If you saw the movie Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler, the story is that of a day in the life of 22 year old Oscar Grant. This young man was killed by BART Police at the Fruitvale BART Station at 2:15am January 1, 2009. The story walked the viewer through the events of a single day leading up to Grants demise. But take out Oscar Grant’s name and just add Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and the movie would end just as tragic, just as scary. On March 11 2018, that could have easily been the story for Delayne Whiteside, but it wasn’t. America seems to be in love with tragedy, but on this special day, two men that crossed each others path put a shift in the Universe, and here’s what happened….
(Only told through the eyes of Delayne Whiteside)
The morning of Mar 11 2018, my 43 year old self woke up in my eastside apartment, that is being paid for by the Volunteers Of America. You see, I was a homeless veteran for 54 days from Dec, 1 2017- Jan 23rd 2018 and the organization is helping me with my rent until I get back on my feet. With this weighing heavily on my mind on this particular morning I type on Facebook, “Even strong people and blessed people have days like, Lord I don’t want to go thru this anymore…please take it away.” I hit post.
As the day unfolds, I decided to get dressed and head to the internet radio station that I help run with 6 other partners located on the North side of Columbus in the Continent called WTMH Radio. It is a dream we all took a chance on to make come true. While it is a dream of mine to be a full time journalist, I know that bills have to be paid, so in the mean time, I moonlight as a music blogger while looking for work in finance. I’ve worked with numbers since I was 17 years old when I enlisted in the United States Navy. I’ve also worked for 3 major banks over a 21 year span, so I know I’ll get a job, it’s just a matter of when.
As I make my way to my car, I thank the lord that The Military Veteran Service Commission approved my grant to pay for my car insurance on Friday which made it legal for me to drive on this particular day. As I leave my apartment complex, my tire is making the same flopping sound that it’s made for the past month but I paid it no mine because, even if something was wrong with the car, I only had 23 dollars in my pocket that day and had no way of getting it fixed. As I turn onto Refugee Rd the flopping is getting louder, and I quickly pull into a Turkey Hill gas station for air. As I examine the tire, I could see wires and fraying in the rubber but it was still holding air. So I added Fix-O-Flat to buy me some time until I saw my case worker the next day. Once that’s done, I have a choice, turn around and go back home, or continue to press and pursue my dream as a writer/journalist and head towards the station. I chose the latter.
As I’m riding on Interstate 270, I’m praying, thanking God that I have car insurance, but I’m also praying that I arrive to my destination safely and that I don’t injure myself or anyone else. After my prayer, a childhood memory flashes in my mind of the time my grandmother and I drove to Springfield Ohio in the late 80’s to a preaching engagement she had. We were about a fourth of a mile from the exit to the city, and the tire said BOOM! She walked to the gas station at the exit and called a deacon to come out and change the tire for us. Being that I was around my grandmother all of the time, I was never around men to help me to become handy (my father was serving 31 years in prison) so she kept me in books. I was a geeky-cool kid. I never had to worry about anything like that because she always called a handy man to fix what was needed fixing. So if you ask me while I was married for 15 years, did I fix anything around the house?…that answer would be a big fat NO! I’d always call someone to come fix it.
Anyway, back to the story, I tried to shake the thought of the childhood blowout out of my head but it just wouldn’t leave. I could only go 60 miles an hour because of the slight flopping of my frayed tire, but the car is still riding fine. I’m starting to feel confident as I’m am approaching my exit, however, that same feeling rushed over me as I was again, a fourth mile from the 161 exit on 1-71 S. No sooner than the feeling passed BOOM! The tire blew out. I laughed…I laughed so hard. Right then I knew God was trying to tell me something. I immediately called Geico, and I was so grateful because since I was 19 years old, I’ve always had roadside assistance. The reassurance settled over my body and I worked with the rep to send a guy to help me.
As I’m talking to the insurance company, I see the State Trooper Patrol car pull up. The thoughts of my grandmother leave my mind and they instantly reflect on Philando Castille. You see, because while I was relieved I had car insurance, I remembered I had my 380 Bryco in my left pocket. I only keep it for protection because I leave the studio really late and there is a very dark alley we all have to pass through to get to our cars. So at this point, I’m not nervous because I know I’m legit in all aspects, but as an African American, there is still always some fear in the back of my mind. I prepare my wallet to hand over my ID and my permit.
As I’m telling the insurance company my location, the biggest brightest smile you ever wanted to see walks up to the passenger side of my car and says. “Looks like we got a flat here” My soul instantly relaxed as I start to mention my situation, he sets my tense body as ease and says “Nah, I’m not here for all of that, I’m just here to help you change your tire sir.” to my recollection.
I begin to exit the vehicle, and I inform him that I am a Navy veteran and I have grown children in college. (Officers always carry much respect for men who have served for some reason) I let him know that I’m embarrassed that I don’t know how to change a tire. He laughs. My soul relaxes just a little more. I let him know that I’m a believer of Christ and I write for a Hip Hop Online Magazine called State Of Hip Hop and that our offices are located right off the ramp. I go to open up the trunk of my car, and we both walk around to the back. As I lift up the cover to the wheel well, 8 loose bullets are staring at both of us. I immediately look up at his face. At this time I’m preparing myself for him to call back up. (The loose bullets are a result of me living in my car some nights, and everything just moving everywhere in the trunk.) This time I look into his eyes…nope same big bright smile still there. He doesn’t flinch, as he goes to get the jack out of the car. He says “I want you to know where this goes so if you’re ever in a jam, you’ll know what to do”
As he is switching the wheel to the doughnut I ask nervously, “Do you have a family?” He states “Yup! Twins!” and there goes that big ol smile again. I ask “How old are you?” he says “22” and I say “Wow you are as old as my oldest baby, she’s 22” We laugh and we talk some more. As he’s finishing up, I feel this is a divine experience. I say “I’d like your card because I’d like to report what a fine job you’re doing” He says “Well I don’t have my card on me…” he opens up his jacket..”My name is Officer Arnett” I ask “Well can I take a selfie with you so that I can put it on my Facebook page?” …and there goes that big ol smile on more time… “Sure” he says….”We need to let the public know we’re not all bad…it’s the bad ones that get all the press.” he says.
After we take the selfie, he extended his hand, and in all my 43 years of living, I’ve never had a police officer extend his hand to shake mine. This wasn’t an ordinary handshake.. it was a firm one, that told me in the grip…“I care about people no matter what color they are”
He allowed me to drive off first and then he drives off. As soon as I get to the station, I post the picture and leave a very simple caption….after an hour goes by I see it’s already up to 100 Likes, but that’s not unusual for me because I’m a well known blogger in the MidWest. After about 2 hours I notice its up to 500 Likes, over 100 shares and it was showing no signs of slowing down. Around 11pm the photo had received 900 views and that’s when I knew…“Yup this baby is going viral”
I wrote this blog in hopes to be a short movie pitch to someone. This will be one of the first movies with An Intentional Boring Ending. It amazed me that something as simple as a tire change from a police officer helping a black man touched the world. But it also reminded me of the names..the many names that this outcome would not be so. The many crying mothers and children that these dead black men and women will never come home to. People want to believe there is no hope for the future, but ONE Picture proved different. One act of kindness went viral. One act of LOVE created an example. It didn’t BLEED AND IT STILL LED!!! And just know.. An independent journalist that belongs to the world of MEDIA….made the world pause…and say yes…..THIS IS HOW THESE MOVIES SHOULD END! #TodayWasAGoodDay
THANK YOU OFFICER
DELAYNE DAMON WHITESIDE 😉
RIP Westerville Officers Anthony Morelli 54 & Eric Joering