(7) WAZ Awards 2021: Winner Number Seven: The Good Fight Ira
It being Cinco de Mayo, Sonny made cornbread, fish tacos, black beans and rice, with guacamole. Then we got into the tequila mojitos. Overindulged you might say. Roy, wearing cowboy boots, a sheepskin leather vest with the wool turned in, and a Mexican sombrero he got long ago on leave in Tijuana, with a brim bigger than the rings of Saturn, complete with a fake saguaro cactus on top and a dozen tequila logos for the occasion, called the meeting to order by banging the rubber chicken on the table. “Que pasa, muchachos! Callate!” which is pretty much it for Spanish as a second language for our Roy. Everybody kept talking so Roy made a motion to Cosmo, who blew the conch shell. Which is loud as hell in a closed room like that. The room went quiet.
“Hear ye, Hear ye” Roy said. “I said ‘Hear ye!’ you white, light, bright, height, erudite, privileged men. We’ve got a volunteer presenter for the top black racist for the illustrious WAZ Awards of 2021. None other than the multi-talented Ira Lane, known far and wide as, ‘the multi-talented Ira Lane, ‘who can chew gum and play the banjo at the same time (even if he can’t tune it) is going to play the musical clues and expound on something or other if we can figure out who it is. Take it away, Ira, and may the sawdust gods protect us.”
Roy passed him the rubber chicken.
Using the chicken beak for a pick Ira began to strum something familiar.
“They play it at graduation.”
“Pomp and Circumstance.” Gene said.
“We already did a university.”
“No we didn’t. We did Professor Mutha Beep.”
“Next clue.” Ira handed the next one to Al, who began to play and sing.
“Only say, that you’ll be mine,
In our home, we’ll happy be.
Down beside, where waters flow.
On the banks, of the Ohio.”
“Okay, A college in Ohio…”
“Cleveland?” “Toledo?” “Columbus?” Cincinnati?”
Ira began to sing an old radio tune that hit number one in 1950.
“ If I knew you were coming I’da baked a cake! Baked a cake! Baked a cake!
If I knew you were coming I’da baked a cake!
Howdja do! howdja do! howdja do!”
“College, Ohio, Bake a cake. Bake a cake. Who bakes cakes for a college?”
“Bakery.” Sonny said.
“That‘s it! Sonny you’re a genius.”
Sonny shrugged modestly.
“Oberlin!” Tommy said. “I read about this. Oberlin College tried to crush a 130-year-old family bakery after the bakery busted three black students for shoplifting.”
“We’re there.” Ira said. “With Oberlin, I’m talking about a group of racists that begs the question, ‘What to make of a formerly respected institution that supports liars and thieves over a hard-working family that’s run the bakery in Oberlin, Ohio for five generations?” Ira raised his mojito, “Friends, I give you Gibson’s Bakery!”
“To Gibson’s Bakery! Whoever they are.”
“Didn’t this happen years ago?” Tim asked.
“The original shoplifting arrest did.” Ira said. “2016. But Oberlin College, with its billion dollar endowment, big shot lawyers, more connections than a toadstool’s fungus roots, has managed to drag it out to-this-day. Including throughout all of 2021.”
“Why would they do that?” Roy asked.
“Pick it. Arrogance? A billion dollar endowment? Parking lot lust? It’s not for the likes of us to understand why that kind of money thinks it could make honest people bow down. The important point is, they thought wrong. And the longer it goes on, the more they dig in, the worse they look.”
“What I meant, Ira. Was why would a college have anything at all to drag out in a shoplifting case? Maybe you could start at the beginning.”
“Happy to.” Ira said. “You all know Jenna’s got the goods on piano. It’s a few years away but she’ll be off to some school before we know it. Leah and I thought Oberlin might be a place she’d apply. We couldn’t afford it but we thought maybe with a scholarship. Well, over our dead bodies after what we found out they did to Gibson’s Bakery. It’s a convoluted mess but we’ve been following it because for us, that institution sold its reputation for the small beer of social engineering.”
Gibson’s Bakery vs Oberlin College
“Six years ago, back in 2015, Oberlin’s self-segregated black student dorm made a list of demands of the school…”
“Hold it, Ira. Did you say, segregated?”
“Yes, Tony. Oberlin’s got black safe-space at the Afrikan Heritage House. But as one Oberlin student put it, ‘It’s not the bad kind.’ of segregation.”
“As I was saying, in 2015 the black students handed the administration a 14-page list of demands,” Ira was watching Sonny and just as the big man lifted his drink Ira said, “the oppressed black students demanded fried chicken at Sunday night dinner.”
This revelation put Sonny into a coughing fit where he blasted tequila and crushed ice half across the room as an aerosol. It was all over his shirt, half of it came out his nose, crushed mint leaf and all. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and said, “You done that on purpose!”
“After fried chicken-gate, Oberlin didn’t want to be accused of being racist which maybe helped set the stage for 2016, when an underage black college student, Jonathan Aladin, went into Gibson’s Bakery, put two bottles of wine under his coat tried to buy a bottle with a fake ID. Add shoplifting to what’s about to happen.
Now, the owner’s son who grew up working at the bakery, was minding the counter at the time. He knows a fake ID when he sees one, and called the thief out. He went to take the thief’s picture with his cell phone. The thief swats the cell phone out of young Gibson’s hand, hit him in the face with the phone, and tries to run. Gibson runs him down and restrains him, he’s into martial arts but his instructor testified later that he went out of his way to not hurt the kid. Two of the kid’s friends, two girls, also black, who were in on the shoplifting, attacked Gibson. All three of them were on top of Gibson kicking and punching at him when the cops showed up. So, the young Gibson got beat-up for showing restraint.” Ira looked around, “Everybody with me so far?”
“With you, Ira. Carry on.”
“Given the circumstances, now including assault and battery, the bakery pressed charges. Rather than say, ‘Yup, I stole it.’ the thief and his accomplices tried to play the race card. There’s footage of the thief being put in the police car. The little pansy’s crying and asking for his mother.”
“Oh get out of here.”
“No, really.” Ira said. “Crying and asking for his mother. Can anyone here imagine humiliating himself like that after maybe the age of five? There he is, saying he didn’t do anything and young Gibson had attacked him.”
“Long story short. The thieves claimed they were racially profiled because the Gibson’s are white. We can add lying to the charges. Got a question Sven?”
“Yah, how much they charge at this college?”
“North of seventy grand a year.”
“Okay, Where does the college come in, Ira?”
“Well, Roy, if you think about it, imagine you’re a social justice warrior in middle America, fried chicken for the black dorm is your lightning rod protest issue, you’re crying for mommy when you get busted for stealing, and, poor thing, you’re not even stacking up the snob appeal you’d have if you’d gone to an Ivy League school. Ohio is ‘just not East Coast‘, as they say.
Next day, a couple hundred mostly white kids start protesting outside the bakery holding up signs, calling the Gibson’s racist. Saying they have a long history of racism—which is totally false. The demonstrators went out of their way to harass and intimidate customers, employees, and the family.”
“But that’s the students, Ira. Where does the college come in?”
Ira raised his palms towards the roof. “I’m getting there, Roy. Come on, this case has gone on for years, give me two minutes.”
“Okay. You’ve got the floor.”
Where the university comes in:
“Well thanks,” Ira said. “Here’s where the college comes in:
Donald Trump had been elected America’s President the day before the robbery. Oberlin’s President Marvin Krislov issued a statement that what happened at Oberlin was not just about what happened at Gibson’s Bakery, “…but because of the fears and concerns that many are feeling in response to the outcome of the presidential election.”
“Whoa! Trump again. Making black women like Brittney Cooper fat. Making black people die from Covid. And now causing rich, black students to steal wine and attack employees at the bakery. Darn that Trump.”
“A number of Oberlin administrators pulled the college into the lawsuit like turds circling the bowl in a slow toilet: Points from the original law suit filed November 07, 2017:
*An Oberlin trustee paid a retainer fee for a high-rate lawyer for the thief.
*Oberlin paid for a limo to shuttle the thief from Oberlin to Columbus to meet with a lawyer.
*Oberlin employees acting in the business interests of Oberlin, participated by letting students use college facilities and copy machines for their dishonest hate flyers. A Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, a white woman, participated in the demonstrations, and can be seen egging them on, yelling through a bull horn. Imagine an Oberlin administrator passing out flyers-including to the local news reporter for God’s sake.
*The bakery’s contract, which was a big part of their business, Oberlin got it cancelled…”
“How can they justify that?”
“They couldn’t. Want to know how they tried?”
“HOW’D THEY TRY?” we stamped and shouted.
“They claimed in court that the students were threatening to smash buns and bagels on the cafeteria floor.”
“Wow, hard core revolutionaries. Che Guevara started that way.”
“You better believe the Gibson’s lawyers had some fun comparing Oberlin College students with poorly behaved nursery schoolers in court.”
“Plus Oberlin provided snacks and gloves for the protesters. ”
Count # 8
*Oh! and Count #8 now get this, Count #8, which doesn’t get a mention in the media, but when you ask what was in it for Oberlin College, why invest so much into this crazy as a shithouse rat case, how it took off and got to where it did, well, it could come down to nothing more than the fact that Dave Gibson owned the parking lot behind his bakery and, apparently, Oberlin coveted this parking lot for themselves. Coveted that’s the word in the suit. Oberlin wanted it for their faculty, students, construction vehicles and so on. The bakery wanted it for their customers and other local businesses.
“You think that’s what drove this thing, Ira?”
“Don’t know.” Ira said. “I do know Dave Gibson met with University officials right after the shop lifting happened and showed them the numbers on bakery shoplifters for the previous five years. Forty shoplifting arrests, six of them were black. Which matches the demographic of the community. Zero racial profiling. Oberlin tried to have that information suppressed at trial. Also suppressed was a report by a student journalist that Oberlin students have a culture of stealing just for the hell of it. That didn’t make it into the trial either. Oberlin still wouldn’t admit fault. Still tried to crush the bakery.
Faced with financial ruin, and loss of their good name after 130 years in business in that town, the Gibson’s sued the college for defamation. What they wanted, by way of a settlement, was for Oberlin College to admit their bakery didn’t racial profile the thieves. That could have been it, boys. And should have been. Done deal. Bada boom, bada bing. But Oberlin wouldn’t do it. Not only did Oberlin refuse to apologize and refuse to admit their own guilt. They wanted the bakery to drop charges against the thieves AND! they wanted the bakery to agree they wouldn’t prosecute first time shoplifters.”
“No! That would invite every shop lifter in Oberlin to help themselves.”
“They wanted Gibson’s to report thieves to Oberlin’s Dean instead of the police! The Dean, as in the wacky dame with the bull horn. And so it happened that the next five years Oberlin did all it could to destroy this family. The Gibsons got hate mail, their business fell off a cliff, punks slashed Gibson’s employee’s tires and keyed cars, punks tried to intimidate customers from going into the bakery, taking their pictures on cell phones, screaming at them…
*The grandfather Allyn Gibson, (who was 89 at the time): scumbags pounded on his doors and windows in the middle of the night causing him fall and break his neck. He nearly died, spent the rest of his life in a neck brace.
*Oberlin students guiding prospective students and their families around campus pointed out Gibsons as being racists, advising students and families not to patronize the place. They went so far as to promote other businesses students should go to instead of to Gibsons. And they brainwashed incoming students about the Bakery.
*Oberlin allowed hate speech against the Gibsons to be posted in student buildings.
For their part the Gibson’s took the high road for more than five years while Oberlin College sank lower and lower and lower.
“I’m guessing they didn’t catch the tire slashers or door pounders. So there’s no evidence college employees did that. How do you know the college were out to destroy the Bakery?” Tim asked. “Is there any evidence?”
“Oh, heck yeah.” Ira said. “A mountain of evidence, A gigantic wedding cake mountain decorated to perfection for the plaintiff’s legal team. You wouldn’t believe what the administrators said in emails about the Gibsons, the Bakery, and about Oberlin faculty and alumni who began writing op-ed pieces suggesting Oberlin was dead-wrong in persecuting the Gibsons and should settle the suit.
What’s crazy is these administrators, supposedly guides to young minds, were so dumb and incompetent that they wrote it all out in emails. They were so vulgar, Tim. “Fuck-him!” one administrator says about an Oberlin professor advising Oberlin to settle the case. “Fuck ‘em.” says another. “Rain brimstone…” “I’d say unleash the students…” In addition to being truly ugly human beings, what sort of dope puts such stuff into emails that can later read in court? It was like Hansel and Gretal strewing bread crumbs all the way back to Oberlin’s Admin building.”
“That was pretty stupid.” Tim admitted.
“Stupid with two O’s.” Sonny said.
“So there it was in 2019 when it went before a jury. The bakery is struggling. Trying to avoid bankruptcy. They’d had to cut hours and lay off half their employees, who were like family. How much like family? How about this? One of their employee’s wives was dying of ALS. They had a two year old daughter. In the middle of this lawsuit, the Gibsons invited this couple to live in their home. They also took in Grandpa Allyn Gibson after he broke his neck. And get this! Dave Gibson, unbeknownst to the public was dying of pancreatic cancer. Oberlin College knew it, though. Their lawyers filed a motion to prevent any mention of Dave’s illness at the trial.”
“Bottom feeders.” Sven said. “Sand fleas.”
“Didn’t matter.” Ira went on. “Dave Gibson wouldn’t divulge his diagnosis until after the jury verdict because he wanted the case to be decided on its own merits and not be influenced by sympathy for him. He stopped his treatments during the trial so he’d be as strong as possible. A great man!
*Oh! and be advised, all this is after the three Oberlin College thieves and liars admitted—in court—that they were guilty. They read statements that they stole, they lied, Gibson’s Bakery did not racially profile them, etc. etc. Even after that Oberlin wouldn’t admit fault. Wouldn’t apologize to the Gibsons. They’re unbelievable.”
“Ira, did you say there was a verdict by the jury?”
“I did Roy. Now imagine it. Here’s this wonderful family. Five generations of hard work on the line. People are watching from all over the world. Honest people are supporting them from all over America…”
“Well what happened for Chrissake!!” Sonny yelled.
“The jury,” Ira said. “Three years in. Three long bitter years. Found for the Gibsons and awarded them and their bakery the largest defamation settlement ever heard of in Ohio. Forty-four million dollars!”
“Yeah!” “Go Gibson’s”
“I’m guessing,” Roy said. “Since we’re talking about 2021 that Oberlin College didn’t pay-up.”
“You guess right,
“Why not?” Tommy wanted to know. “It’s cut and dried, isn’t it?”
“Nope.” Ira said.
“All the breathtakingly, incompetent administrators who orchestrated this fiasco, almost all of them white—thank-you—have pretty much floated off stage on golden parachutes. President Krislov? Gone with a fat good-riddance package. That Dean of Students? Meredith Raimondo, gone off to disgrace some other college. The legal advisor? Gone. The students Aladin, Cecilia Whettstone, and Endia Lawrence, gone. No real consequences for any of them.
In 2017 Oberlin hired a black woman president, Carmen Twillie Ambar. The first African American President in its 188 year history, just a coincidence no doubt. She’s pretty, she’s poised, and if she has an ounce of compassion I don’t see it. Nor understanding of what she’s doing to Oberlin’s reputation. In short, she’s real CEO material. She’s spent considerable time on national media trying to convince the country that what Oberlin did to the Gibsons was in fact done by students, not Oberlin College employees acting on behalf of Oberlin College business interests. When the $44 million verdict came out, in June of 2019, Carmen said, “Let me be absolutely clear: This is not the final outcome… none of this will sway us from our core values… I am confident that when we resolve this matter, it will look substantially different than it looks today.”
“Yah, Conway Twitty’s values being mean and spiteful.” Sven said. “She ain’t gonna be swayed from that.”
“Carmen Twillie, Sven.” Tim said.
“Ain’t gonna’ be swayed from supporting liars and thieves, either.”
“Or from cashing those six figure salary checks to try shutting down hard working people.”
“What happened to integrity?”
“Integrity? We’re talking about core values of Oberlin College Administrators.”
“Twillie Ambar, is trying to reframe this as a First Amendment Issue. Total nonsense. Interesting to see the tools who showed up in support. Dozens of them filed amicus briefs in favor of Oberlin. Everyone from the American Book Sellers, to the NAACP, to the Washington Post.”
“Whut’s an amicus brief?”
“It’s a legal opinion from someone who claims to be interested, but not directly involved in, the case.”
“In this case, I’d say so. Dave Gibson died from pancreatic cancer five months after the Jury awarded his family the settlement, in November, 2019. His family still didn’t have the money. His last request to his wife was to keep the bakery open. Carmen Twillie Ambar and Oberlin still fought against the settlement.”
Dave Gibson’s father, Allyn died in February, 2022 at 93, still wearing the neck brace. When he was buried, his family still didn’t have the money from the settlement and they were facing bankruptcy. Carmen Twillie Ambar and Oberlin still fought against the settlement.”
“Well, Karma has its way of coming round.” Ira said. “Leah and I are still looking at schools for Jenna. And I just read an article that enrollments in all of the 20 most expensive, small liberal arts schools, in the country, are up—except Oberlin. Oberlin’s the only one where enrollment went down. Way down. And I have to imagine that every parent, and kid, who looks up Oberlin, and sees dozens of articles about how rotten they’ve been to this working family, think—as our working family does—that they wouldn’t go to Oberlin on a bet.”
And so, from all of us at Woodshed Nation, WAZ to you Oberlin College, it’s a 100 percent vote, from our home in the great temperate rain forest. Even Uncle Tim thinks you should be ashamed of yourselves. From where we sit, these thousands of miles away (and lucky us being so far removed), we’d like to close by pointing out your administration and trustees don’t seem up to the job. They aren’t even capable of forming an apology.
None of us here expect to ever get to Oberlin, Ohio but if we do, we’ll get a couple dozen of those whole wheat donuts at Gibson’s Bakery.
**Woodshed Update: on September 08, 2022, after years of dragging themselves through the mud, Oberlin College: disgraced, humiliated, still unrepentant, but racking up interest, and facing having to post a bond on what they owed Gibson’s Bakery, having exhausted their legal options, and standing exposed for the plucked rubber chicken they are for all the world to see, announced they would pay Gibson’s Bakery the full amount they owed: $25 million in damages for defamation, plus the Gibson’s legal fees, plus interest. As of December, 2022 Oberlin has paid ‘The Full Monty’: $36.6 million to the Gibson family.
***Woodshed Update II:What…you thought this was over? Nope. Like a rat eating its cage mates, after spending millions in legal fees–plus being required to pay millions for Gibson’s Bakery’s legal fees– as of August 2023 Oberlin College is suing its insurance companies (plural; four of them) who are refusing to pay.
https://m.facebook.com/bakershanecheney/videos/1268862319961557/ Dave Gibson shares a personal message
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOFonEpDpD8&t=104s Interview with Cornell Law School Professor Bill Jacobson, who has followed the case from the beginning. Whatever you think of Fox News, watching this one is 3 minutes well spent.