Through the long meeting of public testimony (over 100 spoke from the podium) I found myself fighting boredom by playing a game of searching the faces of those on the dais (councilpersons and staff) and trying to understand their positions as revealed by their occasional questioning of members of the public who spoke from the podium.
One might suppose that the most "progressive" positions would be taken by the African Americans among them since many of those underwater mortgages and threatened homes are owned by people of color. Not so. The issues divide along racial lines, but not in the way that one might expect. The two leaders of the conservative voices belong to two African American men, both of whom have been on the pro-corporate side of most issues that have come before the council in the recent past. Both claim to be speaking for the black community. They appear to be consciously re-building the racial barrier that my generation worked so hard to dismantle -- in order to build a black constituency toward amassing greater political power; an honorable goal at one time.
I believe that both are sincere in their efforts, but that they haven't noticed that the city, the nation, and the world, have been evolving, and that the city they're defending so stridently is no longer the city of their experience -- but is a far more welcoming and accepting one that has broadened in every way as people of every color, ethnicity, gender, and economic level have joined together in creating something that could only be imagined not so many years ago.
What I wouldn't give to have both pop in some Tuesday or Saturday afternoon during one of my commentaries, and witness what's happening in the visitor's center. As far as I know, neither has seen "Home Front Heroes," the 15-minute video that tells the story of Richmond of WWII, the Kaiser Permanente and Henry J. Kaiser stories, or participated in the rich discussions that occur in casual groups where no stone is left unturned, or, where no one's history is ignored; no subject taboo, and where those conflicting truths are allowed to co-exist.
The San Francisco Business Times ( Business Times Richmond Supplement ) issued a 24-page beautiful publication on the City of Richmond this week. It occurred to me that our two constantly warring councilmen are living in a different city from the rest of us, and they simply do not realize it; at least not yet. Political expediency would suggest that they become familiar with this new Richmond, if their ambitions are to lead it at some future time.
... you, too, will be amazed at our audacity and the astounding progress being made under leadership with a vision of a fairer and more equitable world and the courage to pursue The Dream.
Our two stalwarts, plus one other, were mainly concerned with the question of risk to the city and the need for insurance before a strategy as bold as Eminent Domain should be attempted.
Dr. King, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Bayard Rustin, James Foreman, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SNCC, and CORE, could not have assured those brave souls who marched with them that Police Chief Bull Connor, his fire hoses and police dogs would not be waiting on the other side, now could they?
Where would we be had they not dared?