Tag Archives: Justice

“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.

Hip Hop Workshop banner

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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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If your partners, were skimming profits

Droppin income into losses,

you’d lock the faucets, if you caught them

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

And dependent upon them

Well, you wouldn’t call’em partners

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

To the “Big Payback,” revenge a cold dish

Loyalty a must, betrayal the rust

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

A Statement of Intent

I am a recent graduate of the University of Washington history and philosophy departments and I am currently preparing to enter into a PhD program. My passion and my goal in life is the improvement of the systems and the institutions that govern our lives and societies. However, knowledge by itself without the experience of practical application is often not very valuable. Conversely, when experience guides decisions and actions the knowledge created is vastly more relevant and pertinent. Therefore, I decided to take a year or two away from my academic studies to gain experience and to put what I have learned into practice.

Ultimately, what I would like to do with my time is to work in the community with a non-profit or governmental agency on an issue related to justice. Disenfranchisement and the ability of people to express their agency are two phenomena that nestle at the heart of most issues concerning justice. Much of this I believe exists because of the constriction of lines communication by policies and practices, and because of the fear of interacting with a system that people who are impoverished or who feel disenfranchised find difficult to trust.

I think part of the work that is necessary to overcome these obstacles to justice is assisting people to become knowledgeable about how the current system functions and how they can participate without retribution. Voting is one of the important strategies of participating in the system and expressing agency. Yet, there is often latency between the emergence of an issue, bringing the matter to a vote, and beneficial solutions coming to fruition. Whereas, participating in public meetings both at the government and community levels can often have immediate effects. Yet, there are often issues of accessibility about when the meetings are held and the competing obligations of people who are impoverished, such as, meals and childcare. However, I believe we can easily remedy these kinds of barriers to participation by working with community organizations and elected officials.

Another very important component of an issue of justice is the accurate reporting of facts, trends, conditions, and projections. The first factor is acquiring and consolidating accurate information, which we can then utilize to inform our projections. One aspect of this is historical research and data analysis, and another component is hearing from the members of the communities most impacted. Most situations are complex and have multiple motivating factors or causes. The object of this information gathering should be to identify the real motivations and causes of injustice. The next factor is ensuring that we accurately present this information to those who are responsible for making decisions. As a result of our improving the participation of the people who are often not engaged in governmental activities and who are often the most impacted by injustice, the likelihood that more accurate and complex reports will make it into the record dramatically increases.

I believe the work I have outlined above to be the next steps to the improvement of the systems and the institutions that govern our lives and societies. It is possible that by decreasing the prevalence of disenfranchisement and increasing the ability of people to express their agency that the outcomes of our large bureaucratic system will more accurately represent the disparate and varying lives of the people in our society, thereby increasing the amount of justice experienced. We can only accomplish this work in and with the community and that is why I want to work with a non-profit organization or a governmental agency focused on issues of justice.

Justice, Equity, Liberty: The Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

#JusticeEquityLiberty

 

Student / Activist

The end is coming

Bout to turn the corner

Flipping through the chapters

College is almost over

I’ll be walking down the isle

Holding two degrees in hand

I never thought it possible

And yet, here I am

from the streets and dealin dope

homeless, without hope

dwellin in their cells

mostly, was just broke

penniless, a derelict

So much I didn’t know

and told me to my face

that I would never go

yet I fought tooth and nail

pouring through them books

fighting for my money

the government full of crooks

financial aid a joke

but it helped to get me through

Education should be free

They want the GDP to grow

and that bullshit I-200

Legislations gotta go

cuz our people really suffer

from this racist system yo

SPS is whack

that’s where I slipped through the cracks

Designed to help the whites

Not to help the brown and black

 

 

College changed my mind

The way I think about the world

Used to be so trivial

completely uninvolved

But philosophy, it helped me see

that I am responsible

for the harms our people suffer

all across the globe

Climate Change to Immigration

Dropping bombs in far off nations

killer cops and patriarchy

be inter-related

And when I came to see, the interlink

after Michael Brown

was executed in the street

Knew we had to tear it down

So I hit the streets, and left my seats

at UW vacant empty

Activated by Black Lives Matter

Protests, Advocation

all the way to city hall

to shutting down the malls

But still hittin my books

Hidin, library nooks

And though my grades they took a hit

not enough to knock me down

even after another arrest

leading a march right through the town

Writing papers between events

applying what I was learning

for the benefit of our people

with a passion that’s still burnin

my degrees they’re still coming

by god, I know I’ve earned them

A Prisoner on the Streets of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ideals We Strive Towards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Struggle for Justice

I think that we are at a pivotal movement in history when some very profound changes have the opportunity to be brought about and for this to occur we are going to need unilateral participation from people across the spectrum of our society. Many of us in the Black Lives Matter struggle have felt shunned, ostracized and denounced by many who can be counted among the clergy or the “old guard.” One of the reasons for this is because of a natural age gap and difference in perception that in every struggle I have studied always seems to play a major part. It brings up the thought of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” wherein he mentions the moderate whites of his time and how they agreed with the aim and the goals of the movement, but disagreed with the methods; suggesting that they wait for a more opportune time. For the most part, many of the demonstrations across the country have been peaceful demonstrations of people exercising their First Amendment Rights; the Right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for grievances rendered. There have been a few outbreaks of violence which have cleverly in the media been labeled “riots,” but they seem to me much more like rebellions which are a natural response of a silenced people to an oppressive situation. For most people, open rebellion is one of the last resorts, which only even becomes plausible after which point many other avenues have failed to materialize any substantive changes in the conditions under which the people live. Again, an exercise of their First Amendment Rights, and in line with the Declaration of Independence:

 

“WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalianable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of HappinessThat to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

 

This statement should be amended to state; “all Humans are created equal,” and “Governments are instituted among Humans,” so as to limit its marginalizing and disenfranchising impacts.

 

 

What we need is for the leaders and individuals in our community, especially those who are at the heads of institutions, such as, but not limited to churches, universities, and corporations to make public statements denouncing the deplorable and dehumanizing treatment from the United States Government and its subsidiary institutions such as the Department of Justice; the Law Enforcement Agencies in every city and state; and the Prison Industrial Complex with its corporate structure and profit-driven slave labor model that undermines the expressed intent of penitentiaries: penitence and rehabilitation. Penitence is to feel sorrow for one’s actions and rehabilitation is to prepare someone for reentry into society as a functioning member of that society. However, the system is designed to be a revolving door so as to maintain a subsidized, if not free, labor force for industries and markets wherein the United States does not have a comparative advantage. In other words, the United States could not compete in those markets and industries because those products and services can be produced at a much lower cost and at a greater efficiency in other countries; countries that are experiencing the exploitative practices of American corporations and results thereof. The domestic outcome is that our taxes are being used to fund slave labor internment camps throughout the nation from which corporations are benefiting and earning profit. The global outcome is that Anti-Blackness, which Black Lives Matter is diametrically opposed to and in contention with, is harming, subjugating, and suppressing People of Color worldwide. Moreover, there are over twelve million people in the United States who have been disenfranchised and had their Right to Vote revoked because of felony disenfranchisement laws. All of this is justified according to Law because of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution wherein slavery and disenfranchisement is unconstitutional except in the case of being convicted of a “crime.” All of these factors add up to a false system of justifications, under law, to kill, murder, and enslave People of Color shredding the Bill of Rights and the people’s ability to challenge the tyranny of the United States government and its subsidiary institutions.

 

What we need is for the leaders and individuals in our community, especially those who are at the heads of institutions, such as, but not limited to churches, universities, and corporations to make public statements denouncing the dire economic and living conditions, which includes but is not limited to red lining, job opportunities, educational opportunities, gentrification, transportation equity, and climate change. We are not far removed from the nearly ubiquitous slavery in the United States when Black people were denied education and are even less removed from Jim Crow segregation, an era that denied People of Color in the United States equal educational and employment opportunities and specified the boundaries in which People of Color could live, work, and own property. Furthermore, the rise of the Prison Industrial Complex in the 1980s, the outsourcing of industrial jobs as part of globalization in the 1980s, and the deplorable educational institutions in areas populated by People of Color and poor people have resulted in the expansion of an exceedingly stratified hierarchical economic structure of classes and castes the likes of which has not been experienced since the fall of the Roman Empire. Our people will remain vulnerable to exploitation and suppression by an elite plutocracy and oligarchy until we can achieve economic justice.

What we need is for the leaders and individuals in our community to stand in solidarity with, to march with, and to shutdown business as usual and the status quo with the people who are collectively called “activists.” We are called activists and militants because we will not passively resign to second-class citizenship which seeks to deny our Humanity. We are called activists and militants because we challenge the status quo of injustice and, the arbitrary and unfair practices by a government and its subsidiary institutions who are supposed to protect our “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.” They call us activists and militants because our minds are active and we critically question and analyze the conditions under which we live.  We are Human Beings. We are autonomous. And we will not passively relegate ourselves to positions of inferiority. Our struggle is your struggle. And yet, by labeling us activists and militants, what the media and the government hope to accomplish is to discredit and disavow the very real issues and concerns that We, the People have concerning the unjust conditions with live under.

 

What we need is for the leaders and individuals in our community to help us fund the expensive litigations, political campaigns, community organizations and programs, bail funds and trial costs that are most certainly likely to incur as we struggle against a repressive regime to achieve justice for our people. We need the people who have benefitted from the struggles of our predecessors and are now in positions of more economic security to invest in our collective future.

Most importantly, what we need is to know that we are not alone. And the world needs to know it, too.

Speech Delivered to Governor Jay Inslee November 16, 2015

Speech to Governor Inslee Nov. 16, 2015

Before beginning I must first acknowledge that we are on stolen Duwamish and Salish land.

 

Second, I would thank you for making the time to visit us at the University of Washington Governor Inslee.  There are myriad pressing issues you could have selected to devote your time to, but you have chosen to invest your time with us and your concern and interest has not gone unnoticed.  Thank you.

 

Today I am going to speak on issues of equity and how they pertain to the qualities and characteristics of the kind of Board of Regents members we desire here at the University of Washington and why.  Equity is not blind it is very intentional and it differs drastically from equality. Equality as I have come to understand it is like placing everyone from different socio-economic, racial, gender, and citizenship status backgrounds on the same starting line. On the one hand this would seem just and fair because of the concept of equality, but what it lacks is an understanding of preexisting conditions for some that translate into unfair advantages for others. Many of the non-white students here at UW are also first generation college students, which may mean that our families do not possess as much disposable income to assist us in times of need, or that when it comes to academic concerns or administrative issues they are unable or incapable of helping us. Gender is a fluid and evolving concept of identity, but one thing that is certain is that when a student does not fit into a particular definition of gender they face discrimination and marginalization. And citizenship status can often pose an almost insurmountable barrier to affording tuition or other helpful resources, regardless of the reasons a particular individual’s status is in question. These preexisting conditions and many others can make admittance into and successful completion of university programs difficult, if not, nearly impossible for many. Merely placing everyone on the same starting line is simply not enough. On the other hand, equity seeks not to establish a similar starting point rather it seeks to garner similar outcomes regardless of preexisting conditions.

 

Last week students from universities across the country staged demonstrations in solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri who were protesting racial injustices and unfair responses from their administration. The demographics of University of Missouri are not unlike University of Washington, which is also a predominantly white institution; black students make up roughly eight percent and three percent of the undergraduate populations respectively. Earlier this year the students of the University of Washington staged what has been reported as the largest demonstration on campus since the 1960s when we declared a State of Emergency because of the racial and class disparities on campus, and walked out on February 25, 2015. During that demonstration we were subjected to racial epithets and as a result of further reprisals intent to silence our people through violence, which went unpunished, we determined it was necessary to challenge the unjust system of impunity with further demonstrations, much the same as the students at the University of Missouri.

 

These demonstrations are part of a much larger national struggle challenging the racial and class inequities and injustices within institutions such as law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, and education that reemerged onto the agenda of the general public with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality and murder by police officers are major problems because they equate to state sanctioned violence against the people, which is extremely problematic because this violence is perpetuated in the name of and purported to be for the benefit of society. We are members of this society and this treatment is disreputable, and repugnant, humiliating and dehumanizing. Moreover, police brutality, which is nothing new to poor and minority communities is but one of the many factors that constitute the negative preexisting conditions that layer and stack upon each other to consolidate into a system of oppression and inequity.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline is also a major factor contributing to the racial, class, and ethnic disparities that confront many of our communities. People of color and those with mental disabilities are three times more likely to be disciplined while at school. From the ninth grade onward, one suspension or expulsion makes a student over fifty percent more likely to wind up in juvenile detention. Once in juvenile detention they become seventy-five percent more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system and, once in that system they are more than eighty-five percent likely to return. Many people equate these statistics to inherently ‘bad’ youth, but Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, reveals that there is just as much if not more crime committed by white people. And one of our very own professors at the University of Washington, Katherine Beckett, the author of Making Crime Pay, has shown racial profiling is real and a serious problem even here in Seattle. So, it is not the case that students and people of color are ‘bad,’ but it is the case that we are being punished at disparaging and unfair rates.

 

The prison industrial complex is an institution grounded and founded upon extracting profit from slave labor. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which supposedly outlawed slavery made one exception in the case of a person being convicted of committing a “crime.” That short clause provided justification for the creation, expansion, and explosion of the prison labor system. It began with convict leasing to plantations and mines that used to be worked by slaves, and now the prison industrial complex produces products that range from military equipment, to furniture, to home appliances and Correctional Industries’ website looks like any other online shopping website where people can purchase products. More troubling is the relative monopoly that Correctional Industries is granted by Washington State Law. RCW 39.26.251 states that all state agencies which include both universities and colleges must purchase the products made by Class II type prison labor. What this all equates to is an inequitable system of oppression entrenched in our largest and most prestigious institutions, which forms many of the preexisting conditions that stack and layer upon one another to create an inequitable system.

 

I was the president of my high school and the treasurer of North Seattle College and I used to be a business owner and helped the Department of Planning and Development of the City of Seattle revise it Job Order Contracting, so I am very familiar with bureaucratic governmental organizations. I was also part of the Divest UW coalition who for three years negotiated with and challenged the Board of Regents until we won a divestment from coal fire power earlier this year. I was also part of the team that helped draft and pass the City of Seattle City Council Resolution 31614: “Zero Use of Detention for Youth” in Seattle on September 21, 2015. What has been a consistent pattern is the nearly ubiquitous feeling that we as people are not being heard by the representatives that are supposed to be working on our behalf. Our UW President, Ana Mari Cauce, has done a lot to shift that phenomenon and also to address the racial and equity issues at the university, but we must do more. Although, I do not agree with all of the capitalistic and profit driven motives of the institution, I do understand that the university is operating within a capitalist system. Nonetheless, I and the many people I represent find it deplorable to be dehumanized and objectified, being reduced to dollar signs. When a human being is “thingified,” as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, it dissolves one’s perception of their moral culpability to that individual and that is problematic. We need some Board of Regents members who are not the heads of major corporations, who are leaders in marginalized communities and can represent our concerns. We need Board of Regents members who have a firm understanding of how interlocking and intersecting forms of systemic and structural oppression function to foster inequitable conditions for many people. So that when we bring our grievances we feel heard, are heard, and our concerns are responded to appropriately and in a timely manner. And most importantly, we demand that we are respected as Human Beings.