President Barack Obama had given his inaugural speech on the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday Celebration appealing to Americans to work together and “care for the least of these.” As members of ACCE, Occupy Bernal, and Occupy Noe talked to press and made phone calls to Wells Fargo Bank asking them not to auction off Tuskegee Airman, Ben Reed’s home, a multicultural group of African Drummers led by an female African immigrant drowned out our pleas as freedom of speech clashed on the streets of San Francisco in front of the Museum of the African Diaspora.
It was only Saturday, January 19, 2013 that at my third meeting of ACCE and Bernal Occupy I found out that the home of 90-year old Tuskegee Airman Ben Reed was to be put on the auction block.
As the meeting began and we listened to a state leader of ACCE talk about global organizational strategy, before the mention of Ben Reed came up, a fellow foreclosure fighter, Stardust, handed me the beginnings of a flyer for a call action to for people make phone calls to Wells Fargo Bank on MLK Day. As I read it he whispered, “we’ve got to get this on the agenda.”
An hour and a half into the meeting, there was an opening to present the idea. “Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A 90-year old Tuskegee Airman’s house is scheduled to be auctioned off on January 24, 2013. Let’s do an action in front of MoAD, The Museum of the African Diaspora. (There’
Everyone groaned when they heard the story of yet another elderly person threatened to lose their home but the group sprinkled with a few African Americans wanted to know why MoAD. Discussion ensued about appearing racist. They were reminded about the action at the San Francisco Employees Retirement System and the testimony made by elderly former city employees, the call for the Mayor not to re-appoint Brenda Wright to the SFERS Board, and to remove divest the City’s $48 million dollars from Wells Fargo Bank (San Francisco Business Times Article- http://www.bizjournals.com/
After much discussion, everyone seemed to understand that this was similar to the action taken January 10th in front of the $4.1 million Raffle Dream House in Menlo Park. Occupy Bernal and Occupy Redwood City held a news conference in front of the house on January 10, 2013 to send the messages that these lottery type fundraisers distract from the fact that millions of Americans have been displaced and many more can lose their home and that a humanitarian solution to foreclosure must be forged.
It was late Saturday afternoon. We needed a flyer and a media advisory. “We don’t have any photos of Ben Reed, so you’ll have to search on the Internet,” I was told. I took on the assignment to create the media advisory and the flyer and also pull together the committee that would meet afterwards, work out who would volunteer to speak on Monday, who would hand out flyers and other tasks. “I’m not a graphic designer,” I told the group. “I’ll do the best I can.” It’s one of those things that when there’s no time it’s best to forge ahead by George and do what you can do, after all, this was a soldier and my father had died in Viet Nam. He would have been a few years younger than Mr. Reed.
As I got on the Internet and began searching for pictures for Mr. Reed, nothing came up for him specifically. Then I found something generic that would work. His name kept rolling over in my mind, “Ben Reed, Ben Reed, Ben Reed.” Then it hit me like a sledgehammer, ton of bricks, you name it.
Ben Reed, Tuskegee Airman, is this I Lee Murphy Reed’s “Ben?” Oh, my goodness.
But someone said the wife’s name was “Erma.” I called the lady who had been in touch with the family. How many Tuskegee Airmen named Ben Reed could be in San Francisco? Is this the same family I know? You said “Erma” is the wife’s name, that begins with “E.” “It’
It had been decided to give MoAD a heads up. We wanted to make sure that they did not think the action was against them in anyway. So I was charged to let them know since I knew the executive director and their PR consultant professionally. After hours of back and forth emails to 17 people and phone calls to get the flyer and media advisory approved, staying at Starbucks on Portola near Twin Peaks ‘til they closed, dashing down Market Street to Kinko’s Fed Ex, staying after hours to get flyers printed, waiting in the parking lot to hand off flyers to Ed Donaldson for the San Francisco Labor MLK Breakfast the next morning, finally after 10 p.m. Sunday night, I was on my way home to get the email off to MoAD with a text to their PR consultant to which I did not receive a reply. Stardust had begun sending out the media advisory about 9:30 p.m.
Inspired by President Barack Obama’s speech, Monday morning, with a tinge of remorse for not being able to cover it for the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper as I had done in 2009, I pulled myself together encouraged by the fact that my sister, businesswoman, Phyllis Cameron with expertise in insurance and real estate, was there representing the Wright siblings
TO READ DIALOGUE OF THE CLASH AND THE REST OF THE STORY CUT & PASTE
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