No Independence Day! In Unity & Struggle, Till We Are All Free
by DJ Kuttin’ Kandi
This is for….
Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Ousmane Zongo, Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima,
Rodney King, the San Jose Custodio family, Fong Lee, Kuanchung Kao,
Anthony Baez, Joe Joshua….
The people who I mentioned above are only just a few of the thousands who have been beaten, tortured, harassed, murdered or all of the above by police officers in this country. There are countless many others of whom I have failed to mention, for sadly, I do not know them. They are graffiti artists who run the tracks and jump yards from the cops who beat them till their blue, women who are groped and raped by cops when they are pulled over, women behind prisoner walls who sleep unsafely in fear that they will be sexually abused by a guard, LGBTQ people who are constantly targeted, harassed and wrongfully arrested daily by hundreds of homophobic Officer Richard Fiorito’s in this country. They are our youth, and they are our people of color who are racially profiled every day. They all have names and they all have faces. They are family, they have homes, and they are part of our communities. And they have been stripped of their lives, their freedom, their liberty and their rights.
Sadly, all this mistreatment and killings have exposed not only the injustices and oppression in which we live in, but they have exposed the racist White Supremacy that embodies this country. They are in our everyday lives, embedded in the very systems that are supposed to protect and serve us, the people. They exist amongst our streets, in our schools, near our homes, infiltrating our parties, roaming in their cars, checking out our street corners, just waiting to look for any person of color to mess up or provoking us to retaliate.
As we wait for today’s closing arguments, deliberations and a verdict on the trial of what many of us are calling the Execution of Oscar Grant, I am remembering Sean Bell. I am remembering May 2008, sitting down reading a news article of hundreds of people in New York City protesting after all three officers were acquitted on all counts of charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault on the shooting and killing of Sean Bell. I remembered how the tears rolled down my face. I remembered feeling hopeless and helpless, and wishing I was back home in New York City. There I was, still a newbie San Diegan, still learning about the west coast life, 3000 miles away from New York City working at UC San Diego in a white, upper-class town called La Jolla, Ca. My lips couldn’t move but inside my head was screaming “Doesn’t anyone know what had just happened?” They had just let three police officers walk away free from murdering a young man with a 51 bullets-shooting!! Does not anyone care?
Of course there were many people that did care, many of whom were out there rallying, protesting, crying and hoping for change. But then there were also some that didn’t care. Then there were some that didn’t even know. Just as they didn’t know about Amadou Diallo who was shot and killed, with a total of 41 rounds by 4 police officers or they never heard about how Abner Louima was assaulted, brutalized and forcibly sodomized by New York police officers with a the handle of a bathroom plunger in 1997. Or they never learned about Fred Hampton, of the Black Panther Party, who was killed as he was asleep in bed by the Chicago Police department. Or they forgot about little 13-year old Timothy L. Wilson from Kansas City who was shot dead after a brief chase for driving his friend’s pick-up truck. LaTanya Haggerty in Chicago, Mario Paz in California, Aquan Salmon in Connecticut, Stanton Crew in New Jersey, Donta Dawson in Philadelphia, Pedro Oregon from Texas – all wrongfully shot and/or killed by police officers, some and/or maybe all of whose stories may not be known to most of us.
The mainstream media is also an institutionalized racist system much like the police system and the prison industry complex, and is often in cahoots with other fascists like the government; is not going to cover all of these police brutality stories in the truest details and form. The mass media play an important role in politics and policymaking, while journalists are key players in ongoing struggles of numerous socials groups to specify problems and form how we define those problems.
In the book The Politics of Force: Media and the Construction of Police Brutality, author Regina G. Lawrence reveals how the media, does not offer additional perspectives of particularly three cases of those who had been killed by police officers. She reports, “The news offered socially constructed public definitions of these vents, which drew upon official and, sometimes, nonofficial voices. With different degrees of success, police attempted to control those definitions by providing reporters with narratives that defended their use of physical force.” (Lawrence 3). She also brings to light how there be different realities for different people and “how the news simultaneously confers and denies power to different groups’ perspectives on reality.” This also raises the question which she asked, “What kind of ‘realities’ are represented in news coverage of policy issues? And whose realities are they?” (Lawrence 5).
In the preface of her book, Lawrence also makes known that the general public is not aware of the institutionalized racism that exists with the police department. She states, “It is tough to get the general public thinking about police brutality as a serious public problem. It is tougher still to persuade the public that the roots of that alleged problem lie not in the occasional bad behavior or poor judgment of individual police officers but in entire institutionalized systems of police training, management, and culture; in a criminal-justice system that discourages prosecutors from pursuing police misconduct vigorously; in a political system that responds more readily to police than to the residents of inner-city and minority communities; or in a racist political culture that fears crime and values tough policing more than it values due process for all its citizens. “ (Lawrence XII).
My question is, if the media plays a major role in being the “official dominance” and if “journalists rely heavily on institutionally position officials for the raw materials of news” as Lawrence exposes; then what do we do to change what the general public thinks is “reality”, especially if the “reality” and problems of those who are marginalized are ignored by those institutionally position officials?
As I am looking to find ways to answer that question, I am also struck with sadness because the news are depicting activists as if we are wanting to cause riots in the streets. Speaking from my own perspective as an activist and community organizer, I choose not to engage in violent measures when justice is not served for the people. However, I believe self-defense is a right, and I will exercise that right, as I am sure others will too.
Hip-Hop Activist and journalist Davey D, recently been taking us back to footages at previous Oscar Grant rallies, showing us Mandingo Hayes who was accused of being a police informant and a former pimp and in the clips. Hayes was one of the key people who were influencing folks to leave the rally and head to the BART Headquarters, and shut down the station, while it was far from CAPE (Coalition Against Police Executions) organizers agenda. Also, more recently Quebec police admitted going undercover at the Montebello protests disguising themselves as demonstrators. And just now, within the hour, Davey D exposes a new LRAD weapon and questions if the Oakland police could possibly be itching to use it for expected riots.
So, if media are making activists appear to be intolerable, vicious people then how can we as activists gain the trust of the general public to be able to educate the “reality” that needs to be told?
Also, what the news fails to show and highlight to the general public are the many different faces that are at the Oscar Grant protests. Various faces, people of color are supporting, rallying, voicing, sharing and being allies to one another. This is happening because there is an understanding of the solidarity needed. That this is bigger than just the indictment of Officer Mehserle… that this is about fighting institutionalized racism and White Supremacy. All of us, people of color including white people are affected by White Supremacy.
The killings of people of color by police officers are a symbolic representation of what is happening across this country and around the world. They are connected to what’s happening in Arizona and Texas. They are connected to what happened in New Orleans, to the BP Oil Spill and to what are happening in Haiti now (Check Davey D’s site for Immortal Technique’s latest piece on his trip to Haiti) .
Last week, a friend posted on Facebook an article on how 4 Filipino nurses are claiming the Bon Secours Health System fired them for speaking Tagalog at work. They had recently filed a discrimination complaint before the US Equal Empoyment Opportunity Commission. The hospital policy states; that since English is the primary language of their customers it must be the exclusive language spoken and written by all employees while on duty in the emergency department. But none of the nurses recall speaking in Tagalog in front or while providing patient care in the Emergency Department and that they only spoke their native language during breaks at their Nurses Station.
Upon reading this article, I was immediately upset. I was upset for the obvious reasons, at least to me, that people could get fired for speaking their own language. Quite honestly, in my opinion, I’m saddened that such a hospital policy should even exist. Have we forgotten that we live in a country that according to the last 2008 census, 55.8 million of the US population speaks a variety of foreign languages? Perhaps, instead of making English a primary language, we should be learning to speak various languages? Aside from knowing that the English language has become the primary language pretty much all over the world due to imperialism and colonialism, this policy is another way to “whiten-out” people of color, forcing people to assimilate into this country and it’s elitist standards. While I value learning and educating ourselves to speak the white man’s language, while I understand that there can be a majority of people that speak English in an office or work setting, I still find it insulting that a policy preventing people to speak their own native language in their workplace highly racist.
Not only was I able to link these arrests as a connection to racism, I immediately linked this to what’s going on in Arizona and the SB1070 Bill, along with Texas’s Board of Education’s conservative winning vote of 9-5 back in early May to change Texas’s history curriculum to amend the teaching of the civil rights movement, slavery and America’s relationship with United Nations. I find it abominable that such a thing can even happen, and I am boggled as to how come more people aren’t enraged about how this came to pass. And if people are enraged, the news aren’t covering it, nor are they covering the thousands that caravanned to Arizona from San Diego to LA and all over to protest the SB1070-legalizing-racial-profiling Bill. But bringing it back to the subject at hand, the arrests of the 4 Filipino nurses for speaking their native language are strongly connected to how Arizona is wiping out Ethnic Studies and firing teachers who have “accents”.
There is a trickle down effect happening in this country, our world is globally dying, the earth is speaking to us to not just clean-up oil spills… there’s earthquakes, levee’s breaking, floods happening and storms coming. There is a calling… and it’s telling us that they are coming for all of us. While we continue to embrace and value our differences, and while we must continue to recognize the need for each community to express their individual needs, issues and concerns. We also need to understand that we are all struggling. And that these aren’t specifically just Black issues, or just Brown issues, these are all of our issues. And we must resist them together. More than ever, there is a need for us to recognize how these issues are all connected. And how we need to continue to be there for one another, we need to continue to stand up together, rise up together… And again, I say continue, because I know there are so many of you already doing so.
As an organizer myself, I have an understanding that we all have different political ideologies. I understand that we are all not going to agree. I know, everyone has different ways of organizing. For me, personally, I consider myself a Hip-Hop Activist, so I always find ways to utilize Hip-Hop to be that vehicle to bring voice for our people. But even 2009’s Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate Rosa Clemente has voiced expressed having to call for a Hip-Hop radical front to separate it from other claimed Hip-Hop political agendas. This means, we may have to do some calling out on folks if we need to… and rightfully so, we should. We don’t need anyone in the movement with hidden agendas. But overall, we’re going to need to continue to be allies. And if we don’t know how to we’re going to need to learn how to be allies to each other. At the Social Justice Summer Institute at UCSD, I was given this great read on how to be an ally Aspiring Social Justice Ally Identity Development: a Conceptual Model (Edwards, K.E.) (2006) NASPA Journal Vol. 43. No. 4 Women’s Center (look it up in google scholar).
We have a lot of work ahead of us.
Many activists around the world have been working tirelessly fighting all of these injustices for years on. So many people who never wanted to be activists, who never thought they would even be one finding themselves turning into activists. Realizing they have no choice but to resist and fight back against a system that wants to keep them silent, they become activists without even putting the label on themselves. This is the reality in which many are living in…. And the reality is, at the rate of the way this world is going; this will be the reality for all of us.
And it might come down to things we haven’t even begun to imagine. It might have to come down to putting everything we have at risk in order to truly live free. We may have to rethink the ways in which we are living and the ways in which we are even trying to educate ourselves. Many of us have families, and need to come home to them. But some of us have certain privileges, in where we’re able to put ourselves out on the front lines. And although, I too, have family, a partner who loves me and would like to see me come home; I am one of those people who can, and more than likely at the end of the day, if it means to… I will be right on the front lines. And if the revolution goes down like that where I need to defend myself, then yes, by any means necessary, I will exercise my right of the 2nd amendment.
But for years many have been trying prevent this from happening… trying to prevent it having to come down to that…
But the truth is many of us are distracted. I admit, I too, get distracted. Not necessarily with the “dumbening effect” (a popular word my husband coined for television’s reality tv shows) of reality tv, but with the fact that it’s just way too stressful to even just live. We got bills to pay, we have to work, we have to go to school and we got health. There’s so much to take care of that it almost seems like we can’t ever make it to a meeting to organize or to educate. This economy is taking a toll on all of us, and it’s wearing us down to the point where sometimes we don’t have energy, or we’re too sick to show up to a planning meeting. I know I was almost about 8 months off of organizing from going through deep depression. I had to take care of me before I went back in and I’m still not doing nearly as much as I can be doing. And if it’s not that, some of us are getting PTSD from the stress to organize, the arguments, the divides… It’s just too much to bear. While many of us are dealing with all of the above, there are also many of us that rather be distracted with fake entertainment.
But the truth is, we can’t spend all day long, being tuned into questions if Chris Brown was genuinely crying or not… At some point, we have to turn off BET, MTV, Glenn Beck, Fox News, stop going on our tourist vacations and we are going to have to turn our heads, wake up, and realize the realities of the world. At some point, we are all going to have to contribute, organize… At some point, something has got to give. At some point, we’re going to have to start listening, stop the divides and come together….
It’s ironic, that as we wait for the verdict of Johannes Mehserle, the officer who executed Oscar Grant, we are a few days shy of it being Independence Day.
I can count how many facebook status’s I read of people getting ready for the weekend barbecues, beachfests and picnics. How nice! I can’t judge, (sighs) I wish I could do the same – I could if I wanted to – San Diego has the beautiful weather to be able to do so.
But in the midst of all that beach campfire I can’t help but ask –
Independence Day for who? We still have troops out in war.
Independence Day for who? There was no justice for Amadou, Sean Bell…
And Mumia is still behind bars for a crime he did not commit, and Assata still deemed as a “terrorist”, and they still haven’t shut off that oil. And on and on and on and on…..
We can’t go back to “business as usual”….
Because when is… enough is enough? How many more killings? How many more deaths? How many more wars till we realize…. We are not truly free till we are all free.
Below is an excerpt of my poem “I Write” in which I wrote in 1999 about the police brutality of Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima…. I am sharing it with all of you in dedication to Oscar Grant and all those who have suffered from police brutality.
smear it spray it
starting at the Supreme Court
“I will find his justice”
“I will find his justice”
because his justice was not served
yet he served every man
that wrote the constitution
all men shall be created equal
yet he is still serving his master
morning, noon and night
serving his master’s meals
picking his cotton
picking his apple trees
working the field
serving his children
while his master
is raping his wife
right in front of his eyes
only difference today
is his master WRITES him a check
WRITES out his life contract
WRITE his story on the
front cover of a magazine
for the music HE writes
for the video he shoots
with the ice
that his brother in
Africa and India died for
with a little girl glued to the screen
learning how to be a whore
writing him out
bleeding him out
no where to run
no way out
showing you the money
making you believe
your master cares
by selling you out
enslaving him till he goes platinum
till he wins the grammy
till he gets drugged up
till he gets locked up
till she gets knocked up
this is how tupac and biggie
got shot up
this is how it goes
but this is how
the system is all fucked up
it happened more than just 41 times
and all he ever asked
for was his freedom?
but when New York’s finest
did not protect and serve
he still served his master
following the system
believing in the system
believe in the system
how can I believe in the system
when the system does not believe in me?
oh but as they thrust their way
into his bottom
into the crevices of his buttocks
they were plunging
plunging their way
into his mind
into his mind
for he will not forget
he will not forget
so he doesn’t stop there
no he doesn’t stop there
he cant stop
he wont stop
because it don’t stop
till we get the popo off the block
then they make their laws
one, two, three
strikes your out
and expect us to follow
and try to win our votes
because it is then that we count?
as victims of
global bureaucratic depravation
clintons libidinous prevarication
guiliani’s fucked up regimentation
bush and his administration
all over this nation
all over this nation
with their broken window theories
with their quality of life initiative
with their preemptive laws
with their proposition 21’s
and this is how they won
and this is how they won
this is how they won