Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Transcript of a segment from today’s PBS NewsHour (Judith Browne-Dianis is a civil rights attorney and Co-Director of  the Advancement Project):

GWEN IFILL: And, yet, Judith Browne-Dianis, when we look at the faces protesting not only in Ferguson, but around the country in the last couple of nights, not only is it an interesting and diverse crowd. It’s also a very young crowd.
GWEN IFILL: Does that mean that they are more — less optimistic, more pessimistic?
JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, I think that they are experiencing the overcriminalization at levels that older folks aren’t and they really have — they’re bringing energy to this movement.
They see this not only as the fight of their lives, but the fight for their lives. And so, across the country, when you looked at all of those rallies yesterday, you saw young people — you know, this is — they are the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of our time.
GWEN IFILL: Who were very young.
JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: That’s right. Exactly.
And so we’re seeing the same kind of action of young people bringing energy to a movement and also having clarity of purpose around what they’re doing.
GWEN IFILL: Does it feel different to you?
JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: It feels different in that, first of all, this is the end of status quo for them, that they understand that they have to be disruptive, that nonviolent civil disobedience will be used like it was before. But I think that there’s a level at which they feel like this is much — this is about their daily existence, whether or not they can survive, whether or not they can breathe, whether or not they can walk down the street without being harassed. And so there’s a very personal thing about trying to survive and be Black or be Latino. And so, in that way, it is different.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Another birthday coming up this Friday: 93!  Inconceivable for most of my life, especially when I was in my teens and twenties and couldn’t see myself “over 30”.

Now it seems no one is amazed except me. Wherever I go, people shrug — “Oh, I know someone 95”, or “There’s this lady just wrote a book and she’s 105.”

Anyway, I continue to be amazed! And no matter how many are as old or older than yours truly, I count the many, many more, especially my dear ones, no longer with us.

(maybe more than you want to know)

Lucky as I am to be in relatively good shape, Mother Nature rarely lets me forget that nonagenarians are really very old. Aches and pains, though tolerable, are always there. My eyes aren’t serviceable enough to read books or newsprint for more than a few straining minutes. Virtually all my reading is on a computer screen or a Kindle. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stay awake through the PBS NewsHour. Worse, I can’t avoid dozing repeatedly at concerts and plays. I won’t give up music, but only an occasional exceptional play is worth the challenge.

Still, I can bend down (slowly) to pick up the morning paper off the ground. With a little well-practiced contortionism, I can put on my socks. I walk the approximately 3 miles around Lake Merritt most Tuesday mornings. I do some cooking and baking. I still have a current events discussion group to facilitate every Friday at the Downtown Oakland Senior Center. And I still blog more or less often about what’s on my mind.

    “But especially the people….” *

What makes it all worthwhile? It’s the people I love, many gone, some thankfully present. It’s the many struggles and hopes we’ve shared that shape my life from its beginnings through nearly a century. I’m very lucky in my family, my friends, my comrades. I won’t list my comrades here, but the older I get, the more deeply they’re embedded in my heart and memories. My family, from my parents to my grandchildren, has always been true to values that connect with people everywhere who commit to equality and social justice. I couldn’t be fonder or prouder of my children, David and Carla. The hardest thing I’ve had to bear was the loss of Carla, a rare and wonderful person, taken by breast cancer at the prime of life.

I’ve been very lucky in love. Roz and I were as together as any couple could be for 67 years, until she died in 2009. I was alone for one miserable year. Then Gail came along and life is rich and enjoyable again.

Maybe there will be more birthdays coming. Maybe my next birthday message will be more typical of me, a bit more “political”. But for now, let’s just stick with the “personal” and soak up all the warmth and love we need.

From the song, "The House I Live In", written by Abel Meeropol and Earl Robinson in 1943

Saturday, November 8, 2014


The best single political reform idea is Bernie Sander’s proposal to make Election Day a national holiday, DEMOCRACY DAY.

Our political system has become dangerously less democratic, more and more in the grip of super wealth, gridlocked when it comes to the elementary interests of the vast majority of the public. The clearest indicator of this crisis is that a large majority of the electorate doesn’t vote, reflecting widespread disillusionment as well as enactment of deliberate voter restriction measures.

Many ideas for structural reform of the political and electoral system, including constitutional changes, get floated. Most seem so unlikely that they only distract from the reality of current battles on vital issues. 

But I think there are two reform measures that have a great potential for capturing attention and support to change the political climate and Save Democracy. One is movement to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling. The other is the Sanders proposal for a national holiday on Election Day.

Both measures tap directly into very widespread public concerns: disgust with the obscene buying of elections and of government itself by the oligarchs; growing resentment at the rigging of the electoral process and restrictions on the right to vote.

Of course, Sanders’ idea is far from a cure-all. There are fundamental problems with the two-party system and within the Democratic Party. And nothing is more important than the fight to win on critical economic and social issues.

Still, the Sanders proposal is simple and direct. It cuts through political machinations and makes democracy central: Do we celebrate the right to vote? Who thinks it’s to be feared?