Tag Archives: Black Liberation

“Out Here Doin Good” by Renaissance

 

I am a Black Liberationist, a Prison Abolitionist, and an Intersectional Organizer working for justice for all People. By justice I mean that which provides for the flourishing of all human beings.

This means I am fighting to bring an end to Patriarchy, Sexual and Gender Violence. This means that I work to end Deportations of People especially, when those deportations of people violate Human Rights and Peoples Rights, and when the motivation for migrating in the first place is a direct result of U.S. Imperialism. This means that I am fighting to bring an end to Climate Change, and to bring about Climate Justice because those who are most impacted the anthropogenic climate change are also the victims of Colonialism and Imperialism; People of Color globally. Furthermore, 68% of African descendants in the United States live within the danger zone of a coal fire power plant. Women and children are the most vulnerable and the most impacted by the effects of climate change. This means that I work for equal and fair access to equitable education at all levels and also, to bring about an end to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. I work to bring an end to Police Brutality, who are for all intents and purpose for our Communities, nothing more than the strong-arm of a repressive regime founded upon oppression. I am fighting to bring an end to the System of Mass Incarceration which, is merely the extension of the System of Enslavement in a new form. And the list goes on because there is no shortage of injustice in our world.

Please make a pledge to support my work:
https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

For us as a People to achieve our Collective Liberation, we must first work through the indoctrination of subordination that has been force fed to us. Thus, I work to implement a Radical Pedagogy with Decolonization at its core. This is sometimes through discussions, sometimes through book studies, and other times through Hip Hop Workshops. In all cases, what I am working with our People to bring about is a critical analysis of ourselves, and the system of systems we struggle within.

Hip Hop Workshop banner

I am a formerly incarcerated individual who grew up in gangs and on drugs. I am now over 16 years sober. When I turned 18 years old I had a 0.0 GPA in high school and no prospects for any sort of life with four felonies. However, recently at 34 years old I graduated from the University of Washington double-majoring in History and Philosophy. My focuses were on the rise and fall of civilizations, social movements, justice, ethics, and jurisprudence (philosophy of law). I am also a veteran Hip-Hop and Spoken Word artist, and I use my skills as a means to instruct and foster dialogue.

Today, I am merely a servant of the people doing what I can, when I can, where I can. The most important part of the work I do is accountability to our community because without it, then I am merely recreating the very same systems of oppression I assert that I am working to overcome.

This work is, in my opinion, some of the most important work that needs to be done. In turn, it is also some of the least paid work. So, I rely on our community to provide the things that I need and to help me to maintain the programs and campaigns that I am working on for our People.

http://azjusticethatworks.org/
https://www.facebook.com/azjusticethatworks/
https://www.facebook.com/noforprofitjails/

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/hip-hop-workshop/

 

Please, make a pledge. It does not need to break your bank, not if those who can share the load. Many hands makes light the load. $5 here, $1 there, goes a long way in between the $20 or $50 gifts.

https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

 

Hip-Hop Helps Reconciliation in Northern Uganda

Today, there are young people who did not experience the war. Together with national and regional artistes, we can motivate the young generation and improve their talents. We believe that hip-hop can unite everyone no matter what their age

~B Boy Skater George

 

After over two decades of war,

Northern Uganda Hip-hop Culture (NUHC) is working to foster reconciliation amongst indigenous communities in the northern part of the country. With outreach activities, NUHC uses hip-hop to promote harmony and understanding.

nuhc-1

  • NUHC is a non-profit organization which coordinates, educates children and adults in the community.
  • Northern Uganda Hip-hop Culture (NUHC) is an association which unites rappers, break-dancers, graffiti artistes, art and fashion creators, producers and young farmers from the northern region.
  • It was founded in 07th June 2010, with the aim of transforming the lives of young people in northern Uganda, an area which suffered greatly during the civil war, which left the region lagging behind other parts of the country.
  • NUHC offers free lessons and uses the Kitgum Youth Centre for training. Its members regularly conduct community outreach activities in various parts of northern Uganda.

Finance and Materials are needed for:

  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Cameras
  • Computers
  • Speakers
  • Microphones
  • Carpets (for Break Dancing)
  • Miscellaneous Supplies

The funding and materials raised for NUHC

will be used to help them continue and extend their work. 

NUHC hosts events during the year

and the organization requires funds to rent venues and sound systems,

for T-shirt printing, and hosting performers and artists.


I will be collecting the money and supplies that are donated.

To donate money for NUHC please follow this link

https://www.paypal.me/renaissancethepoet

and note “#NUHC”

To make a donation of supplies please email me at

renaissancethepoet@gmail.com

and I will provide information on how and where they can be sent


 

Northern Uganda Hip-Hop Culture (NUHC) Background and Mission

 

nuhc-2At NUHC, young learners are taught classes in break-dancing, skating, rapping and graffiti. Through yearly events and weekly classes, participants develop leadership and communication skills. Stories are shared about the war as well as the organization’s aims of peace, unity and love in the communities, villages and throughout the entire world.

“Many people’s hearts and minds are still scarred by their experiences in the war. Music can help to bring everyone together. That is why we are using these activities to spread the hip-hop culture to the young generation,” said Okurut George (aka B Boy Skater George), who teaches break-dance, and is one of the NUHC organizers.

We tell stories about the war because many people still hold hatred to their friends, relatives, brothers and sisters in their hearts. Expressing their feelings helps the healing and hip-hop music can assist this process,” B Boy Skater George added.

During the war, communities and families were displaced, famine was widespread, outbreaks of diseases and people had to live in, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps. These were camps that protected people from rebel attacks. Thousands of people died during the war period. Homes, farmland and animals were abandoned which lead to bitter land disputes. Children dropped out of schools and were forced to join rebel armies. The children who refused to join the rebel armies were killed. Girls were forced into early marriages, raped and/or defiled which resulted in large numbers of young mothers. The level of education in the northern region has been significantly reduced for all children.

 

Alcohol in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Northern Uganda

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Studies among people living in camps in wartorn northern and eastern Uganda indicate that alcoholism is a common problem among the internally displaced populations (IDPs). While most of the pers
ons consuming alcohol are men, it is reported that, increasing proportions of women and adolescents are also drinking alcohol (Barton and Wamai, 1994)8. Women and girls who brew alcohol often ask young children to sell it, thus introducing children as young as 8 years to the drinking alcohol. This is facilitated by mothers giving alcohol to children as medicine because of the cultural belief that alcohol cures coughs and worms among young children. A recent report by MacDonald in 2007 on substance use in conflict-affected areas and IDPs in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader Districts9 highlights a situation of serious alcohol use in the IDP camps of northern Uganda. This situation is attributed to the 20-year insurgency in Acholi land, the lack of security, social displacement, and confinement in cramped, crowded and unsanitary camps and lack of employment. Such conflict-related factors as well as associated problems like HIV/AIDS and other STIs greatly increase the possibility of substance misuse. Macdonald noted that the main gap in service provision for substance users and affected others is the lack of capacity of healthcare and social service providers in the camps to effectively reduce risk taking and facilitate harm reduction services in community settings. Problems of substance abuse, particularly alcohol-related sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), are acknowledged in the camps but very little is done to address these issues or develop interventions relating specifically to the excessive consumption of alcohol.

nuhc-4Oryema Geoffrey (aka B Boy Message), who works as a teacher with George explained, “Although the war ended in 2007, the memories still haunt people. That is why we are using hip-hop to spread a culture which shows that peace, unity and love can lead to success in everything. We may have lost our homes, family members and friends during the war, but now is the time to move on from the past and learn to forgive each other. Being in a long period of strife does not mean that your life and dreams are over.”

 Alcohol and young people

The patterns of alcohol consumption among the youth show signs of cultural influence. Most tribes have a culture of brewing alcohol in homes thus exposing the youth to alcohol at an early age. As young people reach adolescence, alcohol consumption increases due to
peer pressure. The study revealed that young people prefer strong local spirinuhc-5ts which are easily accessible in miniature sachets at very low prices. Young people also engage in binge drinking during public events and parties, at most of which local companies sell alcohol at discounted prices. By age 21 many young people stop drinking, because there is a lot experimental usage before this stage. Limited information about harmful use of alcohol, desire to indulge in sexual activities, peer pressure, stress, poverty and unemployment have caused many young people to continue drinking. This is at times sporadic and may result in accidental poisoning or drowning at beaches as has been reported in the local press.

Today, there are young people who did not experience the war. Together with national and regional artistes, we can motivate the young generation and improve their talents. We believe that hip-hop can unite everyone no matter what their age

~B Boy Skater George


 

 To Contact the Organizers or See More about NUHC

 

WordPress: https://nuhculture.wordpress.com/

 https://www.facebook.com/nuhculture/

Video: Northern Hiphop Camp 2015

In the News:

https://thepollinationproject.org/grants-awarded/leah-walkowski-and-mwaka-benson-northern-uganda-hiphop-culture/

No Martyr Complex of Mine

I do not have a martyr complex. I do not want to die. I want to live a full life filled with freedom, liberty, equity, and justice. However, I also know that standing up for that full life for myself and others upsets those who might mean to do me and others harm for having the courage to do so, and that may put my safety, security, reputation, liberty, and life in jeopardy. Those are intimidation factors aimed to prevent our claim to freedom, liberty, equity, and justice. I do not have a martyr complex, but neither will I be intimidated into inaction.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” Words of truth spoken by Frederick Douglass, but before he uttered those words he also said that the very things we are demanding are worth and must be worth the risk of the very things we are demanding. Freedom, liberty, equity, and justice are worth our lives. What is the quality of life without these things? In my opinion that is not a life but a term of bondage and servitude; life entails so much more than that.
Safe is a relative term. It has never been safe for Black and Brown people to stand up in opposition to this system. It is not safe for Black and Brown people to merely exist in this system not challenging it; that is why #BlackLivesMatter was created in the first place. They is no action that will guarantee my safety or the safety of others, the system, the state, has a monopoly on violence. Left with no other alternatives I choose to fight for freedom, liberty, equity, and justice. Nonetheless, I do not have a martyr complex. This is merely the way the system is, especially for Black and Brown folx.

The White Ruling Class & The Rising Under Class

I think most people merely want to get on with the business of living their lives and so long as there are no interruptions to what they consider normal then they do not become concerned with the things in this world that are unjust or unfair. I do not think they are necessarily at fault for having this desire. It is hard enough to get through school, to maintain a job, to sustain a relationship, to raise children and so on that becoming concerned with the problems of others may seem like too much of a burden to bear. In fact, many may never even notice the pervasiveness of suppression and inequality until someone attempts to challenge the structure and the order of the society in which they live.

 

For so long as the people who traditionally have fulfilled service sector roles perform those roles and do not attempt to interrupt or contribute to the ruling roles then there is no need for active suppression. However, when the son of a cobbler or a janitor aspires to become the owner of the janitorial business or even the corporation that employs the janitorial business and questions the rulership of those business owners and corporations then steps are taken to limit the progress of the individual from the underclass. The situation described above may appear unjustified and even wrong, inaccurate, and intentionally to be eschewing the facts and reality. However, this interpretation dissipates when the situation is considered through the lens of dialectal materialism, that is the competition for the control of resources and how this impacts the social fabric of a society. Furthermore, when it is understood that capitalism ideologically fosters a competition wherein victory is only achieved by the destruction of all other competitors, then the reality of the situation described above is not as far-fetched as one might have initially thought.

 

One of the more troubling observations I have made concerning the situation described above is that the rulers within a society often times do not know that they are in the ruling class. When Jim Crow segregation in the United States was in full force and cities had “white only” and “colored” signs plastered all over, it was quite obvious who was in power and who lacked power. However, different the outward appearance of the United States may be today, things are not as different as many believe. There may not necessarily be specific and overt signage signifying where a particular person, from a particular group belongs, but that does not change the net results of the system, which by and large remains much the same. Police officers still participate in context stops of individuals when they are ‘caught’ in the wrong neighborhoods; “sundown towns” are not necessarily a thing of the past. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor at Harvard University who is also a Black man, was arrested for walking into his own front door because the police thought he was a burglar. “Stop and Frisk,” a policy that began in New York under Mayor Giuliani in the 1990s, permitted police officers to stop anyone at any time that they chose, to inspect and violate their Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In addition to that violation was also the arbitrary and targeted nature of the law, which primarily targeted young people of color to essentially harass and terrorize them in their own communities; racial profiling. Now here again we hear the that the presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to institute stop and frisk across the entire county under the supposed rationalization that it will help the Black community. Help the Black community to do what? Stay in a pre-scribed place. Not the place that we belong, but the position within this society which has been imposed upon us. In 1964, Black people could not vote in the United States and as such, also could not participate in juries. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed making illegal the infringement of the voting rights of all people, especially, as it had been done through the cryptic practices of poll taxes and literacy tests. Yet, as a result of further, clever legal finagling today there are over twelve million people who are disenfranchised within the United States and thus the net result is unchanged. The police institution is still predominately staffed and controlled by white people, the courts are still predominantly controlled by white people, the jails and prisons are still primarily controlled by white people, and the politics are still controlled by white people. All of these observations are readily apparent whether by first-hand account (walk into a courthouse or police department or legislature), or by statistics. The fact that there is a Black person for President, Barak Obama, or person as a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, does not alter the reality of who holds the power and control. The issue here is the rule, although people may want to focus on the exceptions to the rule like they make a significant difference to the net results. Yet, tell a white person that they are part of the ruling class and they will oppose the proposition as staunchly as an accusation of capital murder.

 

Many white people operate under the perception that they are not part of the ruling class because they do not interpret race as being one of the major factors that contribute to class and also tend to deny the prevalence of racialized privilege.  These two condition are not only correlational, but are mutually reinforcing; i.e., the two structures work together to maintain the social order and class structure whereby Black people are largely politically, socially, economically, and socially constricted into positions of inferiority. To be certain, the control of capital is factor that impacts and delineates all people and many white people are certainly impacted by this in a negative manner. But, their mere affiliation with the group of people that are white removes many barriers that Black people must overcome to simply begin to compete in this system. Obstacles that many white people will never in their life have to consider prior to applying to school or a job, before walking into the grocery store, when a police officer pulls behind them in traffic, or renting an apartment, etc. When Black people are able to overcome some of these obstacles that are invisible to white people we may hear something like, “wow, you are very articulate” (for a black person; the end is usually left unspoken, but the intent is implied and felt). This is why a Black man with a college degree and no “criminal” record is at a disadvantage when competing with a white man with no college degree and a “criminal” record for the same position. A disadvantage that has been institutionalized and is reinforced by racial determinations within the United States society.

 

A very harmful outcome of these circumstances is the phenomenon of internalized racism, whereby the implications of the racialized class structure become a component of the identity of members from the subordinated group. This is expressed in terms of the belief that white people are superior and that Black people are inferior in intellect, politics, beauty, economics and so forth, and furthermore, that this is the way it is supposed to be. It leads to an apathy that limits the horizon of potential to but the near future because long-term planning tends to seem like “pipe dreams,” that is, things that are unachievable or unrealistic. It further leads people to feel satisfied with mediocre standards of living because they tend not to believe they deserve better and are worth more, that their contributions to society do not warrant a greater share of the profits of that society. The prevalence of the inner-city ghetto is the quintessential example of this in American society, wherein it seems the people are locked in a negative-feedback-loop of degradation into a deplorable and demeaning existence. These negative feelings are internally reinforced among those who are members within the subordinated group and may be expressed in phrases such as; “sell-out,” or “Uncle Tom,” of “look at you trying to be white.” A Black person is likely to hear something like this from other Black people when we excel in education, or we use something other than the local slang, or when we can manage to get into or graduate from college, or when we beat the odds and get a good paying job. The internalization of racism can go much further and people have even acted so as to prevent the others from progressing, such as the very conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has taken stances both against the application of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action. In 1982, Republican President Ronald Reagan, made Thomas the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of whose roles it was to oversee the application of the Affirmative Action laws. Then in 1991, another Republican President, George Bush, placed Thomas onto the Supreme Court to replace the nearly polar opposite retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Civil Rights lawyer who with the NAACP at the time, won the Brown v. Board of Education suit in 1954. All going to show that an exception to the rule, Thomas very likely having benefitted from Affirmative Action going to Yale Law School (the same school as President George W. Bush Jr.), has worked to undermine that very system that would level the competition field for so many. These institutions, policies, and practices paid for with the blood of our predecessor’s and years of their lives being undermined by one of the people they were designed to help, and did help, can be nothing but the manifestation of internalized oppression. When the dynamics of the hierarchical class structure become internalized by the people marginalized and minoritized by that structure it has the tendency to imprison them into a negative belief system that permits the system to function almost unchecked or unchallenged.

 

People have a tendency to grow comfortable with things that are familiar as they get used to the way that things function, regardless of how beneficial or harmful the circumstances may be. White people who are not familiar with the constraints that Black people contend with and are relatively comfortable with the circumstance of the conditions of the United States society will lack the necessary motivation to interrupt the way things are. Furthermore, because economic class distinctions do impact white people with all the relevant political, educational, and social implications; any interruption from Black people into that system may seem like a corruption of their opportunities as a result of the added competition. Yet, instead of focusing attention on those who are members of the most elite group and who control the distribution of resources and thus the opportunities within our society, the people who are most closely identified as being related to the interruption are blamed and targeted.

 

Most recently, when Black Lives Matter emerged as a national political platform it was challenged with All Lives Matter and even Blue Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is merely the assertion of equitable value of human life due a specific respect that is not tinged with subordination. Yet, white people felt as if their lives were somehow being devalued by this proposition and also felt the need to challenge it by claiming that all lives already had value and that there was no need for a specific assertion of value of a particular group because they do not believe that there are subordinated groups in this society. The slogan “All Lives Matter” was the tool they created to accomplish a supposed ‘rebalancing’ of the social order they had grown comfortable with. Blue Lives Matter was an even more specific attempt to rebalance the attention away from the systemic inequalities Black people are subjected to, towards the police institution itself. As if somehow the police were ever in the disadvantage of anything or that they needed any more power or authority. The “Blue Lives Matter” slogan was the tool utilized by police officers and their proponents to reestablish the unquestioned authority of the police institution in its role to maintain the hierarchical, racialized, class structure of economic privilege.

 

The pushback to “Affirmative Action” wherein the policy has been assaulted as being “reverse discrimination” and “reverse racism” is another prime example of this phenomenon of blaming the interruption of the social order on those most closely identified with the disruption of their privileges. For the first time, a space was being made for Black people whereby some of the barriers invisible to white people were legally disbanded and they were forced to compete with Black people not having barriers to access. They found it difficult to compete and felt that it was an imposition into their comfortable social order. White people, because they had also internalized their “racial privilege” couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that they were being out-competed by Black people and still do not. We are likely to hear such things as “you only got into that school because you got a scholarship,” which is an expression of class discrimination, and “you only got that scholarship because of affirmative action,” which is an expression of racial discrimination because it is code for “being Black and thus unworthy.” These two factors are not only correlational, but are mutually reinforcing. We are likely to hear these things even in states where Affirmative Action has been repealed because of the pushback from white people. The belief that Black people are inferior is so pervasive, and the maintenance of the social order is so important that any imposition or interruption is immediately challenged with the focus being on those most closely identified with the interruption. Thus, when Black people began to break out of the social order we had been constricted into, there was immediate pushback by those in the ruling class of this hierarchical society to put Black people back into “their place,” and yet it will undoubtedly be argued that racism is a thing of the past and that the social outcomes are not equitable to the outcomes of the legal impositions of the past.

 

Chattel Slavery in the United States as it existed in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was official abolished in 1865, with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A hundred years after that, Jim Crow segregation as it existed throughout the end of the nineteenth and for the first half of the twentieth century in 1964 and 1965, with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, respectively.  First and foremost, the Thirteenth Amendment did not abolish the institution of enslavement, it codified it into United States law. Second, slavery is an institution that humans have depended on for thousands of years in multiple cultures and civilizations, and has depended upon the identification of subordinated groups to justify the imposition of servitude and subservience upon others. The belief systems that rationalized enslavement did not disappear from the human consciousness and social fabric merely because it was abolished by law; the feelings and sentiments are still very much alive and continue to harm the entire civilization; e.g., the Prison Industrial Complex. In addition, we are only one-hundred and fifty-one years removed from the end of the American Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which is but a blink of an eye relative to the millennia the institution of slavery has survived through. Thus, to presuppose and to assume that the belief system which rationalized enslavement no longer exists and that the impacts of the institution have somehow disappeared is not only premature, but also, inaccurate and ahistorical. It is actually cognitive dissonance and a mere justification to rationalize the maintenance of the current hierarchical social structure.

 

White people are not interested in releasing the privileges they have which grant them opportunities or relinquishing their political position to share with the subordinated groups who are currently minoritized, marginalized, and disenfranchised. White people are not interested in challenging the most elite ruling group because it will undermine their capacity to compete for the meager resources they are granted access to and control over. White people are not interested in deconstructing the invisible barriers that grant them a negotiation advantage in rental, educational, business, economic, political, and purchasing situations. It is not in their best interest to do so, that is, it is not in their self-interest to share resources and opportunities because that would decrease their potential and likelihood of living a relatively comfortable life.

 

Therefore, since this is the reality of the context in which we live it is up to us, as Black people, to interrupt the status quo hierarchical, economic class structure held in place by racialized divisions. We have to seek to understand the internalization of racism and how it manifests in our lives and in our communities, and how it functions to hold us in a position of inferiority by doing the white man’s work for him. We are already being oppressed, we do not need to oppress ourselves with the garbage they want us indoctrinated with. This means that we have to stop consuming the media the white man propagates, which utilizes the tropes and stereotypes that portray our people in positions of inferiority; and we have to stop relying on and trusting their media machine that presents to us fabrications that they attempt to pawn-off on us as news. Each time we marshal the courage and muster the people to transgress the invisible barriers of class and racialized divisions, they send in their internal colonization force, the police, to suppress the advancement of our people from abject poverty and suppression into liberation and equality. Then they attempt to paint the political activists as “criminals” who according to them are breaking the “laws,” and who are upsetting the “order” of things. We have to recognize that these laws that criminalize our claim to liberty and equality are but the tools of an antiquated system of hierarchical privilege and subordination. Furthermore, that it is their indoctrination through their school systems and media that sustains the fragile veil of equality that people believe exists in the United States. Their indoctrination machine has been so effective that many Black people do not even know that we deserve more and that it is not our fault for not being able to compete equally in this system. That we deserve better than ghettos and prisons, that we deserve elite educations, that we deserve jobs that provide more than merely making ends meet week-to-week, that we deserve a further horizon than tomorrow as a future to strive for. We deserve to not live in fear that because of the color of our skin we may not make it home from school or the grocery store alive.

 

It is understandable that most people just want to go about their lives and not to create ruffles or to stand out. For white people it undermines their social order and comfort. For Black people we risk being killed and imprisoned. That most people, and especially white people do not recognize this difference in potential outcomes is a major part of the problem. It is ironic, but most from either side will never even recognize that there is a problem until someone from the underclass attempts to climb out of the position this society has boxed us into. To make matters worse, until a sufficient amount of people from the underclass stand up and oppose the structure of oppression, the privileged class will continue to deploy and employ its rationalizations and explanations to criminalize those of us fighting to claim our human rights; fighting to claim what we are due and that which we deserve.

 

Above all else what must be understood is this; rights are not granted, they are fought for and won. We cannot rely on, or wait for our oppressors to wake up magically realize that what they have been doing is wrong and that for some reason against all logic that they will simply concede their unjust privileges to us. We have to demand that they relinquish their unjust earnings. We have to demand reparations. We have to press for equality and equity and we have to bring it into being. We have to fight for these things because they will not be given to us.

 

We only demand what we have a claim to by Right.

Black Power: The Choice is Ours

Police brutality against Black people and other People of Color, is nothing new. Racism is nothing new. Economic discrimination and racism are nothing new. Red-lining, gentrification, outsourcing, sweatshops, employment discrimination, glass-ceilings and sticky-floors; none of these things are new, but are rather, a continuation of Jim Crow segregation and imperialism. Colonialism and imperialism are nothing new, and neither is the military industrial complex that is utilized to maintain its structure.

 

 

Extra-judicial killings, which by definition are lynchings, are nothing new. In 1951, William James Patterson, with the help of the National Association of for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), submitted to the newly created United Nations (UN) in general, and the UN Human Rights Commission in particular, a report titled “We Charge Genocide.” This report systematically detailed the occurrences of genocide, according and in reference to each line of the definition that the UN Genocide Convention detailed, in regard to the treatment of Black people in the United States, which included reports of lynchings by police officers as horrendous as the lynchings today. He tells a story in the report that was printed in one of the newspapers that served as the primary resources of most of his evidence (there was no internet then), wherein a police officer simply walks up to a parked car and shoots a Black man in the head. The recent tragedy of police officers killing Keith Lamont Scott while he was reading in his car is a mirror image of what Patterson was reporting on over sixty years ago! Patterson also details the extensive economic oppression, which includes Red Lining and the formation of ‘ghettos,’ as well as, the medical discrimination towards Black people in the United States. The “Ten Point Platform” of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) released in 1966, called for self-determination, equal opportunity of employment and education, fair housing conditions, for the United States to honor the US Constitution, and Point Seven specifically called for an end to “police brutality and murder of black people.” The killing of Black people by police officers is nothing new to the people of the United States.

 

 

Slavery, and yes it is an institution that is still very much functioning even within the borders of the United States, as well as, elsewhere, is definitely not something that is new. That prison walls are meant to keep ‘criminals’ in is only part of the truth, the reality is that it is also meant to keep people out; wherein the majority of modern day slavery in the United States is occurring. Prisoners are compelled to make everything from paint to military grade equipment, which includes furniture. Some states, like Washington, even have written into their laws that all state agencies “must” purchase these goods. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, that was supposed to have outlawed slavery, however, did not; “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” And this does not even begin to scratch the surface on human trafficking, the sex-trade, or migrant farm workers. The Thirteenth Amendment provided the foundation for the Prison Industrial Complex that exists today, and of which the police institution is a major component. Since, what the police do is “catch” (arrest) so-called ‘criminals’ and put them into prisons, which are modern day slave plantation, that technically makes one of the primary functions of the police institution to be ‘slave catching.” This however, is completely ‘constitutional’ as the Fugitive Slave Clause Article V Section 2 states; “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be do.” Slavery was not abolished in the United States, it was transformed to conceal its true functioning and presence.

 

 

None of these events and institutions are distinct or mutually exclusive. They are in fact all mechanisms of a much larger system of oppression. And they are most certainly not anything that is new.

 

 

However, many of the people jumping up and down in public and on social media all pissed off because they do not believe Black Lives Matter, either as an organization or as a movement, the people of the many rebellions that have erupted throughout our country over the last few years, or even merely any dissenters of the system have any moral ground or claim. They attempt to dictate to us how and when we can and should protest or respond to the generations of oppression. Often times they recommend that we should utilize the tools and mechanisms of those who came before us because they were “good protestors.” Please! The demonstrators in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s (and yes our people have been protesting and demonstrating against all of this suppression and oppression, white supremacy and this entire racist superstructure in all of those decades) have always been hated and loathed. Don’t listen to that fabricated nonsense you think you were taught in your history books. One of the things they always make disappear is that it is not called “The Struggle” because it was easy and the oppressors simply admitted their wrongdoing and all was ok. If you think that was the case, please reread the historical section above and re-check that misconception. It is and was called The Struggle because it is a struggle, it is a fight against the systems of power. This is a war for our very lives.

 

 

These people who clamor that racism does not exists, or start invalidating our concerns and demands by making references to “Black on Black” issues, or who claim that police officers are merely doing their jobs, that ‘slavery’ (notice that they almost always missed the enslaved [the someone doing something to someone else] part) is over so get over it, or whatever else they may come up with; are hyper problematic. First, they miss that this is nothing new. These trauma, these incidents, the racist system has been in place destroying our communities and tearing apart families for generations. Our people have been opposing this system for generations. The only thing that is even remotely new about what is going on is the social media presence and the evidence that has been compiled; which comes with its own kind of trauma. As a result of the interlocking and overlapping networks and access to information, the lies and half-truths that used to be spread about how far this country has come and how the “Race Problem” is gone has been tossed to the wind as the rubbish that it is. Trump exemplifies this perfectly and so does Hillary, for that matter.

 

 

Second thing they miss is that all the tactics they suggest have been done. They look down on the people from their moral armchairs rebuking and chastising the people who revolt to throw off our oppressor and our oppression upset that the monopoly of violence has been interrupted. The country and even President Obama seem to be just fine when everything goes according to their plan. Tupac, the nephew of Assata Shakur, and who was named after the revolutionary of Peru who almost overthrew the Spanish Empire, Tupac Amaru, warned us; “Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.” Or the United States and their drone strikes killing innocent people in other countries, all to gain access to their resources. This monopoly on violence is disgusting! These people act like they do not understand why our people, why Black people are upset, like there was only one person killed “by accident,” or that one person did not get the job, or went to prison or was sentenced to death wrongly. They act like this is something that is new. It is not and that is precisely why Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states that “a riot is a language of the unheard.”

 

 

We are unheard today for the same reasons that the Reconstruction Era ended, our lives are not valued! It was this systematic silencing for generations with broken promises and dropped vows that lead King to write “Why We Can’t Wait” in 1963, one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln during the United States Civil War in 1863; our people still had not achieved freedom and liberation from our oppressors. And yet, another fifty years has passed and we are still fighting for the same things. No, this is nothing new and these arm chair, neo liberal moralizers do not get to tell us how to throw off our oppressors and oppression. The half-truths and lies they have imbibed will no longer pacify our people’s thirst for liberation, quell our rebellions, or stifle our disquiet!

 

 

For too long has this system attempted to conceal a very real truth; the amount of power that we as Black people actually have in this country. At no time since the conception of the United States has the country been devoid of the institution of slavery. The entire structure of the nation is dependent upon a docile, submissive, complicit population of workers of whom to exploit the labor of. In fact, that dependence is so interwoven into the fabric of this nation that should our people simply decide not to participate in that system any longer it would cause that system to collapse.

 

 

There is an unfair advantage that is garnered from suppressed wages, and the synthetic inflation of prices that result from practices like red lining that this country is dependent on. So dependent in fact, that it will attempt to do damn near anything to make sure that its profit structure is not interrupted; such as, crafting laws to criminalize acts such as possessing cannabis, by which they then force people into these modern day slave plantations, and disenfranchise them in the process so that we cannot undo the havoc they have created. Red lining was essentially motivated by the desire to limit the power of black people by keeping us segregated.  Politicians and bankers engaged in this practice heavily  in the northern states, which many Black people migrated to during the Great Migration to escape Jim Crow in the south. But, these redlined neighborhoods formed major voting blocks and those in power sought to limit that power by redistricting their neighborhoods so that they would not be able to influence the political structure, and thus the outcomes and conditions of their lives very much. When that did not work, not ten years after the victory of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, President Nixon puts (now called) “marijuana” (a Spanish word) on Schedule One of the Controlled Substance List. Not even heroin is that high on the schedule! And alcohol and tobacco, which kill or lead to the deaths of thousands more are not as controlled as cannabis. After 1965, when Black people won the right to vote, the largest new voting block United States had ever witnessed was coming into being. People were woke because of the Civil Rights, Black Nationalism, and Black Power movements that collective comprised the Black Liberation Era, more Black youth were making it into and through college because of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the 1964 Civil Rights Act; so, there was real potential to challenge and change the system.

 

 

This is also the time that the infamous J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is known for warning against the emergence of a “Black Messiah” and for the formation of the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to destroy the Black Liberation Movement. Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the United States government are the reason that so many of our leaders from that era were killed, imprisoned, or forced into exile. These agents also brought about the downfall of the Black Panther Part approximately one hundred years after the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was passed by the US Congress to get rid of the KKK. The KKK still exists to this day. The KKK is one of the most blatant terrorist organizations that the United States has ever witnessed and yet, for all its clamor about terrorism, it is still invading other countries, dropping bombs, employing drones, creating armies to suppress their own people, toppling democratic governments, violating almost every tenet of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and has labeled Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization. The same shit is happening all over again! This is nothing new!

 

 

Everything about this system has been designed and tailored to limit Black Power. From the education system with the School-to-Prison Pipeline, to the police institution, to the Prison Industrial Complex, and the Military Industrial Complex (also part of the militarization of the police). Our schools do not teach us our true power. They may teach that some people have the Freedom of Speech, but not how to use it. They may teach that this is a democratic society, but they do not teach everyone equally has to exercise their democratic rights. They do not teach that we have immense power and that we give our power away by consent. They say that a democratic government, even a representative one such as we live in, is one of consent. But, since we cannot vote a new system in the only consent that people have is to pay taxes, but we cannot refrain from paying taxes and revoking that consent, so technically speaking we do not live in a state of consent, but rather, one of compulsion. Voting in a system (for those of us who have not been disenfranchised by an unjust system already) that controls the agenda, and one in which there is an economic bar to entry, and a patriarchal system in place we have the same system as the Articles of Confederation (the predecessor of the US Constitution) laid out; namely, that only white, male, landed gentry could hold office. The net result is the same, regardless of what laws are written. The schools do not teach us that. However, consent is also given through participation.

 

 

Neglect to participate and revoke the implicit consent. They want to steal our right to vote to change the system, to direct our way of life, to influence the development of our own communities; then we merely neglect to play along with their game any longer. They want to kill our people with impunity, then we stop participating in their repressive system. They want to continue to hold us within the confines of internal colonies, then we retract from their system. They want to silence the cultural evolution that has been underway in this country for the last hundred and fifty years, then we let them have their system that is so dependent on us. It is not like it is doing us or the planet any good any way. It is time to take a lesson from Black Wall Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Granted, the police and KKK burned it to the ground after shooting all the Black People they could find (1920), but building their own, for their own they rivaled New York’s Wall Street. That alone proves that we do not need them. It also shows their level of fear about separatists and Black Nationalist like Marcus Garvey and Malcom X. The capitalistic structure, which is so far off base of what Adam Smith envisioned is destroying the planet, corrupting the relationship the people have with the planet, and is responsible for the empire structure of imperialism destroying the lives of Black people and people of color all over the globe. It is time to envision a new way of doing things, and an organization in Jackson, Mississippi called Cooperation Jackson has been working diligently to create such a structure.

 

 

We do not only have to pull away, but we can create something entirely new in its place. Something that will liberate our people, all our peoples, and feed our souls at the same time. Whatever we choose to do as a people, it is important to recognize that we have a choice and that we have power. We have immense power. And furthermore, that we are locked within and engaged in a war that none of us asked for or sought that has been going on for generations. This is nothing new.

 

By looking back and unpacking the cryptic, concealed, and distorted history to see what is really going on and for how long, hopefully we can begin to envision what it is that we do want and how to achieve those ends. I am not the first to talk about these things and I most certainly will not be the last. Below is a speech that Malcom X made in 1964, “The Ballot or the Bullet” wherein you will hear him speaking on Black Nationalism and self-determination and how to achieve it. Below that are some links for how to connect and exercise your power.

 

Black Power

 

All Power to the People

 

Black Lives Matter

https://www.facebook.com/events/530975733769201/

https://www.facebook.com/inmjusticeboycott/

 

 

Lyrics

 

Bet, we matter!

 

Verse 1:

Imagine if you will

Our folx in their offices

people in their prisons

& students at their colleges

Chose not to show up, for work, one day

Not forever, but just, for the same day

Cuz the sectors we occupy

The whole system disarray

It’ll makes the Status Quo: hit the breaks!

this is some of the power, we have, in the game, today

We have immense power in this world today/

Black Power! In the Fray

Douglass said we will only suffer

the level of tyranny that we accept

cuz complicitly going along with a system

designed to break us, is in effect

the removal of our values and self-respect/

It’s clear from the protests,

We’re not happy with conditions

Killer police, broken schools

Or Our brothers and sisters in prisons/

But if we disagree, why participate

And If our lives don’t matter to them, then why should we stay

Why not stray and drop our roles,

let them fend for their own goals

Let the Traffic technicians,

Walk away from controls

& let their traffic, come down to a screeching holt

Don’t sabotage it,

Merely fail to comply with the system we know

Think about what would happen if we just—let—go /

 

Verse 2:

 

Let Black Marines, stop shooting global P.O.C.

Leaving blockades, discarding, weapons in the heat

Thinning ranks, Dank

Not sacrificing lives for those who don’t thank

Or spread value after tanks, stop firing

Drop, tools at gates

Leave, mops in bins

Stop constructing, cleaning buildings

That we’re never meant to live/

Quit buying into gimmicks

Cuz national wellbeing

Measured, by economics

not how we do within it/

Maybe money’s all they hear

Lack thereof is what they fear

Love the banks that hold it dear

Could be time to interfere

Pull our cash (that) they’re investing

Fractal, interesting

Gambling, our nest eggs

On things we’ll never see/

But they cannot spend, what they do not have

When their coffers empty because we grab, our money

Think it’s funny, till there is no milk and honey/

The financial system’s delicate

We have the power to stall it merely,

By not complying

Though a bank run’s what they’ll call it/

But recall red lines, restrictive covenants, been played for puppets,

Like the Muppets

Since the 13th Amendment heard trumpets/

Fingers in markets, Augmenting profits, for generations,

Divestment of Property, Grand Larceny, Properly,

Probably costing, the nation’s chance to make it

rapin the system// skatin permission

Awaitin division, derision isn’t just revolutionary

But a responsibility, to the children we’re raisin/

We have the power, to stop gentrification,

to unhinge racialized degradation

& State sanctioned violence

By refraining our participation

 

Verse 3:

Now imagine if you will,

That some of this is done,

Or that, all of it is done,

and it’s, all done at once/

We stop participating,

Reciprocating, victim blaming/

Patient waiting

& instead we move to vindicating

Retracting from a system,

That hates our being,

By neglecting, to comply with,

The status quo regime/

Cuz, that’s been a routine

that leads to our demise

One filled with (endless) crimes

Impunity, tears, and lies/

A system that fails to educate, and liberate

But consummates prisons, kills our children clean slate

One that Rapes, emasculates, and otherwise derogates

men and women, changing fates, weaving gates to hold in place

But depends upon us

To perform roles honest

will come to a, crashing halt

Like; “who is John Galt?”/

That’s the power we have,

and it’s a power we’ve used

those in the Civil Rights Movement

Knew it through and through

brought the system to its knees

by not complying to please

Or seeking negative peace

For small measure release

But after Martin Luther King

started stating these things

And people began seeing

How, it’s true and it rings

he was shot dead, in the head, at Loraine Motel,

Now, only time will tell,

if a new J. Edgar Hoover will decide to spell,

COINTELPRO, at the top of a file

because they fear the rise of a “Black Messiah”

 

Verse 4:

 

They claim through their behaviors

that our lives do not matter

But all of that is chatter,

& the static of denial

reality is that

We matter, more than they can fathom

Back to Atom, through the stratum, through (their) historical datum

Jesus was a Black man, and we’d have no mathematics

Astronomy, architecture, religion, acrobatics

Without our blackness, fact is, every factor good here

Would smash to backwards/

Neanderthal stomping cave dancers

for those of us alive today,

our presence holds a weight (that) they cannot escape,

their fate is sealed with ours,

but they love to fabricate a trace of dominance

while the truth is that they are nothing more than cowards

Respect the truth, inform the youth, and choose

We’ll only suffer, the tyranny

We allow to get through

By participating, we’re insinuating consent

To a system that none of us agrees to

You see;

We are powerful!

Black is Beautiful!

Black Power is Immutable!

You see;

We are powerful!

Black is Beautiful!

Black Power is Immutable!

 

Just Imagine what will happen when we use it…

2016 Edward E. Carlson Student Leadership Award Speech

Power to the People

We are on stolen Coastal Salish tribal lands and that needs to be acknowledged prior to proceeding.

Receiving the Edward E. Carlson Student Leadership Award reveals to me more than meets the eye. It is not merely the case that I as an individual am being recognized here today. Rather, the values that I hold dear and the issues I have been working on with some of the most amazing and brilliant people are also being recognized as valid and recognition worthy. It tells me that not only students, who are also people of color or other people with marginalized identities believe it is time for the University of Washington to live up to and to honor its mission and values; it reveals that we have the broad support and backing of the community who also want to see equitable changes to the institution. This is precisely what I believe is necessary to achieve not only positive change, but beneficial change for us all.
As a historian and as a radical educator, as well as, a Black Lives Matter activist, it is my firm belief that we should not always accept the history as it is handed to us by the public or academia. First of all, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not merely some docile pacifist who touted nonviolence in the 50s and 60s. Second of all, the period between 1955 and 1975, when the United States experienced the second reconstruction is titled incorrectly as being the Civil Rights Era. Two other major and vital wings of the Black Liberation Era, Black Nationalism and Black Power, without which the beneficial gains that were made would have potentially been impossible, are nearly completely omitted. Third, and most important, the history that is normally conveyed to most Americans is that there were only two predominant leaders during this period, Malcom X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  However, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott was neither planned nor organized by King, rather Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, a teacher at Alabama State College, who was also the president of the Women’s Political Council had been working on segregation issues for two years prior to that and it was she who organized the boycott. Ela Baker, who was influential with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and also the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was responsible for helping to organize the students of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC was instrumental in the Freedom Rides, Freedom Summer, and the Voter Registration campaign in Selma, Alabama. And Bayard Rustin, a name almost unheard of in traditional education because he was an openly homosexual man. However, he had been working with the Fellowship of Reconciliation since the early 1940s, instructed King in 1955, that nonviolence was more than a strategy but also a way of life, and was instrumental in the strategizing and organization of nearly every major Civil Rights demonstration during that period including the March on Washington in 1963. This brief overview is not meant to invisibilize the efforts of people like Bob Moses, John Lewis, Assata Shakur, Fred Hampton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver, Medgar Evers, Anne Moody, or the countless teachers, lawyers, sharecroppers, carpenters, and civilians who contributed and protected each other, but I simply do not have the time to convey to you the importance of their stories and contributions.

The point is that it was not merely the efforts of a very limited few, but rather, the collective efforts of people from across the spectrum who employed and deployed a multiplicity of tactics, which was required to achieve the positive and beneficial results they did. Today is no different and neither are the struggles we are having, nor the issues we are contesting. One of our very own, Emile Pitre, in 1968, had a vital role in compelling the university to increase both its students and its faculty of color. He is still here to this day encouraging and mentoring students, and seeking to improve the demographic distribution of this very campus. And yet, not two weeks ago we were compelled to stage yet another demonstration because of the lack of faculty and students of color and in particular, people of African descent, among a host of other unjust and disparaging conditions. Not least of which is this institution’s complicity in the school-to-prison pipeline, and benefitting from the prison industrial complex.

Institutional discrimination and racism are deeply entrenched within our structures and practices and will require all of us to make sacrifices as we change the system and the manner in which it functions. For some of us that will mean merely that we are to support those who actively, and who are well within their rights to challenge systems of oppression and discrimination. For others, that may mean exerting some of your influence in situations where your influence can be felt, but otherwise, under other circumstances, you may have elected to refrain from doing so. For others, like many of the people recognized today for their work in the community, Dr. Marisa Herrera the director of the James E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, or Stephanie Gardner the director of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), which assists many minoritized students to achieve success in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematic disciplines otherwise known as STEM, should continue doing the work they are doing. The point is that it is going to require all or most of us to accomplish our goals and to help shape our world into one that is comfortable for us all to live with and in.

There are risks, of course there are risks. And while I live with the constant reminder that people of my complexion, with my ethnic composition have been assassinated by our own government for doing precisely what I am doing right now; none of that will stop me. I will not be intimidated into non-action. I will not be silenced. I will not submit to coercion. I will not be bought off. I will stand on the side of justice, equity, equality, and liberation with my fist held high! And I will trudge into the trenches with my sisters and brothers routing out evil and injustice whence it sprouts! I never thought an award like this would be presented to a person like me, from an institution such as the University of Washington because although the world seems to love the positive and beneficial changes that have resulted from people like myself and those I work with; it also seems to shun and disavow the very necessary actions we sometimes must take.

However, not all of us have merely social constraints to worry about as risks, some of us are subject to institutional power. This is true regardless of whether it is a university or a government that is the focus of protests of injustice. However, it is these threats that most concern me because it questions our ability to provide security for ourselves and our families, and that kind of power can be utilized to coercively silence people into abject conformity and adaptive preferences. This is why it is vital that we stand together applying our skills and positions multilaterally with a multiplicity of tactics to achieve both positive and beneficial change for all of our people.

So, I encourage, and I implore you all to not sit idly by while injustice occurs to anyone, anywhere. Because as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Receiving this award and what was required for that to come about shows me that a and reveals that a broad cross-section of people from across the spectrum want to both see and feel positive change and are making a declaration in support of the work we are doing.

Lastly, and I will leave you with this because it is what guides my actions and comes from a person I hold in the highest regard as a warrior and advocate for the cause of justice and equity; Assata Shakur:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Roots are Reaching Black

Had to make it PHAT, had to take it back

Had to rep for a culture that the roots are reaching Black

Beautiful, Powerful, Indisputably Immutable

The history a crucible, the music is a tool to use

Cathartic when it needs to be, hard to beat society

At times, the rhymes, plant the seeds we need to breathe

Through police brutality, fatalities, impunity

the root of e-vil, our people see the enemy

An internal colony, Fanon saw the tragedy

Overseer to officer, KRS, a prodigy

His progeny, are challenging, violence’s monopoly

By the state, the fate of which, attempt to claim us property

Hip Hop is the voice/ and the weapon of choice!

Since Grand Master Flash and DMC were making noise

Cuz with the “Message,” hood pov-erty, was being challenged

& “Fuck the Police,” expounded on that knowledge

 

My roots are reaching Black

to Tupac and Biggie Smalls, to Jay z and Goodie Mob

To Lauren Hill and them all

My roots are reaching Black

To Assata, MLK, Malcom x, and James Brown

that’s the tip that I’m on

My roots are reaching Black

to the pride of a nation, and the fight for Liberation

Cuz our history’s bomb

My roots are reaching Black

Through the Hip Hop in my blood, and the music in my soul

Yo! The revolution’s on!

 

 

Not to say it’s not a party music, wouldn’t be true

It’s the part of the genre, we be celebrating to

Get ya club on, ya dance on, or smoke a blunt to

Or, however you hang, when you’re chillin wit your crew

Don’t be fooled, “Walk Ruff and Stuff with yo Afro Puffs”

Was Black Power, to the core, filled with Black Love

challenging pat-riarchy, white standards of beauty

And Internalized Oppression with con-tinuity

Queen Latifa, a master emcee

Blessed us with her presence in the 1980s scene

& Helped to make the music what it is to you and me

So Lauren Hill could call out “Politrixions” with the Fugees

While Bill Clinton, prison warden, playin the sax

Signed into law, the 1994, Crime Act

No more education in the prison labor system

& 3 Strikes was made law by those Politrixions

 

My roots are reaching Black

to Tupac and Biggie Smalls, to Jay z and Goodie Mob

To Lauren Hill and them all

My roots are reaching Black

To Assata, MLK, Malcom x, and James Brown

that’s the tip that I’m on

My roots are reaching Black

to the pride of a nation, and the fight for Liberation

Cuz our history’s bomb

My roots are reaching Black

Through the Hip Hop in my blood, and the music in my soul

Yo! The revolution’s on!

 

 

What is problematic, was the corporate takeover

of a cultural art form, meant to restore the

pride of our people, integrity the needle

The One’s and Two’s, the Wheels of Steel, spinnin through to freedom

When they moved in and sup-planted, their business model

& Threw down the throttle on producin gangsta bauble

to make a Modern-Day-Minstrel, Black Face, metropolis

but a Dangerous Black, outta control, was all you got from this

While the War on Drugs, was being waged, out on our Streets

The Reagans and the Clintons, were pulling back their sheets

Stereotypes, that fed the hype, of the white supremist blight

and the P.I.C. was being formed right in plain sight,

With these images that the corporations spun about us

The public in Amerika, had no doubt, about us

Thank god the Underground rose to challenge all this B.S.

Where people like Mos Def and Immortal Technique flourished

 

My roots are reaching Black

to Tupac and Biggie Smalls, to Jay z and Goodie Mob

To Lauren Hill and them all

My roots are reaching Black

To Assata, MLK, Malcom x, and James Brown

that’s the tip that I’m on

My roots are reaching Black

to the pride of a nation, and the fight for Liberation

Cuz our history’s bomb

My roots are reaching Black

Through the Hip Hop in my blood, and the music in my soul

Yo! The revolution’s on!

 

The sound of resistance, the people and the message

Answering the questions, most pressing to the masses

Ripping through the truth, conflicting our community

Familiar and sad, like, this is nothing new to me

Jobs are always fleeting degrading our sense of worth

Our schools so deplorable it’s education that hurts

Drugs on the streets, but don’t own a poppy field

The youth are packing heat for safety, can we be real

Red Lining, White Flight, Welfare, Ghettos

Out-sourcing, Globalization, yup and there goes

The neighborhood, with the manufacturing work

To other countries, into prisons, where they’re getting paid dirt

150 years from slavery, but ain’t much changed

Time to claim the economic means and shatter these chains

Hip Hop, the voice of the oppressed and the poor

So, I’m wit LL Cool J, “It’s time for war!”

 

My roots are reaching Black

to Tupac and Biggie Smalls, to Jay z and Goodie Mob

To Lauren Hill and them all

My roots are reaching Black

To Assata, MLK, Malcom x, and James Brown

that’s the tip that I’m on

My roots are reaching Black

to the pride of a nation, and the fight for Liberation

Cuz our history’s bomb

My roots are reaching Black

Through the Hip Hop in my blood, and the music in my soul

Yo! The revolution’s on!

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.