Tag Archives: Racism

Dealing with Trauma in amerikka

I took a much needed break from organizing for a few days. The excuse was that I was moving, and while that was actually the case, the truth is that the police violence has had a much greater toll on me than I would have liked to admit. 
I didn’t realize how wound up I was until I was walking down the street to the store and discovered that I could neither keep my eyes nor my head still as I scanned every car and every face for an impending threat. I was doing this subconsciously. When I finally realized I was suffering from trauma was when two little Chiwawa sized dogs barked at me and I damn near jumped out of my skin. Heart racing, palms sweating, head throbbing, and ready to fight whatever was coming.
I have this emotional valve that allows me to shut down my emotions in moments of crises to focus on the tasks at hand. It can be a doubled-edged sword at times because sometimes when people are looking for an emotional response I may be pragmatic and practical, even logical and seemingly heartless when confronting and addressing an issue. Nonetheless, there always comes a point after the threat has subsided that when it is safe my emotions surface. When the ancle-biters had me fearing for my life was that moment.
Being a Black man in amerikkka, even with the light-skinned privilege I have, is a constantly traumatic experience. In addition to that because I fight for the justice and respect our Peoples deserve, I am often a very visible ‘target’ of those who would suppress and repress. The police attack on innocent, peaceably assembled political dissenters in Phoenix, Arizona on August 22, 2017 was not the first time I have been in a situation of violent state repression. Standing Rock was not an isolated event. These are well-honed strategies of the repressive regime under which we struggle to assert our right to exist. The tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bombs are not far removed from the fire hoses and attack dogs that Bull Conner unleashed on people in Birmingham in 1963. The state unleashed fire hoses on the people at Standing Rock in below freezing temperatures the night before I arrived, less than a year ago; ain’t nothing changed.
With the emergence of the alt-right and a resurgence of the kkk, it is not only the police we have to worry about–who we can easily identify–but also general citizen looking people who believe they have been sent on a holy mission to exterminate us. So, it makes sense that I am scanning every car and face to analyze who and where a threat may emerge at any given time. It is people like this, in collusion with the state, who have banished, stolen, incarcerated, or killed many of our people who have been outspoken against the oppression we suffer. However, although it makes sense, it does not dismiss the fact that living like this, in constant fear, is traumatic and it takes it’s toll. 
There is nothing that can justify terrorism like this!
My normal response is to exist in a constant state of rage. I am often told that this is unhealthy. I agree. What happened was that as a result of my constant state of tightened awareness and protection, that I put up walls to shield from those I loved most. I could not separate the defensiveness required to survive the state and the fascist from being part of my family. Unknown to me, this trait was generalized to everyone and I reacted to everyone as if they were out to harm or kill me. They weren’t. However, the psychological trauma I was suffering would not make that distinction for me; in survival mode it was occurring subconsciously.
After an emotionally draining fight with my partner and the Chiwawa fiasco I knew a moment of deep reflection wad needed. It was during this time that I got clarity about what was going on inside of me and why. Then, I communes with my ancestors on multiple occasions asking for guidance and to be led. While I sorted through my possessions getting rid of what was no longer needed or necessary, as I scrubbed the gunk from my old apartment, as I hauled all the things from my old residence to the new, and as I have constructed my new place of peace; the same has been happening within my soul.
The struggle we are in is not only physical, but also, and perhaps more so, spiritual. The physical stress takes a toll on my spiritual integrity. Not that I didn’t know, but this experience reaffirms the vitally necessity of continued spiritual health and well-being especially, while I am in a constant struggle against injustice and those who seek to eradicate our people.
Not everyone is my enemy. Those who are not my enemy should not be treated as such. To do so is vastly inconsistent with the world we are working to create. When I recognize that I am undoing the work I have been doing it is my responsibility to pull back and to get regrounded. To be certain, I am still dealing with the trauma of being Black in amerikkka and the response to my being vocal and active against our oppression. There is much work to be done to overcome the harm that has been done to me. However, the last thing I want to do is to revisit the harms laid upon me upon others. Thus, breaking the cycle of oppression is necessary.  This can only be achieved on a spiritual plain and with those who love us. 
Bad energy can become trapped within us and become stagnant and festering, like water that has been choked from flowing. Hatred, fear, and anger are emotions that we all must feel in amerikkka at times, but they are not things that we must hold onto. When we do it shuts us out from the sunlight of the spirit and blocks us from the love those around us have to share. 
I did not want to acknowledge that I was terrified, and so, I held onto it. I had a rage inside of me that I thought would protect me and all it did was lead me to hurt those whom I care the most about. I had to feel those emotions and let them go so that I could have room for the love that truly fuels my actions and nourishes my soul.

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“Fuck the Police” by Renaissance (Lyrics)

#FUCKTHEPOLICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

To get my latest album release:

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

 

To support the music and the movement for justice:

https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

Anti-Trump Protest Phoenix

 

(((Trigger Warning)))

The People, in opposition to fascism, racism, sexism, ablism, genocide, and all out hatred in Phoenix, and we were met with utter violence and repression by the State Regime.

We the People have tremendous power and this terrifies the STATE. We come out with signs and they come with guns, gas, bombs, shields, and plausible deniability.

The People we protesting precisely the type of tyrannical behavior that was wrought down upon us. We had elders, infants, children, disabled people, and other vulnerable folx among us and the police attacked us indiscriminately and without regard.

What this reveals is the power of a message. What this reveals is the power of our unity. What this reveals is how powerful we truly are and how terrified the state of amerikkka is of us.

All Power to the People

____________________________________________________________

https://www.patreon.com/renaissancethepoet

http://www.backbonecampaign.org/renaissance

An Earth Day Post-The World We Want

#EarthDay

What kind of world do you want? Do you want a world where there is no arable land, where there are no fish in the seas or oceans, where islands have been submerged, and where the government’s science division designated to forestall these occurrences flourish? Do you want to live in a world where impoverished people, Black People, and Other POC folx globally are disenfranchised, marginalized, exploited, invisibilized, and considered to be expendable externalities?
 
Or do you want to live in a world where your future and the future of your children matter, where people are not after thoughts in economic equations, where it is not big business and illegitimate governments who do not represent the PEOPLE who are making decisions about our lives and our futures?
 
Zahara and I have been talking a lot lately about consumerism and consumer culture, and how so many of the mainstream environmental solutions are consumer based. Consumerism in the United States, where the people here have a carbon footprint of four times the Earth’s resources do not need to be developing plans for us to consume more, but rather to consume less. However, what we often see is that attention is focused on the point of extraction, instead of the point of consumption as the problem. Real talk, the Global South would not be suffering exploitation, imperialism, or the harmful effects of #ClimateChange if the West was not so hell-bent on consuming all their resources. Consuming more is not the solution.
 
“It is like the philosophy of a man having a headache who beats himself on the head with a hammer to get rid of the ache.”
 
#Capitalism, #colonialism, #patriarchy, #racism, #consumerism, #imperialism, major #agrobusiness, #PrisonIndustrialComplex , anon… essentially the structural underpinnings of our entire system need to change if we are to actually achieve the world most of us, and most certainly the most impacted, seek to achieve.
 
Each one of us shares some responsibility, some much much more than most others, for the world we create. External change begins internally, this is a spiritual journey. Consumerism is fueled by a fabricated and facilitated feeling of incompleteness. This society is designed to make people feel incomplete. And so, it leads people to reach without, to take, to consume to seek to try and make themselves complete; and the very thing we think will satisfy us and bring us life is that which is killing us.
 
 
#PowerToThePeople #Liberation #ClimateJustice
 

Reflections from My Time at Standing Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#WaterIsLife

Can’t Merely Be A Student

I cannot begin to express how much I would love to merely be a student. That the only things I was concerned about were my grades.  For a recovered alcoholic/addict, person who went from being in a gang to living on the street via a stretch in the juvenile prison system, for whom attending the UW was nearly statistically impossible, trust me when I say, I wish I could merely be a student focused on my classes and grades.

But when our people are being slain and executed in the streets on a nearly daily basis nation wide. And my own friends are being profiled, targeted, assaulted, and battered by the UW police, it makes it nearly impossible for me to only be a student focused on my grades. I went from being the valedictorian of one school with an almost 4.0 status to failing classes. Not because I do not know the material and that I do not stay up all hours of the night to make sure I do, but because my assignments when I find the time to work on them in between all the challenges to this white supremacist and racist super structure we call The STATE, they are either late or never get turned in. “If not us, who? If not now, when?” It’s like they want us to continue in the impoverished state of learned helplessness and just accept the way that our people are being treated and devalued. Institutions like the UW are like yes we love and welcome Black people, but check your culture at the door because you are entering into a white space and you might scare the other students. But “to be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” Then they have the audacity to tell us that we are being “uncivilized,” when that is the same rhetoric that justified the extermination of the Indigenous peoples of this land. Ain’t shit changed in the ideologies. They also tell us to wait for a more opportune time but when they say wait it is as if they are saying “never.” Like don’t worry about us abducting your cousin or your mother, raping your sister, pillaging your village, outsourcing your jobs, gentrifying your neighboorhoods, providing mandatory deplorable education then blaming us for not being more intelligent; we will get our shit straight in time. No! This shit has to end now. They keep trying to suppress the problems like that will make them go away. But we all know that is not the case. The police target and kill and go unpunished. The state enslaves our bretheren and profits. The U.S. who promoted the United Nations will still not fully ratify the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights! How can they when it would undermine everything that holds the United States up as a super power of oppression and exploitation, carnage and termoil, of blatant terrorism?

I would love to merely be a student focused on my classes and my grades, but each time I try to do that, the evil hydra that is Amerikka rears one of its ugly heads and strikes out at our people. I just cannot in good conscience shut out the reality of our world the way they want us to.

Reconciliation as Strategy

The social construct of race can not be forgotten and neither can the very real harms that have resulted from it. However, class, which reveals that we have muh more in common than we do not has all but been made invisible and with it our shared struggle for justice. It was a ploy utilized to keep the people divided and in competition with one another instead of focused on the true enemy of the people; the 1%.

Our work cannot be so narrow so as to deny the spectrum of injustices, the whole structure must be challenged once. There must be continued and unrelenting pressure from every possible angle and every potential source, so that the structure has no time to recoup and cannot think clearly enough to develop a strategy to overcome the change that we so desperately need and desire.

The elites who want to operate unchecked and uninhibited by the intervention of the people fabricated and exploited the most clearly visible differences we as humans can quickly recognize; color and sex. It is true all of individual identities and the historis of our traumas should never be either ignored or reduced to silence for the greater good. It is also true, that once we recognize that we do not have to own those fabricated beliefs and ideologies ad our own, that we have the choice to create and propagate our own set of values and beliefs that we will truly begin to be free.

Patriarchy, xenophobia, sexism, ablism, classism, and racism with economic oppression and exploitation must be challenged at once. The more of thsee categories we fit into the greater the oppression experienced, that is the essence of intersectionality. It would be a mistake not to work toward healing all those harms and erecting new systems and procedures to limit those harms from occurring.

Reconciliation is one of the goals. Merely recognizing that we are not as different as the elites would have us believe, and that we do not have to be in competition with one another is simply not enough, it is only the beginning of reconciliation. Reconciliation will not be possible however, so long as there are vast inequalities in the control and distribution of resources, which equates to power. We have to restructure our society in such a way as not to entirely rule out all inequalities, but to limit how much I equality we permit to exist. Unequal power distribution undermines the object of reconciliation because it will lead to biased and slanted negotioans and allocations and result in further inequalities and then we will have solved nothing for any of us but the most powerful.

This is why we must address class at the same time as we address the rest of the very real harms our people are suffering; never forgetting, but working towards reconciliation as we maintain continued pressure on the system and the actors that suppress and oppress the vast majority of us

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

Troublin Horizon, who wants to see it comin
Like, if we don’t perceive them, the problems mount to nothing
Cops killing Brown and Black folx, sending us to prison,
Ignoring is complicit, and it’s giving them permission
to continue on their mission, to break us to submission,
Using legislation, erasing the gains, been made, changing
this racist system, but hate to listen to facts
22 states, have shredded, the Voters’ Rights Act
Slippery and conniving, the laws begin to stack
Like they did in Alabama where first they made a pact
that all voters, had to have a driver’s license
then closed the DMV’s, in the districts, mostly Black
In 20-15, please don’t think I going back
to the days of Assata, Rustin, and Malcom X
Yes, the problem is complex, and it’s really goona mess
With our comforts, and our stress
and we may be bouncing checks
but this racist, capitalist system hates our con-test
So it’s vital, to our survival, to manifest
more than apathetic resistance to their conquest
yet, I must confess, I don’t really know how to beat them.
 
I remember a time, when I thought ignorance was bliss
A time when I thought staying out of it, was best
I thought I could avoid some of the pitfalls ahead
If I just kept my head down, and stayed focused on my tasks
But then I got stopped, for driving while black
And I was beaten, by two cops, nearly to death
My brother received a double-maximum sentence
And he was suffering from a horrendous addiction to meth
And many of the friends I had while I was growing up
Were behind bars and had children they couldn’t caress
My mother’d gone to college and learned a machine press
But couldn’t get hired in the field and she was the top of her class
When I tried to get a job having a high school diploma
a degree from Job Corps and some college enrollment
I found the pavement a cold, desolate place of solace
cuz the places I put in applications never called back
Yeah, there was a time when I thought ignorance was bliss
but that was before, I came to see, the interconnectedness
of all our distresses, and the link between capitalism
and the racist ideology that oppressed us.
 
Ignorance, isn’t bliss
nothing missed
will ever get fixed, while it’s in that abyss,
just permissed to exist
expand to the cliffs
precipitate rifts, till we’re lost in the mist, of defeat
no retreat, from the streets
where apathy meets, tunnel vision, something eats
all ambition seeks, halted-incomplete
justify the streak, wit,
“It don’t affect me”
Lies in the cheeks
chippin at the teeth
Knockin out the truth till it’s bleedin at my feet
cuz I didn’t wanna see, and I, wouldn’t believe
That, I had the power and compulsion to achieve, relief
from the system,
and its mission, imposition of conditions, beat resistance to submission
in collision with how I perceive, myself
and the position of my wealth, of heart
I have, a part to play
cuz the problems, don’t fade
and they, don’t go away
they don’t trail off, and become better days
like rays of sunlight, cuz they never see the light of day.