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.”
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.
I had a shitty academic week, so I took it out on the hoop court on Friday night.
And then I wrote about it.
(I showered first.)
It’s the tempo of basketball:
the freestyle-the jazz-the avante garde method of thinking-acting-and-reacting.
That’s what I love about the game.
I’m 5’5 and to be honest- that doesn’t really work to my advantage on the hoop court. But I’m quick, I have good vision, and above all: I think really well on my toes. I adapt.
In the classroom- during discussions- I’m usually in the middle of the discussion- throwing out my insight. Another example of thinking on my toes. But when it comes to reading a 20-page affidavit in one sitting, writing an 800 word article in ninety minutes, or sifting through the shit-loads of emails we get sent daily… it takes a totally different method of thinking:
Thinking on your heels- (if you will).
It takes time. And seeing growth from time invested is a wonderful thing.
Through my experience thus far in the classrooms of Cal Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, I’ve grown.
Clarification: I’ve grown = I’ve made mistakes… but those mistakes have been my lessons. My ability to spell, write, and take notes have hit a j-curve. My comprehension of English has grown to the point that I’m now understanding Spanish better, un poco. My eye for details in the world has increased my ability to dress…
(I got a compliment on my fashion from a cute girl the other day- go figure?)
… And this is only the first month.
Yeah, there’s nothing like growth through time invested.
I bought a basketball a little less than 3 months ago- I play quite regularly.
I mean, I suck. But I’m getting better.
I like to hoop by myself with my headphones on- early in the morning, it gets the blood flowing. I also hoop with my homies- I hoop with random homies…
Last weekend, I hooped with my ten year-old niece… she made more consecutive shots than I did.
(She was in the key, I was shooting from 3) … (That’s an attempt to cover my own ass).
When my niece made a couple of shots- I saw her face light-up. And that’s why I like to hoop… There are few greater joys in life than seeing that damn ball drop into the net: swishhhhhhhhh….
It’s an instant confidence builder. It’s a manifestation of one’s desperate attempt to calculate the trajectory of a leather-wrapped inflated object, through air, and into a metal cylinder… A cylinder that is only twice its size in circumference.
It’s all that intelligent shit… and it’s also Jim Jones’, slightly less intellectually-stimulating-statement of: “Baaaaaaaaallllllllllin,” which is a reference to financial success- and is shown through a hand gesture which originates from the follow through of a made jump shot.
Yeah: made shots- writing- my niece- the hoop court- the classroom…financial success.
Gotta make my shots.
Alright… that was a good post game press conference, I’ll leave ya’ll on this note.
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.
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:
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?
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.
As the month of February comes to a close…. I thought it would be fitting to have four tracks for the 4 weeks that are Black History month…I could have chosen a number of tracks…but these are the 4 tracks that have influenced me the most this month.
Cee-Lo “White Boy’s Plan”
Nas “Can’t Stop Us Now”
Nas and Damien Marley “As We Enter”
and as we march into the month of March…. this is the message we need to hear: ” they said my future was dark…look at me now….I’m beaming…”-Lupe
When life begins, you are but a fetus in the womb. The doctor holds a stethoscope up to your mother’s belly, and the sound of your heartbeat is the first significant sign of life.
And from that point on, you should listen to your own heartbeat… but we don’t.
Instead, we listen to the overwhelming influential thoughts of our cognitive brain. Damn that influential brain! And how you could you blame humans for listening to our brains- for starters look at the location. It’s conveniently lodged between a human being’s ears…ears which are receptors to every audible influence outside of the dog whistle!
The worst part of listening to your brain as opposed to your heart is
the myth about how much brain humans actually use. There are results on the internet saying humans use 10% and there are some saying humans use 90%…whatever the case- if you listen to your heart- then your heart works 100%.
And when the heart doesn’t work 100%…or rather enter into a cardiac arrest, there is little hope for the continuance of life outside of a tiny given time frame…while on the other hand, a human being can be
in a vegetative state for years- brain-dead to the world, but so as
long as that heart is pumping: there is hope!
So the body without a heart is hopeless…
Morbid? Yeah, kind of unsettling to bring thoughts of mortality into a
piece about true love, but it makes sense…the 1st thing that
signifies our lives- is what should lead our lives. And as a point of
clarification- when I speak of “listening to your heart”, I’m not speaking
of the after effects of an adrenaline rush when your pulse is pumping like pistons…. and I’m not talking about that one time you got some bad weed and you got really high and you could hear your heart
beat…na, I’m speaking of pursuing only things that bring you true
fulfillment in this world: listening to your heart.
Look, I’ll bring it home… You ever wondered why people ware a wedding ring on the left ring finger?
yeah, so did I- and then I found this video…
…And that sealed the deal: You can listen to what you want to- I’m going to listen to my heart…
Snoop Dogg’s new video “Gangsta Luv” f. The Dream is a funny ass video, and watching it has sent me on a mission: where does Gangsta love come from?
I mean, LL Cool J was “hard”, until he showed his vulnerability, let his guard down, and dropped the classic single, “I Need Love“. But then again, LL wasn’t exactly “gangsta”…I needed to do more research…
So I started with
Snoop- Dizzle, since he inspired this train of thought…I thought he might
have a track for this train to run on. The classic Snoop Dogg Love video in my eyes is “Losin Control”, I heard this in 7th grade, and to this day its
But being from Northern California, there is a quintessential gangsta love song that says it all, Mac Mall’s “Wide Open”
And then Master P. had his run, so I had to see what Percy Miller could bring in to the table in reference to gangsta love…
Master P F. Mia X
“thinkin about you”
And of course, when we speak of gangsta love, we have to talk about the tragic side…here are a couple of songs that have the tragedy of a Shakespearean sonnet…and the reality of John Singleton movie.
The Losty Boyz: Renee…. If you don’t know about this, then sit back and soak
B.I.G’s “me and my bitch”. This song is classic, not only because Christopher Wallace paints the tragedy blatantly, but this song is sampled by a song that pops up later in this list..which means without this song, another song would not have existed.
this is a write in because: 1. its an R&b SONG (KINDA) and 2. now that I watch the video…its kinda corny… TQ’s “bye bye baby”
Eve’s “Love is Blind”…this is “gangsta love”…not only love between man and woman, but the gangsta things a woman would do fer her friend. I respect it.
And while on the topic of Eve, although she did drop a song titled “Gangster Love” f. Alicia Keys, I don’t believe there was a more “gangsta love song” from her than her classic track “gotta man”…with that said, I gotta let it rock:
while we are on the topic of Ruff Ryder’s influence on “gangsta Love”…I wouldn’t dare pass up DMX’s “How its goin down”
50 Cent’s 21 questions has its place in the world of gangsta love… And
although his gangsta is questioned in real life, the way 50 used the music industry was definitely gangsta.
While we are on the topic of questioning people’s real life gangsta… Lil Wayne’s
“Youngin Blues”, the cold part is, one day, this will be “ole folks music” for late 80’s babies…
Alright- enough with the tragedy- enough with the fake gangstas…lets keep it real. When we talk about love, we have to talk about the things you will do for
love- Bobby Caldwell’s “Do For Love” is perfect compliment to Tupac’s eloquent lyrical expression of defining this phenomenon of “gangsta love”of which I choose to speak.
I FOUD IT! the definition of gangsta love… a sample of Notrius B.I.G’s lyrics
“we ride together, cry together, I swear to God: I hope we fuckin die together” plus the soul sound of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terell “You’re all I need to get by“…all refurbished into a form that went directly to the heart of mid-90’s Hip-Hop heads: Method Man and Mary J. Blidge,”All I need (to get by)”.
This shit is gangsta.
Gangsta love is fighting for love with the same passion that you would fight someone from the opposing turf, click, set, or in the broad sense- the other side. Makes sense to me: you fight for love- cause the opposing side is hate- what gangsta doesnt fight against hate?
Before this blog, my writings would go into these composition books. I have accumulated exactly 30 note books (rap books) and I have never lost 1..I believe that the basis of all good writing is poetry, and now that I’m writing in many other forms- I’d be a fool to forget where it originated. Every so often, I’ll post a poem or two. some old, some new. …and that line sounded like Dr. Sues. hahahah anyway
No need to go in order, I’ll just post it as I see fit…
Today’s entry is from November 11th 2008.
(posted tonight because of a chain of events in my life and tonights State of the Union speech. enjoy.)
Leaders and Followers.
Angel’s halos hang around aimless gangstas
and God watches over single mothers as they strip naked
however 12 demonic spirits make decisions that put Black men in prison
and the preacher teaches that there is 1 God who looks over this world we live in
so why do we have to go to your church to bare witness
players prayers answered on faulty cell phones
dropped calls- resorts in dial tones
while kids at home all alone roll up bible paper with cush
forever disabled stuck on the sofa cushion
the pope and Bush, the Dhali lama, Muslims Jihad-ing, and genocided from Darfur to Rawanda- mo problems than just Obama can conquer
we need benevolent mobbsters
need single moma’s to pop-lock-and drop it- straight to parent teacher’s conferences..
the game is follow the leader, the question is: who do the leaders follow?
In middle school, I hated free lunch. You know how embarrassing it was to stand in that line? I don’t… Cause, I never stood in it. I’d sit and be hungry before I ate free lunch.
In high school, I hated going to the store with the foodstamp card, you know how embarrassing it is to whip out that colorful EBT card in-front of a store full of people? I don’t -I’d wait for everyone to walk out of the store before I made my purchase.
And now that I’m in college. The stage in life where everybody is struggling. I find the hardest thing in the world is to ask for financial assistance.
This is the classic example of having so much pride that I’m not willing to compromise my morals for money.
And this boggles the mind…
Is it an extension of the same middle school and high school shame?
Is it a Black folks thing- where we only brag of wealth, and shamefully hide our short comings?
Is it a man thing- where societal gender roles say: Pendarvis, you’re a man now, and your role in society is to protect and provide; and since you can’t provide for yourself, you must protect yourself…and your self-esteem?
This is deeper than the grumbles of my stomach on the late night. This more emotional than the frustration I feel as I try to call my family back home…and my phone is cut off.
This is the battle between morals and pride when your money gets tight.
Thursday night, my hunger caused me to swallow my pride: I asked a co-worker and long time friend, Jeremy Odoffin, if I could have a micro-wave TV dinner tonight cause I couldn’t afford to buy anything to eat.
On the first floor of the college dormitory in which we work, we sat and talked over the freshly microwaved blessing brought to me by Marie Calender.
Jeremy said, “At a point, you have to sit and question- What is it about society that put you into a position where compromising your morals is the only means to survival?”
I sat. I questioned.
what is it?
Why did I not eat free lunch in middle school? Why was I ashamed to use food stamps in High School? Why am I still ashamed to ask for a TV dinner in college?
I am a man.
haven’t I seen that slogan somewhere before?
The civil rights movement! thats right!
They had so much Black Pride that they collectively decided not to compromise their morals.
Many African-American’s took to the streets baring signs that read: I AM A MAN. Simultaneously, King’s Dream and Malcolm’s speech were about holding America accountable to the freedom promised to all citizens as defined by the US Constitution.
I should be able to wake up in the morning and be able to pursue my true happiness uninhibited by the societal requirements for survival…the societal requirements that cause many men to sale dope and rob innocent citizens…the societal requirements that cause many women to strip and prostitute…the societal requirements that cause many people to throw their morals out of the door when their money gets low.
When it boils down to it, I’m not going to sale dope to my community in order to eat tonight. I’ve been there, and I’m never going back. I’m not going to drive around women so they can dance for money, and give me a small percentage in order to pay my phone bill. I’ve been there, and I’m not going back. And I’m not going to plot on the pockets of intoxicated individuals who have more money than I. I’ve been there, and I’m not going back. I’m not going to compromise my morals and I take pride in that.
Ironic, some might this piece as a man calling out for help, and truthfully there is a touch of that present in my prose. But more evident than my need for financial assistance, is my need to see my self as a self-sufficient man.
In closing: I find it funny how, when I don’t NEED something, but want to see if I can get it for free, it starts off as a game: “can I use my words to get this or that” is the concept… and if I don’t get it, it’s kind of humiliating and humbling all in one. But when I sincerely NEED something and want to see if I can get it for free, it starts from a place of slight humiliation and complete humility…but when I don’t get it …its not a game.
There are things in my life I need to correct, what they are-we’ll get to that when the time is right, but for now, I question: What is change?
I’ve always asked myself: who was right? Sam Cooke or Tupac Shakur?
Both died at a young age. Both were amazing musicians. And both were Black men with a message about change.
Sam Cooke’s “A Change is gonna come” has resonated off the walls of every Southern Baptist church in the bible belt of America, and beyond.
While Tupac’s “Changes” has influenced the world over, and recently made the Roman Catholicism headlines as it was added to the Pope’s playlist.
Both speak on the topic of change, but Cooke’s spiritual optimism versus Tupac’s reality check have always left me asking…change? WHAT’S THAT?
In my eyes, people change one of two ways: they change by choice…or they change by force.
When I think about Change, I initially think of the juxtaposition between Sam Cooke’s spiritual optimism versus Tupac’s reality check. Wondering to myself if Change is possible?
And then I look to stories that exemplify change: The story of Moses in the Bible- a murderer turned leader, the story of Malcolm X- a street hustler turned community vanguard, and most of all…I think of the story of John Coltrane.
Mr. Coltrane was one of the greatest jazz musicians to ever live, but he wouldn’t have dawned that title if it wasn’t for his DECISION to change.
Coltrane, a young acclaimed musician, known for playing jazz that was “ahead of his time”, became engulfed in the heroin epidemic of inner city America circa the mid 1900’s. His addiction deteriorated relationships with both his wife and his business partners (Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and others), and caused Coltrane to make that change…
the story goes that Coltrane locked himself in a room in Philadelphia, Pa. He fed himself nothing but bread and water. His rehab process eventually crossed paths with the process of spiritual enlightenment. Even if by choice, change is far from an easy process. Coltrane periodically kicked his habit, but it was his moments of clarity that brought about some of the most transcendental jazz music the word has ever known. Coltrane’s effort to reinvent himself showed through production of many classics, but my favorite, “A Love Supreme”, has been my motivation to kick some the habitual actions that have been keeping me from reaching my highest potential.
With this said, I’ll leave this post with two Coltrane qutoes:
“You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.”- John Coltrane.
I just think thats clever… And the next one, well it’s all about change.
“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.”- John Coltrane.