Celebrating Fred by Bob Livingstone

Tribute to Fred to accompany Playlist for Fred

Following is a tribute to Fred Pecker who died of pancreatic cancer Dec. 20, 2018. This tribute is a companion piece to the nine hour Fredplaylist. I hope my words will be soothing as we grieve the loss of this wonderful man.

I will begin by talking about my own personal experience and then move to memories and feelings about Fred.

My father died in 1966 from a stroke. My family experienced many indignities at that time: the hospital that wouldn’t allow us to see him while he was dying, the gravediggers digging out the hole for his coffin during the ceremony, his job firing him because his physical illness affected his brain and he forgot to tell his boss he was going on vacation.

Yes, this is a sad story and major influence of who I turned out to be. But this story does not end there. There is hope in the spirit of Fred Pecker who along with his soul partner Susan who fight for the rights of working people every day.

I first met Fred and Susan at the San Francisco Head Start Program in 1983. They were employed as teachers along with Kit Bell. I was a social services person or whatever bureaucratic phrasing was used at the time. Susan was pregnant with Herschel and they lived in Oakland. We shared the experience of being overworked and under paid. We had small meetings at first that gradually expanded. We needed to belong to a union. We connected with the United Auto Workers District 65.

We were all vilified by management. In their efforts to divide us, Fred was maligned more than the rest of us. They deeply feared his leadership and would do anything to marginalize him.

Despite managements sick tactics, the union was voted in, but this struggle took a lot out of our hearts and we all eventually moved on from Head Start.

Richard Howell’s We are all Connected, captures the essence of Fred, the Man. The main lyrics are “We are all connected so we must treat each other right. “ “I am not Free until we all are Free.” I cry gut level moans every time I hear this song and welcome connection with Fred’s spirit, presence and legacy message. No justice no peace. An injury to one is injury to all. Fred led call and response cheers at the demonstrations we attended together. There was a march to Reclaim MLK on Jan. 17, 2016 from Downtown Oakland through West Oakland to Emeryville. It must have been over ten miles and ten hours. Fred and Sue were with us as well as thousands of others. Fred led the chants and cheers throughout the march. He was known for saying our destination was much closer than it was. He said that about the location of his car and the ending spot of the demo. He would say, “It’s just up ahead” which turned out to be dramatically incorrect as we groaned with exhaustion.

Participating in demonstrations with Fred was like being with another life force. He was driven by his principles and was probably the least hypocritical person I have ever known. He was also selfless; putting the struggle way beyond his own needs. He was a modest man who didn’t ever blow his own horn.

We went to many demonstrations together over the years. The Walmart Black Friday demos were special for us. It was a ritual for Fred, Sue, Gail and I to drive to the San Leandro or Fremont Walmart to bring truth to power. The demos were often short and I wonder why they don’t happen anymore.

Sometimes we would plan to meet at various demonstrations, but for one reason or another, one of us couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, we all knew there will always be another demonstration to go to.

I remember how stressful it was for him during his reelection for ILMU Local 6 Secretary Treasurer. After being honest and dedicated for all his life, there was a campaign filled with false, acrimonious accusations against him. These accusations were an underhanded power grab.

Fred lost the election and went back to work at Guittard chocolate. He could have moved on to some other career, but he stood up for his principals and hoped that justice would eventually prevail.

I told Fred that he could write a blog on union organizing to share his vast knowledge and experience. He said that he didn’t write well enough for that which I found to be absurd. I said that he could talk it and somebody else could write it.

Yesterday I watched Angela Davis being interviewed by Amy Goodman and was struck by her willingness to share painful memories and her wisdom. Fred should have been interviewed by Amy-an opportunity to tell his story and share it with the world.

I was always excited to share new music I discovered with Fred. I figured that if he liked my selections, I was on to something.

Over the years we shared the love of Bernadette Cooper, Garland Jeffreys and of course Leela James.

I first heard The Drama According to Bernadette Cooper in early 1990. The lyrics,” who is that girl? They love me, they hate me, but they all say I look good.” I thought what the hell is this marvelous sound-part funk, part camp, part women’s empowerment. I bought the CD the next day and burned it for Fred. This album had a cult following; everyone who ever heard the cd absolutely loved it.

Garland Jeffreys is a Black and Puerto Rican artist from Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn. A place near and dear to Fred. His album Don’t Call me Buckwheat may be the best album about race in this country. Fred also loved the video to Garland’s most recent cd titled 14 Steps to Harlem.

Leela James is this generations Aretha Franklin. Her voice makes you scream with affirmation and loss. We attended several Leela James Shows at the now shuttered Yoshi’s and several other venues. Her performances of covers such as Etta James’s Sunday Kind of Love and her own material were adventures in the power of soul music.

We shared the love of George Clinton, Parliament, Funkdalic, Bootsy Collins, Ko Ko Taylor, Etta James, The Spinners, Chic, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mary J. Blige and many more.

I remember a song Fred got a kick out of. It came out I think it was 1983 called Rappin’ Ron Reagan. Rappin Ron Reagan’s got cheese for you.(remember the government cheese program back then?) Some of the other lyrics were: “We want Ron, he’s pure sex, he signs your monthly welfare checks.”

Fred passed on his love of music to his children and they continue to pass on his knowledge to friends. He was also a bass player, drummer and DJ.

So we connected deeply with Fred in music and also in the struggle. His love was deep and his commitment to his children and wife was fierce and unconditional.

Random Access Memories:

Dope Dog sing along: We used to have regular dance parties at out apartment and I printed out the lyrics to George Clinton’s Dope Dog and handed them out to the 20 or so partiers. They looked at me with weirdness in their eyes as I passed them out. The song began to play over the speakers and Fred led the party in the Dope Dog Sing Along which will forever be ingrained in our memory. In case you forgot or would like to see the lyrics-

U.S. Custom Coast Guard Dope Dog Lyrics

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

YO-HO………..ROOF!!!
DOIN’ IT DOGGY STYLE
U.S. Custom Coast Guard Dope Dog, nicknamed "BUST EM"
Like most dope sniffin’ dogs, he’s got a habit, trained to have to have it
Pick up the tracks of the trafficker, and track em’ like a rabbit up the coastline
Canine controlled substance retriever
Receiver of the "Golden Nose" award, for leadin’ em’ to the cash, cashin’ in on the stash
Now he’s in line for his issue of the booty
Never do a line in the line of duty, he’s a dope dog
U.S. Custom Coast Guard Dope Dog
Keen sense of smell trackin the tell-tale trails of Cartels
Dope Boats, Big Dope
Never a gram or O.Z.. kilo too low key
Gotta be tons a "P" blow, bales of lumbo
When other dogs sniff at other dog’s tails, he can track the profits from a dope sale straight to the stank account
Big banks, bankin’ on laundering, the dirty money no stinkin’ he follows his nose
And as the wind blows, he get a whiff, he take a sniff
A Dope Dog
A Dope Dog
Old Mac Uncle had some drugs, C.I.A. I-O
And with those drugs he bought some arms
C.I.A. I-O
It was a bang, bang here and a snort, snort there
Bangs and snorts everywhere
Old Mac Uncle starts a war, C.I.A. I-O
But the war on drugs is hell on Dope Dogs nose
It smells where the nose goes when the doors close and the dealer want to hide the dope
In the booty, in the twat
Then they squat and make the dog sniff their bowel
Foul, as they fart in his face
DAMN for a shitty half gram
A DOPE DOG
U.S. Custom Coast Guard Dope Dog, nicknamed "Bust em"
Like most dope sniffin’ dogs, he’s got a habit, trained to have to have it
Pick up the tracks of the trafficker, and track em’ like a rabbit up the coastline
Canine controlled substance retriever
Receiver of the "Golden Nose" award
Dope Dog-A Dope Dog
Out of the toxic waste comes a fox that wastes no time
A genetically improved smell capability, the long and dragging tales of the possibilities of "clone canine."
Conceived under the influence of toxic wasted doctors
Computer bugs debuggin’ devices and vice verses and various viruses
And until his retirement don’t mention, no requirement nowhere in his pension for the upkeep, the keeping up of the habit
The system have a habit of making sure you get, a habit that can’t be kept up with unless you’re a dope dog

Wang Dang Doodle, the KoKo Taylor song was loved by Fred and he led the All NIGHT LONG call and response at out parties.

Fred and Sue hosts at our 25th wedding anniversary:1997-Fred and Sue were the hosts/officiators of Gail’s and my 25th wedding anniversary celebration at Sutro Heights overlooking the Pacific Ocean and later at the Local 6 Union Hall South of Market. Fred and Sue not only were great hosts, we really appreciated all the warmth they displayed. This is a memory I hold sacred.

Naomi and the cd 5$ story: Fred was known for his frugality; especially around buying CD’s. His usual limit for buying CD’s in the bargain bin was $1.99. One day he came home with a cd that cost $5.00. Naomi looked at him with a puzzled look on her face and said, “Did You tell mom about this”?

Tom Tom Club at the Warfield Theater New Years Eve 1984(I think): We were all having a great time. Fred and Sue, I think Jimmy and Kathleen were there with Gail and myself. One of their hit songs Wordy Rapping Hood came on and I look around the room and saw Susan Solomon dancing on a table top like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Fred and Herschel(I think) attended my first marathon and for that they deserve a special award. There is nothing more boring than watching people running by. It is more exciting to watch others read, silently.

Clinton at the Circle star with Yele, Paulette and Fred 5/21/93-Usually that rotating stage would make me dizzy, but this show had like fifty performers on stage; so, the moving stage allowed the audience to view all the singers, musicians and bit players. It was an amazing performance that included Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. The show lasted three hours and we truly witnessed an historical event.

During the last days of his life he shared that he was tired of all the meds to counteract the side effects from other meds and that no one could tell him the outcome of all this treatment. He said that weed was the best medicine-something I take to heart.

A couple weeks ago, Gail asked Fred when his next chemo treatment was. He shook his head and made the slit throat gesture. All aggressive care was over and he was now officially a hospice patient.

The last time I saw him was Dec. 16, 2018. The hospital bed was in the living room and from my days working in hospice, I knew that this meant the end was near. My heart didn’t want to hear what my mind was telling me. He was dying. He was sleeping much of the time and I’m not sure he recognized us that day.

Thursday morning, I noticed that Herschel was calling me. He told me his father had died the night before. I asked him to call me if he needed anything and then started crying one of those deep gut-wrenching cries.

Sue told me that she was going back to work after the holidays because she hopes to find purpose and distraction from grief through work. She also said that is what Fred would have wanted her to do. I went to work after talking to Herschel because I didn’t know what else to do. Fred probably would have wanted me to go to work as well.

I’ll always remember Fred’s compassion and his honesty. If he disagreed with you, he would say so-a quality I found endearing. His laugh and his smile are etched out in my visual memory bank. I will never hear him call Gail, Medders again.

Life is going to be much lonelier without you Brother Fred.

I love you.

Bob Livingstone LCSW

650-347-5167

www.boblivingstone.com

https://www.facebook.com/HealingEmotionalPain

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