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Grandpa Al Lewis, 1910–2006
I first saw Al Lewis (who played Grandpa in “The Munsters” TV show) in New Haven in 1971 at a demonstration in support of the jailed Black Panthers. I remember I kept staring at him, curious that this famous actor would stand by himself, unlike so many actors and famous people. Later I worked for his campaign for governor. I was struck by the amount of adulation and genuine affection that so many people had for Al, especially (gulp!) cops—I suppose thanks to his role in “Car 54 Where Are You?” as well as “The Munsters.” They all wanted Al to sign autographs. I collected hundreds of signatures to put Al on the ballot from cops riding home on the Long Island railroad and the Staten Island ferry. It was amazing the transformation that came over people when Al greeted them. He ended up getting just over the 50,000 votes needed to put the Green Party on the ballot in New York State.
Al was also very scholarly and fluent in Yiddish, which he used during his borschtbelt schticks, regaling his audiences with gossip and funny stories about his friends, which included Mafia chieftans like Gotti. He told the Greens over and over about how his first political protest was when his mother brought him to a Sacco and Vanzetti support rally and how that inspired him to fight for political prisoners all his life.
Al was incredibly supportive of many people, including me when I was a Green Party candidate and organizer against pesticides and genetic engineering. He sponsored several events with the Roosevelt Island Greens and contributed generously to the NoSpray Coalition over the years, as well as to my campaign for mayor on the Green Party line in 2001.
I remember when Al was sick, a Reclaim the Streets demonstration ended up on Roosevelt Island. As we marched past Al’s apartment, we started the chant: “We love you Grandpa, we miss you, get better.” Soon hundreds of us took up the chant, lights came on in the apartments, people looked out the windows, and everyone waved, knowing who we were chanting about.
Among the many issues that Al took on, the fight to get rid of the onerous Rockefeller drug laws in New York (in which people have been imprisoned for 20 years and more for first offense nonviolent drug charges) was dear to his heart. He fought ceaselessly to free hundreds of those imprisoned, their lives meaninglessly stolen from them.
This funny, smart, annoying, funny, ribald, funny, generous, funny, and always dependable anti racist activist was, in my opinion, one of the great people of the 20th century, a legend walking among us. I loved him dearly and so did many others.
Grandpa Al Lewis: Presenté.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.