Goin “Down Home”. Last week, as I was reluctantly writing a $1,500 check to send my two kids to a Berkeley summer camp, I started to think of what my parents, uncles and aunts did in the 1950’s and 60’s to provide childcare for their families during the summer months when school was out fulltime. The following is a story of how I spent my summers. Every summer, my younger brother and I spent the sultry months in a rural backwater somewhere on the eastern shore of Virginia. This southern outpost, which was reverently referred to as “Down Home” by my grandmother and assorted auntsRead More →

RUN, RON, RUN By Winston burton Like must people I know, I too am elated that Ron Dellums has won the election and will be the new Mayor of Oakland. His knowledge, experience and charisma has us all excited and full of hope for the potential he brings to turn things around. When he announced his intention to enter the mayor’s race at Laney College, the crowd chanted, “Run, Ron, Run!” and “Si Se Puede”. He laid out a vision in his unscripted remarks that promised to offer solutions to the big issues – including poverty, development and education – and to trigger national debate.Read More →

The Art of Tipping Tipping is not a city in China! I was twenty five years old and the middle son of three brothers who were going out for a night on the town. They are both great musicians, but usually broke. My father stopped us on the way out and said, “You guys should do what we used to do in the 1940’s. We would give all of our money to one person, he would pay for everything that night and everyone thought he had money. The next time out someone else would hold all the money and eventually people thought we all hadRead More →

Somebody Turn Off the Faucet: Vote Everyday By Winston Burton The day before Thanksgiving I was at an event in Oakland where well meaning local dignitaries volunteered to help cook and serve dinner to homeless and poor people. As the sumptuous meal was coming to an end one of the dignitaries spoke to those eating and said, “I’m glad I could be here tonight and help out, I promise I’ll be back for Christmas too.” Someone yelled out, “Great, but what am I supposed to eat until then!” There was no laughter only silence. For over 20 years I have worked at a local nonRead More →

FOLLOW THE LEADER By Winston Burton The following is an excerpt from the Phildelphia Daily News Posted on Tue, Feb. 28, 2006 Purcell Daniels Jr., a humble hero By JOHN F. MORRISON WITH COMPANY C pinned down by enemy fire in a battle during the Vietnam War, somebody had to get to a parked tank and take out the hostiles. There’s an Army adage that you don’t volunteer for anything, but Purcell Hayward Daniels Jr. paid no attention to that. To the surprise of his buddies, Purcell jumped up, ran to the tank and climbed inside. As related to his family by men who wereRead More →

Show Me The Street Money By Winston Burton We were standing on the corner in front of Rice’s Barbershop. There were about six of us between the ages of 18 and 21, African American males who had grown up together in the same West Philadelphia neighborhood. A black Chevy slowly approached and someone from inside the car rolled down the window leaned out the passenger side and shouted, “The Republicans are paying $75, go to the Overbrook High gym; the Republicans are paying $75!” A few weeks ago I saw a headline in the Oakland Tribune (April 12, 2008), “’Street money’ dispute threatens Obama,” andRead More →

NO TIME FOR CPT By Winston Burton I don’t know how many people are aware of CPT (colored people time), but it is a well-known term and tradition in communities of color. I’ve also recently heard of IST (Indian standard time) and another variation of CPT called Chinese people time. What it means to some is its OK to be late; what it implies is it’s cool to be late, not just sometimes but all the time. I’m in no way trying to suggest that only people of color are indifferent about time, no way! Malcolm X, in his autobiography, is quoted as saying heRead More →

UNDERNEATH THE SHADY TREE (AGAIN) “This is not the beginning of the end; this is the end of the beginning!” Winston Churchill I was sitting outside at a restaurant, on Center Street in downtown Berkeley, when my friend Martin the mailman approached. “Hey Winston, what’s going on with downtown Berkeley and all that stuff you were dreaming about two years ago? Pretending you were sitting under a shady tree in front of a grand hotel, looking at a new museum, kids playing in a plaza, a creek on this very block, and a Jimi Hendrix statue down the street. Looks the same to me!” “Martin,Read More →

The Future of Downtown: Underneath The Shady Tree I was sitting alone in downtown Berkeley, lost in thought, when my friend Martin the mailman approached. “Hey Winston what are you doing?” he asked. “I’m sitting here under this shady tree watching the kids playing in the fountain in front of the hotel and convention center”, I responded. “I don’t see any tree. What hotel, what fountain?” he replied. “Over there (pointing), next to the new university art museum and film center. Since they day lighted Strawberry Creek, and all of those new sidewalk cafés have sprung up, downtown has become a real jewel. I especiallyRead More →

FIELD OF DREAMS By Winston Burton He was out for some refreshment, an ice cream on a warm summer afternoon in Philadelphia, and on his way home. We didn’t start out looking for trouble. We were bored and had nothing to do. We were all decent athletes and loved to play sports. In some ways we were just like Fat Albert and the Cosby kids. We all wore weird hats and had different nicknames. We played football in the street, used milk crates for basketball, and broomsticks as baseball bats. Usually we were all about fun. But that night the school yard was locked, theRead More →