Interviewsand Articles

 

John Malloy Interview: We Are All In This Together

by Richard Whittaker, Nov 9, 2014


 

 

I met John Malloy at one of ServiceSpace’s weekly events, an Awakin Circle. It was typical in that there were 60 or 70 people there. And, as usual, there were many I hadn’t met. At one point in the evening, each person has a chance to speak and it’s always fascinating to glimpse the different worlds that come into view this way. There are always some who make deeper impressions. John Malloy was one of those. His presence is palpable and his speaking reminds me of the few Native American elders I've heard.
     In the last few years, as we've gotten to know each other better, I’ve become aware of his remarkable gift for working with at-risk kids and young adults. His gift is deeply grounded in his own experience and is a kind of knowledge both in short supply and urgently needed. 
     I met with Malloy at his home south of San Francisco. We stood outside at the edge of a small garden admiring a beautiful view looking east. Then, turning to one of the garden's many figures he told a story. It was clear each one had a story. Before we went inside, he performed a little ceremony burning some sage. Then, as I was setting up to record, John must have mentioned something about his bad eye.


Richard Whittaker:  I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it, but when you mentioned your left eye, did something happen there?

John Malloy:  Yes. In 2002, nine months after I had two cataract operations, we were running across California in the middle of nowhere. It was like four in the morning and I was walking around the camp collecting myself, basically so I could take care of the team. I knew there was a moon up there, but it was like someone was pulling a blind down; it just got darker and darker. My retina had become 90% detached. In a short time I was in total darkness. But I was more focused on the team than my own eyesight, you could say. That’s kind of the way I’m built. It took three days before we could get to a medical team that could reattach the retina. That’s a journey unto itself. The operation failed twice. It required three operations, and now no doctor will touch my left eye. They said it can’t be fixed any better than it is. At least light is getting light in and light affects the brain.
     There was nine months of not being able to do martial arts or running or anything and being just in total blackness on my left side. Looking back, I like the way I handled the hardship, but today I would get help much more efficiently. So now it’s like looking through cellophane paper.

RW:  But your right eye is pretty good, I take it?

JM:  Yes. I laugh at that. It’s 20-400. So with some help, it’s a good eye.

RW:  Let’s get some history. Tell me a little about your family.

JM:  Basically it’s my mom and dad, two sisters and a brother. I was born in 1946 in Washington, D.C. My father was Army intelligence and was assigned to the embassy in China. So by the time I was three months old we were living in China where we lived for the next three years until Chiang Kai-shek fled. We were the last family out of Shanghai on the plane. So my first language was Mandarin. We went from there to another war, the Hux War in the Philippines. Then we were in Java, Borneo, all these spiritual places, but it was jungle living. We had mesh walls so the wind came through and you could see the elephant walking by. The geckos were on your walls. So that was another three years. And then we end up in Europe. My mom tracked 44 moves before I was 17.

RW:  Forty-four, wow.

JM:  So we were always following my dad. What I’ve come to know is that I was born to be a leader for a number of reasons. One, because of who my father was. He had four archetypes, as Angeles Arrien teaches, as far as how people can live their lives: the warrior, the visionary, the healer and the teacher.
     In looking back it’s clear I was made to protect people. I was made to preserve spaces and that sort of thing. But traveling, it came to a point where I had a chip on my shoulder. I always felt I could protect my brother and sisters. But then we traveled so much that we couldn’t keep our friends.
     So there is a deep sadness there. You make a good friend in the schoolyard or in the village and then we would have to leave. We usually had no notice. Even if we were going ten miles, it was one more change. I felt alone a lot of times. And when we came back to the United States, it wasn’t a great relief, because then I became a city and asphalt kid.

RW:  How old were you when your family came back?

JM:  Twelve or thirteen. We lived in New York. We lived in Washington, D.C. and then finally San Francisco. When we got to San Francisco in ’58 or ‘59, I felt this great relaxation because I thought we were going to be there for a while. By then you could typecast me as a rebel, independent. I was tired of not having control over anything. So it makes sense where I stand today that I went through rites of passage in being a rebel, being able to intimidate, which is a misuse of power.
     I’m relating all this to leaders. It’s so important because we have very few true leaders today. If we’re going to have healing on the planet, we need true leaders. A great leader doesn’t deal with right and wrong cross-culturally. They don’t even use the terms right and wrong. The reason is because that immediately is judging someone who is a person, first of all.
     If you’re really going to make people safe, it has to be safe for everyone in the circle. There’s always an entry. Anyone can enter this circle and then you’re absorbed and then the group will take care of you. Then you’ll learn you’re part of something, you’re not alone. So my mom gave me my heart.

RW:  Talk a little about your mother.

JM:  My mom taught us tolerance. She had the heart. She had to embrace everyone. The spies would come to the social gatherings you’re expected to do when you’re in an embassy. So all these leaders would come, but they would have their own agendas whether it’s for the United States or whether it’s for Russia.
     My mom had to host everyone. A lot of people would be empty vessels. They would be phony. My mom didn’t have a phony bone in her body. She just loved everyone. I would think she was naïve. She had this great faith that I used to resent, like “Don’t you see the deal?”
     So my mom has a heart. I have the same heart. I can go into any room. I don’t judge people. I offer them respect. I offer them honor. I don’t care if they’re junkies. I don’t care if they molested someone. That’s not my position. My position is to bring out the best in them.
     My mom would bring out the best in everyone. She didn’t care if you were a waiter in Oakland. She didn’t care if you were a shinu like those who worked in our Chinese home. She cared about everyone. When we would leave, she asked what’s going to happen to this person? Should we take them with us? Or would that break their family circle? Or would they now be safe—because they won’t be safe when the Communists come, let’s say. My mom just loved everyone. At times she would say she had these political beliefs, but all the beliefs melted when she had a personal experience with someone. That’s what I noticed.
     I never wrapped myself in political beliefs. I think when you do that, you lose your original power. My mom got me to a point of looking at someone in a whole different way, not the way they’ve been introduced to you, necessarily, or the way they look or the way they talk. So my mom and my dad, I’m blessed to have had them both.
     It’s interesting, because I didn’t live off of my mom’s milk when I was younger. I spent more time being held by a Chinese woman.

RW:  When you were an infant?

JM:  Yes. My dad was always gone, but he had strength when he came back. He’s not the kind of guy you stand up to unless you really… He never gave us a reason to have to stand up, because he was always right, in the sense of being fair. So I wasn’t rebelling against that. Then my mom would try to teach me to box or sword fight or something.

RW:  Your mom?

JM:  Yes. Because my dad wasn’t there. We were so close. I was her favorite child. That led to things like, when I was sixteen and we were living in Oakland and bought the family car, I had a big say in it. She just always saw the good in me. So my mom and dad, I give them a lot of credit. They never had expectations of me whether it was to go to college or be in a profession. It wasn’t out of laziness. It was more that, intuitively, they knew you don’t tell me what to do—maybe to get the best out of me. I’ve always needed space. You give me space, I’ll do something with it.

RW:  I think of you having a very strong Native American presence. What is your Native American connection, if you don’t mind sharing that?

JM:  That’s my religion, for a lot of reasons.

RW:  How did that happen?

JM:  The Native people came to me, because they heard of my good work with children. This was in the 70s. I was directing and managing The Street Academy.

RW:  What is The Street Academy?

JM:  It was called the Foundry School. Before that I worked for seven years in a high-risk unit for kids who were incarcerated for serious crimes.

RW:  Let’s talk about that. Is that tied in with your being a rebel at all?

JM:  Yes, it’s totally tied in.

RW:  So you mentioned being a rebel and learning how to intimidate people. Maybe you should kind of lead us through that.

JM:  It’s like the difference between calling someone a dropout. I would never call someone a dropout. They’re pushed out. Calling someone a dropout, you’re blaming the person. With the other, you’re blaming the institution. It makes all the difference in the world. Let’s say 8,000 kids a year were pushed out of San Jose Unified schools out of 250,000 kids. It’s like this is an institutional problem.
     It’s like I was put in certain situation—and the schools don’t really protect you; the neighborhoods don’t necessarily protect you. There’s no safety net for a kid, in a way. So you do things your parents don’t know about just to get by. For instance, you get in a bus to go to school and all of a sudden someone puts out, “Give me a cigarette.” There’s four or five of them. Well, one, I don’t smoke—so I might say, “That’s a stupid thing to say.” I could say it a different way, but I’m not afraid. Or I could just be quiet and walk away.
     Every day I would handle that kind of peer pressure a different way. Then it became clear to me that I would rather be dead than on my knees. So that’s what I’m talking about with having a chip on my shoulder.

RW:  Did you have a lot of experiences along those lines?

JM:  Non-stop in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco. Lunchtime for me in New York City in public schools was climbing the fire escape and sitting up there and eating my lunch and kicking people down who were trying to get me.
     So I always hated school. I ended up spending my life working in schools, because they are unsafe places; physically and emotionally. They’re even more so nowadays. They’re talking about bullying and stuff, but the way they talk about it is not accurate.
     So part of the rebel turned into a responsible leader, a warrior. But the piece I missed was the inner peace or reflection, the discipline for taking the responsibility. So I was acting out against the person. I acted out against a couple of guys. I was incarcerated— juvenile hall kind of stuff. Basically, I was thinking I was doing the right thing. I was fighting back— and I was a better fighter, so people got hurt.
     While I was in custody a girl I cared about was raped. Basically, I hunted the people down and handled my business. They call that mayhem, assault. So I was off the street and tried as an adult, instead of a juvenile. Back then it was a lot different than it is today. I learned a lot about isolation and sense deprivation.

RW:  What happened? Did you go to prison or what?

JM:  It took so long. If you’re going to prison, you’ve got to be doing over a year. So I had already been sitting on my butt for close to a year. I was in county jail, in isolation, because you couldn’t mix me in population because of my age, 17.

RW:  I see. You would be victimized, probably.

JM:  That’s a way to look at it.

RW:  Although you were ready to defend yourself.

JM:  The county jail is different than prison, but you still have to defend yourself. But that period of time led me to know that the adults weren’t looking out for me. The people that were supposed to protect you, they weren’t protecting any of us. It’s like the big eat the little. So then I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and that was to eventually clean up my mess and work in institutions.

RW:  To try and take care of people who needed some help.

JM:  Yes. And I have done that. For seven years that’s what I was doing.

RW:  So you’ve had the experience of having to defend yourself and not having anyone there to protect you.

JM:  And I also had the experience of the people who lived that life. You’re not necessarily a gangster. I was part of some of that, but we were just taking care of what was around us. If one of our elders was walking down the street and some punk threw a bottle at him that was the last bottle he was going to throw. So it was territorial.
     Now some gangs are organized differently. For instance, the Asian gang in San Francisco is about money. But ours was just to take care of our own, but I don’t bring that up in my life today. I don’t use it as a card for the kids. That’s so long ago. But understanding that led me to put myself in a lot of positions of responsibility and of taking a stand.
     So my trademark is I can tell the truth when the fire is at my feet, or when everyone is uncomfortable. I can be that voice that’s going to speak up for kids. Working at juvenile hall, a high-risk unit, all my guys were going to be State-raised. They were going to be sent out of there and be doing time in State prison for young people. Then it was called the California Youth Authority. It still exists, but it was mammoth back when I was there, ’68 through ’75.
     I was working for probation. I was noticing all these great kids because I basically, and intuitively, set them up in a circle. I had 108 guys, 110 guys. It was just two of us adults. When I first went in there it was a totally unsafe place. There were people punching each other out, sexual attacks, all kinds of stuff. It wasn’t right. Discipline in there was counselors hitting kids and then throwing them in a room for 23 hours a day and putting their shoes outside and counting shoes.
     I went in there and knew that wasn’t going to happen on my shift. Eventually a dangerous place became a safe place; people who didn’t want to work in it before wanted to, because there were actually programs going on. I did a bill of rights and put it on the shower wall. Anyone who came in had to understand that, and do it. I became a lead counselor and trainer. It was all intuitive. It wasn’t formal training, none of that, because you only needed two years of college to work there.
     Along the way I noticed these kids didn’t have a criminal mind. They didn’t know how to make a decision in 50 seconds that was going to change their life. So they went for what they knew. Well, what they knew was pretty much street values. They would pick up the disease, the illness off the street, because dad was already in prison or mom was unfit from drugs and alcohol. So these kids raised themselves with the help of a bunch of other kids. They did the best they could.
     You can’t blame it on my parents. There is none of that. It was just the opposite, in a way, because they didn’t know what my real life was—like most parents don’t know. You know, their kid is in the 7th grade and thinking of killing himself or herself. That’s for a multitude of reasons, but 30 kids a day are killing themselves in the U.S.—a whole classroom full of kids.
     No one is talking about it. But I’m the kind of person who is going to talk about everything. That makes me trustworthy for kids. At juvenile hall we talked about sex, drugs and rock and roll. We got it straight that we needed each other. When you are going to go do your state time, you have to be present. You can’t be daydreaming about the past and your girlfriend. You can’t be like that. You’ve got to clean up your deal. You’ve got to say your goodbyes. You’ve got to make your amends and all like that.
     I would have guys waiting four or five months to be transferred. So it was enough time to do some real work. That’s when I met some of my most significant teachers. One was Max Hart. He was a probation officer. His family survived the Holocaust. He was German-trained and twenty years older than me. I was a counselor, but he heard about me and I heard about him. So I asked him, would you sit in some of my groups and give me a clue? He took that on. At the same time, the lead psychiatrist, Steve Mitchell, came in. So I learned from a psychiatrist and from a guy who was a Gestalt therapist, and we became lifelong friends.
     Max taught me how to take an 8’ x 12’ room and make it feel like a castle. He was so humane. He just used everything there was to make a kid feel like there’s hope. And he formally okayed what I already knew. And Dr. Mitchell, a psychiatrist—I mean to get out usually you’ve got to lie and say what they want to hear so you can hit the streets. I knew that game. He was the most honest person. He never lied, and he used his hands. He touched people more than prescribing medicine. He was so sincere. He would cry when he was interviewing someone.

RW:  Wow.

JM:  I said okay, these are my homeboys. These are the guys I ride with. These are the guys I believe. So I started taking some college classes with Max Hart. And then, with Steve Mitchell, we formed an activist group. In the group we wanted all the different disciplines: educators, lawyers, nurses, parents, etc.. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, but it helped lead to creating the Foundry School.
     Eventually I left my work at juvenile hall to help start The Foundry School with two of my friends. The three of us, and the superintendent, had a vision. We wanted to turn on the turned-off kids getting out of juvenile hall. The schools didn’t want them. There was no place for them to go. They need a transition. So we were chosen.
     The probation people wanted to bully us and tell us who could go there. Steve Mitchell and I just said, no. We said probation would have to compete for these positions. We didn’t want our school to be treated like a dumping ground. The kids were going to have a say in whether they went there or not.

RW:  So the Foundry School was being formed and there was an issue with probation. I’m not sure I followed that.

JM:  Probation doesn’t know how to have relationships. They just do what they want. We didn’t want that. We wanted them to have to compete with other agencies and families who wanted to place kids in a limited number of spots.

RW:  So was the Foundry School was open to everybody, in a way?

JM:  It was open to penal code violators. Later we opened it to 601s, which is abandoned and abused. And later we opened it up to kids in children’s shelters. So we expanded it. We wrote legislation in ’73 that allowed for the first community school. That gave judges an option, but we didn’t want the judges to have the whole say.
     We, the ones who were working at the school—we, and the kids, not the parents, not a well-meaning probation officer—we had the final say. We listened to everyone, respected everyone, but we had the final say. We were saying you’re not just signing up for school, you’re signing up for a relationship through thick and thin.

RW:  Okay. So you wanted the final call.

JM:  And that was for integrity, because therapeutically, we just did a role reversal so that the kids would have a say in their lives.

RW:  That’s really quite amazing. It’s wonderful.

JM:  Yes. And I knew this somehow.

RW:  From your life, right?

JM:  Yes. But those situations just unfolded, all those decisions. I can look back and no one really knows the history of a lot of the decisions we made. They all came from like visions and prayers and listening to our original voices. We were listening to other voices, too, but then knowing we were the final authority. We were the ones carrying this load.

RW:  And the “we” in this case was who?

JM:  It was Christina Harrison and Judy Sabo and Charlie Platt. There were a number of us. Then they came and went, but not until they really made their mark.

RW:  And you had the blessing of the psychiatrist friend and the Holocaust survivor?

JM:  They blessed my work. Yes.

RW:  They were probably really behind your Foundry School?

JM:  Oh, yes. They were very helpful. But there were a lot of people involved at this point because we had proven ourselves inside the walls where there’s nothing between you and the inmate. I mean I would get in trouble every day. I was supposed to be called “Mr. Malloy.” No, you call me “John.” I didn’t want any barriers.

RW:  When you say you got in trouble, with who?

JM:  With the administration. I would get in trouble taking my shirt off and playing basketball on a hot day with the guys. That was a security risk. I would teach that true security comes down to relationships. No one is going to jump me and hit me over the head with a bed pole, because it’s John, because of that relationship…

RW:  Security comes down to relationship. That’s really beautiful.

JM:  Yes. So all of sudden administration and some of the counselors initially were threatened by that. You’re giving these kids too much respect. When they were bringing the new admit in at the front desk, they would say, “boy coming down to B3.” I would say, “Don’t call him a ‘boy,’ call him a man.” And all of a sudden I changed the whole language.
     We became known as “the family.” And during this period in the prisons, and everywhere, there were race wars—you know white, black and Chicano, southern or northern; all of that was going on.

RW:  Did your group, the family, cross those boundaries?

JM:  All of them. When I first went in there, Chicanos would wear red; the blacks would wear green. For example, they had a punk system in place where the leader of the unit would put a supply boy in there and give him power, and all of a sudden he has this power to bring in more racism.
     So we changed all of that. We all wore the same shirts. Then, when a new guy was coming down the hallway, instead of seeing whether he was black or Asian , or whatever, we would all get up and go down the hallway and greet him.
     I took every risk there was. There was no book written on this stuff. You just got to know it. So I had some great teachers who were off the chart.
     Eighty percent of Native people between 18 and 30 have been incarcerated. And while they were doing their time, they wanted their kids safe. They wanted help and they found their way to our school. One particular person applied, Clyde Screaming Eagle Salazar. Basically, he was the last man off of Alcatraz. He was slinging heroin. Where did he learn heroin? He was in the armed service. He said this feels good, but he also made a business of it and ended up in Alcatraz.
     The reason I say this is that you never know who your teacher is going to be. They’re not who you think they’re going to be or look like, or even have the history you would think of. Castro couldn’t win his Cuban war, because he couldn’t blow up bridges. Clyde knew plastic explosives from being in the service. So he went to Cuba and blew up bridges, and within months Castro won.
     So these are the kind of people my mom taught me not to judge. The people I really credit, like in the seven years I did at juvenile hall, I credit those students with making me a great group processor, and also helping me recognize the four archetypes, each of those kid’s medicine.

RW:  You mean when you were running groups at juvenile hall?

JM:  Yes.

RW:  Not when you were incarcerated, which came earlier?

JM:  No, nothing was happening there. I’m in a position now where a lot of people want to be mentored whether they’re new counselors at a school or whether it’s someone I meet at meditation. I have great confidence that I’m the right guy because I’m an optimist, even in this fractured world that’s so divisive and so consumption-oriented. I do see the big picture. So I’m more like a hawk than an eagle. The Native running team I was asked to participate with is called Tycia, which means red-tailed hawk. It’s funny because a hawk, unlike an eagle doesn’t just go straight down. It circles. So a great leader can never be hasty.

RW:  Would you say more about Screaming Eagle? He was an important figure for you, right?

JM:  Yes, and he ended up dead between two garbage cans with a needle in his arm. So he had good days and bad days.

RW:  How did he help you?

JM:  One, he brought Native Consciousness to our school. He is the one who invited me to go on my first California Native American Indian 500-mile spiritual marathon run, and now I’m the director of the run.

RW:  So this was roughly what year?

JM:  It was 1978. Through that I met and walked with Cesar Chavez. He cooked the runners pancakes. There’s an underground of great leaders where all know each other. We don’t know each other in a public way. It’s a quiet way. Agreements are made, and they’re kept. So Clyde had a disease, but he brought me to Dennis Banks and the American Indian Movement. I can call Dennis right now and ask his blessing for this or that.
     Our team runs under the American Indian Movement’s flag. We have the authority to do the things we do. The run would end if we lost that connection or that trust. So I’ve kept that trust. A leader has to have impeccable communication. You’ve got to have your timing right. You’ve got to have your subject matter right. Native people are characterized as being so simple, so naïve. Earth people are the most sophisticated people on earth.

RW:  Screaming Eagle, in the way I’m hearing it, was your entry into the Native American community, and this has been an important thing for you.

JM:  Yes, along with Buddhism. I can’t make a bad decision because I have those on either side of me. I can’t go crooked because I have this belief system that makes it so easy to do the right thing. The right thing is to be inclusive. The right thing is to be of service. The right thing isn’t to have a bunch of things. It’s that whole give and take. There has to be a balance.
     So I know how to say no, and I know how to say yes. I walk my talk so my mouth has got to match my feet. Why is that? Because if my word wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be invited to ceremonies, to Sun Dances, Ghost Dances, Bear Dances, the sweat lodges and more. I was invited in early and remember, this was in the time of COINTELPRO where the FBI was spying on grassroots movements and plotting to instigate infighting and dissention in the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords. The FBI tried to chip away bonds and loyalties in these activist groups.
     I was in the middle of that. I could have been distrusted. Why wasn’t I distrusted? I mean Dennis’ own wife betrayed him. His pilot betrayed him. I got to go through all that period of time. I know of the dirt, and I know of the cleanliness. I know how the American Indian Movement became a spiritual movement, not just a political movement, not just an economic movement. And meanwhile the Black Panthers, all of that, I was exposed to all of that being in Oakland.

RW:  What are some of the things you got from your involvement with Native Americans that have helped you?

JM:  Well, number one, the earth ethic. Indigenous people believe that all life is sacred. That’s what we run for. It sounds like a simple statement. All life is sacred. Well when you start realizing that the sky is sacred, the earth is sacred, the water is sacred—all these things are sacred—you don’t get pushed around. Let’s say we’re at Mt. Tamalpais and we have 70 runners. We’re going to run through a national park. We’re going to run through land where the water district is. We’re in the middle of the ceremony and all of sudden rangers show up. They start citing us, and people start with what are we going to do? We’re going to surround those rangers in a good way so they can’t get back to their car. And we’re going to keep drumming and drumming. We’re going to let them know this is a prayer. No one tells us how we pray, or where we go.
     So then 70 runners take off and they call it into the next district. We runners disappear into the forest. The next thing we see is rangers from the national park. I say, “I see you’re training that horse. Can I bless it?” Then all of a sudden we become friends.
     I use the earth ethic all the time with kids who feel suicidal or homicidal. It’s like when you commit an act of violence, you are basically disconnecting yourself. You are putting yourself outside the circle. You are connected to the circle. The circle includes the plants, the trees, and all life forms. You need to know the names of these trees. You need to be able to talk to that animal that’s hurt, that ‘s never going to fly again because it was shot out of the sky by someone who doesn’t know any better. We can’t fix it like you fix your leg, because the bones are hollow.
     The kids start learning. Pretty soon they start realizing that the bear is our relative. Well, if he’s a relative, respect and fear are two different things. Do you have to fear that bear? You have to know that bear’s way. We tell you about these animals and you fall in love with them. Why is that?
     The Native Americans have taught me that everything is connected. Those sage bushes out in the desert, why are their leaves smaller? Why do their roots go down so far? Why is that? Because they’ve got to communicate to the next plant. They might say I’ve got more than I need. You can have this. You start seeing how sophisticated and universal these truths are. Angeles Arrien came into my life and gave me a list of truths. She formalized what I knew, and I was so grateful. Basically her research was all about indigenous first peoples’ knowledge. It totally went along with what Native people had showed me. And that’s what I wanted, because I saw urban, wounded people coming and the psychiatry didn’t work. The medical model didn’t work. Science didn’t work. Behavioral practices didn’t work.
     What worked was the indigenous way where you see the god in everything. You revere everything. You learn the wind is sending you a message. You start honoring the invisible world. You start having a wow! in your life. The Native way is so freeing.
     People say what are you talking about? They’ve got unemployment. They’ve got drugs. They’ve got domestic violence and stuff. But they don’t pause and look at, hey, that was intentional. You know? That was government strategy. I’ll give you alcohol. I’ll give you a blanket with TB. Few know about the California trail of tears. People go to Sacramento to see Sutter’s Fort and “Oh, what an interesting fort.” They don’t see how he started on the Oregon border and his mission was to kill every living Indian there was.
     There are still relatives out there. Well, we’re out there honoring those relatives and meeting their relatives today. When Clyde Screaming Eagle Salazar introduced me to the California American Indian spiritual marathon relay that’s when I began to meet the leadership of the American Indian Movement. I was a runner. I didn’t realize that in the Native American way, if you say yes to a commitment, that means four years—one year for each direction. So this was early on in the Foundry School and I had a lot of responsibility. I had to hire 24 teachers for the summer school program. And I expected the run to be finished in time. But there was a delay. We started four days later than I thought. That’s a good example of “Indian time.” We wait until we know it’s the right time.
     This run was starting from DQ University and was going from Davis to Los Angeles.

RW:  DQ University?

JM:  Yes. It’s by Davis, California. It’s the first Indian university west of the Mississippi. Dennis Banks became president. He was on that same run. My spiritual teacher today, Fred Short, was his bodyguard for 11 years. Dennis Banks had 250 years hanging over his head for doing the right thing. So Governor Brown said, as long as you stay in California, you’re safe. He gave him a pass. Dennis became the director at DQ University. He was hurting because back in ’77, ’78 Native people decided to walk all nations under one flag. They said, we’re going to walk to Washington, D.C. from San Francisco, from Alcatraz, and get the freedom of religion act passed. Before that, people were going to prison for what we take for granted today; for the sweat lodges, the sun dance, all that. You went to federal prison.

RW:  You mean those things were illegal?

JM:  Yes, they were illegal. So we had a reason to run. We’ve always had a reason to run.

RW:  When you say you have a reason to run, you mean this is a proactive run for…?

JM:  Yes. In 1977 in North America, the grandmas and the Warriors Society, the medicine people gathered. They called in people like Dennis Banks, young warriors. They talked and then said your responsibility is to go to each village and tell them what we’re going to pass on to you. What they passed on is “Don’t get involved in politics and economics. Learn your language. Learn your dances. Learn your stories. Learn your songs. That’s the only thing that’s going to protect the sky and the earth.”
     We’ve been doing that for 36 years. Dennis wanted to walk across the United States with people who are still on the run, like Wounded Knee DeCampo. He’s our prayer man. He walked across the United States in nine months. Dennis couldn’t go because he’d been arrested by the Feds.
     So he asked, what can I do to support them? We’ll call runners in and we’ll run from place to place. We went down to Cesar Chavez’s compound in La Paz and Tehachapi. They shook hands. Dennis said, “We’ll start to run here to honor your work for the United Farm Workers. This will always be the place we start.” Those agreements were met and kept; for 25 years that’s where we started our route.
     Now we start at Pit River, which if there is ever another Wounded Knee, it will be there. Because how do you have a spiritual movement when you’re 25 guys who are in recovery and so angry that you just want to shoot the place up? All the leadership was taken at seven, eight, nine years old from their families, taken hundreds of miles away and put in government schools; they were beaten, had their hair cut and were not allowed to speak their language. Those guys are coming back now after a dark period of being urban Indians. How do you do that? They could go to Pit River. Pit River tells them how to do it.
     We’re at Pit River because they’re the ones who know how to stand up. They’ll occupy Lake Shasta or the dams. They’ll stop PG&E. They’ll stop Calpine from drilling. They’re warriors. So we go to them. They tell us what we need to know so we can go to the next village, the next village, the next village. There’s this whole system in place.
     Why am I in the middle? Because I do the work. I’m trustworthy that way. I’ve been in these incredible positions. We’ve run across the U.S. a couple of times. People ask how do you do that stuff? Some people are just corrupt, just ego-driven. We’ve had L.A. marathoners who have won the marathon who come and say we want to do this with you. Well, okay. Then two weeks later they leave the run, because they’re not used to sleeping on the ground. They want to sleep in hotels. They’re not used to sharing whatever you’ve got. They leave.
     We’ve got Indians and rainbow people who couldn’t run a lick who now run 30 miles a day for 88 days with every fifth day off—2,800 miles from one ocean to the next. How do you explain it? How do you explain it when people say well, the Indians used to run from Death Valley to the ocean? How do we know that? Because of vision. We have five runners now who can run 100 miles in 24 hours. We trained them to do that. How did we know that was possible? Because of faith. Our teachers are good. How do you know to push someone that hard? We’ve got a 12-year-old who can do that. 

RW:  Is the point of it like, oh, you ran 100 miles in 24 hours?

JM:  No.

RW:  So talk about the real point of this long run.

JM:  It’s about bringing credibility. People think it’s so simple. It’s not simple to run 100 miles. You’ve got to know a lot of things. Science can’t explain a lot of these things. They can’t explain spirit. We’re spiritual runners. We’re not competitive runners. You know, I had a vision that every kid that would go to Foundry School had to run 6 miles within the first four days in our group. People might say, well, he’s got a bad leg, he’s got asthma. There were people saying it was child abuse. There were administrators saying you’re going to kill somebody. You can’t do it.
     We did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. It was the honest thing to do. Some of the kids who are 40 today and have their own families say, “It was the greatest thing, John. I thought you were crazy, but we did it.” Now how did we do it? Group running.
     Americans train individually. They keep secrets. Indigenous runners do everything together. How do the Tarahumara do it? We have a relationship with Tarahumara runners. We have relationships with all kinds of people. Once the trust is there, you start learning. You can’t be spiritual without going through the body. You can’t go to heaven until you’ve done your earth walk. So you have to know all these things.

RW:  That’s really something. You had this vision that every new kid would have to run six miles within four days? Did they all manage to do this?

JM:  Yes. And how did they do it? Because other kids wouldn’t let them quit. Then if a new kid came and said, John, I can’t run, the kid who didn’t think he could make it a month ago would say, can I go with you?

RW:  When they succeed, that’s a huge thing, right?

JM:  That’s it, exactly. I appreciate you pushing that point. The point is we imprison ourselves. I know people in prison more free than people walking around here. So we disable ourselves.
If you’re comparing yourself like, “I can’t read like him,” or “I can’t run like him,” or “I can’t paint like that,” you’re basically putting coats over your power—which is a native way of saying missing your medicine. You have a responsibility to discover your medicine. And once you discover it, now your responsibility is to share it. That’s what this school did.
     So you become a servant for the rest of your life. You don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice. My own direction is north. That’s what I was given. You go north. There are going to be obstacles, but I was never daunted by the obstacles, which were plenty.
     Obstacles were never from those who had nothing. It was never from students or parents. It was always administrators who wanted to block your vision. A kid can run six miles who is just a street kid who has been slamming dope. So what else can they do? These kids also had to talk in front of a couple hundred people within weeks.

RW:  Wow.

JM:  What did they have to talk about? Their story—not as a war story, but as a medicine story. My story is connected to your story. So basically our students have outgrown us. That’s the way it should be.

RW:  That’s beautiful.

JM:  The Native people put everything I believe to the test. So I became a ceremonial fireman. You know, I was “fire-tested.” Well, I know fire. It’s been my teacher. What I didn’t know was water.
Angeles Arrien is responsible for a foundation that selects five people to support every three years because of the work they’re doing. One year I was one of the five people. Not long afterwards, I was walking with close friends of mine, Amna Jaffer and her mother, Ruksana. They come from an important family in Pakistan. We were just out walking and talking about our visions. I started talking about water. Pretty soon we were talking about how, in Pakistan, indigenous women and children are pushed off their lands when the water dries up. They have to go Karachi and they become sex slaves, they become child slaves and laborers. So we asked, what can we do? Long story short, we helped get 30 water wells put in the Thar Desert in Pakistan.
     Now indigenous women and children are getting to stay on the land; these are people who revere nature. They listen to it. They would be starving and a white deer would walk across the desert and they won’t kill it. What we’re doing is supporting their way of life so they aren’t absorbed into the city and misused. I learned a lot about water that way.
     What’s our theme the last two runs? It’s been water. Where does our drinking water come from? Shasta, Lassen. Those places have been dammed. What did the damming do? It affected the fish. What did the fish teach? The fish are the main teacher of the northern tribes. But this story never gets to be told except between ourselves. No one else is really interested in hearing it until the skies are black with pollution or you can’t drink the water. We know the answers. There’s a man out in Alviso. What’s his job? His job is to simply go and take horse reed and put it in the ground. It takes the toxins out of the mud and cleans up the water. It’s a simple person who knew how to clean up the water.

RW:  Wow.

JM:  If the truth be told, those in power no longer have power. So I don’t look to anyone who has that kind of power. I look to people who have medicine.

RW:  That’s a wonderful way of putting it.

JM:  There are four healing agents. One is storytelling. I took my boss into San Quentin where I was part of groups, Level 4. Those people aren’t getting out. My boss went in there a couple of times with me to see what the hell I was doing. When we walked out, he said, “Am I losing it, John or what? I feel bad leaving those guys. Those guys aren’t any different than me.”
     I said, “No, Charlie, you’re finally coming into reality. You’re listening to your spirit again. This is who you are. You showed you cared by going in there. Those guys got to be soft around you. They don’t have visitors. They’re in a hard place. They’re looking for a place to be human. You gave them a chance to be human. You touched them.”
     So there’s the power of the circle; my life has been the circle. What I believe in is the circle. Like Angeles Arrien said, there are over 140 different configurations like circles, spirals, pyramids. But in all indigenous cultures, there are five main ones, and the most important one is the circle. It represents unity, wholeness, integrity. It doesn’t divide people. Any leader who divides people is not trustworthy.
     When I was fighting to save The Foundry School, people would say, you’ve got dirt on her. You could do her in. They were talking about the superintendent who was taking me to court. It's a sick way of thinking. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the world blind.”  I wasn’t willing to follow her way of thinking. She came in new and told me behind closed doors, “You seem untouchable. Well, I’m going to 'touch you.'”  
     I wasn’t going to be intimidated by her. I teach kids this, and I live it: “Don’t advance and don’t retreat. Stand your ground.” So I kept working with the students and the community the best I knew how. Ultimately, I was fired from the community school that I founded and grew over 30 years. We did amazing work in the community and most of that is gone, but not all of it. She could have ruined my life, but I made my life better. I just cleaned it up and let the clutter go. I was taught a long time ago by Cesar Chavez: don’t fight people, fight issues. Don’t get caught up in that, John. You can’t be spiritual if you’re ruining someone else’s reputation.
     They tried to kill Cesar Chavez. They are still trying to kill his reputation and say he was paranoid. No, he wasn’t paranoid. He was more certain that non-violence was the way to go. So he fasted. He got quiet. He was keeping his medicine. His medicine lives today.
     People say United Farm Workers is dead. The UFW is not dead. It’s in every community. You don’t see it. There are health services; there’s housing. Where did it come from? It came directly from Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and their efforts. The results are out there. You don’t see them. It’s built into communities. So it’s even more effective.
     How did membership get built up over the years? Most people don’t know it. It was simple. The UFW did a second pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento a step at a time. And what was happening while those steps were being taken? People like me were going to all the citizens along the way. One of the poorest places in the United States is along Highway 99. We were asking, would you like to join the union? You don’t have to be a farmer. That’s how the numbers went so high.
     The critics of the movie about Cesar Chavez say they left out important events. Some in the UFW family would say, “We know it’s Hollywood. It’s a 7 out of 10.” You know? They didn’t take it personally. The movie focused on his son and their relationship. One son lives in San Jose. It shows the principle that leaders sometimes have to sacrifice their family. They realize their family is bigger than their blood family. That’s what he did. All of a sudden somebody can say, well you weren’t ever there for me. The truth is, yes, he was there. He made it so you could go be a lawyer and you could go live in San Jose in a nice house; so we can have these kinds of conversations.
     Typically I go before a board of education to save a school that’s helped over 8,000 families. I get three minutes to talk. Now it’s down to two. I’ve been a leader there for so long that now, when it’s my turn to talk and they cut off the mike, someone stands up and says, “I give John my three minutes.”
     All of a sudden we bring 800 people to make sure they do their job right. One of them is Dolores Huerta. The board president, shamefully, doesn’t even know who she is. She’s as important as Cesar Chavez. Then they bring in the police tac squad because they’re afraid of 800 people at their board meeting. These are people of color. When we clap, they tell us to quit clapping. People look to me. The next speaker goes. How do we support him? We all stand up. Oh, you can’t stand up now. Pretty soon they come to take me away, and the whole crowd stands up.
     They couldn’t take me away. Then the Board of Education President would say, “The meeting is over,” and leave. A fifteen-year-old comes up to me and says, “John, this is illegal. They can’t not have the meeting.” So they have to come back in. Okay, then what do we do? We have them stand there. Dolores Huerta leads us in “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Who did she get that from? From Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King? Who was around him then? Dick Gregory and Jesse Jackson. All those connections were in place in my life.

RW:  That’s amazing, John.

JM:  It’s all connected. But at the time, when we were boycotting car lots in San Francisco and in Oakland, I didn’t realize that was going to connect me civil rights leaders. My job is to make it so that everyone can have a voice. My life’s job has been to make safe spaces.

RW:  Where are your activities today?

JM:  My job is to make five schools safer for students. I do that for the Santa Clara Unified School District. There’s a person who brought me back to work after two years. I said I wasn’t going to kick in doors anymore. I wasn’t going to be that kind of activist. I was going to be quiet. I was going to use a feather instead of a hammer. I used to look at everyone as a nail. You know? And I was a hammer.
     I had to change that when I lost sight and when I lost the job I loved. All of a sudden it was against the law. There were restraining orders against me if I spoke to certain people. They tried to isolate me.
     So after two years the school district came to me because they were having problems with expulsions, suspensions. They tried to bring together a team of four of us who had experience with probation in schools. He’d come to The Foundry School to get kids from the district into our school. So he knew my nature. He said, I’d like you to mentor principals and vice principals on discipline, because they’re pushing kids out onto the street. We need to keep them in school. They’re going to create street problems, gangs—that sort of thing.
     Basically, I walked in. Every principal and vice principal had a hit list of kids. These were the kids who were “mess-ups.” They were indicating meeting with them individually. I said, “I’m one guy. I am going to work 100 hours a month. That makes no sense.” I said, “What makes sense is that these kids will have a place in your school.”
     I take these rebels and I turn them into peer counselors. I turn them into healers, warriors, visionaries and teachers for the other kids out there who we haven’t got to yet. So I said, “I don’t want any handcuffs on me.”
     That means a teacher can’t say, “This math class is more important than your group.” I said, “We’re going to do two-hour groups every week in these places. We’ll have eight ongoing groups. It will be an honor to get into the group.”
     I walk across the campus now and kids are asking, “John, how do I get into your group?” So they don’t see it as punishment. It’s because the kids love their group. How do you explain it? Because these are kids who have been enemies. How do you get them to no longer be enemies? You listen to each other’s stories. I tell them, “If you just learn to listen, your life will change. It will never be messed up. You don’t need money. You don’t need status. Pretty soon you’re going to know everything. You’re going to know who is trustworthy. You’re going to know who is important.”
     A leader needs physical presence. I’ve got physical presence. I can be like this. The homeboys know that my job is to keep the group safe. If you’re doing something to make it unsafe, you'll know that won't be tolerated. They just know that. And they know, if I know anything, I know ten times more than they do, because I know their dad or I knew their granddad. You know, relationships. And their dads give me permission. You do whatever you’ve got to do.

RW:  Okay.

JM:  Even a kid’s dad is in prison, it’s like, “Thank you for giving my son a place. Thank you for keeping him in school.” That’s where it started with the Native people, too. They gave us permission.
     So we go up to Pit River and train people for a whole year to run. You’ve got to train not just physically, but culturally, every which way, including service. We take a team up there. We can do anything. We’re ready.
     Okay, now an Indian leader wants to honor us and says, “Here are 12 runners.” These runners haven’t trained with you. They don’t know the 500-mile run way.
     So to keep the team safe and not have resentment, what do you do? They’re going to be running under our flag, so you extend respect by saying, “Yes.” But those leaders tell their people, “You do it the 500-mile way. Don’t get sent home from here because you broke the spirit. Don’t do that or you’re going to be on your own. The team will send you home.”
     We’ve never had an incident in the last 12 years that way. So a leader has got to be—I keep bringing up the idea of a leader because not enough people know what the principle of leadership is. You’ve got to have parameters. You’ve got to have a strategy and, if you don’t, personality is going to overtake principles—“This kid is cute” and stuff. “John, he doesn’t have a shirt.”
     I’ll look at them. It’s 110 degrees out; your shoes are melted. The kid doesn’t have a shirt. I say, “Are you suggesting he’s earned anything?” I say, “You know his father would be angry at me for giving him a shirt. He hasn’t done anything yet.”
     They don’t get it, but it’s principle before personality. Everything matters. The way you tie your shoes is the way you tie your black belt. Everything matters.
     In order to hold that inner position, you can’t clutter your mind. You better believe that you’re a good person ready to serve. In order to be the best servant, you can’t indulge yourself.
     We can be called at any time and asked to go take a drum. Two weeks ago we were asked to bring the drum to the ocean. We were drumming over a woman who died at 60. Her mother is one of the most important people in San Jose, as far as like 50 churches united. They wanted it the old way. We had people trained enough to come and know the song to drum them over. We had people who knew how to build a raft of wood and put abalone shells and send them out to sea. It didn’t come back to shore. It went out. The elders were just standing there approving. Then they just started clapping. They hadn’t seen each other in years.
     That’s the life you’re taking if you agree to it. It’s like, if you’re a bear dancer, and you’re in Southern California, all of the sudden, “We need you at Mammoth Lakes.” You have a regular job. You’ve got a family. You’re called on; you leave all that.

RW:  You go.

JM:  That’s still going on today. That’s my life. So the schools are one thing. That’s just humming. There are eight groups a week, times 36 weeks, let’s say. We’ve never had an incident. These are all the problem kids in the school, according to administration.
     I’ve never had an incident. I mean I’ve got guys who have beat each other down, five on one previously. “So tell me about this guy you just beat the shit out of.”
     “Hey, he thinks he’s a player. He thinks he gets all the girls. He thinks he’s muy guapo.” You know, very handsome and stuff.
     I say, “That’s what you know? Tell me something about his grandma.”
     “Well, we don’t know.”
     “Tell me something about his baby.” (He’s 14.)
     “Baby? You’re a father?”
     “Yes, I’m a father.”
     Now we’ve got their attention. By the end of the meeting, there’s $120 on the floor to help him buy diapers and Enfamil, because he and his family are raising the kid. This is from poor kids. That happens every day in group—something like that. But the teachers just think these are little gangsters. They don’t yet see their redemption.

RW:  That’s amazing.

JM:  It’s the situation in all these schools. They’re all unsafe, because the adults don’t know what heals behavior. They don’t know the kids’ life stories.
     I love teaching English. Kids who hadn’t been in school for years are in our school. They’ve got two years of “F”s. How can they become great writers? We introduce them to language. Mostly Mexicans are in the units that I worked. The administration won’t allow them to speak Spanish. So right away what happens? These kids start to hate English.
     So how do you get them to come back? I say, “Do you know what my job is? My job is to get you to fall in love with language. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to teach you to write with your nose, your ears, your eyes, your hands, your tongue.”

RW:  When you say that, what do you mean?

JM:  They’re going to learn all the senses. They’re going to learn the miracle of the eye, the miracle of hearing. They’re going to learn it from physiology all the way to metaphor. So why don’t you see any poems about oil? Why are all the poems about water? You want to be a lover? You want to be loved? You’ve got too much oil in you to be loved. You’re not loveable. You need to bring water in, clean water. So you need to bring up your language. Don’t ever swear in front of me again—that kind of stuff. That is non-stop.
     Then that kid is the one who gets up there and gives the greatest graduation speech you’ll ever hear. This is the guy who hated language, but I would not let him speak without writing it out.
     Now he teaches Mexican-American studies. There are so many thousands of stories—like on our run, at night we’ll sit around a big fire, and I ask them, “What’s your connection with the fire? What’s your connection with this group?”
     They’ll start telling it. They’ll say, “I’ve got 18 years clean.” Or, “I was molested and I was in the dark for so long and when I came to this group, all of a sudden, I realized what that shame and guilt was about. I broke the silence and all of a sudden 10 other women walked up to me and said thank you.” This is non-stop.

RW:  This is really something.

JM:  Just think if I had marginalized, walked by, Clyde Salazar. Over and over again I look at who has brought the most meaning to my life. I’m in the middle of nowhere in Alaska traveling. A vehicle is supposed to meet us after two weeks or we end up in the Bering Sea without any supplies. The group leader is arrogant. I noticed it early on.
     Then the vehicle broke down in the middle of nowhere. It was near a town called Chicken. Their mayor was on the run from the cops. This guy who was drinking beer all day walked by and just said, “Distributor.” He keeps walking.
     This leader just discounts this guy. So they end up putting most of us in a plane. They put me the back of a pick-up, which I actually chose. It was the distributor, but all our leader saw was a drunk.
     That’s not what I see. I pull back the curtain of the personality. I just see the soul. I believe everyone has a purpose and it takes a hero’s journey to discover it. When the find our nature, which is to love and create, we will contribute.
     So it’s different kinds of drums. You notice everyone wants to come to the drum. They hear something and then you match it up with their heart. That’s why I drum. Like going to India where people see chaos, I saw flow. I had no tension in my body at all. I’m not a good traveler, but thankfully Viral and Pavi [Mehta] took us by the hand, Mia—my partner of eight years—Anne and I.
     I told them up front, “I belong on earth. I belong on North America. I don’t belong other places. I don’t know enough. I’m simple. I just stay here and keep the fire going.”
     I’m so glad I went, because again, it confirmed everything I believe. They have such a deep faith. It reminded me of Cesar Chavez’s faith. Gandhi was Cesar’s teacher, you know. Cesar dropped out of school in fifth grade. You go into his office and see all these books, Gandhi’s books.

RW:  Wow.

JM:  Cesar lived like Gandhi. Cesar just wore the same shirt the whole 15 years I knew him, the same shirt. When he died, that shirt was on the back of his chair. He never made more than $5,600 dollars in a year. Too many don’t know the nature of the man. He was talking geo-politics the first time I went down for the run. I got there early. I’m always early because I’m like a dog. I want to walk around before I know where I’m going to sleep. There was Cesar Chavez and Isidro Gali.
     Isidro Gali was a spiritual advisor to the California prisons. The first time I met Isidro was the first time I met Chavez. We walked for three hours, the three of us, on sacred ground in La Paz in the Tehachapi Mountains. He found that place so farm workers could get away from the violence, so farm workers could come and rest. All he talked was a world without borders. He talked about the international matters. This was in ’79. He was already there. He was so advanced.
     He knew to go to Europe. He had no education. He didn’t know where he was going. He just knew he was supposed to go there. They boycotted grapes. Really, the UFW Grape Boycott started in Europe. They bought into the boycott.

RW:  That’s amazing.

JM:  And with Native people, it’s that way, man. It’s in the moment. You know the circles represent the four directions. So when we form a circle, people are trained that the first person stands in the east, the next the west and south and north. What that says is that it’s a human race. There is no exclusion. Everyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter what religion.
     People up at the Grant Ranch, we had a run up there and the Muslims came. They shared their space with us. So there were a few hundred people. The Muslims were praying here. We’re praying there. We brought food to them and they brought food to us. It’s like when you go in the sweat lodge. A reputable leader will say, “Pray in your way.” If they ask for a prayer, you don’t pray Indian if you’re Hindu.
     So there’s this beautiful universality, the thousand ways to the Creator, or to the mountaintop. There is beautiful tolerance. If there was an intolerance, like some people try to play more Indian than you. You know? They will compare medicine. Everyone has got medicine. In real life, when Native societies were starting to fight with each other, there was a person in the Eastern Sierras—grandpa Stone is how we used to know him. Basically, his legacy is you don’t compare medicine. We all have medicine. There needs to be unity. We can’t divide each other. We’re connected. You can’t go against family. We’re all family.
     I mean, that makes it so easy for me to love all of the efforts we make. So when I see someone being harsh, for instance, it like there’s a sweat lodge. The fire has been lit. You don’t walk between it. You wouldn’t yell at a two-year old, but here’s a 20-year-old who doesn’t know any better. You don’t yell at him, either. Instead, “Why don’t you go the other way? Think of the sun. Which way would the sun walk? Go that way.” So the tolerance is beautiful. There are no shortcuts. People have been really patient with me
     I presented some findings in a paper to my teacher who speaks for the Pit River people. He looked at it and said, “Don’t hand it out, John.”
     One, he didn’t like it because it was written, which I understand. He said, “It might be correct by the anthropologists, but it’s not our story. So all that work, let it go.” I went to the person who did a lot of work—it took him four years—and I said, “We’re not going to use your work.”

RW:  Oh, my gosh.

JM:  But it was the right decision. This year that person who did all that work will be with us, and he’ll be honored. But he is going to see why it was important not to hand out that paper. He will get to see it, because he is going to meet people and go places he’s never been.              
 

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine. 

 

A Man Impossible to Classify One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a ... Read More 711115 views


The Dumpster      “We can’t use these. They look like ... Read More 130212 views


Remember to Remember - Nicholas Hlobeczy I had the pleasure of getting to know the late Nicholas Hlobeczy over a ... Read More 87871 views


A Conversation with Silas Hagerty I met Silas, a young man in his twenties from New England, at a servicespace.org ... Read More 56329 views


A Conversation with Taya Doro Mitchell Taya Doro Mitchell July 3, 2007 Oakland CA I heard about Taya Doro Mitchell ... Read More 111019 views


READ MORE >> 

A Man Impossible to Classify One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a ... Read More 711115 views


Interview with Bill Douglass—Jimbo's Bop City and Other Tales At the time I'd first gotten to know the widely respected jazz musician Bill ... Read More 359087 views


Greeting the Light It was thanks to artist Walter Gabrielson that I was able to get in touch with ... Read More 289603 views


Interview: Gail Needleman Gail Needleman teaches music at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. ... Read More 178962 views


Interview: Stephen De Staebler John Toki encouraged me to interview his old friend and mentor, sculptor Stephen ... Read More 148809 views


READ MORE >>