By Guest Contributor Eric Arnold, cross-posted from Colorlines
I am hip-hop!—KRS-One
I am Oscar Grant!—anonymous graffiti
As the Oscar Grant saga has played out over the past 22 months, the Bay Area hip-hop community—a multi-ethnic, multi-generational coalition of musicians, visual artists, activists, students and ‘hood kids—has stood at the forefront of the movement to hold police accountable for his death. Within a day of the New Year’s morning 2009 shooting, Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. and singer Jennifer Johns recorded a tribute song, which addressed not only the shooting, but the larger issue of violent deaths of young black men at the hands of police.
Over the past months, F.A.B. and Johns’ initial response has grown in the hip-hop world to encompass rallies, benefit concerts, panel discussions and lectures, spoken word ciphers, blog and vlog posts, even bike rides in honor of Grant’s memory. When former transit cop Johannes Mehserle’s trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles, youth activists and organizers in L.A. picketed daily in front of the courthouse. It’s not a stretch to say that Grant has become the Lil’ Bobby Hutton of his generation—a young black man, killed by a police bullet, who has become representative of a larger struggle for self-determination.