Man, did I miss out.
There were a lot of openly gay couples walking hand in hand. Mostly Bull Daggers. I had a whole different concept of equality between the sexes. There were some scary, tough women no one fucked with. Hacky sacks everywhere…herb everywhere, many different languages. Guys yellin “thai sticks-got thai sticks”
There was also a healthy need for the people to express themselves.
When the local government failed to address the real issues of the constituents the constituency did everything in their power to convince that par
ticular elected official to do their job.
I have witnessed some dramatic protests revolving around the removal of an oak tree, the name of a park and even public nudity.
People were born with a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards the Government.
Berkeley was a counter culture oasis, where the rules of behavior were turned upside down.
But it worked …it worked well.
What happened?A densely populated urban environment. Everyone jam packed into the east bay. Rich and poor, dumb and wise. Racial assimilation was apparent in the healthy number of bi racial children I grew up with. The only downside was the fact it was a eurocentric assimilation, less tolerant of other cultures.
People basically got along.
There were issues regarding the Police in the black community…people, all people, got together.
It didn’t hurt that the Black Panthers started to Police the Police while armed themselves.
At the heart of all the crosscultural camaraderie was the correct assumption that the people have the power.
Even my teachers. I remember Ms. Adams (her real name not being used to protect her privacy) (I love being parenthetical).
She taught the sorry excuse for a history class I took in eighth grade. She was always making note of her half Asian descent , in fact, because of her I do not refer to people of Asian descent as orientals. She was always giving speeches in class about this, that and blah blah blah. It would always end with you “watch… you see”
Strangely enough she is actually right about a lot of the things she predicted. Incredibly accurate. Hmmm.
Then one day she bent over my desk to make eye contact with me and exclaimed.”China is the sleeping lion…she will awaken”.
She continued a long speech that effectively made me fear China…ironic right? I think she wanted us to have more interest- I, on the other hand, was wary of the foreign invaders who would soon buy San Francisco.
If she did that now she would probably be arrested or ,at the very least, dating me.
Back to the point.
No one starts shit anymore.
No one chucks a brick or a flaming milk crate through the bank window. I used to always hear about planned protests and I, along with my friends, even participated.
Protest was part of my civic reality. It was pleasure and duty.
There were marches over a proposal to increase parking meters. The resolution passed.
Enter plan B.
No one protested or even complained when the vigilantes
started to decapitate parking meters. No one accept the city council which asked for more money to help catch the perpetrators.
Berkeley, hell, The Bay Area is a petri dish of social policies that create an exciting mix of lifestyles all within spitting distance of each other.
Completely different universes sharing space but rarely colliding, each maintaining their stable orbit within their singular part of the glorious grid. It worked, it seemed chaotic at times, but it worked.
I grew up in the hills, a rare African American treat-at the time. Our elementary School, Kensington Hilltop School, bussed the inner city (thats media slang for black) kids in from Richmond. It was like a cultural exchange program . Instead of building good schools in predominately black neighborhoods they would rather take a handful of kids with high aptitude scores and give them a shot.
Great, well meaning ,liberal, educational policies.
I learned quickly that I did not speak a lick of ebonics.
But whoop ass was another thing.
I was fluent in whoop ass (thanks dad).
The cultural exchange resulted in a boosted confidence in my ability to solve problems without discussion.
I know I am grown and shouldn’t even care. But now and back then, I did not like people making fun of the way I talked . The way I spoke was a great source of many fights. I spoke perfect English replete with may I’s, thank you ma’ams, yes sirs and excuse me’s. A great source of pride for my mother. To top it off I was anal about pronunciation. I was a weird kid.
I did not possess the oral er’…. verbal… flexibility I skillfully use today.
This is about Not Starting Shit Anymore. You see how easy it is for the issue to lose its resonance in the presence of personal experience?
I grew up watching active adults participate in changing the world around them.
Not much seemed to happen. We were always at war, gas was super expensive and no one voted for who was in power. Finally, amidst a growing cloud of apathy, something happened.
I think it started with Love Boat- Fantasy Island Fridays, Disco and cocaine.
The eighties happened.
People, the adults that is , stopped trying to change and adopted a ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ attitude.
Berkeley became different, there was still a counter culture vibe but it was going through a prepackaging process. The image was maturing. But it was still affectionately called Berzerkeley by anyone who didn’t live there.
Wavy Gravy hanging out at ‘Peoples Park’…people actually came to see that.
They also came to study at the nuclear physics lab at U.C. Berkeley- once again, another story.