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Letters for the week of July 1, 2015

Readers sound off on street art, pensions, and hospital funding.

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"Oakland's Dyke Central," Culture Spy, 6/17

Love It

Great article! Loved the first season and can't wait for what's to come next! #noplacelikeOakland

Aima Paule, Oakland


"Elemental and Embodied," Music, 6/17

Big Ups!

I want to thank Sam Lefebvre for sharing our story with your readers! Big ups!

Some quick clarifications. Mom (Sara Waters) is also a powerful and esteemed artist, and Cornish College was a deep art school experience. I recently found a cassette recording of my first string quartet rehearsal from 2000 and immediately began bawling. I was twenty when taking my first composition seminar taught by Jarrad Powell. That semester Jarrad invited a string quartet to collaborate with our class. The main goal of the class was to compose for string quartet in collaboration with the dance department's choreography seminar student choreographers. I can be heard saying to the musicians "BPM is 120" and the score itself was Xeroxed from a notation notepad that had so many eraser marks that it more resembled a carbon paper copy.

Anyway, dedicated and engaged artists teach at Cornish. However, being involved in academic music programs for fifteen years plus, I noticed an uncomfortable aesthetic hierarchy favoring classical music over other traditions, and improvisation is still underrepresented as a powerful, expressive approach. The Mills and Cornish music programs attempt to tackle some of these concerns head-on by hiring innovators, programming radical works, and by accepting critters like me into their programs. We also need more diversity in the student body and professorships.

Zachary James Watkins of Black Spirituals, Oakland


"Oakland's Most Radical Coffee Shop," The Local Economy, 6/10

Unnecessary Racialization

I'm a coffee tourist who lives in Berkeley and follow the modern coffee trend like people who follow sports. I appreciate this coffee coverage and I look forward to trying this roaster's beans.

However, I take issue with something in the article: "According to [Keba] Konte, there's a deep irony in the fact that certain (mostly white) segments of the industry act as though they're the first ones who ever knew exactly which farm their coffee beans came from, or roasted the beans in a certain way to maximize their flavor. The truth is that kind of approach has existed for a long time in Africa, where coffee was invented but few folks in the so-called 'third wave' coffee industry ever acknowledge it."

This is a mischaracterization at best. To me it feels like unnecessary racialization. The so-called "third wave" of coffee — more than any other tradition in US coffee history — gives credit to the farmers and cooperatives that grow their beans. They name names on their products and show photos of the farmers on their websites. Most importantly, they pay them far more than Folgers or Starbucks ever did. These farmers are given recognition for the quality of their product. I've never gotten the sense that the roasters or baristas (whatever race they are) are ignoring the people of color at the coffee's origin.

Also, it is common knowledge that coffee originated in Ethiopia and that Ethiopians drink tons of high quality local coffee and fully appreciate it — which is in contrast to, say, Colombia, where it is supposedly difficult to find a good cup of coffee because all the good beans are exported.

Perhaps these third-wavers are the first in commercial US coffee focusing on coffee origin. But I think it makes sense that they are responding to the first two waves of American coffee. I don't think they are trying to take anything away from coffee traditions in other countries. I don't think this has anything to do with international racism. Now, third-wave coffee and its tricky relationship with class/gentrification is a different story altogether.

Robert K. Williams, Berkeley

Konte Is an Inspiration

Amazing concept and man! Keba Konte is a unique and generous spirit, and his belief in others and their potential is truly inspirational.

Priscilla Borrelli, San Francisco


"Schaaf's Priorities Are Out of Whack," Seven Days, 6/10

Blaming Schaaf Is a Cop-Out

At some point, can we stop calling it protests and call it what it is: riots? Let's go back to when these "protests" began and calculate the cost to the city. Dating back to January 2009, when the Oscar Grant protests began, Oakland has struggled to find a balance between free speech and peaceful protests and riots. As long as legit protesters allow rioters to hijack peaceful demonstrations, the issue won't be heard.

Through my work [owner of the private security company, VMA Security Group], I have been on the front lines of all of the protests and as late as Friday, June 5, there were still protesters wearing masks, carrying spray paint, and antagonizing not only police, but anyone who spoke up. The media should, at some point, take an in-depth look at who the protesters really are instead of continuing to vilify the police and government agencies and officials.

I ask, what came first, the spending on OPD overtime or rioters destroying the notion of peaceful, constructive, and law-abiding protests? Blaming a mayor with less than six months on the job is a cop-out.

Vince Mackey, Oakland


"Hospital or Healthcare District?" News, 6/10

Finish the Job, ETHD

Eden Township Healthcare District (ETHD) is one of only a few public healthcare districts in the state that does not run a hospital or any direct healthcare services. The state has frowned on the existence of such districts with no clear healthcare mission or benefit. Additionally, ETHD's annual administrative expenses far outstrip its meager grant-giving program. In terms of San Leandro Hospital, the district purchased the hospital in 2004 and subsequently allowed Sutter to purchase it, eventually leading to Sutter's decision to close it in favor of its Castro Valley campus. In fact, ETHD has been responsible for the fate of the hospital for more than seventeen years when in 1998 it decided to forego independence and transfer operations to Eden Medical Center, a Sutter affiliate.

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