Letters for November 6, 2003

Old hippies never die

Re “Crossing the bar, or something like that” by Jackson Griffith (SN&R Scene&heard, October 30):

Thanks to Jackson Griffith for a well-deserved tribute to an old friend. Harrison Thomas and I (along with a still-substantial group of “retired hippies”) went back a long way, to the mid-’60s and the “tune in, turn on, drop out” era. We were all part of Sacramento’s counterculture—living in communes and talking art, philosophy and politics into the early morning hours, while drinking cheap wine, of course.

Although many of us now own our own homes, go to bed by 10 p.m. and appreciate finer vintages, we try to keep in touch with our younger selves through our old friends. As a founding member of the B.O.O.H. (Benevolent Order of Old Hippies), I regret that we will no longer be able to be in touch with Harrison in this physical world, but we will continue to hold him in our hearts and minds.

Stephanie Ganic Braunstein

Ignorance or ethnocentrism?

Re “Emmalehua” by Jeff Hudson (SN&R Now playing, October 30):

I am one of the rookie actors Jeff Hudson mentions in his short review of Emmalehua. While it is true that the performance he saw on Sunday, October 26, had “uneven execution” due to many technical difficulties, which undoubtedly affected the pacing of the entire show, that’s not the point of my criticism of his review.

Rather, I take issue with his comment about the play focusing on the Hawaiian Islands being exploited by developers: “There are also plenty of socio-historical observations from native Hawaiians and American Indians about land-grabbing, white American businessmen taking over everything in sight.”

I find it curious that while “white American businessmen” are never explicitly mentioned in the script, Hudson would comment on how seemingly the entire play revolves around white developers grabbing native land. To me, this “red flag” comment in his review about yet another minority play ranting about social inequity undermines the integrity of our production.

Minority plays always have to struggle with the issue of artistic affirmative action vs. artistic achievement, and Emmalehua is no exception. Had Hudson actually paid attention to the entire play, he would have noted that it is about Hawaii becoming the 50th state and the compromises of tradition vs. modernity for young people. It is not about minorities ranting over land.

Since, as an actor, I am trained to read subtext, I find his review bothers me with its ethnocentric overtones. I’m curious as to why, for Hudson, only white developers are portrayed as land-grabbers and not the native islanders who are helping these developers exploit the land, embracing the mainland attitudes and losing touch with tradition? Could it be simple ignorance, or is it ethnocentrism?

Meng Wei

Thanks for uncovering a hidden past …

Re “Slavery: California’s hidden sin” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R Cover, October 23):

I read both your editor’s note (“Of human bondage” by Tom Walsh, SN&R Editor’s note, October 23) and the article in SN&R. As someone “born and bred” right here in Stockton and Sacramento, believe it or not, I never heard of that history in Sacramento, let alone the Central Valley.

I graduated in 1967 from Hiram Johnson High School and yet never heard of Negro Bar, African-American gold miners or any of the other history described in the article. I do remember a restaurant in Stockton on Wilson Way that had a poster in the window: “We do not serve Colored.” I remember the story of a boy who was older than I, named Emmett Till, killed because he was the color I coveted—the beautiful brown skin of my Dad. But to hear about a positive history of African-Americans? I never heard it.

However, as an adult, I was finally able to keep a promise to my dad I made when I was a little girl, to find out who his relatives were, since he was orphaned. I began to find them and also to hear stories and look at old family photos, documents and pages of Bibles. I knew that there was much more to our history and ancestry.

Today, I am astounded to discover that there is much more history right in my front yard, so to speak. I applaud the roundtable to be held at California State University, Sacramento, next week, as there is yet much more to learn and love, and I get to be a part of it!

Denise Griggs
founder/president, African American Genealogy Society of Sacramento

… but I already knew about it

Re “Slavery: California’s hidden sin” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R Cover, October 23):

Since when is the fact of slavery in California hidden? I learned about it in grade school.

The only thing hidden about California’s history of slavery is how far back it goes. The Forty-Niners brought in America’s legally enforceable chattel slavery. This replaced the legally enforceable bondage slavery of the Californianos. This had replaced the straight chattel slavery of the American Indians they conquered, which probably replaced some other form of slavery when the Indians moved in and made slaves of even earlier inhabitants.

We have no idea how far back it goes in the New World, but in the Old World, we know it goes back at least 4,000 years.

Good article, Ms. Beckner, but it could have used a bit of “leavening,” and the choice of title was just plain bad.

Rudy Iwasko

Never enough green

Re “A big, green dream” (SN&R Editorial, October 23):

Wow. Someone else wants a park? I just read the editorial. I was thrilled.

I can appreciate Sacramento having an incredible opportunity with the 240 acres close to downtown. I have often thought that something similar to Cannery Row, the San Antonio River Walk or even the Santana Row project in San Jose should be developed on that site. Note: None of these examples includes an arena.

My favorite idea is to develop a park on the 240 Union Pacific acres. I realize that the price of real estate is high and that the city won’t glean tax money from a park. But there is something worthwhile about open land, particularly in an urban area. Think Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. A park will last forever. An arena will deteriorate and maybe even have graffiti on it in 15 years, when the next newer arena is built.

What would it take to landscape a park on the Union Pacific property? How expensive is the land? Would Union Pacific donate any or all of it as a tax write-off or act of philanthropy? Maybe SN&R could do some investigative reporting to address those questions.

Lisa Jennings
via e-mail

If they were stealing food, he could complain

Re “Salads and sprouts get stamp of approval” (SN&R Letters, October 23):

The letter from the unnamed Rancho Cordova grocery manager makes me wonder just why this person is in the grocery business.

Does he or she really feel it is necessary to oversee every single morsel of food that is purchased from their store? This person seems to want to deny those people on food stamps or other government assistance a nice steak or shrimp dinner every so often. Perhaps this manager should remember that fresh vegetables and fruit are usually priced out of the reach of food-stamp recipients.

I also felt that the comment that the writer sees “the masses of immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European [countries]—people who routinely use food stamps without the ability to say thank you in English to the taxpayers in line behind them” to be uncalled for and extremely rude. Perhaps these people are learning English as a second language. Has the manager ever thought of tutoring immigrants in English, or is he or she just interested in harassing them?

This manager should also remember to be grateful that they are not stealing food from this particular store, and actually mind their own business!

Alex Brown

Joan wasn’t always shy

Re “Where she was from” by Kel Munger (SN&R Cover, October 16):

Your cover story on author Joan Didion brought to the surface a very old memory.

I remember her when she was an engaging, ebullient, show-off 4-year-old in blouse, shorts and tiny tennis shoes. Her parents and my parents were friends, and now and again, I would be dragged along on a Sunday-afternoon visit to the Didions’. Nothing would do but for little Joan to perform. Toy telephone in hand, she would imitate her mother ordering groceries from Born Brothers, a company that used to deliver them in special metal-reinforced wooden boxes.

I found her trying and obnoxious. But then, I was eight years her senior and thoroughly disenchanted. Nonetheless, I recall her as sparkling, bright, innocent and outgoing—far from the shy, retiring, sometimes reclusive, highly introspective adult she became.

Robert Young