Letters for December 9 

Readers sound off on Marcel Diallo, PG&E, and the milk industry.

Page 3 of 8

There is so much more that I could add to this letter because there are so many more inaccuracies and misleading and damaging conclusions from Mr. Gammon's article. But for now I will just finish the story about the farm, only one of the several grassroots community enterprises currently being incubated on Pine Street.

After receiving zero funds for the farm from the CBDG board, we kept on working on the project anyway, eventually securing small grants from Kaiser Permanente and the Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation. To date, the farm compost system is up and running with the red wiggler worms getting nice and fat. The community has built the first aquaponics systems, they however need to get the greenhouse finished before they can add fish to the tank. Local businesses are supplying the resource streams for the compost: coffee grounds, brewery waste, sawdust and wood chips, food scraps. Community volunteers are there every day working on the project. Ecocity Builders and the Village Bottoms Neighborhood are jointly gearing up to apply to more funding sources to build out the prototype farm. The vision is to eventually expand farther down the street where one day a much larger urban farming enterprise could start providing more fresh and healthy food to the community while creating jobs and food security in the neighborhood.

The plan is part of a larger vision for the sustainable development of the entire Lower Bottoms. If you are interested we have a sixty-page booklet outlining the vision, along with a comprehensive section on the history of the area and another section on the residents' vision for its sustainable future. Their vision is about honoring, supporting, and uplifting local culture, the environment, and the economy, 

I hope the slanted and inflammatory article in the Express has perked your interest in finding out what's actually going on in the Lower Bottoms in West Oakland. Please stop by the Black Dot Cafe, have a cup of tea, and learn more about the positive vision for the community.

Kirstin Miller, Executive Director, Ecocity Builders, Oakland

Cut Diallo Some Slack

In the November 18 article "You Don't Know Jack," Robert Gammon seems to have traded in his role as a journalist for that of prosecutor, judge, and jury all in one. It's one thing to report that Marcel Diallo is accused of sending a fraudulent e-mail (with no proof that he actually did). But spending two-thirds of the article on a one-sided attempt to paint Marcel as a desperate scam artist without any kind of alternate viewpoint does not reflect well on Mr. Gammon's journalistic integrity. He really sounds more like Max Allstadt's PR manager than a reporter for a weekly newspaper.Marcel's biggest offense, as spun off in the title of the story, seems to be that his real name is Marcel Diallo Jack, not Marcel Diallo. Ha, gotcha! Anyone not going by their birth name obviously can't be trusted with truth-telling, especially if he's a poet. You know, like Bob Dylan, that lying, cheating sun of a gun. Seriously, you're going to discredit someone because he has an artist name?The next thing Marcel apparently has going against him in Robert Gammon's trust department is that he's poor and got hit hard by the current housing crisis. Gee, if only he had a trust fund while growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, we'd cut him some slack. But no, who on earth does he think he is, trying to get loans to buy and remodel property and revive the neighborhood he and generations of his family grew up in?I applaud Mr. Gammon's thoroughness in raking through every detail of Marcel Diallo's finances, but I wish he had spent even a fraction of that time coming down to the Village Bottoms and talking with the community members. He would have found that "the gated vacant lot that appears to resemble a farm" is an aquaponic system, a method of growing crops and fish together on re-circulating raised beds, based on MacArthur Fellowship recipient Will Allen's inner-city farming model.He also would have found that Marcel and the community have been diligently working with Ecocity Builders on a plan to rebuild the Village Bottoms, not only to create new opportunities for a community beaten down by a history of discriminatory urban planning decisions, but to heal the wounds of the past by honoring its cultural roots and integrating 21st-century environmental principles. I know this because I was a volunteer in doing the historical research for the sixty-page booklet.I don't know who wrote the e-mails in question, and neither does Robert Gammon. But I do know that this kind of attempt at character assassination doesn't help anyone with a sincere interest in rebuilding a struggling neighborhood. Why not come down to the Black Dot Cafe and talk to the locals. I guarantee there won't be any unreturned phone calls.  

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