By Vanessa McGhee
Long Beach, California had a rough 2020 like any other city in the Southern Californian region. Starting with the loss of Kobe Bryant and going into the Covid-19 lockdowns, the year of 2020 came to a climax with the death of George Floyd. That’s when two individuals in particular crossed paths and led the social justice movement for the whole city that summer, apparently on accident.
On January 3rd Sunni Baughman launched The Daily Diddi, a podcast co-hosted with Hugo Vasquez about everything on Long Beach from the arts to local politics. The podcast featured breaking information on a daily basis with interviews from local figures and creatives. That’s how they met Zaine Drayton, a member of the infamous band WACKO that went viral at the end of 2019 for a show they had inside of a Dennys that got destroyed and landed the band with a $2000 fine for property destruction. The footage of the show went viral which ultimately led WACKO into a partnership, but then later a beef with Green Day.
“At the time the podcast was nothing and Zaine was the talk of the town”, Baughman says. “I had to interview him and lucky he was down, I mean, the band [WACKO] had turned down interviews from major publications, he didn’t know me at all but we had mutual friends. That’s how we met and his interview was the most popular up until recently”.
Drayton and Baughman started to build a friendship after that day. Naturally they started to hang more in the same circle of friends, shared each other’s posts on social media, and shared ideas when they could. It wasn’t until May 31, 2020 when their friendship went from casual associates to full on comrades in the fight for social justice. It began with a direct message on Instagram after the death of George Floyd.
“I woke up”, Sunni says, “and saw a message from a friend asking if I knew about any protests going on for Floyd in the city. I told her I didn’t but if she wanted to protest, she should make a flyer for a day when she was off [work] and I’d simply share it in support.” What he didn’t realize was that this was something the whole city was waiting for. According to Baughman once he was sent the flyer and posted it on The Daily Diddi Instagram account it went viral with over 3000 likes in one day. He then decided to archive the post but the damage was done, it was going to happen regardless now.
What happened next was headline news. The peaceful protest with thousands in attendance slowly descended into a citywide riot. “It was wild”, says Drayton. “Cops were letting people loot only protecting the bigger businesses, some chick got her finger blown off by a rubber bullet right in front of me. The next day we were all worried for Sunni too because [laughs] we thought the police were going to say that he incited a riot. Luckily the Chief of Police came out with a statement saying the LBPD understood that there was a criminal element that used the protesters as a distraction to sweep the city. After that I knew everyone was relieved”.
Baughman still felt responsible for what happened that night so he made a fundraiser on Gofundme to “make amends for the destruction I caused for posting a flyer”, he says as he laughs nervously.
“When the fundraiser reached its goal of $20,000 I knew something was up, that people were paying attention. Then all of a sudden people kept asking us where other protests were at. The page went from 1500 followers to over 9000 in less than a week. After that said we weren’t going to promote protest with no calls to action anymore just because of what happened on the 31st. That’s when other problems started arising”.
According to the two, local chapters of national organizations like Black Lives Matter and The Democratic Socialist of America started to contact them to collaborate on future protests. After not seeing eye to eye on internal matters within the black/brown community The Daily Diddi and WACKO decided to only collaborate with community members with no affiliation to anything besides the city that they live in.
“It didn’t even matter at that point”, according to Drayton. “Different organizations had some sizable protests going on but none were as big as the ones we helped organize with actual residents. Some people wouldn’t even go to events if we didn’t co-sign them. If we had a demonstration after that first big protest, it had to have a call to action behind it, not just yelling and marching outside. The only people we listened to was ‘The People'”.
From that point on the system was in play. Sunni would organize with locals and Zaine would lead the demonstrations with the power of music. One of their biggest events was Push 4 Peace. Locals in the action sports community rode their skateboards, scooters, and bikes alongside other community members from the city hall building downtown to Cherry Beach on the eastside of Long Beach to bring awareness to qualified immunity. After two events they raised over $2,000 to order 100 skateboards for children in the city while giving the action sports community a voice within the social justice movement. At every event Zaine and the band WACKO was front line boosting the morale of the locals, leading speeches, and moderating the microphone for others to speak their peace. Baughman however was at home, never attending. He was onto something else, establishing their future.
With the fundraiser funds they initially set up after the riot early that year Sunni was focused on establishing a framework for what would soon be called One Current Ebbing All Nations, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is to “provide creative and safe spaces for youth entrepreneurs and artists to build skill trade and income”. Zaine and Sunni then met with others like Hugo Vasquez, Co-Host of The Daily Diddi, and Dez Yusuf, a bandmate of Drayton, to create the board of directors and on July 3rd One Current Ebbing All Nations (OCEAN) was formed. Now with a solid foundation outside of their individual clout the City of Long Beach has a new force in town with an interesting history.
Sadly, The Daily Diddi Podcast was a casualty. According to Sunni after that summer the Instagram page took on a life of its own and by the year anniversary very few understood that it was an actual podcast. On January 3rd 2021, he decided to shut the podcast down and donated the Instagram page to another local movement, Protectblackbodies.com. “It’s hard sometime”, he sighs, “but the city has OCEAN now and besides I had to get on anxiety medication because of the pressure. The LBPD started to watch our stories and orgs were coming for me because I refused to comply with them. I’m off the medication now and am in a completely different lane from those organizations as well. They deal with external problems, we focus on internal ones. I’m in a safe space now”.
The two make it known they have no plans to stop destroying, they just do it in a different way now.
“To be honest the programs we are starting at OCEAN are designed to dismantle orgs that claim to be doing their jobs but aren’t just by simply doing what we do”, Baughman says be for Drayton interjects.
“There’s whole organizations that claim to do this or that but they don’t. We have virtual art shows and large format printers so local artists can cut out the middleman and get in the fine arts, and that’s just the beginning. This is something that the maybe the arts council should be doing? We’re here to do things the community can actually benefit from. I feel like protesting and being politically correct isn’t enough and I think Long Beach is realizing that now. All the movements that formed last year are all gone, what happened?”.