Dear Lynette McElhaney, President of the Oakland City Council:
Thank you for your kind letter regarding Plan Oakland downtown. As per the Black Arts Movement Cultural and Business District, or whatever name the people decide, you know I've been awaiting your proclamation of the Black Arts Movement Culture and Economic District along the 14th Street corridor. I am not going to dwell on the actions of the past months but the now. Many years ago I was trained as a planner, so I know it is a slow process full of details, details, details. I've been ready to meet with your for several months. I don't need to produce your letters to me promising such a meeting would take place, so let's move on into the now or where do we go from here.
But you need to know while I am a planner and organizer who knows no part of no, only to go forward from the planning process to the product, I'm ready to do my part to make Oakland's North American Africans part of Plan Oakland, even though many of us have totally lost faith in elected politicians since their pronouncements often mean absolutely nothing and they are too often at the whim of lobbyists who represent developers and financial interests who care nothing about the needs of the middle class, lower class and ethnic minorities.
Today, these interests are global rather than local or national, so their concerns are only with profits, thus they care nothing about community residents or citizens of the United States of America or any other nation. They have no emotional attachments to people or property, except for the profit motive, thus we see them grabbing land, real estate and the poor people themselves, casting them out of their neighborhoods to the winds of eternity. Surely, the day shall come when we shall flee like the Syrians, Iraqis and the valiant brothers and sisters of Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen. People ask me every day, "What shall we do, where shall we go?" I can only say, maybe rubber boats to Cuba, Belize, Mexico, Columbia, Barazil is the order of the coming day. In truth, I don't have all the answers the people seek. As a sister said in a August Wilson play, "Sometimes I don't even know the questions!"
While I'm prepared to fight the good fight, even in my old age (71), many of our people are ready to throw in the white towel. After discussing the proposed Black Arts Movement District with a conscious brother, he begged me not to join the chorus of those ready to throw in the white towel. In fact, he gave me a small red, black and green flag to wave after I told him I was ready to join the chorus of those waving the white flag of surrender, even though I am not one to surrender. After all, I've suffered exile, prison and being blacklisted from jobs, especially in academia, to fight the good fight.
I am so blessed to know I stand on the shoulders of ancestors Nat Turner, David Walker, Henry Highland Garnett, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Booker T., Master Fard, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah, Malcolm, Martin, et al.
President McElhaney, I know you know many of those persons in your district who are ready to surrender waving the white flag. Surely you know they are no only some of the most oppressed of us, but even those we would consider the progressive bourgeoisie, the conscious bourgeoisie.
In your letter to me, you begged that we not self-exclude ourselves from the table of progress. As much as I abhor meetings (for sure, I suffer a life-long attention deficient disorder), I forced myself to attend as many of the Plan Oakland downtown meetings as I could, and stayed as long as I could, although I may have defied the community organizer's matra, "Don't leave a meeting before it's over."
Yet, I cannot understand why so many folks from our community were absent from the Plan Oakland meetings, e.g., artists, business persons, vendors, et al. But several persons said they were totally disillusioned with their situation in the morass of Oakland. Yes, they have indeed thrown in the white flag of surrender. As you suggested, I will try to revive their constitutions to get them at the next meeting when you announce it.
No one can imagine that our people are brokenhearted to the extreme, so your call to come to the table can fall on deaf ears and broken spirits. I will summon the ineluctable energy to take a stand, even if it's the last stand, to secure our space in Plan Oakland downtown.
Finally, I grew in West Oakland on 7th and Campbell, where my parents operated a florist shop. I grew up with Paul Cobb, Leon Teasley, Maxine Ussery, Ruth Beckford, C.L. Dellums, the Scott Brothers Key Shop, Percy Shoe Shine Stand, Ester's Orbit Room, John Singers, Slim Jenkins Restaurant, Lincoln Theatre, et al.
I know the importance of a North American African cultural and business district. As Paul Cobb, Publisher of the Post News Group, said, "If we move from 7th Street to 14th Street, at least we will have "doubled up" (a term from Oakland Crack culture--give me a double-up!).
So, Prez, spread my letter to your folks on your lists and I will do the same. The 14th street corridor is not written in stone. Alas, a lady from West Oakland's high rise (there is only one) begged me to set up Academy of da Corner outside the high rise where she lives. Whether we get 14th Street or another street, it is important that the valiant people of Oakland have parity and equity: cultural, political, educational, economic and spiritual.
|LET us go then, you and I,|
|When the evening is spread out against the sky|
|Like a patient etherized upon a table;|
|Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,|
|The muttering retreats||5|
|Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels|
|And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:|
|Streets that follow like a tedious argument|
|Of insidious intent|
|To lead you to an overwhelming question….||10|
|Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”|
|Let us go and make our visit.|
|In the room the women come and go|
|Talking of Michelangelo.|
|The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,||15|
|The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes|
|Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,|
|Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,|
|Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,|
|Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,||20|
|And seeing that it was a soft October night,|
|Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.|
|And indeed there will be time|
|For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,|
|Rubbing its back upon the window panes;||25|
|There will be time, there will be time|
|To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;|
|There will be time to murder and create,|
|And time for all the works and days of hands|
|That lift and drop a question on your plate;||30|
|Time for you and time for me,|
|And time yet for a hundred indecisions,|
|And for a hundred visions and revisions,|
|Before the taking of a toast and tea.|
|In the room the women come and go||35|
|Talking of Michelangelo....||--T.S. Elliot||---|