by Wanda Sabir
My nephew was shot and killed by Oakland police Monday afternoon, Dec. 20. I’m in Dakar at a plenary about youth while a youth in Oakland lies dying in a backyard. Aba was 19. The elder of two sons, he was a sweet boy hanging out with the wrong people. No matter what my sister, Octavia, his mother, suggested, he resisted, yet this was no reason to kill him.
I know the neighborhood where Aba was killed well. My daughter and I used to live just around the corner from where the crash and foot chase happened, near Oakland’s Highland Hospital.
I invited Aba and his mother, Octavia, to the Susan L. Taylor kick-off just three weeks ago: A New Way Forward: Healing What’s Hurting Black America. I told Octavia that she would meet some of the organizers who could help her with Aba, like Baayan Bakari, who is at The Mentoring Center, Dr. Shawn Ginwright, whose specialty is addressing the violence and dysfunction among urban youth, and Dereca Blackmon, who is project director for Oakland Cares and an expert on radical healing exemplified in her outstanding work with youth at Leadership Excellence. We even invited Aba’s parole officer.
Aba complained he was bored, so he and his mother left early; they left before the youth spoke and presented later in the program. The youth testimonies were really powerful. I wonder why when there is a program about or for the youth, they present last or not at all, as was the case at the plenary in Dakar. The three youth who made comments only had between one and five minutes just before the session ended. Only one youth was from the Diaspora. No one mentioned the genocide in Black communities outside continental Africa.
Perhaps if Aba had heard the youths’ stories he might not have been in the car yesterday. It’s all about choice and sometimes one makes certain choices based on one’s known world.
The police also make choices, and theirs is to shoot to kill. The news report said this was the sixth shooting in recent months and four out of the six ended in fatality.
What a wasted life! Aba had so much to live for, so much unexplored. Black America really does need to look at a new way forward and, for boys like Aba who are in crisis, there has to be some kind of on-the-ground mechanism to reach them before the coroner’s office does.
Aba’s mother was looking for help, looking for answers and the fact that Aba was there with her – complaining but there – meant that perhaps on a deep psychic and spiritual level he wanted to try something different as well. We were just too slow to reach him and his need was urgent.
We need a better triage system so we stop losing our youth.
On the street, young Black men fear and are feared. They are like the ducks sitting in a row at the amusement park: Aim and shoot is the protocol. The ducks are all taken dead; there are no live ducks sitting on the wire when the game is played right.
Therefore, we have to rescue our kids, pull them off and away from the rifle range. Often, these boys don’t listen to their mothers, and Aba had a good mother in Octavia. They need men to lovingly offer them alternatives and give them boundaries with logical and reasonable consequences.
One would think that if in the six police altercations, the four people killed were shot in pursuit, then perhaps one shouldn’t run. But even if one stops, that doesn’t mean one isn’t going to die.
As Aba’s mother said, the police only come into the Black community to kill our youth, hardly ever as friends. I never heard in the report that the youth in the car were shooting at the police, just that guns were found. So why the excessive force?
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at email@example.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7:30 or 8 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.