Saturday, April 10, 2010
Parable of Snow in Oakland
Mayor Ron Dellums gave his State of the City speech tonight at City Hall. My two-year old grandson Jahmeel wanted to pee on the steps of City Hall but I redirected him to a corner where he could relieve himself. He was assisting me passing out my poster poem Black History is World History. A woman walked up with her daughter to ask what was going on at City Hall since she saw all the television vans outside. She asked was it a black history event?
I said it's either a black history or white history event! After getting her poster, she went on her way. Jahmeer was photographed by journalist Reginal James.After my grandson Jahmeel gave posters to Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb and Gay Cobb, Geoffrey Pete and Joyce Gordon, Supervisor Keith Carson, we lingered awhile then went inside to catch the Mayor on the giant screen in an anteroom.
We came in to hear the Mayor giving a glowing picture of progress in Oakland. Crime is down 10%, 38% since the new year. Ex-offenders have a voice in the Mayor's office, Isaac Taggert, who used to be a brother but is now too busy to speak with brothers he used to hang with. We saw him bringing in refreshments for the event. Another person my grandson gave a poster to was former city councilman Wilson Riles, Jr.
When he saw my Haiti, Oh, Haiti poster, he gave me a quick history lesson on Dessalines, Toussaint and Henri Christophe, leaders of the revolution in Haiti. He said they flipped and flopped at various times and that we might hear some of the same tonight. It was snowing in Oakland, but it all seemed to get caught in the white natural of Mayor Dellums. When my grandson saw people clapping on the giant screen, he clapped, but nobody else was clapping in the anteroom.
We see the USA is providing schooling, housing and jobs for insurgents in Irag, Afghanistan and Yemen. We didn't hear a similar program in the Mayor's speech. Rather than police, why doesn't he pay former inmates to secure their neighborhoods, by paying them a living wage. Give gang bangers a living wage. Call for amnestry from all petty criminals in jails and prisons. True, he took off the box for city employment that asks have you ever been arrested. This is good. But how many other employers have done so?
No doubt the City will be laying off workers, although Dellums said Oakland actually hired workers while other Bay Area governments and cities were laying off workers. The snow is falling in Oakland. Let's have a snow ball fight!I hate to play the devil's advocate, but my job as a poet/critic is not to give any ground to pharaoh and his magicians. I'm for radical change and I see little of that in Oakland, from the past two black administrations down to Dellums. Dellums talks a good game but it sounds like the same old song.
The truth is that Oakland is in dire straits and the modicum of change the Mayor has brought about is merely kibbles and bits, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. More police, police as mentors, police as saviors, police as all in all, as in police state. The new police chief Bates walked in with his entourage. Oakland received the biggest grant for police in the nation, according to the Mayor.In truth, slavery has returned to Oakland, or the slave codes.
Youth are told they cannot gather in groups on the corners or in front of businesses in downtown Oakland. There are "youth police" to urge them on in violation of their constutitional right of freedom of assembly. At the building on 14th and Broadway where a giant Walgreen's is about to open, there were seats where people could sit awaiting the bus. These seats were bulldozed but not before a security guard was stationed on post to stop people from sitting while waiting for the bus.There are no places in businesses for people to use the rest room, including customers. It is Jim Crow second class citizenship in black face.
The snow job continued as my grandson begged for water, so I left the room looking at Dellums on the giant screen. I hear he'll run for a second term. His chief rival will be Don Pareta, a gangster politican retired from Sacramento. So the choice is twiddle dee or twiddle dum. Amiri Baraka of Newark, New Jersey, says go with the black, no matter his negrocities. Correction: Baraka emailed me to say he meant a "progressive black."