Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness
A Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday celebration has been held at the Bill Graham auditorium in San Francisco's Civic Center for a number of years.
There used to be a "Freedom Train" that started in San Jose and made its way up to the Peninsula, finishing with a march from the Caltrain station to Civic Center, but for some reason the march was canceled a few years back and now everyone is bused in on chartered Muni vehicles.
After passing through a metal detector at the doorway...
...you were ushered into the lobby, where there were a number of merchants selling afrocentric goods that included a line of T-shirts reading "I HEART Being Black," and of course Wells Fargo was there to do its corporate branding thing.
For whatever reason, the crowd was not as large as in years past, possibly because there are King celebrations all around the Bay Area now or because everyone is tired of the same old ritual.
The show started off with the Glide Memorial Chorus backing up a singer...
...while the Glide Memorial Band played on.
The Reverend Cecil Williams went through his usual routine, which was highlighted by the call-and-response with the audience over where they were from. "Who do we have from East Palo Alto?" he thundered, and there was a huge shout from the back of the auditorium. "Who do we have from West Palo Alto?" he continued, and there was hardly a peep, which was followed by general laughter.
Aaron Peskin, Sophie Maxwell, and Sean Elsbernd were the odd trio of San Francisco Supervisors who addressed the crowd. Elsbernd looked quite shy and unsure what to say, so he finally just told a short story about being a grocery bagger as a teen where Reverend Cecil Williams used to shop, "and he was the most wonderful customer there was."
They were followed by an advisor to Senator Feinstein who looked like Vernon Jordan, but wasn't. He announced that he was "very concerned" about the violence in America, about the violence in the streets of San Francisco, and the violence in Los Angeles. "What about the violence in Iraq that your Senator is doing nothing about?" I wanted to yell, but didn't.
The emcee for the afternoon was a DJ from KMEL radio, and she introduced a 13-year-old rapper who had come up with a piece about Martin Luther King, Jr.
It was pretty lame so I went outside where the Cougar Cadet Corps from Alameda were jamming.
They seemed to be led by the young man above, and they played on the sidewalk in front of the auditorium for most of the afternoon, upstaging the entertainers inside.
They were marvelous.
A number of advocacy groups had also set up outside the auditorium, including a large contingent from the Lyndon LaRouche conspiracy folks, and the woman above who seemed to be publicly protesting a private sorrow.
The most impressive salute to the late Martin Luther King, Jr. that I encountered all day was a couple of blocks away on Ninth Street in the windows of the Quaker Meeting House.
Plus, this message is displayed every day, and not just trotted out for the occasion.