Twenty years ago today, queers in San Francisco and New York held the first ever gay-led demonstrations and direct actions. Calling themselves “ACT-UP” lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people took to the streets proudly declaring, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going shlepping.”
This first of its kind queer activism touched off a movement that shook the world in just two decades.
Recognizing the semenal role ACT-UP had in lesbian life, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, said, “once, we thought maybe we could have an organization of gay women, but we never got it together. It took the vision of men like Larry Kramer to see that LGBT people could organize.”
Maude H., formerly of the first queer anti-assimilationist group, Gay Blame, said that he was glad to learn of this “early history.” He said that they had never known there was any history to know but he was glad to know that there was. His-story, that is. He asked if the New York group had been located “somewhere called Stonewell?”
Mark Leno, who is currently running against old lesbian state senator Carole Migden said that he is young and represents the new generation and people should vote for him because he isn’t an old dyke like some people he could name, but won’t.
May 1 Actions for
Tuesday, May 1
Immigrants and Workers
Reject the Guest Worker Program, I.C.E. Raids and the Separation of Families
Grand March for Unconditional Amnesty for Immigrants
12:00 noon, Dolores Park, San Francisco
1:00 p.m. March to Civic Center
Followed by a music festival
Movement For an Unconditional Amnesty, 415-933-3955;
Immigration Reform March
9:00 am, 100th Ave and International Blvd., Oakland
Sponsored by The Saint Louis Bertrand Catholic Church and the Local Organizing Ministry
For more information, call 510-568-1990 or 510-469-7785.
No More Band-Aids
Castro Valley Marches for Comprehensive Affordable Health Care For All
Join us to help pass AB840 (single payer)
Castro Valley Rowell Ranch Rodeo Parade
Saturday, May 12, gather 9:00-9:45 a.m.
Next to Sup. Miley’s office on Redwood Road
Bring signs, banners and friends.
For info and to help plan, call 510-581-5169
In early March, I got emails from several friends and acquaintances with the blazing headline, “Page Is Opening a New Club in Oakland!” They were responding to a plea from Page Hodel, the lesbian club promoter who gave us The Box and Club Q, to help publicize her new venture.
“Dear Friends:,” Page’s email read.
“I have some pretty fantastic news! I have signed a contract with the owners of a club in Oakland to open a “girls bar,” which will be open seven nights a week. Like the old days! The name of the club will be: “Velvet.” I am so excited to be able to provide, for the first time in my career, a venue that will be open all the time, providing our community with a gathering space every day.
“No more 3rd Tuesdays, 4th Fridays . . . just always open. Always there when you want company. We finally have a home base again. This is a very cool, small club in the Laurel District of Oakland near the corner of Macarthur Blvd and 35th Avenue. It has two rooms: one for the bar and lounge, and one with a pool table and djs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It’s a perfect size to keep a good party going every weekend….
“The space is very raw but very cool at this point. As we grow, we are going to develop the space and really turn it into a dream club. For now, we get the doors open and throw on great music and explode with the amazing energy and experience you have come to know and trust when we all get together. Please send this along to all of your friends even if you think they don’t go out. Maybe they will tell all their friends. I really am asking a favor to help me spread the word. There will be a few ads and some flyers, but this time I want to reach person to person. Woman to woman. Help me spread the word. We have a home again!…”
The woman to woman appeal worked. I got there on opening night, March 17, at about 10:45 p.m., with another woman from KPFA Women’s Magazine, mikes in hand to capture the moment. The line stretched all the way from the unassuming red door in the middle of the block around the corner to the middle of the next block. There were probably 500 women in line. They were all colors and ages, some already drunk, some dressed to the nines in high heels and slips, some in their softball uniforms, some in those old standby jeans and flannel shirts. And they were all excited.
We interviewed groups of women and individual women, who all said the same thing, “It’s been so long since we had a place. A real seven-day bar with a dance floor, just for women.” It was heart-warming to hear so many women articulating their love of lesbians and lesbian spaces. The Sistahs Steppin’ in Pride and the Lesbian Herstory Project folks were out there, as was the woman who puts on Mango (monthly women’s salsa dance at El Rio in the Mission). Women had come in from San Jose and Sacramento to stand in line in Oakland. My friend Barbara introduced me to an older woman who remembered that that space, then called the Hilltop, had been a lesbian bar in the early sixties. It had been raided by the cops, some years before Stonewall, and after that, she said, women were afraid to go there and eventually the Hilltop stopped being lesbian and became a Native American bar, which it was until a year or so ago.
About an hour after we got there, some police officers showed up. They seemed like dykes, but they denied it. They said they had just come because they thought some crowd control might be needed. None was, but they hung around anyway. Page came out to talk to them, along with two men, one African American and one white. Lisa and I went to interview them, find out what was going on.
The two guys, Adam and Bob, turned out to be the owners of the club. Adam explained that he had bought the club, then done some market research and decided that lesbians were a good market. They figured women would mean less violence than a male clientele. I asked if he was concerned about contributing to the gentrification which is already pushing African Americans out of that part of Oakland. He looked at me blankly, and asked what kind of gentrification did I mean, economic?
Being kind of claustrophobic and hating loud music, I never went into the club that night. But two nights later, after getting arrested at the Die-In commemorating the invasion of Iraq four years ago, which I had worked hard on for over a month, I was in the mood to unwind and headed to Velvet with some friends. It was very mellow on that Monday night. A few women sat at the bar talking and sipping beers. My friend Amanda was shooting pool by herself. Page came over and welcomed us. They didn’t have a real liquor license, but had some microbrews on tap, wine and kamikazes and cosmos made with watered-down vodka. They produced some chicken wings for the carnivores to munch on and some nuts for us veggies. It was a pleasant scene.
Then the guys showed up again, which we thought was kind of strange, but I figured hey, it’s the first week, I guess they are nervous. Bob went behind the bar and started serving drinks. My friend whispered to the woman who had been there before him – who turns out to be married to one of the men – that that didn’t seem like a good idea, and she said she would get rid of him.
We were all very content, and looked forward to having Velvet as a regular haunt. Tory and Amanda were ecstatic, because Velvet was very near where they live. Their heads filled with visions of sipping lesbian ale on their way home from work any night when they didn’t have meetings.
And then as quickly as it had come, it was gone.
First, on March 25, an email went out saying, “As many of you have heard, we had a visit from the Oakland police Saturday night and as a result of what looks to be an administrative discrepancy we were asked to close the club. We will be closed temporarily until the issue is resolved.… Page, Stephanie, Adam and Bob”
Then, on March 30, another email from Page started making the rounds. This one read:
“Due to continuing disagreements on numerous, essential and fundamental issues that directly related to the lesbian community, and women in general, as of today, Thursday, March 29, 2007, I am no longer the promoter behind "Velvet" nor am I in partnership with the owners of the venue at 3411 MacArthur Blvd.
“I cannot, in good conscience, be associated with many of the behaviors, attitudes, actions, or communications set forth by the owners of this venue. … I hold your trust to be very sacred, therefore I have no choice but to end this project 9 little days after its birth as it became increasingly apparent that the partnership lacked the understanding and collective visions needed to maintain this as a women's space.”
Rumors and opinions abound about what happened. Some people say the issue was money, that Page wanted a bigger cut. Others say it was a disagreement over whether to close at midnight Sunday-Thursday if there weren’t many people there, and whether the male owners could bartend “to save money.” A number of women apparently have gone in and talked to the owners, who still want it to be a lesbian venue. One woman even mentioned that they are open to hosting Lavender Game Night. Others feel that Page has done a lot for the community and we should both trust and support her, and are not that excited about being a cash cow for straight people.
Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, the loser is the lesbian community, which once again does not have a lesbian operated, controversy-free hangout in a town where one is so desperately wanted.
Fat dyke activist Heather MacAllister, creator of San Francisco’s Big Burlesque and its touring company, Fat Bottom Revue, died February 13. She committed suicide with the support of her friends, after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. She was 38.
was born in Michigan and grew up in Dearborn and Ann Arbor. She earned a
bachelor's degree in anthropology and African American studies from Eastern
Michigan University in 1998. From 2000 to 2002, she worked as a field organizer
for the Triangle Foundation, a gay rights group in Michigan.
She moved to the Bay Area in 2002, and soon thereafter started Big Burlesque. An April 2005 Bay Guardian review of the revue said, “Fat-Bottom Revue is the touring company of Big Burlesque, a performance collective of self-described ‘fat artists and activists.’ The show is a spirited revival of the tradition of burlesque performance, a racy style of singing and dancing that saw its zenith in the 1920s. With the proliferation of the modern strip club in the late 1960s, burlesque came to be regarded as tame and old-fashioned and soon died out. In recent years, however, burlesque has enjoyed a resurgence, with a number of clubs opening in metropolitan centers across the country.
“Founded by Heather MacAllister (aka RevaLucian), who was a size-acceptance artist and activist dedicated to redefining the contemporary notion of beauty, Big Burlesque challenges Western standards of female beauty including a thin body that is often unattainable, unrealistic and potentially unhealthy for many women. By providing a burlesque act that features only larger-sized women, Fat-Bottom Revue is seeking to widen the current standards of beauty.”
taking the nom de stage RevaLucian, Heather called herself Ms. Demeanor.
In 2005, actor Leonard Nimoy photographed the Big Bottom Revue for a New
York City art show, and she received the Queer Cultural Activist Award from the
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club in 2006.
A public pagan memorial to Heather in Precita Park was covered by the San Francisco Chronicle. The ritual was followed by a procession to El Rio.
not obese -- that's a diagnosis. It's not heavy. It's not overweight. It's fat,
and Heather helped reclaim the word ‘fat,’” the Chronicle article
quoted a participant in the memorial called Deva.
Heather requested before her death that donations be made to Heather's Fat Fashion Scholarship Fund, care of Carole Cullum, Cullum & Sena Law Offices, 1390 Market St., Suite 818, San Francisco, CA 94102.
ASWAT - Palestinian Gay Women held its first ever public convention on March 28, 2007 in Haifa. The event celebrated five years since the establishment of the group and honored the publication of its first book, “Home and Exile in Queer Experience.”
The book is a collection of articles, the first of its kind in Arabic, presenting the issue of lesbianism from the feminist point of view. The book was produced in order to raise awareness in Arab society both with respect to freedom of choice concerning sexual preference and the existence of lesbians in Palestinian Arab society.
Leslie Feinberg was one of the many activists who spoke at the conference.
Shortly before the conference was to take place, The Islamic Movement in Israel--a religious, political and cultural movement of Arab Muslims in Israel--publicly criticized the meeting, calling for the conference to be canceled and urging its community "to stand against the campaign to market sexual deviance among our daughters and our women."
"We do not oppose their personal choice but we oppose their intent to bring this issue to the open air," Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur, an Arab member of Knesset and head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, told Women's eNews a few days before the conference. "The consensus of our community does not tolerate this kind of behavior. The consensus feels it is kind of a disease that must be healed and must be healed in a peaceful way."
ASWAT responded with a press release stating, “ASWAT is aware of the opposition aroused by the existence of lesbians among certain groups in Arab society, however, this phenomenon exists in all societies, even in those thought to be a part of the enlightened world.”
“A society which does not assure these values will eventually cause harm to broad sectors within it and will lead to its collapse. ASWAT views itself as belonging to the circles acting to safeguard human and civil rights wherever they are.
“In light of threats on the part of intolerant groups, the convention is taking place without a great deal of publicity, in order to preserve the safety of the many activists and their right to keep their sexual identity to themselves. ASWAT hopes that recent developments in the Arab public, especially publication of documents concerning the future status of the Arab community, calling to reinforce tolerant and democratic values in Arab society, will help to promote the group’s activity. We hope that the next convention will be held in an atmosphere of greater tolerance.”
“Aswat's historical and first of its kind conference achieves a great success,” proclaims the group’s website. “Around 300 participants filled the hall while only 30 women demonstrated against it outside. On this day Aswat celebrated 5 fruitful years of social change and awareness raising. An intoxicating feeling of joy and pride filled the air and swept away all attendance.”
Save the Date
LAGAI & Gay Shame: The Invisible End of the Rainbow: Liberation politics in the queer community
Wednesday, June 27, 7 p.m.
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia, SF
On December 15, 2006 federal judge Jeremy D. Fogel ruled that California’s “implementation of lethal injection is broken.” He further said that the actions and failures to act on the part of the department of corrections have “resulted in an undue and unnecessary risk of an Eighth Amendment violation. This is intolerable under the Constitution.” The eighth amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
Fogel’s ruling was based on four days of testimony in September that caused the judge to determine that people who had been executed could have experienced “extreme pain.” He found that the procedures lacked “both reliability and transparency.” He ordered the state to revise their procedures. The schwarzenegger administration responded that they would make changes by mid-May and report to the court, but did not provide any details.
On April13, it was revealed that the department of corrections began construction in January on a new death chamber. A January 23 memo to the department of finance said that the judge had ordered the construction of the facility. The facility is conveniently enough projected to cost $399,000, a good $1000 below the $400,000 threshold requiring specific legislative approval of capital projects. The construction was discovered when a member of the Legislative Analyst’s Office visited san quentin to inspect “upgrades” in the prison’s medical system. Legislative staff who had visited the prison in recent months were not told about the construction. UV has previously reported on the administration’s controversial plan to rebuild all of death row at san quentin, which is apparently still being debated by legislators.
In 2006 Judge Fogel stayed the execution of Michael Morales due to the issues raised about the lethal injection procedure, which led to the September hearing. Barbara Becnel, who witnessed the execution of Stan Tookie Williams in 2005, described a procedure that appeared to be prolonged and painful. The lawyers for Michael Morales were not aware of the construction of the new death chamber suite, which includes three separate viewing rooms for family members, other witnesses and media, as well as the new chamber, and there appears to have been no court ruling requiring the construction. Fogel’s December ruling cited a lack of meaningful training, supervision and oversight of the execution team, inconsistent and unreliable record-keeping, and improper mixing, preparation and administration of the drugs.
LAGAI – Queer Insurrection and other opponents of the death penalty support ending the torturous method of lethal injection execution that has been practiced in california. But we also point out that there is absolutely no humane or acceptable method the state can use to take someone’s life.
A couple months ago, I read in the paper about the arrest of the San Francisco Eight, former Black Panthers who were being charged in a 36-year-old police murder (for more information about the case and the defendants, see article in Out of Time). A few days later, a friend who is working on organizing support for the 8 mentioned that they needed people to go visit.
I was nervous. I didn’t know what it would be like to visit someone I had never met or even communicated with. I wrote a short note to one of the men, Harold Taylor, and sent some pre-stamped envelopes, which I heard they needed. Then the next week I called the jail visiting line and scheduled a visit with Harold. Before I went, I asked people who knew him, “What should I talk about?” They said not to worry, I wouldn’t have to talk much.
They were right. Harold’s a big talker. So is Francisco Torres, who arrived out here a few weeks later, and whom I’ve visited several times now. They like to talk about themselves (who doesn’t?), so after a short time, I feel like we’re old friends. They are smart and well-informed, like my other friends, so it’s easy to talk to them.
They also get depressed, especially Harold. I can’t blame him. The San Francisco County Jail at 850 Bryant is pretty mellow as jails go, but as high profile defendants in a case being directed (and paid for) by federal homeland sekurity, the 8 are in administrative segregation. They’re locked down 23 or 24 hours a day, they only get a shower every other day, and worst of all, any time they need to go anywhere, they are shackled hand and foot. Last week I asked Harold if he’d been playing basketball, which I know he enjoys.
No,” he said, “I just couldn’t take getting chained up to go play ball.”
Supporting political prisoners has always been an important part of LAGAI’s work. Back in 1988, when we started the Women Political Prisoners’ Commissary Fund with Out of Control, Deeg said the slogan should be, “Invest in Your Future (because someday we might all be political prisoners).”
Now that I’ve very briefly been a prisoner, I have a new appreciation of the importance of that work.
During the month that I spent in immigration prison in israel, I got a lot of support from a lot of people. I couldn’t get letters but I could get calls on my mobile phone. The wonderful folks from LAGAI and QUIT!, Women In Black, International Solidarity Movement and International Women’s Peace Service, and Israeli Anarchists Against Walls, organized people to call me most every day, and those phone calls kept me sane. Israeli friends drove four hours to bring food and books and visit for 20 minutes, or less, if it wasn’t visiting day or the commander didn’t like them. I felt like I couldn’t have survived without those contacts with people who shared my world view.
Every now and then, I got phone calls from people I didn’t know, or barely knew, people who had read about me on the internet or heard about me through emails from ISM or IWPS or QUIT! I got calls from Germany, Australia and Ireland. Those phone calls meant something very special. I knew my friends were proud of me and supported my actions in Palestine and my decision to fight deportation, but I also assume they would have supported me no matter what they thought. That’s what friends are for.
The support of people I didn’t know helped me feel that I was doing something worthwhile. It made me feel like part of a movement. That’s what movement people are for.
Josh Wolf, shortly after he went to jail for grand jury resistance for the second time, wrote that he had gotten a lot of pressure from people in his life to give the government what it wanted and stay out of jail. Many people who end up in his situation don’t have a community that is set up to support resistance.
Before I went to Palestine, I occasionally wrote to prisoners, and never visited. I was shy, and didn’t really know if people would want to hear from total strangers. It was always something I meant to do. Since then, there are still people I always mean to write to and haven’t – Dr. Sami al-Arian, for instance. But I am trying to make direct personal support for political prisoners a more constant part of the work I do. I see it as paying back, and paying forward. Because that day when we’re all going to be political prisoners might not be so far off.
For information about the Panther 8, and to find out how to support them, visit www.cdhrsupport.org. For information about other political prisoners and grand jury resisters, see http://www.prisonactivist.org/.
Democracy Now!, the largest progressive media collaborative in the country, calls itself “The Exception to the Rulers.” But when it comes to inclusion of women as sources, DN! is not so exceptional.
A friend turned me on to Pacifica Radio’s daily newsmagazine shortly after 9/11. Since then, I have listened to it almost every day. I’m in good company. As host Amy Goodman reminds us at the end of each broadcast, they are broadcasting on over 450 radio stations in North America, including Pacifica, NPR, community, and college radio stations; on public access, PBS, and satellite television, and podcasting on the internet.
Sometime in September, as election coverage started to take over more and more of the hour, it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember when I had last heard a woman on the show other than Amy. I looked at their website, to see if my perception was correct. In fact, in the seven weekdays from September 21-29, Democracy Now! interviewed only one woman on the show. The one woman interviewed during that week, the wife of a military resister who had turned himself in, was not the main spokesperson on the issue.
Was this an aberration? I didn’t think so, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I started going through the last several months’ shows and recording who was interviewed about what. Eventually, I decided to analyze the whole year.
Women were 28% of all guests on the show in 2006. 38% of broadcasts did not interview any women, while 4% did not interview any men. 78% of the time, there were more men than women on the show. Most broadcasts contained 2-3 interview segments; 35% of segments included women; 82% included men.
While these numbers make it clear that women were seriously underrepresented on DN!, looking at which segments most often include women and which do not is more revealing.
“Experts” - journalists, authors, scholars, filmmakers, lawyers, and staff of major nonprofits - make up the backbone of DN, as of any news magazine. These experts were 58% of all guests in 2006, supplemented by activists and people with a personal stake in the issues (you might say “victims”). Only 22% of expert guests were women.
When only one person is interviewed on an issue, that person is most likely to be an expert, and thus most likely to be male. A majority of segments consisted of interviews with only one person, 75% of whom were men. Similarly, people who are invited onto the show regularly are mainly experts. Of 34 people interviewed at least three times during the year, 24% were women.
Women were underrepresented on almost all topics covered on DN! in 2006. I identified 272 separate topics covered. Women were never interviewed on 59% of them, while men were not interviewed on 15%. Out of the top 29 topics (ones on which more at least six people were interviewed in two or more segments), women were a majority of those interviewed on only three: AIDS, the controversy surrounding the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” and “women’s issues.” Women’s issues, including such topics as women in Iraq, sexual harassment, abortion and the death of Betty Friedan, were addressed by 22 speakers during the year. Only one of those “women’s issues,” sexual harassment in the military, made it into the top 29 by itself. There was no topic among the 29 on which men were not interviewed, including "women", which I considered as a single topic, and sexual harassment.
Women were 26% of people interviewed about Iraq, 25% on Israel/Palestine, 14% on Lebanon, 39% on New Orleans, and 26% on subjects related to U.S. elections.
What it means
These statistics signal a serious lack of attention to the inclusion of women’s voices.
They are far better than those for mainstream public affairs programs, such as Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour or Meet the Press. In a cursory look at Fresh Air’s recent broadcasts, I had to go back nine shows to find one woman guest. In the last six months of 2006, 8 of 92 guests on Meet the Press, or less than 9%, were women.
On the other hand, a 2005 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in 45 different news outlets, “More than three quarters of all stories contain male sources, while only a third of stories contain even a single female.” By this analysis, DN is neither better nor worse than average - 35% of its stories, or just over one-third, included women; 82%, or over three-quarters, included men.
I don’t believe Democracy Now is deliberately booking more men than women, although, since the show is hosted by a woman, she or her producers may feel their gender bases are covered. More likely, they are simply failing to rise above the social reality that men still have more power in this country than women.
In this country, men are a majority of college professors (72%), reporters (63%) and bestselling nonfiction authors (68%). So a list of expert sources on most subjects is likely to be top-heavy with men. Women were 42% percent of lawyers interviewed on DN! last year, but only 21% of public officials, closely reflecting the proportion of women in those professions nationwide.
If, though, Democracy Now! and other progressive media want to have gender parity, there are a number of things they could do to improve their chances:
1) Stop privileging experts over activists, and rethink who is an expert. Rather than acting as gatekeepers to make sure that only those with the right credentials get on their show, the producers of a program called Democracy Now! might think of their mission as democratizing the airwaves by giving a voice to people who don’t have access to other media.
KPFA Pacifica’s daily talk show Against the Grain has a policy against interviewing anyone more than once a year. Their goal, says former producer Sasha Lilly, is not to create movement stars but to air a diversity of perspectives. Seymour Hirsch and Robert Scheer, both smart and interesting guys, don’t actually need Democracy Now! to get their ideas out; they both write regularly for major U.S. newspapers and magazines. By giving more air time to ordinary people who are doing things to increase democracy in their own communities, DN! would do more to foster democracy now.
2) Cover a broader range of issues. Of the 609 segments produced in 2006, 309 (51%) were devoted to 24 topics. Only two segments all year dealt with India, one with China, none with Romania, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, or Rwanda.
Stories that DN! did not cover at all in 2006 include:
· National Coming Out Day
· Women’s History month
· the burgeoning feminist protest movement in Iran
· the arrest of all six progressive members of the Philippine Congress on sedition charges
· the first major United Nations report on violence against women
· organizing by restaurant workers, hotel workers or exotic dancers
· the coming out stories of WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo
· the arrest and trial of Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho for exposing a child sexual abuse ring
· the approval of the morning after pill for over-the-counter use
· the ongoing women’s peace camp outside a U.S. air base in Scotland
3) Cultivate women as sources on issues that are covered frequently. Katha Pollitt, Urvashi Vaid and Cynthia Cockburn, none of whom were on DN! last year even once, are as knowledgeable and articulate as Seymour Hirsch, Dahr Jamail and Noam Chomsky, each of whom was on at least 3 times. There is no subject on which there are no women experts, from nuclear physics to the nuclear family. If at least half of the people on your list of sources are women, there’s a good chance of achieving close to parity.
4) Don’t assume that women need men to restate what they’re saying or put it into a broader context. In activist circles we joke that if a woman has a good idea, a man should repeat it and take credit for it. The media version of this is that women are interviewed as victims or activists and men are interviewed, often more at length, for political analysis. But women, given the chance and encouragement, are usually more than competent to provide their own analysis.
Some years ago,
when Helen Mirren burst into the limelight as Detective Chief Inspector Jane
Tennyson, a reporter asked her if she was going to fight for better roles for
women on television. She said no,
she was going to fight for better roles for women in the world, that television
Democracy Now! did not create male supremacy; it simply reflects it. Alternative media, however, should not just mirror society but critique it. Will Democracy Now! live up to this challenge or will women be left asking, "Democracy When?"
 This data counts only people who were actually interviewed on the show (either recorded or live), not people whose voices were heard in features, clips of movies or radio documentaries, brief news stories, Congressional hearings, or vox pops (audio collages).
 In fact, all issues are women’s issues, but not, as we have seen, according to the media.
 Interestingly, women are 57% of best-selling fiction authors http://www.complete-review.com/quarterly/vol3/issue4/sexist.htm).
Members of the Hayward Education Association’s bargaining unit that includes teachers, counselors, nurses and speech therapists, began their strike on Thursday, April 5 and Friday, April 6. The strike began after repeated attempts to come to a negotiated settlement on the only item on the table, salary, in the current three year contract.
The district and the union had to go through a process of mediation and fact-finding before the union members overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike in March. The union is asking for the 8.08% cost of living adjustment already given by the state to the school district for the 2006-07 school year, and the cost of living adjustment plus 4% for the 2007-08 school year.
Both the district administration and the Hayward School Board are claiming poverty to deny union members their share of the increase in budget received from the state. Last year teachers and other members of the union accepted a 0.83% increase in salary (beginning in January, and therefore, equivalent to about a 0.4% increase for 2005-06), so that the district could become financially solvent and rid itself of state oversight.
Then, during the summer, assistant superintendents were given a 16.83% pay increase. Most recently, the directors, high level management people, were given a 7.9% increase in salary. The superintendent, Dale Vigil, makes about $230.000 per year. At the same time, the school board repeatedly tells teachers that there is no money to increase the pay scale for those who serve students directly.
Hayward Education Association’s teachers are the lowest paid of six comparable districts. The increases in salary that the union is asking for will only bring Hayward’s pay scale to the median (the middle) of like school districts. Union members do not believe that this is an extravagant demand.
In response to Hayward Education Association’s bargaining demand that union members receive 8.08% this year, and the cost of living adjustment plus 4% next year, the district offered a 3% off the salary scale bonus for 2006-07, and 7% for next year. HEA bargaining unit members would receive a 1.6% additional increase if enough teachers retire next year. The bonus would not be carried on to next year’s salary and would not be credited towards retirement.
While other school districts cry that they cannot pay their teachers due to rising health costs, Hayward Unified School District cannot claim that they have no money due to health care costs. Hayward educators pay their own benefits. In 1995, the amount equivalent to a single person’s health care costs was added to the pay scale due to the fact that the Hayward health plan never covered a family. Therefore, Hayward union members have absorbed the cost of the increase in health care benefits packages. In the past four years, health care costs have risen more than 50%.
In addition, while the state has increased the budget of school districts by 22.44% since 2001, Hayward Education Association’s salary increase has been only 7.69%. The impact on morale and teacher retention has been horrendous. This year alone over 100 teachers have left the district. Hayward is no longer a competitive district and is not able to attract and retain teachers to provide on-going educational experiences to our students.
Hayward Unified School District claims that teacher salaries will bankrupt the district. However, historically, teacher salaries have never bankrupted the district. In the early 1990’s incompetence conjoined with economic recession lead to the strike of 1993-94. After those years, Hayward salaries were brought to the median of like districts and the budget was well maintained. Hayward faced another fiscal crisis as a result of the exorbitant expenditures, done with the full approval of the school board, during the administration of Joan Kowal n the 2000’s. Currently Hayward administrators are among the highest paid in the area, while its educators are among the lowest paid. As always, union members were forced to suffer a loss of real wages due to problems created by district administrators.
Another claim by the district is that Hayward cannot afford what the union is asking for because of declining enrollment. What the district fails to mention is that the state’s cost of living adjustment, paid on a per pupil basis, is on-going monies. As enrollment declines so will the number of teachers be decreased. At the same time, the district administration will stay the same size. With declining enrollment the percentage of the district’s budget that goes toward administration will grow in relation to the teachers’ shrinking portion of the budget. Again, teachers and students lose while top-level management makes big gains.
The union’s bargaining team stands ready to meet at the bargaining table for real negotiations. During the Spring Break, when a settlement could have been reached, the Superintendent, Dale Vigil, took a vacation and no new proposals were put forth by the district. As of April 13, Hayward educators are ready to be on the picket line on Monday, April 16. Hayward Education Association members has the support of the Hayward Community and other unions in the area. Educators and community members were inspired by the presence of Dolores Huerta at their rally on Friday, April 6. She reminded the Hayward community of the importance of standing up for your rights in the name of justice and fairness. “Si se puede,” everyone chanted together.
Check out videos from the strike:
On Tuesday, April 10, several hundred people marched from the Emeryville City Hall to the woodfin hotel, to try to stop the hotel’s plan to fire 21 workers in retaliation for their claims for back wages under Emeryville’s living wage ordinance. The spirited demonstration included a wide range of activists, community groups and unions, including UNITE HERE, which represents many hotel and restaurant employees, but not employees at the woodfin, which is non-union.
In November 2005, Emeryville voters passed Measure C, which created conditions for permitting of “large hotels” that have sprung up there. The measure, sponsored by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) and UNITE HERE Local 2850, required that workers at
“large hotels” (more than 50 guest rooms) be paid a minimum wage of $9.00 per hour for each employee. The average wage for all employees in a calendar year is required to be at least $11. Measure C also contains an automatic inflation adjustment, to be applied in March. In addition hotels are required to pay room cleaners time and a half, if they are required to clean more than 5,000 square feet per eight-hour day, which is further reduced if there are large numbers of check-out rooms or rollaway beds etc. The law covers contractors and subcontractors as well as recognized employees. It also protects employees against discrimination for filing a complaint.
Initially the Emeryville hotels refused to abide by the ordinance, but after a community campaign, the Marriott raised the workers pay. The woodfin initially filed suit in federal court to block implementation of the ordinance, but it later withdrew the suit, and was ordered to pay $10,000 in attorneys fees. In October, the hotel gave 30 workers notice that they had found problems with their social security numbers, and threatened to fire them if they were not corrected, although many of these workers had been working at the woodfin for years. On December 15, the woodfin notified 21 immigrant workers that they would be fired in two weeks. On December 21, the workers and the city of Emeryville went to superior court and won a restraining order preventing the woodfin from firing the workers. Then the City Council approved an emergency ordinance prohibiting hotels from firing, or reducing the hours of, workers who have measure C complaints during a 90 day investigation period. In January, Judge Bonnie Sabraw granted an injunction that will expire April 20, preventing the hotel from firing the workers while the city investigates their complaints.
On Tuesday, April 3, the signatures of 487 Emeryville residents were presented to the city council on petitions that urged elected officials to require that the woodfin pay the $160,000 they owed in backpay, and guarantee the workers’ job security before the annual operating permit was issued to the hotel. On April 4 the hotel was placed on the do-not-patronize (boycott) list of the the California Labor Federation. That week the hotel also sued the city, claiming that Measure C compels the hotel “to continue employing undocumented workers in violationof express federal law prohibiting such employment.”
“Measure C is calculated primarily to tilt the economic field in favor of organized labor,” the complaint said.
Community picketing is continuing at the hotel, which is located at 5800 Shellmound in Emeryville (at the far end of the public market), on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.. People are also encouraged to call woodfin suites CEO samuel hardage at 858-794-2338 x 700 and tell him to pay the over $160,000 in back pay owed to the workers and to guarantee their job security. For more information, on this campaign contact EBASE at 510-893-7106 or go to www.workingeastbay.org.
by Deni and Chaya
MOCHA COLUMN QUIZ: Who gave the finger to George
Bush, thereby declaring himself an activist: (a) Ronald Reagan, (b) Arnold
Schwarzenegger, (c) Ricky Martin, or (d) Sean Penn. See end of column for the
The Lives of Others (reviewed by Deni)
Sorry, but I found this highly rated Oscar winner slightly annoying and insipid, though with some excellent acting and period cinematography . The film takes you from 1984-91 in East Germany when the Stasi (East German secret police) had tight control over people’s lives. A Stasi officer is seemingly transformed from evil party loyalist to sympathetic-savior-with-democratic-tendencies by the question of an innocent child in an elevator, the music of Beethoven, and the relationship between a writer and his sensuous but vulnerable and misguided girlfriend. It just didn’t work for me. The roles of women also didn’t work for me, nor did making the most evil Stasi minister fat to have him appear even more deplorable. And given the hysterical level of secret policing practiced by the U.S. government today, this cold-war example felt a little strange.
Bridge to Terabithia (reviewed by Chaya and Deni)
This is a likeable film with good acting and a fairly
intelligent script about the friendship that develops between 2 middle-school
outcasts who are neighbors. Josh Hutcherson is the artistic Jess (misunderstood at his
working-class home) and AnnaSophia Robb is the imaginative Leslie (ignored by her groovy,
well-to-do parents). Together they create the fantasy world of Terabithia, which
is a disappointingly weak part of the movie (you don’t get to see much of
Terabithia, not a lot happens there and the special effects could have been a
lot better). But their bond provides them with a nourishing refuge that helps
them both grow. The 2 life-altering events at the end seemed contrived; we’re
not sure how closely they followed the plot in the book. But we liked that there
was a strong girl character and the film dealt well with bullying, getting to
know yourself, and family issues.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (reviewed by Deni and
At long last, this excellent movie by leftist English director Ken Loach finally opened in major U.S. cities, and we urge you to see it before it goes away. Magnificently filmed in western County Cork, Ireland, it’s a complex mix of politics, relationships, beauty, and grueling scenes of violence and resistance. Beginning in 1920, the movie chronicles the growing Irish resistance to British occupation. Damien (Cillian Murphy – also of Breakfast on Pluto) and his brother Teddy (Pádraic Delaney) join an IRA guerilla group fighting against the British government. A treaty is eventually proposed but the brothers have very different responses to it. Some of the most interesting and dramatic parts of the film are the arguments and discussions about class struggle, co-optation, and choosing political pragmatism vs. maintaining the struggle for justice and national liberation. Loach does not try to simplify or present easy answers to the political conflicts among the Irish or the way these conflicts are handled in the film. Choices are made that you can both abhor and understand. This is a very powerful, relevant film. See it now!
The issues of resisting occupation and struggling for freedom for one’s country reminded us of Palestine; it’s no wonder many progressive Irish people have long felt a connection with the Palestinians’ fight against Israeli aggression and occupation. When we were in Northern Ireland last summer, we saw the Palestinian and Irish flags flying side by side.
On March 29, 2007 Aosdána (the
Irish state-sponsored academy of artists) did not pass a motion to fully support
the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, but
did pass a motion that reads: "Mindful of the 4th August 2006 call from
Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers to end all co-operation
with state-sponsored Israeli cultural events and institutions, Aosdána wishes
to encourage Irish artists and cultural institutions to reflect deeply before
engaging in any such co-operation, always bearing in mind the undeniable courage
of those Israeli artists, writers and intellectuals who oppose their own
government's illegal policies towards the Palestinians."
Director Ken Loach signed on to
the Cultural Boycott in August ’06. To see his statement, go to http://www.pacbi.org
and click on “campaign activities” where you will find his press release.
The Namesake (reviewed by Deni)
This movie by Mira Nair has some beautiful moments, both cinematically and emotionally, and some fine acting, particularly by Irfan Khan and Tabu, the parents. It is a story of cultural ties and conflicts, and how emigration from Calcutta to Boston affects the generations in a family. The film was strongest in its portrayal of first generation immigrants, their emotions, desires, and fears. The movie is based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s bestseller; perhaps the book itself includes more of a seamless emotional context providing continuity to the events in the story, but I found this to be missing in the movie, which made the film somewhat episodic and flat. When the focus shifted from parents to son, the emotional journey of the son, Gogol, was more superficial than shattering. His relationships with women were somewhat contrived, seemingly developed to illustrate points rather than as integral to the character. See the movie, but remember to really enjoy the first half, before it goes downhill.
Movies We Wished We’d Had Time To See and Review: The Host, The Lookout (maybe), U-Carmen, The Hoax. Any opinions on these? Email us at email@example.com
BITS AND PIECES
Let’s hear it for the FDA:
Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA Center
for Veterinary Medicine, said: “Meat and milk from cattle, swine and
goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day.” Gee,
Steve, does that mean it’s as safe to eat as food doused with pesticides or
radiation? And hey, Steve, what about the fact that 64% of Americans are
repulsed by the idea of eating food from cloned animals? We’re glad the FDA
isn’t being pushed around, and will allow milk, eggs and meat from cloned
animals on the market soon. And that FDA, geez are they smart! Knowing that
cloned food would be boycotted if it were labeled as such, they plan no required
labeling of food products containing ingredients from cloned animals. We’re
off to look into that swine milk issue...
Wondering about the
effectiveness of the telemarketing do-not-call list? Well,
so is George W: “If somebody from al-Qaeda is calling you, we’d like to know
why.” Hey, W, we’d like to know why that unnamed carpet cleaning company
keeps calling us.
MOCHA COLUMN SPECIAL WELCOME:
Sparky, the new canine member of the UltraViolet film critic and social
commentary team. No, we’re not renaming the column and yes, she’s partial to
films she can sink her teeth into.
ANSWER TO QUIZ:
Hey, high stakes testing time is here again. Do you want to review that “process of elimination” strategy or did you already know the answer was RICKY MARTIN? Though a headliner at Bush’s inaugural ball in ’01, Martin used that middle finger when Bush’s name was mentioned at a recent concert, saying: “I couldn’t help it. I’ve never been political or anything but now you know where I’m at. I’m an activist.” Next thing you know, he’ll be coming out and joining LAGAI.
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF SPARKY WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
Impeach at the Beach
Ocean Beach, San Francisco - Saturday morning, April 28, 2007
arrive 10:30 a.m.
Stay until the helicopter leaves
Website says “all of this is subject to change”
Check http://beachimpeach.com/sfa28.html.html to confirm and sign up
Penguins courtesy of Lisa
Cafe Night: Queers in
Sunday April 22, 7:30 pm
The Long Haul Infoshop
3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley
Dinner + Presentation/discussion/benefit for ASWAT, an organization of Gay Palestinian women.
Donations of between $3 ~ $5 strongly encouraged.
About 800 people participated in die-ins on Market Street on Monday, March 19, commemorating the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the shutdown of the City by outraged Bay Area residents. The die-in, from noon to 1:00 p.m. at locations from Embarcadero to Civic Center, reminded people that 655,000 Iraqi civilians have died violently because of this invasion.
The action was organized by former members of Direct Action to Stop the War, along with Declaration of Peace, Bay Area Code Pink , Act Against Torture, QUIT! and United for Peace and Justice.
The thing about writing history is that it’s still happening. Where do you begin? Where do you end? ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) had its 20th birthday recently. It’s old enough to vote or be drafted. Almost old enough to drink. And it doesn’t really exist. And if you reflect too much on this history you’re overwhelmed by all of the people who are dead.
ACT UP wasn’t the AIDS movement. It wasn’t the beginning of the AIDS movement. It’s not the end of the movement. But it was a part of the movement. And this movement was author of some of the most hauntingly beautiful direct actions and actions in this history of political action.
Citizens for Medical Justice (CMJ) sat-in at the office of then-governor deukmejian in the mid
80's and followed that up with a demonstration at the Burlingame offices of then-named Burroughs-Wellcome. B-W took a patent it got for free, repackaged it as a treatment and made a killing from the money. Remember the boycott of their other products like Neosporin because they were charging up to $10,000 per year for this drug? The AIDS Action Pledge formed after that action. ACT-UP was forming in New York and soon the name was adopted in San Francisco.
In 1989 people with AIDS joined with some veteran queer political activists to block the Golden Gate Bridge. Naming ourselves, Stop AIDS Now or Else, the front page photo of “AIDS = Genocide, Silence = Death, Fight Back” ironically enough put ACT-UP SF on the map. SANOE continued with a couple of other high profile actions, at the SF Opera and the SF City Center shopping mall, while a spin-off branch in southern California blocked the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
Meanwhile in SF the cops reacted to the perceived threat of insurrection by declaring martial law in the Castro on October 6, 1989.
Twenty years later I am still propelled by an abiding rage. Over a movement that did not deal honorably with the privilege enjoyed by some of its people. Over a movement that refused to include women and people of color. Because this disease still exists. Because when I think I can’t remember the names they all come back. Because a straight left now lionizes the twentieth anniversary of ACT-UP when twenty years ago it couldn’t be bothered to mention AIDS any more frequently than ronald reagan, while fag after fag, friend after friend died. (Okay, they did occasionally say “Money for AIDS not for war, but could they have said less?) Where were they then? Where are they now? Twenty years later Ronald Reagan and Herb Caen did not suffer enough.
A number of early white, privileged, male activists had access to resources (media, connections) not enjoyed by African-american women doing work today. While people still get sick and die AIDS still is not urgent for the same people who have ignored it for the past decades.
We are still trying to convince people that we boycott israel today for the same reason we boycotted the VIth International AIDS Conference: oppression and genocide are wrong.
An Open Letter to the Peace Movement, by LAGAI, 1991
For ten years, the gay community and the communities of color have been decimated by AIDS. Over 7,000 have died in San Francisco alone, the majority of them gay men. We have been out in the streets for eight years, and if even half of the people who demonstrated against the war in the Gulf had been there with us, we might have stopped the dying by now. Where were you last summer when we were protesting immigration restrictions against People With HIV? Or last December when we were demanding Social Security for HIV+ women?
Your “nonviolence trainings” do not address the violence directed at people with AIDS by police. You do not see the police put on rubber gloves before they touch us. You do not think to ask whether PWAs in your holding cell are getting the medical attention or drugs they need. Some of you have been afraid to hold hands with a PWA during a blockade.
You march into our neighborhoods with hordes of straight people, chanting Out of the Bars and Into the Streets. But you do not even then pick up the chants we initiate. In fact, you have the nerve to be offended by our chants. What do you know about why gay people are in the bars? What do you know about their lives? Why would they want to march with you?
You bring your tables to the Castro because you see it as a large, liberal, affluent area, because it is a mostly white area where you feel safe. This is true, but these are our problems! You don’t even bother to get fliers from the lesbian/gay organizations against the war to put on your tables, and when we offer them to you, you smile but don’t hand them out. Are you afraid if you do, someone might think you’re queer? Don’t flatter yourselves.
At a recent anti-war demonstration, Jackson Browne (artist, activist and homophobe) complained that Queer Nation/LA was bringing “outside” issues into the peace movement by carrying queer signs and wearing drag. Straights, whites and males often forget that peace and justice are not mutually exclusive. All forms of oppression within the movement have been downplayed. Sexual minorities are expected to “pass” (a.k.a. pretend to be straight) because allegedly we can. Some of us can, but none of us will.
Homophobia and AIDS are not our only issues. Nor are they only our issues. The queer presence in the movement, including the struggles against war, imperialism and the destruction of our planet, must be acknowledged. Money for AIDS, Not for War is much more palatable in the left than lesbian liberation. Much of the left seems to think that lesbians have no valid issues, or that lesbian/gay oppression never existed before AIDS. The leadership lesbians have given to the anti-war movement for years has never been acknowledged and has often been hidden.
There are people here who believe the way we love and live is a sin. There are probably people here who have attacked people because they are gay. We acknowledge the rampant racism and sexism within the lesbian/gay movement. We take responsibility for confronting oppressive attitudes and actions in the groups we work in. We hold you responsible for confronting heterosexism in your groups – preventively as well as when you see it. Most of you don’t challenge the “religious peace community” on the anti-gay positions of their churches. You ask us to attend and respect demonstrations with a religious tone, but you do not urge religious people to come to Queer actions against police violence or rowdy AIDS actions.
Does this flier hurt your feelings? Get over it. You can be angry and call us divisive, or you can think non-defensively about the issues we are raising. Racism, sexism, heterosexism and other oppressions are divisive; discussing them is not. Some people in the Pledge of Resistance have been real allies in confronting heterosexism. We are all capable of changing our actions. We urge other people who have experienced oppression in the peace movement to bring it up.
A call has been initiated by individual Arab queers and QUIT! demanding that Frameline stop accepting the israeli consulate's sponsorship for the LGBT film festival. Last year, as Israel's bombers destroyed much of southern Lebanon, several film festivals acted on the call by Palestinian civil society to support a complete boycott of israel. The letter below, signed by over 100 people, only calls on Frameline to stop it's relationship with the israeli government.
Frameline directors Michael Lumpkin and Matt Westendorf recently responded
that "Frameline’s senior staff and Board Executive Committee have considered your request. We recognize that there are legitimate issues with
some of the actions of the Israeli government--as there are with actions of our own government. At the same time, as an international film festival our goal is
to use media arts to build understanding between people and cultures, and give strength to our LGBT movement for equal rights.
As a policy, Frameline has accepted films, sponsorships and support from a variety of countries and organizations, and will continue to do so. We hope that the diversity of the films shown, the diversity of our sponsors, and the diversity of our members
and audiences speak for themselves."
Please call Michael Lumpkin and Matt Westendorf at 415-703-8650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and let them know that you disagree with their decision. If you would like onto sign the letter (below), please e-mail kate at email@example.com. Please let us know if you are willing to have your name used publicly.
March 30, 2007
Michael Lumpkin & Matt Westendorf
145 Ninth Street, #300
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Michael Lumpkin & Matt Westendorf:
For the last several years, the
Israeli Consulate-General has been listed among the sponsors of the San
Francisco LGBT Film Festival.
As you may know, in the last
year, a call has gone out from Palestinian artists and their allies, including
some Israelis, for a cultural boycott of the Israeli government because of its
appalling disregard for international law and human rights. This call has been
joined by over 100 artists and writers, including filmmakers Sophie Fiennes,
Elia Suleiman, Ken Loach, Haim Bresheeth, and Jenny Morgan , writers John
Berger, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, and Eduardo Galeano, and musicians Brian
Eno and Leon Rosselson. The call states, in part:
Given that all forms
of international intervention have until now failed to force Israel to comply
with international law or to end its repression of the Palestinians, which has
manifested itself in many forms, including siege, indiscriminate killing, wanton
destruction and the racist colonial wall,
In the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression,
We, Palestinian academics
and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to
comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural
institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation,
colonization and system of apartheid …
These artists from around the
world have called on cultural institutions not to partner with or accept funding
from the Israeli government.
In recognition of the urgent
and moral importance of this call, organizers of both the Edinburgh and Locarno
International Film Festivals dropped Israeli government sponsorship of their
most recent festivals in 2006.
We are writing as members of
the Bay Area queer community, as members, former members and prospective members
of Frameline, and as people who love queer film and look forward to the festival
all year, to request that you respect this call and not solicit or
accept funding from the Israeli consulate until Israel complies with
international law and international standards of human rights.
As a community which has
experienced and continues to experience constant denial of our human rights and
indeed, denial of our right to exist, our community has often been in the
forefront of struggles for human rights for all people. We are very proud
of this tradition, and we know that you are too. It disrespects this tradition
for any institution of our community to have a relationship with the state of
Israel, which consistently violates the basic human rights of Palestinians and
denies their fundamental right to exist as a nation.
This June, we will be
approaching the one-year anniversary of the brutal assault on Lebanon which
killed over 1,000 civilians with illegal weapons such as cluster bombs, and left
over 900,000 homeless. It would offend our commitment to inclusiveness and
justice if the Israeli government were among the sponsors of one of the
signature events of Pride month.
A small group of us would like
to meet with you to discuss this matter. We will contact you to set up a
meeting. Meanwhile, if you want to
be in touch beforehand, please email Kate Raphael, firstname.lastname@example.org,
and/or Heba Nimr, email@example.com
by Laura K. Brown
The time to stop destroying finite resources is now. -- www.saveoaks.com
The story of the Tree-Sitting Protest to save the Memorial Oak Grove at UC Berkeley, in broad strokes, is that the University of California football coach demanded an upgrade for his department – new equipment, facilities, office, the works. The administration responded with a design for an athletic center. Reportedly, the University operates under the architectural slogan, “Design, Act, Defend.” The evidence of their behavior condemns them.
When the plan became public, many people came forward to point out that the University’s plan incredibly involved building an athletic center in an Oak Grove and directly on top of an active earthquake fault. Alternative sites were proposed. Several sets of protections for the trees and the People’s voice in the development process have bee made. The City of Berkeley prohibited cutting down the trees. The Environmental Impact Report requires pubic input which did not occur. The Grove is included on the list of historic Sites. The University of California was undaunted by the City of Berkeley, The State of California or the Federal Government. It proceeds to honor football.
In spite of the apparent protections in the process, the University rammed its plan through; heedless of any public or regulatory concerns beyond those of building the athletic center, exactly where they want it, regardless of the quality or quantity of the opposition.
Major points of controversy:
The Grove of Trees is a precious ecosystem that provides a wildlife corridor, shade, and beauty.
Documents reveal the site is a Native Burial Ground
The site sits on top of an active earthquake fault
Before the University could act, by cutting down the trees and moving ahead with site preparation, a group of protesters occupied the trees, in a last ditch effort to stop the University from cutting them down. The Tree-Sit is now over one hundred and thirty days old. Why is this important? Does one Grove of trees matter in the BIG picture? The University is big and powerful and the tree-sitters are few and weak so they are bound to lose in the end. Everybody knows the football-makes-money-for-the-university story. There are so many pressing needs of people, animals and the environment, why give so much for such a few trees and rag-tag wildlife? There is a war going on against the poor people at home and against the Iraqi people in their homes. So what is an Oak Grove compared to unjust imprisonment, war-for-oil?
As long as the Ruling Interests have a lock on the imagination of the People, the People are sunk. The Ruling Interests have got to convince everyone that they are powerful, in-charge and overwhelming so everyone better do what they say, or else. The “or else”, ranges from lack of career opportunities, to jail time, to murder.
The Tree-Sitters expose the story of the all-powerful university as a paper tiger. It looks really scary until you peek around the paper Mache. Big strong policemen look brave when they battle drug lords in the movies but the Berkeley University Policemen look like pitiful bullies when they battle the barefoot Tree-Sitters. The Tree-Sitters expose Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s weakness. The weakness of his plan is that it requires that enough people agree to maintain the status-quo. For one thing, the Chancellor’s power depends on people sleeping where he says they ought to sleep. The act of sleeping in the trees by a few people (who are supported by a great many on the ground) challenges the power of the Chancellor and it shows others how to do it.
The tension between “Athletics” and the trees in the Grove is false and shallow. Coaches, athletes and athletic supporters do care for trees, the future for grandchildren, blah blah blah. Few sophisticated people are not concerned for the Environment. The trees are equally content to make shade to the jocks and the protesters. Yes, the sports people are benefiting from this plan in the short run, but in the long run they will be equally impacted by wanton destruction and loss of finite resources.
The Tree-Sitting protest exists as part of the tapestry of protest, not in competition with other threads of protest. All protests succeed or fail based on what the community will bear. Howard Zinn explains how the Big-Money-Interests will push as hard as it can for its agenda until the people push back. Child labor restrictions, the eight hour work day, civil rights, etc. are among the concessions made in the United States based on the pressure from below.
In this case, the BIG money is behind the proposed development of this Athletic Center. The capitalist story is that BIG money talks loudest. Money is power. They even say that time is money. The tree-sitters challenge the story that money is the only power.
A policeman reminds the tree-sitters supporters that he works for a paycheck. Money is the bottom line, again. In the policeman’s case it is LITTLE money identifying with BIG money. Sad story all around.
Creative solutions exist to protect wildlife, trees, and athletes. Ignacio Chapala describes a European model that accommodates the needs of urbanites and wildlife. (The athletic expansion could perhaps be developed under the existing Oak Grove, allowing the wild life corridor to remain in tact.) This is UC Berkeley. Why can’t UC be the leader for innovation instead of the leader of the yesterday’s science, laden with yesterday’s creepy capitalist values?
If the University put the same energy into caring for the trees of the Oak Grove that it spent trying to slip and slide past environmental regulations, created to protect them, the tree-sitters would be on the ground somewhere else.
The Pubic is encouraged to read the Environmental Impact Report that covers the proposed project and decide for themselves if the University is acting with honor. Find it: http://www.cp.berkeley.edu/SCIP/EIR.html. For information about the tree-sitters: www.saveoaks.com. The tree-sitters are stopping the University from destroying a finite resource for arbitrary reasons. The power of the tree-sitters is in the trees. The sitters and the trees are engaged in a powerful, co-creative process.