by Adilifu Fundi

I went to San Francisco’s 2017 Dr. King Day celebration riding the same wave that hounded every other participant. As I suspected, a tragic election caused crowd levels to swell significantly compared to a year ago. I’d say at least three times the number of 2016 attendees walked in this year’s march.

Mattie Scott of Healing 4 Our Families and Our Nation and Healing Circle for the Soul marches on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16, in San Francisco. – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

Crystal clear skies set us in a warm niche, finagled between agitations in the Pacific incessantly lining up storms. But one ugly cloud loomed: the transfer of federal powers – which finally did arrive four days later – had crept oh so dreadfully near.

It linked a worldwide female protest statement – the post inaugural follow-up drawing massive crowds on the 21st – visibility loudly affirming our ties.

And thankfully our Dr. King Day turnout gave validation to ease dreary tones: Every age, culture and religious branch attended. San Francisco’s Interfaith Council organized this diversity – they sponsor the event.

The day’s theme, Justice in the Beloved Community, was quite appropriate, especially given the high profile murders of unarmed citizens by local cops that cause constant fiery protests here – still failing to bring anything near the result of justice.

Justice has eternally eluded all America’s beleaguered underdogs, Blacks faring the worse – Black gays crunched under all. But what perplexes officials – their eternal conundrums – frontline activists see instead as legacy: Religiously “radicalized monsters” founded and set rigid rules for the United States – iron fists pounding racial and class privilege with administrative corruption ruthlessly into the 21st century.

So focus at this event under that “ugly cloud,” regarding local and national travesties of justice, would be interesting indeed! Much is offered: a Health and Wellness Festival, a Black Comix Arts Expo, film screenings and stage performances.

And the meat of the matter: Discussion panels and project showcases – all related to injustices. Fireside tradition includes the public – seeking grassroots solutions.

And thankfully our Dr. King Day turnout gave validation to ease dreary tones: Every age, culture and religious branch attended. San Francisco’s Interfaith Council organized this diversity – they sponsor the event.

But the march from Cal Train to Yerba Buena Center and the Interfaith Service kick-off are the day’s ceremonial centerpiece. The service theme was Today’s Youth … Tomorrow’s Leaders, critical to raising new activists who’d join us fighting for systemic change.

Sadly, the annual San Jose Freedom Train to San Francisco almost ended – sales dwindled. Our route – actually chosen by Coretta Scott-King – marks the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, almost the same 54 miles. A pause at Lefty O’Doul Bridge by the Giants’ AT&T Park honors the horror at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Ironically, last year’s Freedom Train “sold out,” thought to be the last – a sad common trend discussed in a venue here that I’ll address later. PG&E substantially stepped in to save it – the last ceremonial train of its kind in the U.S. – and now it’s the “Celebration Train” free of charge. Of course, it was packed!

A surprise awaited me at the march’s front: SF Mayor Ed Lee strolled clear as day – flanked by two “suits” – behind Deacon G.L. Hodge, chair of the  Interfaith Council. At Lee’s left was Mattie Scott, founder of San Francisco’s Healing 4 Our Families and Our Nation. Trailing Lee was a modest cluster of uniformed cops, “imaged” as if inadvertently marching – but not fooling the informed.

Bay Area locals know that last year Lee was hounded out of every MLK Day activity – by angry activists for the Mario Woods Coalition. Woods had been literally executed by a squad of cops, captured on video – one of many here downplayed by national media.

Speakers chosen by the event sponsor, the Interfaith Council, spoke to the larger-than-usual crowd. – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

Lee got severe heat to fire then Chief Greg Suhr, who justified the killing – then was asked to resign for backing the bogus report; thus Lee had avoided the march – getting harassed off the 2016 Interfaith Stage itself. Suhr got fired, and a new “outsider” African-American, former LAPD Deputy Chief William Scott, a 27-year veteran, has been sworn in and a little cooling time passed.

Thus Lee now parades front and center – soon addressing the Council’s platform – his opening words “I am you, you are me” – drawing applause. Immediate questions rocked me: Have so many forgotten our nasty, unfinished legal business related to murders by cops? Forgotten judicial stalling, official cover-ups, falsified reports and withholding evidence? Forgotten loved ones left in the lurch seeking “justice?” Forgotten that DA George Gascón has not charged a single cop?

Mattie Scott was one of three deserving Council honor: I first covered Mattie’s work with George Jurand in 2010, as they’d co-founded the Healing Circle for the Soul Support Group. Shocked and traumatized survivors of victims taken by violence could themselves get communal support and legal assistance.

In addition to healing forums, they staged rallies, lobbied City Hall, helped raise funeral funds, held press conferences and helped with legal matters. Survivors putting their own shattered lives back together are transformed into informed warriors – now seeking justice for themselves and others.

Victims were murdered by both cops and “criminalized peers.” Scott, receiving her award, described the young man who killed her son “as previously having eaten and socialized right under my own roof” – all the more heartbreaking.

The service was punctuated by Rev. Amos Brown’s personal recap. In 1962, he was one of eight students in the only class Dr. King ever taught at Atlanta’s Morehouse College. But I sensed a change of tone from last year.

Mattie Scott was one of three deserving Council honor: I first covered Mattie’s work with George Jurand in 2010, as they’d co-founded the Healing Circle for the Soul Support Group.

At an event I later attended titled Grade A Social Justice, NBA star and ex-Warriors player Baron Davis was featured, the most well know of five seasoned panelists – with a young “radio personality” moderator. Grade A signifies their career titles, Davis being the “athlete.” He’s been quite socially involved post-NBA, but his novice perspective – locked in classic “white liberal” mode – was unsettling.

Shifting tones screamed in the moderator’s first question: “Is justice still relevant today?” I cringed. It was more like 19th century white abolitionists convincing a doubtful audience something needed to be done.

“Class” was visited along with Black self-sabotage, particularly the wasting of over a trillion annual dollars on frivolousness – not investing in or “trusting” one another – and making a glamorized “celebrity aristocracy” our new “leaders,” most being conflicted, co-opted, detached and basically “sold out” to a white upper class or glamorized street thug interests. Yet standard media carefully chooses them, thugs included, as our spokespersons – similar to the handpicked “status-quo” voices on TV’s The View.

But Davis lit it up, deeply criticizing Black Lives Matter. Davis feels it’s taking the movement in the wrong direction, that protest marches are obsolete, that sitting to discuss at “the table” would be more effective, that Blacks becoming cops is the end-all solution to police brutality in our hoods.

Most disturbing: Davis feels protestors blocking streets and freeways achieve nothing except alienating the public, that higher-ups – media, legislators, a white ruling class, etc. – will dismiss us, not inviting us to “the table” due to their feeling insulted.

The crowd marching from the CalTrain station to Yerba Buena Gardens was unarguably huge, the large proportion of whites reflecting the Black exodus of recent years, fueled by an economic lockout and police occupation of Black hoods. – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

Co-panelists bristled; the moderator leaped into fierce but super contained rebuttal mode – maybe to not hurt Davis’ feelings. But the elder academician said it best: Black youth out there reviving this “movement” – having to take extreme drastic action – shows how deeply “we failed them” by their having to begin where we ourselves “failed to advance.”

It flew right over Davis’ head – bringing me to my original point: The “tone” has changed here. Last year’s panelists Elaine Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party, and Professor Melvin Newton of Oakland’s Merritt College, older brother of the late BPP co-founder Huey P. Newton, smoked right out of the gate!

They hit the systemic source of our struggle, “white power protocol”; they acknowledged young leadership lives cut down, brave elders and predecessors who risked giving it all. They itemized the “system’s” endless variations of successful resistance to human rights progress. They offered the best approach to successfully thwart that “monstrous force” that includes linking every effective method under the sun by “any means necessary!”

At this year’s panel, instead of a stagnated liberal format – their academician’s ironic note – the young moderator himself should have blasted out with forward gusto! For starters, he could have noted that quite viable social blueprints already exist – crafted by King, Malcolm X and the like – then laid out unquestionable facts:

The unadulterated racial ceiling, class issues, self-sabotage, machismo sexism corralling female leadership – a “glass ceiling” in the movement itself – the challenge of enlightening brainwashed masses, internal and outsiders and more. Thus, panelists have tangible substance to bite, bolstered by King’s and Malcolm’s much neglected blueprints.

The elephant in the room screamed: America’s racial ceiling and thorough “white protocol” systemic control. And its heart wrenching wail still remained obscured.

Most disturbing: Davis feels protestors blocking streets and freeways achieve nothing except alienating the public, that higher-ups – media, legislators, a white ruling class, etc. – will dismiss us, not inviting us to “the table” due to their feeling insulted.

Does Davis not know that every major U.S. city’s police departments have Black officer’s associations in them for a reason? Davis must not be aware of retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey’s book, “The Creation of a Manifesto, Black and Blue,” or heard her numerous TV comments blistering entrenched national departmental racism – and severe retaliation against good cops who blow the whistle. Plus a decades long, multimillion dollar racial discrimination suit was just settled against the CIA.

The young moderator never mentioned that corrupted and fuzzy leadership – “radicalized” Christian religious and civic – is the primary derailing factor or that U.S. Blacks have been absolutely physically broken and religiously restructured to support our corrupt system well beyond slavery, making us more comfortable sabotaging ourselves.

The word “self-hatred” never blatantly crystallized. Neither did a national Black and human rights agenda.

In national media, comedian and actor D.L. Hughley and rapper T.I. are artist standouts, excoriating Black celebs not only for indulging the newly elected president – on his narrow, self-serving terms, not theirs – but for monumentally selling out. Check out Michael Eric Dyson’s fierce interview on New York’s The Breakfast Club slamming it right here! [Watch below.]

This in screaming contrast to retired NBA celeb Charles Barkley, guilt wracked and chronically appeasing white guilt, that day he said, “Dr. King never talked about Black rights, he never singled anybody out, he talked about human rights and civil rights.”

It’s Barkley’s boldface lie, a sneaky way of crediting King, who soon strategically took on the human rights spectrum, abusive foreign policy and the Vietnam War, while still discrediting our Black plight with a backdoor slap in the face!

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (right) marched this year, backed by a pair of “suits.” Last year he was booed off the stage on King Day, but this year he spoke from the podium. – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

Barkley must not know that in the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, “Negroes” launched King to the forefront; King fought to end discrimination specifically targeting Blacks. “Negroes” were relegated to sitting in the back – while suffering untold other murderous injustices – not some generically targeted populace Blacks just happened to peek out of.

Barkley selling out wouldn’t be worth mentioning, were he not the white sports media elite’s go-to for Black narratives – propped to reach millions – the poster boy for Black self-hatred.

Davis, steeped in athlete Barkley’s over-exposure, should huddle with Hughley’s crew. Calling Black Lives Matter’s civil disobedience acts negative and obsolete, he must have missed the Interfaith Ceremony. There, Patrick Dilworth, on behalf of the Christian faith tradition, quoted from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

King writes: “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is … the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Barkley, I read the word “Negro” twice in the excerpt quoted above.

White supremacist legislators and civic leaders ignored lynching’s brutality well into the 20th century – undisturbed. Only when their comfort was brazenly disrupted and the complicit public “inconvenienced” did they look. Governors were forced to offer the “table” – otherwise an invite would never come.

Unfortunately, audience “fireside” participation fizzled this year, or I would have told Davis this: We are not looking for permission, acceptance, invite or to help heartless privilege feel good! Equal opportunity is our right! And we do pull up our bootstraps demanding a rightfully claimed place at the table – undaunted fighting for justice!

Davis, in a celebrity bubble, shaped by athletic machismo anxious to “lead,” should learn to humbly “follow” – trusting his elders and the actual voice of Dr. King instead of white liberal athlete mentality.

Unfortunately, audience “fireside” participation fizzled this year, or I would have told Davis this: We are not looking for permission, acceptance, invite or to help heartless privilege feel good! Equal opportunity is our right!

Changing tones: Last year Mario Woods’ murder just the month before had his coalition firing up Dr. King Day! This year I saw no sign of them – or any of these other linked coalitions: Justice 4 Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Alex Nieto, Idriss Stelley, Oscar Grant, Kenneth Harding Jr., Derrick Gains, James “Nate” Greer, O’Shaine Evans, Jessica Nelson Williams … and so many more.

Last year was also the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s founding in Oakland. The significance of radical “action” – seeking justice while aggressively initiating “self-help” – permeated the air!

Maybe the same pesky “trend” threatening the Freedom Train from San Jose, filled when it had assumed it should be terminated, and swelling this year’s attendance due to election madness caused forgetfulness around our Blue Ribbon Panel’s horror – upstaging unarmed citizens being murdered by cops.

I did not see new Chief William Scott in attendance here, and there is still a movement to “recall” Lee. I also did not see San Franciscans for Police Accountability.

Our own Baba Jahahara Alkebulan-Ma’at, former co-chair of N’COBRA, marched to remind everyone that Blacks deserve reparations. Picket signs were rare, this “Freedom” sign an exception. – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

But while covering Mario Woods’ coalition and the rest, I’d wondered if they ever networked with Mattie Scott’s effort – key elements doing powerful work on the same healing and justice seeking chain. Progress here would have event organizers do this: Canvass ever growing coalition segments that through individual work enlighten the public to set prominently on view as “soldiers in action” groups like Justice 4 Jessica Nelson Williams and Mattie Scott’s. Those groups should all be facilitating their own workshops here – centered on their cause.

I don’t know if King Day leadership actually solicits groups, simply recycles them or waits for the new to emerge. Aaron Grizzell, executive director of the Northern California Dr. King Community Foundation, mentioned he and producers brainstorm for each event.

Speaking of fuzzy leadership, LGBTQ politicos were introduced at the service – as usual. New state Sen. Scott Wiener and new Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, AIDS activist and the first HIV-positive member, replacing Wiener, drew applause. But like previous years, absolutely none spoke – or were introduced as “openly gay.”

LGBTQ got mentioned and a panelist decried Southern Black Lives Matter groups showing extremist level homophobia.

But no workshops celebrate Black gays at the forefront of advancing the movement (Bayard Rustin, Lorraine Hansberry, Barbara Jordan, James Baldwin, et al.).

No workshops either on Black Lives Damaged by virulent homophobia – energizing our “radicalized” Black Church – or on rampant racism riddling the white gay mainstream (its segment being “economically and visibly” dominant) – or on Black gays being marginalized everywhere (viciously trapped in-between).

Speaking of fuzzy leadership, LGBTQ politicos were introduced at the service – as usual. But like previous years, absolutely none spoke – or were introduced as “openly gay.”

I, as an openly gay Black man baring groundbreaking leadership know this: no Black gay groups on hand – pushing for inclusion of our voice’s “presence” – means Bay Area Black gay organizing itself is “token” and in shambles!

In San Francisco it’s nonexistent.

Gay “technical” presence here is based on white political standards (Asian Chiu sitting in this mix) so “leaders” accept merely getting their “own props” – white liberal-like! Comfortably settling into LGBTQ tokenism seems their “end game” – apparently having no contributions to overall liberation – not rocking the boat! True inclusion means laying out what they expect here – to liberate their constituents – centrally being absolutely gay!

And I’ve truly not forgotten that while still a San Francisco supervisor, Scott Wiener vehemently backed the ruthless Police Officer’s Association (POA) union every dastardly step of the way. This powerful, big moneyed lobbying force caught fierce Blue Ribbon Panel fire and still derails their suggested department “reforms” – dismissing evidence where murderous cops falsified reports. Wiener remains their boy.

San Francisco then rewarded Wiener – sending him off to represent us in the Senate.

The fact that San Francisco’s enormous Inaugural Night City Hall protest soon marched 5,000 strong to hit the Mission – but first up to the Castro for a spontaneous rally at Hibernia Beach’s infamous 18th Street intersection – shows the Gay Mecca is considered a significant force to include – and reckon with!

Held by someone in the crowd seated for the program at Yerba Buena Gardens, the “Illegitimate President” sign probably named one issue that nearly everyone present could agree on. – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

Yet, irony implies the reverse: A predominantly white Gay Men’s Chorus does perform at this major Black based event – but no LGBTQ rep “addresses” it.

And an Interfaith Council rousing a spiritual base to root out injustice but not addressing the white power system’s major tool – “radicalized” Christianity – relegates MLK Day to a “tea-and-crumpets” affair. Activists tip around the Black church’s pervasive national neglect – and its calamitous effect – due to wholeheartedly embracing the master’s “radicalized” Christian brand. It’s the reason Black preachers are scarce to be found in Black Lives Matter marches.

This “thing” dogged Dr. King. The thick of America’s Black religious iceberg snubbed his brave civil rights organizing. King lamented about it in speeches.

Black folk preferring “radicalized” Christian tenets over, say, a Universalist Unitarian brand – where hospitality and civil rights advocacy drives the heart of their creed – shows glamour, rationalized hostility towards the downtrodden and a “saving me” mentality rules, not spiritual love for the “we.”

Hence the old abolitionist’s diamond saying: “You cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools.”

Tons of unfinished business – eternally polluting a unified drive toward long term King Day survival – adds heavy drag producers shouldn’t overlook, unless they wish King Day to remain merely ritual.

Interestingly – gripped by 2017 fear and uncertainty – much “unfinished business” has nothing to do with threats from you know who: This ultimate businessman as incoming president exploits disunity and exclusion – he didn’t invent it.

Renaissance man describes the professional singer, actor, dancer, educator, historian, spiritual advocate and published author Adilifu Fundi, a 25-year resident San Franciscan and native of San Diego. Trained in cross-cultural and general social repair, Fundi spent the past 42 years utilizing lectures, workshops and performance in the social trenches, aiding the Black and general American mainstream gay and lesbian, gay people of color and Black LGBTQ segments with creating viable community. He can be reached at This story first appeared on his blog, Adilifu Fundi, Renaissance Man.


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