Get Active!

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing about a thousand miles an hour on my bike, got to my destination, looked down, and I’ll be damned: I had ripped my tie!

This is when I realized, that I was indeed getting active… maybe even too active.

I’ve painted the entire East Bay. I’ve ridden the bike to meetings, to classes I was teaching, and to the errands in-between…

There is a Buddhist saying: “the man who doesn’t have 2 minutes to meditate needs two hours.”

Well, I finally got the time to meditate. My bike got stolen earlier today. I last saw it as I locked it up, on the corner of 19th and Valencia in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco. I assume someone cut the bolt, and made away with my orange and silver Schwinn. I hope it serves whoever stole it well, after all, gas is 4.29 a gallon for the unleaded 87 octane in the City.

… so now I’m chilling on the couch.

Great! A little downtime to kick my feet up, properly enjoy this rainy Saturday , and even sneak in a couple March Madness matches… you know, chillin.

Well, this funny thing happens when I have downtime… I start reminiscing… usually about business, friends, the hood, philosophy… and women.

This time, all I could think about was my bike: I miss my bike, that was like my best friend for the past 3 months…

 

The shadow of a big head kid, rocking some headphones, while working on his bike in the backyard.
The shadow of a big head kid, rocking some headphones, while working on his bike in the backyard.

 

 

 

… Picture this …

One day, I showed up to Oakland Tech to teach a class full of boys with a wind breaker coat soaked from rain… took it off, only to reveal that my t-shirt had pitt stains from sweating.

 

…picture this…

Once day, I rode my bike through San Francisco, I was coming from editing a video and heading to a jam session at a warehouse on the docks. The rain was slightly under monsoon status. The wind was just under typhoon status. And all I wanted to do: get to pier 38. I didn’t know exactly where pier 38 was, but I knew where pier 39 was: that’s the carnival-esque tourist attraction, everyone knows where pier 39 is! … No one ever told me that pier 38 isn’t next to pier 39. No- it’s on the completely opposite side of the Embarcadero, because the docks are separated by evens and odds. Therefore, I had to ride all the way back to  pier 3, pier one, … and then pier 2 , pier 4, and so on…. I arrived to pier 38. soaked. I stayed long enough to notice that this “warehouse” party was essentially on the docks. And I was wet… this sucked.

As the wind whistled through the gaps in the warehouse walls, I made the move back to the BART Station. When I got to the BART Station, my clothes and hands were so wet and cold, it took 15 minutes to get the fare machine to accept my soggy bills.

… picture this…

Just last Saturday, March 12, 2011- after an evening of hanging out with a couple of lady friends, I hoped on my bike and rode a couple of laps around downtown Oakland. I bumped into fellow journalist Reginald James, and we talked briefly. It was 11:15pm when a lady interrupted us to ask for the time, we simultaneously pointed to the clock tower atop of the old Tribune building; and then we laughed. I shook Reggie’s hand on 12th and Broadway,  and then like: pewn! I shot out to East Oakland to my sister’s house, cause I had promised my niece and nephew that I would spend the night…by the time I arrived they would be asleep, but when they awoke, I told them about what happened to me during my bike ride to their house…

At approximately midnight, on a corner in an East Oakland neighborhood, I found $203 dollars in loose bills.

As I approached the money, I was so suspect looking   way for cops, drug dealers, pimps, Mexicans… No telling whose money this was… It was splattered as if it was previously stacked on the top of someone’s car- and they just pulled off… leaving the money all over this shady corner…

I hoped on the dough like kids on a piñata! gathering the large bills first: 20’s and 10’s only…stuffing them into my hood as I straddled my bike. Picking up an occasional five here and there…I grabbed what I could, and then I pulled away… My adrenaline was pumping… And then I looked back, there were 36 One dollar bills left on the ground. How do I know that there were 36? Because I went back! threw my bike down and picked up every bill.

I told my niece and nephew that story the following morning, and then gave em each a dollar and took them, along with my sister, to breakfast.

….

I took plenty of pictures while on my bike, but the most memorable times couldn’t be captured on camera.

There were other great stories during rides… I saw plenty of faces and places… I even created a photography folder on facebook about it.

I think it’s fitting that I lost my bike on the Saturday March 19th, 2011 … the day of the super moon! … If nothing else, the amazing moon serves as a scape goat for extracurricular energy. And tomorrow, when the super moon is replaced by the morning sun, it will be officially the start of Spring. The last photo I took of my bike was just yesterday at Cal Berkeley… where I found a bunch of human made cocoons… And everyone knows butterflies come out of the cocoon at the start of the Spring…

the last photo.

 

 

They got my bike, now I can’t ride; so I guess it’s time to fly….Get active!

 

peace.

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Pop-Up Magazine & Pendarvis!

On March 17th, 2011 I got the opportunity to participate in Pop-Up Magazine’s event, held in collaboration with San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

The event was an evening dedicated to wine, corresponding with the SF MOMA’s ongoing wine exhibit. The event went from 6pm to 10pm, with performances beginning at 9pm. Performance is a term I use lightly, due to the English language’s lack of a term that would properly identify what exactly Pop-Up Magazine does…

Imagine: the same magazine you get delivered to your doorstep ( The New Yorker, Men’s Health Digest, Jet, ect…) and then imagine those articles on those pages getting up and walking around your house, the moment you bring that periodical into your domicile.

It’s magic: the author of the article goes on stage, and recites their piece live…and the article gains a heartbeat. And then they strategically interweave videos, audio, and photography into each authors performance to create a multi-media performance unlike any other.

That’s pop-up magazine: In your face and walking around your domicile.

The performances were about everything wine related: interviews with German scientists about the chemical compounds found in wine, homemade versions of the now discontinued “Four Loko” energy drink that resulted in Yoo-Hoo based wine, and even a story about a man turning his wife’s placenta into a 3-course meal… served best with a white wine.

A lot of the pieces were comical; laughter oozed from the large audience, which aided the flow of wine at the museum’s bar … or vise-versa.

My piece served as the anchor; although I started my prose with a joke… My piece proved to be no laughing matter… It was about Oscar Grant.

 

OAKLAND’S PASSOVER.

Pendarvis Harshaw
Pop-Up Magazine

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I initially learned the story of Passover from the Nickelodeon cartoon, “the Rugrats.” The episode was called, Let Me Babies Go.

In due time, I researched the story for myself, and I read about the Pharaoh and how he enslaved the Israelites. I learned about the ten plagues, and how God had brought them upon the Egyptians to force the Pharaoh to free the Jewish people. I learned the significance of the last and worst plague, “the plague of the first-born”; until the slaves were freed, the first-born son in every Egyptian family would die. The Israelites marked their doors with lambs’ blood to save their sons from that fate.

……

On the morning of January 1st 2009, America was on the verge of inaugurating its “first black President.” But this new era came with an all-too-familiar sight: a black man gunned down in Oakland by an officer of the law.

Using camera phones, passengers recorded transit officer Johannes Mehserle firing his pistol into the back of Oscar Grant. And the video spread like mad that New Years morning.

People were outraged. And I was one of those people.

I was raised in Oakland, but I watched the entire saga unfold from my college campus in Washington DC: the shooting, the riots, all the way until the trial.

That began last June. I was back in Oakland for summer break and working for Youth Radio as an intern. The trial had been moved to Los Angeles, so I headed out to see what was happening in the streets of Oakland, and how local business owners were preparing for the verdict…..

(CUE VIDEO)

NARRATION FROM VIDEO: “So once the word got out, that we were putting up these posters and displaying our support for Oscar, a lot of businesses in downtown started to come by, they saw us on the news. They were asking for posters. They wanted to put up posters of their own so their property wouldn’t get damaged. So that they could show their support. We’ve probably had over 100 businesses come by in the past week buying posters.”

The sight of my city boarding up was frightening: was this verdict going to push the citizens of Oakland to rise up in violence?

Back in Youth Radio’s newsroom, our conversation turned to the L.A. riots, back in 1992, when Korean store owners boarded up their buildings and wrote the words “Black Owned” on their storefronts.

And then we made another connection: the story of Passover.  Like the lamb’s blood on the  door frame, business owners in downtown Oakland were plastering their store windows with images of Oscar Grant, hoping this mark would spare them from the wrath of Oakland’s enraged citizens

Oscar Grant’s killer got involuntary manslaughter—the conviction carried a modest two-year penalty, with a deduction for time served. Later that night, people broke some windows and stole some stuff, but most of the people arrested came from outside of Oakland.

I can’t help but feel like all of this will happen again.

In the modern Jewish celebration of Passover, during Seder, it’s customary to recite the ten plagues in order. With each one, you dip your pinky into a wine glass and spill a drop of wine onto your plate. The wine symbolizes joy diminished because of the Egyptians’ suffering. But there’s a newer version of the ritual, where you drop the wine on the palm of your hand instead. It’s a reminder that as long as people aren’t free, everyone has blood on their hands…

 

 

I came off of the stage to a thunderous applause. A number of good conversations sprouted as people came up to me, introduced themselves, and told me that the piece had resonated with them.

It was a great experience all around.

Thanks to: The Oscar Grant Foundation, Youth Radio, Pop-Up Magazine, and the San Francisco MOMA.

Peace.

How Do You Teach: to Give a Fuck?

How do you teach:
to give a Fuck? 

It’s not your normal class. I’m not your normal teacher. And I don’t teach in the normal method… ‘Cause they don’t learn in the normal method.

The Lion’s Lair class is a new initiative taken on by Oakland Unified School District in effort to do something about the failure rates of Black men in high school. 20 Young African American men have been selected to the Lions Lair at each of the following schools: Oakland Tech, Oakland High, and Skyline.

I teach the class at Oakland Tech; a midday class which meets in a room where pictures of Michael Jordan and Einstein adorn the walls.

The class is categorized as a Life Skills class which fulfills the gentleman’s elective requirement; true to it’s name, the class teaches life skills… in the lion’s lair.

At any given time you might walk in and find the young men in push-up position, while reciting their spelling words. Or you might find them on the edge of their desks discussing the relationship between Los Angeles’ 1990’s Crips and Bloods to Oakland’s current Gang Injunction program.
In 1992, the year the Crips and Bloods called a truce, the young men in my class were not yet born. But they know about the Bloods and Crips. They watch the urban crime biography series, American Gangster. They’ve never taken a note- but they know Stanley “Tookie” Williams and Monster Kody Scott …

… They learned those stories without taking note- but they can’t learn in school given notebooks and pencils?
…cause when it comes to that gangster shit: they give a fuck.

The class’ curriculum simply breaks down into four areas: self, community, world, and action. The fist four weeks, we focused on the simple things: who are you? Where are you from? where are you going (in life)?… and how are WE going to get there?

We developed calls and responses, laws for the class, and of course… a handshake.
We wrote poems that showed how we identify with certain animals and then performed them.

We’ve done three workshops thus far:

1. Brother Jesus El came in after I showed a video of him to the class. He addressed the video, which was about his trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and then returning to West Oakland to share his experiences; this exemplified the Hero’s journey. He then told the youth about his much larger hero’s journey- his coming of age experience, and how he grew up in the same streets they run through… and now he’s traveling the world doing what he loves.

2. Brother John Brumfield stopped by and did a presentation on the origins of Africans and what we have accomplished over the ages. The photos and facts were mind blowing, it showed through the young men’s engagement.  He ended on a story about Tupac Shakur; a firsthand account of Tupac that left the young men in awe.

3. Brother Saleem Shakir came through and did a presentation on the “Nigger experienced”, in which he asked the class are there any Niggas/ Niggers in here? About 4 out of the then 17 students raised their hands… some did so unsure of the premise of the question. He then proceeded to show the young men video clips of Kunta Kente getting whipped in the movie Roots, pictures of enslaved individuals who had been brutally whipped, and audio of the Last Poets “Die Nigger, Die”. At the end of the class, they weren’t completely convinced about not using the word “nigga” anymore, but they were all upset about how the “niggers” in the video clips were treated.

They gave a fuck about being treated like “Niggers” … but they didn’t give a fuck about being called “nigga” ?

… they almost gave a fuck …

Tuesday I submitted my first grades, the grading criteria was simple: attendance/ behavior, participation, and a pop-quiz.

The final assignment was to be a poem, a simple written statement about who they are. I even gave them a prompt, suggesting that they compare themselves to an animal.

Oh! you should of seen them: “I’m a bear”… “I’m a Lion!” …”I’m this”… “I’m that”…  and then when I asked them to write it, their response: “I’m not a writer”. Not all of them, some of the self proclaimed rappers flourished, some of the quiet brother let out lion-like roar with an eloquent portrayal of who they are at this stage in their lives. And some didn’t do the assignment whatsoever.

I was disgusted.
The easiest assignment in the world. I gave them multiple opportunities. I shook their hand and made a pact… they disrespected that.
I was disgusted.

…in what other classes do you get the chance to to turn in/ perform a poem/ rap as a homework assignment?…

If you can SAY who/ what you are- how could you not merely sit down and write exactly what you said? you are literature. use it!

…They just didn’t give a fuck…

A slew of questions came to my mind

I had been covertly trying to figure this out, but I have to throw this question on the the table : why… why don’t you give a fuck? what comes over you when you don’t give a fuck?…
what is the thought behind not giving a fuck?…
why destroy yourself when you don’t give a fuck?
what do you give a fuck about?
your mother gives a fuck about you- do you give a fuck about her? do you give a fuck about yourself?
do you see the consequences of not giving a fuck?
do you see the relationship between not giving a fuck about yourself- not giving a fuck about school – not giving a fuck about your community- all culminate to you repeating the cycle of Black people being in a fucked up position?

…On Tuesday night I brought my question to a group of elders…

I had scheduled Coffee with Baba Arnold Perkins in order to take a photo for my “OG Told Me” Photo Essay project. I then had a meeting scheduled with Cheo Tyehimba, about a fellowship I had received. The fellowship requires me to produce 4 stories over the next 4 months on Black men who are “game changers” in my society.

they both left me with two applicable quotes…

“…And then you look at their environment and you understand; their behavior and attitude is directly applicable.”- Baba Perkins

“…go from not caring, to not knowing.”- Cheo T.

I brought the list of questions and quotes to the minimum day shortened class on Wednesday. I teach by throwing a tennis ball around as a method of class control. The tennis ball works well with the boyish energy in the classroom, after all- in a classroom with no girls and no snacks, throwing a ball around is my only option to maintain a functional environment.

I asked them straight up:  “what does it take, to make you all give a fuck?”

the answers varied along with the personalities in the classroom. Some outwardly didn’t give a fuck and some don’t give a fuck quietly… we concluded that both can be detrimental to society and self.

At then end of the day, I’m still searching… I know I can’t teach them anything, I have to evoke knowledge from within them. And when this works, its the greatest feeling in the world. But when it doesn’t- I feel as if I am trying to climb a brick wall with no arms.

So my question remains…

how do I teach : to give a fuck?

 

Royal Jokers Car Club at 1/4 Pound Burger.

Low riders and burger joints go together like french fries and shakes.
On Friday March 4th, 2011 the 1/4 Pound Burger drive through restaurant on Telegraph and West Grand in Oakland, Ca boasted a menu which featured burger, fries, and  shakes…
what better way to consume a meal from of the 1950’s, than to do it while surrounded by low riders with loud engines and candy paint!
The Royal Jokers Car club teamed up the management of the 1950’s-esque burger shack in order to turn an otherwise quiet Oakland street into the scene straight out of the classic 1950’s pop movie “Grease Lightning”.
I got the opportunity to catch up with Royal Jokers Car Club leader, Carlos Valteau, we spoke briefly about the driving reason behind this event…
(left to right) Head of the Royal Jokers Car club Carlos Valteau and friend

Valteau explains how this event came about

 

… low rider photo essay…

\

thank you to the Royal Jokers Car club… this event made my night.

 

For all of those who enjoy cars as much as I do…  A song to ride out to :

No particular place to go“- Chuck Berry

Big K.R.I.T. Wus (T)Here.

 

I found out about Big K.R.I.T. (King Remembered in Time) like any other modern day rap artist: through a teen-aged pudgy white suburban co-worker. I first questioned, what was a kid from the suburbs doing listening to a rapper from Meridian, Mississippi? Then I realized there are some things you just have to accept. The kid’s first name is my middle name, Andrew. Aside from having a common name, we have a common interest in hip-hop artists.

I took heed to my namesake and downloaded the “Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here” mix tape from the Datpiff.com … just like everyone else in this modern day of music transactions… The song “Moon and Stars” Big K.R.I.T. featuring Devin the Dude was my introduction in the world of Big K.R.I.T…The fact that he featured Devin The Dude instantly won player points…

I then listened to the full mix tape, aside from Mr. The Dude, I recognized two other artist: Whiz Khalifa & Curren$y. I became familiar with other featured  artist: Smoke DZA, Big Sant, and months later via Big K.R.I.T’s remix to “Moon and Stars” I was introduced to Killa Kyleon who is a lyrical problem! 

.

I checked out Big K.R.I.T.’s youtube page… as everyone does in this modern day of music transactions… I was impressed with the videos for “Somedayz”  and “Hometown Hero”

But it was the video for “Children Of the World” that moved me.

In the song “Good Enough”,  Big K.R.I.T. says:

“I was just waiting on this moment in my grand mamma’s kitchen/ An artist from Mississippi- like, who would care to listen?”

… At that point, I was listening. He began to speak to the things that I was going through in my life…

No need to go into depth about my life- but the subject matter shown through his lyrics should give you a frame of mind…

… K.R.I.T. Quotes ….

K.R.I.T. Quotes about the Hood:

“He looked at me with so much pain in his eyes/ like he ain’t know: being Black and poor came with a price.”

” Bums warm they’re weary souls over warm flames/ Junkie can’t find God watch him find his vein / preacher walk right by-like he ain’t see a thang.”

“she short on rent, landlord tripping/ tired of eating noodles that taste like chicken… don’t really like hoeing- aint hard to tell, but when all else fails- pussy always sells.”

K.R.I.T. Quotes About Pimpin:

“I came out my momma’s womb breathing life into this pimpin.”

“…Cause I looked up to the pimps,/I’m not saying it wasn’t wrong, but they had the freshest fits/ the cars and the broads and the kicks… that’s something to strive for when you’ve never had shit.”

K.R.I.T. Quotes about women/ relationships:

“If I abuse myself daily, who can I love?”

“say she gotta friend, and word is she really dig him. I’m dealing with the pain. I lost her and I know it, I’m praying for the strength not to show it…”

“And even when I was at my worst/ like, ‘we got to make this work’.
My girl found time to leave me, too broke to give a fuck, though…”

K.R.I.T. Quotes about money:

“In a world full of kings- you’re worthless, if you can’t buy the finer things before you exit…”

” The junkie scrape change for the dollar menu/ that what he said but the rock is what he really into/ gave him a dollar anyway/ cause who knows/ maybe the dope boy’s babies baby needs some new clothes…”

K.R.I.T. Quotes about America:

“Obama cool, but he ain’t sending me no free checks”

“I’m feeling like ‘what the fuck?’ / they want my soul
Like my ancestors’ ain’t enough /
If I can’t trust my own government, who can I trust?”

“pass the collection plate / niggas thought shit was gone’ change on election date.”

K.R.I.T. Quotes about God:

“Did too much dirt to talk to god nowadays- get the dial tone.”

“I don’t understand- how you fit that many rings on a helping hand?… tired of deception but I’ll pay his kids tuition, cause I’m trying to get to heaven…”

“My conversations with God always seem leave him speechless.”

Over the past 6 months Big K.R.I.T.’s quotes have appeared in my facebook statuses and tweets… as most people do in this modern day of music transactions… it’s a sign of respect: it says, that the artist eloquently stated exactly what I was going through at that point in my life- almost like he was right there…Big K.R.I.T. wus (T)Here.