HAPPY NEW YEAR! Last night, when the clock struck midnight and the date 2015 flashed on the TV, it was the first time in my memory that the new year felt significant. One reason for this switch may be that 2014 was a year of massive change and movement in my life, but with the end of the semester in December, I’ve felt the year coming to a close and have had time to shift my focus towards the great things hurtling towards me in 2015.
A brief recap of 2014…
- I asserted my identity as an artist and as a designer, and discovered the exhilarating world of design
- I started Jonetsu
- I learned to code
- I published a book
- I graduated from high school
- I got into the college of my dreams
- I met incredible new people
- I stood up for my beliefs
- I made lots and lots of art
I want to give each and every one who made this year great a big bear hug—you rock my world!
I’m looking forward to 2015 immensely. I feel that the personal growth that’s happened in the last year has set me up to be able to create and meet and experience great new things. I’m not making typical resolutions this year, since I find they’re usually pretty irrelevant three weeks into the year, but I am firmly setting my sights on a year filled with creation and community.
Now ready, set, go!
The past few days have been some of the most exhausting I’ve experienced. As such, this is meant to be more of a general outline of my experiences this evening, with more coming later about the protest in general.
Tonight, on the third night of protests, I marched. After the senseless looting and destruction last night, it was important to me to go out and see things for myself. What I encountered was fantastic. At least a thousand people were marching in the streets, down from the UC Berkeley campus to the Berkeley Police Department, and then on to shut down the I-80 freeway for hours.
Lana, Miguel and I met up with the protest at the corner of People’s Park, a few blocks from Campus. Protesters marched in the street, the throngs of people swarming around stalled cars. Some sat in silence waiting for the mass of people to pass, while some showed their support from their cars. One man reached out his window to high-five protestors passing by. We chanted “Out of your house, into the streets” as people hung out of windows and filmed from rooftops, watching the crowd pass.
We made it down to the intersection of Channing and Shattuck, at which point a large portion of participants sat down, blocking traffic on Shattuck, which is a four-lane boulevard. Here, protest leaders spoke to the crowd through megaphones and the decision was made to continue to the Berkeley Police Station.
We arrived in front of the police station with hands raised, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot.” It’s important to emphasize that this protest had been and continues to be (to my knowledge) entirely peaceful. As we were chanting with our hands up, police in riot gear came out from the building, blocking protesters from coming any closer. A man with a ski mask on began to chant “Fuck the police,” but instead of joining in, the entire crowd turned around and immediately shut him down. Visceral “NO!”s came from everyone around, and the crowd, twice as loud as previously, began to chant “Peaceful protest” with fingers raised in peace signs. It was incredibly powerful to see that the majority of protesters were not focused on destruction. In fact, it felt like the group of protesters out tonight were there to emphasize the message of peaceful civil disobedience.
Police told protesters again tonight that their congregation was unlawful assembly and issued an order for the crowd to disperse. There was some tension in the crowd—we weren’t sure if the police were going to make arrests after the first dispersal request, and the crowd began to chant “The whole world is watching,” which is true. After two requests, though, protesters willingly left and moved on towards University and Shattuck, and from there proceeded to the I-80 freeway.
The peace and willingness to cooperate tonight, both in terms of protesters with police and groups of protesters with each other, was really comforting. It makes me believe that we can make a powerful statement without violence. The Berkeley community is coming together to create change, and that is what makes this city one that I have fell head-over-heals in love with.
There is still a weight on my chest; a pain, a knot of worry and fear. It is a tension that is difficult to express. Even I don’t feel the power of my own words when I try to describe what the night and its aftermath are like.
Our physical surroundings are the same: the same streets, the same rooms, the same people in those rooms, except we now bear the burden of unrest. We are shaken. My hands are unsteady, his are scraped. He rubs his eyes; more tears. We watch him scream, disoriented and furious. It has been 15 hours since the police fired rubber bullets into the mass of protestors and repeatedly doused the crowd with tear gas, but we are not recovered.
The fog lies low over the Bay, but it is more of a haze, a reminder that the air we breathe contaminated with noxious gas, fear, and brutality. The violence, the anger, the chanting, the helicopter’s search light and the echoing bangs of smoke grenades were all invasion of our peace, our streets. When we stepped out this morning, it was tentatively. I was unsure of what the night of unrest had left behind. Save for “fuck the police” tagged on a couple of buildings, it seemed as if the whole world had callously managed to forget what had gone on before; what fury these darkened streets had channeled.
We forget too quickly and not quickly enough. It is easy to lose track of the frustration once the pent up energy has been let out, once the chanting mass has dispersed and the sun has come up. But it isn’t nearly as simple to ease the undercurrent of fear and persecution.
This unease, this sense that we cannot speak without being beaten and gassed, is our reason for protest, and when we see citizens treated not like humans but like cattle being prodded on to slaughter, we are united in combat against the oppression of police brutality.
Black lives matter.
Cloudy Saturdays mean lazy Saturdays. I got a late start to the day and did a whole bunch of nothing. Breakfast was lunch and lunch drifted into an early afternoon nap. I woke up dazed and spent the better part of two hours sitting in Lana’s room while she cleaned, drinking holiday tea and eating pfeffernusse cookies.
We decided that we needed to get out and do something, so we took a trip to Elmwood. Elmwood is a fantastic section of South Berkeley that has cute stores and eateries along College Avenue. Bookshops and restaurant patios adorned with twinkly lights abound. It’s the kind of place that can make you feel like you’re swathed in luxurious intellectuality.
Walking down College, we were temporarily distracted from our goal of sushi at Manpuku by the lit windows of Mrs. Dalloway’s bookshop. Mrs. Dalloway’s is the kind of place that entices you with the books in the window, charms you with the books on the tables near the door, and enraptures you more and more the deeper into the shop you go. I found the sale table, and on it two great books: Andy Warhol: Phaidon Focus, and Behind Closed Doors: the Private Homes of 25 of the World’s Most Creative People. I was giddy. Sometimes, it’s nice to treat yourself to something you know will continue to bring you joy, and for me, books reliably make me feel excited. It’s a little weird being in college without my core supply of books from home, and I recently moved things around in my room so now I have an actual bookshelf and seeing books in my peripheral vision is incredibly comforting. Books are just my thing and I’m finally getting them back in my life.
We walked on, I clutching my package of books gleefully in my arms, and came upon a live jazz band playing at a hat store where a man with a tantalizingly exotic accent and an incredible head of dreadlocks pulled hat after hat off the shelves for me and Lana to try. A few pork pies and cloches later, we remembered that we were really hungry so we headed on to sushi at Manpuku.
Lana and I ordered in tandem, each of us with a small bowl of miso and a caterpillar roll. Tucked against the wall of Manpuku’s little sit down area, we were cozy and happy, basking in the glow of new books, quality sushi, and good company.
After sushi we went for ice cream at Ici, which is renowned in the Bay Area for its sweets. Ici isn’t like your traditional neighborhood spot with the line out the door, because the line for the shop starts behind a velvet rope and winds down the street. You are escorted inside in small groups by an employee, and then personally helped to find your flavor. I went with Earl Grey in a cone, which was an excellent choice. The Early Grey was sweet but light, just like I like my ice cream, and the cone was buttery and crispy and the tip was filled with chocolate.
Our final stop of the night was the Elmwood Café, where Lana and I shared a pot of chamomile tea, writing and enjoying the night and each other’s company. To friendship, books, ice cream, and all other manner of sweet things, cheers.