“I grew up in East Oakland on Seminary Ave.,” said artist and educator Ladasha Berry. “I have a background in arts activism. I’m an artist. I’m a rapper. I’m a public speaker, an educator.”
Berry deals with the challenges of being African American in today’s climate of fear through her music.
“When you’re stopped, when a police comes behind you, it’s like, sit up straight, take your hat off. Like we can’t even ride with hats on,” said Berry. “We’re afraid to ride in cars with three or four people and it could be you, your two kids and your niece and your nephew.”
At the Pull Up Your Pants Barber Shop on 82nd and Hillside, Tyrone Burns is a father figure to many of the neighborhood youth who takes his responsibilities seriously.
“Giving back, you know? Feeding people for Thanksgiving, having a belt drive, giving kids jobs, keeping kids out of trouble,” said Burns. “So I do a lot of positive things here,” Burns said.
Tyrone and Ladasha along with hundreds of others in the Bay Area are working to keep hope alive but they’ll be the first to tell you it often feels like a losing battle.
“My experience with the criminal justice system is so blatantly filled with implicit and actual racial bias,” Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris said.
Burris has represented the families of police shooting victims that include Oscar Grant, Joseph Mann, Mario Woods, and Jody Woodfox.
“I have to say this about Jody Woodfox. A young man jumps out of his car and starts running. He gets shot three or four times in the back. I couldn’t get the DA to prosecute,” Burris said. “There was no video camera.”
But Burris added, there is hope.
Video cameras are a tool as are strategies that involve communities and the police in unison. San Francisco supervisor Malia Cohen’s Proposition G will restructure police oversight in the city.
“It will give this newly-created department a new authority to perform regular auditing of the police department and its handling of use of force and officer misconduct cases,” Cohen said.
Community policing, which involves officers and residents getting to know each other, has been effective in many neighborhoods.
“Here in (San Francisco’s) Western Addition, it’s been a little bit different,” said activist Rico Hamilton. “It’s like a hidden sensitivity training without calling it that. In the northern station, Captain McGetrin, Captain Anne Mannix and, we call him Captain J.J. They’ve been practicing this.”
“I’m looking to a world where my grandsons and their grandsons will not have to worry about racial profiling,” Burris said.