Biggest Little Streets

James, From a Black Panther Childhood to Rebounding Back into Housing

Episode Summary

James Henderson, 50, part black and Native American, an ex convict who did 16 years in prison in different spells from Hawaii to San Quentin, says he survived riots and being shot three times. He’s a recent graduate of the local Crossroads recovery program with new hopes for his own future. “I used to brag about it, but I'm not proud of it because it's wasted time,” he said of his prison record. “You know, now that I'm older I'm using this thing called cognitive thinking, and it has improved my life.” Henderson has been keeping a close eye on protests in downtown Reno from his usual daytime spot at the Believe Plaza, watching protesters come and go. Having just had knee surgery, he says he prefers to just watch for now, but that recent events do bring back childhood memories. “My mom and dad were some of the founders of the Black Panther party in the 1960s in Oakland, California, so I am a Black Panther progeny. I remember going to marches as a kid,” he said. He says he likes the mix of colors he’s seen in Reno, which is reminiscent to his own childhood experiences. Like now, he says, it was also about a mix of issues. “It was black, white, Chinese, Mexican, Korean, every nationality you could think of. And it was about equal housing, equal living standards. It was about equal schooling, and equal health benefits. It was based upon equal way of living as a citizen.” He does see some progress, such as when police officers have taken a knee with others, something he says he never saw several decades ago. “That is like so much improvement in itself. You know, you would never hear that, hear about that, a cop ever doing that,” he said with tears in his eyes.