At a time historically when conversation is for the most part a lost art, I am amazed that the only people talking are those trapped next to each other on flights or in prison cells on lockdown, or on sinking ships once the last lifeboat is filled. Conversation is not the penalty for isolation, but often it feels such.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Broadway San Jose's The Color Purple through Nov. 28, 2010
It's been 25 years since the film version of Alice Walker's The Color Purple opened to much controversy. Despite the controversy the story is one that is still read, watched and celebrated in many forms. Walker's story of a young woman, Celie and the brutality she suffers at the hands of first her father and then husband, Mister, is epic, yet, Celie finds love, a love present with her all the time.
This story of redemption and love is amazing, it is certainly an up from slavery story in every since, as Mister's father was formerly enslaved, his son, first generation free. Similar to how formerly incarcerated persons hit the ground running trying to make up for lost time, Old Mister feels the same way about life projected onto his son. He tells his son he doesn't have time to dream or fall in love; he doesn't have time to waste as black folks have to catch up economically, 400 years behind everyone else in accumulating wealth.
Mister's life, unhappy that it is, is testament to the fact that cliche though it may be, "money really can't buy happiness."
It is this tension and Mister or Albert's inability to stand up to his father that makes him bitter, and he takes this anger out on his family, his first wife and then Celie.
The brutality learned through conditioned response in slavery plays itself out here in the lives of both Mister and his son Harpo, who finds his true love in Sophia.
The stage production is the best introduction to the story for those who do not know the world of The Color Purple. In it, Alice Walker's work is given a visual and physical interpretation --Donald Byrd's choreography and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray, that is so electric second to the novel, and perhaps the biography, Alice Walker: A Life, by Evelyn C. White, it's mighty hard to match. In Alice Walker: A Life, White shows us an Alice Walker whose characters in The Color Purple are first met. We meet Walker's relatives who are the prototypes for "Mister," "Shug" and "Celie."
There is a context and a history Walker draws from in her fiction and The Color Purple, given its immediacy shows us how close to Africa we still are and how close we also are to slavery's legacy as a people and as a nation, especially when one looks at what happens to Sophia, Harpo's wife, a strong, independent black woman who exercises what she thinks are her rights as a citizen and learns she has no rights where white rule is the law.
Terrorism is not unknown to black people. I am reading a book now, Mare's War, by Tanita S. Davis, where "Mare" speaks about the racism in the ranks between white enlisted men and black soldiers, between white Red Cross workers and black enlisted women. Segregation was not even suspended during war time--crazy! And it drives people crazy, look at "Gabriel" in August Wilson's Fences and look at "Pa" or "Ol' Mister" in The Color Purple. To a certain extent, Pa, portrayed by D. Kevin Williams, is shell shocked by slavery and doesn't recover, but in Walker's tale there is hope, 'cause at the end of the story, "women are wearing the pants" (smile). The company song: "Miss Celie's Pants" with Celie, Shug Avery, Sophia and the women is a foot tapping show stopper.
Celie's song "I'm Here" speaks to the change that has to happen so that the black family and the black community can heal. Mister hears her, especially the way
Dayna Jarae Dantzler sings it. He is also afraid of the consequences, but so many characters in The Color Purple are afraid--yet, they work through those conflicts with faith.
Pam Trotter's "Sophia's" rendition of "Hell No!" with her sisters and the sweet duet, "Any Little Thing" with Harpo are other moments in the story where one can measure the transformation, a personal transformation that brings the character's then joy they so deserve.
And then there is the cast, those beautiful African American actors and actresses to literally transport audiences to a place we are hesitant to go, yet trust them enough to take their hands and go on a journey that has many of us pulling out the tissues, holding our sides from laughter, smiling often at the sweet moments between Shug Avery and Celie, and Celie and her sister Nettie.
The women carry this story and the San Jose starting with Dayna Jarae Dantzler's "Celie," Traci Allen's "Nettie," and Pam Trotter's "Shug," more capable hands couldn't have been found and what an appropriate or fitting story for Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 23-28, 2010. No it isn't a chick-play or musical, nor is it a male bashing free for all, which is how some people viewed the film without even seeing it or reading the book 25 years ago. I would advise folks to take heed and not to the same thing regarding Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls based on the book by Ntozake Shange.
Why are the stories getting a lot of play about black dysfunction and pain? Perhaps if we owned the medium of production these tales would not be what gets the most play, no matter how true, but ultimately, The Color Purple is a great story and it is not just a black story. It is a tragedy that happens in many communities, it's just portrayed here in black skin. This is also true with For Colored Girls, the "colored" was literal, Ntozake told me in a radio interview. She intended a multiracial cast which is how she produced it initially. How is ended up with just black women is an artistic choice of many subsequent directors.
Redemption is certainly an evergreen story and the presence of Sankofa at every turn as each character, especially these women, starting with Celie learn to use the past to inform their future decisions whether that is Celie realizing that most of her life was a response to someone's definition of who she was and what she was capable of or Shug's pain regarding her relationship to her father and Mister's cowardest regarding their love. Sophia speaks of the her love for Harpo, Mister's eldest son, portrayed by Lee Edward Colston II and how tired she is of fighting.
These three women reach back and grab the strength of their ancestors, also depicted symbolically in the scenes set in Africa where Nettie is working as a nanny for a black missionary family who has adopted two children.
At the end of the story when the cast sings the finale: The Color Purple, the audience is on its feet clapping and swaying.
This production is fantastic and I saw the San Francisco production twice. I'd go see this one again if someone gave me a ticket (smile). Visit www.broadwaysanjose.com for tickets. The cast has varied backgrounds and the synergy between the characters, my favorites after the three principles are the chorus: Church Lady "Doris," Church Lady "Darlene" and Church Lady "Jarene:" Nesha Ward, Virlinda Stanton, Deaun Parker. I also liked Allison Semmes's "Squeak," she is so funny with those skinny legs (smile). Girlfriend can sing too! In fact, the entire cast can blow: Edward C. Smith's "Mister," among those who have really memorable numbers. The male ensemble numbers, especially the scene "Big Dog," "Shug Avery is Coming to Town," and "African Homeland," among others.
I love the duet between Celie and Shug: "What about Love," and the solos: Celie's "Somebody Gonna Love You," Sophia's "The Color Purple," the company's "Miss Celie's Pants," and of course, Celie's triumphant "I'm Here." Pam Trotter's "Hell No!" is a classic rendition of this favorite. It's too bad with these traveling shows the only sound track is the initial Broadway one. The touring company certainly has much to recommend it and since I never saw the Broadway production, I want a copy of the soundtrack for the show I witnessed in San Jose and like the show in San Francisco, it isn't available.
This is another reason why folks need to get over to the lovely San Jose Civic Auditorium. I'd never been there before, pretty opulent (smile). It's not the Orpheum or the Paramount theatre for Art Deco fans, but for a new building. . . .
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Ted Pontiflet says farewell to Oakland
Ted Pontiflet is an Oakland icon. He is east coast swing meets west coast bop. Classy. The man is too smooth to be close to eighty. In his trademark cowry shell crown and custom made slacks, sweaters, a scarf, shades ... he's the artist whose work walks and talks; the more you look, the more you see, the more you hear.
Pontiflet's historic palate reaches back to Africa-his masks and FESTAC series of photos and montages create an interplay between the old and the new, ancient and modern--is it a mask, or a vase, or an altar, dried blood indicative of wide spread use, serious juju or power?
The artist said he likes the ambiguity; the topical nature of his work is supposed to illicit questions and uncertainly--
All is right with the world, and then, maybe not?
In a photo from James Baldwin's funeral-stunning work featuring: Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, David Dinkins, and others outside the church where Baldwin was laid to rest, one thinks on these things as We Insist: Freedom Now Suite makes fifty, Abbey Lincoln joining co-creator Max Roach in the celestial jam session earlier this year.
The art flew off staccato walls, as Pontiflet gave impromptu tours of his work which while lovely silent, sang even more beautifully once its creator shared its creation story with rapt audiences. Ted told me about the protagonist cased in my frame--Brother Jojo--dressed in kente robes--his capes flying in the multiple renditions of the man. Each drawing like a cartoon . . . flip the drawings fast and they move; however, without carousel, without shifting the eye, Ted's Kojo dances on canvas.
Pontiflet remarked how his subject dictates the medium, a concept which perplexed his graduate school adviser at Yale, but he left Ted alone and the artist produced the best show to date at that time: photography, painting, pen and ink, graphite, graphic design, mixed media--all tools Ted is intimately familiar with reflecting his fine arts education at California College of Arts and Crafts where he received a BFA in sculpting.
Saturday, November 20, all Ted's work looked pleased at the outcome as they hung out on the walls, scattered across table tops, in portfolios, or flip bins... all decked out in respective spectacular glory waiting for god to come along and write their song (smile), and he did. It's not often creation and creator interact in plain sight...such an intimate interaction externalized, yet we bore witness.
As the afternoon shifted into evening, Ted's granddaughter, Annalise, popping through to see grandfather's work--we had a lightning show as Ronnie Prosser's mellow jazz smoothed the rough edges of nightfall, softening raindrops' chill. All we needed was a fireplace--the O'Town Passions breaking into harmonies kind of spontaneously throughout the evening carried warm whispers and glad tidings-- all of a sudden the rain stopped. (O'Town hosts The New Year Eve 2010, America's United Black Press Sr. Ball Edutainment Awards TV Workshop, Friday, December 31, 2010, 6-10 PM at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street, Oakland.)
Sparkling cider flowed ... and conversation deepened as a few of us stood in a circle debating the connection between art and ethics, juxtaposed with music's ability to frame a period and dictate a community's response--or was it the reverse? Art articulated the reality, not shaped it?
Were we a cipher or a ring shout?
Take the notion of "cool jazz." James Reid, one of the Black Artist Quartet featuring Jimi Evins, Ronnie Prosser and of course Ted Pontiflet, spoke of how one never wanted to lose one's cool, let another person see you lose your form. Jimi threw in Jonathan Butler, "the Ice Man" as a reference. How cool can you get? Right! Cool as ice. I remember my father saying, "Freeze on it," when he was through with a conversation.
And that was that.
I wondered aloud what music framed today's ethics: hip hop. Hip hop isn't "cool" though. It's hot--fiery hot, passionate, emotional. So when one's soundtrack is such, how does one keep the kettle on the stove from blowing its top?
There are lessons to be learned from being "cool," just as there are lessons to be learned from hip hop; however, if the only music one knows, if the only ethical or moral soundtrack one is aware of, is freestyle or undisciplined response to circumstances, then the legacy or the lessons learned when one looks at the history of black music the way one looks at the history of resistance and liberation struggles is lost in a succession of temporal moments of clarity quickly covered by fog or smog depending on location.
Is hard bop today's hip hop? Speed it up, then cool it down. Is Cool a way to handle getting beaten at the counters, when resistance was silent and internal pre-COINTELPRO?
What is great about the Oscar Grant Movement is its intergenerational aspect. There is a historic breath to the movement that ties in the past with the present. Most black kids, unless they are in a jazz band or a music program, know little to nothing about their musical history. How often did the "cool" as in Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool, keep young black men alive?
Who were the famous black painters of the time? Who was writing what? What films were in theatres? Who was deejaying?
Ronnie Prosser, who teaches at one of the independent black schools in Oakland, said he puts on different kinds of music and asks his students to paint or draw what the music makes them feel.
"Public Schools never educated our children," one of the brothers stated. When did the black parent begin to raise his or her child and how many see this as the gift that it is? How many black parents freely relinquish this gift to the former slave master in his new guise-- public education?
"A New Way Forward: Healing What's Hurting Black America," a sixty-member braintrust led by Susan L. Taylor, launches in Oakland, December 3-5, 2010, in Oakland with an inaugural evening reception at Preservation Park's Nile Hall, 6-9 PM. Presenters include Dr. Wade Nobles and Dr. Na'im Akbar, Dr. Shawn Ginwright, Dr.Joel P. Martin, Rev. Andriette Earl and Dereca Blackmon. The special evening will honor African American's history of resilience, share ANWF's mission, include a ceremony honoring community elders and feature a participatory activity designed to bridge the gap between youth and adults. A two day Inaugural Healing Retreat limited to 100-pre-registered participants follows, Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 4-5, 7 AM to 5 PM at Chaminade Resort and Spa in Santa Cruz. Retreat participants will commit to volunteering an hour a week with the children in local youth-support organizations served by Oakland Bay Area CARES. Participants will also receive an historic limited edition of the ANWF manual. Register at www.anwflaunch.eventbrite.com
Just the timing of the ANWF launch and initiative and this conversation, November 20, at Ted's art sale & party, shows how great minds are in tune.
We began to talk about post-traumatic slave syndrome and how we're going to heal as a community. James said he didn't see wellness coming from the church. We agreed that black people need competent therapists. Any time we have people asking "what did so and so do to get shot," we have a problem. Many black people asked this question when reflecting on the recent murder in front of Allen Temple and the shooting a week before on Trask as if the answer justified the loss of life.
James mentioned the sister, Shirley Sherrod, whose statement taken out of context regarding a white farmer who was about to lose his farm (by the way, she helped save it) forced her resignation from the Obama administration. What happened to "be cool"? What happened to giving a person the benefit of the doubt before stringing her up or nailing her to a cross? Yes, women are lynched too. This fallacious reasoning re: media sources as evidence, is so overused as to make it a questionable recourse for crucifixion, yet recently Juan Williams was strung up on similar evidence.
What happened to critical thinking? What happened to checking sources for bias?
Of course such tactics are intentional and are used to keep decent people out of public service, I am speaking specifically of Shirley Sherrod, USDA Agricultural official. No one seems to have anyone's back these days. A tricky aspect of cyber-communication is how it can disappear as if it never existed if one doesn't save a paper or hard copy.
James said Sherrod's father was lynched or was it her grandfather, yet despite a brutal family and cultural historic legacy where many black farmers lost their land, Ms. Sherrod acted equitably and helped a white man save his farm. Jimi mentioned how the people lynched who crusader Ida B. Wells chronicled to use as evidence to get this government to see lynching as a hate crime, were majority black middle class men with property and businesses. Lynching was used to intimidate and without legal support for those people targeted, it did.
I recalled the film, Banished, which looks at African American families run off their land, often late at night by mobs and vigilantes. The black families would be told that if they didn't leave before morning, they'd be killed. The film looks at a few families, one which is trying to get a family member's remains to be buried in a newer cemetery plot. The town refuses to let the black family have its ancestor's remains. The white families living on stolen land are not interested in giving it back either.
Early next year, we're going to have a series of conversations on ethics and art, and its combined effect on society on Wanda's Picks Radio Show. Jimi, Ronnie and James agreed that Oscar Grant was the most highly popularized public lynching of this century, just as the cholera genocide in Haiti is similar to the indigenous peoples infection with Smallpox contaminated blankets in the early days of European theft of these lands, now called the United States of America.
It is completely intentional.
Are there more black people killing other black people than police officers? If black people respected one another's lives, valued their own lives and that of their loved one more, then perhaps it might be easier for us to see ourselves as friends and allies or even victims rather than foes. Black folks need therapy to address the underlying reasons, many inaccessible directly, for the unresolved rage we live with daily that is killing us slowly.
After being on his feet from about 7 AM, at 8 PM Ted was still dancing to the music as he held a raffle, which surprisingly I was one of three winners. One of the party's hostesses, Lindah Martin, said "87" was a lucky number. I guess it was (smile).
James spoke about seeing Ted on Sunday morning at the Farmer's Market on Embarcadero, and how hip and cosmopolitan he was--shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, breads and cheese, for breakfast or brunch. He spoke of Ted's daily walks and Olympian swims at the local pool. In other words, King Ted looks good because he takes care of himself.
Oakland is going to miss Ted Pontiflet. The thugs who have taken over his building where other elders and disabled persons live in fear will miss him once they realize what they have lost. Oakland, home to a lot of great traditions and people and movements like the Sleeping Car Porters Union, C.L. Dellums, Elretha & Elmer Rashied, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Soul Beat, Chauncey Bailey and the California Voice, Sweet Jimmy's, California College of Arts and Crafts, McClymonds High School Alumni, Lionel Wilson, Black Business Expo and C. Diane Howell, the Oakland Post, Thomas Berkley, Alice Arts Center now Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts, and before that Everybody's Dance Company and between the two Citidance, Koncepts Cultural Gallery and Edsel Matthews--and Ted Pontiflet, a living legend.
I remember when I first met Ted, his James Baldwin series was opening at the Laney College Art Gallery. I love James Baldwin and it was so wonderful to see the breath of Ted's work on this literary and humanitarian master. At the reception were Ted's friends from his McClymond's high school days as well as the composer for one of Baldwin's plays turned into a film. The pianist lived in Alameda and after the exhibit started performing around town in several exclusive concerts.
Ted, after John Handy, another McClymond's High School alum, was a second opportunity to meet a famous artist who was willing to share his life with me and my kids, one, TaSin Yasmin Sabir, now a professional artist as well, who also attended Ted's alma mater CCAC or the California College of Arts and Crafts. She is class of 2004, her degree, a BFA in Fine Arts Photography. I recall one occasion visiting him when his beloved, P.J. was in town and she shared some of her writing with us--phenomenal!
Ted name drops like melting ice cream: Loretta Devine among others and he isn't bragging, these are his friends. Clearly in another league, I was content to just watch the beautiful people last night honor their friend. People asked me if I was okay and I was treading water, but staying afloat as I tried to hear everything and of course I couldn't (smile). My granddaughter, Brianna Amaya (7) was a great hanging buddy, as she and Ted hit it off. She drew him a going away banner for the front door, which was great especially when rain washed the board outside clean.
I thought, in retrospect, that it would have been great to have a camera recording the day and getting statements from those who dropped by especially those friends Ted hadn't seen in decades like former altar boy companions, both sporting canes. Someone really does need to make a film about Pontiflet: writer, artist, philosopher with a lens. However, those within hearing distance of this reflection please respond with your thoughts and well wishes for Ted before his sojourn.
Ted is a Juneteenth baby, June 19, born in Oakland, California. Ted holds a BFA from CCAC in sculpture. He then received a scholarship to Yale University of Art & Architecture, where he received a MFA in Painting. At Yale Ted also studied African American History and Literature, and was awarded honors in Creative Writing and received a travel grant to produce a photographic study of Ghana, West Africa. Part of the study was aired on "Like it Is," ABC-TV in New York City, hosted by Gil Noble. Among the collectors of his work are: Mr. & Mrs. Bill and Camille Cosby, Roberta Flack, Tom Feelings and playwright, P.J. Gibson.
Ted's art is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the State of New York's Private Collection at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Bldg. in Harlem, New York.
Ted's photography credits include the National Geographic, the Smithsonian and several textbooks. Two of his illustrations are included in the highly acclaimed 1992 publication of Erotique Noir--Black Erotica.
I remember when his Photographic Tribute, "The James Baldwin Series," was produced in July, 2004, by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. Ted's best buddy, the late Reginald Lockett, unofficial Poet Laureate of Oakland, California, told me about the gala event. I believe Opal Palmer Adisa was also there, a member of Daughters of Yam, with devorah major, former professor at CCAC, now CCA.
Highlighting the program was the celebration of the U.S. Post Office's issue of a Stamp in Baldwin's honor. John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City also exhibited "The James Baldwin Series" in October 2005.
I want to thank the other party organizers: Tureeda Mikell, Ronnie Prosser and Jimi Evins for their help and for all those who missed the marvelous sale and party, Ted is around until December 1 and then away he goes (smile). Thanks to Joyce Gordon for the use of the space 408 14th Street.
Check out February-March 2009, Wanda's Picks radio shows for the three interviews with the Black Artists Quartet: Ted Pontiflet, Jimi Evins, James Reid and Ronnie Prosser (smile). I rebroadcast the first episode Friday, November 19, 2010. Visit www.wandaspicks.com or www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks
Friday, November 19, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Oscar Grant Verdict Responses in Oakland
It took me most of the day to get out of East Oakland, so I arrived at the rally as it concluded, the citizens assembled marching down 14th Street towards Lake Merritt, breaking parked car windows as they shouted "No Justice No Peace . . ." fists raised, signs held up as police blocked Webster, Harrison, Franklin--the cross streets. One women was very upset that her vehicle's windshield was shattered. There was no need for the destruction of property. She said, she didn't have car insurance.
But people were angry. Perhaps a fund could be set up to compensate individuals like this woman.
I walked up to 14th and Broadway where more police were gathered in riot gear; many with high powered arsenal stood on all corners: blocking the BART elevator entrance where in front two musicians Marcus on drums and another man on sax, playing a powerful homage to the tragedy witnessed in California courts that afternoon.
Other police stood in front of Walgreens and they kept shifting as a unit, marching to various corners and then standing. Many police had cameras and took photos and video footage of the people assembled. I ran into Eesuu on his bike and we talked before my daughter and I walked down to Joyce Gordon Gallery for a reception.
After I left the Michael Platt and Carol Beane reception headed towards Berkeley on Telegraph, I asked a patron to walk me to my car on 13th Street and Alice, because the idea of walking past all the police assembled, rifled and in riot gear, was unnerving. It was like a scary Halloween flick, but those guns held real bullets.
So he walked to my car with me and as we walked, Martin spoke about the state's systematic targeting of black men and their removal from their families, and work he is doing to unravel this phenomena. He spoke about the many black men he counsels who would love to be with their children and how they played into the net that keeps them outside that structure. Black children are taken from their parents easily and placed in foster care, adopted out, and with Oscar Grant, killed with impunity-- the one responsible not unnamed or unidentified.
Eesuu called it a public lynching.
Driving down Telegraph on 17th Street there was a beautiful mural of Oscar with wings, Saint Oscar, the drawing taking up the entire wall, then across the street is a painting of Grant with his daughter and family. The humanizing aspect of the work and the outrage about his demise and the judicial systems support of this murder is not going away.
People were and are angry with the president, with the mayor and with the government over the injustice. Two years. It is as if the judge gave Mehserle as little time as he was permitted. People used as mules, for nonviolent crimes--often a first offense get more time.
There are so many women wasting away in prison for defending their lives against violent partners who have spent 15, 20, 30 years behind bars, while Mehserle, who was not threatened by Oscar Grant kills this young black man and walks. What does this say to all the other youth, especially those criminalized by the Alameda country DA Russo's Gang Injunction, now in Oakland's Fruitvale District?
In a press release received the following morning, Saturday, November 6, 2010, the Oakland Police Department "reports that 152 arrests were made with a majority arrested under California Penal Code Section 408. Of the 152 people arrested, 145 were adults and 7 were juveniles. More than one-third of those arrested reside outside of Oakland and included residents of Berkeley, Hayward, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and other California cities.
"The arrests came as the peaceful and organized protest ended and a small number of people marched into the streets and acted out in a riotous and violent manner including damaging private property and throwing rocks, bottles and missiles at law enforcement officers."
Members of the Mutual Aid Project, Nov. 5, 2010. Shot by Wanda Sabir
Friday, November 05, 2010
Mehserle is walking with just a two year sentence with credit for time served. Oscar's family walked out of the courtroom, but I'm certain they will be appealing. The judge ignored the gun enhancement stipulation.
One can only wonder, what is the lesson here, that if you are a black man murdered in front of numerous eye-witnesses the killer can walk? Nothing, if anything, has changed in the 500 years post the first landing of the ship carrying resistant Africans. It is this same resistance that needs to guide our actions today and tomorrow.
The United States is our country, but the democracy citizens are duly owed, does not apply to the majority population--black and brown people. If we don't even consider the rest of the country, California, the third largest state, the most populated and the world. "As of 2007, the gross state product (GSP) is about $1.812 trillion, the largest in the United States. California is responsible for 13 percent of the United States gross domestic product (GDP). As of 2006, California's GDP is larger than all but eight countries in the world (all but eleven countries by Purchasing Power Parity). California's unemployment rate exceeds 12%" (wikipedia).
California is a trendsetter in many ways, especially regarding police terrorism or violence, perhaps one of the reasons why Kamala Harris, City and County of San Francisco DA, is trailing in a tight race for State Attorney General office, but there is still hope. Visit http://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/attorney-general/
Thursday, November 04, 2010
OAKLAND REMEMBERS OSCAR
The ONYX Organizing Committee, the General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant and the New Years Movement host a Rally and Gathering to honor Oscar Grant and Respond to the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle. Live Art, Spoken Word, Speakers, Music and an altar erected to honor the memory of Oscar, Friday, November 5, 2010. Live Art from 2:00-4:00. Program from 4:00-7:00 at Oakland City Hall , 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612.
On Friday, November 5th, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle will be sentenced for the shooting death of Oscar Grant, III. Hundreds of concerned community members will gather together to respond to the sentencing and to honor Oscar.
“While many of us will undoubtedly be angry on that day, we will also take time out to honor the memory of Oscar Grant,” said Ann Weills, Attorney at Law. “Oscar ignited a movement across the entire nation and this movement will not stop with the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle. We will continue to build and to organize until the State understands that we will not lie down silently as they murder the people in cold blood.”
Oscar was not the first young man of color to be killed unjustly by police and sadly he hasn’t been the last. In the two years since Oscar was murdered, literally hundreds of young people of color have been murdered by law enforcement across the country. Most recently, James Leonard Davis, an unarmed, eighteen year old child was shot in the back by police in Los Angeles .
“Where is the accountability?” asked Cat Brooks, Co-Chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee. “The verdict was unjust so the sentence will be unjust. And we are angry about it. We are tired of burying our children and we are tired of the open season on black men in this country by police who are then returned to their families with a slap on the wrist.”
From the start of this case Michael Raines has portrayed Johannes Mehserle as an innocent victim of circumstance and not a murderer. Paying no attention to the racial slurs uttered before his death or the fact that Mehserle first held a Taser before putting it away and reaching for his gun. What is more, Judge Perry refused to allow Mehserle’s record into evidence so his pattern of violently assaulting men of color that culminated into Oscar’s murder was never revealed to the jury. Adding insult to injury, KTVU of Oakland recently aired a special profiling Mehserle in efforts to gain sympathy for him before his sentencing. These are signs of what many are anticipating: a lenient sentence for a murderer.
“Given the likely scenario that Mehserle will receive a light sentence, people are going to need a place to come together and be supported in their process,” said Rachel Jackson of the New Years Movement. “We hope people come and share their rage, frustration and pain and also their hope, ideas and passion for building a world where young men and women of color are no longer terrorized and assassinated by those who claim to be here to protect and serve.”