Pendarvis Harshaw (aka Pen or OG Penn) (born July 6, 1987) is a journalist, author, and educator. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Oakland at the age of three. He attended Oakland Public Schools K-8th grade (Emerson, Crocker and Edna Brewer), and the Athenian School for his high school years. He got his first taste of journalism through taking after school classes at Youth Radio. That experience catapulted Harshaw toward studying media, inspiring him to attend and graduate from Howard University's School of Communications and then UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

In 2011 Harshaw taught at Oakland Tech, as a part of the Oakland Unified District's African American Male Achievement Program. In 2012, he taught at McClymonds as a part of the Oakland Kids First program. After completing grad school, Harshaw returned to the classroom, teaching journalism at Ralph Bunche high school, while simultaneously working for the Fusion network.

Since the fall of 2016, Harshaw has been doing strategic communications for PolicyLink

In February of 2017, Harshaw released his first book, OG Told Me, a memoir-style collection of essays about Harshaw's coming of Age experience, and serves as the story as to why he started his OG Told Me photo essay project during his time teaching at Oakland Tech.

The colloquialism "OG", originally short for "original gangsta", has grown to have many applications: old guy, old guard, original griot (storyteller). Although it is not always appreciated (some people believe the term has a negative connotation), it proves to be a common way a younger person refers to an older person (*not always male, not always African American), especially in the streets of Oakland, CA.

In the six years of conducting research, taking photos and interviewing elders for his OG Told Me project, Harshaw traveled around Oakland asking older African American men: given your life experience, if you had the chance to talk to (young) people, what would you say? The answers covered concepts of love, religion, drug use, and the value of education. Harshaw explains, “In a world where so many die young, you have to be doing something right in order to live that long.” 1 As a result, he's interviewed and photographed some of Oakland's more interesting people, including former Black Panthers and basketball player Bill Russell, as well as some interesting characters that people might not recognize by name, but are well-known faces in the community of Oakland.

When he's not writing, reading and researching, Harshaw is an avid biker and part of a collective that throws events in a backyard in West Oakland, known as #RegularsOnly.

In 2017, East Bay Express awarded him "Best Young OG" in their annual people issue. 1

Notable journalism pieces

Links and References

  1. Best Young OG: Pendarvis Harshaw East Bay Express August 9, 2017