Oakland attacked by helicopters

Last night for THREE hours, at least three helicopters circled the Oakland (CA) area. They started again today at 5:45 am. It’s a racket you cannot ignore and certainly not one you sleep through. They appear to be both police and media choppers.

Following the Trayvon Martin verdict, Oaklanders roused for a spate of pissed-off protests. You’ve gotta love the idea of obstructing a FREEWAY, especially in CA where folks are so enamored of their cars.  Rather than show up on the streets, the keepers of public safety and information felt it their duty to consume mass quantities of fuel to circle at a safe distance above the frays.

This is the same arms-length strategy that allows, for example, fighter pilots to bomb the crap out of civilians in war zones. Impersonal target selection enables a soothing lack of lack of understanding or connection with the targeted.

Perhaps Oakland is asserting itself as a war zone. Certainly it’s an economic one.Our media, marching lock-step in their devotion to “covering” anything that blows up, burns or bleeds, remain mired in their long-programmed propaganda that “racial injustice” is at the heart of everything that involves people of color.

Too many people here do not have the resources they need to live a decent life. The other issue being that a “decent life” is generally defined by the corporate puppet masters as including whatever you don’t own.

On balance, we Americans, even the poorest of us, are a whole lot more privileged that vast swaths of humanity around the planet. How do we gain perspective on what exactly we ought to be fighting for and how we need to do it?


I think about money a lot – mainly because I have nearly 450 people depending on me.

Even through I’m 10,000 miles away from Baraka Women’s Center in Nairobi, I know intimately what extraordinary progress has been made in just 8 months.

Chief among them is the resurrection of hope, the increasingly joyful belief that, given a small hand-up, these women will turn their lives out of poverty.

 They depend one me because I deliver what money I can shake out of America’s prosperity tree. WCI pays for a safe space for their Center, notebooks, textbooks, pencils, pitifully small salaries to dedicated staff, and fees for teachers and trainers.  I need about $6,000 a month to elevate the prospects of 464 women. It’s gonna take about 3 more months before the big grant money shows up.  So getting through the summer is my challenge. 

I know there’s lots of money “out there.” I’m looking for allies to help me secure it.

Is that you?   

Firewall of the Brain

I used to work in television news, always on top of the latest horrors, disasters, perversions and wars. For the last three years, I have not had a TV. No more slouching in front of the tube, allowing the chaos to permeate the admittedly delicate firewall of my conscious thought.  I get a lot more done. I read a lot. I watch movies. I also understand more fully that media is our environment, pushing through to our desire to know what’s going on – preferably as the first to know or have something, no matter its value to us personally. 

WCI in Nairobi

Nairobi, October 14, 2012

The flight on Emirates Airlines evolved as a cross between adult day care and life support:  attentive cheerful and good looking attendants, gourmet meal packaged so obsessively that managing the wrappers became a use-of-space issue, an overwhelming array of unsatisfying entertainment options – and the inevitable ennui and fatigue of sleepless containment for 13 hours in a pressurized cabin.

En-route to Nairobi, we had a three-hour stopover in Dubai, the least intuitively laid out airport I’ve been through. At 8am, the terminal was awash with travelers consuming mass quantities of high-end consumer goods. Right along with electronics stores and couture fashion shops were McD’s BK, Cinnabon, Starbucks and Bloomingdales. There’s just no containing viral corporate America.

In Nairobi, it’s the time of the “short rains.” Weather is cool, downpours a frequent event. All the frangipani and flame trees are in glorious bloom – burst of startling purple and effervescent orange even in unlikely places. The city suffers frightful rush-hour gridlock; the rain adds additional accidents to the mix. The “Road Conditions” update on one radio station begins with the sound of a collision.

We’ve been treated to a very soft landing by my friend Maina and his wife Adeline and their lovely eight-month old daughter, Abigail, joyful, feisty girl who finds crawling un-amusing and would like to be independently upright and mobile soonest.

We met with our fabulous manager, Stiffin, truly the most competent, compassionate and imaginative man I have worked with in Africa.

Our first meeting on Sunday with the women at Kariua was a spectacular inspiration. Any fears we had about the “fit” of the women’s center program here were quickly banished. More than 150 women turned out with many children in tow. They came not just from Kariua but also from the adjoining neighborhoods. Word had gotten around.

We had a modest first-day agenda:  introductions all around with an explanation of our registration process, our plan for photo ID badges and the agreement to democratically select a name of the center – most suggestions related to hope and faith. The women wanted to keep going and so we did for three hours. In particular, they were keen to know when we would start training. Tricky question in view of our modest donations relative to our overall budget. Unwilling to give my worry on this front any quarter, I saw that we needed to understand how they wanted the various training structured  (that is, their actual availability given their obligations as moms and day workers)

We formed up four committees of six women each  – all eager to weigh in on the resources we plan to offer. No surprise: they wanted to focus first on earning income, building businesses.

We saw cheerful excitement grow among them. They badly wanted a Center with all that WCI had to offer. I badly want to deliver it to them.

We met on Monday with our partners Catherine Wanjohi and Mukami Mwangi of Life Bloom Services International. The ideas of how we can make this Center work flew fast and furiously. We are incredibly lucky to have them as allies able to bring to bear so many local human resources as well as their accumulated wisdom working with marginalized women, particularly sex workers.

In only two days of work we already see the glow of right time, place and people for a durable success. If fact, we’re almost giddy to be in the midst of this incredible surge of hope and determination to forge a new future for the Kariua family – the word they use to describe themselves.

WCI needs a minimum of $25,000 to maintain this rare and astonishing momentum. We’ve got to open the facility, pay our dedicated staff and trainers, buy textbooks and instructional materials…the list goes on. We’re ready to move from planning to doing. We will not disappoint these amazing women.

We have set in motion what I believe will be one of the most compelling community transformations that most of us are likely to see in our lifetimes. I’m counting on the people I know to give this baby wings with generous donations – soonest.

Much more to come.