“Culture is a weapon.”- Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas is an artist, illustrator and the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. He’s a published author, as copies of his book “Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas“ can still be found online. 

His art is evocative. I dare you to look at his images and not feel them.   

Whether the people like it or not, you’ve got to bring it to their attention,” Emory Douglas told a room full of students and faculty during a presentation at Merritt College’s Student Lounge on February 18th, 2014.

His art is social commentary.  

I wonder if Nixon is bothering us now,” Douglas said as he showed an image of the former President in a menacing manner. He clicked to the next slide and said, “I wonder if Obama is spying on us now”. As the image of Obama replaced the image of Nixon, someone in the crowd let out an “Ohhhh!”

"We’re talking about the real deal!” exclaimed Douglas.

His point: the same thing he saw back then, he sees going on today. And it’s his job to show that connection to the world.

His presentation was full of words like: Freedom, Slave ships, Obama, Nixon, Panthers, Sickle-cell, Oakland, Atlanta, Vietnam, Terrorism, Media, Government, Police, Pigs, Politics and Power. 

He talked a lot about politics. And power. 

When the question/ answer portion of his presentation came about, I asked Mr. Douglas: if he had the chance to give the youth a piece of advice, based on his experience, what words of wisdom would he give them?

OG Told Me: 

“Stay inspired. Stay focused. Have fun, at the same time, be focused on what you need to do. Study, learn your craft or whatever you do,” Emory Douglas told me (and a room of people).

He concluded with saying,”be able to work with a group of people.”


After answering my question, he recited a poem.

(The following is the final segment of his poem.)

“…It is our duty as the makers of the art of resistance to always recognize the oppression of others. The goal should be, to make the message clear— so that even a child can understand it. Don’t be fooled by deception. Know the rules before you break them. Don’t lose sight of what the goal is. All power to the people.” 

“You can start as fast as you want to, but if you don’t finish, you haven’t done a thing.” | OG Told Me

“You can start as fast as you want to, but if you don’t finish, you haven’t done a thing.” | OG Told Me

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“You can start as fast as you want to, but if you don’t finish, you haven’t done a thing.”- Oscar Wright

In front of rooms of people, be it at a large school board meeting in downtown or at a small continuation school in East Oakland, I’ve witnessed him introduce himself before—and always does it the same way: by stating his name, his age and the fact that he is a “proud African American man”.


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Pendarvis Harshaw '05 (@OGPenn) kicked off Inclusion Week with a riveting talk on his life as a storyteller. Pen is a journalist, artist, community activist, and lifetime Athenian. Thank you for spending time telling your story today. Video clips to follow. #inclusionweek #50alumni

Pendarvis Harshaw ‘05 (@OGPenn) kicked off Inclusion Week with a riveting talk on his life as a storyteller. Pen is a journalist, artist, community activist, and lifetime Athenian. Thank you for spending time telling your story today. Video clips to follow. #inclusionweek #50alumni from The Athenian School http://ift.tt/1AuDenN

“People can outthink any obstacle. But young people are always
rushing. If you just put in the time & effort - you’d see it’s an
investment in you… Quick, fast, and in a hurry: you miss the best part
of life. Rushing is a sign of being uncomfortable. Take your time. Be
centered. Being centered means being comfortable with self…Always
try to be spiritually grounded. Be comfortable with self. There is a
higher power.Think about it…”- Mr. Davey D. 


I asked Dr. Woody Carter,

“If you had the ear of the youth, given your expertise, what would you tell them?”

OG Told Me: 

“The one thing I would tell young people: Learn how to meditate. Make it a discipline.”

“we’re all instruments- out of tune; if you we’re to tune a violin- you’d have to use a tool to move those wooden pegs on the side of the object. Meditation is the process of bringing you in tune with yourself.  In order to be in tune- you have to be open; receptive to be tuned.”

Dr. Woody Carter, has been the Executive Director of the Bay Area Black United Fund since 1997. In a brief interview at a coffee shop near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, Dr. Carter told me about the history of his organization, his educational background, and his experience with love.  

Baba Carter, 68 and still paying student loans, said he will finally pay off his remaining debt of 5, 000 dollar this upcoming Fall.

Dr. Carter holds four college degrees, including one from the Howard University. Fitting, for that’s where his mother and father met, it’s the same place he was born, and happens to be the college I attended.  

Dr. Carter told me about his most recent degree: doctorate in theological narratives; using stories to study the intergenerational connection within African Americans. He cited studying the Bible, Amiri Baraka’s work, and W.E.B. DuBois’ writings; among other stories. He drove the same point home that W.E.B. DuBois touched on in the book, “The Souls of Black Folks”, stating that we are both African and American, and those polar opposite entities have created an unresolved spiritual dilemma within us as a people.

Mr. Carter spoke about politics, religion, working in Oakland, growing up in New York, and freedom rides through the South. He told me about his degrees and his enlightenment through meditation; but nothing compared to his love story… 

At his 5th wife’s memorial service in November of 2011, he told the story of how he and her, a beautiful lady by the name of Jennifer, fell in love…

He told me that same story during our interview at the cafe…

After four prior marriages, he wasn’t interested in finding another wife, but the lady he had been spending time with had begun to feel a certain way…

“I want to get married” said Jennifer. 

Woody responded with a line that he’d been telling himself over and over in preparation to defend himself from falling in love again,

“I’ve been married 4 times…uh … doesn’t that tell you something?”

He said his line, and she didn’t even acknowledge it, she just kept on about wanting to get married. She waited for thirty minutes until she brought it up again…

“And about your prior marriages: those other women just knocked the kinks out… I’m going to get the best years out of you.”

They were married 11 years. Dr. Carter told me,

“I knew she was the one because at that point, I didn’t have an answer, I just there sat quietly.hahaha…”

(Meditating. Open to being tuned… I thought to myself. ) 

Dr. Carter autographed a copy of his book, “Theology for a Violent Age”, we shook hands, and parted ways…


His name is Raymond Bellinger, and he is quick to notify you of 3 things. 1. He is a war Vet. 2. He is from New Orleans. And thirdly (once again), his name is Raymond Bellinger, spelled with an “E” (He showed me his ID) and that is a French name.

Mr. Bellinger, who I often see at the same bus stop, caught my attention as I was taking a photo of this “tumble-weave”. “Now she’s really in trouble”, he said in a raspy yet jokingly tone as my camera clicked.

After laughing at his joke, I introduced myself. I asked Mr. Bellinger the same question I’ve been asking elder Black men in community for almost a year now: “If you had the ear of the youth, what would you tell them?”

No longer joking, Mr. Bellinger eloquently replied: “I was raised by grandmother and my uncle. They were good people,everything they taught me allowed me to get this far…God bless their souls.”

I followed with the question: What was it that they taught you?

On cue, he recited the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,


hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, 
your will be done, 
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us. 
Lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 
For the kingdom, 
the power and the glory are yours. 
Now and for ever.



“Alcohol is almost as bad as heroin…”- Gerald “Tin Man” Green

Mr. Green and I stood outside of Oakland’s Laney College Forum on a Saturday morning, as we discussed his upbringing, his career as an engineer and his history here in Oakland. 

What impressed me the most was the portion of the conversation where Mr. Green, I mean Tin Man, talked about his knucklehead days.

“You know that corner store over there on 59th and San Pablo?” Tin Man said as he pointed in the general vicinity. 

“I used to hangout in front of that liquor store!”

He and his crew were regulars on that corner. And after having a couple of drinks and/or smoking with the gang, he’d head home and do his homework.

He said it’s all about self-control.

I asked him if it was like being a kid, and knowing how to stop yourself from grabbing another cookie out of the jar. He said, yeah! 

I didn’t get a chance to ask him the question (If you had a chance to give young people a piece of wisdom, based on your experience, what would you tell them?).

Instead, our conversation about drug consumption ended abruptly, as I was asked to return to my job as a photographer for an event. 

But, before I left, Tin Man made sure to tell me to be mindful of my alcohol consumption.   

“Alcohol is almost as bad as heroin; it’s one of the hardest habits to break." 


**Editor’s note: after I interviewed Watani Stiner, a man who is serving time in San Quentin State Prison due to his connection to the murders of Bunchy Carter and John Huggins (former heads of the LA Chapter of the Black Panther Party), Stiner wrote about our interview in the April 2013 edition of the San Quentin News as a part of his ongoing column: “From an OG’s Perspective” … Here is the article. 

An ‘OG’s’ Perspective: What To Tell Young Offenders. 

By Watani Stiner, Staff Writer

Recently I sat down with Pendarvis  Harshaw,  a  24  year-old Oakland freelance writer who met with the San Quentin News staff. In a one-on-one conversation, Pendarvis asked me a simple, but profound question that caused me to really think about my answer. 

It was a rather straightforward question that I should not have hesitated to answer. After all, it wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about the question before. Nevertheless, I found myself scrambling for words that could adequately capture my thoughts.

As I sat with Pendarvis, he turned to me, with a serious expression, and said, “In your article you say you have something relevant and important to say to the younger generation. Then tell me, if you had the ear of the youth, what wisdom would you bestow upon them – what would you tell them?” 

At that very moment, I wanted to deliver several meaningful messages all at once. I wanted to say something truly relevant, something that would inspire and provoke conversations.  But, the more I thought about the question, the less precise I felt about the answer. I realized that the diffi culty of answering this question was not due to lack of knowledge and understanding. Rather, it was from an inability to communicate a message and meaning in a language and logic that could be understood by young people.

As I thought about the question, I looked at Pendarvis and finally responded by saying, “I would tell them my story and have a conversation. ”  

I am writing this monthly column because I want to let young people  know  that  my  story  is part of their story, and all of our stories have a meaning and a message. Each story is part of the human experience. For even a sad and tragic story has its lessons. We must hear those stories and connect with them in the process of moving toward a better self, society and world.

If  we  understand  the  responsibility we have to share the lessons of our stories, we can  realize that we are generational teachers  and  students  to  each other. We are heirs and custodians of a legacy. We must receive it and pass the historical baton.  Passing the baton is something I have come to understand about life. It’s what brought me to meet Pendarvis who has a photo essay project on his website called “OG Told Me.” 

Armed with poignant questions and a camera, Pendarvis described his activities by saying he “moves about the community  of  Oakland,  snapping photos and gathering snippets of wisdom from ‘OGs.’”  He goes through Oakland, sees an “OG,” and asks them questions—inviting them into a conversation.  From their conversation, he takes a picture and quote to post it on his site.  

After learning about “An OG’s Perspective,” Pendarvis said he liked both the concept and content of the “OG” column.  He told  me  that  he  sees  this  column as a creative and effective way to generate conversations between the older and younger generation

The more I talked to Pendarvis, the more questions he asked. He asked me about my views and values on a range of critical issues.

He was particularly interested in the perspectives of OGs and how they interact with the younger prisoners here at San Quentin. He was also curious about the degree and manner of respect younger prisoners elect to show the OGs. What do young prisoners want to know? What and how much are OGs willing to share? Is there a distance or a sense of generational obligation and responsibility on the part of OGs?

Talking to Pendarvis made me feel like I had another connection to the younger generation—to someone in the community trying to make a difference.  In addition, our conversation helped me realize what I want to share with the next generation.

For the youth, I wish to pass  on personal and social stories of struggle and sacrifice—stories of family and community and of violence and reconciliation. I tell these stories, not in any self-righteous, preaching or condescending manner.  I tell these stories in a manner that raises critical questions, inspires dignity and determination, and invites dialogue, debate and conversation. I realize that once a generation falters or neglects to pass the torch, a disconnection and a generational breakdown inevitably emerges.

Now, I ask the OGs the same question Pendarvis asked me. If you had the ear of the youth, what would you bestow upon them – what would you tell them? Send your answers and your age, so we can put them on the table for a dialogue. Once a few of the answers have been considered, this column will be open for the younger generation to respond. 

What to Tell Young Offenders?

OGs, please put your answers in a U-Save-Em envelope addressed to San Quentin News, Education Department, and drop it in the mail. 

**Editors note: responses can be sent to:

San Quentin News

1 Main Street

San Quentin, Ca. 94974


I went to introduce myself to Bill Russell … OG told me:

Me: Hello Mr. Russell, my name is Pen.

Mr. Russell: Pen … did you catch him?

Me: Uhhhh … catch who?

Mr. Russell: (pointing at my long beard) The gentleman who stole your razor!


It was an honor to walk around McClymonds high school today with Bill Russell, an American icon. The 11 time NBA champion, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, and West Oakland home boy reeks of good humor. 

Nearly a year ago I attended a dinner in which a number of well respected names in Bay Area sports gathered to pay homage to Mr. Russell.

During the event, Mr. Russell stated something that resonates with me to this day…

“We learn to make a shell for ourselves when we are young and then spend the rest of our lives hoping for someone to reach inside and touch us. Just touch us—anything more than that would be too much for us to bear.” - Bill Russell. 

On November 30, 2011 Harry Belafonte spoke at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley to a crowd of over 800 people …

This is what Mr. Belafonte told the individuals in attendance… more specifically:

…this is what OG told me:

“I recorded a song. I fell asleep. I woke up a couple weeks later, and the world was singing it!. And I never understood it… You have seen nothing ‘til you’ve seen 50 thousand Japanese people singing 'Day-O!’ ……What was I going to do with this platform? … Instead of investing in the system, I invested in the people.”  

- Harry Belafonte. Singer, Actor, Activist, Philanthropist, Author, and a dignified representation of Black manhood.


The 86 year-old man was decked out in motorcycle club paraphernalia, as he sat in the back of the bus riding through East Oakland. After introducing myself to Mr. Edgar Mitchell, he briefly shared with me tales of working at Southern Pacific Railroad, the benefit of self education and his experience with the Bible. 

“You shouldn’t have got me started– I gotta get off,” said Mitchell, as he rang the bell to request a stop and prepared to exit the back of the bus.

OG Told Me: “I can tell you a story that is true, cause I was there.”


“A Liquor Store Lesson” by Pendarvis Harshaw

A  two minute short film which depicts the the driving concept behind the OG Told Me photo essay: There is a SENSE OF INTERGENERATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY shared between Black men. This why young Black men listen to elder Black men, why elder Black men lend wisdom to younger Black men. And most importantly, this is a natural occurrence.

Proof? Although this video was scripted, when Richie Rich showed up on the set, the young men shook his hand. One of the young men used their smartphone to google his name. Seconds later, the young man exclaimed, “Oh! YOU WERE A PART OF 415- MY DAD USED TO LISTEN TO THEM!

And then Richie Rich showed his 415 tattoo and shook the young man’s hand again… 

On a humble Sunday bike ride through West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood, one of my fellow bike riders, a young photographer by the name of Dwight, decided to stop and engage in a brief conversation with Calvin, an elder gentleman who happened to be sitting on the porch of a vacant house. As Dwight snapped his camera, capturing the image of OG Calvin and his friend Moe, Calvin dropped this brief jewel to Dwight, myself, and the rest of our bike squad …

And then Dwight took this photo…

Neighborhood OG’s. #picoftheday #hood #photography (Taken with instagram)

http://popularjunk.tumblr.com/post/24576287337 http://popularjunk.tumblr.com/post/24576287337 Wed, 06 Jun 2012 20:56:10 -0400 photography picoftheday hood