To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Oscar Grant's death, KQED asked artists, activists and family members to look back on Grant's life and legacy. What would they say to him today? What changes have they seen in their own communities over the past decade? What hopes do they have for the future? You can submit your own "Dear Oscar Grant" message by clicking here.
Oscar Grant's sister
There’s not a day that I don't think of you. I miss you each and every day. Time hasn't made this any easier. Ten years have passed so fast, I remember each detail of receiving the call when they said you had gotten shot. If only I could go back and change the outcome. God knew what he was doing and it was your time, but of course, I wasn't ready. I love you and will forever keep your memory alive.
Co-founder, Black Lives Matter
When people tell the story of Black Lives Matter they either start it in 2014 with Michael Brown, or they start it in 2013, which is where we started it, with Trayvon Martin. But I would say for us, for those of us who created Black Lives Matter, it really does start with Oscar Grant...
We’re still fighting. I didn’t know Oscar and a lot of people who got involved in this fight didn’t know Oscar. There was an iconization of him that I wonder a lot about. But ultimately, I’m grateful people came together to accomplish what felt impossible then and that people haven’t stopped... There’s a lot of work to do, and what I’d say to Oscar if I knew him and he was alive is: We’re not done.
Rev. Dereca Blackmon
Spiritual activist; assistant vice provost, Stanford
This was this moment when art said, "Oh no, we have real lives and we matter and we are human beings." And Mistah F.A.B. did that and Favianna Rodriguez did that. There were so many people who created art from this moment who opened the doors for other people to make it. There is no Pulitzer Prize for Kendrick Lamar until hip hop was allowed to make these political statements. But people like Mistah F.A.B. didn't wait to be allowed, they used their platform and they just did. And that is how something is a grassroots movement.
Director, 'Happy Birthday Oscar Grant, Love Mom'
He should be someone no one knew about because he should be living—or if people knew about him, it should be for a different reason. He should be living among us right now. I would say that I’m really sorry that happened to you, and I hope you know that that tragedy has activated a generation of people who want to make sure that no other mother, no other father, no other friend has to experience what he and his family experienced on New Year’s Eve.
Rap artist, 'The Grant Station Project'
I hope that he’s looking down, smiling from all the support that he got. I still love him even though I didn’t know him, and I was happy to meet his family. We’re still fighting for you.
Rap artist, "My Life (Oscar Grant)"
This isn’t the first time that art has been a reflection of what’s been going on. Music has always been a reflection, and it should always be always a reflection. And I won’t just limit it to musicians. Any kind of art, let’s just continue to utilize that to raise the conscious level and represent for our people. We have to be the rebels that go out and represent for that. The Black Panthers did that and we’re in the home of that. May the revolution live on.
Critic, 'The New York Times Magazine'
I just wish he was here. He should be here. He should have the opportunity to grow up and learn whatever else the universe had for him. That’s the main thing.
Former Oakland Mayoral candidate; founder, Anti-Police Terror Project
Some things have changed. There are more conversations happening and there are different conversations happening. You cannot ignore the fact that there are law enforcement officers at least being indicted—not very many get convicted—but they're being indicted. As a result of the movement that was spurred by the murder of Oscar Grant, we have accomplished major transformation in the city of Oakland in terms of our ability to hold law enforcement accountable and make them think twice before they pull the trigger, because they are clear there will be community accountability.
President, Akonadi Foundation; BART board member representing District 7
Every police department in the country knows who this young man was and still is. This tragedy, and the strength of the family and this community, created an arc in policing in this country. Every single time a young black man who is unarmed is murdered, it is front-page news—and for hundreds of years, it was not.
And so [because of] Oscar, this community, the outcry of his mother, the coupling of litigation, of social media, of culture, of folks saying, "Actually, our babies are human and the state must not kill them, period"—that has changed.
No longer do we have a situation where folks who are sworn to protect can kill in silence. My police force that I work closely with, they’re consistently thinking about how not to repeat what happened ten years ago. We all have a long way to go, but Oscar changed the world.