OG Told Me: a Write-up in my old High School’s Magazine

Athenian, my old high school, published an article on me and my OG Told Me project!!

New Guard Meets Old Guard, Pendarvis Harshaw ’05

An elderly man leans on a rail at a track meet, left hand on his hip, gazing at the sky. His expression says he has experience and he knows what’s up. He is Tommie Smith who gave a black-leathered glove fisted salute from the winner’s circle at the 1968 Olympics. “If you keep living, you have to keep changing with times, ” he says.


Another Man, in graying dreadlocks, smiles as he looks down at a photograph from the 60s. He points to a young, lanky kid in the photo and says, that’s me.” He is Ronald Freeman and was once a member of the Black Panther Party. “Just look around,” he says. “Figure out how to impact the situation and make it better.”

Two men sit on a sidewalk and crack jokes over a game of chess. Their bare, muscled arms are poised over the game pieces as they concentrate on their next move. They are “David Ruffin” and “Philly Fred”, fixtures on the street in Washington, DC’s Uptown. David says, “Follow your heart. Stay close to your mother.”

all of these remarkable photos and words of wisdom are featured on a photo-journalistic website called OG Told Me ( ogtoldme.com ), created by Pendarvis Harshaw ’05. “It’s an ode to the elder men in the community who gave me tidbits of wisdom as I moved through society as a child,” he says. “They taught me what to do and what not to do. Sometimes It’d be a neighborhood big shot standing in front of his car. Sometimes it’d be a homeless person at a bus stop.”

The OG project is a replica of what Pendarvis did growing up, now told with a camera and a blog site instead of a pen and notebook. ( OG is a term for elders and means original gangster, but now has multiple meanings: old guy, old guard, original griot (storyteller). He travels around Oakland, asking elders the question: given your life experience, if you had the chance to talk to (young*) people, what would you say? “In a world where so many die young, you have to be doing something right in order to live that long,” he explains.

Pendarvis is currently a gradate student at UC Berkeley studying documentary filmmaking, and is also a free-lance journalist. “I’m drawn to journalism and the art of storytelling because poetry is the basis for all good writing,” he remarks. ” I

choose to focus on the overlap of education and violence/ justice because that’s where I think I can make an immediate impact.”

When asked what Athenian experience has influenced his life the most, he says,” Mannnnnn … that trip to Death Valley! I think about that so often! Greatest lesson ever learned has to be the lesson of the Hero’s Journey. Experience it through hiking across the hottest place in the Western Hemisphere, only to return home– a complete Hero’s journey.”

And his words of wisdom to others? “Pack light,” he says. “That’s all I tell myself.”



Find a hole. Go through it.

It’s about finding a hole, and going through it.

I realized that when I was on the freeway. Standing on Interstate 880. With about 200 other people.


I promise I didn’t plan on being there.

I just wanted to finish my article, eat the burrito I had purchased at noon and then go watch the Home Run Derby.

I knew Cespedes would show out on the baseball field that night. I just knew it. The plan was to make a beeline to a TV. It was 6pm. I had a couple of minutes before the Derby started.

I had just finished recording a story on Trayvon Martin for a local NPR affiliate, a radio station named KQED. On top of that, other news outlets filmed me recording. San Francisco’s CBS outlet and NBC Bay Area were there. They initially came to do a story on how Youth Radio’s facility on the corner of 17th and Broadway had been damaged during the protests the night before, but both outlets did stories with slightly different angles.

After I did the interviews with both crews, I made my move.

I walked on to Broadway, and saw a bunch of people marching toward the police station. My journalistic instincts took over. Within seconds I was marching along, camera in hand, choosing which angle would give me the best photo.


I followed the march down to the police station. They stopped and rallied at the station for all of five minutes– enough time to backup traffic coming off of the freeway.  And when the protesters stopped the traffic, they took advantage:  they walked on to the freeway. And I followed. ( I’m a journalist, what do you expect?)


It was a successful protest. It disrupted the flow of the post work traffic. It made people take notice. It made the helicopters reroute to get a good shot.

But I was there first.

On the freeway! Burrito in my backpack. Missing the home run derby. Taking photos.

The excitement of being on the freeway was crazy. All I tweeted was “this shit is crazy.”

In the midst of my color commentary on the situation, “this shit is crazy” summed it all up.



And then the cops came…

I was reporting. I had been reporting all day. But when the cops came, I knew there would be no way to separate myself from any of the other people on that freeway.

So, I looked to evacuate. Expeditiously .

Everyone moved. It was an exodus!

I ran towards the next exit, just as everyone else did. From Broadway toward Jackson St.  And then we realized we were trapped. There were cop cars coming up the Jackson St. ramp, and cops on feet blocking the Broadway exit.

There was a small gap between the off ramp off and the freeway. The dirt hill with the steep grade was a risk to slide down, but I went for it. And people followed.


After jumping the gap, we slid down the hill.





And that’s all it’s about.

Finding a hole. And going through it.

So others can follow your lead.


After I took a couple more photos, got away from the crowd.

I found a place where I could sit down, enjoy my burrito while the Home Run Derby was on. At a local bar, you know– a hole in the wall.

Green Day, AC Green, and the Greener side.

Green Day’s “I Walk Alone” plays as I sit on the windowsill next to the iron radiator in the corner of my studio apartment on an immaculate early August afternoon in Oakland, Ca .

Brainstorming … brainstorming… brainstorming: the word “Green”= Money…  Oakland A’s… Ninja turtles …  Oscar the grouch… Spinach … Apples… UNO cards… traffic lights…Green Lantern… The Green Monster in Boston … Cee-Lo Green… Famed NBA player AC Green (who was known for his work ethic on the court and his devotion to being a virgin off the court)… Green- new to something! A VIRGIN! BINGO!



…  I’ve agreed to participate in the “August Writing Challenge” after seeing a friend tweet about it…

” #AugustWritingChallenge is spreading. Not sure how many participants, but going to try to include all of them in the recap.”- @NateIege

(And then she gave me the rules to the #AugustWritingChallenge )

That was this morning, I’m 10 days behind- I’m green to this, but I dream of being seasoned vet when it comes to all forms of writing, so I’ve agreed to this…

Yeah, I’m sure I make like a green screen: create something never before seen…

What will come of it? I can only imagine. I saw the list of topics- and I know I work well within broad structures: give me the guidelines… and then give me freedom to color whatever color I choose in between those lines… Today’s color is OBVIOUSLY green.

Wait… Today is Friday… You really asked me to write about “green” ? On a Friday? … Knowing I’m from California… Where weed is everything but lega?… mannnnnnn… you already knew I was going to write about Green Day & AC Green…Oh and the fact that the grass is greener on the other side. (#WestSide)  Glad to be on this side of the writer’s block. I’m ready to grind.

My August Writing Challenge virginity has been broken! Let’s go!

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

Where to Eat? Where to Eat? … Dónde Comer?


On an unseasonably warm January day in East Oakland, my sister and I  chose the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland to play host to our impromptu scavenger hunt: we were hungry, and looking for a cheap meal.

The neighborhood is home to a number of new restaurants, small shops, and street side food vendors. The population is majority Hispanic; the Hispanic influence in the area shows not only through the people themselves,but also through the art ….

As my sister and I appreciated the aesthetic of the art, the foot mission was waring on our stomachs; in turn we began to investigate the food options in the area… that is: the food options that were within our budget…

We passed up the burrito truck with the steak and cheese fries, although an Oakland staple- the six-dollar meal was out of our price range.

We also passed this place on East 14th… something about the weaponry made me a little uncomfortable…

And then we saw the sign…


La Placita 3451 International Blvd Oakland, Ca just opened last week, and their dollar tacos are awesome…

After that meal, we needed a good desert to wash that down… options?

We passed it up to go to take the healthy route… we walked to the fruit stand….

…Of course the watermelon and pineapple was covered in salt, pepper, and lemon juice…. as my sister calls it: “the works!”

As we finished our mission, and fruit all at once, we noticed yet another mural….

RIP Willie Clay: Paying Homage 5 Years later.

Five years ago a close friend of mines, Willie Morris Clay, was shot to death in Oakland, Ca.

He passed on January 26th, 2006; while at least three others were shot, and one other passed; after an assailant opened fire in the intersection of 22nd ave. and East 28th st.

It was at that same intersection that friends and family gathered five years later to pay homage to the members of our community that had fallen on that fatal evening.

This is the park bench we used to sit around….

The Homies…

Beeda Weeda, an Oakland based rap artist, provides the soundtrack for the community as always…

The fuzz…

The Housing police soon closed on the festivities….

As Beeda Weeda talked to the original officer, back-up came on the scene, and the crowd dispersed.

The five-year anniversary of a tragedy in Oakland streets will go down as yet another community celebration ended by uniformed law enforcement. No one was injured and no one was arrested.

Although interrupted by intervening forces, the gathering was a time I’m sure all parties present can agree was time well spent in honor of a fallen friend. Personally, this was the first time I had been in Oakland since Will’s passing five years ago and this served as an opportunity for me to see a number of friends all at once, crack jokes, tell stories, and catch-up… as Will would have wanted.

(A full article about the deaths of Willie Clay and Marcell Campbell, as well as the deaths of a number of other teens appeared in SF GATE; And  I personally wrote an article immidietly after Willie Clay’s death called “Babies and Bullets“.)

The Grant Station Project

The Grant Station Project.

The Grant Station Project

During an interview with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums in early July 2010, we discussed the video taped murder of unarmed Oscar Grant at the hands of transit officer Johannes Mehserle, the ensuing protests and uprisings by the people in Oakland, Ca., and the impending trial verdict. I then asked him what he thought of the possibility of renaming Fruitvale Station in the name of Oscar Grant?

“Grant Station”

The Mayor was taken by this question, he told a brief story of his mother’s appreciation of seeing a building named after her son, and connected the story to Grant’s mother, and how renaming Fruitvale Station to Grant Station might bring relief to the family. He then asked if he could have permission to take this idea to the necessary individuals in effort to bring this idea into fruition. Gladly, I said yes.

(Video complements of Youth Radio.)

But the question didn’t stop at Mayor Dellums.

I sat down with music producer Jamon Dru and lyricist Young Gully, we discussed the concept. The two gentlemen told me that they had been constructing an idea of their own: an album inspired by Oscar Grant.

We shook hands and agreed, in the name of the Oscar Grant, we would create an album that would shine a police helicopter sized light on police brutality, the state of the young citizens of Oakland, California, and the death of Oscar Grant.

I sat down with organizers of the Oscar Grant support movement, journalists that have been constantly covering the situation, and I even had the opportunity to speak  with members of Oscar Grant’s family. We discussed everything: I asked about what was said on the platform on the night of Grant’s murder, I asked about what was said in the court room during Mehserle’s trial, and I asked Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby what he would say if he could speak to Oscar now…

This resulted in “The Grant Station Project”, an audio documentation of lyrics, music, and interviews all full of emotion; an ethical response from the people to a blatantly unethical action that took place in our community.

Here is the first single off the Grant Station Project by Gully featuring Yound D, “Grant Station“. It is also available for download if you  click HERE.

But the album isn’t enough. The people want justice served to the fullest extent. The people want Mehserle to receive the maximum sentencing for his crime. The people want this instance to stand as a constant reminder to the officers of our community ,that they have a sworn duty to uphold the well-being of the people.

The question has now turned into a statement: the people want Grant Station.

More Cars…


Rod and his Box Chev


On Saturday July 17th, 2010 I spent the day riding shot gun with the big homies Rod, Reg, and Benardo. The trio rode back to to back through the town in their candy painted Box Chevys… this is how we rolled….

Reg's Ride


We ended up attending the informal Saturday car show at Treasure Island in San Francisco. Mustangs, Camaros, and Old School cars of all kinds were in the building.

Benardo and his ride...


Check out this video of all the fly cars…


…and then, of course, the boys showed what their toys could do…

This Camaro got kicked up a lil dirt while spinning doughnuts and getting sideways...Video


…and this Camaro and Mustang duked it out in a drag race…Video


…this train of thought is just a lil sumn to let you know i love cars… again.


100 Spokes