Dear Oscar Grant: In Your Words

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A mural of Oscar Grant on 17th Street in downtown Oakland, painted in 2010 by Trust Your Struggle Collective (Miguel Bounce Perez, Erin Yoshi, and Scott LaRockwell). (Thomas Hawk / Flickr / CC 2.0)

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Oscar Grant's death, KQED asked you to look back on Grant's life and legacy. What would you say to Oscar Grant today? What changes have you seen in your community over the past decade? What hopes do you have for the future?

The response was overwhelming. Here, we present a selection of your responses—the things you'd tell Oscar Grant if you had the chance. Read them below, and see the rest of our Oscar Grant 10 Years Later coverage here.

Dear Oscar Grant,

My first job as a teenager was working with you and your cousin John in the meat market of Farmer Joe's, our local grocery store. You were always quick to make a joke or flash a smile. Your enthusiasm helped pass countless hours at a job that wasn't exactly glamorous. I'll never forget the pit in my stomach I felt when I saw your face in that morning's paper. Hoping you're in a better place.

Take care O.

—Rafi Ronquillo, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

I was a freshman in college, fresh off the euphoria of working to get Barack Obama elected. I remember contemplating taking time off school to organize, and being reminded that the work to create a more perfect, fair, and inclusive union is far from finished. Rest in power.

—Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton

Dear Oscar Grant,

Brother, I was 18 years old and your murder was the firsthand experience my grandmother had always told me about. She used to tell me that as a black man I had to stay aware of my surroundings and be careful of the law. Growing up, I had been harassed by the police and thought it was just something they did to black and brown males routinely. Your murder opened my eyes and helped me realize it is possible I could be murdered by law officials with no type of accommodation or justice. Nothing can ever replace your life.

—Drakkar Noir, Berkeley

Dear Oscar Grant,

As I craft this message on a southbound BART train that’s pulling into West Oakland, there’s not a single trip through Fruitvale where I don’t remember your name. Leave it up to me, and that station would be renamed after you.

—Andrew, San Jose, CA

Dear Oscar Grant,

You know those days when everything moves in slow motion, and you notice each moment? I had one of those days at the grocery store once when you cut me some beautiful salmon at the deli. I remember you making the cuts and watching the pink of the fish. While I never knew you, I felt the loss of you, as one does when a community member is taken.

—Frances Fortini, San Francisco

Dear Oscar Grant,

We went to church together at Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward. Although you were a few years older than me, we both grew up in that church. You and I even played on the basketball team sponsored by Palma Ceia; those were some of my most enjoyable times playing the game. I distinctly remember watching you play and lead the 13-15 team. I looked up to you on the court as somebody who went hard, respected his teammates, and played with a love for the game that was apparent.

It was these moments at Palma Ceia that made your unjust and untimely demise hard to take in. To see someone that I've shared experiences with get cut down in such a violent and indifferent manner let me know that it could happen to me—and anyone like me.

Oscar, you were a value in life and you are still a value. What happened to you galvanized the Town and black people around the nation. It ushered in a new era of resistance to state violence and drove home for a new generation the urgency of eradicating structural racism. I know this will never fill the hole left in your family's heart, but you should know you did not die in vain.

Rest in Peace Brother.

—J. Turner, San Diego

Dear Oscar Grant,

They took you away just as you were bringing new life to yourself and your family. We fight for you in the hope that it never happens again.

—Semhar, California

Dear Oscar Grant,

I live five minutes away from where you died, and when I’m on the same BART platform, I ask myself: What happens to all of that potential and energy? What about the communal grief and rage? When precious life is squandered, how much light and life and love is lost, do we lose our own humanity?

Your death sparked protests, activists in the streets, and continued through the grief and criminal trial, because your life matters. You are loved, you are missed, you will never be forgotten.

Rest In Peace, Oscar Grant.

—Kristy Higares, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

If I could tell you to stay home with your family, I would. If I could tell you to always watch out for your surroundings, I would. What I can't tell you is that police brutality will end, because it won't. What I can't say is the color of your skin wasn't your fault, because it was. This world has been so disgusting and I am sorry you had to get stuck in the middle of their stupidity and cowardliness.

Your family and friends stand by to keep you in our memories. Your life was worth more than to be taken away at a BART station for doing nothing. Your life was worth so much more than an object that those in a higher power feel they can control. You are so much more, and your life and story will live on to show the oppression many of us people of color have to face.

—Jocelyn Alcala, student at Arise High School, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

I want to tell you that you have one of the strongest mothers in the world. She nurtures other mothers and families that don’t know how to deal with losing their children and loved ones. She saves lives by witnessing and standing behind them in a time of need. She has started a basketball team, she gives scholarships, she does backpack drives, she travels on the regular to speak and hold seminars about violence. She has became an activist, and spokeswoman, and she is your voice.

One thing that I will say is that “I AM OSCAR GRANT.” Rest easy, baby boy. I never got a chance to meet you, but I know you. Forever Fruitvale Station.

—Lakisha Carmon, Stockton

Dear Oscar Grant,

It's been 10 years. I went into labor that night. My daughter turns 10 on Jan. 2. I often ask myself: How was I bringing life into this world, when someone was stealing life from you?

You deserve to be here. I still drive down the streets of Oakland wondering who you would've become. The potential that left with you that night. The daughter who had to be told that daddy wasn't coming home.

Your story is one that Oakland will never be able to hide. Oakland changed in a way we didn't know was possible after your death. I want to say we grew stronger because of you. I want to say we see each other through different eyes because of you. I want to say that I'm sorry that your life ending had to be the thing to bring us closer together. What would Oakland look like through your eyes after these 10 years?

—Deema, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

I first heard about you 10 years ago. I was only seven years old, but I still managed to understand the injustice that occurred to you. It's something that horribly became common in our world, and it shouldn't have.

You were a fellow member of our community in Oakland, a son, a father, an uncle, a friend, and so much in that day. Oscar Grant, you are someone that is greatly remembered, and you were able to open many people's eyes. You opened my eyes. Don't give up on us. Don't give up on Oakland.

—Ariana Perfino, student at Arise High School, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

In 2009, I was living in Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, and working for a nonprofit downtown. In 2009, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, thinking about getting a law degree or a masters in public policy.

In 2009, your life was taken. I felt so much sadness and outrage when I learned about what had happened to you, and when I watched the video of how you were treated. I felt so helpless. When the trial was moved to Los Angeles, I went to the courthouse to protest police brutality. It was how my grief manifested. It didn't feel good enough.

Shortly after, I decided to apply for grad school. I wanted to be in Oakland. I didn't know much about the Bay Area, I'd never lived anywhere but LA. But seeing how the community came together to expose the systemic issues that led to that event made me want to be in the Bay, even if it was only for two years.

Now, eight years later, I'm still in Oakland. I try my best to be a champion of equity, to be a positive change in my community. For four years, I rode BART from Fruitvale into San Francisco for work. I thought about you often and still do.

I wish I could tell you that lots has changed since 2009, but I think the challenges have only gotten greater. I write this to you only to let you know that you had a huge impact on my life. I hope one day we'll be able to say what happened to you would never happen in this day and age.

—Susan, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

As an African American male myself, my grandmother used to always be afraid for me to go out on New Year's Eve, the Fourth of July and other holidays. It used to always annoy me, and I remember when your tragic situation happened. It basically reaffirmed everything she was afraid of.

Every time I go by Fruitvale Station, I call it Grant Station in your honor.

Your life and your death taught me that you can die any day. What you do in life is not measured by how many years you live, it's about the impact when you're here. I feel bad, almost, for feeling bad for myself. The times when I'm down, the times when I'm sad, I think about those people who aren't here today to live life, and I try to be appreciative of the fact of just living life.

I'm leaving this voicemail at 2:04am after a frustrating day, but I had to make a comment because life is fragile and the best way to handle it is by living it to the fullest every day. Rest in peace.

—Amechi, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

I'm sorry that you had to be the one to open people's eyes to police brutality. I was six when you passed away. I didn't understand what had happened because I was so young, but growing up in Oakland, I heard your story and analyzed it. Your death caused many people from our community great pain and concerns about safety. Your death also brought people together to teach and show others about the issues between people of color and the police.

I am afraid of the police. I am afraid of being pulled over for a stop-and-frisk due to my racial identity. I am afraid of walking too fast down the street and being followed. Nothing has changed since you passed away. Young black men are still being killed by police. Your story made headlines and still, nothing has changed.

We don't need any more Trayvon Martins or Eric Garners. We need more people standing up—not only for us, but for those that have died at the hands of white police without justice.

—Paula Ortiz, student at Arise High School, Oakland

Dear Oscar Grant,

I didn’t know you personally, but we had mutual friends. For so many, your face was a picture of their son, a brother, someone’s father, a friend.

I’m not doing so good today, I’m struggling, actually. Every year on New Year's Eve I remember where I was. I argued with my now ex-boyfriend, who didn’t want to go out because it wasn’t safe, because anything could happen. We went to bed early that night and woke up the next morning to the news of what would forever be recorded as the tragic last few moments of your life.

I’m struggling today because I’m alone, or more importantly I’m lonely; I go through bouts of crippling anxiety and depression that nobody knows about. I’m not suicidal, but I often evaluate my existence and wonder what I’m doing, where I’m going, and why I’m here. Today, for me, your life serves as a reminder: no matter how lonely or alone I feel, I’m alive. I’m alive and get to make the choice to live, a choice that you were not only denied but was forcibly taken from you.

I just want to thank you, Oscar Grant. Thank you for your contribution to society, to community, to culture, to life. Your impact on my life is a reason to get up today and live. I honestly can’t think of any more significant an impact, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Dear Oscar Grant, you may have saved my life.

—Anonymous, Pleasanton