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Three poems for Oscar Grant

March 15, 2009

Submit your creative expression to the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project – see details following poems, deadline March 21

Face down

by Dee Allen

This poster is featured both in the Bay View’s March print edition and by the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project, http://urbanhabitat.org/rpe/oscar. – Artist: Jocelyn Goode
This poster is featured both in the Bay View’s March print edition and by the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project, http://urbanhabitat.org/rpe/oscar. – Artist: Jocelyn Goode
Smashed vehicle windows
Cannot scream.
Burning dumpsters
Cannot unleash their agony into the smoky evening sky.
Neither damaged
T-Mobile nor
McDonald’s nor
Wells Fargo
Can feel pain.
Underground subways
Cannot fight their sudden closure.
So there’s no need to wring hands & agonize

Over property destruction.

Demolished property
Can be replaced.
The once
Full lives
Taken by law enforcement
Never are.

Brutality, never an “accident.”
It’s systemic
And replicates itself
In different cities to the nth degree.

Bleeding
Stony hearts blame such handiwork
On “a few bad apples.”
And everyone knows
How that tired old maxim goes.

Tell that to the last
Victim inside the chalkline.

Reason for anger,
Cause for alarm,
Millions have seen.
Father of one,
Age 22.
First cruel hours
Of the new year.
Young witnesses.
Four cops.
Facepunch.
Submission.
Face down.
Cold concrete.
Triggerlust.
Hot lead.
Close range.
Loud boom.
Backwound.
Panicscreams.
Slowbleed.
Here lies
Father of one,
Age 22.

Face down.

Subway platform
Was the killing field.

The truth cannot be erased,
Try as the guilty might,
Covering their crime.

Father of one,
Age 22.
His name joins
A seemingly endless
Sea of names,
Compendium of martyrs
To their same last sights:
Uniforms & weapons drawn.
Manifested
Needless State violence
Upon the unarmed.
A little Black girl of four
In Hayward goes to bed
Without her father tucking her in.
A Brown woman sleeps
Without her lover’s face to awaken to the next morning.

Reason for anger,
Cause for alarm.
The powderkeg
Called Oakland exploded twice.
Now that a legitimized
Slayer has been captured & released
Into the general public on bail,
A new explosion looms over the future’s horizon.

More fire
Put to the ‘keg.
Perhaps the murderer’s protectors
Will take notice this time
Because that young father they’ve targeted
Was one of us -

He could’ve been anyone

Anyone’s son, anyone’s brother,
Anyone’s neighbor, anyone’s friend

Anyone Black & Brown
Could be the one in submission, lying face down
In the path of a lethal device
Engineering their quick demise.

For Oscar Grant III – 1986-2009.

Dee Allen is a local poetry writer, spoken word performer and activist from San Francisco, who can be reached at Pathogen@SINISTERSPIRITS.COM. He writes, for the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project: “This was the best way I could pay homage to the memory of an African working-class man from Hayward. Considering what he went through minutes before his death at the hands of Bay Area Rapid Transit police officers Mehserle and Pirone, who should’ve been indicted and punished two months ago, the outpouring of community support needs to continue, nationally and locally. The fight against police brutality and corruption needs to continue. Bay Area Rapid Transit’s management needs to know that the public will not forget this act of violence committed by their own officers on those who depend on their subway train system for transportation. No community – Black, Brown or White – needs any more young sacrificial lambs slaughtered because of some cop’s racist, classist powertrip.”

Coastal Northern California Urban Night

by Nina Serrano

The soft orgasmic moan of a whale in moonlit water
The howl of the coyote on the hill

The owl hoots in a neighborhood tree
The opossums scurry across the street
The sirens scream through traffic
The helicopters hover over people and picket signs
The mayor fumbles feeding promises
The hope of change and a new president
emboldens embers of equality
that hide in the night shadows
slightly out of reach of dawn

*Glossary: The Oakland protests to the Jan. 1, 2009, BART police murder of Oscar Grant.

Nina Serrano can be reached at ninaserrano34@gmail.com.

Forty-one shots and 19 hits

by Raul (Curly) Estremera

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!
That terrible nine millimeter sound -
with hollow point bullets strewn all around.
And Amadou Diallo WAS DEAD before he hit the ground.
A life – snuffed out in the wink of an eye.
Then the killers went free, while a mother cried.

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!

Oscar Grant the third
Whose young voice will never be heard?
Because of a coward, and racist RAT
Who put a bullet INTO HIS BACK
Then took his hate, along on his flight.

But throughout days and half the night
The people raged and took up the fight.

A community’s pain and struggle, so well invested
That Johannes Mehserle was finally ARRESTED.

But the struggle it seems was to no avail
When a racist judge granted him bail.
But don’t worry, good mothers, let’s remain as ONE
Because our struggle for his justice has only begun.

So don’t stop the march or neither the rally
til the whole group of that night will face the tally.
We have marched it seems throughout our history
But the year ‘09 will see us through victory.

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!

Abner Louima, dancing to the rhythm of a third world beat,
Stepped out of a club and onto the street.
Was suddenly arrested and brutalized,
Then after the beating was – SODOMIZED
And this heinous crime was done by who?
You guessed it my people – the punks in blue.

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!

Patrick Dorismond, MURDERED and put to rest
By New York’s finest, Ghouliani’s best.
Thousands came to join the family
To pay their respects in peaceful harmony.
The police then attacked them -WOE AND SHAME
But the people responded with some of the SAME.
They burned the flag and overturned barriers.
Then policemen responded with personnel carriers.
But the people united and had their way.

And so the cops learned that dreadful day,
What even Al Sharpton would have to say -
Not to mess with the people when they come out to pray.

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!

To the murderers in blue, hear my accusations:
You serve as the soldiers of the ruling class,
But your days are numbered, and your killings passed
Cause it’s time for the people to whip some ass.

We’ve seen you murder workers and persons of color.
Destroyed Native people and other cultures.
Then laid claim to some eagle,
When you’re really vultures.

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!

To the people in the audience I’m here to say:
Will you heed my message or turn instead
Go back to your computer and live in your head
While they’re MURDERING BLACK FOLK.,
Just shooting them dead

There’s only one way to clear the confusion
And one clear path to a sound solution.
We’ve tried everything else
WHY NOT REVOLUTION!
Why not revolution!
Why not revolution!
Why not a revolution
Within yourself!

Forty-one shots and 19 hits!

To the family of Oscar Grant III

Raul (Curly) Estremera is a member of the Labor Action Committee to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, coordinator of the Committee in Solidarity with Cuba and Latin America, former member of the Citizens Tribunal (against police brutality), former member of the Black Liberation Army (New York), former Political Prisoner, former chairperson of the South Bay Mobilization to free Mumia, former chairperson of the Mexican American Self Help Organization (Lompoc, Calif.), former vice president of the NAACP (Lompoc, Calif., chapter), former executive director of the Western Region Puerto Rican Council, former chairperson of the Antillanos y Sur Americans Unidos (Lompoc), former chairperson of the People’s United Front, former chairperson of the Pueblo Unido (to stop the installation of the Fallon statue), former coordinator of the Cap APP0 for Oxajaca. He can be reached at dragonlibre@california.com. This poem has been published by the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project.

Curly read this poem on Feb. 20 to community gathered in support of the family of Richard Lua. Richard Lua was murdered by San Jose Police on Feb. 11. He went into medical stress from a taser shot when he was trying to get into his home and died at the scene.

Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project: Creative Expressions, a Catalyst for Social Change

Graffiti qualifies as artwork for the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project. This is among many that have been submitted. – Photo: James Wacht
Graffiti qualifies as artwork for the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project. This is among many that have been submitted. – Photo: James Wacht
Early in the morning on New Year’s Day, 22-year-old Oscar Grant III was shot and killed in Oakland, California, by a Bay Area Rapid Transit agency police officer. Grant was unarmed – the young Black man’s arms behind his back, his face pressed down against the cement. Onlookers video-phoned the horrific spectacle as his life was taken from him.

The goal of the Oscar Grant Memorial Arts Project is to gather the creative works dedicated to Oscar Grant from artists, musicians, writers, photographers and others. Any form of creative expression will be accepted. It could be a video of a dance work, audio, song, poster, photo, art project, links to web pieces etc. Selected portfolio work will be featured in several Bay Area publications, print and online. If you have any questions or would like to contribute to this project, contact christinejoy@urbanhabitat.org. All submissions should be sent to artwork@urbanhabitat.org by March 21, 2009.

People are angry. Thousands have been appalled by the Oscar Grant shooting and have taken a new stand to fight injustice. Many have chosen to creatively express their stance through art. Songs have been written and dedicated to Oscar Grant. Poems, paintings and posters have been created. Graffiti artists have painted murals.

For this project, Media Alliance will act as a clearinghouse, collecting and archiving copies of the material and coordinating its presentation by partner publications, including Urban Habitat’s Race, Poverty & the Environment Journal, Media Alliance, InColor magazine and Street Spirit Newspaper. This work is supported by a grant from the Akonadi Foundation.

This project is co-sponsored by Media Alliance and Race, Poverty and the Environment. Media Alliance’s mission is to defend, develop and strengthen independent media to support the creation of a truly democratic society and to build capacity of low income people and communities of color to create and be represented by media responsive to the communities needs. MA helps create alliances between media creators and media consumers to bring light to under-reported issues, build public support for fundamental rights to communicate and lift up best practices for the inspiration of a broad range of communities, regionally and nationally.

Race, Poverty and the Environment is a project of Urban Habitat. Since, 1990 RP&E has been exploring issues at the nexus of race, class and the environment. Founded as a joint project of the Urban Habitat Program and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation’s Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, since January 2004 RP&E has been solely a project of Urban Habitat. Urban Habitat builds power in low-income communities and communities of color by combining education, advocacy, research and coalition-building to advance environmental, economic and social justice in the Bay Area.

3 thoughts on “Three poems for Oscar Grant

  1. you are giving the wrong photo credit!!!

    you are using my graffiti photo and not giving me credityou are giving credit to Dave Id, Indymedia….thats not who took the photo…james wacht is the photographer…please fix this asap!!!

    Reply
  2. mary Post author

    It’s fixed, James, and I sincerely apologize. Actually, Dave had warned me that most of the photos in that compilation were not his and to double check the credit – obviously, I fell down on the job.

    That photo is unforgettable, haunting. Beautiful work! No wonder it’s so popular.

    Mary Ratcliff, editor
    SF Bay View

    Reply

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