March 29, 2017
This is the true story of two brothers. One who has received national press and an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama and the other whom people outside of immediate family didn’t even know exists. One was born a month after his father was sent to prison to serve a 25 to life sentence, born into a life of hardship and struggle too often found in Stockton, California- raised by his mother struggling to raise a boy to a man with no male role model in the home. The other is Michael Tubbs.
While Michael has made his hardship story synonymous with his name, using it from personal statements to apply for college to getting $10,000 from Oprah, to getting elected to city council in an anti incumbent election to getting elected the first black mayor of Stockton, the reality is the real hardship has been faced by his brother Anthony Tubbs.
The truth is Michael had a strong support system from his maternal family since he was born. He was also selected to gifted programs such as the elitist International Baccalaureate education program in high school, which not only segregated their students from the rest of the black, brown, and poor white students of east Stockton, but also referred to those students as “GP” or “general population kids”. He had resources and was groomed to go to Stanford through that program. He also began eyeing a career in politics as early as high school when he was part of a program that exposed them to the city council.
Anthony on the other hand dropped out of high school, didn’t finish trade school, grew up exposed to gangs with his maternal brother who was killed in a violent shooting, has been to jail, and is struggling to find employment. He’s never seen their father outside of a prison as he was born a month after he was incarcerated when Michael, whom is named for their father, was six years old.
No one in the public, myself included even knew Anthony existed, despite Michael being in the public eye for over six years and giving countless speeches on uplifting “boys and men of color”.
One has used their story of hardship, which at this point comes across as scripted, the other has had to live it and carry its burden. Shared hardship usually strengthens the bond through shared experience, but in this case one has used it as an accessory to build a political career while the other continues to have the cross to bear.
Anthony came into public attention recently after revealing his relationship to Michael on social media in posts that were calling him out and accused him of several things including being “fake” while asking people to share the post. Upon reaching out to him I have to admit I expected to hear about some inter family spat or personal falling out or an attempt to get attention. Quite surprisingly that wasn’t the case. Well the getting attention part is, but for a very different reason.
Before speaking to Anthony I wondered why Michael had never mentioned him before. After all “boys and men of color” and the Cinderella “True Son” story has been Michael’s political bread n butter. Except of course for the five times he’s voted against re-opening the Fair Oaks Library in east Stockton after claiming $150,000 a year would drive the city back into bankruptcy then hiring personal friends as assistants for $300,000 a year when elected mayor; keeping public pools closed disproportionately affecting those same poor disadvantaged communities; or calling riot police on Black Lives Matter activists (including women, children, elderly, and disabled)seeking answers for their loved ones three separate times. Anthony has also taken notice of these actions on his brother’s behalf and can’t believe he would do such things that are incompatible with what he promotes himself to be.
I also wanted to make sure as to not further fuel a family duel between brothers. And so I’m approaching this not in an attempt to make Michael look bad (he does enough of that himself), but to give a voice to a young man genuinely reaching out for help. In speaking to Anthony, who is twenty years old soft spoken and cane across very humble, instead I was surprised to find his motivation was much deeper than some trivial disagreement or quarrel, but from a place of true pain. According to Anthony, his pain stems from a feeling of betrayal and abandonment.
He says he never even knew he had another brother until about the age of 14. This is also the same time he met Michael who took him to Barnes & Noble, bought him a $20 book, and promised him he’d be there for him and mentor him. This was while Michael was in Stanford and before he was elected to the city council. Anthony recalls being excited for his brother’s success and hoping he would also be empowered with his mentorship.
But that excitement turned to disappointment as the years went by and he never saw Michael again. He would however keep in touch via Facebook messaging. Anthony would attempt on several occasions to reach out to Michael for help including inclusion in programs meant to help him advance especially in terms of mentorship and tattoo removal which was hindering his ability to get a job. When repeated requests for help went unanswered, that disappointment turned to outright anger and resentment.
This was fueled with each occurrence of Michael publicly being in the media or promoting on his social media helping other “boys and men of color”, usually for publicity or non profit funding. Michael has been involved in several programs over the years and has had access to several resources to help Anthony, which makes his apparent refusal to help him so bizarre. To Anthony it was evidence of a pattern of hypocrisy and attention seeking on his brother’s part for political advancement. He feels disrespected by Michael who is in his opinion using his father’s incarceration to promote his own back story while refusing to maintain a relationship with his father’s side of the family including him. It is Anthony who has maintained contact with his father who married his mother.
Anthony’s mother echoed this sentiment and recalled cutting ties with Michael after he failed to respond to their calls to attend Anthony’s other brother’s funeral in 2015 or even call to offer condolences. His brother Damarea, a year younger than Michael, was killed at the age of 24 (he was shot 12 times at the age of 23 and died days later upon turning 24) under the same type of circumstances Michael was publicly claiming to be addressing while during the same time period he was promoting the Measure A tax increase to fund Ceasfire and taking credit for creating the Office of Violence Prevention; both of which are failing. Michael has claimed he returned to Stockton to run for city council because his cousin was murdered. He’s also seen him partner with organizations doing tattoo removal after the fact and not be invited despite asking for help removing the one on his face. Anthony reached his boiling point and lashed out in an effort to not just expose the incongruency of his brother’s public message and private transgressions, but in a desperate attempt to call out for help. Anthony has no agency. No support network. He is still getting over the death of his older brother and genuinely feels he lost the only other one he has in Michael.
As a result of finding no opportunity in his hometown where his brother is now mayor, he and his mother have moved to Nevada seeking a better opportunity. Opportunity he is still struggling to find. But as many Stocktonians are forced to, he is still resilient and holding onto hope.
Just two days ago Michael was in the media for co hosting a panel discussion for job opportunities for young “men of color” who are at risk as part of the Ceasefire program meant to reduce violence. In other words people like his brother Anthony. He was quoted as saying, “I made it my top priority and the priority of the City Council to talk about these 85 guys, and figured out how do you help them and provide opportunity for them,” Tubbs said. “They’re not asking for a handout, but really a leg up, and it’s a real opportunity in terms of being a contributing member of society.”
Meanwhile Anthony says, “All I want is to feel like I have a brother. To sit down and just talk with Mike normal like I am with you. I’m not doing this to hate or get attention or throw shade but I feel like people need to know the truth.”
While there are always two sides to every story, I’ve been unable to get a statement from Michael despite one time being a friend he talked to Anthony about as he’s blocked me as he does anyone who doesn’t agree with him, including his own brother Anthony Tubbs.
I wish him the best and have offered my assistance in anyway I can and in the very least as an open line of communication. I too know what it’s like to grow up struggling with limited resources, no male role model, raised by my mother with no father, limited job opportunities, and the feeling of familial abandonment while the world is against you. It’s not a good place to be. If anyone knows of job opportunities in the Las Vegas area for Anthony please let me know so I can forward them to him or add him on Facebook or like his page 209 Facts. While he may be justified in his dissatisfaction and angst, he’s still a young man who has something to offer this world. He deserves just as many opportunities as any “true son”.
As far as Michael…only he knows.