16 Years Sober: Gratitude

Sometimes a moment set aside to display a little gratitude is good. There are a few times a year that this comes about for me, but May 2nd is one of particular importance for me. It was this day, sixteen years ago, in 2001 that the life I now enjoy was given to me. No, that is not the day I was born, that was some thirty-five years ago and we celebrated my born day and my mother on April 5th. 05/02/01 was my first day sober and today makes 16 years.

I remember, when I was 16 years old and in a juvenile prison when an O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago came in to speak with us. He said that he remembered being more free while locked up and more a prisoner while he was on the streets. Back then, I thought he was full of shit. I thought he was out of his mind, so I wrote him off. I was not until I was 19, had overdosed on ecstasy, walked across the country, joined a priesthood/cult type of thing, relapsed, slithered my way back to Seattle and into of self-made pit of quicksand that stretched in all directions as I hurt and destroyed relationships with everyone in my family; doped out, strung out, and on my way to throw myself from the Aurora Bridge that the O.G.’s words came back to me. It was at that moment that I finally understood what he was talking about and what he meant when he said that he was a prisoner on the streets.

That night I made myself a promise, namely, that if my life did not get just a little bit better then, I could always return to the bridge to finish what I started. A brother of mine used to say, “when the pain outweighs the pain, then we change.” What he meant by that was when the pain of doing the same old thing over and over again becomes greater than the pain of doing something different, doing something to change our conditions, then we opt for the lesser of the two apparent evils. Of the many decisions I have made in my life, that is perhaps the one I look back to with the least regret, the most pride, and absolute gratitude and humility. I used to underestimate the power of planting a seed in a mind especially, a mind that seems as though there is nothing for the roots to take hold within. Life is an awesome thing and sometimes it takes much experience to prepare the soil adequately for the seeds once planted to sprout.

For anyone who has traveled down this path than no further explanation is necessary, but for those of you who haven’t it was no easy feat. There were many days that I wished for death to visit me quickly. There were a few years that every day my stomach felt like it was tied in knots because I wanted to get loaded so bad I couldn’t make sense of the world around me. But the people close to me held me down and encouraged me not to give up. One person in particular, aside from my mother who held me down always and with true heart, a bother to me eternally, Marcus. I know for sure that without him and through him, Seance, no one would know me as Renaissance, and I would not have emerged as the prolific artist, emcee, and poet you all know me to be today. I am almost as certain of this fact, as the fact that had I not have gone to that juvenile prison that I would not have met that O.G. whose words eventually granted me the guidance I needed to reclaim my life, and that it was there that I first began to write poetry. These are just a few of the most prominent examples from my life that I appreciate the opportunity to recall that I neither got to where I am today alone, nor would I have really wanted to, and that I have a lot and many people in my life to be grateful for and whom I love dearly to this day.

Since I got sober, I have made the rounds of the people and the institutions I caused harm to when I was lost in my addiction and sought to set things right by them. I got my G.E.D., then my high school diploma, an incredible feat for one such as I who had earned a 0.0 G.P.A. in high school prior to dropping out. I earned a printing degree from Job Corps. I failed out of college my ‘first’ attempt. I worked my way from a day laborer in my mentor’s construction company to being his partner. I started, hosted, and planned the Cornerstone Open Mic with Marcus which we ran for five years and built an incredible family of emcees, poets, DJs, and musicians. I worked with The Service Board (TSB) as a way to pay forward the grace and investment made into my own life by a life-long friend Rice Yoba who showed me that Hip Hop is so much more than blunts, bitches, and 40s, but that it was revolutionary, educational, powerful, and my heritage. And I returned to college, was the valedictorian of North Seattle Community College, and barely skirted under the honor roll at the University of Washington when I graduated double majoring in History and Philosophy. I have studied immigration in Greece, lived with the Peasant Rice Famers in the Philippines, and been a Climate Justice and Black Liberation organizer fighting against police brutality and to end mass incarceration, on the front lines with our Indigenous relatives in Washington, Arizona, and North Dakota, and fighting against the dehumanizing deportation and incarceration policies of the United States.

I have done a lot, that I know for certain would not be possible had I not sobered up sixteen years ago. However, it is not the things I have done or that I have accomplished that matter to me most. It is that I am no longer a slave. It is that I have my own mind. That I can see clearly. That I do not destroy relationships, but I build and nurture them. Today, unlike when I was a youngster, I have the ability, capacity, and the desire to love, and I am loved in return. These are the things in my life that I value the most and that I am most grateful for. These are the things that I fight so hard for and that I will never sacrifice. These are the things that I fight to make sure others have the opportunity to enjoy.

I am because of my community and I only am because of my community. Without my community I would not be. My community is the reason that I am still alive. My community is the reason that I am here. And my community is who I receive my direction, guidance, and passion from. I am an extension of my community and my community is an extension of me.

There are two people in particular from my community who I esteem above all others and who have had the greatest impact on my life and who I am as a human being, my mother and my partner. My mother not only gave me life, but has been the continuous rock and guiding light who has kept me grounded on the right path since I was born, and she has never wavered.  No matter how tight money was, or how hard times were, she always loved me and my brother unconditionally and gave freely of herself without question or regret. She has worked hard all of her life and has always put others before herself. She taught me everything I know about being a man. I can remember, how she would scowl at my brother and I when we were younger and be like, “I am not going to go clean up after someone else all day long only to come home and clean up after you monkeys!” She taught me the value and the reward of hard work and that I am never to push my responsibility off onto others, especially women who already give so much. Without her and her love and guidance, I most certainly would not be. And my partner in life and in crime, my heart; I would be lost without her. Until I met her, I did not think that true love actually exists. I did not think that I could devote myself to someone else so fully, or that I could ever permit someone to be so devoted to me. She continues to surprise me and to reveal the beauty of our world to me. She has this way of seeing the beauty in everything and everyone, that until years together was simply beyond me. And whether times are at their worst or at their greatest, for four years now I have been blessed to share and be partner in everything. Zahara took me to my first protest when Portland Rising Tide organized and shut down the Columbia River in protest of the tar sands that were being shipped through Washington to be transported to China. It was Zahara, who showed me that I am nothing without my community, but that I am everything with you and that I am liberated. It was Zahara who helped me to believe that I and you have immeasurable value and that we are worth much more, and that we are worth fighting for. Without my mother and my partner, I would not be Renaissance and I would not be the human being I am today.

I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for each and every one of you. I am grateful that today I have the opportunity to continue to strive for the life I know we all deserve and to become a better human being. And whether anyone reads this or not, at least I know, that I have taken, if but a moment, to display my gratitude.

Thank you.

#PowerToThePeople

An Earth Day Post-The World We Want

#EarthDay

What kind of world do you want? Do you want a world where there is no arable land, where there are no fish in the seas or oceans, where islands have been submerged, and where the government’s science division designated to forestall these occurrences flourish? Do you want to live in a world where impoverished people, Black People, and Other POC folx globally are disenfranchised, marginalized, exploited, invisibilized, and considered to be expendable externalities?
 
Or do you want to live in a world where your future and the future of your children matter, where people are not after thoughts in economic equations, where it is not big business and illegitimate governments who do not represent the PEOPLE who are making decisions about our lives and our futures?
 
Zahara and I have been talking a lot lately about consumerism and consumer culture, and how so many of the mainstream environmental solutions are consumer based. Consumerism in the United States, where the people here have a carbon footprint of four times the Earth’s resources do not need to be developing plans for us to consume more, but rather to consume less. However, what we often see is that attention is focused on the point of extraction, instead of the point of consumption as the problem. Real talk, the Global South would not be suffering exploitation, imperialism, or the harmful effects of #ClimateChange if the West was not so hell-bent on consuming all their resources. Consuming more is not the solution.
 
“It is like the philosophy of a man having a headache who beats himself on the head with a hammer to get rid of the ache.”
 
#Capitalism, #colonialism, #patriarchy, #racism, #consumerism, #imperialism, major #agrobusiness, #PrisonIndustrialComplex , anon… essentially the structural underpinnings of our entire system need to change if we are to actually achieve the world most of us, and most certainly the most impacted, seek to achieve.
 
Each one of us shares some responsibility, some much much more than most others, for the world we create. External change begins internally, this is a spiritual journey. Consumerism is fueled by a fabricated and facilitated feeling of incompleteness. This society is designed to make people feel incomplete. And so, it leads people to reach without, to take, to consume to seek to try and make themselves complete; and the very thing we think will satisfy us and bring us life is that which is killing us.
 
 
#PowerToThePeople #Liberation #ClimateJustice
 

Shelf-Life

I was born with an expiration date,
hung from my neck,
stamped like a license plate
It was a notice to the world stating
Get what you can from him because he won’t see 18
He won’t make it to college, not through high school
And do not listen to him when he tells you these are his dreams
Because they’re lies, and whether he recognizes it or not
We, have plans for him
And those plans neither include a family nor a happiness
Because neither are sufficient motivation for him to comply with us
No! for us to get what we want from him,
he must be, broken, shattered, hopeless
And he must believe he is the one responsible for his condition
He must believe it is the result of, his, decisions
That he chose his position
That he had an equal opportunity with everyone else to do something different
He can never know that the wrong side of the tracks
was really red lines on a map
drawn down at city hall
That it was the National Housing Act of 1934
That laid the path for the rise of the ghetto,
urban farms, where it’s not crops that are grown,
but people, stock for cell blocks,
to subsidize markets locked
by inflation from free trade participation in a nation
that ain’t never done shit without enslavement
These are the things he can never know
He cannot know that poverty, like wealth is created
He cannot know that it wasn’t chance,
or a roll of the dice that planted him in impoverishment like cracks in the pavement
He cannot know that the ghetto is not inevitable,
that it is not unchangeable, that being poor is not a fate, not predetermined
but planned, scripted, constricted to particular segments of the society we live
Because should he ever learn these things,
then that is the moment we lose control of him
And we need a continuous supply of workers, strong, and ready to go
Who will accept never drawing a check,
never checking the drawing and asking,
did I ever actually have a chance to live?
Is having a shelf-life really living?
Knowing you are member to a group of human beings they call and endangered species, they, call me, an endangered species
I was never expected to live
Imagine the weight of a license plate like that
If it hung from your neck could you ever stand fully erect, would you perform to your best, if the best you could expect was to somehow slip detection or to die in prison, stamping the plates of future children who will be following your steps
How would you feel?
How would you act?
If you knew the system might have more to gain from your death?
 
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Beware of the Shroud

People are suffering. People who are in a position in society like most of us who have no real say in what the governments of our countries do are being harmed by the actions of those governments. People who may or may not be entirely innocent, but most of who are not committing massive human rights violation are nonetheless, victims of actions that are human rights violations. I am sending my love and condolences out to them and their loved ones on this sad morning. This is not how our world has to be. However, this is how it is for now and it is disgusting and deplorable, it is dehumanizing and it is unacceptable. We are trudging through intolerable times.

The usage of chemical weapons in Turkey that hurt and killed civilians indiscriminately harming children, women, and men;  people who like most of us have no authority in how our countries are run and who were merely struggling to live a life is horrible and inhumane. The United States launching 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at Syria, supposedly for the usage of chemical weapons, is no better.

The words that follow are merely opinions based on reports, historical knowledge, and critical analysis. They are opinions because the position I hold in society removes me too far from having access to the most critical of facts. However, that is for another discussion and for now I am going to focus my attention on some troubling observations I have made.

After ordering and executing the bombing of Syria Trump claimed that it was for the sake of “national security interest,” but this does not make much sense because Syria is more than an ocean away from U.S. borders. The words national security make me, and I think most people think of preventing a physical attack and for most of history that is precisely what it meant. Yet, over the last few decades and especially since 9/11, the term national security has encroached the realms of economics, resources, and in particular, oil. So, when I hear a playboy, pop-up president say “national security interest” and have every doubt in my mind that any chemical weapons from Syria will ever reach the United States borders, by the process of elimination of definition I am only left with economic and resource security.

Given the record of the United States, and this includes the continuation of the neo-liberal state under Obama, this conclusion is not surprising. The United States is an imperialist state that uses coercion and force to impose its domination on the Global South and the people there. Far removed from the major media outlets of the U.S., and quite literally disenfranchised from any serious debates with the people who are deciding their fates, much of this global terrorism goes unnoticed, or is shrouded in cryptic political language to rationalize to the Amerikan people reasons to support the actions of our government, like for example, chemical weapons. Yet, time and again, the U.S. has invaded, attacked, or destroyed peoples and their homelands under false pretenses. The war in Iraq, prefaced on 9/11 and the search for Osama bin Ladin, was actually planned and approved by the United States Congress in 1998 under President Clinton as the Iraq Liberation Act. The plan was for the U.S. to invade Iraq, depose Saddam Husein, and create a democratic government. 2001 was an emotional time for most of the people in America for many reasons and 9/11 was used as a shroud to rationalize national treaty and United Nations violations as the U.S. went rogue and invaded Iraq. Much the same as the U.S. has yet again gone rogue and bombed the Syrian people.

Not that I would expect Trump to know, but the United States is not innocent of the charge of using chemical weapons. Furthermore, when Trump says that “no child of god should ever suffer” after ordering the bombing of Syrian people, it is clear that Trump believes only some people are the children of god. If that was not the case, then how could he order the bombing of a people? This was yet another ploy to pull at the heartstrings of Christians in the United States to rationalize human rights violations. It is also ironic what this state considers to be suffering, as if, the only thing that causes suffering are chemical weapons. As the results of U.S. imperialism people are starving all over the world, entire ecosystems are being destroyed, people are being forcibly displaced and when they do not concede they are being hurt, imprisoned, or killed. Countries are indebted to the World Bank housed on Wall Street in New York and the people in those countries suffer from the harmful and unsustainable practices of major agro-businesses, lacking adequate access to education, health care, water, and food; basic human necessities. In this country, children are starving and being funneled into the School-to-Prison Pipeline, the system of mass incarceration negatively impacts people of color and migrant communities; thousands of people are about to lose their residences with the reforms to Housing Authority, and millions of people will be put into jeopardy with the constriction of the Environmental Protection Agency. What consists of suffering to Trump and his administration is problematic and suspect.

I do not believe for a second that the U.S. involvement with either Syria or Turkey has anything to do with the well-being of their peoples. It is troubling that I have seen and studied this type of geopolitical posturing in the past and it has never turned out well for the people. That the Russian government is involved only serves to make my analysis that much more stark. Prior to and throughout much of the Cold War the U.S. and Russia were responsible for arming and supplying many of the countries of Africa and the Middle East, and elsewhere. Far from the borders and the citizens of these empires proxy wars were waged in front of the homes of innocent and disenfranchised peoples. Part of it was the Containment Doctrine to stop the spread of Communism, and part of it was for control of the resources of the Global South for Amerikan consumption. Yet, the presidents of this country have had the audacity to shun terrorism as if it was not something that their regimes were fully engaged in and profiting from.

My concern is for the people, who for most intents and purposes are just like you and me, save for the fact that we are behind the feudal privilege walls of the United States. Who have been, are, and will be the victims in wars they have no say in whatsoever. My concern is that this regime is yet again attempting to pull a shroud over the people’s eyes and rationalize further human rights atrocities in the guise of “national security interests.” They are not my interests and they should not be yours. We all have an interest in people not being subjected to tyranny, war, and terrorism by any empire because as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” These acts are acts of injustice and are in my opinion being enacted under false pretenses.

We can do better. We must do better. For all of our sakes.

 

(https://www.congress.gov/105/plaws/publ338/PLAW-105publ338.pdf)

Thank you for you support

https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

Renaissance: Artist, Activist, Revolutionary

I recently launched this Patreon Page where our community can invest in the work I do. After graduating college and with the host of skills and talents I have I thought for sure I thought I would be gainfully employable. That however, has not been the case for me. What has happened is that I have been volunteering all of these skills and talents I have to see that our communities and the world we live in will become a better place. And while I would otherwise be just fine continuing to do that, that is however, not how the society we live in functions and it will be impossible for me to continue without your support. So, I launched this Patreon page to provide our community with a platform to do just that.

Too often, we are compelled to purchase products that were developed without our input, but they are there and we need or want something kind of like them, so we do. However, you have the awesome opportunity to invest in the creation of what you want and to help shape the outcome, with my new Patreon account. And then you get the product you made an invested to receive.

There is no need to think that you have to break your bank to sponsor my work, you can pledge as much as you want or as little as a dollar. The truth be told; I would rather have the one-dollar support of a thousand people than the thousand-dollar support of one person because I am a man of the community, for the community. Although the bottom-line outcome is the same, the impact is not. When a thousand people display their confidence in the work I do by valuing it enough to invest in it then I will be reassured that I am doing what the community wants of me. It is however also very revealing when someone chooses to show how much they value my work by investing more in it. Nonetheless, it is not how much you pledge that is really important to me, it is that I produce work that is worthy of the pledge you made.

Please, if you have a few moments, follow the link to my Patreon page and if after looking it over I still have your interests, then please consider making a pledge to invest in my work.

Thank you.

 

https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

Understanding Repression, Suppression, Oppression

We tend to conceptualize the terms oppression, suppression, and repression to mean exactly the same thing in general conversation and while this is not true, they are nonetheless, interrelated.

To repress is to keep under control, to keep down or to suppress.

To suppress is to put an end to the activities of a person, body of persons, etc.

To oppress is to burden with cruel or unjust restraints, subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority.

The aim of all three of these is to seek to control a person or group of people for some end that is not defined by the subject but, rather, by the object. Any time person (A) seeks to limit or control the actions or thoughts of person (B) is an expression of repression. Both suppression and oppression are means to achieve repression. At the core of this is the denial of person (B)’s agency by person (A), which is in turn a rejection of person (B)’s humanity. This is precisely how Paulo Friere defines oppression and what is wrong with it in the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

However, the situation is a bit more complex because not all acts that appear to fit the definition of repressive are by their very nature unjust. To seek to control the actions or the thoughts of a rapist, molester, or murderer, or an anti-Black racist Ku Klux Klan member with the aim of preventing harm to others is not necessarily unjust. The factors that may make such repression unjust are not the repression, but the manner in which the repression is carried out. For example, murdering members of a racist group merely for their affiliation and not because they have themselves done anything harmful. To do so is to become the oppressor and not to achieve real liberation for our people, as Paulo Friere argues can happen. Furthermore, this is by definition one of the conditions of genocide.

 

On the other hand, accountability circles and restorative justice practices which bring into focus a person’s behavior respecting their agency and humanity and working through what was wrong with a particular situation and working with them to grow so as not to recreate those same harms is a just form of seeking to help a person develop their thoughts and actions. As such, this overcomes the definition of oppression and is not exactly consistent with suppression because it is not an outside entity that shifts the behavior of person (A), but rather internally within person (B) because through a process of reconciliation their analysis has broadened and deepened, thus, becoming more humanizing.
Understanding these terms and what they mean is vital to developing our critical analysis of the conditions under which we live through deep personal and interpersonal examination. Furthermore, it permits us to engage with the complexity of social organization and what may on the surface appear to fit the definitions of oppression, suppression, or repression and to draw a clearly defined boundary between the just and the unjust practices, policies, procedures, and socialization processes of our world.

True Liberation Requires

I think most people miss the point of what is truly implied by the statement “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I believe that most people miss the duty that is presupposed by this statement that we all have to rout out injustice, exploitation, and oppression from whence it emerges, wherever and whenever. Whether that be from KKK members, racist presidents, teachers, or friends. When our homeboys are being sexist, when our fellow revolutionaries are screaming and fighting to be treated and valued as human beings and are dehumanizing women. To the people we pass on the streets whatever the case may be.

The statement means that I can not experience liberation if someone else is being oppressed or exploited. Our system, as it exists, cannot permit liberation, will not permit liberation, because it requires exploitation and oppression to sustain its existence. To achieve liberation, we have to achieve an entire psychic change, experience a complete overhauling of our collective system of values, completely revolutionize our entire economic structure, and most important our own personal perceptions about ourselves each other and our world must be radically altered and compelled to evolve.

Only then, when injustice in all of its ugly forms is shunned and rebuked, by everyone, will we ever begin to achieve liberation. This is what I understand this statement to mean.

If your partners, were skimming profits

Droppin income into losses,

you’d lock the faucets, if you caught them

And if they spent it, on content to keep you impoverished

And dependent upon them

Well, you wouldn’t call’em partners

You’d flip the script, quick, shift the method from exist

To the “Big Payback,” revenge a cold dish

Loyalty a must, betrayal the rust

But why we only feel it from the ones close to us?

The State claimed to abolish systems of enslavement

With the 13th Amendment, Emancipation Proclamation

But read it closely and you’ll see it defined the method

Intrepid and shrewd progress was arrested

All they had to do was convict a person of a “crime”

Then sell their labor back to plantations and mines

Convict Leasing, a system that expanded

The answer to cheap labor their markets demanded

The Struggle to Decolonize

Has anyone else noticed that it is difficult to decolonize one’s thoughts and actions while living in the belly of the beast of a colonizing empire?
The system we live in (or under) is founded on exploitation and practices it in nearly all of its endeavors. The system forms a binary, a dichotomy wherein one is either an exploiter or one is exploited. Put another way, one is either the oppressor or the oppressed. Much of our understanding, false though it is, begins with our education that is more correctly an indoctrination. Even the style of education within this system presupposes hierarchical structure of dominance in what Paulo Freire termed the “Banking System” of education in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, wherein communiques are merely deposited into students who are presupposed to be ignorant, and thus, inferior. The students in order to succeed must concede and adapt to this position of inferiority thereby solidify the exploiter-exploited relationship and contradiction. This system denies the agency of the student and rejects the proposition that all human beings who are not suffering from dehumanization are members of the creation and re-creation of knowledge. Only when such an understanding is reached is it possible to respect and honor the agency of every human being as full human beings. And for so long as the system denies the agency of full human beings then it is an exploitative system.
The learned and practiced adaptive preferences of this system become solidified within a person long before that person enters the workforce, so resigning one’s self to an inferior position of exploitation for another’s gain is standard operation; i.e., it is normalized. Any human being who thinks for them self, who is critical of the system is considered a pariah, is considered an outsider, a person who is against “order,” and is to be punished. This is essentially because the exploiters cannot permit those who have not received the stamp of approval, which has been codified into law, to be the agents of change even in our very own lives and communities, are to be punished, suppressed, and silenced.
This is part of the reason why I believe it is so difficult to decolonize one’s self while living in the belly of the beast of a colonizing empire. W.E.B. Du Bois called it the “Double-Consciousness,” Audre Lorde called it, “Double-Think,” Paulo Freire called it the “oppressor consciousness,” but all pointed to the internalization of the colonizer’s, the exploiter’s identity and perception of the world and of ourselves. We must overcome this indoctrination if we ever mean to achieve liberation for ourselves and all of our sisters and brothers from this system of exploitation and imperialism.
Trust in the power of WE. All long-lasting and effectual change emerges from the bottom-up, not from the top-down, and this is especially true of cultural revolutions. This means that the power to overcome this evil resides within us. It resides within us all.
#AllPowerToThePeople