Tag Archives: America

“Fuck the Police” by Renaissance (Lyrics)

#FUCKTHEPOLICE

They not bout the people
Don’t suffer like we do
Servin the master class
They Asses be see-through
Their answers be lethal
Though they don’t need to
Just shoot as they please
Be death without redo…

Got no reason to trust them
They commin to bust in
And don’t give a fuck
I’m professin or hustlin
Want us dead or in prison
Keep us in division
With surgical precision
They’ve made all their incisions
They come from slave patrols
And protect the capital
Of capitalism
And it’s all about control
Work to keep us at odds
& To keep us all poor
So when we’re workin for scraps
We won’t be askin for more
Union bustin for sure
COINTELPRO
They broke up the Black Panthers
propped up the Jim Crow
used dogs and fire hoses
red lines and bulldozers
paid snitches to roll us
plea bargains been sold us
gang units built and ensnare
Vietnam Vets to street warfare
they’ve been against our people
since before cobblestone roads
but they’re the closest thing to
government most of us will ever know

don’t give a shit
bout you or me
don’t give a shit
bout democracy
licensed to kill
dead in the street
Here’s what I think
FUCK THE POLICE!
don’t give a shit
bout you or me
don’t give a shit
bout democracy
licensed to kill
dead in the street
Here’s what I think
FUCK THE POLICE!

People wanna separate
Police from the state
and from corporations
Who function with no restraints
from politicians, prisons,
borders, immigration,
And imperialism
like each one is distinct
But the nature of a system’s
that they’re all interlinked
And they depend on each other
to keep everything succinct
which means the people are controlled
their code for this is order
labor producing products
The opposition’s slaughtered
F.B.I., C.I.A.,
N.S.A., they got us
Panopticon, they spot us
They spy’n us the hardest
Regardless, of the fact, that,
We are the people
we push the envelope
We scratch the needle
the essence of the state
is to guard itself from change
beyond whatever liberty
It supposedly claims
and this is why on the police
They don’t have any reigns
they can kill us daily
And not be put in chains

don’t give a shit
bout you or me
don’t give a shit
bout democracy
licensed to kill
dead in the street
Here’s what I think
FUCK THE POLICE!
don’t give a shit
bout you or me
don’t give a shit
bout democracy
licensed to kill
dead in the street
Here’s what I think
FUCK THE POLICE!

They be posted on the block
And there ain’t nothin to stop
The intimidation brought
The terrorism wrought
Cuz they backed by the state
And can never be wrong
Lest the people see the trait
Swarm the state in a throng
Like Ferguson, Missouri
In the streets for 90 days
But didn’t get attention
Until it was set ablaze
Don’t want to face the truth
Try to slip through the noose
Don’t RESPECT us lack ruth
Shoot our people kill our youth

Michael Brown, Tamir Rice
Sandra Bland, Charlene Lyles,
Castile, Valdez, Boyd, Williams
Gray, Taylor, Garner, Hollins

It’s a God Damned shame
That I can rhyme their names
Killed so many of us
Hard to be more enraged
But we must remember them
Those taken by the system
In prison, enslavement, killed by police men
Body cams ain’t do shit
They just turn the fuckers off
In the streets fightin riot cops
Where’s my molotov
The institution
Police unions need to cease
Ain’t here for you and me
So, fuck the police

don’t give a shit
bout you or me
don’t give a shit
bout democracy
licensed to kill
dead in the street
Here’s what I think
FUCK THE POLICE!
don’t give a shit
bout you or me
don’t give a shit
bout democracy
licensed to kill
dead in the street
Here’s what I think
FUCK THE POLICE!


 

To get my latest album release:

https://renaissancethepoet.bandcamp.com/album/into-the-struggle

 

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https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

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Reflections from My Time at Standing Rock

I did not journey across the country to learn anything, I ventured to stand in solidarity with our Native relatives, but while I was at Standing Rock in the Oceti Sakowin Camp, I was taught and learned much. One of the first things I learned was how vast the camp is. I do not know what I thought I would see, but I was not expecting to see an entire valley filled with tents, tepees, campers, vehicles and people. I have been part of many demonstrations in opposition to unjust exploitation of peoples and planet, but I have never been part of anything like Standing Rock. There were thousands of people from all over the world, many of whom were represented on Flag Road, which seemed to go on forever identifying all the nations and peoples in solidarity with Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires), which is the “proper name for the people commonly known as Sioux.” What I witnessed is that a shift is underway the likes of which we have not experienced since the time of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) and the American Indian Movement (AIM), when the oppressed peoples from all over the world are uniting in a common cause: to end the harmful exploitation of our peoples and planet, and caring for our world and peoples in such a way that ten generations from now our descendants will inherit a healthy and vibrant world to share. And yet however much a shift in culture is neither without opposition or complications, it is nonetheless beautiful to see coming into fruition.

This level of unity among the oppressed peoples must be terrifying to the repressive state regime because it is losing its legitimacy and control, and people are losing faith in this state’s ability to manage our world. This is evinced by the harmful and repressive actions the state has engaged in to retain its control of the people and the situation. The state has enacted counterinsurgency tactics and technology against its own people in the worst of ways. From the targeted arresting of people, to the excessive use of lethal force, to the eviction of peoples from their lands, to the complete disregard of humanity of indigenous peoples and people of color; the entire operation is laden with human rights violations. The right to peaceably assemble and to the freedom of religion are not only guaranteed by the US Constitution (First Amendment), but also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18; Article 19; Article 20). Furthermore, Article 9, of the UNDHR states that “no one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.” Article 5, of the UNDHR, says that no one shall be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment; which should entail being sprayed with water from fire hoses when it is twenty degrees outside, or shot in the head with rubber bullets for praying on your own lands. Not that it needs to be mentioned, but in case people have forgotten, cruel and unusual punishment is also protected against by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Using intimidation and legalized terrorism is not managing, it is tyranny and it is out of control. The problem lies in the reality that this sort of behavior has been normalized in the United States when the state is interacting with indigenous peoples, people of color, and active political dissent from the harmful practices of this state and its agents. However, the oppressed peoples are uniting as the legitimacy of the state is faultering and we are being joined by those who are also losing faith in the motivations the state and the results of its decisions.

Oceti Sakowin Camp is a prayer ceremony on treaty land (Treaty of Fort Laramie 1868), that is, the land the camp is on and where Energy Transfer Partners LP is constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) belongs to Oceti Sakowin. First, if someone were to come into your or my home and start destroying things, especially that which our ancestors or predecessors left to us, we would most likely stand in physical opposition to the intrusion and destruction, and we would be well within our rights to do so. It is a twisted way of thinking about development and progress—the doctrine of Manifest Destiny—that informs people’s perception that the manner in which our Native relatives have chosen to be stewards of the land is neither efficient nor correct. Notwithstanding that false perception, this land belongs to Oceti Sakowin and the infringement into their land is no different than an intrusion into our homes. Thus, when physical opposition has occurred, the people who engaged in these acts have been completely and entirely justified in doing such. In fact, the actual motivation and justification for the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was to protect against the arbitrary and tyrannical abuses of power by the state over the people. The fact that it mentions weapons only provides one of the means by which this may or should be accomplished. The spirit of the amendment is that state repression of free and equal peoples is not to be tolerated when the repression is unjust. Yet, while that is not only the law and the right of the people, the state, the corporations, and the media has sought to villainize and make illegitimate the actions of Water Protectors, as if they believe something else, or would have behaved differently should this have happened to their homes and their families. Painting with a broad stroke the entire camp and opposition movement as riotous villains in an attempt to discredit Oceti Sakowin and gain legitimacy for state tyranny, is wrong and unaccountable to the Amerikan people and the people of the world. And yet however justified physical opposition is, the majority of the opposition, and the vast majority of the people at Standing Rock are in prayer, and have been for most of the time the camp has existed.

Every morning before sunrise, a water ceremony occurs that is usually led by elders who are women. The people at Oceti Sakowin Camp are called to the Sacred Fire to participate in the ceremony as the people first ask to commune with the Creator, before asking the Creator to protect the headwaters of the Midwest. Many people from Amerika are not familiar with prayer in the form of song and dance because many of us come from a Judeo-Christian background, and so, it may not be immediately recognized that a prayer ceremony is occurring, but that does not alter the immense power that is felt participating after being invited into one of the ceremonies. From the Sacred Fire after the initial prayers are completed, the people are led to the water (Cannon Ball River) to bless and pray for the water that heals our bodies and our souls. As the sun rises we are standing on the shores of the waters giving thanks for the resource and element that provides so much for us and all that lives on the planet we share. Starting the day in a thankful spirit of gratitude for a precious and limited resource has the impact of directing our whole day and shifted my thoughts from what I need to take for myself and instead focused them on what I have to offer.

The time I spent at Oceti Sakowin Camp led me to re-conceptualize my perception of direct action, even as a seasoned activist. Often direct action is referred to as a demonstration. For example, when a Black Lives Matter protest occurs on Black Friday, in any city, challenging the very institutions of capitalistic economy that buttresses and profits from the prison industrial complex and by extension the brutality of police, and the school to prison pipeline; the objective is to interrupt. Wherein there may be lockdowns, blocked traffic, or interruptions of broadcasts. However, at Oceti Sakowin, when the people leave camp to any location, it is in prayer just like the morning Water Ceremony. The prayers are not discriminatory, but universal, which means that the people are praying for the health of the water not only for Oceti Sakowin, but also those part of the repressive state regime spraying Water Protectors with water from fire hoses in twenty degree weather. Behaviors with these motivations in other settings have often been referred to as acts of unconditional love and brings to mind the Civil Rights Movement of the Black Liberation Era. I know many of the stories, but have not exactly been able to bring myself to love those I have seen and felt as my enemies as they continued to harm me and my peoples.

Growing up, I was racially profiled by police more times than I can count or even remember, but a few situations stand out. I was pulled over for nothing besides driving while Black and when the cop could find nothing else to charge me with, not a tail light, not a failed signal, not an invalid license, he placed some sort of light detector on my tinted windows to try to find anything to justify his harassment of me. Another account was when my father called the police because some of our neighbors were threatening to kill my brother and I when we were eight and nine, respectively, and when the police came they arrested my father. I can remember walking home from high school with my book bag, only to have a cop car jump the curb and come to a screeching halt in front of me, before slamming me against a wall and searching through my school books, only to find school books. And one night when I was walking down the sidewalk, two plain clothes cops simply decided not to identify themselves, and instead to beat me almost to death before hauling me off to jail for absolutely nothing. I was never even apologized to or given bus fare home, but was released from their custody to walk miles home at three-thirty in the morning in the middle of winter. I recount these personal experiences now only to evince that my hatred for the institution of police is not only systemic, but also personal. When we arrived at the camp we were asked to set these feelings aside and to pray for the police, the army, the militias, and the mercenaries suppressing the people at Standing Rock. This was difficult for me, as it was for many others, too. Then I heard a report about one of the leaders of the International Indigenous Youth Council, speaking directly to how the people interact with the police during a prayer ceremony;

It is our duty not to dehumanize others, as we seek to establish our own humanity.

What I learned from this is that I am no better if I create the same trauma that I am seeking to overcome. I cannot become my enemy and still expect to overcome the oppression I suffer from my enemy. The means must be consistent with the ends, if the ends are to be just.

So, while the people at Standing Rock are completely justified in mounting an armed resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the suppressive agents using counterinsurgency tactics against the people, they are in fact, praying for all of us. I have never experienced this amount of love and forgiveness. I have read about and studied it, I have heard stories from the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement, but I have never felt it. This is the spirit of the people that our government has permitted helicopters and planes to fly over the camp surveilling and is suspected of spraying chemicals on, all day and night. This is the spirit of the people that the government is utilizing cell phone suppression and corruption technology upon. This is the spirit of the people that the government is throwing concussion grenades at, shooting in the head with rubber bullets, unleashing the Long Range Sound Device, the LRAD sound cannon—the same technology used in Ferguson after the execution of Michael Brown—on, and spraying with water from fire hoses in twenty degree weather at; all of which are prefaced as non-lethal instruments, but when applied together and in the conditions they were used, are all individually lethal and are especially so in conjunction with one another. The state has been arresting, imprisoning, and nearly killing people for praying, and on their own lands no less.

The state is a force to be reckoned with, many of us now this acutely and personally well from first or second-hand experiences, and it must be confronted and challenged. There are also other complications that can and do often emerge when people who have been oppressed unite among themselves, and when the oppressed people unite with people who are from privileged classes. It is not the issues so much as how they are addressed that is truly important. At Oceti Sakowin Camp there was a lot of very positive and encouraging work being done to overcome much of this while simultaneously challenging neo-liberalism, capitalism, and state repression.

During orientation at Oceti Sakowin Camp on my first morning there we were told that we should not have come to learn, or to take anything because that is a continuation of the colonial apparatus. Yet, still, because so many people flooded into the camp over ‘Thanksgiving’ week, who were honestly concerned about what is and has been happening at Standing Rock, who were by no means prepared enough in a socially conscious manner for the work ahead, some instruction was necessary. I am a photographer and this has been a major component of the liberation work I have engaged in over the years. I am also a historian and a philosopher, and the three of these skills combined help me tell stories as objectively as possible.

(My cameras were stolen from me by the police in Bismarck when I participated in a prayer circle and was unjustly abducted and duhumanized, so I do not have images to share at this time.)

During the orientation, the proctors mentioned that the act of taking a picture “take, take, take” is an act of colonization, which is all about the extraction of people, land, and resources. This was used as an analogy to expecting to have time with Native elders who could “tell the history correctly” because people had “come to learn the truth” from the people most impacted. Not realizing that the imposition of time, from primarily white folx, was another act of colonization playing itself out, many had rushed to the elders. Many people had also been walking through camp with their cameras out, snapping shots of people in front of their teepees, which is no different than standing on someone’s lawn and pointing a camera into their home; taking, extracting, and feeling ‘entitled’ to do so. This colonialist imperative of take all you can for yourself, this capitalist motif is precisely what the people at Oceti Sakowin Camp are opposed to. It is this colonialist imperative and capitalist motif that Energy Transfer Partners are operating under; and they are precisely what underlies the exploitation and degradation of the planet through the burning of fossil fuels. Cultural appropriation, is stealing, it is taking without permission or understanding. We were informed that this was a camp of giving and of self-sacrifice for the common good, for the rest of humanity and all the creatures we share the world with. Thus, many of our beliefs and practices that people came to camp with needed to be unlearned and ceased because they are components of the very things that brought us to Oceti Sakowin in the first place and what we are working to overcome and evolve beyond.

Oceti Sakowin camp embodies the way of life that many of us are aspiring towards. A world in which the first thought is how I can fulfill the needs of others around me, instead of the first thought being how I can take care of my own needs by extracting things from others.

Living among the people at Standing Rock I learned that I do not need everything I think I need in order to not only survive, but to thrive healthily and to be happy.

When everyone is giving, then there is no lack. There is no need to be fearful that the things we actually ‘need’ will not be provided. This social organization is so completely contradictory to anything that most of us within the borders of Amerika are familiar with that it almost seems impossible because of how we have been indoctrinated to think and feel, but it works well. Not only is it liberating, but it is efficient and limits the amount of waste our society tends to produce and accumulate.

Many of our people suffer from forms of historical trauma, especially people of color, or are the beneficiaries of a long line of privileges gained from historical traumas, such as men and white folx, or both, and so the work to unpack, unlearn, and heal continues. These are deep emotional and intellectual processes. As such, they are not easily overcome. In fact, we tend to bring these things with us even when we are working to remedy human rights violations and to alter harmful practices. Unfortunately, there were more than a handful of events and occurrences from which to draw examples from at Oceti Sakowin camp. Notwithstanding that, and although it was problematic that a lot of misinformed, or uninformed, well-intentioned white folx poured into the camp during the week of Thanksgiving; it was nonetheless inspiring, to see so many people who are beginning to wake up and see our state of affairs for what it truly is. That being said, there is no doubt that a lot of emotional labor was unduly placed upon our hosts and other people of color to inform, correct, and instruct a lot of the people who simply did not understand things like, it is not cool just to walk up and touch someone else’s hair because you think it is fascinating. That is entitlement plain and simple, and it is an extension and an expression of colonization, one of the very things the people in the camp and elsewhere are working diligently to overcome.

Entering into another person’s personal space, and especially touching their body without prior consent because of either an implicit or explicit belief that you are entitled to do so (and this includes rape and rape culture) is a colonial and patriarchal act. Consent is vitally important to healthy relationships. Firstly, consent signifies that there is respect between two parties and an acknowledgement of both their humanity and their agency.

The Dakota Access Pipeline that Energy Transfer Partners is placing in the ground without the consent of Oceti Sakowin, is an act of colonization.

They have come into Oceti Sakowin lands, desecrated their ancestral burial grounds, and threaten to poison both the land and the headwaters with faulty technology that in addition, will also promote the distribution of CO2 from the burning of the oil, thus exacerbating the rate of climate change and the destruction of our environment. None of these outcomes are desirable to Oceti Sakowin, which is why they have gathered in opposition and put the call out for many forms of support. The Army Corps of Engineers, and Energy Transfer Partners have failed to respect the humanity and the agency of the peoples from Standing Rock, and by corollary the rest of us. The reason that so many in our society, and even among those who journeyed to Standing Rock to stand and work in solidarity, embodied and acted through this colonial lens is because that is what we have been indoctrinated with. Most do not understand that these every day, seemingly minor expressions are what permit the larger, more broadly impacting expressions to exist and persist.  Although, it is true that these things will not be overcome in a day, and that it should not be the responsibility of those who have already been harmed so much by this system and society of injustice to emotionally labor with those who still harbor, whether knowingly or not, colonial and patriarchal prejudices, ideologies, and beliefs, they must be continuously worked on; simultaneously within the system and within ourselves.

More than anything else, what I felt most while I was at Oceti Sakowin Camp, from the people at the camp, was love. What I felt from the people in North Dakota who opposed the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline was sheer hatred and anathema. When I was abducted by the police in a most violent and unjust manner while the people were praying for protection of our water, the bystanders denied our humanity in a manner of which I have never felt in my life. I was accosted by a woman who stared me directly in my eyes as I lay hog-tied on the ground in agonizing pain, when she proclaimed;

“Prison food is horrible. The way they treat you in prison is horrible. I hope you enjoy it there. You are getting everything you deserve.”

This was said moments before a chant for “blue lives matter,” then a chant stating “oil is life” began.  At this very moment, without restraint or regard for the welfare of people, the police were chasing unarmed, unthreatening, escaping, and innocent people tackling them like linebackers from the San Francisco 49ers, slamming them into walls and doors indiscriminately; merely selecting people of color they thought might have been involved in the prayer.

In stark opposition, as was mentioned above, much of the spirit of the people in the camp was along the lines of not dehumanizing as we all sought to establish and assert our own humanity. There was much forgiveness and grace, but more importantly, there was love. Criticism, when it is done constructively, and with the intention of improving the relations between relatives, is an act of kindness and love. I suppose that is why when that woman looked at me with such disdain, and spoke to me as if I was not a human being, that I did not become angry at her or her actions, but instead, I felt pity and sadness, and began to pray for her. Ironically, and quite contradictory to my previous sentiment, I also prayed for the police officers as I prayed for our water, our people, and our collective future.

I am still not a fan of and am starkly in opposition to the police institution as it exists, the militarization of local law enforcement all over the country, the prison industrial complex, the school to prison pipeline, the counterinsurgency against social movements to achieve justice and equity, but something definitely shifted in me during my time at Standing Rock.

Although, most of us who made the journey did not do so to learn or take anything home with us, I do not think it is possible for a person whose heart is open to spend time at Oceti Sakowin camp and not return home affected in some positive manner.

Many know that we need a new and redesigned legal and political system, which includes a new economic structure. However, more and more are coming to believe that the actual shift must occur on a spiritual level and must spread naturally among us as if it were a scent on the breeze that we all become aware of. A spiritual transition is not something that can or will be motivated by force, it is more about attraction than promotion or proselytizing. It is slower, but much longer lasting.

When this manifests, then many of the officers, militias, and military personnel who, because of the authoritative structure and plausible deniability who feel secure in participating in human rights violations, may begin not to silence their consciences and moral aptitudes any longer, and may begin to question the unchallenged consent to execute unjust orders against innocent human beings. If it truly manifested, then those institutions would no longer be necessary. The state will continue to issue orders, but the people will cease to follow them or step down all together. To be balanced, it has often been argued that the people in these positions lack consciences and that appealing to them is doom to failure, disillusionment, and further repression. That has more often than not been the case, so this perspective is completely rational. I have stood with my people in front of a line of cops screaming until we had no voices left dropping facts about the institution’s dehumanizing and brutal actions only to be beaten and unjustly arrested; and nothing seemed to change afterward. So, I have seen it with my own eyes. Yet, there are cops leaving the force all over the country because the brutal suppression of innocent people is not what they signed up for, and police departments have made public statements in direct opposition to the Trump policy of racially profiling people to inspect their citizenship documentation. Small steps to be certain, but it is evidence that a shift is also beginning to occur there as well. Like the Veterans who also journeyed to Standing Rock and participated in a major apology ceremony for their participation in the brutal suppression of indigenous peoples and made the declaration to oppose the practice. The indoctrination of lies and division that has sprung forth from Amerikan capitalism and imperialism is being torn apart and delegitimized.

Bernard LaFayette, the organizer from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who went to Selma Alabama and began the voter registration campaign there, also believed in and practiced seeing the humanity of our oppressors. There is a certain healing power in it, and it is also pointing toward a future when we see and feel more points of unity than division and difference among us. It is my belief that this shift in cultural understanding is well under way and is spreading. I felt more than the embers of this at Standing Rock, with people from all over the world, from many different backgrounds, with all kinds of stories all standing in unity under the leadership of the most impacted by this system, our Indigenous relatives. We all have much healing and growth ahead of us, and the state is ramping up its repressive regime, but it is inspiring to have witnessed and been party to the cultural shift of resistance that is underway, not only at Standing Rock, but all over the world.

#WaterIsLife

“All Lives Don’t Matter” by Renaissance

 

Written in response to the “All Lives Matter” slogan and belief that has been a tactic of invalidation of the Human Rights and Civil Rights struggle, which the #BlackLivesMatter Movement embodies, this piece rips into the history of legislation, constitutional amendments, the rise of the prison industrial complex, and the impact these racialized systems of oppression, socially and legally reinforced, and how they harm People of Color.

The twisted and disgusting perversion of my declaring that my life has value and that I deserve respect merely by the fact that I am a human being, into something that is a denial of anyone else’s life having value and deserving respect is purely idiocy and ignorance, and extreme expression of #WhiteFragility and privilege. This system does not treat people all the same and the data that proves this is astounding, but one need only look at the laws and how they have been applied to perceive that this system is racist at its core

Justice, Equity, Liberty: The Revolution

When I was a child, to me there was something magical in the word “American.” It stood for something special. It meant something powerful. I understood it to mean freedom, justice, and equity. I believed what I was told, that “I could be anything I wanted to be.” I dreamed of being a baseball player and a construction worker, an architect, and even the President of the United States. I played baseball, not professionally, but I played on a team. I studied architecture for a time. I owned a construction company for several years. And I was even the president of one of my schools. For most of my life I do not think I ever really doubted the version of America that was taught to me in grade school. The America that was founded upon justice, equality, and liberty. That every human being had the inalienable right to life and the right to the pursuit of happiness. Inalienable means a thing which cannot be made separable. But, if the right to life cannot be separated from any human being, then how can the State justify depriving one of life and therefore, alienating one of their right? Even if it is desirable that if a person is found beyond a shred of doubt to have committed the most heinous and horrendous of acts, and who is also not safe to maintain in confinement should be put to death, how does that justify officers of the law being responsible for the deaths of people who have had no due process of law, no fact finding, and no trial? This does not fit any definition of justice I have ever read. How is it that a State whose guiding principles are liberty and democracy is responsible for the destruction of liberal and democratic societies elsewhere? How is it that a country that screams “freedom” at the top of its lungs, touting privileges and immunities, can simultaneously also be responsible for one of the gravest institutions of enslavement this world has ever known? How is it that in the “land of the free” twenty-five percent of the prisoners of the world, who have been stripped of their liberty, their civil rights, and their human rights are being warehoused and compelled to work in a neo-enslavement? These rights, are rights that are supposed to be inalienable, that is inseparable, but that is not the case. How can a government that touts “equality before the law” also be responsible for the starkest, meanest, longest lasting, and most vile genocide ever experienced on this world, and is still oppressing Native Americans, the descendants of the survivors of that genocide to this day? How is it that a nation, supposedly founded upon equality, can permit at least three different and unequal versions of America to coexist? The version of America that was taught to me and the version of America that I have come to know are inconsistent. The values I was told existed at the core of our society have turned out to be the values we need most at the core of our society, but are absent. It has come about that the America I loved as a child is but a dream, an illusion, and a fabrication. The reality of America is nothing comparable to the dream. It is a nightmare.

The values of justice, equity, liberty, and democracy pulse from the core of my being. I believe it is possible for us to achieve a society, as a people, wherein these values are the guiding principles. I see a time and place where our people are appreciated and loved for the natural and necessary differences that make us human beings. I see a world where criticism is valued because it is understood that it comes either from a place of pain or misunderstanding, and as such provides either and opportunity to right wrongs and heal harms, or to illuminate and educate. I see a world wherein the color of our skin reveals the richness of our history, deepens our cultural understanding, expands our conception of what it means to be a human being, and enhances our inclusiveness. I see a world that is more concerned with positive tension than a negative peace, that, is more apt to resort to concession than violent opposition because it is intimately known that together we are stronger, better, more vibrant and alive than we are apart and at odds in competition with one another. I envision a world that embraces sexual difference that has broken free of the chains of discrimination, where the harmful gender norms have been shattered, where there is no prescription for and limitation of what a person can achieve or who they ‘should’ be. Because we have realized that these limitations and prescriptions constrict our ability to evolve as human beings. I see a world wherein everyone has a role to fulfill and no one is bared from or denied work, but that each unique perspective and skill is utilized and allowed the creative liberty to enhance our whole civilization. I see a world when the institution of enslavement is but a relic and a warning against a return to a tragic and ignorant past that not only believed that distinctiveness was harmful, but also that it was possible to evolve in isolation. I see a world wherein “justice” carries its true meaning of that which provides for the flourishing of our civilization and not the perverted and twisted interpretation of it as mere punishment. Through the lens of justice it would be clear that harm occurs when people are in torment, when they suffer greatly themselves and believe they are in such an isolation that what they do unto others is not in reality what they do unto themselves. Through the lens of justice it would be clear that a theft of some form of ‘property’ was because people felt the deprivation of resources, the absence of security, and the void of interconnectedness. And through the lens of equity a path to right these wrongs and to heal these harms would emerge and surface from the pits of despair and suffering, guiding us toward justice and a world in which liberty can flourish.

The path laid before us is certainly not easy and we will not make it there overnight. The ideologies that have guided our civilization to the point it is at now are deeply entrenched and are even attached to people’s sense of identity. These ideologies have been written into law, they have provided the spiritual and theoretical foundations of nearly all of our institutions and social constructions, and even permeate our artistic representations of the world. These ideologies have led to actions that have created harms that now foster feuds centuries-old, whose memories incubate and fertilize distrust and hatred. The outcome thus far, has been an almost inescapable caste system wherein people are locked into privilege or pestilence. Those in the privileged caste, who have their privileges as the result of an unfair distribution of burdens upon people who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised, will not relinquish their grasp of the benefits they reap because they will feel as though they are being wronged. They still operate under the antiquated and quite mistaken belief that what can be taken or secured by force, whether by military, or by paramilitary police, or by personal injury is by right theirs and not the people’s. It is precisely this institution of force that is buttressed with an indoctrination of the ideologies that have led us here that has brought us to an impasse.

The path laid before us is one of complete revolution. A revolution that will not only change the structure and the dynamics of who is in power, but what power actually is. This revolution will not only concern leadership, but the entire composition of our civilization. This revolution will revise our conception of what it is to be a human being. There has yet to be a bloodless revolution, but ultimately, this revolution will and must be waged in the hearts and minds of every single one of us because this is a spiritual revolution. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. We start as spirits, our spirits take form, and to spirits we return. We are not the creations of our institutions, but rather, our institutions are the creations of spiritual beings who have become confused by a human experience dislocated and estranged from our spirits, connection to the world, and to each other. It is this dislocation that permits the violence, the carnage and the havoc that plague our civilization. Because we have been estranged from our connection to the world and to each other we believe that we exist in relative isolation and that what we do to one another does not impact and affect us personally, but that in reality is not possible. Thus, because our spirits emanate out into the world creating institutions through our human form, by waging the revolution on the plane institutions we but scratch the surface. But by waging the revolution on the spiritual plane we go right to the source and from there a revolution of our institutions will take shape naturally as a result. In place of the individualism that has been set as the cornerstone of the foundation of our spiritual core the values of justice, equity, and liberty must be planted and protected so that they may grow and blossom.

What I have grown to understand is that it is not America that I fell in love with as a child, but rather, the spiritual values it espoused. Today, it is still those values that I am in love with and that which I place all my hope and aspiration. In turn, and by corollary, it is with humanity that I place my trust and faith in because we are interconnected spiritual beings who depend upon each and every one of us for survival and liberation. The revolution is on and either we evolve as we greet this impasse, or we shall meet extinction as we destroy ourselves and our world. Such is the nature of evolution. However, I see a future in which our culture has yet again risen to the challenge and overcome almost insurmountable odds. I believe in us. The revolution is budding.

 

 

#JusticeEquityLiberty

 

Invisible Walls

Stuck in transition

Lacking position

Latitude, Longitude

Complicates Mission

Glossed over vision

The world, no it isn’t

A visit, Cuz this myth

Is bigger than Wizards

My head in orbits

Round phantoms so gorgeous

Dreams in remission

Yo God has been missin

From my prayers

Through night terrors

And Flashes of RAGE

Blank stares, at my wares

I’m locked in a cage

I’m put on display

Just to shock and amaze

Gawked at through windows

I’ve been here for days

There is no escape

From a place that can’t be

I’m telling you now

You bark up the wrong tree

I’m just out of phase

Between your world and mine

Hear but cant see

Smell but cant find

I’m just trying to live

I hope you don’t mind

Crossing the barriers

Encroaching lines

 

 

Stay in your place

Respect your race

You don’t belong, man,

Just look at your face

Been turned all around

Feeling things just like this

Every time I walk

In to their office

My degree don’t mean shit

When I’m caught in the grips

Of whips, chains, and ships

Hist the scars on my wrists

Blind fold my eyes

But there’s still no surprise

America filled

To the brim with its lies

Got their roles and the jobs

All neatly comprised

Prison bed counts

Done from third graders’ eyes

How well they read

Forget what they need

They work or they bleed

Jim Crow concedes

Some walls we see

Others we don’t

Some will believe

Others just won’t

Cuz they’ve not had to cross

Deal with the loss

Traverse the gauntlet

Risk paying the costs

Double Consciousness and the So-Called ‘White Standard’

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,–a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself though the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

~W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)

I think it is very important to deeply consider what we perceive as the standard by which we begin to measure our conceptions and perceptions from. On the one hand, Du Bois is identifying that the so-called ‘white-standard’ which has been arbitrarily set as the objective and thus, has been normalized as what and who the ‘true American’ is, is very problematic for people who do not identify as cisgendered-white-wealthy men. If that is the standard from which we measure from, then people who look and identify as we do will always feel left wanting and inadequate. It is my belief that it is because this standard has been internalized that Black people and other PoC tend not to perceive ourselves and other PoC and Black folks as valuable as we actually are.

This so-called standard is a false standard. In fact it is no standard at all. The cis-gendered-white-wealthy-man is an anomaly and is in reality nothing more than a fabricated ideal of what is presented as the norm. Wealth is not nearly distributed widely enough even among white males to be reckoned as norm even within said group. Furthermore, White people in general are in the minority worldwide, and are quickly becoming the minority in the United States, so by that reckoning they are not the norm either. However, and this was especially true at the time that Du Bois wrote this, that what made the ‘white standard’ the touchstone was the power structure that was in place.

Still true to this day, white men control much of the politics, business, and media which shape our world and our perceptions of it. For example, the ‘scary black male predator,’ which Hillary Clinton is noted for exploiting in speeches is a prime example of this touchstone being put to use. The concept of the scary dark ‘other’ is old and I have traced it back to Ancient Greece and the term ‘barbarian’ which, was used to disparage the Persian people. I have also encountered it studying explorers and colonists when they employed the term ‘savages,’ to describe native indigenous populations. The same meanings those words carried, is carried by the word ‘nigger,’ and are carried by the terms ‘thug’ and ‘criminal.’ The meanings associated with these terms are uncouth, untamed, uncivilized, illiterate, unteachable, lascivious, sexually promiscuous, weak, and feminine, but also hyper-masculine. After mass media emerged within our society, and following the Civil Rights Era the terms ‘thug’ and ‘criminal’ were made synonymous with Black by very clever politicians and during the 80s with the War on Drugs under the Reagan administration, the ‘scary black man trope’ was exploited with a new veracity. The result was the villainization of an entire generation of black men that was so effective that by the end of the 90s and epidemic resulting from the shortage of black men was declared. Most were incarcerated in the rapidly developing Prison Industrial Complex ushered along by the Clinton administration’s 1994 Crime Bill.

During the 80s and 90s, gangsta rap also emerges and becomes a highly profitable venture. One of the clearest, most distinguishable images from gangsta rap is the ‘scary black male predator’ who shatters all the social conventions of American society and makes his own way by feeding his own people poison, killing all who get in his way, is hyper-sexual and masculine, uneducated, and acquiring riches until they end up dead or in prison. However, this is neither how Hip Hop began, nor is it what comprises the vast majority of the artists who wield the skill and participate in the craft. Again, we see something that has been normalized that by no means forms the majority and the questions are how and why?

Dr. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, the author of “Hip-Hop Revolution,” equated gangsta rappers with being “modern day minstrels.” A minstrel is the fictitious rendition of a Black person that accentuates and exacerbates the most stereotypical features attributed to Black people for the purposes of humor that began in the 1830s. Essentially what is being done is that the “perception” of Black people is being compared to the ‘standard’ in a very demeaning and dehumanizing manner. This has also been called “Black Face.” Ogbar argues, correctly I think, that when Black males fulfill the role of a gansta rapper that they are in effect putting on Black Face for a primarily white consumer population. To some extent, those acting out these roles like Ice Cube or Master P, are expressing the internalization of the standard. However, much like the earlier minstrels who also were black, it was a means to an end to gain financial security. Whatever the reason, the result has been the perpetuation of the ‘white standard’ and its foil the ‘scary black male predator,’ the ‘criminal,’ and the ‘thug.’

In part, Du Bois was seeking to inform the Black population of this dynamic of the United States culture and to re-empower and re-imbue those most affected with the truth; the ‘white standard’ is a farce, but the power and the impact of it is very real.

Which brings us to what Du Bois is revealing about the “double consciousness,” namely, that because of this standard and the internalization of it we (our people) tend to perceive ourselves from the perspective of the progenitors of the so-called ‘standard.’ Any Black person who has had to seek employment with a white-male owned business, with white-male managers has probably walked into their offices knowing exactly what their worth is and what they are capable of while simultaneously also knowing what their worth and capabilities are perceived as. This contradiction often leads to what has been termed “Code Switching,” i.e., shifting, augmenting, or otherwise concealing the features that are most stereotypically ‘Black.’ For example, the usage of ‘proper English’ in place of the stigmatized although, just as grammatical, African American Vernacular English. This is done to appear closer to the ‘white standard,’ not necessarily to be perceived as more white, per se. Other characteristics may also be augmented such as, dress and body language. The further away from the ‘scary black man trope’ we can get the better; at least, that is how the game is played.

This is merely one example, but the phenomenon can be witnessed throughout the society of the United States. It can also be observed between other groups, such as, between men and women, wherein there are wage-gaps and glass-ceilings. The more masculine a woman can present herself, the more likely she is to be respected in a male dominated world. To complicate matters more, if the woman is Black that is a triple consciousness, and if the Black woman is also Trans that is a quadruple consciousness, and if the Black Trans woman is also poor that is a quintuplet consciousness. The intersectionality of these oppressions and systems of power dynamics are pervasive. The point is that there is no sector of this society, the buses, schools, friendships, stores, traffic, anywhere that is free of this phenomenon. Anywhere and everywhere that a Black person can be in this society where there are also white people the “double-consciousness” also exists.

The importance of Du Bois’s observation is the realization that once the phenomenon is identified and the truth is revealed to people they can then begin to unpack the social fabric of this so-called ‘white standard.’ Today we are in a much different position than in 1903 and we have access to much more information, historical or otherwise that reveals our people did not begin as an enslaved people, and that cis-gendered white males do not comprise the majority of our society, let alone the world. It helps us to begin the process of undoing the internalization of this ‘standard’ by allowing us to see that we can form our own standards. It further helps us to see the folly and the harm of the standards we hold other people to, unjustly. We may even begin to see that some standards need to altogether be laid to rest because of how harmful standards can be in some regards. Having a standard that killing is wrong is probably a good general standard to have. However, having a standard of beauty can be very problematic and hurtful. The difference I believe lies in the attribution of value to people based upon a standard, especially since they have tended to be set at a level or on something that is almost impossible to achieve and is anything but the norm; anything but standard.

A phenomenon that seems to be such a pillar to so many of the harms the people in our society suffer, it begs the question, if a culture shift is what we need to heal so many of these harms, should this not be one of the places we begin our work?

A Prisoner on the Streets of America

I am a true renaissance man and I have experienced so many forms of life and held so many positions or roles that it is difficult to narrow my thinking down to one foundational experience that has shaped and influenced my life. I died in a car accident when I was seven years old and the outcomes of being brought back to life and my faculties resulted in every person who was close to me expressing that I had a great role to fulfill on Earth.

I grew up in rough, alcoholic, and often violent home when I was younger and this heavily shaped my perception of poverty, addiction, relationships and vulnerability. My parents split when my mother had to flee from my father after he threatened to kill all of us before killing himself. That morning was the last time I ever saw my father and that definitely had a major influence on my life. The only place my family could flee to were areas in Oregon where my brother and I were the only black students in the schools. This was at a time that Oregon still had a prohibition in its State Constitution stating that Oregon was to be a white utopia and that black people were not permitted to settle within the limits of the state. Those experiences definitely shaped my perception of the world and my life. When we finally escaped the racist treatment of the people in Oregon, we moved to the Central District in Seattle where my brother and I, being tri-racial and coming directly from an all-white area lacked much of the social capital needed to be accepted by the black community in Seattle and found ourselves ostracized as outsiders. Those experiences also shaped my perception and influenced my life.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself indoctrinated into gang-life, criminal activity, and drugs. As a result of my behaviors, I spent a lot of time incarcerated and even went to juvenile prison for an extended period of time. It was there that I began to write poetry, which later in my life would lead me to being a spoken word and hip hop artist and being named Renaissance the Poet. After I was released from their prison, I was not able to shake the gang or the drugs, but the poetry stuck with me. On my eighteenth birthday I was given a drug called ecstasy, and under its influence was when I had my first experience with god. That experience caused me to leave the gang and the drugs alone and before I knew it, I had walked across the country from Washington to Massachusetts where I joined and became a priest in a cult.

I stayed with them for the better part of a year before I was able to escape from the mental imprisonment and the only method I knew to shut out the demons swirling in my head was to use drugs and alcohol to silence them. However, when I found myself back in Seattle I was ensnared by the chains of addiction once again and when the excitement of my return wore off, all of my family and friend severed their ties with me. I was left homeless, without prospects, and alone. Worst of all, the drugs were no longer working to silence the demons swirling in my head and a deep depression set in. After giving up everything I thought I was supposed to give up for god I felt truly alone because to me at the time that not even god could save me from myself.

Without anything else holding me to the planet or the people on it, I decided to take my own life by jumping off the Aurora Bridge. However, while I was walking to the bridge from Lake City, a lesson I head while I was in prison came back to me. There was an O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago that came to visit us and he told us that strangely, he discovered that he felt more free when locked-up, and more of a prisoner when he was on the streets. At the time I heard him say that, I thought he was out of his mind, but as I became a victim of the streets and was on my way to end my life I finally understood what he meant so many years earlier. Aside from having my liberty taken from me, the single other largest factor to the peace I felt while I was in prison was that I was not using drugs. So, while I was on my way to the bridge I decided to call the emergency services and with the direction they gave me while they treated me overnight in a few short weeks I was able to find my way into a chemical abuse treatment facility, which changed my life forever. I have been sober ever since and I have never felt as hopeless as I did that night I walked to the bridge to end my suffering.

Getting sober did not solve all the problems I had in my life, but it did provide me with the tools to access a level of peace necessary to confront those problems. I had four felonies and several misdemeanors on my criminal record. Furthermore, I had failed high school and at the current standing when I left, I was a 0.0 GPA student. I had no place to call home, no friends, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. I was able to gain access to a half-way house for people in transition from institutions and shortly after I began living there I woke up to the news of 9/11. I did not know it when I moved in, but the house was run by a Mormon church, and while there is nothing wrong with helping the community, I had a hard time coping because of my experience with the cult I was in; there were too many similarities. Then given the factors of my history that were barring me from both employment and education, I decided to go to a Job Corps facility.

If there was any experience in my life that I believe really set the stage for the man I was to become, then it was my experience at Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria Oregon because it was there that I learned that I as an individual could have a positive impact in the lives of the people around me. Job Corps used to provide a bi-weekly allowance for the students that lived on campus, but that stipend was very limited. However, students could get a job to subsidize the funds they were lacking and I was encouraged to become part of the student government. I did and within a few months I had worked my way up the being the student body president of the facility. Aside from providing for the extracurricular activities for my fellow students we also challenged microagressions and negative stereotypes, although, at the time I did not know that is what we were doing. We challenged the center’s policy on sagging pants and how it related to the administration’s and staff’s perceptions of black youth who sagged their pants. I sagged my pants at the time and I was the president. More important, it was the issue that the students wanted me to bring up and fight for them.

While at the job corps facility I earned my G.E.D., my high school diploma, and printing apprentice certificate, and even started college. My goal for attending college was to go into law school, become a lawyer, then enter into politics and eventually become the president. It was a mixture between my experience at Job Corps being the president and a class I had in when Mr. Mollette my high school history teacher that told me that any American citizen could become president, one of the days that I passed through his class. I dropped out of school a few quarters after beginning and returned to Seattle thinking that I would get into college, but that was much easier said than done. My criminal record from when I was a juvenile still haunted me and I was barred from employment in most establishments.

I gave up on the idea of ever being able to afford college and found myself working in a used retail store for about a year when I began my journey into construction work. A man I met started hiring me on weekends to do odds and ends for him and paid me well. Then he brought me on as his first full time employee and decided that I would become his apprentice and eventually buy him out and take over the company. Within a few years I had become a professional heavy equipment operator, pipe-layer, estimator, and project manage and then I became a partner in the developing construction company negotiating contracts with Mid Mountain Contractors, Turner Construction, King County, and the City of Seattle.

During this time with the construction company I also started, hosted and ran the Cornerstone Open Mic & Artist Showcase, a hip hop and spoken word open mic that happen monthly at the Fair Gallery and Café on Capital Hill in Seattle, with my best friend and adopted brother Marcus Hoy. Mark Hoy and Sean Stuart are the people who named me Renaissance the Poet, because of the rollercoaster life I had lived prior to meeting them and the skill I had with poetry. The Cornerstone, as it became known, was a hub for revolutionary minded poets and artists from around the Puget Sound area where we discussed and challenged some of the most disparaging issues confronting our generation, such as, patriarchy, sexism, racism, and state control of citizens. Some of us may have been revolutionaries and activists at the time, but for the most part we were simply artists learning how to exercise our minds and our voices while we were learning how to exist and survive in the world we were all born into. In the more than five years that we hosted the Cornerstone, there was not one fight, and this was nearly unheard of for any hip hop venue anywhere at the time. Many relationships were forged there and the underground cultural element of resistance and justice was kept alive and fostered.

In 2010, our company won the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business “Minority Business of the Year” award. However, I always felt that I had missed my true calling to fulfill a great role on earth and thought that becoming a lawyer was the method I was supposed to take to achieve that role. In 2008, the economy spun on its head and we went into a dire recession that put a lot of pressure on our company. In 2011, a couple years after I had destroyed my knee mentoring some youth with the organization called TSB, the Service Board, battling to keep our business afloat and continuing to damage my knee, I realized that construction was never a trade I wanted to be in and decided to do whatever it took to go to college. So, I left R.J. Richards CE LLC and enrolled in North Seattle Community College (NSCC).

Somehow and somewhere along the line I had gotten this plan for my life and what I was supposed to do with it embedded into my head. I am going to write a new socioeconomic system for the entire planet that is environmentally sound, socially just, and equitable for all; and I am going to see it implemented before the day I die. I began studying history, philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, biology and mathematics and my understanding of the world exploded my perceptions of humanity and the insurmountable character of my goal. That is when I became involved with another student government and I was brought in as the Student Fee Board Coordinator, which was the treasurer for the college. To do that job I had to study the Washington State laws associated with public monies and student fees, and to study ethics because I had to select and train a board and we were going to have to make tough ethical decision. Before that I knew being part of the government enabled me to have a lot positive influence in the lives of marginalized people from my experience at Job Corps. However, I never fully grasped how much power the United States Congress has on the lives of every citizen in the United States until I was given a smaller, yet similar role. People can design all the best programs in the world, but if they do not have the funds to get them started and to maintain them, then they may often never be able to achieve the goals of their programs.

At this time OCCUPY was challenging the corporate structure and control of people’s lives worldwide after the economic collapse in 2008. Like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about the white clergy who questioned the movement while he was in the Birmingham jail during Project Confrontation, I agreed with their aims, but I disagreed with their methods. I disagreed with the mostly because I did not comprehend how they could be successful. It was a leaderless movement with demands that ran the spectrum. At the time it seemed to me that the movement lacked the necessary cohesion to achieve its aims. It was not that I disagreed with any of the demands. To the contrary, I believed that all of the things people were asking for should be achieved. My issue at the time was that I thought they could achieve more of their demands if they focused on them one or few at a time. I did not get involved with the movement because I did not understand it.

In 2013 I graduated from NSCC and had been accepted to the University of Washington (UW). When I first started at NSCC I thought that I would enter into the Law, Societies, and Justice program at UW, but by the time I entered the university I had settled on double-majoring in history and philosophy. I was still intent on progressing onto law school. I thought getting a good background in reading and research, with training in analysis, which the discipline of history would provide me with would be helpful in this regard. I thought having a strong understanding of morality and ethics, and the philosophical frameworks they are grounded in, plus developing my argumentative skills, which the discipline of philosophy would provide would further prepare me for law school and the work ahead of me. My ethical training began with a look at global justice, which confronted issues such as poverty, hunger, gendered vulnerability, social contracts, state legitimacy, climate change, immigration and feudal privilege, and many forms of oppression. It was these arguments about justice, which is to provide for that which promotes most the flourishing of all human beings, not the interpretation of it as punishment common in the United States that exposed me to the concepts of obligation and responsibility. History provided me with a lens into why these conditions exist and what factors led them to come into being. The courses at UW changed the way I envision my role in the world and I began to feel an immediate responsibility and obligation to use the knowledge and wisdom I had to benefit people.

During the summer of 2013, Sarra Tekola, my partner in life, brought me to my very first protest. We traveled down to the Columbia River on the border of Washington and Oregon States to participate in the Portland Rising Tide opposition to the coal and oil that were being shipped from the west coast to China. At the time, Sarra was an Environmental Science major at UW and part of the Divest University of Washington coalition and she schooled me on how important the issue of climate change was to our survival as a species. She also hipped me to the fact that people of color worldwide are the not only the first impacted by the effects of climate change, but are also the most impacted by it as well. She informed me that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the best and brightest scientists on the planet determined that if we as a civilization burn enough carbon to increase the temperature of the planet by two degrees Celsius cumulatively, we will enter into a negative feedback loop of destruction that we will not be able to recover from. Desertification will destroy once plush and arid farm lands, like what had happened to her father’s people in Ethiopia. Melting polar ice caps will submerge places like the Philippines displacing millions, many of whom will die in the process. So, it was important to protest the extraction and transportation of carbon producing materials for everyone on the planet, but especially for people of color because people of color have nest to no power in the decision making circles like the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. It was scary and every moment I thought I was going to be arrested. Canoes spread across the river to block any ships and people spanned the bridge above holding signs, while a group rappelled off the bridge to display a huge banner. We did not stop the extraction or transportation of fossil fuel materials that day, but it felt good making a stand with like-minded people for the sake of justice.

The summer of 2014 I went to Greece with the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) of UW to conduct research on immigration. I thought my time in Greece would help me to work on the issues surrounding immigration in the United States. Greece had been suffering from a major recession for several years and was also experiencing a major influx of people from the Middle East and the African continent. Most of the migrants were fleeing from deplorable situations and most did not intend for Greece to be their final destination, many wanted to continue onto other European Union (EU) nations. Greece was the entry point by both water and land into the EU for many migrants. However, the EU had tightened its policy on migrants and because of the Dublin II Regulation, the EU was returning any migrant discovered in any country to the country they entered into the EU at to process their applications of asylum. In addition to the recession, and the lack of financial assistance from the EU for both the residents of the country and the new influx of immigrants, there was also a nationalist and xenophobic organization oppressing the immigrants named Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn was a two-winged organization like the Dixiecrats of the South because they had nineteen percent of the parliamentary seats in Greece, in coordination with an organization like the Ku Klux Klan because they had a grassroots physically repressive regime harming immigrants. Immigration could be studied in any country in the world, but the particular set of conditions in Greece enabled us to observe the systematic denial of almost every singly right it is commonly agreed that people inherently possess simply for the sake of being human.

My second night in Greece at the American College of Greece dorm that UW has a satellite facility, I was taking a smoke break in the smoking section when for officers on two motor cycles turned the corner and immediately jumped off their bikes and pointed assault rifles at me simply because I am a black man. This may seem like a strange assertion until you have been to Athens, Greece and become acquainted with the reality that millions of people smoke and because of the smoldering heat that many people are out on the streets at night. There was nothing about me or what I was doing that was out of place except for the color of my skin. Luckily, I had my passport on me at that particular moment and I was saved from being hauled off into one of their immigration prisons. Their whole attitude toward me shifted as soon as they discovered I was an American, but until that moment I felt as though they regarded me as less than the mud on their boots would have shot me just to get a laugh. It was not until I hung out with an enterprising group of migrants from all over Africa in Monostraki Square—an electric flee market—and spending time with a parliamentary member that I learned Greece was a police state, and that the police had the authority to act independently of the government. I heard stories of how the police would select a street that migrants were known to frequent, then would block the exits, beat all the people of color and then imprison them. I spent most of my time in Greece terrified for my life from both the police and Golden Dawn because I did not have the social networks or rights that I had back in the United States. However, two nights before we left Greece I received word about the execution of Michal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by officer Daren Wilson and I knew there was no escape from state sanctioned or permitted violence.

The O.G. Vice Lord’s words came back to me and kept playing over and over in my head about how we are prisoners on the streets. Being a black man in America I exist as W.E.B. Du Bois mentions, with a “double-consciousness,” constantly viewing myself from two lenses; I experience myself as a man, and I am also always conscious of my status as a “black” man as viewed by white Americans. People of color in the United States suffer from dire economic sanctions which impose poverty upon us with a capitalistic system and an ideological framework of individualism. The system of oppression is held in place through red lining, the regressive tax system, voter disenfranchisement, poor education, and limited access to capital. Until I began researching the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP), I did not understand why many of the people I grew up with ended up in prison or dead, or locked in the revolving trap of poverty. I did not understand or even know about the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) or how it was linked to the Military Industrial Complex (MIC).  I had learned, like most people are taught that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ended slavery. However, what they do not teach is that slavery was abolished “except” in the case that a person is convicted of a crime. From that debt peonage and convict leasing emerged and over time prison slavery became a huge industry in the United States to the point that now America which has five percent of the world’s population also warehouses twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population. The largest consumer of prison labor in the United States is the U.S. Department of Defense, a.k.a., the MIC.  But prisoners also fabricate furniture and produce paint and clothing for many companies. Prison labor subsidizes many industries that otherwise would be too expensive to conduct in the United States, industries that create products other countries would have a comparative advantage producing. Prisons are an oasis for profit that is garnered from the exploitation of millions and that also disproportionately disparages communities of color.

Applying the aforementioned information about the PIC to the statistics about the rates of suspension, expulsion, and incarceration of the youth of color in the U.S. the School-to-Prison Pipeline began to make a lot more sense. Black children and children of people of color are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school. From the ninth grade on, one suspension or expulsion makes them fifty percent more likely to be incarcerated. After these children are incarcerated they become seventy-five percent more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system with prison slave labor, and over eighty-five percent likely to remain trapped in recidivism for the rest of their lives, in addition to their being disenfranchised from their first incarceration in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of all these factors is a phenomenon known as Institutional Racism/Discrimination that permeates America’s society and institutions. The police and prosecuting attorneys have been granted arbitrary discretionary power and legal protections to act with impunity in its dealing with citizens. So, in toto, the U.S. Department of Justice with all its subsidiary prisons and law enforcement agencies when stripped of its colorful and well-sounding appeals to justice and order dissolves to a system of oppression, suppression, and exploitation.  With this understanding of the ‘criminal justice’ system in the United States, the fact that most of the people I grew up with wound up in the negative feedback loop of poverty and exploitation, or how and why Michael Brown’s executioner was able to commit the atrocity with impunity were no longer mysterious to me. We, being people of color, whom at any time can have our very lives stripped from us because the laws of this country deny that we have a right to life, are prisoners on the streets of America.

Therefore, when I returned from Greece and Black Lives Matter, which was started by Alicia Garza after the assassination of Trevon Martin in 2012, decided to organize and protest the abuses of law enforcement and for justice in the Michael Brown execution, given my sense of responsibility and obligation to use the knowledge and wisdom I had to the benefit people of my community, I joined the movement for Black Liberation. My participation in the movement has taken many forms over the last year reaching from protests, to arrests, to testifying at Seattle City Hall and King County Metropolitan Council chambers, to giving a speech to Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee. All the while I was still a student at UW continuing to learn about the system we live in and the factors that helped to created it. My academic pursuits definitely suffered when I became involved in the movement because my time became divided, but that does not mean I have not continued to be successful. I highly doubt that I will be selected as the valedictorian as I was when I graduated from NSCC, but I nonetheless, have managed to maintain a very strong GPA given all of my community activity. However, that has no longer been my primary objective. I have used my education to learn what happened during previous social movements and struggles and I now understand the importance of a leaderless movement and demands that are specific to the regions they are made. I have learned precisely what I did not understand about the OCCUPY movement. There are some similar macro-problems, such as racism and institutional discrimination that people of color suffer everywhere, but those problems are expressed differently in different places. Furthermore, there is a history of the U.S. Department of Justice, through programs like COINTELPRO under the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that systematically destroyed activists and Civil Rights organizations in the 1960s and 70s.

I have lived one incredible, rollercoaster of a life that has made me a jack of all trades, and a true renaissance man. At no time have I ever known where one event would lead me. And looking back it is very difficult to pinpoint any one specific event that shaped me into the man that I am or the man I am becoming. Taken out of context, none of the major shifts or events in my life will tell anyone very much about me, who I am, or why I do the things I do. But the words of the O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago that I met while locked up have been with me since then. There is something very wrong with feeling like and being a prisoner on our own streets. A place where one might think epitomized the essence freedom. That contradiction of beliefs filled my soul with dissonance and it reverberated through all of my life-experiences until it shook loose the warrior in me. Renaissance means to revitalize, or to bring new life. The system we live in has become a runaway train that no one seems to know how to stop or get off of, and what we need is to breathe new life into our civilization. We need a new system of values and an expanded conception of “we” that signifies, represents, and displays through action that we and our planet are all connected and intersecting components of our world organism. Each and every one is vital. No one is expendable. We all have our roles to fulfill on Earth. We are all responsible.

The Ideals We Strive Towards

I love my life, but despise much of the context in which I have to live it.

The principles contained in the Constitution had great potential until they became tainted by self-interest, distorted with the pursuit for profit, and subverted by a desire to retain power.

The democratic experiment failed before it ever got started because Women, Black people, Native people, and poor people were not included, which is by definition not a democracy, but an oligarchy. Democracy necessitates the full participation of all those who choose to participate, thus, a practice of barring participants nullifies and disqualifies the system in the United States as being democratic. The people who have been in power in this country have employed numerous methods to silence dissenting opinions or simply the opinions of those they did not want to hear from. It had potential, but it fell short of its ideal.

Corporations are not human beings, but they are counted by United States law as being persons, and they, the people who compose these corporations are able to act and harm others with impunity behind the veil of incorporation. There is nothing inherently wrong with a group of people coming together to pool their resources and make collective decisions about them for the benefit of the group. However, when said group acquired it’s possessions through unjust means, and perpetuates injustices that are protected by law, then there is a manifest problem that contradicts what the object of law is supposed secure; namely, protection from injustice. The human beings who compose the corporations who are causing harm to our planet and our people are not beyond reproach, and are not above the law. Again, it had potential, but it fell short of its ideal.

The freedom to practice religion, any religion, was also a principle contained the Constitution and had great potential. However, for much of the time since 1788 and 1791, the only religion to receive full protection has been Christianity. That is nonetheless not what the Constitution says, it does not say the free exercise of Christianity, but the free exercise of religion. Our Native sisters and brothers from many Tribal Nations know this truth and the history of it all too well. Today, we see the ever present need for the object of law, the protection from injustice, to protect us from the religious suppression of the Muslim faith. Bobby Seal, was kidnapped and hauled to Chicago in 1968 on charges of inciting riots at a rally, but Trump is permitted to spew his vile rhetoric with impunity. It had great potential, but with the arbitrary application of the principles, they fall drastically short of the ideal.

We are supposed to be granted the Right and the Protection of due process of law so that no human being is deprived of life, liberty, or property unjustly. We are supposed to have the Right to feel secure in our persons (our bodies), or homes, and the things we intended to be private (our relations or effects). However, none of that is the case. The police, who are supposed to be the agents of the object of law to protect human beings from injustice also kill people with relative impunity disregarding the people’s Right to due process. The F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.S.A., COINTELPRO, and whatever other secret organizations the Patriot Act (2001) has permitted have destroyed our Right to privacy, even when exercising our other Rights; espicially our Right to peaceably assemble to petition the government for redress of grievances. Yet again, they have fallen short of their ideals.

I love my life because I can and do stand up in opposition to injustice, however, I despise the context in which I live and that I have to. We have ideals to strive for and we are all responsible for achieving them.

This is Something We Do Together or It Doesn’t Get Done

What we do, we do together

If one person wins a battle, then they win it, but only for themselves

But if a person claims that they have won a battle by themselves, then they are mistaken

Because they have forgotten all that have gone before them

And all who have stood beside them

And all those who will come after

We are not after another individualistic ideology

The likes of which has turned us against our own families

Put us into competition with our Friends

Set us at odds with our neighbors

Severed the ties we have to our heritage

Destroyed our relationship with the earth

and indoctrinates us to seek only the betterment of ourselves

The harms that we have risen up against

Reach deep into the fibers of our beings

Is woven through the very fabric of our society

Through Police Brutality, and Mass Incarceration

Red Lining and Bank Foreclosures

Economic Sanctions, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws

Zero Tolerance in Schools, dilapidated buildings

The Denial of Financial Aid, Public Food Assistance, Medical and Mental Health Services

The School to Prison Pipeline

Outsourcing, GMO non-labeling, CEO Corporate Spending and Bailouts

That reward White Collar Crime and permit shots fired into the backs

of young blacks who are suspected of stealing a couple bottles of beer in the capital of WA State

It’s a sick state of affairs when property has more value than a person’s life

When society teaches us that we live in a vacuum

that by our bootstraps are the only we can pull ourselves out of this pit of bitter morass

We have somehow worked ourselves into

Like we chose the neighborhoods to which we were born into

We are taught that it is only by our own doing, that no one will help, that we do not deserve any one’s help and that if we can’t it is because we are lazy, dumb, genetically inferior to

and Essentially that we are all alone

When in reality, we can do nothing alone

We would not even be able to utter the word alone had someone not taught it to us

We would not know the first thing about commerce or morality if someone had not taught it to us

There would be no society, social advocacy, civilization or cities if we did things alone

We are neither impacted alone, nor will we win alone

Groups are marginalized because of their affiliation with that group

Stop & Frisk targeted people of color disproportionately

not because of their individual identities but rather because of the color of their skin

People only throw out the claim of individuality when it suits their purposes to do so

That is genocidal in nature and by its very definition

America has just been afraid to acknowledge that fact since William James Patterson wrote We Charge Genocide with the help of the Congress of Racial Equality and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1951

Read that document and you will swear to god that you were reading a news article from last weekend

Emmitt Till all over again, Sandra Bland Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Trevon Martin vigilante violence and the Charleston 9, burning churches, the KKK is making a re-emergence

all to target you and us, the we because they do not see us as individuals

And anytime we run out to challenge the system of racism and white supremacy alone

they kill the one, Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi

But every time we have stood together, and not allowed their terrorism to deter us,

Not allow their prison time, or their economic sanctions, or their political threats

of stripping people off their food assistance like the politician in Baltimore when they rose up in unison against the horrific murder of Freddy Gray

our people have achieved our victories in the struggle for justice

and it is upon their shoulders that we stand today

it is because of their efforts, their sacrifices, and investments into their futures, our presents

that we can stand here today, congregated for the cause of justice and peace

Not that negative peace, wherein we continue to permit injustices and violence

But within the positive peace of tension challenging the system on all fronts together

At times this will put demands on our time, and upon our patients

At others it will only require that we do not turn a blind eye to injustice

That we speak out, or stand on the street with our cameras out to make sure that the police are doing their damned jobs right

Sometimes it means that we will need to invest in the people and the organizations out here doing the work

But no matter what, we do this together, we do this for our people, we do this for the cause of justice

for the love of peace, for an end to war, and hatred and the violence against our people

And the world we seek to create, is not one of individuality, but rather one of community

which respects the beauty of the individuality of each and every single one of us

Treasures each in our own rights

But part of something much greater in the cycle of life

Because none of came into this world alone and of our own volition

We owe it to the rest of us to maintain our community, and to fight for what is right

!!!Black Lives Matter!!!

We will make this call reverberate throughout every institution and gathering place in America until there is no option but for it to become a reality

Ghettos: A Slave Growing Factory System

The “ghetto” is a social construct of social engineering that was designed to corral particular groups of people into cordoned zones to protect the integrity of the elite class, and in this country the white social and political position.

Ghettos were formed to maintain and sustain an economic and political advantage over people of color, and in particular, black people during the apartheid era of Jim Crow segregation.  The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North that began in the 1920s in response to the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) violence and economic opportunity that lasted through the 1970s was responded to with a policy known as Red Lining. Red Lining was the sectioning off of particular neighborhoods for occupation of African Americans, wherein the banks in collusion with state and city officials denied home and business loans to people of color seeking to acquire property outside of these zones. Outside of these Red Lined zones, white communities developed race restrictive covenants that were written into the property deeds to bar ownership of these properties from black people. These conditions resulted in overpopulated and crowded living spaces that drove up the costs of living because in accordance with the Law of Supply and Demand; which stipulates that all things being equal, when demand for a product increases, but the supply remains consistent, then the price must increase.

After World War II (1941-1945) and the emergence of suburbs in the 1950s, White Flight, was the next response to the Great Migration, when major cities like Detroit, Michigan experienced the exodus of white citizens and white owned businesses. This had two major effects, many jobs left the cities in which African Americans had moved to and dramatically decreased the taxes collected in these areas. Since schools are funded by the system of taxation, the education in these areas suffered from a lack of funding. Without an efficient and successful education system structural unemployment, that is, the natural fluctuation of people from job to job, and the people who lose their positions due to them becoming obsolete began to widen. In the 1980s globalization led to many of the manufacturing industries that sustained these red-lined communities being outsourced to other countries leaving these communities destitute. Also during the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), under the Reagan administration were engaged in the Iran-Nicaragua Contra, which resulted in the collusion with drug cartels in Central America that led to the trafficking of millions of dollars of Crack Cocaine, via Rick “Freeway” Ross into the inner-cities of the U.S. at precisely the same time that jobs were being depleted in these red-lined neighborhoods, and President Ronald Reagan was writing into law the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which instituted the 100-1 rule. The rule made possession or distribution of one gram of Crack Cocaine as punishable as 100 grams of Powder Cocaine and the only discernible difference was who used crack—Black People—and where it was available for purchase—in Black neighborhoods.

The rise of the militarized police and the expansion of the Prison Industrial Complex soon followed. Since the federal government could not intervene in state legal practices by arresting people and ‘fighting crime’ they incentivised local police institutions to do the job for them. The way they achieved this was to provide financial incentives for city police to arrest and convict non-violent drug ‘offenders’ and this with the property confiscation laws provided the motivation for a particular type of discriminatory and targeted policing that focused on minorities, people of color, and impoverished peoples particularly in inner-city neighborhoods: ghettos. Also during the 1980s and 1990s, private corporations Began taking over the public prison system and like any corporation they had a profit motive, which means that the inmates were the ‘product’ they intended to profit from. These corporation have spent millions, if not billions of dollars to lobby legislatures to increase the list of carceral offenses, and to lengthen the punishment for ‘crimes’ already punishable with incarceration. In the 1990s President Bill Clinton signed into law the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” legislation and reformed the Welfare System so that those convicted of a drug offense could not access public financial assistance; food assistance, housing assistance, and financial aid for schooling. The public education system has contributed to the explosion of the prison system as well with the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school and once that occurs they are 50% more likely to end up in juvenile, and thus, 75% more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the data reveals that Black and Latino students are 2 times as likely not to graduate from high school. And all of this is perfectly legal (the law and justice are not the same thing) because the people who have not been disenfranchised have voted on these laws and systems of oppression in the United States. Furthermore, in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This amendment technically determined prison as the new slavery and all that was required for it to work was to use the shroud of a ‘just and impartial court system’ to justify the slavery—a system proven to be devastating to Black and impoverished people nationwide. Pulling all of this together, slavery still remains legal in the United States, the new slave owners are prison corporations, the new slave catchers are the police, the school system is active in indoctrinating and preparing people of color for slavery, and this is all targeted on impoverished people to earn profit from the labor of the poor.

This is how the modern day ghettos in the United States were created, and why they have been sustained; ghettos are a slave growing factory system.