“Black Like Me”

We enjoy watching baseball games, going to the movies and weekend adventures, but the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted all these routines. Instead, we’ve been reading more books at home.

I’ve also been adding books to our library. In fact we are bursting at the seams — all the nooks in the house are filled with newly acquired books.

Some are new titles such as “Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry” by Joan Ryan. Joan and I worked together at The Chronicle, and this sports book explores the phenomena of “team chemistry.” It is appropriate for the business world too.

Others are “Season of the Witch” by Salon founder David Talbot, chronicling the cultural history of San Francisco from the ’60s to the ’80s; “Fear” by Bob Woodward or “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.

Another, “Rocket Men” by Robert Kurson, is an account of the Apollo 8 mission. It opens in 1968, with the space race in high gear. (I got to know Frank Borman, the astronaut who became the CEO of Eastern Airlines, when I wrote about airlines for the South Florida Sun Sentinel in the ’80s, so I found it interesting).

Others are books that I read a long time ago and want to reread. One that I came across and ordered earlier this month was “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin. I read it in high school. This nonfiction book — an inside look at our strained race relations — was first published in 1961, and it became a movie in 1964.

Rereading “Black Like Me” turned out to be timely: It occurred just ahead of the protests and rioting that broke out this past week in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died in police custody after a white policeman kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes. It was awful to watch — and inexcusable.

In “Black Like Me,” white journalist John Howard Griffin recounts his journey in the Deep South of the United States, at a time when African-Americans lived under racial segregation,” as Wikipedia summarizes. “Griffin had his skin temporarily darkened to pass as a black man. He traveled for six weeks throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabam, Arkansas and Georgia to explore life from the other side of the color lineSepia Magazine financed the project in exchange for the right to print the account first as a series of articles.

“Griffin kept a journal of his experiences; the 188-page diary was the genesis of the book. When he started his project in 1959, race relations in America were particularly strained. The title of the book is taken from the last line of the Langston Hughes poem ‘Dream Variations.'”

It was an effort to persuade America to open its eyes. “Today the idea of a white man darkening his skin to speak on behalf of black people might appear patronising, offensive and even a little comical,” as The Guardian newspaper observed. On the other hand, it added, “As long as one group persecutes, fears and detests another, ‘Black Like Me’ will, sadly, remain essential reading.”

“Black Like Me remains a remarkable document,” added an article in Smithsonian magazine. “John Howard Griffin changed more than the color of his skin. He helped change the way America saw itself.”

Since then, it seems, little has changed when it comes to race relations in America. And I would agree, the book remains relevant. As Griffin writes in the preface: “The real story is the universal story – one of men who destroy the souls of other men.”

Nevada County relief fund announces $210K in first round grants

Our Sierra FoodWineArt magazine was glad to make a donation to this program:

The Nevada County Relief Fund has announced the first round of grant awards, totaling $210,000 boosting eight “safety-net” nonprofits in western Nevada County, who are providing a life line to our neighbors most in need, and twenty-eight small businesses from throughout the county  heavily impacted by COVID-19. 

The Relief Fund received 175 applications from small businesses for its micro-grants up to $5,000 each, and nearly two dozen applications for the “safety-net” grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 each. The combined requests totaled over $1,175,000, nearly six times more than what the Relief Fund’s Community Advisory Council had available to award. Additional grant cycles will occur every time the Relief Fund raises another $100,000.

“The extreme need for these funds reinforces our commitment to helping our neighbors.  This first round of grants is just the beginning–we plan to award more grants as additional funds are raised in order to bolster our nonprofits and businesses; but to do that, we need your help,” stated the Relief Fund’s Community Advisory Council co-chairs, Leo Granucci and Sherry Bartolucci.

Small businesses that are here to stay

“This is a great day. It feels like I won the lottery!” exclaimed Drew Taylor, owner/proprietor of Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in Truckee. “The community of Truckee is quite special and it’s why my wife and I went into business. We wanted to create community, not just sell coffee.”

Drew and his wife have been serving up freshly roasted coffee beans and piping hot beverages fueling the caffeine needs of locals and visitors alike for over six years. “When the pandemic hit in mid-March, we abruptly closed our bustling cafe and continued meager operations for only wholesale orders and bagged coffee delivery and shipment. Income nearly halted overnight and we had to lay off all our employees,” Drew reported.

Now that they have been awarded a Nevada County Relief Fund micro-grant, Dark Horse Coffee Roasters can safely reopen, hire back their employees and get their small business back on track. 

Leea Davis, owner and curator for over 20 years of downtown Nevada City’s Earth Store, which sells practical gifts for nature enthusiasts, had similar feelings to share when she learned about her grant award. “I am so grateful to the community for contributing to this fund.  My business relies on foot traffic and I was really down to the bare bones with rent coming due again soon. Having this grant feels fantastic – I am on cloud nine right now.” Leea will be able to open her doors to her customers safely, restock inventory, and bring back her employees thanks to the Nevada County Relief Fund.  

Keeping vital youth scholarships and cultural heritage alive

Since the onset of COVID-19, numerous community events have evaporated and one that has been around for 63 years now has the potential to keep giving back to the community.  The Penn Valley Rodeo Community Association, unsure if they will be able to host the rodeo at all this year, was still reeling from last year’s rodeo getting rained out leaving them without the seed money needed to sustain the organization and put on the next rodeo. With grant funding awarded by the Nevada County Relief Fund, the Penn Valley Rodeo will be able to continue their support for the local community.

Teresa Dietrich, sponsorship chair and board member, shared, “Our organization supports keeping our great western heritage alive in our area and we provide for a number of scholarships for youth and also seed the scholarship fund for the Penn Valley Fire Protection District’s EMT scholarship. We have been making some really hard decisions and this grant has a huge impact on how we can pay for our obligations to the community.  It feels like a 1200 lb. horse just got off my foot – it feels fantastic!”

“Safety-net” nonprofits stay focused on critical needs for County’s most vulnerable residents

Feeding hungry families, older adults and other vulnerable residents was the key theme in applications from the Food Bank of Nevada County, the Interfaith Food Ministry of Nevada County, and FREED Center for Independent Living, who all received the maximum grant award of $20,000 each from the Relief Fund.

The Food Bank reported that demand for its services has soared from 300-400 individuals each month to between 1,700 and 2,400 each week since the beginning of the pandemic. Similarly, calls to FREED from people with disabilities and secondary health conditions requesting groceries have more than doubled since the onset of COVID-19.

Quoted recently in The Union, Naomi Cabral, Executive Director of the Interfaith Food Ministry said, “We’re fortunate to live in such a great and generous place. We’re not going to let anyone go hungry here — we’re not that kind of community.”

The Relief Fund received twenty-one applications totaling over $300,000 from nonprofits focused on the rapid deployment of safety-net services to vulnerable populations including seniors, people who are homeless, people with disabilities, youth who are at-risk, families or individuals struggling to find access to food, shelter, childcare, and other critical needs. 

About the Nevada County Relief Fund

The Nevada County Relief Fund was created through a partnership between the County of Nevada, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation (SNMH Foundation, the Fund’s fiscal sponsor), Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF), the Sierra Business Council (SBC), Center for Nonprofit Leadership (CNL), and the Economic Resource Council (ERC). In conjunction with TTCF’s Emergency Response Fund, the purpose of this effort is to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis by directing vital resources to our most vulnerable neighbors, and support our small, rural businesses.

The Fund was established in April with a $100,000 “challenge grant” from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors. Since then, it has gained traction as a reliable way to give back to our unique small businesses and nonprofits that have been stretched to meet extreme community needs. 

Please consider making a tax-deductible gift today that goes directly to assist Nevada County’s invaluable nonprofits and small businesses. For more information and to make a gift, please visit, www.nevcorelief.org

COMPLETE LIST OF AWARDEES

$100,000 to “Safety-net” nonprofits:

Interfaith Food Ministry of Nevada County, $20,000

FREED Center for Independent Living, $20,000

Food Bank of Nevada County, $20,000

Gold Country Community Services, $10,200

The Booth Family Center, $8,150

Sierra Roots, $6,650

Community Beyond Violence, $7,500

Child Advocates, $7,500

$100,000 to Small Businesses:

Ironworks Gym, Grass Valley, $2,500

Juliette Morris Williams – Jewelry, Mixed-media, Nevada City, $2,400

The Washington Hotel, Washington, $5,000

The Nest Family Resource, Grass Valley, $2,500

The Nevada Theater, Nevada City, $5,000

Coupe Sixty-One Hair Studio, Truckee, $2,500

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, Truckee, $5,000

Grass Valley Crossfit, Grass Valley, $2,500

Simply You Salon and Spa, Penn Valley, $2,500

InnerRhythms, Inc., Truckee, $2,500

Brad Henry Pottery, Truckee, $2,500

Jack + Emmy, Truckee, $2,500

Outside Inn, Nevada City, $5,000

Word After Word Books, Truckee, $2,500

Anew Day, Nevada City, $2,500

North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, San Juan Ridge, $5,000

Art Works Gallery, Grass Valley, $5,000

Calla Lily Crepes, Nevada City, $3,600

Alpenflow Studios, Truckee, $2,500

Truckee Roundhouse Community Makerspace, Truckee, $2,500

Penn Valley Community Rodeo Association, Penn Valley, $5,000

The Earth Store, Nevada City, $5,000

Off Broadway, Nevada City, $5,000

Crumbunny Coffee Roasters, Nevada City, $4,000

Painted Pink, Grass Valley, $2,500

The Station – A Truckee Eatery, Truckee, $5,000

Lola and Jack, Grass Valley, $5000

Aikido’Ka, Grass Valley, $2500

Trump’s order on social media could backfire on him

“President Trump, who built his political career on the power of a flame-throwing Twitter account, has now gone to war with Twitter, angered that it would presume to fact-check his messages. But the punishment he is threatening could force social media companies to crack down even more on customers just like Mr. Trump,” as The New York Times is reporting.

“The executive order that Mr. Trump signed on Thursday seeks to strip liability protection in certain cases for companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook for the content on their sites, meaning they could face legal jeopardy if they allowed false and defamatory posts. Without a liability shield, they presumably would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the boundaries — like the president’s.

“That, of course, is not the outcome Mr. Trump wants. What he wants is to have the freedom to post anything he likes without the companies applying any judgment to his messages, as Twitter did this week when it began appending “get the facts” warnings to some of his false posts on voter fraud. Furious at what he called “censorship” — even though his messages were not in fact deleted — Mr. Trump is wielding the proposed executive order like a club to compel the company to back down.

“It may not work even as intended. Plenty of lawyers quickly said on Thursday that he was claiming power to do something he does not have the power to do by essentially revising the interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the main law passed by Congress in 1996 to lay out the rules of the road for online media. Legal experts predicted such a move would be challenged and most likely struck down by the courts.”

The rest of the article is here.

Trump threatens to crack down on social media companies

“The Trump administration is preparing an executive order intended to curtail the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for what gets posted on their platforms, two senior administration officials said early Thursday,” according to the New York Times.

“Such an order, which officials said was still being drafted and was subject to change, would make it easier for federal regulators to argue that companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter are suppressing free speech when they move to suspend users or delete posts, among other examples.

“The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and is the latest salvo by President Trump in his repeated threats to crack down on online platforms. Twitter this week attached fact-checking notices to two of the president’s tweets after he made false claims about voter fraud, and Mr. Trump and his supporters have long accused social media companies of silencing conservative voices.

“White House officials said the president would sign the order later Thursday, but they declined to comment on its content. A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment.”

The rest of the article is here.

U.S. coronavirus death toll passes 100,000 milestone

“The coronavirus pandemic has reached a fearsome new milestone as of Wednesday night — 100,000 U.S. lives lost,” according to the PBS News Hour. “That number exceeds all the American dead in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. Although the House of Representatives made history by allowing proxy votes for the first time to avoid travel amid the pandemic, businesses across the country continued to reopen. Lisa Desjardins reports.”

Twitter labels Trump tweets as “potentially misleading” for the first time

“On Tuesday, Twitter labeled two tweets from President Donald Trump making false statements about mail-in voting as ‘potentially misleading.’ It’s the first time the platform has fact-checked the president,” as The Verge is reporting.

“The label was imposed on two tweets Trump posted Tuesday morning falsely claiming that ‘mail-in ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent’ and would result in ‘a rigged election.’ The tweets focused primarily on California’s efforts to expand mail-in voting due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, the Republican National Committee sued California Governor Gavin Newsom over the state’s moves to expand mail-in voting.

“According to a Twitter spokesperson, the tweets ‘contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.’ When a user sees the tweets from Trump, a link from Twitter is attached to them that says ‘Get the facts about mail-in ballots.’ The link leads to a collection of tweets and news articles debunking the president’s statements.

The rest of the article is here.