I didn't know what to expect at the Police Commission Board meeting, April 10, 2008, but what I encountered wasn't what I'd expected. As a friend, Hubert Collins stated, "I want to see the police man who pulled the trigger!" I thought we'd have a hearing and evidence would be presented, like the disputed toy gun, the assault rifle, witnesses. Nothing like that happened, but the Commission did allow Casper's friends, family and supporters to testify. They expressed condolences to the family and friends and observed a moment of silence. I thought them genuinely compassionate. And if they didn't know Casper Banjo before, they certainly know him now and feel the tremendous loss his murder is to the Oakland community.
The testimony about Casper to the Commission just emphasized what a great light was extinguished when our brother was killed. A star fell from the sky and today I feel the heaviness of darkness--I've been stumbling all day trying to stay on my feet.
A friend told me to be strong. Sometimes strength is not what one needs to make it to the other side of the day.
Here is another space in the universe no one will ever fill. I left feeling emptiness...I'm tired of spaces opening up which we were unprepared for. Death is natural, but murder is not. Death is a transition and happens over time...each day we all die a little. Organically, after birth--the one high point in our lives, the rest is downhill. Perhaps this is the lesson of gravity (what a word)--its heavy and then it's light. Gravity is groundedness in truth.
Violent death for a calm, softly spoken man, gentle presence is wrong and unfair, just as Martin King's murder was. I'm feeling sad, very sad. Tears are streaming down my cheeks, my nose needs blowing....I felt this way yesterday. I'm feeling the weight of the collective loss, the weight of our people. I didn't speak. I listened and watched the panel and Casper's friends among them: Akili and her little boy, Ache; Leroy Moore, founder of DAMO , Safi wa Narobi, who is also a member of the Disablities Commission for the City of Oakland and member of DAMO; Tomye, artist; Mesha, founder of the Idriss Stelley Foundation, members of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, as well as Casper's adult nephew, KPFA, Freedom Socialist Party, World Can't Wait, Cop Watch, Justice4GaryKingJr. About 30 people were present and not all spoke.
The Commission has 96 open cases, not that all of them were murders. I wonder if this is a slow year or if so many open cases is normal?
I think the Police Review Commission should automatically investigate all police murders--police are public servants, so when a servant kills its master then something must be wrong, really wrong and citizens need to know why it happened whether the immediate family or circle of friends demands it or not.
Casper should have been telling stories about his life. He certainly would have had a captive audience. We need a space to share idea and histories before yet another light is extinguished forever. I found it ironic that it was a day after Paul Robeson's 110 birthday and a day past the opening reception for the exhibition. Robeson, a man who used his art for fight for justice would be saddened by our loss.
This exhibit is up through the end of the month, and is an abbreviated version of the AAMLO's multimedia exhibition curated by Rick Moss a few years ago.
Photo credit: Wanda Sabir. Note: All photos were taken inside or outside hearing cha bers 4/10/2008