African arts showcase at UC Berkeley

The spirit of Africa was alive at the African Arts Society's "Showcase" on November 20 at UC Berkeley.

Ready to Learn Fun Fair

Children enjoyed face painting, legos and storytelling at the Ready to Learn Fun Fair at Peralta Elementary School in Oakland.

Occupy Oakland calls for West Coast Port Shutdown

Organizers say Port owners are "1%." Port begs to keep the Ports Open for 99% workers.

Oakland Labor Day BBQ hosts good time for 'fam bam'

The "I am Oakland" collective hosted the Labor Day Fam Bam BBQ at Mosswood Park on September 6.

Protest against censorship of Palestinian Children's Art

In response to censorship of Palestinian children's art by an Oakland art museum, dozens came out to protest in Oakland.

RIP Peabo Wellington

College of Alameda student Jepeabo Wellington was murdered days before the school year began.

Students gain college acceptance at Black College Fair

Hundreds of young people attended the third annual Black College Fair at Laney College, the second year the Oakland community college has hosted the event.

Mehserle rally in Walnut Creek causes media frenzy, leads to counter-demonstration

Pro-Mehserle and law enforcement officers face off against Grant supporters and anti-police brutality demonstrators in Walnut Creek on July 19.

Black Man wants to Free Mehserle

A rally staged in support of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Walnut Creek Monday afternoon drew hundreds of protesters, dozens of journalists and photographers and plenty of police.

But instead of the 100 Mehserle supporters, gathered in the parking lot between the Contra Costa Superior Court building and the Buttercup restaurant, being greeting by a stage, podium or speakers, they were met by counter-protesters demanding Justice for Oscar Grant. Mehserle was convicted July 8 of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting of Grant at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland.

Pro-Mehserle and law enforcement protesters held signs like, “Free Mehserle,” “If U Don’t Like Police Officers, Next Time You Need Help, Call a MethHead.”

Shortly after 2 p.m. (when the rally was to begin) the number of counter-protesters began to swell. Demonstrators held signs that read, "Jail Killer Cops" and "Justice for Oscar Grant." The street was filled with protesters standing in the street along Ygnacio Valley Road, until police in riot gear forced protesters back onto the sidewalk. Businesses on the street had been closed since shortly after 1 p.m..

For much of the rally, demonstrators yelled back and forth as each other and accusations of racism abounded, but there were also strong dialogues between people on all sides.

You'd reach for your taserLaney College Black Student Union (Laney BSU) member Michael Walker, also known as “Tha Ghetto Prophet” spoke at length with off duty Richmond Police officer Joe Avila.

The two spoke about their differing perspectives: Walker being a 30-year-old Black male from (Oakland), and Avila being a 14-year law enforcement veteran in the city he was born and raised.

Mehserle supporters chant, “It’s not about race,” although the majority of Mehserle’s supporters were white. The most notable exception were two Black males, including one holding a “Free Mehserle” sign.

Interview with Black supporter of Johannes Mehserle and law enforcement supporter Kevin Thomas at July 19 rally in Walnut Creek. Interview by Pendarvis Harshaw for Youth Radio.

The atmosphere was racially charged. Besides a huge banner reading, “Jail all Racist Killer Cops” dominating the view from the road, counter-demonstrators began chanting, “Where are your white sheets?” a reference to the racist terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan.

Mehserle supporters began chanting, “Go home,” to which Grant supporters began chanting, “Racists, go home.”

Numerous times during the rally, police from different agencies would change positions and march onto the street – now blocked off – and Mehserle supporters would applaud. Many counter-demonstrators on the street would boo.

After leading a chant of “Back the Badge,” law enforcement supporter Mike D’Lorenzo told The Black Hour he was being unfairly labeled a racist because he disagreed with Grant supporters. He said he supported Mehserle because the shooting was “a tragic mistake.” He agreed with the verdict.

“He’s (Mehserle) going to pay a life sentence; economically, emotionally,” said Mike D’Lorenzo, adding “that pales in comparison to a young man losing his life.”

As more Grant supporters arrived, more people filed onto the streets again. While it appeared that most of the crowd continued to yell in each other’s faces, many ventured to other sides and engaged people in conversations who had opposing views.

In an interview at the end of the rally, Avila, who came out to support Mehserle and law enforcement officers emphasized that being pro-Mehserle does not mean someone is anti-Grant.

“If you talk to all the police officers out here, they’ll agree, it’s a tragedy. Oscar Grant did not deserve to die. But it’s not a murder,” Avila said. He said Mehserle did not plan to shoot Grant because of his race and that take credibility away from those who are really victims of racism.

“It’s the totality of the circumstances,” Avila said, referring to the fight reported on BART and Mehserle’s lack of training opposed to “one white guy going up there saying ‘Here’s my chance to shoot a Black man in the back.’”

Avila, along with all other law enforcement officers told The Black Hour that former BART police officer Tony Pirone escalated the incident, with some adding that he should be prosecuted criminally.

But many Grant supporters suggested that Mehserle acting in a manner consistent with historic racism in this country, one even saying that he may not have even been conscious of the influence of race, but acted upon it.

In an interview with Youth Radio's Pendarvis Harshaw, Nancy Rhiemer from Pleasant Hill said she came out to protest the unjust murder of Oscar Grant.
"It's to be expected, because they don't know any better. They have to realize that this injustice is ongoing," Rhiemer said.

The pro-Mehserle supporter’s crowd dwindled in the late afternoon until there were mainly counter-demonstrators left. By 5 p.m., the scheduled time the rally was to end, there were more police left than demonstrators. There were no arrests. The rally ended without major incident. Most Mehserle supporters walked to their cars while many Grant supporters walked back to the Walnut Creek BART station.

The pro-Mehserle demonstration was organized on Facebook and highly publicized by the media. Sixteen miles east of Oakland, participants said Walnut Creek was chosen because it is centrally located. Ironically, there were no speakers at the event and rally organizers have worked to keep their identities secret.

Mehserle, who is white, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on July 8 for the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant, who is black. A widely publicized You Tube video of Grant being shot in the back while lying face down on the Fruitvale BART platform led to mass protests in Oakland in January 2009.

Mehserle is currently awaiting sentencing. He was originally to be sentenced in August, but the hearing was continued to November.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated, "A widely publicized You Tube video of Grant being shot while lying on his back led to mass protests in Oakland in January 2009." Grant was shot in the back by Mehserle as he was held face down on the Fruitvale BART platform. After he was shot, Mehserle handcuffed Grant. Allegedly the proper BART procedure after an officer-involved shooting.

What if the Tea Party was Black? by Jasiri X - Music Monday

A few months ago, author and anti-racist activist Tim Wise wrote an article, "Imagine if the Tea Party was black?"

Pittsburgh PA activist and rapper Jasiri X took the concept and delivers in a way only Hip Hop can. Back again delivering the next, This Week with Jasiri X asks, "What if the Tea Party was Black?"

Check out Jasiri X's

Oakland, BART Police shoot and kill man

Blood stains from spot where man was shot and killed by Oakland and BART police officers on Saturday morning, July 16.

A man -- identified by OPD as 48 year old Oakland resident Fred Collins, was shot and killed Saturday morning by at least five Oakland and BART police officers. The shooting occurred at about 8:15 a.m. after Oakland Police dispatchers received a call that a man was armed on the 3200 block of E 12th Street, according to police. OPD dispatchers notified BART police who had two officers in the area, police said.

Two BART police off approached a man “matching the description,” police said, and the man ran away. Police chased the man for several blocks and caught the man, they said, and attempted to Tase him. The Taser had “no effect” police said. The man ran again, but was caught again by police. The second Taser also had no effect on the man, police said.

He allegedly charged at officers with knives in each hand, police said, before multiple officers pummeled the man with bullets. Some reports state the man yelled, “Shoot me, shoot me!”

First responders arrived to the scene where the unidentified man was pronounced dead, police said. The man has yet to be identified, witnesses described as a dark-skinned man in his late 30s or early 40s, either Black or Latino, and possibly homeless. Most residents; however, only saw the man’s body covered in a blue tarp.

When community residents were told about what occurred – that BART police were involved in a shooting with Black or Brown man – the most common response was; another one?

Read complete story on

Photo of Fred Collins from The Bay Citizen.

Oakland to host two Black Expo events the same weekend

By Reginald James
Although the Willie Lynch letter is historically a work of fiction, it appears that his ghost has risen from the pages of fiction and continues to be a reality among Black folks in the Bay Area.

This weekend – after a two-year hiatus, the Black Expo returns to Oakland. In fact, there will be two Black Expo’s in Oakland this weekend. In two different locations.

The Black Expo has been taking place in Oakland since 1991. The great Dr. C. Diane Howell coordinated the local expo in Oakland until the national organizers took Oakland off its schedule. From 1997, she grew the expo into a remarkable opportunity for showcasing Black entrepreneurship and business, networking and college information.

Sadly, Dr. Howell – who also published the Black Business Listings (BBL) – passed away December 2008.

Her downtown Oakland office was shuttered (although a sign still sits outside the former Broadway offices next to Payless, the BBL has not been published and there was no expo in 2009.

Making up for that missing expo, there are two this year.

Touting itself as the “official” Bay Area Black Expo, one expo will be held at the Oakland Coliseum. This expo was publicized in both the Sunday Morning News (newspaper) and the Globe Newspaper (two Black newspapers in the East Bay). There will be a tribute to Dr. Howell at this expo. The expo was also promoted at the April mixer of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.

Another expo is being organized at the Oakland Marriott by Dr. Annette Shelton’s Hand to Hand Marketing. This event was publicized in the Oakland Post newspaper, as well as a July mixer of the OACCC.

Can’t we all just get along?

Although I often felt that Black Expo was very “corporate” when compared to events like the annual Kwanzaa Gift Show, it was an excellent opportunity for Black people to network. How strong might the expo be if it were coordinated in conjunction? Even if one was held this weekend and another in a few weeks, or months. It is actions like this that give credibility to the myth that "Black folks can't come together."

It is an embarrassment that people -- seeming to be concerned about Black Economics -- cannot set aside their petty bourgeoisie differences and created opportunities. Then again, under the myth of "Black Capitalism," I guess competition is good. Right?

Not really. At a time when so many are not working, networking is mandatory. Unity is necessary.

Wotj unprecedented numbers of Black people are being forced out of Oakland through police and media enabled gentrification, instead of coming together -- like Dr. Howell would expect and organize for -- Black folks are falling into that divisive “Willie Lynch” syndrome.

What would our ancestor Dr. Howell think about that?

The so-called "Official Bay Area Black Expo" will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at the Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. More info at Vivica A. Fox hosts on Saturday, featuring performances by Shirley Murdock and others.

Hand To Hand Marketing's Black Expo will be 7-10 p.m. Friday July 16, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at the Oakland Marriott and Convention Center, 1001 Broadway. Perfomers include Lenny Williams, and others. Tickets are $10 for adults, $2 for children. For more information, visit

Mehserle takes the stand

By Thandisizwe Chimurenga
Special to

Day 10 of the People vs. Mehserle trial ended June 24 with defendant Johannes Mehserle taking the stand.

Mehserle, a former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer, is accused of murder in the death of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back while prone at an Oakland rail station on New Year’s Day 2009.

Defense attorney Michael Rains’ first sought to humanize his client, asking about his family life and what he was voted "most" in high school: Mehserle said he was voted “Most Huggable."

It stood in stark contrast to his questioning days earlier, on June 22, which sought to portray 22-year old Grant as a violent aggressor.

Judge Robert Perry interrupted Rains’ twice saying “We have to get to the case."

Thursday, Rains asked Mehserle how he became interested in police work and about his enrollment at the Napa Valley Police Academy in July 2006 and his graduation in December of that year.

Rains asked Mehserle about his training, focusing on the practice of drawing a gun from a holster and developing “muscle memory.”

While still a cadet at Napa, Mehserle attended a recruitment event with representatives from BART and other agencies. He applied and, after a three-month process, was sworn in as a BART officer in March 2007.

Rains asked Mehserle about his training as a rookie with the agency, and Mehserle’s attempt to develop his own “style.” Mehserle said that, prior to BART, he came from a customer service-type background where his approach had involved communicating with people.

“I wasn’t very hands on,” he said.

Court ended June 24 after Mehserle had been on the stand for only about an hour. But he had time to share how he answered the call on Jan. 1, 2009, to assist other officers at the Fruitvale transit station. He said he and his partner that night, officer John Woffendine, arrived in about five minutes and had been coming from the West Oakland BART station.

Mehserle said there was “lots of noise upstairs”; he could hear yelling and screaming when he got out of his car, and added that he was worried about the officers upstairs.

He said, as he arrived on the platform, he saw three people "advancing" toward former officers Anthony Pirone and Marysol Domenici.

“They looked like they were going to interfere,” he said.

According to his recollection, Mehserle said there were four people seated against wall and he identified Grant and Jack Bryson as being “upset.”

Mehserle stated he saw Pirone and Domenici with their Tasers drawn, and he took out his also, focusing on Grant and Bryson. He said the two were yelling about Pirone, saying “eff him, eff that officer,” and, “I’m going to sue him.”

Mehserle said he got them to settle down, and asked Oscar Grant to put away his cell phone.

Before Mehserle took the stand, Michael Schott, a forensic video image analyst, wrapped up two day's worth of testimony at the trial. He focused on sequences of images from six videos from Jan. 1, 2009.

Schott showed frames from the videos, slowly progressing through them rather than playing the videos in their entirety. The videos he showed had not been enhanced; they were somewhat blurry and, though Schott stressed he was only giving his interpretation, he kept eye contact with the jury and spoke authoritatively.

Prosecutor David Stein, deputy district attorney, asked Schott about his law-enforcement background and in how many cases he had testified where police officers had been accused of misconduct. Schott replied "probably" more than 50.

When Stein asked Schott if his law enforcement background made Schott biased toward law enforcement, Schott said it did not.

Later, Stein asked Schott, in relation to the videos, whether he thought it would be helpful to listen to the audio as he watched them.

Scott replied, "It doesn't necessarily change what is on the screen."

Stein challenged Schott about specific scenes in the videos: "In this case, where observers and witnesses reacted to Oscar Grant being struck by Pirone, are you saying that's not what they saw?" he asked.

Schott replied, "There is no doubt they are mistaken."

Regarding Pirone kneeing Grant, Stein asked, "Did you factor in what you heard in your interpretation that Officer Pirone did not strike Oscar Grant in the head?"

Schott said, "No, I am looking to see if his foot left the platform."

Schott had earlier testified that, just before Pirone placed his knee on Grant’s head or neck, Pirone could be seen in the video “placing his hand between Oscar Grant’s head and the concrete pavement.”

With incredulity in his voice, Stein asked Schott, “Is that what you believe?”

Rains said he will call his last witness Monday, June 28. The case is scheduled to go to the jury by the end of next week.

Mehserle is scheduled to return to the stand today.

Former BART police officers testify in Johannes Mehserle murder trial

By Thandisizwe Chimurenga
Special to

Testimony in the trial of former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle concluded Friday with the appearances of former officers Marysol Domenici and Anthony Pirone.

Both officers were fired by BART last spring based on recommendations from a private firm that investigated the shooting.

Domenici changed her testimony from earlier reports, and video evidence appeared to contradict some of her recollections. Pirone said there were many things he did not recall about that morning. A witness for the prosecution who is trained in non-lethal police tactics may have given the defense a boost when he shared a story about unwittingly pulling his gun on a suspect.

Mehserle is charged with murder in the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting death of an unarmed and prone Oscar Grant on the Fruitvale BART platform in Oakland, Calif.

Mehserle resigned from his job in January 2009 on the day he was due to speak with BART investigators regarding the shooting.

Pirone was the first officer to arrive on the station platform on Jan. 1, 2009, and some witnesses said it was his aggression that led to Grant’s shooting by Mehserle. Domenici was the second officer on the scene. Her presence was requested by Pirone to help detain a group of Grant’s friends as they were leaving a south-bound train.

Domenici’s testimony, which began Thursday afternoon, was confusing and complicated as she answered many of the questions posed by Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein. Judge Robert Perry interjected on more than one occasion, saying “That’s not what he’s asking.”

Stein suggested in court that Domenici exaggerated the danger on the Fruitvale platform to justify her fellow officers' actions and Grant’s shooting.

In preliminary hearings last year, Domenici testified she feared for her safety when she arrived on the platform because “hundreds of people” were coming toward her as doors opened on the train. During this week’s testimony, she said it was actually “40 to 50” people. When Stein showed video from a BART surveillance camera of Domenici arriving on the nearly empty platform, Domenici said the camera “did not show everything.”

Videos also showed Domenici looking away from the area where Grant was shot. When asked by Stein why she did not take out her weapon when she heard the gunshot, she said it was because of the expression on her fellow officers’ faces.

Pirone, dressed similarly to Mehserle in a light grey business suit and yellow tie, appeared calm and cooperative on the witness stand.

Pirone was pulling Michael Greer off the train when, witnesses stated in court, he threw the young man into a concrete wall and then pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. Pirone said he “nudged him towards the wall. Greer put his hands on the wall, pushed himself back and spun around, took a fighting position, clenched his fists, left foot in front of the right, like a boxer …” Saying he “didn’t want to get hit,” Pirone grabbed Greer by his dreadlocks and pulled him over his leg and onto the ground.

Pirone at many points said he did not remember many details of that morning. At other points, he seemed to remember things quite vividly. He denied walking over to and striking Grant, which was graphicly depicted in one of the videos played in court. He said he did "not remember that whole block of time” from walking over to Grant until when Mehserle showed up.

Pirone did remember Grant trying to “wiggle” his head out from under his knee. But he denied it when Stein asked, “Did you ever hear Oscar Grant say he couldn’t breathe?”

There was some discussion of what Pirone remembered about a conversation surrounding the use of a racial slur.

Pirone, who had threatened repeatedly to Tase the young men that morning, stated Grant told him, “I’ve got a 4-year-old daughter. I respect the police.” Upon hearing this, Pirone said he took it as a sign of a commonality between the two and thought that “we could now have a dialogue like adults.” Seizing on the commonality, he says he asked Grant, “What would your daughter think” about the way he is acting now. That’s when he says that Grant called him a “bitch ass n—–.”

In the video played in court, Pirone is heard yelling the slur at Grant twice, at which point Mehserle begins to slam Grant down.

At this point, Pirone says he heard Mehserle say “Tony, Tony, get up, get back, I’m going to Tase him …”. Pirone then stated on the stand that he thought it was “odd” that Mehserle was telling him to get up because he (Pirone) had “control.”

After Grant was shot, Pirone says he thought Mehserle’s Taser had “malfunctioned” because he looked at Grant’s back “looking for the probes from the taser.” He says he then saw Mehserle holding his gun with a two-handed grip. Pirone then told Mehserle to handcuff Grant and said he remembered looking at Grant’s back and seeing the hole in his shirt; the round that had been fired from Mehserle’s gun was on the outside of the front of Grant’s shirt, looking silver and “mushroomed.”

At this point, Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, began weeping in the courtroom.

After Pirone radioed to get an ambulance he says that Mehserle stated to him, “Tony, I thought he was going for a gun.” Asked by Stein what he said in response, Pirone replied, “Yeah.”

Just prior to the testimony of the two former BART officers, the prosecution called Sean McCann as another expert witness in defensive tactics.

McCann, a former Berkeley, Calif., police officer who is certified by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, testified to the various less than lethal options available to most officers, including chemical agents and batons. He said part of an officer’s training usually includes objectivity and patience.

“If emotions are not held in check, they can affect an officer,” he said.

McCann recounted how, after an encounter with a suspect that included fighting in the street and a foot chase, McCann pushed a suspect against a wall with one hand and “noticed” he had his gun in the other hand pointed at the man’s head.

“I don’t know how I did that,” he said.

Rains took the opportunity to investigate this on re-direct, but Stein tried to emphasize that the two situations were almost polar opposites.

Stein tried to have McCann explain that he stopped his suspect after a high-adrenaline chase, and the man was closer to 6 feet tall and nearly 300 pounds. Oscar Grant, on the other hand, was not chased, and had a much smaller frame, 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 160 pounds.

Oakland officials attempted to preempt protests on day of Mehserle verdict

By Dave Id
Special to

The Oakland General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant held a second press conference in less than a week after it was learned that Councilmember Desley Brooks was heading up organizing a counter-event at the same time and place as the community gathering set for the day the verdict in the Mehserle murder trial was announced, 6 p.m. at 14th and Broadway.

It was obvious that the purpose for the city-led event, although not officially sponsored by the City of Oakland, was to undermine the community gathering that had been called for as early as late May before the trial of Johannes Mehserle even began. Addressing those fretting about civil unrest, Michael Walker concluded the press conference by declaring: “For anybody out there who feels like people are against peace, if you really want peace in this city, then fight for justice, and I guarantee you’ll have peace.”

The press conference was held on the sidewalk on 14th Street at the edge of Frank Ogawa Plaza at the same time that free chicken and soda were being handed out in Room 104 of City Hall, where Oakland and leaders of nonprofit organizations were scrambling at the last minute to organize the city-approved and sanitized event that was to counter the grassroots community gathering on the day of the verdict. They claimed that Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant’s mother, would call into the city-led event to speak, although that never happened. The idea of a candlelight vigil was discussed, although it was determined that those candles should be electric and not real candles. They had a promotional flier ready that read at the very top “Don’t burn your city!”

The Oakland Police Department likewise did their part to counter the community gathering by visiting Oakland schools to discourage youth from attending the grassroots speak-out. When police asked if students intended to go, they would say “no,” but as soon as the OPD left the room, the students said they couldn’t wait to go to 14th and Broadway after the verdict.

Besides confronting the counter-organizing effort, five demands were issued at the press conference:

1) Tony Pirone must be tried for accessory to murder,
2) abolish the California Police Bill of Rights,
3) issue a federal indictment against BART for civil rights violations,
4) disarm BART police and
5) declare the new gang injunctions in Oakland unconstitutional.

Speakers at the General Assembly for Justice press conference included Jabari Shaw, president of Laney College Black Student Union, and Michael Walker – both of whom attended Mehserle’s trial in Los Angeles with their friend Tim Killings, who was arrested and spent three days in jail for speaking out in the LA court room during Mehserle’s testimony – and Tracey Bell-Borden.

Dave Id is a prolific journalist with IndyBay, and has continuously documented the Justice for Oscar Grant Movement. This article originally appeared on, then the SFBayView.

Activists defend the right to organize in response of Johannes Mehserle verdict

By Dave Id
Special to

Pictured above: Tony Coleman, longtime community activist, of OneFam and New Year's Movement for Justice, describes the reason for choosing the location at 14th and Broadway because it represents Oakland's Town Square and says that the real "outside agitators" are Oakland police, 90 per cent of whom do not live in the city.

The Oakland General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant held a press conference to forcefully assert the people's right to gather publicly on the day of the verdict in Johannes Mehserle's trial for the murder of Oscar Grant and to confront the distractions and misinformation currently being spread across the city by the Mayor's office, the Oakland police department, and local non-profit organizations.

Speakers reiterated that the focus now and on the day of the verdict should be on justice for Oscar Grant and all victims of police violence, not potential property destruction should Mehserle be convicted of something less than second degree murder or acquitted all together.

Other speakers included Jabari Shaw, president of Laney College BSU, and Michael Walker, both of whom have been attending Meherle's trial in Los Angeles (with their friend Tim Killings, who was arrested and spent three days in jail for speaking out in the LA court room during Meherle's testimony); Karissa Cole, from the Gang Injunction Coalition and Oakland Community Action Network; and Reverend Henry Williams, of Humanity Baptist Church and Restitution Reparation.

As Karissa Shaw made plain, "Everybody's talking about peace and we're still waiting on our justice."

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