The Murder of Fred Hampton


Thanks to Axis of Evel Knievel I found the classic documentary about the life and death of Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton online. Everyone says that Fred was special. He'd get up at dawn to rally his recruits, then go off to cook in the free breakfast program, and spend his days on other programs, meetings and coalition work. Its no secret that there were guns in his house when he died, but there's also no longer any controversy that he was murdered in his sleep by a dozen Chicago cops. He was 21.

The film came out before certain details of the case were understood. For example, his close comrade William O'Neil who was with him the night before he was killed turns out to have been an FBI informant. Still, the movie is well worth watching. Here's the link.


Primary sources, baby!

I've been digging a new collection on the Library of Congress' American Memory site about early California history.

It only includes works in English which excludes material from the Spanish speakers who had been running the place when it was a colony of Spain and then later when it was the most Northern province of Mexico. Also missing are voices from members of California's 70+ native tribes which used spoken but not written languages, and from the thousands of international gold seekers who came from China and Chile, and from all over the rest of the world, leaving an emphasis on adventuring Anglo-American men. As limited as adventuring Anglo-American men can be, I like the first-person accounts of California history. Here's a passage from San Francisco bartender John H. Brown, recalling the Anglo-American seizure of California from Mexico. At that time, those "rising up" were attempting to found an independent Republic of California until the Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and occupied California in the name of the United States, quickly quashing that idea. Note that the then-sleepy pre-Gold Rush city of San Francisco was still called Yerba Buena at the time:

Things went on as usual in the city until the latter part of May, when a report reached the city, that trouble was expected. A party at Sutter's Fort were raising a company to take possession of the upper part of California. In the early part of June, a boat arrived from Martinez, with the news that Sonoma was taken, and a proclamation, with Mr. Hyde's signature, was posted in a prominent place which announced that General Vallejo and Timothy Murphy, of San Rafael, with many others, were taken prisoners... A few days after, General Castro issued a proclamation, commanding all Mexican citizens to meet him at Santa Clara for orders. The only foreigners who left the city for Santa Clara, were Captain William Hinckley and Robert T. Ridley. They were ordered to stop all boats and prevent all persons from landing in Yerba Buena. On their return home, Hinckley was taken sick and died, on Burnell's Ranch, and was buried in the church at Mission Dolores.

Robert T. Ridley returned to the city to carry out the orders of General Castro, but could not find anyone to assist him, as there was not one Mexican citizen to be found in Yerba Buena, and the few foreigners who were here, were in favor of the ''Bear Flag,'' as it was called. This flag was made at Sutter's Fort, of bunting, and had the picture of a grizzly bear painted in the center, as the parties making the flag had no paint on hand, they used some blackberry juice, which answered the purpose very well. (The flag can still be seen at the Pioneer's Hall, in San Francisco). But they did not take up arms until the American Flag was raised.


Community Clinics

Over the last few days I've learned some exciting new facts about scabies. Shall I share?

scabies mite.jpg
The Scabies Mite: as ugly as it is unpleasant

1) The first and most exciting fact I've learned about scabies is that I DO NOT HAVE IT. It took two visits to my friend the PA who works in an STD clinic, a phone call to the craigslist date who could have given it to me, and finally, my own admission that I don't actually have scabies symptoms to convince me, but I'm now sure that I do not have a communicable disease, at least not one involving tiny mites that cause uncontrolled itching by shitting underneath the skin.

2) If I did have scabies, or any other disease for that matter, I would be 100% reliant on my saint-like friend the PA who works in an STD clinic to care for me because actually, as it turns out, having no health insurance and living in the East Bay = having almost no medical care at all. I called three or four local low-income clinics and they all told me that they only do intake for new patients ONCE A MONTH. So in other words, keep scratching for a couple weeks until we can see you. The exception is the Berkeley Free Clinic, but their hours are limited as is the range of care available there.

3) Even if they take forever to see you, the folks who run the Bay Area's community clinics still rock. I spent 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with a nice gentleman at the Free Clinic who failed to scream and hang up when I said I thought I had a social disease and then shared his recommendation for best East Bay community health clinic (LifeLong Medical Care). The person answering the phone at Lyon-Martin was also patient and kind even as she was telling me that their next appointment for new patients wasn't until January 18th.

I'm a former radical health care provider and I've got a very big and very special spot in my heart for community health care of all types. The Bay Area is home to a number of community clinics that grew out of a part of late-60s history where folks believed that health care was a basic human right and also that people could and should control their own care. If I ever get my shit together to write a book about Bay Area history, it'll be about the history of the Bay Area community health movement, but its going to take a lot of research because I don't know much beyond the skeleton. I can tell you about a few of the local community clinics though.

La Clinica de la Raza was founded in 1971 by Chicano students and doctors and community folks to provide community-based care in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. Now that La Clinica is one of the largest non-profits in the East Bay, it doesn't quite have the homemade community feel that started things off. On the other hand, they now provide health care for thousands of uninsured folks from South East Asia, all over Latin America, and all over East Oakland. Similarly, the Native American Health Center started in '72 when Indian activists and allies, post-Alcatraz occupation, called for a self-directed clinic for Native folks.

The way I heard the story of the Berkeley Free Clinic was that it was founded during the People's Park Riot by medic veterans of the Vietnam War. I can't recall the details of that story so I'll have to go with the vague history they have up on their site.


The BFC is especially close to my radical health care heart because they primarily use lay medical workers – non-professionals who undergo a rigorous in-house training program. A trip to the BFC often involves a discussion with the staff medic in front of an open medical textbook, with both of you trying to figure out what's bugging you.

The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic is the most famous of our clinics. As I understand it, they were among the first medical clinics to treat drug addicts like human beings, and they still specialize in treating addiction and caring for addicts. I liked this free-association piece about their history from David Smith, the clinic founder.

Thanks clinics. I'm going to celebrate my lack of scabies by signing up to become a patient somewheres.


Lost Amusement

Idora Park.jpeg
Idora Park in Oakland, 1910 (?). From the Oakland History Room, Oakland Public Library.

Finals are over (thank the maker) and apparently, some guy named Jesus was born today. Seems like the right time to talk about boozing, gambling, and flipping upside-down on roller coasters. Here goes: Before TiVo, iPods, or Guitar Hero, when folks had to leave the house for a little something exciting, the Bay Area was peppered with amusement parks. The parks incorporated natural beauty along with human-made entertaiments like junk food, race-tracks and shooting ranges.

Playland at the Beach is the most well known of our lost parks. It started as a disorganized collection of concessions and rides at Ocean Beach in the late 1800s and only shut down in the early 1970s. At one point it spanned three city blocks and included roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, five restaurants, and eventually the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House restaurant which to this day traps tourists before they fall off the edge of San Francisco and onto Seal Rock in the Pacific. Outsidelands.org collects photos and stories of Playland and wikipedia has a pretty thorough entry including descriptions of the various rides nausea inducing rides like the Aeroplane Swing, the Whip, and Dodg-em.

Chelle and Noelle Beloy in front of the Fun House at Playland at the Beach.
Copyright Dennis O'Rorke, early 1970s from outsidelands.org.

From 1904 until 1929, Idora Park in the present day Oakland neighborhood of Temescal was home to a miniature railway, a car race track, the Illusion Theater, a successful opera house, and a skating rink that billed itself as the largest in the world. The park also housed a number of caged animal displays and served as a temporary home of the Oakland Oaks baseball team. This postcard set provides some images of that disappeared park.

Grizzlies caged at Idora Park on Oakland, from Alameda Info

Shellmound Park in Emeryville lasted from 1876 to 1924. It was built, morbidly, on the lopped off top of the Bay Area's largest indigenous Shellmound. The best online resource about the park is this PDF from the Emeryville Historical Society. You can read there about the pleasant picnic grounds, the shooting range, bowling alley, bicycle and horse racing and two dance pavilions that were part of this destination for San Franciscans who wanted panoramic Bay views and a getaway from city hustle. The picnic grounds in particular were utilized by all types of local civic groups, ranging from the Household of Ruth, a Black women's chapter of the Odd Fellows, to the notoriously racist Workingmen's Party. Local anti-gambling ordinances and the new national alcohol prohibition killed Shellmound Park. There's no point in picnics and horse races without booze, apparently.

Boxing kids.jpg
Boxing kids at Neptune Beach, 1924, from Alameda Info.

Neptune Beach didn't open until 1917, late compared to other Bay Area parks, and it lasted until 1939 when the depression and increasing car use spurred in part by the recently completed San Francisco Bay Bridge made Alameda a less appealing destination for Bay Area funseekers. While it lasted it contained a giant swimming area, prime beach land, snacks, concessions, and a roller coaster that offered views across the Bay to San Francisco.

Neptune Beach Roller Coaster 1922, postcard from Alameda Info.

Amusement parks were popular around the country in the early 20th century. Most started as Trolley Parks, created by the streetcar companies as a destination for trolley lines. The parks were often built at beaches or, as in Idora Park, at locations that otherwise showed off nature's lovelier features. The natural features were eventually obscured by the gaudy rides that were installed later. The parks patterned themselves after each other and tended to rip off rides and even their names from larger or more successful parks elsewhere in the country. You might recognize the name "Playland" for example from the more famous Long Island park of the same name. Like the streetcar companies that built these places, the parks themselves were killed by the rise of car culture – not to mention the Great Depression and then television. Although as in the case of Playland, there were some late holdouts. Amusement Park fans are quite loyal. Besides lovingly maintained memorial websites to the various amusement parks, the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum is trying to build a physical space in the old location of Neptune Beach.

The destruction of Playland at the Beach,
copyright Dennis O'Rorke, 1972, from outsidelands.org.

(Thanks so much to peacay at the beautiful bibliodyssey for giving me the Cliff House link that started me on this post.)



Hi Folks!

I'm still here, just severely weakened by a massive pile of biology homework until Wednesday. I might as well shout out the New Earth Artists Cafe where I'm finishing my microbiology papers and enjoying a Jill Scott (grits and eggs) and coffee and the view of basketball players and martial artists at the F.M. Smith rec center and playground. He was a classic robber baron and exploited Chinese workers in his Death Valley borax mines, but for those of us who live in The Town Frances Marion Smith is our robber baron, and we've got a corner of his once enormous estate as a cute little neighborhood park where I grew up playing and where my little Ru is playing with her Auntie today so I can get some work done. Speaking of which...



Illinois St. and 19th at the Eastern edge of Dogpatch.
An 1862 photo by Eadward Muybridge. From pier70sf.org

Hey, look at that: The Dogpatch has a website! Nice work. More cool stuff about Pier 70 elsewhere on the same site.


Bearings Blog

I'm pretty much out of commission research-wise until my finals are over in two weeks. In the meantime, I'll keep up the links to sites that are a)Bay Area related, b)history related, c)activist related, and/or d)just really awesome.

Under the heading of Just Really Awesome and Bay Area History Related: Bearings A Geographers Blog. Bearings looks at our "built environment", often at the portions of that environment which have been abandoned in our ever forward moving rush towards wealth and progress. There's a strong emphasis on the West and on history, and there are lots of beautiful photos, both historical and contemporary. I was extra interested in a recent series of Bearings posts about sugar beet factories in Colorado because I watched Burn! last night, and now I want to learn everything I can about the changes and tragedies of the sugar industry.

Filter presses to purify liquid beet sugar, from Bearings.

Bearings is the creation of author and photographer Jon Haeber. He's got a great Flickr page too (recently profiled on Boing Boing). Maybe if I'm very nice he'll be my new best friend.


Letters from a Concentration Camp

Dear Miss Breed.jpg

Clara Estelle Breed, a San Diego children's librarian, was outraged by the WWII era policy of internment for Japanese Americans. In response, she met Japanese American families as they were being sent away by train and distributed stamped and addressed postcards to the children, asking them to write to her and describe life in the camps. Her papers, including cards sent by interned adults and children are now collected at the Japanese American National Museum.

Thanks to amyms on metafilter for this find.


Guerrilla Oil Spill Cleanup

 my new best friend
The humble oyster mushroom.

I've been following the efforts of Bay Area guerrilla oil spill cleaner upers, mostly because I get regular updates from a friend who's been out there on the beaches picking the toxic stuff up with human hair mats and now as she and her comrades prepare to inoculate the oily mats with oyster mushroom spawn which will, apparently, break the oil down into harmless compost.

Today the project got covered in the Chron. It's worth noting that this work is not endorsed or assisted by the city, and especially not by the EPA. This is just regular folks with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of commitment, doing what needs to be done.

Makes me proud...



I fixed the topic tags on a bunch of old posts, and as a result, folks who read this blog through RSS (LJ, Bloglines, etc) will see all those posts as if they were brand new. Damn me! (If you read this blog by going straight to it's blogspot site, then you can ignore this post.)

Sorry, won't happen again.

Books and Bún

 my new best friend
Photocopier at the History Room:
My Best Friend.

Today I treated myself to an afternoon at the Oakland History Room - my last trip there for a while I’m afraid; I need to spend my limited childcare time studying for impending finals.

The History Room houses rotating exhibits and the current display about Emeryville's sports and gambling history should be of interest to those who want to learn more about the Emeryville Shellmound. It features a few pictures of the old Shellmound Park amusement area including photos of the dance pavilions, the shooting range, and the racetrack that were all there from the late 1800s through the 1920s.

Mmmm… Bún.

When the library closed I treated myself again, this time to vegetarian* bún at Kim Huong on 10th Street. Since having kids I've come to treasure meals eaten alone, and quietly reading a book while eating something prepared by someone else is a special treat. I'd rather the book hadn't been my microbiology textbook, and to tell you the truth, I've had much better bûn, but I'll take my treats where and when I can get them.

*(this is only true if you, like me, believe that fish are vegetables.)


Week of Links! Done!

All this blogging is tiring me out. After today my 'week of links' is done. I know, five days does not a week make, but my kids will be happier if I go out and play this weekend instead of staring at my computer screen, so that's it until next week.

The last link in this week of links is this Bay Area race map. Click the ethnic group button in the upper right corner to see where different groups of people congregate, and then laugh in the face of the next person who tells you that the Bay Area isn't segregated.

This is just one page of a larger google maps/census data mashup project. The site also features maps that sort by population age, gender, family structure, and by other values. I guess there's even instructions for making your own census map.



Indians Welcome.jpg

From 1969 to 1971 a pan-national group of Indian activists called Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz Island, reclaiming the land 'by right of discovery'. This was their proclamation:


to the
Great White Father and his People


We, the native Americans, reclaim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.

We wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with the Caucasian inhabitants of this land, and hereby offer the following treaty:

We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for twenty-four dollars in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man's purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago. We know that $24 in trade goods for these 16 acres is more than was paid when Manhattan Island was sold, but we know that land values have risen over the years. Our offer of $1.24 per acres is greater than the $0.47 per acre the white men are now paying the California Indians for their lands.

We will give to the inhabitants of this island a portion of the land for their own to then to be held in trust...by the Bureau of Caucasian Affairs...in perpetuity -- for as long as the sun shall rise and the rivers go down to the sea. We will further guide the inhabitants in the proper way of living. We will offer them our religion, our education, our life-ways in order to help them achieve our level of civilization and thus raise them and all their white brothers up from their savage and unhappy state. We offer this treaty in good faith and wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with all white men.

We feel that this so-called Alcatraz Island is more than suitable for an Indian reservation, as determined by the white man's own standards. By this, we mean that this place resembles most Indian reservations in that:

1. It is isolated from modern facilities, and without adequate means of transportation.
2. It has no fresh running water.
3. It has inadequate sanitation facilities.
4. There are no oil or mineral rights.
5. There is no industry and so unemployment is very great.
6. There are no health-care facilities.
7. The soil is rocky and non-productive, and the land does not support game.
8. There are no educational facilities.
9. The population has always exceeded the land base.
10. The population has always been held as prisoners and kept dependent upon others.

Further, it would be fitting and symbolic that ships from all over the world, entering the Golden Gate, would first see Indian land, and thus be reminded of the true history of this nation. This tiny island would be a symbol of the great lands once ruled by free and noble Indians.

What use will we make of this land?

Since the San Francisco Indian Center burned down, there is no place for Indians to assemble and carry on tribal life here in the white man's city. Therefore, we plan to develop on this island several Indian institutions:

1. A Center for Native American Studies will be developed which will educate them to the skills and knowledge relevant to improve the lives and spirits of all Indian peoples. Attached to this center will be traveling universities, managed by Indians, which will go to the Indian Reservations, learning those necessary and relevant materials now about.

2. An American Indian Spiritual Center, which will practice our ancient tribal religious and sacred healing ceremonies. Our cultural arts will be featured and our young people trained in music, dance, and healing rituals.

3. An Indian Center of Ecology, which will train and support our young people in scientific research and practice to restore our lands and waters to their pure and natural state. We will work to de-pollute the air and waters of the Bay Area. We will seek to restore fish and animal life to the area and to revitalize sea-life which has been threatened by the white man's way. We will set up facilities to desalt sea water for human benefit.

4. A Great Indian Training School will be developed to teach our people how to make a living in the world, improve our standard of living, and to end hunger and unemployment among all our people. This training school will include a center for Indian arts and crafts, and an Indian restaurant serving native foods, which will restore Indian culinary arts. This center will display Indian arts and offer Indian foods to the public, so that all may know of the beauty and spirit of the traditional Indian ways.

Kids on Alcatraz.jpg
Alcatraz kids playing on abandoned equipment. Photo by Ilka Hartmann.

Some of the present buildings will be taken over to develop an American Indian Museum which will depict our native food and other cultural contributions we have given to the world. Another part of the museum will present some of the things the white man has given to the Indians in return for the land and life he took:

disease, alcohol, poverty, and cultural decimation (as symbolized by old tin cans, barbed wire, rubber tires, plastic containers, etc.). Part of the museum will remain a dungeon to symbolize both those Indian captives who were incarcerated for challenging white authority and those who were imprisoned on reservations. The museum will show the noble and tragic events of Indian history, including the broken treaties, the documentary of the Trail of Tears, the Massacre of Wounded Knee, as well as the victory over Yellow-Hair Custer and his army.

In the name of all Indians, therefore, we reclaim this island for our Indian nations, for all these reasons. We feel this claim is just and proper, and that this land should rightfully be granted to us for as long as the rivers run and the sun shall shine.

We hold the rock!


Alcatraz occupier Atha Rider Whitemankiller after the
last residents were forcibly removed from the island.
Photo by Ilka Hartmann.

The Alcatraz occupation on the internet:
An article from the Native Press; original documents from Indians of All Tribes (and related ephemera); the National Park Service; and American Indian Studies professor Troy Johnson's Alcatraz site with a lot of period photos, including all but one of the photos in this post.

The Alcatraz occupation on paper:
Ojibway activist and occupation organizer Adam Fortunate Eagle's Alcatraz! Alcatraz! and Heart of the Rock (co-written with sympathetic white guy journalist Tim Findley); Like a Hurricane from Comanche writer Paul Chaat Smith, and Osage professor and writer Robert Allen Warrior; probable white guy American Indian Studies professor Troy R. Johnson's The Occupation of Alcatraz Island, Alcatraz: Indian Land Forever, and You Are on Indian Land! Alcatraz Island, 1969-1971.

The Alcatraz occupation on film:
Alcatraz is Not an Island documentary website including video of occupation veterans.

Alcatraz veiew.jpg
Alcatraz photo by Ilka Hartmann.

Happy Thanksgiving folks.


Week of Links! Train Porn!

You'll never meet a group of people as obsessive as train enthusiasts. Considering that the entire Bay Area was once criss-crossed with municipal, interurban, and transcontinental train lines, there's lots here to obsess and enthuse about. Shall we begin?

College and Shafter.jpg
Shafter and College in Oakland, 1952. Kenneth C. Jenkins photo. Garth G. Groff collection.

I once found it unbelievable that there used to be a commuter (and small freight) train line running up Shafter Street in North Oakland, through the hills, all the way to Sacramento, and then on to Chico! Don't believe it either? This site has proof!

OB&E was created by an adorable teenager. (Daniel, please don't be annoyed that I called you "adorable" or that I'm being semi-patronizing by referencing your age. I only mention these facts because they will increase viewer awe of your site!). The site focuses on the East Bay's electric commuter trains – now long gone. It is updated less frequently because the creator went off to college, but it's well organized with lots of sweet photos. Worth a look.

Key Rail Pics is the place where the Key Route Yahoo Group posts their awesome East Bay train pictures.

A line.jpeg
John Stashik Collection

Bay Rails. Again, mostly East Bay. Again, totally awesome.

This site maps various active train tracks. It's not a map of where the train tracks lead to, it's a map of the actual track layout. I am in awe of the nerdiness of this project.

Also highly nerdy (in a good way), this site is full of highly technical information (that I don't understand at all!) and cool close up photos relating to the Southern Pacific which, I believe, once terminated in Oakland.
The Western Railway Museum site features Quicktime videos of old trains in action, and don't miss this Telstar Logistics post about the snowbound and decaying fleet of MUNI trains in Lake Tahoe.


Finally, I can't forget the N Judah Chronicles, a fine blog of all things N-Judah which brings back my days living at the bottom of the N Line, when I used to have to sweep sand out of my living room.



Week of Links! Shaping San Francisco!

Bloody Thursday Street Fight.jpg
San Francisco General Strike. From shapingsf.org.

You could say that Shaping San Francisco is a sort of spiritual parent to Bay Radical. Maybe you know the great anthology, Reclaiming San Francisco, or you may remember the late-90s library kiosks of the original version of Shaping San Francisco (apparently, there are still two of them in active use!). Well, since then the Shaping San Francisco folks have gotten a huge amount of material onto the internet, and according to their site, they are in the process of updating everything online (if you can spare a little, they need funds for the update).

The Reclaiming San Francisco site conains an awe-inspiring number of photos, videos and essays about San Francisco radical history. They've posted lectures and period video on their Archive.org page, and they host frequent talks at CounterPULSE and regular bicycle history tours of the City.

Chris Carlsson, Critical Mass OG, and founder of the awesome 80s Financial District Mag Processed World, is the backbone of Shaping San Francisco. I keep meaning to pester him into a lunch date. Maybe when my semester is out.

Anyhow, I really can't express the awesomeness of the project. Instead, I'll let this video of the White Nights Riot from their arvhive.org page show you the superness:


Week of Links! Shorpy!

Since some folks will be off work this week, meaning, you may not want to fritter away your hours reading long posts, I'm going to do a week of links. Every day, I'll link to one of my favorite history resources.

First up is the link that may already be a chestnut to you internet history junkies out there, but it's one of the best: Shorpy.

Minor mill on Warren Creek by Arcata, California. Mack is the engineer, taken mid 1880s. Photographer unknown –from Shorpy.com

Shorpy posts historical photos. That's it. Explanations are minimal, but often unnecessary. When I look at the pictures on Shorpy, I think about how often a few photos can tell a story way better than a 2000 word analysis.

Shorpy also runs a comics subsite which is worth checking out too. Enjoy!


Bannerman's Arsenal


This has zero to do with the Bay Area, but it is kind of political. BLDGBLOG recently posted a nice article about Bannerman's Arsenal, the now decaying castle of a man who was once the world's most successful arms dealer.

Thanks johnson at metafilter for the link. Here's wikipedia for a bit more.


The Shellmound

 banana republic.jpg
The Bay Street Mall, home of the Apple Store, California Pizza Kitchen, H&M, and a wealth (so to speak) of other one-step-above the hoi polloi chain stores has been thoughtful enough to include a bit of local history on their website. I'll give you an excerpt: One day, a group of people, the Ohlone, arrived at the Bay… This was a great place to live, with plenty of everything people might need: water, food, space, and the materials to make shelters. The Ohlone decided to stay and call this place home. One paragraph later we learn that Today Bay Street Emeryville, an urban village where people can shop, dine, live and be entertained, calls the site home.

The mall website fails to mention the moments that intervened between today and the 'day' that tribal people, now called the Ohlone, arrived at the mouth of Temescal Creek where the mall now sits. Presumably, mall managers would rather not linger on historical happenings like the deadly Spanish Mission system that enslaved California's coastal tribal people, or the factories that for 75 years occupied the mall's current location, producing paints and pesticides and leaching heavy metals into the groundwater, or the protests that archaeologists and local Muwekma Ohlone activists registered in opposition to the mall's construction.

Most notably, promotional materials fail to clearly explain the fact that the mall is sitting on top of the remaining portions of what was probably the Bay Area's largest shellmound. Oh, they mention the Shellmound. The Mall faces Emeryville's "Shellmound Street", and they even put up a commemorative exhibit about the mound (and I do mean commemorative, since it emphasizes the past over present-day Bay Area Indian communities.) Their commemorative mini-mound was mandated by Emeryville's city council as an appeasement to the people who were understandably concerned about the construction of a mall atop the spot where their ancestors are buried.

Let me back up a minute.

The Shellmound at the base of Temescal Creek was at one time roughly 60 feet high and 350 feet in diameter. It, along with five or six smaller adjoining mounds lined the marshy land where the creek, now culverted under the streets of Oakland and Emeryville, meets the Bay.

There are hundreds of shellmounds scattered along the mouths of the Bay Area's numerous creeks. Anthropologists in the early 1900s counted at least 425. The remains of a massive shellmound sit underneath Spenger's - the old-school fish restaurant near the base of University Avenue in Berkeley. Shellmounds are found in coastal regions around the world from Brazil to British Colombia, Australia to Denmark.

View Larger Map
This residential street in Alameda was once a large shellmound.

The Emeryville Shellmound is made up of thousands of years of accumulated shells (shellmounds get their name from the enormous volume of waste-shells that make up much of their bulk), along with earth, ash, and other remnants from the villagers who lived nearby and likely also on top of the mound. It also contained and still contains bodies of the human dead - sometimes accompanied by traditional burial objects. Anthropologists wager that the purpose of the mound changed over time, but it appears that it was a home, a place to deposit refuse, and a burial ground all at once. For non-Ohlone people, the mound can at the least serve as a reminder of both the mundanities of daily life and the rituals of loss that made up the experiences of the tribal people who lived and continue to live here. For many Ohlone people, the mound is the place where their ancestors are buried, and as such, Ohlone activists have worked to have their graveyard treated with appropriate respect and dignity.

According to the detailed journals of Spanish surveyors who were the first Europeans to explore the Bay, what is now the Emeryville Shellmound was already abandoned before Spanish invasion in the 1700s. It wasn't long after the Spanish came that the destruction of the mound began. Luis Peralta, the Spanish soldier who had received a land grant of the entire East Bay as a reward for his military service (mostly killing Indians, actually) apparently used the base of the mound as a place to corral and slaughter his cattle. Or maybe his son Vicente who settled in the Temescal area actually did the cattle ranching – I have to read up on this more at some point.

In the 1870s the enormous mound was turned into a sort of local amusement park (the Bay Area had a number of these places, but that's another post). Developers chopped the top off the mound to add a pavilion where (white) revelers could watch the Bay while they got loaded and literally danced on the graves of the indigenous dead.

1902 photo (published in 1907) of Shellmound Park, from the University of California's collection

In 1924, the mound suffered a greater blow. Steam shovels removed the bulk of it to make way for paint and pesticide factories. At the time of the destruction, the mound's importance was already well-understood, even by non-native people. It had been twice excavated by researchers from the University of California - this overview of Bay Area shellmounds was written by one N.C. Nelson in the early 1900s. While the language is peppered with outmoded and racist ideas about the coastal tribes, the often lovely descriptions of the mounds make clear that anthropologists understood at least some of their significance.

toxic emeryville.jpg
Rusting factories on the remaining portion of the mound

The factories were torn down in the late '90s. While City of Emeryville officials were in the midst of deciding how to develop the at that point vacant land, a particularly heavy rainy season upset the ground where the factories had been leaching arsenic, heavy metals, and other poisons for more than 70 years, and toxic runoff started to pour into the Bay. The city hired workers to stop the runoff, and as they dug holding pools, the workers discovered that a large portion of the Shellmound, thought to be totally destroyed, was still there just under the topsoil. The City hired an archaeologist who reported that the area was "massively significant". They promptly fired him. They also brought in the Native American Heritage Commission, which appointed a "Most Likely Descendant" of the dead found inside the mound.

 Abalone Pendant.jpg
An abalone pendant from the mound
It should be obvious that the descendants of the ancient people who lived in the Bay Area do not speak with one voice. Historian Andrew Galvan, an Ohlone, favored exploring the mound for its archaeological value. But the local tribal community, officially represented in this case by 'most likely descendant' Katherine Perez, tended to oppose further excavation and instead pushed for reburial of the remains and sealing of the mound. For it's part, the City of Emeryville was under no legal obligation to listen to anyone, so they followed their pocketbooks by limiting the controversial archaeological research and allowing developers to move forward with building the Disney-esque shopping/entertainment/living complex that we have today.

When I walk into the Bay Street Mall my heart breaks. What kills me is how very many people are drawn there. On the immaculate, privately owned and maintained streets I see people of every ethnicity and age. Gay and lesbian folks. Transgender folks. The wealthy and the working class. I've even spotted one of the Bay's favorite leftist hip hop artists dining at California Pizza Kitchen (hey, I was dining there myself). There is a way that the Mall is like my dream of an idealized Bay Area where all kinds of people can be both themselves and be together, working, eating, laughing, but it's the looking-glass ideal. Behind the mall are minimum-wage retail workers, piles of clothes and toys and things, made by sweatshop workers in China, the environmental cost of the hundreds of cars stacked in the parking lots. And most painful, the mall's foundations, which rest on human remains.

Today, Indian People Organizing for Change along with members of Vallejo Intertribal SSP&RIT and their allies were meeting at the Intertribal Friendship House to launch a Shellmound Peace Walk, visiting Shellmounds and other sacred sites around the Bay Area, praying, and drawing attention to the past that is under all of our feet. The walk will wind up the day after thanksgiving, Buy Nothing Day, at the Bay Street Mall.

shellmound demo.jpg
Photo of 2006 demonstration taken by M. Villanueva, posted on indybay.org

Do you want to know more about the Ohlone or the Shellmound?

The short film Shellmound will be screening this Sunday, November 18th at La Pena as part of the Hecho en Califas festival.

The City of Emeryville's site about the Shellmound, created as part of their compromise agreement with local Ohlone people has quite a bit of (at times softened) historical information including photographs of dozens of artifacts found during the 1999 excavation.

A lovely site about East Bay Creeks features photos of the current Temescal Creek outflow.

Wikipedia handles Ohlone issues fairly well.

This SF weekly article has some interesting background about the Muwekma Ohlone tribe.

A recent study of bird bones from the Shellmound led one investigator to the conclusion that local tribes overhunted native birds to a significant enough degree to have severely reduced sea bird populations here. I was interested in the way this article challenges simplistic stereotypes about Indian people.

There were a number of articles about the mound written during the development and construction of the Mall:

The East Bay Express, Terrain Magazine and California Wild all printed worthwhile pieces.


Improvements, hopefully

I'm trying to improve the readability of this page by switching from white print on a black background to black print on a white background. Maybe eventually I'll even have a user pic. Any suggestions for making things more readable around here are welcome.


Veterans Day Links

"Caring for a dead veteran is easy...bring a wreath, say a few
words and walk away. Caring for a living veteran requires
time, money and a life-long commitment. Every Veterans
Day our politicians show they don't know the difference
as they visit a cemetery instead of a VA hospital."

VA Watchdog
G.I. Rights Hotline
Hire Veterans
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
PTSD Combat Blog

Iraq Veterans Against the War
Veterans Against the Iraq War
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Veterans for Peace
Citizen Soldier
Courage to Resist
Military Families Speak Out
Gold Star Families Speak Out

…and the G.I. Movement Archives from the Sir! No Sir! Website.

Feel free to add to the list.


Resource re: Pakistan

I just discovered Chapati Mystery - a blog about South Asia, history, and politics. It's well-written and smart, and lately its all about the current state of Martial Law in Pakistan. I'll be reading there to keep up with the state of the dictatorship.

Thanks to Surf Putah, (one of my favorite semi-local bloggers), for pointing out this blog!



I'm pleased and flattered to share that my recent post on photographer Cathy Cade has been included in this month's History Carnival. (I also submitted the article to the Carnival of Feminists which will be posting tomorrow at Ornamenting Away, so cross your fingers that you'll see me there tomorrow too.)

In case you're new to Carnivals, they're traveling, periodic collections of blog posts on a particular topic.

In case you're new to this journal, its a bunch of posts loosely organized around the themes of history, radical politics, and the San Francisco Bay Area. I have time for a really well-researched post about once every six weeks or so. In between I post movie and book reviews, photos of my kids, or whatever else strikes my fancy.


The Grace Lee Project

The Grace Lee Project: Filmmaker Grace Lee interviewed a dozen other women named Grace Lee, looking for what Grace Lees have in common, and where they differ. I loved it.

(Ya, so, I have had a lot less time for reading and research, and a bit more time for watching movies lately, but I swear I have a "real" post coming in the next couple weeks.)


Community Radio Smackdown!


My radio spends the vast majority of its time divided between 90.7 and 94.1 (it's true that a small percentage is also spent playing classic R&B and contemporary country – ya, you heard me - but mostly I'm loyal to the big two) and right now my favorite stations are conspiring to host simultaneous pledge periods. I can think of only one way to get revenge: Community Radio Smackdown! KALX vs. KPFA, or more specifically, KALX pledge breaks vs. KPFA pledge breaks – the winner gets my ass volunteering to answer phones during their next pledge period.

I'll be evaluating the pledge breaks using 3 important criteria: On-Air Banter, Premiums, and Volunteer Pledge Taker service. Everybody ready? Here we go:

On-Air Banter: KALX
KPFA, I love you, but your pledge period on-air banter is dry dry dry. Dry like an all-gin martini. Not dry like funny, but dry like dull. And Dennis Bernstein, although I admire your conviction, you should not be allowed to participate in fundraising. Does your doctor realize the level of stress you undergo during each pledge break? I'm concerned about heart failure. Also Dennis, as much as I care for KPFA, and as much as I care about Palestine – I just can't believe that donating to KPFA will save Palestinian children. But shit, keep trying, maybe you'll convince me eventually.

KALX banter on the other hand is so awesome that I actually look forward to their pledge periods. Their prerecorded celebrity endorsements are amazing – Joan Jett tells me to give money – let me tell you, I'm gonna give it. Their breaks are short, they are funny, and the DJs lack the pledge break desperation found on most public radio stations. Of course, it may be that they have much smaller financial needs – how much does the KALX news cost to produce anyway? Even so, KALX wins this category.

Premiums: KPFA
KPFA beats KALX's ass on premiums. Right now KPFA is giving away some sort of expanded Paul Robeson CD that includes both interviews and performances, Michael Moore's Sicko, and the Good Vibrations Guide to Sex. KALX on the other hand is giving away Modest Mouse CDs and tickets to see the Coup. In December. Shit, I love the Coup from the bottom of my leftist heart, but I see them for free at every other political action. Yay for the Coup, but this is not a good premium.

KALX used to give away actual DJ slots to big donors. Meaning, for the right price you could host your own show. I admit that is an awesome premium, but I haven't heard it offered this time around, so even though KALX also gives out cool t-shirts and temporary tattoos, I'm handing this category over to KPFA for their consistently quality pledge shwag.

Telephone Volunteers: KALX
I am fucking broke people. I mean, overdrawn for a week, praying to the baby Jesus that the landlord doesn't cash my check broke. But my commitment to this scientific comparison is so great that I attempted to pledge to both stations despite my financial problems so that I could accurately report for all of you. Here's what I found:

I received excellent service from the KALX phone-answering volunteer, who also happened to be KALX volunteer DJ Pop Goes the Weasel. In all my years of donating to KPFA, KQED, and KALW, I have never talked to a DJ when I've called in my pledge, and KPFA would really have to have gone above and beyond to have come close to KALX in this category. Unfortunately, by the time I finally got around to calling KPFA, their pledge period had ended! I thought these things lasted forever. Sorry KPFA, but by ending your fundraiser in a reasonable period of time, you've forfeited your spot in this competition. This category goes to our friends at KALX.

The winner in this year's Community Radio Smackdown? KALX. Competition was stiff, but KALX wins my ass, volunteering to answer phones during their next pledge break. Thanks for playing along at home and remember, it's always the right time to donate: 510.642.KALX, or 510.848.KPFA. And don't forget to pay your pledges folks!


Sir! No Sir!

Sir! No Sir!.jpg

Shoot, folks have been telling me to watch this for months - I guess at this point it's been a couple years. Anyhow, I finally saw Sir! No Sir! last night. I had about 30 other things to do, but I'm glad I blew them off because this is a great movie and I learned so much!

I'm embarrassed to admit that I was at least 25 before I understood that the US had actually lost the war in Vietnam. And I sure didn't get the level of resistance against the war within the military until I saw this movie. There's even some great local info including a bit about vets breaking our of the stockade at the Presidio in San Francisco. The stockade at the Presidio?? See, I've managed to spend my naive 33 years thinking of the Presidio as a really pretty park. Sometimes learning history makes me feel like a moron. Anyhow, here's the extended 12 minute trailer:

The Free Speech Movement

Don't you just love that? In truth, I don't know much about the Free Speech Movement beyond the basics: Mario Savio and other students who had worked on civil rights campaigns in the segregated South came back to school at Berkeley and brought the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement with them – this time advocating for everyone's basic rights to free expression. I'm not one for hero worship, and I know that Mario Savio was just a part of a large movement, but I love listening to him here because he fucking means what he's saying. There's nothing rehearsed or rehashed about that speech. It's from the heart, 100%. I love that passion. I love that kind of need.

The internet's got a lot of resources about the FSM. Notably, the Bacroft library at UC Berkeley has a pile of documents online as part of their Free Speech Movement Digital Archive. They link to transcriptions of all kinds of related original documents (like flyers, newspaper articles, relevant government paperwork, etc), and a collection of related oral histories - for example - you can read the reaction of then President of UC Berkeley Clark Kerr to the movement. (He's the guy that Mario Savio is pissed off at in the video above.) I also recommend this segment of a lovely interview with civil rights attorney and Old Left royal Robert Treuhaft who represented the FSM, and got booked with the activists during what turned out to be the largest mass arrest of students in this country's history.

Savio.org is the site that represents a fund established in Mario's honor which awards young activists, and also pays for annual lectures in his name. This year's lecture is coming up tomorrow! Angela Davis will be speaking about "Prisons, Democracy, and Empire". (I love listening to Angela, not just because she's one of the smartest people ever, but also because she thinks that history is important, and historical context is so often incorporated into what she has to say.)

Free Speech Movement Archives includes a number of nice overviews, timelines, etc that help to summarize the movement. From that site I found a link to this little photo gallery from Ron Enfield who was chief photographer for the Daily Californian at the time that the movement was active.

Of course, free expression is still an issue. It's always an issue. The Cal Disorientation Guide has this to say about our current rights to free speech on the Cal campus. Enjoy the links folks, while we still get to read 'em.


Sister Comrade

You don't want to miss this one: Sister Comrade, a celebration of the lives of poet activists Audre Lorde and Pat Parker:

Sister Comrade Flyer


Catherine Roraback

Catherine Roraback was the only woman in her class at Yale Law School. She was a founder of the Connecticut ACLU, and a president of the National Lawyers Guild. During her long career she defended labor organizers, immigrants being threatened with deportion under McCarthy era policies, civil rights workers, Black Panther Ericka Huggins, and maybe most famously, Estelle Griswold before the United States Supreme Court in the case that struck down restrictions on the distribution of birth control (at least to married women and men) and set the precedent for Roe vs. Wade. She died this week at age 87.

A friend sent me this lovely obituary from the Hartford Courant, and here's the New York Times.


You Can't Stop Me – an interview with Cathy Cade

If you have an image in your head of a lesbian feminist, Cathy Cade probably helped put in there. For at least my entire adult life, I've been looking at her pictures in the dozen books and magazines where they've been featured, and in her own book, A Lesbian Photo Album: The Lives of Seven Lesbian Feminists.

Cathy became an activist while she was in college: in 1966 she joined the Civil Rights Movement, demonstrating and organizing with SNCC. As an opponent of the Vietnam War, she helped found the Tulane chapter of SDS, and later was an early actor in the Women's Movement. In 1970, Cathy moved to San Francisco where she soon came out as a lesbian and started taking pictures, and her interconnected dedication to social justice and to photography has persisted throughout her life. Along with her documentary photo projects, Cathy runs a business as a professional photographer and personal historian. (Her website has details.) I was so excited when Cathy agreed to do an interview with me, and not only did we have a great time talking, but she managed to recruit me to a whole pile of women's history related projects she's involved with!

Along with the interview, I asked Cathy to chose a few pictures which show how her work has changed over the years. You can find them below, each with a little bit of background from her in the caption.

Cade Gail, Kate, cars 1973.jpg
Gail Grassi and Kate Kaufman repairing a car. "It was a time when we all looked to the Chinese Revolution for progressive ideas of making the world a better place for people."

Bay Radical You talked before we started taping about how when you first started doing photography, you couldn't believe that women could really use that equipment.

Cathy Cade That's right.

BR You started taking pictures in '71 – is that right?

CC Ya. The same spring I came out as a lesbian; they were very connected. It was a time when a lot of lesbians were getting into the trades. And so one of the first things I did was photograph women in the trades, and photograph my friends tuning their cars, and the Women's Press Collective printing books, and carpenters. I still like to do that. Recently I've been photographing men doing skilled work. Uptown Body and Fender is in downtown Oakland and the woman who owns that loves art and she hired me to photograph her workers. [Now] there are these big beautiful black and white prints up on the wall, so when you've had your car smashed up you drive in there and you get out of your car and here are all these skilled mechanics doing their work.

BR That's really cool.

CC It turns out I like to photograph men doing skilled work also.

BR Have you taken pictures of men over the years?

CC Some gay men. But this is all political. Most of the men who work in that shop are immigrants from Latin America, one of whom was just being deported the other day. So it all stays political.

BR Was there some lag between when you started taking pictures and when you started thinking of yourself as a photographer?

CC Not very much, but it's a good question because one of the reasons I started taking pictures was because I was tired of going to meetings and all the processing and yet I still wanted to be in the movement. I figured I could make my contribution and not have to go to so many meetings. When I started photographing there were all these new magazines, and there [were] new exhibit opportunities because the women's movement and the lesbian feminist movement was just bursting out. And so my work got used right away. There wasn't any long period of me wondering if anybody was going to like my work or anything. It was totally grabbed up and used in newspapers, and magazines, and local exhibits, and in the new coffeehouses, so that made it really easy.

I didn't want to use the word "artist" because when I was growing up an artist was one of these rare people who was born with humongous talent and "please don’t embarrass us by thinking that you might be talented". But there were people like Holly Near and others using the word "cultural worker", so I could call myself a cultural worker. Things have changed over the years and I call myself an artist. And I'm glad to identify as an artist, but the fact that I was starting to do my photo work when it was wanted, needed, used and I could call myself a cultural worker – was helpful!

Cade Chinese strike1974.jpg
"I became involved with a coalition of union women called Union WAGE - Union Women's Alliance to Gain Equality. Some of the leadership were of an older generation than we were and had been activists in the '30s. This was one of the only places in the '70s where women in the women's movement of different generations were connecting with each other."

BR Right. That makes sense.

CC I didn't get paid.

BR Right. [Laughing] Some things don't change.

CC I think that I worked in photography as opposed to film partly because I could take pictures without having to raise a lot of money. My attitude a lot was, "You can't stop me." With a camera and wanting to take pictures and maybe wanting to get them out a little bit, the "you can't stop me" would work.

Now a days with the new technology you probably can make little films and put them up on YouTube, that's probably shifted.

Cade Lesbian Mothering diapers.jpg
"I wanted to do a book on lesbian mothering but I never got to, and when I couldn't do a book I said 'I'm going to take some of my favorite images, and I'm going to print them on cloth and embroider the cloth onto diapers'. The great thing about it is, I hang it up on a clothes line with old fashioned clothes pins - I can hang up an exhibit in 20 minutes - which means that I can hang it up for a one day event. I have it in the works to expand it."

BR Right. Well, it's a trade off because, what we don't have now is a movement to go with it and so it's…

CC You don't think we do?

BR Well, I'm curious how you think about it because your work was such a part of a movement. Does it still feel like its connected to a movement in the same way?

CC Well, backup a minute. I had two kids as a lesbian by donor insemination. My first son was born in '78, and my second in '85 – this was the beginning of this new lesbian mothering movement – so I had my kids and raised my kids in a political context. There were those years where lesbian mothering was my movement. After they got to a certain age, I guess high school or something, they weren't around as much and I started looking around and saying, "OK, so where's the Women's Movement? Where's the Lesbian Movement now?" And I couldn't find it. At first it seemed like it was nowhere. Like, when I moved out here in '71, I knew where the Women's Liberation Movement was: it was at Glide Church on Friday nights at 7:30.

BR That makes it easy!

CC Ya! But then we're talking the late '80s, early '90s, it's like nowhere and everywhere. And that's what it feels like now. But I'm now more and more connected with an old lesbian movement, and that's easier to identify - where it is - so I've lucked out again, in another identifiable movement.

Cade OLOC marches 2003.jpg
Old Lesbians Organizing for Change marching at an early anti-Iraq War demonstration. "I started cutting up my pictures and making collages. This was radical. I had all been black and white, documentary photography, and all the sudden I'm cutting up a print and I'm going, 'Who do you think you are? God?'"

BR [There's a] theme that I see in your pictures that I wondered if you see, or if you have other themes that you want to point out: The subjects in your pictures are without self-consciousness, and especially because it's women doing non-traditional work, or people who are seen by the outside world as ugly in a certain way, that you just present in this really matter-of-fact way.

CC Well, I really appreciate you calling it that because some people think I'm overly positive, disgustingly positive, just this old Pollyanna, so it's nice of you to call it self-acceptance and a lack of self-consciousness. But I really did want to show us as human beings and to show us acting out of our personal power. Those early women in the trades pictures have a lot of sense of personal power you know. And I wanted to show women as smart and loving.

And the lesbian mothering pictures, I called them "mothering" not just "lesbian mothers" because nobody talked about mothering and what a job [it] was, and that it had skills. Part of what I wanted to do in those pictures was to articulate, "What do mothers do?" Not just what do lesbian mothers do but, "What is the job of mothering?"

The other thing is the everydayness - celebrating the everydayness. Everyday activities and everyday people.

CCade rose quilt photo sm.jpg
"These quilt photos start out being 4X6 color prints that I take to the lab and they make 'em. No more sweating in the dark room. I cut the prints up and I reassemble them like you would a quilt if you had little pieces of cloth. They're about beauty, and I think in this day and age beauty brings hope, and getting to have hope is very political."


Library Love

I know I don't have to tell you how awesome the library is, but I'll tell you anyway:

I went to the Dimond branch to dig through their American Indian collection (getting a pile of books for a post I'm working on) and found, not just that very awesome wall of books and magazines, but also in the teen section a library-produced flyer on resources for teens about sex, and a pamphlet, also library-made, about the realities of joining the military with lots of references for books, websites, and movies that could help help talk a 17 year old out of joining up.

Related: my little Rutabaga got her first library card this week. She just turned five, so she's old enough to take on the responsibilities and privileges associated with that piece of plastic, and I'm proud to report that she's been showing off her new card to everyone she talks to.

Can we just take a moment to praise librarians here? Libraries might be the last, great anti-corporate institutions left.



Have you seen Wattstax? Maybe because it was released a year before I was born, I never saw it until just this second. I thought I would watch it while I worked on the homework for my web design class, but this is shredding me - I cannot take my eyes off the screen! Not only is it an amazing concert movie, not only is it an awesome document of a particular historical moment, but the seventies outfits are blowing me away!

If you have a pulse, you must watch this film. Here's the preview (you can ignore the dumb voiceover, but don't miss Oaklander Ted "Isaac, Your Bartender" Lange!):


Compton's Cafeteria Riot

It's a hot August night in San Francisco in 1966 -- three years before the famed Stonewall. Compton's Cafeteria, in the seedy Tenderloin district, is hopping with its usual assortment of transgender people, young street hustlers, and down-and-out regulars. The management, annoyed by the noisy crowd at one table, calls the police. When a surly cop, accustomed to manhandling Compton's clientele, attempts to arrest one of the queens, she throws her coffee in his face. Mayhem erupts -- windows break, furniture flies through the air. Police reinforcements arrive, and the fighting spills into the street. For the first time, the drag queens band together to fight back, getting the better of the cops, whom they kick and stomp with their high-heeled shoes and beat with their heavy purses. For everyone at Compton's that night, one thing was certain -- things would never be the same again.
photo and text from comptonscafeteriariot.org

More than ten years ago, historian, author, and former director of the GLBT Historical Society Susan Stryker uncovered the history of a riot in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. In 2005, together with fellow historian-turned-filmmaker Victor Silverman and producer Jack Walsh, she released a documentary about that night, its context, and the early gay liberation and transexual human rights movements which the riot helped to inspire. Before Susan's work on this project, the Compton's story was mostly forgotten, but that doesn't mean that night didn't matter. It was a turning point for the queer community: San Franciscans were catalyzed by the event to start organizing, and the boldness of those queens and queers sent a message to the cops that harassing and brutalizing trans people, queer people, and poor people wasn't going to fly anymore. That spontaneous, furious fight was a landmark in the movement against police brutality and for human rights.

Wikipedia has a bit more on the riot, Susan's film delves into the whole story. It's called Screaming Queens. Here's a clip:


East Bay Lesbian Bars

Because the gnomes that control google prefer that blogs have straight-ahead titles, I had to give this a straight-ahead title. Were that not the case, I would have called this post Women Unite in Armed Snuggle, a slogan found in the following wonderful link:

A brief history of East Bay lesbian bars.

I don't know much about bars because I spent my 20s clean and sober, and now that I'm not sober, I already feel too old to leave my house after 8 pm. But having read this piece by Barbara Hoke (and heavily illustrated, mainly with photos from the prolific Cathy Cade), I can say that I genuinely wish I spent more time in bars! Most specifically, I wish I could have gone to the Driftwood in Hayward to check out the former Roller Derby queens who ran the place. Seriously, I think bar history is important because bars are where we found each other even when we couldn't find each other anywhere else. Community is important and Stonewall should confirm that what happens in the bars has repercussions that are much bigger.

Related, I haven't watched it in a few years but I remember liking Last Call at Maude's about a long-lived San Francisco dyke bar. And for more on lesbian bar history, this Curve article discusses it, including references to a couple books on the topic.

I'll close with some silliness: popular culture's take on lesbian bars. I would have included Roseanne's lesbian bar kiss, but the only clip I could find on YouTube was too long. Instead I offer you these two:

Susie Bright uploaded her cameo in the bar scene in Bound (which I walked out of after the first 10 minutes when it was in the theater a dozen years ago).

And Pam Grier beats off the lesbians in the Foxy Brown bar fight scene (which I confess, I am too young to have seen in the theater):

Drink on gals!


Two Bookstores

I've had a pretty stressful few months, and unfortunately for my generally overdrawn bank account, I've been pacifying myself by buying a lot of used furniture and new books. Yesterday I found myself twice unable to resist the temptation of bookstores.

Laurel Bookstore on MacArthur and 39th is now (since I moved a couple weeks ago) my neighborhood bookstore. They mostly carry new books, with a large children's section and a nice mix of other topics. I spent some time talking to the owner and she was especially warm and helpful. The place generally has a friendly, happy, neighborhoody feeling that I liked. When I was there yesterday I found a copy of Storybook Strings and a new history of the Laurel District by Oakland lover Dennis Evanosky. Turns out he'll be doing a reading at Laurel Bookstore next month, so I'll be back!

Then last night, after filling up on injira at Cafe Colucci I stopped into Book Zoo on Telegraph at Alcatraz and found a couple used Arcadia history books and a well-preserved first edition of If They Come in the Morning from the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis and Other Political Prisoners. I don't care about the first edition thing, I just want to read it, but I was impressed that the Book Zoo folks only charged four bucks. Their prices are all very reasonable and the store is beautiful, with lovely old hardbacks shelved almost to the ceiling. Very worth a visit.

I really wanted to close this with a link to John and Yoko singing Angela, but I couldn't find a copy online, so you'll have to content yourself with reading the lyrics.


More Rosie

In the massive oversight department, my recent post about the Rosie the Riveter Park failed to mention an awesome related project. The Bancroft Regional Oral History Office conducted almost 50 oral histories of men and women who lived and worked in Richmond during the war. You can read a few of the transcripts on their site.


Good news for history nerds (like me)

History Nerds Rejoice! The New York Times is making their Times Select features including a large portion of their archives available for free to all. I could give a hoo-ha about reading the Times columnists, but the archives – all the archives from 1851 to 1922 and some content from 1923 to 1986 available online for free! I never have to leave the comfort of my computer screen again! Unfortunately, you still need to register (for free) to read the article about it.

(Just watch out for giants!)


Technical Problems

A bit of tech housekeeping that you can ignore if you read this site by going straight to bayradical.blogspot.com:

Apparently, those of you who read Bay Radical through an RSS reader like bloglines or LJ syndication are seeing re-posts of my old entries, sometimes all of them at once! I know this is annoying, but my research about this hasn't uncovered exactly where the problem lies. Basically, for some reason, the RSS reader perceives that I have updated or changed old posts, and is trying to show you the 'new versions' even when there isn't a new version.

From what I understand, this problem is common, and happens to lots of blogs in all different readers, but I have been told that google reader does this the least of any other reader, so you could try subscribing there instead.

If you have any idea of how I can reduce this problem, please let me know!


Chron coverage of War era social change

Apparently, Ken "Jazz is best when its played by dead people" Burns has a new documentary on WWII. Despite my feelings about Burns (and I know about Burns, because for some reason I sat through the endless Baseball documentary even though I haven't really been into baseball since I was a tomboy kid) I'm pretty interested to check it out, because he focuses on the impact of the war on urban communities, including Sacramento where I lived when I was in high school. An article about the documentary in today's Chron includes some cool historical tidbits about the Bay Area during the war. Here's the link.


Rosie the Riveter Memorial Park

Rosie Memorial 2

I told the kids I was taking them to the Rosie the Riveter Park, which they seemed very excited about it despite the fact they've never heard of Rosie the Riveter. The concept of Rosie the Riveter is confusing because the idea that there was a time when women weren't allowed to work the same jobs as men is foreign to them. I mean, their parents are lesbians – in their world, women do everything including fixing cars, washing dishes, and rolling children up in their blankets like human burritos; why shouldn't women rivet? And what the hell is a rivet anyway? On the way to the park I gave them my now classic lecture (most recently used when discussing Martin Luther King Jr.) about how Sometimes People Have Ideas That Aren't True, and It's Important to Tell Those People That ANYONE Can Be a Riveter (or that anyone should be able to ride in the front of the bus, depending on which lecture I'm giving). (I restrained myself from giving a lecture on war profiteering, which might have been more appropriate for this memorial – more on that in a minute.)

Rosie Memorial 5

I hadn't been to Richmond in a while, and when I got off the freeway, I was completely confused by the impenetrable wall of condos. This isn't the Richmond I'm familiar with, and if it is part of Richmond now, what is the city doing with all the new property taxes? Please, someone with some real Richmond knowledge fill me in. In any case, I got lost in condo land and finally ended up at an upscale mini-mart where I asked the proprietor for directions to Rosie the Riveter Park. He looked over his glasses at me and chuckled (I'm not exaggerating - he really chuckled!), "Your expectations are too high," and directed me back to a patch of grass next to a parking lot I'd just passed.

The kids and I got out at the Rosie Memorial, a little exhibit about women homefront workers that was commissioned by the City of Richmond, and designed by artist Susan Schwartzenberg (Susan, why don't you have a website?) and landscape architect Cheryl Barton. Given, I'm a nerd, but I really liked it. The memorial runs the length of a Liberty Ship, and as you walk along the path spanning the ships distance, you can read a mini labor history of WWII, with a focus on people of color and women. Also interspersed are quotes from women shipyard workers, and these, along with photos posted at the site, are the most affecting part of the exhibit.

Rosie Memorial 4

The memorial is planted on the former site of Kaiser Shipyard number 2, where steel magnate Henry J. Kaiser employed many thousands of workers to build ships for WWII.

Richmond's history is inseparably linked with Kaiser's factories and with the war. Richmond became a largely African-American city (36% of the population according to the latest census) as a result of migration related to the war industries. And the poverty that many Richmond residents confront now is directly linked with the city's failure to create adequate housing and infrastructure for its many new residents during the war, and the sudden disappearance of jobs that occurred when the war was over.

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In 1940, Richmond had a small town feeling and a population of around 23,000. By 1950, the population was more than 99,000. Workers came in carloads and trainloads, brought by the more than 170 recruiters that Kaiser employed around the state and around the country to power the shipbuilding empire that he had centered in Richmond. So desperate was Kaiser for workers that at one point, LA recruiters instituted a "work for drunks" program where judges issued suspended sentences to 'vagrants' in exchange for an agreement to come work in the Richmond yards. That program didn't last long, but even for the average newly arrived worker, (if you can say that there was an 'average' since folks came from all over the state, from all regions of the country, and represented dozens of ethnic groups) the attrition rate was high. Once workers arrived they found limited housing, working conditions that were both stressful and tedious, and the loneliness of leaving home. The many new African-American workers transplanted from the South found themselves subject to the same Jim Crow racist hiring and housing practices they were familiar with from back home. War industry work crews were racially segregated, Black workers were rarely promoted to supervisory positions, and Black workers were refused membership in the major unions and instead relegated to auxiliary 'negro' unions where members were expected to pay dues but received little or no protection. (White women faced job discrimination as well, receiving significantly lower pay for jobs that white male workers got more for). While many protested these conditions, for example, in the Sausalito shipyards nearly all the Black employees walked out in protest of racist conditions in 1943, government agencies, white labor leaders, and industrialist business-owners were less than sympathetic. Outside of the factory, public housing built during the war was segregated in Richmond, as it was in Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area. (According to The Second Gold Rush, details on that book below, Berkeley community leader Byron Rumford started a petition drive protesting public housing segregation which finally lead to federally mandated integration of Berkeley/Albany public housing in 1946.) Basic workplace rights and decent housing were a struggle for Richmond's many new Black residents. For their part, newly arrived white Southern workers tended to complain about 'having to' work side-by-side with African-Americans.

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Who was Henry J. Kaiser? He was your basic guy-out-to-make-a-buck, all-American, success story. He got his big start running a road-paving business, and ended his life turning Honolulu into the tourist sink that it is today. He was successful to say the least – his company, along with another Bay Area local, Bechtel and four other companies managed the construction of the Hoover Dam. During the war, Kaiser employees in Richmond (and his three other factories along the West Coast) were building a whole war ship in about a month (the record was set when workers constructed an entire ship in just over four days). His name also lives on in the Kaiser Permanente HMO, which was created because Kaiser needed to provide some basic health services to his thousands of employees, and who can afford that kind of expense (while maintaining a millionaire lifestyle)?

When the war ended, Kaiser moved on to new projects. He even (briefly) got into the auto industry. For the thousands of factory workers who had moved to the Bay Area, many full of patriotism and hope for the future, life wasn't quite as easy as Kaiser's. The jobs disappeared almost immediately. Soldiers came home and were given priority for the few jobs that remained. Women and men of color found themselves fired or demoted to make way for white men who were prioritized by employers. Today Richmond is still full of art, culture, and hard work, but undeniably, Richmond has been scarred by the poverty that is a legacy of the war industry here. The Rosie Memorial is just a little thing, but I loved getting to learn more about why things happened the way they did here. I was glad to come. I confess that the kids liked the nearby boats a lot more than that exhibit, but what can they do, they're a captive audience.

Rosie Memorial 1

This entry barely scratches the surface of what can be said about the long-term impact of WWII industry on race, gender, and economics here. If you want to learn more, there are a bunch of other sources I'd recommend:

Marilynn S. Johnson's The Second Gold Rush provided a bunch of references for this post. It's factually dense but it maintains a readable narrative. I don't think you have to be as obsessive as I am to enjoy it, which is unusual for this kind of regional history book.

Fight or Be Slaves also has tons of information about this period.

Robert Self discusses issues related to changing racial dynamics in the East Bay after WWII in American Babylon. Unfortunately, I got about 50 pages into this book last summer, and then accidentally left it at Feather River Family Camp, so I can't tell you for sure if it's worth reading, but my friend Jess was just saying good things about it, so on his recommendation, I'll say, go for it.

I thought this Bay Crossings article had some interesting history about water travel related to Richmond.

Finally, I was inspired to check out the Rosie park after reading a nice article about it in the San Francisco Bayview. The article originally appeared on Black Commentator, but I'm including the Bayview link because of some additional notes at the end of their version.

Hey, if you want to learn more, Here's a whole pile of relevant sources.

I'll send you out with this video by historian Betty Soskin on African-Americans in the Richmond war industries. You can read some details about the content of the video here.

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