Nothing has ever so epitomized Berkeley’s self-parodying political desolation than the spectacle that presented itself outside the Berkeley Public Library on May 12, 2008.

On that day, the library had announced it was going to celebrate Malcolm X Day (which is a city-wide holiday in Berkeley) with a public reading of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (pdf of the flyer advertising the event here).

Berkeley loves Malcolm X. Not only is his birthday a city holiday, but one of the public schools is named after him. The municipal library is bursting with Malcolm X-related books and videos, and there are posters of him on the walls. You might say he was the city’s patron saint, of a sort.

So everything was geared up for the big day. Librarians were going to take turns reading from his (ghostwritten) autobiography to adoring crowds. The flyer specified all the ways disabled citizens could take advantage of this historic performance (“To request a sign language interpreter, real-time captioning, materials in large print or Braille, or other accommodations for this event, call 510-… or 510-… (TTY). At least 5 working days will help ensure availability. Please do not wear perfume or scents to public performances. Wheelchair accessible.”).

Then reality hit.

I swung by Berkeley to record the festivities, and to my absolute amazement, no one else was in the audience. Not a single person had shown up, aside from the two homeless people seen in the photo above, sitting behind the librarian who was reading the autobiography, but not paying her the slightest attention.

One after the other, librarians came out and took turns reading from the book to an empty audience. (Some, such as the one shown above, were wearing retro hipster sunglasses, to keep in the early-’60s spirit of the event.)

What a pitiful scene. The truth is, the Old Guard of radicals who run Berkeley are stuck in their own dream world of Malcolm X and flower-power and the Vietnam War — and no one cares any more. Life has moved on, but Berkeley’s power-structure hasn’t.

(Yes, this event happened over two months ago, not today; I just finally got around to posting this photo long after the fact.)

12 Responses to “Malcolm X Day at the Berkeley Public Library: May 12, 2008”

  1. 1citruscanker on Jul 21, 2008 at 10:44 am:

    I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times; I go to an event hoping to people-watch protesters and I’m the only one there.

  2. 2Dianna on Jul 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm:

    I cannot stop laughing! This is just perfect! Thank you, zombie!

  3. 3Thanos on Jul 21, 2008 at 12:15 pm:

    Can even Berkeley be getting healthier? It is a new century. Thanks Zombie, this helps make my day.

  4. 4LT Nixon on Jul 21, 2008 at 12:35 pm:

    And they say conservatives are out of touch! Looks like the line for the opening day of Redacted.

  5. 5Calista on Jul 21, 2008 at 2:18 pm:

    California’s institutions are so far removed from reality that they have to borrow their causes from somebody else. Laid back, laid open.

  6. 6yochanan on Jul 21, 2008 at 3:08 pm:

    malcom x was a racist bigot who was murdered by an even worse racist bigot.


  7. 7Ken on Jul 21, 2008 at 6:14 pm:

    I never really saw what was so great about Malcolm X. I just can’t throw my support behind nationalist figures, sorry.

  8. 8Jason on Jul 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm:

    Anyone else wonder if any of the readers were thinking, “What is the point of this?”

  9. 9ProtestShooter on Jul 21, 2008 at 10:40 pm:

    citruscanker: happens all the time. I’ve gone to highly publicized events and had just a couple of people show up. You should see the code pink email list – they get absolutely desperate sometimes because only one person showed up for some regular event and they’re out of town this week and they’re afraid nobody will show up and will somebody please cover for them.

  10. 10Fenris on Jul 24, 2008 at 12:24 pm:

    Of course X received little attention in Berkley this year. He’s not Che.

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