OP-ED: What “Black Lives Matter” Means in Oakland

Yahya Munsar
Yahya Munsar

By Yahya Munsar, winner of the John George Award

“Black Lives Matter” – we’ve heard it many times, but what does it actually mean?

In my opinion, “Black Lives Matter” is a phrase that many people use to express their perspective on how people should be treated. Not only is it a slogan, but it has a deeper meaning to it for all of us, including Oakland.

Black Lives Matter is a movement that is already taking place. Look at Baltimore, for example, the countless nights the people protested, the way their voices were almost gone, but they still kept chanting. Another example of a passionate crowd is the protesters in Oakland.

The reason why I call the Oakland crowd passionate is because they have strong beliefs on what they want, which is to be equal. They were a very intense crowd, which gave them a serious reputation. This reputation gave them a lot of attention from everywhere, which in my opinion is a good thing because Oakland can use it to its advantage in terms of getting what they want – justice and equality for everyone.

Oakland is one of the many cities that took part in protests after the death of Trayvon Martin. When I would look outside my window, I would hear them chanting with passion and a little bit of anger, “Black Lives Matter.” Right then and there I know something big was upon us. It was as if I was there during the Martin Luther King Jr. protests back then.

After a few more nights of hearing the protesters, another African American man was killed. The crowd grew more furious than ever. Even thought the violent approach was not appropriate, I knew we were getting the attention of many civil rights leaders. These civil rights leaders play a big role in the way things should be done. This can come to our advantage by letting them speak to government leaders.

Oakland doesn’t get much attention from anywhere; it’s almost as if we are living under the shadow of San Francisco. So in my opinion, what we have to do is not only take advantage of the attention we are receiving now but combine with other political and civil rights leaders and speak out to the government.

We need to gain their attention so they know what the people want and expect from the government. However, if that does not work what the people should do is start a petition to investigate every death of every person in police custody. This means that regardless of the person’s race or who they are, if they died of police brutality, or if the police abuses their power to the point where they are hurting another person, they have to be investigated.

If this were to happen, I think things would be a lot safer in terms of people being equal.

Yahya Munsar is a sixth grader at West Oakland Middle School. He is the winning middle school student of this year’s John George Award, which asked students to submit their view on the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means for Oakland.


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