Letters for the week of February 25-March 2, 2004 

Youth centers and pot smoke; Some mixed reviews on Magic; Punk rock never existed; and a Brit tickled by fried Ho Hos.

"A Danger to Oakland?" Letters, 2/18

Roosevelt replies
I am the executive director of the Sexual Minority Alliance of Alameda County Youth Center (SMAAC) in Oakland. Since November 2002, SMAAC has posed two questions to local officials: "Is it appropriate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth of color to frequent a youth center filled with marijuana smoke?" and "Should marijuana dispensaries be allowed to exist so close to a preexisting youth center (in our case, right next door)?"

The question is not whether Roosevelt Mosby Jr. is a "big lovable queen." It is not whether I tried to shake the cannabis clubs down, nor whether I am "a danger to the [city of] Oakland." The question is not whether I "play the race card," nor if I have "bamboozled the black leadership at the Alameda County Office of AIDS." The question is not about my popularity, nor whether medical marijuana is legitimate.

The question has simply always been and continues to be whether "Oaksterdam" is an environment conducive to high-risk young people receiving and employing a message to reduce or end their substance use. We have it on record that some from the Oakland City Council don't believe Oaksterdam is an acceptable environment for youth. If this is the case, then I do have another question: How responsible are local officials being if their cannabis policies do not go into effect until June 2004, leaving young people in danger until then? June will make 21 months since we first questioned the unholy mixture of youth safety and addictive substances.

In these election times, shouldn't we support candidates who vote to swiftly remove young people from danger? We must elect people who value all of us. Remember, young people will continue to languish in Oaksterdam for another four months, SMAAC's official youth center site remains closed, and business in Oaksterdam and at City Hall continues as usual.
Roosevelt Mosby, Jr., Oakland

"Magic Man," Feature, 2/4

Greetings from Iceland
I just wanted to let you know that if you were planning on spending a lot of time studying a trading-card game that you were then planning on writing a six-page report about, then you failed miserably. First off, did you even study the game at all? I don't mean to tell you to do something that you hate, but when a person writes a six-page-long report about something that I'm familiar with, but the report turns out to be about something totally different, I get offended.

Your writing is full of generalizations, prejudgment and, well, stupidity, and I hope you never write anything again.
Ari Kristinn Gunnarsson, former MTG player, Reykjavik, Iceland

Greetings from Berkeley
I found myself rather shocked that you did not mention Eudemonia. Hugh Moore and other "pros" have been showing up there to play Magic every Tuesday night. It's located in downtown Berkeley and has a huge play space, and unlike every other card shop in existence actually has really nice wooden tables. (Eudemonia.net is their Web site.) They even have Web cams so people at home can see what's going on.

On a less concerning and somewhat standard note, there are many trivial inaccuracies in the article as the author clearly doesn't understand Magic at all.
Robert Hetherington, Berkeley

Hey, Grandma liked it
Alex Handy has made what, to me, would be an esoteric and uninteresting subject absolutely fascinating. This grandmother thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Diane Mizelle, Easton, Maryland

"SMAAC in the Face of Oaksterdam," City of Warts, 1/28

SMAAC kids are no angels
I am not a pot smoker; I am a medical marijuana activist. I am the wife of a patient, and I am personally grateful that my husband (a Stevens-Johnson Reaction-, allergic-to-EVERYTHING, serious-seizure-disorder patient) is able to obtain the medicine that allows him to lessen the seizures. I often sit, drink my coffee, and watch, and the pot clubs are helping. There are some seriously ill people going in and out, and I am so glad they can.

I have also witnessed and been harassed by the SMAAC kids, who are no innocents. There are a number of those kids who walk up and down the streets and harass persons leaving the club demanding that they be sold pot, etc. The patients would not sell to them -- I would bet my life on it. These patients all treasure their clubs, and Oakland. Anyway, those kids are usually up to no good, and a few engage openly in prostitution. I am sad that they represent themselves and their community so poorly. What I say is true, and unfortunate. I would ask for the residents of Oakland to come down, become informed, and see the benefits to those whom truly deserve this. I mean, some of these people are dying; we should all support them and this freedom.
Audrey Fairburn-Kirby, Oakland

The Mekons, Punk Rock, Hearsay, 1/28

What? No Santa Claus?
The Mekons can do what they want. Go make your own record if you don't think they should record their own songs again. Songs ain't no sacred cows. You don't create anything; you just poke at other people's work. The Mekons can rerecord their songs when they're eighty if they want to. Perhaps you'll have an opinion about it then, plopped again on pages whose only purpose is to carry advertisements. And by the way, there is no such thing as punk rock. Never was. There's no Santa Claus either. Have fun.
Donald Twain, Berkeley

"Class Struggle," Bottom Feeder, 1/21

Harper showed his prejudice
Mr. Harper did a fine job of demonstrating the violence of his own prejudice and perceptions of young people of color. He also shared with us his revanchist political stance and hubris. What he did not do is consider thoughtfully what young people of color are facing in this society and why a place like the School for Social Justice, which makes a critical intervention in young people's lives and awareness, needs to exist.

A report recently issued by the Office of the Attorney General condemned the numerous and pervasive human-rights violations in institutions operated by the California Youth Authority. According to this report, we, as taxpayers, are financing the sexual, medical, and physical abuse of our own young people in the name of "reform and rehabilitation." Our police officers, the ones we pay, will not hesitate to murder unarmed young black men in cold blood on mere suspicion.

In this environment of institutionalized violence targeting young people of color, I am glad that the students at the School for Social Justice are not demonized, but rather have staunch allies in their teachers and administrators. I am glad they are developing in a nourishing intellectual atmosphere that provides a useful framework for understanding their own life experiences and going on to college, should they choose. I salute Kali Akuno-Williams and his staff for the vision and hard work they have put into creating and running the School for Social Justice. Its innovative curriculum and student-centered learning approach are very much on target. As a native of Oakland, I want to see more support for this school and others like it, so that our young people can have the tools that they need to thrive and grow.

I'm not sure why the editor of this paper gives Will Harper so much room to masturbate. I would like to see more concern for and connection to this community reflected in the pages of the Express.

Nadine Wilmot, Berkeley

"Frying Ho Hos with Betty G," Food Fetish, 1/14

Deep-fried laughs
Thanx to Michelle Turner's article on frying food stuff! She's always entertaining, and if I read her articles late at night I laugh so hard I can't sleep for hours. Your talent and sense of humour are more than appreciated. Happy cooking!
Rodger Meadows, Oakland
Yes, I'm British (humour).

"Pirate Radio," Music, 1/14

Sea shanties get their due
Nice article, and pretty good description of all the characters mentioned. I'm part of a group called Dogwatch Nautical Band. We began performing this music in 1979 at the Dickens Fair. All the singers you mentioned are good friends of mine, and it's fun to see this sudden interest in the music we have been performing for (in the case of Skip, Doug, and Dave) over twenty years. Articles keep turning up all the time lately.

For some perspective, a big crowd at the Sea Music Festival would be a couple thousand passing through on any day. In Europe they hold festivals where attendance is thirty thousand to fifty thousand a day! Europeans seem to embrace diverse types of music, like classical music, more readily.
Gary Keep, Alameda


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