Recent Comments


    Spring Has Sprung

    By Joanie Juster–

    There may still be snow on the ground in other parts of the country, but in San Francisco magnolia trees are working hard to outdo each other in glory, days are getting long enough for early evening walks, and Giants pitchers and catchers have already reported for spring training. That’s sign enough for me that spring is here. If you haven’t been to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens yet for Magnolia Madness, GO! Trust me on this. It will make you feel better about the world.

    On, Wisconsin!

    While many pundits are already obsessing over who might run in the 2024 presidential election, there is a crucial election coming up soon that could have an outsized impact on the 2024 election, and all future elections.

    On April 4, Wisconsinites will be voting in a contest some media have dubbed “the most important election nobody’s ever heard of.” The Wisconsin State Supreme Court currently has a 4–3 conservative majority, but one of the conservative judges is retiring, creating a rare opportunity for progressives. What’s at stake is the balance of power in the state’s highest court, and a chance to flip it for the first time in decades. And a progressive majority in the court could determine cases with far-reaching consequences.

    Wisconsin has been gerrymandered to the nth degree by the Republican Party, to the extent that it’s nearly impossible for a non-Republican to win, despite the fact that the state is, overall, relatively “purple.” The court could have the opportunity to force a redrawing of Wisconsin’s legislative and congressional maps, creating an opportunity for elections to more fairly represent the will of the voters. As one of the candidates, Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, has stated, “The maps are rigged—bottom line. Absolutely, positively rigged. They do not reflect the people in the state. They are rigged. Period.” The court could also handle any challenges to the 2024 election, which, since Wisconsin is a perennial battleground state, could have nationwide consequences.

    Also at stake: laws that make voting more difficult, the private school voucher program, Act 10 (the notorious anti-union law that then-Gov. Scott Walker signed in 2011 ending collective bargaining rights for most public employees), as well as Wisconsin’s strict anti-abortion law, originally passed in—are you ready?—1849. Judge Protasiewicz, who prefers to live in the present-day, is running a television ad where she states directly to the camera, “I believe in a woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion.”

    Bottom line: this is a crucial election, and Wisconsin could use our help, because this one will be all about getting out the vote. Just about every progressive organization is pitching in to help by raising money, phone and text banking, and writing letters to voters. One that provides links to several of these efforts is Swing Left. Check them out, and pitch in:

    Black History Month

    Through February, The Museum of the African Diaspora has been celebrating Black History Month with a variety of programs. On February 28 they are joining with City Arts & Lectures to present a very special event featuring internationally renowned novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga in conversation with Angela Davis. An opportunity to hear Dangarembga in person is a rare privilege; to hear her in conversation with iconic human rights activist Angela Davis raises this event to must-see status.

    When the GLBT Historical Society presented “Angela Davis: OUTspoken” in 2018, collector Lisbet Tellefsen remarked, “She has always explored the connections between race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and citizenship. She is an African American woman, she is lesbian, she is an ally for oppressed populations throughout the globe, and a vocal champion for LGBTQ rights. This is who she is. She is a human rights activist of the highest order.” Info and tickets:

    One more suggestion for Black History Month: Learn about actual Black history. Read a book by a Black author that has been banned and decide for yourself how you feel about it. As ever, the folks at Teen Vogue are on top of this, and have published a short list to get you started. They noted: “As we lean into the 2023 theme of Black History Month, Black Resistance, now is the perfect time to test our capacity to resist by reading banned books by Black authors and leaders. When we engage more deeply with Black perspectives, we create space where Black Americans feel fortified, respected, and ultimately, celebrated.” Here’s their list:

    Seriously, Florida, WTF??

    In my column in the last previous issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, I was so furious about the escalating book ban movement in Florida that I couldn’t even write about it—instead I listed a number of quotations, from people much smarter than me, on the issue of intellectual freedom.

    I’m still furious about Florida, but this time I’ll use my own words. My main message: PAY ATTENTION. What is going on in Florida is providing a blueprint for extremists in other states. Schools and libraries are no longer safe places to learn; they are becoming battlegrounds that are often so contentious and dangerous that longstanding, qualified teachers and librarians are quitting, overwhelmed by death threats, antagonistic parents and school boards, and unreasonable rules that are antithetical to the ethics of their professions. And the students? They are facing empty library shelves, unable to read anything that even remotely reflects the real world they live in. They have become pawns in an escalating political battleground, with both their education and their mental health at stake.

    Why are so many books being banned? Most of the requests to ban books are objecting to themes including race, LGBTQ+ issues, social justice, and other topics deemed controversial or “inappropriate” for young readers.

    I can’t possibly keep up with all the bad news coming out of Florida, but fortunately there are others who do. Two worth following (and supporting): The Florida Freedom to Read Project and PEN America. Both are fighting hard on the front lines of intellectual freedom for all of us, and deserve our support. Contact:

    Thanking a Generation of Strong Women Leaders

    For well over 30 years, California, and the Bay Area in particular, has been represented in Washington by a remarkable string of powerful, fearless women. That political landscape is now shifting, as some of our longest-serving representatives have announced major life and career changes. Barbara Boxer, who retired from the Senate in 2017, was succeeded by Kamala Harris, who went on to become Vice President. Jackie Speier, who most recently represented the 14th Congressional District, retired from her long career in public office as of the 2022 election. Nancy Pelosi is still representing San Francisco in Congress, a role she has held for over 35 years, but recently stepped down from her historic leadership role as Speaker of the House. And the most recent announcement came when Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she will not run for re-election in 2024, ending her storied political career that began in San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, then Mayor, then over 30 years in the Senate.

    Together, these changes create a seismic shift in the political landscape, while also opening up opportunities for a new generation of leaders to emerge. But as each of these women moves on to new phases of their lives and careers, it is worth taking time to thank them for their service. Whether you always agreed with them or not (and who ALWAYS agrees with our elected leaders?), acknowledge that they have shaped history. They have each spent decades opening doors, shattering glass ceilings, creating pathways, and inspiring others. Each of these women stepped up to serve during a time when that was not easy for women to do so. They all fought misogyny and patriarchy and bias day after day, and made enormous personal sacrifices in order to change the culture and make life better for the next generation. They deserve our respect, and our thanks.

    Neighbors Need Our Help

    February 24 marks the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. During this past year, countless Ukrainians have been killed, maimed, or left homeless, cities and towns left in ruins, industries destroyed, worldwide food supplies disrupted, and much, much more. And for what?

    I can’t answer that question. But what is clear is that Ukraine still needs our help; sadly, there is no end to this conflict in sight.

    Meanwhile, last month a magnitude 7.8 earthquake caused unfathomable destruction across Turkey and Syria, killing over 42,000 people and leaving at least 2.4 million homeless, and 24 million affected. Entire cities crumbled to rubble. Those who managed to survive have absolutely nothing left. And for many of them, help isn’t coming fast enough, due to geopolitical barriers.

    All these people are our fellow human beings, our neighbors, and they need our help.

    There are many organizations helping with the relief efforts in Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, and other areas devastated by war and natural disasters. Two of the most effective are World Central Kitchen and Doctors Without Borders. Please help if you can. Even better, make it monthly; I guarantee your gift will be needed next month, too.

    Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.

    In Case You Missed It
    Published on February 23, 2023