I'm sitting here this morning, enjoying a great Spanish Latte and thinking about how much this place, Oakland, has changed since my childhood.
This City has gone from a home of activism and protests, to a crack infested slum and is now gaining the look of a respectable large City that is somehow managing to retain it's small town roots.
It is not just the new buildings and renovated old ones, it is the diversity of the people, from urban to suburban and Armenian to Zimbabwee'an, Oakland has a huge diversity in it's population.
Heck, Oakland still celebrates Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day. And I don't think you will EVER see a Wall-Mart in Oakland proper.
When I first moved to Oakland I was 5, and it was 1977.
The American Indian Movement was planning to take over Alcatraz and everyone was talking about the Black Hills Gold fight with the Government.
Bill Wappeepaw was the Leader of the AIM House and, two activists that are better known now as actors, Dennis Banks and Russell Means, were organizing marches to free Leonard Peltier.
That was my life as a "Native" child.
Oakland was always buzzing with music then.
Whether it was "Double Dutch Bus" or "Stagger Lee", you knew the station was either the oldies station on AM or 107.7 on the FM dial.
There was a sense of unity and community in Oakland. Being from Oakland was like, "Being in this together".
Not ALL was together ALL of the time, so you had to be on your toes a bit.
Being a young "white" kid I noticed that there were racial tensions between black and white kids.
After Roots came out, it was not as safe to be a white kid in Oakland. Believe me!
One day I was friends with the kids next door and the next day they were surrounding me and asking "Why I owned slaves?"
That was heavy here in Oakland, because here I am, a young "white on the outside" kid, trying to get Leonard Peltier out of prison, stop moral corruption and get our land back and there were kids who wanted to kill me because of the pain they felt when they saw a white man own a black man on TV.
Let's hear it for the power of television!!! Geez!!!
Luckily for me, one of my mom's friends, jumped out of the second story window and that was enough to scare the kids away.
Imagine, a bunch of 3-8 year olds ready to jump this 6 year old boy and suddenly a screaming Indian comes jumping out of the window them.
Needless to say, they dispersed immediately!
That's an example of another thing that was instilled in me in Oakland. The sense that you "have someone's back".
Growing up with two younger brothers I was able to make the rules around the house.
One of the rules was, if anyone is picking on you, it had better be me.
And another was, we can punch each other, but nobody else had better touch you or all three of us were in.
My brother Gary Dean became such a good fighter that he'd oftentimes intimidate people from picking a fight with me.
Anyways, it is interesting the thoughts that go through one's mind as they sit in the window at a coffee shop.