Oscar Grant's mother holds annual vigil on 9th anniversary of son's death
OAKLAND, Calif. (Heather Holmes/KTVU) - The killing of Oscar Grant by BART police in 2009 became part of a national debate about police reform and race relations. Monday, on the ninth anniversary of his death, Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson renewed her call for more to be done on building trust between police and the communities they serve.
At the annual vigil on the anniversary of Grant's death, KTVU spoke to Johnson who said today was "bittersweet".
It's a reminder of the son she lost and it also represents the hope that things will get better. For Johnson, the new year opens up old wounds.
Grant was 22 years-old when he was detained by BART police at the Fruitvale Station platform after reports of a fight on a train New Year's Day.
He was unarmed and shot in the back by a BART officer. His death spurred protests and riots in Oakland and put Johnson in a spotlight she never asked for.
Now, Johnson is an advocate for at-risk youth, leading the Oscar Grant Foundation. It's a non-profit she started that supports teenagers by offering scholarships and other opportunities.
"We're really trying to build our youth. We want to build better communities and so investing in our youth is how we get better communities," she said.
The group's basketball team travels across the country competing in tournaments, inspiring teens to stay in school and stay out of trouble. That's just one part of Johnson's mission now.
The other is promoting justice.
"We are wanting more training," she said.
She's been pushing for changes in policing, Grant's death did raise pressure on political leaders and police departments to deal with the issue of gun violence and racial disparities.
Johnson is hopeful of changes in policy and attitudes and that as people gather to remember her son, they'll remember what they're fighting for.
"It feels good to know that I'm making a difference in the community, that the foundation is making a difference," said Johnson.
Johnson says she plans to continue speaking out on behalf of other mothers whose children have been killed by law enforcement.
The officer who shot Grant in the back, killing him was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after arguing that he thought he reached for his Taser. He was sentenced to two years in jail and was released early.
Johnson has since moved on past the verdict that the called disappointing and encourages people to continue to speak up and judge fairly.