Amin David, the Scaffold of His Community, Has Died After a Life of Great Success and Service


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Moreno v. Anaheim co-Plaintiffs Consuela Garcia and Amin David pose for OJB's legal correspondent in a July 2013 press conference at the County Courthouse at a press conference following a successful day in court.

Moreno v. Anaheim co-Plaintiffs Consuela Garcia and Amin David pose for OJB’s legal correspondent in a July 2013 press conference at the County Courthouse at a press conference following a successful day in court.

At the request of his family, we’ve been sitting on the story of Amin David’s illness for a long time.  His months of treatment, his weeks of hospice, have not been mentioned here so that he could (we hoped) recover in privacy or, if not, expire in peace.  He may have belonged to all of us, but he belonged to them first, last, and most.  So his family’s post at the linked Facebook page, which for most of us has been the main source of news about Amin David for the past half year or so, will now have the first word.

Amin David’s Journey to Wholeness

Our beloved Dad is now in heaven, resting in peace. After a couple hours of restlessness, he unexpectedly crossed over last night at about 10:45 pm. We were all together last night. No services are planned at this time. We are honoring Dad’s memory and chilling out together. Thank you for respecting our family time. We appreciate all the messages of love. Amen. Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti

I never attended Los Amigos until I think, my State Senate campaign in 2012, although it may not have been until my District Attorney campaign in 2014, and I’ve rarely attended since then except when Brian Chuchua or Doug Pettibone would drag me there.  But I knew Amin from my covering and participating in political activities in Anaheim, and I attended Los Amigos enough times prior to when he stopped attending to get a sense of his accomplishment in building community there.  He was not only a visionary, but one with a long-term view of how to help his community — including organizationally.  His choosing and fostering Dr. Jose Moreno as his successor in charge of Los Amigos will be an especially lasting  contribution.

Amin had more than one community, actually; he was Mexican-born but of Lebanese heritage — I’ve often wondered how much personal credit he can take for the good relations between Latinos and Arab-Americans in Anaheim.  Most people pronounced it to rhyme with “Flamin’ David,” but when I asked upon first meeting him he drolly told me, almost with a bow, that he would accept my using the original pronunciation of “ah-MEEN dah-VEED.”  (No one in the past decade could take the piss out of me like Amin.)  He was an astute leader when it came to the need to use legal means to oppose abuse by the vested interests running Anaheim and beyond; I think it’s fair to say that even while Anaheim residents had the latent power to push through districts, it would not have happened without his being there as a catalyst.  And how nice it is that he got to see the approval of district maps before he died.

I’ll let ustedes in on a secret, in fact: Amin was the reason that I spent months working on districting in Anaheim.  The strangest thing about the last year of the process — at least the strangest thing not directly involving Jordan Brandman — was that the expected Chamber-and-Disney-born opposition to Latino-sponsored maps never arose.  (Even most of  the latter maps that were not aligned with Latino interests were still relatively benign.)  Amin recruited me into the process to be able to participate in any legal fights that might arise with those forces; neither of us expected that in the end I’d be tangling with a map endorsed by OCCORD.  Amin, was not, so far as I ever experienced, a “user” — he didn’t get people to do things that they strongly wanted not to do — but he was an excellent deployer: he regularly put the right people who had the ability to do what needed to be done, but not necessarily the inclination, in the spots where they could be helpful.  And if he could occasionally be wrong — well, he continually put himself on the line and made tough tactical decisions, well enough that the occasional criticisms rambling around in some quarters seem churlish.

His friend Nativo Lopez, who circulated an open letter of appreciation to Amin last week, will have the next word.  Then, at the bottom, I’ll explain the odd title of this tribute.

Nativo Lopez’s letter:

Farewell Letter to Amin David
Nativo-Vigil: Family of Lopez
California Republic
May 20, 2016
Amin and Irene David and Family
Anaheim, California

Dearest Amin, Irene, and Family:

I write you on behalf of my family, and myself, to express our deep and heartfelt appreciation for your earthshaking contributions to our lives and to those of Orange County and beyond over the years. We have been touched by your presence, words of wisdom and counsel, on many occasions, and not just through Los Amigos of Orange County, but on a personal level.

I remember it almost as if it were yesterday my first attendance at Los Amigos in 1982 to seek help in combating the INS immigration raids occurring in OC at the time. I was a young organizer sent by Bert Corona to form Hermandad Mexicana amongst immigrant families and to seek out allies in that endeavor. I don’t even remember who advised me to attend the first meeting.

I experienced being called upon at the opening of the meeting by you to introduce myself to the group – as is customary for Los Amigos newcomers. Later when my name came up on the list to share with the group the issue of immigration raids in the city of Santa Ana and other cities, and make my plea for support, you were the first to engage me and express solidarity to our cause. The others present chimed in with ayes. And, thus we were on our way to building grassroots organization comprised of Spanish-speaking immigrants throughout OC; and we always counted on your unconditional support. Our community was and is better for it, and together we have repeatedly engaged the authorities in defense of the voiceless, victimized, and downtrodden, who over the years have found their own voice, shunted victimhood, and come of age as their own advocates. The Dreamer movement is a prime example of this.

But this is also demonstrated by the thousands of small, medium-sized, and chain Mexican businesses that have flowered throughout the county. In what field of endeavor do you not find a Mexican and Latino plying his trade or expounding her views – from the most essential and so-called menial manual trades to all areas of science, medicine, technology, electronics, automotive, retail, clothing, fashion, journalism, philosophy, music, arts, education, politics, religion, security, policing, military, healthcare, union, and on and on? Who from these representative fields have not found their way to a Wednesday Los Amigos breakfast to voice their concerns, share a story, or seek assistance at one time or another? What OC politician, school board member or superintendent, police chief or community liaison, city manager, or religious leader has not found him or herself called on the carpet to be held accountable to the community via Los Amigos or to be praised for a good job? Who amongst the people of humblest origin in OC have not found a home at Los Amigos, a sincere welcome, or a that-a-boy handshake, applause, and expression of indignation at their plight and the group’s support?

This is the legacy of el Señor Amin David, which will live on in the annals of OC history and in the hearts and minds of the hundreds of thousands who became witnesses to the boundless empathy expressed by you without reservation. Even if Los Amigos was not in the position to lend monetary support (which on many occasions was the plea) or move political mountains for redress, a person at least left the breakfast gathering knowing that she counted on the moral support of the leader. Per chance an assignment to one or more of the voluntary attendees to draft a letter, attend a meeting, speak at city council, call on a police chief, appeal to a school board, accompany at a court hearing, or call upon an elected official. We will never know how many lives were touched, and continue to be touched, by this dynamic or the replication of empathy manifested by pay-it-forward examples. I suspect that it is endless.

The community’s needs are limitless. This is driven by the ever growing inequities heaped upon society by the voracious greed of the one percent, and those who seek to emulate them. Thus, the demands on leaders and organizations are forever overwhelming. Some could even say that a streak of selfishness parades amongst the people when it demands more and more from its leaders. And, such demands separate the leader from his family who are unceremoniously called upon to sacrifice their time from Daddy. Ultimately, the leader makes the choice. I recall you replying to me on one occasion when I questioned your commitment to a specific project of Hermandad Mexicana. You told me that, “this is the life that you have chosen, Nativo.” I was stunned by the veracity of the observation. It was a learning moment for me. I have never forgotten it.

Los Amigos is the life you have chosen, and it has been a life well rewarded by the lives it has influenced. I have certainly been influenced by you and count you as my mentor. During the struggles for amnesty in the 80s and against the migra raids you stood with us and took on Harold Ezell, District Director of the INS at the time. That same decade Hermandad organized massive rent strikes throughout OC to address issues of uninhabitable living conditions, and you stood with the tenants. Hermandad became the largest organization enrolling amnesty applicants for legal residency, and you encouraged the people not to be fearful. In the 90s, again, Hermandad left no stone unturned in search of eligible citizen candidates as it fought to turn back Proposition 187 in 1994, which had its origin in OC, and you rallied with us.

In my darkest moments during the Dornan investigations in 1996-98, from the OC District Attorney to the U.S. Congress, you stood with me and Hermandad. We ultimately prevailed and were exonerated. But, you did not know at the time that we would succeed. More Latinos were elected to political office during the 90s into the new millennium, and you stood with me as I took my seat on the Santa Ana Unified School Board. You stood with us to pass the largest school bond in the history of the district, which resulted in a massive school construction program for the children, and the first ever project labor agreement to assure that union members performed the work. Again, you stood with me in 2003 during the controversial recall campaign over bilingual education and the construction of an unwanted school on the wealthy side of Santa Ana. This is the same side of town that up until 1964 permitted property deeds prohibiting blacks, Jews, and Mexicans to own property. You stood with me when I was forced to defend myself against scurrilous charges of voter fraud by the Los Angeles District Attorney in 2009-10. I imagine you asked yourself, what the hell mess has Nativo got himself mixed up in now? You only showed support and didn’t question my intentions or motives, but probably wondered about my methods.

While we haven’t visited over the past five years, I want you to know of my deep gratitude for your friendship and political loyalty, and my appreciation to your family for allowing you to play the role of leader and mentor to our community. I can only repay you for your boundless empathy and service to others and to me by paying-it-forward and emulating you. I am totally confident that you would not have it any other way.

Be well my elder brother, God is great and is with you. You enter the pantheon of all the great leaders and elders of previous generations that were lionized by our people for their good deeds and service to others. You will live on in the minds and hearts of the people because the seeds you planted have borne good fruit.

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer’s hand.” – Khalil Gibran

“Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.” – Khalil Gibran

“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” – Khalil Gibran

My sincerest affection and love,
Your friend and fellow-traveler,

Nativo

And then I realized what Amin David was.
Amin David was a scaffold.  He was the structure that held up other people and communities so that they could climb up higher, that let them reach places where they could build something big.  He was strong but gentle, bringing many people together, protecting them on stable platforms where they could, together, get needed things done.

And in the end, when its work in a given worksite is done, a scaffold neither falls nor collapses. It is simply taken away, and the lasting beauty and grandeur of what it helped people accomplish remains.  That is what Amin David did for Anaheim’s Latino community — and for many others of us who wish it success. He helped it build; he helped it rise.  He will be missed — but not as much as he would be if he hadn’t had the shrewdness and grace to plant generations of leaders who would follow him.

amin scaffold


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)