I am Oaklandish // 22 // Pendarvis Harshaw, OG in Training
Posted on September 23, 2011
It is a tragedy and an outrage. Sickening at best, maddening at least. First thing in the morning, at the peak of the new day, on the surface of an earth created by an awesome God, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis.
Even though Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in his defense — Even though the Pope himself condemned the death penalty and our country’s policy of killing alleged killers — even though final hour petitions kept his name in our mouths all day — Troy Davis was murdered by The State. There are shadows and doubts all around. There is a low fog rolling in the eyes of every brother I saw today. Yesterday’s execution proves, as it has been proven time after time, that in this country, the value of a Black man’s life is less than his white counterparts, at least in the eyes of a system that has been feigning justice since its inception.
It is a dream from which we cannot wake. It sells tickets at the box office. It is sport for video game console. There are millions of ways to watch a Black man die — and so few ways to honor his life.
Days before the execution, the homie Ise Lyfe, with a simple status message on his facebook page, challenged his friends to “celebrate the living”. While I could not be more irate, disheartened, depressed or disenchanted by the sanctioned murder of Troy Davis, I choose to take this moment to honor the living black men of Oakland. Those who just as easily could have been unlawfully attacked and killed by BART police, or unconstitutionally held for strange and unusual punishment while awaiting fair and speedy trials.
I choose to bask in the vibrance and ingenuity of Black Men like the ones that raised me. I affirm the pulpit lecturers, computer engineers, lawyers, book store owners, draftsmen, welders, lawyers, and historians that made me who I am. And the ones that want to be like the OGs. That’s why today, as part of our “I am Oaklandish” series, Thickwit honors Pendarvis Harshaw.
A Town representative wherever he goes, Penn is a recent alum of Howard University’s Johnson School of Journalism. He is a consistent contributor to The Oakland Post, a participant in the 2025 Campaign for Black Boys, often the first reporter on the scene, and generally the last to leave. He deftly straddles the divide between music and The Fourth Estate, and has worked on projects with Young Gully and Oakland’s own, London. Penn’s adept at politic-ing with hustlers and mayors, gangsters and heads of state. One of his most recent projects, a photo essay and “coming of age story”, OG Told Me, is one of my favorite tumblrs. It is in the same breath simple and complex: a tribute to oral history, mentorship, leadership and tradition.
If I didn’t have such qualms with plagiarism, I’d post every last one of these up on Thickwit, but I’ll leave you with this last image of Harshaw with Dick Gregory. Man, what I’d have paid to listen in on that conversation.
Thickwit mourns the loss of every Black man, simultaneously applauding Pendarvis Harshaw for his unabashed commemoration of the long lives and wisdom of our elders. Props due. Props also due to Jamilah King, journalist extraordinaire, for keeping me up on Penn’s exploits.
Penn, I hope to see you on October 7th at Oaklandish’s 1st Friday party. Come cop your limited edition “I am Oaklandish” fit, and perhaps we can finish that 6-word story battle. The Town loves and admires you, and as a part of The Town, so do I.
This blog is brought to you, in part, by local textile and cultural purveyors, Oaklandish. Oaklandish will be throwing a party on the 1st Friday in October at their new Downtown Oakland store. Everyone I profile is invited to attend as an honored guest and will receive a limited edition “I AM OAKLANDISH” t-shirt. In a city of roughly 500,000 residents, there’s no way I can cover everyone or everything, but I’ll do my best to rep a cross section of folks that reflect our city’s varied perspectives and populations. Also, it is important to note that none of the honorees know that they’re being highlighted until the blog post is up, because surprises are sometimes fun, cuzzo. This means that some folks profiled might not closely align themselves with Oaklandish — and that’s fine by me — I mean no ill intent, nor make any assumptions — just want to shout out some folks who make a real impact on the world, from this pearl of a city on the East Side of the Bay.