This is the Oakland that we are surrounded by too, amongst all the creativity, innovation and community comes this- a very sad reality

Today one of our WYV writers Gina, talks about something she witnessed on Friday 7th February 2014

The streets of Oakland are sad today in remembrance of Justice Toliver.   

The First African Methodist Episcopal Church had limos and umbrella-holding people on its steps today.  Telegraph from the church to the corner of MacArthur was lined with umbrellas and people under awnings and on steps.  The hotels across the way were spilling out bodies, pierced, holding travel sized liquor bottles, the parking lot jammed with cars when usually it only had one man on a bike or a cleaning lady scurrying around the rooms, in and out of doors silently.  I saw three boys, or young men rather, leaning out of the Carl’s Jr. to see what was going on.  Police were abundant.  One of the young men acknowledged me with a chin nod and I acknowledged him and smiled.  I went into Beauty’s Bagels, looked at their table full of business cards and flyers. While waiting for my bagel, the young man from Carl’s Jr. came up to me, asked if I’d eaten there before, picked up a flyer and said his friends were involved in this, that it was what he did, film.  He had a softness in his voice that suggested sweetness, a young face and a hood on.  I introduced myself, said I was a writer.  Asked him his name and what was going on at the church.  You know the kid who killed his sister ‘cuz she bleached his pants?  No I hadn’t heard about that, and I felt ashamed that I hadn’t.  That’s her funeral.


Back on the street a man said to me, do you work out, go to the gym?  Sometimes, I said.  You got a black girl ass.  I said, thank you and kept walking.    It wasn’t that type of day; a day to be complimented or to indulge in one or question compliments or to find they were hidden assessments, delineations of separateness.  At the funeral procession, on both sides of the street, were people standing.  People getting high.  People outside the market with children in strollers who had honey nut cheerios in their chubby little hands.  A man asked my back if I had a minute for him.  And I walked with a salt and pepper bagel in my pocket, a goat-something coffee in my hand, and felt the curdle of Oakland’s intensity with my personal and singular morning. What I woke up to was a privilege and this seventeen-year-old girl wouldn’t wake up again.  The lives that are affected today: the boy, fourteen, who killed his sister, the family, the friends, the community; the man looking for someone to pay attention to him, working the crowd at a funeral.  I could feel that death lurks in these streets, could feel the rivers we hide beneath our skin.  I don’t know what to do with this.  My heart goes out to everyone in Oakland today.  We lost one of our voices.

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