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Poway, Spring 1969

The news of the horrible shooting at Chabad of Poway has affected me in a personal way. It brings the memories of my own experience living in Poway, California. It was about 50 years ago that I moved to Poway and would live there, off and on for a couple of years. The news coverage reveals a Poway in 2019 that seems different than the one where I lived in 1969. The shooting itself reveals a Poway where little has changed.

Much of this story is in a personal web page I created on Tripod, which I call my adoption story. http://tfyamaguchi.tripod.com/adoption.html It was Easter Sunday in 1969 when my brother Joe invited me to attend mass at the San Diego Mission. He was a regular attender of La Jolla Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). I had pleaded with him a number of times to take me to Quaker Meeting, and he had refused my requests. Now, sitting in the crowded, historic, Catholic mission, my brother turned to me and whispered, “This is boring. Do you want to leave?” My answer was yes, and we ended up at La Jolla meeting for worship. It was my first Quaker meeting, and I felt like I had arrived home.

It was there that I met Tad and Alice Yamaguchi. When they found out I was living in rather miserable conditions in a boarding house in the North Park section of San Diego, they offered me a room in their home in Poway. I enthusiastically joined the Yamaguchi communal household. By that fall, my own last name would change from Campbell to Yamaguchi.

Poway in 1969 was a small and growing suburb. There were large open spaces that have since been filled in with more housing. It was just about 100% WASP. Many of the residents were in the Navy, being an easy commute from Miramar Naval Air Station. Poway public schools had a reputation of being progressive, but I would not know. I was determined to finish my high school year at Mission Bay and got a ride there every day from a teacher who also lived in Poway. The most ethnic diversity in the area was to the north in Escondido, which has a large Latino population. That is where a mosque was burned a few weeks ago, and the suspected synagogue shooter is considered a suspect in that arson fire. The only Jewish person I remember meeting while living in Poway was a coworker in a restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, which is located between Poway and Escondido.

When I moved in Alice told me about the racism she experienced in Poway. A black family was visiting their home on the quiet cul-de-sac. She went for a walk down the street with the two children of the family. As they walked hand-in-hand, she heard the neighbors talking loudly to each other. They were clearly intent on having their voices heard by Alice and the children, letting them know they were not welcome in the neighborhood. Hearing the children she was with being called “niggers” was too much for Alice to bear. She rushed the children back to the house with tears streaming down her face. When I moved in, there was a sign on the door with the message that all people were welcome, regardless of race and religion. At least there was one place on that cul-de-sac where that was the case.

Another time when our politics conflicted with the conservative views of our neighbors was on a day of nationwide protests against the Vietnam War. A small group of us stood on Poway Road with signs stating our opposition to the war. Those who drove by us responded with insults, calling us communists and traitors. I was actually afraid for my life that day. Fortunately, there was no violence.

There were other events that captured my attention in 1969. One was the first humans to walk on the moon, which I described in my blog post The Eagle Lands on Pomerado Road. https://tomyamaguchi.blog/2009/07/20/the-eagle-lands-on-pomerado-road/ Woodstock happened that summer, as well as the Manson Family murders. One news event that failed to reach me in that quiet town of Poway was the Stonewall riots. I had heard the news Judy Garland’s death on the radio while riding in a car pool headed to San Marcos Community College. As we cruised along the 78 freeway, George Jessel was offering his condolences and sharing his memories of the singer. Years later, I learned how Garland’s death had a role in the rise of the modern gay rights movement. I was in the closet then. Poway in 1969 was not a place where someone would want to come out as gay.

Decades after living in northern San Diego County, I am fascinated by how much has changed there, especially in politics. After an extremely close reelection, conservative Republican Darrell Issa decided to retire from his congressional seat in 2016 and was replaced by a Democrat. Orange County, directly to the north of San Diego and known for being the bedrock of Republicanism, switched to entirely Democratic House representatives in that election. 

When I lived there, both state and national representatives were proud members of the John Birch Society. Given the proximity of Camp Pendleton and the already mentioned Naval Air Station, it would not be surprising to find such a conservative bent in the electorate. Now, that electorate is changing with the coast becoming more urban and more liberal. Unfortunately, racism, antisemitism, and anti-immigration sentiment is still alive in North County, as that part of San Diego is known. The nineteen-year-old white man suspected in two hate crimes has made that evident. We will know more about his beliefs and his world view as the story unfolds. The sad news is there are too many more people just like him.

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April 29, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barbara Graves Memorial

The following minute was approved at Strawberry Creek Friends Meeting in Berkeley, CA for peace activist Barbara Graves who died in December at age 104. Though it is not mentioned in the memorial minute, Barbara was arrested a number of times at Lawrence Livermore Lab to protest the development of nuclear weapons. Her memorial will be held at Berkeley Friends Church, 1600 Sacramento Street in Berkeley, on Saturday, February 24, at 2:00 PM.

Memorial Minute for Barbara Graves

Barbara Graves, beloved member of Strawberry Creek Friends Meeting in Berkeley, died at her home at the Redwoods in Mill Valley, CA on December 22, 2017 at age 104, after a long life serving humanity in direct, humble, often remarkable ways.

She was born in Geneva, New York in 1913, the youngest of seven.  Following college in North Carolina, she worked in New York City for the 1939 World’s Fair, then with the British War Relief Society, from which she learned about the involvement of the American Red Cross.  In 1942 she was hired by the Red Cross and sent to England.

She was appointed Director of Red Cross Rest and Convalescent Homes Division in Britain, providing recovery furloughs for Allied airmen from 1943-45.  For this group’s service she was awarded a military Bronze Star, unusual for a civilian.  After returning to the U.S., she began to explore pacifism and Quakers.  She was hired by the American Friends Service Committee in 1948 as administrator for AFSC relief work in Occupied Germany, working and living with local Germans for five years, establishing neighborhood centers to address severe conditions of inadequate food, shelter, and social community.

In 1953 she obtained her Master of Science degree in Social Work at Columbia Univ. and became a psychiatric social worker in Philadelphia. In1962 she was recruited by AFSC as director of the VISA program (Voluntary International Service Assignment) in Tanzania, Haiti, Guatemala and India for six years.

During 1969 Barbara consulted and taught at Atlanta University’s School of Social Work, a time when the black social work environment was developing strength and influence despite the background of segregation.  In 1971 she was appointed Associate Professor of Social Work at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she could continue professional connections with Atlanta.  She moved to U.C. Berkeley in 1972 as Director of Field Studies in Social Work.

She retired officially from U.C.. in 1978 but continued both staff and volunteer work for

U.C. as well as for Alameda County and the City of Berkeley.  Barbara served as a leader in the Northern California AFSC, often as a consultant to solve organizational problems.  She volunteered weekly in San Francisco’s Tenderloin with residents on the margins of society.

She deeply opposed U.S. military activities in Nicaragua and traveled with a delegation of religious activists to learn conditions and to protest.  She risked arrest many times in opposition to U.S. wars in Central America and the Middle East.  In 1986 she returned her Bronze Star in a ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial to protest the U.S. role in the conflict in Nicaragua.

Barbara was appointed Brinton Visitor for Pacific, North Pacific and IntermountainYearly Meetings of Friends in 1989.  She was able to visit widely and contribute her energetic, inquiring spirit and experience.

In 1993 Barbara and her close friend and housemate, Glendora Patterson, decided together to co-parent infant Nia, who later became Glendora’s adopted daughter and Barbara’s goddaughter.  Nia Marie Patterson brought great love and joy into their lives.  Together they attended Nia’s college graduation when Barbara was 100.

Barbara made her home at The Redwoods Retirement Community during her last years, as did three other women who had remained steadfast friends since their Red Cross service in England.

One of Barbara’s personal notes quoted Abraham Lincoln: “I have an irrepressible desire to live till I can be assured that the world is a little better for my having lived in it.”

Barbara’s irrepressible wit and joy of life was expressed not only through serious work, but through singing, dancing, generosity and exuberant appreciation of people of all sorts and conditions. She will be greatly missed by her home Meeting, Strawberry Creek, where she provided great spiritual and practical service for decades.

Barbara Graves 100

Barbara Graves at her 100th birthday celebration at Strawberry Creek Friends Meeting in Berkeley, CA

 

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bike and Walk to Quaker Meeting 2016

On Sunday, May 22, a group of Quakers of Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley celebrated Bike Month by bicycling to our meeting room. The week of May 22 to 29 was also celebrated as Bike to Worship Week by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

We started at North Berkeley BART Station, pedaling a short distance along the Ohlone Greenway to where it connects to California Street. We then rode California to Channing Way, Channing to Milvia, then Milvia to Derby, where we completed our travel to 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  California, Channing, and Milvia are three of Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards.

Leaving North Berkeley BART, from left: Henri Ducharme, Laura Magnani, Jay Cash, Marian Yu, Beth Rodman, Paul McCold, and Tom Yamaguchi

Arriving at Strawberry Creek Meeting, we were joined by Josh Gallup and Deborah Marks.

The following Sunday, May 29, we walked to meeting. This time we started at the downtown Berkeley BART station. Again, we walked down Milvia Street and right onto Derby. The last two blocks we walked in silence.

IMG_0351

Leaving downtown Berkeley BART station. From left: Phyllis Malandra, Beth Rodman, Jay Cash, Paul McCold, and Charlie Lenk. On route, we were joined by Lisa Hubbell (on scooter) and Barbara Birch, who walked up from Emeryville. I took the picture with my iPhone and walked with my bicycle.

Thanks to Jay Cash for helping to organize, as well as bringing bagels, donuts, bike bags, bike stickers, maps, other printed material, and other biking and walking goodies; all given away after meeting.

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment