Denise Sullivan

Author, Journalist, Culture Worker

Total Recall (San Francisco Edition)

If you are getting your news about San Francisco in the national mainstream media, you are understandably confused. Take last week’s recall of three members of our school board.

For anyone seeking actual answers as to how San Francisco was played in the outcome of its particularly San Franciscan recall, educational policy expert Kevin Kumashiro, author of Surrendered: Why Progressives Are Losing The Biggest Battles In Education, offered a streamlined and clear explanation to Ian Masters on a recent edition of Background Briefing.

Kumashiro has been following the nationwide dismantling of school boards in the wake of pandemic closures and the concurrent CRT debates, and breaks down how specifically GOP strategies, money and other forces came to bear on San Francisco’s maligned school board.

“This was about some people feeling the school board was putting too much of its time into ‘equity issues’ [renaming schools and admission policies], and not enough attention on reopening,” said Kumashiro. He further notes San Francisco reopened last fall like many other school districts, but the emphasis was placed on the slow action and competence of its three now-recalled board members who are, as you might’ve guessed, Black, Asian-Pacific Islander and Latina. Make no mistake: Kumashiro describes what happened in San Francisco as part of a larger plan to prey on national race anxieties that will ultimately be used to strike down affirmative action in the Supreme Court. This is cause for anyone with a pulse to feel alarmed. And yet, still not reading much real talk about this angle of the outcome of the recall in the press. Read my full report on the recall in Down With Tyranny which also links directly to the interview with Kumashiro.

Filed under: San Francisco News, , , , ,

Poly Styrene’s Time is Now

“When we all got into music, back in the day, we got into it to be anti-establishment,” said punk filmmaker and musician Don Letts. “Nowadays, bands start bands to become part of the establishment.”

Poly Styrene, late ’70s

In the ’70s and ’80s, Letts was an intimate friend and documentarian of the Clash. He was also acquainted with punk empress Poly Styrene, front woman of X-Ray Spex and a witness to her unfurling following a difficult evening spent in the company of Johnny Rotten.

Much has been left uncovered and to the imagination concerning Styrene’s reclusive post-punk life, but the new documentary, Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché, co-directed by Paul Sng and Styrene’s daughter, Celeste Bell, corrects the record and tells the true tale of an accidental icon.

“People often ask me if she’s a good mum – it’s hard to know what to say,” says Bell in narration of the film, exploring the life, career and spiritual-questing of her mother. Decades later, Styrene is still considered one of punk rock’s mothers and its premiere feminist, anti-capitalist and Afrofuturist.

Expertly weaving archival film with ephemera, testimonials and additional voicing of Styrene’s diaries by actor Ruth Negga, Bell’s very personal story is centered on the art itself, along with a narrative that underscores the artist’s ability to create lasting work in the face of the odds and a world that was built in opposition to her. That the artist was her mother makes for a complex telling but those complicated feelings never get in the way of keeping the focus on Styrene’s values as an artist; her contemporaries like Letts, ska music’s Pauline Black and Rhoda Dakar, and latter-day punk spokespeople like Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore are all quick to corroborate her impact. Bell does away with the documentary convention of talking heads which effectively keeps her subject in the spotlight rather than creating a distraction by fixing a camera on so-called experts. A daughter’s understanding of her mother’s role as a pioneering biracial feminist environmentalist with a spiritual directive to deliver a message to the world is a testament to Bell’s own commitment to making a film about art as opposed to conforming to commercial ideas of what makes good entertainment. Read full article here:

Filed under: anti-capitalist, anti-war, Arts and Culture, Environmental Justice, film, Protest Songs, Punk, Women in Rock, , ,

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