[Chavez Ravine] Today marks the 75th anniversary that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). The impact and folklore of Robinson’s achievement is historic.
Robinson’s playing career ended in 1957 and as the team was preparing to locate to Los Angeles he was traded to the Giants. He traded his glove and spikes for white shirts and suits and became the first African-American in corporate America by becoming Vice President at Chock Full of Nuts.
MLB normally accommodates the Dodgers by making sure April 15th is a home game. We will join the throngs at Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium) as they take on the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to the pregame festivities and the thousands who will gather around his statue it will be quite a game to see all players, managers, umpires and field personnel dawn number 42. We remember Jackie!!!!
For those lucky to be in attendance it was a memorable pre-game salute. For those who may have missed it the clip below pays homage to Jackie Robinson
A trek is all about adventure. It’s not about compromising comfort and resorting to renting a car, taking Uber at every turn or not going to places that might be uncomfortable. We’ve made this trek for over ten years and while the terrain may be the same we try and mix it up for new discoveries. Four states, which included Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and one district, District of Columbia comprised our Eastcoasttrekv2021. According to my Epson exercise watch which is pretty accurate we covered a tad bit in excess of 76 miles based on walking (or the steps we took). In addition while Renie did drive us to Philly, New Jersey and Delaware, we did most of Maryland and the District of Columbia using a combination of walking, Metro (subway & bus) and very limited use of Uber out of necessity as we needed to catch the last train from Baltimore back to DC.
The annual trek is a combination of activities but the main thrust is to be in the District of Columbia on August 28th as that is the commemoration and anniversary of the March on Washington. This year’s theme centered around voting based on the GOP’s effort to thwart participation with their myriad of voting laws designed to reduce the number of voting participants.
The biggest achievement
Each trek offers something special. This year Marty King, III son of Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his original 1963 March on Washington speech to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. We were able to see it for ourselves on Sunday, August 29th.
For this trip I brought my drone and was able to capture a few scenes in Baltimore and Philly. Of course, DC is off limits. Also, while in Philly we went to Reading Market and visited quite a few sites as noted by the photos.
In New Jersey, our time was limited and we barely made to the famous Corrine’s Soul Food. In Delaware we made a few pit stops before heading back to DC.
For those who follow us, you may recall it was during our San Jose trek that our dear friend James Bell recommended I look into getting a drone to complement my photography. After experimenting with several different models, seven weeks later I landed the DJI Mavic Air 2 drone. The only thing it is lacking is the ability to Zoom while taking video/photography. Here are a couple of clips:
If you are ever in the DC area during August be sure to check out outdoor basketball at the Goodman Leagues. It is located in the Barry Farm community of Anacostia and a place you will see the community come together though sport.
Cindy Lou’s is in Fell’s Point and located in the Hilton hotel complex. It is a new venue and they are still working on improving operations. This place was chosen because of their Lobster Po-Boy and we were not disappointed. Prices are reasonable based on the quality you receive.
The Reading Terminal Market is a Philadelphia institution. Under one roof you are treated to vast array of homestyle food goodies. We didn’t eat at all of them but one of my favs was the Dutch candy store which had a great variety of Reed’s. We heard about Sweet T’s bakery, which is a great venture. The sweet potato pie which folk were raving about was OK. I’ve been raised on sweet potato pies and if you keep it simple……the better. Sweet T’s packages two small pies in one container. The taste was very good but where was the crust???? The Dutch cafe had a good breakfast menu so we opted for the pancake and bacon. In all honesty, it was tasty but I would probably rank it a “C” as it comes with a big hunk of what appeared to be nucoa margarine. The bacon had a terrible presentation as it was not professionally presented as you would expect – meaning in a reasonable strip length. Anyway, more hype than reality. Overall, the venue is a great representation of the region and the type of place you want to put under your belt as far as visiting.
Corrine’s was part of our New Jersey trek. The food was fantastic but the journey didn’t go so well. Renie, our dear friend and well-known foodie extraordinaire called while we were in Philly to see about reservations and verify closing time. First of all there are no reservations as there is no in restaurant dining. The dining they do provide is a nicely appointed patio. Second, they close at 7:30 SHARP (umm, just noticed the flyer states an 8PM closing). When we arrived a staff was outside and even though it was 7:20PM, he stated “we are closed.” After some negotiation we were allowed to order and had to make sure we could eat on the patio as our other option would have been to wait two hours until we arrived back in D.C. Anyway, so much for building a business and making sure those empowered to represent you understand how easy it is for businesses to fail, let alone to bad reviews which might further damper the reputation. That being said, Corrine’s provides you bang for your buck as the dinners are piled high and the sides are more than enough. As a matter of fact the portions could easily feed two, maybe three people.
Named after Baltimore Oriole slugger Boog Powell, Boog’s specializes in pit beef sandwiches. I purchased the combo which came with turkey, beef and ham. It also came chips and I swear there was enough meat to cover two more sandwiches.
Located in West Philly, Fred’s Water Ice is a community favorite. Our visit was good but it could have been better as they were out of quite a few flavors and the gelati machine was broken. Anyway, worth a visit as the mango ice I had was very tasty and refreshing as it was very humid the day we visited.
During our trek we stayed two nights in Baltimore at the Loft by Marriott and five nights at the historic Mayflower Hotel which is also part of the Marriott properties. Luckily while the Mayflower is one and done……for us, at least we didn’t have to pay the $900 per night rack rate!!!!!
For nearly six years Professor Esteban Morales and I have enjoyed a very positive relationship. He has been a valuable source to me for most things CUBA, particularly on the issue of race and social issues.
This article was penned in late June, just days before the July 11th uprising. His article is a perspective and I encourage you to gain many viewpoints so you can better understand the situation.
Author: Esteban Morales.
Although it still moves many prejudices, misunderstandings and challenges, there is no choice but to attend to the color of the skin. Above all, in its consideration within the national media and statistics.
Cuban society is a multiracial society, or rather, multicolored, mestizo. And that reality has to be recorded statistically. Not handling the Census as a matter, simply numerical, but cultural demographic.
It’s about color being a legacy of Slavery. That it is not possible to ignore, because this mark from its origins to the current Cuban society.
When the Spanish arrived in Cuba in 1492, they did so with white credentials and stayed that way. Those who came of their own volition, did so in search of a fortune, which they not infrequently found.
But Spain is not White. Colonized by the Arabs, for 800 years, it becomes impossible to consider it as such. Even when the Spanish does not assume that identity.
Then, the colonizers of our Archipelago, were not white. Being white was not their power, but having arrived with the cross and with the sword.
They arrived in a territory of indigenous people, of low culture and only used them to find gold. They exploited them mercilessly and their population mass, did not last long, although still in Cuba, we have representatives of that original population.
Chinese also came, brought in, through a system of contracts, which made them slaves. The so-called culíes, which since then added their beauty to the population of the island, integrating our nationality. Those three large groups were the ones that formed the Cuban population. Then others joined, Antilleans, although not in the magnitude of the first, merging also with our population.
Although the Spanish Crown, put rules for the care of the indigenous population; in any case, the ambition of the colonizers, together with the Regime of the Encomiendas and slavery, reduced that population to its minimum expression.
In little more than 100 years the so-called Tainos, Siboneyes and guanahatebeyes, almost disappeared, because they were not of an advanced culture, as if it happened for the rest of America. Cultures, Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecs, etc. Those that did, culturally, had practically nothing to envy of the European cultures of their time.
But the indigenous population existing in the Cuban Archipelago, lacked that strength, which gives belonging to a higher culture.
Along with the Spaniards, came the first blacks. Not from Africa, but directly from Spain. These blacks were called “Ladinos”, they were slaves in Spain, they knew how to speak the language and they had a certain culture, acquired in the labor of servitude, for which, they also arrived in Cuba. But they did so in small numbers.
The vast majority of blacks who arrived in Cuba, en masse, did so later, as a result of the slave trade. And massively, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791.Se settled in the Eastern End of The Island. Having a great cultural impact, as they were accompanied by their French masters. Thus I arrived in Cuba, the French contradanza and the so-called French Tomb. All of which, we know as antecedents of our national dances, the Danzón.
Through the eastern region, the Antillean groups entered, to participate in sugar production, hence the mixture that characterizes that region, which covers up to the current province of Camagüey, where we find many descendants of French (Haitians), or English (Jamaicans) and other Antillean groups. This made the situation of racial discrimination in the above-mentioned regions more complicated.
However, they did not lead to the formation of minorities, as in the United States, but merged with the Cuban population, keeping their English and French surnames.
Then, the blacks were brought as slaves to Cuba, for the work of the constructions first and the work of the sugar production later, within an already organized colonial regime. To say black in Cuba, was to say slave.
These slaves, practically, since the sixteenth century, could buy their freedom.
As the Spaniards arrived, men alone. Immediately, they began to mix with the Indies and blacks, thus initiating the miscegenation of the island. And within a complex miscegenation, because it was made up of free or slave people, mestizo or black. Not so the White Spaniards, who never suffered the condition of slavery.
Unlike the blacks who were brought into the territory of the Thirteen Colonies of North America, what later was the United States of America; the arrived, also brought from Africa as slaves to the mentioned territory, these could not speak their languages, but only English, they could not practice their religions, nor their cultures. They were not allowed by the colonizers. In this sense, the slave regime from England was tougher, with an almost absolute separation between blacks and whites. Which is what has ended up characterizing American society.
The blacks brought to Cuba, also from Africa, the Spanish colonization, were allowed to speak their languages, worship their gods and practice their cultures.
It was that, for historical and also cultural reasons, the Spaniards were more likely to coexist with the cultural practices of slaves in Cuba and with different colors.
Unlike in North America, in Cuba, the Spanish lived better with differences in color. To which also contributed the differences that introduced in the slavery of the negro, the existence of a domestic slavery and another of plantation.
In Cuba this did not take place, but in the American colonization, came a type of colonizer, who not having money to bear the expenses of his transfer to Anerica, requested a loan, which forced him to work, practically as a slave or servant. Once the loan debt was paid off, he received a piece of land, becoming a poor farmer. Except for the existence of some slaves, who did not live in the barracks and cultivated a small piece of land, to supply the house of the master, in Cuba there were never serfs as such.
In the plantation, the negro had to work from sun to sun, under the whip of the Foreman or Mayoral; while, in domestic work, their tasks were deployed in the house of the slaveholder, intertwined with the activities of service to the family. There he could be a coach, cook, seamstress, washed and ironed, set the table, arranged the master’s clothes and made a concoction, when he got sick, etc. Performing tasks, which practically prepared him to make a trade, in case one day he managed to obtain his freedom, bought or manumitido.
The contact with the family instructed them and endowed them with a certain culture, which differentiated it from the slave of the plantation. Who was not allowed to work more than in the cutting of cane, or the production of sugar.
The negro, wherever he was, did not cease to be a slave, and the trap, in the face of the slightest disobedience, was upon him, like the Sword of Damocles. For the white master, did not allow them those freedoms, which could instill in him some culture of independence, which was very much monitored. But, in domestic work, in fact, the advantages, they had them and not a few took advantage of them very well.
For example, the girl in the house, took a liking to the nice, docile negrito, and could even teach him to read and write. In the domestic context, the skilled, respectful, docile negro intimated with the father of the house and came to know him even certain secrets, such as his walks with the black, from which, not infrequently, “bastard” children emerged within the family.
The black, knowledgeable of herbs, prepared a concoction that healed a pain to the master. And within that intimacy, he was practically beginning to see him as part of the family. He gave him tasks, shared certain secrets with his slave and so, sometimes, this, already old, earned the manumission, or the letter of freedom.
Inside the house of the master, living together as a domestic slave, the negro achieved advantages, which not infrequently, he took advantage of and that made him advance in social life, while maintaining his condition as a slave.
It is that domestic slavery generated a certain culture and within it, a level of permissibility, which the negro could take advantage of. This allowed him to enter society, even with all the disadvantages of a slave society.
Meanwhile, in the United States, after the Civil War, slavery was abolished in the north, but it had to continue to struggle with it in the south. Blacks escaped to the North, where they became free, but not infrequently, they left behind relatives who remained slaves in the South.
In Cuba, no, slavery was a homogeneous system throughout the island. So, when the laws that attenuated it began to appear, such as the so-called Law of Free Wombs, until its official abolition in 1886, this had a national effect.
Of course, slavery began to disappear, from a long process, in which Spain abolished it, as a first step, giving freedom to blacks who had fought, on both sides, during the First War of Independence (1868/1878) until finally, it was abolished in a general way in 1886.
However, in America, slavery took color. And with it came racism and racial discrimination, which were not born with capitalism, but which hit it very well, as an instrument of power and exploitation.
Therefore, slavery disappeared, but the racism and discrimination that she engendered for more than 400 years remained intertwined within the structure of Cuban society. And so, from the mid-nineteenth century, a society began to emerge, with a racist, mestizo culture and white hegemony. Therefore, racism, racial discrimination and white hegemonism, within our mestizo society, have not yet been eliminated, although they have been attenuated.
Then, The Revolution that triumphed in 1959, met with a society, in which, there is a well-defined structuring. The so-called whites have the power, they always had it; the mestizos are, more or less, in an intermediate position, a few had access to power; blacks are almost always in the subsoil of society. This is the result of a distribution of wealth, which colonialism inaugurated and Cuban dependent capitalism was responsible for solidifying.
It is that, in Cuba, poverty was also massively white, but wealth was never black, and almost never mestizo.
After the Cro. Fidel, almost since the triumph of the Revolution, began treating him in a systematic way; racism, racial discrimination and white racial hegemony have not disappeared.
The social policy that the revolution inaugurated since 1959, has always had a deeply humanist character, but, from the beginning, it focused only on poverty, not differentiating among the poor, treating as the only poverty, which was never homogeneous, without making differentiation within it, according to the color of the skin.
Would it have been possible, so early on, to have considered poverty, taking into account its differences and levels, according to the colour of the skin?
I think not. I believe that this would have greatly complicated the fight that was beginning then, against racism and racial discrimination. I believe that if Cuban society was not prepared, as was evident, to assimilate Fidel’s speech against racism; much less so would have been if, in addition, the existing differences in poverty levels according to the colour of the skin had been introduced. I think that would have meant introducing some level of affirmative action, for which whites, mestizos and not even the blacks themselves, were prepared.
That is why, I believe, social policy, in Fidel’s speeches, began by demanding employment for blacks; meanwhile, everything else: health, education, culture and sports and social security, fell under their own weight and equally for all. When there was a distribution for everyone equally, blacks and mestizos, I touch them, which, in general, had never touched them. Because blacks, and to some extent mestizos, had never enjoyed free, quality education, much less blacks, health care. Sport was the cons. And so, a distribution of national wealth began to occur, which the nation had never known. And, within which, blacks and mestizos, almost never, had touched almost nothing. That is why, although the color of the skin was not taken into account, in any case, blacks and mestizos, benefited, as never before in the history of the Nation. That is why blacks and mestizos did not find it difficult to understand that the revolution was their revolution and that Fidel had cared and fought for their well-being.
This is one of the aspects that, in the last 40 years, we have managed to refine. Without yet reaching, as such, the so-called Affirmative Action. Forms of the latter have been gradually appearing in Cuba, but almost indirectly. And we are still in that perfecting of the path begun. What is beginning to take shape, through a concern and an occupation of the political leadership that no one is helpless.
Having shown that race does not exist, that it is a social invention. But that, nevertheless, the color yes, and that, in our country, after 500 years[M1] of colonialism, the color of the skin, continues to behave as a variable of social differentiation. Which we have set out to fight against.
What it tells us, because, since the beginning of the Republic, in Cuba, there were black and mestizo societies. It is true that they acted within a racist and discriminatory context, which made them respond to it. But they also functioned as fraternal societies, which helped the black and mestizo membership to train themselves, on the basis of free courses for their young people, social and cultural activities, which in general, helped this population to face the problems of inequality. Sometimes they made it easier to get a job and in general, they helped blacks and mestizos to have a certain recognized social presence.
However, at the Triumph of the Revolution, these societies began to disappear, as a result of the consideration that they were not necessary, because the revolution assumed the defense of blacks and mestizos and that they could contribute more to the racial division within Cuban society
However, paradoxically, at the same time, the Spanish Societies, considered as white, were maintained, which in Cuba remain until today. The question remains unanswered: Why did blacks disappear and are they, coincidentally, white, right?
This is something that has brought controversy and unrest, although not only among blacks and mestizos. Today, it is even questioned whether the societies of blacks and mestizos, should not reappear. Today the subject tends to enter the debate again. Above all, because the problem of racism and racial discrimination has not yet been fully overcome.
But the blacks and mestizos, from the beginning, did not make any claim and everything stayed that way.
In Cuba, after 60 years of a radical Revolution, of deeply humanist essence and of an extraordinary struggle against poverty, injustice and inequality, to the very edges of egalitarianism; still, from the point of view of social position, access to certain resources and certain advantages in social life, it is not the same to be white, black or mestizo. This is not a burden, but responds to a structural dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society drags and is able to reproduce.
In particular, the so-called Special Period showed that the economic crisis had not affected all racial groups equally. Being blacks and mestizos the ones who suffered the most. Which became apparent.
Our Government also realized that the difficulties with racism, which surfaced with some force during the Special Period, were indicating that this was a problem that, having been considered as solved, really was not; or at least, it was not being solved, at the rate that many had imagined, but rather, racism, had been hidden, in the midst of the difficulties experienced during those years, in the mid-eighties and early nineties.
He had had, until then, a long period of general silence on the subject, which Fidel broke on several occasions, both inside and outside Cuba, but without achieving then, that the issue of race, definitively occupied the place that corresponds to him in the struggle for a better society in today’s Cuba.
I believe that, in this regard, we must start from the existence of inequalities, in order to achieve real equality. Unfortunately, inequality is what we find at every turn. Equality is the social project, not yet achieved by Cuban society as a whole.
Therefore, we must not assume mechanically that all Cubans are equal; because that was also used as a hypocritical slogan of republican Cuba.
All Cubans are not yet equal. We are before the law, but not socially. They are two very different phenomena. Equality before the law has been achieved. But achieving social equality is a much longer and more complex process. Equality before the law is not social equality. But only, perhaps, a step, to get to the latter.
Today, it is observed that there is a fairly clear awareness that against inequality we must continue to fight, persecuting it to those places where marginality still attacks members of our society and not only blacks and mestizos. So the work with the so-called Community projects gains unusual strength.
Being able to observe the Party and the government, extraordinarily occupied, mobilizing qualified human forces and resources, which are put in function of the solution of multiple material, spiritual and social problems, that the Cuban society still has to overcome.
This task of the Community Projects, are strongly intertwined with the Government Resolution, which serves as an instrument for the fight against racism and racial discrimination.
Fidel had already realized all this and began to take action. Guiding in-depth research, in several disadvantaged neighborhoods, on the situation of sectors, sometimes marginalized.
It was also, then, when the experience of the so-called Social Workers was carried out; the majority blacks and mestizos, which brought as a result, that many young people, who neither studied nor worked, (it is said that there were 80,000 in Havana) arrived at the Universities. Those that had been “bleached” during the Special Period.
Then, from the late eighties, we returned to the subject again. What I think, is the period we’re in now, at the height of 2021.
Previously, during the 20s and 30s, above all, the issue of race had had a presence in the written media, especially in the press of the time. Personalities such as Juan Gualberto Gómez, Arredondo, Guillen, Deschamps, Chailloux, Ortiz, Portuondo, and others had produced important texts on the subject. And he managed to keep it within the debate in the press of the time, including in the Navy Journal.
But that momentum was not maintained and by the triumph of the revolution, it had almost disappeared.
But, already from the 80s, many publications of books, articles, essays, documentaries, and research began to reappear in some universities. A cinema that frequently brought up the subject, the plastic, the theater and the literature as well. Discussion Groups and Community Projects emerged, which today address the issue of race and have endowed it with a growing presence within national culture and life. In fact, for years, the issue did not take on such an important place in the national debate.
Then, the meetings with the Cro began. Miguel Díaz Canel, who attends to the issue, before becoming president and continues to do so now, together with the Aponte Commission of the UNEAC, which replaced the Group, “Como agua para chocolate”, directed by Gisela Arandia. She was the initial promoter of the racial debate at UNEAC. Previously, the racial issue had been taken to the party and later located in the National Library, but it was finally in the UNEAC, where it found its definitive location. And now it’s unfolding. Through the work of the aforementioned Aponte Commission.
All this movement has concluded with the appearance of a Government Resolution, mentioned above, which proposes guidelines for the attention and treatment of the racial issue at the national level. With the presence, too, of all those groups interested in the subject. Aspects of participation, which still require development.
However, I believe that, although we have made progress, we are still far from giving the issue of race the impetus it requires. There are still many situations to be resolved.
Although our society is culturally mestizo, the presence of racism, racial discrimination and a certain white hegemonism are still felt in the following matters:
-Inequalities persist within the racial population structure, formed by whites, blacks and mestizos. Not as a burden, but as a phenomenon of social dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society is capable of reproducing.
-Differences in access to employment also persist. With privileges for the white population, in those most important and best paid: tourism, corporations, state offices, etc. Not so in political positions, especially within the party, the People’s Power and the Mass Organizations, where the participation of blacks and mestizos is becoming more present.
-Differences by color, in access to possibilities of higher studies, universities, master’s degrees, doctorates, etc.
-Racism, prejudice and discrimination, against the black and mestizo population, which tends not to manifest itself in an aggressive way, but which are still present.
-Marked presence of an insufficiency of interracial marriages. With a marked tendency to racial restraint among young people which is indicative that young people are getting rid of prejudices.
-Discrimination in the mass media, mainly in television, in which white faces have dominated, because only recently, black and mestizo faces have begun to appear. In response to a specific, recent complaint by Army General Raul Castro in the National Assembly.
Our written press barely reflects the problems of the racial issue. There is no systematic treatment in this regard. Nor promotion of writers who deal with the subject. There is almost never an article in our press that addresses the issue.
-Our Political and Mass Organizations do not debate the issue of race. They do not promote their discussion, nor do they consider it in their work agendas.
-Discrimination in classical ballet.
-Jokes and racist expressions, abound, in the activities of cabarets.
-Only recently, the Teaching of History has begun to reflect the place of blacks and mestizos in the formation of our homeland history. And teachers are preparing to address it.
– Until very recently, the bibliography used, with honourable, well-known exceptions, did not reflect the role of the black and mestizo population in the construction of our nation. A strong hard bibliographic work is now being done by the Ministries of Education, aimed at resolving this inadequacy of vital consideration for the teaching of history.
-There is no Social History of the Negro or of the black woman, produced in Cuba.
-Even dealing with the issue of race, at any level and in any social space, can generate some discontent, prejudice and discomfort.
Only recently has our national assembly begun to present a structure that almost faithfully reflects the racial composition of Cuban society.
-For those who deal with the issue in a systematic way, their debates are not disclosed, always remaining in the frameworks of interested groups and people.
-In the Cuban school there is no mention of color, leaving personal spontaneity to behave in the face of the problem.
-In our universities, the issue of race is hardly studied. Nor is it included in the teaching curricula.
-Our academic research hardly refers to the issue of race sufficiently and it is practically absent from the student scientific work.
-Only recently, it begins to be observed, that an effort is made to attend to the racial composition of work groups, activities, or situations, in which the negro and the mestizo must be represented. This is seen with special emphasis on television.
In reality, our statistics, social, economic and political, are colourless. Throwing into the trash can centuries of national history. Ignoring appreciating where the problems are.
-Our Economic Statistics do not allow to cross color, with variables of jobs, housing, wages, income, etc. This prevents a thorough investigation of how the standard of living of different racial groups is advancing. Especially for those who were previously disadvantaged.
We believe that as long as the issue of race is not dealt with with systematicity and coherence, at an integral level and is reliably reflected in our statistics and in our media, we cannot hope that socially, the country will make progress on the issue.
It’s that our inherited culture is racist; that is, the practice of racism is cultural, instinctive, responding mainly, but not only, to inherited mechanisms, which work, not infrequently, unconsciously.
Therefore, until the subject enters education, is strongly socially debated, is part of the systematic work of the media and is considered statistically, we cannot aspire to pass it on to culture, or advance in it, banishing it from the forms of habitual behavior of citizens in our country.
It is that the absence of attention, almost generalized, for a long time, on the racial issue, has very negative consequences for its knowledge, understanding and consideration at the social level, as something that harms the Cuban nation. In the case of a very serious problem to overcome, if we want our society and its culture to advance in an integral way, guaranteeing the success of the social project of the revolution.
[Los Angeles, CA] The first part of the year is usually a busy time for me. Recovering from the holidays and starting new initiatives take focus to successfully execute. Even though I am retired I usually have a busy schedule and had committed to being part of the 2020 Census team. Training was to start in early March but in late January there was news about this flu-like disease spreading in Asia. Like a wildfire the disease spread internationally and people were warned to take precautions. By the time training started in Los Angeles on March 16th things appeared normal but news of the disease was escalating by the minute. Three days into training a pandemic was officially declared. Our group was immediately shut down and told to shelter in place and await further instructions.
Like many people I was not aware of Covid and while I knew I would need to be more cautious I was not too worried because of my overall health condition. We live in a family-oriented environment known as the “Harvard Compound.” We came together and mapped out a strategy in making sure we adhered to health protocols as well as developing a plan on how we could navigate with errands and other measures which required us to leave home.
To be vaccinated or not?
Once it became apparent a vaccine would be available, I never had any question on whether I would take it or not. For me, the data was clear and all I had to do was look at the number of deaths, which at that time was over 300,000 in the United States! As mentioned, being a person who treasures life there was never any question in getting vaccinated. It was more of when my group was eligible? As a person over the age of 65 my eligibility came around pretty quickly. I didn’t worry about any ancillary issues or discussions being bantered about regarding the legitimacy of the vaccine. It was very simple – “better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” In early February 2021 I opted to get my vaccine at Dodger Stadium because it was defined as a mega-site plus it was only six miles from my residence. The process was very organized and from start to finish it took approximately 2 hours per dose.
Having the vaccine is not a cure-all but it gives you the peace of mind in protecting yourself. We still practice safety and limit unnecessary exposure, especially to those who are not vaccinated. Also, we have traveled internationally and even though we are vaccinated we had to do mandatory testing. Maybe we are just lucky or blessed but everyone in our family is vaccinated and we have not experienced any adverse effects.
I was in the 11th grade at Ganesha High School and while in Mrs. Anderson’s Spanish class I met James R. Bell. I know he passed the class………I can’t remember my grade??? LOL. Anyway we have been friends since and as you can imagine he is part of our broader family. During the years we have been fortunate to make many historic treks. Recently he joined Judith and myself as we made the journey to San Jose to see remnants of “speed city” and the Olympic Black Power statue which is on the campus of San Jose State University. Of course Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history in 1968 and it was heartfelt to see them bronzed in the statue funded by students.
As a early teen I was watching the 1964 Olympics. They were in black and white. The finals of the 4×100 men’s relay was about to start. As the starting gun sounded the sprinters took off and somehow the favored U.S. team was in trouble and appeared to be headed to defeat. As anchor Bob Hayes took the baton he tracked down all runners ahead of him and miraculously the Russian sprinter who surely thought he would be the first to touch the victory tape was stunned to see this ebony image zip past him. It was a historic leg of the relay race that has to go in history as a legendary comeback. Hayes was known as “Bullet” Bob Hayes and from that race earned the distinction of the fastest human. I was mesmerized.
In 1968 my track and field appreciation had matured so at 16 I had an understanding of the Olympic games as well as the anticipated boycott. The rest is history as while the men’s 200mm victory stand celebration exploded around the globe, all three runners sacrificed something very few could imagine. Their story is an important part of history. The Triumph and the Victory.
In 2005 San Jose State University supported to students who funded the status symbolizing the victory stand. There are several statues of this moment but the “Olympic Black Power Statue” is special as this was the campus Tommie Smith and John Carlos attended. The track team was known for its prowess everyone knew it as “speed city.”
During my stint at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee it gave me great joy to see Peter Uberroth extend a hand to recognize the greatness of people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they too were appointed as staffers. I didn’t have a relationship with Tommie Smith as management of the games were all over the city. However, I did have a relationship with John as he visited my office at Expo Park and our subsequent office at Manual Arts. We attended several community events together and of course he brought his torch from the opening torch relay. It was magic.
Ricardo Gouvela aka “Rigo 23” did an amazing job in creating the statue. I was surprised at its height as well as the attention to detail.
If you have never visited the site, I would encourage you to do so.
To gain more information on this history
There is much more so just do a Google search of items you feel have legitimate authorship
October 16, 1968 is well over 50 years ago. Tommie Smith captured gold while setting a world record in the men’s 200 meters final with a time of 19.83 at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. Worldwide 1968 was an iconic year.
At the time Smith’s gesture was seen as one of the worse sins a person could make. That is based on the perspective of Olympic officials and many who were in denial of world-wide social unrest, particularly right in the United States. It took years and for some over a half-century to understand and finally recognize the importance of the gesture made by Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman in accepting their medals.
“With Drawn Arms” came out in 2020. It was a great piece produced by Glenn Kaino. It is noted in the documentary that Olympic athletes are usually featured on the Wheaties Box. Unfortunately Smith was passed up. It took over 50 years as someone from Wheaties must have been paying attention or perhaps it was nudging by Kaino but the box recently came out. I was in Panama in December 2020 and received an email from Wheaties that the commemorative box would be produced and advance orders were being taken. The production is outstanding and three months later my box arrived today. By the way, it was even full of Wheaties!!!! Either way, as an Olympic aficionado, particularly the ’68 games I am honored to add the box to my Olympic memorabilia.
[Manhattan Beach, CA – April 10, 2020] Protest is an American right. Some who do not like it or attempt to marginalize its effectiveness always ask the rhetorical question why is it necessary? The strategy of a protest is not a fix-all or immediate remedy. Instead, its main thrust is to raise awareness of an issue or an incident. Bruce’s Beach has been around for over 100 years. It pops in the news every so often then disappears. The George Floyd murder on May 25, 2020 brought a public outcry not seen in years. People from all walks of lives and various ethnicities, including many Whites raised their voices to the injustice they witnessed from social media footage. A residual effect of the Floyd issue elevated the Black Lives Matter movement to a special status, whereas four years earlier they were vilified and mischaracterized as some type of violent force. Their presence created an awareness for many to allow their voice to be heard on social issues around the globe.
Manhattan Beach is a tony beach community nestled along the shorelines of Southern California. It has the appearance of a very progressive tolerant community. But like all things it has its history and was recently thrust in the news on April 9, 2021 by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn during a press conference led by her, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, State Senator Steven Bradford and various public officials. It just so happens that even though the property is in Manhattan Beach, the County of Los Angeles is the current owner and that is why Hahn led the conference.
Bruce’s Beach was a venue created by Charles and Willa Bruce in 1912. Their goal was pretty straightforward – to create a place for African-Americans to enjoy the beach. History and context are two important parallels. Southern California, specifically the greater Los Angeles area was experiencing a population boom. As Slavery was legally outlawed and followed by Reconstruction many decided it was better to “start-over” than deal with Jim Crow or “southern traditions.” Those African-Americans who could make the migration from the South did so. Unfortunately, Jim Crow as a vestige of White Supremacy followed them as it was dominant in areas some thought were off-limits, such as Manhattan Beach.
As a native of Los Angeles I had never heard of this place! I was fortunate as my parents stressed education and I have been blessed to travel and experience other cultures. About ten years ago I made a decision to become more informed, particularly African-American history. Racism was happening then and it still permeates our society today.” Larry Wiggs, II
A new beginning
The Bruce’s left New Mexico and discovered Manhattan Beach. Mr. Bruce was a pullman porter so he was away most of the time. Thus, Bruce’s Beach was opened and operated by Willa. Even though the venture was successful, some White’s simply could not accept the fact of African-American’s creating a haven for themselves. The Bruce’s dealt with harassment, violence and other acts of organized intimidation until finally the City of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain to force them out. The Bruce’s dream of tranquility and peace faced the reality of overt racial discrimination. In 1912, they paid $1,225 to acquire their coveted piece of property. In 1924 The city paid them $14,500 as compensation and told them to move on.
The Bruce’s story is compelling. Unfortunately, there are many noteworthy examples of African-Americans being stripped of their resources and the final chapter of what happened has never been told, hidden in recorded documents or marginalized as if nothing nefarious occurred.
What Hahn communicated yesterday is historic. You hear all of the time of the wealth-gap? For many African Americans the gap is a direct result of their ancestors having their property or assets stripped from them, thus there was nothing to “pass down.” At the same time, some whites will rightfully argue they were not involved in Slavery or did not create any of the ills which caused the gap. Historians have rightfully defined “white privilege.” The Bruce’s Beach issue puts the topic right back on the table – the legacy of wealth.
Why is it hard to discuss Reparations?
Reparations appears more complicated than it really is. History notes various groups in the past have been made whole in some fashion. It only turns into a huge problem or something not to be discussed when attempting to deal with the descendants of enslaved Africans. You heard the lady in the clip pose the question what is all of the fuss about? After all, eminent domain is a legal process municipalities can use to acquire property for the public good the Bruce’s were paid something! The issue specifically related to the Bruce’s is the city wanted to rid itself of a racial problem and used eminent domain as the resolution. The question remains what legacy could the Bruce’s have left their heirs had race not been the issue to force them to leave?
I’m from Burbank and saw the news about the beach, so I needed to see it for myself. I knew about certain groups being discriminated against but I was shocked to see racial covenants were enforced to keep Blacks from buying homes in many parts of Los Angeles.” An anonymous middle-aged White man
The word reparations scares the hell out of people, primarily because they do not understand it. Interestingly in the past political leaders or those in power acknowledge making various ethnic groups “whole” who have been harmed by White Supremacy or racist behavior as a necessary remedy towards reconciliation. That is, unless those harmed are African-American. Hopefully Hahn and other leaders will spur a nationwide crusade that it is one thing to apologize yet it is another to repay and truly make whole to ensure the descendants can attempt to enjoy the same legacy that so many take for granted. First things first. While reimbursement or reparation dollars have not been specified, for now the energy is to return the property to Bruce’s heirs. There is also discussion of the County reverting from owner to tenant of the Bruce heirs, as a major part of the property is currently being used by them.
The Bruce’s Beach incident is American history so here is a recommended bibliography for additional reading:
Professional Sports is a huge business. Major League Baseball (MLB) is near the top of the heap when it comes to money-makers. Yet, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp may have positioned himself for the 2021 “Bonehead of the Year” award when he agreed and signed into law the hat trick created by state legislators and voting officials in the disguise of voter protection. Senate bill 202 professes to be a bill designed to correct flaws in the voting system.
On surface just about everybody agrees there is nothing wrong with correcting something that is flawed. The problem is during the recent 2020 general election Kemp and voting officials all agreed there were no issues on the voting process. Sure, there may have been some minor adjustments needed but none rising to the level of needing a new law?
They vehemently protested when the sly Donald J. Trump started his charade of irregularities. To boot, the courts threw out or ruled against the numerous cases by Trump and his allies that something was amiss. Kemp, the legislators and voting officials apparently misunderstood who Trump was.
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln
Trump built a career on hustling (taking advantage of people) and adopting gangster-like moves way before he decided to run for the presidency. The problem is many people did not know who he was and felt, “how bad could it possibly be?” His moves did not change. He merely brought the same style during his term as president. As hustlers do, once the race for the 2020 presidency heated up, he went into action. He threw out all sorts of insinuations and ridiculous banter to cloud the issue of fairness. This was done as a type of insurance policy as surely, he wanted to win but just in case he was on the losing end, he would have created some protection or justification that he was somehow harmed.
Even though I haven’t forgotten once the 1996 Olympics was over, the stadium was supposed to be named after famed slugger – Henry Aaron. Instead, ego or some other calamity overcame team owner Ted Turner and he named the stadium “Turner Field.” To add insult to injury less than twenty years later officials agreed the stadium needed to be moved and relocated to a more favorable part of Georgia which offered easier access to their predominate fan base. Nothing is wrong with that – business is business, although I’m still not convinced something nefarious occurred because they left the “hood” for greener pastures. Truist (SunTrust) stadium is in Cobb county and actually not that far from the old location. It’s a great venue with all of the modern amenities needed to attract a wider swath of fans who might like baseball but really appreciate the developments that have restaurants, bars that add to the fan experience. Plus, the stadium features a great plaque and memorial to Aaron.
Everybody seems to want to chime in on this issue. Your political perspective pretty much dictates your opinion. As a matter of fact, those who embrace a conservative ideology such as writers David Harsanyi and Jeff Greenfield have penned recent articles stating moving the games from Georgia is a mistake. Worse, they point out MLB has been tricked or bullied by those with a “left-wing” ideology! What? They point to Colorado having some voting guidelines which some might consider suppressive. What they fail to realize is unlike Georgia they did not change laws after swearing everything was alright. So, what they try and communicate to their readers is what some might call a “red-herring.”
There are thirty MLB teams and each one thirst at the opportunity to host the All-Star game. When they selected Truist to host the 2021 event it was a no-brainer as it was fit to be a great host. Then came the darn 2020 general election which included voting for president. By normal standards the election wasn’t even close. It was just a matter of counting all of the ballots. Lo and behold Joe Biden snakebit Trump for the presidency and the cous de gras was Joe Ossoff and Rafael Warnock turned everything upside down by capturing the two Senate seats. Immediately after professing everything was copasetic, someone must have tinkered with the legislators and Kemp’s water? They immediately went to work and inadvertently bought into Trump’s malarky (Biden) and other’s that the voting system was indeed flawed.
Perhaps, it is like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waking up and realizing it has been the donations from major corporations which fueled his ascent to power? MLB surely woke up. They realized the new law was a ruse where you give one but take two or three or however you define it, the outcome is to make voting more difficult for a certain part of the electorate. By another definition that is called voter suppression. Most will confess, in political races you don’t need to win by a zillion. A couple here, a couple there and even though it may be a close race, victory can be had. Many corporations sided with MLB and promptly issued their public outcry that the new bill was a solution looking for a problem.
Poor Jared Polis who is the Governor of Colorado was minding his own business. I mean it is April and Christmas has long passed and won’t return for a couple of months. His state was already on MLB’s roster to host an upcoming All-Star game. However, since Kemp couldn’t muster up the courage to maintain his position that Georgia’s recent election was in order, he kowtowed to those like Trump and other malcontents and the result is his gift to Polis.
MLB quickly ratified the move and the rest is history as Georgia is left wandering like Rip Van Winkle felt once he awakened. “What the hell just happened????” And to add insult to injury Kemp’s move forced MLB to demand Atlanta Braves players cover over any and all All-Star logos.
Maybe it was from watching western’s, or maybe it was something seen on all the shows featuring law enforcement that flood television viewing, or maybe it was an MMA move he saw? However, he performed and improvised the move, the chief of police, training staff and those from Minneapolis Police department (MPD) hierarchy have vehemently testified it was not in policy. The “knee-move” that is.
Being a police officer is tough. It is fraught with all types of life decisions that officers must make. Confronting and apprehending individuals is part of their job but the reality is some can irritate the officer by their behavior. Or, another way to look at it is some just “get in the officer’s goat or their craw.” The result can be retaliation by the officer and as in the case of George Floyd, death. After all, they too are humans and just trying to do their job.
Unfortunately that is not the issue in this trial. Floyd’s background is not the issue, although some will attempt to massage it into the case as some sort of justification or explanation of Chauvin’s actions.
It is hard to explain why Chauvin used his “knee-move” on Floyd’s neck? Floyd and bystanders pleaded for him to remove it so that he could breathe. No doubt from the time officers arrived on the call and confronted Floyd it took time from exiting his car to the MPD cruiser, then to the front of the SUV where Chauvin’s knee went into action. Chauvin felt he had enough and the motion was set for him to teach Floyd a lesson. To him, it appeared he did not care who was watching him or what MPD policy was. He had a special tactic and felt it was the perfect time to execute the move. Now whether he meant to kill Floyd is another issue but the facts are clear, he kept his knee on the neck position much longer than necessary.
Other’s will have their own explanation but from what has been presented it is clear George Floyd got in Derek Chauvin’s goat or craw and he decided the time was right to teach him a lesson. The question remains where in his nineteen years on the force did he learn the move?
Postscript – I originally did a Facebook post referencing the passing of Elgin Baylor. I removed it after receiving a notice from one of my Sintown homies, Vince Wisniewski and decided to expand the post to an actual article. That is how special Elgin Baylor was to us who grew up in his playing era.
Growing up in the era when Elgin Baylor joined the Lakers brought many great memories of Vince and those friends from Sintown who went to Ganesha High School. At the time Sintown was a basic bedroom community in Pomona. Ganesha was built in the late ’50’s. It was an interesting time for our country. People were moving around looking for a place to raise their family. In Sintown you had your close friends but you knew just about everyone. Like so many communities White Flight was happening right before our eyes yet it didn’t matter to the Whites or Hispanic’s who stayed because they appreciated the diversity afforded to their families. We left Los Angeles two months before the Watts Riots and landed on Carlton Street. Fast forward as mentioned everyone got along and sports was a common denominator but the NBA wasn’t what it is today. The Lakers had Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and we perhaps took their greatness for granted, but we also had Chick Hearn giving us the play-by-play.
Baylor has passed and even though it has been several days I still can’t get over it. Anybody and everybody from that era wanted to emulate his style of play. That is, except the ultra conservative coach Fulkerson. More on him later. In 1960 the Lakers ditched Minneapolis and came to Los Angeles. They played at the Sports Arena which was part of the complex that also housed the Coliseum. My brother Ronald and I remember attending our first professional baseball games when the Dodgers moved there in 1958. Surprisingly we can’t remember going to a Lakers game? Maybe it was because the Lakers were new but to have a professional team in that 9,000 seat arena was a big deal. I do recall one time circa 1967 my Father secured tickets for us to go to a game. I forget exactly what we did to make my him upset and cancel our trip……but looking back maybe it was just a ruse? Anyway, before my time with Coach Fulkerson, Ganesha was coached by the legendary Coach Lee Mathis – crew-cut and all. For a new school who had to play second-fiddle to powerhouse Pomona High School that exodus of families who left Los Angeles and landed in Pomona, specifically Sintown was like being awakened at Christmas!! After the great Rex Huxford graduated in 1968, our 1969 Varsity squad had Dean Ligenfelter, Robert Hines, Ronnie Carr, my brother Ronald and of course the unstoppable Wilbur Gatson just to name a few, A few from my class who got elevated to the squad as juniors, such as Gary Fisher, Stanley Johnson and Steve Burns.
Those ’69 athletic teams pumped pride and inspiration to that campus in west Pomona as Sintown became the incubator of possibilities. What a year and yes, we finally beat the hell out of Pomona High School and just about everyone in the San Antonio league. It was also the year Ronald was able to secure number 22, which of course was Baylor’s number.
There are so many stories about Baylor, it is incredible. In Sintown or specifically at Ganesha everyone loved him and despised the thorny Celtics. As I’ve mentioned Baylor was affectionately known as “The Captain” because when he was on the court he took charge. As mentioned Basketball today is not the basketball I grew up watching. A great attribute about sports is that it transforms cultures and community. The Lakers had few African-American players but like the rest of the league that was alright because at least it was our team. Plus, we had one of the best players in the league. He was a revolutionary who transformed the game. At that time players were not acrobatic. They weren’t hanging in the air to fool the defenders. There was no double-pumping, shooting the ball off the dribble, going behind the backboard, dunking over the Celtics Bill Russell. Yet, that’s who Baylor was and he did so wearing LO-CUT CONVERSE ALL-STARS!!!! At 6’5″ he was known as a small forward. He took the Lakers from the 9,000 seat capacity to the ultra-modern Fabulous Forum in Inglewood that could hold a whooping 18,500 fans. Baylor was before the Pearl, before Clyde, before Dr. J. Rick Barry, the Iceman, Magic, Jordan, Kobe, LeBron and the rest.
One last story. I know this is supposed to be about my little tribute to Elgin Baylor but his name brings back so many memories about my teen and young adult years. I was the lucky lad because as mentioned my brother Ronald was a year ahead of me and I knew all I had to do was make the varsity squad and number 22 would be mine for the ’70 season, although some games he wore number 15.. As my luck would have it Coach Matthis retired after that great ’69 team graduated. Coach Fulkerson had been his assistant so he took over the reigns in 1970. He considered himself a “purest.” You had to shoot the ball a certain way – elbow neatly tucked in, no leaning but jumping straight up. There was to be nothing acrobatic or anything assimilating Baylor’s style – not that Fulkerson didn’t like him. He was just stuck on a very basic conservative style of play. Even lay-ups had to be performed a certain way. It would be suicidal to think about “going behind your back” or look like you were “trying to dunk” and even trying to “spin a reverse lay-up.” Anyway, I made the team and the equipment manager Mr. Auckee arranged for me to have number 22 for the season. Wow!!!! It didn’t matter I barely made the team as I surely didn’t have the shot Fisher or Tucker had or the soft touch that Burns had. Further as much as Fulkerson tolerated the greatness of the ’69 squad, in ’70 he had his favorites in Hackley and Tharp so my ticket in making the team was displaying sheer hustle, willingness to hit the boards and understanding the ball was for others to shoot. My reward was limited playing time but that was not as important as being on the team. I could put up with Fulkerson’s antics and humiliation he dished out to those he considered radical or caught up in the social unrest that was also part of that era. I was just stoked to be wearing Elg’s number and the pride just to suit up because of all the numbers on our team, 22 was mine.
One quick note, near the end of the season we were playing Pomona at their gym and during a brief stint I was in the game. I had a break-away and was going in for a layup and the Baylor magic came over me as I was able to hang in the air, like Elg just long enough for the defender to lose his ascent which allowed me to do a double-pump and finish the shot by banking in the layup. That was one of the key memories I remember of my playing days at Ganesha. It was like a secret, something you keep to yourself. Coincidently once I graduated from Ganesha and moved back to Los Angeles I started improving my game way beyond the ridicule I received from Coach Fulkerson. One of Chick Hearn’s favorite calls was “Baylor goes baseline and scores with a dunk.” I finally got that play down and use to take great delight in executing it. As I have attempted to stress watching Baylor gave you the confidence to try new things. The Capt’n is gone but his spirit and memories will be something we all treasure.
This is a shot of the Staples Center marquee paying homage to Baylor. The cover photo is a gift from one of my Sintown homies – the great Jacques Bordeaux. He too appreciated Baylor’s greatness and knew what he meant to me so out of his collections of goodies he gifted me the treasured bobblehead.
[postscript – I live in West Adams and approximately four miles west of the Staples Center. In 2018 the Lakers awarded Baylor a statue which is alongside the other greats of the Lakers/Kings organization. I was mortified as when the news of his passing there were loyalist like me who simply wanted to visit the statue as a way to pay respect. The Lakers and the Staples Center boneheaded management team had the entry way blocked and only if you knew where the statue was, it was impossible to see from the street. A bitter disappointment so I guess I will have to wait for the pandemic to end or when those knuckleheads realize it is OK to get close up.]