Tag Archives: Human Rights

“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.

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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.

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

 

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Beware of the Shroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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A Universal Right to Protection Against Anthropogenic Climate Change (Draft)

There should be a universal human right to protection from or against anthropogenic (human caused) climate change (ACC). However, since most rights are not expressed in the negative form, e.g., everyone has a right to not to killed, but rather, as Article 3, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person;” it seems pertinent to express this right in its positive form.[1] Therefore, the right should be expressed as such:

Everyone has the right to a sustainable and healthy environment in which to live that is free of the effects of human caused pollution; that is either harmful and or negatively impacts the normal range of human functioning or basic capabilities; that negatively impacts the development or maintenance of political self-determination and territorial sovereignty; or that negatively impacts and individual’s or a peoples’ ability to provide for their own subsistence.

ACC is a global issue that supersedes any and all national borders because of the manner in which Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) distribute throughout the planet. Furthermore, the health and wellbeing of the planet and its many environments are among the essential interests of all human beings who require them to live and thrive. However, as the situation currently stands, we as a global civilization currently lack the appropriate apparatus to adequately manage ACC. However, should this universal human right be adequately defended and supported, it could provide the necessary foundation for forming the international and intergovernmental apparatus to address and manage ACC. At the very minimum, the individuals of all nations would at least have the means to seek help in formal and legal institutions and to appeal for assistance and redress when the harmful or negative impacts of ACC are expressed.

The strongest opposition to the universal human right to a sustainable and healthy environment is a three-part objection. (1) That the incumbent positive duties of mitigating or preventing ACC that will result from the right are too-demanding and as such are infeasible. (2) That the infringements upon individual and state sovereignty as a result of this right will be too great. (3) That the impacts of ACC now being felt were not the responsibility of the current generation, the greatest impacts of ACC will not be felt or experienced by this generation, and because of these conditions it is unfair to burden this generation with the responsibility for addressing ACC. The last of the three-part objection (3), is not the strongest argument against a right to a sustainable and healthy environment, but it is the first argument that must be overcome, then (1) and lastly (2). However, for the sake space only (3) will be addressed in this argument. The three-part opposition relates directly to conceptions of responsibility, obligation, and practicality, and all of which are morally important, but none of which take into account the very real people who are being and who will be harmed by ACC. The underlying motivation of universal human rights is to assert the value and importance of each and every human being and, to provide the necessary recourse to any imposition in violation of what is deemed to be sufficient to achieve a minimally decent human life. A person’s or a peoples’ right does not and should not depend upon who is responsible for the imposition, what duties the right obligates, or the supposed practicality of fulfilling those duties.

The strongest argument in support of the right to a sustainable and healthy environment is that every human being has an interest in protecting the integrity of the planet, and are all entitled to a safe and secure territory where they may fulfill the plans for their life. Drawing on David Miller’s assessment of strategies for defending a universal human right, the direct, instrumental, and the cantilever it can be shown that the right to a sustainable and healthy environment satisfies the conditions of all three strategies.[2] The strongest objection to this argument is that individuals and groups have a right to self-determine, which supersedes the rights of other groups or individuals, even when that determination may impose harm upon others. The difficulty with this objection is that it is neither always true, nor always false, it is case dependent. Thus, it may sometimes be permissible for a group or an individual to act in a way that may cause some harm to others when their own survival depends upon it. For example, there are countries that have a minimal carbon footprint as compared with countries such as the United States and that for survival and development purposes are permitted to burn fossil fuels and emit GHGs even though their minimal contribution does lead to some global harm. Notwithstanding those very particular cases, although many arguments will be made in terms of self-defense or subsistence not all will qualify as such, and will be subject to John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle. The result will be that it is not permissible under most normal conditions to impose harm upon innocent others, unless the act is done for the sake of survival, and this will include acts that can lead or contribute to anthropogenic climate change.

[3]

The science of climate change is cumbersome and complex and is beyond the scope of what can adequately be addressed here. However, that is not meant to suggest that there is not broad consensus on the facts that climate change is real and that human influence upon the environment is not only exacerbating a natural phenomenon, but also expediting the rate at which it is occurring. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),[4] an organization put together by the United Nations (UN) in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), has published five extensive reports since the 1990s consolidating and synthesizing the best science on the subject. The best expert predictions reveal that given current projections of the burning of fossil fuels and the emitted greenhouse gases that will accumulate into the atmosphere that a 4° C (not uniform, but mean) increase throughout the planet over the next century, as shown in the graphic above. There is not one part of the planet that will remain unaffected. The first places that will be affected are near the equator, which are predominately populated by people of color. But soon after that, in the latter half of the twenty-first century the rest of the globe will start to feel the brunt of the impacts.

Anthropogenic climate change is the result of an increased amount of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide (CO2) being emitted into the atmosphere. Most of what is released into the atmosphere remains there for a very long time and with continued emissions the magnitude is compounded. As energy is received from the sun by the earth, these GHGs trap the energy within the earth instead of releasing it back into space. This effect becomes compounded by increased GHGs in the atmosphere since they are not released and additionally, there is a latent affect so that the impacts are not immediately experienced, but rather, become expressed over time.

The IPCC has identified multiple layers of harms that will occur as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Following the temperature rise of the earth the polar ice caps are melting, which is causing sea levels to rise at increased rates. This will result in the loss of many coastal and island regions. In addition to this the ocean is acidifying because of the volume of GHGs that return from the atmosphere and are absorbed by the ocean, which is and will result in continued depletion, if not extinctions of fish populations. The temperature changes that are being exacerbated will also result in ecosystem shifts that will cause desertification, loss of biodiversity, and the extinction of many plant and animal species. These conditions will result in loss of food sources due to loss of arable farming lands and migrating, depleted, or extinct animals. Food security will be undermined due to population depletion of both fish and animals, and the loss of arable farm land, which will also potentially result in violent outbreaks as different groups and individuals complete for limited resources. And all of this will increase the magnitude of migration pressure of humans towards areas that are less affected and better able to manage the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Moreover, as a result of the loss of food security, depleted resources, and ecosystem shifts morbidity and mortality rates will increase and the rates and spread of infectious diseases will dramatically increase further undermining people’s ability to live and to thrive.[5]

Given these predicted and highly likely outcomes and the relevant lack and utter absence of protection for the average human being against such unjust and immoral impositions that are not necessary, i.e., many do not have to occur, a universal human right to a sustainable and healthy environment must be defined and ethically supported. There is a long history of isolationism, self-protection, state sovereignty, and development which all entail important arguments both for and against them. Likewise, there are also many strong and important moral arguments both for and against a right to protection from anthropogenic climate change. Hopefully, by fleshing these arguments out and setting them side-by-side they can be analyzed and their merits can be deciphered thus, coming to the conclusion that a universal human right of this magnitude is vital, timely, and necessary for every individual on the planet, both for this generation and for the generations yet to come.

The argument of due responsibility that asserts this generation should not be held liable and thus obligated to bear the burdens of anthropogenic climate change has significant moral appeal. First, as noted above, the current generation is not entirely responsible for the collective and compounding effects of GHGs in the atmosphere that are contributing to ACC. This is in fact true and it seems morally problematic to assign burdens to those who are not entirely, or of themselves responsible. Second, there is a non-identity problem that has raised concern about claims of harming future generations that as a result of the current and previous generations’ actions will never actually exist. The theory is that for blameworthiness to be applicable that there must actually be a person who exists to be harmed. However, if there is no person to be harmed, then there is actually no harm. This is also a major ethical and moral problem. Third, it is usually thought that for someone to be morally blameworthy or at least morally responsible that they must have knowledge that what they have, are, or will do is wrong. This poses a particular problem for both the current generation and previous generations who for the most part were unaware that the burning of fossil fuels could or would have the impact on the environment and thus, the planet that it is and that it will. At the crux of this component of the objection is the concept of intent. It is argued and rightly so in many circumstances that there was and is not often a direct intent to cause harm to the planet or the human being who occupy it by the burning of fossil fuels. Lastly, it is often argued that either anthropogenic climate change is not real or that its effects are not currently being felt by this generation. The first argument has been disproved by scientists from all over the world. The second argument has a corollary, since it is not this generation that are being harmed and it is not this generation that will receive the benefits of the burdens being placed on the current generation, this is an unfair burden. All of these arguments about the assigning of responsibility have both moral and ethical importance and should be taken very seriously because responding to them appropriately answers the question: why this generation.

Responding adequately to this objection with all of its sub arguments will require an objective point of view. A point of view that can take into account the past, current and future generations, but it is not actually possible to bring all these generations together to develop an objective point of view. Nonetheless, John Rawls, a mid-twentieth century philosopher who proposed the theory of Justice as Fairness, developed a method for achieving an objective point of view, called the Original Position behind the Veil of Ignorance. The original position is a hypothetical decision making situation wherein all who are party are assumed to be ignorant of their personal characteristics, but still possess their ability to be rational and intelligent beings. What the parties are ignorant of is their age, sex, class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, generation and so forth. However, they do have an understanding of history and of current affairs, the caveat is that no one knows where in the society they will return to after leaving the original position. This hypothetical situation is supposed to simulate what would be agreed to in terms of what is just by all people at any given time because all are ignorant to the conditions that they would agree to, and acting in their own self-interest would negotiate for the best possible outcome to return to. These of course are not actual agreements and are not to be considered legally binding. However, insofar as it can form the basis of what is morally just, the hypothetical agreement situation is a vital and effective tool.[6]

Applying the Original Position to the case of anthropogenic climate change and in particular, the claim that responsibility for and burden of addressing and managing ACC should not fall upon the current generation, the objection loses it moral force. Ignorant of which generation the parties to the hypothetical situation are from and to which they shall return, none would agree that it would be morally right for them to be forced to suffer the negative effects of ACC if they had not caused it. Furthermore, they would agree that the future generation(s) would have every moral right to object to that situation being imposed on them and would have a claim on the previous generations to act so as to mitigate and or prevent ACC. The parties would agree that the current generation, although not entirely responsible is not free of blame or responsibility, and that while they had been left with an unjust situation, it was not as unjust as those who would suffer from the long-term effects of ACC. Thus, prior to leaving the original position, the parties would agree that since the current generation has the capacity and the opportunity to mitigate much of the negative effects of ACC, and since, if they do not do so, a morally wrong situation will obtain, it would be agreed that they have a moral obligation to prevent the ACC from occurring. The current generation would not be viewed as morally blameworthy, unless after possessing knowledge of ACC and the objective point of view, they acted contrary to their obligation to limit, mitigate, or stop anthropogenic climate change. Thus, the objection based on generational responsibility loses its moral importance when considered behind the veil of ignorance, and therefore reveals that placing burdens on the current generation is not of itself morally unjust or objectionable, but rather, obligatory.

The objections pertaining to responsibility, obligation, and practicality have not been entirely overcome, but it has been shown that there are morally compelling reasons to suspect that they do not have the infallible moral force that seemed originally apparent. Still remaining are the costs of preventing or mitigating anthropogenic climate change, and the interference with individual and state sovereignty. It is to these latter concerns that the argument now focuses.

John Locke in The Second Treatise on Government (1690), argued that human beings will elect to leave what he called the “state of nature” when there is complete liberty because it lacks a known and codified law, an impartial judge, and enforcement power that can be gained by entering into civil society.[7] Furthermore, Locke argued that for civil society to form as such, that actual consent was initially necessary and that the individuals who consented would be compelled to sacrifice much of their liberty to join. The problem is that the rights that grew out of Locke’s treatise, namely, those associated with property (life, liberty, and estate), were both an extension of the Doctrine of Discovery[8] and provided a rationalization for colonization and imperialism; all of which are now considered immoral and unethical.

To be more explicit, the principles Locke proposed were a justification of the arbitrary domination of one group over another. Locke wrote:

“The ‘labour’ of his body and the ‘work’ of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.”[9]

This was written during the heart of European colonization which eventually led to the establishment of many of the national borders that now exists. An example of this principle being put into practice was that the colonists to the Americas did not believe that the indigenous population had “mixed” their “labour” with “Nature” in the appropriate manner to count it being their property and thus, they took the lands from indigenous peoples. The important thing to draw from this is the implicit norm that it is permissible for a group, and in this instance a “civil society” to develop in a self-determined manner, even if some others may be harmed in the process. This is often referred to as state sovereignty.

However, Locke’s treatise also provided that the civil society, once formed, also had a claim and a right to defend itself from outside infringements. Locke explicitly states: “to employ the force of the community at home only in the execution of such laws or abroad to prevent or redress foreign injuries and secure the community from inroads and invasion.”[10] By this logic it follows that whenever a group of human beings forms a “civil society” that they then have the authority and autonomy, and thus the right to self-determination and the right to defend their own interests.

John Stuart Mill, a rule (social) utilitarian believed that society was most just and assured the greatest net utility when certain rights of all individuals were protected. Mill purported that every rational human being should have the liberty of conscience, which included opinions, thoughts, sentiments, and the publishing or otherwise expression of opinions; the liberty of tastes and pursuits; and the liberty of association. Mill believed that these liberties were necessary to achieve the greatest net utility of a society and that they should be protected even when in a particular instance the government determined that a particular act would not achieve net utility. In Mill’s work, On Liberty (1859) he proposed the “Principle of Harm,” which reads as follows:

“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 civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”[11]

Thus, the only reason that Mill could justify any of the liberties he identified as basic and essential to the individuals of a society was in the prevention of harm being done. Mill unfortunately did not expand or generalize this for all human beings in all states, but only those in a particular society, and as such, falls short of what we understand as a universal human right, at least as we understand them today. Later in On Liberty, Mill asserts that, “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end” (emphasis added).[12] Aside from this caveat and a few other like it, Mill was primarily arguing against paternalism and arbitrary imperialism. However, like Locke, Mill thought those who were external to, or who did not fulfill their conditions of “civil society” were neither granted the same respect and dignity, nor the full rights of other human beings.

Two very historically important events were occurring when Mill wrote On Liberty, Manifest Destiney was coming to a close in the United States and indigenous peoples were being stripped of their lands and being exterminated, and in Europe the Industrial Revolution was well under way and migrating to the U.S. The relevance of the ending of Manifest Destiny is that indigenous peoples in the U.S. were considered, by white Americans to be ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians,’ and the same is true for most of the rest of the colonized world at the time. People of African descent in the United States were still being enslaved at this time, denied education and any kind of citizenship as well. Furthermore, most of the colonized lands were prior to invasion, primarily inhabited by people of color and they were their lands. The relevance of the Industrial Revolution is that the mid-eighteenth century marks the period when scientist have identified as being the shift from natural climate change to anthropogenic climate change. It was a technological revolution that was sweeping throughout Western Civilization, but it was incurring a cost that at the time no one was aware of, namely, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that would lead to human caused climate change. Nonetheless, two principles were being employed: (1) that not all human beings were equal and as such were not entitled to the same respect, dignity, and rights; and (2) that in the interest of self-determination and development a “civil society” was permitted even if other human beings were harmed.

The doctrine of state sovereignty, which entails the two principle just mentioned above has been used from the Industrial Revolution to the present day in a top-down reasoning process to derive the particular moral judgment that it is permissible to burn fossil fuels and to emit greenhouse gases. It is this particular moral judgment that is objectionable and is the reason for proposing the universal human right to a sustainable and healthy environment. By again utilizing Rawls’s original position, but instead of different generations being party to the decision making procedure it is representatives from one particular generation a similar objective point of view can be derived from which it will be possible to reason bottom-from. Ignorant of the climate conditions of their home territory no one party to the procedure would agree that it is morally permissible for their environment to be arbitrarily damaged to the point that it negatively impacts their normal range of functioning or basic capabilities; that it negatively impacts the development or maintenance of political self-determination and territorial sovereignty; or that negatively impacts and individual’s or a peoples’ ability to provide for their own subsistence; merely so that another nation could exercise its right to self-determination. However, it would most likely be agreeable to the parties that some level of harm that does not undermine another nation’s ability to survive would be permissible if the reason for the cause the harm indirectly was for the purpose of survival, that it would be permissible.

Therefore, reasoning from the rejected particular moral judgment that that it is permissible to burn fossil fuel and to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and new moral norm is discovered. It may be permissible for a state, nation, or “civil society” to cause a level of harm to others that does not undermine their ability to exercise their right to self-determine, their territorial sovereignty, or their ability to provide for their own subsistence; and does not impede their normal range of functioning or basic capacities; when this harm is caused for the sake of self-determination, territorial sovereignty, the ability to provide for their own subsistence, functioning or basic capabilities. This new development of the moral norm seems to capture the essence of the nature of state sovereignty, namely, that all states, nations, of civil societies desire sustainable and healthy environments in and from which they can flourish. As such, this reveals that a sustainable and healthy environment is therefore, one of the basic human interests that all human beings have. And thus, by working top-down from the new moral norm a new particular moral judgment is derived: a state, nation, or civil society is only permitted to burn fossil fuels and to emit greenhouse gases so long as doing such, is to provide for their self-determination, territorial sovereignty, the ability to provide for their own subsistence, functioning or basic capabilities and only incurs a level of harm to others that does not undermine these same things in their nation, state, or civil society.

By conducting the bottom-up revision of the moral norm of permissible harm, another particular moral judgment, namely, the Harm Principle, has also been revised. Mill argued quite explicitly for the principle to apply only to one society. In revising the other particular moral judgment, the Harm Principle had to be expanded from intra-society to inter-society, and also had to be expanded to permit some particular harms so long as a strict threshold is maintained regarding how much harm is permissible. Furthermore, it now seems that the effect of the principle and the language of the principle have been brought more into alignment since the principle specifically states “mankind” as the agent responsible for intervening in the liberty of others. To see why this is so, first remember that Mill distinguished between “mankind” and “barbarians” who were external to the society whose liberties were not to be protected as such, but rather, that it was justifiable to subject them to “despotism.” Barbarians in the contemporary understanding were mostly people of color and mostly the people who were being colonized or stripped of their lands, and are also now the people most likely to be impacted by anthropogenic climate change. The very people who most need a right to a sustainable and healthy environment, but who, according to the original interpretation of the Harm Principle would not have been counted, but discounted. However, that particular moral judgment is neither consistent with universal human rights, nor our common sentiments. Thus, it needed to be revised to incorporate an inter-society interpretation.

The instrumental argument for this proposed universal human right is that the sustainability and the health of our environment are requirements and as such are necessary conditions for the fulfillment of many other universal human rights that are already codified. Article 3, the “right to life;” Article 13, the “right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state;” Article 15, the “right to a nationality;” Article 17, the “right to own property;” Article 23, the “right to work, to free choice of employment;” Article 25, the “right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and his family;” Article 27, the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community.”[13] Anthropogenic climate change is predicted to result in the rapid rise of sea levels and the desertification of territories, as well as to increase morbidity and mortality, all of which will infringe upon each individual’s right to life. These very problems and more that with high certainty will obtain in the near to long term future, and some of which are already occurring directly undermine the right of people to own property, the right to a standard of living, and so forth. Thus, providing for a sustainable and healthy environment is a precondition to the actualization of these other rights.

The cantilever argument is that by “logical extension” from Article 3, the “right to life;” and Article 25, the “right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being,” the right to a sustainable and healthy environment follows. Often the right to life is conceptualized in the negative respect, that is, an individual is not to be arbitrarily deprived of life. However, as Henry Shue has argued in Basic Rights, the right to life is also to be conceptualized in the positive respect.[14] Therefore, not only does the right to life incur the negative duty to non-interference, but also the positive duty to create institutions to protect those who are vulnerable to such infringements. It could be argued that merely expanding the program of immigration would alleviate much of the burden that will result from ACC, but that argument would not be taking into account the expansiveness of the problem or how many people would need to migrate in order to satisfy the right to life. And given the already burdened immigration system and the push back to both refugees and other migrators, it does not seem practical to expect that nations will be more apt to address the increased magnitude of migrators. Therefore, since the right to life incurs the positive duty to provide for institutions to protect life, the conception of what types of institutions exist should be expanded to also provide and protect sustainable and healthy environments. Merely stating that one has a right to life does not make it clear enough that the environment is intricately linked with the life of any individual or a people, and that needs to be clearly distinguished. If an individual has a right to life and also to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, then one has a cantilever right to a sustainable and healthy environment as well because the two cannot be teased apart.

The direct argument is that neither the planet nor any of its environments is owned solely by one individual or state, or collection of individuals or states, but is rather a good that everyone has a share of and ownership in, i.e., it belongs to no one and it belongs to everyone. No one individual or state, or collection of individuals or states has the right to so damage the planet that others cannot enjoy it or participate in the basic activities of life, which include but are not limited to living, working, having a family, and participating in a culture that is linked with the lands of their ancestors. Furthermore, as has been argued above, every individual, state, nation, and civil society has an interest in the maintenance of a sustainable and healthy environment which permits for self-determination, territorial sovereignty, providing for the normal range of functions and basic capabilities, and to provide for one’s own subsistence. Furthermore, from all of the preceding arguments it is clear that every individual has the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of these basic necessities. Without an environment from which to live and thrive in, neither is human life possible, nor are any of the things that most agree life is worth living for, and even a minimally decent life is nearly if not altogether impossible. Thus, every individual has a right to a sustainable and healthy environment in which to live.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) while containing many rights provisions that should be entailed within a universal right to protection against the effects of anthropogenic climate change, nonetheless, does not provide specifically for this. At the time of the drafting of the UNDHR in 1948, anthropogenic climate change was not an empirically accepted phenomena, so it is neither surprising, nor is it blameworthy that it was not provided for in the document. However, over half a century has passed and our understanding of the world we live in has dramatically expanded and now anthropogenic climate change is as close to an empirical scientific fact as there can be. Rising sea levels that will result in the submersion of low-land shore regions and islands throughout the planet; increased desertification of arable lands that will most likely result in famines; increased rates and prevalence of communicable diseases; dramatic increases to immigration pressures; and more are projected to occur mostly impacting impoverished nations that are predominantly populated by people of color who have been marginalized politically and economically through colonization and imperialism. The agents primarily responsible for anthropogenic climate change are nations that are more affluent and in particular, are industrialized nations and their citizens because of their burning of fossil fuels that resulted in excess greenhouse gases (GHGs) accumulating in the atmosphere. When the effects begin to be felt however, it will not only be the citizens of less affluent or impoverished nations, but citizens from most nations throughout the globe, so we all share a common problem and have a common interest in providing for a right to protections against the effects of anthropogenic climate change.

It has been shown that there is sufficient reason to doubt the objections of responsibility for addressing and managing the effects of anthropogenic climate change belong to the current generation. It has further been shown that there are good and important moral reasons for re-conceptualizing state, nation and civil society sovereignty. It has also been shown that there are good moral and ethical reasons for limiting the amount of harm that these agents can impose upon others, that the previous conceptions belong to set of traditions and beliefs that or current generation no longer believes to be moral or permissible, and that through reasoning from a particular moral judgment a new norm has been developed. It may be permissible for a state, nation, or “civil society” to cause a level of harm to others that does not undermine their ability to exercise their right to self-determine, their territorial sovereignty, or their ability to provide for their own subsistence; and does not impede their normal range of functioning or basic capacities; when this harm is caused for the sake of self-determination, territorial sovereignty, the ability to provide for their own subsistence, functioning or basic capabilities. Then by reasoning top-down to a new particular moral judgment it was discovered that: a state, nation, or civil society is only permitted to burn fossil fuels and to emit greenhouse gases so long as doing such, is to provide for their self-determination, territorial sovereignty, the ability to provide for their own subsistence, functioning or basic capabilities and only incurs a level of harm to others that does not undermine these same things in their nation, state, or civil society. Since it primarily the burning of fossil fuels that lead to unsustainable and unhealthy environments, the proposed universal human right will entail protection against such an infringement.

What is yet to be addressed is the practicality and the costs that will be associated with the proposed right. Those determinations however, will rely largely upon what the institutions and the procedures for mitigating the effects of anthropogenic climate change will be. However, given the current international political situation, and the effects that are already being experienced, in addition to the lagging effect of GHGs that are already in the atmosphere this right should be ratified and incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Anthropogenic climate change is a global issue that supersedes any and all national borders, is a common essential interest to all human beings, is primarily a state versus individual issue, and only a universal right to a sustainable and healthy environment is sufficient to address the problem. As the situation currently stands, we as a civilization lack the appropriate apparatus to adequately deal with climate change, what Steven Gardiner calls the “Global Storm,” or in other words a global collective action, prisoner’s dilemma, type of problem. This human right, should provide a sufficient foundation from which the necessary international, intergovernmental apparatus to address anthropogenic climate change can be formed. At a minimum, the individuals of all nations, states, or civil societies would at least have the means to seek help in the formal, legal institutions to appeal for assistance and redress when the harmful effects are experienced.

[1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

[2] David Miller, “Is There A Human Right to Immigrate,” Center for the Study of Social Justice Department of Politics and International Relations (CSSJ), SJ033, (April 2015), University of Oxford, p. 8.

[3] Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), p. 10 http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/

[4] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), http://ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml

[5] Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Work Group II (2014) http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/

[6] John Rawls, Fundamental Ideas and The Basic Structure as Subject

[7] John Locke, “The Second Treatise on Government” in The Philosophy of Human Rights (St. Paul: Paragon House, 2001) p. 71-79

[8] The Doctrine of Discovery has a long and painful history that predates the voyage of Christopher Columbus (Cristobol Colon) in 1492 by nearly eight decades. In 1414, the Council of Constance was convened to settle the issue of whether the religious order of Catholicism, of which the Pope was the highest authority second to God, could justify the acquisition of property and governing rights of humans considered to be “infidels” by their religious leaders.[8] In formulating its ruling, the council was drawing on the legal commentary of Pope Innocent IV in 1240 who concluded that “pagans,” a term used to define and group those who were either polytheistic or who worshiped nature, “had some natural law rights and that Christians had to recognize the right of infidels to own property and to govern themselves.” [8] The Council of Constance determined that “heathens” possessed natural rights, but unless they “complied with European concepts of natural law [they] risk[ed] being conquered,” and thus losing the rights to their lands and resources.[8] These European concepts of natural law included an opposition to things such as “cannibalism, sodomy, idolatry, and human sacrifice.”[8] If and when Europeans believed that a group of “pagans” were in violation of their concept of natural law, they were permitted by alleged Catholic authority to engage in what was called a “just war,” that is, a war waged to protect and to ensure the Christian way of life against the pagans and to strip them of the full measure of their natural rights.

Robert J. Miller, et al. “The International Law of Discovery, Indigenous Peoples, and Chile,” Nebraska Law Review Vol. 89 (2011). http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol89/iss4/6/

[9] Locke, p. 74

[10] Locke, p. 79

[11] John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty,” in The Philosophy of Human Rights (St. Paul: Paragon House, 2001) p. 143-144

[12] Mill, On Liberty

[13] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

[14] Henry Shue, Basic Rights, p. 37

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.

Grateful and Still Raging

I was talking to someone the other day and he asked me, “Do you ever smile?” and it caught me off guard a little bit. Then it struck me: It’s really hard to be happy when so many of us are dying out here. It’s hard to be happy when the government who is supposed to answer to us hits us with bikes, clubs and fists; drops flash bombs on us, sends drones after us; arrests us for speaking too long in council meetings because we have more than two minutes of problems with this system; shoot us, chokes us, shatters our spines; to suppress the voicing of our grievances. It is hard to be happy when I come to learn that everything I have been told is a lie.

But, if there is one thing that I have learned by studying history and focusing on social movements is that, like Tupac’s “The Rose that Grew from Concrete,” they cannot stop life. It is a force to powerful for anyone to control. And the more they attempt to suppress the life of a movement for justice the harder it fights to live!

So, this is where I have been living, in the constant struggle for justice and for the first time in 14 years, I let my anniversary slip past without my notice, but I have to give thanks and credit where credit is do. On May 2nd, I had 14 years clean and sober! A true blessing and gift from god. Grace is an undeserved gift, and if you knew me before then you know I did not deserve this gift. I would not be here today, let alone be who I am, if God had not intervened in my life 14 years ago, and I would not be standing shoulder to shoulder with you all in our fight for justice.

I heard once that, “My rent for living on Earth is my activism.” Maybe I was spared so that I could help our people find and achieve justice… IDK What I do know is that I am here and I am grateful to be here. It is still hard to be happy when our people are being killed every 28 hours, and that is only the Black people; what about the Latinos, the First Nations, the Transgender People, the Mexican People, African People, Serian People and so on?

I do have a lot to be grateful for, but I also have a lot to be angry about. I just did not want to let this anniversary completely slip by without giving thanks.

Vigil for the Students Murdered in Kenya

The speakers in this video provide a much more complete description of the atrocity that occurred so, I will not attempt it. Save to note that 147 innocent students were murdered because of their religion and ethnicity. At the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington of the United States we have students from all over the world on our campus, many of who are from Kenya or nearby.

Being so far away and not able to contribute physically to condoling the families and friends impacted by this tragedy, and also feeling the need to mourn together the loss of so many, our students and community members hosted a vigil on Thursday April 9, 2015 in Red Square.

It is my sincere hope, that you both watch and listen to what is shared in this video, letting the truth and the reality sink in because we as a people who share this world must find a way to overcome our differences and, to live together with both tolerance and love.

Looking Forward

More than a Moment! The struggle is real and it will not be fought or won over-night. We have to plan and implement the future we want. But first we have to know what the causes and conditions are that led to the circumstances we are contending with now, if we are to change the system and not run into the same problems all over again. This is a humble beginning, but I am in this for the long haul and I hope you will stand with me. We will only do this together.

Anger Boils to the Surface

I opened up and started reading the “We Charge Genocide” (1951) petition to the United Nations and I am all but left speechless. Not because I am unfeeling, and neither because I have no words, but rather because I have so much anger pumping through me at the moment as a result of how clearly the system of oppression is detailed. This I expected of a document from the 1950s, so that is not what has gotten me so wound up. It is the fact that these same atrocities and ‘justifications’ (which fall flat on their face) are still occurring today.

Yet, the American public in its apathetic and ‘Holier than Thou” ideological bent likes to parade as though the lives of People of Color have improved and that the conditions we suffer are not horrendous. And this hardly scratches the surface of what the marauders masquerading under the premise of liberty are doing to the rest of the world. They are tyrants wrapped in the stolen cloth of a language of justice and it is time that the shroud be ripped from from their stinking, pestilential bodies to reveal the monsters for what they truly are.

What Counts As Violence & Why

I believe that the greatest warrior will end a war before it ever begins. This entails extinguishing every other peaceful alternative, but once that time has come and gone, what remains is to fight for our Rights.
Think about it, if there would have been no violence, then there would be no America.

What was the Boston Tea Party, but a destruction of property against and meant to harm an oppressive force and tyrant?

Both of which are now actions hallowed in history as estimable and pivotal turning points.
What about the harm and violence that was done to hundreds of thousands of Africans all across the diaspora and that continues to happen to this day? Is that violence justified?

What about the violence and harm that was wrought upon the First Nations and our people when the colonizers stole this land and exterminated our people and continue to steal land and life to this day? Is that violence justified?

Why is it that when some government uses violence that the world thinks it is justified, but when the people harmed by that violence return in kind the people shun and blame the victims and not the oppressors and villains?

Why is it that the oppressed and marginalized are penalized and criminalized instead of the public standing behind what they know to be right and penalizing and criminalizing the oppressors?

It is the dialogue that you are presented and programmed with that leads you to make that determination and to remain reticent while violence and harm is being done to marginalized groups.

Stop the Dialogue. Stop the Violence.

Do I Doom My Kids To Poverty?

Verse #1

 

I have to find a way to make these ends meet

I’ve got myself, my wife and three kids to feed

Now this wouldn’t be a problem, if there was work to be done

But the Dictator, confiscated, at the point of a gun

The resources, that we need, to keep, our families fed

And we’re lacking Agriculture because the Markets are dead

Not because we can’t farm, but rather, because these Subsidized

U.S. Industries, have straight up neutralized us

But Irrigation, will only suffice, if and when there is Rain

But now, we’re dealing Droughts, as one of the effects, of Climate Change

And we can’t rely on aid because that mess is a curse

And The Coups and Civil Wars for power make matters worse

My baby’s crying, screaming cuz she needs something to eat

And I feel like half-a-man because I am living in defeat

I’ve got nothing to give because there is nothing to get

But, do I Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it?

 

 

Verse #2

 

Immigrating, is easier said than done

Cuz it seems that everything is set to keep us where we’re from

Passports, Visas, Customs, and on and on

And everything costs the type of Money we ain’t got

Our options for a better life are limited and dangerous

Trudging Deserts, crammed in Ships, jumping barbed and guarded Fences

Risking life and Health, to get at better Chances

Suffering, is nothing new, but here ain’t got the answers

My daughter wants to go to School so she can learn to Read

Cuz she wants to be a Scientist to make sure all can eat

But, that will only happen, if we make it to the West

And as her father all I want is to give the best

But protected, their Feudal Privilege, keeping us at odds

Walls to Separate us, Segregated by the Laws

So, yes it’s Illegal, and it’s Dangerous

But, Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it.

 

 

Verse #3

 

So say we make it, beat the odds, this is what we’re facin’

Alien status, like we’re not humans from this race and

We don’t bleed the same when beaten for tying

To take advantage of Opportunities you squander, while lying

Claiming that you care, but don’t want us sharing

Land, Food, Work, or Health Caring

And instead make departments like the I.C.E.

And Detention Camps to stop us from being free

Where we’re tortured, starved, deprived of Human Rights

Forced Free Labor and Deported at night

Shipped back from whence we came, like, that is more humane

As if to say, we deserve the cards laid

And my daughter deserves to not be educated

My son deserves to starve, and I to live depraved

But there is a small hope that we just might make it

So, do I Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it?

 

 

 

To Help Me Fund My #Diaspora and #Apartheid Research, Please Follow the Link Below:

 

http://www.gofundme.com/Diaspora-and-Apartheid

 

 

For More Information on Diaspora and Apartheid, Please Follow the Links Below:

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/help-me-pay-for-diaspora-and-apartheid-research-in-athens-this-summer/