Saint Mary’s recognizes the importance of remembering those who have lost their lives to police brutality with Remembering the Legacies event with guest speaker Wanda Johnson, whose son Oscar Grant was killed in 2009 at the hands of law enforcement.
By Isabelle Delostrinos
With the advancements of technology and social media platforms, racial justice movements have grown to be more powerful than it has been before. Global awareness is possible with outlets like Twitter and Instagram. Over the past few months, the death of George Floyd ignited protests nationwide for justice and changes within our government and law enforcement systems. But once the protests and hashtags subside, what happens then? What kind of impact do these unfortunate events have months or years later?
This month the Center for Women and Gender Equity is hosting Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, to speak on the innocent lives lost to police brutality. Oscar Grant was killed by BART police in 2009. They mistook him for a call to mediate a fight that was taking place on another train. The general identifiers used led the police to believe that Grant was the one causing the commotion when he was actually not the one involved. His life was unrightfully taken when the police officer holding him down mistakenly pulled out a pistol instead of his taser.
Wanda Johnson founded the Oscar Grant Foundation once the trial of the officer convicted was completed. She fights for individuals more at risk of discriminatory interactions with law enforcement. Johnson works to bridge the gap of distrust between these two groups to eliminate life threatening situations to innocent citizens. The foundation also serves as a resource for these groups to direct their lives towards a more positive future. They work to reduce issues like teen crimes by holding workshops and programs to develop personal and academic skills. The organization upholds Grant’s name and legacy through servicing the youth of underprivileged communities.
Remembering these lives is important in a number of ways. It acts as a reminder that racial injustice is still evident today and is still something that needs to be fought for. It holds law enforcement accountable in implementing updated training or technologies like dashboard cameras. It also holds Americans accountable with their own knowledge and actions to lead a better future for our younger generations. How we respond to issues like this is powerful and can influence not only our youth, but those around us. The legacies of Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, George Floyd and so many others should continue to live on and be a force in the movement for racial justice.
This event is taking place tomorrow, February 24 at 7 PM. Johnson will be highlighting the individuals who fell victim to an unjust system. She will be sharing her experiences and discuss the movement to eliminate racial discrimination and bring justice to the lives lost. Many of the officers involved in these situations walk freely from the events they were a part of. Remembering these lives keeps the conversation going and continues to bring attention to the issue. It puts pressure on those in power positions to change their beliefs and approach their work with inclusive and humane perspectives.
The Center for Women and Gender Equity is also a good resource for students interested in attending events like this one throughout the year. The Center is still operating on campus, but most programs and events are taking place on Zoom, making it accessible for those not living on campus during these times. The director, Sharon Sobotta, works alongside Wanda Johnson each month to present different issues that could be discussed with students at Saint Mary’s. If you are unable to attend tomorrow’s event, you can still learn about intersectional issues and listen to guest speakers throughout the school year. Saint Mary’s encourages a safe space for students to get involved with these matters through the center and the guest speakers they host.
Author’s Note: You can learn more about the Oscar Grant Foundation at oscargrantfoundation.org.
Victoria Vidales '21,