Thursday, September 16th 2010- Washington DC’s Howard University’s freshman dormitory, Charles R. Drew Hall played host to the “People vs. Police” panel discussion about police brutality and what it has done to our community. The case of Oscar Grant in Oakland, Ca served as the central focus of the discussion, as the Howard University community opened it’s doors to Oscar Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson and vocal leader and Oscar Grant supporter Minister Keith Muhammad.
50-60 students poured into the freshman dormitory lounge and attentively listened as Minister Muhammad eloquently recapped the happenings concerning Oscar Grant; dating back to the fatal morning of New Years 2009. He touched on the candle light vigils, the uprisings by Oakland citizens, and the conduct of the elected officials in our community . He concluded in bringing this case home: “this happened to Oscar Grant yesterday, and could happen to any one of us tomorrow”.
After a round of applause for the Minister’s oral chronological recap of the Grant case, Minister Muhammad brought forth Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson to a warm applause as well.
Uncle Bobby spoke of the connection between Oscar Grant’s case and the historical document known as the Willie Lynch letter. He highlighted the portion of the letter that spoke of a slave owner beating a male slave in front of other male slaves so as to make an example out of him. This is what oscar Grant’s death was… an example. On tape for the world to see.
Uncle Bobby did his best to speak progressively about the matter; highlighting the upcoming dates of October 23rd and November 5th. On October 23rd the workers at the port of Oakland will strike in support of Oscar Grant’s cause. The longshoremen have historically supported communities that have been affected by police brutality, as they too have had a member of their community fall victim due to police brutality. And November 5th is the date that the sentencing for this trial is set.
Uncle Bobby concluded in stating that cases such as the Oscar Grant Case, and nameless other cases that have been caught on tape, need to be used as evidence in the court of law as a tool to combat malpractices by the officers of our communities.
The meeting ended with the attendees compiling an email list for individuals who were interested in writing a letter to the judge in the Oscar Grant case.
As I left and reflected on the night that was, I was a bit preturbed that the turnout was only 50-60 people strong. But, as the fact that we sat and watched a landmark case that deals with the current state of society on so many levels, race, class, and technology… I realized our success: a mixed class of young African-American students just sat in a room- and hardly a finger texted or tweeted while the guest speakers presented.
Uncle Bobby, Minister Muhammed, and myself all hoped to spread the word about combating police brutality in the lower income communities, and at Howard University, on this night the word was received.