Invisible Men.

This radio broadcast originally aired on November 10th, 2011 on KQED

Invisible Men

Youth Radio’s Pendarvis Harshaw tries to keep black high school students from dropping out.

Pendarvis Harshaw
Pendarvis Harshaw

By Pendarvis Harshaw

The phrase “I don’t give an F-Bomb” resonates throughout high school hallways every day, especially in Oakland public schools. Which begs the question: how do you get students to actually give a flying F-bomb?

The numbers show that young black men drop out of school at higher rates, and are more likely to be incarcerated than other groups. Earlier this year I worked as an educator in the Oakland schools, in a pilot program designed to prevent young black men from dropping out. My students, all freshmen in high school, were in my class because of discipline issues, low attendance, or academic shortcomings. We called our class the Young Lion’s Lair.

To maintain focus, we did pushups. We did wall sits. We did sets of 20 jumping jacks. And everyone had to stop at the same time, or else we’d do it again.

At the start of class, we’d toss around a tennis ball and review the prior day’s lesson. And at the end of class we’d toss around that same ball and review what we learned that day.

We discussed a holistic approach to manhood. It was protocol for each young man to stand whenever he spoke. And when they spoke out of turn, it was mandatory that they say “I apologize.” I asked them not to say “I’m sorry,” because they weren’t sorry young men.

Attendance shot up. Discipline issues decreased. Their grades didn’t change during the semester I worked with them, but I could tell they were learning. Everyday there’d be a moment when one of my students would have a tiny breakthrough and I’d exclaim “hot damn.” It was equivalent to getting a star in kindergarten, and it was a constant reminder that we were progressing.

One day I asked my students to read aloud from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” They were reluctant to read in front of their peers, but eventually one student began… “I am an invisible man.”

Student after student read with increasing excitement. They were into it, and pleaded with me to bring in additional chapters. It was as if Ellison was narrating their lives. “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind.”

With a Perspective, I’m Pendarvis Harshaw.

Growth: on ice.

1st they fall.


...And then, they learn to stand.
...And then, they learn to stand.
...And then, they learn to showoff. no hands.
...And then, they learn to showoff. no hands.


Then they skate.
Then they skate away...


And then... moms take a victory lap!
And then... moms takes a victory lap!


...And then, I'm a happy uncle.
...And then, I'm a happy uncle.


And then….

And then ... we ate pizza.
And then ... we ate pizza.




Hey Little Brother.

Have you ever heard of an organization called “Hey Little Brother“?

Mission Statement:

“Hey Little Brother is a collection of letters written by men and women, young and old, to black boys ages 12 – 14. These letters share, insights, advice, ideas, wisdom, encouragements and life lessons specifically for black boys.”

Hey Little Brother is looking for letters of guidance written from experience, from men and women who have been life’s ups and downs and can speak to a given topic area ( e.g. leadership, relationships, God).

You can email them directly at :

The website (again) :

Change the Game

Game Changers Project.

game changer

Have you heard about the 2025 campaign for Black men and Boys ?

The Grio. com ran a big story on the site at the start of this year, check it out:

The game changer’s project is a media inititative to change the image of young Black men and Boys in the media by simply uploading the untold; by taking stories of men and young men alike doing uplifting things in their communities, and giving them proper acknowledgment.  The theory is simple: become the change you want to see in the world… or in the media.

For more information about the initiative, check the website:

A key part aspect to being able to tell the stories of Black men and boys in the urban underbelly of America is having storytellers on site, and the Gamechangers project specializes in that. With representatives in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

… I’m the Oakland rep…. Here is my bio, along with the rest of the game changers:

Here are a couple of stories that I’ve published thus far in efforts to change the game:

Oscar Grant’s Uncle, and the Oscar Grant Foundation:

An article on an education program in Oakland, The Nation’s First African Male Achievement Initiative:

And soon to come…

Stay updated on how the game is changing via twitter: @Gamechangers007


An Oakland Local on OaklandLocal…Dot.Com



Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Fresh on your virtual newsstand !

Oakland Local.
Oakland Local.

The good people at Oakland Local messed around and gave me a page:


Here are a couple of articles that i’ve produced through thisOakland Local:

An article on a digital arts and culinary center in the heart of East Oakland…


An article on America’s Got Talent and Oakland’s own “The PopLyfe” and their run to the (near) top…. dang.

Older articles….

An article on Augusta Collins, Bay Area Hall of Fame Guitarist…(Re-published by SF Gate)


An article on the classic debate of W.E.B. Du Bois vs. Booker T. Washington, and how that argument applies to today’s job market…


Be sure to check

More articles to come!



“Black Youth Rises From the Ashes”

August 5, 2011 The Oakland Post ran this article:

( )

By Pendarvis Harshaw

Joel. Not me.  
Joel. Not me.



Me. Not Joel.
Me. Not Joel.

(After that minor photo snafu… here is my article)

One pilot class-first time experiment and one fresh Howard graduate take on a shaky school system in the midst of a Black male genocide happening in Oakland, Ca. This past school year the Oakland Unified School District introduced the Nation’s first African American Male Achievement Initiative, which is spearheaded by Chris Chatmon. Three of Oakland’s six public high schools were selected to be a part of this pilot program. The outline to this African American Male Achievement Initiative consisted of seven primary goals: Increasing attendance rates, increasing graduation rates, intensifying middle school holding power, a 4th grade literacy rate goal, to cut incarceration rates in half, to cut suspension rates in half and to decrease the achievement gap. I had 15 weeks to change 15 years of deterioration of the spirit. Before the academia could begin we had to first address the issues that would have inhibited their learning process such as discipline issues, confidence issues, and emotional issues. I brought in a copy of the Oakland Post to the first class I taught. I showed the front-page article that I wrote about Bill Russell meeting President Obama. Accompanying the article was a picture of two of the most well respected Black men on Earth, a powerful image to show a group of disgruntled Black Youth. That same day I asked them: who are you and where do you want to go? These were the questions we as a class searched to answer from there on out. Sure we touched on college, academics, and how to use school as a tool to get out of your current predicament. But nothing got them going like open-ended critical thinking questions. I once asked them, “If you could step out of the door and go anywhere, where would it be and why?” The answers where to heaven, to a videogame, to Canada, to go shopping, to a girl’s house, to Africa to see where my people are from, to sleep, and a young man merely wrote “to a safe place”. The majority of them simply wanted a safe place; and that’s what the “Lion’s lair” classroom was. I am now a proud big brother to 21 young men. Just because classes ended doesn’t mean that the lessons in the classroom stopped. The class is a part of an ongoing process of developing a generation of young men in Oakland, young men with knowledge of self, composure of emotion, and the ability to critically think for themselves. At the end of the day, this was simply about taking young men who are constantly surrounded by death and giving them skills and the inspiration to thrive.


(*Backstory: Joel is my homie from Howard. He was in downtown Oakland the day I went to get the story published. When the people at the Oakland Post found out the Joel was a Howard Grad looking to get into education- they figured they’d do a story on him at a later date, and took a photo of him for good measure…. and they accidentally put his photo with my story. nice. Glad they fixed it tho. Thanks Oakland Post!)

Janitor. Respect it.

I’m passionate about being a janitor: I can clean the shit out of a toilet.

The Janitor's closet.
The Janitor's closet.
I’m serious. I’ve taken my job to heart. I mean, I’m still a multimedia-producing- high school educator- Documentarian of OG‘s/ cool dude…And at the same time-
I’m a master of the custodial arts.
My job entails cleaning the common areas of a three floor (with plans to open more floors) recently renovated apartment building in downtown Oakland. What is unsaid: my job entails focus, patience, and consistency on my part. I’ve been doing this job since the first week of July. The past 5 months have been a slow building process, in all aspects of life; and this craft has eased the growth.
The beauty of being a janitor is this: it’s a craft. A craft that I can do and help people when I do it. The thought of having people dependent upon me has always caused me to grow stronger. So, now people are depending on me to wake up every morning and clean some shit up. And it’s great. I have to push myself to roll out of bed on cold mornings or on the opposite end of a wild night, lace my boots, toss on some gloves, and get active.
That’s what life is about. Growth. Everyday. Everyday I wake-up, I have a job. A couple of jobs. Matter of fact, I have two careers, freelance gigs, one class short of getting my degree and still… I clean. Everyday. No matter Sunday or Holiday. People take shits and people make trash. As a matter of fact, I like to clean on Sundays- they say cleanliness is next to godliness. and I believe it. There is no better feeling than waking up Sunday morning. Jogging. Cleaning. Writing. Reading. And being on top of my shit….
… The beauty of cleaning up shit? In return for my labor, I receive a lil janitor’s closet. A place where I can pray and no one can disturb me. A fun-sized studio apartment comes in the deal- I guess cleaning up the public areas of a renovated apartment building isn’t that bad. Not too shabby at all if I do say so myself.
The downside? Mannnnnnnn…. Seeing people wake up 6:30Am and run toward the shared bathroom (where I’m cleaning) in their undergarments- never a pleasing sight. But that’s artwork in comparison to the sight of mice and used tampons… I have grown an fierce distain for both mice and used tampons. As a matter of fact, I don’t like mice, rats, raccoons, nutrias, not even small dogs… and I don’t like used tampons… or used pads, for that matter.
Dealing with human waste is humbling.
This is what plenty of people do everyday to feed their families
…This is what my mother did in order to put me through school…
And to think- I used to be ashamed of our car smelling like bleach. Or the fact that I could hear her coming in elementary school- the cue was the jingling of her keys. Plus my aunt and sister both had bouts with the craft. Now, I see
the trade runs in the family.
…this train of thoughts makes me think of two quotes and one song…
“I’m a master of the custodial arts… a janitor if you want to be a dick about it.”- Thurgood. (Dave Chappelle’s character int he movie: “Half Baked”).
“Oh… she told me that  she likes the finer things- and I can’t afford a “high maintenance woman like her”…
I told her…
I’m a weed smoking janitor… I’m high maintenance too!”- anonymous comedian.
Big K.R.I.T. : “Dreamin”

The Wise Ole Sage.


the wise old sage
one eye green. one grey.
both glazed. hands so rough. feel as if they've been paved. 
torn up. and need to be repaved.
mumbles blessings she gave.
from a tongue that had not a tooth in it's way.
gums the same color as spades.
speech raised spirits. but her voice never raised.

she said. she's seen. seldom. a spirit. like the one in me.
she said. she's seen. ancient séances. 
that couldn't bring old souls back to the living. 
Yet,a living old soul is what she sees in me. 
she said. she's seen.... (silence).
not a thing. so old, I could hear her breathe.
as she got closer to me with her lean.
one eye grey. one green. eye 2 eye with me.

she asked, who I be?
"Youz a culmination of everything: Tutankhamun- a king. 
Muhammed the profit's offspring. Addonis from the Greeks. 
The Lion of Judah conquering.
Eric the Viking at sea. Ghangus Khan accomplishing Warrior feats...

..Confusions deep. Sitting Bull tribal Chief.
Marcus Garvey.
This land fears you King."

She said she's noticed. When Moses arose.
Not a child was to grow. In fear of the power he holds.
Don't the similarities show. Every back man that you know.
Thinks about your potential-power-and your position.
then think about your generation, culmination, and what your eyes invision.
- Pendarvis Harshaw, circa 2004.