Open Letter to Oakland City Council: Response to Ghostship Tragedy

Dear Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland City Council,

I write to you today as a mother, homeowner, and resident of Oakland (District 3). I ask that you and the city council show more understanding and alliance with those who live and work in warehouses throughout our city. I love West Oakland and feel grateful to reside in this area. My husband and I consider the murals, street art, studio spaces, underground music venues, and sculpture gardens pluses and not minuses. We didn’t want a sterile, cookie-cutter neighborhood, we chose to live where we know our neighbors are creating art, music, and dance. Today, I write to ask you to protect my community both for profit and underground.

I am a 45-year-old mother that may not fit your perception of a warehouse dweller or underground supporter. But I’ve personally survived and thrived due to the vibrancy of underground world and was re-born by art and music. I’ve lived in and attended events in warehouses since I was 17-years-old in and played punk rock in these creative spaces into my mid-thirties. And to be honest, I need this underground world now more than ever. The days after our recent election, my first inclination was to find my musician friends who welcomed me with hugs and loud punk rock. This week I will again find solace in this same community. I am what Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the President of City Council may call “lawless” or even “anarchist” (her words not mine). Because I admit I want to protect these DIY and free-form spaces where underage music lovers, yes eventually even my own daughter, can listen to music and dance till the break of dawn, without oppressive laws and punishment. I want real community, openness, and freedom, these are better terms than anarchy and lawlessness. To enjoy music till late night has sadly become a luxury, we have less space for this type of energy and life. Also consider this, many of the mainstream acts who now sell out The Fox Theater and Oracle arena started off in this world of free expression and experimentation. Dry up this world now and you won’t have music in the future and you’re revenue streams will diminish too. I’ve danced in legal nightclubs and underground warehouses till sunrise in amazing cities like New Orleans and New York, this is not a lawlessness, or strangeness, or even fringe! It’s fun, invigorating, life and happiness, and I contend Oakland needs this more than ever.

I also support these ideas shared by Jesse Townley in Berkeley, (I added the last bullet):

  • We need to pass an emergency law allowing right of return for warehouses/live-work spaces that are non-compliant with fire codes in Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, Emeryville, San Francisco.
  • We also need some sort of amnesty for unpermitted living units similar to the ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) amnesty last year.
  • We ask that building codes are re-zoned using examples from the NY Loft laws, this could also help alleviate barriers to find housing for unhoused residents as well.
  • We ask that the Oakland City council shows unity with warehouse dwellers and provides safety training, subsidizes materials such as exit lights, fire extinguishers, and other safety needs.

I ask you to please consider what happened at Ghostship as a freak accident and not a systemic issue, I would like to hear you use more specific language pertaining to this event. It’s becoming increasingly clear that a confluence of bad decisions, lack of oversight on all counts, including the City of Oakland, the landlord and the leader of the collective lead to this tragedy. There have been well run and safe underground warehouses in Oakland for decades. Oakland and other cities have never had to respond to a mass casualty event because they haven’t happened. Don’t vilify a whole community to show you’re doing something about safety. I know that my community of friends have already begun to self-regulate and are diligently working to improve safety, please support these efforts. This community all have their own codes, laws, and rules, it’s not lawlessness, on the contrary, these rules are there to protect the community! Ask them first hand how they run co-ops and build cities in the desert. You will be surprised at the number of rules they’ve created that apply to their specific needs.

And finally, please, please don’t let the deaths of 36 people, who lived and loved music and underground spirit, die in vain! Please don’t let their deaths give you and the city permission to tear apart a community that is grieving. The beautiful souls we lost on Friday would want their fellow artists to be protected, not trampled upon by knee-jerk enforcement. So, I demand that you stop evictions, protect residents and artists and listen to their needs! Please show good faith that you will continue to protect underground arts, not just city-funded projects, or nightlife in legal venues, or live work lofts for wealthy individuals. The diversity and vibrancy of a city come in many forms.

Sincerely,

Anita Singha
Resident of West Oakland
PS: I personally ask and implore that Lynette Gibson McElhaney stop thinking that warehouse residents embrace lawlessness and that some are anarchists. I know you’ve apologized but as of today you still choose to use this language and it’s concerning. You may have heard these words from a small minority but this doesn’t give you permission to paint a broad brush on a large majority of the community. If you want to show good faith and work with the community I know those words are not useful for coalition building.

I also ask as my councilwoman in West Oakland that you work to create a measured and helpful response to protect arts AND tenancy rights. I send this to you as a plea to understand that free expression is not the same as lawlessness. Again, reach out, attend an event, ask about how they run warehouses. For example, here is a well thought out response from Burning Man leadership, many of this community are very deeply entrenched in West Oakland and could provide answers.

Dismantling: Giving Thanks

It’s not hard to find gratitude and I do take thanks in the smallest joys. There is so much to be thankful for even if I’m filled with an extra dose of cynicism this year. Of course, I have my family, friends, health, nature and creativity to fill me with pride and gratitude. I’m very thankful to have dinner in my Bay Area bubble with like-minded friends. I kinda don’t have the energy to reach across or learn about an opposing view today. But, I do have empathy for those, who have traveled through a gauntlet of harried travelers and bumper to bumper traffic, only to navigate potentially thorny conversations at dinner, sitting tight-lipped and tense. Hang in there friends, it will soon be over, just be happy you have a community! Anyhow, it’s probably the best advice for all of us to avoid politics at the table this year, I’m not sure my digestive tract can take much more anxiety. Buurp.

And frankly, I’m also butting heads with my liberal friends who are still struggling with their whiteness, trying to convince me that my activism is part of the problem. We are all a mess over this election, casting dispersions and blame to and fro. None of this feels very comforting and sometimes I’d rather just go at it with my Republican family because they’re not filled with guilt and confusion over their positions. Oh, and yes, there are members of my brown, immigrant family that did vote for Trump. So that should blow up some of the stereotypes. Trust me, they can care less about diversity, identity, and have no interest to learn about intersectionality. It all comes down to the almighty dollar. They will get their rich people tax cuts and go back to exploiting the oppressed to win elections. Mostly they’re benevolent businessmen who want what’s best for their family and view capitalism as a means to end for their own self-interests, a system they feel works equally for all. But I am so thankful I don’t have to listen to them this year or bite my tongue, which is a difficult task for a big mouth. Anyhow, I have mostly given up, why bother talking to people who read Anne Coulter?  I will never, ever agree with them and visa-versa. The most frustrating thing about Republicans is how dismissive they are about any of the negative consequences of Trump’s administration. They just chalk it up to media bias and liberal hogwash and there isn’t really an end-game to win this debate. Instead, we just walk around the huge elephant in the room and breathe a sigh of relief when as we part ways.

Well, I am about to make pies and a yummy cheesy gratin. I love this white people holiday, mainly I’ve boiled it down to food, food, food. But I have not overlooked the fact that this artificially constructed day was created to promote capitalism, white supremacy and greed. Like most of us, I just stuff the feelings with tons of food and alcohol and hope to pass out early from an overdose of tryptophan. I do love a nice long four-day weekend, even if I am aware I’m a part of the managerial class, the liberal elite (I guess?) that has the privilege to overeat and wallow in self-pity. Yes, my sadness has given way to a streak of anger but I’m pretty sure this is one of the stages of grief.

I do wish everyone a lovely holiday and hope you don’t sit around questioning the validity of protesting as brave indigenous people, who at this very moment are getting tear-gassed and attacked by the evil forces of corporatism. All I have done is donate to the Sioux tribe, so at the very least I ask all of us to honor their sacrifice. They are using their bodies to stand in the line of fire, a fight that began when English separatists landed at Plymouth rock. I am grateful for their stance and seeing the horrible images from Standing Rock reminds me not to waver from fighting for justice and equality, and yes one way will be civil disobedience and protest. To all those that question the purpose of protesting, I ask you to read history if you have time this weekend or try to recall past successes that arose out of people power. Try not to be dismissive of these actions, find ways to honor the legacy of true heroes, some who have given their lives in the fight for human rights. And finally, I say thank you to all the civil rights crusaders, past and present, who stand tall against cynism, anger, and hate.

 

 

Dismantling: Searching for Meaning

This morning I spied the fog is rolling in, just like that the sky has turned from crystal blue to opaque whiteness. Mine is the last residential street in Oakland, edged off by an unsightly freeway ramp. The other side the hubbub of a bustling port transports clothes, shoes, food, cars, oil, and electronics. One side of the block is under construction, all plywood and slab—luxury living at ¼ the size but three times the price of a modest home in one of the elusive battleground states. My neighborhood is a contradiction. The other side is speckled with wonderful Victorian row houses, a reminder of a time when this was a solidly middle-class neighborhood, where families thrived before red lines were drawn and redevelopment came crashing through. Further down a shanty-like network of lean-to’s, tents, tiny homes and sheds create a safe haven for our unhoused neighbors who are wedged against chain link fences waiting for the world to take notice and help.

Words like bubble, inner city, hell, gentrification are the descriptors for this street, but this is my neighborhood, I live here with my family, just like so many other decent humans. In this past year, I’ve put my energy towards acquainting myself with the politics and the community, both of these are a challenge but worth the time. There is no single word, no demographic term that accurately describes my little space on this Earth, monolithic we’re not, rather a complex community, in need of specialized services and a new form of progressive development that will require leadership that is sorely missing in the bluest city, in the bluest county, in the bluest state. I can’t stop thinking, still reeling from this election, trying to parse out what has gone wrong, why I wasn’t heard, who I wasn’t listening too. For the first time in a long time I feel our politicians have abandoned us on so many levels, party politics has left us in the lurch and I see clearly that the change we wish to see is within us. The time is now, no more waiting around. There are no heroes, no symbols or catchy slogans that will save us. Just our solidarity and resistance.

Since election day the weather has been unseasonably warm and quite literally the only bright spot that was hard to overlook during these very uncertain times. I started off 11/8 filled with optimism, and proudly stated to my friends online that I love my city, my job my country, my family and friends and those feelings didn’t dissolve on 11/9. But optimism is replaced with resolve. I’m trying to dig deep because mistakes were made, I feel duped, misinformed, and mistaken. My critical eye has re-focused, I no longer trust the same sources of information that spoon-fed me comfortable doses of anesthetic in the form of snarky satire and refreshable data feeds. To be frank, it’s not all that important to cling to the same sources that threw us off our game. But I do expect more from the campaigners and politicians who let the wolf into the henhouse and implore they do as much soul-searching as their constituents. But I have my plan, I’ve replaced podcasts and radio news with music, comments online with in-person conversation, and mainstream media with history.

The weekend after the election, tears still well up, my stomach keeps dropping, another musician has left us. If there was ever a time for poetry and music it is now. Emotions are hard to contain as Leonard Cohen’s gravelly baritone rolls out poetry so apropos it feels like another punch to a bruised soul:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

It’s through this process of grieving, hearing words strung together with a marksman-like accuracy, that I start the process of healing. I’m not moping or wallowing because I need to stay energized. Of course, I’m unsure, not fearful but on edge, anxious but resigned. I’m filled with concern for the vulnerable and the foundational freedoms of my country that is once again struggling with its legacy of inequality. The reckoning has arrived and it’s not in the form we’d expected. But I’m still here. So are you.

Dismantling my liberal echo chamber: Part 1 of many

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I am still processing and these thoughts are just a sketch, a journal entry I share with you all for some reason. It’s not meant to sway or change opinions or even garner clicks or follows. Maybe it can be used to diagnose the downfall of our country or the unraveling (or enlightening) of a sad liberal.  Don’t take much heed in what I say, for as of today, I am stripped of knowledge. All I know is that Donald Trump will be the president of my beloved country. We have no clue what is coming next, none. I think it will be something we can’t contemplate because that’s the lesson of history. I am not going to speculate any further, rather, I am going to be watchful. I am going to listen hard.

But one thing I am clear on is that I have never been so wrong, never felt so misguided and duped as I have these past few days. This election has shaken apart my belief system, I feel like my head snapped back in a form of political whiplash. A friend of mine said, “I feel stunned and simultaneously stupid for feeling stunned.” I couldn’t have said it better. I’m pretty quick to admit when I’ve fucked up. It’s probably from all the practice. In the past, I have let my mistakes eat me up, spit me out and ground to a pulp. But now I’m older, I’m a quick study. When I make a mistake, I lather up with humility, get introspective, and ready for problem-solving. This is a challenge and can make little sense, and may not result in much. But I do believe, that a crisis like the one we’re facing today is an opportunity in a weird way, I just don’t know what it is yet.

By midnight on Nov. 8, my blind spots cracked wide open and I still feel very raw. I take on the challenge of this indelible moment in history to ask questions, sit with what happened and try to understand how I missed the signs. They were there, all around. I’m still poking at cracks in the system but without as much guidance from the media and tastemakers. So I take this on as an amateur, as an unpublished writer, as someone hurting and wanting to hone my own ideas! I hope that I can write as clearly as I can without influence, although that is impossible I know. My posts going forward will not have media links or quotes from famous journalists. I have abandoned them until they reckon their irresponsible ways and figure out how to report information.

It’s only been two full days so it’s possible this current assessment is still riddled with bias, but so far what I’ve gathered from my own brain is that my error in judgment during this election season has a few layers; 1. I stopped listening to my inner voice; 2. I had an over-reliance on opinion makers and corporate media; 3. I didn’t talk to anyone on the “other side” in person; 4. I let fear cloud my judgment; 5. I fell into a binary trap. (My side/Their side).

While I was so wrapped in fear that a threatening man would take the highest office in the US, I got lost in the fog and couldn’t see my worst fear materializing. I didn’t see it coming because I didn’t want to see it. Surely people would think the way I thought? I was so certain. But I knew, deep down inside, I could feel the tug in my mind–You’re not seeing the whole picture. But ignored it, I read every article in my favorite liberal papers, clicked hundreds of links, traded music for political podcasts, refreshed data feeds, played with charts and graphs and projections. Validate, validate, validate. I felt so informed, I knew what was going to happen! Look at me I just read a 10,000-word essay in the New Yorker. Oh, but I ignored George Saunders’ accurate portrayal of Trump supporters and thought those folks are just the fringe, the center will unify. Yay, I am a centrist!

I tried to talk to others about my concerns early on, I was worried we had a candidate that wouldn’t resonate. But then fell back into the liberal trap when I was convinced otherwise, it’s not her style, it’s not who she is, and she is competent. Don’t be sexist. Don’t compare her to Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Warren, that’s not fair. But I knew my candidate would suppress voter enthusiasm. And in the final stretch, in a bit of mania, or maybe a weird subconscious epiphany, I rushed around and made last minute calls to Florida and donated money to trump hate. Like all of us, I obsessively checked Nate Silver for comfort. And I think back to last week, I must’ve known something in my gut. But I kept telling everyone, oh look at this amazing chart, it’s so in the bag! Don’t worry we’re gonna win this. But why did I feel afraid?

And come on, I know better. I have worked to fight against corrupt corporate media and now I was consuming terabytes of information like a gluttonous information junkie. I wore out my eyes, got carpal tunnel from clicking and swiping, paid hundreds of dollars for data usage fees, but convinced myself it’s all worth it. What just happened? Ah the fog, the smoggy foggy lies, lulled me into their trap. Dammit.

So, today I will say, I have no answers. But maybe, just maybe, we need to find new ways to crack through the rhetoric on each side. I don’t know how yet or if it’s even plausible. I am not shirking or hiding or sulking. I am just scanning the landscape, still soaking this all in because I don’t ever want to repeat the same grievous mistake of believing in propaganda. For let’s call the media on both sides what it is, biased information created to push a certain political narrative. I was lulled into comfort by the drug of information and I’m on the worst come down ever. And I know what to do, I gotta cut off my pushers, reduce the mind control, and extract myself from a toxic situation.

But I have hope too. Again, I am not advocating a thing. Please take the time to figure out what you need to do for yourself. But on day one I unfollowed and unsubscribed from every mainstream media source that fed me spoonfuls of misinformation. Already it’s made a huge difference reducing the chatter in my social feeds, at best I feel cool that I’m not giving into clickbait. I am not going to analyze the whys and what’s of the data. I tried to listen to a podcast and lasted six minutes before feeling disillusioned. Without any thought to their own errors, they launched right back into the same punditry, trying to figure out the other side, who voted for Trump, their motivations, etc. etc. etc. They admitted the professionals were wrong, but then didn’t take responsibility for passing on the information from the same professionals. Had they learned nothing?!

So meanwhile, I plan to hang out with people in real life more often. I am going to rely on nature, art and family for solace. For me it’s a time of healing. I will fight too, but I am kinda over people screaming at me to speak out, accusing me that I’m complicit unless I start fighting right now! My whole life has been a fight, I’ve lived with racism and sexism for ages, so has my family. I am glad white liberals are wide awake, but trust me us brown folk knew that people want us gone, hate crimes are nothing new. Also, I have this feeling we don’t really know what we need to fight against specifically. Once I see the true battle lines drawn I will be ready to take my position to fight for moral justice. I will wait to see what organizations need donations after I assess needs. But right now, I am recharging. I do feel something is going to happen, something not so good but we don’t know what it is yet. I feel it in my bones. For whatever that means. Remember, I know nothing.  

Seriously, are we still calling girls sassy?

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I’m tired of feeling apologetic for my sassy eight-year-old daughter and I know I should try to rise above but I’ve become more concerned about it as she gets older. It’s ironic that in this Amy Schumer/Jezebel/Beyonce world that even 30-something year old women still feel the need to point out my vocal young girl. It makes me think we have still have a lot to change. My Noona as I have called her since she was a baby has always had a strong personality, maybe naturally but also probably because we let her. But I often notice people’s discomfort with a brazen young girl. Just the other night, I was at a BBQ where Noona was having a blast, hopped up on cupcakes and playing outside past her bedtime. I do what I do at parties, which is chat away with people while Noona runs free chasing cats and searching for lizards or whatever. I was talking with a new mom and was oohing and awing over her newborn baby girl, when Noona comes over to swat me or do something randomly silly and loud. Just then New Mom says, “Oh is this one yours?” New Mom then tells me that earlier she had asked Noona about her nail polish color and I guess my girl put her hand up and popped her hip and said something, like “Yeah, I got a manicure.” I dunno, it didn’t seem that weird to me, but I could tell New Mom was surprised by Noona’s sassy level. I responded by over-explaining about my child, telling funny stories about her sassiness in a self-deprecating way. Finally, New Mom says to me “Oh I’m sure she is sweet at home.”

That comment just stuck in my craw. Why do girls have to be sweet and what does that even mean? Is her sassiness more acceptable if she is also sweet? Of course, sweet girls never talk back, interrupt, pop their hip, or roll their eyes or say “whatever.” Oh no, if a girl is sassy, people say, “woah you sure do have your hands full.” And I always laugh, oh yeah, she is a handful, har har har. I even laughed for a second when another mom said “She sure is filled with vinegar.” I did correct her and I think she got the point. Filled with vinegar, who says that? But this just happened in 2016, by progressive, open-minded folks. The comments sometimes make me wonder if I’m raising a “mean girl.” Other times I have stupid worries that she will grow up to be a career-climbing bitch with shoulder pads and big hair, knocking down all the sweet ladies that come in her way. In fact, New Mom even called Noona an “alpha” at one point and that bugged the hell out of me too.

So let me explain. My Noona is not an alpha, she is not bossy, or sassy, she is not interrupting me for attention, and she is not a mean girl/bully. When I drop her off at camp or school, she has a group of friends that immediately gravitate towards her to play. My Noona organizes her playdates, confidently handing out my cell phone number to other moms so we can finalize details. She walks right up to new kids at the park and asks them to play without hesitation. She comes up with silly new games, like pretend restaurant or find the lizard, and the kids happily play along. I’ve always called that leadership and assertiveness. She has caring and connected long-term friendships. The other day she and a close friend were reciprocating back rubs after a long morning at a swim meet. Noona laughs out loud at her own jokes and can handle sarcasm better than some adults. This amazing young lady is determined, filled with care and a natural curiosity. We snuggle every night but now she has turned the tables and reads to me instead. And yes, she is vocal, opinionated and highly observant. All the while, I pay attention to her growth and there are certain behaviors I’m not going to stop.

For example, Noona has been raised not to accept aggressive behavior and anger. She will even point out when I sound angry and ask me to speak with care, and though it’s tough I will try to readjust my tone. So what others call “mouthing off”, I call advocating for herself. What sounds like “talking back” is really an immature kid trying to figure how to challenge authority or express an opinion, they’re just not very good at it yet. Labeling these behaviors just shuts girls down, and I bet most of us women have a defining moment when we were criticized or put down when we speaking up. I hope Noona never gets squashed, or appease others who feel uncomfortable around feminine dominance. I never want her to be abused or used. I never want her to feel shame for speaking out about her safety. And I hope she always asks questions, just like her mother.

So, instead of worrying about her eye-rolling or “whatevers” I’ve been busy building a foundation of communication based on mutual respect and advocacy. This type of relationship means my husband and I listen to her opinions, and we expect her to defend her positions with well thought out reasoning. Sometimes, we have to allow her to butt heads with us, and sometimes I walk away to diffuse the situation so we can talk later. In my opinion, this is better than reminding her to be sweet and obedient. I hope when is older she never begins a question with “I’m sorry to ask but….” Of course, I try to model kindness, teamwork and care. These values are not mutually exclusive–a person can be direct, opinionated as well as compassionate.

It’s interesting that I still bump up against prevailing societal norms that dominant women come off mean, or that little girls are bossy or type A (whatever that means). Let’s not pretend that the world is equitable. We still say “boys will be boys” when they act aggressive or rough. We never assume they have a sweet side in private and maybe we should! Nor do we call boys alpha or bossy if they are loud, outspoken or vocal. When a boy yanks a girl’s ponytail we still stay, “oh it’s okay, he just likes you.” I know my Noona would tell a boy who bothered her to stop it!  We’ve been talking about these double standards for a long time, yet we’re still making the same comments. If a boy is acting rough, we don’t worry that he will grow up to be a douchebag. If a boy has anger issues we still let him express himself freely without saying, “he is spirited.” If a boy talks back to their parents, we don’t then assume he is a bully. I’m pretty sure that bullies come from homes where there is a level of toxicity, abuse, and abandonment. And trust me, I was bullied in school, so I think I’d be pretty aware if my child was treating someone badly. And if she were I’d be the first to figure out solutions.

And why am I justifying any of this to anybody? Because it still astounds me that I bump into people that need to label my child’s outgoing personality. Even when they try to go with it, I still discern a sense of unease, or worry that I will be so screwed because she is really expressive. In the end, these judgments are exactly why I protect her rights as a child to form her personality, to experiment and modulate her communication as her brain matures and makes new neural connections. I’m trying protect her from developing shame and debilitating self-doubt because society still wants to pigeonhole little girls as nice and sweet. Those type of creeping thoughts make it hard to make clear decisions in life, trust me I know! It is much more challenging to parent in this way, constantly strategizing ways to assist her development as human. But I remain resolved to this process and will always stick up for my intuitive, self-motivated, and smart Noona. She has to go out there and become an adult at some point. Leadership, strong communication and critical thinking skills are already in her toolbox. So you know what, seriously, she can roll her eyes or pop her hip if she wants! If you see her, or any girl express themselves this way, don’t get all judgmental and concerned that she is not acting right. Just think you’re watching the growth of an assertive, independent and self-assured woman, these are more useful descriptions than sassy, alpha, bossy, or type A.

Yes, the day has come! I’m with her.

 

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Yeah, yeah yeah…uhh so four months ago I wrote a blog about my dislike of Hillary and why I wasn’t going to vote for her. Little did I know that my eight-year-old daughter and our cat were way ahead of me in their support for Hillary. Way back then, and boy does it seem forever ago, I was all in for Bernie. His grassroots campaign, the progressive values he represents, yes even his blustery speaking style, appealed to me over Hillary. I jumped on the Bernie train early on, so after supporting him this past year, I got teary when Bernie asked the DNC to nominate Hillary. I was relieved he handled the transition with grace, as I didn’t side with fervent Bernie supporters demanding a contested convention. Yes, even after DNC leaks. I was proud to vote for him, but more importantly, I feel triumphant to see the influence of progressive issues on the Democratic party platform. I am still a Bernie Democrat but as of this week, I am whole-heartedly “With Her”.

What tipped the scale for me was watching the Republican National Convention, and the amount of hate spewed directly at her was horrifying. I knew they disliked her but it got crazy. I cringed through just a few speeches, but watching Rudy Guiliani’s frenzied mania, the chants to “lock her up” and accusations of her allegiance with Lucifer was enough. My response was empathy and protectiveness towards Hillary. Watching all those white men freak out about her made it clear that I had to support her and fight misogyny. I hope the RNC knows how badly it backfired, I’m not the only woman to feel this way. I knew I had to be open to Hillary again, get geared up and even question some of my assumptions. I gotta clear a few things up, for one I didn’t mistrust her because of her emails or Bhengazi. I’ve been calling both of those investigations a witch hunt. But within the swirl of messages of distrust towards Hillary, I may have gotten a little more critical about her than I realized. I spent all of those months rooting for Bernie, and part of the conversation was to defeat Hillary. And it takes a minute to shift gears.

So, as I began to watch the Democratic National Convention I was already convinced to vote for her–but I still had some lingering doubts, things that bugged, a discomfort. Maybe I did want to be sold on her after all, and so I watched. Night after night as the DNC made a strong case, I began to feel enthusiasm and even hope. I agree with Barak Obama, when he said she is the most qualified person ever to run for President. I’m not letting her off the hook on a few key issues, namely her foreign policy (don’t worry I caught her allegiance to Israel). She co-opted Bernie’s platform, and I will be expecting her to come through on repealing Citizen’s United, reform banking, improve the health care system, and make college affordable. It’s a tall order, especially considering she will have her hands full with foreign affairs. And finally, I will do what I can to remind people to vote down ballot so the Democrats can gain control of the Senate. Like she said, she can’t do this alone!

I felt the DNC put on a rousing, entertaining and highly effective convention. The positive tone, the focus on love and togetherness was just the right message we needed to hear. Because it’s clear the country is gripped with anxiety, we’re not divided, we’re just afraid. And if there is one thing I know, there is nothing like patience, love, and a good long hug to ease negative feelings. Stronger together. I buy that message.

After watching four evenings of the Democratic National Convention I’ve come away the following observations:

  1. The Democratic Party knows how to work the system to win.
  2. The media is completely out of touch with America, and they suck, and it’s their fault Trump won, and they spread biased misinformation.
  3. I will not allow this country to be defined by hate.
  4. There are some amazing people in our country who’ve sacrificed everything.
  5. There is actually common ground between Democrats and Republicans.
  6. Who is Elizabeth Banks?
  7. The Twitterverse is gonna have so much fun with nice guy Tom Kaine.
  8. African-Americans using their preacher/sermon style is a force for good that is rooted in our country! It’s powerful and inspirational.
  9. I was aware of the emotional manipulation and it kinda felt good.
  10. I loved the crowd filled with so many shades of white, yellow and brown faces!

And I finally buy Hillary as a candidate. She took on the challenge to appeal to us Bernie Democrats and not just expect our easy allegiance. I know, my friends who are a long time Hillary supporters are probably bothered she had to make a case at all. But I think it made her a better candidate. I thought she nailed her speech. And I mean the voice of God, Morgan Freeman himself, reminded us that she is a mother, a fighter, and she sits in the kitchen and talks her daughter about her day. In her speech, she owned her smarty-pants style. She admitted to being policy wonk and said the details matter. Yeah, own it! She acknowledged there is work to be done to level the playing field, the economy is rigged, that the banks are too big. I’m going to rise above cynicism here and point out that last year she wasn’t saying these things, and she did precisely because of the progressive Bernie movement. I felt vindicated sticking up for my sad, last stand of a vote in the California primary.

We still have 100 days left of the campaign and lot can happen, and there is usually an October surprise of some sort. In 2008, when Obama was running, the whole world economy was in a scary tailspin in the Fall. And I fear we will have to endure a lot more negative campaigning before November. But, I’ve been making plans on how I can help assure that Trump doesn’t make it into office. I couldn’t live with myself if he did win and I didn’t do everything I could to stop his madness. He could have the opportunity to shape the Supreme Court and that just can’t happen!

And that’s just it, like so many parents we have our eyes on the future. I got emotional when I watched Hillary stand before a cheering crowd, and I thought about my eight-year-old daughter, growing up in her tween and teen years, with a woman at the helm of this country. At the end of the next two terms, my dear, smart, forward-thinking girl will almost be able to vote. She has already promised we could go to the voting booth together when she is 18. Now that’s a promise I will hold her to for sure. Yeah, just like Hillary there are a lot of promises to be kept. I think some of them can happen.

 

Protesting is not the problem

The past two nights, I’ve attended rallies in Oakland and San Francisco marching against police terror and violence. I chose to march to unify, to be a body in a sea of protesters, to bring attention and to call on Oakland City Council to reform our corrupt police department. I attended in solidarity, but I was also there to learn, to LISTEN HARD, to give space to ideas some may find uncomfortable.

A few of my white friends said “thank you” to me as they noticed I was marching. I get it, but I don’t want to be thanked. I don’t want to have to stand in front of City Hall, shedding tears as a mother wailed over the deaths of her sons. When you said “thank you,” I understood your sentiment. I think you want to do something but don’t know how? Instead of thanks, I’d rather if you’d join me at a rally exercising your protected right to assemble peacefully and demand justice together. We can listen, find new ways to engage. We can raise our fists together in defiance and anger, shaking them with fierce agitation against violence.

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Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland Ca

Some of you may say, you call this peaceful? How can your anger bring peace? Why would you shut down streets and freeways and inconvenience others? This is no way to make allies, your angering and annoying others. Or maybe you think some of the speeches from the movement have a negative tone or sound scary, or incite violence. It might freak  you out out to hear ideas like ending the police, revolution, black self-determination, anti-capitalism and that’s a good thing. It should freak you out to learn that we have an unjust system!

I get why this all sounds too much, but we just had another really frightening week of violence in the US and I’m at a point where I want to shake things up, I want to something. I figure a little anger and outrage is due and this is why I marched on the streets of my city. Luckily a friend reached out on Facebook when she noticed I was interested and a protest buddy was exactly the last little push I needed to get off my butt. Like many, I have held back my actions because felt confused, maybe even a little complacent and cynical. This is about black lives. Not privileged Asian-American lives. Do I have a right to speak out, or to hold up my fist? Am I’m co-opting a movement? Am I’m just trying to attend a march to feel good, or assuage my guilt or sing “We Shall Overcome?”

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Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland

Some of this may be true, and I’ve struggled with many conflicting thoughts the past few nights, rallying and marching in Oakland and San Francisco. And to those of us who have guilt in any form, what is the point of feeling badly it if we don’t act? Why would I sit home giving in to my pathetic guilt. The very least I can do is show up in solidarity, not expect thank you’s and stand with humility when facing my privilege. These have not been easy events, and I’m still coming to terms with what I can do. But like I said, I went to listen and learn. And I learned that the mostly young activists are pouring out their hearts, they’re tearing their souls open asking all of us, to feel outraged, to get out of our safe little houses hiding behind social media and act now. I also learned real quick that these protests are not about feel good messages that only serve to make you feel warm and fuzzy but don’t address inequality, racism, and injustice. You can’t fight for change in a corrupted and ugly system and hope it stays positive, especially when the negative is so grave. Of course, Martin Luther King Jr, said it best:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

You may worry that protesting and demanding change, revolution, pointing out the rigged system during this election cycle is not so convenient. It would be better for us if we could share positive vibes, so we don’t upturn the apple cart. I’ve also heard the argument that protestors are fomenting Donald Trump’s supporters. I recognize this tactic as means to keep voices muted. And furthermore, I feel strongly that if we don’t protest, if we don’t speak truth to power RIGHT NOW, we are obediently allowing his narrative to take hold. I recognize what is at stake, and the train has already left the station, we have the potential as a Nation to elect a very dangerous man to the highest office in the land. This threat is exactly why mobilization is utterly essential, now more than ever. The finger has ALWAYS been pointed at protestors, because of course, those in charge (the media, politicians, government, police) want quiet obedience.

Civil disobedience, as I put it to the audience, was not the problem, despite the warnings of some that it threatened social stability, that it led to anarchy. The greatest danger, I argued, was civil obedience, the submission of individual conscience to governmental authority. Such obedience led to the horrors we saw in totalitarian states, and in liberal states it led to the public’s acceptance of war whenever the so-called democratic government decided on it…

In such a world, the rule of law maintains things as they are. Therefore, to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern black did, as antiwar protesters did.― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

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San Francisco City Hall

 

And to this you say to me, what does a protest accomplish? You know you’re just pointing out the divide, you’re allowing the other side to use your arguments against you, giving fuel to their agenda. Bruce Hartford, a veteran of the civil rights movement defines “The purpose of Nonviolent Resistance is to affect peoples’ thinking and build political movements for social change.” And using this definition, I’d say that the current protests are achieving this objective. Haven’t you heard more about police shootings against blacks, seen more videos showing injustice, or seen more cops arraigned than ever before? Even if these cops are not getting convicted, we’re at least getting them to face a trial, and convictions will happen in due time. To overturn laws and policies that created a racist criminal justice system will take many years, a lot of protesting, direct action, debate, and re-framing. Part of what is making the change is the long hard work of activists directly engaging in civil disobedience, protests, social media campaigns. Yes, yes yes, it brings out the dark side, it’s angry, ugly, no fun, icky, and uncomfortable. And this is why I marched, why I had to get elbow to elbow with my neighbors and hear the words for myself, out in the open under a foggy sky. I took part to feel some of this;

In some circumstances and for some people, taking part in direct action is a profound expression of defiance and courage, for others it can sometimes be a living rejection of the conformist societal norms that previously governed their lives. In some instances, nonviolent protest can be life-changing affirmation of dignity and self-worth — I AM a Man — and a living experience and expression of human solidarity — I Am Not Alone. And, of course, actively planning and participating in a protest provides a depth of political education that no leaflet, speech, article or manifesto can match. –Bruce Hartford, The Onion Theory of Nonviolent Protest

So please, don’t thank me, join with me instead. At this point, I feel I haven’t done enough. If you’re thanking me, I know you have it in you to get on your feet! Marching and rallying is actionable, hopeful and hard (as it should be). If you’re worried or sad about all that is happening you can do something. At least lend support to those on the streets, rather than criticize or believe the inaccurate portrayals of protesters being rabid, angry, frothing, vandals that are out for destruction. You should go out once and see for yourself. I’m here to be a friend, and I’m sure there are others. Ask for a hand and we can face these challenges as a united front against injustice. Staying quiet is no longer an option.