Riseup! Which Side are You On?


Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Interviews Uncle Bobby at Riseup What Side Are You On rally protest in Manhattan New York October 2015

CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: I am affectionately known to the community as Uncle Bobby. I am the uncle of Oscar Grant. How many of you have seen the movie Fruitvale Station? I’m going to be short. I just want to say this. One famous person that I know who’s standing behind me right now named Dr. Cornel West said this: If you want to hear the truth, you must let the suffering speak. Martin Luther King said it this way: “Cowards ask, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks, ‘Is it political?’ Vanity asks, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks, ‘Is it right?’ There comes a time when neither safe, political or vanity is the reason why you stand. You stand because it is right.”
PROTESTER: Do the right thing!
CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: Rise up!
PROTESTER: Do the right thing!
PROTESTERS: Rise up!
CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: Rise up!
PROTESTERS: Rise up!

AMY GOODMAN: That last speaker was Dr. Cornel West of Union Theological Seminary, speaking at the anti-police brutality protest Saturday in New York City. Before that, Oscar Grant’s uncle, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, and director Quentin Tarantino. The leader of the New York Police Department’s union has called for a boycott of Tarantino’s films after he participated in the Rise Up October protest Saturday. On the streets after the rally, when thousands marched from Washington Square Park up to Bryant Park, where the New York Public Library is, I spoke to Uncle Bobby further, the uncle of Oscar Grant.

CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: I am affectionately known to the community as Uncle Bobby. I am the uncle of Oscar Grant, the young man, as you know, that was killed in the movie Fruitvale Station.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what happened to Oscar Grant, when it happened.
CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: On January 1st, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California, as you know, Oscar Grant was laying face down in a prone position with his hands behind his back, before Johannes Mehserle stands up and shoots him in the back without any apparent reason. He alleged that he thought Oscar had a gun.
AMY GOODMAN: And tell me what happened. Who witnessed this?
CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: Of course, there was many on the platform that evening that saw what happened.
AMY GOODMAN: It was New Year’s night.
CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON: It was New Year’s night. They, of course, videotaped what was occurring. And for the first time in California state history, because of the community, because of labor, the ILWU Local 10, longshoremen’s, who shut down the ports, and of course the community that embraced the family, we got, for the first time in California state history, an officer arrested, charged, convicted and sent to jail. We count that as historical, not a victory, because he only did 11 months, because of a technicality that the judge alleged. However, we know that the unifying of these families across the United States will bring about a real change.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Oscar Grant’s uncle, Uncle Bobby, in the streets of New York, though he’s normally in California, because thousands marched on Saturday.


About Uncle Bobby

Cephus Johnson, a.k.a Uncle Bobby, is a social justice activist at the forefront of ending police brutality in America. After his nephew, Oscar Grant, was murdered by a Bart police officer in 2009, Cephus founded two social justice organizations, the Oscar Grant Foundation and Love Not Blood Campaign. Since then, Cephus has received many prestigious awards for his activism, including The Fannie Lou Hamer Award 2016, The Hero of Forgiveness Award 2016, The Henry Moskowitz Award 2015, The Kwame Ture Black Star of Labor Award 2015, The Black Organizing Project Award 2014, The Martin Luther King Jr Gene Young Award 2014, and many others. He was a consultant for the movie Fruitvale Station, and has served as a leading expert on the creation of the Motherhood and Fatherhood Movement of children murdered by police. Over the years, Cephus has appeared on many national and local television shows and radio stations as an expert in police brutality, including Katie Couric’s “Race in America,” MSNBC’s “Caught on Tape”; and many others. He is a sought-after speaker who has delivered workshops on topics such as, “Knowing your Rights; “How to survive if stopped by the police”; “Criminalization of young people by the justice system”. Cephus has presented on these topics, and others, at The Left Forum conference, US Human Rights Conference, The Netroot Nation Conference, The ACLU Conference, The Free Mind Free People Conference, The National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE), The Congressional Black Caucus Conference, Teachers for Social Justice Conference, and The National Bar Association Conference. He has also spoken at universities, high schools, and community events, and served as the West Coast Organizer of the United Nation Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent visiting the United States at Merritt College, Oakland 2016. Known as the “People’s Uncle,” Cephus is a much beloved presence and invaluable resource for families suffering from police violence around the globe. He has been active at high profile protests — and has supported many high profile families — around the country, including those of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Emmett Till, Freddy Gary, and many more. “He considers ending police brutality and supporting families who have suffered at the hands of police his life’s work, and deeply believes that when families work together, families heals together creating lasting sustainable change.”