Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Power of the People Won’t Stop

Published 7 October, 2021, The Berkeley Times.

The Power of the People Won’t Stop: Legacy of the TWLF (Third World Liberation Front) at UC Berkeley, A Collection of Writings marked a 50-year anniversary (2019) of the largest student strike in Berkeley’s history. “Without courage, it is impossible to live up to your values,” Maya Angelou said, and all of these individuals have shown up, stepped up and spoken up so that their values of social justice and education grounded in reality and truth could and can be lived here at Cal and in the community, the world at large.

EastwindBooks of Berkeley on University just west of Shattuck produced a timely assemblage edited by Harvey Dong and Janie Chen, with historical photos by Douglas Wachter. It brings together representatives of the “hyphenated” student groups of 1969 -- African-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American and Native American – who led the white students, diverse faculty and community members who supported them; just as these unnecessarily divided, oppressed and marginalized peoples have voiced another shout for unity and support as white supremacy, police brutality and violent misogyny have been re-exposed to public view.

They won concessions, promises of self-determination and autonomy for their curricula, faculty and staffing in a unified Department of Ethnic Studies; but have fought a battle against divisions, cutbacks and institutional disempowerment ever since. Many of the leaders, participants and organizers are interviewed and tell their stories here, but contemporary students and organizers who’ve shared their thoughts, research and reflections are impressive as well. (photo, archival - the arrest prior to the beating of Manuel Delgado by CA Highway Patrol officers)

One of my favorite parts is Lessons Learned from the Third World Strike,” by Filipino social worker/ community organizer and attorney Lillian Fabros, from Salinas, CA:

“1 – Build Coalitions Before You Need Them

2 – Race Matters – …No race has “made it” until all races have made it.

3 – Class Matters – Never Forget Class Background…

4 – Women Hold Up Half the Sky (active involvement, leadership, service, direction, persistence…)

5 – Organize, Organize, Organize. It is difficult for individuals on their own to bring about change. And you can never stop organizing…(As Rickey Vincent says, “the opponents of Ethnic Studies have been diligently studying what happened and working on how to devise means to contain & eliminate the progress made back then.” p. 118)

6 – The Journey is as Important as the Goal. It is arguable that because the strike ultimately ended in a moratorium, there was no victory for Third World students…the victory was the jumpstarting of (Asian American) activism over the past decades…The strike coalesced a longing for justice that expressed itself in multiple personal and professional endeavors.

7 – Find the Goal YOU are Passionate About We need a broad range of skills for people…because they will remain committed to helping the communities when they remember their roots. There are different paths to furthering justice.”


My other “favorite” is the  “Ethnic Studies Historical Legacy” by Maria E. Ramirez and Nina Genera, which encapsulates the painful, bitter truths of world histories of genocide, kidnapping, slavery, disenfranchisement and other forms of oppression and suffering inflicted upon BIPOC-(W), which continue to this day. (Photo, Ethnic Studies at Sather Gate, Third World Strike by Fotor)

We can’t let defensiveness and denial “stop” us. Chew on and swallow the WHOLE bitter pill of historical truth. THEN -- It will take a whole lot of individual and collective Showing Up, Stepping Up, Stepping Back, Speaking Up, Listening Up and Acting Up to actually accomplish the global tasks before us.

We have it in us to heal…


 (Photo - Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 2021)

Mission Statement, University of California, Berkeley Ethnic Studies Department: "The Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley is committed to the comparative study of racialization and indigeneity within the Americas, as well as between the U.S. and other nations. We seek to understand race and racism as “moving targets” that undergo mutations or evolve, and to recognize the complexities of the intersections of race with gender, class, sexuality, religion, and other systems of difference and axes of power. Our approaches to these issues interrogate the relationship of social structure to those of literary and cultural practices, and in so doing question and challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries and assumptions. In addition to grounding our scholarly work in the concrete situations of people of color, we also use a methodological framing that emphasizes both the structural dimensions of race and racism (social, political, and economic inequalities and struggles against them) and the associated cultural dimensions (literary, artistic, musical and other forms of humanistic expression). Our scholarly concerns are explicitly linked to the development of critical knowledges and are informed by a commitment to social change and decolonization."

 The Berkeley Times, "Knox Book Beat."(c) Wyndy J. Knox Carr, 2021.
 

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

FOG AND LIGHT: San Francisco Through the Eyes of the Poets

 Fog and Light: San Francisco through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live Here

Fog and Light: San Francisco through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live Here by Diane Frank
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a place! That’s just what I had to say when we came to visit my Aunt Dawn and Uncle Jim and played hide and seek with our cousins in the row houses with the arched doorways and tuck-under garages of the foggy Sunset District in the Baby Boomer days. Diane Frank, a former resident of Berkeley, shepherds and showcases 64 wonderful poets’ works into this kaleidoscope of words, ideas, images and experiences.

FOG AND LIGHT: San Francisco Through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live Here drifts in on the evening, a stately and specifically situated paean to the “City by the Bay.” This collection lingers and holds us with this place’s difficulty, delight and dreamlike human, desert and ocean dramas.


Even Lawrence Ferlinghetti gets into the act, in “Dog:”
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with…
something to say
about reality
and how to see it
and how to hear it…

And Joan Gelfland responds in “The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics:”

Ferlinghetti’s words sink, weighted
On the business end of an invisible fishing line,
Dredging last nights’ dream to surface, gasping for air
Shivering like some catfish
Eyes bulging, wet lake water dripping off its scales.
The knife of memory slices open
That dream, finds me on haunted streets,…

Is the skill of life just keeping on
All the gears oiled, the doors open?
Even if the past keeps drowning and the knifed open
Dream fish still swims around?

The “many other celebrated poets” who editor Frank includes also craft images and sensations that ring beautifully true “through their eyes.” Some are specifically located, like Heather Saunders Estes’ “San Francisco, 14th Avenue:” (Outer Sunset and the Pacific Ocean)

The expanse of ocean
is in perpetual conversation
with the mutable sky.

(And then she responds:  )

In unexpected urban quiet
I pause on the narrow overlook –
thirsty for salt air and freedom.

Berkeley-related teachers, salonistes, residents and former Cal students Alison Luterman, Marianne Betterly, Stewart Florsheim, Joseph DiPrisco, Susie Meserve, Jane Underwood, Alejandro Murguía, Jack Hirschman and Joan Gerstein populate these pages. Even the prolific pedagogue Kathleen McClung is the wife of the Community Minister at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. 

Once a resident of Cow Hollow, Katherine Hastings gave The City a voice in answer to the “smooth-coated and swift” fog in her elegant "Clouds" excerpts:

Silver melt of sorrow’s opposite,
brush my waiting beneath the cypress
cleaved and swept, perpetually
receiving. Hold open your palm
Droplets gather fragrance from the shore
Torrential mist!
You are the poetry and the tongue
of my hills



Not all are lyrical and landscape, however, just like the place. One of my favorites is Robin Lim’s “Daughter of a Cracked Dragon Teacup from Chinatown:” 

…San Francisco … My daughter learned her Asian heritage
in your cement and sidewalk flower cracked dragon district.
Pregnant with her, I fought a cop,
for my right to park. He wanted my space
for “Official Business.”
Official business! This is just your lunch break?
Go find your own parking place! We all gotta eat. …

I grew so proud that the knives in my heart
from being beat up as a small kid because “Your mama’s a ni--er!”
flew back to hell. Even my scars softened.
I anticipated earth tremors. …

That cop I fought, he called me, “F---ing Dragon Lady.”
I was, I am, prideful. I don’t suffer insults anymore.

Right now, and today is one message; but also lots of specifically Bay Area poignant memories, like Meg Pokrass’ “Rice Paper and Luck:”
… How happy we were to know that world existed,
Lining up at the tofu truck, holding fingers.


And Karen Poppy’s “Marina Safeway, San Francisco for Armistead Maupin” March 25, 2019:
…In Marina Safeway, back in the day, before tech
millionaires, before the impending influx of more, …
I’d have roller-skated my way between high pyramids
of avocadoes and bananas – myself high – not waiting
for their ripeness, not asking their cost, or mine.
Woken up blissful with anyone, not fearing death.

That Angel had not yet arrived here, unrolling a river,
merciless and vast, on which you saw all your friends
float by: wasted to bones, so young and afraid, dying
one after another. Beautiful, then gone. Just gone.
Whitman, Lorca, these are your dead, your children.
Do not turn from them. The Bay is wider than a river.
Is that optimism or sorrow, America lost even then?
As we look forward, look back, was San Francisco?

And here’s a wry and hilarious essence in Michael Angelo Tata’s “Tenderloin Darlings:”
…Blood or Kool-aid? Poop
or avocado? The sidewalks
are always rife with mystery…

Summations and ponderings like Chris Cole’s “San Francisco Told Me to Write You a Letter,” dance through inner-outer description, and then:

the creases of your problems
fit perfectly
into the folds of my jacket …

and i have not yet forgotten
the face of my father
the way i became liquid
when you touched me
and stone
when you didn’t …

if i could,
i would keep the memories i want
and forget the ones i don’t.
but since i can’t,
i’ll just keep them all.

I’d like to quote many of the poems here in their entirety, so just go buy the book at your local independent bookseller, like Mrs. Dalloway’s or Eastwind or Pegasus or Sleepy Cat or Moe’s. Marianne Betterly’s “The Pleine Air Toilette of Madame X” is one of them, a perfect character study in two pages and three short lines; Lynne Barnes “The Call of the West” is a praise-song to “this people-plashed cove at the edge of creation,” and you’ll take home mini-portraits of neighborhood families and adventures, epistolatory poems, elegies, prose poems, lyric, pure imagist, sonnets, odes, praise songs for Oya, diversity, dignity and endurance; humor and lamentation.
Often I heard prophetic warnings: like Jack Hirschman on the “quiet glory” of Greta Thunberg and other “women…who can, / at any apt moment of injustice,/ become thunders of bluntness…/ resonating with “How dare you?!”

Personal/political condemnations like Jodi Hottel’s “Shikata Ga Nai:”

Means
it can’t be helped …
a tacit agreement
to adopt the government jargon:
relocation and internment,
not concentration or prison camp, …
Shikata ga nai means
End of discussion.
I don’t want to talk about it.
There’s nothing more to say.

“16th & Valencia” by Alejandro Murguía:
We were tired of living from the scraps of others
We were tired of dying for our own chunk of nothing
And I saw this barrio as a freight train
a crazy Mexican bus careening out of control
a mutiny aboard a battleship
and every porthole filled with anger
And we were going to stay angry
And we were not leaving
Not ever leaving
El corazón del corazón de La Misión
El Camino Real ends here

But I’m going to leave you with the end of the poem by Thomas Centollella, “Accumulated Knowledge,” which you must get the book for in order to read the first seven-eighths of:
I would like to say we were drunk in love, and went on to see
the better side of thirty – and forty and fifty. I would like to
say any number of things I wish were true. Don’t ask me what
happened
to the Toronado, both car and bar, or slow dancing to slow jazz
while time and its terrors take a back seat. Or how the night
and the day will take turns moving us, whether tenderly or
gingerly,
around a black and blue room someone named the world.

 


Frank, Diane, editor, (2021) FOG AND LIGHT: San Francisco Through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live Here, Blue Light Press, 1st World Publishing, San Francisco, Fairfield and Delhi.


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Saturday, August 21, 2021

A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom

 A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious FreedomA Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom by Huston Smith, Edited and prefaced by Phil Cousineau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Congress to the United Nations, Indigenous and native people are calling for peace, rights, reconciliation, restoration of land, water, “All Our Relations” and/or some kind of just recompense for these failures. Our pressure from migrants fleeing industrial farming corporations, their bulldoze-and-burn techniques, maquiladora slave-labor camps, dictators and funded wars could be pulled back if we listened to the moral balance of their stories, histories and the balanced relationships with the earth from which they came.

       With any luck and good wisdom, we can ALL learn from these truth-tellings to blend the edges of “fiction” with “history” and cleave to a center which is humane, spiritual, material and changing. This “gravitation” to a unified, healthful center is elucidated by longtime Berkeley resident Huston Smith’s A Seat at the Table: In Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom, edited and prefaced by Phil Cousineau. He quotes Gene Thin Elk (Lakota, 1994, p.119) “We have, at the very core of our being, more power than anything human kindness has ever made ever since the beginning of time…We can, in any given second, start that healing process and walk a healing road."      

       Vine Deloria Jr., author of God is Red: A Native View of Religion and The World We Used to Live in: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men said in 1979, “The fundamental factor that keeps Indians and non-Indians from communicating, is that they are speaking about two entirely different perceptions of the world.” (p. xviii) 

       Smith, in conversation with Anishinaabe activist and politician Winona LaDuke, responded to one of her questions about world religions by saying “the unique contribution of the Indigenous peoples is to focus on this point of mutual relatedness,” (p. 52) and she “vigorously described this way of conducting oneself in the world.”   

       She said the name for her nation was “the land of the people,” “But it also means the land to which the people belong…In all our stories, in our oral history, we say this is where the giant went to sleep, or this is where the great river was made. All those stories are contained in the land itself, and they are not contained elsewhere.” (ibid.) 

       “It’s not about looking back – it’s about being on your path – staying on the path the Creator gave you,” (p. xx) and to “live in accordance and respect to the Akin, the Earth that cares for us, which is our Mother. That is what we are taught in our community.” (p. 52)

       Cousineau says, “Along with the recovery of lost land and revenues comes the revitalizing of what many elders call the “Good Red Road,” the spiritual path that emphasizes the community and the great web of life.” (p. xviii)  

It is painful to see and own up to the bitter truths of the Gold Rush and settler California Genocide, discoveries of residential school children taken from their families to be abused and neglected, dying far from home; and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and girls; raped, abducted and "disappeared" even now by residents of the "man camps" of the resource extractors of West and Upper Midwest. 

       The lost children and wise adults who see the Earth sinking under her human burdens are turning to old ideas and stories of ecological and community balance and wisdom; the Elders who experience, repeat and remember them and the old “songs” celebrating "the great web of life."  

        The process of storytelling is the oldest of human oral traditions that encompass culture, ethics, religion, history, family and all parts of Natural History: geology, geography, botany, zoology and more. We circle around back to a worldview where dreams, songs and visions of interconnectedness are held in the highest esteem; a worldview where ALL is held in balance by each part working together harmoniously, even in the midst of change, BECAUSE of change. Because of creative and natural gifts of curiosity, learning and sharing “songs.”

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

An Elephant Ate My Arm -- Laurie McAndish King

 An Elephant Ate My Arm: More true stories from a curious traveler (Curious Traveler by Laurie McAndish King)An Elephant Ate My Arm: More true stories from a curious traveler by Laurie McAndish King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Reviewed in The Berkeley Times 12 August, 2021. (c) Wyndy J. Knox Carr

Laurie McAndish King writes cogent, often gripping and dryly amusing or hilarious travel articles; but the subtitles hint at her depth, scientific eye and deeper meanings: As to the title story, she says On the ethics of riding a two-ton orphan; on a foodie spa visit, she adds Italian spirits raise existential questions. Not your normal brusquely bubbling travelogue fare. The kind of "curious" (and well-informed) "traveler" you'd really like to take a trip with!

       On an Earthwatch research program in the Trinidadian rain forest, “home to more than 400 species of birds…ocelots and monkeys, leatherback turtles and boa constrictors, anteaters, agouti and more,” a native guide with a “PhD in integrative biology” helps her readjust her values, cultural biases and experience the “beautiful, diverse ecosystem” that “exists for itself, not as a benefit for humans” under “the Milky Way cutting a sparkling swath through the darkness.” She always tells a good tale and often weaves an invisible magic spell, too.

      I’ve praised her “True Stories” before, but once again encourage those of us who want to be a “curious traveler” once the bans are lifted to enjoy Ms. McAndish King’s pieces. We can certainly love them if we're satisfied to stay armchair travelers with book budgets or library cards, too! The tales don't always "end up" where you think they're going to lead, and with McAndish King, that's generally a much broader and more profound journey. Stepping right in to the unexpected is often just exactly where she wants to go...    
Mayflower Memories: The Truth about Tisquantum, about her ancestors and how those Pilgrims eventually treated the Natives who kept them alive the first "Thanksgiving" and beyond; A Voyeur in Libya: A photographic invasion leads to indelible regret talking about casual American "tourist behavior" and At the foot of Uluru ("Ayers Rock"), where she makes a last-minute choice NOT to climb an Aboriginal sacred site are particularly timely and revealing. It's all in the traveler's perspective,  openness to the real differences: and hers are indeed very curious, flexible; often becoming wise. as well.


A good person making intelligent observations that encourage us to "first, do no harm." Listen and learn... What a relief! 

Is it time to contrast unconscious values, distorted histories and habitual privileges with inner, interpersonal, cultural and world peace? In an aware and balanced universe; “Yes.”


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Sunday, April 25, 2021

From Czernowitz to China and Beyond: A 20th Century Life

's review


Whatta Gal! "It’s amazing how much one can learn from reading. You see how other people do something, whether right or wrong. Either way. It’s a fantastic thing. You can’t live without books.”
 
Margot Smith’s Mother, Ethel Liebman Wiesinger, (1890-1984) boldly narrates her own story in From Czernowitz to China and Beyond: A 20th Century Life. It’s something between Elie Weisel’s Night, War and Peace, People Magazine c. 1938-49 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a Studs Terkel interview, City Lights and Gone with the Wind
 
Like the intrepid Margot, who earned a doctorate in Public Health from Cal in 1977 and raised awareness on California healthcare through research, videos/films and advocacy as well as four children in Berkeley since she moved here in 1967; her Mom fit definitely in my “Whatta Gal!” category. Of “another era,” quaint and embarrassing here and there, but chock full of smarts and chutzpah* as well, albeit hard won.
 
And what a life! World War I, the international enclave in Shanghai, weeks on ocean liners across the Pacific discussing Schiller with fellows 20 years older, The Boxer Rebellion and her analysis of the insurgence of Chinese communism: “the situation was so desperate that anyone with guts could rule…the ancient tradition of graft, protégés; not able men but favored men were getting the good jobs…”  
 
With additional material from her daughters about their lives in Shanghai, San Francisco, Hamburg and Los Angeles; I found her story frank, observant and astutely educational, especially in the "forgotten history" department. (Women's history, especially as entrepreneurs, Germany and Germans between the World Wars, the Austro-Hungarian empire, Jewish immigrants in America and international trade communities, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Opium Wars, European Imperialism....)
 
Born as a “surprise” last child of 11 in a well-off Jewish family in what is now Ukraine when her parents were in their 40s, Ethel Liebman Wiesinger says she was a “very pampered child … I was left alone…I was the toy of my parents…”  
 
However, “Every Saturday (the Sabbath) we had men from all stations in life come into our house…They were the most interesting nights because they would sit and talk…I was partly listening, partly inside and partly outside, and I was serving them with tea. I listened to the conversation from the time I was four or five years old up to the time that we left Austria (when she was 21)…”
 
 
This ability to listen and really hear and consider what was going on in adult conversations gave her a lifelong advantage.

“I read books, which my mother did not do…. It was a house with reading and literature and art and music, and all these things were part of life…Education counted more than money…You considered education, you considered patronage; it was considered more glory than being rich. And I think the people were happier, too.”

I just love her voice. A real raconteur, looking back at every part of her life. "China was an exciting place. I was the only girl. I went to lots of parties and everyone wanted to dance with me. And I was so stupid to show off what I knew because I didn't know anything else to show off. I used to sit and recite poetry...There was a piano. And I could sing...all the German songs we sang in school...they were lonesome for them...I was the queen of Shanghai...how I impressed them was incredible."
 
Life in New York, being ostracized from her family for marrying a Christian, the Great Depression, loss, bankruptcy -- building her and her children’s lives back up again and again. A line on the back cover blurb says Czernowitz to China “tells of being married to a German entrepreneur in pre-revolutionary China and how politics affected her life” is only a shadow of her story, reflected in and reflecting the “world outside.”
 
Marital battles with Otto “lasted about three years" in earnest. Like Martin Niemoller and many Germans, “(he) …hailed Adolf Hitler for beginning a "national revival." But Ethel "packed up my clothes and went ....”  which was very daring for a woman with two children in 1933. She went from San Francisco to Los Angeles, he went back to Germany in 1938. 
 
She began running a gift shop where movie stars like Walt Disney, Fred Astaire, Al Jolson and Charlie Chaplin dropped in. “…they sat down and they talked and they laughed and they smoked cigarettes and it was fun. I was so interested…my place, where he (Disney, Shostakovich, Chaplin…) could be a plain human being.” In Beverly Hills and Hollywood, they did and did not pretend that war and suffering were a million miles away. They knew.

Naive, trusting, cultivated, privileged, but a gutsy gal who learned, loved and charmed friends, too: “you still have your own intellect; how you use your education and if you use it at all” she said in 1980. 
Wise words for survivors, recent graduates and rule-breakers in another disaster year, another rough world, for finding the rays of light. 
 
Whatta gal! 
 
Find From Czernowitz to China and Beyond: A 20th Century Life at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Elmwood in Berkeley or through Regent Press. 

*“A Yiddish term meaning audacity, courage, or nerve.”