COA remembers Peabo Wellington

>> Tuesday, August 30, 2011


One week ago, I learned that a friend, former student and a good man was no longer with us. Peabo Wellington, a College of Alameda student, was murdered in Oakland on August 23.

Crowd mourns

A vigil was held in his memory on August 25, "Silence the Violence Day." Peabo was remembered by friends, classmates, co-workers and teachers as someone who was always seeking to help others, and as a source of motivation.

Best friend remembers
Peabo introduced me to his best friend, Tyrone, a few months back. They were featured in the Oakland Post a few months ago for their work at the ILSP, Independent Living Skills Program.

Releasing balloons
Balloons are released in memory of Peabo

Tears drop, balloons fly
A co-worker of Peabo's looks up as balloons are released in his memory.

Balloons fly
The balloons flew out into a clear blue sky, slowly disappearing.

But our memories of Peabo won't fade so quickly.

Rest in Power Brotha Peabo.


Eclectic Imagination Fashion Show

On August 20, I photographed a fashion show at the Lake Merritt Garden Center in Oakland. The show, "Eclectic Imagination" was organized by Ahsou Saechou and LaTasha Brown.

Their fashions were imaginative, colorful and just fun.


It was the first time I really got to use my new flash attachment for my camera. It worked pretty well, but I have a lot to learn.

Here are a few photos from the fashion show. Enjoy!

LaTasha Brown's "Lavish Empire"
Model shows off Lavish Empire tee

Model shows off Lavish Empire tee

AhSou's "Trashbag Dresses"

Model shows off trashbag dress.

Pretty interesting designs, right? Check out more photos with the slide show below.

All photos by Reginald James. Courtesy of


Oakland mourns shooting death of baby

>> Sunday, August 21, 2011


I was shocked when I heard a three-year old was shot and killed in Oakland. Three year old Carlos Nava was killed during a drive by shooting in East Oakland on August 8.

Residents expressed outrage and grief after the shooting. Within days, Oakland Police had arrested two individuals, with Alameda County's DA charging one with murder. Despite questions related to long-planned gang injunctions, the desire for more police officers by police, police supporters and politicians, the family still mourns the lost of their baby.


The memorial, near the site of the shooting, had balloons, teddy bears, toys, candles, A's caps and more. The ofrenda, or offering for Carlos was visited by many people the week after his death. A large vigil was held August 9 with hundreds in attendance.

I was unable to attend the vigil, but went with my comrade Saba the G. the next day.

Paying Respect

Following the shooting, there were no other shootings for days. A silence in a city plagued by gunfire.

The question still remains; when will the violence cease? How many more of Oakland's babies, as young as Carlos and as old a Chauncey Bailey, have to die?


Nat Turner poem by T. Thomas Fortune

>> Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Nat Turner" by T. Thomas Fortune.

Nat Turner is a hero. This poem by legendary Black journalist, editor and New York Age publisher T. Thomas Fortune appeared in Harry Smith's Cincinnati Enquirer in 1884.

Every year, we should remember Nat Turner. Here's my own Nat Turner poem from 2010.


Wells Fargo divestment kicks off in Oakland

>> Friday, August 12, 2011

On Wednesday, August 10, Oakland clergy members held a demonstration at Oakland's Well Fargo main branch. Nearly 30 people came to "withdraw" their "trust" in the bank due to their involvement and active participation in the foreclosure crisis. (Read full story on

Oakland Police and Wells Fargo security guard the bank, yet seemed unconcerned with the safety of people withdrawing large sums of money.

I know that grassroots community organizations have been battling Wells Fargo on the ground for a while – organizations like ACORN (before the right-wing take down), Causa Justicia/Just Cause in Oakland, and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, who all work to empower low-income, renters, and people with no income – so it was interesting to see the action begin to "trickle up."

Most of those who were closing their accounts were not people whose only home was taken due to foreclosure, but people who either had income properties, or were helping a family member or friend. Not that their beefs with Wells Fargo's (alleged) fradulent business practices are less valid, but it's interesting to see how the so-called middle class is beginning to experience that which we've been dealing with for years.

Wells Fargo security allowed those who weren't withdrawing their funds unfettered access to the bank, but "protesters" had to enter one at a time.

Interestingly enough, since it is Black August (link), there is another campaign now to get Wells Fargo to divest from private prisons. The bank has its hands/money in groups like the Corrections Corporation of America. And most of those locked up look like the guy writing these words.

For these reasons, I cringe when I see progressive organizations still banking with Wells Fargo. Or, when memorial funds are set up through the bank. Call it the contradictions of capitalism. At the same time, Wells Fargo does a lot of giving to community organizations, and they buy off give support to the Black Press and publications. Personally, I appreciate that they give access to archives.

Yet, Wells Fargo (allegedly) will not give access to local foreclosure data that may help people fighting blight and the foreclosure crisis.

In the end, hundreds of thousands of dollars were (apparently) withdrawn. And demonstrators said they'd be going to local credit unions. It'll be interesting to see if this catches on.


Oakland Freedom School graduation continues to inspire youth, community

>> Wednesday, August 10, 2011


"I am, somebody! I won't be stopped by nobody! I got my fist in the air, and the movement in my feet, I got love for my people, but it starts with me.

This is one of my favorite Oakland Freedom School chants. It was one of a few done at the Oakland Freedom School graduation on August 5. It was held at Dwayne Wiggin's "House of Music" in Oakland. It's a beautiful venue.

Oakland Freedom School, known as OFS, is a five-week summer literacy program for African youth that encourages health and fitness, reading, active parent/family/community involvement, and cultural pride. I didn't teach at OFS again this year, but I still remember many of the kids. And many remember me (that makes you feel sooo good). Let me tell you: OFS is transformational and inspirational.


After beginning the program with libations, each class did a presentation and introduced themselves. Presentations included formations, chants, and even dance. The two most inspiring parts of the graduation were the Black Panther class, and the "Anansi Players" class.


The Black Panther class, led by brother Daniel Muhammad and Thorton White, III (Sirius El) was on point. Not only did they do great formations, but they educated the crowd at the graduation. Taking on the personas of Huey P. Newton, Elaine Brown, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton, the class–made up of children 8-10 year olds, by the way–explained the conditions that led them to organize the people.


The Anansi Players, led by Tiara Phalon, did a dramatic interpretation of a tale about Anansi the Spider. Wearing Zorro masks, capes and green custom designs on their white tees, they were transformed into the characters of the West African folktale. These children, 5-7 years old, are the ones most inspired by OFS. And their inspiration inspires me to read more.

Over the past few years, I've taken hundreds of photos at Oakland Freedom School events. Visit the OFS Facebook page to see more images of our future.


You know you're from Oakland..., AC Transit passenger solidarity and #reading

>> Thursday, August 4, 2011

It was an interesting day at school Wednesday afternoon. Still dealing with the challenge of channeling the students' creativity into actually writing.

We started off having a discussion of the "You know you're from Oakland if..." Facebook phenomenon. It was an old trend rekindled. In fact, I even compiled a blog while working at AC Transit on this same topic.

At any rate, after the students recounted their generation's version, we transitioned them into writing them down. Sadly, many who were able to make them up off the top of their heads seemed unable to concentrate long enough to write many.

We also tried to unpack why would being from Oakland give people these shared ideas, experiences and culture. Conclusion: Smart children, just need better strategies to encourage writing.

* * *

On the AC Transit #40 from Fremont High to downtown Oakland, I saw another random act of bus passenger kindness.

A man walking down the aisle dropped $1. A woman said to him, "Excuse me. You dropped some money."

After he returned to pick it up, she half-jokingly asked, "How much is it? Shoot!" and started laughing.

The man then smiled and gave her the money. "Thank you," she said.

Despite much of the other craziness I've witnessed, and the reputation of AC Transit as a "ghetto on wheels," the passengers are god people.

* * *

It's hard to tell from the photo above, but I've nearly finished Manning Marable's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention."

I can't say the jury is still out on this one–it's definitely, as author Karl Evanzz said, not magnum opus. There are major logical fallacies and some assertions that lack substantial evidence, but there are other points of the book that are informative.

I may attempt to write a review, although other more scholarly writers will be writing a "Black Writers Respond" critique later this year.


100 Black Men of the Bay Area Award Scholarship

>> Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reginald and Jahsiri

On July 31, I had the honor -- along with 29 other Northern California students -- of being awarded a scholarship from the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area at a program at the Oakland Museum.

The 100 Black Men awarded over $54,000 this year, and since the organization was founded in 1988, they've awarded over $1 million.

As I wrote in my scholarship essay, "To be honored and recognized by the 100 Black Men, leaders in education, government, and business, affirms my past achievements, present work, and future ambitions.

"I am one of too many young Black men who did not have active fathers in our lives... This scholarship says, 'You are appreciated. You have support. You are valued.'"

It was a great honor to receive a Young Black Scholar award from the 100 Black Men.


One of the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area I'd like to thank is Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who wrote a letter of recommendation on my behalf.

I also would like to thank Saleem Shakir, executive director of Leadership Excellence, for also taking time out to recommend me for this honor. Incidentally, his ultra-talented son, Jahsiri Asabi-Shakir, pictured above, received the Willie Mays Scholarship from 100 Black Men.

I am fortunate to have men like Keith and Saleem in my life, and I am grateful for their kind words, the opportunities they've given me and the wisdom they continue to share from their life experiences.

Now, it is time to pay it forward, and continue to support other Young Black Scholars.

Photos: (a) Reginald James and Jahsiri Asabi-Shakir. Photo by Shontrice Williamson; (b) UC Berkeley student Galvin Mathis, member of the Collegiate Branch of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, alongside Reginald James during the Young Black Scholar reception.


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