By Carla Thomas
In “From Blacks to Brown and Beyond – The Struggle for Progressive Politics in Oakland, 1966-2011,” author and educator Dr. Stanley Oden takes readers on an exciting and tumultuous journey from the Civil Rights Movement to Occupy Oakland.
What began as a dissertation while obtaining his PhD in Sociology at UC Santa Cruz in 2000 has become a 300-page book with photos, offering a bird’s eye view of the panorama of Oakland politics.
The pages are filled with interviews from the administrations of Jerry Brown, Ron Dellums and Jean Quan, which Oden enriches with his own political experience. “I worked on the Cassie Lopez campaign in 1983; in the Jesse Jackson campaign in 1984, as a coordinator in 1988 and leader of the Oakland Berkeley Rainbow Coalition, the most organized chapter in the nation at the time,” he said.
Now an associate professor for the Department of Government at Cal State Sacramento and originally from San Diego, Oden was in the right place at the right time as a bold young student at UC Davis in 1967 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
“I was president of the Black Student Union, and when King was killed we helped organize the Black movement at UC Davis that ushered in Black Studies,” he said. “We even pursued changing the name of the UC Davis Law School to Dr. King law school and led the affirmative action (fight) in the UC Davis Medical School when the Bakke decision came about.” The Bakke decision was a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed quotas in minority professional admissions.
Before coming to Oakland, Oden worked in the San Diego Model cities program in community development and in Berkeley for 15 years as a labor management facilitator in community development housing.
Oden was an observer in Oakland who witnessed the power shift from white conservative political rule to Black liberal rule. “In the 70s, Lionel Wilson was elected mayor, and I chronicle this in my dissertation and in my book. I trace the entire political history of Oakland during that time and focus on the city election process, downtown development and the Port of Oakland,” he said.
Combined with many hours of archival research, Oden interviewed over 20 key politicians and community activists, including now Governor Jerry Brown, publisher Paul Cobb and Black Panther leader David Hilliard. “You hear a lot about progressive politics and don’t understand what it looks like on the ground in urban areas. My book exposes this within the African American, liberal and the business communities to show how these dynamics work,” he said.
“Oakland is an important city, not a crime ridden place, but a city that has dynamic politics in history and even now,” he said. “I was in New York on Oct. 25, and Occupy Oakland which was big news on the East Coast.”
“I want Oakland to be seen as a very important epicenter of urban politics, and Oakland has always been in the forefront, he said. “Others have written about it, but most haven’t worked or lived in Oakland like I did.”
Oden’s book is due out in the spring by Cognella Publishers of San Diego. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org