Are Berkeley Blacks Getting The Respect They Deserve?

by Steed Drop-Out
June 26, 2013
Berkeley, Ca


[Isn’t it the Zimmerman trial? Martin is dead, but he’s the one on trial.]

Splitting 5-4 along conservative lines, June 25 the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Two days earlier Berkeley held it’s twenty-sixth annual Juneteenth fest. Local media did not cover the festival, unless you count pre-event stories. Is it enough to announce an event without reporting on it?

I hope to remedy this. Berkeley Reporter was there photographing, hoping that the publication which pays me as a “contributing photographer,” would publish my shots with their coverage. They had no story and I was told they didn’t want a photo-essay either.

The photo essay appears here.

Proud black women, an event theme. The kids here are truly sisters – a one family production. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Another local publication wrote a good pre-event story, but nothing on the event. The news arc in community journalism is one mention per customer — take a number and go to the end of the line.

What if: “Four Planes carrying 19 al-Qaeda terrorists took off from Boston Airport…” — and no story. Or, John Wilkes Booth checks into a tavern outside Washington…no story.

False analogies aside, does it make any sense to shoot your journalistic wad on a press release announcing an event without reporting the event? In community journalism, this might be justified.

Load the coverage to increase attendance, but slip back — spent — in the face of covering the event.

A media conspiracy to stifle blacks? Are you kidding me? In Berkeley?

One night in the city room at the Illinois State Journal, 1958, my editor said “we don’t cover shootings on that part of town (which lay across railroad tracks on the wrong side of town), because those people are always getting drunk and shooting each other. It’s not news.”

Scenes like this evoke Soul-ano Stroll. Photo by Ted Friedman.

A Tale Of Two Neighborhoods

Solano Avenue, a white ghetto, three miles North of Juneteenth, on Berkeley’s border with Albany, has hosted a fall street fair (Solano Stroll) since 1974. Its organizers claim that 100,000 attend the 26-block blow-out, where various local organizations man booths.

Last year they presented a penis enlargement booth and one for orphaned rabbits.

The South Side’s fair, in a predominately black neighborhood, commemorating emancipation — a sort of Black Passover — is a mere 5-6 blocks. The stroll sells jewelry-store quality jewelry.

Southside Street scene. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Juneteenth, crafts and soul food; a few community booths compared to the stroll’s multitudes.

The sheer enormity of it demands media attention. People come from all over the Bay Area and around the world.

All the more reason to report on the Juneteenth fest, arguably more important to blacks than all the baubles on Solano.

Solano Stroll September, last year. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Juneteenth is a great story

It begins with a DUI checkpoint nearby the night before, which implies racial profiling. The story includes how South side merchants closed for the day, out of respect for the occasion and the acceptance that crowds would pass them by.

The story includes the children of one neighborhood family (pictured), who represent the pride of black women and the focus on women at the event.

A sidebar on police presence. Turned out to be a non-story, but might have been a bone to chew.


I was up on Telegraph Ave., covering a non-event.

I walked down with a friend to see if I could get a shot or two and showed up near the end of the event. It was still going strong though, and I sampled some great soul food and renamed the event: the Soul-ano (unlike Solano) stroll.

The views expressed here in no way reflect the views of publications in which my work appears. This is an independent blog. Are the blogs you read independent?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.