14 Jun


Sunday I went to the rally held in downtown Oakland protesting the release of Johannes Mehserle , the Bart cop who murdered Oscar Grant in front of crowds transiting through Fruitvale Station early morning New Years day 2009. I am a recent resident of California and an even more recent resident of Oakland. I live in the Fruitvale area and I was sickened and saddened the more I came to know about this particular miscarriage of justice. All the same, and I hate to say it, but this is not anything new.  Desensitization is at an all time high and  I can say from personal experience that the barrage of blatant abuses of our human and civil rights can be numbing. It seems like every time I turn around there is another story about police brutality. Another life gone. Another exclusive clip taken from a security camera or cell phone of the police beating the crap out of young black and brown men and women ,or a wheelchair bound drunks, or in instances like the tragedy that took place at the Fruitvale Bart, murdering unarmed civilians. Being someone who has felt outrage concerning the wrongful deaths  and beatings of my people at the hands of thugs with badges,  and the system’s disregard for the value of our LIVES,  I wanted to go and be a physical presence at this event.

It was peaceful with few casualties, as I believe there were a few arrests made during the march to downtown.  The experience was phenomenal for the most part. There were some low points. There were a few folks that seemed motivated to grab the mic for personal gain rather than being genuinely moved by the sentiment of the occasion. Mistah Fab was pretty much booed during his whole speech and the crowd momentarily dipped into bicker mode when a young man stepped to the mic calling people out for getting on Mistah Fab’s case. Overall I picked up on a sense of people wanting to feel the heat and fire of protest but not necessarily wanting to listen to people who stepped to the podium and spoke with general calm and introspection.

There were several people who called for adults to go out into their communities and begin mentoring the youth. Others called for us to take accountability for our role in perpetuating the stereotypes and negativity that  keeps black and brown youth in a cycle of violence and doing something about it. Those comments, however impassioned they were, did not receive the same roar from the crowd as the cries of , “Shut this muthafuckin city down!”.  Many speakers were urging for the crowd to sign up for coalitions and groups and continue to support the radical movements in their communities 24/7. The response was less than enthused. A lot of them asked us what we were going to do after the rally, how were we going to be agents for change in our everyday lives. I took this message to heart. With that aside, the high points far outweighed the lows.  There was spoken word, an Egyptian activist who spoke about one of the brothers he lost in the struggle to police brutality, a young woman seeking justice for her brother who was falsely convicted and sentenced to 65 years, and  a mother showed pictures of her son after he was shot 7 times by an OPD officer while sitting unarmed in the passenger side of a vehicle. The young man who was the most vocal about his displeasure during Mistah Fab’s  speech was genuinely affecting. He spoke with as much intelligence as fury and reminded us that he was Oscar Grant. He walked the streets of Oakland everyday and the police were gunning down his peers left and right. To this young man being smack in the middle of the struggle was not an option , freedom equalled sacrifice, and revolutions were never peaceful. “In Oakland, there were men who used to walk down these streets with guns. Do you know what that means?!”  He asked us if we knew what it was to give our lives for revolution, for freedom, for change. What happened downtown was bigger than breaking news or saying fuck you to the man. At its core it was the human spirit, the resiliency and fight of generations, in full effect that day. When we come together in that spirit we can do anything. Overall,  I’m glad I took the initiative to get involved. I have been wanting to do volunteer work with some grassroots  organizing programs and associations and going to the rally definitely lit a fire under me. It’s up to all of us to be that change that we want to see in this world, and we can not bring about that change if we don’t have the drive, time, dedication, or whatever else excuse you can think of to take action to make it so. I did capture some nice images as well and as I was looking back through my shots I realized I was especially drawn to all of the signs and imagery of Oscar Grant present. It was truly beautiful, protest art is a powerful thing. To see the set of images click here.





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