Time To Grow Up Oakland

by Nate Collins, March 9, 2010

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, when I became a man I put childish ways behind me.” -Corin­thians 12:12

Muhammad Diop was shot down in cold blood in front of his house on 864 31st street in Oakland on Thursday March 4th at 7:30pm. Muhammad Diop was murdered by the pervasive culture of violence in Oakland that is gripping our inner-cities nationwide.

Muhammad was originally from Senegal and came to the United States from France six years ago. He hails from a huge and famous family in Senegal, both musi­cal and scholarly, the Diop family. He also mostly grew up with his mothers side, also well renowned, the Diouf family, By all accounts Muhammad was well known and well liked by the many people he knew throughout the Bay Area. Muhammad had a keen interest in some things western, as many people from other parts of the world seem to have. He was some­what enamored by American culture, in his case a spe­cific aspect of African-American culture, outlaw cul­ture and the allure of rap music, cars, money, and street socialization.

Muhammad was a sometime vendor of CDs, DVDs and clothes which he got mostly from New York and sold at the Ashby Flea Market in Berkeley on sporadic weekends. He seemed to be a vendor at heart as tijara (trade) features prominently in Islamic and Senegalese culture. Muhammad was married with four children and had no steady employment or income but hustled what he could through selling goods at the flea market and sometimes selling cars he had bought at auction if he could. He was nonetheless disinterested in the minimum wage and positively enamored with a phe­nomenon of growing proportions in the US which could honestly be called pretending to be rich, some­thing that kids are known to do. But again, who knows what it feels to be poor except the poor?

But Muhammad was not poor. He had everything in Africa. In America he wanted to make it on his own. He hustled hard for the money he could scrape together and bought things like corvettes, mustangs, firebirds, and suburbans at car auctions. Whatever he could fix up and put big rims and big sound systems in. Flashy cars and the status and wealth that they represent in this society are designed to make people feel like they’re successful, more respected. The trap­pings of wealth can also make other people look at you like you are successful, which is perhaps their purpose, their design.

Muhammad was drawn by the allure of the street and the social approval that it offers to people on the margins of society. He moved from a relatively quiet block of Curtis street in Berkeley to 31st street in West Oakland with his family. They rented a spacious flat for a good price, something you just can’t get in a good neighborhood in the Bay Area for less than an arm and a leg. Muhammad was friendly with all the people on the block right away. He trusted almost anyone and made friends with everyone young and old. He was definitely happy to make friends and be a part of the street culture, the ‘real’ culture, even though conflicts and strife would soon arrive in tow. He trusted people and brought them into his house and some people stole random things that were lying around like an I-pod or expensive sunglasses. People on the street, or atleast a certain group of people started to view Muhammad who was a big dude, over 200 pounds, with a full head of dreadlocks, as some type of baller or big man with big money. Perhaps it was because he parked so many cars with big rims in front of his house. Perhaps it was because no one lived upstairs and it appeared that they owned the house and could afford to not rent out the top floor. Perhaps it was because he took so many young guns under his wing and tried to give them some guidance and moral advice and he was always going around giving away a lot of things which always makes you seem to have more. Maybe they couldn’t help but see him this way and maybe he couldn’t help but feel good in the glory that was attainable to him, ghetto glory. Well the truth be told he was definitely mistaken to be a bad­man by some lowdown characters, by all accounts he was a good person, but he wouldn’t back down from idle threats, threats that come cheap in West Oak­land.

Muhammad always loved Ramadan, probably because of his memories of the month of Ramadan in Senegal. One Ramadan, his neighbors came by to say hello as he was working in his yard on one of his cars. There had been some past tough words exchanged. They came mad and crazy and just pulled out a gun on him and said “What?!?!!” Muhammad pulled his gun and said “What?!?!!!” The neighbors decided to walk away and did also eventually move away and both apparently went to prison in separate incidences. That being said, it is believed that this event may have set in course a series of events including the eventual invasion of his house and seizing of his gun followed by his cold blooded murder in front of his house.

On Wednesday March 3, some neighborhood prowlers watched him and his wife leave their house separately and proceeded to break down the door and rifle through all of their possessions, possibly stealing a gun safe containing a gun. On Thursday evening Muhammad was on the block in front of his house apparently trying to figure out who broke into his house. Apparently he was sitting in one of his cars with three other men and apparently got out of his car perhaps to answer to two young men who had approached and who then proceeded to shoot Muhammad six or seven times. Sgt. Anderson of Oakland Homicide Division stated that two warrants have been issued and as of Saturday one arrest has been made, possibly the shooter, and they are just waiting to spot the other kid on the street and bring him in. Muhammad soon lay dying directly in front of his house, next to one of his cars, in plain sight of his daughter at the front screen door who said, “Mommy, Is Daddy Dead?”

In less than 24 hours three men were murdered in two separate shootings in West Oakland, one on 30th and one on 31st street. The shooters on 30th street were both 25 years old and were caught speeding away from the scene by an alert officer. It is believed that the shooters on 31st street were much younger, possi­bly juveniles, the primary shooter is rumored to be a baby faced little teenager from the neighborhood. Where did they get the guns from? Where did they get the guts from?

We know that Muhammad’s life is a lesson to all of us; to remember death and recognize how fragile our survival is, and to value life and hold it dear and precious. For all the clamor and politicization of gun rights in this country for and from mostly rural folks, the situation in our inner-cities is starkly different than rural America. The mere density of our cities provide ample opportunity for police to sufficiently protect citizens from random crime as evidenced by the excellent police work done by the Oakland Police Department and the Homicide Division in particular in both shooting incidents. The existence of young gunslingers swaggering around our cities is growing everyday in this recession and is a threat to all order and decency not to mention the moral character of our nation. With the implementation of true commu­nity policing standards and a multi-faceted effort to address joblessness, hopelessness, guns, drugs, gangs and the general state of depravity in our inner cities we can begin to turn the tide. These problems are sys­temic and have at best been brushed aside by City, County and State Government.

We are at the point where we are asking our con­gressional representative Barbara Lee to take firm legislative action and deliver the big bucks not to Baghdad or Kabul but to places like Oakland and Richmond. At the same time, and hopefully with the help of our Senegalese brothers, we are calling on the international body of the United Nations to compre­hensively address the failure, decay and violence endemic to the inner-cities of America.

Muhammad is survived by four beautiful young chil­dren and our focus now is to provide for them and send them firmly on a good path with a sure footing for an uncertain future that this city and indeed our nation is facing.

Congressional Representative Barbara Lee, 1301 Clay Street?Oakland, CA 94612-5233?(510) 763-0370.

UNITED NATIONS - SAN FRANCISCO, UNA-USA, San Francisco Chapter?237 Kearny Street, #247?San Francisco, CA 94108.

UNITED NATIONS — NEW YORK, 2 United Nations Plaza,?New York, NY 10017

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