conflict in oakland

I got to spend the day in a beautiful community conflict resolution and accountability process, and then I witnessed an act of extreme violence and conflict in which I couldn’t help. this has left me thinking about conflict in community, and who we see as community, who we will accept support from.

in the first instance, members of one of my communities were able to ask me to hold space for some healing.

in the second instance, a woman who could have been a family member didn’t seem able to hear my offer of support through her own rage and survival mechanisms.

I pulled up to the stop light at mlk and 52nd listening to dam funk and feeling the glow from the healing sessions of the day. suddenly the van waiting next to me lurched forward and smashed into the car in front of it. the people in the van were fighting, perhaps before the lurch, definitely afterwards.

two years ago my Oakland neighbor, after months of escalating domestic violence, was stabbed to death by an ex and pushed out of his truck, left on the side of the road. the ex was caught back at her apartment where he went to wash up. I couldn’t sit in the car not seeing this.

I hopped out, approached the van yelling ‘are y’all ok?’ he said they were fine, she yelled out the window hell no, hell no. he got out, blood on his face, and went up to the car they’d hit, where the driver rolled up her window. I tried to talk to the woman in the van, asking her if she was ok, if she wanted to get out of the van. she didn’t acknowledge me at all, her nose was bleeding and she kept yelling at him, ‘n—- you gonna hit me like this?’

he came back, looked at me, and got in the car, yelling at her, ‘you hit me first’. I ran to the back and memorized the license number as he took off with her.

the person who had now been victim of a hit and run looked hella shook up and couldn’t listen to the license plate number. I thought about my neighbor, and if people had seen her hurt that day. I called 911 and filed a police report.

it hurt to make that call, to report an incident between two black people in Oakland, to feel I had no other option.

it hurt to juxtapose that helplessness against the day of healing and health i’d had thus far.

I feel I have to be responsible and transparent when I do call the police, as much as I share about the times when I don’t. do folks have ideas on what I could have done differently? what you might have done?

now sitting in compassion for them, both of them, whatever happened to get them there, and what happened after.

i was left with a lesson on how long the path of community healing is, from being able to request real time support from your community of care, to being able to demand and receive support from a stranger in a moment of danger.

I felt my heart shaking, I felt unwell for some time afterwards. my friend recently reminded me of this quote which helped me get my breath again:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
– Krishnamurti