Saturday, July 20, 2013
I Am Oscar Grant: Marvin X reviews the film Fruitvale
I did not attend the Oakland rally for Trayvon Martin, instead I set up Academy of da Corner at the Berkeley Flea Market. I'm getting old now and marches and rallies never attracted me, no matter that so much has happened in Oakland at the very site of my classroom, 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland. I began Academy of da Corner around 2005, occupying the corner in spite of police harassment until they realized I wasn't going anywhere, only then did they leave me alone, maybe after they realized they were dealing with a personality who was associated with the Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and the Black Arts Movement, someone who knew North American Africans had shed blood to be on the streets of Oakland.
Even though people have told me my presence at 14th and Broadway has made things better, I have not been in my official classroom for months, not since my east coast book tour of late last year and early this year. And too my Community Archives Project has taken much of my time, so I've been content to let my classroom "students" do peer teaching. Actually, I have now expanded my peripatetic academy to the homes. I've long said we must, in the manner of Master Fard Muhammad, knock on the doors of the people, in a kinder/gentler manner than when the police go door to door looking for suspects, kicking in doors. My model is to be invited into the homes and very diplomatically go about teaching, yes, somewhat in the manner of the Platonic dialogues. People have recognized my method as being ministerial, especially after I have them read passages from my work then explain or comment on it. I have been invited into their bedrooms and when I say I am tired and would like to stop the conversation, they insist that I not depart to my room but continue talking. At this point I have had to get loud and say, "Nigguhs, class is over. I want to go to bed. Good night!"
At the Berkeley Flea Market today, I was asked by several people, what must be done because they are highly upset and want to do something beside attend a rally and march. My response was to call upon them to organize secret societies to defend North American Africans. I told one brother to Google If We Must Die by Claude McKay, that 1920s poem from the Black Renaissance that inspired Winston Churchill in WWII and was the poetic national anthem of the Black Power Movement. The brother Googled the poem on his cell phone and thanked me, then scraped up enough money for a used copy of the 60s bible Black Fire, which he had no knowledge about.
I departed the Flea Market early to attend a viewing of Fruitvale, the film about the murder of Oscar Grant by the BART police on New Year's Day. I attended the film with my friend and her 9 year old twin boys. After stopping for dinner, we got inside the theatre a few minutes after the movie started.
After it was over, we all decided we didn't need to wait around to see the little part we had missed. We exited the theatre in a somber mood, as the film intended us to do, or shall we say as the story would have us do.
Although we are thankful to those who made the movie possible, it seems to me it deleted a powerful element in the Oscar Grant story which is the masses of people who mobilized, marched and rallied, yes, at my classroom, 14th and Broadway, and Frank Ogawa Plaza, renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by the
Although I appreciated the focus on Oscar Grant, leaving out the mass response was like leaving
out the chorus in a classic Greek play. After all, it was the people, the masses, who came alive after his murder by the white racist BART police, who spent eleven months in jail for killing a Black man while America was happy to see quarterback Mike Vick spend five years in prison for killing dogs! Alas, America has always cared for and treated its dogs, animals and pets better than it has treated North American Africans. During slavery we were fed a diet of animal food now called Soul Food that is the cause of our obesity and resulting diseases such as high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and a host of other illnesses.
The film let us know Oscar Grant was not a Boy Scout, that he had a criminal past, yet he was trying to uplift himself and be a responsible father of a half Latina daughter. The depiction of Afro-Latina relations should help ease some of the tension between Blacks and Latinos. The new demographics suggest a more positive relationship is possible between individuals in these two ethnic groups while tension may remain in the political/economic arena. We are not so romantic as to think because there are interracial marriages or relationships between Blacks and Latinos that all is well or shall be well, just as interracial marriages between Blacks and Whites has not fundamentally changed racial disparities or
racial harmony. Alas, my sister married a white man who called her his "Nigger bitch."
We know those same so called liberal whites who marched and rallied for Trayvon Martin in Oakland today and across the country will simultaneously cause gentrification or "Negro Removal" from San Francisco to Harlem and have no shame about it! Remember Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, "I'd rather be with the KKK than phony white liberals!"
After we departed the Grand Lake Theatre and stopped by Lake Merritt for a much needed breath of air, one of the nine year twins said Oscar Grant should not have resisted. His mother chided her son for seemingly taking the side of the police or right wingers. But I told his mother, on one level, her son is right because it's about the Tone Test when stopped by the police, not to mention when in a situation with another Black man as well. But as per the police, the Tone Test says one of three things can happen when a Black man is stopped by the police: (1) killed, (2) arrested, (3) released. All this is determined by the Black man's tone of voice. Years ago, an Oakland police officer revealed there was a tone test in the Oakland Police Department. The officer, a former student of mine at Mills College stated this in the Oakland Tribune, but the Chief (Hart) denied it.
The murder of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin are clear indicators that North American Africans are at war with America and until this battle is resolved there shall be thousands of Oscars and Trayvons, after all, they are casualties in a war, not about drugs, but about human beings who have every right to live as full human beings, to pursue happiness, freedom and, most of justice!
We appreciate the producers of this film, although it was not all that we wanted, but it is most certainly better than nothing and it brings Oscar Grant out of the dustbin of history, while so many other Oscar's shall languish there, yes, the many thousands gone that we shall never hear about.
Let us end with the mystical: Oscar Grant died on New Year's Day, the most dreaded day in the life of a North American African slave: it was the day slaves were auctioned, bought and sold, separated from mother, father, family, a day of horror and dread. Thus this is a day North American Africans should never celebrate but should sing sorrow songs for our ancestors who were bought and sold on this day.
On the other hand, the metaphysical had a answer for the New Year's Day murder of Oscar Grant. On March 23 or the Spring Equinox, i.e., the African New Year's Day, that same year of Oscar's murder,
Novell Mixon killed four Oakland police in a shootout that took his own life. Fritz Pointer, brother of Oakland's famed Pointer Sisters, said on the Mixon shootout, Oakland masses received an "obscene pride" after years of police abuse under the color of law. I AM OSCAR GRANT!