Oakland’s Castlemont High Steps Up by Lying Down! Colin Kaepernick Joins In!

October 3, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


At the start of last Friday’s Castlemont High School football game, when the nasty-full anthem played, Oakland Castlemont players lay on their backs on the ground with their hands up (see tweet). Colin Kaepernick, who came to the game to support the team, took a knee. The players wanted to step up and be part of the protests—they lay on the ground to graphically show that the police will shoot people even if they are lying on the ground with their hands up. One player told us, “It’s not right that people are wrongfully and unjustly being killed by these police and people are just sitting back and watching it. They are just seeing it on the news and just shaking their head or changing the channel. It’s not right. It’s sick, actually.”

What happened at Castlemont was a moving and powerful contribution to the national outbreak of players, coaches, and athletes in different sports and cheerleaders who have taken a knee, raised a clenched fist and in one way or another demonstrated their refusal to stand at attention for that anthem when the police for this system continue to shoot down Black people and others in the street. It is a further example of how Kaepernick himself is continuing to do the right thing despite a barrage of racist attacks and threats.

Castlemont High is in deep East Oakland, a place with Black, Latino, Tongan, and many other oppressed nationality students. Hunger is part of life for many who go to school there, and police abuse and murder are a constant threat and a part of everyday reality. The head football coach at Castlemont grew up in the area and attended Castlemont. In a documentary, A Coach in Deep East, he talks about the school, the neighborhood and what the students go through. The area, known as the “Kill Zone,” where 85 percent of Oakland’s murders happen, is the area from 70th-100th Avenue. Castlemont is right in that zone. There are only 500 students in a school that has the capacity to have 2,000. But in Oakland, students can choose which high school they want to go to, so they don’t have to attend a school in their neighborhood. The coach talks about what the students are up against—he himself has gone to 70 funerals for people who were under 24 years old.

On September 19, at the game the week before Kaepernick came, the Castlemont football team had made an important statement by taking a knee and raising their fists when the anthem played. Kaepernick saw a report on this, tweeted it, and came to their next game to support them. He talked to them in the locker room before the game started. His talk to the players in the locker room has been reported widely on the Internet. This is part of what he said:

“I know situations like a lot of y’all might be in where people don’t treat you the same, they don’t give you that time of day, they don’t give you those opportunities to be the best you can be.

“That’s why I made the decision to do what I did. You all inspired me with what you did, following that and standing up. You all are doing this at a much younger age than what I did. This took me a while to get to this point. And you all are conscious of this at this point in time to make that stand.”

Read the entire HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution HERE

We went out to Castlemont to support what the team had done, to spread word of revolution (including the “Top 10 Reasons to Sit Down for the Nasty-full Anthem,” Revolution newspaper, and the new statement “How We Can Win—How We Can Really Make Revolution”), and to find out what the people are thinking. We were able to interview some of the coaches, teachers and players. We found a spirit of defiance and resistance, and a real openness to revolution. When we talked about the RNC 16, burning the flag at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and now facing charges, several teachers were eager to have them come speak to their classes. The fact that we are a nationally organized force, working for revolution, was compelling and attractive. We also found out that that the teachers, coaches, and the school are being subjected to vile racist and reactionary attacks including many death threats, through social media and even letters mailed to the school. Even the players are being subjected to death threats.

It is very important that in the face of attacks on Colin Kaepernick, people have stepped out to have his back and to take a stand themselves against the nasty-ful anthem from different perspectives. But ABOVE ALL AND MOST OF ALL, people need to know the truth about what the United States, its flag and national anthem, have always been, and always will be, about, and why only an ACTUAL revolution can fundamentally change anything for the better. This is part of the “3 Prepares”: Prepare the Ground, Prepare the People, Prepare the Vanguard for Revolution—Get Ready for the Time When Millions Can Be Led to Fight, All-Out, With a Real Chance to Win.



Here are excerpts from interviews we did:

Interview with Castlemont football player:

Q: Why did you take such a strong action?

A: Because it hits home with me. Things I’ve been through, things I’ve seen. I’ve seen people having to deal with this, I’ve had to deal with it and it’s not a good feeling. It’s not right that people are wrongfully and unjustly being killed by these police and people are just sitting back and watching it. They are just seeing it on the news and just shaking their head or changing the channel. It’s not right. It’s sick, actually. People are losing lives for no reason. Lord knows what they’ve done... It’s very uncomfortable for us. It always has been and it most definitely is now. More often than not you’re lucky to make it through the night if you’re with the police. I want to make an impact so that things like this can stop. It’s not safe. You don’t know what is going to happen. We already live in a very poverty stricken area. To deal with that on top of poverty, it’s not safe. You don’t know what is going to happen. I want to raise awareness so things like this won’t have to go on. Maybe my kids or those of my sister won’t have to worry about things like this.

Q: How did you feel about Kaepernick coming to talk with you and stand with you?

A: I was very moved because I got the idea from him. He sat in preseason and kneeled and stuff like that, and I really respected him for that. Personally, I’m not really a 49 Niners fan, so Kaepernick wasn’t a household name for me. When he started doing interviews I saw all the unnecessary hate that he’s been getting for standing for something that he believes in and that I believe in. I just wanted to know that we got his back like he’s got ours. He came to the game and showed us love. It’s just all love here.

Q: How did this come about, to do the protests at your last two games?

A: At first I wanted to kneel because we had a team from Canada coming in, so we had this opportunity. If we stood for the Canadian anthem to show respect for them but when it came time for the national anthem, ours, that was an opportunity we had to make some noise, have an impact and raise awareness. So we all took a knee, but in the moment, it seemed that just taking a knee wasn’t enough, so I told everyone to just raise a fist when you take a knee and that’s what happened. Last game, laying down, we wanted to show the vulnerability we have with the police being the authority and us being the citizens. We’re showing how we are being submissive and also honoring the lives taken by the police because I’m pretty sure a lot of them were like, how we are: laying on the ground with our hands up. That sends a strong message and it really strikes home with people who have been through these types of events. We wanted to show them that this is what you are doing. This is what it comes down to. It’s not just grown men but children are also dying. It’s out of hand. We certainly don’t feel safe. You see police get into altercations with people and you just want to flee the scene because you don’t know what is going to happen. All it takes is one sudden movement. He’s got his hand on his holster already. You’re either getting tased unnecessarily or getting shot or beat...

We’re not doing this to get publicity and be on the news. That’s not what we want to do. We want to make change. We want to make a stand. If that means that we’re on the news with Colin Kaepernick, we’re on the news with Colin Kaepernick trying to make things better. This is for us. This is for our futures or the future of our people. We want to make an impact and have a say and make change so the future is a whole lot brighter than it looks now...

We’ve received death threats, the team as a whole, my coaches, the players, the school. I feel that’s kinda stripping us of our freedom of speech. It’s like you don’t know what to do, you’re backed up in the corner and all this stuff is happening and we’re just supposed to let it all happen. We want to make a change. A lot of people are scared that they might get killed, life might not be the same so they just don’t step up. Those of us who are taking that risk we are just a rebellious, rambunctious group that doesn’t care. We don’t just want fame and people to look at us. That isn’t what it’s about. It’s about change.

Interview with a Castlemont football coach (excerpts):

Coach: He (Kaepernick) retweeted a picture that our group put up on Twitter. He was moved by it, and when he came to thank us he ended up learning more about what these kids have to face being in this area. This is a great school but it’s an impoverished area—economically deprived—and with that comes a lot of other stuff. Just for these kids to get to school every day, it can be a struggle. He learned that our kids are not eating three meals a day. I have a feeding program where I feed the kids. I ask people for money and donations and I buy food to feed the kids. I have a refrigerator and things like that. Once he learned that, he was so moved, a tear came to him. He said, I just didn’t know. After the first quarter, he became like coach Kap. He was running up and down the sideline... It was beautiful. He is one of the most humble people I have met in my whole life. One of the most down-to-earth dudes on the planet. If you have anything negative to say about that dude you probably just don’t have a soul.

Q: What did the players think about it?

A: They loved it. That was something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. He was so cool and down to earth and real. With our kids once you tell them you love them, and you’re consistent, then you’ve got their respect...

Q: You said that you are getting death threats and a teacher said that there is a lot of controversy in the school?

A: Not so much in the school. People are sending things to the school saying, “Die you Black something." They’re sending letters to the administration saying, “How dare you let those Blackies do that,” or “We’ll send them on a one-way ticket back to Africa.” I got a call last night: “You Black dirty n-word, we hope you die, you monkey swinging from a tree.” But I got to keep pushing on because the most important thing is the message. The message is, we’re tired of this. We’ve been tired of it and these young people are standing up.

Q: Are you getting messages of support?

A: On social media, the people in this community, my family, some of the people I went to college with—yes—they are definitely supporting me and I appreciate that. Mainly I appreciate the support of our kids. Like I said before, they are beautiful.


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