THE NEW YORK TIMES -- One of Riley’s influences in revolutionary thinking was his father. As a San Francisco State student in the 1960s, Walter Riley was an anti-Vietnam War activist; in 1968 he drove a Muni bus around the city and helped establish a rank-and-file caucus of fellow drivers. He later volunteered as a housing-and-welfare-rights advocate in Chicago, where Boots was born, then as an auto-industry organizer in Detroit. By the time Boots was 13, they were back in Oakland, where Walter, deciding that he could do good as a civil rights and criminal-defense lawyer, went to law school and started a practice.
In 1989 Boots enrolled at San Francisco State himself, studying film. “I did shorts, but they were style exercises, very abstract, figuring it out,” he recalled.