Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Riots In Oakland

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

-Claude McKay-

It occurs to me that the young black people rioting in the streets of Oakland today just weeks after they danced in these same streets to celebrate the election of this countries first Black president are fighting for their lives like they have been doing since they were brought to this country in the rancid bowels of slave ships. As this occurs to me I wonder if Claude McKay knew in 1919 when he wrote the timeless words at the top of this page that almost 100 years later these words would be as relevant as they were then.

Almost as if to put us in our place weeks before the inauguration of America's first Black President a police officer killed a young Black man execution style with a single shot as he lay on his stomach waiting to be hand cuffed and carted off to jail for some petty crime. Nearly fifty years after a battery of supreme court cases and legislative acts came together to create the illusion of freedom for black people in this country and since the Warren court reeked havoc on the lawlessness of America's police racial profiling, police brutality, and unjustified murders continue to plague poor and young black folks.

Tonight in Oakland young Black and Latino women and men took to the streets to protest the killing of 22 year old Oscar Grant by the police on New Years day. The officer, whose name has yet to be released, shot the young man in the back of the head while he lay on the ground waiting to be hand cuffed. This evening while I sat in the offices of my part time job on 7th and Broadway in Downtown Oakland my co-workers and I spotted out the windows several groups of young brothers running. What was most striking about this site was that these young warriors were running toward the center of the conflict at 14th and broadway with the words of Claude McKay lighting their steps "If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain..."