Margaret Wright-Womens HERstory


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On March 22, 2014 6 pm to 10 pm, I’ll be giving a speech about one of my late mentors, African American activist Margaret Wright, at 1422 Engracia Ave Torrance.  For details on the event and RSVP info, go to:

Margaret Wright, 1976 Peace & Freedom Party Presidential candidate; Education Minister of the Black Panther Party

Margaret Wright, 1976 Peace & Freedom Party Presidential candidate; Education Minister of the Black Panther Party

“Grandma Margaret” as she was affectionately called was founder of Women Against Racism (WAR) and the United Parents Council of Watts (Los Angeles).  She was featured in The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, [], a film I really relate to because my mother was at the same time a “Wanda the Welder” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in World War II [].  She also served for years as the Black Panther Party Minister of Education.  She was beaten by the LAPD for leading the picketing of 99% black Manual Arts High School to get rid of the Mormon principal (at a time when the Mormons preached that black people could not go to heaven…..).   In 1969, she was the leader of the “Valley State 19,” at then San Fernando Valley State College (Now CSU Northridge, my alma mater) who were arrested for supposedly kidnapping Delmar Oviatt, racist college president, who refused to take action against a track coach who’d kicked a black athlete in the ass and called him a “dumb nigger.”  The Valley State 19 was part of a larger case demanding the establishment of Pan African Studies and Chicano Studies at CSUN; as the Pan African Studies Department puts it on its website:

The Pan African Studies (PAS) Department was founded by the Black Student Union (BSU) due to racism and unequal educational opportunities at CSUN (formerly San Fernando Valley State College). Students fought, protested and demanded that the President establish the Department. On November 4, 1968, the BSU took over the Administration Building (currently Student Services Building) in the CSUN’s President’s office, in order to address these inequities and underrepresentation of Black students and faculty. On 1-8-69 and 1-9-69 the BSU, other CSUN student groups, and Black community members held massive demonstrations in the “free speech” area (formerly in front of the Matador Bookstore) demanding that the CSUN administration honor the November 4th agreement. The administration responded with a massive show of force by the Los Angeles Police Department, who were brought on campus to squelch and prevent these mass demonstrations. There were many occasions of excessive police violence and brutality, and 275 students were arrested. Several student activists were charged with felony crimes, and were tried, convicted, and served time in prison. This is the only university in the U.S. that charged Black student activists with felony crimes during the struggle to establish a Black Studies Department.

During her trial, 300 black children picketed the courthouse with “Free Grandma” buttons and picket signs.

Carl Braden, Kentucky civil rights activist and trade unionist

Carl Braden, Kentucky civil rights activist and trade unionist

In 1972, when I was not quite 17 years old, I was the youngest delegate to the People’s Party national convention (July 26-30 in St. Louis).  I wrote the party’s platform plank–the first in history for any political party in the world–on “Ageism,” and wrote the official minority economics plank–an explicitly socialist proposal (which was endorsed by such party luminaries as Carl Braden [] of the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) and Fred Stover of the U.S. Farmers Association []).   Virtually the entire California delegation supported my plank–with the exception of some of those who would later form the so-called “Unity Caucus” in 1974 which opposed declaring PFP to be a “feminist socialist” organization.

Julius HobsonJulius Hobson, leader of the District of Columbia Statehood Party and a member of the DC School Board was running for the Vice Presidential nomination (Dr. Benjamin Spock was nominated for President).  Julius was a great guy, but was disabled from cancer (I met with him and his wife to discuss the possibility of laetrile treatment, a whole other story) and realistically would be unable to campaign.  Hobson was well known due to his Hobson vs. Hansen U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down so-called “tracking system” educational programs as discriminatory against minority students [].

Marge Buckley

Marge Buckley

Concerned about the inability of Julius to make it out to the West Coast to campaign, Kay McGlachlin and Marge Buckley got the California delegation to fly Margaret Wright to fly to St. Louis and seek the Vice Presidential nomination.  Sherman Gehrke (heir to the American Can Company fortune), who’d popped for the California delegation’s three room suite at the St. Louis Gateway hotel, bought Margaret’s airline ticket.

Margaret unfortunately lost this last-minute impromptu bid for the nomination, but she left an indelible impression on the People’s Party nationally.  Margaret, Barbara Honig, Gary Silbiger, and I flew back from St. Louis so that we could give a report about the People’s Party convention, its platform, and the Spock-Hobson ticket on her KPFK-FM radio show–the first time I’d appeared on live radio but certainly as I would find, not the last.

In 1976, Margaret came back to win the People’s Party/Peace & Freedom Party nomination for President, again at a St. Louis convention, this time with Dr. Benjamin Spock as her Vice Presidential running mate.  Upon accepting the California PFP nomination, with fist raised in a “Black Power” salute, Margaret said:

I’ve been discriminated against because I’m a woman, because I’m Black, because I’m poor, because I’m fat, because I’m left handed.

John Kerry @ NAACP National Convention, 2004

John Kerry @ NAACP National Convention, 2004

When Margaret raised her fist in a “power salute,” it was considered radical.  When John Kerry did so during his 2004 Presidential campaign, such a statement had finally become more or less mainstream, underscoring Ambrose Bierce’s assertion in The Devil’s Dictionary that “Radicalism is the conservativism of tomorrow injected into the affairs of today.

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Hate Crimes in California


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Hate CrimesSenate Bill 1234 (Kuehl) of 2004 (, sponsored by Equality California, enacted a comprehensive hate crime law for California, including a new, standardized, more inclusive definition of the term “hate crime.” The law as passed requires state and local agencies to do various things:

1. It requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to develop a two-hour tele-course that law enforcement agencies can use to train their officers. Several of us served as subject-matter experts to POST in developing the course, which to my way of thinking turned out very well. No one has any figures on how many agencies have used it to train how many officers.

2. The law requires POST to develop a model general order on hate crimes and recommend that all law enforcement agencies adopt it. General orders are formal policies that law enforcement agencies adopt and hold their officers to: ( Few if any agencies adopted it verbatim, but a company called Lexipol, which most California law enforcement agencies pay to develop general orders for them, made some minor changes and sent it to its clients, and most agencies adopted it.

3. It requires all state and local agencies to use the new definition of “hate crimes” exclusively. This includes in the hate-crime brochures that state law for a long time has required all law enforcement agencies to develop and give to victims and the public. Few agencies actually have such a brochure, and few of any of them use the new definition. Some agencies that have old hate-crime general orders also use older definitions, often omitting such protected characteristics as gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

Shortly after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Kuehl bill into law, a California-wide coalition of civil rights organizations started asking Attorney General Jerry Brown to survey law enforcement agencies on their compliance with the law. He rebuffed us (although, we found out two years later, actually did do the survey). On Attorney General Kamala Harris’s first day in office, the coalition delivered a letter to her making the same request, but she has been even less responsive than Brown had been.

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Mark Dymally is 5150 material


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For background, first read my obituary on the late Mervyn Dymally, father of Mark Dymally:

For further interpretive background on what’s to follow, consider the following California laws–

Section 5150(a) of the Welfare & Institutions Code:

When a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer, professional person in charge of a facility designated by the county for evaluation and treatment, member of the attending staff, as defined by regulation, of a facility designated by the county for evaluation and treatment, designated members of a mobile crisis team, or professional person designated by the county may, upon probable cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention, or placement for evaluation and treatment in a facility designated by the county for evaluation and treatment and approved by the State Department of Health Care Services. At a minimum, assessment, as defined in Section 5150.4, and evaluation, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 5008, shall be conducted and provided on an ongoing basis. Crisis intervention, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 5008, may be provided concurrently with assessment, evaluation, or any other service.

Section 653m of the Penal Code:


(a) Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith.



(b) Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device, or makes any combination of calls or contact, to another person is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device, guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.


Now, aside from dozens of hang up calls placed to his ex-wife‘s cell phone [each of which is a misdemeanor under Section 653m(b)], here are the last five voice-message to text left on her cell phone by Mark Dymally:




“Don it’s mark look I received 3 different calls about what do went down that that that party at the ball is house when you guys got clark attempting to steal down that you’d be very very careful because that means has a contract on you right now.”



“Donna mark listen I heard what happened up with that house … that you went to the parking got discovered … of going through both ladies person in the bedroom donna the word on the street is that man has people out on the street looking for you and my … so you you guys gotta be careful because … I’ve got the state he said that he wants his people the beach you within into your life.”



“I know where you are … hi no with you … however.”



“Got you only your phone is on … you on the cellphone so now I’m home I can it is okay to call a. s. a. p. h..”



“Quick call me what’s up with that and we don’t know if you’re not you’re a great little role and okay I’ve got your number I’m turning in into to l. a. p. d. okay they’re gonna to find you through of global conditioning system okay all right and I’ll find you b. edge.”

UziIf Mark Dymally winds up getting “5150’d” over this pattern of behavior, it wouldn’t be the first time.  Nor would it be the only time he was taken into custody.  On December 20, 1985, he shot up his residence with an Israeli made Uzi sub-machine gun.  He was arrested and charged the next month.

So Mark, please cut it short but real short because serious legal reprisals will be made against you if you don’t.


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An outrage in Santa Rosa


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santa-rosa-plazaThe latest outrage taking place in Sonoma County in the wake of the shooting of Andy Lopez by Deputy Gelhaus involves threats and humiliating treatment by Santa Rosa Plaza security officers who forced patrons, including women, to remove their shirts in public.  According to a letter by Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez (JCAL) attorney Jonathan Melrod to mall management:

This is to inform you in your capacity as owners and operators of the Santa Rosa Plaza of an incident that occurred on February 17, 2014 (Presidents’ Day).  On this Monday, uniformed security guards at Simon’s Santa Rosa Plaza perpetrated multiple acts on the Mall property in the upstairs Food Court that directly contravened your patrons’ First Amendment Rights to free and unfettered speech, as well as racially targeted and harassed Latino patrons. Such flagrant disregard for lawful rights and the treatment of Latino patrons as second-class citizens will not be tolerated by the Santa Rosa community.
Earlier in the afternoon on Presidents’ Day, many Santa Rosa youth, known locally as Andys Youth, and others peacefully marched under the banner of Justice for Andy Lopez. For your edification, Andy Lopez was a 13-year-old Latino boy shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriffs Deputy on October 22, 2013. The march proceeded peacefully and without incident through downtown Santa Rosa and concluded with a rally in front of the Santa Rosa Police Department where many of the young people poignantly spoke about the heart-wrenching loss of their friend and peer Andy.
Following the march, a number of the participants, including Andy’s parents Sujey and Rodrigo, visited the food court at the Santa Rosa Plaza to eat. At approximately 5:30pm, a contingent of Mall security guards approached the table at which Sujey, Rodrigo, their children and accompanying friends were eating. The security guards, who refused to provide their names, but who are on video in our possession, rudely and aggressively “instructed” the Lopez family and their friends to remove their t-shirts, which bore slogans such as “RIP Andy” and “Justice for Andy Lopez”. If they refused to remove their shirts, they were told that they had to leave the Mall.
The security guards specifically targeted only Latino patrons wearing Andy t-shirts. In fact, just one half hour earlier a white activist had walked in the front door of the Mall directly in front of the very same security guards without so much as a second-glance. Under any interpretation, the demand that Latino patrons, as a target group, remove their shirts was discriminatory and effectively treated a particular ethnic group as second-class citizens with limited free speech rights. Further, the actions by the security guards were a direct affront to the publics’ constitutionally protected First Amendment Rights – particularly the sacrosanct right of free speech – ironic as this occurred on Presidents’ Day. 
Mark A. Payne, Senior Associate General Counsel for the Plaza responded saying in part that, “Like you, Santa Rosa Plaza was shocked to learn that individual officers employed by the Plaza’s third party Security subcontractor elected to approach members of the group and ask them to remove the ‘RIP Andy’ or Justice for ‘Andy Lopez’ t-shirts that they were wearing.”  This is my response to him:

February 20, 2014

    Mark A. Payne, Senior Associate                       General Counsel

By email:

Dear Mr. Payne:

I have seen your response to Attorney Jonathan Melrod regarding the actions of security officers at the Santa Rosa Plaza. As a former seven-term chair of the board of the California Association of Licensed Investigators, I appreciate the difficulty of selecting competent security contractors and the further difficulty of keeping them in line with a client’s expectations.

Security officers guarding malls and other retail establishments should be trained to have at least a common sense understanding of their obligations under the Unruh Civil Rights Act as interpreted by the California Supreme Court in In Re Cox (1970) 3 C 3rd 205 and the implications of the subsequently passed Ralph and Bane civil rights acts in connection with that decision. As your letter to Mr. Melrod indicates that the actions in question were done by employees of a security contractor, I am requesting that you identify for me the name of the contracting firm and provide me with the company’s Private Patrol Operator (PPO) license.

It is my intention to report these serious violations by that company to the appropriate authorities at the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

Thanking you for your prompt attention, I remain,

Respectfully yours,

Jan B. Tucker

State Director, California League of Latin American Citizens 

Andy LopezThe Bane, Ralph and Unruh Civil Rights Acts all provide for minimum civil penalties to the victims of such violations.  The Bane and Ralph civil penalties are potentially $25,000 each for each violation against each defendant, so the victims are looking at not less than $50,000 each not counting damages or punitive damages that the law provides should a jury find the security guards guilty.

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Bring Hollywood Home Legislation


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BHHFAB 1780 has been introduced into the California legislature as a “spot bill,” a bill that is essentially a place holder in the legislative process until the actual language of the bill is negotiated with the bill sponsor (which in this case is the Bring Hollywood Home Foundation) and other interested parties and formalized through the legislative counsel’s office.  AB 1780 at this point declares the intent of the legislature (the road map for what AB 1780 is intended to accomplish) to enact “…a transferable tax credit for specified motion pictures in an amount equal to 20% of production and post production expenditures…”


Tim Donnelly

A couple of interesting points.  Republican State Assembly Member and candidate for Governor in the June primary Tim Donnelly is the bill’s official author.  With Democrats usually falling all over themselves to suck up to the elites of the Hollywood corporate establishment (major donors to their campaigns) one might normally wonder why no Democrat would agree to carry this bill.   The problem is that Bring Hollywood Home Foundation (BHHF) is more interested in promoting jobs for the working class of the movie industry through independent production, an anathema to the corporate controlled film studios.



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United Parking–Ripping Off Workers


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United Valet ParkingUnited Parking/United Valet Parking Inc. (UVP) holds Los Angeles City Business Licenses for over 100 lots and is licensed by the Los Angeles City Police Commission to operate them.  As is typical in “pay to play” politics in Los Angeles, the company and its owner over the years have contributed thousands of dollars to Los Angeles politicians they consider to be friendly or at least in their interests to get or keep in office.  Most recently, on December 30, 2013, the company gave $700 to City Council member Jose Huizar who’s facing a big re-election fight because of allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members.

UVP routinely violates Sections 6400 and 6401 of the Labor Code, and Section 42.00(c)(1) of the Los Angeles Municipal Code by having their employees stand out in the street in traffic to solicit motorists to park in their lots:

20140110_142937 (2)20140110_143009 (2)Left:  UVP employees violating LAMC 42.00(c)(1)



Sections 6400 and 6401 of the California Labor Code require companies to keep their employees safe and not permit inherently unsafe work (like standing in the middle of the street during traffic) while LAMC 42.00(c)(1) provides that:

No person shall on any street offer for sale, solicit the employment of, or announce by any means the availability of, any goods, wares, merchandise, services or facilities, or solicit patrons for or advertise any show, exhibition, entertainment, tour, excursion, sight-seeing trip, or real estate viewing or inspection trip.  (Amended by Ord. No. 182,708, Eff. 10/20/13.)

Stealing Tips

In all my years as as a private investigator and former union organizer and labor union official I have never actually heard of an employer stealing tips from its own employees.  I have heard of restaurants who required waitresses to share tips with other employees, like busboys or chefs, but at least there’s a rational basis for the practice (and it’s rare).  But UVP is currently being sued for a policy that’s just beyond the pale of civilized corporate behavior.

In Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC529988, UVP and its owner, Kenny Sabet, are being sued for, amongst other things, deeming the tips earned by their employees to be company property and requiring those tips to be turned over to their supervisors at the end of each shift.  This is really sick.  Click the link below to see a copy of the civil complaint filed in Case No. BC 529988:

What should you do about this?

If a garment factory in Bangladesh is producing shirts for American markets and the workers are being exploited, then you stop buying from the companies that sell those products and let them know why.  If an American tech company is selling computers made in China under sub-standard labor conditions, same standard applies:  engage in a secondary boycott of those selling the computers, because you can’t do anything directly to otherwise influence the manufacturers.

So, please don’t do business with any of these establishments unless they pledge to fire United Valet Parking and get in a decent and humane operator to manage their parking and valet services:

AGO Restaurant


8478 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069


Tel.: 323.655.6333



Chloe Boutique Melrose Place


8448 Melrose Place Los Angeles CA 90069





Comme Ca Restaurant


8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069 323-782-1104



Fig & Olive


8490 Melrose Place


West Hollywood, CA 90069


310 360 9100



Fogo de Chao


133 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211


(310) 289.7755





11777 San Vicente Blvd, Brentwood, CA 90049


(310) 207-8744



Le Petit Bistro


631 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069


(310) 289-9797





8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048


(323) 655-6277





8460 Melrose Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90069


Phone:(323) 782-1101





246 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210


(310) 888-8782



Monique Lhuillier


8485 Melrose Place. Los Angeles, CA 90069. 323.655.1088




903 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069


(310) 657-5711



Oscar de la Renta


8446 Melrose Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90069


(323) 653-0200





9575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035


(310) 277-0133



Serge Normant @ John Frieda Salon


8440 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, California 90069


(323) 653-4040





9575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035


(310) 277-0210





755 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069


(310) 659-3535



Taste on Melrose


8454 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069


(323) 852-6888



Stinking Rose


55 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211


(310) 652-7673











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Anti Gay Laws throughout the world


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Anti Gay Laws

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Abused after death at LA Co Jail


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Soon to be ex-Sheriff Lee Baca at L.A. County Jail

Soon to be ex-Sheriff Lee Baca at L.A. County Jail

It’s bad enough to die in custody; do they really have to abuse you after your demise?  Here’s the latest from a Whistle Blower in the jail system who reports that an inmate in Los Angeles Mens Central Jail Module 4200 hanged himself:

….an inmate in mens central jail LA  hung himself yesterday   Jan. 29 2014   then when the coroner arrived, they put the body on a stretcher and the body fell off at some point                     going up the stairs   ….



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Whistle Blowers Welcome & Protected


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Whistle blowing on Crime in the Suites

Crime in the SuitesPoliticians usually rant and rave to get re-elected about “crime in the streets” and write draconian and frequently insane laws to spend taxpayer money willy nilly to do something about it. One of these days I’d like to see them get really serious about white collar crime in the suites, such as Banksterism. Banksters in my book should be treated with laws and sentences that are just as draconian as those targeting so-called street Gangsters.

In corporate America, whistle blowing can be just as dangerous to your health and job as informing on a street gang

In corporate America, whistle blowing can be just as dangerous to your health and job as informing on a street gang

Recently I’ve seen an uptick in Whistle Blowers responding to my blogs. This is a special thank you to the anonymous person who sent me information recently on Hanmi Bank. I’ve sent the information on to the FBI, Commissioner Jan Lynn Owen of the California Department of Business Oversight (Hanmi is a California State chartered bank), Melissa Schaetz (Senior Consumer Compliance Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco), and Rep. Maxine Waters (my own congressperson who is a member of the House Financial Services Committee).

If you want to blow the whistle on corruption of any sort, I will protect your anonymity to the best of my ability.


Aside from my role as a private investigator which gives my sources a certain degree of protection under Section 7539(a) of the California Business & Professions Code, I also am protected by the immunity conferred by the California Constitution Article I, Section 2(b) and California Evidence Code Section 1070. I am a card carrying member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521. I formerly served as the First Vice President of Newspaper Guild Local 39069 under presidents Gary North and Joe Segura. I am criminal justice and legal affairs columnist for CounterPunch Magazine as well as the operator of this Detective’s Diary blog.

So, if you have tips, leaks, evidence, or anything else you want to blow the whistle on, email me at:

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Ivan Illich’s Toe by Rudy Acuna


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Ivan Illich’s Toe




Rodolfo F. Acuña




L to R:  Jan B. Tucker, Dr. Rudy Acuna, Estela Ayala; @ Tia Chucha's

L to R: Jan B. Tucker, Dr. Rudy Acuna, Estela Ayala; @ Tia Chucha’s

Other than my stint in the army, the first time I had ever been outside of Los Angeles for more than a week was in the spring of 1971 when I visited Cuernavaca, Mexico for several months. Bored as hell I gravitated to el Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC) – a think tank founded by that Ivan in 1961. Illich was a guru who warned against the First World’s the imposition of its cultural values on Latin America, founding CIDOC to train priests and nuns to think of themselves as guests and not the saviors of the poor.





IllichLike almost every intellectual hippie of the time, I was anxious to listen to Illich, a radical priest who was in hot water with the Vatican for his criticism of Western culture. Born in Vienna to a Croatian Catholic father and a Sephardic mother, Illich spoke at least eight languages and had a doctorate.





Part of his mystique was that he had worked as parish priest in a poor Puerto Rican New York neighborhood. At 30, he was appointed as the vice rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Controversy followed him, and he resigned from the priesthood. He had come to the attention of the Vatican through Opus Dei.





Deschooling societyIllich’s publication of Deschooling Society (1971), a critical discourse of public education, moved him to the eye of the storm. According to Illich, universal education through schooling was not feasible, and he said de-institutionalizing education was starting point in de-institutionalizing society.





Schools, according to Illich, confused process and substance. Students were “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, and success with a diploma. According to Illich, they schooled the students’ imagination to accept service in place of value. His solution was to get rid of the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge were efficient and benevolent.





Illich called for collaborative learning. Admittedly, Illich’s hyperbole created a storm with approval of libertarians of the right and left who interpreted him they the way they wanted to. The value of Illich was not his theory; he was not a scientist but a thinker, a philosopher. He contributed to awakening the intellectuals’ cultural consciousness to the insidious effects of institutional dependency.





Illich’s dragon was the monopoly of the schools of education that in turn blinded poor people and gave them the illusion that schooling was the answer to their problems. The objective of schooling thus became the acquisition of material goods in order to increase their consumption.





According to Illich, schools served a function similar to that which the established church once played in claiming a monopoly as the repository of society’s myths. Illich distinguished between skill acquisition and humane education. Only by deschooling society would we be able to eliminate hierarchies and the mass production of education.





As an educator I was not enamored with the idea of eliminating schools. I had spent most of the sixties fighting for better access to education for minorities, and for me it was a question of who controlled the schools. Illich’s vision at the time seemed too utopian.





About this time, Illich sauntered into the CIDOC’s courtyard. He was wearing black cotton pants, a white guayabera, and sandals. But the only thing I saw at the time was his big toe; it was enormous. The crowd of a couple of hundred people went wild. “Ibán!” “ee-bán!” They shouted, “Ibán, what is knowledge?”





Tools for convivialityIt all began to come together with his next book Tools for Conviviality (1973), which continued the theme of specialized knowledge and technocratic elites in an industrial society. Illich boldly called for the reconquest of practical knowledge. “The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but ‘modernized poverty,’ dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts.”





Illich PauloFreire..laeduc.Illich argued that we needed convivial tools; people had become the servants of machines. The book put Illich at the forefront of critical pedagogy along with Paulo Freire.





Illich attacked the do-gooders and their paternalism. In this book, Illich uses phrases such as “The altar of science,” explaining “Many shamans and herb doctors familiar with local diseases and remedies and trusted by their clients had always had equal or better results.”





According to Illich, “medicine has gone on to define what constitutes disease and its treatment.” Convivial Tools were a means for individuals and communities to take back control over technologies, which had been monopolized by professional elites.





Convivial was defined as the degree of a person’s control over a tool. People controlled a telephone but not television. Building homes was at first a convivial tool, but with the rise elite of housing contractors and strict building codes a person lost the option of building his own house in his spare time.



Ultimately, Illich was concerned with people’s freedom to be creative; he insisted that creative activity required the use of tools, which can be controlled by the individual using them. Her mastery and control of the tools “Tools foster[ed] conviviality to the extent to which they can be easily used, by anybody, as often or as seldom as desired, for the accomplishment of a purpose chosen by the user.”



Over the years I have related more to Tools for Conviviality than Illich’s other works, although my admiration for him has grown. I can think of many theoreticians but very few pure thinkers.



illich singerThis week I begin another semester. I am often asked how my present students differ from those of forty-four years ago. That’s where Tools for Conviviality comes in. My classes are overwhelmingly first generation university students, three quarters are Latinos, and almost all are working class. Every semester I ask them how many can use a sewing machine, keeping in mind the pedal powered Singer that we had when I was growing up.



When I first asked the question over three-quarters raised their hands. Last semester the number fell to two and that included me. Only two knew how to sew buttons on their shirts or blouses, and none had ever darned a sock. These were all routine when I was growing up.



On some Sundays I go out and watch immigrants hit the garage sales, picking up perfectly good clothes often almost new. A button is missing, or a zipper is jamming. They take the piece of clothing, put a button on it or a zipper, wash, starch and iron it, and give it to relatives back home.



When I was a child we would go downtown and window shop. My aunt would sketch the latest fashions, and if she liked a dress she would buy a pattern and a piece of cloth and make it. Today my students buy a blouse for $35 that they could make for $2.00.



My rumination about Illich’s toe was triggered by a conversation that one of my colleagues had with a part time instructor. Apparently the latter was miffed about our fight with the administration over the privatization of the university. She responded that why make a big deal about it, we could do nothing about it.



I (Jan B. Tucker) had the distinct privilege of taking a graduate seminar on Foucault taught by Foucault friend, Simeon Wade; but my studies under Rudy Acuna were far more important to my intellectual development.

I (Jan B. Tucker) had the distinct privilege of taking a graduate seminar on Foucault taught by Foucault friend, Simeon Wade; but my studies under Rudy Acuna were far more important to my intellectual development.

The part-time instructor thought of herself as educated, after all she had read Michel Foucault in grad school. But I guess she cannot appreciate or hear the chants of “ee-bán!” or admire his huge toe, and perhaps that is why she does not know the definition of the word struggle.



A Gift



Every time I come out with a new edition of Occupied America, I feel guilty. The cost of books has gone through the roof. For this edition I wanted to say thank you so I am posting online a 194 page Student/Teacher Manual—or, as I call it, the “Mini-book”—that is over 194 pages. It is designed to accompany Occupied America, it is also meant to guide the students through Chicana/o history as well as periodically refresh their knowledge of the field. The manual also makes Occupied America and the field of Chicana/o history more online friendly for teachers and students. It makes heavy use of the internet. If the hyperlink is down, please email me to It is available free of charge at It is also available on the link for Center for the Study of the Peoples of the Americas (CESPA; . It is not much but perhaps it will facilitate more Chicana/o History courses and your learning.




Rudy Acuña




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