Dylan and Sydney Ross with mom, Piper Dellums as they receive a pin from Rafael Jesús González, Berkeley Poet Laureate.
Sunday, September 9 was lovely—a gentle breeze waved its fingertips across the pavilion where chairs were set up in front of a stage where musicians paid tribute to the “Man of Peace,” Ronald V. Dellums, on the first International Day of Peace. How fitting for a man who made Nixon’s hit list early on in a career, for his stance against the Vietnam War, Barbara Lee noted in her comments later that evening.
Piper Dellums and her daughters’ Sydney and Dylan Ross joined their mother and other friends and family at the Block Party at Jack London Square. The family greeted friends and grooved to the music, something her dad would have loved, Piper said. Happy, yet grief stricken, occasionally we’d see the mom and daughter embracing one another, never more evident than when Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, Poet Laureate for the City of Berkeley, arrived giving Piper a big hug as he gave everyone his signature “Earth/Justice/Peace” button with a dove holding an olive branch, over an image of planet earth, encircled by sun rays, against a rainbow backdrop.
Funk ruled Sunday afternoon—the day hot enough for sunscreen, but not too hot to move by the end of the concert, which featured Ronnie Stewart and the Blues Caravan of All Stars, Oaktown Passions, Shirlee Temper, Kayla Marin’s Salt People, and Best Intentions. By the end of the afternoon, earlier sparsely filled seats were full and the audience was thick with folks on the grassy slope all the way back to
the dock, where Scott’s Seafood Restaurant Pavilion hosted the invitation-only tribute that evening.
In the gazebo, which was full with family and other dignitaries, the ceremony opened with an indigenous blessing and a Pan-African percussion procession. Later, speakers both present and prerecorded—including Dellums—spoke to this honored man’s legacy. Perhaps
Piper’s pastor, Warren Campbell (LA) said it best when he took his comments from Timothy 4.6 and said that Dellums poured his life out like Paul: there was nothing left.
“He was full of goodness, because he poured his life into the Berkeley City Council, [and House of Representatives, and City of Oakland].
He was a tall glass full of vision. Full of service. Full of sacrifice,” he said.
Dellums touched many lives—some present in the room, like Senator Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee (whose 20 years in Congress reflects her friendship with her mentor), and special surprise guest Stevie Wonder.
Lee’s eulogy included stories of Ron’s comedic impersonations of Richard Pryor, his short but brilliant film career as Frederick Douglass and his role in her life.
“Ron was my boss, mentor, and yet, like the brother I never had. He gave me personal advice and support as a single mom raising 2 boys.”
She remembered him telling his staff: “Let your conscience be your guide. If you are right—just stand on that street corner alone because sooner or later everyone must walk right to you.”
“Ron never backed down. Ron passed me a blue baton when I announced, in 1998, I would run for his seat upon his retirement. The baton, which I look at often, reminds me that all of us must carry that baton that Ron gave us and run our mile in this marathon for justice, for peace, and unity. So, when we pass our batons to the next generation, we know, as Ron said frequently, we have secured their future,” Lee said.
Dellums’ two granddaughters, also shared memories of “Pop Pop.”
The sisters both spoke of their revered grandfather as a role model, and more importantly as a man who had strong faith and belief in God and in the goodness of humanity. Both concepts were tangible in his life.
Dylan said, “My grandfather changed so many lives, and the best part is that he didn’t change them unknowingly or unwillingly, sitting idly by. He made it his life’s mission to change lives. He made it his life’s mission to change the world. He taught me to realize that it is such an absurd lie that one person cannot make a difference.”
Sydney, who fulfilled her grandfather’s academic goal of receiving a doctorate from Brandeis University, said that evening about her grandfather:
“The revolution is a collective and our shared interests in peace and justice for all are going to keep integrating this nation one social arena or place of business at a time.
“My Pop Pop has left us all with an enormous responsibility as well as the great honor to keep fighting to let love outshine fear, outshine despair, and outshine injustice. We must continue to divest from war and the politics of bigotry and we must continue to invest in the health, education, and environment of our communities.
“If you asked my grandfather what he does for a living, he called himself a social activist. In the spirit of social activism I’d like to use this opportunity to spread his desire for greater accountability and transparency in government by encouraging you to all use an app called Countable. Please take a minute to actually write this down. The app is called Countable C-O-UNTABLE. It’s very easy to use and allows you to notify your representatives of your vote on issues as they are being voted on and comes with small descriptions of both points of views. I also am encouraging you to challenge leaders that seek to silence America’s voice rather than encourage America to sing its truths out loud.
“Some say the civil rights movement failed but In the words of Pop Pop‘s Gram: nothing beats a failure but a try. If we keep trying we will succeed.”