Letters for the week of May 18-24, 2005

Our account of the row between Patrick McCullough and the attorney for the young man he shot provokes much discussion about race.

“Most Successful Supplicant,” Best of the East Bay, 4/6

Best actor
Thank you so much for listing Will Work for Food or $ in your recent Best of the East Bay. I wake up to find myself the Most Successful Supplicant. What a treat! Was there widespread competition? Did I beat out a field of hundreds? No matter; best not to know. What is important is that the people of the East Bay saved my life with work, money, and kindness when I had to beg. What an exquisite time. They will never be forgotten.

Will Work for Food or $ records that time and what it was like to be there. But it is also a record of someone finding his calling. So, while you say I became a gardener, which is true, it is equally true that I became an actor. And if I may append a plug to the medal you have so generously given, I have acted from that day to this, and am presently rehearsing Of Mice and Men to be done at the Belrose Theatre in San Rafael, June 10 to July 30. So you see — even better!

Thank you again, and, as I learned to say on the roadside — God bless you.
Bruce Moody, Crockett


“Take Back the Night, Part II,” City of Warts, 4/27

Take back the right
I take strong issue with Chris Thompson’s gross distortion of what I said to him as well as his statement about antipornography feminists in general. He claimed that “Now, antiporn feminists increasingly turn to born-again Christians in their search for allies, as Russell did at a visit to Southern California’s Vanguard University last year.” Firstly, I did not go to Vanguard University (a Christian institution) to search for allies. I went to earn money and to share my views on pornography. I will do this for any group who will pay me my requested fee.

Secondly, I told Thompson that the students who initiated a two-hour discussion session after my formal speech and presentation of pornography appeared to be very receptive to my radical feminist analysis of this misogynist propaganda. Following this discussion, a large group of them went to picket pornography stores and movie houses in the nearby shopping area. I would have happily joined them had I not been exhausted.

More importantly, on what basis does Thompson assume that the Christians I spoke to were “born-again” types? Indeed, he appears to assume that ALL Christians are such. If “born-again” is a code word for Christian fundamentalist, MY assumption is that millions of Christians cannot be so identified. Furthermore, Christian fundamentalists would almost certainly not be receptive to feminist reasons for opposing pornography, i.e., the misogyny inherent in it, and the fact that exposure and masturbation to such material reinforces misogynistic attitudes and cognitive distortions as well as promoting misogynistic behavior, including rape in some cases.

As one of the founding members of Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media in San Francisco in 1976, the first feminist antipornography organization in the United States, the women attending our meetings were divided regarding opposition to prostitution and the practice of sadomasochism. Although I personally found this difficult to understand and was myself strongly opposed to both prostitution and sadomasochism, we agreed to disagree on these issues, and to focus exclusively on our shared opposition to pornography. Many people believe in having coalitions between groups with different beliefs for certain purposes, for example, opposing the election of George Bush. Similarly, right, liberal, and left-wing gay men may agree to work together on shared issues such as legalizing gay marriage. It seems to be only the very few radical antipornography feminists who believe in sometimes working with Christians or Republicans — however temporarily — who are attacked for so doing.

Finally, I don’t believe that Thompson is correct in saying that antipornography feminists are increasingly working with Christians now. It seems that his distorted story about me is cited as the only “evidence” for this.
Diana E.H. Russell, Ph.D, Berkeley


“Baiting the 59th Street Vigilante,” East Side Story, 4/27

Race in Oakland, part 1
I have read Justin Berton’s article in your previous publication about the case involving Patrick McCullough and my client Melvin McHenry. For the record, Justin Berton’s article was at best 30 to 40 percent accurate and that is being generous. I find it so very impressive that Justin Berton seemed to hear everything I said everywhere at the scene and everything everyone else said and then of course be everywhere at all times. I don’t recall him being anywhere around me most of the time, but who wants to ruin a good story with accurate facts? In addition, Justin Berton’s “handwritten notes” that “paraphrased” my interaction with Patrick McCullough were also woefully off the mark.

This case is a real-life dispute in our city of Oakland. It is not a joke or vehicle of entertainment, as Justin Berton attempts to portray. I was born and raised in Oakland. I went to the Oakland public schools all the way through. I played baseball virtually every day (and at night during the summer) for many years, either at Bushrod Park or at Fruitvale Field. Bushrod Park is my neighborhood, and always will be. I take great offense at Justin Berton characterizing me as an outsider and then stating I intentionally put on some kind of show for the press, using nothing more than hearsay statements to back up his ridiculous, slanderous quotes. If anyone is an outsider, it is Justin Berton. Where is he from?

I have nothing against Patrick McCullough. I am saddened by this entire situation and what it has become. I hope we can — and we all should — make peace, move forward, and even perhaps find what we have in common. It could be more than you think. We are all in this together, trying to make the city of Oakland a better place. As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated, “Let us all sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” So do not let some writer from your publication who is trying to write a story use our city for his own reasons, that of writing a story. We are better than that.
Ivan W. Golde, attorney for Melvin McHenry, Oakland


Race in Oakland, part 2
Justin Berton characterizes the press conference in support of Melvin McHenry and his family as “surreal.” His article supports the views of Patrick McCullough, whom he calls a “righteous homeowner” and portrays as the victim.

Berton is the one living in a dream world if he thinks that it is okay for a 49-year-old man to shoot a sixteen-year-old kid under the guise of fighting drugs. McCullough is an armed thug who has, over the years, proven that he is hostile to his own community by pinning the billion-dollar drug trade on poor African kids on his street and serving as the point person for white property owners who want to “clean up the neighborhood.” Most recently, McCullough showed his love for “his street” by shooting sixteen-year-old Melvin McHenry while McHenry was running away.

Instead of keeping an arrogant journalistic distance, Berton could have interviewed McHenry’s mother, who was present at the press conference. He could have shown the terror that she experiences living on the same block as the man who shot and could have killed her son. He could have interviewed Bakari Olatunji, president of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, and attempted to understand the importance of an organization in defense of the democratic rights of the black community.

Let’s get real! The fact is that 70 percent of drugs are used and sold by white people, yet we never see the police or a Patrick McCullough shooting a white youth in the hills or in the College Avenue area. If white homeowners and their lackeys want to find the drug dealers they should look downtown, in the hills, or at the Port of Oakland.

The African People’s Solidarity Committee calls on the white people to take a stand to stop these violent attacks on the African community. If we want peace and unity in our city, we must work for economic and social justice for black people. We need genuine economic investment that benefits the entire African community so that young people have a future to grow up to. It’s time for all of us in the white community to stop building our lifestyle and a future for our children at the expense of the African community.
Wendy Snyder, Oakland


Race in Oakland, part 3
I lived on 59th Street for several years, a couple of blocks from Shattuck. The last year I was there, three people were killed in that stretch of 59th. There’s a liquor store in the same block of that apartment complex, so all of the neighborhood’s bums were cutting across our yard to get to the store.

McCullough is black. Imagine a nonblack person like myself trying to stand up to this scum. I did, and some of them called the cops on me. When confronted, they’re mostly cowards; that’s why they join gangs. Anybody having to walk those streets would be a nut not to carry a gun. The reality is that most of the time there isn’t much difference between the shooters and the shot. The harassment was constant; gradually all of the nonblack tenants moved out. I was the only nonblack left, so the landlady evicted me. That’s the Bay Area’s politically correct solution!

If McCullough weren’t black, he would have to spend many years in jail. A white man who shot a black teenager trespassing in his yard in Oakland was sentenced to many years in jail. The white Uhuru supporters should be forced to live with Oakland’s criminal elements in order to test their political correctness.
Name withheld, San Leandro


Race in Oakland, part 4
Your article on the 59th Street vigilante was filled with fluff, slander, and diversion such as the interview by the attorney Golde, his responses to it, his bragging, and the supposed confusion by the LA Times correspondent, the white presumption that all black youth are drug dealing, and the denial that the Uhuru Movement is not a longtime grassroots organization. In contrast, the article was relatively void of any meaningful definition of the issues, i.e., the white gentrification of black neighborhoods, the special treatment afforded the shooter by the police, the immorality of shooting a teenager, the fact that the vigilante doesn’t admit shooting Melvin in the back, and the whole issue of vigilantes which the governor is championing at this time.

I live in San Francisco and I am white, but any rational human being should be outraged by the shooting in the back of a teenager. This human response has nothing to do with what your neighborhood is. Your article was very low level and unworthy of a big city newspaper.
Dave Reardon, San Francisco


Race in Oakland, part 5
Great article. Too much press coverage of these kinds of cases get caught up in spin/identity politics and play right into the spinners’ hands or the reporters’ own angles.

Yes, just like Tom Wolfe, only Berton knows not to run on for too long. I was torn between laughter and outrage, which I guess is the point.
Sheerly Avni, Oakland


“Where’s the Beef Juice?,” On Food, 4/20

I don’t eat meat, but …
Having been a past resident of Pittsburg, I wondered if you had sampled the burgers from Nation’s. I didn’t see their name mentioned in your article. I’m a vegetarian myself, but have trie d them and they are good. My adult son says they’re the best!

Elizabeth LaPrade, Richmond, Virginia


A rare treat
J. Kauffman is right about Luka’s and Cafe Rouge’s juiciness, but how could he ignore Bistro Burger in Frank Ogawa Plaza, across from Oakland City Hall? Niman Ranch meat, which they’ll cook rare. Mm, mm, juicy good.

Courtenay Peddle, Oakland


Try the meat pie
I suggest you need only go to one further spot: Meal Ticket on San Pablo Avenue, and while you are there, have a piece of homemade apple pie too. You’ll thank me.

John Bix, Berkeley


“Random Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Music, 4/20

Indian angel
It was great to see the Express take the time to do a write-up on Rock Lottery. One little point, though: The song by Potato Secretary was about an “Indian angel,” not an “eighteen-year-old angel.” I will blame you if I am stalked by high school seniors.

Pat Moran, San Francisco

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