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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

letter from an urban democrat

When I walk out my front door, and step into my neighborhood, into the streets of my city, I am greeted with the a scene replicated in cities across this country: a panoply of faces, of races, of styles and fashions, the sounds, the singing, the symphony of urban America.

I could be in Oakland, or I could be in Milwaukee. I could be in Philadelphia or Miami. I could be in Houston, in Seattle or Cleveland. I could be in St. Louis, or Atlanta, or Memphis. Each city has its flavor, has its own particular vibe and sights and smells: but if there is one thing I would like to convey to you today it is that for millions of American citizens, these big cities are our home.

We love our cities and embrace their diversity. There is something beautiful about it, something fundamentally American in it. I can't tell you what it's like to sit for dinner at Le Cheval, a popular Vietnamese restaurant here in downtown Oakland, and look around the room and realize that, table after table, in face after face....one can see represented the peoples of our world: African, Asian, Latino, European, Pacific Islander....oftentimes sitting side by side, at the same table, with family and friends...in one glance it seems you can take in the future of our nation and our world.

Now, diversity presents its challenges as well. I know urban teachers who are working their utmost to bridge barriers of language and culture, to give kids the education that every American deserves. And yes, there are tensions and conflicts, as there always are when so many, embracing so much difference, live in such a concentrated locale. But whether you are from a family that has deep roots in this country or you are an aspiring citizen new to our shores, we manage, us urban Americans, overwhelmingly, to get along, to cooperate in building the common language and culture that reforges every day the amalgam of voices that has made America great.

I have lived in cities my entire life, side by side with neighhbors of all backgrounds and creeds, and, in my first essay on this new blog, I would like to state something simple and clear: in my experience, we urban Americans love this country deeply. We are patriotic citizens like everybody else. No more and no less. I intend to write about that.

I write to you today from Oakland, California, with all the benefits and limitations that vantage point affords. I am an urban democrat with a small 'd'....and an urban Democrat as well. I aspire to write essays that will be true to my roots, to my reality, and at the same time help forge a politics that reaches out from that point of view to the rest of our nation.

In its simplest terms, I aspire to write in a way that communicates and does justice to the people I see, every day, when I step away from my computer and into the streets of this city that I call home.


  • Third!
    I get to post the third comment on your blog.

    Glad you created your own blog. I'll definitely be adding you to my sidebar.

    By Blogger Carnacki, at 6:21 PM  

  • Can I be forth?

    I'm glad, too. I started lurking and then finally registered at Daily Kos because of your diaries. Thanks for the memories!

    And I'll be back! Congrats and good luck, Kid Oakland!

    By Blogger gayle, at 6:31 PM  

  • Thanks, y'all.

    Nice to see you here! I'll try to keep the content flowing....and your comments are welcome.

    paul / kid o.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 6:34 PM  

  • Yowza, KO!

    Copycat. : P

    By Blogger Maryscott OConnor, at 6:43 PM  

  • just keep inspiring kid .... please

    By Blogger bobnbob, at 6:45 PM  

  • we all know....

    there can only be one MOC....or would that be m/o/c in this setting?

    (plus I went all minimal and green....lol)

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 6:46 PM  

  • So Kid, your dropping back into DK this past week was just a TEASE! Yeah, you still got it.

    I'll be dropping in from time to time. I hope you don't mind. I won't eat all your food or trash the place. Just need a quiet place to crash. This chair looks comfortable...

    By Blogger spartan68, at 6:55 PM  

  • Glad to see you found another time sink, Kid!

    Ah, the wonders of urban diversity. I craved it, too, having started my life in an ethnic ghetto.

    I grew up in a one-room cabin made of earth and wood on what were once the far fringes of Nausea, New Hamster, right across the street from an abandoned landfill that my buddies and I fondly called 'The Dump,' and just up the road from a plastic bottle factory, a railroad switching yard, and the wide brown Merrimack River in the lazy days before the EPA.

    We were yellow dog democrats, ragged children of the ethnic working class. It was all that we knew for a while, but we were the fortunate ones to finally see the death of Franco-American apartheid, and to shake free from the bonds of sadistic nuns and a lifetime toiling in the sweatshops.

    Just two of my five grandparents were alive when I was a kid. My father's mother died in the influenza pandemic of 1918, and his father soon remarried to the woman I called 'memere.' She was blunt and resourceful - so much so that she bought a house with the deed in her name alone just to keep her drink-loving husband's tremulous hands from her money.

    My mother's father was a widower when I knew him. We called him 'pepere,' and he was a tall imposing carpenter with forearms like tight hams. He smoked Dexter cigars while sitting in his high-backed rocker on the porch of the home he built from the discards of an old convent he had been hired to demolish back before the Depression. I later learned that he had first built the house without a cellar, gradually digging one out by hand and hauling off the dirt one 5-gallon pail full at a time.

    He never once used a power tool, not even a saw, and didn't retire until a stroke at the age of 83 did that for him.

    Neither of my grandparents spoke a word of English, though they lived in the US for most of their lives.

    My parents and their siblings talked to each other in a slang-filled, heavily-accented form of French, and the morning sessions in my grammar school were conducted in a more refined version of that dialect by elderly nuns until I reached fourth grade.

    It was an oppressive place by any measure, and I longed to escape to the big city - Boston.

    Here's the good news: I did.

    By Blogger RubDMC, at 7:00 PM  

  • How very, very exciting! Keep it coming KO, keep it coming.

    By Blogger LindseyPPC, at 7:00 PM  

  • What do you mean by I am an urban democrat with a small 'd'....and an urban Democrat as well.?

    I'm small urban. Small: Lansing Michigan all my memory. Urban: Product of public schools.

    By Blogger spartan68, at 7:04 PM  

  • great comments....thanx rub, spartan, faery and bob...

    There may not be threads on blogger....but I READ what people write....thanks all.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:07 PM  

  • Congrats on your new blog! As our Governator says...."I'll be baaaaaaaaaack".

    We Californians need to flock together in blogtopia! (y!sctp)

    By Blogger cookie jill, at 7:13 PM  

  • Hi KO,

    As usual, you leave footprints in the mind (as that old poem says).

    You have the magic touch that captures the everyday experience and transforms it into a tactile journey with which we can all relate.

    By Blogger bronte17, at 7:22 PM  

  • Yet another blog I have to add to my favorites. Have you no mercy?

    By Blogger Meteor Blades, at 7:36 PM  

  • Yet another blog I have to add to my favorites list?

    Have you no mercy?


    By Blogger Meteor Blades, at 7:37 PM  

  • Great essay. I've seen all sides of this having been born in NYC, moving to Nowhere New Hampshire (pop. 3500) at 13 and now live in Phoenix. NYC was amazing. My best friend when I was about 10 was the son of the South Korean UN ambassador. My best friend when I moved away was the (no offense meant) bastard step son of one of the maintenance men of our building complex (from the Dominican Republic).

    As I'm sure rubdmc can attest (Nausea wow how did I spend 20 years in NH and never hear that one?) it was quite the shock to go from black, white, hispanic, jewish, whatever in NYC to basically all white christian NH. I mean at MOST we had 3 blacks in our entire high school.

    Phoenix is really weird since there's so many Latinos it's hard to notice the diversity. It's only when I really think about it do I see all the gays, blacks, orientals, etc at my work.

    Anyway, diversity rocks and KO has another winner going here. Good luck!!

    By Blogger Marc Kandel, at 7:40 PM  

  • hey, ko....

    happy to see you in your new home. Drop by mine at


    I'll link you from mine. It should garner you at least a reader a year.

    By Blogger NYBri, at 8:05 PM  

  • I put up my new blog today too! Hope to see you on my page and read lots more from you...

    By Blogger TJ, at 8:18 PM  

  • (waves from the Peninsula side of the Bay)

    By Blogger Angie, at 8:40 PM  


    By Blogger mickey, at 9:38 PM  

  • wOOt.

    Heh. Congrats, KO.

    By Blogger mcjoan, at 9:42 PM  

  • This is the best blog news I've had all month long! Best of luck to you. I've added you to my blogrolls.

    By Blogger faboo, at 9:57 PM  

  • Hey Paul!

    It's about time.

    I'm looking forward to coming over here. Congrats and good luck.

    Say Hi to my old neighborhood and have a coffee on me.

    By Blogger Caipirinha, at 11:56 PM  

  • Good to see you capirinha...

    I thought you'd make it. Feel free to stop by anytime.

    paul / kid o.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 12:09 AM  

  • Let's hear it for cities -- from over at 24th and Mission!

    By Blogger janinsanfran, at 10:20 AM  

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