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.
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.