One year ago, there was a glitch in the Matrix. Oakland is notorious for police terror. From Bobby Hutton to Oscar Grant, police have killed Black men with impunity. But this time was different.
On March 21, 2009, East Oakland native son Lovelle Mixon shot and killed four Oakland police officers after a traffic stop in East Oakland. He was killed in the subsequent shootout, which has been deemed the “bloodiest day” in law enforcement history in California.
I traveled to the East to attend a program at the Uhuru House on the anniversary of the shooting. Last year, the Uhuru Movement held a march and rally on behalf of the Mixon family.
Their position: Even if Mixon was not political, he took a righteous stand of resistance to police terror in a community (see: colony) controlled by the police (see: occupying army). Mixon was of the community, and should be remembered.
This week, Uhuru movement leader Omali Yeshitela returned to Oakland to discuss the Mixon shooting in a framework of the dying U.S. imperialist system and domestic oppression of African people, but I’ll talk about that in another article. (Near the end of the program, Mixon’s family thanked Uhuru for supporting them during the tragedy.)
The family's sentiment may be best expressed in one statement from Mixon’s sister, Enjoli (Ms. Jolie), who was at the gathering. She said, “I ain’t saying what he did was right, but I ain’t saying what he did was wrong.” The family invited people who were present to come down to 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard where the family gathered in Mixon’s memory.
When I arrived, about 20 people were outside. Three groups of Black and white balloons, next to the 74th Avenue apartment where Mixon took his final stand, blew lightly in the wind. Glass candles and bottles of Grey Goose vodka stood as an offering to an ancestor. To the right of the apartment was a lone table covered with serving trays filled with greens, spaghetti, chicken and a huge bowl of potato salad. Any and all could get a plate. I was offered several.
In my only Twitter post about this, I wrote: At Lovelle Mixon family memorial. Family is mourning, proud, resilient and striving.
Mixon's family was warm and kind to me, despite never having met me before, or knowing I was a reporter. A few people I’d seen around the neighborhood, another was in the Black Student Union with me at College of Alameda years back. Nonetheless, I was introduced to 'Velle’s family.
Family and friends took photos, poured liquor, shared stories and gathered together. The family earlier went to the burial site and a church service.
'Velle’s uncle, Curt, who was on the phone with his nephew when 'Velle was pulled over, shared the pain of losing his nephew and his feeling about the pain of having “that fake rape shit” put on his nephew to demonize him.
I met 'Velle’s sister, Enjoli, who was in the apartment when Oakland police SWAT team members raided it. She was told by SWAT officers, “We should kill you too, bitch,” family said. I saw how she channeled her pain into music.
“No longer drown in sorrow, in the pain and the tears/I no longer have no pain, I no longer have fear,” Ms. Jolie raps on “Shoot out.”
She continues, “One pig, two pig, laying on the ground/three pigs, four pigs, I bet they know now//He knocked them down in an orderly fashion, so now they hate the Mixons in an orderly passion.”
A car parked on the street blasted three back-to-back "R.I.P. 'Velle" songs for at least an hour. The songs were created by friends and family to remember their fallen brother.
The music was defiant, full of rage and pride. The music proclaimed: Our brother was taken away, but he took out more of yours.
I did not meet her, but I also saw 'Velle’s wife. She took pictures and smiled as Ms. Jolie rapped.
Other friends and family members told me about the oppression they dealt with before the shooting, and after. They told me how fun-loving 'Velle was. They talked about how hard he worked to get a job. They told me about how dirty his parole officer did him.
It should be noted, for the two hours I was with the people in front of “Mixon Manor,” I saw no police officers drive by.
There is currently a proposal, by colonial City Councilman Larry Reid, to name four hearing rooms of City Hall after the four dead officers. Besides the apartment on 74th being christened "Mixon Manor," there will likely be no buildings named after him.
Still, 'Velle’s name will ring in the street: A legend. “'Velle Mixon, y’all listen, this is bigger than fiction,” Ms. Jolie rapped. 'Velle went out in a blaze of glory, “He said he ain't going back. Brrrrrat! Brrrrrrat!”
Unfortunately, the conditions of poverty and oppression, the lack of hope and opportunity, still exist. In fact, since 'Velle was killed, conditions have gotten worse. Instead of a dialogue to ensure opportunities for ex-offenders, money is being slashed for re-entry programs.
Five human beings lost their lives, and numerous families’ lives were forever altered. But it was said that, in the outpouring of support for the four officers, we see that Black life is still not as valued as the lives of white men.
One man told me, “'Velle re-instilled the confidence in the people. We don’t run no more. We’re not afraid anymore.”
Since Mixon, numerous other Black and Brown men have been killed by law enforcement. If the conditions that led to this tragedy aren’t changed, it will not be the last time someone strikes back.There will be another glitch in the Matrix.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 The Black Hour