April 17, 2009
Since the high-profile killings of four Oakland police officers on March 21, 2009 by parolee Lovelle Mixon, the city and its residents have been hit with a barrage of conflicting emotions: countless memorials to the deceased officers, anti-cop crusades by angry residents and calls from lawmakers for increased law enforcement. Amid the clamor, the widening schism between police and Oakland’s youth has been brought to light.
I caught up with Oakland-bred rapper Mistah FAB to discuss his reactions to the recent violence and the plight of young people in Oakland. His personal history is emblematic of Oakland’s legacy: Born and raised in Oakland, his family history includes both pimps and Black Panthers. With a brother just recently sentenced to 432 years in prison, Mistah FAB continues his work as a mainstay in Bay Area youth outreach efforts. Given his familiarity with both the ups and downs of The Town, I was curious to see how he felt about our current predicament.
What was your reaction to the killings of Oscar Grant, the four OPD officers and Lovelle Mixon?
I was upset and saddened, but you have to remember that [police brutality] is a problem that has consistently gone on way before these officers were killed and way before Oscar Grant was assassinated. This is a problem that has plagued the streets of Oakland for many years. And until the communication gap between the police and the people is bridged, these things will continue to happen.
What do you think would be a productive way to move forward in the wake of these tragedies?
Me and my brother were talking today about what… we can do to bridge that gap and do something in the community [because] right now it’s a “y’all against us” type attitude.
Being the person I am, I can sit down with the killer of a close friend of mine just to hear his ideology… without being so revengeful and full of rage that I can’t talk to them. So, I have no problem sitting down with some of the heads of the police force and asking them, “Would you mind having an open discussion with the people that have been affected by some [of] the things that people on your force have done?” I wouldn’t mind a weekly town hall meeting in which some of the most notorious police officers, known for doing malicious acts in the community, sit down with those who have been viciously attacked and get it all out.