The only reason why I am alive today is because I listened to my Mother when she told me, “If a cop pulls you over DO NOT try to explain to him that you’ve done nothing wrong. Always have your hands in plain view, move slowly, do not talk to him unless he asks you a question.” Aaand I’ll never forget that night..
I went out dancing to a place in Oakland called “Luka’s Lounge.” They had all of the best DJ’s playing and dancers would come out and freestyle. That night I was on fire. I earned the respect of the Black men in the circle, I was showing my moves. I felt honored. I felt like my dancing meant something, and although shallow as it may seem, it gets very boring to preach to the same concert-based dance choir. That night, I was clean and sober. I wanted to remember. So, I left around eleven, pulled my hoodie over my head to keep warm and jumped in my car to drive the 5 minutes west to my home. (I lived in West Oakland at 17th and Chestnut the home of the Black Panther Party.) Not a minute in to my drive I noticed a police officer following me. Whatever, I’ve done nothing wrong, I thought. I kept driving. A block before 17th street, the cop’s lights go on. Well, did you know that by law you’re allowed to drive to a safe place when pulled over? BIG MISTAKE. Never exercise your rights when the police are involved. Just do the fuck what they say. By the time I arrived at my house 1 block and 5 homes later, six cop cars sped towards me to block my street off, all lights shining, sirens wailing. Then next few minutes went like this:
TURN OFF YOUR ENGINE (shouted from a loud-speaker by the cop who was following me)
PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL
ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW-SLOWLY- (Shit! I thought to myself he just told me to put my hands on the steering wheel.)
OPEN THE DOOR FROM THE OUTSIDE WITH YOUR LEFT HAND. KEEP YOUR RIGHT HAND ON THE STEERING WHEEL. (Shit started to get real)
PUT YOUR HANDS BACK ON THE STEERING WHEEL.
KICK OPEN THE DOOR WITH YOUR FOOT
GET OUT OF THE CAR WITH YOUR HANDS OVER YOUR HEAD. SSSLLLOWWWWWWLLYYYY!!!!!!!
DON’T FACE ME! TURN AROUND.
Next, I felt the steel in the middle of my back, in my heart chakra, waiting to explode my chest into a million itty bitty pieces.
WALK BACKWARDS SLOWLY
Well, I finally realized why my Mother had enrolled me in dance. I challenge any person to WALK BACKWARDS in the dark, with their hands above their head, with 12 guns pointed in their direction and one of those guns aimed for the kill. Don’t forget the lights… all of the glorious lights shining in your eyes.
WALK BACKWARDS SLOWLY.
I was thrown on the hood of my car, handcuffed, and spun around. Then the cop had his “duh” moment.
YOU’RE A WOMAN.
Awesome work champ, awesome work. Then, the lesbian cop was called over and she frisked me and asked me if I had any needles on me. I was put in the back of the cop car while they ran my license and registration.
(P.S. IF YOU ARE MEXICAN, ASIAN, WHITE…. any color other than BLACK you are allowed to sit on the sidewalk while they run your information.)
Turns out, the cop ran my plate wrong, so he called in a felony car stop. The Lieutenant was called to the scene too. They thought I was a Black man.
I learned that that is the life that many young, Black men face. They are doing nothing wrong. They just fit the profile of someone who should be doing something wrong. I never went to that club to dance again. Not too sure if it was the trauma or what. I wrote my story of that night for my application to Graduate School, and the Mexican faculty member who was part of the admissions committee told me that my story was what really helped seal the deal for me to attend on a full scholarship. Not because they felt sorry for me, but because I was able to overcome, yes, overcome a hardship (Universities love that story).
Fast forward almost a decade- I see a lot of young men joining the force who have military training. No bueno. Many men join the military because they want to kill brown-skinned people. Yikes! I know, it’s horrible to say, but unfortunately it is true. What do we do now? What do we do with this information? What do we do with the knowledge that people are enjoying seeing news reports of us being murdered on the street? What do we do? I suggest that we dance. We write. We sing. We rap. We paint. We love. We hope. We read. We continue furthering our culture OUTSIDE OF THE LENS OF TELEVISION, INTERNET, and so on. We find our feelings, and our way and we express that without want or need of being paid. These devils can steal your life, but they can never steal your dance and they can never steal your love.
In the Spirit,