On July 5th, 2014 a group of 14 African American men departed the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) , en route to a 14 day stay in China. These young men went from Deep East Oakland to the Far East with one goal:
To change the world… and the world’s perspective of them.
The young men, five undergraduate students and nine high school students, were accompanied by three chaperones (I was one of them). This method of mentorship was designed by Ms. Regina Jackson, CEO of EOYDC (and a chaperone on the trip as well), as a part of her organization’s Brotherhood Across America- youth led college mentoring model.
The college students, all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors, were selected in order to provide linked learning opportunities, which would give exposure to career possibilities to the younger men. In addition, the brotherhood mentoring circles were aimed at building strong individual character, as well as the collective group identity– which is EOYDC’s tagline: “building character to build communities”.
Fittingly, the community’s character was a driving force in getting the young men to China.
Sponsored by local businesses, churches and organizations, the group– known as the Think China 2014 delegation, arrived in China with a world of support under their wings.
The voyage was a part of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which was signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year, as a part of the White House’s focus on education. At its heart, the trip was a great opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange, as well as a chance for the young men to develop core values for the White House Education Initiative.
Because of the weight of their responsibilities, the gentlemen were lead through a rigorous schedule of classes and site visits; interspersed with character/ team building activities and fine dinning in China.
The young men saw Buddhist Temples in Hangzhou and department stores in Shanghai. They visited the Great Wall of China and the Xixi Wetland nature reserve. They went to automotive plants, made dumplings, learned Mandarin, studied the Chin Dynasty, talked modern politics, and even found time to eat KFC AND Peeking Duck (not at the same time) … And of course, they drank lots of tea and ate plenty of rice.
All of the young men journaled throughout the course of the trip, as was a requirement. Everyday, a different young man who be held responsible for submitting a journal for publication through EOYDC’s website.
While the young men enjoyed the trip and blogged about it, I stood back and took it all in– through my camera lens… Here are just a few of the many moments I captured while we were in China.
3. I got the best grades ever ( do grades matter in grad school?)
I wanted to write about the racial interactions on campus in comparison to Howard. I wanted to talk about the way the administration handles their business in comparison to Howard. But all I spent too much time reflecting on it…
A moment (or hour) of reflection before I start producing stories for my 2nd semester caused me to dig up the big idea that got me here in the first place… Here is that idea in words.
… The essay that got me in to school …
8 Days on Oscar in Oakland
by Pendarvis Harshaw
When the news of Oscar Grant’s death broke I was rushing to leave Oakland, literally. I was sitting passenger seat in my aunt’s car en route to an early morning cross-country flight. From the moment I landed in the Nation’s Capitol, I watched the Oscar Grant related events closely through news sites, social media, and phone calls.
18 months after the morning that left Oscar Grant dead, I was back in the Bay, home from school for summer vacation and just in time for Grant’s case to be heard in a Los Angeles County courtroom. It just so happened that the trial for Oscar Grant’s case was scheduled in the middle of my coming of age experience; June 30th to July 8th, 2010 is an eight-day stretch that I mark as an early apex in my career.
I worked as one of Youth Radio’s lead reporters on their body of coverage on this issue. On June 30th National Public Radio aired a piece I produced titled, “Oakland Awaits Verdict In Subway Shooting Trial”, an audio montage of Oakland residents speaking about the impending verdict in the trial of Johannes Mehserle. Two days later, on the morning of July 2nd 2010, I was granted a rare candid interview with the Mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums. We discussed Oscar Grant’s killing, resident’s feelings towards law enforcement agents, and the future for Oakland. I asked the Mayor about the possibility of renaming the Fruitvale Bart Station after Oscar Grant; this would lead to an audio project I co-produced by the name of “The Grant Station Project”. On the evening of July 2nd I documented downtown businesses boarding up in preparation for Oakland’s reaction to the verdict. The entire next week I worked with Youth Radio as a correspondent on the trial deliberations.
On July 8th at 4pm the verdict of involuntary manslaughter was released. As I stood in the center of the city, 14th and Broadway, through my headphones I could hear whispers of the words “involuntary manslaughter”, and then the phrase was repeated in question form, “involuntary manslaughter?”. And the question was answered in an emphatic statement, “Involuntary Manslaughter!”
I spotted a girl I attended elementary school with standing about 15 feet adjacent to major gathering where I was standing. She was in tears as she expressed her disgust with the situation; her image would be on the cover of a major Bay Area newspaper the following day.
As the afternoon turned to evening, the helicopters swarmed and the news cameras rolled. In the large sea of people, I recognized faces from all walks of life: teachers, teammates, and Oakland’s top talent, like musician Dwayne Wiggins and actor/comedian Mark Curry. The community was out in force.
That night, I left before the vandalism and uprisings. I grew up in Oakland; I had been in similar situations and knew what was to be expected at nightfall.
On the morning of Friday of July 9th I recall walking through downtown Oakland; the town was wounded but still breathing. Storefronts had been vandalized. Trash was in the street and graffiti was on the walls. But at 9am there were people going to work. I was one of those people; as I headed to Youth Radio’s headquarters at 17th and Broadway, I remember being extremely excited about going to work: We were scheduled to have cake! We were celebrating making it through the prior eight days… as well as my 23rd birthday, which was July 6th. I hadn’t had time to properly celebrate. I was too busy growing.
In the aftermath of July 8th, I was overcome with a feeling of fulfillment I had never experienced. The feeling of doing something meaningful, in a place that is meaningful to me, is nothing short of amazing.
I’m sure the actual videos, photographs, and my twitter records document this time period far more dramatically than I can, especially now that I am so far removed from that time
I am passionate about reporting, documenting, and telling stories. I love traveling; I’ve spent a week or more reporting on issues in Senegal, Ireland, and Denver during the Democratic National Convention of 2008, which was a world unto itself.
These experiences were all remarkable and formative, but it turns out my richest experience was at home in Oakland. There is nowhere I would rather pursue my passion for and master the many facets of telling meaningful stories than at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Through this tremendous opportunity to be exposed to journalism at a higher level, I hope to grow just as I did the week of my 23rd birthday, both professionally and personally.
After being born in the early 1900’s, and raised in Louisiana, Sarah Tramble has both lived and documented American History.
Tramble’s education was cut short after her 7th grade year. Her 8th grade school house was too far to travel, so the young Tramble began working as a janitor at a dentist’s office. While she cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors, she took note on the office’s daily operations. One day, she was asked to step in for a dental assistant that had called in sick. Tramble, who had never been formally trained, took advantage of this opportunity and performed well in her new role. The next week she landed a job as the new assistant, which payed double what she was making as a janitor.
Education proved to be Tramble’s calling, as she then grew to teach herself how to sew. And although she is big on self-education, Tramble did attend the American college and Laney College where she became a licensed nurse.
Tramble now lives in West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood. But when she first moved out here, she bought a house on Parker in East Oakland in 1961, and stayed until ’75. She then moved to her West Oakland Victorian house, which was built in 1885 by a man named Mr. Black who worked at SP Railroad Company. She learned this fun fact from a discussion with some neighbors when she first moved in—she told me that she got word of this and took notes, similar to the way a journalist takes notes.
Tramble’s story of self-education is not a new tale at all, especially for African Americans coming up from the south. But it is Tramble’s story of self-documentation that is rare.
“I’m black- my momma look like she was white,” Tramble said as she pointed to a photo of her mother.
Her great grandmother came here as a slave- her great grand mother raised her mother, after her grandmother died as a child. At 96 years of age, Tramble has no problem recalling her family history.
As an African American woman who will not let you forget her age (96), Tramble’s personal notes show an angle of American history that not many see. She covers everything: from the history of West Oakland and the Pullman Porters, to the personal photos and notes of enslaved relatives … and even the images of the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.
Tramble, a strong-speaker who constantly moves until coming to a momentary pause to drive her message home with a deep stare from her blue eyes said, “I talk to all young people, whoever will listen, but young people don’t listen- they don’t want to listen.”
On a cold winter’s Saturday afternoon in West Oakland, Sarah Tramble warmly opened her doors to me, and we cracked books and jokes, as I took notes from her notes.
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?
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.