Dear Oakland, to you from my heart.
I was born on the 25th of August in 1995 at Kaiser, Oakland and raised in Richmond. A city often overlooked during your commute on 80, but embedded within the city is an independent and fearless mentality similar to what Oakland embodies. The connection between these two cities is natural because the Bay Area is a large community where the power of unity and influence is on constant display. An example of this was in 1967 when the Black Panther Party staged one of their earliest armed demonstrations against police brutality in Richmond when a young kid named Denzil Dowell was murdered by an officer from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Police Department. This direct action helped elevate the Black Panther Party into the national spotlight, provided content for their newly launched newspaper and was a demonstration to the world that oppression will not be accepted, and unity is a must.
This cultural foundation is what prepared me to move to Croatia to play for the Dinamo Zagreb academy at 16 without any of my family and totally alone. It kept me strong when I was deported at age 21 when I purposely overstayed my visa to play in the third tier of Croatian after I was released from Dinamo Zagreb. It kept me resilient when I tore my achilles in my first professional season back in the United States and had to fight tooth and nail to keep my career alive when the San Francisco Deltas folded and I was left without a team and hadn’t played due to the injury in more than a year. I played no more than ten games at my next club Penn FC and had to confront thoughts of an early retirement following that season. I got what seemed to be a last chance at New Mexico United in a two week trial that ‘’mashallah’’ turned into the two best years of my career.
So, if someone asks me, “what does Oakland mean to you?” My reply is that Oakland is leadership, creativity, community, and resilience. Shido from FYE Collective would say, “we are our ancestors.” Our experiences and environment shape our sense of self and I witnessed the power of alchemy in Oakland as a youth. With that said, always know your roots. Because without a firm grasp and connection to them you can become forever lost in the wind. Unable to tap into the limitless power of alchemy implanted as a seed deep within our soul waiting to be watered. We are never alone when our ancestors walk with us. I was never alone on any part of my journey. My family, community, faith, and ancestors were always there with me and a part of me.
We are united in the struggle united against any force trying to change our communities and deny us the opportunity to construct neighborhoods in our best interest. We must always honor what came before while implementing strategies our elders used to advance the people and self. This sport is a tool to reach the masses and change society and I will continue to use it as such. When you see me on that field you’re witnessing the strength of my ancestors and their eternal fire in my eyes and flowing through my veins. Not an athlete, but a vessel for change. May Allah guide my new endeavor with Oakland Roots and allow me to pass down my wisdom to the youth of this community so they may accomplish even higher feats, because I walk with every one of them.