Letters for the week of February 23-March 1, 2005

Steve Elliott's fantasy world; Hayward is hardly whitebread; The Thursday Club evokes memories, emotions, and more debate.

“Tell Me Where it Hurts,” Books, 1/26

The corrections
Thank you for writing about my son Stephen Elliott. Just the usual corrections:

1. His family home was not “marked by addiction and abuse.” Steve was the only one there who did drugs and alcohol.

2. Steve did not “graduate from a school of hard knocks.” He grew up in an upper-middle-class Jewish neighborhood, graduated from grammar school and high school in that neighborhood, and then attended university full time without having to work at a job.

3. He did not leave home “at the tender age of thirteen,” but at fourteen.

4. He did not spend “what would have been his last year of junior high school homeless.” Steve never missed a year of high school.

5. Steve never “had nowhere to go but group homes.” He always had plenty of rich relatives — including me — willing to take him in.

6. He was in “homes with problem kids” only a couple of months, and he didn’t encounter much violence there.

7. He was not “escaping violence” by leaving our family home, since there was no violence there.

8. Steve was in graduate school at Northwestern when he did his heroin overdose.

Don’t feel badly for being suckered. It is Steve’s custom to manipulate journalists and his image for professional purposes. He wants to seem interesting and dramatic. The Eminem of the literary world. What’s funny is that the real story is more interesting than the crap he invents. He once told me, “I don’t know why I tell lies.” I don’t either.
Neil Elliott, Evanston, Illinois

“A Warrior for the Soul of Hayward,” City of Warts, 2/2

CSU Wayward
Matt Hamlet might know the city fathers, but I know the university’s administration even better. A more dirty, underhanded group you will never meet. Employees of the school are well aware of president Norma Rees’ anti-employee tactics, and I could make your head spin telling the truth of the school’s dirty tricks to get those who speak out against them. The name change showed the whole city they extend that hate to the blue-collar and minority culture that is Hayward.
Adrian Escoto, Hayward

Bring on La Raza
I beg to differ with the Russell City tattooist on his assessment of Hayward. It is far from becoming whitebread Walnut Creek. It is now majority Latino. The older Haywardians complain about the increasing housing density around the Hayward BART station, while I celebrate it. I do not enjoy the postwar suburban sprawl which most of Hayward is. Also, the complaints of density are a veiled swipe against Latino families who are contributing to “overcrowding.” The city is obviously trying to attract the upscale commuters to settle near the BART station. Whatever creates more density in Hayward will make the downtown more vibrant and interesting.
Noelle Gillies, Hayward

“Roller Derby,” Film, 2/2

Heck of a deal
Kelly Vance’s excellent piece accurately described George Csicsery’s ground-breaking and inspirational film, The Thursday Club. Too bad the Express couldn’t see fit to offer front-page graphic art depicting cop and protester in an act of mutual understanding. … I guess it’s all too easy — and expected — to plaster a photo of the usual, trite, black rapper dudes looking all tough. Yawn. The image Friday night of former cop and former protester hugging each other onstage was tear-jerking. I hope a staff photographer was present to capture this wonderful event. Thank you, George, for a night to be remembered — heck of a deal for only eight bucks!
James Oterreau, El Cerrito

Don’t buy the whitewashing
As a newcomer to the Oakland Museum of California, I was very much surprised and enthralled as me and my cousins made our way through the throngs of people who turned out for the reception on Friday night. After having read the spot about the film The Thursday Club in this paper I was inspired to check it out, being an antiwar protester and wanting to understand more about the dynamics of this particular era in US history.

But I do have to point out what a disappointment The Thursday Club entailed for me. Seduced by imagery presented with a radical tilt, I went to the premiere with the hopes of fuel for my dissenting ambitions, although quite to the contrary: I found the film sidestepping a lot of the issues that were at play then and are even more relevant in these times.

Spearheading the bulk of commentary in the film was a plethora of retired officers from the Oakland Police Department who had been on duty in these tumultuous times, and throughout the film effectively propagated a message of justification for the use of police brutality against civic organizations confronting the government policies that had resulted in more than three million deaths.

As well, the retired officer’s account of the activities of the Black Panther Party in Oakland is little more than an attempt to whitewash the vicious, racist war that had been/is being waged against Oakland’s impoverished and exploited sectors by the Oakland Police Department. Don’t let the accounts of cute old men recollecting from their La-Z-Boys attest to the atrocities of police departments from across the US during the Vietnam War era. As we see the authoritarian mobilizations like those at the Free Trade Association of the Americas demonstrations in Miami or the Republican National Convention in New York City where a rigid, unyielding force was unleashed to crush the presence of social justice representatives at these conventions, it becomes increasingly more important for a clear representation of police forces in these situations. And as much as the officers in the film attested “we were just doing our job” or “we were just following orders” from their “hierarchy” to maintain “the status quo,” they aren’t acting in the name of justice and the people in the communities where they work and which they had also made references to in regards to police duty.

Although a unique perspective is uncovered on these issues, don’t accept The Thursday Club as a reliable account of these issues that are/were at hand in Oakland and the national/international level as well.
H.B. Halverson, Berkeley

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