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.


Anonymous said...

Most of us "white folk" are just plain tired and bored of all this hoopla. Their main problem is within their own community: poor parenting, fathers deserting babies/family, drugs, etc etc... the whiners are ruining it for all the then thousands of goof blacks who have realized this. ENOUGH adulations, memorials, celebrations, etc... just plain BORING. But now we have to face Febrauary with more BLACK honoring AND "HISTORY"--- ENOUGH!!!!

Civic Center said...

Dear Anonymous: I disagree with you completely but am leaving up your post just to show what some of the "white folk" are thinking. I assume you meant "good blacks," by the way, not "goof blacks."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is partly correct--the activity inside the auditorium was painfully boring, as the pictures and commetary pointed out.

I think what anonymous missed was the pictures of the kids outside drumming and stuff. They are not boring. We all congratulate them for their musical endeavors and for having the good sense NOT to go inside and be bored. I thought it was a great contrast piece.

There are infinite sources of boring-ness, MLK Day, (as opposed to MLK's life) is one of them. So what?

BTW: Race rants are boring.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your simple and thoughtful account of events and people doing things in your neighborhood. For making the connections you see.


Anonymous said...

I see some of the goof whites haven't changed a bit. Personally, I think you should have acted like a baf white and heckled Sen. Feinstein's representative. Dr. King was generous with his love, courteous with his love and unfailing with his love, but he could also be firm and very much to the point with his love. Some goof people were offended by this. Most of us get about thirty seconds a year of education concerning Dr. King's life. I wish it was thirty seconds of The Letter From Birmingham Jail, rather than thirty seconds of the "I have a dream" speech from the March on Washington.
I've got to thank your first commenter. I'll have minutes of fun for the next couple of days, deciding what's goof and what's baf.
Let's see, "HISTORY" is goof.
People who complain about "those people" are pretty baf.

Anonymous said...

Love the Wells Fargo picture. There we have it.