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“Ask,” I’d quickly say.

We’d go through the genealogy. Ezra Senior was a Cherokee Indian. Gram’s mother, Georgiana, was almost as dark as the bottom of the sea. I asked my mother, “Where did the blue eyes come from?”

“That’s a good question,” Mom said. “It has a lot to do with race-mixing. What do you think happened to the Indians when Columbus so-called discovered America? It wasn’t friendly. I’m sure Native Americans had children by white colonists. Those genes are probably what you see in Grandma and her siblings.”

∗ ∗ ∗

It was supposed to be a night of dinner and the theater: The Vagina Monologues. There’s some irony in that. Profits from the production go toward stopping the physical and sexual abuse of women.

Instead, it was a night of police, EMTs, and on-scene line-ups.

What I saw that night in Hillcrest shocked my very soul and left me questioning, What is happening to our community? That night, I wept for humanity. I wept until my body was choked with disappointment, choked with the hate. It was like that Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. All that blood, all that violence, all those people standing by, just watching a brutal attack. All that trauma in the trendiest part of town.

But because of Gram’s lessons in courage, I did not back down from a righteous confrontation.

∗ ∗ ∗

“Hi, my name is Fred. I’m the prosecutor in this case. Thanks for being here.”

“No problem,” I said. As if I had a choice. Ignoring a subpoena could land me in jail.

Our case would be called soon, and Fred wanted us to be ready to go inside the courtroom. If only Portia de Rossi would reprise her role of Nell Porter from Ally McBeal and prosecute this case. Then I wouldn’t mind so much being in the stinky Hall of Justice. But, no, I’m stuck with Fred. If I wanted red-headed kids, he would be perfect; maybe, in a very tight pinch, Fred would do.

“This is kind of strange,” I said to Paula, the scene being nothing like Law and Order.

“Yeah,” Paula said. “I wonder what we are going to have to do when we go in.”

A set of old wooden doors cranked open, and men and women in suits fell out into the hallway. All of them had some sort of briefcase on wheels. Some carried manila folders with papers spilling out.

“Okay, guys, we’re up,” Fred said with spunk. “We all go inside, and you just find a place to sit near the back.”

Was that what we were there for, to sit in the audience of the courtroom?

Paula and I walked inside. And there he was, at the head of everything — the judge in his great robe. I recognized his face; he’d been the judge in the John Gardner murder trial. That was freaky.

The guy who’d beaten Rose bloody was escorted into the courtroom in cuffs. Rose became visibly distraught. Her friends, who were there for support, wrapped their arms around her. They wiped her tears away and whispered in her ear. I imagined what they were saying. You’re okay, you’re safe, it’s going to be all right.

Now I realized why I was in the courtroom. This trial was real, and very important.

I thought back to Rose’s attack. During breaks at previous hearings, she’d told me the defendant had wanted to rape and rob her. I’d never seen so much blood as I did that night. I knew that if the assailant had continued to punch her in the head and face, he would have killed her. Unlike others who stood there on the street or watched from their restaurant tables, I could not bear to witness another human being — especially a woman — get beaten to death.

Rose could have been my mother. Rose could have been my best friend from college. Rose could have been the love of my life. So I did what I had to do.

Gram wouldn’t have had it any other way.

My grandmother often carried a razor blade under her tongue. She’d bring it out with the tip of her tongue and use her front teeth to steady it. If needed, she could grab it with her right hand and slice her abusive husband — or anybody else who got out of line.

An old family friend once said with a chuckle, “Yo grandma would leave any Negro lookin’ like a carved Thanksgivin’ turkey.”

But all I had that night in Hillcrest was my cell phone.

I told the 911 operator, “He’s wearing a pair of black Adidas with three white stripes down the side, a pair of faded camouflage shorts, and a white tank top with blood smeared on the front and the back.”

“Is he still in your face?” asked the operator.

“No. He is pacing, walking toward University, and then walking back to me. He’s still trying to grab at her.”

“I got your location. The police and paramedics are almost there. Can you see them?”

The paramedic truck passed us by. Paula tried to wave them down from the street, but they didn’t see her.

“They just passed by us,” I said, frustrated. “We are closer to Washington Street, not University Avenue.”

“Okay, they’re turning back around now.”

I sat Rose down on the curb and tried to stop her bleeding. Her assailant ran to the CVS, to dispose of his bloody tank top.

The paramedics put Rose in a neck brace, strapped her to a stretcher, and took off. Police officers descended on the crime scene. Some snapped photos of the smears and mini-pools of blood on the sidewalk. They also took pictures of the surrounding buildings.

The cops had Paula and me, along with two other witnesses, lined up against a wall. One by one, we answered their questions about what we had seen or done. It lasted for two hours.

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Evelyn June 6, 2012 @ 3:04 p.m.

the adrenaline surges sound like ptsd. what you witnessed and endured and did is traumatic.

also, thank you for doing the right thing. and thank you for standing up for Rose, those in need.

... Regardless of how urban and trendy and hip and whathaveyou Hillcrest may be, there are a ton of shady activities that go on. i've been more spooked/creeped out there than anywhere else.


clockerbob June 6, 2012 @ 5:44 p.m.

I was robbed on a MTS bus in Hillcrest and when I asked the MTS for the security tape to id robber I was told they don't use the security tape for that purpose.


Javajoe25 June 6, 2012 @ 7:11 p.m.

Hillcrest is one of the most colorful, interesting, culturally hip neighborhoods in San Diego....but it is also the biggest rolling freak show as well. Not sure what it is; probably the concentration of mental health facilities in the area, combined with the excessive alcohol intake of the resident population and the high drama that produces, and then there's the availability of street drugs which tend to go hand in hand with the high number of clubs. All that adds up to a very tempting set of circumstances for the mean nasties who come to prey on the vulnerable. There's no bout adout it; it can get pretty dicey, late at night, on the streets of Hillcrest.


nan shartel June 6, 2012 @ 7:26 p.m.

great storytelling..good on ya that u helped Rose...best stuff i've read here at the REader lately

and ur grams was def a very cool lady!!!


Jay Allen Sanford June 7, 2012 @ 12:31 a.m.

Second that! I was just going to browse, but was compelled to read all the way thru -


AmyBeddows June 7, 2012 @ 9:58 a.m.

The world needs more people like you in it!!


prattleonboyo June 7, 2012 @ 4:41 p.m.

I liked the part about intercepting the assailant from further attacking the woman in the street. Should have elaborated on all that further. Otherwise, nice writing!


Ruth Newell June 7, 2012 @ 8:29 p.m.

Rashida, you are an honorable woman of incredible strength as well as a superb storyteller. Stories like this one are hard ones to tell but it is none-the-less important that they be told. It shouldn't take courage to protect each other from violence--that should be a natural human inclination. But, obviously, as you were the only one to bother to intercede, the only one who said to herself, "No, I can't stand by and watch this happen.--I WON'T do nothing, this is wrong," it mustn't be--not to everyone at least. We as a society haven't evolved as far as we think we have.I remember all too clearly how appalled I felt when I learned a whole barfull of men sat back and watched, cheered even, while Cheryl Araujo was gang raped on a pool table back in the '80's, (basis for the movie The Accused). The '09 gang rape of a fifteen year old CA girl right outside her prom resurrected those same feelings because dozens of people stood by and watched. FOR HOURS. Taking photos with their cell phones rather than calling the police. Yet, there is no law that requires us to protect and assist one another in times like this. No law even requiring bystanders to report the crime they are witnessing. LEGALLY, they did nothing wrong--hard factoid to wrap my head around. Blows my mind that we think we are an advanced "developed' species. I have the utmost respect for you.Thank you for writing this article and thank you Reader for publishing it front and center.


alisonchains June 8, 2012 @ 11:56 a.m.

You are my hero!!! I, too, have stepped in between a victim and attacker, but not nearly so dramatic with life-altering consequences (court appearances, etc). If I AM faced with such a situation, I hope I can reach back to your amazing example for strength to do the right thing. Blessings upon you!!!



Facebook June 9, 2012 @ 10:13 a.m.

John P. says: Good thing Rose went to court. I witnessed a woman get knocked out in El Cajon. Myself, and a few others chased the guy and made sure he got arrested. When the woman came to, she immediately started crying and defending him.


Ruth Newell June 9, 2012 @ 12:55 p.m.

Makes me think of workplace sexual harassment. Most organization's policy obliges witnesses of sexual harassment towards another to report it. Even if the victim doesn't. Sexual Harassment policies ten to hold us ALL accountable in ensuring that the workplace is free from such offenses. Not so easy in cases of domestic violence, regrettably.


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