Color of Change

Dear Valjeanne,

Thank you for calling on the US Department of Justice and the
California Attorney General to intervene in murder of Oscar Grant.
Your voice will help bring greatly needed accountability.

Our voice is strengthened by each person who takes a stand. Can you
take a moment and ask your friends and family to join this call?

Below you will find a brief letter you can send. Personalize it as you
wish, or write your own, but please send it along right away. Also,
please only contact people who you know personally. Spam will hurt the


Dear friend,

On New Year’s Eve, Oscar Grant was shot execution-style by a transit
police officer in Oakland, California. He was shot in the back while
face-down on a subway platform–unarmed and posing no threat.

Twelve days later–despite several videos showing exactly what
happened–the officer who killed Grant hasn’t been arrested, charged,
or even questioned. He quit the force and has refused to speak. The
District Attorney has done nothing.

It’s time to demand that California Attorney General Jerry Brown take
over the case and arrest Grant’s killer, and to ask that the US
Department of Justice launch an independent investigation into the
conduct of local authorities. Please join me:

Oscar Grant is the third man murdered by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)
police in the past 17 years. All three victims were Black and none
posed a serious threat. In each case, BART and county authorities have
failed to hold the officers accountable.

In the previous cases, BART’s internal investigations concluded that
the officers felt threatened by the victims and were justified in
pulling the trigger. It’s unbelievable given the circumstances of the

– In 1992, 19-year-old Jerrold Hall was shot in the back by a BART
officer as he tried to leave the parking lot of a station. The officer
was responding to reports of an armed robbery and said he suspected
that Hall and a friend were involved. The officer tried to detain the
two, Hall ran and then the officer shot him in the back and killed
him. Hall was unarmed, but the officer said he thought Hall was on his
way to get a gun and return for a showdown.

– In 2001, a mentally ill man named Bruce Seward was the next victim
of the rogue force. Seward, 42, was naked and had been sleeping on a
bench outside the BART station when an officer approached him. Seward
did grab the officer’s nightstick at one point, but there were several
options for subduing him. Instead, the officer shot and killed him.

In addition to BART’s internal investigation, Alameda County’s
District Attorney is also investigating Oscar Grant’s murder–but the
office’s record on investigating police killings is horrible too. In
both cases just described, the District Attorney bought BART’s
argument that the officers felt threatened. As a result, the cops were
cleared of any wrongdoing.

In the case of Grant’s murder, the DA has already let 12 days pass
while doing essentially nothing–the officer who killed Grant is able
to travel and leave the state, and he’s free to talk with other
officers and attempt to construct a story to justify his killing of
Oscar Grant.

The problem with Alameda County’s DA goes beyond BART police murders.
In the past two years alone, there have been 11 fatal police shootings
in Oakland (not including that of Oscar Grant). When asked, the
officials at the District Attorney’s office could not remember a
single case in the last 20 years where an on-duty cop had been charged
in a fatal shooting in Alameda County. It gives the clear appearance
that the District Attorney’s office just doesn’t have the will to
prosecute police crimes.

California’s Attorney General needs to step in now and arrest Oscar
Grant’s murderer. And the US Department of Justice should investigate
the failure of the authorities in Alameda County to act. It’s the
first step towards justice. After that, we will push for systemic
changes to create public accountability for BART and other police
departments. Creating those structural changes will be a much longer
fight, but Oscar Grant’s tragic death is a wake-up call that should
give us a real chance to help prevent this from happening again.

Please join me in demanding justice, and then ask your family and
friends to do the same:


Bid Them Dance

Bloodstained eyes
witness Africa’s children
to be slaughtered

Crawling in filth
as if milk and honey
capering insanely inside
ghetto war zones
cannibals feasting upon kin flesh

In this desolate land of Cane —
this barren land of forgotten griots
murdered dreams

Yet now:
ancestors journey to
the City of Lost Angels

And bid them dance

Possessed children:

Demons cast out

Ancestors come
in the midnight hour

“The River Niger
flows rich in your veins,
a warrior’s soul
sleeps in your bone marrow —
cradled by genius
older than the pyramids…!”

Bid your children dance

Copyright 2007 Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson