Letters for May 13 

Readers sound off on Burners and JR Valrey.

"Burners Torched Over Native Party," Music, 4/1

An Opportunity Missed

The intention of this letter is not to further fan the flames of the conflict that has arisen over Visionary Village's party theme "Go Native" but rather to express concern and disappointment in the East Bay Express for allowing such a slanted, inaccurate, dismissive, and historically ignorant article to be published in your paper, hidden in the April Fools issue. While the article thoroughly chronicled the "lecturing," "blasting," and "excoriation" of the young Visionary Village representatives, it does little to uncover the reason behind the anger expressed by Native American and allied non-native community members. This lack of understanding, and apparent lack of interest in understanding why fifty or more Native American people would take five hours out of their Saturday evenings to speak to a gathering like this, highlights the very ignorance that angered people in the first place.

The dispute is depicted as though some foolish youth made a simple mistake and were then forced to endure strict punishment that outweighed the original infraction. However the "go easy on them" sentiment expressed by the author seems to only extend one direction. It is not easily disputed that this country was founded on the genocide of Native American communities. And while Native Americans in this country continue to face the calculated cultural genocide of relocation, destruction of sacred lands, poverty and marginalization, they are expected to take lightly the further dismissal of their human rights by flattening their lives into party themes akin to aliens, cartoons, and fire dragons.

Regardless of the direction the party planners intended their party theme of "Go Native" to take, there must be some responsibility taken by the planners for its contribution to the pervading racist stereotypes of Native Americans common in this country. The article failed to recognize the tremendous restraint and compassion from the Bay Area Native community in generously taking time out to address this oversight with Visionary Village and instead depicted the "real Natives" as hyper-sensitive or over-reacting.

Where are the hordes of outraged people asking Peabody Coal Company or Newmont Mining Corp to "go easy on 'em" as they destroy the ancestral homelands of the remaining Native Americans who have survived over 500 years of genocide? In addition to the historical facts of small-pox blankets, massacres of men women and children, broken treaties, Indian Schools, and relocation, the current struggles Native Americans face were not researched and presented as essential background information for the outrage at being dismantled and romanticized into a "four directions" party theme. Without this information, the anger expressed at the event cannot be understood. It is irresponsible for East Bay Express to publish such an inflammatory, unprofessionally researched article.

The Visionary Village's party theme was a narrow-minded mistake. In all of the web wars that have resulted from this mistake being brought to Visionary Village's attention, little has been done to educate themselves to understand the Native American community's perspective, accept responsibility and apologize for the obvious ignorance, and move on to a place of greater understanding and true support for one another. This article did nothing more than provide a platform for further distortion of the facts by yet another unaccountable contributor to this growing conflict. East Bay Express reporters should accurately cover the history behind the anger, giving a balanced coverage of the tears and frustration on all sides, as well as offering solutions such as supporting the ongoing struggles of Native American communities like the Western Shoshone to defend their sacred places from Barrick Gold Corporation. How many Emeryville residents know they are living on sacred Ohlone ground where developers destroyed a shell mound and named a mall after it? The East Bay Express can spread awareness of the Shell Mound Walk that happens each year and provide links to for concerned people to get involved at websites like VallejoIntertribalCouncil.org, BSNorrell.blogspot.com, and BlackMesaIS.org. The article also failed to cover the greater awareness and responsibility that is now being held by courageous and humble non-native individuals who stopped defending their ignorance, and have benefited from this wake up call.

Conflict can serve to transform peoples' understanding dramatically. Though the article represents a missed opportunity for that possibility, further pieces that delve deeper and honor the wisdom and experience of Native voices might perhaps offer some remedy to the oversights and misrepresentation in the article that was printed.

A group of Native and non-native allies concerned with holding the community accountable for acts that perpetuate racism

"Agent Provocateur," Feature, 4/8

Valrey Is Responsible

This is the problem with Oakland: White cop shoots and kills black male, riots ensue. Black male kills four cops and is considered a hero by some. On the surface to the untrained soul, the five deaths appear to be about skin color but underneath it all there is a spiritual conflict between good vs. evil, compassion vs. aggression and love vs. hate.

Hate is merely energy, a vibration. It doesn't care what skin color you are and like a disease it seeks a host. It's apparent that hate has found a hospitable home in the heart of JR Valrey. If Oakland learned to love more there would be less space for hate. JR Valrey is adding fuel to the already burning fire and is just as responsible for the anger and hatred that thrives in Oakland. He's no better than the system he claims to hate.

[name withheld by request, Berkeley]

Living Up to the Title

As far as I'm concerned JR is indeed an agent provocateur and I can site several instances of his reactionary actions. Firstly, he was with me on 9/11 in New York, actually we were in Newark watching the twin towers fall from our hotel window. JR interviewed me with the twin towers in the background. He has refused to give me a copy of this footage. I asked community brothers to intervene but to no avail. I have wanted to give him a beat down, but how would that look — Marvin X beats down youth he's supposed to be saving. Anyway, we then go down to Broad and Market where an agent is awaiting us. As I interviewed people while JR filmed, the agent followed us inch for inch, toe to toe. When we moved up the street, he moved with us. When we crossed the street, he crossed with us. I think JR told this agent to meet him/us there. Again, JR has this footage and has refused to give me a copy of my and his work. Then when we return to the Bay a friend of mine was approached by some black Muslims who told him I had been saying some things about the Muslims and he should stay away from me. Now the only person I was talking with about Muslims was JR on the plane to New York. I don't know if he was bugged or not, but only JR could have told the Muslims what I said.

Also, JR has been recording important events for years but has not released the tapes, such as the Tupac Conferences, thus is guilty of withholding information, which is why I call him the Minister of Misinformation. He has also taken pictures of me at events with other radical brothers but when the pics appeared in the Bay View, he had cut me out of the picture. This I call the sin of omission or Misinformation.

He has tried to provoke me into kicking his ass on several occasions in the public but I have resisted because I know he is a sick puppy on a mission from the devil.

Most importantly, his calls to Bey IV on the morning of Chauncey's murder must be explained, otherwise we can only think he was involved. How can he say he was Chauncey's friend when he is on the phone talking with the murder suspects in front of Chauncey's house a few hours before the murder? If he were Chauncey's friend, why didn't he inform Chauncey about what was getting ready to go down?

Again, my main fear has been of his association with Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., that JR would set him up as the agent set up his father, Fred Hampton Sr.

I am happy he has been exposed. Maybe the devil is setting him up for disposition. Perhaps he has outlived his usefulness.

Lastly, Attorney Walter Riley, lawyer for Paul Cobb and the Oakland Post, informed me he received a phone call from JR threatening him to not write negative stories about the Bakery. If JR was a friend of Chauncey's why would he make calls on behalf of the murder suspects?

Furthermore, he was kicked out of Paul Cobb's office for demanding he replace Chauncey Bailey his so-called friend, but again, if he were Chauncey's friend wouldn't he call to tell him there were murder suspects parked outside his apartment? Instead, he's in repeated phone conversations with the suspects while they are parked in front of Chauncey's apartment. As my friend in DC says, "It just doesn't make sense!"

He was also kicked out of KPOO radio by Terri Collins when he came in acting like he was going to take over the radio station. The boy is a sick puppy and in serious need of a mental health program. He believes in Revolutionary Suicide and thus wants someone to take him out. He tried to provoke me on several occasions but I refused to kill a dead fly that is already dead.

Marvin X, Berkeley

Throwing Blame

JR Valrey is quoted as saying "I did a very shallow investigation."

True indeed if he believes that foul-mouthed, divisiveness-fomenting blamethrowing has improved life for anyone in the East Bay over the last 40 years.

Sociologists doing a more-than-shallow investigation looked for any factors that were meaningful in predicting whether a kid was likely to grow into a violent felon or a drug-abuser. Across ALL LINES of race, economic status, gender, and educational background, they found exactly one meaningful factor: growing up in a home without a father.

Oakland's cops neither force teens to get pregnant nor force males to abandon their offspring.

If Valrey were more interested in our community than in his own glorification, he'd use his pulpits to address that very real problem.

David Altschul, Berkeley

Going Where the Mainstream Won't

Halfway into Benjamin Taylor's radically un-revealing portrait of a reporter as a news-bit curiosity, a little of his journalistic creed comes out: "[R]eporting the news," he suggests, is properly a process of "adher[ing] to the same journalistic standards embraced by mainstream journalists," whereas those who stray from the mainstream can be categorized as ones who "have less interest in reporting the news than in giving voice to the perceived underdog." Well, Gary Webb, the San Jose Mercury News reporter who broke the story on how the CIA brought drugs to the inner city — and then lost his job and career for doing so, even though no one could ever deny his basic facts — was, I guess, according to Mr. Taylor's division, just one of those curiosities who perceived underdogs in this world. The problem is, police brutality is brutally real, and has been so for decades in Oakland, and we're all supporting it with our tax dollars, even the victims. The rage and fear of the police by youth and adults in Oakland is also real — because nothing has been done about police violence since at least the Black Panthers organized to bring about some change but were instead targeted by local political leaders as terrorists for putting forward possible solutions like real accountability to the community. Working with Oakland youth for a year and a half, I have heard countless stories of surprising disrespect, routine misconduct, and even killing by Oakland police — yet these stories barely get a blip in the mainstream news if they weren't caught on camera. I certainly think JR Valrey is deeply mistaken to suggest there was anything heroic about Lovelle Mixon's killing of four police officers, but I deeply appreciate his reporting which has brought to me eyewitness accounts, for example, of the police shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Gary King not long ago in North Oakland. Two of the young people I have worked with knew Gary, and one of them actually witnessed the shooting himself — and likely still suffers PTSD from the event as a consequence, not to mention the effect such witnessing has on his view of his own life's possibilities. I'll continue to subscribe to the SF Bayview to find news that goes where the mainstream media won't: for example, into the lives of Oakland youth.

Jonas LaMattery-Brownell, Oakland

Editor's Note

Actually, Gary Webb's "basic facts" are highly disputed and many were retracted by the San Jose Mercury News.

Promote Peace

After having read Benjamin Taylor's Feature, I must say that it is amazing to me how a "Reporter" can easily capitalize on a trajedy such as the death of the four police men and a young man who died in the Bart station for deflecting wrongful acts to distorting them as justful ones for equal rights. In my opinion, Mr. Valrey needs to go and live in third world countries especially in India where his predecessor, Martin Luther King became enlightened with using "nonviolence" as the ultimate tool for the obtainment of human justice. At least Mr. Valrey admits to have capitalize on the vulnerability the public displays to the media. Proposition 8 is a good example of this type of distortion. When has one have to think on saying "Yes" meaning "No"? As I read his comments and his association with Yusuf Bey IV with another entity, the UHURU organization, I can only say that they are no different then the men who rape the women and young girls in Africa as a substitute of using expensive artillery as a form of winning their battles. If Mr. Valrey and his affiliates are in deed for human justice for the people of color, then they would adopt Martin Luther King's messages and be proactive in enhancing peace and education. Look how far Mr. King's message has gone compared to "Tookie" Williams and Leonard "Deadeye" McKenzie's messages. One cannot compare the type of energies that derive from these parties. My message to all of you, Mr. Valrey, Vey IV, and the UHURU folks: Become proactive in education and peace. Education is what qualifies one to the opportunities that get encountered throughout one's life. As adults, we are the curators for our children in this world.

Elsa Monroe, Oakland


The April 22 Full Disclosure, "Measure Y and the Oakland Budget Mess," used out-of-date figures to describe how much Measure Y produces in annual revenues for the City of Oakland. According to Mayor Ron Dellums' 2009-11 budget, Measure Y, which pays for community policing, some fire department services, and several anti-violence programs, is expected to generate about $20 million in annual tax revenues for each of the next two years — not about $12.5 million, as the story stated.


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