Malaika Kambon: The Many Faces of Oscar Grant and Mumia Abu-Jamal

San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, November 18, 2010

by Malaika Kambon


The community signs the Justice for Oscar Grant banner that was carried at the front of the march to the Fruitvale BART Station that followed the rally on Nov. 5, the day killer cop Johannes Mehserle was handed a sentence that may keep him behind bars for only another 72 days. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

In our land, bullets are beginning to flower

Poem by Jorge Rebelo

Come, brother, and tell me your life
come show me the marks of revolt
which the enemy left on your body

Come, say to me “Here
my hands have been crushed
because they defended
the land which they own”

“Here my body was tortured
because it refused to bend
to invaders”

“Here my mouth was wounded
because it dared to sing
my people’s freedom”

Come, brother, and tell me your life
come relate me the dreams of revolt
which you and your fathers and forefathers
in silence
through shadowless nights made for love

Come tell me these dreams become
the birth of heroes,
land reconquered,
mothers who, fearless,
send their sons to fight.

Come, tell me all this, my brother.
And later I will forge simple words
which even the children can understand
words which will enter every house
like the wind
and fall like red hot embers
on our people’s souls.

In our land
Bullets are beginning to flower.

This little child at the Nov. 5 rally is teaching us that good jobs and public education are fundamental if the community is to have the strength to fight police terrorism and other threats. – Photo: Malaika KambonThis little child at the Nov. 5 rally is teaching us that good jobs and public education are fundamental if the community is to have the strength to fight police terrorism and other threats.  

As we the people of the world fight for liberation, in the midst of imperial expansion, critical questions are before us:
  • What do we do about the crippling double standards that we see every day?
  • How do we destroy the institutions that have sought our destruction from their inception?
  • How do we STOP the killing of our collective and individual peoples by murderous police?
  • How do we stop the killing of each other?
  • What do we do to regain our sovereignty?
  • How do we change “just-us” to justice?
  • How do we provide for our basic needs and lives – when we live in a global system that was birthed upon the need for us to die, so as to take and to savage what we have to support and expand itself?
  • What do we Afrikans do, as the Dred Scott decision of 1857 [in which Chief Justice Roger B. Taney declared that Blacks, whether enslaved or free, were not and could never become citizens of the United States and “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” – ed.] is revisited at every turn?
  • What do we tell our children when these things happen century after century?

These questions and many more have been pertinent since Cristobal Colon and the Catholic church began building industrial capitalism on the backs of Afrikan enslavement.

Aware, astute communities have grappled daily with the aftermath of this MAAFA every since.

Unfortunately, for most of us, we must also grapple with survival after an insidious system robs us of our health, livelihood and, most horribly, the life of a loved one.

Such is the case for the family of warrior-ancestor Oscar Grant III.

On the first of January 2009 our warrior-ancestor was snatched from this plane of existence violently by the hand of imperialism’s servants, the police. Several of these minions first tortured and brutalized our brother, then tied him up, held him down and shot him, leaving his body broken, bleeding and dying on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform in mid-east Oakland.


Elders and youth stood in solidarity at the Nov. 5 rally in downtown Oakland to support the family of Oscar Grant and oppose police terrorism and the outrageous sentence that may allow Johannes Mehserle, the former BART officer who murdered Oscar Grant, to go free in as little as 72 days.
There was neither need nor provocation for the state to do this. It was a cold-blooded assassination, a 21st century lynching of a young Afrikan man entering the prime of his youth. This was a brutalization of his family as well – close knit, quiet, aware and strong.

The state’s instruments for this gang-style execution were ex-BART employee and killer cop Johannes Mehserle and his friends.

Mehserle is built like an ox, possesses the IQ of a handball and the emotional stability of a teaspoon. In other words, he is an idiot who was given a license to kill, and into whose hands were placed the weaponry to do so with deadly force – and backup. No mind was attached, for he has none. His only active brain cell was already corrupted with the stench and sickness of his genocidal ancestor, one Willie Lynch.


Filmmaker and Minister of Information JR speaks out for Mumia Abu-Jamal and against police terrorism and KPFA’s attempts to take Hard Knock Radio off the air at the rally for Mumia Abu-Jamal in downtown Oakland on Nov. 9. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

The state rewarded him for his lack of acumen. Instead of murder, he got involuntary manslaughter – despite the fact that his deeds were videotaped by multitudes – including the warrior whom he killed.

And the tool that he used – his gun – was made to disappear.

In court for sentencing this past Nov. 5, 2010, Mehserle pretended to cry big weepy non-existent crocodile tears, feigning grief and pretending to be upset that he tortured, verbally abused, tied up, shot and then handcuffed ancestor-warrior Oscar Grant III, claiming that the ancestor was reaching for a weapon in his pants pocket.

It was an Oscar winning performance – their Oscar, not ours. And for his orchestrated tears, Mehserle got two years jail time with 292 days credit for time served and “good behavior.” So he actually got one year, two months and 13 days [or, according to San Francisco Chronicle blogger Yobie Benjamin, as little as 72 additional days – ed.] for the lynching of an Afrikan Man.

His attorney wanted him freed and says he will appeal.

Yet in spite of the heinous double standard that this represents, the people of the world, from Haiti to South Africa to the south sides of the north, south, east and west sides of the peoples’ hoods in the land of snakes, U.S.A., have not been fooled – or foiled – in this vital part of our struggle for liberation, for that is how we must view our fights for justice.

We are not fooled by the corporate media hype that criminalizes our righteous struggle. We are not the dunces and idiots that the ravening beast of imperialism wishes us to be. We have rejected Mehserle’s deposit, and in so doing, we are coming just that much closer to the answers that we will need to find to resolve this centuries-old conflict with a decadent system that has been brutalizing us all.


As Malcolm X warned, “Enemies are afoot.” This “door in the hedge” is Oakland’s 12th Street BART. Every BART station has doors like this, with peep holes, cells and police in and behind them. The doors blend into invisibility with the walls so as not to be easily detected. These police were shutting down Lake Merritt BART on the day of Mehserle’s ‘sentencing.’ 152 people were arrested attempting to march to Fruitvale BART where Oscar Grant was assassinated.

We are not fooled by a prison industrial complexed court system acting to protect its own from criminal prosecution! Did not Malcolm X tell us that it would do no good to take the crimes of the criminal to the criminal’s courts? And did not Chief Justice Roger B. Taney affirm this in 1857 by telling us that it was the will of the Supreme Court of the land that Afrikan people “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race; either in social or political relations, and so far inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect. And that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”

“Just us” was duly served. Justice was absent.

Those of us who are abolitionists, in the finest traditions of Frederick Douglass and of Harriet Tubman, are not surprised.

As our brother lay dying from police inflicted trauma to his head, and a gun shot wound made by a bullet that passed through his body, hit the concrete platform and then ricocheted through his body yet again – Mehserle showed no signs of remorse.


Tarika Lewis, a legend since she was the first woman to join the Black Panther Party, joins a new generation of revolutionaries at the Oscar Grant rally in downtown Oakland. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

After all, this was all in a day’s work for him. His profile is that of a racist cop – one of millions – with a known record of abusing Afrikan people. His “brother officers” and the system that spawned them are protecting him, cushioning him, praising him and letting him know that he did good.

But they need to beware. Afrikan people have fought atrocities such as this, yet another piece of the 600-year MAAFA against us, from the beginning. We have won countless battles. In Haiti, we won the war. We will do so again.

As we fight for our true Afrikan liberation, there are peoples of different creeds, faiths and sovereignties – some (not all) having fought from the beginning as well, recognizing the unity that binds peoples of color, pushing back the system’s divisions and its attempts to conquer, terrorize and stop us.

But we must free ourselves.

Warrior-ancestor Oscar Grant III was, is and shall forever more be another of our Black Shining Princes, in the finest tradition of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. He is ours to claim and no one can take him from us.


Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee and attorney Walter Riley of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund listen intently to speakers at the rally for justice for Oscar Grant. They have schooled young people in Oakland on Haiti’s indomitable fightback spirit and Haitians’ long tradition of taking to the streets to demonstrate the power of the people.
What is more important is that there are more of us. We are everywhere. They cannot stop us, nor can they crush our resolve. We are all warrior-ancestor Oscar Grant III, whether we are infant, youth, elder, man, woman, living or have moved to the next plane of existence – or not yet born.

In fact, there are so many more of us being born each day that we should realize that we haven’t ever been, nor will we ever be any kind of minority.

We are now tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Thus it is that unbeknownst to the arrogant, imperial beast: Its system is about to be crushed.

To this end, two recent events combined stunning visual artistry in the form of rallies and in an Art and Poetry Showcase to educate, liberate and fight for freedom – and both rallies did indeed showcase the many faces of warrior-ancestor Oscar Grant III and Mumia Abu-Jamal.


Political art created by the community played a starring role in the first hours of the Oakland rally following the announcement of killer cop Mehserle’s slap-on-the-wrist sentence. “I hope my child gets home safe” expresses the terrorism that passes for law in poor communities and communities of color around the world – and a wish denied Oscar Grant’s mother.

On Nov. 5, 2010, people came to downtown Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th and Broadway from far and wide to showcase their artistry, to rally and march and to show and express their outrage at the slap-on-the-wrist sentence given Johannes Mehserle for the part he played in our ancestor’s assassination – and to fight for the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

We also came to strategize, organize, network, speak out and to pay our respects to an Afrikan man who – though he has left this plane of existence – will not ever be forgotten.

On Nov. 9, 2010, more people returned to continue to fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal, yet another Afrikan man whose life is being threatened by the same corrupt system of courts, cops and politicians who are equally as responsible for the murder of our ancestor-warrior Oscar Grant III.


A Buffalo Soldier shows his love for Mumia at the Nov. 5 rally for justice for Oscar Grant.

Yet in the wake of these events, another Afrikan man, Derrick Jones – father, entrepreneur, unarmed – was shot in the back and killed by the OPD in east Oakland.

These are all ours. They are our young Black men. We must fight for them as our own.

We must continue to fight to achieve justice for warrior-ancestor Grant, Derrick Jones and all of our men, women and children who have fallen.

And we must save and free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

One battle, many fronts! Pamojas tutashinda! (Together we will win!)

More resources

Malaika H. Kambon is a freelance photojournalist and owner of People’s Eye Photography and an MA candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State University. She can be reached at

One thought on “Malaika Kambon: The Many Faces of Oscar Grant and Mumia Abu-Jamal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s