Malvina Reynolds Way: A Proposal [See Footnote 1] By JIM GINGER

Friday December 24, 2004

We, the folk- and blues-singing, poetry-writing and/or -slamming, truth-as-we-see-it telling people of this city called Berkeley by its proud residents, and called other things by other people, are beginning a campaign to name a street in this town after one of our most favorite people: Malvina Reynolds. Malvina was born in 1900 in San Francisco and came to Berkeley to earn “all the degrees possible” [FOOTNOTE 2] at the University of California. 

Malvina wrote Pete Seeger’s first and only gold record, “Little Boxes,” a song inspired by the stucco, pastel plantation on the hills of Daly City. She also wrote hundreds of other songs, including: “It Isn’t Nice” to block the doorways/ It isn’t nice to go to jail/ There are nicer ways to do it/ But the nice ways always fail.” [a song which some of us thought should have been the theme song for the recent struggle between our beloved radio station, KPFA (which at one time featured Malvina’s commentaries), and its parent corporation’s carpetbagging leadership]. 

Malvina Reynolds’ hundreds of songs included such notables as “God Bless the Grass,” “What Have They Done to the Rain?,” “The Faucets Are Dripping,” “The Day the Freeways Froze,” “The Little Red Hen,” “If You Love Me,” “Somewhere Between,” “Turn Around,” “The Rim of the World,” “We Don’t Need the Men,” “Bury Me in My Overalls,” and “This World,” revealing her commitment not only to the environment but to feminism, to labor unions, to civil rights, to the working people who built this city and to the many people whose social activism have made this city and this world a better place. She was recently honored by a Rosalie Sorrels CD and by a retrospective: Issued by the Smithsonian. Can we do less? 

Malvina and her husband, Bud, lived out most of their married lives here, their later years on Parker Street, between Shattuck and Milvia. Malvina continued to write and record songs until her death in 1978. 

So, in the spirit of the Mario Savio Steps on the UC Berkeley campus, we propose to rename the street that crosses the bottom end of the block Malvina, Bud, and their daughter lived on, which has been called Milvia (after the wife of one of the “planters” of this town in the first half of the 19th century [FOOTNOTE 3]), Malvina Reynolds Way. If you can just get dyslexic for a minute, you can see the poetic justice of it through Malvina’s lyrical, Scrabble-player’s eyes. So, here’s to Malvina Reynolds Way, “somewhere between” Shattuck Avenue and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior Way. 

Thank you for your support. With love, peace, truth, justice, and music, in 

mind and heart, body and soul, 



[FOOTNOTE 1] This proposal was inspired by her honor, the former mayor, several months ago. An article in the Berkeley Daily Planet quoted her as saying she would welcome proposals to change some street names to honor good and famous people from our lifetimes, such as Cesar Chavez (Farmworkers Union) and David Brower (Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth). I would welcome both of those, happily. But her idea tickled my brain: “Good! Let’s do that. But, let’s begin with some of our own, local, home-grown heroes and sheroes.” So, Mayor Bates and members of the City Council, will you please support this project? 


[FOOTNOTE 2] From the video of Malvina, Love it Like a Fool, available at the Berkeley Public Library. 


[FOOTNOTE 3] Street Names of the City of Berkeley (from the good people at the Berkeley Public Library).›