“…pooters in the front, dustyfoot motherfuckers started tearin’ shit up…”
I’m starting to get angry again as accounts roll in. Angry that the media is focusing more on the riot than the rally. Angry that again, folks who’s intentions were more on pointless destruction, than about the injustice, fucked shit up. What comes after you smash in everyone’s windshields?
DJ fflood was there in Downtown Oakland, here’s his personal account:
Wednesday, Jan 7th. Oscar Grant Protest/Riots, Downtown Oakland
The news about how Oscar Grant was killed by the police weighed heavily on me, and the video footage looped in my head.
after wheeling my records home from my gig, i wash my face and call a taxi.
i walk outside to wait, and the sky is buzzing with helicopters.
(at 10:33pm, it still is… i can see searchlights crawl over the Tribune building)
my head is turned skyward, approximating the helicopters to be somewhere by the lake.
maybe by International.
an older black man stops and says
“They protestin’ Oscar Grant you know.”
i tell him that’s where i want to go.
“This ain’t nothin new you know, cops killing black people.
They usually say that the man was resisting arrest or sumpn.
This one just got caught.”
I nod in agreement.
The taxi pulls up, i recognize the driver from lifts to dj gigs.
i greet him and smile, and then look upwards.
looking back at him, i say
“could you follow the helicopters?”
and we’re off.
for a moment i enjoy the fact that i just asked a taxi to follow helicopters.
we talk, he shares his outrage, shakes his head in grief.
soon, we are at a police blockade, and i can see the crowd swelling behind them.
we pull over, i pay and tip the driver.
he looks me in the eyes.
“Thank you. Be safe.”
I walk past the blockade without interference.
i approach the crowd
they are chanting
i join in.
and i light my white seven day candle
in its glass sleeve.
soon, i see people i know.
there are smiles and hugs,
and also shaking of heads.
There are Korean drummers beating out poongmul rhythms, lots of bicyclists, huge banners indicting killer cops, bullhorns shouting chants of No Justice, No Peace.
i notice that the crowd is mixed, but with a lot of white folks.
some young white kids are in full black with hoodies and bandanas covering their faces.
One is carrying a black flag.
Black Bloc. “Anarchists.”
They keep trying to set fire to stuff, and others keep trying to put em out.
i feel anger because i know that the media will racialize the unrest to not look like these suburbanites who use protests as an excuse to smash stuff. Not very radical seeming to me.
We converge on the BART Police station.
A police car is in the middle of the road.
The chants turn into
No Justice No Peace, Fuck The Police!
Some of us look at each other, not chanting.
Then the rocks started being thrown.
And then someone was jumping on the police car.
And then a dumpster was on fire.
And then the dumpster was pushed towards the now rocking police car, as people attempted to turn it over.
I am starting to buzz with adrenaline. I reach for my face towel, awaiting what had to be inevitable. I looked around to see if i could see them-
There they were. Riot cops blocking off one street walking towards the intersection.
I started backing away, and seconds later came the tear gas.
I only smelled a little of it thanks to my towel, and i was far enough for it not to get in my eyes.
I am still holding my candle.
I am the only one holding a candle.
I feel strangely out of place
and also that this is the most important place for me to be
with a lone candle.
even police have been smiling and nodding at me.
somehow, this candle has transformed me from being
a racially profiled target
into the one person that maybe they aren’t so worried about.
more kids show up, i am also no longer sure who is genuinely angry, and who is just ready to wreck shit.
trash cans are pulled into the road, cars are now being walked and stomped on.
as a protestor, and not a rioter, i figure its now time to go home.
i text friends letting them know they can come over if things get hectic. I text other friends to let them know that Downtown Oakland is going crazy.
i am stopped by an older black man on the way home. His name is Charles DuBois. We talk about grassroots movements, Obama, and politicization of youth, his amber brown eyes lit by my candle. People walk by, smile and salute us.
When i get home, i am on edge. I can’t sit still. The outside sounds of copters, sirens and breaking glass permeate my apartment. I feel stir crazy, unsettled, unfinished. I have to get out again. In my head I imagine friends and family thinking I am crazy. I drink water, and text Mahfam and Kendal to let them know that i am heading out again.
I pick my candle back up and head into the night.
There are police blockades everywhere now.
i try to meet up with folks, but things are looking hectic. My candle still seems to encase me in a cocoon of light that police and others smile at.
a sista around my age stops me, says she recognizes me from earlier on in the protest. she thanks me for walking with a candle, and keeping alive what this should really be about. I thank her as well.
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?
I rest my back against a corner streetlight, and watch, the candle flame flickering slightly under my face. neighbors from my building join me, we stand there and take in the mayhem that our block has become.
there are more people of color now. young kids of various backgrounds are smashing cars, and at least one car is burning. Store windows are getting smashed now too. At first i thought black kids were targeting Korean stores, but then an African hair braiding store got smashed. Later, friends would tell me that they saw the immigrant African family in the store, asking why, why, why? Another friend said that an older Asian man– on crutches no less– pleaded with rioting youth not to smash his car up. But they did. Right in front of him. And i saw a middle aged Asian woman running, screaming because her bag had been snatched. I shouted for people to leave her alone, but i had no idea where her assailants were.
This was officially out of control.
Then the crowd started running full tilt up the street towards me. Some people look terrified, but most actually were smiling, looking at each other like “awww shit! hee!” I know you aren’t supposed to run in situations like this, but i really didn’t feel like getting hosed, gassed or rubber bulleted. Or hanging out with rioters. So i kept close to the buildings, and jogged back towards my house. A thrown bottle broke on the wall near my knee.
I get to my stoop, and see other neighbors. One woman, a mother of two, comes out in her pajamas, asking what is going on. The tank rolls by. she is incredulous. I ask if she knew about Oscar Grant. She didn’t. I tell her that an unarmed black man was handcuffed, put on his stomach, and then was shot in the back and killed by a cop. Her eyes widen, her jaw drops in horror. She says with a Philippine trill on her tongue, “No wonder they are so angry!”
The helicopters are everywhere, their buzzing drone bouncing off buildings and rolling down the canyons of streets. searchlights lit up windows and intersections.
Somebody walks by my stoop, looks at us and says what sounds like “The mayor is coming around the corner.”
It seems that the crowd and riot cops have moved on, so i walk half a block from my stoop to Harrison and 14th, and lean against that lightpost.
Coming up 14th, is indeed Mayor Dellums. He is surrounded by an anxious looking suited entourage and media. He himself looks distraught. He sees me. He looks at my candle. And he simply reaches out and holds my arm for a second, and then he and the entourage keep moving.
It occurs to me that cops are probably not going to tear gas, hose, or rubber bullet the mayor. And now i run into Newman, who is also curious to see where this mayoral train is heading. We fall in step behind the entourage.
The mayor stops on 14th and Madison and starts talking to people and press. Madison is absolutely lit up with rotating police lights. I can’t hear what Dellums is saying, but he seems to be unintentionally pissing people off.
“Be patient?? Be patient?? Be patient while they keep killing us??” One sista shouts.
At some point, we are completely encircled by riot cops, but they are a decent distance away from us. Everyone is ignoring them, and focusing on the mayor. A paramilitary tank rolls up. A brotha shouts “Oh look, democracy has arrived!”
The mayor breaks the circle, walking towards the tank. Riot police scurry and reposition themselves. Dellums talks to an officer. The tank and riot police dissolve back into the troubled night. Dellums announces on a bullhorn that he has asked them to leave. He is drowned out by people demanding the release of arrested supporters, reform of Oakland police, and streams of curses that basically refer to him as an @%#* Uncle Tom and worse. Whew. Though I must say, I am curious as to what he is going to do and say besides wave some cops away.
So yeah, at this point I think i’m about ready to head back home now. I see friends Bea and Inez, and tell them that I have seen enough for tonight, and that i’m going home. A young sista overhears me, and says with a half joking voice “you should give me your candle then.” I turn and look at her.
“Do you really want my candle?” I can see that she has been crying all night.
“Blessings.” I reach out and give it to her, and she looks into my eyes and smiles in a way that warmed my whole soul.
I watch her walk away, see how she now looks transformed, serene and angelic in that candlelight. I understand a bit more why people smiled at me. She and the flickering candle disappear in the crowd.
I walk home, the idea of the candle continuing on in the streets touching me deeply.
When i get inside, I don’t feel unsettled anymore.
Just the need to write.
REASON TO MISS OAKLAND #538: Taqueria Sinaloa.
Everyone says the Mexican food in LA is better than Oakland. They obviously haven’t been to 22nd Ave. and International Blvd.
Thanks for the reminding me, Kiwi!
Filed under: Music, Video | Tags: do d.a.t., oakland, spittas, the attik, the skinny
FINALLY! Do D.A.T. has an album cover for The Skinny! Any excuse to post another Do D.A.T. track…
The first webisode of Spittas, which is a series of videos highlighting Oakland/Bay Area lyricists, produced by Do D.A.T. and Erica Eng:
Filed under: Random, The Isms | Tags: charles cosby, cocaine cowboys, crack, griselda blanco, oakland
Speaking of Oakland…
Cocaine Cowboys II chronicles the story of Griselda Blanco, the cocaine godmother, and her relationship with Charles Cosby, an Oakland drug kingpin, who, through his relationship with Griselda, became THE top of the foodchain for Oakland’s crack industry.
Seeing this affects me on a personal level. Having taught in West Oakland for 3 years, I saw what the crack epidemic had done to an entire community first hand. It was, and still is, socio-economic genocide.
I’m conflicted about these kind of documentaries. I love true-scarface-stories as much any other dude out there. But do they further glorify and romanticize something so destructive? Yes. Are the film makers responsible in reporting on how the subject matter they document (and profit off of) has systematically torn apart the Black family in Oakland? Don’t know.
We need something that appeals to the pop sensibility of today’s young media consumers that can accurately and critically talk about the history of drugs in poor communities and the effects it has on us today. No, Flavor of Love and the Keyshia Cole reality show don’t count.
Filed under: Music, The Isms | Tags: asian, asian american, bad dancing, class, fflood, hate, kingman's, lucky lounge, magic milkcrates, oakland, privilege, race, racism, self hate, white people
First one to guess who this guy is wins an Asian American Hip Hop for Dummies CD
So, I was substituting for fellow selector dj fflood at his Saturday weekly, Magic Milkcrates (fflood is an amazing selector and dj. There’s no other night in Oakland with better music), at Kingman’s Lucky Lounge this past weekend when I was reminded of something:
I hate djing for privileged/suburban-bred Asian Americans.
Yes, charge me with self hate. I plead the 5th.
I get there at 9pm to start djing. It’s gonna be a long night so I called on another amazing Bay Area selector and music tastemaker, Ms. Lovelee to come in and relieve me for an hour. When I get there, already there’s a group of yuppy business professionals getting hammered in the back. One hour into my set of downtempo soul & old school classics, one of them, an East Asian (the type is of Asian is important) woman, comes up to me and asks, not rudely, if I was going to play anything faster. Now, as 10-year veteran of djing, I’m used to requests, both rude or otherwise, and have been able to channel zen-like responses (on the outside) to such requests. Here’s a lesson for you beginner request takers: when most ignorant drunk muhfuckas ask for something “faster,” they mean something that’ll match their drunken energies more, not necessarily something with a higher tempo. So, anyway, I tell this woman, calmly with a smile, “Yea, later, the night’s just beginning…”
At 11pm, Lovelee comes just in time to give me a break and we switch at 11:30pm. At this time, I’m playing old school HITS like Yarbrough & Peoples “Don’t Stop the Music” and Eric B. & Rakim “Paid in Full” Coldcut remix: shit that slap. Lovelee gets on and drops the classic “Hypnotize” sample, Herb Albert’s “Rise.” Now, as a song, “Rise” is fire: that bassline is undeniable, and the horns build you up to the break perfectly. As the recognizable part of the song (cue the intro to “Hypnotize” in your head) drops, the same East Asian girl comes up to me, a little more drunk, and asks in an annoyed tone:
“Can you play something faster? Like reggae? We’re here to party.”
“You don’t like this music?” I ask playfully.
“No, this isn’t music…”
“THIS ISN’T MUSIC”?! fuck you. suck my choad, or as Erykah said to a hater: “Kiss my placenta.”
In my racial hierarchy of audiences-I’d-rather-not-dj-for, privileged/suburban Asian Americans rank first. They have the same bad musical tastes as privileged white people, BUT white people dance to anything and everything. These Asian Americans tend to sit there with their disgustingly-sweet fruit-based alcoholic beverage in front of them, talking shit about any music they don’t recognize; then scream and jump as they rush to the dance floor when you play “Ditty” or “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”; only to sit back down if you play something out of their paper thin range of musical knowledge. I could even play something they love like Jack Johnson, and they still wouldn’t dance, because it might not be “fast enough.”
Like I said, white folks dance, albeit without any sense of rhythm, to anything and everything. I’d rather laugh at bad dancing then withstand the hateful glares coming from my own peoples.
Laugh at this: