriage, or break with the national organization so that Oakland’s Corps can do the right thing. Otherwise, put me on your “do not mail” list and save a tree.


Why I’m not donating to the Salvation Army this year

December 24, 2010

As a collector of Oakland firsts, I offer a fun fact about the Salvation Army kettles: The Salvation Army kettles began in 1891 with Captain Joseph McFee hitting up Oakland commuters to San Francisco to put donations in a crab pot at the Oakland Ferry landing. And I explain why I’ve stopped donating to the Salvation Army.

Years ago, I asked an Oakland Police Officer who I should give money to in order to help the homeless. Police Officers get to see what is happening on the streets in a way that most of us don’t. The Salvation Army was recommended, and I’ve given them a large donation every year since. This year, a friend asked me to re-consider because the Salvation Army discriminates against gays.

They don’t discriminate against gays and non-Christians in delivering services because that would be no fun—you can’t convert someone who is already a Christian and not a sinner. They discriminate in benefits available to their employees. The Salvation Army decided to quit offering domestic partner benefits after only one month of doing so because they didn’t want to appear to condone gay and lesbians having committed loving relationships. The Western region of the Salvation Army was pressured by hate-your-neighbor so-called-Christian groups, including the rest of the Salvation Army. They now say that homosexuals must be celibate. The national Salvation Army lobbied to exempt themselves from laws requiring that they hire gays if they take federal funds.

Donations to the Salvation Army are down perhaps, especially in the S.F. Bay Area, because of their discrimination.

The City of Oakland has an Equal Benefits Ordinance that prohibits giving City contracts or renting City-owned property to the Salvation Army because they discriminate by not providing equal benefits to domestic partners.

Who else are you going to give to?
The Alameda County Community Food Bank is serving 1 in 6 residents of Alameda County – nearly half of them children and teens. They are trying to end hunger and go out of business, a goal I support and applaud (and give money to.)

A Safe Place domestic violence shelter provides emergency shelter and supportive services for women and children.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency includes homeless people in creating solutions rather than preaching at them. BOSS started when California quit locking away mentally-ill people in mental hospitals. They do many things for the homeless, including handing out hotel vouchers and arranging to use un-used houses.

A Street Spirit / Street Sheet seller (I’m sorry I didn’t think to get his name) recommended that I give my money to him, and if not him, the street papers. He also recommended City Team as a place to get a bed on a cold night (only $3). He said preach at you, so I expect they have the same policy of discrimination that the Salvation Army has although I haven’t verified that.

Don’t like those choices? The City of Oakland has some suggestions for homeless services.

The Bay Area has a 211 resource which lists shelter possibilities.

Related links
New York Times: Bay Area. The Salvation Army-Gay Dilemma: To Give or Not?

This link is a particulary good summary. Salvation Army Policy Decried: Bay Area officials criticize the organization for halting health benefits to domestic partners.

Related post The letter to the Salvation Army


January 31, 2010

December 7, 2009 it snowed in Oakland.

Redwood Park Skyline Gate

This is rare. I’ve never seen snow on a bay laurel tree before. I think of snow on needles, but not on leaves.

Snow on bay laurel tree

Looking toward the East Ridge Trail

Here are some links for those who liked the Oakland snow:
Snow on Claremont Avenue in Oakland/Berkeley hills
snow day in east bay hills
Snow in the O!
Bay City News Service
New York Times
Tearln’s Skyline Snow 12/07/2009 Flickr set

Aren’t those pictures in the header beautiful?

January 31, 2010

Carolyn of Oakland Daily Photo took them. Her blog has pictures for many of the posts that are still in my head.

In other news, I cleaned up some typos and added graphics to a few posts.

Hamlet in Oakland

January 16, 2010

Go see the last performance of Hamlet:Blood in the Brain at Oakland Tech tonight at 7.

I just got back from the matinee, and recommend it. They are taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the summer.
Watch this space for a more comprehensive review when I get some time.

Rosie the Riveter

October 1, 2009

Last night I enjoyed the Shotgun PlayersThis World in a Woman’s Hands. It tied together several parts of local history that had been separated in my mind: Rosie the Riveter, the African-American migration to the East Bay, Kaiser, the Port Chicago disaster, and Richmond’s reputation for violence.

Margo Hall as Gloria Cutting, welder. Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli

Margo Hall as Gloria Cutting, welder. Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli

It’s the story of Gloria Cutting who leaves her daughter behind in Louisiana and travels to California to become a welder. The advertisements promise “equal pay for equal work” but she has to fight to get the equal work and, even then, whites are paid more than coloreds. Her dead mother scrubbed floors to make a better life for Gloria, and Gloria struggles to save enough money to make a better life for her own daughter. She transforms as she does the work she is given to do in the world. This work includes caring for the women who have lost jobs or lost husbands in the explosion, helping to start unions, and scrubbing the blood off the streets of Richmond.

The music in this production is wonderful. There are gospel songs sung by Gloria and her dead mother, jazz songs, and mouth music to convey the sense of being in the industrial shipyard. The only musician is a bass player and, somehow, that’s enough.  Mollie Holm and Linda Tillery did an amazing job on the music.

Sounds of working together.  Photo Credit: Benjamin Pirivitt

Sounds of working together. Photo Credit: Benjamin Pirivitt

The set rises up and comes around the audience, and is transformed from the WWII shipyard into the graffiti-written present-day Richmond with light. I enjoyed the show and recommend that you see it. The run has been extended through October 18.

When I have thought of “Rosie the Riveter,” I hadn’t ever considered that not all of them were white like the famous poster. The only “Rosie” that I know is Ruth Gordon who told me about being fired from Boeing at the end of the war with the excuse that “the men have families to support.” Ruth was supporting her disabled mother at the time.

This World in a Womans Hands

This World in a Woman's Hands

I knew about the Port Chicago explosion, but this play brought home the meaning for me, through the wife’s viewpoint. African-American men were not allowed in combat, so one of the jobs they were stuck with was the even more dangerous job of loading munitions on ships. (What about Asian and Hispanic men during WWII? That’s an area for further learning for me, and they aren’t mentioned in the sources I’ve found so far.) Her husband was in tiny, unrecognizable pieces after the disaster. Fifty men were imprisoned for refusing to work in these unsafe conditions, and Gloria Cutting urges the other men to stand with them and change things. Unions and the Civil Rights movement both started in the wake of  these events.

One of the major streets in Richmond is Cutting Boulevard, and I wondered if the street was named after Gloria Cutting but, since she’s a fictional character, perhaps she was named after the street. I remember that playwright Marcus Gardley named most of the characters in his “Love is a Dream House in Lorin” after streets. Checking the cast list, the characters last names are Coronado, Rumrill, Cutting, Saint Fay, Barrett, Harbor, Carlson, Grant, and Parchester. I can’t find Saint Fay on the map of Richmond, but all the others are streets except Parchester Village.  (click that link. It’s fascinating.)

The lasting legacy of the Kaiser shipyards in my life is Kaiser Permanente HMO. Pre-paid vountary health care was a novel idea. But was it open to everyone employed at the shipyard?  I find it suspicious that “By August 1944, 92.2 percent of all Richmond shipyard employees had joined the plan….combined with “In the Bay Area, the percentage of black workers in the shipyards steadily grew from essentially zero at the beginning of the emergency shipbuilding program to about three percent in 1942, seven percent in 1943…” It could be that the  7% who didn’t join the health plan were the same 7% who were African-American. I would hope not, but the extensive .pdf at the latter link details egregious discrimination. The play neglects the health plan.

Health Plan recruitment poster

Health Plan recruitment poster

You might also like the Pop History Dig about Rosie the Riveter and Betty Soskin’s blog about being consulted for the play. Here, here, and here

Race-ometer stats: Cast W/B/O = 4/5/1, Audience W/B/O = 49/9/13

Amazing Ella Baker Center

August 21, 2009

The Ella Baker Center is trying to end poverty, end crime and violence, fix the climate, and do it all in Oakland.

Tomorrow they will be planting a tree for me in West Oakland. You could come help if you like. Next month it will be installing solar panels in East Oakland.

They’ve got some impressive Climate Change reduction targets, goals and action areas. The first class of the Oakland Green Jobs Corps has graduated, well over half of the graduates have already been placed in full-time jobs, with many more continuing their education with 3-months of paid, on-the-job training through green-collar employers, and pictures are posted!

For those of you who aren’t on their mailing list yet, here’s a snippet:

Save the Dates!

The rest of the year promises to be even more exciting than the beginning. Here are some upcoming events we thought you’d be interested in. See you there!

Saturday, August 22nd: Plant a tree in West Oakland with Soul of the City. Click here to RSVP.
Sunday, August 30th: Grind for the Green – Solar Powered Hip Hop Concert featuring Dead Prez. Click here for more information.
Saturday, September 12th: Help Green the Block by volunteering with GRID Alternatives to install 16 solar PV systems in East Oakland. We’ll send you an invite soon!
Saturday, October 24th: Join for an International Day of Action of Climate Action. Click here to find an action near you.
Thursday, November 12th: Ella Baker Center’s Annual Celebration and Fundraiser
Thursday, November 19th: Oakland Climate Action Coalition hosts Solutions Salon for Climate Justice in Oakland.