The messengers – community-controlled media-makers – refuse to be destroyed
by Malaika H. Kambon
Recently, in keeping with the theme of Cameras Not Guns, Kilo G began filming a painful new project. Since July 16, 2011, he has been filming much of the aftermath of the SFPD murder of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding, a young Black man. Since the shooting of Harding on Third and Oakdale – in broad daylight, for lack of a transfer proving purchase of a $2 train ticket – community outrage has exploded.
When asked to describe Kilo G’s determination to see this project through, the Idriss Stelley Foundation said of Kilo G’s work:
“As part of his crucial endeavor to find the truth, Kilo G has been interviewing direct witnesses of Harding’s killing, who contend they never saw a gun in Harding’s hand. Witnesses such as Henry Taylor, who was arrested by SFPD to silence him, then released because no charges against Taylor could stick.”
In the same fashion, and for the nearly the same reasons, Debray Carpenter – better known as Fly Benzo – was arrested the week following Harding’s murder and released days later. All charges were dropped. Apparently, asking questions, seeking answers, speaking out and videography are crimes and are therefore punishable by arrest.
Accordingly, attempts were made to silence Kilo G as well. He was accused of harassing a police officer. Perry, who is neither on parole nor probation and has not committed any crime, was ordered to appear in court to answer to charges of civil harassment against a police officer, bringing the total to at least three Black men arrested for conducting an independent community-sanctioned investigation into the murder of Kenneth Harding.
And again, recent history repeated itself. On Aug. 12, in a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. in the San Francisco Superior Court, an order to show cause for civil harassment filed by SFPD Officer Julia Angalet against Keith “Kilo G” Perry was vacated and all charges filed against him were dropped. SFPD Officer Julia Angalet, oddly enough, was a no show at her own show.
The mere fact of a concerted and concerned presence of people with Kilo G for this court hearing rattled the powers that be enough that they detailed a sheriff’s officer – Officer Mendoza – to take our pictures, increase the number of officers in the hallway outside of the courtroom, detail officers to follow us to the elevator and block off the adjoining hallways that we passed through. In addition, they had both a sheriff’s department officer and a jump-suited Homeland Security highway patrol officer, armed with both a pistol and a Taser X-26, watching us while we stood outside.
And prior to court, Cpl. Castellanos of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department saw fit to inform Kilo G to “meet me at five when I get off. I get off work at 5 p.m.”
Considering the present air of community hostility toward a global police force that kills with impunity, what would be the purpose of Castellanos saying something like that if he wasn’t intending, as a representative of the SFPD, to escalate an already tense situation to a lethal state? In this reporter’s estimation, those comments can be construed as a direct threat to yet another Afrikan man’s life – particularly since they had nothing whatsoever to do with the court case, were uttered specifically to Kilo G while he was alone in the hallway outside of court, and when the officer realized that his comments had been overheard, he was denying that he’d said anything at all!
What does this mean? Well, somebody’s lying and somebody’s got something to hide. And guess what? It isn’t Kilo G and it isn’t the predominantly Afrikan Bayview Hunters Point community.
Kenneth Harding’s murder at the hands of the SFPD has sent shock ripples around the world, adding to the already daunting statistics of young Afrikans being murdered by police, while globally the corporate media ignores incidents, buries them in silence and disseminates misinformation or attempts to cover the murders up.
Witness the fact that London, England, burned earlier this month because of just this kind of murder – that of Mark Duggan, a young unarmed Black man. Cities across the world raged at the murder of Oscar Grant III as Oakland, Calif., lit up like a torch. New York erupted at the murders of 10-year-old Clifford Glover, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. Detroit is still smoldering after the savage murder of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, killed while sleeping on the couch in her own home. And let us not forget about elderly Alberta Spruill, who was literally frightened to death in New York City after police, in a “mistaken raid,” tossed a concussion grenade into her home. And the list goes on.
In the San Francisco Bay area, between 1966 and 2011, the murders of innocent people by police include but are not limited to the following people of color, disability and or transient, homeless persons:
- Matthew Johnson, 16 – killed after running from a joy ride in a stolen car, sparking the Hunters Point riots.
- Tony Groshe, 13 – mentally challenged youth, killed while playing with a water pistol in Potrero Hill.
- Aaron Williams – killed in the Western Addition, aka the Fillmore.
- Mark Garcia – died of a heart attack in the Mission District after being robbed by unknown assailants, then pepper sprayed and hogtied by SFPD, the very persons he cried out to for help.
- Bruce Seward – shot and killed for being naked on a bench outside a BART station.
- Idriss Stelley – an honor student shot 48 times by nine SFPD officers inside San Francisco’s Metreon Theater.
- Gustavus Rugley – shot 36 times as he sat in his car at Alemany and Ocean by the SFPD gang task force.
- Vinh Bui – a Bayview resident shot and killed while “holding a metal object.”
- Randall Dunkin – a disabled man shot while sitting in his wheelchair.
- Oscar Grant III, 22 – tortured, called racial epithets and shot to death at point blank range by BART police.
- Raheim Brown, 20 – shot and killed by Oakland Unified School District police.
- Charles Hill – homeless transient man beaten and shot to death by BART police.
- Kenneth Harding, 19 – shot for lack of a transfer proving he’d paid the $2 train fare.
And the corporate media continues to cover up what the Black and Brown communities have always recognized as an epidemic of stolen lives and police brutality that has gone on for centuries and continues unabated.
Speaking at a community meeting immediately after the killing of Kenneth Harding, where SFPD Chief Greg Suhr was shouted down, a longtime Bayview resident made a telling and critical statement quoted by the October 22nd Coalition:
“A boy gets gunned down. We don’t know if there was a gun there, but we know that for 40 damn years, people have been getting gunned down in this community. People are angrier now than they were when they walked in the door. We’re a community that’s truly in pain, that’s truly frustrated and really needs some respect.”
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense advocated community control as opposed to police occupations and was successful in building such controls until it was decimated by J. Edgar Hoover and his infamous “counter-intelligence” program, COINTELPRO.
Kenneth Harding was murdered in broad daylight. Oscar Grant III photographed his killer, as did thousands of witnesses. But they are both still very dead and their killers are known and walking the earth free.
And now that neither the corporate media pundits nor their lies, nor the various police departments and their legally sanctioned killers have a foot to stand on – as their cities burn to the ground on international television – they want to make matters worse by publishing useless federal reports admitting wrongdoing on the one hand, while attempting to shoot the messengers of the people with the other hand? What’s wrong with this picture?
People like videographer Kilo G, like the Black-owned San Francisco Bay View newspaper – who had a bullet come through their window and their entire website hacked in attempts to put them out of business – and like the most famous of our peoples’ voices, internationally acclaimed journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who fights for his life on death row, while everyone from the feds to the courts to the Fraternal Order of Police of Pennsylvania try to silence his voice and crush his life and spirit – are media outlets that are unstinting in their search for and reporting of the facts.
We the people deserve to know the truth. And we must protect what we have: our people’s media, our truth tellers. For it is a sad fact of life that freedom of the press is not the sacred cow it is purported to be, because it only exists to serve corporate-political interests. And stilted political interests have turned it into a free-for-all of corruption.
In a world gone mad, embedded journalists go to wars that are instigated by whomever has the most money and report back to an ostrich-like North American populace that war is all about guts and glory and fighting the good fight for truth, justice and the American way. And the populace believes this until Superman comes home in a body bag, with varying portions of his or her anatomy missing – the corpse not being the only thing that’s covered up.
The system will even kill its own for prime public relations ratings and a percentage. Witness the Pat Tillman story, for example. He was a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals indoctrinated to fight the good fight against the “War on Terror” after 9/11. Tillman gave up fame and fortune – a $3.5 million football contract with the Cardinals and a $9 million contract with the St. Louis Rams – to die for his country and protect it from the so-called evil terrorists who had their sights set on stealing U.S. freedoms.
He joined the Army Rangers and his Army Rangers killed him, blamed it on the Afghans, gave him a posthumous Silver Star, covered up his death and fueled the U.S. war machine for two years, using him like a tool as the U.S. poster-boy, who, at 27 years old, died a national hero.
The Army of course didn’t bother to tell anyone that they’d suppressed the true findings of the coroner: Pat Tillman was assassinated from 10 yards away with an M-16, the shots being small and perfectly placed. Tillman was also listed as “an agnostic, probably an atheist” and was arranging through a friend to meet with noted anti-war historian Noam Chomsky after his tour of duty in Iraq had ended.
Tillman’s father publicly and in writing told the army to go fuck itself after the cover-up became known through the diligence of the Tillman family; and the Army then tried to reduce it to “a few typographical errors” in the information that the family was officially given as the cause of their loved one’s death.
So, significant parts of the populace now realize that cover-ups are real. And also that in-bed-with-the-State-Department journalists lie. And finally, that there is a record of history’s most prominent figures that direct substantial sums of money to perpetuate unstinting violence against those who hunt down truth. Vicious dictators and colored puppets in positions of power, political and corporate pundits, media moguls, prison and military industrial complex players et al. are some of the figures that come to mind.
Whether they be governmental, vigilante or members of that ol’ boys club called “the corporate media,” there is incontrovertible documentation that the powers that be have, do and will continue to act to silence those who air the corporate dirty laundry. Impunity is the coin they use, no matter the size of the truth being told and no matter the age, gender and or national origin of the teller.
Cover-up is the stick they wield even when their messiness spirals out of control. Then they make a movie out of it or a PR show, whichever will benefit – read, profit – them the most.
So when the poor, the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the marginalized stand up and scream foul and then prove it and then fight back, the monster of suppression rears its ugly head and tries hard to put the genie back in the bottle by any and every means necessary, however foul.
First they go into denial, when everything turns into a gun.
The wallet, transfer or medicine you reach for, the compact you use to powder your nose, magically transform into guns. The guns, whether they are invisible, visible or planted, are definitely presumed to be in your possession. Then you are killed. Witness the countless “regime” change murders: Fred Hampton, George Jackson, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to name but a few.
Next, they colonize the information.
Then you are imprisoned, exiled and or killed. Geronimo ji Jaga was a prime example of this tactic, as were Tupac Amaru Shakur, Anita Spruill, Assata Olugbala Shakur and many of the men and women who remain political prisoners and or prisoners of war from roughly 40 years ago to this day – or who died locked up – as well as those souls who are locked away and have no one and are unnamed except to their communities and friends.
Lastly, they criminalize your every movement and your very existence.
The deeds you do that help, encourage, uplift and empower get twisted and destroyed and turned into that “threat to national security” gun. Then you are disappeared. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine and the Black Panther Party are prime examples of victims of this. And when all else fails, obliteration by treaty promises unkept, gentrification, starvation and death by guns of assimilation are sure to follow.
But what happens when those of us who speak power to truth consistently, loudly, unfailingly and in various and creative ways take on the monster in the belly of the beast and beat him at his own game? What happens when the proverbial rabbit has the pen and or the gun and takes out the beast? What happens when one of us – “we the people” – or one of the people’s favorite sons or daughters stops the war, throws a wrench in the machine, refuses to disappear and lives to tell it and to keep fighting?
What happens when the power of the people wins many small battles on the road to winning the war and overturning the machine? That’s when the world changes. The madness stops. The bullets, bombs and burning crosses cease to be. We the people are winning.
We are doing this with very little in the way of material resources. This upsets the moguls of the state, who seemingly cannot breathe unless they have billions of dollars of someone else’s money – ours – at their beck and call, 24/7.
But the daily stock market crashes of 2011 are an indication that Babylon is crumbling to its wilted knees because it has squandered the rich bounty that it has systematically stolen from us and from our motherlands and from the planet Earth.
So, shooting the messenger has become a national pastime amongst the moneyed rich and connected. But the messengers are refusing to be destroyed. The messengers, like Kilo G, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ruchell Magee, the San Francisco Bay View and so many others, are carrying on and passing the torch. The power that these brave and consistent souls wield in the road to victory, like the weapon that it is, is the power of the people.
Malaika H. Kambon is a freelance writer and photojournalist, owner of People’s Eye Photography and a master’s degree candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.