By Jim Tortolano
About a generation and a half ago, a black woman told her young son they were moving from segregated San Antonio, Texas, to Orange County, California.
“Where’s that?” he asked.
“That’s where Disneyland is,” she said.
“Where’s Disneyland?” he asked.
Now that young man, who said he’d never met a white person until he and his mother crossed the continent, has become a prominent advocate for both racial justice and racial harmony.
Meet Maserati Shellz, also known as Shelton Bullock, 38, a rapper, producer, podcaster and more who rose into the local public eye at the June 3 meeting of the Garden Grove City Council. His professional name, of course, derives from the classy Italian sports cars.
Shellz had been contacted by the Garden Grove for Change group to speak to the council.
“I was the third to last to speak,” he said, “so I got to see what everyone was saying. The councilmembers were attentive … Kim Nguyen was especially attentive. But they were talking at them. I have two teenage kids. I talk to them, I don’t talk at them.”
A principal issue raised by the protesters was de-funding police by slicing the annual GGPD budget by $30 million and dedicate that to social programs. “Hey, I understand, they’re young, they want things to happen fast. But things are going to take time. You have to work together,” he said. “If you’re going to de-fund police, you have to do it in a sensible way.”
Noting that Garden Grove has a relatively low crime rate and that the police budget of $67 million might be necessary to keep things that way, he said, “I’m with that.” But he believes the city or others should still find $5 million or so to deal with the issues raised by Black Lives Matter and other groups.
His own approach is to create a non-profit organization to fund a community youth center. “I want Apple or Microsoft to donate computers so kids can learn web design or how to make video games. Not just play them,” he said.
He envisions a center not unlike an open-air facility like the SteelCraft urban eatery on Euclid Street in Garden Grove where this interview took place. It would be a place where young people could gather for recreation, education and interaction with others, including police officers to establish relationships.
“I think that once the community and police know each other, things will be better,” he says.
When Maserati and his mother moved to California, they landed at the area of Gilbert Street and Katella Avenue where Garden Grove meets Anaheim. He attended Gilbert Elementary School and then Ralston Intermediate School. He spent two years at Rancho Alamitos High School before transferring to Loara High in Anaheim when his family moved,
“When I was in high school, we knew we weren’t supposed to be drinking,” he said. “A couple of friends, we’re walking down the street. The cops would stop us and say, oh, they’re drunk, and tell us ‘Go home, go home.’”
“We had a relationship. The cop’s son went to our school, they went to the basketball games and football games and stuff like that.”
Maserati believes that stereotypes held by both races have contributed to recent problems, and that the current political climate hasn’t helped either. But there are ways to improve things.
“If you are not racist and you’re around people who are [openly] racist, if we don’t speak up, if we don’t expose them, that’s not cool. If we allow it, we enable them,” says Maserati, who currently lives in Long Beach but remains active in Orange County.
He acknowledges that racial bias is not the only factor keeping African Americans from a fuller participation in the nation’s life. Economic and educational disparities are also in play. He’s seen overcrowded and understaffed schools in Texas, and compares OC schools favorably to them.
Getting to know other people as individuals and developing your learning may be a key to today’s troublesome racial atmosphere. “If you want to change the narrative,” he says, “Get an education.”
For more on the man and his music go to:
Categories: Garden Grove