Joe Gross
(1941 — 2013)


As remembered by Daphne Muse
May 28, 2013

Two Tall Trees in Oakland now Standing in Spirit

Joe Gross and David Glover, two of Oakland s tallest trees, are now standing reverently in spirit. Both were in the army of Sterling Brown s Strong Men. Joe grew up outside Detroit and came up out of well educated family who valued knowledge, learning and where that could take their son. He graduated from Howard University and worked on voter registration in McComb, Mississippi in 1963.

He was a key player in the 1970 Pan African Conference in Guyana and also spent two years in Tanzania working with Drum and Spear Press and Bookstore on a series of social justice projects. He moved to Berkeley in 1973 and in 1993, he co-founded Sustainable Systems, Inc. a technology cluster business incubator. His work took him to China, Palestine, Hungary, South Africa and Shreveport, Louisiana. He is survived by his wife Erlinda Castro, an attorney, his children Janel, Tamu and Jawanza, seven grandchildren, a community of colleagues who cherished and respected his work and Veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who held him in high esteem.

Honoring and Celebrating Joe's Life About 200 of Joe's family members, friends, colleagues and comrades in struggle came together to celebrate the life of Joe Gross on Saturday, June 25th in Berkeley, California. His first wife Carolyn, his children Janel, Jawanza and Tamu joined the family of his wife Erlinda Castro in honoring all that he brought to the table. There was a streaming video that captured some of the work Joe accomplished and times shared with family and friends mostly during his life in California. I presented his daughter Janel with copies of documents from my archive that reflected upon Joe's time spent in Guyana and Tanaznia and thanked them for sharing their father with the world of struggle and social justice.

His business partner told a story about one of Joe's many trips to Ramallah where Joe set up a major technology project. During one of those times, Joe was detained by Israeli border guards. The guards asked if he was carrying any weapons of mass destruction. Joe's business partner looked at the guard and said, "His mind." While many of us have used "toothpicks" ourselves against "tanks," some of what we've done will remain in perpetuity despite all efforts to eradicate certain dimensions of our existence, our contributions to humanity and the bold intelligence and compassion we brought forward.

At each table, his wife Linda placed potted roses and hydrangeas. Today, I planted a hydrangea in the Sadie Muse Thomas Memorial Garden on the grounds of my home in tribute to Joe. Along with some of my family's ancestors, his spirit rests with Ralph Featherstone, Charlotte Featherstone, Anne Forrestor and a number of Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

Daphne Muse

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