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)
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”.
(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!)
Hackensack, New Jersey representative and Howard University student, Tenn Stack’s celebrated his birthday January 16th, 2010 in true player fashion.
He rented out a posh French Bistro, managed to avoid “the politics” of the situation, and proceeded to have one of the most “wavy” parties he and his Swagg House Comrades have ever thrown.
For those unfamiliar with Tenn Stacks and the Swagg House (SWAGG= Survival with All God’s Grace) movement, here is is his first single “My Life at Howard”
A French Bistro played host to Swagg House event for the ages…and man, I don’t think the owners knew what they were in for…
Upon arrival…. I bumped into these scholarly goons….
But they were just as confused as i was….
This is where the “Swagg House” Party was supposed to be???
And then things slowly started clearing out…. But not before two bus loads of Howard Students arrived. As the impatient intoxicated students waited in the cold…. I figured, what the hell: make the most of it!
“girl, its a photo shoot”- Gucci Mayne
But of course…people can only be pacified by photos for so long and as the line grew… peoples temper grew too….
And then…. out of no where the man of the hour showed up!
And fittingly enough, the party was titled “Red Light District”…and all hell broke loose.
After a while… the glow sticks arrived…and the night got live…
but, when they made the move to let the glow sticks rain on the folks downstairs….some asshole photographer decided to leave his dead batteries in the pile… I know someone got hit with a double A battery last night….
Nonetheless, when they did make it rain…it was a light show….
And when the red lights came out…. the temperature rose!!!! It was so hot, my camera lens fogged up!
so, I decided to write a special shout out to my bruh Tenn Stacks on the front door….and then I got the hell of out the sweat box before I passed out!
And in the end…. Swagg House got it in. I wish best of Luck to Tenn and the Swagg House conglomerate…look for them to be making moves in the new year,including the upcoming re-shoot of “My Life at Howard”…. oh, and as for Tenn Himself…. this is photographic evidence that the young man enjoyed himself….