Jan 10 2017

Abolition and Policing: Critical Resistance Video

I greatly appreciate Critical Resistance’s work. Last year, they curated several conversations about abolition. I was privileged to participate in one of them. The video for that is forthcoming. For now, please watch long-time abolitionist organizers Rachel Herzing and Dylan Rodriguez in conversation.

Strong Communities Beyond Policing, Profiles in Abolition event series from Critical Resistance on Vimeo.

Dec 30 2016

Compelled to Act #1: 10 Concrete Actions to Take in January 2017

Every month, I will be posting concrete actions that we can take in the ongoing struggle for more justice. Victoria Safford shared a quote from someone in an essay that I appreciate very much: “You know we cannot do this all at once. But every day offers every one of us little invitations for resistance, and you make your own responses.” I love the idea of “little invitations for resistance.” The question before all of us, I think, is ‘what will we make of this moment in history?’ One thing I know for sure is that we need to build our *action* muscles. We need to get outside of ourselves and act (both individually and collectively). This is my small contribution to encouraging more of us to act (together).

1. Join the #Medicare4All Virtual Day of Action on January 20. Find details here.

2. Organize a community meeting to resist Trump (sorry I had to unlink this because emails were coming directly to me for some reason. Google moveon.org to find relevant info) and to discuss the importance of #Medicare4All among other issues. Sign up through Moveon.org to host a meeting and/or to attend a meeting in your community on January 15.

3. If you are in the NYC-area and are interested in fighting for single payer health care, attend the 2017 National Single Payer Strategy Conference from January 13-15.

4. Read “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” for useful information about defensive organizing at the Congressional level.

5. Read this short essay about how social change happens.

6. Sign up for an organizing 101 training in your community. If there isn’t one available or accessible, read “Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists” as a primer. Here’s a sample of the book as a PDF. You can also review the following website for an introduction to organizing. If you can though, it is best to participate in an in-person training.

7. Join or organize a rally/action on January 15 as part of the “Our First Stand: Save Healthcare” mobilization called by Congressional Democrats and led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Details are presumably forthcoming.

8. Be Ungovernable on January 20th and beyond.

9. Participate in the Day of Action to #FreeBresha on January 19.

10. Offer mutual aid and support. Donate to help children visit their incarcerated mothers in Illinois.

Nov 28 2016

A letter to white liberals, my family and friends by Anonymous

A letter to white liberals, my family and friends,

Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and that of the people who support him, makes each of you uncomfortable.

I share your discomfort, anger, sadness, and, at times, terror over what might come as Trump rolls out his nightmare vision of technologically armed white supremacist government.

But I am writing with a frank reminder and an urgent plea.

First, the reminder: radical queers, trans people, black people, Muslims, incarcerated people, Native Americans, immigrants and the undocumented, people with disabilities, and those who live at the intersections of these identities—all have lived with this discomfort and terror for decades or centuries. So, to watch this may feel like a nightmare unfolding, but its contours are not new.

Unfortunately, marginalized people have often appeared in liberal and Democratic efforts as tokens, people whose lives and value have been invoked in order to win elections but whose humanity has been negated by actual policy. In particular, too many liberals have been complacent toward mass incarceration, police violence and global militarized capitalism, which have kept whole groups of people vulnerable and unsafe in the U.S. and around the world.

Even before this election, we have been asking for something bigger, something more visionary than token diversity: A world in which Black lives really do matter. A world in which trans bodies are celebrated and safe. An end to white supremacist policies of incarceration and border control that take many lives each year. Economic justice and a rebuke of neoliberalism and privatization of basic needs like water, a demand that people across the globe have access to land, work, water, shelter and power.

These are beautiful possibilities, full of hope and solidarity. And yet when we ask for those things as a comprehensive vision, we are portrayed as absurd, as outsiders with impossible dreams.

Read more »

Jun 15 2016

An Update on Life and Blogging…

I had big plans to get back to regular blogging in 2016. Unfortunately life intervened.

I am happy to say that I’ve moved back to my hometown of New York City after over 20 years of living in Chicago.

This means many things. One is that once I am more settled, I’ll be able to return to more regular blogging. I am very excited about that because I miss writing regularly.

My writing will take on a different character because I will no longer be working on a daily basis with young people in conflict with the law.

For those of you who still check in here from time to time to see if I’ve posted anything new, thanks for your continued interest. I’ll be back soon.

Peace to you all.

May 18 2016

Instead of Jail…Dispatches From the Inside #3

Today, we feature art by Nicholas, an incarcerated young person who participated in the Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. It’s day 4 of the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth.

"All I Want Is Freedom" by Nicholas (Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program)

“All I Want Is Freedom” by Nicholas (Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program)

May 17 2016

Instead of Jail…Dispatches From the Inside #2

As the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth continues, here’s a poem by Nicholas who was detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. He wrote this piece as part of the Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program.

Nicholas - Burning On the Inside

May 16 2016

Instead of Jail… Dispatches From the Inside #1

This week is the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth. During this week, I am pleased to feature work by incarcerated young people at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) who participate in the Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program.

To kick us off, here is a poem by a young person named Tyreece.

Tyreece - The Spirit of My Life

May 08 2016

Reparations Won: One Year Later…

I’m in the midst of a major life transition. After over 20 years of living and working in Chicago, I’m moving back home to NYC in a few days. As such, I’ve had no time to blog. I am hoping to get back to more regular blogging in mid-summer once I’m settled.

On Friday, I celebrated the one year anniversary of Chicago passing reparations for police torture survivors with friends and comrades. To commemorate the milestone, Kuumba Lynx released a short video that I had the honor of narrating.

This is how they describe it:

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the Reparations Ordinance being passed for the Chicago Police Torture Survivors, which is the first time Reparations has been given for Police terrorism in the history of the United States. Our youth created documentary series “Journey to LTAB” begins in the summer of 2014 when the nation was exploding with police brutality after the Mike Brown and Eric Garner murders. After an unjust police search and arrest happens to one of the members of Kuumba Lynx, the youth within Kuumba lynx took the streets with their city to fight police brutality within the streets of Chicago. Using their art as a vehicle for activism, KL searches for their 3rd LTAB title. Taking the city by storm and putting light on issues that wouldn’t have been before. Throughout the year leading up to LTAB 2015, our work became connected to the fight for Reparations in Chicago, which “is the product of decades of activism, litigation and journalism and the culmination of a concerted six-month inspirational, intergenerational and interracial campaign co-led by Amnesty International – USA, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide,” and was driven by the Police Torture Survivors themselves, family members, Black People Against Police Torture and countless other organizations and communities’ work. We want to share this piece of our series that highlights this historic movement narrated by Reparations Now! organizer Mariame Kaba and the role Kuumba Lynx was honored to play in it.

This is the first sneak peak of the series we have released because of the importance of today’s anniversary. As we look back a year later, we look forward to debuting this 13 episode online series June 1st on KL We Get Free Media platforms. Please tune in and share to support Youth Powered Media.

Mar 30 2016

Podcast: Johnny Cash, Prison Reformer, Part 2

As promised here’s part 2 of our Johnny Cash Podcast. You can listen to part 1 here.

In this edition, we focus on Johnny as a prison reformer. We discuss his 1972 testimony before the Senate. Below is an excerpt from his testimony:

“I have been in the entertainment business now for 16 years and shortly after I began, I performed my first concert at a prison at the request of the inmates at Huntsville, Tex., State Prison. I went from there to Folsom, to San Quentin, to Arkansas State Prison, and I met many fine men, inmates, and the personnel who run the prisons in all of these places. And I found over a period of 17 years, I believe that possibly 25 percent of the men behind the bars really need to be in a prison.

I think that with the program to cover the man from the time he is
arrested all the way through his trial, conviction, his prison sentence and his parole, that there will me many less men actually admitted to prison to serve prison terms, to become a part of this outturn, of this incubator for crime in the systems.

I have seen and heard of things at some of the concerts that would
chill the blood of the average citizen, but I think possibly the blood of the average citizen needs to be chilled in order for public apathy and conviction to come about because right now we have 1972 problems and 1872 jails. And like Governor Bumpers of Arkansas recently said, unless the public becomes aware and wants to and wants to help and becomes involved in prison reform and really cares, unless people begin to care, all of the money in the world will not help. Money cannot do the job. People have got to care in order for prison reform to come about.”

We hope you enjoy part 2 of the podcast.

Mar 29 2016

Podcast: Johnny Cash, Prison Reformer, Part 1

“I mean, I just don’t think prisons do any good. They put ’em in there and just make ’em worse, if they were ever bad in the first place, and then when they let ’em out they’re just better at whatever put ’em in there in the first place. Nothing good ever came out a prison. That’s all I’m trying to say.” – J. Cash

I’ve been obsessed with Johnny Cash since I first heard ‘Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison’ when I was 15 years old. I came upon the record quite by accident. I was at a friend’s apartment. Her father was an avid country music fan. He was playing the album while I happened to be visiting. It would be several years before I became an anti-prison activist. So at the time, it was the music rather than the song content or lyrics that piqued my interest.

For nearly a decade, my friend Sam and I have threatened to have a discussion about Cash, the man and his music, on radio. Well, we finally made it happen through a two part podcast.

I am so thrilled to share part 1 of our discussion with everyone today. Special thanks to my friend Sarah who was our engineer.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the podcast tomorrow!

Update: Here’s the link to part 2.