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rest in peace to the officers

who fell in pittsburgh, pennsylvania.

their memorial service will be held thursday,

in the neighborhood of oakland

not to be confused with the city

that lost four of its own a month ago.

to sciullo, mayhle, and kelly of the iron city

and

romans, dunakin, hege and sakai of the town:

rose

here’s a rose from my garden.

you are missed.

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The headline in the Oakland Tribune today read, “House Passes Stimulus Bill.” Seems like our new President isn’t wasting any time in enacting change from the nation’s capitol. It’s a far cry from progress in Oakland’s City Hall, whose mayor fails to present any plan at his address this week. Then police chief Wayne Tucker resigns. The Chauncey Bailey Project unearths incriminating documents regarding a fatal brutality case. And in my little neighborhood, reports of a “suspicious” character in the district stirs deeply-held resentments. Everyone seems to be running scared in a city whose leadership is as stimulated as two sticks rubbing together.

I’ll admit I felt alarm at some of the entries I read on the Glenfriends listserv this past week. I won’t quote my neighbors here. To do so would be like outing a family member in the town square. But I’ll paraphrase a few comments:

Neighbor 1: Oscar Grant was killed and there were riots in the streets. How come there’s no outrage when a couple of high schoolers are attacked by a gang? Is it because someone who’s not African-American perpetrated Oscar Grant’s murder? Why not be outraged when anyone in Oakland is killed?

Neighbor 2: I agree that we should always be outraged, but the perpetrator was a police officer, who, regardless of color, is supposed to protect our citizens.

Neighbor 3: Yes, we should always be angered by each homicide in our city. But we need to focus on how to regain control of our communities. Poverty, crime and devastation are on the rise. If I had an answer to solve these problems, I’d run for mayor.

Neighbor 4: What’s up with protestors calling Grant’s death an “execution”? Where were the videographers when Grant and his friends were acting up? Most of the cities murders were a result of black-on-black crime. Where is the outrage in this segment of our populace?

Neighbor 5: I think the city council members and county supervisor jumped the gun when they called Grant’s death an “execution.” If those detained had acted lawfully in the first place, none of this would’ve happened. Why should we short-circuit due process?

Neighbor 6: Ultimately, the key question is whether the BART cop took appropriate action at the time of arrest.

Neighbor 7: Should we only address crimes through the filter of our respective races? I would argue that we could all approach these issues—by volunteering for community programs. Brothers on the Rise is one group; Girls, Inc. another. These are some good ways to turn good will into actions. Certainly, it’s in the spirit of our new President’s call to Americans.

Neighbor 8: It’s important to note that, in the Glenview, there were at least two “suspicious persons” reports last summer that only contained a description of a “black male.” Since when is it suspicious to be walking while black?

Neighbor 9: One post on this listserv in 2007 reported “suspicious” teenagers by the bus stop. The person who made this post also called 9-11. For what? One of the persons reported was my son. He was just waiting for the bus.

These are the input of some unnerved people. And some nervy people. In this sad time in Oakland, folks seem paralyzed by anxiety. All the cop shows and urban dramas on the network are happening now, on our streets. None of it entertains. All of it alienates. And the result is a community that feels alien onto itself.

For some perspective, here’s a glimpse into history courtesy of the Glenview News. Long before the neighborhood became a diverse community, this city suburb housed mostly white residents. The Glenview Improvement Club, for instance, led a campaign against what it coined as an “Oriental Problem.” A news item from the August, 1935 issue reads:

“During the past several weeks residents of Glenview and particularly those living on Randolph Street have been very much disturbed with the prospect of our district being invaded by orientals. A dwelling at … Randolph St. had been leased to an Oriental family.

The matter was brought to the attention of the Editor of the Glenview News. He immediately contacted the owner of the property, and after a lengthy conference secured the consent of the owner to cancel the lease, if the Orientals could be persuaded to surrender his rights.

A committee called on this man in his office in San Francisco, at which time he advised them that he would take the matter under consideration. We have been reliably informed that he has since cancelled the lease, and through the efforts of our local realty dealer Mr. Clevenger, the property has been rented to a family now living in our district.

We feel that this matter was handled in the best possible manner, and that far better results were obtained, then would have been the case if we had ignored the principals in this deal and held indignation meetings and that sort of thing. We have found that if a thing is gone at in the right manner, a peaceful solution can be worked out for the best interest of all parties concerned.

We feel that the action of the Glenview News in forestalling the invasion of our district by Orientals proves the worth of the paper and of the Glenview Improvement Club to the District, and we invite any one living in [the] Glenview to immediately contact us when they learn of anything that would tend to jeopardize property values in the district and we will be glad to use all our efforts to see that our interests are protected.”

The Glenview Improvement Club went on to carry a motion as “opposed to the living of Orientals” in the district (reported in the same issue). They acted with a mob mentality, rallying realtors and attorneys to harass owners into compliance. Their grounds? “The intermingling of oriental people with white people … is not for the best interests of people of both races” (July, 1933).

Quite the contrary. The Glenview has only benefitted from diversity. (Homogeneity seems a fragile thing.) And since the 2008 race for President began, it has been hundreds of thousands of communities—that were diverse, at least when taken together—that elected Barack Obama. This intermingling was our country’s saving grace.

Despite our lack of leadership, I think we can all agree that diversity makes Oakland strong. Fear (particularly “executed” by those in power), are what depresses our potential. This makes it most crucial to come together more often. Say good morning to people on the street and in doing so, chip away at the fear that keeps us from acting like family. I take what Obama said at the Neighborhood Ball last week to heart:

We got the idea for the Neighborhood Ball because we are neighborhood people. And I cut my teeth doing neighborhood work. And this campaign was organized neighborhood by neighborhood. And if you think about it, neighborhood starts with neighbor, because it indicates a sense that we as Americans are bound together. That what we have in common is more important than what drives us apart. That’s why—of all the balls that are taking place tonight … this one captures best the spirit of this campaign. We are going to need you. Not just today, not just tomorrow, but next year, and for the next four years and who knows after that. Because together, we are going to change America.

A friend of mine emailed me to say:

“I see that your blog has a more serious, reflective tone, but I’m just passing along something from the lighter side of public policy that was posted by one of my fb friends who is also an Oaktown expat in NC.

You’ve probably already seen it, and I’m sure this is run of the mill for the East Bay, but out here I was LMAO. 2M+ hits and counting…”

Thanks for the feedback, D! In terms of this blog, I’ll work adding a little upbeat tone to my bass line. (A post called “Incidents with Squirrels” is coming soon.) The video he recommended pretty much speaks for itself: