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A Neighborhood Takes a Stand
Published on Saturday, December 28, 2002 by the San Francisco Chronicle
A Neighborhood Takes a Stand
Signs of the times -- Words on Woolsey
by Randy Perrin
 

The 2400 block of Woolsey Street in Berkeley is a neighborhood in the old-fashioned sense. Families here share more than a street. We've watched each other's children grow up; we've consoled and celebrated together; and, through the years, we've joined to keep our neighborhood intact and livable.


The signs are inspired by the bygone Burma Shave billboards, prompting passersby to read one and move on to the next. Chronicle photo by Gina Gayle
Eight Woolsey Street households, some long-term residents and some relatively new on the block, comprise the Words on Woolsey project.

The group came together shortly after the November elections, but our concern began after the 2000 presidential election and the months following Sept. 11 as we watched the Bush administration's increasingly belligerent and go-it-alone approach to foreign policy, its clear indifference to the Bill of Rights and its refusal to even give a hearing to dissenting voices on the gravest environmental and ecological problems. We've come to understand that secret dealmaking and bullying rhetoric are now the coins of the realm, and that the dissenting voices within the Republican Party and even in the Democratic Party have been effectively silenced.

Our first project presents a simple message on a set of signs, inspired by the famous Burma Shave billboards that once lined the nation's highways. Two sets of signs, one for each side of the block, start out with "Bush foreign policy" followed by "All war all the time" and finish with "Bush domestic policy" followed by "All war all the time." The signs are silent, but they have quickly enlivened the conversations on our sidewalks.


DTLWoolsey Street resident Flora Schulz, left, speaks to Judith Schwartz, a neighbor from the adjoining block, about the signs affixed to Schulz's yard and seven others on the Berkeley street. Chronicle photo by Gina Gayle
We hope, through this and other projects, to begin to revive discourse, debate and dissent in a nation that seems so calmly indifferent to the erosion of our own quality of life and so willing to base our national identity on the extension of military power and a new, American-style colonialism even more dependent on the exploitation of foreign resources and people to feed our economy.

Randy Perrin is a 22-year resident of the 2400 block of Woolsey Street and a member of the Words on Woolsey project.

©2002 San Francisco Chronicle

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