LGBT Activists Need to Look in America’s Backyard

A word of wisdom to LGBT activists who have been calling out homophobia and transphobia in places like Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and Russia, I think you have been doing a good job bringing to our attention the crimes in these places. But there is something that concerns me–that is, your constant appeal to the U.S., Canadian, and English governments to intervene in these places and punish them, and educate them about right and wrong.

A victim of homophobia myself, I support your strategy. You are asking the hubs of political, military, and economic power to use their power and make homophobic and transphobic states less powerful in waging phobias upon the powerless.

But let’s be clear on something, which many of you have not made clear in the body and history of your criticisms. What you are also doing is asking one bully to control other bullies.

I think it important to intervene with this note, because a Facebook friend asked me an important question on August 6, a question other Jamaicans have been asking in different ways. “Should LGBTQ individuals REALLY be proudly celebrating Jamaica’s independence?” the friend asked.

The friend asked the question, knowing it was Jamaica’s independence and, perhaps, after observing many LGBT Jamaicans, like myself, have been consistently critical of Jamaica’s homophobia. It is an important question because it puts activists in a position to take their role seriously on how they approach national holidays and national pride, when the notion of national pride varies for various constituencies.

I replied, “Yes, Jamaicans should celebrate their independence, have the same national pride as other countries such as the U.S., which have a history of legislated violence upon people of color, LGBT peoples, drone murders upon foreigners, funding apartheid and crimes of the Israeli government, CIA secret programs that to this day continue to destabilize Latin American countries, and torture chambers.”

What I hope you notice is that I make it clear that the United States is a dangerous place as well, something many LGBT activists are not doing. Of course, they should attack phobias across the world. But I find them outrightly ignorant or dishonest or coward to be constantly demonizing, especially, Third World countries while asking First World peoples to be the moral judges. There is no balance in their approach to and criticism of phobias.

Of course I understand that has to be one of their strategies. In order for political activism to be successful, constituencies have to align with demons to build an army powerful enough to eradicate other devils. During the process, however, there needs to be a show of integrity.

Don’t act as though hate and violence exist only in Africa and the Caribbean, by ignoring to comment about the U.S. leadership (with the support of Europe) in drone terrorism of non-American peoples.

I expect that LGBT activists who also call themselves human rights advocates to occasionally take time and make forceful comments about the human crimes perpetrated by the most powerful elites that they expect to serve as global moral judges.

Of course, I understand LGBT advocates want to stay in their lane and only comment about LGBT subjects. But they cannot make that argument and then support their case by quoting statistics and positions of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—U.S. centered organizations that address subjects other than queer advocacy, but whose existence indirectly solidifies American imperialist violence.

Now I’m not saying these organizations haven’t done more good than bad. I’m just saying we have to look at their agendas and the ends they meet in terms of what geographies mostly benefit, and how they attack Third World countries more than First World countries, thus providing cover for places like the U.S. and Canada to wage violence in the shadows of covert-classified operations. As I see it, much of their strategy is really a deployment of national patriotism, not by individuals, but by non-profit organizations.

The point I’m making to LGBT activists is that anything other than a balanced critical strategy further marginalizes Third World countries while the characteristics of other bullies escape scrutiny.  Increasingly it bothers me when I go to LGBT events and people ask, “Where are you from?” and I answer, “I’m from Jamaica” and they roll their eyes and say something like, “That place!” Oh, how I want to say, Look in your own backyards and let’s start comparing notes!

Posted in Gay Voices, Politics Education, Race Matters

Can People See Your Value?

If you show and tell people who you are and what you reasonably desire but they ignore your messages, you must take their actions seriously. They are saying your presence and desires are not essential to them. They are informing you that you do not matter as much as you would like them to see you, and that if you are absent from their lives, they will miss nothing of value.

We must always remember we have something to offer every human being who moves in our circle, especially if we take time to talk to them, even in a simple place like Facebook or Twitter or in a coffee shop. Having a bunch of friends and associates will add nothing to our lives, except drama, if they do not see our value.

People have a way of realizing when we do not see our own value, and they will insult us, exploit us, and their mannerisms will reveal that, in a second, they will abandon us while thinking they will miss nothing of value.

When we constantly remember our value, automatically without thinking, we will act in ways that show we value ourselves, our presence, and what we offer others. People who see our confidence will feel something, believe we have a deep admiration for values and offerings, and become willing to add their gifts to our lives.

Sure, we all offer value to others. But how will friends, colleagues, and family feel if we are no longer in their circle? Will they believe that they’ll miss anything of value? Have we been acting in ways that subtly remind people around us that they are receiving value from our presence?

Search your lives a bit today. Examine the people and groups that surround you. Notice the ones that speak and act in ways that show their recognition of the value you bring to their lives. Nurture them. Love them. See the ones that show open hostility to your presence. Get rid of them!

Also take note of the ones that are sending mix signals. Often, those ones notice you are not fully aware of your own value. So get rid of your lack of confidence, which has been disabling the brilliant characteristics that reveal you know your worth. Own and walk in your power of worth! The right people will remain in your circle; the right people will leave it.

Posted in Life Talk Tagged with: ,

How to Argue On Facebook

Many people need to know how to have a respectful conversation to preserve peace on Facebook and in their own lives:

(a) If you are going to disagree with someone on Facebook, begin by affirming something they say. Make it clear you see value in their views. You can say something like “I agree with you on this and that, because I see how it could indeed lead to such and such.” 

When you do that, the person will immediately realize you care about what they said and that you are not there to lecture. It will also make the conversation less hostile and more productive. You can then move ahead and say, “I however disagree with you because of so and so.”

(b) Don’t tell people to stop talking about a subject you consider trivial! It’s rude to say something like “Why are we talking about Beyoncé when she doesn’t pay our bills?” Who are you to tell people what to talk about on their free time? And why do you think your idea of what’s important should become the template for everyone else? It will seem as if you are asserting power over other people, trying to control how they talk.

(c) It shows a lack of manners to rush over to people’s page when you are not on their friend’s list to attack. Visit to affirm! You don’t know them. You don’t know the history of their views. By showing up to preach without knowledge of the histories of their views, it makes you appear arrogant, a know-it-all: not a sophisticated debater. This impolite print of your aggressiveness will always remain on the Internet.

(d) Be aware of the usage of certain words such as “most,” “many,” “some,” and “few.” Use “most” when you are knowledgeable of the statistics. Otherwise, “some” is a good choice. To say, “Most Americans hate foreigners,” makes you sound not so knowledgeable. How can you prove that? It’s best to say “Some” or “Many Americans” hate foreigners.

If, however, a behavior is widespread, in your opinion, you can amplify your position by saying something like, “Americans hate foreigners.” You can defend that position by referring to the culture of politics and voting that put war hawks in office, and how drones have been destabilizing foreign lands.

However, persons can always challenge you on this; but there is room to defend your point. If you, however, say “Most Americans,” your opponent can ask you to provide the statistics. When you leave it as “Americans,” you have room to maneuver.

(e) Never ever attack people’s personality because you don’t like their views. Don’t become psychologist and psychiatrist! Remain a debater! If someone says, “Jamaicans are the worst people in the Caribbean,” you shouldn’t reply saying, “You are stupid.” Character attacks are not arguments.

Instead, move ahead and state why the argument is flawed, or why Jamaicans are not the worst people in the Caribbean. If you can’t argue any of that, use your brilliant skills and respectfully force your opponent to prove their point.

Indeed, when you do character attacks, many of your friends might press the LIKE button in your defense. It doesn’t mean your argument is sound; it just means they lack the skills to realize you have violated the rules of good debate. A good reader will quietly say, “Oh, there goes a bunch of misinformed nodding heads to misinformation.”

(d) When a black person holds a position you don’t think is “liberal,” don’t say, “But what if they did that to black people”? That doesn’t make you sound smart. That line of argument is clichéd. It presupposes that black folks shouldn’t have certain views because they were once enslaved and should remain eternally grateful that white people freed them.

White persons love to use this line when talking about gender and sexuality. And they fail to realize they are basically declaring their power over black people, by reminding blacks of white powers that enslaved and freed.

Based on that power articulation, they have expectations of what black viewpoints must automatically resemble. Indeed, people of color do it too when referring to persons such as Clarence Thomas or black conservatives. But it seems they are unaware that this statement is creating a mandate for how all blacks must think and speak.

If you discern some black persons are homophobic for instance, don’t rush to remind them that they need to be grateful for not being slaves. That position is not going to change their views. An argument should be about bringing fresh ideas to the table–ideas your opponent hadn’t heard before.

(f) Don’t pop up on people’s page only when you want to disagree.

(g) Don’t argue to win! Argue to share or else you will never feel like a true winner!

(h) Don’t hesitate to use the delete and block button to keep a healthy Facebook life.

You might however realize I do not follow these rules sometimes; but that is when I am referring to public figures. When talking to Facebook friends, I try to abide by these rules.

Posted in Life Talk, Politics Education Tagged with:

David Finch–Wonder Woman–No Feminist

wonder woman

Wonder Woman

David Finch, the artist who will be heading the DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, refers to Wonder Woman saying,

“we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong—I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.”

If you read the comments below the Mother Jones blog where I first saw the story, you would think David said something offensive. This is nothing new. Many feminists have set in motion a pattern that makes it uncomfortable for men to talk about feminism. They expect men to either support feminism like figurines decorating a craft show or men must shut up.

What David is saying is that he doesn’t want Wonder Woman to be seen as a politically ideological character. David perhaps knows that feminism is a diverse field like any other ideological field in which actors remain at ideological war, trying to answer questions of who exactly do feminists represent, who are feminists, and what constitute feminist representation.

Avoiding the politically ideological might not give David the results he hopes for. But that is the messaging strategy he wishes to sell. There is nothing offensive within his statement. In fact, what is offensive is that identity politics still looms as a billion dollar industry that treats views as though they are created in a marketplace dominated by ideological shoppers of the day; and there isn’t more outraged about that fact.

Responses to issues of gender, race, and the LGBT community are seen as extremely sensitive to the point that discourse is hijacked and learning has been stifled. Of all the things David said about the Wonder-Woman project, we need not wonder why his brief comment about feminism made headlines.

Simple! Gender controversy sells! Most of us fail to realize how we are participating in this manipulative matrix as babblers (myself included). We believe we are really shedding light on an issue, taking an activist position for equality. Indeed, we might be doing all that, but it’s time we realize we are also engaging an exploitative tradition where every piece of non-offensive talk is amplified and decontextualized in order to keep us babbling at our keyboards while someone else rakes in profits.

If I were in David’s position, I would allow Wonder Woman to continue doing the powerful things she had been doing, and I wouldn’t oppose others who label her as feminist, but it is not a word I’d use to describe her.

What makes Wonder Woman feminist? From what I see across the Internet, many people say that she is a “strong woman.” Even David said that too. Perhaps he knew that such a characterization would immediately make others think Strong=Feminist, and so he attempted to disrupt that equation.

Is it that all “strong women” are automatically feminists? So what about women who aren’t “strong,” are they of a less worthy cloth in the hierarchy of woman and human power structures? Are feminists solely recognizing, in order to culturally replicate, “strong women”?

We could even ask what makes a woman “strong,” and who are weak women, or women in-between strong and weak. What specific roles in the private, public, economic, activist, and political spheres define these labels?

That there is a tendency to identify and valorize “strong women,” could that automatically mean feminists are locating only “distinguished women,” a minority of women. “Minority,” I say, because feminists wouldn’t have highlighted “distinguished” patterns if such patterns were the norm among the majority of women.

Could this be a criticism of some feminist movements? That is—they are ignoring the majority of women by only praising a minority; and in the process, they are making it appear as though they speak for all women—and that all women should consider the title “feminist,” the highest among honors? Could these concerns be among the premises David Finch resists?

Posted in Politics Education Tagged with: ,

Even Love Has to be Negotiated

I’m a high-energy person, passionate in speaking, passionate in loving, passionate in fighting, and passionate in praising others. But I’ve been learning, I need to be more selective of who I praise and how often I praise them. I realize that some people do not know how to receive praises. They take it to mean you giving them authority over you to counsel you, to see your faults, and to take the job of correcting you.

You notice this when the relationship becomes one where you continuously praise them, and increasingly they take the role of being your advisor when you never asked them to. If you flip the table and advise them on anything, you notice their quick rejection of your advice, or their silence.

Your praises and tolerance of their counsel have created a relationship where they do not value you as equal. Things must change therefore. I have to train myself to hold back praises, to more carefully and consciously distribute them when needs be.

It’s messed up that life forces me to hold back simple things like showing love; but life is about negotiating behaviors, and so even the way in which love is shown has to be negotiated.

Posted in Life Talk Tagged with: , ,

Be Bold Today

Stop being afraid! Just stop being afraid! If you feel like doing something that will hurt no one, just do it.

Stop looking over your back to see whether your neighbor or your family or your friends disapprove!

Who put a roof over your head? Who put shoes on your feet? Who put food in your belly? You. You. You alone.

So why do you keep on caring about what people think? If you feel like going on the sidewalk to hold your belly and scream and laugh, go do it!

Too many of us are immobilized by fear in the process of trying to look too proper, trying too hard to fit in, trying to get approval from people who will not raise a hand to put us in their house if we get kicked out on the street.

In everything we do, we must be bold. Women be bold! Men be bold!

In the process of being bold, don’t make apologizes; don’t provide explanations such as “Well, I don’t usually do this, but now–” or “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but.”

You don’t have to explain anything to anyone. When you begin to explain, you give others reasons to doubt you, reasons to reprimand you, reasons to shut you down.

Many of us conflate boldness with an in-your-face cocky attitude. No, boldness is confidence. It’s going after what you want. It’s about learning to shut out negative voices while you keep your eyes on the prize.

Many people will not like you because you are bold—but why do you care? They don’t feed or shelter you.

Most people will however admire your boldness because most people are looking for others to inspire them to be bold.

Be bold my sisters and brothers. Be bold today. Be bold at least for a day!

Posted in Life Talk Tagged with:

Jamaicans: Tired of Sexism, Child Abuse, Homophobia, Transphobia?

caribbean alliance for equality

Jason Latty

Tomorrow will mark 38 years since the now deceased Prime Minister Michael Manley called the infamous State of Emergency. Many view that 1976 episode as one of the worst attacks on freedom of speech since Jamaica gained universal adult suffrage in 1944. It led to the killing of over 800 people in the 1980 election.

Today very little has changed in Jamaica. Corruption is still alive and kicking in our government and social sectors. The 2011 Tivoli Gardens massacre reminds us of state murders that buried freedom fighters of the Morant Bay Rebellion. We have upgraded from killing 800 people to 1300-1500 per year with little outcry in the country. And this past Saturday, a man was mobbed in Clarendon just for wearing lipstick.

The Peoples National Party remains the ruling party. It is now even more powerful. But it acts as though it is powerless, due to its lack of political will to advance the living conditions of the Jamaican people.

I saw Prime Minister Simpson-Miller cutting ribbon at a standpipe early this year. Prime Minister Simpson-Miller was launching an employment initiative that promised to benefit just 5000 Jamaicans. Indeed, Jamaicans are hungry for employment, but the prime minister’s offering was merely a short-term-employment promise for no more than 5000 Jamaicans. Yet the prime minister thought this was a great 2014 accomplishment.

Like the repercussions of the Manley government of the 1970s, the five-flights-to-Miami syndrome continues in Jamaica. The educated class is leaving is mass amounts. They are tired of the violence. Tired of the sexism. Tired of the high tolerance of child abuse by mothers, fathers, and community members. Tired of transphobia. So they are getting visas for countries all over the world. Anywhere else but Jamaica! is the mentality among the most patriotic Jamaicans.

Wackos have controlled Jamaica for years now. Deeply entrenched prejudices have contributed to a society where only 10% of the population will ever obtain a tertiary education. The high cost of living coupled with very little opportunity for economic advancement has left our people dazed and desensitized to the harsh and cold realities around them.

Our education system has failed our youths due to its failure to systematically target areas where children need help the most. This leaves us with a country where many people are uneducated and brainwashed. This rears a culture of good ole Jamaicans who show their ignorance, their love for Jamaica, by distributing violence against other Jamaicans in the name of nationalism, morality, and even education.

Jamaica has long gained a reputation as one of the most homophobic places on earth. Jamaicans continue to disown this title as they walk around with their machetes, trying to find the next gay man to torture, the next lesbian to corrective rape, and the next homeless trans person in a gully to murder.

There are now 1.1 million people living in abject poverty. Contrast this against Jamaica’s current population of 2.7 million. Dwayne’s House under the leadership of activists like Maurice Tomlinson and Yvonne McCalla Sobers continues to struggle to acquire funding to provide bread and butter, and hope for a roof for homeless LGBT teens whom families disown and society mobs regularly. The team of Caribbean Alliance For Equality (CAFE), at which I am the president, hopes to economically grow the organization and increase its membership so that we can better collaborate with LGBTQ organizations to dismantle phobias across the Caribbean.

The time is ripe now for a genesis in our thinking. If we stop and have a true reflection on our past and evaluate the present, we can salvage the future. Somewhere in the underbelly of the Jamaican people is still hidden a people with strong community building skills. A people who still values education. A people who understands the intrinsic value of life. A people desperately seeking love, freedom, and happiness. A people of a Jamaica, where the motto out of many one people needs to ring with more truthfulness.

Posted in Gay Voices, Politics Education Tagged with: , , , , , ,

LGBT Organization Acts Like Bully

Lambda Legal Restaurant Receipt

Lambda Legal Restaurant Receipt

Another example of an LGBT organization acting like a bully around town! That is, Lambda Legal filed a complaint for anti-LGBT slur based on a restaurant receipt. If we read Bilerico Project’s Why Is Lambda Legal Cyberbullying a Small Business, we discover that Lambda Legal is really going after a restaurant that “has gay staff and regularly hosts events like marriage receptions for gay or lesbian couples and private parties for LGBT events.”

Lambda Legal’s bully method in many ways mirrors the bully style of the Israeli lobby AIPAC. Many people would like to support Israel, but when they think of supporting Israel, they are conflicted. On the one hand, they know the people of Israel are different from the political positions the government of Israel takes. They know the Israeli government is the one responsible for creating racist apartheid policies that treat Palestinians as second-class citizens. On the other hand, it is difficult for people to conceptualize the Israeli government as different from the Israeli people.

This has led many people to accept that Israeli Jews need to protect themselves from militant Muslim violence. But at the same time, people resent apartheid. This resentment has forced people to vocally withhold support for Israel. Additionally, Israeli lobbies go after everyone, allies and enemies, who dare to question brutal racists polices of the Israeli government.

Nobody likes to be told they cannot speak. The viscous attacks against free speech have created a culture of cowardice, where most American intellectuals and media-talking heads tow the speaking lines of the Israeli lobbies. Social media follows and keep quiet when it has anything to do with Israel. Or they use fake social media identities to spill their grievances.

Many Israeli Jews believe Americans hate them. No, most people like you. But people hate the racism in your country—the racism you want them to support—the Israeli racism that they condemn, but you turn around and call them anti-Semitic because they advocate against racism.

At the same time, I’m not always mad at the Israeli lobby for their aggressiveness in stamping out free speech. Because the Muslim lobbies have been doing the same thing. I’m convinced that the Middle East needs aggressive Israeli activism to temper Muslim extremism. Without Israel in the Middle East, I have no doubt that Muslim agendas would acquire more freedom to use violence, genocide, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia to get what they want in the name of religion.

Currently, it is not ok to criticize religious violence in Muslim culture anymore. For eight years, the Bush administration used racist policies to attack the Arab community. Under the Obama administration, there have been attempts to disrupt that racist tradition but Obama often caves in to Republican and Democratic leaderships that valorize the old ways.

This has maintained racists legacies which Muslim constituencies use to cry out, “Victim, victim, victim!” But you rarely hear any of them crying, “Look at the victims in the Middle East! Too many Muslim men are killing Arab women, boys and girls!”

Where are the organized Muslim lobbies to eradicate Muslim violence in the Arab world? There are none, or few if any. Prominent Muslim constituencies have demonstrated they will only mobilize to shut up Americans rather than shut down the violence perpetrated by their religious wackos.

Trying to distance itself from that racist past, Americans are now suffering from racist guilt, in the same way many white people suffer from white guilt when it comes to criticizing black people. To address this fear, it is always important to frame arguments so that persons understand the difference between criticizing Arab cultures and the Muslim religion. And one should always speak if you know deep in your heart you did nothing to feel guilty about.

As I see it, Islam is the Arab world’s problem. Islam is one of America’s serious problems. Islam is also one of the world’s critical problems. And haven’t you figured out the secret? Oh, yes, Islam power structures have been using aggressive lobby efforts to hide these truths.

Like the Israeli lobbies, Muslim lobbies have invaded the intellectual, media, and economic lives of America and Europe. People are now afraid of saying “Muslim terrorism,” because such would open them to attacks of being Islamophobia.

Obviously, the Muslim lobbies have taken the trick from the playbooks of Israeli lobbies: Brand critics as racist in order to silence every criticism!

Increasingly, prominent LGBT lobbies have been doing the same thing: Brand critics as homophobic and transphobic first, then ask questions later! Create a culture of fear in order to create a safe space for the LGBT community!

Now when we watch videos of physical altercations between members of the LGBT community and someone from the heterosexual community, our first impulse is to scream, “Homophobia, this should not be tolerated!” rather than to ask, “Did the gay or transgender person began the violence?”

What I’m afraid will get worse is that more people will believe gay people are a powerful class determined to silence both allies and enemies. I am afraid fairness and objectivity will be lost as we intellectually mediate disputes. I don’t want the gay community to emerge from the shadows only to be hated in a new way. So I would like to emphasize that we need to remember that when the gay lobby speaks, it is often a privilege white gay class that speaks.

Posted in Atheist, Gay Voices, Politics Education, Race Matters Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Pastor Gets Tolerance For Gay Community

Bible and Gay Tolerance

Bible and Gay Tolerance

I woke up and the first message I read was from a Facebook friend. He is one of the pastors of a large pentecostal church. I didn’t even know who he was until this morning. I guess I need to start reading my friends’ profiles to see who is who, and who might be able to buy me a bank.

He said he has been reading my posts over the years, but has never commented. He admits to logging on to Facebook mostly to read my posts. When I don’t post, he said, It feels like something is missing.

He stated that his church’s theology opposes homosexuality, but from having read my posts over the years, he could not continue another day without reaching out to me. He added that his God told him to “man-up” and contact me and show some love. He has grown tolerant and friendly toward the gay community because of me. It was hard to accept the gay community for a long time, but hearing me speak passionately and knowledgeably for these years made him questioned old beliefs he had.

He ended the email saying, he doesn’t agree with many things I say on a variety of topics including religion, but I inspire him to recognize that people are indeed born differently. He promised to do what he has already began: that is, to reeducate his church about the gay community, because right now, people of color need to be united rather than divided. He encouraged me to continue using my voice, and to not water-down myself to please anyone, because he believes what I’m doing here is going to open new doors for me.

What a great message to hear from such an influential person first thing in the morning! It made my day

Posted in Gay Voices, Life Talk, Race Matters Tagged with:

Me An Angry Black Man Saved Me From Prison

 

orange is the new black

orange is the new black

I was arrested before, so prison subjects get me emotional. It explains why I’m not in the mood to see prison injustices and violence in the new season of Orange is the New Black. I’ll watch it in the future. I’ve been doing a lot of creative work in the last three weeks, and I want my mind to remain clear.

Regarding my arrest history, the police arrested me one night years ago though the key witness spoke in my favor. I slept that weekend in jail. The prosecutors charged me with an outrageous felony. I could have ended up in prison, not because I was guilty; it was because I was poor.

The American legal justice system is not for poor people. Court appointed lawyers, judges, and prosecutors are a team that will continue getting along whether or not the accused is convicted or freed. Therefore, the accused is always seen as the outsider in their midst.

All the lawyer, the judge, and the prosecutor desire is a plea deal. Plea deals make their resumes look good. “Hey, look how many cases I have resolved this year alone!”

Plea deals make the justice system look productive. “Fellow Americans, we have put away X amount of criminals behind bars. The new commissioner of police is doing a fine job, Our communities are safer.”

But plea deals are the very legal productions that destroy the future of mostly black and Latino men. It could have destroyed me if I hadn’t taken on the system. The fight tired me. I got headaches. I got long bouts of flus. I vomited too often. I was in school and couldn’t finish my course work on time; but luckily, I had faculty members who understood.

I fought even after my lawyer advised that my “stubbornness” might result in my deportation because juries would not find my cocky attitude humble. At the time, I was not an American citizen. Judges, lawyers, and prosecutors hate going to trial. They view trials as time consuming. Trial is money that poor folks can’t pay. Trial is work that clogs up the court. So plea deals are their strategic offerings to the accused. The lawyer’s work thus becomes, more so, to convince the accused to take a plea deal rather than to convince the court and the prosecutor that the accused is innocent.

During the fight, I felt close to taking a plea deal. I had become too tired. My lawyer made me seem like an angry man. I was beginning to wonder if I was really an angry black man for demanding justice.

Sure, people can brand and stereotype even the best among us to the point that we begin to believe them. I am innocent. But the constant manipulation stripped away my confidence and at times I wondered if I was guilty of the prosecutor’s felony charge.

I wanted the case to just go away. I wanted a future. So could you see what was happening to me mentally? I was becoming afraid, not only of being sent to prison, but also afraid of my lawyer. I was even getting panic attacks. So to this day, whenever I hear any of my friends say they are getting panic attacks, I become worried that their self-confidence will dip and force them into depression.

Depression kills people, not necessarily body death; but mostly, it kills hopes and dreams–essences that keep human beings usefully alive. Though I was an educated man, I was becoming afraid of using my education in my defense. I began to view the utilization of my education as a show of arrogance, stubbornness, a lack of humility. Education was liability, I came to see it.

But, I came too far in my life, fought too hard in my history—saw my house on fire while I was in my dream, got kicked out of my family’s house because of my sexuality, and got threatened by family members, and was told that my father would kill me whenever he saw me, and was chased in the street with knives, and slashed in the face with knives, and slashed in the back with knives, and got shots fired at me—so what should I ever be afraid of now?

My best friend Christopher Walker (who died last year) said, After all you have seen in your life, why are you so afraid of speaking your mind to these people? Part of what makes you Dadland is your tendency to always speak your mind.

Christopher’s wisdom woke me. I no longer worried if I was an angry black man. I claimed it. I sure was one. A very angry one. Indeed, I should have been an angry black man, given that the system was trying to convict me while it dared to expect me to keep a smile on my face and quietness in my heart.

My anger saved me. I am an angry black man! And my anger didn’t manifest in a loud voice (as was stereotypically expected), or with certain body animations, or in producing reactions based solely on emotions. My anger was calm. My anger was wise. My anger was fierce like a bitch.

The anger of my blackness, the anger that emerged from consciousness that I had been racialized because of my poverty, was the anger that took away my headaches and my lethargies, and prepared me for a more strategic battle.

The battle began in my brain. I located the thing I feared the most. It was prison.

Was that it?

Just that?

Prison?

Blowing up those questions made me accept the worst. I was ready to go to prison. That acknowledgement gave me courage. The visible closeness of prison no longer frightened me. I no longer saw my education and speaking ability as a liability in my lawyer’s presence but assets I must continue to use forcefully.

I reclaimed my voice. I told my lawyer and the supervisor that I do not approve of their legal strategy. I informed them I would not be another black statistic in the legal justice system.

The Asian lawyer made it clear in the toughest voice that this had nothing to do with race. Absolutely nothing, the lawyer emphasized.

But No! No, no, no, I was not going to let the lawyer get away with that statement. I emphasized it was all about poverty. And poverty is race. And I would not take a plea deal, because I am poor, because I am racialized in the criminal justice system that identifies people based on numbers.

I wrote a letter. I sent it up into the chain of command. I set up a meeting. I intended to speak my mind in the meeting. I didn’t want anyone to lie that an accused criminal was out of control. I invited my friend Christopher to attend. Sure I was poor economically, but I was rich in deploying the intellectual and emotional endurance needed to protect myself when my life was on the line.

Having good friends by my side with their wealth of love and brilliance created just the team that I needed to tackle the structural legal monster that was ready to put away another innocent black man.

The meeting was successful. I got rid of that lawyer. A white person, the second lawyer was friendlier, but not friendly. This one was tougher, but I had gotten tougher too. This one also wanted me to take a plea deal, though I told this one that I had changed the prior lawyer because taking a plea deal was not an option.

We had a sassy argument. I reemphasized I would not take a plea deal no matter how close prison got to me. Ultimately, without this lawyer doing any work, the court dropped the case.

I was free. Another black man was free to walk lands, ride rivers, and travel seas. I will not say more about that history at this point. But one day, I will.

What I learned from the process is that the best among us can end up in prison. Keeping quiet about racism because we don’t want to offend others is the very silent activism that has been sending black and Latino brothers into an economic system of violence from which only few recover.

My message to poor people, in particular, people of color, Be weary of plea deals if you know you are innocent. And to other people, I say, don’t ever forget that if you are poor, you are a step away from prisons’ doors!

Posted in Life Talk, Politics Education, Race Matters Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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