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.
A white former transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform in an encounter that set off days of rioting in the city.
Prosecutors had wanted Johannes Mehserle convicted of murdering 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot once in the back as he lay face-down.
The jury’s conviction on the lesser charge raised concerns of a repeat of the unrest that followed the shooting on New Year’s Day in 2009. – KRON-TV
What happened to Grant is every black family’s worst nightmare for their children — especially their sons — in a country where racial profiling and police brutality of black folks is rampant and still unchecked. Being hassled by the cops for driving while black or in Grant’s case, breathing while black is almost a rite of passage for young black men. It usually happens somewhere in the neighborhood of 14-25. In my brother’s case, he was with a friend as a 16 year old just driving to another friend’s house when he was pulled over by a cop in our quiet Washington DC suburb, accused randomly & without cause of stealing the car and found himself facedown in a large intersection with a gun pointed at his head. It’s said here in the Bay Area that Oscar Grant’s mom actually encouraged him to ride the subway New Year’s Eve — because she thought it would be safer. There’s not a black mother in the United States, no matter your socioeconomic or educational level, who does not look at Oscar Grant’s mother and say — there but for the grace of God…goes I. – Jack & Jill Politics
I head down 14th street towards Webster… and that’s as far as i get. A couple blocks further down, the crowd looms, and its a riot crowd. i can smell something burning, and Broadway is obscured with smoke that could be the source of the smell, or tear gas. A metal hulk slowly rolls out of a backlit cloud of smoke. it is a paramilitary tank with a mounted water cannon. Is this my neighborhood?
It is really easy to think of Oakland as the home of side shows, The Black Panthers, the spiritual seat of pimp mythology. It is easy to think of Oakland as San Francisco’s pathologized other. However, there is a very strong thread of Wild Wild West street justice that permeates the culture of Oakland. A shoot first and maybe ask questions later steelo that is both reflected in how the police and how the hood resorts to violence to deal with rage and retribution. Furthermore, there is a shoot first and ask questions later attitude associated with American foreign policy. Operation Iraqi Freedom anyone? Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World