By Phil Barber, June 20, 2020, Press Democrat.
Healdsburg is the essence of Wine Country, a town that draws travelers from around the globe to feast at its farm-to-table restaurants, shop at its tony boutiques and visit some of California’s most renowned wineries.
But in recent weeks a hidden side of the town revealed itself, one that doesn’t appear in the tourist brochures, during a fiery debate over racism that led to the resignation of its mayor, Leah Gold, on Tuesday and thrust it into headlines far beyond the Russian River.
Gold angered some residents when she declined the request of a City Council member to schedule a discussion on the use of force by Healdsburg police officers in the line of duty. “To me, it’s a solution looking for a problem,” Gold said. “I don’t see that that’s a place I particularly want to put our time and energy.”
“We don’t have this issue in our town,” Vice Mayor Evelyn Mitchell added.
“During my senior year, I took drama. One of the last plays we did was ‘Hairspray.’ If you have seen it before, you’d know that the cast only consists of Black and white characters. ... The teacher did not hold auditions for parts, he just chose the students he felt like picking. I got the role of one of the Dynamite Girls and had about one line of song. ... Then I had to endure the sight of the classmates who were playing Black roles get spray tans, a few shades lighter than me so they wouldn’t be too dark. This form of blackface was fully funded by the teacher himself.”