She Spat In My Face

She spat in my face.

It was a mist. It caught everything from my left ear to the left side of my lip.

Random white woman spit.

Racism exists… 

I left the store, and hopped on my bike with a 6-pack of beer and a plan. I did upwards of 20mph in the bike lane on Grand Ave in Oakland’s Adams Point Neighborhood; 6-pack in my right hand. Focused on getting to the house party and not dropping the beer.

A college classmate, D’Auria Henry was waiting on me about a block away from the house party we were set to attend. When I got to D’Auria’s car she hopped out and noticed I had on my Howard University sweatshirt. She said she doesn’t travel without hers, reached into the car and grabbed her garment. After grabbing the threads from her car, she reached in again to grab a dish of banana a pudding that she had prepared for the potluck/ party we were set to attend.

As she reached in the car, a white lady– 5’6 with matted black hair and a backpack, came walking past. The lady said, “I’ll throw a flower at you!” As she announced her action, she stayed true to her word. She tossed a flower in D’Auria’s direction. I saw it all happen. Didn’t flinch. I laughed– or better yet: I silently chucked and smirked.

The lady continued toward me.

I stood on the street-side of the sidewalk, straddling my bike. The lady walked on the building side of the sidewalk.

There was enough room on the concrete for her, or any normal person to walk by. A sizable amount of space didn’t prove to be enough. As she crossed my path, she waited until she was completely adjacent to me. Left side. Further than my arm’s reach, but close enough for the stretch of saliva.

She spat on me. 

I don’t remember the obscenity she said as she did it. I’ll never forget the shock hitting my stomach, nor the spit hitting my face. I was frozen. She took another step. She was now on my blindside, almost completely behind me.

I turned away from her. Toward the street. Still straddling my bike and holding my beer in my right hand.

I turned 180º. Not thinking. Reacting. I reeled around and launched my 6-pack of beer like a discus towards her. She was now about two or three steps past me.

My backwards frisbee toss of a 6-pack of beer connected. It hit her left side–gently. And then the entire case crashed to the concrete. Shards of glass and beer suds scattered.

Broken beer bottles
Broken beer bottles

That wasn’t sufficient. I dropped my bike.

I started after her. Taking took two or three steps in her direction “You spat in my fucking face!!!” I was yelling. I don’t yell often. When I do: I YELL!

She looked back at me, as her body gained momentum in the opposing direction.

Going from a walk, to a light jog and then a full run– she looked back at me and said: “You’re a fucking racist!”

I stopped. Right then and there: I was guilty.

I was guilty of being a racist. Assault with a deadly weapon. Armed robbery. Attempted homicide, kidnap, rape… whatever she wanted to throw at me.

If an officer had rolled around that corner at that very moment, it is very likely that I would have been arrested. If not shot.

She spat in my face. It hit my ear, my cheek … my lip.

I didn’t see it coming . Didn’t provoke it.

I was just straddling my bike. Headed to a party on a Saturday night:

In pursuit of my happiness.

… And then she spat on me. 

But I was racist.

I went back, grabbed my bike, used my undershirt to wipe my face; but I couldn’t wipe away the thoughts.

In many ways, African American culture is a reaction to being spit on. Many aspects of Black culture, both good and bad, are a direct reaction to the predicament we have been placed in as a people.

That Howard sweatshirt. That soul food dish. They are symbolic of African Americans getting disrespected, and then reacting in a way that is beneficial to us (and the larger society).

My violent reaction and vulgar language were an example of  what it means to be disrespected, and then reacting in a way that is detrimental to myself (and the larger society, maybe).

(Maybe it benefits the larger society if I choose the detrimental route… hmmmm…)

This combined with the stories I’ve been reading and writing about all summer: Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. Alameda County Probation and San Quentin Prison. Homicides of old ladies and little babies. It’s like turning on the TV or looking at a movie screen and getting spit on. And then walking outside and getting spit on.

We have to choose how to react.   

Racism is only a belief. Racism is only a belief.

Racism is only a belief… until it manifests in the streets.

D’Auria lightheartedly said, “that crazy white lady wasn’t that crazy: she was smart enough to run!”

We laughed it off, purchased some replacement beer from Whole Foods and started toward the party. Passing back over the scene of the crime, I stopped to kick the shattered glass off the sidewalk and into the street. A Caucasian couple walked past. The lady of the duo thanked me for cleaning up the neighborhood. I laughed silently,told the couple to have a good evening, and then took off to my destination.

Just before D’Auria and I entered the house party, she looked down on the pavement: she found $60 folded on the ground. We split it.

My beer money was restored, and so was my understanding of racism.

God bless America.  

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Living The Dream

He said his patnas called him “Pops” for short.

He got off the bus in North Oakland. At the drug store on 51st and Telegraph. I was left to think back on the conversation we just had:  the racial makeup of West Virginia,  the land that the United States owns under the Pacific Ocean and how plastic Black and Mild cigar tips will leave you with foul smelling breath—wooden tips don’t do that shit.

He walked onto the bus in some busted brown boots. I was staring at the center plate that connects the two portions of AC Transit’s double busses. Hypnotized– the boots caught my eye as I stared at the ground like it was staring back at me. I broke from my thoughts of graduate school projects, thesis statements on OG’s, the fact that Peter Nicks had just told Spencer Whitney and myself, “HU – YOU KNOW”,  plus the footage of Marlon Brando I had just seen… (“Meeting Marlon Brando” = Great film)

A poster at a cafe in Oakland on Telegraph Ave... A cafe conveniently named Telegraph. (I found it while writing there one day... I took a pic and digitally altered the display.)
A poster I found a while ago at a cafe in Oakland on Telegraph Ave… A cafe conveniently named Telegraph.                                                              (I took a pic and digitally altered that shit.)

 

Mind blowing — this reoocuring dream just manifested, yet again. Another rendition of OG TOLD ME. An OG, just a shooting the breeze about how paying your tax dollars means that you should be able to go to the mountains to escape the madness of the city. While on the back of the bus.

He said he was going home to his lady, and that means he had a good day.

we laughed. I shook his hand. He told me his real name and his nickname.

I committed his nickname to memory… But that was it.

I didn’t take a photo. Didn’t take down a (real) name. Didn’t introduce myself as a journalist– just a young homie named “Pen”.

But I did take mental note… 

UC Berkeley Essay: Reporting on Oscar Grant.

UCB ID.
UCB ID.

Damn! It’s already the second month of the second semester… The 1st semester flew by. I mean, I made friends. I wrote. A lot. And of course: I partied… a little bit.

Ok, 1st semester highlights:

1. I learned.

2. I produced.

( My favorite pieces:

A story on Bay Area journalist and mentor of mines, Kevin Weston, and his bout with Lukemia : http://oaklandnorth.net/2012/11/30/bay-area-journalist-kevin-westons-fight-against-rare-cancer/

A story about a teacher named martel Price and his battle with disciplining his students … and himself.: http://oaklandnorth.net/2013/01/10/one-oakland-teachers-lesson-on-discipline/

And the rest of my pieces:

http://oaklandnorth.net/author/pendarvis-harshaw/

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.

Happy belated birthday Oscar Grant, here is my latest article: http://oaklandnorth.net/2013/02/12/oscar-grant-family-reaches-out-to-mother-of-kenneth-harding/

President Barack Obama Comes To Oakland.

Hello Mr. President
Hello Mr. President. Welcome to Oakland.

One glimpse of the police motorcade, and I flashed back to my DC days …

As a student at Howard University, I spent five years in the Nation’s capital. A Presidential parade was nothing new to me. Although the eyes of the Nation were focused on my hometown, I was more concerned with simply going home.

I closed my books and came out of Oakland’s main library: Hungry. Frustrated. Feeling pissed. Plus I had to piss…

“If all these badge rockin’ overseers (officers) weren’t around- I’d water this shrub.” I remember thinking to myself as I copped a squat next to a bush.  The police wouldn’t let me cross the street; they told me that the President would be passing in ten minutes… My thoughts began to race, so I held my bladder, and blasted off a couple of tweets:

  “If i pass this class, I can save myself. If I save myself, I can save my people”

 “… No matter what the President does… “

“(I’m sitting next to a bush, tweeting… surrounded by policemen.)”

….

If I pass this test I can graduate undergrad. If I graduate undergrad, I can start grad school. When I finish grad school, as a professional journalist with a teacher’s degree, I will be able to access and allocate resources that we all can use to better our community.

In the grand scheme of things the, Presidential election does matter. I know it does.

Do I have any voice in that matter- honestly, I don’t know. I know- 1 vote, 1 person. I know the electoral college. I know that large “Political Action Committees” are BIG sponsors of campaigns. I also understand that there is a lot that I don’t know.

I understand that there is a Black man in the most powerful office of all of the land… I understand that very clearly…

But I’ve only seen that via media. And I don’t always believe the media… especially media about the government.

In person, I’ve seen some things:

In September of 2008, I was in Denver for the Democratic National Convention.

In November of 2008 when the news was announced that Senator Obama had been elected as President of the United States of America, I was on Howard University’s campus in Washington DC.

I was even in Nation’s Capital on the frosty morning of January 20, 2009 during the inaugural celebration of America’s first African-American President.

I saw it. I didn’t understand it. But I saw it.

I didn’t vote in the 2008 election… I know, I know…

I support the image of a Black man in the Oval Office, it speaks volumes as to how far this country has come. But the politics behind it- I still question. I figure I fall into the fray, full of Black folks who feel the same way; untrusting of our government. Untrusting is an understatement…

Look man, I’m coming from Oakland, Ca. A place where people have seen the underhandedness of local governing bodies time and time again. In the past four years- we’ve seen blatant dirt on the hands of the State (CA budget) , the City (Police), and even the Transit cops (Oscar Grant). To think that the Federal Government- will do something to better the situation in our Oakland neighborhood is behooving, farfetched, and unrealistic to many of us out here.

Well, recently… the Federal Government has done SOMETHING to aid the city The NY Times ranked as “the World’s 5th best tourist attraction of 2012”…

On the same morning that the Federal forces made a move to close Oakland’s famed medical marijuana college… a mass shooting occurred at Oikos University, a small Christian school located in East Oakland. Unfortunately fittingly.

There are people in this city struggling to make ends meet, losing lives to gun violence  (with both policemen and black/brown men behind the trigger), and people who have been scarred by the woes of the world. These are the people who don’t trust in the government. On any level.

The 99%er movement, which swept the Nation in October/ November of 2011, took to a different feel here in Oakland. Protesters of all backgrounds combined forces and claimed residency right under Oakland’s main tree- in the center of the city. The local governing officials didn’t take too kind it’s new neighbors, and eventually gave them an eviction notice… in the form of a sunrise police raid. The raid set off a domino effect of rebellious actions on the part of the people- and eventually ended with many reports condemning the City of Oakland’s approach to the Occupy situation.

The remnants of this movement are still felt locally, as spray paint still adorns the side local businesses and the grass on the City of Oakland lawn is still patchy and brown. Nationally, the Occupy Movement in Oakland is still ringing bells, hence this NY Times Article published on Aug 1st, 2012.

President Obama’s late July appearance in Oakland was greeted by protesters… per usual. Many of the protesters were fighting global injustices, federal wrong-doings, and for the legalization of medical marijuana… And  some protesters were just out there to protest, as many do in this city.

While protesters, fans, and police motorcades focused on President Obama being in town, three notable events occurred in Oakland:

1. An investigation was ongoing after a weekend shooting in East Oakland left a 5-year old girl in the hospital.

2. A two-day incident, which initially began as a high speed chase and eventually concluded in a house in East Oakland where a standoff between armed men and police lasted 12 hours.

3. The family of Alan Blueford, a teenager who was shot by OPD, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Blueford was killed on May 6th. The officer who shot, also shot himself in the foot. The officer’s name has not been released, neither has Blueford’s autopsy records. Therefore, the family cannot move forward with this case.

These are the problems that haunt this town. Local issues. These are the issues I find myself concerned with. Local issues … not National issues.

The people of my city are children who have been hurt by miscellaneous happenings, sisters who have been scarred by society, and people… hurt people.

Just imagine: If cured, what wonders could these people do to change society?

One week after President Obama’s visit to Oakland, an article about the nature and nurture of Black men in Oakland was published in a local newspaper. The very next day, the NY Times again chose to shine light on America’s new tourist attraction: Oakland, Ca.

How can we open our doors to the world, if our house isn’t clean?

What is the significance of President Obama leaving the white house, to come to a town where Black and Brown people die in the street- before and after he leaves?

I’ve done a little research; now, I’m sure I could stand to do some more, but this is what I’ve concluded:

 I- a young man who watched the 2008 Presidential election process with a lazy eye, a young man who has watched the little (if any) “change” in my local neighborhood with a hawk’s eye, and a young man who is going to the University of California’s graduate school of journalism this fall… I have a responsibility.

Outside of individual donors, the University of California Berkeley was noted as the biggest contributor to Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, and the Golden Bears are among the leading contributors to President Obama’s 2012 campaign thus far.

I need to pay more attention to the connection between the local issues and the federal/ National implications of these issues…For my voice does matter.

And, if I can take it upon myself to broaden my focus, I’m sure the people in power locally can take their mind off of federal/ national issues to deal with hometown matters.

I’d be willing to make a deal.

My curbside treehouse was prime real estate for these ruminations. I emerged from my thoughts just in time to take a photo of the Presidential parade as they made their way through the East Bay.

Ten minutes passed, Presidential Lincolns passed. Remaining true to their word- the officers then said I could pass. I went home, urinated, and studied some more. I’ve got a class to pass.

Accountable, Accounting Bull.

Accounting

 

The basic accounting equation:

Assets = Credits + Stock Holder’s Equity.

 

My basic accounting equation:

A passing grade in Accounting = enough credits + Me holding a degree for my education.

 

A passing grade in accounting is the only thing between me and my bachelors degree from Howard University.

 

Long story short:

  1. I studied Telecommunications Management… which requires students to minor in business… thus: I didn’t sign up for this.
  2. I failed accounting. Multiple times.
  3. I didn’t graduate, instead I returned to Oakland 1 class short of a degree.
  4. I’m currently taking the class online… Thus: I will get my degree.

 

Accounting
Accounting

 

Short Story Long:

 

I could charge my accounting shortcomings to the fact that the class requires students to purchase a 180-dollar book and a separate 40-dollar online access code in order to do their homework. Or I could charge it to the fact that I got jumped and robbed for 30 dollars, my phone, my favorite leather coat, and a backpack which held an accounting book that I had borrowed. (And that happened while I was coming from accounting tutoring!) … The real reason I’ve failed accounting multiple times: I have no interest in accounting.

But, the story is deeper than that…

It was Mr. Smith’s 8th grade Algebra class- that was the first place I had ever had a negative experience in the world of mathematics.

Due to my compulsive socializing, I failed Mr. Smith’s class. In turn- Mr. Smith felt so inclined to tell me that I wouldn’t make it. In life.

 

My next step in life: A college prep high school, where it became glaringly obvious that I wasn’t prepped for high school.

 

My reading and arithmetic were sub par; my writing was awesome, but my handwriting was awful. All of these attributes hold true to this day.

 

This day- Early December- sitting here with an accounting book on my hip- copiously taking notes with my illegible handwriting… one class away from graduating, and thus proving Mr. Smith wrong…  how’d I get here?

 

Welp…

 

During my junior year in college, I signed up for the class. By homecoming, and I withdrew on account of the workload being greater than I could bare at that time, especially homecoming weekend. The spring semester proved to be a bit slower than the fall, so I took the class once again: same result. I withdrew right after spring break, citing my workload to still be too heavy. I took the class one last time at Howard University- fall of 2010… and that’s when it got real bad. I couldn’t afford the book, so I fell behind in the class. I finally found a book to borrow, and after coming from a late night tutoring session… I got robbed. For my back-pack. Which held inside the accounting textbook, which I had borrowed from a classmate.

 

That took the cake … but the icing :

 

 

Last year. It was coming down to the end of the semester- I could still have passed, all I had to do was ace the final two tests. I was in the information laboratory- studying as if the answers to life could be found between the pages of this accounting book. (This one was loaned to me for free by the accounting department from their stock pile surplus of books…. I digress. )

My studies slowed. I hit a wall. And then I began to socialize… I ended up chopping it up with a young man who once resided in a dormitory where I was the Resident Assistant; one of my lil brothers. After establishing that we were both in this accounting class, I opened up:

 

… I told the young man I was studying accounting and struggling. He told me that he understood accounting and could assist me… and then he told me that both of his parents are CPA’s for fortune 500 companies. …

damn.

 

My mother worked as a janitor to put me through school.

I left Howard University after fall of 2010… headed back to my hometown… with my head down.

Fall 2010 was the worst semester ever: I lost a longtime girlfriend, I lost my chance at graduating on time, I even lost some real estate on my hairline.

 

I couldn’t take another loss.

 

I came back to Oakland and worked odd jobs: moving boxes, freelance journalism, anything to keep me active and off my moms couch.

I ended up teaching, and succeeding at it. Funny enough, I ended up teaching at a high school where Mr. Smith works- you should have seen the look on his face when I pulled him aside. I had to remind him of something he told me, something that I would never forget: that I wouldn’t make it. In life.

At this point- I’ve painted myself into this role as an educator/media maker , and a career path is slowly opening… I’m considering grad school: Masters in Media arts? Ph.D in education?

Either way, I need to get my undergraduate degree first….

 

When it boils down to it- I’m no future CPA, hell- I still count the dots on the dominoes before I play my hand. I’m better at letters than numbers. After all, there are only 26 letters- numbers are infinite. And out of the numerous words in my vocabulary, the one word that stands out: accountability.

The ability to be accountable to something… in this case… the something is accounting.

 

Peace.

“Black Youth Rises From the Ashes”

August 5, 2011 The Oakland Post ran this article:

(http://content.postnewsgroup.com/?p=14170 )

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!)

Pen Point: All Over The Map. (part 1.)

I’m on the East Coast as I write this;  in Richmond, Va where it’s mid 70’s and sunny in the hood… 

 “over on the East end, in the projects.” hanging out with a friend I’ve known since I was twelve.

 I really believe in that quote, that went something like:  “at the end of the day the wealthiest man is not the man who has the dollar he started with, but the man who has the friends he started with”…( or something to that accord ). 

I’m finally getting a second to sit down after about four days of non-stop moving through Washington DC. I’m out here on the East Coast for seven more days…

I’m currently on the East Coast serving a number of purposes…

1. I have 31 notebooks and an African walking staff located in the 5th floor closet in Drew Hall on Howard’s campus… those are my prized possessions. I must send those back to Oakland.

2. speak to the good people in Howard University’s school of Communications and School of Business to reassure that when I take this remaining accounting class this upcoming Summer that I will indeed graduate… eventually.

3.Visit family and friends! … … let’s see how many places I can go and people I can see! 

(I already put a dent into my “to do” list this past weekend, we hit everything from bbq’s to concerts, and a couple of bars in-between. I saw  a lot of my people in the District and on Howard’s campus, and met a lot of new faces… good times.)

Philly's own, Young Chris at Howard's Spring Fest

 

the view from over DJ Chubb E. Swagg's Shoulder
 
 
O. Munoz and Freako .. chillin.

 
 

Q-Tip and Phife Dog once uttered the classic call and response: ” you on point Tip? “… “all the time Phife”…

I can relate. I’ve been on point as of late… Working, Constantly.

I teach ( a 9th grade, a Life Skills class for young men) and I do freelance journalism (focusing on a project “ OG Told Me” where I interview elders in the community) . In-between the two, I ride my bike and take pictures.

I’m back home from college and really working, and it’s a very fulfilling thing… but it’s not always fun.

This week is Spring Break for the high schools in Oakland … CANNON BALL!!!

It reminds me of a story…

you ever jumped out of a swimming pool, dipped into a hot tub, and then jumped back into the swimming pool?

That sensation is a form of shock therapy. An elderly lady once told me about it in Hawaii… Sitting in a hot tub with an elderly lady

in Hawaii is part of a totally different story about traveling…. I digress point being:

 It’s that shock sensation when you go from one extreme to the other that causes you to remember you are alive…

I’ve been in the Bay’s waters getting active, and this Spring Break- I decided to jump into the major cities of the East Coast … the way

the cities are circled by the freeway’s that end in “95” on the East Coast is almost like small hot tubs on the map, and the weather is getting hot… maybe forced, but I find that analogy applicable. 

none the less, I’ve never taken a real “Spring Break” while in college. I went to New Orleans to assist in the rebuilding process in ’07, and other than that I stayed on campus during spring break, working as a resident assistant.

This year, I had to take a break from the work that I was doing- change things up, and remind myself that I’m living … jump out of the pool and into the hot tub!

with that said, I feel like Tribe Called Quest:  “Award Tour ”   http://youtu.be/Qapou-3-fM8 :

…. DC, Richmond, NY…. Maryland, San Fran…Oaktown.

Oscar Grant’s Family at Howard University

Uncle Bobby speaks of his nephew Oscar Grant's passing, and how it relates to concepts discussed in the "Willie Lynch Letter".

Thursday, September 16th 2010- Washington DC’s Howard University’s freshman dormitory, Charles R. Drew Hall played host to the “People vs. Police” panel discussion about police brutality and what it has done to our community.  The case of Oscar Grant in Oakland, Ca served as the central focus of the discussion, as the Howard University community opened it’s doors to Oscar Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson and vocal leader and Oscar Grant supporter Minister Keith Muhammad.

Minister Keith Muhammad re-accounting the entire Oscar Grant situation.

50-60 students poured into the freshman dormitory lounge and attentively listened as Minister Muhammad eloquently recapped the happenings concerning Oscar Grant; dating back to the fatal morning of New Years 2009. He touched on the candle light vigils, the uprisings by Oakland citizens, and the conduct of the elected officials in our community .  He concluded in bringing this case home: “this happened to Oscar Grant yesterday, and could happen to any one of us tomorrow”.

After a round of applause for the Minister’s oral chronological recap of the Grant case, Minister Muhammad brought forth Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson  to a warm applause as well.

Uncle Bobby spoke of the connection between Oscar Grant’s case and the historical document known as the Willie Lynch letter. He highlighted the portion of the letter that spoke of a slave owner beating a male slave in front of other male slaves so as to make an example out of him. This is what oscar Grant’s death was… an example. On tape for the world to see.

Uncle Bobby did his best to speak progressively about the matter; highlighting the upcoming dates of October 23rd and November 5th. On October 23rd the workers at the port of Oakland will strike in support of Oscar Grant’s cause. The longshoremen  have historically supported communities that have been affected by police brutality, as they too have had a member of their community fall victim due to police brutality. And November 5th is the date that the sentencing for this trial is set.

Uncle Bobby concluded in stating that cases such as the Oscar Grant Case, and nameless other cases that have been caught on tape, need to be used as evidence in the court of law as a tool to combat malpractices by the officers of our communities.

The meeting ended with the attendees compiling an email list for individuals who were interested in writing a letter to the judge in the Oscar Grant case.

As I left and reflected on the night that was, I was a bit preturbed that the turnout was only 50-60 people strong. But,  as the fact that we sat and watched a landmark case that deals with the current state of society on so many levels, race, class, and technology… I realized our success: a mixed class of young African-American students just sat in a room- and hardly a finger texted or tweeted while the guest speakers presented.

Uncle Bobby, Minister Muhammed, and myself all hoped to spread the word about combating police brutality in the lower income communities, and at Howard University, on this night the word was received.

From One Drum.

“How many different drum patterns do you think there are?”,  A talented producer and good friend, Jamon Dru of “The Whole Shabang” production team once asked me; I still don’t have an answer…

Jamon Dru isn’t the person you’d find burning incense, studying books on Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, and playing a Congo while ironing his Kente cloth. Actually, your more likely to catch him producing tracks for the Bay Area’s top artist. He has produced tracks for D. Lo, Beeda Weeda, and many others; recently he composed the beat for the Messy Marv track “7 seconds flat“. And even though Jamon Dru makes beats for West Coast gangsta rap, I’d bet my favorite dashiki, that even he would agree: no matter how many different drum patterns there are, they all tell a story- a story of the African Diaspora.

On the other side of the African Diaspora is talented artist and good friend, Messiah Ramkissoon of “Royal Alliance Music Group”.  The Trinidadian artist, with the Brooklyn background and Howard University education, is a true word smith. And it shows in his craft. The highlight of his resume: 3-time Apollo winner. But this isn’t about the accolades, this is about the African Diaspora connecting through one drum. Messiah recently did a song which was crowned the winner of the Sudanese’s government’s political action competition in effort to get citizens to participate in voting in the first Democratic election in 24 years.

Messiah worked with Cheb YaCine , Al-SadProxy, Langa and video producer Nas Jota, as emcees from the states to Sudan came together for this political track titled B Sotoka (With Your Vote).

The intercontinental connection between artist within the African Diaspora is nothing new. The collaborative efforts between the Washingtonian emcee with Nigerian lineage we know as Wale, and the Somalian spitter they call K’naan has been a breath of fresh air. Wale and K’naan have done shows together, and the duo also have two collaborative songs, ” TV on The Radio” and “Um Ricka“, both songs are more than worth the listen.

Speaking of “worth the listen”, a small portion of the world is awaiting the May 18th release of the “Distant Relatives” project by Queens, NY artist Nasir “Nas” Jones, and one of the heirs to the Marley throne out of Trenchtown, Damian Marley. The highly anticipated Nas and Damien Marley album are both examples of the musical connection taking place in the African Diaspora in current popular music. Here is a dope interview by Hard Knock TV on the “Distant Relatives” project.

I listened to the tracks by Messiah, K’Naan, J-Stalin, and Damian Marley over and over, trying to answer the initial question posed to me Jamon Dru. I figured four different artists from different parts of the world would have different sounding drums. That thought didn’t last too long… not only do the drums sound alike, but the subject matter is identical : guns, drugs, jail, war, capitalism, AIDS, and the concept of “race” are just a few things that are ever-present in the African Diaspora.

In the end, Jamon Dru’s question was probably a joke or a riddle… there is infinite number of possible drum patterns… but there is no doubt that they all tell 1 story: the story of the African diaspora.

The Ticket.

A conglomerate of my homeboys brought their selected  talents together like they were the Super Friends or something,  and created a short movie about a “Ticket” that will keep you on edge for all 15 minutes.

“grrrrab yo tickect”- Goodie Mobb

Cameron Moore (director), Charles Turner (score), Glen Jones (soundtrack), Joe Davis (actor), John Prince (actor), and Devin Parish (actor), came together to make a twisted depiction of the classic tale: money is the root of evil.

The finished product is a dope 15 minute student film, like I’ve said, but I think the most impressive part was seeing the behind the scenes work. Seeing Cameron tote his laptop computer around like a high school quarterback does a playbook.  Seeing Charles focus intently on putting his compositions with Cameron’s edits. And seeing Glen (G-money) beat me in NBA 2K10 while simultaneously recording verses for the title track to the project. I have to applaud them. Well, not G- Money, I want a rematch…Na, in all seriousness, the song is good music. check it out, here is “The Tickect” by G-Money.

… and while your at it, watch the movie!

Here is a look at ” The Ticket” p. I

“The Ticket” p.II

Much respect, keep producing, keep growing yall.