Join the Friday Vigil at the Federal Building-We Refuse to Tolerate Ethnic Cleansing


Press Advisory

Federal Building Vigil this Friday–We Refuse to Tolerate Ethnic Cleansing

Oakland, CA: On Friday, January 19th at noon the California Sanctuary Campaign, the Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership, Mujeres Activas Y Unidas, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, CAIR-SF Bay Area, Haiti Action Committee, the Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, the Oakland Justice Coalition, Latino Task Force, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the East Bay Young Dems, and the Coalition for Police Accountability will come together in front of the Oakland Federal Building to stand vigil against current White House policies which directly threaten the lives of people of color in this country and abroad.

According to Rev J Alfred Smith Jr of Allen Temple Baptist Church, “the president’s stated policies and actions will promote the ethnic cleansing of whole swaths of Black and Brown people whether native born, immigrant or refugee, seeking opportunity and the ability to raise their families in dignity. The president repeatedly makes racist and misogynistic statements which result in directives from his DOJ and the Congress while families are separated by federal authorities, children are left without healthcare, jails fill with our youth, and refugees are refused asylum.  We must take a moral stand against the president and his party before these destructive attitudes and actions do any more damage.”

The vigil is being held the day prior to the historic Women’s March which will take place in cities and towns across the country to assert that women’s rights are human rights. The vigil calls attention to the special jeopardy that women of color face as a result of current policies which threaten not only their economic well-being but their safety in the streets, at their workplaces, and in their homes.

We call on other cities to protest outside local federal buildings at noon on Friday, January 19th. If we cannot look to our president or the Congress to uphold the moral authority of our country’s stated values, then we must do it ourselves.

Contact: Pamela Drake,, 510-593-3721


Progressive Women and the Franken Divide

download (7)

Senator Al Franken has resigned – and it could be argued that he had lost his powerful voice anyway after so many allegations of groping had come out. But another argument could be made that by admitting he had made mistakes [although he denied the latest allegations] and submitting himself to criticism and formal investigation, he gave his power away in order to keep the high moral ground that Democrats are now claiming.

It’s a Wonderful Life, Ted Kennedy Version-

Reflecting on Franken, undisputably a (former) rising star in the progressive wing of the party, brought to mind another progressive political leader, one much more flawed than Franken.

What if Ted Kennedy had never lived or been removed early in his career due to his serious transgressions? Would the Affordable Care Act have become law, would the WIC program have gotten passed? Would SCHIP have given poor kids medical coverage, coverage now revoked by this sickening adminstration? And going all the way back to the beginning of Kennedy’s career, would the 1964 Civil Rights Act ever have gotten through a recalcitrant senate?

I thought about this recently when an acquaintance tweeted that Kennedy had been (partly) responsible for his opportunity to become an American after leaving Vietnam on a leaky boat. He had cosponsored The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act in 1975 and according to Wikipedia [please donate] “Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Liz Holtzman were the leaders of the refugee advocacy community, and the first supporters of the 1975 Act. They were backed by labor groups like the AFL-CIO and religious services, including the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Church World Service. Their goals to redefine the legal notions of “refugee status” and attain a more comprehensive amnesty policy were not realized until the Refugee Act of 1980.[8

Would we be enjoying the benefits these Southeast Asian families have brought to our shores and would they have survived at all? It’s not an academic exercise and it’s not pretty having to dissect how things work in the real world but I think we need to do it.

Senator Kennedy left us 8 years ago, but  we should remind ourselves that Mary Jo Kopechne lost her life at 29-years-of-age, 38 years ago when she drowned or suffocated in the waters off Chappaquiddick. The young senator had driven off a bridge, had left her in the sunken car and simply forgot to report this “incident.” Was Edward M Kennedy, Liberal Lion of the Senate, the guy who endorsed President Obama early on and made healthcare-for-all his lifetime goal, also a monster who drank to excess and treated women like toys? I think he was both and I don’t know what to do about that.

And let’s not forget that Ted’s older brother, the legendary Jack Kennedy of Camelot fame, cavorted with gangsters-who may have won him the presidency-and used women like tissues so let’s be real about our heroes. I’m not interested in a discussion over whether the history books should be rewritten but whether we have thought out how we move forward– and what the consequences are in this time and place of our actions or inactions. Have we had that conversation? Can we have it, do we even know how?

It’s still a boys’s club and the boys who are in charge now are quite willing to watch as we demand more from each other while they get away with murder or at least child molestation: 

Robert Reich put it succinctly, “I’m glad Democrats are taking principled stands against sexual harassment but sickened by Trump’s and Republicans unwillingness to do the same. Tyranny beckons when the principled fall on their swords while the unprincipled keep theirs.

The decision to push Franken out has been portrayed as a purely moral one but its underside is that there is also a political calculus that somehow expelling Al would also remove some road blocks to throwing out Trump or future Senator Moore. I dunno, can you see that working?

It seems to me that we are in a war, maybe not a shooting one but that’s only because actual bullets are not needed for Republicans to get their way. Without a shot being fired, they have impoverished millions by eliminating the medical care offered by the ACA and soon Medicare, plan on reducing or even ending Social Security, are removing environmental protections, including cutting parks and monuments, have already passed laws promoting gun slinging, reduced the courts to a mediocre weapon of their far right ideology and more…. every day. They are courting nuclear war and terrorism while torpedoing hope during the worst refugee crisis in the history of the world. They are on a path not to take us back to the 1950’s but to something like the Age of Inquisition. kn120817dAPR20171206094507 (1)

It’s possible that the GOP or the Bannonites constructed most,  though probably not all, of the allegations against Franken who they saw as a rising general on our side of this war. He had the wit and intelligence to fight for us without starting an actual civil war as he knew something else too, how to reach across the aisle without conceding a bit of his progressive goals. Since he resigned on Thursday, I have read social media responses from many, many women who were opposed to Franken’s resignation [not a formal survey.] And we know that most women have experienced some form of harassment at work and of course, in the street so their responses don’t seem based on a lack of experience.

So here are some examples of the divide, without identities or any accounting of age or ethnicity:

From twitter: “I understand the politics behind this, but it makes me uneasy. The allegations against Franken are comparatively benign and largely unvetted.#GOP will not follow suit and the precedent this sets could easily be weaponized.

Responses to this tweet- “At this point, I am very, very angry at the Democrats for turning on Al Franken this way, when the evidence against him is so weak, what he is alleged to have done is so minimal (compared to men who actively pursue women who have already said “no” and who have economic or other power over those women) and the Republicans have every reason to want him gone. I am almost never a believer in conspiracies, but the allegations against Franken just don’t pass the smell test.”

I am so, so happy to read what you all have to say. I thought I might be the only activist woman feeling uneasy about this. Seems like he should get “due process” at least.”

Reacting to a tweet from Senator Gillibrand, one among many:

“Women allowing themselves to be used by an opposing & anti-women political party to oust a man, who is on the right side of women’s issues, based on claims that were largely unsubstantiated while not calling for ouster of a white supremacist ADMITTED SEXUAL PREDATOR in WH


“I disagree about Franken for a couple reasons. First his case provides an opportunity for us to have some discourse regarding cultural norms that the majority on some level participated in. Particularly in the name of ‘comedy’. 1/. His case can also help us nationally discuss what constitutes ‘credible’ accounts. Through this we can dispel ‘witch hunt’ labels. We need men to participate in this evolution. I believe we can only get there through VERY PUBLIC discourse. 2/”

“As popular as SNL was,/is I’m guess that a number of the Dems clutching their pearls now over Franken laughed like crazy at SNL in years past. Total double standard and no nuance to the thinking. And the whole scenario of losing Franken, who is so articulate and fearless, undoubtedly has Rs licking their chops and looking for the next victim (you can be sure it won’t be one of theirs).”

“I wish Franklin hadn’t resigned and let the process play out through the ethics committee while Demo-women in congress called for Trump’s resignation A.S.A.P.”

      “If someone I didn’t like tried to kiss me I’d remove myself or push him away. Since when is a kiss or a pat on the rear as reprehensible as assaulting a child? Yes I am glad that sexual harassment has come to forefront but what is being done to Franken is above and beyond and he doesn’t deserve this.”
And responses supporting the resignation of Franken:
     “We may not know what it’s like to work with Franken and this is about his colleagues and their ability to do work. Women have to go around continually allowing different layers of male toxicity, or attitudes to prevail. Maybe the super smart Senators, who I respect deeply had some information, or put their minds together and saw it was important, so I back them!”
     “I will hope that sacrifice will lead to an honorable change in the future. I could be wrong and darkness will prevail, but in these times of darkness, I want more valor. Idealistic I suppose, but I can’t be cynical or I will wither.”
     “Those 21 Democratic women Senators who called for his resignation aren’t stupid, they’re strategic. There is a Dem governor in Minnesota who will appoint an interim. And we have a deep bench in MN, e.g. Keith Ellison and several excellent women. I understand they are trying to brand us as The Party of Zero Tolerance–from racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-immigration. We need to stand for something. We have to differentiate ourselves from the other guys. We have to clean our house and be different. Imitating them has never, ever been good for us.”
Who Will the Governor Appoint and why didn’t we ask this first?
But now from this article I learned that the governor of Minnesota may not be looking for a Franken replacement but just a place holder which may open the seat to the GOP, “Now Gov. Mark Dayton is throwing a wrench in the works by evidently appointing a caretaker on the condition she not seek to keep the seat, which opens the seat up to the real possibility of Republican capture in 2018 (maybe by Norm Coleman, the Republican Franken defeated in 2008).”

So this blog is getting a bit long, yet I just have to ask you to think about the concept of zero tolerance. Isn’t just the phrase a tip-off to our inability to look at complex issues and respond according to each situation?  Zero tolerance for weapons at schools got little boys and some girls arrested for having toy guns in their  backpacks. [perp] .

Zero tolerance has criminalized young men who had consensual relationships with girls in their age peer group but just under the age of consent. Funny thing, these often turn out to be Black youth and the book is thrown at them. Shouldn’t punishment fit the “crime?”

Back at the OK Corral, i.e. Washington DC, the folks who are restructuring our economy for the 1% of the 1%, eliminating our remaining rights and gifting our country to oligarchs continue on. Many of us may not survive their onslaught. But, you know, we took the high road…maybe, just maybe, it will slow our descent into hell.


Celebrate Women’s Day


So world wide women, as a group, we get a day. As social media types are fond of tweeting, let that sink in. There is so much to say about this global subject that I won’t get started if I try to speak too broadly. But as it’s said in the women’s movement, the personal is political so here goes-

Let me share a sliver of my life. I am a 70-year-old woman. I am officially old, but not elderly since we know that 70 is the new 50! When I look at pictures of my mom at 70, while she was still incredibly vibrant, she definitely appeared older than I do now. A lot of that is due to improved healthcare, more and fresher food choices unless we live in food desserts [I remember my mom’s salads, ice berg lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise] and regular exercise, plus we just dress younger.

When my mom came home from work, she had to take off her girdle and stockings before she could do anything else, which should explain why women did not exercise as much as we do now, it was uncomfortable even to walk to the car.

By the time you have lived to 70, you have experienced a few lifetimes, lifetimes that often seem to be separate worlds, different movies, if such they were. For many of us Baby Boomers, our stories wouldn’t work as a series but as wholly separate genres of film.The main character sometimes even changes her name.

There’s the early boring story of the dutiful daughter, the nerdy student who slowly morphs into the teacher-correcting-smart-ass-to-be, your friend, then the prankster, whose goals in life were wildly disparate and equally unattainable. This skinny, dark-eyed, buck-toothed (yes, I got all the Bugs Bunny jokes) girl who wanted to be either a ballerina or a Quaker preacher, Crusader Rabbit, was what my father called me.

And in every woman’s life, there’s the dark side, not only of expectations to be perfect, kind and obedient but also the butt of jokes, put downs, even abuse about our bodies and its shape. Most of us don’t talk or write much about that but no girl goes unscathed into adolescence. We learn, regardless of culture, that whatever happens to us, whatever nasty words or physical assaults we experience it is our shame and ours alone to bear.

Last fall the revelations about our current despicable president brought it all back to most of us, if truth be told. But it won’t be told –and now he is considered leader of the free world, but whose world, whose freedom? At such times the poet Muriel Rukeyser’s words come back to me unbidden,

” What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”

So let me drop a few choice anecdotes … my father along with the boys in my 7/8th grade classes made fun of me for being skinny and flat chested. My father made it clear that I wasn’t an acceptable copy (maybe that was lucky) of my voluptuous mom.

I spent my entire adolescence so convinced of my unattractiveness that as a result I broke numerous hearts in my years of galavanting about San Francisco State in micro mini skirts, wondering why men were following me down the street and why male “friends” reacted badly when I blithely ignored their pleadings.

Then later after my revolutionary period and as an activist member of first, the anti-war movement and then the women’s consciousness-raising movement, and finally as a single mom, I found myself myself at the ripe age of 37, hiding in the women’s bathroom because I didn’t know how to discourage an obnoxious suitor on the dance floor.

I told a friend about my epiphany – it occurred to me I was too old to still be hiding in the bathroom from unwanted attention. She made the astounding suggestion that I simply say, “no thank you,” when someone approached me who I didn’t wish to spend time with. Now, I know that doesn’t work in a dark alley much less on the job-how well I know that one [a story for another time!] But it was a revelation to me, me-a single mother of two-that I didn’t have to make myself available because someone demanded it of me, that I could say NO.

I wish I could say that things have changed so much from those days, but when my daughter was just at the beginning of her music exec career, she would call me from the grocery store or the street and ask me why men seemed to feel they could comment on her smile or lack of one as she passed them by.

I remember noticing that by early adolescence my daughter had developed a way of carrying herself, that was a bit haughty, almost princess-like. I commented to a friend once that she seemed to be aloof to the point of arrogance.

My friend, who had known her as a small child in our parent coop nursery school pointed out that as a tiny girl, more petite than most, quite pretty and also, one of the few Black girls in the school, other kids often attempted to take advantage of her but she had learned how to hold her ground. My friend thought, sensibly, that she had learned to carry herself in a way that said, “don’t even think about it.”

But another  International Women’s Day and the stats are still appalling. More women are in poverty than we can even imagine and that means their children experience two things 1) continued generational poverty, 2) that the women who raise them and are their role models are are not valued as human beings no matter how hard they work.

Here in the “free world” our so-called leader, rather than electing the woman who asserted that women’s rights are human rights, we got the guy who said, “you can do anything, grab them by the pussy….and they let you get away with it.”

Now I know there were lots of other reasons that Hillary didn’t win,. but there really is no excuse for any of it. We all hold some of the blame.

One of my friends who marched in Washington in her pussy hat, asked me the other day if I was a little embarrassed by the whole pussy hat phenomenon. We were raised in a time when that word was not used by women. Since then it’s usage has exploded but it is used as a term of disparagement-of weakness, the lack of manly strength to stand up for what you believe in, an inability to fight back. So maybe it’s a good thing that we have taken it back as a symbol of strength, persistence and even resistance.

What real, principled strength is, a toughness that doesn’t lash out at the vulnerable, these are qualities that are difficult to put into logos. They are complex and thoughtful but I have seen them codified more often lately as in the principles of Bay Resistance:

Lead with Love, Power Across Difference, Transformative Justice and Collective Action….

As part of of our spirit of resistance in this transformative time, let me hold up some of the young women leaders among us. These women are able to bridge some of the many divides we women have found ourselves in– Alicia Garza, Zahra Billoo, Jennifer Tran and so many more.

By our one day of recognition next year, there will be more, some of them will be running for office, some organizing campaigns and still others leading a movement that will exist outside of electoral politics. I can’t wait, really, we can’t.



Women and Respectability Politics


Many of us have seen the videos of Planned Parenthood managers talking about selling fetuses for stem cell research (they don’t actually sell them.) The folks who engineered these videos have apparently spliced and diced and concocted an art form out of taking recorded words out of context.

Still, there is unease when we actually realize what is happening, that fetuses are being used to study how humans are made and how they can be repaired, that is, how they can be healed. And I get that but we have to be willing to think this through.

Since we decided a number of years ago that stem cell research was useful and therefore acceptable-even Republican Ben Carson admits to being involved in that kind of research-then why is it shocking to learn how those cells are procured?

Well, that’s one question, one that the Right Wing knows that most of us are ignorant about, and that might lead us to reconsider the original question-women’s right to choose or not choose childbirth at certain times and circumstances of their lives.

I recently saw Wendy Davis, she of women’s-right-to-choose fame, defend Planned Parenthood on the basis that 97% of its work is in women’s reproductive health and, indeed, women’s health in general, like screenings for various diseases. So it’s true that no federal money goes to abortion and that in some states without the ACA, women must use these clinics as their primary providers. Most people would agree they need to have some kind of health care.

As an older woman who had an abortion shortly after they became legal in California and most of whose friends have had legal and/or illegal abortions, as a woman who is the mother of two, one of whom is female, I wanna say, stop with the nuances and justifications.

Just stop. Every time you appease these misogynists (and some are women,) you move us a step backward in our demands for rights as persons. But then, we no longer make demands, we’re back to pleading for consideration of a woman’s right to life. All of the Republican candidates now feel obliged to say that they would rather see a woman die than risk the loss of a fetus! When they’re not making rape a victimless crime, they’re criminalizing us when we become mothers and can’t afford childcare or demeaning us when we don’t want to home school our kids.

Of course, it does make sense to state that when all types of birth control are made completely available to women of any age and income level, the demand for abortions goes down-that is proven. Unfortunately, many states have made it more difficult to even obtain any kind of birth control much less the medical, non-surgical forms of abortion. To these zealots an egg, is more human and needs more rights and protections than the woman who may have to nurture it. Of course, if it turns out to be female, the value of that life decreases after it arrives on earth much like a new car after it is driven off the lot.

So all I’m saying is, I don’t really want to hear all the logical arguments, because they are based on us trying to prove to the men who rule us that we’re good people that we have the “right” intentions, that we’re good moms and sisters, aunts and grandmothers. Everyone knows women who have had abortions, everyone. Most of us would prefer not to though, in fact 60% of women seeking abortions are already parents, but geez, now I’m doing it too.

As Ben Carson put it, “There is no war on women — there may be a war on what’s inside of women.” Apparently I need to remind the good doctor and everybody else that what’s inside me is mine and I don’t need your approval  to decide what is best for me, my outsides and my insides.

And here’s another one, I hate that mantra, “it’s between her and her doctor,” no , sorry, my doctor doesn’t get to decide, even with the laughable notion of the old family doctor who knows us so well-the implication being that it is a wise old man-no again, not his decision-it’s mine and maybe my partner’s if I so choose.

You guys or ladies, women, at Planned Parenthood may have consulted some PR people, the wrong ones, I suspect, who told you that it is unseemly to talk about aborted fetuses and how they serve born people. If some of you find my choices disreputable or not respectable enough, I’m okay with that, because I’m in charge of my decisions.

I submit that if we occasionally don’t give birth because we have made that decision, it should be okay to use those cells to benefit humankind without apologies. Similarly, I don’t ask you to beg that I retain some small say over how I protect my body’s integrity, my integrity as a human being. I earned that right when I was born.