The Baltimore Curfew…Was an Abuse of Power

Davey-D-brown-frameOne of the most important things folks can and should be doing with regards to the Freddie Gray situation is pay close attention as to how and why a city wide curfew was allowed to be imposed on the entire city of Baltimore… That’s serious biz. It was a the manifestation of a police state.. It was an over reach that last night (Friday) resulted in abuse of power and gave those institutions responsible for killing Freddie Gray, who expressed open and public hostility at the indictment of its officers, a working blueprint on how to contain folks in 2015.

These police agencies now understand how to get widespread community buy in and compliance. They know that if they frame the curfew as ‘concern’ and ‘fear of wildness’ by youth, then high profile community leaders and others who have genuine concern for the well being of young people in the community would actually publicly model compliant behavior and in many cases actually help the police enforce the curfew…. A curfew that in the minds of many, was something that was needed to quell and punish the youth but in reality applied to EVERYONE… If there was any doubt about that, then folks found out last night when police moved in aggressively and started arresting folks whose only crime was being out after 10 PM and in a celebratory mood as a result of the indictments.

Baltimore police riotsFolks should stop and think about that for a minute. The main agency enforcing this city wide curfew (BPD) is the same one that has massive amounts of lawsuits and settlements lodged against them for abusing citizens.

The National Guard was also called in to enforce a city wide curfew. No one challenged as to why Baltimore police who are at odds and in conflict with many of its citizens weren’t taken off the streets and made to go home as well, if one believes a curfew was necessary.

One needs to ask if the strict enforcement of this curfew was applied all over the city of Baltimore with the same intensity? Where there scores of police in riot gear banging on their shields with bully clubs as they did last night telling folks to stay inside or get smashed?

Baltimore policeIf you was a tourist visiting Baltimore or someone on a business trip and staying at hotels near the Inner Harbor was the curfew strictly enforced? On a Friday night folks visiting couldn’t go enjoy nearby restaurants and clubs?

How strictly was the curfew enforced in affluent neighborhoods like Canton?

Baltimore Police From the Stackizshort video stream shown last night and according to folks like Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter who were there on the ground, police from various jurisdictions all over the country were on the ground. There was military folks and police from places as far away as New Jersey. Were they there to help and provide additional resources and bodies or were they there to observe and be trained? They appeared to be testing and pushing of the limits to see exactly how one can blackout and quarantine some news agencies while simultaneously getting compliance and stenographic/PR servicing from others.

If anyone was watching some of the video streams you saw that police ‘revoked the rights’ of Human Rights and Legal observers.. They also arranged themselves in particular formats to prevent anyone filming to get views of the people they arrested..They also formed snatched squads which was perfected during the Ferguson protests so they could go after people who had ‘blended in’ with media. It was some straight up fugitive slave catcher tactic.

Baltimore ProtestsCitizens attempting to avoid arrest for being outside as an adult in a city they live, work and pay taxes had to hide amongst ‘credentialed journalist and hope the roving eyes of numerous police agencies didn’t spot them, snatch them up. If someone didn’t have a press pass they were going to jail. For those who don’t know police issued press credentials are often awarded to ‘accredited journalists’ who the police determine are ‘legitimate’ because reach a sizeable audience. In short it’s awarded to corporate media who are embedded and in cahoots with police.

The most egregious aspect of this week long curfew was the glaring silence from any quarters that routinely rail and push back on the government and those in power for encroaching on people’s lives. Many of these folks saw the endless loop of a CVS store burning, got enraged at the site of broken windows and started talking about how the protection of property and restoring of order was more important than healing broken lives traumatized by continuous police terrorism and loss of human lives at the hands of police.

Props to James Rucker who captured this best when he posted up an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It reads as follows:

Reverend Dr Martin Luther King came from a long line of Black preachers who represented Prophetic Teachings

Reverend Dr Martin Luther King came from a long line of Black preachers who represented Prophetic Teachings

<< I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.>>

<< I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” >>

<< Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. >>

Oakland ProtestsLast night more than 500 people took to the streets of Oakland in an anti-capitalism march,.. They smashed up all the banks along Broadway and in the downtown area. They destroyed many of the car dealerships on Autorow and busted up a Kentucky Fried Chicken..

Will there be city wide curfew for that? Will a state of emergency be called? Will there be stark silence and compliance if one was attempted? Will those who gave a thumbs up to the curfew in Baltimore give a thumbs up if one was proposed in Oakland after last night’s ‘mayhem’? This is not the first time this has happened. In fact such activities routinely went down when current Baltimore Police Chief Anthony Batts was chief here in Oakland he wasn’t riding the hard for city wide curfews here so why in Baltimore?

oakland protests KFCThe continued institutionalized containment and repression of Negroes and those who support, justify and actively and passively go along with it reflects the long standing inability of our humanity to be recognized even when its our own in power.

PS The first two pictures you see are Baltimore police last night enforcing the curfew..Embedded with BPD are police from other agencies. As they advanced on a crowd that they vastly outnumbered the officers would bang their shields with their night sticks..The other photos are from last night in Oakland where car dealerships and other spots were jacked up..

Oakland’s Mayoral Race; Who To Vote For & What Questions to Ask

OaklandWith Ras Baraka winning his bid for Mayor in Newark, NJ, the focus now turns to all the races set to unfold on June 3rd which is the next big election day for many around the country. Here in the Bay Area a major race for Mayor is unfolding in Oakland with 16 people running for office. People ideally need to be thinking, ‘Who they will they be voting for and why?? ‘

Ideally, our immediate focus should not be on who will win? but instead we should be focusing on what the positions each candidate has staked on key issues?  For example , before we start speculating who will win, we should be asking ourselves what are the positions and policies each Mayoral candidates in Oakland has to stem the tide of gentrification? This is especially important when we consider the thousands who have recently moved to Oakland and how its Black population once 60% has dwindled down to around 23% . How and why did that happen?

Let’s be clear there are some candidates who see the new influx especially in historically Black West Oakland as great. They honestly think gentrification often called ‘urban renewal‘ has improved the image and the quality of life for many in the city. Translation: the more white residents the better. Others feel that long time residents are getting the shaft. What plans are in store for Oakland’s next mayor around this issue?  What policies can they guarantee as mayor vs falling back on tired excuse that they can only advocate and hope the city council follows their lead?

Oakland-BrooklynAsk the candidates how they feel about the photo I posted where many are calling Oakland the New Brooklyn. Other have called Oakland the New San Francisco? Still others have said Oakland is the new Silicon Valley? Newcomers love the new labels. Long time residents hate it and feel like the city’s identity is being thrown under the bus with a marketing make over in which they had little if any input. How do you as an Oakland resident new or old feel about these labels?

How do you feel about Oakland having many of its sections renamed and marketed outside of town ie NOBE (North Oakland, Berkeley) or the new Brooklyn Basin project? Whats their thoughts on WOSP? (West Oakland’s Specific Plan?) More importantly how do the mayoral candidates feel and how have their actions reflected that sentiment? Are they placating new transplants? Again there are thousands of them ,making them a sizeable voting block or are they working with long time residents who don’t wanna leave the city they love?

How do our candidates feel about our sports teams.. The Raiders, the As and the Warriors?? What are they doing to keep them? What are they doing to cut ties? How important is it for you as an Oakland resident to have these teams?

What are the any of these candidates plans for affordable housing? Where do they stand on issues like rent control? How are these candidates dealing with housing discrimination? For those who don’t know, with gentrification has become desireable to only rent to out of towners who are willing to pay more or to rent to Non-Black/ Brown residents.. What are any of these current candidates doing about that?

Geoffreys Inner CircleHow are any of these mayoral candidates working to support and grow local businesses. There have always been innovative folks in Oakland who have been applauded all over the world for their being business savvy, yet the city has never recognized them.. In the past we seen city hall try to shut down businesses.. Folks may wanna talk to folks like to long time business owner Geoffrey Pete and ask him about the drama past mayors like Jerry Brown put him through in attempts to disrupt his thriving landmark business.

Currently we have OPD shutting down street vendors who have been a vibrant part of the culture forever. What opportunities are in place for homegrown businesses? Not newly arrived / recruited businesses, but homegrown folks who been here for decades and were never shown love? What opportunities are here for them?

What plans do any of these candidates have for schools? Are they anti teacher’s union and pro charter? Are they for universal pre-school or do they want folks to pay $1500-2000 a month for all these private preschools? Don’t ask these candidates what they are gonna do? Many have who are running have been active in Oakland prior to this year, so ask them what their track record is around education??

Oakland SchoolsAsk them if they are in favor of ‘Teach for America?’, ‘Common Core?‘ “No Child Left Behind ?‘ and Zero Tolerance policies?’ Ask them how they feel about our Community Colleges, CSUs and UC Systems? Are they politically aligned w/ folks who have been trying to privatize these once FREE public school systems and raise tuition or are they pushing to make sure these schools are free and accessible? Check their track record from the past, that’ll tell you a lot…

Where do mayoral candidates stand on jobs and job creation? Ask them if they are aware of the Jackson Rising plan around cooperative economics and if they talked with all the folks from the Bay Area and Oakland in particular who went to the recent conference in Jackson, Ms??

Ask them if they are pushing to make sure there are guarantees that Oakland residents will be hired for any new contracts awarded by the city? What have these candidates pushed for in the past? For example, with the BART extension to Oakland airport, what work did they put in advocating for Oakland residents to be hired? Don’t ask them what they say they are going to do.. Ask them what they did in the past? How did they vote? What letters did they write? What policies did they push? Show and prove..

Gang wars OaklandAsk these mayoral candidates what steps they have taken in the past to protect the image of this city? For example, when the Discovery Channel did a bogus special called ‘Gang Wars in Oakland‘ they claimed the city had 10k gang members and was the murder capital of the world. There are nowhere near 10 thousand gang members and it definitely wasn’t the murder capital. What reaction did any of these candidates have to our tarnished image?  How did they confront the Discovery Channel?

When the did the TV special Santa Rita, Oakland suggesting that Santa Rita prison was in oakland vs being in Dublin 30 miles away, what steps did these candidates do to correct that image? When they did the heavily promoted TV show on MSNBC ‘Lockdown Oakland‘ and then profiled violent crimes committed by people living in other cities how did our candidates react? What steps did they take to correct those falsehoods? Did any of these candidates buy into these narratives and call for more police and repressive policies, gang injunctions etc or did they know and love this city enough to know those stories were not only false portrayals but were actually fueled by an embattled police department pushing their own agenda to get more funding and more cops?

Oaklandpolice-225How do our candidates feel about the police and what’s their relationship to Oakland’s powerful police union? Do they feel Oakland needs more police? Do they feel the city needs less? What’s their plan to stop police brutality? What advocacy groups have they met with? What policies have they supported or not supported in the past around police reform? Did they show up to City Hall and weigh in when controversial policies like Gang Injunctions and youth curfews were debated? Where did they stand when the city voted to give Chief William Bratton 250K to consult the city?

Don’t wait on slick press releases and flashy commercials to get answers. Many of these candidates are on social media. Hit them up, ask the hard questions and be informed when you go to the polls June 3rd..

Reach out to some of these Oakland Mayoral candidates Shake Anderson Dan Siegel Libby Schaaf Bryan Parker Oakland Mayor Jean Quan Patrick McCullough, Courtney Ruby, Joe Tuman for Mayor of Oakland, Larry Lionel Young Jr, Sam Washington, Nancy Sidebotham, Margaret Wrigley-Larson, Peter Y. Liu, Bane Capital Ruby Paige Askew Gregory Wade

From Oakland Street Corners to Chibok, Nigeria-Bring Back Our Girls

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.15.49 AMTomorrow afternoon (Sat) between 12-3 pm there will be a march in rally down by Lake Merritt in Oakland to be in solidarity and raise awareness of the 234 missing Black girls from Nigeria. This is important. One can only imagine the anguish the families are feeling.

As folks bring attention to their plight, please make the important connection to the scores of young Black girls who are standing on our corners right here in Oakland on International Blvd, San Pablo Ave and other places around the Bay Area. They are numerous. They are among us. They are young Black girls, not grown women who many like to say ‘made a choice’ to work the streets at night.

As is the case with the women in Nigeria who are said to be involved in an incident of ‘Forced Marriage‘ by extremist Muslims, the young girls on our street corners are said to be victims of ‘Gorilla Pimping‘. Many of us are reluctant to call any of this Human Trafficking, thus reducing what is part of a global epidemic to something that is a one of kind, isolated incident that is undeserving of deeper scrutiny. By reducing it we let a whole lot of people in charge from the president on down to local officials off the hook for how such atrocities are allowed to happen routinely


Photo Credit: Denise Tejada/Turnstyle News

Photo Credit: Denise Tejada/Turnstyle News

We like to reduce 13-year-old Black girls being snatched up and made to work street corners as a by-product of pimp culture which many of us celebrate in songs and movies. We want it to be disconnected from global structures in place that allow this to happen.

This type of thinking leads to people asking simplistic questions like ‘where are these girls parents and why aren’t they out here disciplining them? vs asking ‘Were these girls kidnapped?’.

This type of thinking leads to newly arrived hipsters seeing the girls on our streets as nuisances that need to be ‘cleaned out by the police’ vs asking how deeply rooted is this problem and how many institutions in the city and county are purposely asleep on the job or powerless to stop this widespread dilemma.

This type of thinking leads us seeing 234 girls being snatched up in Nigeria as a by-product of ‘backward unsophisticated Africans’, ‘Fundamentalist Muslim’ thinking vs something that has been going on for a number of years and with the blind eyes and even blessings of a many in government who we are now petitioning to rescue them…

Bring Back Our GirlsThe 13-year-old Black girls on the corners of Oakland are not seen in connection to the scores of Asian girls snatched up and made to work in brothels both domestically and abroad or the scores of Eastern European girls who are over here forced to work, or the scores of rich men from all over the globe who fuel all this by traveling to far off countries, on sex trips where they pay hefty fees to encounter these girls who are being snatched up…

None of us want to make the connection to the hundreds of girls/ women who have been snatched up and killed in Juarez, with no one in charge having any idea as to how and why…

While we can point out differences with each scenario, the overall bottom line and point being made is that the girls all around us are being preyed upon. They are being preyed upon in Oakland. They are being preyed upon in Nigeria. They are being preyed upon around the world. And while governments are petitioned to step up and do something and appeals are made to those identified as perpetrators, we also have to honestly ask ourselves in what ways intentional or not are we contributing to such a global hostile climate directed toward the young girls among us?

There are no easy answers. The are no overnight solutions.. But at the very least we should start connecting the dots and deepening our collective understanding..

In short don’t go rallying about these missing girls in Nigeria while obliviously drinking coffee in gentrified coffee shops in Oakland housed on the same corners where young girls 12, 13, 14 yrs old are being forced to work in what many are deeming one of the biggest hubs in the world for human trafficking.

For more information on tomorrow’s march go to

For information about Human Trafficking in Oakland check out

5 Thumbs Down to KRON TV for their Misleading Report on Oakland Sideshows

Side shows OaklandSo yesterday KRON 4 News decided to do some cheap underhanded sleight of hand BS during their segment People Behaving Badly..where they focused on Oakland Side shows.. They lead into the segment with Pam Moore announcing they have ‘shocking new video’ and then reporter Stanley Roberts Kron kicks off the segment by describing Oakland as the Wild, Wild West.. From there viewers are treated to this ‘new’ ‘shocking’ footage..Only problem is the new footage is from 1-2 and maybe even 3 years ago..

KRON gives no context to videos to let you know if folks are from LA and other far away cities which many of the sideshow footage on YouTube clearly show..

Even though KRON ran a notice at the top of the screen that says courtesy of YouTube it was shown for less than 3 seconds while they put the KRON logo over the videos and make it seem like a reporter was actually out on the turf interviewing a young man shown in a year old video holding a gun that he shoots in the air..

This side show footage shown on KRON is damn near a year old

This side show footage shown on KRON is damn near a year old

KRON cuts that part out and leads viewers to believe that at any minute serious drama is about to jump off…We don’t know if the young man is from Oakland.. We don’t know if he’s still around since the video is a year old. We don’t know anything except KRON tried to make it look like they were the ones who did the on the spot interview vs his homie whose voice they cut out in the report..

We don’t even know why this young man was holding a gun or not too concerned about being seen on video. My take is when your friends are filming you, you’re not too concerned vs when a news reporter is filming you and intends to show it on the evening news..

KRON also doesn’t give you the context of him hanging with a number of his friends in his own neighborhood. Instead they show quick cutaway of a woman walking by looking at her cell phone and offer their own explanation about how jaded and shocking it is that she’s not alarmed by dude holding a gun..They imply that this woman was an ‘innocent bystander’ navigating the mean streets of Oakland in the ‘Wild, Wild West’ and she was in mortal danger. A quick look at the original footage shows that the woman is hanging with the crew and even gets in one of the cars.. She wasn’t ‘all into her cell phone’ as  reporter Stanley Roberts asserts.. She was using her cell phone to film the cars like everyone else.

In the back you can see the 'innocent bystander woman hanging out with the crew at the sideshow

In the back you can see the ‘innocent bystander woman hanging out with the crew at the sideshow

KRON misleads viewers by juxtaposing a relatively calm and uneventful scene with footage from other sideshows that were ‘turnt up’, including age-old footage where revelers throw bottles at police cars. The scene shown reminded me of the time when folks were throwing bottles at police cars in SF after the Giants won the world series. Maybe KRON should’ve shown that since they were using 2-year-old footage anyway it could’ve added to the sense of drama and mayhem..

They edit one video on top of the other so you feel like all hell is breaking out and it all went down over this past weekend. Here’s the original clip that KRON jacks to make it look like their own.. You can see the interview about 5 minutes in..

With all that being said, while KRON was busy letting you know how ‘Oakland was Behaving Badly’ by showing 2-year-old side-show footage, they neglected to head on over to SF and show how our own US Senator Diane Feinstein is behaving badly by sponsoring a bill that would essentially legalize and give the President even more power to collect data and spy on us.. It’s called the FISA Improvement Bill and was subject to a worldwide protest that involved millions this past Tuesday..

Why didn’t KRON’s Stanley Roberts bring a camera to the Senator’s office and show her bad behavior and talk about her deep pocket connections to the defense industry that seems to sway all her decision-making?

Why didn’t KRON bring camera’s over to Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum and ask him why he’s leading the charge to privatize the US Postal Service and how he’s getting lucrative government contracts to sell off Post Offices all over the country??

Elders fighting the Ellis Act in SF...

Elders fighting the Ellis Act in SF…

Why didn’t KRON bring camera’s over to the SF’s DA’s office this past week where folks like Lisa Tiny Gray-Garcia of Poor Magazine were confronting unscrupulous corporate backed landlords and showing how their abuse of the Ellis Act in number of instances violates state law is a form of elder abuse?? They are pushing the DA to press charges.. Maybe Roberts should be covering that vs showing year old footage and passing it off as new…You can read the story Poor Magazine did on that ran in the SF Bayview here–>

Lastly I hope some of our esteemed council members like Lynette Gibson McElhaney,  Libby Schaaf and Desley Brooks among others push back on KRON for such a misleading report..This is not to excuse reckless behavior. There are lots of people in Oakland trying to improve things as evident by this past weekends packed out Black Male Achievement Hackathon.. what needs to be checked is reckless news reporting…5 thumbs down for KRON on that one..

Oakland Police Say the City is ‘Too Liberal’ and they Hate Working Here

photo by Jay Finneburgh

photo by Jay Finneburgh

Last night local news outlet  KTVU did a report about an internal poll obtained by the East Bay Express newspaper about Oakland’s police department. Apparently a majority of officers who patrol the city feel Oakland city leaders are ‘too liberal’. They also noted they feel demoralized and under appreciated. It was a pretty high % of officers at 65% who expressed these troubling sentiments. Over 55% said they do not feel appreciated by the citizens of Oakland and they are basically miserable on the job….You can read that East Bay Express article HERE

People should sit back and think about this for a minute as this poll reveals a serious rifts between the community and those who are entrusted to protect and serve. We have a city that goes out and votes for reps who they feel would do right by them.. These leaders in theory should reflect the general political values of the population. Yet we have an institution (the local police department) that gets more than 50% of the city’s budget, yields tremendous influence on Oakland’s political landscape while more than 75% of those within the institution don’t even live in Oakland. These individuals who don’t live in Oakland are complaining the city is too liberal? What does that mean at the end of the day for the average person who lives in Oakland?

Are Oaklanders having to deal with disgruntled employees who are patrolling their neighborhoods thinking they are too liberal and thus need to be taught a lesson? Do Oakland police officers feel their hands are tied and they wanna employ more aggressive policing tactics? Do they hate the activism of the city that attempts to hold them and other public officials accountable?

Do these disgruntled employees patrolling Oakland neighborhoods soaking up more than half the city’s budget slack off on the job because they feel ‘demoralized’? Does that manifest itself in tense, explosive interactions with the public where minor situations are escalated vs de-escalated?  Does it manifest with unhappy officers showing up late or not showing up at all to a call?

Oakland is a pretty diverse city, one of the most diverse in the country with high accolades for its charm, activism, burgeoning art scene and nightlife. A couple of years ago the NY Times noted that Oakland was the 5th most sought out destination in the world.. So the question remains, what exactly do Oakland police not like about the city?

Do these officers not like the gentrification going on in Oakland that have caused rents to skyrocket?  Oakland police are the second highest paid in the country with an average starting salary at 69K, can actually afford to live in Oakland under the new economy as opposed to many of Oakland’s teachers whose wages are far behind as they start off with 39k.   Do Oakland police not like the new coffee shops and art galleries sprouting up everywhere or do they not like the Black and Brown folks who been here for decades and are being displaced?

Can Oakland city leaders not find officers who love the city, share similar values and are willing to do engage the community in a way that leaves folks feeling ‘served, protected and empowered’ vs the current strain that many are feeling which is now reflected in the polling?

It sounds like Oakland is just a stepping stone to something more attractive and in the case of these officers who want to be around more conservatives.. As for the citizens, perhaps they need to slap on a Fox News or Tea Party bumper sticker on their ride to avoid being hassled by a police force that that perceives them as ‘too liberal’
Again here’s  Eastbay Express article..—->

Zion I Holds It Down For Oakland

This is from the Breakdown FM Vaults.. We did this interview with Oakland’s Zion I in August of 2005.. They had lots to say about a variety of topics.. Enjoy..

Zion I: True & Livin’ Holding It Down for Oakland
By Davey D

Zion I stoop When we talk about West Coast Hip Hop, oftentimes the face to it has been limited to just a few individuals like Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and more recently The Game. When we start trying to expand the vision a little and look to places outside Los Angeles to regions like the Bay Area we still find a limited view. Hence, in 2005, when you say Bay Area Hip Hop, people outside the region still think of groups like Too Short or Digital Underground.

Through all this narrowcasting we as a Hip Hop community has far too often by passed the brilliance and innovativeness of the West Coast’s underground. In other words, everybody in LA is not a ‘gangsta’ and everybody in the Bay Area is not ‘turfed out’ or ‘hyphy’. One such group that does not fit the mode and has been grinding away for the better part of 10 years is Zion I.

Over the years, group members Amp Live and Zion now known as Zumbi have taken their musical journey from Texas to Atlanta and back to the Bay Area. They’’ve been signed to labels like Tommy Boy and smaller boutique outfits like Nu Groove. They’’ve done everything from perform at huge anti-war rallies, teach class in some of the Bay Area’s most troubled schools and do radio mix shows on rock oriented stations that found an appreciation for the drum and bass records they have occasionally released.

Through it all, Zion I although critically acclaimed has not been able to break the confines and stigma attached to being ‘just another regional underground act’ from Bay Area. However, this time around things may be different. For starters, the group has upheld the Bay tradition by establishing their own independent record label Live Up. Second, many are saying that their latest offering ‘True and Living’ is their dopest album ever and will help carry them to the next level.

We sat down with group members Amp Live (producer) and lead rapper Zion to get the full 4-11 on the group’s history and future plans. Here is a run down of what they had to say…:

Breakdown FM- Zion I 2005 Interview


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt1

ZionI-largeProducer Amp Live who originally hails from Texas, talks about the first incarnation of Zion I, which was under the name Metaphor and consisted of four members.

They initially formed back in the early 90s at Morehouse College in Atlanta where they went to school. He noted that back in those days the crunk sound wasn’t in and that the Luke-style booty shaking music associated to the south at that time was eclipsed by the large numbers of New Yorkers in the area. The result was Metaphor having more of a New York inspired Hip Hop sound as opposed to one reflective of other regions. The cool thing about Hip Hop back in those days was that it all was in one bucket. You didn’t have all these industry driven sub genres separating the music

Amp talked about how the group became popular and did work in famed producer Dallas Austin’s studio. They also would frequently cross paths with Hip Hop icon Erick Sermon. Eventually Metaphor was signed to Tommy Boy Records

Lead rapper Zion I talked about how the group got played big time by Tommy Boy. He noted that they were young and hungry and did not prepare themselves properly. He speaks about how the four members signed a 20-page ‘pre-contract’, which laid the groundwork for a 75-page contract, which gave the label full authority over the group.

Zion talked about the way Tommy Boy tried to force a new producer on the group even though Amp Live was their producer. Zion talks about how Tommy Boy kept rejecting their music and would send the group back into the studio with strict instructions as to what songs to sample and what subject matter to cover in their raps. He noted that Tommy Boy forced them back in the studio so many times that the group was forced to go over budget and were left to languish with little promotion from the label.

Zion noted that the group took their bad experiences with Tommy Boy and applied it to the independent rap game when they came back to Oakland. Their new song ‘The Bay’ reflects their love for the diversity and independent spirit of the region. He also notes that people sleep on the Bay way to often.


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 2

Zion I pointThe group explains where they got the name Zion I from. They note that it came from their understanding of the Bible where it talks about Mt Zion being a place where everyone gathered before Armageddon. They say they want Zion I to symbolize a place in Hip Hop where everyone can gather to hear some tight music.

They noted that when they first chose the name they had very little knowledge of the political implications that are associated with Zionism. Over the years, numerous people have approach the group thinking they were Jewish or connected to reggae. They talked about one incident where a Muslim group wanted to hire the group but ask to either downplay or change their name because of the political association connected to Zionism

The pair also talked about their stint as elementary school teachers. This is a path followed by several other high profile artists including Mystic, David Banner, Asheru, Defari and J-Live to name a few.

Zion explained that the pair have taught underprivileged kids in some of the most impoverished areas in the Bay Area and as far as Zion was concerned that was good because they got to give back something meaningful to the community while at the same time gaining valuable insight and perspective. Amp Live explained that teaching has also kept the group youthful and that by teaching they had the privilege of seeing up close and personal the essence of what Hip Hop is about.

The pair also talked about the current move to try to make Hip Hop more useful in the classroom. It’s a direction they feel is needed because it allows one to make a variety of subject matter addressed by Hip Hop artists, relevant to the students.

Zion spoke about his Uncle and the work he does with math. He teaches kids math by using rhythms as a way to help children retain information. He says that this technique is rooted in African traditions.

Finally, the group talks about the inspiration behind their new song ‘Luv’. They said they wanted to give their audience something uplifting and they dedicated to all those who are struggling day to day.


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 3

zion-i-true-livin Here, producer Amp Live talks about the Bay Area’s rap sound and how it’s extremely diverse. From the street oriented turf music to underground backpack, he notes that all of this is centered around Funk Music. He goes on to explain the significant role funk plays and how its long relationship to the Bay Area.

Zion expands upon these points by talking about how the Bay Area is made up of so many ethnic groups and people from all lifestyles. He notes that’s going to be reflected in the music. He also noted that as a group, Zion I wants to bridge the gap between Hyphy and ‘turfed out’ music and underground acts. He says he hates the term backpack, which is a label often, attached to groups like his.

Zion went on to explain that his group is from the old school and that they yearn for a time when it was all this was seen as Hip Hop and not divided. He says Zion I is Hip Hop and makes good Black music. He says it’s a challenge for the group to overcome the limiting industry driven definitions that have put the group in a box.

Amp added that he feels the group is like Outkast in the sense that they push the envelope musically and that they manage to get a little bit of everyone that includes the thugs and the back packers.

The group talks about performing at lots of community events and social justice rallies. This too sometimes results in the group being stigmatized as an act that is incapable of laying in the cuts and just kicking it. Once you get to know Zion I, you’ll quickly find that they really don’t hold up to many of these assumptions.

They explain the background to the song ‘What U hear’ which features Del tha Funkee Homosapien. They say it’s a straight up Hip Hop song that took shape once Zion and Del started rapping.


Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 4

Zion gives a run down about the art of emceeing. He builds upon the legacy of dope rhymesayers of the past like Hiero, Saafir, Motion Man and Living Legends. He gives props to the modern day bay spitters like Balance, MTV Freestyle finalist Locksmith and Oakland Freestyle King Mista FAB.

Zion explains that he tries not to get into battles. Instead, he wants to build with all these artists and help forge a new Bay Area coalition. Zion also talks about how a good emcee is one that brings new perspectives and styles to light.

Zion I Breakdown FM Interview pt 5

Amp Live talks about his production style. He says that his audience appreciates the fact that he has always pushed the envelope and brought new sounds like Trip Hop and Drum and Bass to the table. He says a true musician knows no boundaries and is all about making good music. He noted that he plays the piano and often replays riffs that he many would sample.

Zion talks about the new album ‘True and Living’ and notes that it’s a reflection of where they are mature wise and that it was important for the group to release this on their own label. He explains that the group wants to celebrate Hip Hop and not get caught up in being angry about the way corporations dominate and exploit the culture.

The group concluded by talking about their new movie which was scheduled for a fall release, but will probably be complete in time for a spring 2006 release. The movie is a sarcastic look at the group’s journey through the music industry. They play caricatures of themselves…




Thoughts on Today’s BART Strike, Unions and the Value of Workers

Bart TrainSomeone was complaining about today’s BART strike, talking about how it was a drag because traffic was gonna be messed up… Yes of course its gonna be messed up.. That’s the purpose of a strike to shut down business and show the importance workers have to a larger system.. That’s shown when vital services they provide are with held..

If workers as a whole, were stronger and understood their true value and weren’t in such economic dire straits, they would’ve been in a position to call their respective places of employment and say ‘No way am I coming into work if there’s no public transportation’ ..They’d understand that it is not right where CEOs make 320x more than their workers..

Many folks look at unions and say its wrong for them to collectively bargain, while remaining silent as managers and CEOs collectively build to set prices and policies via Trade organizations, lobbying groups and other associations we ain’t even heard about..

Some are upset that union workers are pushing back and demanding a raise, because they haven’t gotten one in 5 years as gas has increased, food has gone up and average rents increase to $3700-4000k in SF for two bedrooms and clearing $2700 in parts of Oakland.. In short Living costs have increased dramatically while living wages remain stagnant or in the case of city workers in Oakland who are also on strike today have decreased 10%…Bottom line is the average worker deserves more, especially when they are working at companies like BART, Wal-Mart and other outlets that had made nice profits..

On the flip side, for those who are in unions and deal with the public day in and day out.. Ideally union folks need to make sure that those in their ranks are more gracious to the people they serve.. Far too many of us have come across rude dismissive workers who left bad tastes in our mouths so much so, that when strikes come up, you hear remarks like ‘F– them Folks’ vs ‘Right on I’m with Ya..’

In my particular case, I’m shouting out the white guy at 20th street BART station who wears glasses and works the booth.. I’m that customer you didn’t wanna help when my ticket got jammed because you thought I was some ‘black guy from Oakland trying to scam the system’ vs a paying a customer who wound up paying a second fare because you ignored my requests…. Remember me? I should post your picture but I’m smart enough to know the fight for workers rights should not hinge on the bad experience one had with a particular individual, but sadly many will..

Hence this a reminder for those who are in unions to make sure public support is there and that starts with good interactions..That includes Oakland Parking enforcement folks who are also on strike today.. All of us are struggling to get by… Many of us are one paycheck away from financial upheaval. Many of us are underpaid and don’t need the extra hassle.

At the same time, we who are encountering workers should bear in mind their job is probably super wack in terms of pay and benefits, leaving them short-changed, so we too can give them a break.. In short like they say: Game Recognize Game.. How about we adopt the understanding Worker recognize Worker and push for all to have better tomorrows

Anyway Good luck on the strike.. Get a good contract..and If I have to deal with a massive traffic jam or don’t have all the city services needed for today for that to happen, so be it.. It’s a small price to pay in a world that is defined by a 1% vs 99% dynamic..

-Davey D-

3 New Hip Hop Videos from the Bay Area that Hit & We Should All See

Mistah Fab hits us across the dome with one of the better videos that speak to our conditions in 2010

Mistah Fab

Definitely digging the new video from Oakland’s own Mistah Fab This is Cool / Is a great song w/ a powerful message that challenges is and is coming from someone who has been through a lot.. Gotta applaud more songs like this.. Keep it coming such messages are needed..

Another dope song that’s coming from the Bay Area and shot in San Francisco is Razor Sharp Thoughts featuring Shamako Noble and Pasha.

We gonna repost this joint from Oakland rapper AshEL who teams up with Sticman from dead prez to do battle with Monsanto and the food industry.. The song has a great concept and nice wordplay.. Food is a drug.. It can help you or hurt you.. I like the way these cats break it down..

Oakland City Council Votes for William J Bratton….Community is Outraged

5 Oakland police officers surround one lone women who expressed outrage at the City Council voting to extend a contract to former LA and NY police chief William J Bratton

5 Oakland police officers surround one lone women who expressed outrage at the City Council voting to extend a contract to former LA and NY police chief William J Bratton

Oakland—After a marathon meeting that saw an attendance of more than 500 Oakland residents and nearly 4 hours of public testimony, the Oakland City Council voted in the early hours of Wednesday morning to move forward with spending $250,000 on a contract to hire controversial police consultant William Bratton.  Bratton’s notorious policing methods—including stop and frisk, gang injunctions, and curfews—remained center stage, as countless residents called for an end to harmful, divisive policing policies in Oakland.  Despite several Council members turning out pro-Bratton elements of their districts and a strong police presence in the chambers that heightened tension among participants, many residents stuck the meeting out to the bitter end, calling for public safety strategies that were more inclusive of community input and participation. Toward that end, Oaklanders recommended broader and better after school and restorative justice programs, job training, and services for residents returning from prison and jail.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

Noting how the Council seemed to be playing into people’s fear, Councilperson Desley Brooks took a strong stand against the contract asking questions about what had been delivered on the existing contract and suggesting that the Council had been sloppy in considering the proposal to amend it. “Rejecting this contract tonight,” Brooks stated, “isn’t about not addressing crime.  It’s about doing the hard work that needs to be done.”  Brooks offered the lone voice of dissent on the Council.

“Sure it’s frustrating that the Council is moving ahead with the contract and Bratton despite all common sense, but many residents seem more ready than ever to band together and fight for a smarter, more sustainable way of dealing with harm in Oakland,” said Rachel Herzing of the Stop the Injunctions Coalition.  “Our work will continue to fight Bratton-style zero tolerance policing however and whenever it comes to our neighborhoods—to carve out wider and wider spaces for the real innovation and creativity in implementing strategies that are viable, that take into account the knowledge and experience of the community itself, and that are effective in making our city healthy and strong.”

That above piece came courtesy of  Stop the Injunctions Coalition

Below is the interviews we did with City Council women Desley Brooks

Here is our interview w/ Isaac Ontiveros of Stop the Gang Injunction Coalition..

I attended this marathon meeting and wrote an open letter to Oakland City Council and the Mayor Jean Quan…You can chime in by hitting this link..

Dear Oakland City Council members Rebecca Kaplan Pat Kernighan Desley Brooks Lynette Gibson McElhaney Libby Schaaf Larry Reid Noel Gallo for City Council Dist. 5 Oakland Mayor Jean Quan…….

After 5 hrs of testimony and over 500 people from all over speaking out against Chief Bratton and his infamous Stop and Frisk policies, y’all decided in a 7-1 vote to go ahead and vote for him anyway last night..During the discussion we heard some of you note that you wanted strategies from Bratton to make Oakland policing more efficient but not have racial profiling and Stop and Frisk.. Well if Bratton coming to consult Oakland is not going to lead to racial profiling and Stop and Frisk, will you all put that in writing and make that crystal clear?  How about putting in his contract Stop and Frisk and similar profiling tactics like the nicknamed ‘Jump Out Boys‘, ‘Open Halls‘ , ‘Run Up and Freeze‘ etc WILL NOT be used by police in Oakland?The point was made at the meeting that in order for crime to come down in Oakland, trust between the community and police is needed. How is the community supposed to trust OPD if they have a consultant who may recommend intrusive policies like Stop and Frisk?

Last night speaker after speaker expressed concern about this.. Why not ease those fears? This is especially important now that the judge who prohibited Stop and Frisk in NY has just reversed her position on many of the tactics used in this procedure..You can read about that here—–>

In NYC which many like to point to, you still have large scale protests against NYPD..around this issue including last springs march of silence that brought out close to 40k people… You even have police officers in NY objecting to stop and frisk because of the pressure to meet quotas.. You can see that here—->

Again why not put this in writing and take Stop and Frisk off the table if its not about that in your 7-1 decision to bring in Bratton?

We await your response Thank u
Davey D

The War on Women: Remember their Names.. Reflect on their Lives… Revolutionize


The War on Women Continues: This morning I woke up to disturbing news about a woman who was shot to death while riding her bike near Longfellow school in Berkeley. I’m not sure why she was killed nor do I know her name but what immediately came to mind were the two teenage girls, Bobbie Sartain and her best friend Raquel Gerstel shot over 40 times in Oakland the other week…

What also came to mind was the recent kidnap and sexual assault of an 16-year-old autistic girl, with the mental capacity of a 6 year old. She got separated from her youth facility in East Oakland and was preyed upon by a man who kept her in bondage for 3 days.. Police eventually caught up with 36-year-old  Gary Steven Atkinson, who was long known to be a predator…But the damage is done. Trauma has been inflicted..

All this is compounded by a wave of assaults both within and outside the borders of our city. They range from the recent shooting death of a unidentified woman in Fruitvale 10 days ago, to an attempt by a young man in Fremont, (Cali) to hang his girlfriend in his backyard after an argument,  to shooting death of 25 year old Samantha Holderman of Antioch (Cali ) to a man who beat his wife to death in Staten Island, NY,  before taking his own life.  I can go on and on listing atrocities.

Locally all that I mentioned is underscored recent Facebook status update of long time Oakland activist and mother Needa Bee who posted up a warning about ” a psycho raping and torturing women at gunpoint in Funktown (East Oakland) . Homeless, hookers, crackheads. 2 of the women have gone to the police. And the police have done nothing“. Needa recently update us to note that word on the street is there is some sort of pimp war going on resulting in these men shooting and trying to take out each others girls..Femicide on a whole other level.

Needa Bee’s warnings are frightening because not only have the police been absent but not too many of us in the community are speaking on what she reported, but then again many of us are pretty silent on the two girls shot 40 times..Very few of us are asking and how and why? …Sadly, not a whole lot of us are talking about Kasandra Perkins, a young mother shot 9 times in front of her 3 month old child and his own mother…No one is talking about the fact that Kasandra may have been pregnant again…

Kesandra perkins

Kesandra Perkins

What we are talking about is Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City Chief football star who killed his girlfriend Kasandra and later himself in front of his coaches. What we are talking about his how the KC Chiefs demonstrated ‘inspiring courage‘ and how they ‘played valiantly‘ less than 24 hours after this horrific tragedy…Far too many of us were quoting media talking points about how the Chief’s win was a triumph and start the “healing process

Personally I thought it was in bad taste for the NFL to have allowed that game to be played. I don’t know if any sort of healing was really started.. If anything, I think it prolonged our collective silence.. The least we can do is shed light on the victims and remember their names…

We should also not numb or allow ourselves to be distracted from these recent assaults. They should weigh heavily on our hearts and minds and move us to find ways to end violence against women. Anything less is an indication that we are stepping away from our humanity.

Remember, Reflect, and Revolutionize