Letters for December 9 

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

Page 5 of 8

I also disagree with the sentence which says that my friends and I are "challenging the neighborhood's traditional black and progressive power structure" in West Oakland. West Oakland's political leadership is among the most diverse in the city. Consider our community boards, our councilmember, and our school board representative — the big picture of West Oakland is that we are an encouraging collection of ethnic and socioeconomic pluralities. I also feel that the fairest characterization of my own political views is that I am very progressive in a neighborhood that tends to be very very progressive. Divisions in West Oakland are not nearly as wide as some might think.

These minor issues aside, Mr. Gammon's article was important, and his research uncovered many important facts that I had not been aware of. His willingness to take this on has focused media scrutiny on Mr. Diallo's enterprises. Previously it seemed that Mr. Diallo had been able to control his own media exposure, leading other news outlets to unquestioningly portray him as he desired.

Max Allstadt, Oakland

Stoking Racial Fires

I have worked with Diallo's group, Black Dot Artists, directly as a community planner over the past six months. I am deeply disappointed by the lack of journalistic honor in Robert Gammon's article, "You Don't Know Jack." It is one-sided, inaccurate, and irresponsible. Gammon is as capable of critical thinking as Allstadt's dictaphone, and did not seek Diallo's and/or other community members' perspectives. It is obvious from his article that Gammon has never visited the Village Bottoms. His article stokes dangerously divisive racial fires that will further disempower West Oakland's black communities and speed up gentrification. I demand that Gammon visit the Village Bottoms, inform himself, and do what is responsible as a journalist to correct misperceptions that may have resulted from his slanderous article.If unbeknownst to Gammon, he is sowing the very seed of gentrification Diallo and other West Oakland community leaders have been trying to nip in the bud. What is Allstadt doing in West Oakland, "challenging the neighborhood's traditional black and progressive power structure"? Is it not enough that in the 1950s, in the name of "urban renewal," black folks were ripped out of areas like the Fillmore and West Oakland? In the last half century, the USPS distribution center, the Cypress freeway, and the BART track and station displaced hundreds of families from West Oakland, barricading the remaining families from services, downtown, and political power. It is time the region acknowledged we benefit from the cultural wealth of African Americans as we do from a Chinatown or the Mission district. Building the groundwork for the black cultural district has not been easy and Gammon just hosed it down the drain.By funding City Slicker Farms, a white-led feel-good nonprofit, Oakland's CDBG funding is supporting the charitable model that locks in low-income African Americans into a class status few want to stay in. Diallo's Village Bottoms Farms promotes entrepreneurship and economic self-reliance, "teaching a man how to fish," instead of "giving him a fish." Neither model is more correct than the other, but both should be able to co-exist; power and resources should be shared equitably.

In my view, it remains inconclusive that Marcel Diallo is indeed the originator of the e-mails from MaxAllstadt@gmail.com. West Oakland is widely known as an Internet desert, and Black Dot Cafe is one of the local hot spots. Wi-fi access is available to anyone visiting the cafe, during and after business hours. Many people drive by and park outside the cafe to access the Internet. Anyone — including Max Allstadt's cronies — could have sent that e-mail fraudulently.

Evidence of Gammon's lowball character assassination, that I demand he retracts immediately:

1) His calling out Diallo's real name. Many spoken-word poets and other artists have alternate names. This bears no importance to the subject at hand. This is muckraking at the kindergarten sandbox level.

2) Foreclosures in West Oakland and many other communities across the country is not news. At the height of the housing boom, many low-income families of color were targeted by predatory lenders. Many of these lenders knew these families could not afford a house but were encouraged to buy. Even middle-class families were victims of adjustable rate mortgages and ensuing foreclosures. This reflects a failure in the government and real-estate industry's systems, more than the individuals' failure.

3) Gammon is ignorant of the fact that "financial grants received from the city for after-school arts programs" are not supposed to help pay mortgages. Such funds are restricted to be used for after-school arts programs.

4) "The black empowerment leader ... being propped up financially by a prominent white businessman" is an incomplete description of Diallo's and Holliday's partnership. Why would Holliday, an astute businessman, simply give Diallo a free lunch? An urban planner by training, Holliday knows that unless the area develops and improves as a whole, his housing project will not see favorable sales. 

5) Gammon obviously has never been to the Black New World or the farm, as he describes the Black New World building as "a rusted, corrugated metal shack with at least one large hole in the side. As for Village Bottoms Farms, it's a gated vacant lot, and the only thing that appears to resemble a farm is a mid-size planter with some tomato vines in it."

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