Parents of police victims ask, ‘Where do we go from here?’
Oakland, Calif. — The Oscar Grant family hosted an “Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend Birthday Celebration” on Feb. 27. It started with National Victims of Police Terror panels on “Where do we go from here?” Held at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Oakland, the event was organized into separate mothers’ and fathers’ panels. Grant had been shot and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009.
Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, Grant’s uncle, opened the meeting and then quickly turned it over to Jazz Hudson, a spoken-word artist. Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, introduced longtime Black Panther Party members Erica Huggins and Tarika Lewis, who each spoke. Huggins, a leader of the Los Angeles branch of the BPP, was later imprisoned for two years on conspiracy charges. During her talk, Huggins suggested that there should be a national march, going from city to city, on behalf of victims of police terror. Lewis was the first female member of the BPP. She opened singing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” song to Grant.
There were so many mothers present, which in itself spoke to the horror of the police terror that has been wreaked on Black and Brown communities from coast to coast. Included among them was Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice. She talked about how her daughter had been handcuffed and forced to watch as her brother lay dying. Rice said, “I’m feeling the rage and anger. I know that the government is not here for us.”
Gwendolyn Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, said, “They are killing us on the regular! They keep killing us, and as mothers they expect us to do nothing.” She pointed out that despite “the videos we had, we still didn’t get an indictment!”
Then Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell, stated, “We need everyone to fight and stand with us.” Marion Hopkins-Gray, mother of Gary Hopkins who was killed in 1999, said of the police, “We need prosecutions. Stand with these mothers for change in 2016.”
Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, declared, “They tell us we don’t see what we see, then indict but don’t convict. … I’m so angry I’m about to ignite something across this country! This fight will take everybody!”
Other family members included Gwendolyn Woods, mother of Mario Woods; Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford; Dolores Piper, grandmother of Derrick Gaines; Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., parents of Michael Brown Jr.; Miriam Tolan, mother of Robbie Tolan; Teresa Smith, mother of Cesar Cruz; the mother of Phillip Watkins; the mother of Kevin Cooper, on death row in San Quentin, Calif.; the aunt of Corey Jones; mother of Darrell Graham; and Krystal Brown, the spouse of Marlon Brown.
Davey D, of KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, moderated the fathers’ panel, which included Cephus Johnson, Michael Brown Sr., Nation of Islam Minister Keith Mohammad and Richard Perez, father of Pedie Perez. The day was closed out by a chant of “It’s all about the children!” A Remembering Oscar Grant III dinner was held that evening by the Oscar Grant Foundation.