Witness…

Photo credit: Assassin's Creed.

Photo credit: Assassin’s Creed.

A couple of months ago I was the witness of a crime. It happened so fast, yet things seemed to go in slow motion, all at the same time. It was early evening. The street lights barely flickering in the glow of the sunset. The breeze was calm, with a tinge of humidity woven in. It was a calm and beautiful evening. I was running errands when two perpetrators caught my eye. I felt guilty for pegging them as such – one was the same skin tone as mine, and the other was a shade darker. They were young, they were Black, and they were males. In my head and my heart was a tug of war, and a telepathic conversation that I hoped they were receiving via my glances. “Whatever you are thinking of doing, please, please don’t do it.” They didn’t heed my message. In the blink of an eye, they took a person’s personal belongings. He gave chase, but they were too fast. I called the police – who was to say that weapons wouldn’t have been drawn? Or someone could have gotten hurt or killed? I couldn’t just let this event happen without helping. What if I were the victim?

Approximately 10 minutes later, the police arrived. Several witnesses stepped forward, including me. Call me a snitch – so what. If the same thing happened to you, wouldn’t you want someone to speak on your behalf? Yet, I still felt a sense of sadness and frustration. Why didn’t those guys just walk away? As I was giving my statement to the officer, he mentioned to me how this was his beat, and that he had only been gone for 20 minutes to serve as back up on a shooting call across town. “I was just here,” he said, “if only I had had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.” In that moment I wondered, what if the officer had been there? What would have transpired? Would his presence have made these guys take a second guess about their potential actions, or would they still have carried out their mission? If the officer were there, would he have felt threatened and needed to use force or let off some warning shots to make them stop? If the officer had been there, would the place that these young men last stood become their memorial? A curb covered with candle wax, liquor, and flowers? Or would their names be hash tagged along with #HandsUpDontShoot? What if? Given the outcomes that the poor combination of itchy trigger fingers and dark-skinned males continue to have, in addition to past and present transgressions, as well as my own lived experience – it’s hard for me to say that anything positive would have resulted from his presence. And that’s sad. It’s sad because it doesn’t have to be. It’s sad for the children that may not make it to adulthood. It’s sad for those that will be fortunate to survive, only to ravaged by the insidious nature of racism. It’s sad for the children I hope to have some day. It’s sad for the generation to follow.

However, in spite of how sad such outcomes could be – they are not destined to happen. We do not have to let such attitudes and actions continue to be the social norm. We gotta let go of this bystander mentality in order for a sprout of positivity to grow. My hope is that someday, God willing, my future son can walk down the street on a cold day with his hoodie up. And make it home alive, or without being covered in the stench of temptation, negativity, and harassment.

25 Years Ago…

Tomorrow, October 17th, will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The other day, I watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “The Day the Series Stopped,” which focused on the memorable Bay Bridge Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants and the chaos that ensued as a result of this disaster. As I watched the documentary, it took me back to that day – which I can remember so vividly. As I watched, I went back to that fear, confusion, and worry that came over me during and after the 17 seconds that the earth shook. I talked about this documentary with my good friend and fellow Oaklander, Sergio Martinez, and he reflected on where he was with the quake hit. Ironically, he was literally 3 blocks away from me. That gave us chills – to know that we were in such close proximity during such an unforgettable experience.¬†Such a small world, I guess. Anyhow, below is my recount on that memorable times. Where were you on October 17, 1989?

2014 Baseball Postseason for this Oakland Athletics Fan: Bah Humbug!

Oakland Athletics fans are loyal to the very end. It's tiring, but we are loyal!

Oakland Athletics fans are loyal to the very end. It’s tiring, but we are loyal! Photo: Katherine Brown.

There is certainly truth to the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My hope is that the Oakland Athletics organization has understood, ingested, and has made the moral to such a painful lesson a part of their DNA. As a fan, I’m pissed. I love the game of baseball, but find that I cannot watch these playoff games. It’s too irritating. We should be there. We should be having the walk off wins. The shutout games. Poppin’ bottles, etc. I’ve even had friends tell me to come to the “dark side” and celebrate with the orange and black. I can’t. I just can’t. These are not the words of a “hater” – these are the words of a highly irritated Oakland A’s fan. This was our year to no longer be the bride’s maid – you know, the one that is a vital part of the ceremony, but never gets the ring. It sucks, and I’m getting tired of it. Loyal, but tired.

Poor planning? "The trade" must have been a nightmare for the Oakland Athletics marketing department.

Poor planning? “The trade” must have been a nightmare for the Oakland Athletics marketing department. Photo: Katherine Brown.

During this season, particularly after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, I found myself analyzing what it meant to be a “fan” of a team. Does it mean that you ride or die with them, regardless of the good or bad? That you never critique them for making poor judgments – I mean even if they are EXPLICITLY poor? After “the trade”, I received some criticism from other Oakland A’s fans about my comments on it, and how I felt Billy Beane made a huge mistake. Folks told me, “one person doesn’t make a team. You’ll be thankful in the post season when we get that ring.” Or, “you’re not supposed to like one player – like the whole team!” And the list went on. But as a fan, I had to be honest. Considering how such shake ups threaten the composition of a team – which this trade did. And especially since I have seen this organization go down the same path over 25 years ago. Remember the 1988-1992 Oakland A’s? 1988: went to the big dance, only to be denied by a “gimpy” Kirk Gibson and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 1989: was a power house team that won it all – but the win was overshadowed by the tragedies of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. 1990: went to the big dance like a house on fire! Sweeping the Boston Red Sox, only to be swept by the Cincinnati Reds. 1991: cellar dwellers – a season plagued with senseless losses. 1992: the dismantling of the “Amazing A’s” was solidified with August 31, 1992 trade of Jose Canseco – while on the on deck circle no less. How cold was that?

Weeks after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, items and merchandise with his name and image continued to be sold and distributed.

Weeks after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, items and merchandise with his name and likeness continued to be sold and distributed. Photo: Katherine Brown.

Fast forward to the 2012 – the projected 2015 Oakland Athletics. 2012: a bunch of scrappy “no names” lead by Bob Melvin make it to the American League Division Series, only to be defeated by the Detroit Tigers. 2013: the core of these scrappy “no names” remain, and the team makes it to the dance once again, only to be denied by the Detroit Tigers – once again. 2014: the team is a power house! Best team in all of baseball, until July 31, 2014 – Yoenis Cespedes is traded. The two-time Home Run Derby Champ? The potential franchise player? Traded? On his day off no less. The team barely makes it as a wildcard, with the taste of the champagne barely fading from their pallets before they are defeated in a hard fought game against the Kansas City Royals. (Do you sense the pattern here?)

2015: my prediction is that this team is going to be gutted. Just this morning, it was announced that Assistant Coach Chip Hale has taken the head coaching job with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Additionally, of the 40-man roster of 2014, 35 players are signed until the end 2014. 35 players. That’s 87.5% of the team. Folks argued that, “well, Cespedes was gonna be a free-agent in 2015 and he would have wanted a ton of money. So we needed to get rid of him now.” Does anyone think that players Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, and Sonny Gray will be requesting a big pay day, take a meager salary from the shoe-string budget payroll, or will they walk? Or what about those fan-favorites? The guys whose unassuming true-grit made a huge difference in those close games – players like Stephen Vogt, Jesse Chavez, Eric Sogard, and Jed Lowrie. Will they stay or will they go?

I am not excited to see what Billy Beane plans on doing come the close of the 2014 World Series. If the Cespedes trade is any indication of his thinking, perhaps the 2015 season is destined to be a repeat of the 1991 Oakland A’s. I know, I know – I’m pretty sure that other A’s fans will get on me for doubting Beane’s decisions. Trust Billy, right? Hmm, I guess the same folks are huge fans of Lew Wolff, his comments, and decisions. *crickets chirping*

I guess for me, as a fan, you can support the team through thick and thin, but you do not have to agree with nor support each and every action and decision the organization makes. As an Oaklander, and a fan of all three of our Oakland teams, I cannot help but help but look at the bigger picture, and project what these constant poor decisions mean. Poor decisions lead to poor products, that eventually become unwanted – hence a lot easier for these teams to leave, as a result of elements like fan fatigue and poor political decisions. Think about it. All three teams – the Oakland Athletics, the Oakland Raiders, and the Golden State Warriors – constantly talk about leaving the city of Oakland. With all three potentially leaving, what does that do to the city’s economy? I guess considering sports like baseball, football, and basketball are businesses, those aspects don’t matter much.

But as a fan of everything Oakland, I will continue on this ride. And when I say that it’s hard being an Oakland fan (A’s, Raiders, and Warriors), trust me when I say it. Even though I may be highly critical of their decisions and actions, at least I’m loyal. Tired, but loyal.

Notes to My 18 Year-Old Self

The other day, I came across a small, tattered white cardboard package. Underneath the yellowing packaging tape was a mailing label – addressed to me from Kaiser Permanente. Inside the package was a black plastic case with a VHS cassette inside with its contents produced over 18 years ago. A time capsule if you will. Kaiser was a key sponsor for the Oakland Technical High School Health Academy, and at that time, they ran a health program called Partners In Health on a local channel in the Bay Area called KBHK. For this particular airing, they were highlighting the Health Academy, and they asked me and my mom if I would like to be featured in that segment. “Of course!” I said. What teenager would pass up the chance to be on TV?! I recently watched this video, which is all but four minutes, but held so much more. I cannot tell you how many emotions and memories were stirred while watching it – amazement, humility, gratitude – all rolled into one. And how fortunate I am to look back on the mindset I once had. Analyzing what has changed and what is the same. After reflecting on this video clip, I decided to pen these few notes to my 18 year-old self:

  • Unfortunately, you did not become a pediatrician as you had always hoped to become, and that’s ok. You are not a failure. God had a different plan for you. Just embrace it and keep pushing.
  • If I could have forewarned you, I would have told you to NOT take 8 classes the first semester of your freshman year. At UC Berkeley. College isn’t high school.
  • Never let that ambition and drive you have diminish or disappear. You will always need it, and you must always cultivate and nourish it.
  • Don’t own or claim the odds that are stacked against you. They are not yours.
  • Granny was not there in the physical sense to see you walk the stage when you got your bachelors or masters degree. But know that she was there. She will always be there.
  • Your mom, sister, and brother are still in your corner and believe in you. So keep pushing!
  • Life never gets any easier. And that’s also ok. Just learn from each experience and continue to self-reflect and grow.
  • If you are fortunate to stay connected to or to reconnect with those that supported you on your journey, thank them. Thank them. Thank them.
  • You will become a champion for the kids that were like you. Those navigating challenges and coming from communities that are often cast in a negative light. The green/inexperienced kid that may not fully understand the process, but has the desire to do better in life – for themselves, their family, and community.
  • You will always carry a backpack. A very heavy backpack. But it’s never filled with burdens or pity.
  • And always, always, always – stay focused and humble.

Let’s Go Oakland!!!

Again, on my varied travels through out the Town, my eye cant help but catch images of pride here and there. Specifically, pride for the home team – the Oakland A’s.

 

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A little mural displaying a huge chant: Let’s Go Oakland! Located near 54th Ave. and San Leandro Street in East Oakland, this art was done by the TDK Crew. Photo: Katherine Brown

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In North Oakland near Telegraph Ave. and 45th Street, I came across a mosaic honoring Oakland native and Baseball Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson. Artist unknown. Photo: Katherine Brown

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Stay. A simple plea to a team that has so much history rooted in a city that has nothing but unconditional love for them. Designed by the TDK Crew, you can find this mural in Downtown Oakland near Jack London Square. Photo: Katherine Brown

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