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.
Eight Woolsey Street households, some long-term residents and some
relatively new on the block, comprise the Words on Woolsey project.
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
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.
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
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
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