Last Wednesday the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based drug-reform nonprofit, held a media conference call meant to celebrate a successful election night. Voters in eight states had legalized cannabis for recreational purposes; in several more states ballot measures cleared the way for marijuana’s medical use.
My mother went to high school in the early 1950s with Donald Sterling — known in those days by his given name, Donald Tokowitz — but doesn’t remember a thing about him. This could be because Tokowitz was one among hundreds of students at Roosevelt High, but perhaps it was an early metaphor for the future real estate tycoon being a generational anomaly.
By the time she got to Roosevelt, my mom — like Sterling, a child of Jewish immigrants — was steeped in the leftist politics of L.A.’s legendary Eastside neighborhood, Boyle Heights. With sizable numbers of Jews, Latinos, African Americans and Japanese, Boyle Heights was a working class ethnic melting pot in an era when all minorities were subject to varying degrees of the prevailing discrimination targeting anyone who wasn’t white and Christian.
It was also a hotbed of liberal and radical social movements, and the staging ground for some of L.A.’s most effective progressive organizing.
In an excruciating example of bad timing, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was scheduled to bestow its Lifetime Achievement Award to Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, at its May 15 banquet. Sterling is now under fire for racist comments caught on a recording that surfaced on the TMZ website. Even President Barack Obama weighed in, condemning Sterling’s remarks as “incredibly offensive.” The NBA is now investigating Sterling’s remarks and could invoke sanctions, including removing him as Clippers’ owner.
Embarrassed by the controversy, the NAACP announced Sunday morning, via Twitter, that is was withdrawing the award, which was to be presented at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles as part of the celebration of the chapter’s 100th anniversary. The NAACP also plans to honor Rev. Al Sharpton and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — as well as Walmart’s local charity and political operative and a top Fed Ex executive —