The City of Berkeley had one of those "Wow, how things change!" moments this week. It happened Tuesday evening at a Berkeley City Council meeting during which longtime punk mecca 924 Gilman got officially honored for its 30 years of cultural contributions with a stamped Proclamation from the City. [Scroll down to see proclamation and its content] Signed and bestowed by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin to longtime Gilman collective members Jesse "Luscious" Townley and Kamala Parks, the irony of the ("wow") moment was because back in its formative years that very same (now globally revered all ages, all inclusive, performing arts) venue had been labeled a "festering sore" by a City of Berkeley official. "It's pretty insane to think about the travel from being called a "festering sore" by a Zoning Board member 25 years ago to being honored by the City Council now," Townley told the Amoeblog.
A true renaissance man including punk musician, whose many bands have included Blatz, The Gr'ups, The Criminals, and The Frisk, Townley stressed how he was speaking on behalf of himself and not the collective. "Thanks to volunteers like John Hart, who is a veteran of the People's Park controversies, my generation of Gilman volunteers learned how to navigate local politics, and we've passed that knowledge on to successive generations of Gilman volunteers. Whether dealing with overzealous beat cops who rotated through our area or DiCon Fiberoptics trying to get us shut down because we weren't important enough to talk with, we were able to use these skills to survive long enough to be recognized by mainstream Berkeley as a valuable community institution," said Townley whose own experiences at Gilman inspired him to get into local politics and go on to become a commissioner elected to the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.