Charlottesville: Just the beginning. What do Americans do now?

 Photo by jcarillet/iStock / Getty Images Photo by jcarillet/iStock / Getty Images

UPDATE October 13, 2017: 3 Alt-Right Leaders Found Guilty in Charlottesville Riots

https://www.thedailybeast.com/3-alt-right-leaders-found-guilty-in-charlottesville-riots?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

For the last few weeks, I have been trying to wrap my head around the events and controversy surrounding the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. I went out looking for answers and found myself attending a Commonwealth Club Roundtable discussion in San Francisco. This is what I learned.

First, the important backstory. On August 11, 2017, a group of white nationalists held a march and rally to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They were met by a large number of counter-protesters and in the next morning, at this normally liberal-leaning, white college town, a man drove into that group of people, killing a woman and injuring dozens of others. The event and aftermath became what’s being called a “self-inflicted political injury” to President Trump, and reaction nationwide has been dramatic on both sides of the aisle.

 Dan Borenstein (far right), Columnist and Editorial Writer, East Bay Times/Bay City News Group with Martin G. Reynolds (second to right), Co-executive Director, Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, followed by Dr. James Taylor, University of San Francisco Political Science Professor, and John Zipperer, Vice President of Media & Editorial, Commonwealth Club  Dan Borenstein (far right), Columnist and Editorial Writer, East Bay Times/Bay City News Group with Martin G. Reynolds (second to right), Co-executive Director, Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, followed by Dr. James Taylor, University of San Francisco Political Science Professor, and John Zipperer, Vice President of Media & Editorial, Commonwealth Club

“We are in a historically significant moment,” said Dr. James Taylor, Director of African American Studies and Professor of Political Science, University of San Francisco.  “There are things young people are experiencing on the streets now that MLK and his generation could not deal with and never had to deal with that require new narratives to address these issues,” according to Taylor.

“The selection of Charlottesville was intentional because it’s a smaller college town and there was an expectation that other people they would run into would be other, white liberals,” said Martin G. Reynolds, Co-executive Director of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and Director of Reveal Investigative Fellowships, The Center for Investigative Reporting. White nationalists didn’t go to other cities like Dallas and New Orleans where other Confederate monuments were taken down.

“Had they gone (to those cities), the reality is they probably would have faced more African Americans in that protest. They were seeking to deracialize the conflict and make it seem this is about patriotism, not racism,” Reynolds said.

Now it’s polo shirts and chinos

 University of San Francisco Political Science Professor Dr. James Taylor talks about the history of the white nationalist movement.  University of San Francisco Political Science Professor Dr. James Taylor talks about the history of the white nationalist movement.

“Clearly we’re seeing they’ve become much more sophisticated. The days of the robes are gone for the most part,” said Dan Borenstein, Columnist and Editorial Writer for the East Bay Times/Bay Area News Group. “We’ve seen it in Berkeley and now San Francisco. The question is how do you react to it? How do most people react to this abhorrent message?”, Borenstein asked.

“What (the white nationalists) got was what  they wanted. They got media attention. They got engagement. They got conflict which raises a much bigger question, how do you react to that?”, he said. The answer is “Don’t engage. What they want more than anything else is to have an engagement that generates publicity. They control the message and that’s the best recruiting tool they could hope for. I think falling into that trap would be horrible and what I fear will happen this weekend in SF,” said Borenstein. As of this writing, there are several counter-demonstrations planned in light of what’s being billed as an event to promote free speech by the group “Patriot Prayer” at Alamo Square in San Francisco.  More on the founder here. You can also find a list of rallies, counter-demonstrations, and alternatives to protesting here!

“The key is to keep (these events) peaceful. To me, if you engage it and it becomes a violent protest, it plays right into the Trump (ideology),” Borenstein said.

Life After Hate

Others are not quite so sure about what to do, especially those whose job it is to present the story to the public in an unbiased manner.

“Looking at it from the perspective of a journalist, as I watch (President Trump) say what he said about how racism is bad and putting it in very simple terms, the actions of this administration have been counter to that,” Reynolds points out. Reynolds talked about one of the guests on Al Letson’s Peabody award-winning podcast and radio program called Reveal. On it, one of the co-founders of the organization known as “Life After Hate”, Christian Picciolini, shared his story and how life as a skinhead that started when he was just 16 years old ultimately changed him forever after one violent confrontation with a young African American man in Chicago.

“While kicking him and beating him, (the man) looked up into (Christian’s) eyes and had a connection for that one moment. He realized he needed to get out of that,” Reynolds said.

“You rarely change someone’s mind when you punch em’ in the face so this notion we have to look at racists sort of angrily is problematic,” Reynolds explained.

Reynolds said “Life After Hate” was one of the groups awarded a $400,000 Homeland Security grant to continue their work before President Obama left office. “Lo and behold, when Trump went into office, that grant was rescinded,” Reynolds said. Additionally, “Out of all the groups who applied and had their grants rescinded, they were the only organization that focused on white extremism,” Reynolds said. “When (President Trump) goes from these speeches, from teleprompter to real Trump and back again, the reality is journalists have to call that because the actions of the administration are running counter to the very claims that he is making.”

“After listening to Trump’s description of white nationalists/nazis and you quickly realize the difficulty of getting out (of it) is like a gang, “according to Borenstein. “Once in, it’s almost impossible to get out. The last thing we want to do is put up physical barriers or walls that drive them deeper into this,” Borenstein said.

The Power of Presence

So how should people in the Bay Area react?

“(Through) the numbers, the demonstrations, the outpouring (of support),” said Taylor. “What we’ve seen Donald Trump do very forcefully and effectively is unify and democratize elements of this society that had not been mobilized for a long time. Many women responded and have stayed engaged since January that had not been engaged in the political process before,” according to Taylor.

He pointed out the mass show of solidarity in Boston shortly after the Charlottesville attack. “Just showing up as 20,000 silent observers in Boston who didn’t know exactly how to deal with this issue before us. We are here to say this is wrong and that had a powerful effect,” Taylor said.

To understand the Future, look at the Past

“Racial polarization is deeply ingrained in American politics in terms of our party system alone,” Taylor said. “Nothing else explains American (political) parties better than race. Not gender, not sexuality, not income, not region, not wealth. They’ve changed their names over the years, but both are shaped by ‘where is the Negro’, ‘where is the working class white?'”, said Taylor.

He went on to say that the National Football League made a choice by bringing back country singer and songwriter Hank Williams on Monday night football. “We are ignoring the African Americans who are concerned about what (people like) Colin Kaepernick are trying to articulate,” explained Taylor. “Through the specific stanzas in the National Anthem, (Kaepernick) exposed the racism and black defeat in this pledge. What Williams represents is an appeal to Nascar (fans) and the working class element of whites that our political system has had a hard time bringing together,” Taylor said.

“To think that we’re going to get some new religion suddenly, to change this after 150 years where these people identify themselves based on the hate of blacks specifically… polls show Trump support has a strong anti-black effect.”

 Moderator John Zipperer leads the discussion on Charlottesville, VA at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco Moderator John Zipperer leads the discussion on Charlottesville, VA at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco

The Notion of Terror

Reynolds said another problem is the lack and unwillingness from law enforcement and public officials to call what happened in Charlottesville an act of domestic terrorism, especially when you combine this with the increase in hate crimes since President Trump took office.

“The authorities are reticent to call it (domestic terrorism),” Reynolds said. “So then, as journalists, we’re often reticent to call this domestic terrorism. That needs to change. We need to take a hard look at what terrorism (is),” Reynolds said.

“I don’t know that people of color can tell white folks what to do to stop being racist. And frankly, it’s not our job,” Reynolds explained. “To me, the real racism is the systemic and institutional racism that we need to address. It’s what we’re taught. (We need to) train journalists to recognize their own bias. It’s going to take time.”

 President Trump announces an increase in U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. August 21, 2017  President Trump announces an increase in U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. August 21, 2017

Up in the Air

Another hot topic is talking about what to do to next with those controversial Confederate statues.

“The Confederate monuments had very little to do with the 1860s and the Civil War and had more to do with the assertion of Jim Crow terror,” Taylor explained. “These monuments served as a warning to African Americans in the 1920s in and outside the South that a certain sentiment is supported here. The beauty of today is people are starting to bring up these ghosts from the past,” according to Taylor.

“Instead of dismantling them, put a statue of Frederick Douglass in place wherever there’s a Confederate monument like Jackie Robinson at baseball stadiums to contextualize history so we can learn more,” Taylor said.

Special thanks to Riki Rafner and John Zipperer with the Commonwealth Club for giving me access to attend the event and provide this coverage.

Bandera Cubana: What you need to know before traveling to Cuba

Cuba? Really? Cool, but why? A lot of people asked me and I said, “Why not? Travel opens up the mind and exposes you to new cultures and ways of life.” Besides, my husband and I were celebrating our ten-year wedding anniversary, we’d been saving up money for a big trip, and JetBlue had two round-trip tickets to Havana (with a connection in Fort Lauderdale, FL) for $1000 total. Sold! By the way, JetBlue was amazing about transferring our connecting flight to a later time from Florida to Cuba after the plane we were on was running late and we would have missed the flight! Gold star for you JetBlue!

In a nutshell, Havana really is a city lost in time. Its streets are mostly dirt roads, the architecture is amazing, the food and music are incredible, most people are welcoming and they vehemently want you to discover the place they so proudly call home.

Weather-wise, we didn’t make the greatest decision to go in mid-July. July and August are the hottest months of the year in Cuba with temperatures reaching more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit! My porcelain-skinned husband had to slather on the sunscreen and we had the bug spray and extra clothing ready to go.

Let me in!

How did we get in was the most asked question amongst our friends and family. The U.S. Government offers 12 categories in which you could travel to Cuba. We chose the “people-to-people” educational visit and had absolutely no problems. The visa was provided on the flight by JetBlue and was valid for our week-long stay. Here’s a good resource with a bevy of information from the U.S. State Department on the latest travel rules/restrictions as an American traveling to Cuba.

Disclosure: Our visit was booked before President Trump announced more restrictions on travel to the country so things may or may not be more challenging for you to visit. This is a really big shame. Cuba is starving for more tourism. Some people in professional positions, I’m talking doctors and professors, are only paid about $20 a month because of government regulations so they depend on tourism for extra income (a former television news colleague recently traveled to Cuba and wrote a great piece on her experience and the Cuban people. Read it here). Most of the people we talked to in Havana said they really despise President Trump and were curious about the political turmoil in America right now. ‘Idiota’ was the word I kept hearing over and over again in regards to our Commander in Chief.

  Hilarious display inside the Museo de Revolucion. Didn't expect this at all!  Hilarious display inside the Museo de Revolucion. Didn’t expect this at all!

Gimmie Shelter

Before I go into more travel info, it’s important, no imperative to start your day in Havana with a great cup of Cuban coffee or cafecito. I love the way it’s done on this show I am currently obsessed with called One Day at a Time. Watch Rita Moreno in all her perfection as the passionate Abuelita here!

Now, there are a few options on where to stay in Havana and it depends on your comfort level and how much you’re willing to spend on accommodations. You can live it up like President Obama and Beyonce/Jay-Z and the Prince of Morocco, who I was told brought his 25 wives and rented out enough space for his group at the famed Saratoga hotel. But until we win the lottery and/or become royalty by decree, we looked for deals to save money and chose to AirBnb it which I highly recommend. Shortly after President Obama announced easing travel restrictions, AirBnb went to work right away setting up shop and creating content on all things Cuba. We stayed in what’s known as a Casa Particular (family home) in Old Havana near the square with a great mother and son Mikael and Lucy (If you’d like their information, please DM me), all for an impressive $30 per night! If you’d like, Lucy offers to make breakfast for 5 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) per person. We didn’t end up doing that but it would have included coffee, juice, a breakfast sandwich, and fruit.

  Amazing lobster Paella at the Hotel Valencia in Havana  Amazing lobster Paella at the Hotel Valencia in Havana

Important to note: I would be prepared to speak basic Spanish. It’s not required but the people do appreciate you trying and if you’re Spanish is so bad, they’ll stop you and speak English. Frommer’s has a quick reference book that was really helpful when I couldn’t find the words or phrases to communicate. This map was also a lifesaver sans Internet to get a better idea of where you are in Havana. I highly recommend it. I also have to thank mi Profesora de Espanol Senora Susan Howell for teaching me this invaluable and beautiful language back in high school. Muchas gracias a ti Ms. Howell!

  The square in Matanzas.  A college graduation was happening just across the street.   The square in Matanzas.  A college graduation was happening just across the street.

Mikael and Lucy’s home is in a central location of Old Havana that’s very close to sightseeing, shopping and restaurants. The room itself had a full bathroom and shower, a closet, two beds and mas importante, a powerful air conditioner and oscillating wall fan. It was heaven when we wanted to escape the 95-degree weather and tropical humidity. It’s best to avoid the sun between Noon and 4 p.m. when the heat is at its highest, so I recommend going out early, escape to a bar/restaurant for shade or enjoy a nice Siesta (Americans could use something like this in the U.S.) to recharge for the busy evenings and nightlife.

 Fantastic mural near our Casa Particular Fantastic mural near our Casa Particular

Money Conversion

There is limited Internet access and U.S. credit cards are no good in Cuba right now so bring more cash than you think you’ll need to cover costs. My husband did a great job of looking into this and decided to convert Dollars to Euros while we were in the U.S. and then to CUC once we were in Havana. For five days, we actually were under budget converting 1,400 Euros to 1,550 CUC. It paid for our stay, meals, souvenirs, lots of bottled water, and tours. We suggest going to a banco nacional for the best rate exchange. If you’d like more information on Money Exchange, TripAdvisor is a great resource. Link here.

For Internet access, you can go to the big national hotels which are all over the city but you will need an Internet access/phone card, something which was difficult for us to find. We even stepped inside a business that was clearly labeled ‘Internet and mobile services’ only to be told by the woman at the desk that they didn’t offer Internet service. I was in shock! One of the only times we felt we were being lied to or they didn’t want our business. The nearby hotel we went to did offer Internet access but only offered service after Noon. After all that, we just ended up unplugging and enjoyed the time away from tech for a week. It was a nice respite but my husband was pretty thrilled to get back online after a week of disconnecting. We also learned from a very nice couple from Spain that the rate for Internet usage has gone down in recent years. It used to be $4 or $5 an hour and is now about $1.50 per hour!

Tour me crazy

Another interesting thing we learned about Cuba as visitors: You really don’t need to plan far ahead to book a sightseeing tour in Havana. For the famed classic car ride, we wandered into the Plaza de San Francisco where we spotted a line of beautiful automobiles ready for tourists!

  One of the stops during our classic car ride through Havana. This is an art studio and neighborhood that also practiced Santeria. Amazing!  One of the stops during our classic car ride through Havana. This is an art studio and neighborhood that also practiced Santeria. Amazing!

For 40 CUC, the 1.5-hour tour included a drive through Old Havana, Havana Central, along El Malecon, a stop for strong and tasty Mojitos and an educational tour through a small neighborhood centered around the religious practice of Santeria.

If this is your first time in Havana, securing a tour guide was a great way to get a sense of where you are in the city and where you might want to stop by. It’s also a nice alternative to the cattle call Hop On, Hop Off buses that are already plentiful there.

  Driving along El Malecon with Castle Morro in the background  Driving along El Malecon with Castle Morro in the background

For a more intimate experience, my husband and I were lucky enough to meet a tour guide who took us on a Horse Buggy tour through Havana. The tour cost 30 CUC/$25 USD. To this day, horse buggies are a normal way of transportation for many Cubans since public buses and other transit is still difficult. We saw some people who walk or hitchhike for miles just to get to their jobs and other towns!

 One of the best tour guides in Havana at the Plaza de San Francisco. He told us families were not allowed to openly celebrate Christmas until 1998! One of the best tour guides in Havana at the Plaza de San Francisco. He told us families were not allowed to openly celebrate Christmas until 1998!

The guide was very knowledgeable and friendly and we learned a lot about the culture and the way people live 57 years after the embargo was lifted. We saw a lot of art deco architecture (my favorite design) dating back to the 1920’s. Unfortunately, many buildings were still under restoration or unsalvageable due to hurricane damage. We were told a lot of people’s homes were decimated because of the sheer weight of the second floors. Several buildings house multiple families with homes built one on top of the other.

  Just one of the gorgeous art deco buildings in Havana.    Gorgeous art deco building in Havana.    One of the public buses crammed full of people. This one is not city-sanctioned but for many, is the only means of transportation.  One of the public buses crammed full of people. This one is not city-sanctioned but for many, is the only means of transportation.

The best tour we took was a private one through the fantastic Cuban Connection Tours company. You can see my review of them here.

  Our fabulous tour guides with Cuban Connections (Pete on the left, me and Josef) We traveled in style in a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air   Our fabulous tour guides with Cuban Connections (Pete on the left, me and Josef) We traveled in style in a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air   Swimming inside the Saturno Cave in Varadero. Best feeling in the world in 100 degree weather!  Swimming inside the Saturno Cave in Varadero. Best feeling in the world in 100-degree weather!

What we brought home

  Inside the famous shop in the Museo del Ron. Next to it is one of the most well known bars in the city Dos Hermanos.   Inside the famous shop in the Museo del Ron. Next to it is one of the most well-known bars in the city Dos Hermanos.

The sheer volume of gifts, trinkets, toys and clothing can be overwhelming! Many items are made with love, even some books which are still put together by hand in Matanzas to this day! But you do have to be mindful especially when it comes to cigars. We found out the best places to buy authentic Cuban cigars are in official storefronts. As tourists, you’re going to be pushed to buy off the street but in many cases, these cigars are not even assembled in Cuba. They are most likely from Honduras or the Dominican Republic. My husband did buy and enjoyed a cigar made in Honduras, Rocky Patel Edge Toro Maduro. You can get a good Cuban cigar for under 10 CUC but for a Cohiba, expect to pay up to 40 CUC each or 450 CUC for a box of 25. The other brand my husband liked is Romeo y Julieta. For more information with a whole list of top quality cigars, click here.

After walking along the popular shopping areas in Havana like San Ignacio and Mercaderes, I picked up some T-shirts, maracas, ceramics, canvas artwork, a white dress, jewelry a handmade notebook, and of course several bottles of Havana Club rum. Note: I didn’t realize how easily available Havana Club was to buy at the airport before coming home. I bought mine at one of the best places to enjoy a Cuban pina colada in a pineapple is El Penon. It’s a small but nice stop along the highway between Havana and Varadero. Don’t expect anything too fancy here though.

  A delicious Pina Colada for just 3 CUC!  A delicious Pina Colada for just 3 CUC!

Thanks for reading this blog post. I hope it was helpful to you! Safe travels!

Cider Summit San Francisco 2017

San Francisco, CA- San Francisco’s 4th annual Cider Summit made a return to the Civil War Parade Ground in the city’s Presidio neighborhood and I could not have been more excited! 

I attended the very first summit a few years ago and am so happy to see this event continue to grow. An estimated 2,500 people went to sample 180 offerings of some the finest and most diverse ciders from around the world! Other popular cider summits are held in Chicago, Portland and Seattle. 

If you purchase the $50 VIP Pass, you get in an hour early while the crowd is smaller and get 10 tasting tickets instead of the usual 8. The average pour goes into these great little glasses you get to keep. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I tried…

  1. Common Cider (Auburn, CA) – Pineapple Guava 
  2. Humboldt Cider Co. (Eureka, CA) – Cherry (sweet, but tasty)
  3. Indigeny (Sonora, CA) – Apricot. One of my personal favorite cider producers. If you get a chance, visit the gorgeous 160-acre orchard reserve in Sonora and stock up! 
  4. Mission Trail (Bradley, CA) – Ron Tropico Fruit Cider 
  5. Tilted Shed (Windsor, CA) – This one had a great challenge where you could line up and get a tasting through a barrel, catching the cider with your tasting glass! Watch the video here.
  6. Wine Cellers Ltd. (France & Spain) – Le Brun Organic Cidre from France 
  7. Wildcraft Cider Works (Eugene, OR) – Wild Mirabelle Plum (fantastic finish and color) 
  8. William Tell (Lodi, CA) – This company offers a wine/cider mix! I tried the Blueberry Zinfandel and it was terrific!
  9. Wildcide (San Jose, CA) – Wildcide Hard Cider 

I chose these ciders at random with the goal of getting a good pour and sampling those from both the domestic and international market. Visitors can also read up on the companies, ciders they have to offer and take notes on what they liked/didn’t like in a convenient newsletter. 

New this year: 

  • A Cider Cocktail Lounge sponsored by J. Seeds Apple Whiskey (Personally, I didn’t try the cocktail ciders seeing that I’m still a cheap date when it comes to adult beverages and would probably have to be “carted” out if I did both the cider tastings their cocktail counterparts!)

Other offerings: You can’t go imbibing tons of cider without some sustenance to keep you going!

  • Cypress Grove Cheese table — Need I say more?! My favorite among the four samples was the Humboldt Fog cheese. 
 Award-winning Humboldt Fog Cheese! Like creamy butter in your mouth. Noms!
Award-winning Humboldt Fog Cheese! Like creamy butter in your mouth. Noms!

  • Whole Foods Market (they were the main presenter/host of the event) and Slow Hand BBQ had food trucks ready to soak up all that delicious cider.
  • KRAVE jerky table

I didn’t check out the Cider Summit Event Store this time around. I would have wanted to buy everything on hand! But you should check it out. The store offers extra tasting tickets ($2 each), bottles to buy and take home, cider merch and books! 

Another great cider event in San Francisco. I hope you’ll check it out next year! In the meantime, here are some parting pics to enjoy! Cheers!

 Some of the special Gravenstein apples used to make cider at Tilted Shed
Some of the special Gravenstein apples used to make cider at Tilted Shed
 Dogs were definitely welcome at this event! The Summit even works with the  Berkeley Humane Society  to promote its Pints for Paws event in June.
Dogs were definitely welcome at this event! The Summit even works with the Berkeley Humane Society to promote its Pints for Paws event in June.
 Nice cider company run by brothers Paul and Michael Scotto in Lodi, CA. 
Nice cider company run by brothers Paul and Michael Scotto in Lodi, CA. 
 Happy Cidering! 
Happy Cidering!