Jason “Shake” Anderson is a real, progressive community leader who is running for mayor of Oakland in November because he, like most of us, is tired of the electoral musical chairs charade that is recorded as Oakland’s local elections. With incumbent Mayor Jean Quan re-running, and her leading contender, Dan Siegel, being the law partner of her campaign treasurer, you can see why the residents of Oakland would be corruption-conscious throughout the electoral process.
Oakland mayoral candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson speaks to the press.
Although I am not a big fan of electoral politics for some of the very reasons stated above, Jason “Shake” Anderson represents a change from your run-of-the-mill corporate sponsored candidates as well as your Jerry Brown type of candidates, who pimp their progressive allies and history to become current day conservative politicians with progressive backers. Anderson represents a much needed new breed of politicians on the local scene who were involved in community fights like saving the Marcus Garvey Building in West Oakland and Occupy Oakland, and can really relate to this historically progressive city, which is on the ropes in a gentrification battle that its neighbor, San Francisco, lost to Silicon Valley.
I want to introduce Jason “Shake” Anderson to our readers so that we can be informed early about what is shaping up to be a mayoral race for the soul of the city. Check out Jason “Shake” Anderson in his own words …
M.O.I. JR: How did you become interested in politics?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: My interest in politics began in my home. Both of my grandparents were union members. My grandfather, Richard Anderson, was in the machinists’ union, and my grandmother, Joanna Anderson, was a member of the nurses’ union.
Another uncle, Richard Anderson Jr., aka “King,” helped to establish the Black Panther Party, and as a one of its founders, spearheaded the program Pencils Not Guns. My father, Clarence “Clay” Anderson, was one of the original members of the San Francisco State Black Students Union, the first of its kind in the country.
My Aunt Shiela Quintana was head of the teachers’ union for five years. She worked on behalf of teachers to negotiate yearly raises during her tenure. And my Uncle William Armstrong is a veteran longshoreman with the ILWU.
So some of my earliest memories are of intellectual political debates during the holiday season over several topics. Essentially, politics and the problems that affect people have always been a part of my life.
M.O.I. JR: What was your role in the saving of the Marcus Garvey Building in West Oakland? What was your role in Occupy?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: I functioned as the communication director for the Save the Marcus Garvey Building Campaign. As communication director, I handled all media inquiries, press coverage and internal communications. In that capacity, I was the point of contact for the lead investor, lead lawyer and City of Oakland officials, all of whom played an important part in saving the building from Citibank foreclosure. In addition, I coordinated ground level promotion to generate public interest in the campaign.
I took my role in Occupy Oakland seriously and approached it as an occupation. I saw the movement as an opportunity to use my skills to be of service to humanity. Some of the many roles and responsibilities I held were security of the media tent, protection of donated equipment at night, conflict resolution by de-escalating arguments before they led to fights, and mentor to youth at the camp, several of whom had been recently released from jail and found value and purpose in their life inside the encampment. I was also the media liaison fielding interviews with media outlets, which was the smallest part of day to day encampment operations.
M.O.I. JR: Why did you decide to run for mayor? What do you see wrong with Oakland?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: I believe that everyone should participate in the political system to the best of their ability. Running for mayor of Oakland is the best way I believe I can engage the system.
Attorney Alan S. Yee of Siegel & Yee, law partner of Dan Siegel, a major mayor’s race opponent of incumbent Mayor Jean Quan, currently serves as Quan’s re-election campaign treasurer. Yee was sworn in May 20, 2011, by Mayor Quan as her first Port Commission appointee; she said she wants a more business-friendly commission, and Yee represents businesses trading with Asian countries. In contrast, Quan refused to re-appoint renowned Black West Oakland environmental justice and community advocate Margaret Gordon, despite Gordon’s strong support.
As a community organizer, I had to deal with city officials, and as a result I became aware of internal conflicts within local government. It is my opinion that our elected officials are not looking out for the interests of the people; instead, they seem motivated to serve their own needs.
My frustration with this, in addition to my strong political background, led to the decision to run for mayor of Oakland. Hopefully, I can be a liaison between the people and a flawed political structure, and bring with me the perspective of the 99 percent.
M.O.I. JR: What are some of the things on your electoral platform?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: Sustainable energy education – a solar, wind etc. – training on how to harness the energy of the largest thermal nuclear generator, the sun, this will be highly valuable in crisis situations and also in job creation. The application of sustainability and, in a functional manner, teaching the fundamentals of electricity and basic building, such as woodworking, can also be used as community building tools.
Addressing PTSD within the community and law enforcement and beginning to create common ground to start building a better relationship between the OPD and the Oakland community, where fear on both sides puts everyone’s lives in danger.
Addressing the failed “war on drugs” and its effects and ways to overcome them as a community. The prison industrial complex has profited too long off of the labor of young men and women of color and it is time we as a community address this and create new plans to counteract the modern slave trade that involves the youth of Oakland directly.
M.O.I. JR: How do you plan to address issues like police terrorism, gentrification and the privatization of the Oakland Unified School District?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: As a military veteran, I have intimate understanding of the level of stress that accompanies police work. I will use my experience to open dialogue and influence effective change in the relationship between police and the community.
The citizens of Oakland are not enemy combatants. There must be a liaison not afraid to work on both sides to give the people the comfort level needed and the room the police need without violating citizens’ human rights.
As mayor, I will make this a top priority. The reputation of the police force is a reflection of the city to the world and, in order to change that, all parties must be willing to participate. My job would be to facilitate those discussions and implement that change.
Mayoral candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson asks, “How is the city going to progress when the same people play musical chairs with the power structure?” Considering that some candidates are members of or work closely with the City Council, he reminds voters: “This is the same City Council that unanimously passed the DAC (Domain Awareness Center) to integrate public and private cameras and sensors all over Oakland into one mass surveillance center.”
Oakland is a great city with a rich history, so it’s not surprising that people would want to move here. My issue is more about the systematic method of pushing residents out. Concentrating on renters’ rights and affordable housing is a start; however, the issue of a lack of educational programs available to help residents should be something a responsible city government should promote more throughout Oakland.
Education is a lifelong process and STEM (Standard Testing Educational Method) does not address the wide range of methods to educate the youth. I am currently working with advisors to develop an educational alternative that is more practical and can be implemented via city support through after-school and after-hours programs for all levels, from youth to adults.
M.O.I. JR: What do think about mayoral candidates Dan Siegel and Jean Quan, who, while on the school board, successfully voting to bring armed police into the OUSD? What do you think about the police killing of Raheim Brown in front of Skyline High School by a campus police officer and its connection to this policy?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: I believe that was a highly irresponsible decision, and I can’t imagine the circumstances that can justify that vote. I am aware of the recent school shootings nationwide; however, true leadership should not make fear-based decisions – especially from people who call themselves progressives. Guns generally make people nervous, and children are very aware of weapons and deserve the peace of mind necessary in any learning environment.
The Rahiem Brown shooting was tragic and was an example of improper policy-making from fear-based leadership. I remember the Raheim Brown Library at the Occupy Oakland encampment, where children and educators would hold classes in honor of Raheim Brown. I would like see that policy repealed in his honor.
M.O.I. JR: Can you explain why Jean Quan’s campaign treasurer, Alan Yee, is a partner in Dan Siegel’s law firm?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: Transparency is an important process in politics. The connections among Quan, Yee and Siegel show us how intertwined Oakland politics has been for years. Candidates express progressive platforms yet continue work in the circle of friends, so close that the incumbent mayor’s former legal adviser’s (Dan Siegel’s) business partner is her treasurer.
The connections among Quan, Yee and Siegel show us how intertwined Oakland politics has been for years. Candidates express progressive platforms yet continue work in the circle of friends, so close that the incumbent mayor’s former legal adviser’s (Dan Siegel’s) business partner is her treasurer.
Mostly all the candidates are one degree of separation from Quan. For example, Bryan Parker is a port commissioner, Libby Schaaf is on the City Council, and even Joe Tuman is connected to half the City Council through the Oakland-based campaign firm Next Generation.
Politically, I understand how connections work; however, as a community organizer, I have to ask how is the city going to progress when the same people play musical chairs with the power structure of the city? Keep in mind that this is the same City Council that unanimously passed the DAC (Domain Awareness Center) to integrate public and private cameras and sensors all over Oakland into one mass surveillance center.
If the people of Oakland would like progressive change, that would look like a candidate like myself, with a successful record of community organizing and a progressive political base.
M.O.I. JR: What are some of the community projects that you are now involved in around Oakland?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: I am currently working on securing a building to create a transitional living space for men and women leaving the prison system. Chess games to teach youth critical thinking skills. Voter registration drives throughout city. Bitcoin economy training to integrate the urban and tech communities.
M.O.I. JR: When is the next time you will be doing a public event where people can meet you?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: The weekly campaign meeting of the Jason “Shake” Anderson Mayoral Candidate Committee features an open forum on the Oakland mayoral race and a potluck dinner at Uptown Studio, 1738 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 6-9 p.m. every Monday night.
M.O.I. JR: How do people stay up with you online?
Jason “Shake” Anderson: Go to http://oaklandwiki.org/Jason_Kane_Anderson.
Trevor Parham welcomes you to Oakstop.
Trevor Parham is a 30-something business pioneer who is creating a workspace co-op in downtown Oakland called Oakstop. I first caught wind of it about three weeks ago when I saw a Facebook post about it from my homegirl Nadiyah of the music group Ama Evolution. Since that time, I attended two mixer networking parties at the spot and had a number of conversations with the innovator and man behind this project.
I think Oakstop is something that young Black and Brown artists and entrepreuners in the Bay should be aware of. Trevor is looking outside the box for ways to keep some of Oakland’s culture insulated from the wave of gentrification generated by the techie land grab of San Francisco.
For people who are tired of Starbucks and the techies invading your local neighborhoods, this may be a way for us to pull our resources before we all are forced to embark on the plan engineered by former mayor and current Gov. Jerry Brown to put Black and Brown Oakland on a Trail of Tears to Antioch, Sacramento, Tracy and Stockton.
Make it a point to visit Oakstop after you read Trevor Parham’s words about this new idea that could help to preserve Oakland culture in the midst of a physical and cultural invasion that is overtaking us and surrounding areas. Check him out.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about how you came up with the idea for Oakstop? Do you have a history in real estate?
Trevor: Sure, I suppose it would first be helpful to state Oakstop’s mission: “Oakstop is a shared working environment, event space and art gallery that fosters collaboration, professional development and economic sustainability for creative entrepreneurs and small businesses.”
Trevor Parham worked as an entrepreneur, creative director, educator, art consultant and in real estate before founding Oakstop.
I came up with the idea for Oakstop over a year ago, but it was really just the result of connecting my various areas of professional experience and housing all in one big project. I do have a background working with real estate companies and have an even more extensive history working as an entrepreneur, creative director, educator and art consultant.
Oakstop is located right above the 19th Street BART station and is an ideal location to further develop all of my areas of professional experience. The story for how I came up with Oakstop is a testament to how these different areas of experience converged into one endeavor.
While developing a pop up art gallery in Oakland’s KONO district, I realized how mixed-use creative spaces could both generate interest in vacant properties and provide a valuable brick and mortar resource to artists and local entrepreneurs. I pitched the owner of the building on a plan to use the first floor retail space as a destination for creative enterprise. The plan included several revenue generating functions like shared wifi workspace, creative media services, boutique retail and educational workshops.
The idea was to create value in the community by making use of a first floor retail space in ways that benefit both the property owner and local artists. After four months of improving the space and demonstrating its value through the art gallery function, we were able to lease it to a longer term tenant at full market rate. The creative space essentially sold an unsellable property. It was a mutual win for both the developer and myself.
While managing the art gallery, someone commissioned one of the artists I work with to do a painting for her. She was so pleased with the way that I managed the commission process that she later hired me to provide all of the art consulting for a coworking space she managed in Berkeley called NextSpace.
I brought roughly 12 local artists and 100 pieces of artwork into NextSpace, including a custom mural I created for their largest wall. The NextSpace team was so impressed with how I integrated artwork into their space that they offered to help guide me through the process of launching a coworking space for creatives should I ever choose to. I took the offer seriously and started contemplating other properties, primarily in Oakland.
NextSpace Berkeley opened around the same time that I had started doing more real estate work in Uptown Oakland. I was doing communications strategy and capital development for a Black-owned real estate development firm, and we were working on a major mixed-use arts and retail project, right near the19th Street BART station, intended to revive Oakland’s retail market while also creating jobs in the local community.
I quickly learned how the 19th Street BART station could potentially become the nexus of a major shift in Oakland’s economy. This was even more reason to establish a coworking environment in Uptown Oakland; it would place creatives in the center of an economic boom.
The 19th Street BART station could potentially become the nexus of a major shift in Oakland’s economy. This was even more reason to establish a coworking environment in Uptown Oakland; it would place creatives in the center of an economic boom.
I eventually crossed paths with another developer in Oakland who had some vacant suites in a building right near the 19th Street BART. He wanted offices to occupy a large 4,000-square-foot suite in the building and I pitched him on my original idea for shared workspace and creative enterprise. He liked the idea and encouraged me to push forward with it as he saw how it could also add value to his building and the surrounding community.
Oakstop, creating sustainability
Given the location of the building, I knew that it could be a space that people would likely “stop” in and out of throughout the week during their daily routines and also knew that being located near the BART stop could attract people from other parts of the Bay Area to Oakland. Ultimately, I wanted to establish a coworking space that would both support and represent Oakland in an authentic way. As an Oakland native, it’s important to me that we have a professional platform like Oakstop to represent the authenticity of our highly creative and diverse culture.
M.O.I. JR: Over the last two months, how have people been responding? Who are some of the notable artists who are working with Oakstop?
Trevor: The response to Oakstop has been overwhelmingly positive and heartwarming to say the least. More than anything, people seem to see Oakstop as a needed resource and are appreciative of both the vision and the facility.
Moreover, our visitors and members consistently comment on their comfort with the community and the culture. Apparently Oakstop offers a different vibe than a lot of the other coworking spaces that people have visited, and I think this is especially the case with creative professionals.
The great thing about Oakstop is that we host such a variety of creative professionals, some of whom work in disciplines that are often less notable than say 2-D art, music or entertainment – e.g. sculpture, interior design, video. We also have several artists in those more notable disciplines too, including James Gayles, Jennifer Johns, Kev Choice, Unity Lewis and DJ Aeble Dee.
M.O.I. JR: How do you see Oakstop in relation to the ongoing gentrification in Oakland and in San Francisco?
Trevor: Great question and it requires a comprehensive response; gentrification is a sensitive subject in Oakland these days. Having worked with a Black-owned real estate development firm that often conducts work in response to gentrification in Oakland, I wanted to make sure that Oakstop’s mission, culture and business model were conscious of and could participate in the ongoing dialogue around gentrification.
I’m much more familiar with the current dialogue around gentrification in Oakland – which often includes the idea of people moving from San Francisco to Oakland – so I’ll limit my response to gentrification specifically in Oakland.
Coworking spaces have become increasingly prevalent in the Bay Area, especially in San Francisco. Given that some of the earliest coworking spaces started in San Francisco, a lot the spaces have naturally adopted several elements of San Francisco’s coworking culture, many of which are great for innovation and entrepreneurship.
However, there are elements of San Francisco’s coworking culture that naturally wouldn’t be the most suitable fit for Oakland. I want to make sure that Oakstop’s culture is suitable for Oakland. It’s important that we don’t simply try to replicate San Francisco coworking culture as a means to be profitable and, in turn, end up alienating people from the surrounding community.
Professional development is important for local artists and entrepreneurs so that they can generate more economic stability for themselves and ultimately have a chance at competing for property in the residential or commercial markets … instead of getting pushed out of Oakland.
Oakstop openly welcomes anyone from San Francisco or anywhere else, but it’s important that our work environment caters to the local community first so that it can showcase Oakland’s culture to people visiting from other cities. We don’t want to create a business or work environment in the middle of Uptown Oakland that excludes or ultimately pushes out Oaklanders.
In terms of economics and workforce development – another major aspect of gentrification – we want to provide a space where local entrepreneurs and artists can develop their professional skills, both hard skills and soft skills. Professional development is important for local artists and entrepreneurs so that they can generate more economic stability for themselves and ultimately have a chance at competing for property in the residential or commercial markets … instead of getting pushed out of Oakland.
Property rates in Oakland continue to rise in response to the rising property rates in San Francisco, and as such we are witnessing a migration of gainfully employed people moving from San Francisco to Oakland in search of relatively lower rates. As such, Oakland property owners are able to raise their rates knowing that they can be paid by people crossing the bridge looking for anything lower than what they find in San Francisco.
This is all to say that gentrification is often the result of an underdeveloped local workforce. Oakstop is a destination for workforce development.
We need to create new, better and more lucrative jobs for people in Oakland and much of that can be done within the creative industry. There are several artists and creative professionals in Oakland – many of whom would qualify as being underemployed – and we need to refine their talents, potential and professional skills, while also demonstrating their economic value to local businesses.
As most of us know, just about every business needs an identity and a way to make themselves visible within their market; creatives provide that – at the very least. The creative contributions are often just undervalued when it comes to monetary compensation. This is likely due to both a misperception of their value and an actual dearth of professional skills.
If we continue to develop our creative workforce, we’ll reach a point where they’re properly compensated for their value and are eventually able to start their own small businesses. An increase in creative small businesses can provide even more jobs in the local economy within an industry that is particularly attractive to youth and young adults, 18-25, a demographic facing some of the highest rates of underemployment.
When our city is able to develop its workforce, hire more people from its local community and pay them with competitive wages, we will be on our way to solving the gentrification equation. Oakstop plans to be one of many groups in Oakland facilitating that solution.
M.O.I. JR: How do people join Oakstop? And what do they get for their membership?
Trevor: People can join Oakstop by simply purchasing day passes or signing up for monthly membership, which can be purchased on three-, six- or 12-month terms. Month to month terms area also available. All Oakstop members receive access to our community spaces plus discounts on event space, conference space and workshops. Depending on their level of membership, they can also get private offices, dedicated desk and storage space, access to our in-house photo and video production resources, and private consulting on the creative needs for their business.
We need to create new, better and more lucrative jobs for people in Oakland and much of that can be done within the creative industry. When our city is able to develop its workforce, hire more people from its local community and pay them with competitive wages, we will be on our way to solving the gentrification equation. Oakstop plans to be one of many groups in Oakland facilitating that solution.
Beyond the material benefits, all Oakstop members also get access to a dynamic community of creatives, activists and entrepreneurs. Just being in the space on a consistent basis creates so many invaluable opportunities to collaborate and grow your business.
M.O.I. JR: How has the city responded? Has there been any competition?
Trevor: To be clear, the City of Oakland and city officials have yet to formally respond to Oakstop – if that’s what you were asking – though I feel we will get a response from the City of Oakland soon. However, the people and businesses in Oakland have responded very positively to Oakstop.
Having already established relationships with the founders of many of the other coworking spaces in Oakland before I started Oakstop, I’ve really experienced more collaboration than competition within the coworking industry in particular. There is such a need for these coworking spaces in Oakland, and there still don’t seem to be enough here to meet that need.
There’s no reason for competition. If anything, we’ll be working on ways to cross-pollinate our businesses, refer potential members to each other and increase the overall awareness of the value of coworking in Oakland.
M.O.I. JR: When Oakstop is operating at full capacity, how will it look different from what you have today?
Trevor: When Oakstop has even more members and is operating at a fuller capacity, it will likely just transform to increase its capacity … so in many ways it’s hard to predict exactly what it will look like. Much of that is up to the needs of its members and community. However, there are already things that I know will be different in the near future as we continue to grow our community of members.
Oakstop is intended to have more workshops, equipment resources, service offerings and regularly scheduled events. With more members – or at least enough to fill our current 4,000-square-foot space – we can offer more resources and services and we’ll be able to accomplish more as a community.
Ideally, we’ll be able to replicate Oakstop to other locations within and outside of Oakland. So in many ways when Oakstop is at full capacity, it will have multiple locations across multiple neighborhoods in the Bay Area.
M.O.I. JR: How can people get in touch with you?
Trevor: People can get in touch with me via my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our online properties:www.oakstop.com, facebook.com/oakstop, twitter.com/oakstop and instagram.com/oakstop.
Written by Minister of Information JR Valrey
Thursday, 13 March 2014 23:23
| ‘The Ghosts of March 21’: an interview wit’ filmmaker Sam Stoker
March 21, 2014, marks the fifth anniversary of the police murder of Lovelle Mixon, who was killed after he murdered four Oakland police officers and wounded a fifth, around 73rd and MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland. The murder of Mixon and the cops further polarized the city, that two months prior had been rocked with rebellions related to the police murder of Oscar Grant that cost the establishment in downtown millions of dollars.
Hours after Mixon was killed, lame-stream media started broadcasting all over the world that Lovelle Mixon was on the run for rape, although a number of journalists, including filmmaker Sam Stoker and I, were never able to make contact with witnesses or victims or the families of victims, pushing me to believe that the rape charges are fabricated to limit the amount of momentum that the people’s movement was gaining on the anti-police terror front at the time.
“The Ghosts of March 21” is a documentary about the bloodiest day in the history of Oakland law enforcement, shot by Damon “Hooker Boy” Hooker and directed, written and edited by Sam Stoker. It’ll premiere at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley on March 20.
“Ghosts” is definitely a film that you don’t want to miss because it captures exactly how the police are an occupying army in the Black communities of the United States and other places where the masses of people live below the poverty line. If you can’t catch it on that date, Block Report Radio will be hosting a tour of the film all over the country in the following months. Check out filmmaker Sam Stoker in his own words …
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to do a film on Lovelle Mixon?
Sam Stoker: The original idea for this project was to make a documentary, essentially, of Kristian William’s book “Our Enemies in Blue” and for the film to focus on the potential of police violence to spark broader liberatory movements. Originally, I was going to examine several cases from across the U.S.; however, due to logistical reasons, I had to keep narrowing down the scope of the project until eventually I was looking only at Oakland – and the Oscar Grant and Lovelle Mixon cases specifically.
A lot of the folks I was bouncing ideas off of at the time suggested I ditch the Mixon case, arguing he was too unlikeable, there was nothing redeemable about his actions and that the case wasn’t conducive for a film critical of police violence. Politically, I disagreed with those positions.
Still, they were legitimate obstacles, especially when considering how severely Mixon was dehumanized and the rape allegations that have been made against him. It wasn’t until I really started to grapple with them that I began to recognize just how powerful of a story was going untold. And while the process of pulling it out was not easy, I was captivated by its complexity and political potential right away.
M.O.I. JR: What kind of anti-police terrorism work have you been involved in prior to doing this film?
Demonstrators marching on March 25, 2009, four days after the deaths of Lovelle Mixon and four cops, easily connected the dots to the police murder of Oscar Grant less than three months earlier. – Photo: Dave Id, Indybay
Sam Stoker: I’ve been involved in anti-police work for a number of years. In Oakland, I’ve been involved in a few projects. Most significantly, I was involved in the Oscar Grant Movement and helped found the Oakland General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant, which organized a number of the demonstrations and helped sustain the movement and gave it some direction after CAPE fell apart and the initial upheaval subsided. I learned a tremendous amount from that experience and this film is in many ways an extension of that work.
M.O.I. JR: Where did you get all of the information about the cops’ actions on March 21, 2009, as well as all of the on-the-scene footage?
Sam Stoker: The on-scene footage is from Damon “Hooker Boy” Hooker, who has been filming East Oakland street life for years. I was lucky to find him and that he agreed to let me use the footage. The bulk of the information about the police actions comes from the Board of Inquiry report that was released about six months after the incident.
It provides an official account of the police’s actions and decision-making processes throughout the day and also outlines the department’s numerous violations of its own standard operating procedures. It has been an excellent resource. And my background in firefighting and knowledge of the Incident Command System, which the police use to manage emergency situations, has been helpful in drawing out the significance of those violations.
M.O.I. JR: How do you think that the police murder of Lovelle Mixon relates to the police murder of Oscar Grant?
Sam Stoker: I think it relates in a number of ways. One of the most important, however, is also among the easiest to overlook or dismiss, and that is that both incidents are related in that they were produced by the same fundamental, systemic-level problems: exploitative, oppressive capitalist social relations and white supremacy.
It also relates in terms of the way it affected the political response to the murder of Oscar Grant. The events of March 21 jolted a lot of people and were destabilizing enough to push people toward the poles, to where they felt safest, a shift that was based on their relationship with the police.
For most whites, that meant a shift toward the state, which was evidenced by the massive outpouring of public sympathy that culminated with the funeral spectacle for the four officers, as well as the silence of the majority of the white left that had been quite vocal about Oscar Grant but found itself unable to address Mixon’s violence.
Lovelle was mourned by a large and loving family. His cousin is at the mic. – Photo: Dave Id, Indybay
For people of color, and especially Black folks, the situation was more complex, but I think one of the outcomes of it was it forced people to articulate a more profound analysis on the situation they found themselves in, particularly the most marginalized. Those positions were drowned out by the hegemonic narrative that argued the police were heroes and Mixon was a demon, but on the micro level people could see who was who and what they saw made a difference.
It was a moment of clarity that advanced a revolutionary analysis and level of commitment that in the long run would shape the movement more significantly than the state or liberal left that would ultimately hurt it. The militancy of Occupy Oakland and the refusal to allow police in the camp is an example of that lineage.
M.O.I. JR: What do you think about Oakland’s on-going war against police terrorism – i.e. Oscar Grant campaign, Lovelle Mixon, Occupy etc.? What is different about the people in Oakland in your opinion?
Sam Stoker: I think the war against police terrorism is resistance to white supremacy, suffering and, ultimately, liberalism. It is part of a process that began a long time ago and is destined to continue until the contradiction is resolved in some way.
Unfortunately, because the collective common sense of the United States is rooted in liberalism – that is, it largely denies the existence of structural inequality and attributes all success or failure to the individual – the vast majority of suffering produced by structural inequality is internalized and endured alone. But the fact that it is made largely invisible doesn’t make it unreal, and unfortunately most people won’t understand that until they are faced with the consequences of it, which is how I’d define the events of March 21, 2009 – a consequence of oppressive social relations. In this respect I don’t think Oakland is all that different than most cities.
I imagine there are a number of factors that contribute to the political culture of Oakland, but I suspect that one big one is the fact that there is a well documented history of oppression in the city as well as a formidable tradition of resistance, particularly around the problem of police violence, that has elevated the community’s fundamental political consciousness and helps legitimize resistance that in other cities may be far more marginalized.
That history is important because it gives meaning and direction to people’s lives, and when that consciousness, which is self-respect and the demand to be respected, is combined with all the negative implications produced by the structural inequality of a system the police enforce, that history provides a notion for what needs to be done.
On March 21, police swarmed the hood, a mass of confusion.
Putting it into action is the revolution, which itself is an evolving, living process that is constantly transforming; and I think it is important to look at resistance to police violence in this way. It is also the case that it is almost always the commitment and uncompromising demands of the few, not the many, that plant the seeds that become the catalysts of change. And one thing that is unique about Oakland is its ability to consistently nurture and develop the few.
M.O.I. JR: Can you describe where you got the title and your creative process with this documentary?
Sam Stoker: From the beginning of this project I have been captivated by a sense that there was something of great value buried beneath the story’s complexity – beyond the so-called facts. I was convinced it was there because I could feel it, but I didn’t know how to articulate it. The process of understanding and then conveying that notion defined the creative process and it took a long time.
The reason why is actually reflected in the name. The film was first called “Lovelle Mixon, Politically,” and that version framed and defined the events of March 21, 2009, in relation to the police execution of Oscar Grant and the political movement that was taking place, which anyone familiar with the subject matter knows is an important part of the story.
What I began to realize, however, is that it wasn’t Lovelle Mixon’s story, but rather an interpretation of the political situation that was built on an analysis of the world that Lovelle Mixon, in all likelihood, would have defined in a completely different manner. That didn’t make it incorrect, but it felt tired. It was his story that needed to be told if the film was to have any value, and by that I mean, if it was to harness the transformative power of cinema.
From that moment onward, I was chasing a ghost. Attempting to decipher Lovelle Mixon’s consciousness from its absence and by tracing the various manners through which it was erased. It was a significant change in approach, which can be summarized as the difference between using a generalization to define the specific and the specific to define the general.
And while the film is still, ultimately, my argument, it was a shift that equated to letting Lovelle Mixon define himself – a process that, I’ve learned, is less about methodology than it is developing a fundamentally new perception of reality. One not unlike that described by Huey Newton in the epilogue of “Revolutionary Suicide” when he writes of the ancient African tribes that, when asked who they were, would reply, “I am we.”
By March 21, Oakland had seen several mass marches for Oscar Grant, but the march for Lovelle Mixon on March 25 was a little different: It was almost solidly Black and it was in East Oakland, where Lovelle lived and died and where the politics of police terrorism are well understood.
To understand March 21, 2009, is to see how the past shapes the present; it is to see ghosts, lots of them. It was this process that sparked the name change and also significantly transformed my perception of reality and how I understand political struggle. I’ve tried to construct the film to maximize its potential, not simply to show a different way of seeing, but to fundamentally reframe the viewer’s perception.
M.O.I. JR: What did you learn about the situation that shocked you while you were doing research about this film?
Sam Stoker: What shocked me was hearing about the last hour of Lovelle Mixon’s life and learning of the calmness and resoluteness with which he faced his death and what it says about society and the power structure when contrasted with the chaotic, revenge-driven activity of the police that were hunting him down – all of which is the opposite of how people understand the situation. It is horrifying to find out how fragile reality really is.
M.O.I. JR: What do you want people to get out of this film?
Sam Stoker: My hope is the film helps people grasp a deeper comprehension of how power flows, functions and distorts our perceptions of reality. Equally important a goal has been to legitimize the Black experience by 1) making it visible; and 2) contextualizing it structurally; and 3) illustrating white supremacy in a clear and coherent way and inspiring people to act.
M.O.I. JR: Are you working on any other projects?
Sam Stoker: Yes, my partner and I are currently researching our next project, which examines contemporary working class conditions in the Central Valley, but I can’t say more about it until production is complete because it could blow the opportunity. We are also busy building /CRONISTAS/, a radical film collective inspired by Third Cinema. And this summer I’ll be helping Jacob Crawford from wecopwatch.org edit together a film chronicling police violence and the anti-police movement in Oakland since Oscar Grant.
M.O.I. JR: How do people keep up with you in regards to this film?
Sam Stoker: The website is the best way: www.theghostsofmarch21.org.
Written by Minister of Information JR Valrey
Saturday, 08 March 2014 19:17
| COINTELPRO target Marshall Eddie Conway released after 44 years in prison
Marshall Eddie Conway was released from a Maryland prison on March 4 after nearly forty-four years behind bars for a crime he says he didn’t commit. Conway, freed over an unconstitutional jury instruction, denied any role in the 1970 murder of Baltimore police officer Donald Sager. Conway was Minister of Defense of the Baltimore Black Panthers and a target of COINTELPRO, the notorious FBI counterintelligence program, at the time of his arrest for the shooting of Sager and a partner.
Two Black Panthers, Jack Ivory Johnson and Jackie Powell, were arrested near the crime scene and confessed claiming the killing was part of an initiation into the group.
Bob Boyle, Conway’s attorney of twenty years, explained the legal maneuver which gained Conway his freedom:
“We’ve actually been trying various legal ways to get Eddie Conway out of prison for many, many years, some based on the counterintelligence program, on the unfairness of his trial, on ineffective assistance of trial counsel. A few years ago, the—then, a few years ago, the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the jury instructions, which were typically given in trials in the early 1970s—in fact, up until 1980—were unconstitutional. Specifically, the judge told juries back then, and up until 1980, that the jury need not follow the instructions of the court, that the instructions are simply advisory, which means even though the judge told the jury that the prosecution had to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, for example, he also told the jury, "Well, you could ignore that instruction, and it’s up to you whether to vote guilty or not guilty."
Boyle continued, “And over the course of the last few months, we reached an agreement with the state’s attorney to resentence Mr. Conway to time served. And as a result of that agreement, he was released yesterday after… nearly 44 years in prison—actually, 43 years and 11 months.”
Conway, an Army veteran and postal worker, was arrested at his job while sorting mail. A policeman, Roger Nolan, claimed he exchanged gunshots with Conway in a dark alley in the vicinity of the Sager murder.
Conway told Democracy Now why he joined the Black Panthers. “I looked at all the different organizations, and the Black Panther Party represented at least a serious attempt to start feeding the children, to start educating the population, to start organizing healthcare and stuff like that. So I joined and started working with them,” said Conway.
“I think some of the most active people in the organization was targeted, followed around by the COINTELPRO, and opportunities were created with agent provocateurs or police informers, or even just incidents were created, that ultimately led to them destroying like 25 of our 37 state chapters in a period of 18 months. And they locked up the primary leadership, all the national leadership, or they chased them out of the country. And then they started focusing on the secondary leadership. At that time, I was considered part of the secondary leadership. And they pretty much locked us up or framed some of us or chased some of us out of the country….But by the time we found out that COINTELPRO was out there and operating, pretty much the Black Panther Party had been destroyed.”
Noam Chomsky has studied COINTELPRO and commented, “COINTELPRO, which you mentioned, is actually the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government. It maybe compares with Wilson’s Red Scare. But COINTELPRO went on from the late ’50s right through all of the ’60s; it finally ended, at least theoretically ended, when the courts terminated it in the early ’70s. And it was serious.”
Chomsky blamed the FBI for the “Gestapo-style assassination of two black organizers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, literally.”
“I mean, the FBI set up the assassination. The Chicago police actually carried it out, broke into the apartment at 4:00 in the morning and murdered them. Fake information that came from the FBI about arms stores and so on. There was almost nothing about it. In fact, the information about this, remarkably, was released at about the same time as Watergate. I mean, as compared. And in this case, this is a case of justice being done, even though it’s delayed.
Conway’s attorney, Robert Boyle, commented: “Eddie went to trial at a time when COINTELPRO was still active and the jury did not know that there was this campaign to neutralize the leadership and the organization of the Black Panther Party. And so, he—although it was presented—tried to be presented at trial that there was this campaign of neutralization and people being framed up, we and his lawyers at the time lacked the information to do so. So, this has to be looked at in that context, and also in the context that many of the victims of COINTELPRO, you know, remain in prison today. Many, many—there are former members of the Black Panther Party who have been in jail for 40 years or more.
"There was a de facto war being waged between the police and the black community," Boyle explained. "Eddie Conway was a well-known person in the Baltimore Black Panthers. If it wasn't Eddie, it was going to be someone else from the Party."
The prosecution also relied on a jailhouse informant named Charles Reynolds, who testified that Conway detailed the crime to him as they sat together in a cell, including a little-known detail about a watch stolen from the wounded police officer.
Supporters have focused on the idea that Conway was set up and Nolan misidentified the man he was chasing. The Panthers at the time were under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO, a clandestine war on political activists waged by J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s role in the case remains shrouded, the result of shredded and redacted COINTELPRO memoranda.
In 2001, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution urging Governor Parris Glendening to pardon Conway, calling him a political prisoner innocent of murder. The governor ignored the resolution.
Conway’s case is eerily like that of Ed Poindexter in Nebraska. Poindexter is half of the Omaha Two, Black Panther leaders imprisoned for the murder of a police officer. Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) was Poindexter’s co-defendant in the April 1971 trial that convicted them for the murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard, Sr.
Like Conway, Poindexter was an Army veteran turned postal worker. For both men Black Panther activities had to be squeezed in around the shifts at the post office.
In Conway’s case there was no direct physical evidence linking him to the murder. In Poindexter’s case there was no direct physical evidence linking him to the murder.
However, the two cases have a sharp distinction. In Conway’s case, J. Edgar Hoover’s role remains unclear, forever shrouded by shredded paper. In Poindexter’s case, Hoover’s role is documented in FBI reports. Hoover gave the command to withhold a laboratory report from the FBI Crime Laboratory on the identify of the anonymous 911 caller who lured Minard to his death by bombing in a vacant house.. Hoover gave the order to let a killer get away with murder in order to pin the crime on Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa.
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa remain incarcerated in the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary, serving life sentences, while they continue to deny any involvement in the death of Minard.
There is one other difference between Conway’s case and that of Poindexter.. Maryland courts are willing to correct past mistakes. Nebraska courts are not.