Silence Is Violence !!

root - Posted on 16 October 2002

PNN attends a youth rally against The War Abroad and the War on Youth at Home

by Ace Tafoya/PoorNewsNetwork Community Journalist

Tiffic is a 16 year old African-American high school student living in the Bay Area. As he took the stage at the "Silence Is Violence – Youth Rally Against The War Abroad…And The War On Youth At Home" at the Oakland Civic Center/Frank Ogawa Plaza this past Saturday, September 14th to tell his story of being racially profiled by police, I had an uneasiness feeling. I thought about Mumia Abu-Jamal being locked up in a federal prison for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Racial profiling by people with badges is really common for people of color.

"I was harassed by police while walking home from school," Tiffic announced on stage as a cool breeze mixed with a warm sunshine surrounded downtown Oakland. The diverse crowd, estimated at 500 fell silent and listened to him tell us what it feels like to be stopped and questioned and handcuffed by police.

Mario Yedidia, Alicia Yang and Betsy Merzenich of Global Exchange hoped for a positive turnout of the program being sponsored in part by Spoken Word, dancing, DJ’s, hip hop, activism and unity were all a part of the show. "It’s an event against the war on youth at home domestically, specific issues of police brutality and concerns of the extra added 100 police cops on the streets of Oakland," Mario Yedidia related to me before the event started. He is concerned about Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown’s initiative Measure FF being passed on the ballot this election year, as well as foreign policy, "The people who are dying around the world, whether it be here in Oakland, whether it be in Kabul, or it be in Baghdad are usually young people and people with darker skin pigmentation," he voiced to me with great concern.

Local spoken word artist Candice Wicks performed her self penned "Still a Strange Fruit" a very moving piece incorporating such songs as "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)", "Get Here", and "Strange Fruit". "Curve" was performed by San Francisco spoken word artist Badru Akim with special pride and imagination. Dancers Without Boarders, a dance group used drum, dance and voice to music to perform "Somebody…Else. Hate Crimes and Survival as Seen Through The Bodies of Women".

"This is beautiful," The Opposite from ‘Greens’, the hip-hop artists, told the crowd before leading them all to raise their hands up and give a piece sign. "This is what it’s all about!" Samantha and Venus from ‘Pueblo’ urged all to vote no on Measure FF. "We need jobs now, not more police," Samantha shouted to the lively crowd. And among others, Colored Ink performed a skit relating to schools and how bad the educational system is here.

This rally was meant to provoke meaning and understanding of young people from all backgrounds to listen to messages surrounding harassment, racial profiling, discrimination, and other important issues that our government deals out on a daily basis.
We were encouraged to speak out, get active and be heard! Tyren McElwee, 24, a spoken word artist/performer agreed with most others when he said, "This rally is very important…The public is saying we don’t want to go to war with Iraq, we don’t want to be in Afghanistan."

I, along with Monty Williams who is a Vietnam Veteran were extremely impressed by these young artists view on life during wartime. "I think it’s good that the kids are speaking out, getting their voices heard. It reminds me of the times when young people were protesting the Vietnam war during the 60’s," Williams, 47, said while listening to a performance by Deuce Eclipse.

I kept thinking all along that BART ride back into the foggy city how talented and special these young people are. All of the acts that performed that crystal clear afternoon, and there were over 20 of them, knew their position on the world today and how injustices are and how it’s unfair of politicians using young people to win votes. Even Mayor Jerry Brown tried to throw off the crowd with a sidewalk appearance. But too bad, Mr. Mayor. These kids were ahead of the game and they didn’t let you stop them from getting their message heard! Power to the People! Especially the young people.


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