Rage is the type of thing you can’t really plan for.

You can board up windows, fill the sky with helicopters, televise warnings of terrifying riot-Armageddon – but you can’t actually anticipate that emotion. Most of us don’t feel it until the acid curdle of our own blood boils, till we feel like ripping off clothes and letting gargantuan green selves emerge, Incredible Hulk style.

I am the white mother of two black sons, and I’m angry. My kids have two or three more years before they stop looking like little kids, and start looking like targets, like “criminals” to the media and the white infrastructure that surrounds them. I’m running a race to change the world before that happens.

Before the stopwatch stops … before my babies become involuntary suspects for crooked cops.

I didn’t know the extent of my anger about the Johannes Mehserle verdict. I didn’t know until I got downtown, to the site of the community gathering organized by Oakland General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant. The sound system wasn’t set up yet; the disorganized scene resulted in an impromptu call to march. It was 5:40 p.m. Most of the people there took to the street.

I was livid. I was thinking about the fact that nearly hundreds of police and National Guard were about to meet up with a crowd that had no previous civil disobedience plan. I cussed out innocent bystanders and orange-vested “peace-makers” from the mayor’s office, demanding to know where the rally’s organizers were.

That’s when the amps went live and the crowd swelled. I heard a young woman crying on the mic. She called me back to my senses.

We can’t plan for the feeling of rage, but we can train ourselves to act right. Rage is unprocessed grief. When it's let out the right way, it’s more powerful than tear gas, or rubber bullets.

For me, this is the real news about last night, no matter what you heard. I witnessed a peaceful protest begin and end in peace. I walked home in peace. When I got home, I heard about all the rest. I couldn’t sleep until I saw that the Rachel Maddow Show had covered the verdict.

Below is a sample of my experience at the gathering on 14th and Broadway. Many of the first speakers were sobbing through their words.

Tyisha

“My heart is hurting so bad right now, I can’t even focus. These people think that they can instantly come and get the youth to follow them, like it’s a band, like it’s hella cute to be out here, like we just out here playing at this. I’m so tired of going to funerals, I swear. Makes no sense that the police can continue to kill people, day after day.

“Involuntary manslaughter, are you serious? Are you serious? I just lost three partners in three months. All senior graduates. Nobody’s been arrested for their murders. Police out here like they’re actually doing something. Oh, police are going to get laid off, oh, let’s go help them. Are you fucking serious? I’m sorry children, for cussing, but this is how I feel. Saving them for what? They’re not saving us!

“My ‘lil partner got killed near Eastmont Mall, right across the street from the police station! Right across the street. [stops and sobs] It don’t make no sense! I haven’t seen a helicopter in Oakland in five years. In five years! Who is saving the youth? Who is saving the youth? Nobody! We don’t have programs for these kids, they got nothing to do! They tear up downtown, don’t even know what’s going on. They don’t even know the truth. They don’t even know their history. They don’t know who Emmett Till was, 14 years old. And he got murdered. And those people got to walk free.

“[Mehserle trial] They got a new juror in what, a weekend? Oh, I’m sick. Oh, I’m going on vacation. Involuntary manslaughter.

“I’m so tired. I swear. I’m only 20 years old, and I’m so tired.”

Justice

“The first thing I want to say, is that they expect us to act ignorant. There’s too many black people in one spot, so they expect us to go dumb and act crazy and fight each other, and fight the police. Fuck the police! But we’re gonna have dignity as black people, and they’re not used to it. Do you understand what I’m saying? They think because we’re out here with dreads and braids, and hot pants and thick asses, that we’re gonna act stupid. No. We have children out here. Let’s teach our black children what this really is about.”

Sherri

“I’m a little bit nervous, because it’s just a lot of stuff. I’ve been having dreams. I think God is telling me to say something or do something. I have a son to worry about. I’m really hurt to my heart that we don’t have unity amongst ourselves. I keep feeling like we’re gonna die out, like the natives, like the Indians of America. I keep having that fear. I wish we had more self pride. Oh my god. [crying, stops] We seem like lost causes already. Let that baby die in the hospital. Let the school close down. We don’t have enough unity so of course we’re gonna seem like lost causes for somebody else to kill.

“Stop being quick to kill your own brother! You might be from the same tribe or something! Stop being quick to look at your own sister crazy! Stop dividing your own family! We are not each other’s enemy. God says fear no man. The policeman is a human being. Why are we fearing them? I’m not about to look up my poem right now, but the poem is called ‘Red Carpet’ because we keep sweeping this shit under the rug. Racism is real, it’s not going nowhere. Stop sweeping it under the rug.”

Hannibal


“So I know everyone is upset about how the United Snakes of America chose to deal with this particular murder … but you should not expect justice to come from an unjust system. You cannot expect the police to charge themselves with murder, when they do that as a business. They are diametrically opposed to us being treated as equals. The only thing that we can gain as a community, out of this particular case, is to look around at each other, to see who really has your back. To see who’s really down for you, when it comes down to the fight, right? The only justice that we’re gonna see in this case, is gonna come from the people that I’m looking at right here in front me.

“You should know about Gary King Jr. You should know about Anita Gay. You should know about Andrew Moppin. And know that this thing has been going on as long as there has been such thing as America. And know that the only way we’re gonna get out of it, is when we look at each other and realize that we’re going to have come up with our own solutions. We need to develop our own community system, based on the well being of each and every member of our community. So when you put pressure on these courts, just keep in mind, it’s only to wake your brother and your sister up.”

Summer

“I’m a youth. I’ve been listening to everybody, and the message across the board, from the young people we say we want to hear from, has been peace. Y’all got up here and cried, shouted, yelled. So how many of y’all are really hearing us? We’re begging you to not fuck our shit up! This is our city! We can go blow up Walgreens, but what is that gonna do? We’re gonna be in a worse position than we are today. When are we gonna be able to come together and say, ‘I respect your opinion.’ All it takes is a second, to think about our options. What is tearing up our city gonna do for us? What is sitting back and doing nothing going to do for us?”


Amaris (a preteen)

“Ever since I was 5, I thought I was gonna be the big president of the world. When I was 6, I thought – I’ll just settle for something less. I’ll be the vice president. When I was 8, I said, okay, I’ll just be a model. And I kept going down and down and down. Now I see this on the news, and I am outraged. I feel that I can be the big boss on Wall Street. I can be the person who brings up this community. I can be. I can be the president. I can be everything I want to be.”