…Welcome to My Diary…

Life is meant to come full circle.

May 1st, May day… is usually my Bay day. During my college career, it was the time of year I started to head back to the Bay from school; this year, I’m already home… but, a part of me was missing: my notebooks.

(My notebooks = 31 notebooks I wrote about my life experiences in from age 12-21.)

During the end of April I took an East Coast voyage, secured my notebooks, and sent them back to the West Coast… The notebooks arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area last week… I picked them up just before the first day of May… and as soon as I opened them, my diary began to write itself.

The first ten days of May are family time ;my niece and nephew are born 1 year and 1 week apart. Both birthday’s in the first ten days of the month. Mother’s day is the second Sunday of the month, this is always special.  A long time friend, Big Mal’s birthday is May 5th- I’ve known Big Mal since I started writing in my notebooks.

I started the notebooks when I was in 7th grade… and they’ve seen me come of age. Much like the people I celebrate during the first week of May…

I don’t keep up in my journals as much anymore, I don’t rap, I don’t do poetry anymore, and I really like to get paid for writing …SO… I write articles…

However, the opening sequence to the month of May has called for a written debrief…

(three lyrical quotes that inspire this post…)

“… Welcome to my diary… stressing got me grey hairs.”- Kendrick Lamar

“I ain’t afraid to give my life to the public…”- Jadakiss.

“They love to hear the stories of how the thugs live and worry.”- Nas

Friday April 29th, 2011

I got my notebooks back from the DC… And then it was written.

Sunday May 1st, 2011

Headlines read: Osama Bin Laden has been murdered by US intelligence.

I first got word via Mark Knoller, the White House’s CBS correspondent who tweets can be found at @MarkKnoller

Wild, I was in the same room that I watched the news on the morning of Sept 11, 2001… on my momma’s couch. 10 years later, I was in the same place.

I noticed that the news came out at about 10pm Eastern time, that President Obama was ging to have a news conference…

At that hour on a Sunday is when the bulk of my friends are on facebook and twitter. My friends are a snapshot of American society. I’m willing to bet that Sunday nights are the highest populated internet hours for Americans. A perfect time to drop some world changing news…

Of course, along with this news came a multitude of questions… and conspiracy theories…  The one that I am still dealing with comes from a video interview with the late Benazir Bhutto, in which she sates that Bin Laden had been murdered… the interview was conducted in November 2007. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007. Here is a video of Benazir Bhutto stating that Bin Laden had been murdered in 2007

… Let the conspiracy theories flow …

Monday May 2, 2011

As the world questioned the late breaking news on the war on Terror…I made my way to school.

I talked to my class about the Osama Bin Laden headlines, and how the news might influence them… The majority of my 9th grade class had no idea of how this news made any difference on their lives, but then again, on September 11, 2001- when I was a freshman in High school, I didn’t know how the news would influence my life either…

Now, that I am of age, I have an understanding of the things that I have no control over, how I need to react to them- and how I have no control… Let go and Let god, and even more so… take care of what you are responsible for…

With that said,  after school, I took control of my biggest responsibility for the day: I rode my bike cross town with a Red Velvet cake in a bag in order to give my niece what she had asked of me for her 9th birthday.

Happy birthday Talyah.

 Tuesday May 3, 2011

Tuesdays are my day to be mad at the world. I exhaust myself on Monday, and by Tuesday- I’m pissed. This always happens, and this Tuesday was no different. I walked around with a chip on my shoulder and it showed…

It was “Teachers” appreciation day here in America, and America showed me just how it felt about me…

At 7AM, As I rode my bike through West Oakland en route to school, i was questioned by two cops who rode next to me as I huffed and puffed on my bike… The cops said nothing other than, ” hey, you gotta warrant?” … I said, “no- I’m a teacher on my way to work” and they politely let me go. Why I had to answer that question… I don’t know. But I d know that this has happened to me at least tow other times in Oakland.

After school, I rode my bike to my homeboy’s house. I was there to edit a short film about Oakland’s education system. As I approached his apartment, which is located on E.14th, also known as East Oakland’s Hoe stroll- I saw a girl being chased by two young men. Her pants falling off her ass, as she ran into traffic to dodge the young men. I barked at all three of them “A!” that’s all I could say. But all of them heard me… I did it not only because that shit was a disturbing sight, but also because I had almost run into the girl… she eventually fled the scene, and the young homies that were chasing here fell back into the cuts on the street…… I walked upstairs to my friends apartment, and as soon as I got situated, and looked out the window back down to the street- I saw the same two young men that were chasing a girl rob an elder Asian man for his backpack. A simple snatch and run, “strong arm robbery”… The Asian man was left with his arms up as the youth fled the scene….

I was mad… about society. I wanted to square up with America in a boxing ring and knock out all the ills of society. Man, if that were possible!

I fell back in my homies house… listening to Tupac and hoping for changes.

As I sat, looking out the window and listening to Pac, I was overcome with a sense of optimism that a couldn’t deny. I figured it was just Pac’s lyrics uplifting me… and then I checked my phone:

I had a text from a home girl who has been through a lot in her life… to say the least… the text was a picture of her new born child. It made my day…

…I fell back, listening to Tupac and looking out the window with an entirely new set of eyes and ears…

Later that evening, my homie’s father came by his apartment. His father is a HIV/ AIDS survivor; he is surviving everyday and speaking on his virus.

We sat and talked about the concept of “going through things”.

“the hardest thing you go through in life: going from your father’s penis to your mother’s egg;… you out swam all of those sperms you defeated the odds before you were born. you are the one.”

Talking about “going through something” with someone who is terminally ill is a one sided conversation; a monologue. A much needed perspective on life and what is meant to be valued.

I thanked him for his wisdom, prayed for his future.

After he left, I thought about my big cousin Ronnie- he was terminally ill with cancer, which eventually claimed his life. While his health was diminishing, I remember him telling me-

“If you are going through Hell and you stop going, where does that leave you?”

Wednesday May 4, 2011

I awoke to a tweet that read: “May the Fourth be with you” … It was quite possibly the corniest thing I had heard all week, but it resonated with me: the force was with me.

As I rode my bike through my day- I felt the force…  I came across an altercation on 20th and San Pablo around 2pm: a man swinging his fist at a woman who had her child by her side. It took a a moment to realize what was happening, but as soon as I understood that they weren’t playing- I dropped my bike on the corner, and barked, “A!”. I took my headphones out as I yelled, and then I could hear a man in the apartment upstairs yelling as well: “imma beat yo ass for that shit!”, the man said… I noticed two other men were walking toward the man who was assaulting the lady as well. The coward who tried to fight a woman took off running as soon as he saw that four men were confronting him.

Even though I dropped my bike, I never approached the man. My mom’s voice was in my head: “be careful, them fools are out there” … I thought to myself: what if he had a gun?

…My worst fear is to die at the hands of a coward…

I left Oakland, and went to Sacramento that same afternoon…I took my bike on Amtrak and painted California’s capital city.

I had spent no more than ten minutes in town when I stumbled upon three young Black men getting arrested. As I slowly rode past, looking at the cops more so than the young men, I shot off the most intense stare I could muster up… My focus on the cops caused me to take my focus off my bike path. My tire became lodged in the trolley track, and my bike dropped. My quick reaction time allowed me to land on my feet…. But the embarrassment came when the officers laughed and told me, “that’s why we don’t ride on the tracks”…

… I kept mean mugging the cops as I rode off… As I just said, my worst fear is to die at the hands of a coward… and fittingly, that day I was wearing my Oscar Grant T-shirt.

May 5th, 2011:

I spent the day attending workshops as a part of a New America Media fellowship, where a number of journalists have won fellowships in order to report on alternative forms of media. It was a very insightful day…

and as the day turned to night… the Tequilla called my name!

My only reflection from my Cinco De Mayo experience in Sacramento: I’ve never seen so many drunk Asian girls in my life… And why is it that the chubby one always seems to find me in the club?

Friday May 6, 2011:

this was the final day of the New American Media Fellowship conference. We got the opportunity to view a school and expand our understanding of the current issues of the education world in California.

I got the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people at the conference. There was a Korean woman, Native American woman, A woman from the Nation of Islam, and a number of other people from different racial backgrounds.The common ground: all of us were from California, all of us were journalists, and all of us were focused on writing about innovative ways to educate.

John Sakata, a Japanese man form Southern California was by far my favorite person at the meeting. He literally questioned everything! A stereotypical Asian man: the bulky glasses, a lisp, and no confidence in his driving ability… But Jon’s confidence shined in his journalistic abilities. He asked question, after question… he had follow-up questions, and questions for the group… He was a born journalist. Of course, his Asian parents didn’t support his dream of becoming a journalists, and said he should aim higher…

With all of this said about Jon, I had to ask him, where did he get his knack for Journalism? … his answer: Murphy Brown.


The conference ended around 5 O’clock, I got on the train and by  8:00pm I was back down in Oakland.

Oakland’s “First Friday: Art Murmur” event was in full effect that night. During this event, art galleries in Oakland’s “uptown” area open up their doors to the public, display art, and serve drinks. This event brings about a majority white- bohemian crowd, full of bikers, backpackers, and people with dread locks … more white people with dread locks than Black people.

Since art is being put on display, the local car clubs also come out and show their artwork. The low-riders, the candy painted ole schools, and the engine revving hot-rods were out!

After that event, I went to co-host the block report radio show with JR Valrey. The show, which broadcasts on 94.1 KPFA., was a great mix of politically/ socially engaging conversation with just enough hip-hop infused so as to not lose the ate night listeners. At the end of the night, one of the guest on the show left me with a quote about the path we walk in life…

“…this has been governed by the ancestors.”

Saturday May 7, 2011

I spent my day on a field trip with my class. We took them to play basketball at a gym in East Oakland, and then to Joaquin Miller park in the Oakland hills. The youth got away from the hood… and walked through the woods…

We did trust building workshops, team building workshops, and we ate bbq.

… A great field trip…

Saturday night, there is no reason I saw as many people as I did in the Kendrick Lamar concert. I saw people from both elementary schools I went to, Middle school, College… And I went to College on the East Coast! I even saw people I only knew from twitter. I saw people who remember me from when I had braids and from when I used to rap (those obviously go hand-in-hand). I saw my sister’s best friend from way back when I had a crush on all of my sister’s friends! … It’s great when music brings people together…

The show was amazing… here is a clip of K. Dot’s performance…

Sunday May 8th, 2011.

Mother’s day brought about a room full of all of the women in my life, family time. And in my family- family time means sports are on the TV: The Lakers lost. Got swept by the Mavericks… The A’s won, that made my mom’s day. I bought my mom the hat trick for mother’s day… 3 hats that she could use when she gardens, goes on walks…. or goes to the baseball game… yup, my mom is a real woman: she had the bbq grill started by 11am that morning! … that’s love.

Monday May 9th, 2011.

I sat in-front of Oakland Tech, waiting on my on my class to start. I was about an hour early, so I just wanted to post up and read. I noticed a familiar face walking past, an yup, sure enough it was my Algebra teacher from Middle school. The same teacher that told me I wouldn’t make it in high school – because I had been accepted into a college preparatory school in the suburbs and my behavior wouldn’t tolerated there. I proved him wrong. I graduated from that private school. I was the president of the student body. And I made it to college after that… wait, even more so- that same teacher’s son was in the program that got me into private school, “A Better Chance”. I met and mentored his son while I was in College… His son is now finishing his degree, I’m proud. As far as my conversation with the teacher… it had long been coming. The teacher said he had heard one of pieces on NPR a while back and was glad to see that I was doing well. I then told him that on top of being a journalist, I’m a teacher as well. In fact, I teach at the same school he teaches at… his jaw dropped.

We spoke bluntly about the comment that he made when I was in 8th grade, the comment about me not making it… He told me he apologized if I took it the wrong way, he was merely concerned about my future. I told him, thank you… I needed that. I needed someone to prove wrong… I just didn’t need it to come from another African-American man. We shook hands. And that was that…

I sat back on the stairs in front of Tech, thinking about my nephew…

I’m there for him- like no Black male was there for me. I’m not his “father- figure”, I’m his uncle. But I laugh and crack jokes with him, I discipline and scorn him, and most importantly…. I play catch with him.

Monday May 9th, 2011 is my nephew’s 8th birthday… I bought him a glove and a baseball.


Pendarvis Harshaw


2 thoughts on “…Welcome to My Diary…

  1. Everyday with you is mother’s day for me! Love how you went from Benazir Bhutto to K.Dot to Reggie Cole…such is a day in the life of Pen! But the story of the old math teacher coming face to face with your reality – that’s priceless!

  2. “the hardest thing you go through in life: going from your father’s penis to your mother’s egg;… you out swam all of those sperms you defeated the odds before you were born. you are the one.” I made it!

    –& In 15 minutes, I just lived vicariously through you for a whole week. I really enjoyed this Penn.

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