Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Despite the serious news of the week, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you'll spend this time with your loved ones and remember each moment you have with them. Life is too short.
Just read about the Mehserle verdict and again, not surprised. I've seen this before.
Welcome to the vacuum under which we all live in now, the internet, providing citizens to respond via anonymous and critical, condescending opinions in the safety of their homes.
Random comments which are the same old, same old:
“better schools and education would have stopped this”
“watch out, the thugs are out tonight”
“What if (fill in the blank) was white?”
“Shame on Dellums (Oakland’s mayor) for…”
Antoine Dodson was right: hide your kids and hide your wives - they hatin everybody out there!
So who was Oscar Grant anyway?
Depends who you speak with. You will find others who have a positive view of him and those who will refer to the fact he has a criminal record. As someone who was born in South Central Los Angeles (and like a host of thousands) has lived a good life as an outstanding citizen, I can say that I’ve spoken with and to young men who grew up with a mother and father,religious, and educated. I’ve also dealt with youngsters who felt they were invincible, but needed to grow up under circumstances that led them to walk the straight and narrow. It has been those young men and women that have frustrated me the most but in my heart give me great joy when I find out they are living productive lives even at this moment.
Those young men and women are Oscar Grants in one form or another. Young enough to fulfill their potential, still at an age of figuring it out.
To those of you who read this, rest assured you wouldn’t have known Oscar Grant if he were still alive today. He would just be another passenger on BART, or somewhere in Oakland confused with the scores of black young men who dress in the stereotypical garb you’re comfortable to associate us with.
Funny, because I wear a sweater myself so I guess you can call me a ‘hoodie’ as well.
Whatever. Biased eyes always fail to see the big picture.
So here’s my challenge to all of you: if you’re so concerned about morals, education and the like, why don’t you volunteer? Become a positive role model in a young man’s life instead of contributing to the problem. I’ve done it and will continue to be in the lives of young people for as long as I am here on this planet. However, for most of you, I’m sure there’s some excuse…errrrr….reason why your fingers do the talking but those will be the only limbs you’ll move.
Gang violence and youth violence is and will always be one of the many issues we’ll face in our communities, watched under a microscope by the same people who will use mass transportation to work. Oscar Grant, sadly, will not be the last young man to die ‘by accident’ from law enforcement just as we will continue to support those who wear the badge. Believe it or not, we know there’s a lot officers go through and deal with on a daily basis. This past spring, I attended an event co-hosted by LAPD inspiring students to get their education. Pictures can be sent on request if you like. It doesn’t excuse misconduct by the same police officers who inevitability in cases like this either are acquitted or have reduced sentences. Those of you who make the asinine comments know this.
Unfortunately, we live in a country where free speech is paramount (unless you work for a corporation). So there is no problem of opinions expressed pro and con. What appalls me is the characterization of a father who will no longer raise his child and a son to parents who will grieve with a heavy heart until the day they die. Of course, none of this matters but I felt I had to say it, to release the same rage through my words the same way I revolted with my pen on April 29, 1992. It is my hope that this rage of expression, rational and constrained, is what individuals upset with the verdict will use instead of the same destructive means that justify vile, outlandish words inside a comments section of a news website with fingers pounding furiously on a keyboard with blinking cursor on screen miles and miles away from Oakland.
The bottom line is Johannes Mehserle will soon be free, but there will be another young man who will suffer the same fate as Oscar Grant and none shall weep for him.
A few minutes ago, we know what the grand jury's verdict is: No Indictment in the murder of Michael Brown. Another vigilante runs the streets freely.
Seriously, did you suspect any sense of JUSTICE would come out of this? Not when the announcement has been moved at night. And by the way, if I'm demanding any justice from this, I would go to the ballot box and vote the people out who deserve to GO! Of course, that's not the solution many seek, but I believe it's the proper and just way to proceed.
As for the verdict tonight? There are no more words. I'm sick and tired. Very tired of seeing young men killed just because of who and what they are. That's it.
Today at 5:00 pm Pacifiic Coast Time, 8:00 pm Eastern, the grand jury decision from Ferguson, Missouri will be announced. Either officer Darren Wilson who 'allegedly' killed an unarmed teenager will be found guilty, or will not. I guess we'll all find out.
In the past few days, there's been suggestions from the President to the Attorney General and even the father of Michael Brown, the teenager in question, for the public to remain calm and civil throughout this whole process. If you're a global cable news channel who while no fault of your own, encourage any acts of violence but at the same time, cover it 'just in case', then it's not your fault. You just happened to be there. If the decision flips one way, you'll see up-close-and-personal shots of outrage, anger, and citizens who claim they 'don't understand'. On the other side, you'll have outrage of another kind from citizens who will find fault in the justice system, a possible impeachment of their governor, and more. Of course, who knows how these things will play out in the next few hours, but haven't we seen this before? More importantly, haven't we seen how the script will end?
How many times must we see this same script be repeated? A police officer is in the wrong, a young man is killed, outrage from the community over this wrongdoing while the officer has citizens to back him up and support him? Then it comes to a decision in the courts who as we've all seen, favors the officer? How many times have we seen that? Isn't it time for the script to change?
There are positive, law-abiding police officers out in the streets who risk a lot and do their jobs accordingly. Those aren't the ones protesters target to have kicked off the force. It's the ones who don't live up to the requirements of 'protect and serve' that angers residents who live in those communities. Here in L.A., we've seen our local law enforcement receive their positive images reinforced through film and television while out on the streets in real life, their perception is a bit flawed, as most of the country is.
I'm sure folks wish for a time when these types of occurances didn't happen often. I'm sure there's someone who dreams of a day when law enforcement simply upholds the law and not rely on myths of a person who share the author's skin color. I've met officers like that who were professional and civil. Only the ones who aren't, need to go.
Better yet, the media has a part to play in this too. Instead of using buzz words to heighten the sensationalism, why don't they use their time investigating why incidents like this happen on a regular basis instead of worrying about frontal shots from a so-called 'star' who breaks the internet? You know what would really break the internet? Journalists who go back to basics and report from an objective point of view instead of bragging about their ratings.
But this is only a dream, and in a few hours, most Americans who choose to grow weary of these type of real life stories, will wish the same.
For the past two months, my faith was shaken. I didn’t believe in myself anymore. I felt like giving up because of something out of my control. That was then, this is now. This Sunday morning felt as if I reached a turning point in my life, if not a recognition that no matter how things are in life, The Lord never gives up on us, even if we think we don’t deserve His very best. The insane foolishness of the past couple of months made me become a hypocrite to the words I had written about on this blog, but I can say that I am human and will make mistakes, still do.
When you’re too ambitious, you have to realize the flip side of success is always your worst nightmare. Failure can be a cruel thing especially when it catches you by surprise. I felt like a failure, acted and spoke like it. Up into the decisive moment, my speech, posture and attitude felt like a waste. I didn’t want to communicate to anyone, become ‘social’ on social media nor did I want to talk to anybody or even be proud of my past accomplishments. This is how low I felt. This is who I was for two months. Now I embrace the fact I failed but knowing I am still here. As true friends have told me, God is preparing me for something better. I had believed that until the weight of failure came crashing down on me, ruining my confidence. In that case, let's find out what failure really is.
Failure is described as: The act, condition of fact of failing. To Fail means:
To be deficient or unsuccessful. 2) To decline, weaken or cease to function. 4) To disappoint or forsake.
Failing: A minor fault, shortcoming
Fail is also a verb
(all definitions by the American Heritage Dictionary)
So I failed, I’m a failure, I also laid down my life to a verb for two months. A verb which is active, not permanent. I felt it was that way, I believed it was in my life forever. I found myself deceived into believing my entire self worth was invested in something that I had surrendered my life to, for a cause I believed was justified. You reader have read most of the posts in the past eight years about The Summer of Literacy and so forth. My friends on social media read my posts about reading, the importance of books and so forth. Little did I know I would turn out to be Ozymandias in that ambitious folks such as myself would utter the words:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
While what I built wasn’t that serious to most, at times in my life it felt like it. What I poured my energies into and suffered for that cause ruined me. It turned me into an author and poet with the potential to go far in my creative works, to a broken down, ruined man. I honestly believed this in my heart, carried it like a badge of honor until this morning. This morning, I relinquished my confidence and felt I wasn’t worthy of the task I had to perform. Guess what? I did it anyway and rather than running from it, I fought. I forgot this part of me, the part that carried me in my teaching days, running the mobile bookstore, even as this mess began to unfold towards the negative. I regarded myself so much a failure that I turned away from myself. I wanted to be left alone.
This is what failure feels like. It’s painful. There’s nothing fun or ‘cool’ about it. I had declined, I had weakened, I had ceased to function in my daily life. My decision to stand, along with a powerful sermon that came ‘right on time’ reaffirmed the fact that if I don’t want to continue wearing my badge of failure, I have to fight back. It’s going to be a difficult process and I will lose friends and associates, but I’m ready. I’ve been ready for a while. I also know I’m not a failure anymore. I believe that.