Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant Through the Eyes of Oakland

Zimmerman verdict opens old wounds for many in the Bay Area

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    NEWSLETTERS

    While the Bay Area has long been a haven of acceptance, many say there is still a divide. Jodi Hernandez reports. (Published Friday, Jul 19, 2013)

    Youth Radio's Pendarvis Harshaw has been grappling with a slew of emotions this week in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict in Florida combined with the box office release of Fruitvale, which tells the story of the final day of Oscar Grant's life.

    "The tale of Grant's final 24 hours re-opened old wounds for me then 24 hours after the film's release a parallel tale of race, justice and homicide swept the nation," Harshaw said.

    The Oakland native, who covered the Oscar Grant case and attended the opening of the film, is once again dealing with disbelief, anger and frustration after a jury acquitted Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.

    "I think it hits home in Oakland a little harder because we've seen it time and time again. Not just on national news but on local news through family members through personal experiences," Harshaw said.

    This week's demonstrations in Oakland and across the country reflect the outrage many are feeling about the Trayvon Martin case and about the reality many people of color say they face every day.

    "This could happen to any of us and everyday it happens to many of us," Harshaw said.

    Professor Antwi Akom teaches sociology and African American studies at San Francisco State. He says he knows all too well what it's like to be racially profiled. He was arrested in 2005 in the campus parking lot by a police officer who thought he looked suspicious.

    "I come out and there's a police officer there who says nothing except put your hands behind your back and I said my name is professor Akom this is my officer and he says put your hands behind your back or I'm going to make you out your hands behind your back," Akom said.

    "You can't be a black male who can walk on campus who's graduated from U.C. Berkeley from Stanford University who has a phd from the University of Pennsylvania if you're a black male. None of these things matter," Akom said.

    Victor Lewis, who's been speaking on race relations for two decades, says though we have a black president, perceptions haven't changed much. Lewis took part in a
    race relations documentary called the Color of Fear back in 19-93. He says Fruitvale's message resonates today.

    "I wouldn't say things have gotten a great deal better in terms of how safe it is to be a black male or a brown male in our society," Lewis said.