Hello Mrs. Harris, my name is Lynel Gardner. I last saw you in person speaking on behalf of our mutual friend and mentor, Mr. Lenard Louie. It was at his funeral in San Francisco. I met the Louie family back in 1989 when I joined his church, the San Francisco Sukyo Mahikari Center. I was part of the church board that Mr. Louie chaired. He would always say to me, Lynel, your right 80% of the time, but you have to watch out how you speak to people. The reason I’m writing to you today is that someone has filed a temporary restraining order against me. With the Superior Court of CA, County of Santa Clara 20CH009719 By MSORUM. My hearing date will be 1-19-21. I would have to say that the accusations against me are misleading and are mischaracterization of the facts. My family has been in the business of policing, community service, and youth activism for four generations. It was my grandfather Harry C. Valdespino, who founded THE SAN FRANCISCO POLICE CREDIT UNION in 1953. I have carried on the family tradition of service to the community with my work with the City and County of San Francisco OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF Resolve to Stop the Violence Project at the San Bruno Jail. I also participated in the MENLO PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT, “Youth Summit.” I was the first person to bring theater to the PEACE OFFICER STANDARDS TRAINING. I Created workshops with Gabe Harp, Senior Law Enforcement Consultant at the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards & Training. My theater group, the critically acclaimed Hittite Empire Performance Group, has brought theater to kids At- Risk for more than 26 years. My Theatre Company, Theatre as Prevention motto is ” Saving a child one play at a time.” I toured my play “STORIES I NEVER TOLD MY FATHER” nationally and internationally, including in Juvenile Halls. I also worked as a Staff Elder for kids of incarcerated parents, for THE GRATEFUL DEAD’s, CAMP AVARY for over eight years. I have no criminal record. This person is seeking retribution for me trying to protect my tenants as an on-site manager. The last great deed Mr. Louie did before he died was to expunge my mother’s arrest record, which she got as a teenager. Mr. Louie was a great man. Thank you, and congratulations on winning the election. And being the first Vice President of color. Lynel Gardner, ESTATE OF SONNY LISTON
Lynel Gardner is a California native who started his professional acting career in Los Angeles, as one of the original members of the critically acclaimed performance ensemble, The Hittite Empire Performance Group. The group gained national and international attention with “Prometheus on a Black Landscape the Core” – a play that questioned the lack of evidence surrounding the CENTRAL PARK 5 rape case in April of 1989. And the play, ” For Black Boys Who Had Considered Homicide When The Streets Were To Much”. A call and response to the Broadway, Obie Award-winning play by Ntozake Shange called, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” Ntozake Shange, actually came to see the Hittite play For Black Boys in Los Angeles, but could not finish watching the play, because she had suffered the loss of her own nephew to homicide.
The Hittites were the first L.A. artists to ever perform at the Lincoln Center Theater in the New York prestigious, “SERIOUS FUN FESTIVAL”. Lynel was also one of the founding members of the sound and art group called BLACK MADRID, the Hittite Empire’s alter-ego. Their recording of “Reginald Denny He ain’t Dead, Oops Upside His Head” during the L.A. Riots, caused a national uproar, and caught the attention of the FBI. The Hittite Empire Performance Group, were one of the first artist to have as their corporate sponsor, THE CROSS COLORS clothing brand. A clothing brand that was embraced by the rising hip hop movement of the 1980’s. Their many works dealing with the issues of the day, started to bring them comparisons to the 1960’s group, THE LAST POETS.
While their work was being praised by the public at large, at the same time it was also being ridiculed and criticized by the major newspapers, news outlets, and critics alike, as being not “Real theater “and “amateurish”. The Hittites then pulled a Coup de’etat, by appearing on the cover of THEATRE JOURNAL. Not bad for a bunch of amateurs. What the Hittites realized ultimately, is that not only does controversy sell, but a critic is the opinion of only one person. That cannot be compared, to a sold out show. Eventually the critics came around, and would write about the Hittites even if we were doing nothing. For example ” The Hittites are doing nothing at all this month”. L.A. Times.
“For six decades, Theatre Journal‘s broad array of scholarly articles and reviews has earned it an international reputation as one of the most authoritative and useful publications of theatre studies available today. Drawing contributions from noted practitioners and scholars, Theatre Journal features social and historical studies, production reviews, and theoretical inquiries that analyze dramatic texts and production. Theatre Journal is an official publication of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).”
The Hittite Empire Performance Group, helped to bring about the second coming of the Avant Garde Movement in America. A movement that started in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s, and then spread around the world.
Lynel wrote, performed and toured his original, one-man play Black Son – No Father in Europe. The play was sponsored by British Airways and The Institute of Contemporary Art-London. The play toured in five cities in London, including at the National Festival of Scotland, and at the National Festival of Belgium. During Belgium’s first ever Black History Month. Lynel being the premiere artist at the Belgium festival. Garnered him the front page of Belgiums National paper and Radio Show. He also performed the play live for the British Broadcasting Company Radio. His BBC performance went live, over the entire UK. While performing in Scotland, Lynel was asked to have his one man show video performance, be held at the archive of the National Review of Live Art (The Collection) UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL Senate House, through perpetuity. Lynel has yet to tour his show in America. That is now called, STORIES I NEVER TOLD MY FATHER. He states that ” I wrote this work as an American play, for an American audience.”
Lynel founded “Theater as Prevention” ,a company he created to teach theatrical skills and love of theater to At-Risk youth. His company motto is, “Saving a child, one play at a time.” He also collaborates with like-minded youth-oriented organizations like The Mark Taper Forum Young Conservatory, The UCLA Art Extension, The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival Youth Theatre, Cultural Odyssey Emergency Report Theater for At Risk Youth, Pajero Valley Watsonville School District Drama Program, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and San Bruno Jail “Resolve to Stop the Violence Project”, East Palo Alto Police Department Youth Summit, Theater Works for Schools Play Projects of Palo Alto, THE GRATEFUL DEAD PROJECT AVARY, – a camp for kids with incarcerated parents.
In 1991, Lynel won the Brody Foundation Fellowship for his experimental documentary film work. He also sat on various art panels including The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and Robert Bly’s MEN’s MOVEMENT PANEL. Lynel currently heads the Sonny Liston Estate and is developing a docu-drama about his grandparents, Geraldine and Sonny Liston. His book, “Beast: The Deconstruction of Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston” is available on Amazon.
The girl Eleanor in the picture is not Sonny’s daughter. Sonny and Geraldine could not have children together. Geraldine had three children from her first marriage to Bill Gardner, my grandfather. Sonny Liston helped to raise, my father Bobby Gardner, my aunt Arletha Gardner, and my uncle Charles Gardner. Geraldine and Sonny had legal custody of Daniel Wiese until his 18th birthday. The world made the mistake of believing that Sonny and Geraldine adopted Daniel Wiese.