Thursday, August 02, 2007

Chauncey Bailey Assassinated in Oakland

When Al Gore ran for the presidency, his opponents mocked his military service, because he had carried a journalist's pen, not an AK-47, through the jungles of Vietnam. But the mounting death toll of journalists serving in Iraq should serve as a reminder that being a journalist in a war zone is a service every bit as dangerous. Some war zones are closer to home.

Oakland Post reporter Chauncey Bailey was struck down by a masked assassin on a busy intersection in broad daylight this morning. I lived in Oakland for 7 years and I only met Chauncey once, in 2004 at the New California Media convention. He was an Oakland Tribune reporter at the time. What a character. A no-nonsense "just the facts" kind of questioner, but at the same time, his writing showed a person eager to point out the larger picture facts sometimes obscure. That probably describes most journalists, but with most journalists I know, that's the hat they put on when they go to work, or else it's just one tool in their trade. With Chauncey, it seemed from our brief meeting and the e-mails that followed, that that was who he was. A reliably double sided coin: all business, but on the flip side, all compassion.

Chauncey was a race-conscious writer - a man who obviously wanted to use his talents to encourage the black community in Oakland and California to confront uncomfortable truths and to participate fully in society rather than remain balkanized and demoralized. Sometimes I disagreed with the conclusions he drew in his writing, but I never disagreed with his motivation or his idealism.

Chauncey became interested in helping Candorville gain the attention of the Oakland Tribune. It isn't easy for a new strip to break into new markets, even when it's your hometown paper. Oftentimes, editors won't look past the cover of the sales brochure, let alone read far enough to realize the cartoonist lives just 28 blocks from them. Chauncey gave my wife the publisher's phone number, and we called and introduced ourselves. About a year later, the ANG, which owns the Tribune, added Candorville. This was after my syndicate's editor flew out to encourage ANG to take a good look at the strip, but I don't doubt that Chauncey's help played a role.

He profiled me in 2004 and wrote an article about my work for the regional black press. Actually, he sent my wife Laura a list of questions (I guess he knew who the efficient one was), I gave her my answers and she e-mailed them back to him. I never did see the article, because we were out of town when it ran and I didn't want to bug him for a copy. But Laura and I looked through her old e-mail file and we still have the questions, and my answers. These pretty much sum up my impression of the man. Each question is concise, no-nonsense. All business. In that, you see Chauncey's mind. But if you look at the subtext, you see the man's heart.

===== Comments by (Chauncey Bailey) at 6/09/04 3:08 pm
I can do a feature on (Darrin) for the regional black press. tell me (50 words or less per question)

1. His background.

Darrin: My father's black, and my mother is Jewish (white). I was born in South Central L.A. and raised in East L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. I was bused 40 miles per day to magnet schools. I graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a BA in Political Science in 1999, and chose to stay in Oakland.

2. How he got started?

Darrin:I edited my high school paper and continued pursuing journalism in college. I drew editorial cartoons and comic strips for the Daily Cal, and when I felt I was good enough I started faxing them every day to the LA Times, Oakland Trib and SF Chronicle. They all eventually started running them.

3. Why?

Darrin:I want to show a more developed view of Blacks and Latinos than I've seen in the comics pages. They're either angry about injustice 24-7 or they're the Cosby's. Reality is a mix of all that. I want to show minorities with a wide range of thoughts and goals.

4. Successes?

Darrin:To my knowledge I'm the first and only Black cartoonist to have two comic strips in syndication, and the youngest (of any race) to do so. At 20 (in 1995), I was the youngest editorial cartoonist to be published regularly in
the LA times. My work's been on CNN, and other television news broadcasts. I won several awards in college.

5. Setbacks?

Darrin:My first comic strip, "Rudy Park," focused on the dotcom revolution until that revolution crashed in 2000. Most of the magazines that ran the strip went out of business. Then it was syndicated. Editorial cartooning setbacks came when papers began using more syndicated work and less freelance work. "Candorville" hasn't had any setbacks - yet.

6. Goals?

Darrin:To reach as many readers as possible and present them with an image of African-Americans and Latinos that doesn't gloss over the downsides of life, but that never loses its appreciation for the good in life. I want to show you don't have to be angry to be passionate. You don't have to be disrespectful to get respect.

7. Tips for young Black artists

Darrin:Practice. Have something IMPORTANT to say and figure out how best to say it, whether it's visual or performing arts. But don't wait for someone to discover you. You've got to take initiative. Enter contests. Even if you don't win, you're getting your name out there. Submit your work in a professional manner to as many people as you can. Network - meet people in the industry you want to be part of, and do not be afraid to ask them for advice. Usually, they'll be glad to help you.

What I want to know is, what was Chauncey working on, what had he already written, or what else was he involved in, that may have gotten him assassinated? But this is Oakland. Who knows if the investigation will go farther than a fruitless sweep of the East side and a shrug of the shoulders.


Anonymous said...

Suspect: "Your Black Muslim Bakery"

Darrin Bell said...

I'm impressed with the OPD's response to this. I'm not taking their claim about the raid already being scheduled at face value; it's possible they moved it up in response to the assassination.

"Your Black Muslim Bakery." I drove by that place every time I returned to Berkeley from San Francisco. I'd curve out of the off ramp at 51st St./MLK, and there it was. Usually the light would be red, and by some cosmic coincidence I was almost always at least five or six cars back from the intersection. While we were stopped, a couple men from the bakery, dressed in crisp, dark suits would walk from car to car selling bean pies from one hand and Final Call newspapers from the other (a good bean pie is just about the tastiest thing I've ever had). A few times, I'd reach into my wallet and find a 5 dollar bill, but they never made it to my car before the light changed and I had to pull out.

This is a horrible understatement, but if it turns out they had something to do with this, I sure am glad I never got to give them my money.

Lucy Gibson said...

Dear Darrin,
I love, totally love, your comics, and I've tried to get my local paper to run them. So far, no luck.
So I hope you don't mind some constructive criticism. I'm the grammar and spelling police.
It drives me nuts that proof readers in magazines and newspapers all over the country seem to have forgotten the correct use of "lie" and "lay." I see you, my hero, are doing the same thing at the top of your Candorville Courier page:
"Do you lay awake at night wondering how you can support Candorville?" Please! Change it to "Do you LIE awake at night..." If you don't remember it from high school English, you could look it up...
The other thing is: it's "whey," not "way."
OK, thanks, and sorry about being an English teacher-type.
Your cartoons, story lines, and jokes are so superior to anything out there except maybe Doonesbury. You deserve to be as widely syndicated as they are. I hope that in a few years, you will be.

Darrin Bell said...

Thankz, Lucy! Eye've chaynged "lay" to "lie," butt eye ree-fyooz to chaynge "way" to "whey." Thatz wear eye put m'eye fut down.