"Remember El Alma" First On-site Performance Challenging the Alamo, March 2010

"Remember El Alma," First on-site performance
challenging the Alamo
original poem written by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

Adapted by Virginia Grise; Produced by Bihl Haus Arts, Kellen McIntyre, Ph.D; Performed at Luminaria!
San Antonio, Hemisfair Plaza, San Antonio, Texas, March 13, 2010; 5 Actresses, 1 Musician
A cast of beautiful women, all ages and colors, from
all over San Antonio
; Foto Credit: Joan Frederick @2010

Monday, August 28, 2006

Don't let the San Antonio Express-News lie to you about the War

The San Antonio Express-News, like other newspapers and media outlets around the country, is in lock-step with the public relations campaign of the Pro-Israeli lobby, which has silenced and biased our understanding of Palestine. Why? So that we won't understand that we don't have to be at war in the middle east. So that we won't understand the history, the culture, the humanity of the middle east. So that we won't understand Jews have many voices, not just one - for war.

Why is the media so biased? Because it's the governments - not the people - of Israel and the United States - that want war in the middle east, no matter the cost.

Because peace is possible.

Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land - Google Video

Artistic credit: Pachuco, by Adan Hernandez

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jerry Pittman: The Worst Cop, but there's more in San Antonio

Part II of the Pittman Story

(click here for Part I of the story of San Antonio's badddddest cop)

But let’s go back to the beginning of Pittman’s triumphant arc as a black role model, endorsed by white leaders and officially commended by the state’s black legislators. If you were a black nobody cop in the seventies, well, what would it take for you to get promoted? You’d have to be Superman, wouldn’t you? And in a city that sells itself on a myth of cultural fusion, then who would you arrest if you wanted a chance at getting promoted? Hmmmmm?

His name was Big House. Real name, Willis Sterling, and he was one of those benevolent drug-dealer types, who’d get arrested, make bond, then go home to the Eastside in the 1980s. A non-violent man. “He was like a modern-day Robin Hood,” says T.C. Calvert, a well-known community activist who doesn’t do drugs himself, only hamburgers. He was so well-liked, say my elder sources, that all sorts of politicians liked hanging out at his place, a two-story joint off Sherman Street, near the railroad tracks. Well, one night, in 1986, the police raided it, quien sabe porqúe.

Translation: Who knows what game done gone bad, what deal went sour.

Somehow, then-Sargeant Pittman, in the heat and chaos of the night - was shot three – or four – times in that raid, depending on the story you read. He emerged as a force for good, an avenging angel willing to put away the bad guys, meaning Blacks, because as we all know they’re the criminals we have to fear, right? The thing is, Pittman got a Purple Heart out of it. And Big House got killed.

Only Pittman, my elder sources say, was shot by his own cops. Nobody ever tells you who shot him in the media stories, do they? All we have to go by is the police report, hmmmm. Pittman, my sources say, sued the city - and months later Pittman emerged as a Lieutenant in charge of Vice.

Other sources tell me, and this is pure chisme, but given Pittman's ethical breakdowns, there may be some truth to it: The story is the prostitutes were scared of him, because he would demand some for himself - or his buddies - or they'd go to jail.

It's funny how people are talking now, especially women with stories about abuse at the hands of the police, with the proverbial wolf guarding the chickenhouse.

By the way - Big House’s autopsy revealed no drugs or alcohol abuse in his system.

There’s more. The “Nasty” situation in 1990 when Pittman, acting against the advice of the District Attorney’s office, told more than 80 record stores to remove the 2 Live Crew album from their shelves or face obscenity charges. He made lots of headlines for his moral crusade, and I’m certainly no fan of booty rap, but there is a first amendment, and “Nasty” kept selling records in San Antonio.

In September 1997, Pittman was in a fender-bender while driving a city vehicle, and the patrolman reported smelling alcohol on Pittman’s breath, though he didn’t administer a sobriety test. At the time, Pittman oversaw the Drug Abuse program for the City. Pittman wasn’t ticketed, receiving “counseling” instead.

“In a phone bank survey of 3500 voters in San Antonio from all 10 districts, 99% loved the police,” says Patricia Castillo, the Director of the Peace Initiative, a well-known advocate on behalf of women’s rights in domestic violence cases, and a familiar face to the police. She explained this to me last year, when I was researching Marci Bennett’s rape allegations against Pittman.

According to the phone bank survey, Castillo said, people “think our police are the greatest, they need all the support they can get.”

Except for one thing, she added. When we ask them have you called them?

The answer is clear. “No. They’ve never had a need to interact with the police.”

According to Amnesty International, Antonio is one of twelve cities in the country, maybe the last great one, without a Police Review Board, also known as a Civilian Review Board. If we had one of these, which involves the police getting policed by the people, ordinary voters like you and me with subpoena power, who pay their salaries, then a Jerry Pittman might not have become.

Back in 1981, when María Antonietta Berriozábal was running for City Council, she was challenged by Al Peeler, President of the Police Officer’s Association. One of her planks was a Police Review Board, coming on the heels of a police brutality case named Santos Coy. She won, but couldn’t get the votes necessary on the City Council to pass the resolution. She says today that if Mayor “Henry Cisneros wanted something, he could’ve gotten it.”

When Marci Bennett accused Chief Pittman of raping her, there was no independent investigation. The police and the District Attorney’s Office, colluding as they must when they have to prosecute bad guys, organized a witchhunt, with Bennett emerging as the bad girl, ultimately charged with perjury, a Class A misdemeanor, by District Attorney Susan D. Reed for making false sexual assault allegations.

I’m not saying Pittman raped Marci Bennett. But emotional trauma accompanies rape, and a woman deserves an unbiased review of her case, especially when she’s accusing the moral law of the land, named Jerry Pittman. But she didn’t get it.

“If she says he did it, he did it,” one prominent Black woman told me, as did others, all off-the-record, all warning me to be careful. White women leaders told me they liked Pittman, that he was a “good man,” and didn’t want to hear about Marci Bennett.

At that press conference in March where I first saw Pittman, this is how he began his scripted remarks, never deviating from the page: “I want to thank my wife, my daughter, my family…I want to thank people who offered their support…and prayers. Thanks to Chief Ortiz…Thanks to Susan Reed.”

I asked him why he never hired a lawyer, hiring instead a fancy public relations firm. “Aren’t you worried of the perception of power?” That’s when he shot me that brown-ice glance, answering that Connally’s work was pro-bono, free.

Blacks make up 6.82% of the population in Bexar Country, according to the 2000 Census, and 141 officers out of a 2000-member force, from the city’s website. But our crime index is higher than other cities, near double what comparable cities have. I suspect it’s because we’re a poor city, and uneducated. I have a brother in prison, I understand the circumstances, familial and societal, that push young men into prison. I also know how violent prison is, how we warehouse Black and Brown men as if they were trash. At the same time, Black men are like Denzel or T.O., sexy, desired, worshipped, paid to be a little bad.

We sure have complicated feelings about Black men, don’t we.

For all the talk about Pittman, this whole story isn’t about him. He’s just the symbol of what’s wrong with this city, we’re a macho city, a militarized, over-Catholicized city, with a racist history desperately trying to prove it’s not. The powers-that-be needed Pittman to prove we are the world.

Pittman’s not the only bad cop, he’s not the only po-po who’s aggressive because that’s what we like, hoping he’ll control himself when we stay stop. We want our cops to be smart, to be prudent and we don’t want them to beat up their wives, as many do, and get away with it. Just ask Lynne Blanco of the Rape Crisis Center, who told me that after Bennett made her allegations, policewomen called in complaining about abuse from their peers on the force.

All the more reason why, in the wake of Pittman, we should demand that this City Council give us the power to police the police.

Police need to be subpoenaed, questioned, and judged, especially in sensitive cases. And sent to the Grand Jury, if necessary. Let them scream and holler about this idea, but a Civilian/Police Review Board can protect them when cops have to make split-hair decisions in the line of fire, as well as recommending they charged with a criminal offense when s…t happens.

Adiós, Pittman. I hope you’re the end of an era, but I doubt it. I pray for you. But I also pray with all my heart for Marci Bennett.

For a hard copy of this story, check out The San Antonio Observer on the newstands or call 355.8686

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


August 21, 2006

Juan Aguilera, Chair
Board of Directors
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

1300 Guadalupe Street

San Antonio, TX 78207

Dear Mr. Aguilera and Board
of the Guadalupe Cultural
Arts Center:

The San Antonio chapter of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS), an organization comprised of women form the San Antonio community who care about what happens in our city, our state, our nation and our world, present to the Board of The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and to interested parties, our concern over the recent termination of employment of over 10 women from the Guadalupe Center. MALCS is a national association comprised of Chicanas, Latinas and Native American women who advocate and support women’s issues and concerns at all levels, from grassroots community venues to academic scholarly ones.

As long-time supporters of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, we are dismayed at the lack of procedural and civil processes by the women were treated. Because we care deeply about what happens to women at their places of work and because we also care deeply about the arts and culture of our city and the best that the Guadalupe represents for Chicanas, we ask the Board to take the following actions:

*To insure that all board actions reflect the procedures under which the GCAC operates, namely the bylaws of the organization.

*Offer an accounting of how and why the women employees were terminated and under what conditions they had to work.

*Evaluate the recently hired director of the Center taking into account all his dealings with mujeres at the institution and his treatment of same.

We respectfully submit this request and expect that these issues will be discussed at the next board meeting. We ask that the board then respond to our request in writing and with an explanation of what has transpired to bring the Center to such a predicament as well as what steps have been taken to resolve it. We are, of course, pleased to attend a Board meeting to discuss our concerns and are prepared to do so.


Mujeres Activas en Letras Social in San Antonio

Photocredit: J. Michael Walker, La Virgen de Guadalupe. He's married to a Tarahumara woman.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why the San Antonio Express-News wants to sell you the war

Newspapers are about making money these days, punto. And they are paying dearly for it, as la raza stops reading them because we see through the bias, the patronizing (16 de septiembre!) and the lack of respect for our community.

At the Dallas Morning News, reporters are being asked to leave in droves because of the decline in readership. A readership the newspapers caused by not educating the city. I maintain that If they had gone the way of fair and balanced journalism - critical to educating us about poverty, crime, the schools, health, etc., the audience they so desperately need now would be able I trto read the paper. I used to tell them this when I was there - and all I getting my butt kicked out of the editorial boardroom.

It's going to happen here in San Antonio, and if you try to read the paper, you know how weak it is, and I"m being nice. There is so much to report in this city, and it doesn't happen.

Yesterday, the Sunday San Antonio Express-News ran a column by Mr. Nickel and Dime Roddy Stinson, (not gonna link it - doesn't matter), a man who gets a nice fat check for his conservative columns and who's known for catching the donut-eating city employees sleeping on the job. While he lets the real estate developers and the polluters and the abuse of big power take the whole donut box.

This time he attacked the Esperanza Center, one of the country's most vanguard arts and cultural organizations. Roddy doesn't like them because of their politics - and though he attacked them some years ago in a virulent column about their "homosexual agenda," and the use of city funds, the Esperanza sued the city, winning in federal court - and in the process became nationally-known and recognized.

I helped the organization at that time, when people were working around the clock for years - that's what it takes to fight back prejudice and hate. Five female lawyers, led by Amy Kastely gave their time pro bono, and later, Judge Orlando Garcia himself told me that Kastely was brilliant. The Esperanza won on all four counts - first amendment and protected speech.

Now the Esperanza, approaching its 20th anniversary, has embarked on a middle east series - examining the conflicts in that part of that world as they seek to understand the war, terrorism, and what it takes to make lasting peace.

This is too much for the San Antonio Express-News. Though they were treated to every sort of invitation and information regarding the middle east series, they could not or would not convey the series to you, its readers. And, in the most flagrant abuse of journalism I've ever seen, the SAEN allowed Stinson to rant and rave - without context, balance, perspective, or giving the Esperanza equal time and coverage, a chance to respond.

The San Antonio Express-News wants to cram this war down our throat. If you polled the executive's children, I doubt any of them are in Iraq. I suspect that finally the SAEN doesn't care if we don't read the paper, as long as we look at the ads. And shop. And send our children to war to safeguard the oilfields, keep on eye on the stability of that oil via Israel, and keep us in fear of "others" so that we vote to keep the rich, richer, believing their lies.

I think that the SAEN hopes that if they publish enough stories about soldiers as heroes, soldiers getting medals, brave soldiers whose high schools have framed their photos in a wall of honor, then we will keep sending our most innocent men (warning: tragic and explicit material) and women to a war that has no ending. Because Roddy Stinson and the powerful interests behind the SAEN don't want us to know the beginning.

Even if their children and grandchildren will suffer from a world at war, a hot planet, and the inevitable fall of an empire that used to be a democracy.

True Story: Los Kittens on Calavera Street

On Buena Vista and Calavera Street on San Antonio's Westside, there is a house.

It's a casa arreglada from the outside, those candy-colors we love, Christmas and Easter decorations all-year round.
In that yard, surrounded by a fence, there are kittens.

Last year, a kitten was hit by a car, and dragged itself around for three months. Another was so infested with fleas and parasites that an eye was falling out.

When I told la senora, says Maria Ramirez who is a housekeeper by day and santa gatera by night, she said
"que bueno que se muera."

Maria says that la senora isn't interested in getting the cats fixed or feeding them. She called me last Wednesday night, emergency, she said. Did I have room for two kittens? She found them in the street, somehow escaping from the pretty house with the painted fence.

Both gatitos were white, tiny, barely mewing. The smallest one almost fainted when Maria tried to give it some milk. The bigger one was gurgling for air, and both wore fleas as Paris Hilton wears jewels. Like most gatitos born in the barrio, pus was dripping from their eyes, worms in their pansitas and maybe leukemia.

After playing with the kittens yesterday, I felt like listening to Willie Jaye with his jumping, rock-spiced blues on the Eastside, if the blues had wings, I swear I'd fly away.

A Black friend of mine, 'Lonzo, once told me he only listens to the blues when he feels happy, because that's when he can take the pain. And that reminds me of the man on the bus who tells me he won't read the paper because there's too much dying.

In his book of poetry, Dreaming the End of War, the poet Benjamin Alire Saenz writes:

The curanderos say/the animals will save us/in the end/Be good to animals./Esos inocentes son la salvacion/del mundo./They will be waiting/when you die...

I named the baby kitten, Marshmellow, who eats from the big cat's bowl with his whole body. The older one, scratching, thriving, turning his head like a sigh, like that second before we wake up? I call him Hercules.

Artistic credit: Pachuco races on the overpass, by my amigo Adan Hernandez. From his book, Los Vryosos. Check it out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

True Story: Censorship at the San Antonio Public Library

Some of you may know John Stanford, an elder who has a Supreme Court Case named after him - fighting censorship in the sixties. Last week, Mr. Stanford, as usual, went to the San Antonio Public Library downtown to distribute the People's Weekly World, a communist newspaper.

This time, Elizabeth Bermel, the Central Library Administrator, sent him an email on Tuesday, August 15th, from the Library's server, denying the publication's distribution at the library. Here's what she said:

"Multiple copies of your newspaper, People's Weekly World, have been appearing at the Central Library of the San Antonio Public Library. As the Central Library Adminstrator, I am responsible for approving all materials for free distribution at the Central Library, and People's Weekly World does not meet the Library's criteria."

I guess she's been taking notes from the Incarnate Word University's Librarian recently, who banned the New York Times because he didn't like what they reported and made national headlines...I think we need to talk to Ramiro Salazar, the Library's Director, and remind him what libraries are about. Pobrecitos.

Photocredit: "Free Speech for Me but not for Thee," http://techcentralstation.com/0311056.html

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bloody Towels & Jerry Joe Pittman, Asst. Police Chief of San Antonio

Assistant Chief Jerry Pittman has called the San Antonio Observer, San Antonio's leading Black newspaper, to say that he's human, that he's made a mistake. But I suspect he's thinking twice about retiring, because he needs another year to get his full pension.

He’s scary

When I first saw Asst. Chief Jerry Pittman en persona, San Antonio’s highest-ranking black cop, and certainly most-controversial, my gut talked to me. I was at Pittman’s press conference downtown, orchestrated by the most expensive public relations firm in town, Connolly & Company, on March 11, 05, where he announced his exoneration from rape allegations brought by his step-niece, a 39 year-old working-class, black, woman.

Chief Pittman, a 6’5” blue-black brother, with bullets instead of eyes, would’ve shot me if he could that day because of my questions, while the rest of the media kissed his grits. Look, I’m a middle-aged woman who trusts her intuition about men, and I know what I feel. But - I’m also a journalist, independent and ornery - and don’t have to put up with media bosses servile to the police in this town. I can speak the truth, and you deserve to hear it, so here goes. For the record.

Pittman, as everybody knows comes from country, a place according to media reports called Kosciusko, Mississippi. He’s been with the SAPD since 1974, and is on the verge of an early retirement, effective at the end of August – after bloody towels and sheets were discovered at a La Quinta hotel room on I-35 and Rittiman Road that he shared with an unnamed woman. In the story reported this week by Vianna Davila for the San Antonio Express-News, Pittman was a “regular” customer, a hotel clerk told the police, who determined that the couple had “consensual sex.”

One thing about my ambition,” Pittman said to the SAEN in a story on February 13, 2005, examining his background to become the city’s next San Antonio’s Police Chief, “is that it has never been absent of character, has never been absent of integrity, has never been absent of morality.” [italics mine] He wasn’t chosen, gracias a Dios, and until his retirement he remains the Assistant Police Chief of Operations, whose responsibilities include Investigation, Patrol, and Technical Services.

The reason I rehash what you already know is that those bloody towels remind me of a story the therapist/friend (I’ll call her Ms. Kind) of Marci Bennett, Pittman’s step-niece, confided to her. Bennett accused Pittman of raping her on February 6 of last year, and the attorney Rosie Gonzalez (no relation to me), who specializes in family law, was contracted by Ms. Kind because she was that afraid of the police.

Ms. Kind told Gonzalez in her sworn statement that Bennett was sexually abused by her stepfather when she began her first menstruation, and then was passed on to Pittman.

I’m an MSW, a professional social worker in my past life, and I’ve seen raped young girls. I’ve seen them with bruised and ripped vaginas and souls, and if I’m offending you, I’m sorry. But these girls deserve a witness. And yes, it happens in families. Some girls survive it, and others, just don’t. Gonzalez has impressed upon me that Ms. Kind contracted her out of fear, “to keep the police at bay, to stop them from harassing her.” Mind you, Pittman’s job was over the sexual crimes division. Though Pittman was “exonerated,” from the rape allegations after the most yellow-bellied journalism I’ve ever seen by the San Antonio Express-News, Gonzalez reminds me that the DA’s Office cited the lack of “enough evidence.” That doesn’t mean there wasn’t evidence, she says, or “enough evidence to indict him.”

In fact, says Gonzalez, the whole statement was “very prejudicial to Pittman.”

TO BE CONTINUED. To read more, please see the San Antonio Observer this week with a cover photo of Pittman in his trademark sunglasses, "You've been a BAD BOY," August 16 - August 22, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Guadalupe Cultural Center/The Chisme-mill says Cachetadas happened, what do you think?

According to sources who ask to remain confidential, there is speculation that Cynthia Langston, the Guadalupe Center's Development Director, may have left her position as a result of an altercation there last week with a TCA Offical. Ms. Gage McElwain, Director of Marketing for the TCA, denies that any altercation or slapping occurred on their site visit last Wednesday.

My reliable sources say that governmental agencies are intensely private about sensitive issues like this, insisting that something did happen. More on this later.

Monday, August 14, 2006

What will you be at 96 years old? Will it rain?

The following is a true story from Maria Antonietta Berriozabal, a former city councilwoman in San Antonio, Texas, highly respected for her integrity, dignity, and spirituality.

On Sunday, August 6th, 2006, she wrote:

Today was my mother's 96th birthday. At lunch I asked her how it felt being 96. For the past few days we had to remind her every day that her birthday was coming and she asked how old she was. Today in response she quickly replied: "No me gusta porque no llueve." And she said no more.

We thought that was quite a response. Who knows where those thoughts came from. However, at about 5 today it started to rain.

When you know my mom's story it makes a lot of sense.

She was raised in the country and worked in the fields for most of her youth. Because of her interest in reading the sky and what messages it gave her she became a really good meteorologist. We could always depend on my mom on whether to take a coat a sweater or a raincoat as we left in the morning because she was always right on target. And when we did not heed her advice we bore the revenge of nature. My mom had learned to read the clouds. But because as a child she experienced terrible tornados and storms that would devastate the little houses where the medieros lived, most of her adult life was spent with a great fear of rain and storms.

These days she hardly goes out. It is so hot. Her mind wanders on and off all day long. She gets confused and, well, you know about those things. Her environment is mostly inside a cool house. But today in addition to lots of loving relatives, flowers, gifts and song she got rain. To me it was a miracle.

A Chicana understands Palestine, and the wars that follow

My family's 20,000 acres were stolen from us after the U.S. Mexican War.

And before that, we had taken it from someone else - the Native Americans. As my mexicana mother always said, the land is to be shared. Otherwise, you have war.

Today, the Palestinian people are under seige, as Israel forgets the lessons of suffering. The lessons of loss.

Israel refuses to share, fearing the other. Believing that the only way to live is for one to dominate over the other.

Sound familiar?


Photo Credit: Windows, by Carly Garza, Say Si Students, San Antonio, Texas