By Eduardo Martinez
Eduardo, Jovanka, and Mike on the Richmond Greenway for the MLK Day cleanup
A giant has fallen,
Greater than the sequoia towering above others
Roots embedded in the past
Rings encircling every year of endeavors
Reminding us that “the circle will be unbroken,”
This circle of community formed by his force
His vision, his words, his compassion.
Thank you for listening to the Listening Project Podcast. This week's episode is Silent Killer
By Jeremy Gong
East Bay Democratic Socialists of America (EBDSA) member Mike Parker passed away late on Saturday night at 81 years old after a year-long fight with cancer. He was not only a warm friend and mentor to me and so many others, but a brilliant and one-of-a-kind movement builder. An activist and socialist since the age of 19, Mike’s work spanned over 62 years of movement history. He made unique contributions to the labor movement, the fight against racism, and the fight for an egalitarian, peaceful, and ecologically sustainable world. His wisdom and endless generosity has been invaluable for us since DSA’s 2016 rebirth. Mike’s death leaves the socialist movement greatly impoverished, but his life enriched it beyond measure.Read more
By BK Williams
Zoe, Mike, and Harley
I am now and will be forever grateful and changed because of Mike Parker.
When I joined the RPA and met Mike, we didn’t initially connect. We sat at the same table, worked toward the same goals, but did so at a distance. When he spoke, I realized he knew a lot about many things and he constantly shared his knowledge. Later, when I agreed to co-chair the Steering Committee and took on more of the hard work of the RPA, Mike and I seemed to perpetually be in one another’s space and our friendship gradually deepened.Read more
Audio edited by Jamin Pursell
In July 2021, Mike Parker spoke in front of a gathering of RPA organizers and members of the Bread and Roses DSA caucus. The goal was to bring the two organizations closer together, and so he could pass on his experiences as a civil rights activist and political leader.Read more
It is with great sadness that we report our dear friend and core member Mike Parker passed away this Saturday evening.
A long-time leader of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Mike mentored a generation of activists in the RPA and beyond. So many of us can attribute our political skills to his wisdom and guidance.
Mike's brilliance, his unrelenting dedication to our work, his high hopes for humanity—these qualities of his and so many others are irreplaceable.
The deaths of Mike and Margaret are a profound loss that cannot be overstated. Their shared passion and sense of justice moved us all, and their absence will be deeply felt.
We can honor their memory by keeping up the struggle for a better world.
Mike Parker, ¡Presente!
Below is the statement put out by Mike's daughter, Johanna.
Dear friends and family,
I am very sorry to share that Mike passed away late last night. When he chose hospice it was because he was done, and like the man of action that he always was, he didn’t linger. His death was peaceful and quiet. After the journey we have been on for the last year, there was nothing left for us to say to each other, except to express our love and admiration. Thank you all for the messages shared over the last few days. They bring me great comfort and make me even prouder of him and his achievements. I know he leaves a big hole in his community. We will share a more complete remembrance of his life’s work in the coming weeks.
Mike was exceedingly generous with his knowledge and technical abilities in so many areas – political, electrical, computers, creative handyman work, and on and on. As his daughter, I benefited from this generosity time and time again. This included the end of his life. Even as he got sicker and weaker he worked hard to prepare me for his absence. That included fixing things around the house, and making sure I had all the information I needed to manage the logistics of his death.
He even started to write a goodbye letter to ease the burden of what I am writing to you today. It was an incomplete draft, both because the end came sooner than expected, and because he found it extremely difficult to put into words how deeply he valued all of the relationships he had. His letter started like this:
I did not know exactly what to expect, but I find my mind is deteriorating slowly but my body is going faster-- Harder to read and type, low energy. I think now is the time for me to write my goodbye. I feel fortunate that I am able to do this. Most people don’t get the opportunities that I have to prepare for death and I have actually enjoyed spending some of my time to tie-up details and leave fewer difficulties for those who follow me.
As you know I have no patience for, or use of, what we call religion. I recognize death will be the end--period. Yet there is still part of me that wishes it could end as something like in Le Mis where I could join Margaret and sit on a cloud and watch over the people I love. It is impossible for me to describe how much I miss Margaret. Pictures and thoughts of her make me feel warm then sad then warm again.
I had no bucket list to get through when I learned of the cancer. My whole life I have pretty much done what I wanted to do (within the limitation of real-world conditions). I earned money with a hobby I enjoyed (electronics), and I pretty much could devote a significant part of my life to political change/social justice with a partner who shared those values and was independent enough to allow for us to have different emphasis where appropriate.
I have come to know as comrades and friends some of the smartest and most dedicated people. Some are people I have only met in the last couple of years in RPA and DSA.
I add my thanks to his for all of the kind words, visits, phone calls, advice, rides, home cooked meals and treats, dog walks, and everything else that everyone did to support us logistically and emotionally over the past year. I am so grateful for the community my parents created that I can now be part of.
Plans to celebrate Mike’s life in California and Detroit will be made in the coming weeks. In lieu of flowers, you are welcome to make donations in his honor. He requested that donations be made to non-501(c)(3) organizations that he supported including:
- Richmond Progressive Alliance and the Eduardo Martinez for Mayor of Richmond 2022 campaign. Your contribution will help Richmond activists carry on the important work that Mike dedicated much of the last 15 years of his life to doing.
- Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) – a grassroots movement of UAW members united in the common goal of creating a more democratic and accountable union. Mike worked for decades in the labor movement and knew that strong unions are the key to a fair and equitable world. Donate here.
If you would prefer to make a donation to a 501(c)(3), here are links to two wonderful organizations that Mike supported:
- Alternatives for Girls: An organization in Detroit whose mission is to help homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, and help them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary to be safe, to grow strong and to make positive choices in their lives. Donate here.
- SOS! Richmond: Safe Organized Spaces Richmond (SOS! Richmond) is a community organizing network of housed and unsheltered neighbors who work together to bring on personal, neighborhood and institutional changes that address the problems of homelessness. Donate here.
With love and gratitude,
Mike speaking at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, 1966
Mike with his daughter Johanna, 1983
Mike with his wife Margaret
As the year comes to a close, I am reflecting on just how tumultuous and heartbreaking 2021 was for so many of us. BIPOC and poor people (often one and the same) were hit disproportionately hard. We weathered the storm, but not without some serious repercussions. And yes, there were victories as well!
Over a year ago, I was elected to the AC Transit Board of Directors. Even with the challenges of the pandemic, we succeeded in beating a 20-year incumbent. We were backed by both the Alameda and Contra Costa Labor Councils, the AC Transit workers unions, committed community organizations such as East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and many dedicated environmental organizations including the Sunrise Movement Bay Area.Read more