Find a hole. Go through it.

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

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

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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.

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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?)

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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.

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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.

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After jumping the gap, we slid down the hill.

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And that’s all it’s about.

Finding a hole. And going through it.

So others can follow your lead.

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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.

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RIP Willie Clay: Paying Homage 5 Years later.

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

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

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

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

The Homies…

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

The fuzz…

The Housing police soon closed on the festivities….

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

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

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

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

MLK Way in Oakland on MLK Day.

MLK Way. MLK Day. Photo Essay in O.A.K

MLK mural. MLK Way and Grand Ave. Oakland, Ca

Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland, Ca can speak … it speaks in sign language.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s name adorns street signs all throughout this nation; it’s a common sight to see streets named after the honorable Dr. King run through the heart of a community known for violence and criminal activity. The city of Oakland’s MLK Way follows suite, however Oakland’s street named in the civil rights leader’s honor also speaks to the injustice in the community.

The first street sign baring Dr. King’s name within the city’s limits is located on the corner of 61st and MLK. I focused my camera in the midst of the mist and the low fog, I captured the image of the sign, and then I noticed something more on the light pole…

The gang injunction post introduced me to a neighborhood where I would find burned houses and memorials for homicide victims…

I was three blocks into Oakland, and the three sights that I had seen thus far caused me to wonder what lay ahead of me on this track. The silence of my placid wondering was shattered as a three car Bart train whistled past.

Senior Center

I noticed a senior center …I wonder how many of the occupants of the senior center remember Dr. King alive, marching, and speaking his word?

I continued my march down MLK Way…

I took note of the words posted on the street poles, every image tagged on private property, and every piece of art mounted on the earthquake retrofitted concrete pillars which hold the Bart tracks suspended above the traffic.

The remnants of fliers for rallies spoke loudly on the topic of the city’s issues with the local police force.

The path of artistically articulated words and antiquated advertisements lead me out of North Oakland and to the front door step of West Oakland’s Marcus Garvey Bookstore.

As I marched on through West Oakland’s Ghost town neighborhood, the California sun began to break through the Bay’s foggy skies, and Oakland’s true color began to show…

I marched into Jack London Square and took this picture of the fog, the shipping crane looming in the distance, and the last Martin Luther King Jr. Way sign in Oakland.

The end of the line made for an anticlimactic ending, but the lack of climax was the calm before the sign of all signs…

I was running late for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day screening of the documentary, “Strange Fruit” put on by Oakland’s African-American library. Upon arrival I noticed a sign on a bus bench that made my entire trip come full circle;  it spoke to the state of Oakland, it spoke about Martin Luther King Jr, it spoke about the manifestation of “Strange Fruit” in our modern world … most importantly: the sign spoke…

"Police are modern slave catchers"

“Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is
determined by service. – Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

My NPR Piece on Oscar Grant.

(This audio piece and transcript was originally published at NPR.org by youthradio.org)

As part of NPR’s continuing coverage of the Oscar Grant trial, Youth Radio brings us this audio postcard — not from Los Angeles where the trial is happening, but from Oakland where the case began New Year’s Day in 2009. That’s when then-BART Transit officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed 22-year-old man. Last year, the city erupted with angry protests, some of them violent. And now that the officer’s trial is nearing a close in Los Angeles, Youth Radio’s Pendarvis Harshaw, an Oakland resident, traveled to three distinct spots throughout the city to ask how people are feeling about the case.

CLICK HERE to hear the story…

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128220858&ft=1&f=1091

Photo Essay: A Walk Down MLK Ave. in South East D.C. on MLK Day 2010

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…

Dr. King's Ave. in South East Washington DC

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.

vacant housebuilding frame.Historically Black Community: For Sale

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

check cashing storeLiquor store. Good Hope.trash heapStanton Crew

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….

Islam on the riseSheik

Islam was far from the only religion present, in fact the number of Baptist churches was comparable to the amount of corner stores…Baptist church signUnion Temple

Fittingly enough, while attempting to take a shot of the church, another dominant force in the community conveniently intervened in my photo…

Cops and God.

But the governing bodies are also taking initiatives to aid the community…

A Government Savior?the plan...

dept. of Housing.

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.

Malcolm X centerFrederick Douglass' houseClara Muhammad schoolThurgood MarshallBlack owned Fish spotPeaceBlack familyBig Chair

And most of all… the words and image of Dr. King himself

MLK mural

On January 15th 2010 Dr. King would have been 81 years of age. To his memory, I give my respect.