Tag Archives: Freedom

16 Years Sober: Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

#PowerToThePeople

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Vacant Predictions

Lots of people want to make claims about how good or bad some event, statement, person, or action is and the impact they think it or they will have on the movement for justice and achieving freedom from oppression, but I am not so sure that anyone truly knows the impact of any one particular thing. It sure does lead to a lot of energy spent bickering with each other and not being focused on the major problems at hand. For better or worse, it does seem that everything comes together for a reason. I think that as long as we keep our eyes on the prize of achieving liberation, then liberation is what we will have.

We Will Have Our Victory

Answering the call of war we ran into the streets

Blood had spilled, the cops had killed, revenge was looking sweet

Didn’t matter who you were, or what neighborhood you from

All that mattered, was that, with this system, you were done!

The horns and the drums, fire poundin in our hearts

Raging through our veins, was an anger off the charts

Black, White, Asian, Native, Mexican, we all

Knew this racist, white supremist system had to fall

Downtown to Westlake, where all of us converged

Hands Up! Don’t Shoot! Was the war-cry that emerged

As we took over the streets, people steady flooding in

Bringing traffic to a halt, the movement had began

A fight for Human Rights, for Dignity and Life

A fight for Respect, Liberty the Right

To go to the store and to make it home alive

Cuz it’s nearly, impossible, to be Black, and to survive

The gauntlet of the school system not going to jail

a prisoner, a slave, told we can do naught but to fail

While a system of laws, written to, protect, us all

We wanted to know that cops were not above the law

Due Process, that precious 5th Amendment clause

They are neither judge nor jury, but they’re acting without pause

And while none of this is new to a people who’ve seen the worst

Daren Wilson’s, non-indictment, is what pushed us to subverse!

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

Marching through the streets, was simply not enough

Police came gassed up, turtle suits, and billy clubs

Seattle Mayor Murray, Chief O’Toole, and Bruce Harrell,

Our supposed ‘Civil Rights, City Hall Official’ failed

To recognize and respect, our Right, to assemble

To petition our government, for grievances, rendered

And instead authorized paramilitary troops

To stifle Free Speech, and Suppress the People whose

Intent was to acquire equal unbiased treatment

Guaranteed, in the 14th, Amendment achievement

In 1868, and over a hundred years later

Still waiting, hence my reason for being an Agitator

The people grew complacent, felt comfort in their ignorance

So, there was nothing left but Civil Disobedience

They disregarded us at city hall and public meetings

Labeled hooligans thugs, with anarchist leanings

Negotiation failed, and out gunned and out strategized

We recognized, to mobilize, we had to organize ourselves

If we meant to win against a system generations fixed

& that, is why, we created OA206

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We hit the streets, we had to, people were dying

All were upset, the government was conspiring

State Sanctioned Violence, was claiming our people’s lives

Impunity ubiquitous, getting off left and right

Martin, Brown, Garner, Rice, and Boyd

Their killers walked free, everyone was annoyed

Darren Wilson made half a mil with network ABC

Adding insult to injury, we just couldn’t believe

Being Black, was not, a precondition, for anger

But in the protracted struggle, color became a hang-up

First there was a split between the Brown and the White

Which, made perfect sense given the White Supremist plight

Then Black only spaces formed, to lead the struggle

Cuz One, should, rumble for their freedom, un-muzzled

But to deny, the vital intellect and the skills

Of a person, based on race, is a practice that kills

Black people suffering from internalized oppression

A festering pestilence, ushered death from within

& From the depths of deception, character assassination

Followed the path of this nation, down to the heart of black hatred;

This is where O.A. Split, and though, now it is clear

that the spiritual harms we came with left us unprepared

to truly unify against this Totalitarian Regime

We’re healing wounds and righting wrongs, that go back centuries

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

We will have struggle

Won’t be defeated

We will have justice

Won’t be defeated

We will have freedom

Won’t be defeated

Working Together we will have our Victory

Not Worth the Sacrifice

One of the hardest things to do after participating in all the activism this last year has been holding on to myself, and who I used to be with my humility and my humanity. Inundated with such ruthless hatred and violence it is more than easy to lose hope in humanity and the human condition, to become bitter and despair of seeing goodness anywhere in the world, and least of all in the faces of the people I see around me. However, I have come to the conclusion that if I lose sight of what is best about us, and if I sacrifice who I am at my core during this battle for justice and freedom, then not only have I lost or forgotten the reason for the struggle, but I will not belong in the world we would create because I will have become that which I have been fighting so hard against.

The Failing Justice System

I know there has been a lot of talk about what happened at the Metropolitan King County Council meeting when they voted unanimously for the new Children and Family ‘Justice’ Center; the Jail, Prison, School-to-Prison Pipeline, factory, warehouse for our children. This is what really went down.

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The lid on Pandora’s Box has been torn off because our elected officials’ apathetic and unresponsive approach to our social ills is inadequate and inappropriate!

Although, they voted unanimously for the new supposed CFJC It is not built yet, and even if they waste the money to build it, we can still work to ensure that it is not used and that alternatives are employed to help our children, who are victims of the system, not criminals.

Recap:

Regan Dunn, Dave Upthegrove, Rod Demowski, Kathy Lambert, Larry Phillips, Petr von Reichbauer, Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, and Joe McDermott

These are the names of the people currently on the Metropolitan King County Council. Voting is right around the corner and we both want and need people in office who are going to be sensitive and responsive to our needs and concerns.

The Criminal Justice System is no longer,

if it ever has been in American,

about punishment and rehabilitation.

The philosophy grounding the criminal justice system suggests that society has a right to punish those who violate the laws. How the laws are devised is questionable at best, but the premise is that laws are rules that are less stringent than the actual moral code of a particular group of people, yet sufficient to ensure the stability and order of the society. In this regard, John Stuart Mill in the paper On Liberty (1859) phrased the justification as such: “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This is what is called the Harm Principle and is the primary principle by which of criminal justice system is justified. However, and in stark contrast to what the principle suggests and what the actual practices of the Department of Justice, with it many subsidiary police departments and courts, reveals is that it diverges dangerously far away from the grounding principle.

First, I do not think that we will find much argument, unless the person be a sociopath, that causing undue and unjust harm to another human being is wrong. People are naturally inclined to form or have desires; to form plans for their lives and to share special bonds or connections with those whom they care about. Furthermore, most people believe that insofar as those plans do not impede and infringe upon the plans of others, or horrendously violate some moral code, that all people should be permitted to express and exercise their desires, plans, and special connections. If this is disagreed with and the person be not a sociopath, then I do not think they have fully considered the implications of their argument because if it were the case that people did not have the liberty to do this, then the dissenter could not rightly voice their opinion in contention. For example, if this individual did not think that another should play baseball, let’s say, because the sport in their opinion is a useless endeavor,and this ruling was to hold even though no harm was done to anyone by the playing of the sport, then a new principle would be employed wherein no one is protected. Nothing would protect that individual’s expression from interference by others, and the result would be a system of arbitrary infringements based on whims. In other words, a devolving into lawless tyranny, (this is not to be confused with anarchy), wherein whoever could gain power would rightfully exercise that power over others at their choosing. This should make it clear that a principle needs to be in place, which permits the exercise and expression of one’s desires, given that they do not cause harm to others.

Second, the criminal justice system, as became clear with such recent events as the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Oscar Parez, John T. Williams and so forth, is causing undue and unjust harm to people. These cases by themselves should be enough to cast more than doubt on the Department of Justice, but actually usher in a reconstruction of the entire system. These are just the cases that have made national and international news, but are representative of a much more grave problem that exists within the United States concerning police brutality. The police have a dangerous task, there is no argument about that. If the Harm Principle is accepted, and the society chooses to attempt to limit or punish any harms that may occur to its citizens, then something like a police institution as an option becomes viable. For the sake of argument, assume that there are no socio-economic discriminatory conditions creating vital motivations to violate the laws in order to survive. In a society of millions it would be nearly impossible to ensure that undue and unjust harm was either not done, or that those who caused it were punished. This means that there would be a potential to escape punishment, and people tend not to enjoy punishment, so they do what they can to avoid it.This can create a dangerous situation for a police officer to walk into, given that their only intent is to prevent harm, or to assist in the punishing of those actually guilty of causing harm. Their own person is at risk of being harmed by performing this function that society deems as something necessary, and society does not think it’s guardians should be sacrificed or harmed, so it grants that these guardians can protect themselves against harm. This is all in accordance with the Harm Principle as stated earlier, “self-protection.” This line of reasoning also assumes that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all people. This of course is an ideal world and is horrendously far from reality. As soon as we remove the things that we have assumed for the sake of argument, we will see that much that is considered crime is a response to socially imposed harms and that these groups suffering the socially imposed harms are also targeted by the supposed guardians of our society. Furthermore, because these guardians are granted the liberty to exert force to protect themselves and to execute their social function, they can justify unjust and undue harms as necessary to complete and fulfill the expectations of their roles. The result is the problem of police brutality and murder that we are now witnessing plague our country.

Third, punishment for acts considered to be crime in the United States tends to take the form penitentiary confinement. Aside from death, this is considered to be the ultimate restriction of liberty that an individual can experience and thus the harshest punishment. Again, in order to justify this system, it has to be assumed that  that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all peopleHowever, the data shows that this is not the case. There is a disproportionate and disparaging representation of minorities and people of color in the penal system of the United States. Making matters worse, the US has 5% of the world’s population, but boasts 25% of the world’s prison population. In addition, the number of prisons are ballooning and so is the prison population, which reveals that the penitentiary system is not solving the problem. At best, it is like attempting to place a bandaid on a gushing wound. A more precise definition is that it is a treatment that is not suited to the cause because the cause of the problem is being ignored. This leaves us with one of two options; either the United States does not know or want to know what the real problem is, or the penitentiaries are not about punishment and rehabilitation.  If it is the former option, which I do not think is even possible given the mountainous research that has been conducted over the last few decades, then we need officials who are intelligent enough to perceive and understand that the problem is not that people are choosing to commit ‘crime,’ but the reason they do so. If it is the latter option, which I am more inclined to agree with, then we have to expose what the true reason for the prison system is to understand why it is failing at its purported reason for existing.

The Prison System relegates humans to slaves. Much of the argument that we hear from the public is couched in a colorblind language and an individualistic ideology that is characteristic of the United States, “they committed the crime, they deserve the time, and all that happens to them while they are serving that time.” The arguments further express that since these individuals are incarcerated and they are consuming state resources that they should work for their keep and pay their own way. Again, in principle this all makes sense, but for it to truly be justified the system must be fair and impartial both before prison and after the person is in the penal system. However, that is also not the case. I have already argued that the manner in which particular groups are targeted for prison is unjust and undue, and now I am fleshing out the reason why they are targeted for prison and exposing the unfair and undue treatment they receive while in the system.

The State of Washington has written into law that all municipal buildings must be furnished with products produced by prison labor. The corporation responsible for the fourth largest prison factory system in the United States, which is located here in Washington is Correction Industries Inc. This law guarantees C.I. a virtual monopoly on particular state purchases and guarantees a revenue stream. Most private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group sign contracts with the states in which they operate guaranteeing a specific amount of inmates that is to increase over time so that they can continue to increase their profits from prison labor. Corporations are bound by law to increase their bottom lines to provide their stock holders with increased returns on their investments. Pulling all of this together in a rather blunt manner, as if it was not already apparent without my stating it explicitly, the motivation for the penal system, given all this, is not punishment and rehabilitation, but rather, profit.

Fourth, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a serious concern because the data reveals that minorities, people of color, and those with mental disabilities are over 50% more likely to end up as a slave in the Penal System. Students from these groups are about 75% more likely to be punished (suspended or expelled) while in school. Of those who are punished they are 75% more likely to enter the Juvenile Detention System. And of those who enter the juvenile system, they are 80-95% more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system. These are very disparaging and upsetting statistics when just taken alone, but when included with the entire system of harm wrought against particular populations, what is revealed is a system constructed to to populate our prison system with slaves that is targeting our children.

The Criminal Justice System is not failing, it is functioning in precisely the manner that it was designed to function. The problem is that we are allowing it to continue to function in this manner. The problem is that we continue to permit this colorblind language and to accept the false justifications for this system that is failing us as a people. We are being lied to. We are being harmed. And we should not stand for this any more.

That is why the people, who after not being heard in the Metropolitan King County Council went off and occupied the court room. That is why we all testified against the creation of the supposed ‘Justice’ that they are proposing to build. Justice does not mean punishment for crime. What justice means is to provide for the flourishing of the human population. What the state is doing right now is not justice.

Hidden Places

My mind was drawing a blank,

Hung slow, over long-moments…

The rope frayed where it gripped the bark

But there were no coins, left, for the boatman

So when I was cut down

I fell

But never hit the ground

Instead, I passed right through it

Beyond even the touch of sound

Tumbled weightless through space

And slipped out of the conscious

But there is Nothing like Eternity

That will unveil a man’s essence.

 

First, the stars were connected with

Lines in awesome designs

Then words began to be written

Across entire skies

A bright light began growing

From far off in the distance

And at some point overtook me with, a, supreme persistence…

And when I awoke from that

I held cage in hand

Poetry, in its perch

It’s Motionless, y, pointing

To that old scarred birch

And that’s when I remembered

The tree from which I had been slung

The story, of utter silence as it rippled it’s paralyzing affect through my un-life

And what had happened, since I’d been hung…

How mere words had carried me from one end of the universe to next

And I realized, that

My breath!

Is for verse.

The world is my canvas

The world is my page

So I opened my mouth

And lifted the gates on my cage…

“Live Free or Die Free” by Renaissance the Poet

Intro:

 

the land of the free

the home of the brave

The land of milk and honey

The home that God made

where anything is possible

Americans  Dream

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps

You find that it means

Honor in the Governing

The system is pristine

Equal Opportunity

To Life and Liberty

The Pursuit of Happiness

Just as good as it could be

Guaranteed by the Constitution,

You and me are FREE!

 

Wanna go to College

Wanna have a Family

Wanna start a Business

Wanna tan upon a beach

Wanna teach a math class

Wanna a car that drives fast

Wanna date a pretty girl

Wanna smoke a little grass

Wanna go to outer-space

Wanna surgery your face

Wanna dance through the night

Wanna dress yourself in lace

Wanna practice your religion

 

this… is… the United States: Man!!!

 

 

Verse #1

 

It’s not the way it seems

The system, hyper-stratified

Be a different class of people

and the rules are not applied

In the same distribution

Those Politicians lied

& it’s claimed to be inherent

But Equality’s Denied

 

Have to work twice as hard

to get  half as far

Passed over, looked over

for color less than dark

wanna person with a white face

to fill up all their jobs

the deck is stacked against us

As we try to beat the odds

 

Schools Different/ Rules Different

Damned if we can read

Cues Different/ Whose getting

the teachin that we need

Pipelined into Prison

With a Surgical Precision

Minority; Commodity

Synonymous to Business

 

Slavery never ended

Check the laws and how they bend them

Twisted the amendments

and defend it stupendous

Horrendous, how the Constitution’s

Used to justify

the reduction of a human

to components of supply

 

The prisons privatized

means they’re run by corporations

whose interests are in profits, not

in Rehabilitations

job or social skills,

or how to pay our bills,

But in keeping prisons full

to maximize their Deals

 

With the Congress drafting laws

targeted in clause

at the colored population

to keep us bound in bars

 

And that’s not freedom

Not the Dream that I believed in

Nor Equal Opportunity, even

Though they guaranteed it

 

It’s like Life and Liberty

have conditional properties

of being White and Wealthy

Thus, Defining who is Free

Racist, classist, take your pick

Sexist, homophobic it

Subordinates our citizens

Our Liberty is stripped

How much more so

for immigrants and Refugees within

a system built on fear

that propagates  the hate of men

an image based on lies

to distinguish us from them

So, we don’t stand together

‘cause that, they can’t defend

 

Chorus

Live Free or Die free, but None Will Confine Me

Live Free or Die Free, to Be Free is My Dream

 

 

Verse #2

 

Stripped of our Choice

Somehow we learned to get through

Denied our voice

So then we learned to make do

Robbed of what we valued

& we had to learn to stay true

to our families and our friends

‘cause they needed us to

 

And yet even amidst this hell

we tried to make a home

to work and to build a life

within the boundaries shown

but resources were limited

so, we had to make our own

Although they were not all legit

We had the kids to feed at home

 

see, not only was I black

and hated just for that

But I was subjugated, stratified

and pushed unto the back

I was ripped from my family

like they did to Malcom X

but I had to get them dollars

and I wasn’t earnin checks

 

 

‘cause, you have to be a citizen

to get any respect

but for a Refugee

there’s continuous neglect

my family fled from Africa

when I was only two

I was forced into foster care

and I barely made it through

 

…was never granted status

‘for they put me to the streets

and I had to find a way

So could make those ends meet

 

So, I turned to dealing drugs

Just like many of us was

Who was livin in disgust

‘cause options not robust

But alas we had need

and we thought we had been freed

We were Victims of the system

Being chased by I.C.E.

Deportation from this nation

What they threatened in our faces

And attempted to displace us

From our families’ loving graces

Immigrant or Citizen

it makes no difference

Liberty’s been stripped

of all its eloquence

the Constitution’s shredded

Every time it comes to race

ain’t no equal opportunity

in this God forsaken place

 

But we’ve got to bind together

take a stand, it’s now or never

I know we can do better,

than to bow to this oppressor

Alone we may be weak and silenced

Inside our hearts are scorned to violence

But as our voices rise in non-compliance

We will find our heart’s desires

 

Chorus

Live Free or Die free, but None Will Confine Me

Live Free or Die Free, to Be Free is My Dream

Turn the Day Into the Night: The Story Behind the Song

To construct the lyrics for the Hip Hop song, “Turn the Day Into the Night,” I combined stories from my life and the lives of four friends I grew up with. This song is a portrayal of the life we, and many others faced and continue to face today while growing up indigent in gentrifying cities. For many of us then, as it is for many of us today, the best outcome that most of us had and have to look forward to was and is prison and death. This is a phenomenon that needs to come to light in the public’s eye and be faced head on.

(Lyrics for the song are at the end of this post)

Sociologists and social scientists have identified and established with empirical evidence that our society in the United States is stratified. This stratification is socioeconomic in nature, which means that it is not purely social in nature. In accordance with Social Conflict Theory, pioneered by people such as Karl Marx and W.E.B. Du Bois, this stratification manifests a conflict between the classes as they compete for resources. The media would have us believe what Chimamanda Adichie classified as a “single story,” in her appearance on Ted Talk in July of  2009; whereby the public is presented as Adichie  says; “[s]how a people as one thing, as only one thing over, and over again, and that is what they become” (Adichie 09:29). She later later notes; “[t]he single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete,” that there is in fact much more than what is presented by the media (Adichie 13:15).  The single story that has been represented of young Black men in America is that we are to be feared, that we are drug dealers, and we are to blame for our own situations. Well, from the social conflict perspective this is what is called “Blaming the Victim” and has provided the justification for denying responsibility for the problems of stratification; and in other words it is “Cognitive Dissonance,” and has been the basis for a blatant reprisal against an entire class of people.

The “White Flight” that began in American cities in the 1950’s and 60’s, when the migration of White Americans left urban areas decadent as the suburbs began to flourish. This occurred over the same time period as the great migration of Black Americans from the south and rural areas into northern cities. Resources and jobs disappeared, and the civil Rights Movement was just beginning to pick up in full swing so, at the time Black Americans were still being highly and openly discriminated against; in the social, political, educational, and economic spheres of American society. This was one of the causes of the stratification that we see today. Then in the late 80’s and early 90’s another  migration began to occur as wealthy Americans, mostly White, began to return to the cities. As this happened, the United States began to experience Gentrification as property was purchased, and driving up the property values less-wealthy Americans, usually minorities, could not afford to stay in the areas where this took place any more.

In both situations the phenomenon  of a battle for resources emerged as is suggested by classic social conflict theory. In a capitalist system where people are compelled to compete and oppress one another, this is not surprising.  According to Social-Psychological Theory, it is precisely this competition, which both creates and sustains the stereotypes that compound the issue of Blaming the Victim. And when the available resources in an area are based on the taxes collected in that area, it effect schools and school programs, after school programs, employment services, social health resources, etc.  Furthermore, all these resources suffer when the people who live in these communities are isolated economically as a result of capitalist competition.

Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, v. 1.0.2,  Chapter 9.2 Explaining Deviance by Steven E. Barkan

Sociologists and social scientists have identified the the capitalist competition, the stereotypes with their subsequent effects that result from this competition, and the lack of resources facing minority communities as the reality of this stratification in the United States. They also suggest that the lack of resources, training and job opportunities in these communities is what leads the inhabitants of these communities to turn to what has been classified as crime—in America—as a means to survive. The crimes in question are primarily drug related in nature; drug dealing and drug using, but also robbery and assault. Drug usage has been identified to be a coping mechanism and drug dealing is dubiously, a lucrative enterprise, but not for the average person on the street dime bagging it to get by. Because of the legislation regarding drugs and society’s perception of this being the evil (Blaming the Victim), it is the symptom and not the cause which has been addressed, and is why there is so much more police in these communities. This image, the image of a young Black thug street dealing and either being harassed or arrested, has been the most prevalent image of Black people in the media, which unfortunately also includes Hip Hop—the so called Black medium—since the mid-1980’s, and has only served to indoctrinate our youth into the path of this single story and perpetuate the problem. The further ramifications are what have been termed as Racial Profiling, wherein specific groups are targeted by the police as being suspicious and often times have their constitutional rights infringed in the process of conferring guilt upon them. Thus, all of the circumstance combined has led these communities to experience a phenomenon that has been titled the “Pipeline to Prison,” which describes the tendency for youth to be funneled through school system into prisons.

Penitentiaries (prisons) are supposed to serve three primary functions; (1) the isolation of those society classifies as criminals from society, (2) the punishment of those who violate the laws, (3) a means by which the “guilty” are to repay their debt to society. However, according to the “Custodial and Non-Custodial Measures: Alternatives to Incarceration” report published in 2006, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “prisons not only rarely rehabilitate, but they also tend to further criminalise individuals, leading to re-offending and a cycle of release and imprisonment” (pg. 1). This is the result of a two parts of the social-psychological theory of socialization whereby, the individual is removed from the social pressures, which would naturally act to rectify such behavior and simultaneously insert that individual into an environment, which encourages further criminal behavior.

Compounding these circumstances is the privatization of the Unites States’ penitentiary system. This is a vital concern because human beings, and in this case criminals are being turned into commodities. Millions of dollars have been spent by corporations on lobbying to ensure that the laws are legislated in such a manner that people are both going to and staying in prison; to earn profit, not for rehabilitation and reparation. This situation only serves to further support the assertion that the system of capitalism is contributing to both the stratification and the oppression of an entire class of people.

This problem is not isolated to any one particular institution in the United States, the problem is systemic and it has been interwoven intricately into how we as Americans think about our society and the people in it. Because of how deeply it is embedded within us as a people this will not be an easy or simple undertaking, but it is vitally necessary that it is addressed. The first step in rectifying this problem is acknowledging that it exists. The second step is getting informed on just what circumstances comprise the problem. Then we can have an open discussion on how to pursue a remedy to the situation and hopefully stand as a people in solidarity making the necessary changes to our society. 

 ((new information: Judged sentenced for taking bribes to send black youth to prison))

http://www.africanglobe.net/headlines/judge-sentenced-28-years-selling-black-teens-prisons/

Following are the lyrics to the song:

Verse 1

Turn the day into the night,

cuz I really can’t deal with all the light /

The soul contrite, it will ignite,will not abide

by the code of the law in a lawless sight /

When its better to rob and not to hide,

cuz a nigga wont eat when the field divide /

When they weigh the cost and see my life,

an expendable asset, feel the rise /

Inside my heart as my mamma dies,

my father cries, its no surprise /

Starved to death and they called them lives /

Eagle eye keep a watchful spy,

suppress the rise of the poor with pride /

Defending my, my right to find,

my bit of happiness inside the lines /

The sides are drawn, the fields are long, the man is strong, but the powers to be are deftly wrong, till kingdom come, and the war is won, they’ll never see what has begun, inside the minds of mortal men, still holding on /

To a world so torn, by the wars to protect what had never been owned /

Land and the water,

air and the daughter,

son to the slaughter,

thirty piece martyr,

goona get harder to earn a dollar,

so you gotta be smart… /

Free to the be thief, whens he goona reap heat, repeat history, never could of learned to read, knew he couldn’t see thee, gotta pay a fee just to be on the streets, what he learned from the enemy, guise’d as a friend to me, fronted some amphetamines, ducking from the police, genes not holy, eyes full of greed and forgotten homies, testimonies, all they wanna see are commodities, human body monopolies, prisonous atrocities, these slave policies, are of Mephistopheles…

Chorus

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
Don’t want us in the STREETS
So, CAGES are soon to BE (x3)

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
NO, NO, NO….
Don’t wanna see us FREE

Verse 2

Don’t wanna see this world,

don’t wanna know whats still in store /

Let the night fully overcome,

wanna open my eyes and not be poor /

Wanna medical plan I can afford

and not to be known by my credit score /

So many doors been shut in my face,

I lost the trace, I caught a case, I’m facing time,

gotta walk the line, and keep a watchful eye,

cuz rivals ride, with shanks made out of whatever they find,

damn its hard out on the grind /

I know it seems like a fallacy,

but the tragedy is an atrocity /

Couldn’t my actions possibly,

have motives weighed collectively /

Why can’t they see my family tree,

and all the mouths that I have to feed /

I know the law like a nursery,

but now they’ve caught me dispersing these /

Tripped up rock, put a knot in my sock,

to hid from the cop while I’m on the block /

Fiends double pecking think they missed a spot,

me years from now, but no power to stop /

But I thought I had the game on lock, yet it slipped from me, like a memory, and I lost the key that kept me free, school never had a place for me, BLASPHEMY, but literacy isn’t as common as they think it be /

& The fear of such, kept me a slave unto the streets, but perception painted me, as the enemy, of this society, its propriety is a mockery, hypocracy, cuz white collar crime infects the whole economy, and aristocracy, but all they get is a slap on the wrist, cuz it kept the rich, and I get twenty five to life for payin rent, ain’t this a !!!BITCH!!! /

Might as well just dig a dicth, throw me in and steal my breath, call me NIGGER “IGNORANT”, I see how they be figurin, like prison is a Heven Sent, as to say we’re never ment, to raise the Hell up out of it, but WE RISE LIKE PHEONIX, !!!SUCK THAT!!!…

Chorus

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
Don’t want us in the STREETS
So, CAGES are soon to BE (X3)

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
NO, NO, NO….
Don’t wanna see us FREE

CREDITS

 MusicaDiction,

Produced by Zubin Hensler

Written by Renaissance the Poet