Wednesday, August 12


Pictured, my 6th grade room sent to me by classmate Julia via Facebook. I am in yellow and red. Incredible to think of us all together for this brief moment in time. Like being on an airplane - a population never to be re-assembled. Our teacher was the wonderful Mrs. Riles who I went to visit some fifteen years ago but alas she was gone. Probably long gone. Check out the number of black kids. In sixth grade, these were my best friends and it did not matter black, yellow, pink or white. We were all the same little dudes, playing stink-ball or daring each other to hyper-ventilate via strangulation. Yes, we did this. By Junior High for some unexplained reason we went to our separate corners of the school ground and rarely mixed. We also got clickee stratifying by socio-economic background but who and how could judge? Why so suddenly this self-awareness? It remains a mystery.

A main reason my parents, post Peace Corps, chose Berkeley was the public school system - the Berkeley Unified School District crossed neighborhoods and bussed us kids to class creating an inter-racial environment. There was also a vague connection to UC Berkeley and in the later years those competent students could take classes at Cal. Katie, I do believe, did so when she maxed out on all her advanced placement coursework (yours, truly, had no idea what an AP class was). Berkeley was a grand experiment and attracted the East Bay's upper income liberals who wanted more for their children then the class and race generic privates. Ok, rich and white. There, I said it. Most of my peers ended up on the East Coast at private institutions, many in the Ivy League or Amherst and Wesleyan and the like. I was once told by an Admissions Officer that the elite schools liked Berkeley kids, who "are unusual and add diversity" which I think coding for what? Being a hippie? Ethnically diverse?

So today I have many dear friendships from my youth forged from Switzerland, sports or school. Of the later, most gelled in seventh grade and many are from the North Berkeley hills or Claremont area (code: upper income). Many are not. Yet however I cut the deck, my circle now nothing like the Longfellow school photo where my best pals were James "Jabber" Wilson, Eric Robinson, Tanya, Mitchelle, Laural Carter and George Banks (voted "cutest couple"), Awad and Laurence ("class clown"). All black and all gone. I feel this loss, a very big loss indeed.