Lacerate Hate with Levity

Berkeley’s 30 year-old Farmer’s Market has apparently been cancelled this weekend. It’s only been cancelled once before due to a gale storm. This time, it faces a different type of storm. Some might call them stormtroopers.

For the second time in as many months, Trump supporters plan to hold a rally in Berkeley. Their objective is obvious: rile the local snowflakes into violence and create yet another distraction for the Trump Administration. Why talk about his Administration’s ties to Russia or his saber rattling with North Korea or his harsh domestic policies when you can show video of Trump supporters set upon by upset snowflakes in the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement?

I can think of better ways to deal with Trump supporters. Mock them. Make fun of them. Laugh at them. They have anger and hate on their side. We don’t need to challenge them on that front. We have much more potent weapons. Music. Humor. Satire. These weapons leave much deeper wounds. We should never hesitate to use them. Lacerate hate with levity.

Ladies Against Women remains a favorite satirical reaction to right-wing bafflegab. Created in 1980, it mocked Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly, and others who sought to throw women back to the 18th century.

A more recent favorite is the sousaphone player who mocked a Klan rally by just blowing his horn. Dumpy music with a Wagnerian chaser. His video has over close to seven million views. The Klan didn’t have a chance.

These are the examples to follow. Don’t fight anger with anger. We’re better than that. Be creative. Hit them in ways that they are unprepared for or incapable of responding to.


Time for Medicare for All

A nihilistic, nasty, and cruel healthcare bill that would have hurt millions, including members of my own family, failed in the House of Representative because it was not cruel enough. To this we have descended. I have two thoughts about this.

First, Republicans cannot govern because they do not believe in government. In their fantasy land, everyone takes care of themselves. We have no collective society with collective needs, such as education, infrastructure, healthcare, environmental protection, and so forth. Even Republicans who begrudgingly agree that some of these things require our collective attention remain loathed to pay for it. It’s an odd mindset. To defense we can throw untold billions, but everything else does not matter.

Second, as a country we have to think of defense as more than just bullets and bombs. Defense against disease is just as much a national concern as defense against external threats. More people will die of cancer and heart disease than terrorist attacks in this country. Yet we willingly spend billions on defense and allow healthcare to fend for itself. Ugh.

Our biases revealed themselves most coarsely during the whole Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Why should I have to pay for mammograms? Why should I have to pay for prenatal care? I don’t need them. Really?

We can’t have a strong economy without a strong, healthy population. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Thus, healthcare needs to cover the needs of all citizens. And as a taxpayer, I’d rather tax money go towards mammograms than munitions that sit idle.

The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, was just a first act. It’s cumbersome, ptolemaic in the extreme, but it has provided millions with healthcare that did not have it before. Now we need to move forward with true, universal, single-payer healthcare in the US. Medicare for all. We have to cultivate the idea that healthcare is a right. While individuals can make their own choices on how to live, a just society should provide quality healthcare for everyone. Many countries do so without a qualm.

My country does not because it allows the worship of money and greed to overpower everything. Thus, those that have get, those that don’t die. That is our healthcare system, a recipe for death. It does not have to be this way.

Culture Under Attack — Bashing Big Bird Again

Not surprisingly, the Trump Administration budget calls for the elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, National Public Radio. You know, anything that expresses culture, ideas, independent thought. This is not the first time these institutions have been under attack. This is the first time, however, that we have a relentless bully in the White House. While ridiculous ideas like cutting 30% out of the State Department’s budget likely will not survive Congress, Republicans may decide it’s time to get rid of programs that they’ve loathed for years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Trump this past week. How well does Germany fund the arts? Very well, indeed. In 2014, they spent $1.75 billion on cultural programs. Germany also has a more robust public broadcasting service than the US. Trump believes that Germany does not send enough money to NATO. He’d probably like to see them slash their culture budget, too. Fortunately, I think the Germans are too smart for that.

Once again, I feel the need to trot out my now 6 year-old post about the importance of public broadcasting and culture. The more we allow society to dumb down, the more we make ourselves vulnerable to demagogues like Donald Trump in the future.

[The following original appeared February 16, 2011.]

Big Bird and I have grown grey together.  If you look at him closely, you’ll see a tuft of white feathers on top of his head.  It’s been there for a while, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t born that way.  Maybe he was, and I just don’t remember.  But in any case, it pleases me to think that my old friend, whom I grew up with, is aging and surviving just as I have managed to do.

So the Republicans want to defund public broadcasting again.  Yawn.  As Rachel Maddow pointed out on tonight’s show, they pull this stunt every time they get in power.  And the Democrats respond with “they’re trying to kill Big Bird.”  Though I guess the aging bird couldn’t make the rally but Arthur the Aardvark did.

Rachel rightly stated that the attack against public broadcasting isn’t fiscally driven, even if that’s what some Republicans might say.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting isn’t exactly rolling in the dough.  Its 2010 budget saw a federal contribution of $420,000,000.  Defunding CPB won’t exactly rid the country of its multi-billion dollar deficit.

No, the move to defund, either partly or entirely, public broadcasting is strictly ideological.  Beyond the usual conservative talking point about wanting smaller government, public broadcasting, and Sesame Street in particular, represent what they hate the most about the 60s.  CPB is the child of progressive thinking and an optimistic view that said things are possible.  At a time of racial strife, the Sesame Street had white folks and black folks and Latino folks and Asian folks, and a bunch of furry monsters and feathered birds, getting along peaceably.  Other shows born during this period include The Electric Company and Villa Alegre, both also impressively integrated for its era.  I think, I fear, that the bi-lingual Villa Alegre, which portrayed Spanish-speaking people in a positive light as intelligent, three-dimensional human beings, could never get produced today, in this age of SB 1070.  Some folks, I fear, don’t seem to mind that.

Public broadcasting is all about opening doors.  This crop of Republicans seem to be all about closing them.  Culture be damned.  Children be damned.  Well, how we fund our culture, how we fund institutions for our children is the very measure of who we are as a society.  We can cut funding to CPB and get rid of Big Bird and Grover (my personal favorite).  We can cut funding to National Public Radio and get rid of Piano Jazz and Jazz at Lincoln Center.  But is that what we really want?  I give generously to KCSM, Jazz 91, and have for the past 14 years.  Keep jazz alive.  But I’d like some of my tax money to pay for it, too, and to pay for public stations which I may never hear in parts of the country I may never visit.  Because a cultured society, an educated society, a society which fosters these higher ideals in its children is the society I want to live in.

Ideological vapidity be damned.

Enough. Where Are the Tax Returns?

President Trump, where are your tax returns?

I’m not falling for this late round of obfuscation, distraction, or deflection. He can tweet-storm until the cows come home. That will not deter me. I will continue to ask the same question. Where are his tax returns?

So now we have spurious allegations that former President Obama ordered Trump Tower bugged during the election.

Upset by the phone “tapp” (sic), Trump has called on Congress to launch an immediate investigation.

I’ve seen two trains of thought about this latest invented controversy. First, most have pointed out correctly that the president cannot unilaterally order a wiretap. S/he has to go through the FISA courts. Second, as Wired notes, if a judge in the FISA courts did order a wiretap, then Trump spilled the beans on himself and aired his own dirty laundry. They don’t issue such orders willy-nilly. It could mean further sauce for the goose in terms of Trump’s Russian dealings. Petard meet hoist.

Regardless, I see this whole affair as nothing more than another silly distraction. Anything could have triggered it. Sessions recusal, Carter Page problems, more mounting evidence that the Trump campaign palled around with the Russians, whatever. I’m sick and tired of his constant issue dodging, and I’m growing more and more impatient with the media’s falling for it time and again. Stop wasting time on his spurious, fallacious allegations. Stick to the script.

Where are his tax returns?

He went from “I’m going to release them” to “I’m waiting for the audit to finish” to “I’m president now, so nobody cares.” Accountability is not his strong suit. But that’s exactly why it needs to be ours.

Clearly, his refusal to release his tax returns and financial records indicates that he has something to hide. Captain Obvious would laugh at that statement. We need to know what he’s hiding. Today, not tomorrow. The famous building tycoon continues to expand his house of cards. One could pick it apart from any of a number of vulnerable spots. But the trump card in all of this remains his tax returns. Get that, and the house will crumble very bigly.

Don’t fall for distractions. Keep asking the question. Where. Are. The. Tax. Returns.

Calling All Jazz Artists: Save KCSM Jazz 91

My favorite section of Hajdu’s Strayhorn biography Lush Life, the part with the strongest storytelling, is where he talks about Billy Strayhorn’s cancer diagnosis. For this chapter, he relied on the vivid memories of Marian Logan, Harlem socialite and wife of Dr. Arthur Logan, physician to both Strayhorn and Duke Ellington.

Strayhorn took his diagnosis bravely, calmly. Ellington, not so much.

“Arthur called Edward [Ellington’s first name] and told him. He was on the road somewhere,” Marian Logan recounted. “Arthur said, ‘Edward is terribly, terribly angry. I think he blames me. ‘How can you tell me this? Do you know what you’re saying? Why didn’t you tell me this before?’… He was irrational. And he was pissed off.”
Hajdu, “Lush Life – A Biography of Billy Strayhorn,” Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1996, p. 233

I’m with Ellington right now.

KCSM, Jazz 91, the mainstay of my musical existence for the past 20 years, has the blues, and their blues will be felt by their thousands of listeners worldwide. Due to budget shortfalls and other issues, the station will have to cut back some of their on air staff and has cancelled some of their best programs.

Gone is “In the Moment,” a showcase for recorded live performances in the Bay Area. Harry Duncan’s “In the Soul Kitchen” also received the axe. Some of my favorite announcers will be working reduced shifts, including Greg Bridges, whose programming has aided me while writing on more than a few occasions.

While the station is dedicated to staying on the air and broadcasting jazz 24/7, one of only three left in the country still doing so, its precarious position troubles me to no end. And more trouble could exist just over the shaky horizon that is life in the age of the Trump Administration. He has already made known his desire to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and the National Foundation for the Arts. Republican Congresses in the past have threatened this act of cultural suicide in the past. Having a president pushing for so drastic a move only makes matters worse. While these federal programs make up a tiny fraction of 1% of the national budget (we won’t solve the deficit by getting rid of them, in other words), entities like KCSM rely on the money they receive to keep the lights on.

We human beings are storytellers. Music tells our stories most vividly, creatively and viscerally. Music is also the closest thing I have to a religion. So the last thing I want to see is my main temple of music go away.

Miles Davis has a famous quote where he says that all musicians should get on their knees at least once a year and give thanks to Duke Ellington. I’d like to revise this a bit. I think every working jazz artist today should give thanks to the little station that could. KCSM is probably jazz’s best ambassador and that’s entirely due to the knowledge, care, and dedication of its on air talent.

So here’s my challenge. Time for all jazz artists and their fans to go Full George Bailey for KCSM. Do benefit shows. Fill the halls. Sing the station’s praises from the rooftops. Save one of your best ambassadors. In these troubling times, we need the wit, wisdom, diversity, and badassness that is jazz. We need KCSM.

(And everyone, donate now.)

DNC Chairmanship – More of the Same? Hope Not

Two friends on Facebook, who do not know each other, independently and simultaneously posted their reactions to Tom Perez winning the Democratic National Committee chairmanship. One friend noted that Mr. Perez, Labor Secretary in the Obama Administration, worked hard on LGBTQ issues, in particular on transgender rights. The other friend had a one word reaction, a word I often use myself: ugh.

Both of their reactions encompass my own. I recognize that Mr. Perez has progressive credentials. I also recognize that he comes from an establishment that seems unable or unwilling to look at itself in the mirror to see what’s going wrong, and that scares me.

Democrats won everything in 2008. They already had the House and the Senate and Barack Obama’s victory gave them the White House. Additionally, they held a supermajority in the Senate for the first time in ages. It should have been a perfect moment for the party and the country. But it wasn’t.

Too many Democrats in office during the first two years of President Obama’s term held corporate allegiances. They eschewed anything that smelled too progressive, including parts of the Affordable Care Act (e.g., the public option). When it came time for reelection in 2010, these timid Democrats ran for the hills, away from ACA, away from a popular president. They lost. And the party has been losing ever since.

In 2010, they lost the House.

In 2014, they lost the Senate.

In 2016, they lost the presidency.

In the background of all this national losing, they lost statehouses and governorships across the country. Today, Republicans control 32 state legislatures, Democrats control 12, and 6 are divided. Of the 12 statehouses under Democratic control, only five have Democratic governors. Eight short years ago, Democratic commentators, like Marcos Moulitsas and others, went on about how the Republican Party became a regional party, that it would never win a national election again. Blah, blah, blah. Wrong, wrong, wrong. These commentators had in fact been describing the eventual fate of the Democratic Party.

The New Republic recently published a devastating article, “Obama’s Lost Army,” that details how the DNC squandered the grassroots organization created to elect President Obama in 2008. Rather than turn it into a strong force for progressive ideas, an incubator for a new generation of Democratic politicians, or a force for local organizing, the DNC simply allowed all the organization to falter and vanish. The piece states that Democratic insiders were not comfortable with a separate entity organizing Democratic voters and fielding potential candidates that party bigwigs had not vetted. So they allowed it to die.

Saddest part of all, the Republicans learned the lessons from Obama’s victory and did the grassroots organizing that the Democrats were reluctant to do, leading to victories in 2010, 2014, and 2016 and the election of Donald Trump.

My other point of contention, what happened to everyone who voted in 2008? I asked this before, and I’m still asking it. Trump did not win simply by luring erstwhile Obama voters. He won because a lot of people simply didn’t vote. Folks like Van Jones have focussed on the former problem and have all but ignored the latter. And I’m tired of it. We need to discuss the problem of people not voting.

I contend that people like progressive politics when its explained clearly and when those who espouse it follow through on their promises. People want socialized medicine, even if they don’t like that name. Call it something else, then. But once “Medicare for all” or however you want to call it is established, then folks won’t want it taken away, just as folks are finally waking up and protesting the inevitable destruction of the Affordable Care Act at the hands of the Republicans.

The 2009 stimulus, meant to revive a stagnant economy and reverse rising unemployment, was so successful that Republicans who voted against it touted its benefits to constituents. The stimulus suffered from poor marketing — it really needed a better name if nothing else — and lack of clarity as to what it was and what it was supposed to do. Republicans exploited these shortcomings to their advantage.

Republicans and Democrats are very different in one very crucial way. Republicans mean what they say, say it clearly, and follow through on it. Democrats equivocate and meander. They run for the hills when they should defend what they believe in. Then they lose.

For Tom Perez to change the failing status of the Democratic Party, he needs to address these issues head-on. I really hope he does. Appointing his former opponent for the DNC chairmanship, Congressman Keith Ellison, as his Deputy Director could be a good first start, if he gives Congressman Ellison something meaningful to do. Otherwise, I worry that 2018 will be another in a long line of electoral disappointments, to the detriment of the country.

Donald Trump, One Trick Pony

Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, is a one trick pony.

Trump humiliated himself and the country during his joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. When asked about growing anti-semitism, he went into a free association, stream of consciousness diatribe about his electoral college victory. This comes three months after said victory and nearly a month after assuming the presidency.

And then, a few days later, he held his first solo press conference in the White House. It did not go well. Among many other things, he continued to go on about his electoral college victory. A reporter challenged him on his claim that he won more electoral votes than any president since Ronald Reagan. When the reporter told him his victory was less than Barack Obama’s in both 2008 and 2012, Trump said he meant Republican presidents. Another error. George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral votes, more than Trump’s comparatively modest 304. “Well, that’s what they tell me,” was his only response. Seth Meyers compiled a brief collage showing the numerous times Trump trumpeted his electoral college victory.

(And don’t even get me started on his response to April Ryan’s question about working with the Congressional Black Caucus. He asked her, an African American, if she would set up the meeting and if she was “friends” with the CBC. I’m surprised he didn’t also ask her to get him coffee.)

The whole electoral college exchange reminded me of the movie Shattered Glass, the docudrama about disgraced former New Republic writer Stephen Glass. He lied constantly and his lies got into print, until they became too much and his editor Chuck Lane finally documented the deceptions and fired him. The real Chuck Lane, played in the film by Peter Sarsgaard, explained on the commentary track that Glass often would retreat to the most believable lie possible as each lie dissolved in the face of the truth. Trump exhibits this behavior in spades.

Don’t expect a pivot. He will not start acting “presidential.” This is who the man is. He is a one trick pony, the one trick being self-aggrandizement. He can only talk about himself and his accomplishments. That’s all he is and that’s all he has got.

He will not learn that one does not discuss national security issues in a crowded dining room with admiring fans nearby taking photos.

He will not learn that the most powerful man in the world does not send tweet-storms in the wee hours of the morning, causing stock market slides or panic among allies.

He will not learn that he does not have absolute power to do whatever the hell he wants, that the courts can stop him just as the Congress can (but won’t), because we have a 200-plus year old system called “checks and balances” that keeps any one branch of the government from getting more powerful than the others.

He will not learn that he represents all of the country, not just the parts that voted for him.

He will not learn that he cannot hold rallies for adoring masses and call that governing.

He will not learn any of these things because Donald J. Trump is a one trick pony. He does his one trick well, or at least well enough to get by, and that’s it.

This is what America bought and paid for in the 2016 presidential election. This is the pony we’re stuck with. While he continues his song and dance, however, nefarious things happen just below the headlines. The Congress has on its docket a spate of untenable bills, including one to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress will also continue their work to weaken environmental protections and regulations, take millions off of health care by repealing the Affordable Care Act and stripping Medicare of billions of dollars, etc.

The dirty work occurs quietly, out of the limelight. It’s hard to say if Trump is just a planned distraction or a hapless fool. Perhaps he’s some of both. Either way it doesn’t matter. Many of the protections and liberties we take for granted are in grave danger while the pony performs his one trick and the Congress performs a very different and more dangerous trick.

The press would do well to pay more attention to the latter than the former.

Mocean Worker – All About the Bass

I first noticed the music of Mocean Worker when NPR’s All Things Considered used his tune “Tickle It” to introduce their feature “All Tech Considered.” It tickled my ear, so I bought the album it came from, Cinco de Mowo!. I’ve been Mowo-ing ever since. His blend of classic jazz and electronics struck a chord with this old swing queen. It wasn’t Neo-Swing. Mocean Worker, aka producer Adam Dorn, knows his music and can sample the hell out of it. In addition to his own considerable credentials (he’s worked with David Sanborn and Chaka Khan), his father is producer Joel Dorn, who worked with legends like John Coltrane and Charles Mingus.

Last summer, I bought his 2015 release, titled simply Mocean Worker. It still has many samples from classic jazz recordings, and jazzy synths popping and thumping all around. But make no mistake: Mocean Worker is all about the bass. I’m talking oozing, funking, grooving bass. Thumb-slapping, note popping, foot-stomping bass. This is the bass I grew up with. This was the bass I heard my late brother Robert practice hours on end in our shared bedroom as he honed his craft back in the day. This album took me back, in a good way.

“Soul Swing,” the first track, lives up to its name. The pendulum starts swinging, but the funk hits hard. In a flash, it’s the mid-70s, I see brothers and sisters with Afros reaching for the heavens, combs stuck in the back, boomboxes on their shoulders, and skates on their feet. And they be getting down as the music warps and twists, at times sounding as if it came from under the sea or from on high.

The party continues on the next track, “I Told You Twice the First Time.” It has a air of mystery, like we’ve entered a tunnel leading to a dark grotto, the denizens getting down among stalactites and stalagmites.

Mowo the bassist leads off on “The Actual Funk.” Its stomping beat takes me back to Earth Wind & Fire, the bass licks smacking of the sort of thing Robert played at that time in his life. The swinging sax echoes in the background, but the bass owns this tune.

The mash-ups between the swing and the soul and funk really make this album for me. Makes sense. There exists a logical progression between swing and funk. Both are all about the dance. Cab Calloway made a disco-funk version of his theme “Minnie the Moocher” (still prefer the original) just as groups like Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band celebrated the Big Band era on tunes like “I’ll Play the Fool” or “Cherchez La Femme.”

Mr. Dorn’s talents take the music to the next level. It’s dance music first and foremost, but it also creates a landscape for the mind to wander. Small wonder I often play this album when I’m writing…

Sorry, “RubberBand” just came on. I can’t sit still with this tune. I have to get up and start clapping, every four beats, then every two, then every beat. Every time. It’s hypnotic. I’m similarly addicted to “Savoy Strut.” Love how that track starts in the 70s and takes me to the 80s, when I came of age listening to New Wave.

On “Ralph and Marcus” I hear the bass slapping again. And then on “PunkDisco (Jaco)” Mr. Dorn celebrates the spirit of Jaco Pastorius and his hard-driven style. The last track, “Colette Ma Belle Femme” make me think of Jaco as well, his tender side, a sweet lullaby to end a night of booty shaking.

On all the voyages I take listening to this album, Robert stays with me. I can’t hear a bass or see a bassist without thinking of my late brother. I like to think that he’s with me as I continue the voyages he started me on, as if he’s handing me off to the next generation, to see the tradition he participated in continue on.

With Mocean Worker, the tradition lives. The bass lives. The dance lives. Music lives. It’s all good.

Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” and Today’s Racism

Carolyn Bryant recently admitted that she lied. It was not a little white lie, but a big white lie, the biggest of white lies ever told. A big fat white lie told countless times over the centuries, always to the detriment of African-Americans. Her lie? She said that Emmett Till, a 14 year-old African-American boy, whistled at her. For this lie, Mr. Till died an excruciating, sickening death. (Scroll down on the “Emmett Till” Wikipedia page and you’ll see a picture of Mr. Till in his coffin; his mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show the world what had happened to her son.)

Bryant’s big fat white lie reinforces a truism that was my takeaway from Colson Whitehead’s excellent novel The Underground Railroad: African-Americans live at the pleasure of white Americans. Even when his heroine Cora, a runaway slave, found anti-slavery whites willing to help her escape bondage, some had a different agenda. Some wanted to maintain control over the black population by forced sterilization. One couple would only help Cora by making her a prisoner, keeping her locked away so that others would not discover that they are harboring a fugitive slave. In her attic dungeon, aloft like Rapunzel, she sees what happens to uppity Negroes and the whites who helped them. They become fodder for state-sponsored barbarism and murder in the comfort of the neighborhood park across the street.

Railroad makes another point that stuck with me: when blacks do achieve a level of success, then whites have the right to destroy it. Cora is menaced by a rabid slave-hunter named Ridgeway, Captain Ahab to her Moby Dick. Ridgeway has an almost spotless record when it comes to capturing runaways and returning them to their plantations. Cora’s mother was the “almost,” the one who eluded Ridgeway’s capture. For this, he wants to make Cora pay by taking her back to her sadistic master in Georgia by any means necessary.

Ridgeway is a jewel of a villain, well drawn out and vicious. But he also has a curiously calm side, making him even more threatening. When things go his way, he can behave almost civil. But it only takes an instant for him to turn his barbarism on, commit an atrocious act, and then returning to his calm state. Ridgeway believes in maintaining the status quo: a slave is property, like a plough or a table, and it belongs to someone (he always uses the third person pronoun with slaves). Yet he also has a black companion, Homer, sort of his Boy Friday. Ridgeway obtains Homer then buys his freedom. Despite the terrors he commits to other blacks, Ridgeway treats Homer respectfully, and Homer remains loyal to him. I wonder if Ridgeway really sees Homer as a black person at all. Bigots often create exceptions in their minds for black folks that they like.

Ridgeway wants to destroy any freedom blacks enjoy and ultimately longs to destroy the underground railroad itself. Whitehead makes the underground railroad a literal railroad, a locomotive subway with stations buried deep underneath safe houses. Some readers found this a bit over the top, but I thought it a brilliant representation, a perfect foil for his antagonist.

The power Ridgeway possesses is his ability to get like-minded people to follow his audacious lead. This proves critical at the end of the book. And it had me thinking of how whites, jealous, filled with hate, have taken from African-Americans sometimes simply because they could, like Bryant did to Mr. Till. It also explains why I reacted as strongly as I did to the election of Donald Trump as president. It was the ultimate act of cruelty, the sort of thing that haunts blacks and that bigots live for.

In Trump we have Ridgeway’s modern equivalent. He believes that blacks have their place, and so long as they are in that place, things are OK. Otherwise, blacks are uncivilized and live in horrific conditions riddled with crime and drugs. His racist views date back decades, to when he and his father prevented blacks from living in their buildings.

When Barack Obama became president, Trump lost it and started his birther bullshit. He lost it further still when no one took him seriously, people called him a racist, and the President himself mocked him at a White House Correspondents Dinner.

What greater revenge could such a man as Trump have then to get elected president, go into the White House, and destroy everything President Obama ever did. “Make America Great Again,” Trump proclaimed, a foghorn more than a dog whistle, one that harkens back to the age of slave hunters like Whitehead’s Ridgeway.

Trump got away with it because society gave him permission just as it gave Carolyn Bryant permission to lie and get a 14 year-old boy into trouble and murdered. Turning a blind eye to bigotry does not make it go away. It makes it grow. It maintains the status quo for all the Ridgeways, Bryants, and Trumps of the world, making it safe to hate again.

The Women’s March – Oakland

I wonder how many folks avoided watching the inauguration the day before, as I had. For me, January 20 was a day of pause. I worked on writing stuff, stayed out of view. All that changed on Saturday.

I arrived early. But things were already busy. In no time, it became even busier.

Revulsion. Fear. Worry. Anger. Determination. All emotions felt and expressed by the growing masses assembling to march.








So many came out, that we experienced a major “traffic” jam. Tens of thousands of bodies, young and old, short and tall, all genders and races, converged on Oak Street. It took over a half-hour to move a block.









Neighbors in their apartments cheered us on, placed their own signs in their windows. More stood in front of the Oakland Museum of California, cheering and clapping. One kid led us in chant: They go low, he said, and we yelled We Go High!


















We hit our stride once we got to Lake Merritt. At this point, we could see a glimpse of the size of the crowd. A long line curved around the lake. I couldn’t get a good shot of it, but it was impressive. By this point, some had trickled off and taken a different route, one leading directly to the end point, Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall. My friends and I stuck to the original march route, up the west side of the lake to 19th Street, then left, then left again on Broadway.

Again, descending the mild grade on Broadway, we got a perspective of how many people came out. By the time we reached City Hall, the police had already issued an advisory that the Plaza was near capacity. True enough, I couldn’t get very close to it.

But the end destination was hardly the point. The mass attendance and the peaceful takeover of the streets were the heart of this march. Oakland’s participation in this national effort reached 100,000, according to police estimates, up from their original estimate of 60,000. That’s nearly a quarter of the city’s population.

History has proven time and again that when women get angry, they get busy. Trump and his group won’t acknowledge this. But they’ll have to reckon with the angry millions that marched this past weekend, whether they realize it or not.