This degree is a license to learn and a platform to teach. I’m excited to see what comes next…
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:
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/
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.
Check out this video of this 5’4 homie getting stooooopid on the hoop court:
And on the topic of evolution/ hoops/ and making media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-OZI0-LhuQ&feature=related
Like the great Kings, Queens, and Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, I too look to the animal kingdom for vision, clarity, and spiritual guidance.
The unblinking eye of the Egyptian Cobra is symbol for omniscience- all knowing. For one to be all knowing, one must be all seeing.
… When I was initially told of the unblinking eye of the Egyptian Cobra I was in Senegal (West Africa), where I was documenting scientists working on rain fall levels and hurricane formation in the sub-sahara desert region. They had a lot to do. My one assignment: take pictures. Naturally, my eyes started tearing up; overwhelmingly so. To the point I couldn’t see where I was walking, let alone take pics. I purchased some glasses and a bigger hat. It took a day or two to adjust to the West Afriacn sun- but once I did… awwwww mannn I was taking pics everywhere!
I eventually went to an R&B show, where a well known singer (who I choose not to name) was performing. He saw that I was taking photos and video. He stopped his entire show. Took my camera. And continued to play. He eventually gave my camera back at the end of the show ( around 3 or 4 am), but during the time he had my camera… oh mannn… I mean mugged him for every single second. I wanted my camera back. My determination wouldn’t allow me to blink. All I remember thinking: the Egyptian Cobra doesn’t blink.
With that said, when it comes to vision- I often think how our African ancestors ( and personal past experiences), and how they have lead me to look toward the animal kingdom for vision.
Be it the lions in Washington DC’s zoo- and how they look toward the sun in the afternoon. Or the pelicans by Lake Merritt in Oakland, Ca- and how they scope their prey while yards away, only to swan-dive into the water in pursuit of a meal…
OH… another GREAT animal to mention in relation to vision/ spiritual guidance: the gecko.
The gecko can grow it’s tail back ( it covers it’s own ass)
The gecko has toes that can stick to most surfaces (it doesn’t slip)
The gecko cleans it’s eyes by licking them. ( Never be thirsty. Never be blinded. )
A young man once came to his father, and asked: “why do men fall short of their goals?”
His father replied,
“It would take some time for a young mind such as your’s to soak it up through your ears, orifices… your pores…
the game that it takes to understand the concept of a man in an orb formed to where he sees nothing more than his own world…(Shakes his head back & forth)…
… that’s a Ouija board…
….being possessed by prospects of what you wish to caress… hold. Obsessed…No.
… I’d rather explain Santa Claus, good Lord!”
The young boy didn’t oblige… didn’t applaud… na… he wanted to know: “Pops, how could any man in this world have a plan and fall short?
How is that possible? With the strength of his word… and the faith of the Lord?”
His father saw the determination in his eyes…
He put his whiskey to the side…
… told the young man to have a seat adjacent to him,
upon sitting, he told him something that he would tell him once and never tell him again
“all men do not ascribe to the same rules in life…”
(he stopped 4 a minute or 2… then he continued…)
“But there is one rule above all.. you can call it a ‘man law’…..wait… na… It’s a universal law…
Have a goal, work towards it… Every 24 hours the world orbits
the solar force that causes nature to grow…
So what are you sitting still for?
Get outta my seat. Go.
Toward your goals…”
One time, an OG Told Me: “We’re not getting older, we’re getting better.”
It made me think…
In life, there is beauty in growing old, why would I want to die young?
In America, why are we glorifying young death and degrading becoming an elder?
In Black America, If they don’t have fathers- where are they getting guidance about manhood from?
In manhood … WAIT … how did I get here?
At 24, I find myself in this strange world called, “manhood”, you might have heard of it… but … not all of my homies made it, some of them never even heard of it.
So, once again I ask: How did I make it to manhood?
As a young man growing up in Oakland, Ca … I followed the OG’s. Religiously.
Their way of talking, thinking, breathing, and blinking… I studied that. Vigorously.
As an 80’s baby, growing up in urban America, surprisingly enough: I wasn’t the only one without a father. Eight of my friends were fatherless too. In turn, we came together as a brotherhood; a fraternal support group. This is sometimes called a gang, a posse, or a clique… na, we were just boys becoming men.
We would pick-up small insight into manhood ( i.e. ideas on approaching women, how to make money double, or even something as essential as: how to fight); we would bring that back to the boys and share the newly acquired knowledge.
From this, I quilted together my concept of manhood.
Through this photo essay, I wanted to recreate that quilt; and show the world my version going from boyhood to manhood.
I call it: OG Told Me.
The project takes the phenomenon that I’ve encountered throughout the process of growing up, and documents it- so now babies of the millennium can find concepts about manhood where they hang out: the internet.
A basic photo essay: head shots of elder Black men, with the addition of clever-wisdom laced quotes. This photo essay is not just documenting elders, no-it’s bridging the gap between generations. It’s giving young men an idea of what they might look like at a later date, and it’s … giving me insight to the problems that plague the black community.
I found a number of the issues that plague Black men in society through my OG told Me project:
– Lack of accountability.
– Communication issues.
– Self destruction.
– Total disregard for another man’s dream…
– Lack of critical thinking.
– Idle time.
Through this same project, I also found some of the blessings that are found in Black men in society…
– Deep beliefs.
– A way of life that is unobserved by others- yet seen everyday: the invisible man.
-The natural occurrence of a rights of passage in the Black community.
The biggest conundrum I found myself facing during this year-long project: Finding the purpose of life…
All around the world people are living for two things: to get older and to get smarter.
This is survival. Basic survival.
However, where I grew up, people are living for two things: to get money and … to get money.
In result, our illusionary pursuit of money results not in getting older and getting smarter- no, it results in us dying young and dumb.
This is not survival. This is basic.
The aging process should be appreciated. It’s the beauty of life.
I haven’t made it all the way-I’m still growing, learning, aging- or as the OG told me, “getting better.”
And I’m enjoying every step of the way.
… And that is why I created this photo essay.
Now the question remains:
what exactly were those lessons that I was taught as I was growing from a boy to a man?
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?
Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z recently came together to make yet another classic Hip-Hop track titled “I wanna Rock” (remix). Jay-Z’s entire verse is an ode to some of the influences in the rap game. It got me to thinking: what are other songs that are Ode’s to Hip-Hop/ music that I have to make note of….here’s the list:
(**there are two or three songs that the lovely people at youtube.com decided to make “Embedding disabled by request”…therefore you might have to click the link and watch them on youtube instead of this blog- thanks capitalism, you’ve done wonders for Hip-Hop)
To kick things off, I’d like to call on Erykah Badu, who is arguably the nicest female Emcee in history, but happens to be defined as an R&B/ neo-soul artist. I love this video, as it depicts Hip-Hop’s entire time line. From the block with donkey ropes and Addidas to the current world of corporate Hip-Hop, where white audiences reign supreme. The video is full of cameos: MC Lyte, Kool Herc, Chuck D, Common, and the legendary b-boy breaker Crazy Legs…check 1-2-1-2..check it out.
And while we’re on the topic of Badu, you gotta throw this one in there Erykah Badu’s “The Healer”…just because she dedicates it to J. Dilla, the late great producer…and she says “Hip-Hop…its bigger than the government.” And it is.
This next 1, might have flown under a couple of folks radars…but this is special to me: I used to this on repeat when I was about 10 or 11 years old…and at that time, you had to listen to the whole song, and rewind the tape in order to listen to it agian.
R.I.P. Freeky Tah
Eric Sermon’s “Just Like Music” This is a refreshing track, made by a legendary emcee and is a great example of the power of sample; using the legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye’s vocals.
R.I.P. Marvin Gaye
Afrika Bambaataa’s track…it’s a prerequisite to breing a hip-hop head… you don’t know this. Hip-Hop Don’t know you!
Dead Prez’s Hip-Hop…this is the power of Hip-Hop in terms of revolt against media control. This is motivation music; when this song comes on in my headphones, I have to hold myself back from doing push-ups…cause doing push-ups on the metro train is a little too gangsta for the majority of society.
Speaking of gangsta, you can’t more gangsta than NWA.The group’s resurgence in the late 90’s brought about this track…it wasn’t an ode to hip-hop as much it was “chin-check” of the so-called gangsta rappers of the day. Just a lil something to say “Hello”, and let the word know who started this Gansta shit: West side!!!
R.I.P. Easy- E.
Keeping it in the hood… One of my favorite’s and probably one of the most underated tracks in the history of Ode’s to Hip-Hop, not only was this song slept on by many, but I even slept on the video was looked over too! with appearances from Bun-B, Devin the Dude, and Scarface; Cleveland artist Ray Cash’s “Bumpin my Music” had to make the list…
Since we’re in the South now, we have to mention Outkast. They are the greatest Hip-Hop duo in the history of mankind. period. And with their artistry combined with Slick Rick’s aura, the song “art of story telling” is an ode to Hip-Hop’s basic purpose… a way for people without a voice to rhythmically tell their own story.
With the amount of life the last artists have put into the game, its hard to imagine Hip-Hop ever needing a tombstone…But Queens emcee Nasir Jones begged to differ. Nas’ “Hip-Hop is Dead” wasn’t an ode to Hip-Hop, it was more of an obituary… But it has it’s place on the list, for: if you love something, you should forever be critical of it.
Seemingly in response to Nas’ claim that Hip-Hop had met its death date, a slew of young artist popped up with lyrical insight and a breath of new life into Hip-Hop. One of the most notable new artist on the scene is kid from Chicago by the name of Lupe. This track is not only a dedication to slain rapper from New Orleans, Soldier Slim, but a dedication to many young men and women who find life in beat breaks, fresh hooks, and clever punch-lines.
Lupe Fiasco’s “Hip- Hop save my life.”
And last but not least… the all time classic: Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Horay”…the original dedication to Hip-Hop.
Hope yall enjoyed this… R.I.P. to BIG and 2PAC, a number of other artist…And in the words of Eric B. and Rakim:
“what happened to peace?…oh yeah: PEACE!”
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.
Yea, It’s not a game.
He fought for Love. He fought for peace. He fought to uplifting Christ. And he fought to take down racism… But in the end Dr. King knew it was all about the allotment of resources in America.
His famous, “I Have a Dream” Speech, could have easily went down in history as the “Bounced Check ” speech. He spoke of America’s failure to include African-American’s into the greater society post-slavery. He acknowledged African-American’s role in the disenfranchisement, as many passively accepted what was given.
And now, 42 years after Dr. King’s assassination we have been given a National holiday in celebration of his birthday, and a Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in every major US city.
Every Martin Luther King Jr. Ave I have ever been fortunate enough to bare witness to runs through the most economically downtrodden part of the city.
I decided to take a walk down Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in the Nation’s Capitol, and this is what I saw…
Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in South East Washington D.C. is a main artery through a predominantly African-American community. The area is in the transitional phase; the dilapidated structures of yesteryear still loom as a reminder of the 1968 riots after King’s death, the influence of crack cocaine in the 1980’s, and the economic turmoil that has plagued many Black communities since their creation- and through the current recession America is facing.
And like Every Black community in America, there were check cashing stores, liquor stores, heaps of trash in the street and graffiti on the walls
But right next to the graffiti was something that started to open my eyes to the depth of the spirit present in the Anacostia community….
Fittingly enough, while attempting to take a shot of the church, another dominant force in the community conveniently intervened in my photo…
But the governing bodies are also taking initiatives to aid the community…
I don’t doubt the necessity for government aid in the Black community, but nothing trumps knowledge of self and knowledge of the land in which you reside. And in the community of South East Washington, D.C. there are numerous reminders of how fertile those grounds are, and how deep Black roots run through here said grounds.
And most of all… the words and image of Dr. King himself
On January 15th 2010 Dr. King would have been 81 years of age. To his memory, I give my respect.