What Are You Going to Do?
I was asked this question last weekend by a sincere brother. He asked the question with such sincerity I was momentarily stuck on stupid thus unable to answer. And as there were other people listening for my answer, I ran out the door laughing at the brother’s nerve of putting me on the spot like that. What are you going to do? He was referring to the cold blooded murder of the young black man by the Oakland transit police on New Year’s day. What a way to begin the New Year in Oakland. A friend’s son was on the train and snapped a photo of the incident as did many other persons at the scene. The mother said her son called terrified at what his cell phone had captured. What are you going to do?
Who did the brother in the office think I am? Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm X? I think it is not a question for one person but for a community. Collective action is the only way we can solve problems in our community. Furthermore, I am an old man, battle weary, almost broken by the long train of events in the history of Oakland, America and the world. Let me flip the script, “World, what are you going to do about Gaza?” And I ask the people of Oakland the same question, “What are you going to do about Gaza-Oakland?” Our children are slain in the streets by brute beasts in blue uniforms. Our children are slain by each other in the streets. What are you going to do?” Mayor Ron Dellums took to the streets last night to quell the rioters who tore up downtown Oakland.
For all of Oakland’s ills, the Mayor has one response, “Investigation. Investigation. Investigation.” The murder of Chauncey Bailey, investigation, investigation of the investigators of the investigation, says the Mayor. But what are you going to do, Mr. Black man, Miz Black woman?
There used to be and still is the police tone test in Oakland. When stopped the police can do one of three things depending on your tone of voice: kill you, take you to jail or release you. Apparently and obviously Oscar Grant failed the tone test, or maybe he failed the body movement test. When down on the ground remain absolutely still, maybe then you will survive police bestiality.
My teacher Sun Ra taught me, “The Creator got things fixed. If you don’t do the right thing, you can’t go forward or backward.” Oakland knows what to do. Do the Sankofa, reach back into your past and come forward. Make use of black history, don’t read about in, use it in the present. People of Oakland, you have the example of the Black Panther Party. Patrol your neighborhoods yourself. Patrol the police since we know they are murderers and will always be killers until the people are the police, the peace keepers.
What are you going to do? Take over the schools so Johnny, Dante and Shamika can read. Take over the jobs in the community or don’t allow any workers to be employed in the hood. How many jobs is Obama going to make available in the hood? How many jobs are you going to demand for the hood? What are you going to do? Are you going to demand equity in health care, in the so-called Green revolution.
The death of Oscar Grant is a tragedy that shall continue until you (we) do something. Oakland shall remain Gaza until we do something together, not individually. Even if I think of myself as a one man army, I know better. It takes a community. It takes radical thinking and letting go of fear. I am not only horrified at the violence in Oakland and the world, but I am equally horrified at the fear of our people. Two days ago I was vending my books on the streets of San Francisco. A black woman wanted my book but she absolutely refused to take the book back to her job for fear of getting fired. It is not the first time I have seen such fear in our people, especially those with “good” jobs. When I tell them we are not in Mississippi and Alabama, they don’t care. They are scared to death here in the North. We must overcome fear or else. Oscar Grant was a peacemaker who was slain like Jesus, or as Rev. Cone would say he was a victim of the cross and the lynching tree, crucified on the ground.
Oakland is Gaza, a war zone. Parents warn your children the street is no place to be somebody. Tell them to put on the armor of God when they go into the streets. Be aware of their surroundings, their friends, and the police. Be ever on the alert. This is war. Will you party in a war zone? Are the people of Gaza partying while being bombed to hell? Why are you out partying? I am not going to caught anywhere in Oakland late nights. Even in the house, bullets are known to come through the walls. What are you going to do? Run for your life. The people of Gaza said they have nowhere to go. If the people of Oakland have nowhere to go then stand and fight to the death. What are you going to do?
You want to change the schools yet you have no black teachers. I attended a state education conference last year with four thousand teachers, perhaps two hundred were black. And of the two hundred how many had consciousness? What are you going to do? Obama said he will give you free scholarships to college if you agree to return to your community to uplift it. What are you going to do? In New York, inmates on Rikers Island prison were given free college scholarships if they graduated from the boot camp.
Few took advantage of it. What are you going to do?
The economy is not pretty. There are no jobs. What about micro loans for unemployed youth and adults? This is being done all over the world to lift people out of poverty. The man who started it just received the Nobel Peace prize. What are you going to do?
--El Muhajir (Marvin X)