Remembering Oscar Grant 10 years Later

Remembering Oscar Grant this New Year’s morning…

Ten years ago many people around the country were excited as the New Year came in.. 2009 had special meaning because in 3 short weeks we were going swear in the country’s first Black President Barack Obama

There was a lot of hope in the air and many of us naively thought a corner was turned especially after it was announced Eric Holder would be his Attorney General. That too was historic as Holder was to be the first African American to hold that position

Many were not only anticipating the historic moment when Obama would take the Oath of Office and be sworn in, but many were also excited that the US under Obama would be partaking in the upcoming UN Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance..He had already begun initial conversations about this…2009 looked to a different year with lots of Hopes fulfilled and Lots of Change to come…It’s important to remember the political climate at that time in the wee hours of that morning New Years Day 2009.

A lot of that ‘good’ feeling and ‘excited’ anticipation was harshly deflated and shattered that morning when a cowardly officer named Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar as he laid on his stomach face down, hands behind his back in hand cuffs..

Grant was killed in front of hundreds of people who watched in horror from the BART train on Fruitvale station where Grant and his friends were pulled from..

People watched in horror as an over the top aggressive officer named Tony Pirone called Grant a ‘bitch azz n—‘ before kneeing him…

The horrific actions of Mehserle and Pirone seemed almost calculated and ritualistic… Many of us felt it was an attempt to put uppity, excited Black folks back in their place.. We had a Black president coming into office to become the most powerful person in the world, we were reminded that racist police would still be a threat even under a Black President… As comedian Paul Mooney would often say in his routines, we were getting a N— wake up call…

That wake up call was firmly cemented as we saw the replay of the graphic video of Grant being shot over and over again and not one elected official including our Mayor at the time Ron Dellums hold a press conference or anything to ease the angst people were feeling or denounce the shooting.

, It wasn’t until 7 days later, when Oscar was being buried that we saw some movement after 100 people rolled up to the DAs office Tom Orloff and demanded he press charges and folks in Oakland took to the streets and turned up like nobody’s business. In remembering Oscar we need to never forget how the ball got rolling

Later that day, hours after Grant was killed, we would come to find that horror had visited the city of New Orleans. In the wee hours of the morning around 3 am five plain clothed and 4 uniformed police officers would shoot a 22 year old father named Adolph Grimes more than 14 times in front of his grandmothers house..

Adolph Grimes

Grimes had just driven 5 hours from Houston to New Orleans when he was descended upon by 5 plain clothed officers. These officers claimed they were on the lookout for robbery suspects and when they saw Grimes, a man with no criminal record, they identified themselves and Grimes started shooting.. That’s when the other officers shot him back..

That story was immediately disputed. Many felt the plainclothes officers never identified themselves and if Grimes did fire a weapon it was in self defense.. Folks in New Orleans woke up New Years Day to the same type of horror story we woke up to in Oakland..

New Years Day 2009 we would learn of one other horror story.. This involved Robbie Tolan, son of a former major league baseball player Bobby Tolan and it took place in Bellaire Texas right outside of Houston.

Robbie Tolan

Around 2:00 a.m. Robbie Tolan and his cousin were returning home when a police officer assumed they had stolen the car they were driving. Robbie was in his drive way when he was order to get down on the ground with guns pointed at him.. When his mom came out to tell the officers Robbie was her son and that he was driving her car, they pushed her, Robbie attempted to stand up and and a back up officer to the scene Sgt Jeffery Cotton shot him, saying he feared for his life.. Luckily Robbie Tolan survived the shooting..

18 months after Oscar Grant was murdered, Johannes Mehserle, thanks to a massive movement was convicted for Oscar’s murder. It was the first time in California history such a verdict was rendered on a cop who shot someone while on duty. But sadly a chump pro-cop Judge in Los Ángeles named Robert Perry reduced Mehserle’s 10-14 year sentence to less than two years…

Sgt Cotton was charged for aggravated assault and his case went to trial.. In May of 2010 a jury acquitted officer Cotton for the shooting of Robbie Tolan..

In January of 2015, after massive nationwide protests from New York to Ferguson around police killings, after gruesome details of police corruption in New Orleans was made known, Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to hold that job, decided they would not pursue any charges or further investigation to the Adolph Grimes killings…

In remembering Oscar Grant we can’t divorce ourselves from the political climate that proceeded his death and the climate and movement that was sparked in the aftermath. People did what was thought impossible for 18 long months to get justice..

We cant talk about Oscar without remembering the police terrorism that visited Adolph Grimes and Robbie Tolan. that same morning..

We can’t talk about Oscar Grant without noting the disappointment and the harsh lessons we saw first hand that even with Black folks holding the most powerful positions in the land, noting would be done to bring about justice. Heck folks didn’t even get a phone call from the first Black president, but 3 months later and just two weeks after Obama announced the US would boycott that important UN Conference on Race, he called the families and sent a letter of support to the 4 Oakland officers slain by Lovell Mixon..

We can’t remember Oscar without coming to grips with some hard and fast lessons. First, people power and deep seated love for the community can create movements and make things happen.. Second, we are on our own in fighting these fights, we cannot depend upon far too many elected officials to do right by us.

Many fear police unions, many fear that they wont be re-elected and quite frankly many actually side with killer cops.. Sure, their rhetoric may say one thing but their actions speak another truth. Just look at the recent passing of the Blue Lives Matter Bill in May of 2018 where we saw everyone from Civil Rights icon John Lewis on down to former Black Panther Bobby Rush on over to progressive stalworth Keith Ellison all get behind this police union inspired bill..

In remembering Oscar Grant, ten years after his tragic death, we still have along ways to go to getting justice and ending police terror.

Looking Back on 2018

As we head on into 2019 and look back at 2018, there is no doubt we had lots of challenges, hardships and triumphs with lots more work to do…

2018 was a year where we saw institutions ratch up strategy of Fear and Blame… Sadly some of us got caught up in the rhetoric and added to to it…

We saw close to 2000 children snatched from their parents as families sought asylum at the border, with two of them Jakelin Caal (7) and Felipe Gómez Alonzo (8) dying while in the custody of ICE and Homeland Security..

There were huge outcries and condemnation, but we saw homeland security director Kirstjen Nielsen along with this president pretty much blame the parents for these tragic deaths.. They said the parents should’ve never tried to seek asylum…Sadly what was overlooked was brutal US foreign policy which lead to mass displacement..

All of this bashing on immigrants is centered around a desire to appeal to the racist xenophobic attitudes of supporters and do serious money grab to ‘build a border wall’…We should never forget that…

While some brought into the simplistic rhetoric of insisting we close the borders and not worry about the plight of other people’s kids, many others astutely connected the dots and reminded us that the taking of children from oppressed peoples is an American past time..

From the days of African enslavement and Indian boarding schools up to today where we see parents who can’t afford water bills in Flint, Michigan or parents who have been made homeless thanks to gentrification having their kids snatched…We have got to improve these horrific conditions in 2019

Speaking of gentrification in 2018 we saw an increase in homelessness..Many who work with the homeless estimate we have 4-5k homeless folks on the streets of Oakland alone..

It was just 5 or 6 years ago we saw tent cities sprout up all over the country during the Occupy Movement. At that time we saw folks call out income disparity with the framework of 99 vs 1%..

Fast forward to 2018 and the amount of tent cities and encampments we see have exploded, making the Occupy Movement seem miniscule. Tent cities and homeless encampments are now the norm with so many of us just a paycheck away or natural disaster away from joining the ranks.. What’s even more frustrating is seeing the brutal way in which Occupy encampments were broken up, continue with this increased homeless population. Folks are treated like crap and blamed for their dire predicaments.

It was in 2018 we saw gentrification accelerate all over the country. Here in Oakland we saw apartment buildings spring up and start charging 8k a month rent..(pictured below) We saw more and more folks forced to leave Oakland and move to far off places like Stockton, Modesto, Tracy etc and have to endure 3 hour commutes to work. These super commuters are now being hit with expensive highway tolls that via surge pricing can hit as much as 10-13 dollars a day..

In 2018 we saw all sorts of natural disaster all over the world. Here in Cali it was massive wildfires, that have resulted in scores of people dying and thousands losing their homes. All of us in the state were subjected to breathing contaminated air with no full understanding of its long term impacts..Rocking gas masks and driving for hours to places that have clean air is now the norm.

Its interesting to note, that in the middle of the horrific Campfire of Northern Cali that decimated the City of Paradise, a place that’s long been known for being conservative and racially hostile, President Trump quickly hoped on a plane and made his way out there to ‘inspect the damage’. It was a perfect photo op as we saw enthusiastic families cheering him on.. Only problem is during his remarks he got the name of the city wrong. He called it ‘Pleasure’ instead of Paradise…

Now granted many folks who dislike the president got their clown on, but many overlooked the real villains in this fiasco.. In Sacramento we had a bunch of chumps as legislators and an outgoing punk azz governor in the form of Jerry Brown who signed bills that would shield and limit PG&E’s liability from lawsuits even though in some of these key fires it was their negligence and ‘cost cutting’ measures that led to all this destruction.

Even worse we saw these bills give PG&E permission to raise rates to help pay for the billions of dollars in damages and lawsuit settlements.

in 2018 we saw the selling out of average folks as the Supreme Court ruled against unions, saying they can’t collect dues from non union members even as those non dues payers may enjoy the benefits of union benefits. That ruling happened in June and came on the heals of another death blow by the Supreme Court which basically said employers are protected from class action law suits.. That ruling happened in March…

Lastly we had this massive tax cut which completely upends everything.. One trend that we will see continue with these tax cuts will be workers no longer being employees of a company but being a contractor.. We that taking place throughout Silicon Valley.. It’s is most highlighted with the practices of ride share companies like Lyft and Uber… This means workers can’t collectively bargain, have no healthcare benefits, pensions, seniority, no workers compensation etc.. When all is said and done many find themselves holding down 2 or 3 gig jobs and make less than minimum wage..

After witnessing the circus around the Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the vacated seat Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, we can expect more drama to unfold in 2019..

Mad Skillz give a year end Rap Up.. End Joy

Bay Area Excellence: Boots Riley

Major props to hometown hero Boots Riley for the success of his stellar debut movie ‘Sorry to Bother You’… It was indeed a major highlight for 2018. For many, including myself, it was a surprise to see Boots jump into the movie game, but as he would let us all know, he had gone to film school at SF State and always wanted to do film even before he was making noise with his rap group The Coup… He was never ever far removed from understanding and keeping his film skills up to date.

As for the movie, STBY reflects many of the political themes Boots has long advocated for both as an emcee and an activist. The film has a lot of cameos from Bay Area folks along with a stellar cast that includes well-seasoned actors like Omari Hardwick, Armie Hammer, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Forest Whitaker, Lakeith Stansfield, and Danny Glover to name a few.

The good part is Boots has a lot more film projects coming down the pipe… Oh yeah… Dude is still nice on the mic so don’t for one second get it twisted

Below are some of the photos I’ve taken of Boots over the years. Enjoy

Bay Area Excellence: Kev Choice

Kev Choice Throwing Down

The Bay Area music scene, (note I am not limiting my remarks to just Hip Hop)… but the Bay Area music scene owes a lot to Oakland’s music genius Kev Choice. There are not too many significant musical happenings around Oakland and the Bay Area that doesn’t involve this brother. He’s classically trained and thus can get busy with the Beethoven/Mozart crowd but is from the town, born and bred, and thus can get funky with the best of them.

He’s done everything from being a music director for artists like Lauryn Hill and Too Short to doing sold-out shows at venues like Yoshi’s to showcase his own stellar projects. He recently did a highly acclaimed show for the Oakland Symphony. Kev ended the 2018 by opening up for Lauryn Hill and in typical Kev fashion, he brought all sorts of specuial guests including Ryan Nicole and Jennifer Johns to join him on stage and throw down.

He’s produced for, been the backup band or sideman for countless Bay Area acts from Jennifer Johns, Ledisi, Michael Franti, Girl 6, Martin Luther, The Coup and Goapele to name a few.

He’s put out a number of dope albums including Oakland Riviera, 88 Steps to Eternity, Love & Revolution, The Power of Choice to name a few.

On top of all that we should not forget for one minute that Kev can flow. He’s nice on the mic and often times you will see him rocking the keyboard, directing his band while staying in step with his rhymes. And as noted earlier, Kev is a pretty damn good producer… He don’t need to sample from nobody…

Kev teaches countless youth and stays politically active…He’s a musician’s musician.

Kev Choice and Jennifer Johns

The Double Standards of the Dems & AIPAC About Free Speech

Several months ago when Neo Nazi’s showed up in downtown Berkeley, I snapped this photo… I watched folks march around downtown holding up hail Hitler signs and chanting racial epithets…When I first posted this and other photos, sadly I heard back from a lot of folks who are supposed to be progressive tell me we are supposed to be ‘tolerant’ and ‘open minded’ and hear what these racist folks have to say.. Dialogue is good.. Dialogue is essential..I was emphatically told

When this picture was taken we saw the normalization of racist rhetoric and hostile actions. Neo Nazi type folks were euphemistically called the Alt-Right..and anyone opposing them was demonized in the media and criminalized by elected officials..

We saw and heard similar sentiments echoed on network TV and throughout the political Halls of Power and the White House..

We saw white nationalists like Steve Bannons and Steve Millers be given mainstream platforms and cabinet positions with a President who referred to Haiti and African Nations as ‘Sh–hole countries..

We were told such hateful rhetoric wasn’t hateful and even if it was it was protected speech..

So here we are today and watching Democrats line up front and center to join Republican law makers to push through a bill that would make it a crime to criticize the anti apartheid style policies of Israel.. There is another bill that would make it a crime to support any sort of boycott of Israel…

That means if someone who disagrees with the way Israel mistreats Palestinians or African migrants and protest entertainers like Alicia Keys, Herbie Hancock, Asap Ferg or Kamal Washington who all came under fire for performing in Israel, then it would be in violation of US Law…

If any of those artists are asked by Israel to perform in Tel Aviv and they say; ‘Naw I don’t like the way you’re racist policies’, it would be in violation of the law..

Prominent figures like writer Alice Walker and singer Roger Waters, co-founder of the rock group Pink Flyod would be in violation of US Law for their advocacy work and public support of a boycott of Israel…

And keep in mind, these violations would be a FELONY… That’s right if you oppose Israeli policies it would be a felony with a 20 year prison sentence..Yes you read that right.. 20 year prison sentence..

Some of the key people leading the charge behind this are Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Corey Booker and Sen. Benjamin Cardin who introduced the bill..They are trying to slip this law as an attachment into an end of year spending bill, so there will be no public debate…

So speaking against Israel policies would be a Felony, one might wonder if we as Black folks can get a law passed to make it a Felony if you speak ill of us or will we be told ‘Hate Speech is Free Speech and to be open minded…

Keep in mind NY’s police union tried to make a felony to speak bad about the police… Luckliy that was nixed, but if this Israeli bill passes, then that door may be wide open on a Federal level..

I would highly encourage folks to call every law maker you know and express your concern and opposition..

Davey D: Did the Telecommunications Act of ’96 Stifle Diversity in Rap Music?

A lot of folks point to the 1996 Telecommunications Act and say its the key mark in the sand… I disagree and allow me to give some context..

First I was one of those people who actually spoke at FCC hearings when this was being proposed and covered the 96 Act on my radio show here in SF.. I worked at KMEL which later went on to become a Clear Channel station..

KMEL was a unique station in the sense that it was really the first Top 40 station that laid out a solid successful blue print for how Top 40 stations could play Hip Hop and not lose advertising dollars or be stuck with the stigma of being a Black station.. That Blue print was later picked up by Hot 97 under Steve Smith who was from the Bay Area and worked at Hot 97 in San Jose and later Power 106 in LA..

One of things that was notable about those times in the early 90s.. leading up to 96 was the role Black/Urban radio played and the challenges they faced..

One of the key aspects was there was alot of hatred from some Black program directors for Hip Hop.. This was well before that 96 act and with the exception of a few places.. Rap/ Hip Hop was limited to weekend mix shows which many of us vigorously recorded and passed around..

Complicating this situation was the challenge that Black Urban stations had with securing advertisements if they got identified with playing too much rap.. hence many found there was an economic squeeze to move in a certain direction..

Lastly we had those Black music/ Pop division in the record labels.. Black divisions serviced Urban stations while Pop divisions serviced crossover stations with a much bigger budget..

In the early 90s… say 91 – 92 we saw a number a pop stations emerge and go full throttle in playing Rap.. Ours (KMEL) was one that led the charge.. This resulted in some misgivings among urban stations who felt like they were at a disadvantage because stations like ours were deemed crossover and not stigmatized with Black /urban label..

Some of this came to head at the Gavin Convention when Urban and Pop stations basically had a face off.. The argument made by urban stations was that the CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) outlets were Urban stations and thus should be classified as such and not get these big pop budgets.. Urban programmers claimed they were warming up all this good Black music only to have CHR outlets get the credit and promotional budget from the labels..

The CHR stations made the argument that Hip Hop was basically crossover music.. and 2 they were playing Hip Hop without hesitation and restriction.. They accused urban outlets of being too cautious and many of them straight haters to Hip Hop.. They also said that it was not their fault these urban outlets didnt have an effective sales team to sell ads..

There was a call for CHR to be classified as urban.. CHR responded and said Hip Hop was crossover and the compromise was for some CHR to be called Churban.. That contentious meeting was the last time urban PDs showed up at Gavin en masse.. Many simply opted to go to the Urban Network convention..

Around that time we saw a switch in formats with many urban outlets becoming adult contemporary and using the slogan we don’t play rap…

So we saw this squeeze early on with playlist shrinking on the urban side.. Later we saw the shrinking of the list on the CHR side before 1996 as labels began to flex muscles and insisted on playlists and heavy on air rotation that centered around the groups they signed and were pushing..Around time you still had a ton of local based labels who were able to shine, but as major labels began to sign acts we saw those local homegrown/regional labels in various markets becoming viable competition..

I recall some of those big labels folks who sat in music meetings and pretty much demanded that stations scale back on regional play.. The logic was the labels had paid for advertisement, sponsored promotions and trips and basically put money on the table that was not being matched by their regional and local counterparts..

I cant speak for every market but the ones I’m familiar with before 96.. had tighter musical rotations being applied both on mix shows, Hip Hop specialty shows and regular programming.. I kept alot of our old playlists and the playlists of other stations if folks wanna ever see those how stark those changes were..

I would also add that when we saw the shutting down of Yo MTV Raps and a limiting of music requests on the Box that added to the centralizing of music..

There is no doubt the 96 Telecommunications Act put a nail in the coffin to all this.. But from where I sit we were already headed in that direction for many of the reasons I mentioned and number of other reasons that I don’t have a lot of time to lay out..

What stands out in my mind is being at new Music Seminar and other conventions in the 80s and early 90s where artists from Queen Latifah to Chuck D to many others were forcely and aggressively speaking out about the lack of airplay they were able to receive and talking about how wack and overly cautious program directors were when it came to rap..

The fact that we saw 5 year opening for Hip Hop on Crossover/pop stations was always borrowed time.. They would dance with Hip Hop as long as it was trending and in style with that pop audience.. But the goal in those outlets was to never nurture the essence of Hip Hop but to find the best pop formula..

Its funny how in looking back there were artists like the Snap, Heavy D, Redhead KingPen and some of the early New Jack swing that was deemed pop and even soft compared to the hard hitting Hip Hop produced by others.. 25 later those pop sounding Hip Hop songs that fused R&B are deemed bonafied classics.. that we all wax nostalgic over ..

Lastly I’ll close by saying that some of what I wrote I think changed from region to region.. If there is one thing the 96 Act killed was a regional sound and style.. There was a time you could go to Washington DC and listen to the radio and it had a different sound a rhythm than a station like KDAY in LA.. and KDAY had a different sound then KUBE in Seattle and that sound was different then the sound on WGCI in Chicago.. Nowadays you cant tell what city you’re in listening to those outlets.. They all sound the same musically and even personality wise thanks to voice tracking and syndication..

An Interview w/ Dhoruba Bin Wahad from 1990 on Cointel-Pro and the Rise of Fascism

Former Black Panther and political prisoner Dhoruba Bin Wahad gave an incredible, insightful and prophetic interview with Harold Channer shortly after he was released from prison in 1990. He had just spent 20 years in jail on what he saw as trumped up charges.  Dhoruba saw himself as a political prisoner who was caught in the cross hairs of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies after he and his fellow comrades known as the Panther 21 successfully defended themselves in court.

In this interview Dhoruba talks in great detail about Cointel Pro and how it impacted the Black Panthers and his life. He talks about how the FBI attempted to cause a civil war with East Coast and West Coast Black Panthers. He also talks about the rise of fascism, and the ongoing impact of white supremacy. he also talks about an emerging class of people called Technocrats.

Here is that 1990 interview which aired on hard Knock radio: 08-06-2018


Davey D Interviews Jabali Smith about Human Trafficking

Jabali Smith was a 6-yr-old in Berkeley, California when he was trafficked along with his sister over the border into Mexico and held captive by a messianic doomsday sex cult. SLAVE courageously and boldly chronicles his journey as a child slave; the escape and the eventual rise from the ashes of tragedy.

Jabali spent years being beaten, tortured, starved, sexualized, brainwashed, and confined to a dark closet in both Mexico and the United States. His disappearance and re-emergence years later with no alarms set off within our societal system represents the current fracture of communication allowing human trafficking to flourish into the fastest growing business & commodity in the World…. SLAVE exposes not only the suffering of human trafficking victims but the indomitable spirit of survivors and all that is possible when faith survives the ultimate challenge.

Below is our Hard Knock Radio Interview which originally aired: 04-30-2018

Davey D Interviews Patrisse Cullors-‘When they Call You a Terrorist’

We speak with Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter about her new book, ‘When They Call You a Terrorist – A Black Lives Matter Memoir‘.. It was co-written with Asha Bandele who is a long time activist and organizer out of New York City.

In our interview we talk with Cullors about the challenges of growing up poor in Van Nuys which is a city in Southern California and the impact local police had her and her family. We talk about how her experience led to her monitoring the sheriff department. We also talk to her about the label terrorist  and what it means when its applied to folks fighting for social justice and freedom…

Below is our radio interview that aired on Hard Knock Radio 01-17-18


HKR: 01-08-18 Davey D Interviews Kali Akanu of Cooperation Jackson

Hard Knock Radio 01-08-2018: Davey D speak with long time activist and freedom fighter Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson about a recent article he co-wrote with Gyasi Williams an article that talks about the Third Wave technology Revolution  and the Fabrication Divide..

We talk with Kali Akuno about the ways in which the current trends toward automation and 3D printing is adversely impacting Black folks. We talk at length about the moves being made by Cooperation Jackson to provide a technology hub which will be accessible to the average person and ideally counter the impact of Net Neutrality protections being stripped.