“TELL ME HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU COME OUT OF THE WILDERNESS?” The title of an old hymn that has been sung time and time again by many church going African Americans! Reminded of the song when reading Parson D.A. Smith’s column featured in The SOUTHWEST DIGEST Newspaper, based in Lubbock, TX., and one of the oldest Black newspapers in the country. His message referred to waking up the day after the Election and change in the leadership of America!

Black Americans FEEL GOOD, stand with PRIDE over the historic fact a Black man has been voted to be the 41st President! Soon President-Elect BARACK OBAMA and his family will occupy the WHITE HOUSE built by slaves! Oh, we’ve come a mighty long way from slavery! FREE AT LAST when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, BUT NOT free; racism’s ugly head broke our backs! NO GROUP has suffered the BLACK EXPERIENCE as second class citizens - actually not considered human beings! BLACK MEN beaten, hung from a tree for all to see, not able to stand up as a MAN to protect his family!!! Oh, YOU KNOW THE HISTORY!!!

WALK IN BLACK PEOPLES SHOES!!! Members of the GAY community liken their struggle to what African-Americans endured in their cry for CIVIL RIGHTS to marry. SAME-SEX MARRIAGE issue, which SHOULD NOT BE EQUATED with the battle African Americans waged for their civil rights - freedom from the brutality of SEGREGATION LAWS that were demeaning!!!

I’ve been in this town since the late 50s, seen changes on all levels, remember when the GAY MOVEMENT STARTED! During my early years of writings covered the CASTRO Gay Community - political events at ELEPHANT WALK, at the time a popular club; SYLVESTER was the rage! SAD WHEN HARVEY MILK WAS KILLED!!! Whether one agrees with the GAY lifestyle, I have not seen bitterness toward that community, ESPECIALLY from Blacks, but the attitude TO LIVE AND LET LIVE!

In our JUBILATION over OBAMA’S victory, and overwhelming turnout, 70-percent BLACK voters, now because of the passage of PROP. 8 here in California, AFRICAN AMERICANS are being held (verbally attacked) by members of the GAY (LGBT) community as the cause of the Proposition’s passage!

One would ask - DO YOU UNDERSTAND US AS BLACK PEOPLE - our lifestyles, religious and moral believes???? BLACKS ARE NOT IN SLAVERY, free to think, exercise free speech!!! WHY DO MEMBERS OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY THINK ITS A ONE-WAY STREET??? Wage your battle to win the right of same-sex marriage, BUT DON’T SLAM DUNK THE BLACK COMMUNITY!!! Why not take the time to outreach, DIALOGUE WITH LEADERS in the black community???

MONDAY morning, while sipping coffee and as usual watching CNN, APPALLED when hearing comedian ROSEANNE BARR state African-American voters were the cause of Proposition 8's passage! Her comments ANGERED ME!!!

The SAME-SEX Marriage issue has caused divisiveness between the Gay and Black community! My heart saddens over this split that will continue. And I might add BLACK MINISTERS ARE SPLIT over the issue as well! Third Baptist Church members are not too happy with REV. AMOS BROWN PREACHING in the pulpit about the gay issue!!! BLACK WORSHIPPERS WANT TO HEAR THE WORD!!! They have long felt Brown has become TOO POLITICAL!!! Many times, there’s been an UNSUCCESSFUL OUTCRY to FIRE HIM!!!

However the vote went down, REMEMBER IT WAS BIG MONEY that funded the defeat of “NO”. THE MORMONS AND CATHOLIC CHURCHES waged the successful battle. Donors now find they are on a public blacklist, now targeted!!! SOUNDS LIKE THE McCARTHY ERA of the 50s!!!

LEST WE FORGET! Every year I remind readers, especially the BLACK Community, the tragedy of the JONESTOWN MASSACRE in Guyana where 900 plus predominately Black families and their children met their horrific end! NOVEMBER 18 CELEBRATED the 30th Anniversary of one of the nation’s worst tragedy that befell a people on November 18, 1978!

I had only been writing for the Sun Reporter two years before the startling news that started at PEOPLES TEMPLES on Geary, now site of the U.S. Post office, then centered in the Black community fallen to GENTRIFICATION! There should have been a STANDING Memorial plaque in the area!!! San Francisco Redevelopment Agency spent a lot of money to mold plaques on sidewalks of legendary personalities of the Fillmore ERA, and the BRIDGE at Fillmore that cross over Geary; MONEYS that should have been spent on a MARKER in remembrance of so many who died in Guyana, who lived in the FILLMORE and BAY AREA! FORGOTTEN!!! Church leaders should have been behind this, BUT PERHAPS ASHAMED THAT THEY FAILED THOSE POOR SOULS WHO FOLLOWED LEADER JIM JONES!!!

JONES ran a TIGHT SHIP over his flock , predominately African Americans - many Seniors, low income families, the disheartened and young children - some babies, who slipped away from their families, or who had no one who cared. Legendary Fillmore club owner WESLEY JOHNSON “TEXAS PLAYHOUSE” former prestigious member of Third Baptist Church, joined Jones; his family SAVED HIM FROM CERTAIN DEATH!

Ah, Jim Jones had politicians flocking to the church seeking political support when running for office. NO one seemed to DETECT the EVILNESS OF THIS MAN! MAYOR MOSCONE appointed Jones to the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. HEY, HE WAS A BIG THING - personality, TALKED THE TALK, WALKED THE WALK!!! BAMBOOZLED HIS WAY!!!

This writer, wanting to be in the know, already gaining a name in the community penning “I Heard That”, will NEVER forget standing at the huge front door of the Temple, my young son standing beside me, waiting for Mrs. Jones to qualify our entrance in the church, despite the fact she knew me but I guess surprised by my visit! Supposedly the church was having a meeting. Thought her action strange, wondered why I had to wait for clearance! Once in saw a few people I recognized! What it was Rev. Jones CHANGED his act in the pulpit, and worshippers given instructions. At the time couldn’t figure it out!

Several months later, startled when FRED LEWIS, Black butcher at Petrini’ s once on the corner of Fulton and Masonic. Often chatted with Lewis at the OFF PLAZA club located in the area, and the house LUTHER ELARMS BUILT! I was known as the SCANDALOUS GOSSIP COLUMNIST! LEWIS always called me “MUDCAT”!!!

A regular shopper at Petrini’s - especially for their meats. Believe it was in September that Lewis approached me for HELP! Related he came home one night to discover his family had left with Jim Jones to Guyana!

STUNNED, referred him to THOMATRA SCOTT, since passed, but worked at City Hall. UNBELIEVABLE two months later, when headline breaking news on TV blared the death of 900 or more Blacks, and of that number about 300 children - you saw the bodies , flat on their stomachs, killed by cyanide spiked kool-aide; reported Jim Jones died as well BUT shot in the head by one of his loyalists! WHY DIDN’T HE TAKE THE KOOL-AIDE????.

Lewis lost the MOST family members. Those of us who knew him, watched a broken man, heart shattered - SAD. He became the POSTER child for the media; every year they would seek him out in interviews. Fred went on with his life, remarried, pain still there until his passing in San Francisco, May 14, 2003. I attended his funeral.

I’ve often wondered why JONES tapped Black people to build his MOVEMENT??? Answered the question they were VULNERABLE , POOR, lacked love of family, forgotten, who had so little hope, BELIEVED JONES WOULD TAKE THEM TO THE PROMISED LAND!!!

The 40th Anniversary of the 1968 SAN FRANCISCO STATE BLACK STUDENT UNION/THIRD WORLD LIBERATION FRONT STUDENT-LED STRIKE Conference held OCTOBER 29 - NOVEMBER 1 at State invoking the theme “Consciousness, Community, Liberation: Fulfilling the Promise of ‘68”.

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM’s Proclamation proclaimed October 30, 2008 San Francisco State ‘68 Student Strike DAY in San Francisco “Whereas, the student organizers and members of the 1968 student strike and the Third World Liberation Front at San Francisco State engaged in courageous acts which led to the Founding of Ethnic Studies Departments not just in San Francisco but across the United States and internationally as well.”

DR. NATHAN HARE, Executive Director, BLACK THINK TANK, based in San Francisco, CHAIRED the nations FIRST BLack Studies program at SFSU PRIOR to its becoming a department. Hare also wrote a Proposal for the FIRST Department of Black Studies called “The Conceptual Proposal for a Department of Black Studies”. In 1968 after the University BALKED on the promised establishment of the department, he joined the student-led strike.

Dr. Hare commented in the booklet The PEOPLE, THE SOUL of the Strike: A Work in PROGRESS, ”I am disappointed that the department has since changed both its name (from “Black Studies” to “Africana Studies”} and its focus. The current Africana Studies Department takes more of a “Museum -approach” that emphasizes history and culture but down plays the instrumental relevance of Black Scholarship to our communities. We need both kinds of scholarship”.

It had been my intention to attend the OPENING Morning Conference Panel, entitled, “Civil Rights and Social Justice” but occurred the same time as MERL SAUNDER’S Memorial services which I attended. DID get over to State closing day Saturday afternoon for the entertainment held in Cesar Chavez Student Center, originally planned in the outdoor MALCOLM X PLAZA, changed due to stormy weather.

MARVELOUS music experience featured the SF States Afro-Cuban Ensemble; JOHN HANDY with special guests Dynamic vocalist JAMIE DAVIS who spellbound us with his rendition of “Motherless Child,” bassist JEFF CHAMBERS, now live in New York; BOBBY HUTCHERSON Quartet - SPIRIT OF WATER in his fluid vibraphone playing - AWESOME! AND ENCORE PIECE with Handy and Hutcherson that was STUNNING!!!

HEY, IT’S NICE TO BE NICE AND TO ALL OF YOU OUT THERE ... LOOK FOR ME ... I’LL BE THERE ...
E-mail Rochelle at iheard@earthlink.net