President Barack Obama Comes To Oakland.

Hello Mr. President

Hello Mr. President. Welcome to Oakland.

One glimpse of the police motorcade, and I flashed back to my DC days …

As a student at Howard University, I spent five years in the Nation’s capital. A Presidential parade was nothing new to me. Although the eyes of the Nation were focused on my hometown, I was more concerned with simply going home.

I closed my books and came out of Oakland’s main library: Hungry. Frustrated. Feeling pissed. Plus I had to piss…

“If all these badge rockin’ overseers (officers) weren’t around- I’d water this shrub.” I remember thinking to myself as I copped a squat next to a bush.  The police wouldn’t let me cross the street; they told me that the President would be passing in ten minutes… My thoughts began to race, so I held my bladder, and blasted off a couple of tweets:

  “If i pass this class, I can save myself. If I save myself, I can save my people”

 “… No matter what the President does… “

“(I’m sitting next to a bush, tweeting… surrounded by policemen.)”

….

If I pass this test I can graduate undergrad. If I graduate undergrad, I can start grad school. When I finish grad school, as a professional journalist with a teacher’s degree, I will be able to access and allocate resources that we all can use to better our community.

In the grand scheme of things the, Presidential election does matter. I know it does.

Do I have any voice in that matter- honestly, I don’t know. I know- 1 vote, 1 person. I know the electoral college. I know that large “Political Action Committees” are BIG sponsors of campaigns. I also understand that there is a lot that I don’t know.

I understand that there is a Black man in the most powerful office of all of the land… I understand that very clearly…

But I’ve only seen that via media. And I don’t always believe the media… especially media about the government.

In person, I’ve seen some things:

In September of 2008, I was in Denver for the Democratic National Convention.

In November of 2008 when the news was announced that Senator Obama had been elected as President of the United States of America, I was on Howard University’s campus in Washington DC.

I was even in Nation’s Capital on the frosty morning of January 20, 2009 during the inaugural celebration of America’s first African-American President.

I saw it. I didn’t understand it. But I saw it.

I didn’t vote in the 2008 election… I know, I know…

I support the image of a Black man in the Oval Office, it speaks volumes as to how far this country has come. But the politics behind it- I still question. I figure I fall into the fray, full of Black folks who feel the same way; untrusting of our government. Untrusting is an understatement…

Look man, I’m coming from Oakland, Ca. A place where people have seen the underhandedness of local governing bodies time and time again. In the past four years- we’ve seen blatant dirt on the hands of the State (CA budget) , the City (Police), and even the Transit cops (Oscar Grant). To think that the Federal Government- will do something to better the situation in our Oakland neighborhood is behooving, farfetched, and unrealistic to many of us out here.

Well, recently… the Federal Government has done SOMETHING to aid the city The NY Times ranked as “the World’s 5th best tourist attraction of 2012”…

On the same morning that the Federal forces made a move to close Oakland’s famed medical marijuana college… a mass shooting occurred at Oikos University, a small Christian school located in East Oakland. Unfortunately fittingly.

There are people in this city struggling to make ends meet, losing lives to gun violence  (with both policemen and black/brown men behind the trigger), and people who have been scarred by the woes of the world. These are the people who don’t trust in the government. On any level.

The 99%er movement, which swept the Nation in October/ November of 2011, took to a different feel here in Oakland. Protesters of all backgrounds combined forces and claimed residency right under Oakland’s main tree- in the center of the city. The local governing officials didn’t take too kind it’s new neighbors, and eventually gave them an eviction notice… in the form of a sunrise police raid. The raid set off a domino effect of rebellious actions on the part of the people- and eventually ended with many reports condemning the City of Oakland’s approach to the Occupy situation.

The remnants of this movement are still felt locally, as spray paint still adorns the side local businesses and the grass on the City of Oakland lawn is still patchy and brown. Nationally, the Occupy Movement in Oakland is still ringing bells, hence this NY Times Article published on Aug 1st, 2012.

President Obama’s late July appearance in Oakland was greeted by protesters… per usual. Many of the protesters were fighting global injustices, federal wrong-doings, and for the legalization of medical marijuana… And  some protesters were just out there to protest, as many do in this city.

While protesters, fans, and police motorcades focused on President Obama being in town, three notable events occurred in Oakland:

1. An investigation was ongoing after a weekend shooting in East Oakland left a 5-year old girl in the hospital.

2. A two-day incident, which initially began as a high speed chase and eventually concluded in a house in East Oakland where a standoff between armed men and police lasted 12 hours.

3. The family of Alan Blueford, a teenager who was shot by OPD, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Blueford was killed on May 6th. The officer who shot, also shot himself in the foot. The officer’s name has not been released, neither has Blueford’s autopsy records. Therefore, the family cannot move forward with this case.

These are the problems that haunt this town. Local issues. These are the issues I find myself concerned with. Local issues … not National issues.

The people of my city are children who have been hurt by miscellaneous happenings, sisters who have been scarred by society, and people… hurt people.

Just imagine: If cured, what wonders could these people do to change society?

One week after President Obama’s visit to Oakland, an article about the nature and nurture of Black men in Oakland was published in a local newspaper. The very next day, the NY Times again chose to shine light on America’s new tourist attraction: Oakland, Ca.

How can we open our doors to the world, if our house isn’t clean?

What is the significance of President Obama leaving the white house, to come to a town where Black and Brown people die in the street- before and after he leaves?

I’ve done a little research; now, I’m sure I could stand to do some more, but this is what I’ve concluded:

 I- a young man who watched the 2008 Presidential election process with a lazy eye, a young man who has watched the little (if any) “change” in my local neighborhood with a hawk’s eye, and a young man who is going to the University of California’s graduate school of journalism this fall… I have a responsibility.

Outside of individual donors, the University of California Berkeley was noted as the biggest contributor to Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, and the Golden Bears are among the leading contributors to President Obama’s 2012 campaign thus far.

I need to pay more attention to the connection between the local issues and the federal/ National implications of these issues…For my voice does matter.

And, if I can take it upon myself to broaden my focus, I’m sure the people in power locally can take their mind off of federal/ national issues to deal with hometown matters.

I’d be willing to make a deal.

My curbside treehouse was prime real estate for these ruminations. I emerged from my thoughts just in time to take a photo of the Presidential parade as they made their way through the East Bay.

Ten minutes passed, Presidential Lincolns passed. Remaining true to their word- the officers then said I could pass. I went home, urinated, and studied some more. I’ve got a class to pass.

Pen Point: All Over The Map. ( P. 2)

There is no place like Home.

It’s Monday April 25th, 2011… And I’m suffering from a cold case of jet lag.

Last Monday, I wrote a blog about my adventures on the East Coast- and then I didn’t touch another computer for a week straight.

….now it’s Monday, again… last week was a blur- thank goodness for twitter and camera phones…

Monday night as I rode into Washington:

tweets:

“That DC skyline is awesome”.

… I spent Tuesday running around Washington DC…

tweets:

“Electrical house fire on 6th and H in NE DC. All residents were safely evacuated.”

“… Say a prayer for the elder lady and her grandson …”

“Real men don’t cry … They get chocked up.”

6th & Hst in North East Washington DC. House on fire, all occupants were safe.

(… And then I searched for my long lost notebooks…)

“From the time I was 12-22 I filled 31 journals w/ words, they’re all in Geoffery’s room in Drew Hall … I’m on a mission to get my shit.”

“My notebooks have been signed, sealed, and are now being delivered back to Oakland.”

“…Sitting in Drew Hall … Reminiscing.”

“Over the weekend, I bumped n2 a young homie who told me, “thank you for seeing the big picture.” (in reference 2my approach to being a RA)”

“… I learned more from the younger homies, than they learned from me …”

“Weed smokers are late for everything … except for 4-20 .”

“Seek knowledge. Crack jokes. Eat pizza. #college.”

…Washington DC Wednesday, April 20th….

capoeira on Howard's campus

J. Cox. in the Dojo.

tweets:

“Do yall remember what happened last 4-20? … I do. Four words: Gulf coast oil spill.”

“Modulating”

“Spread love.”

“having fun”

…New York for the weekend…

Pics

Uncle Smokey and his newest grand baby

Central Park

Harlem, USA.

I spy: "Get God"

Tweets:

“New Jersey turnpike… Word to Assata Shakur.”

” *Kicks in the door, waives the 4-4*.”

“….sitting in a park in midtown Manhattan …. Feeding the birds. Word to the spooky lady on Home Alone 2.”

“At a park in Bed-Stuy, chopping game about life with my bru Justin… I’ve known bru since I was 5…life is good.”

“Lost in new york… Again.”

“…At a diner somewhere on the lower east side…dolo. Drinking coffee.”

“Being in love with one person > being loved by a lot of people.”

” This is the time of day that you’re supposed to be thinking about life…”

“As I stare into my swirling 3rd round of coffee, my critical thoughts about life are interrupted by a certain Rihanna song stuck in my head.”

 “Every time I come to NY, I get lost… Yet somehow, I never lose.”

… One last night in Washington DC…

tweets ( only 1): “I just saw a real streaker. #6wordstory .”

Washington, DC. U st. CVS Parking Lot. Late night... backdrops are provided for those who want flick it up with the posse... ( I took this pic over the shoulder)

…As I made my way to the airport on Sunday afternoon I fired off a number of tweets, but these two stuck with me…

tweets: “… The greatest stories are “love” stories…hands down. But without the “coming of age” story, you can’t have the love story.”

“( I reference “Love and Basketball” and ” The Lion King” as examples of that last tweet.)”

… In Conclusion …

about friends: They say, don’t burn bridges… I say: don’t even let them grow cobwebs…

about love: Seek knowledge, love will eventually come.

about life: leave me alone to my vices and my crafts, and I can never be mad.

Ashley Christina Reid. RIP.

Peace.

Pen Point: All Over The Map. (part 1.)

I’m on the East Coast as I write this;  in Richmond, Va where it’s mid 70’s and sunny in the hood… 

 “over on the East end, in the projects.” hanging out with a friend I’ve known since I was twelve.

 I really believe in that quote, that went something like:  “at the end of the day the wealthiest man is not the man who has the dollar he started with, but the man who has the friends he started with”…( or something to that accord ). 

I’m finally getting a second to sit down after about four days of non-stop moving through Washington DC. I’m out here on the East Coast for seven more days…

I’m currently on the East Coast serving a number of purposes…

1. I have 31 notebooks and an African walking staff located in the 5th floor closet in Drew Hall on Howard’s campus… those are my prized possessions. I must send those back to Oakland.

2. speak to the good people in Howard University’s school of Communications and School of Business to reassure that when I take this remaining accounting class this upcoming Summer that I will indeed graduate… eventually.

3.Visit family and friends! … … let’s see how many places I can go and people I can see! 

(I already put a dent into my “to do” list this past weekend, we hit everything from bbq’s to concerts, and a couple of bars in-between. I saw  a lot of my people in the District and on Howard’s campus, and met a lot of new faces… good times.)

Philly's own, Young Chris at Howard's Spring Fest

 

the view from over DJ Chubb E. Swagg's Shoulder

 
 

O. Munoz and Freako .. chillin.

 
 

Q-Tip and Phife Dog once uttered the classic call and response: ” you on point Tip? “… “all the time Phife”…

I can relate. I’ve been on point as of late… Working, Constantly.

I teach ( a 9th grade, a Life Skills class for young men) and I do freelance journalism (focusing on a project “ OG Told Me” where I interview elders in the community) . In-between the two, I ride my bike and take pictures.

I’m back home from college and really working, and it’s a very fulfilling thing… but it’s not always fun.

This week is Spring Break for the high schools in Oakland … CANNON BALL!!!

It reminds me of a story…

you ever jumped out of a swimming pool, dipped into a hot tub, and then jumped back into the swimming pool?

That sensation is a form of shock therapy. An elderly lady once told me about it in Hawaii… Sitting in a hot tub with an elderly lady

in Hawaii is part of a totally different story about traveling…. I digress point being:

 It’s that shock sensation when you go from one extreme to the other that causes you to remember you are alive…

I’ve been in the Bay’s waters getting active, and this Spring Break- I decided to jump into the major cities of the East Coast … the way

the cities are circled by the freeway’s that end in “95” on the East Coast is almost like small hot tubs on the map, and the weather is getting hot… maybe forced, but I find that analogy applicable. 

none the less, I’ve never taken a real “Spring Break” while in college. I went to New Orleans to assist in the rebuilding process in ’07, and other than that I stayed on campus during spring break, working as a resident assistant.

This year, I had to take a break from the work that I was doing- change things up, and remind myself that I’m living … jump out of the pool and into the hot tub!

with that said, I feel like Tribe Called Quest:  “Award Tour ”   http://youtu.be/Qapou-3-fM8 :

…. DC, Richmond, NY…. Maryland, San Fran…Oaktown.

Go DJ! Go DJ! Go Green!

Who would of thought that one day DJ Biz Markie would spin records in front of the US Capitol building in effort to save the environment… On Wednesday February 24th, that happened. And I was there.

News cameras flashed. Any news outlet you can name was on hand, as a solid contingency of all races and ages roared in support of an environmentally friendly economy. In the foreground was the Hip-Hop Caucus‘ bus- fresh from a road trip which spanned spanned from the boot shaped state of  Louisiana to the diamond shaped District of Columbia. And in the background, was the United States Capitol Building. A symbolic stance to say the least.

Many grassroots organizations pitched in to organize college students and elders, and their efforts paid off. The event created a news buzz and got a number of people talking about the concept of a green economy; a concept which is far from new.

However, It got me to thinking: how do we make this movement toward a environmentally friendly economy evident to individuals in the inner city?I asked legendary DJ Biz Markie, I asked head of Green for All Pheadrea Ellis Lamkins, I asked the Hip-Hop Caucus’ Rev. Yearwood, and I also asked Congressman Carson from Indiana.

Biz on the 1's and 2's

Paradiseexit.com‘s Dominique DaCruz of captured a portion of the event on video; and Congressman Carson addressed my question head on. He spoke on making it transparent to people in the inner cities that this “green movement” isn’t just white people trying to save the environment, but this is the future of the American economy. We as economically marginalized citizens of the inner city- can’t afford to miss this opportunity to ride this green wave.

I don’t believe this information has become evident to the necessary people. However, this conference was inspiring in terms of the energy, and if this can continue to go from hood to hood, as the Hip-Hop Caucus has done with its “Green the Block” movement, maybe- just maybe those in an economic bind will begin to seek employment, skills, and ownership in the realm of a green economy.

here are some of the photographic highlights from the day complements of Zelena Williams

And for more amazing photos from the people who organized the actual tour click HERE

Rev. Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus speaking

Reverend Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus speaking to the crowd

Interviewing Rev. Yearwood

Interviewing Phaedra Ellis Lamkins head of Green for All

interviewing Biz-Markie

a sign of the times

Tenn Stack’s keeps it 100 for his Birthday Party.

 

Hackensack, New Jersey representative and Howard University student, Tenn Stack’s celebrated his birthday January 16th, 2010 in true player fashion. 
He rented out a posh French Bistro, managed to avoid “the politics” of the situation, and proceeded to have one of the most “wavy” parties he and his Swagg House Comrades have ever thrown.
For those unfamiliar with Tenn Stacks and the Swagg House (SWAGG= Survival with All God’s Grace) movement, here is is his first single “My Life at Howard”
A French Bistro played host to Swagg House event for the ages…and man, I don’t think the owners knew what they were in for…
The owner's of this posh French Bistro had no idea what they were in for...

the location

Upon arrival…. I bumped into these scholarly goons….  

Chase B Brandon D Chubb E Swagg J from LA

 But they were just as confused as i was….

This is where the “Swagg House” Party was supposed to be???

The Bistro before the party...

And then things slowly started clearing out…. But not before two bus loads of Howard Students arrived. As the impatient intoxicated students waited in the cold…. I figured, what the hell: make the most of it!
“girl, its a photo shoot”- Gucci Mayne 
But of course…people can only be pacified by photos for so long and as the line grew… peoples temper grew too….
And then…. out of no where the man of the hour showed up!

Tenn Stacks shows up.

And  fittingly enough, the party was titled “Red Light District”…and all hell broke loose.

After a while… the glow sticks arrived…and the night got live…
but, when they made the move to let the glow sticks rain on the folks downstairs….some asshole photographer decided to leave his dead batteries in the pile… I know someone got hit with a double A battery last night….
Nonetheless, when they did make it rain…it was a light show….
And when the red lights came out…. the temperature rose!!!! It was so hot, my camera lens fogged up!
so, I decided to write a special shout out to my bruh Tenn Stacks on the front door….and then I got the hell of out the sweat box before I passed out!
And in the end…. Swagg House got it in. I wish best of Luck to Tenn and the Swagg House conglomerate…look for them to be making moves in the new year,including the upcoming re-shoot of “My Life at Howard”…. oh, and as for Tenn Himself…. this is photographic evidence that the young man enjoyed himself….

 

Invisible Man: Visible Negro.

President Barack Obama’s image is slandered by a government official who holds a high raking seat in the US Senate …NBA star Gilbert Arenas’ image is torn off the side of Washington DC’s Verizon Center…while I’m right down the street, in my dorm room, looking at Ralph Ellison’s book, Invisible Man. The book is a depiction of the life and times of the “Negroes” of the mid 1900’s. He describes the world-view of a group of people society seemingly deemed invisible…no question, “Negroes” in the year 2010 are visible now.

In the first ten days of 2010:

I’ve seen Gilbert Arena’s face all over the place: the TV, the news, the blogs- it is everywhere, except for the side of the Verizon Center- where his image was literally torn down!

I’ve seen stories of President Barack Obama’s image slandered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid…and I wonder if this is the common thought with the majority of other leaders?

I have seen stories of rapper Lloyd Banks make headlines for his newest mixtape release, and his subsequent arrest on charges of assault and robbery.

There are a few hi-lights: Heisman trophy award winner and Alabama star running back Mark Ingram stood in-front of the unblinking red light on a live camera, as it fed a National audience: he respectfully honored his incarcerated father, and he didn’t flinch. I praised this in an open letter to the gentleman.

Sunday afternoon, Ray Lewis, a man with his own history of run-ins with the law, stood in-front of cameras after a remarkable performance on the gridiron. It was eerily similar to the Mark Ingram situation, except Ray spoke directly about his on-field performance. And instead of it being about his words or the way he appeared- it was the words on what he appeared in; a shirt he had been wearing under his jersey all game which read: “best dad”.

And right after that… I got into a conversation about Marshawn Lynch. A top ranked NFL running back, who is also from my home city of Oakland, Ca. Its seems Lynch has made recent headlines for allegedly stealing 20 bucks off of a restaurant table….

…Marshawn? A Black man? Oakland?…that hit home. Just think, this time last year, Oakland was rioting over the video phone images of a Black man, Oscar Grant, being murdered at the hands of a transit cop. And even that is still making headlines as the court case is now turning into another reason to riot, as they continuously postpone the hearing.

For Marshaun Lynch, Gilbert Arenas, and every story in-between, the stories are shady and the news is skewed. But there is one universal truth: we are watching you.

It seems as though, the tiny lens at the end of the microscope that Black men fall under, is directly connected to the larger than life images in mass media. I’m not amazed that the same “Negroes” Ralph Ellison wrote candidly about, have now become “visible”. But I do wonder if Ellison saw the potential for negroes to become visible in American society to this magnitude? And did he imagine we’d be seen in such a light?

And above all the other headlines thus far this year, I’m interested in the United States Census‘ results; just to see how many actual “Negroes” are seen in society.