Category Archives: Bay Area

Sin Nombre

Saw this film last night and was blown away. From first time writer/director Cary Fukunaga (who is also from Oakland, half-Japanese and attended UC Santa Cruz, my alma mater!! Sluggers doing it big!!), it’s an intense, harrowing look at the journey made by Central American immigrants as they travel on top of trains through Mexico, in hopes of crossing over to the US ; as well as their interactions with the real-life Mara Salvatrucha gang. The cast, visuals and Fukunaga’s direction is amazing. Highly recommended.

SF360 recently ran an interview with him, and he’s definitely got a pretty interesting background.

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Challenging Cali Republicrats & Democrans

Apparently, Republican Party voter registration in many California districts is “dropping like a rock.” Thus, the Democratic Party machine is eying many of those districts hungrily, with hopes of gaining seats in the 2010 Congressional elections.

I’ve got another idea. If the Republican Party is losing its relevancy in California, why not form a third party that can be a truly progressive alternative to  the Democrats? The Dems have shown time and time again that, while sometimes much more liberal than their Republican counterparts, they’re for the most part a bunch of rich millionaires who aren’t really down for the truly sweeping progressive change that we need (just look at how they marginalize the progressive members of their party like Dennis Kucinich or Cynthia McKinney before she got disgusted with them and became a Green Party member).

I hope Cali progressives don’t get caught in those fear based arguments that say the only choice we have is to support the Dems. We don’t have to support them, especially when they don’t earn our support.

Richard Aoki 1938-2009

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A lot of people have already done this, but I had to give a shout out to the brother Richard Aoki, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I got a chance to meet Richard a couple of years ago at a meeting for the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, and he was still as fiery then as it appears he was back in the sixties. Rest in power, brother. All power to the people.

Steve Yip wrote a great piece commemorating Richard’s life, work and politics, that I’ve posted below (thanks, Kyle):

Richard Aoki – A Personal Remembrance.
It was with a stunning jolt that I received news of Richard Aoki’s passing last week when my daughter called to inform me of the news.  Richard was an icon of the Asian American radical movement and played a role bringing forth many to confront the imperialist system.  The following is a brief memorial of this brother who never compromised with this system.
Richard Aoki, a founder with Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, and a Field Marshal, of the Black Panther Party – and an OG of the Asian American radical movement, a leader the Asian American Political Alliance and of the 1969 Third World Liberation Front student strike at UC Berkeley – passed away on Sunday, March 15, 2009 after a period of ill health.
I first heard of Richard Aoki while in high school in Oakland, California just as the TWLF strike was breaking out.  Heavily influenced by the boiling political cauldron brought forth by the rising anti-Vietnam war movement and the Black liberation movement – personified by the Black Panther Party – a group of Chinese-American and Japanese-American high school juniors from Oakland High School and Oakland Technical High School met to plan the first Asian-American student organization at Oakland High in 1968. Another fellow student’s older brother, also an Oakland High graduate, was active with AAPA at Berkeley, and through this student AAPA’s inspiring newspaper full of Asian Power and message of anti-imperialist struggle and solidarity resonated deeply with us.
We were radical and looking to change the world.  We lived in Oakland, California – the heartbeat that gave rise to the Black Panther Party; and high schools and high school student like us were greatly influenced by the thrilling day-to-day events unfolding during this turbulent period of this country.  Our first step was to assert our newly found, militant Asian American cultural and political identity.  We had convinced Jim Vann, an African American science teacher, to be our faculty sponsor and advisor.  Quite appreciative of our deep solidarity, and need to commune with the emerging movements at Berkeley, Mr. Vann rightly advised us to seek out a certain Richard Aoki in our travels to Berkeley.  Richard, Mr. Vann assured us, would see to it that we would be set up.  And off we went…  And we weren’t disappointed.
Fast forward to the University of California, Berkeley campus – Spring 1970.  In the throes of the campus turmoil resulting from the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, which greatly expanded the Vietnam war into an Indochina war, and having been plucked from the community-based organizing AAPA members had initiated in Chinatown-Manilatown in San Francisco, I am deep within an important debate taking place within the Asian Studies Council, the ad hoc, anointed “leadership” body of the nascent Asian Studies Division of the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley (and by extension of the logic of the time, we were considered the representatives of the Asian movement and the campus Asian community), concessions by the state to the TWLF strike.  We are debating the impending strike by predominately white clerical and support staff at the Berkeley campus.  I am probably one of the younger members of the body and we are raising objections and resistance to this “white people’s strike.”  Arguments are brought forth – well, these white people didn’t support the TWLF strike; so why support them.  Others say, we won’t support any white people at all.  They’re the enemy.  One Trotskyist argued for “class” solidarity, which the majority of us reject immediately.
Things are looking like the Council is about to reject any support to the labor strike based on narrow, backward bourgeois nationalism.  Richard gets up and and makes an argument.  I can’t recall the exact way he argued it, but this I remember.  He raises that we had an obligation to support the strike of the UC clerical and support staff, and that despite (narrow-minded) misgivings, the basis in which we had to support them was on the basis of striking against the empire, of “proletarian internationalism.”
Proletarian internationalism? I had heard of it uttered many times before. Coming from a progressive Chinese family who supported the People’s Republic of China and Mao’s revolution, I had resisted and rejected of what I had perceived to be my father’s tired stereotypical dogma of that day.   I had heard my father lecturing Panthers who came through our little grocery store in West Oakland about Lenin, and was skeptical about all that.  It wasn’t relevant to me.  Rocking the house in the late 60’s was what I thought where things should be at. We were in a new day, shedding off the tired trends and retreads of yesterday, and in the throes of rocking the house – and it was Richard Aoki who stands up and argues for proletarian internationalism.
Let’s be very clear: In those days, internationalism in the revolutionary struggle was understood to be something akin to solidarity doled outwards.  Internationalism – as conceived then – was something that you “extended” to other peoples and countries.  Today I am a proletarian internationalist, a revolutionary communist – and the conception I have since arrived at differs greatly from the conception and understanding of proletarian internationalism then.  Today, my understanding is informed by Bob Avakian’s theoretical framework that the whole world has to be your point of departure. You have to come at revolution in “your” country as your share of the world communist revolution.
But what Richard did on that day, in that meeting, will forever remain in my memory throughout the rest of my life.  Then I was only a 19 year old who had been plucked off the UC Berkeley campus in his first quarter and thrown into an incredible experience as a radical community and youth organizer in the ghetto of Chinatown-Manilatown, and then thrust back into the dizzying, practical and theoretical, struggles on campus. I had been infected by the optimism and revolutionary hopes of the 60’s – fueled by the anti-war and youth movement, and infused by the militancy of the Black liberation struggle; and informed by the Red Guard movement of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Richard’s steadfast declaration there had to be solidarity across ethnic and national lines because we wanted to make revolution was an eye opener and forced me to consciously gravitate towards a more scientific understanding of revolution and communism.
My wife Janet and I have lived away from the Bay Area for several decades.  In 1998 Richard attended my father’s memorial, and we welcomed him to our family’s memorial dinner.  And whenever we return to the Bay Area to visit family, in addition to visits with Yuri Kochiyama, I always looked forward to having lunch or coffee with Richard.  In the past two years, it increasingly became harder to hook up with Richard because of his illness, and I had to rely on third party information about what was going on with his health.
The turbulent 60’s were critical times for many of us seeking to make radical social change, and for this country.  This era of political and cultural implosions helped bring forward someone like Richard Aoki who made a huge contribution in changing ideas and in changing the world.   Richard Aoki was a seminal and revolutionary force in the Asian American political community, a bridge with the Black political movements, and someone who made an indelible mark on the struggle against oppression and exploitation.  Even during the Sixties when people were in the trenches fighting for social justice and against imperialism, like for reparations for the Japanese American internment during WW2, Richard always fought against illusions when it came to reconciling with the system.  Richard was the Man you talked to about new developments and to find out what was going on. When Bob Avakian’s memoir was published, Richard added his name to the Revolution Books Berkeley’s release party.  And to the end he maintained his activity to support Mumia Abu-Jamal and other political prisoners.
Richard Mato Aoki inspired many to change the world and to emancipate humanity; and he never made peace with the system.  His force and inspiration will never leave us.

Town Tragedy

Very sad news in Oakland this past weekend. Apparently, a series of disputes between Oakland resident Lovelle Mixon and the police went real bad, leaving Mixon dead, three cops dead and one brain dead. You can read all the details here.

In the article that I link to above, what really caught my eye was the last sentence: “Mixon’s uncle, 38-year-old Curtis Mixon of Fremont, said his nephew had become depressed because as a convicted felon he could not find work.”

We forget how in this country, when people are convicted of a crime and sent away, they are handed a lifetime of punishment, even if they are released back into society. I’ve seen the psychological toll it takes on people who have a felony (or even just a misdemeanor) on their record and are thus shut out of any kind of legal employment, housing, etc. You are simply stripped of all your dignity, and are oftentimes placed right back on a path to prison.

Now, don’t get me wrong, The Cheddar Box is not encouraging people to go out and shoot cops. I’m just saying that this story leaves me profoundly sad, both in terms of the incident and the larger context in which it occurred.

I’m sad for all the people involved in last weekend’s tragedy. I’m sad for the thousands of people killed by the police in the past and those who unfortunately will assuredly be killed by them in the future. I’m sad for all the victims of violence around the globe, from the streets of Oakland to the streets of Palestine.

Rickey Henderson

Former Oakland A’s player and Oakland native Rickey Henderson was inducted to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week. The Box has to give him some love because he’s my favorite A’s player and one of my favorite overall baseball players, period. Arguably the best lead off hitter to ever play the game, he also didn’t even officially retire from league play until late 2007, and jokes about still wanting to play now at the age of 50. Congrats, Rickey, I have fond memories of you helping the A’s sweep the Giants in the Battle of the Bay 1989 World Series, probably some of my earliest memories ever.

I’m kind of checked out of following baseball these days, mostly because:  1) the A’s suck; 2) their racist, douchebag owner Lew Wolff is going to remove the team from Oakland and take them to Fremont; and 3) I live in Atlanta now and don’t really want to support the Braves because I can’t stand sports teams who use any kind of Native American imagery for their franchises.

We’ve talked about this a lot in the past here at The Box, but I’ll say it again: it’s about time for cities or non-profit entities to organize to take back sports franchises from douchebag billionaires so we don’t have to continue dealing with the threat of having our beloved teams move away; or our tax dollars going to subsidize building huge stadiums that have only ever proven to devestate the neighborhoods they move into; or sky rocketing ticket/food prices  (it sure as hell isn’t a family event anymore when you have to shell out hundreds of dollars for your family to go, at least not for working class folks). Wouldn’t it be dope for profits made from sports teams to be reinvested in things like education and healthcare? It’s possible if cities own their sports teams, and you do that through a process called municipalization. The Green Bay Packers in the National Football League are an example of this.

Oakland Burning

Happy new year, Box fans, took a break during December but we’re back now.

Unfortunately, folks in Oakland and the Bay Area were presented with a shitty way to ring in the new year. It’s been all over the news, and a lot of the homies have already written about it, so I’m sure most folks know that 22 year-old Oscar Grant of Hayward, Ca. was shot and killed on New Year’s Day at the Fruitvale BART station by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle. Grant was unarmed, lying on his stomach, a complete non-threat to the three or more officers who had him pinned down before Mehserle pulled out his gun and executed him. BART police tried to collect onlookers’ cell phone cameras to cover up the incident. Luckily, it’s the YouTube era, so some folks were able to keep their phones and released the footage virally on the internet:

Protests have been staged regularly since the murder occurred, and erupted in violence last Wednesday night.

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Although I don’t advocate violence, I understand that this is a reflection of the anger, fury and frustration felt by communities of color who routinely see their family members killed by the state, with no accountability or repercussions. Violence could have been prevented if it looked like the government was actually taking steps to reach some sense of justice in this matter. Instead, it was the same old bureaucratic politicking. A whole week gone by and the officer hasn’t even made a statement to the public, to investigators, to the victim’s family? And now he’s resigned from BART, meaning that he doesn’t even have to cooperate with BART’s “internal” investigation? BART police trying to collect witnesses’ cell phone cameras to cover up the incident, and then criticizing people for virally releasing that footage over the internet? It’s the same old racist bullshit that has become all too common for communities of color: the police and the state has full authority to kill people of color, particularly young Black men, and they know that they will not be punished for it. The difference this time is that the people of Oakland got angry and decided that if the bureaucrats weren’t going to do anything, they would.

George Ciccariello-Maher wrote a great article on CounterPunch that kind of summarizes the whole situation at this point:

“It doesn’t matter if Mehserle meant to pull the trigger. He had already assumed the role of sole arbiter over the life or death of Oscar Grant. He had already decided that Grant, by virtue of his skin color and appearance, was worth less than other citizens. And rather than acquitting the officer, all of the psychological analyses and possible explanations of the shooting that have been trotted-out in the press, and all the discussion of the irrelevant elements of Grant’s criminal history, have only proven this fundamental point.”

I’m pretty sure that if it was a 22 year-old white kid they had pinned down on the BART platform on New Year’s Day, Mehserle would have thought twice about pulling his gun.

With another action planned for next Wednesday, this situation is far from over. I hope further violence can be avoided, but it is clear that the people are tired of being victims of racist killings by the state that go unpunished. They will be out in the streets demanding justice, and Oakland could continue to burn.

Anthony Morrow is a Beast

The Warriors gave undrafted rookie gaurd Athony Morrow his first NBA start Saturday afternoon against the LA Clippers and he proceeded to beast out for 37 points, breaking the rookie record for most points as a first time starter. It was especially gratifying because we were playing against the Clippers, who we traded stars with in the offseason (former Warriors star point gaurd Baron Davis went to the Clips, while the Dubs got former Clipper forward Corey Magette). Furthermore, Morrow went to college at Georgia Tech here in Atlanta, so I’m loving another BAY-TL connection. Go Dubs!