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Bitter tears, the assassination of Oscar Grant: ‘BARTing while BLACK’

February 4, 2009

by mesha Monge-Irizarry, Idriss Stelley Action and Resource Center

Families victimized by police and their allies march to commemorate lives stolen by law enforcement, on June 13, 2002, the first anniversary of the SFPD assassination of Idriss Stelley, gunned down inside the Metreon Theatre in downtown San Francisco.
Families victimized by police and their allies march to commemorate lives stolen by law enforcement, on June 13, 2002, the first anniversary of the SFPD assassination of Idriss Stelley, gunned down inside the Metreon Theatre in downtown San Francisco.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “Just like moons and like suns, … Still I’ll rise.”

Yes. Unless, of course, it is 2 a.m., New Year’s Eve 2009, on the Oakland Plantation.

RIP Oscar Grant III.

You, unarmed, pleading for your life as a young father, at the tender age of 22, while a rogue Bay Area Rapid Transit cop Tony Pirone punches you, then crushes your neck with his knee, shortly followed in his enthusiastic, racist, vicious rage by Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shoots you in the back, murdering you.

Last call. Lights out. Party’s ovah! You do not get to rise under the New Year’s night moon, Oscar. U DEAD. It’s BARTing while BLACK time.

A now fatherless baby daughter, Tatiana, 4 years old, is wondering where Daddy went. A mother, Wanda Johnson, cries her heart out for life.

Was Mehserle promised a medal in the BART PD’s corridors for solely taking the rap on Oscar’s murder? while infamous officer Tony Pirone, now nicknamed “Piraña,” like the murderous fish, on the Justice4OscarGrant yahoo group by one of its 288 subscribers, is left to enjoy a paid administrative leave?

Mehserle, who conveniently resigned – which likely safeguards his retirement pension – and has yet to offer any condolences to Oscar’s grieving family, was arrested as a “fugitive” in the state of Nevada on Jan. 13.

The corporate press, two weeks after the assassination of Oscar Grant III, made a furtive, one-day meek attempt the “angelize” the killer on the day following his arrest. The Chronicle’s puff piece on Mehserle depicted him as a “gentle giant” since childhood.

But as soon as Oakland D.A .Tom Orloff announced that no charges were being considered against Officer Pirone or the other two BART police officers who were busy confiscating the cell phones of horrified onlookers at the murder scene, instead of applying CPR on a dying, innocent Black youth, the glorifying of Mehserle came to an abrupt stop.

Be gone, “gentle giant.” Now he’s the prime contender for the recipient of the BART Police Grand Loser 2009 Award – although the BART Police Association has announced that it will cover all Mehserle’s legal fees from now on – Hello? That’s disquietingly reminiscent of the Chicago Police Association assuming the full cost of first-class air fare to his trial and VIP luxury hotel accommodations for Jon Burge, responsible for the torture of over 200 Chicago jail inmates, for three years in a row.

In the meantime, “progressive” political parties and their local factions experience growing pains and tension around

• who spearheads the Justice for Oscar Grant Campaign,
• who reaps the commensurate credits,
• who subsequently swells up the “hits” on their respective websites,
• who beefs up membership and recruitment,
• who outsmarts the “grassroots” competition on donation drives.

And, sadly,
• who will, exponentially, get preferential access and hegemony on Oscar’s family, so as to use the Justice for Oscar Grant Campaign as their prime promotional feature.

Been there: RIP Idriss Stelley, slaughtered by SFPD, 48 bullets, nine “peace officers,” June 13, 2001.

A few refreshing local exceptions to this shameless crap: Among them, but not limited to
• Minister of Information JR Valrey,
• NoJusticeNoBART, a newly formed coalition,
• and your SF Bay View National Black Newspaper.

Muddy waters will flow under the Oakland plantation’s bridge, crisis after crisis. … Next!

And after a year or so, all of us grieving families of loved ones murdered by law enforcement are soon forgotten to the world, or labeled “attention hoes” by the corporate press if we dare to continue demanding justice for our loved ones’ stolen lives.

“Community-based” and “faith-based” organizations are staging similar Justice for Oscar Grant rallies, protests and “town hall meetings” at the same date and time but at different locations. Please tell me that the logistic conflict created for supporters of justice for Oscar Grant is coincidental and not a deliberate strategy to offset concomitant events and I’ll rest my case.

I should know, as I maintain the calendar of related events on a daily basis on

Four different NGOs and groups are running their own endorsement lists on “the people demand justice for Oscar Grant,” with no effort or intent to consolidate their lists into a central document, although we repeatedly send them a comprehensive national endorsement list, compiled daily by ISARC since Jan. 5, for which we request NO credit. Please explain the legitimate reason for their omission or refusal to consolidate these endorsements and, again, I’ll rest my case.

Bro Prez tightens Homeland Security, which incidentally BART Police is part of.

Does “hope” and “change” spell law enforcement transparency and accountability? or “police reform”? In my pipedreams, it does.

The liberal band plays on: “We are ALL Oscar Grant!” “We are ALL Sean Bell!”

No, Dahlinks, not quite. There is a tiny difference.

You are ALIVE. You have a future. You will fall in love. You will have more children or get married if you wish, grandchildren, a career, birthdays and anniversaries to come. You will be at liberty to celebrate New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day and maybe your own Fathers’ Day, or whine about having to pay child support every month. You will maybe buy a house someday and enjoy your golden years, while …

Aaron Williams, Amadou Diallo, Kathryn Johnston, Sean Bell, Cau Bich Tran, Julio Ayala, Asa Sullivan, Big O Lefiti, Gary King Jr., Jose Luis Buenrostro, Casper Banjo, Mack “Jody” Woodfox, Oscar Grant III, Anita Gray, Sheila Amaya, Brown Beret Annette Garcia, and the myriad of Black and Brown Warriors slaughtered by law enforcement in the U.S., pre- and post-9/11, in the Land of the Proud and the Free, the New Land of Hope and Change … are very DEAD. They have fallen and won’t get up when the show is over.

You can lay face down on the pavement, time for a dramatic, self-indulgent moment of fame on Facebook or YouTube, and you get to get up to your feet and go home once the “shooting” is over.

If you are white, and were allegedly drinking ‘n fighting in New Year’s first hours, you got a CITATION.

If you are an under-age white minor, you were released back to your parents’ custody, for “boys will be boys.”

As for you, “revolutionary” boogie youth, if you did indeed do something “illegal” or distasteful on that infamous night, Daddy bailed you out IN ONE PIECE in the morning, and Mommy spent the rest of the day nursing your hangover.

As the mother of just one of the thousands of Black kids executed by police, my soul is fuming, as the malaise and hypocrisy doesn’t let up.

The antiwar movement in the Bay Area sends us one or two quick “From Gaza to Oakland” fancy PDFs, opportunistic demagogy paying expeditious lip service to the War at Home. And the unions’ overall shameless silence around the murder of Oscar is deafening.

Am I pissed? You betcha.

My agency has not attempted to contact assassinated young Brother Oscar’s family, not over my grieving bod, ever.

Oscar’s biological and extended family may eventually contact us, when and/or if they wish to do so. Or not. We honor their decision either way.

But I am not about to join the progressive bandwagon and contribute to their suffocation and demagogic exploitation by groups covertly at each other’s throats in the name of justice. Bitter tears … BARTING while BLACK. Party on, Oakland!

My heart intensely goes to the family … and candles burn 24/7 on our office altar – and my home altar, next to Idriss’ ashes in a shrine, along with pictures of Oscar, Idriss and other Victim-Warriors, Sistahs and Brothas fallen at the murderous hands of law enforcement. Blue candles for the Grieving Families, white candles for Stolen Lives.

Am I “defeating unity” through this personal rant? Any attempt to unify our forces under ONE Justice for Oscar Grant umbrella movement is already gravely weakened by growing dissension on the left bank of “progressive politics,” drowning in NGO cat fights to make Justice for Oscar Grant their primary pet peeve.

How about a Justice for Oscar Grant UNITED Task Force? Or a BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA, U.S. End Racially Biased Policing COALITION?

Hm? Disagree? Holla Back!

You can contact mesha Monge-Irizarry, SF MOOC City Commissioner and co-director of the San Francisco office of Education Not Incarceration,, at iolmisha@cscom (Idriss Stelley Action and Resource Center) or

3 thoughts on “Bitter tears, the assassination of Oscar Grant: ‘BARTing while BLACK’

  1. Ann Garrison

    Well, Mesha, I just posted your piece here to Facebook, though with considerble hesitation, because I feared it would just seem like beating away any white person still among the living who might consider showing up at J.R.’s trial, tomorrow in Oakland, at the Oakland rally, all weekend, or at the Tuesday, 2:00 P.M. Black Repertory Theatre-Berkeley benefit performance of “Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Moon is Enuf.”

    No one gets paid for posting anything to Facebook, the You Tube, or Google Video, unless they work for an organization paying them to do so.

    This week Vin Park and I busted ass, as volunteers, to create pages for both J.R. and the San Francisco Bay View, but this is making me wonder whether I shouldn’t delete them in a fit of white guilt. I was about to try and find out whether there’s a link I could post to J.R.’s page, for donating to his defense fund, but this makes me think that I should just shut up and not offend.

    I’m sure there are a lot of uncoordinated 501(c)3s attempting to rake in the Oscar Grant dollar for various sorts of advocacy without authority, but people posting or discussing this on Facebook, the You Tube, or other social networking sites, are taking an interest, trying to understand and help one another think about this. And trying to keep J.R. and his friends’ cases in the public eye.

    If and when a Justifce for Oscar Grant UNITED coalition, or an End Racially Based Policing Coalition, emerges, I’ll do what I can to publicize it, by posting to social networking sites, possibly writing and/or talking about it, or maybe attending a meeting, though this makes me very wary of any such further involvement.

    I certainly wasn’t looking for any moments of Facebook fame by throwing up a page for J.R. I was about to go struggle with the pictures on that page right now, and think about how to post a plea for anyone who can be in Oakland at 9:00 A.M. tomorrow to show up at J.R. and friends trial. But, this is actually a lotta work to do, just to get slammed, especially when there’s plenty I should be doing to bolster my own defenses in the war at home.

    You rant at the anti-war movement for trying to capitalize on Oscar Grant’s murder with glossy, gratuitous PDFs on “The War from Palestine to Oakland,” but the next moment you’re ranting at the unions for their absolute silence.

    There’s value in this piece, Mesha. Competition for the non-profit dollar is often fierce, unpleasant, unethical. And the really big mega-charities, outfits like Conservation International and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and U.S. “AIDS relief,” do more to advance imperial foreign policy than anyhting else. And, non-profit professsionalism diverts much of the originally radical energy into 501(c)3 cages.

    People should understand all this, and ask themselves who they’re giving to or speaking out for, before they do so. In 2005, in dismay at the sight of the flood in New Orleans, I foolishly wrote a check to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a clean green nuclear power advocacy agency, just because they wrote to me, to captalize on New Orleans’ pain.

    We should all know to look out for the atrocities of non-profit corporations, as well as those of for profit corporations.

    But, nevertheless, I think you’re being too harsh with a lot of us. During the Gaza bombing, I, like many others, put up a Palestinian profile page that said “We Are All Palestinians.” Think I should go kill myself, try to get a BART cop to shoot me, or fly off to someplace Barack Obama might drop a bomb on me before suggesting solidarity with the Oscar Grant Movement, with J.R., or with Palestine?

    People have been talking about, and trying to understand the Oscar Grant murder, and, now, J.R.’s case as well, in my Facebook Network, ever since this started, and nobody’s paying me, or sending any adulation my way, for it. J.R. and Mary both said thanks, to Vin Park and myself, and that was enough, but this is too much.

  2. mesha Monge Irizarry

    Oh bruthah….

    I was not aware of dissing white people in the article….and did not see any pictures of you Annie laying face down to emulate Oscar Grant…

    Please do not take my observations personally. I know how hard you work, that none of us are paid to fo it, some of us (moi 2t) on the verge of homelessness, etc.
    And I have tremendous respect for your clarity and intelligence. So lighten up, white gurl LOL !
    You are a valued and precious ally of ours

    in Unity & Respect

  3. S Murph

    Divide and conquer

    In our haste to come to grips with the killing of Oscar Grant we get all hyped and emotionally cranked up and in the mist of all that jumping up and down common sense and critical thinking goes out of the window. It would seem to me that those who are leading the charge to protest and keep this tragic event in the forefront of peoples thinking would COMBINE their efforts so that they are NOT bumping heads with each other (remember the saying there is strength in NUMBERS!!!!). If all these various individuals/groups would collaborate/co-ordinate their meetings/protest events the effect would have a greater impact. The only outcome they will get doing what their doing now is splintering that impact, which oh by the way is just what BART, Oakland DA the Mayors Office and everyone else on the other side of this issue want. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of these individuals/groups are interlopers sent
    by the powers that be to Divide Conquer and/or Splinter the whole protest effort in order to render it DOA. At the very least they are being used to collect information on the folks that are really about protesting (remember COINTELPRO!!!). I just think that if we stop and think and examine history we will find that we have been down this road before and there are some lessons to be learned before we go down the same road again. Because if we do not learn those lessons (remember the saying if you do not learn from history you are doomed to repeat it!!!).


    S Murph


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