Northern California in February 2024

Feb 5th, 2024 | By | Category: In Brief
City of Albany, Caklifornia in foreground, with Albany Hill closer to east shore of San Francisco Bay, and City of San Francisco off in the distance on west shore of the Bay.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2024. Tomorrow most of us among the editorial staff here will be off on our regular visit with technical support staff, now in Albany, California — “on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northwestern Alameda County … population … 20,271 at the 2020 census.”

Albany, California has a somewhat intriguing history. The area’s “ first known residents,” were the “Costanoans (coast dwellers) or Ohlone” who “lived at the base of Albany Hill along Cerrito Creek … until the early 19th Century, when the Spanish land barons arrived.”

Michael Seward, Family Grouping. 2024. Acrylic. 32” x 40”.

In 1820 “the King of Spain granted a large portion of the East Bay to Don Luis Maria Peralta, who then divided the land among his three sons. Jose Domingo received the northern portion, which included the area of Berkeley and Albany, and used the land for cattle farming.”

The Mexican-American War (1846–1848) and the California gold rush (1848–1855) led to the establishment of California as 31st state of the anglophone USA on September 9, 1850. For a time the area that is now Albany manufactured dynamite. Then in 1906 “the great San Francisco earthquake and fire” led to a “large migration of families from San Francisco to the East Bay.”

Albany High School Jazz Band in action at Yoshi’s Oakland.

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) had been established in 1868, in the City of Berkeley due south of what is now Albany — “named after the 18th-century Anglo-Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley.” In 1908 “area residents” from the San Francisco migrations just north of Berkeley “protested the dumping of Berkeley garbage in their community by incorporating” as “the City of Ocean View.”

Only a year later it became clear that Ocean View was too common a name for other places in the region. In 1909, “the city was renamed in honor of Albany, New York, the birthplace of the city’s first mayor, Frank Roberts.” The City of Albany, California is known today for the quality of its public school system. It is also “the site of Golden Gate Fields, the only horse racing track in the Bay Area” (and apparently now occupying land formerly taken up by dynamite factories).

Michael Seward, Untitled. 2010. Mixed media. 24” x 30”.

The Wikipedia article on “Albany, California” notes that it “has a history of real estate discrimination, which made it difficult for non-white buyers to acquire property and build homes in Albany.” And : “Through the early 1940’s Albany ‘remained closed to African Americans’.” (Something of this earlier history has arguably lingered vaguely in a recent “Instagram controversy” involving Black and White students at Albany High School.)

More recently : “As of 2012 “ the “racial makeup of Albany was” 54.6% White, 31.2% Asian, 3.5% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 3.3% other races, and 6.7% two or more races. Finally, 10.2% were “Hispanic or Latino of any race.”

We’ll be in Albany, California ourselves for Super Bowl 2024. And inevitably we’ll be cheering for the San Francisco Forty Niners. (Even though some of us have actually been to Kansas City — in pursuit of the spirit of the great KC-born-and-raised Charlie Parker, who largely invented bebop jazz and still stands as the world’s greatest and most beautiful saxophone player and a legendary musical intellectual!)

It would seem that most in Albany, California today will not in any case need advice from Ms Taylor Swift and her Kansas City Chiefs boyfriend on who to vote for in the crucial November 2024 US elections. Letting Wikipedia have the last word on the subject for now : “According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Albany has 11,344 registered voters. Of those, 7,489 (66%) are registered Democrats, 512 (4.5%) are registered Republicans, and 2,917 (25.7%) have declined to state a political party.”

We’ll be back in our Toronto editorial offices on Valentine’s Day 2024 — having been refreshed and reinvigorated by our sojourn in one mainstream part of the liberal and progressive USA today, with all its good and bad sides, whatever happens this coming November 5 …

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