Caravan for Justice II: The people take their demands to Sacramento

T-Kash interviews Minister Christopher on KPFA’s Friday Night Vibe

Young families are the heart of the movement, and Hunters Point entrepreneur JT the Bigga Figga and his family set an example, with their businesses, Mandatory Business Magazine and Get Low Records, and their activism. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaOn KPFA’s Friday Night Vibe show the Friday before the latest Caravan for Justice set out to transform state government in Sacramento, host T-Kash’s guest was Minister Christopher Muhammad, who, as soon as he was introduced, dove right in to discuss what Black people and other people of color are demanding and why.

Minister Christopher Muhammad: We’ve been on the front lines trying our best to do all that we can to help save our people out of the clutches of those who would imprison them or watch them be murdered. We’re raising our voices and standing on behalf of our poor suffering brothers and sisters who it appears that nobody really cares about and, even worse, we don’t even really seem to care about ourselves.

T-Kash: When we talk about some of the issues in the community and people not caring about themselves or their community, there are times when people like to use that as a scapegoat: “You see these kids don’t care for each other, they don’t know what’s going on, there’s no hope. We shouldn’t even try with these people. Why are you even wasting your time?” Minister Christopher, what do you say to that?

People got on the bus in seven cities – San Francisco, Oakland, East Palo Alto, Richmond, Stockton, Modesto and Antioch – on April 8 in the Caravan for Justice II to demand justice from the lawmakers in Sacramento. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaMin. Christopher: Well, and that’s why I say “it appears,” because it’s not necessarily the case. But what is happening is our people are victims of social engineering, as those who rule have put us in a cycle that would appear to be self-destruction. But the level of violence that we are suffering from is being orchestrated at the highest levels of those who make policy.

And that’s why, Brother T-Kash, we’re calling all of the young brothers and sisters who are listening to this show: On April 8 we are going to Sacramento in what we call the Caravan for Justice.

What we’re finding is that after Oscar Grant’s murder by law enforcement, if you noticed, there was no outcry from politicians, from religious leaders, from community leaders. The only people who raised their voice were the youth. It was after the youth watched to see whether or not the political and the social or the justice system was going to do its job as related to the officer murdering that young man and the other officers standing by watching that execution. And if you’ll notice, nobody said anything.

These children from Muhammad University in San Francisco are a force for state government to reckon with – not only because they score higher than almost any students in the state but also because their school is at the fenceline with the Hunters Point Shipyard, where mega-developer Lennar has been poisoning them with toxic dust and they are not shy about demanding justice. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaBut when four white officers were killed, everybody came out to make a statement about their outrage about the loss of life. But our position is, are you telling the Black community or the Brown community that those officers’ lives are worth more than Oscar Grant’s life?

Why was there no outcry when it came to Oscar Grant? This is because of the devaluation of Black life: A Black male, Brown male, man of color in this society doesn’t have value. And so what happens is that those people in Sacramento make laws called Three Strikes, laws such as Prop. 209, laws such as criminalizing youth – these laws were made in Sacramento.

But they make these policies, they make these laws and they don’t have input coming from the people they’re making these laws for, so we’re saying enough of this. No longer will you be allowed to sit in Sacramento and make laws that criminalize our people and you no longer hear from the people you’re talking about.

The mainstream media portrays the movement that the Caravan for Justice grew out of as Black only, but activists, young and old, from many communities are deeply involved. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaSo we’re calling all of those who have been impacted, who have a brother in prison doing life, a cousin in prison doing life for nothing.

The young brother (Lovelle) Mixon was on parole and the parole system is so damaged that it took his dignity, as his family members told us. And when people can’t take it anymore, oft times you’ll find people doing things in retaliation or as a result of oppression. It causes people to begin to do things that are anti-social, but it’s a reaction to an unjust system, so we’ve got to challenge this.

We can no longer allow laws to be made that many of our young brothers are getting caught up in and not say anything to those elected officials who are making those laws. We want Gov. Schwarzenegger – we want to hear from him, not just about those four officers, but we need to hear from him on Oscar Grant. We need to hear from Jerry Brown on Oscar Grant.

Three years of fighting together for justice has forged many friendships across racial lines. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaWe need to hear from congressmen, state senators and assemblymen. In fact, everybody should have taken a position on the murder of Oscar Grant, but they didn’t feel the need because nobody respects the life of Black and Brown young men. So we have to elevate their consciousness so that everybody understands that our life is as valuable as anybody else’s.

Gov. Schwarzenegger – we want to hear from him, not just about those four officers, but we need to hear from him on Oscar Grant. We need to hear from Jerry Brown on Oscar Grant.

T-Kash: Now, to add on to what you’re dealing with, what can the Bay Area hip hop community do to make sure that what you’re saying sticks to people and gets digested so that they can follow up and say, “We don’t know everything about this, but this affects us.” You’ve always been good at giving us advice with what it is we can do. You did it while we had the big show with you and Brother Paris. What are some of the things you can do this time around?

Min. Christopher: Well, the hip hop community has always, for the last decade or more, been the source of information for our young brothers and sisters – they’re not getting it in school, they’re not getting it in church. So what happens is the only place they can get information that they trust and respect comes from the hip hop artists. So the hip hop community becomes our CNN, becomes our MSNBC.

The Caravan for Justice is fun and there’s a seat on the bus waiting for you the next time it heads for Sacramento, where the lawmakers have never before been challenged by lobbyists like these. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaA brother whose music and whose poetry you were playing before I came on, he was saying things and putting things to a beat that were communicating wisdom and information and knowledge to our brothers and sisters and that’s what the hip hop community has to do. We have to get the information out. The corporate media has so locked down information flow that we must develop our own systems of communication very quickly.

The hip hop community needs to understand that the life it saves may be its own, because at any point as law enforcement is becoming more aggressive, as law enforcement is taking the posture of military occupation, as law enforcement begins to get more angry and desirous of retaliation for what they perceive as a loss, what happens is many of our young brothers will be targeted, including some hip hop artists. So we’ve got to find a way to heal it.

We need to rise up and organize ourselves so that we can become a political and social factor that has to be considered as laws are passed and as people we elect are developing policies. We’ve got to be in that debate or we in fact will be marginalized and then ultimately criminalized.

This is why the hip hop community has to use its networks – its social networks, its musical expression, all of that now has to be brought to bear on this movement and we’ve got to move very fast.

T-Kash: One of the things that you just got through talking about was police militarization in neighborhoods, and we’ve seen things – the so-called Taliban gang raid, the so-called Acorn gang raid, the so-called Deep Sea gang in Richmond and all these raids and all this urban terrorism talk going around. You’ve always from the beginning told us to watch out for that. Is that another topic that is going to be addressed in the Caravan for Justice on Wednesday and, if so, can you kind of give people an overview of that, because you’ve always consistently told us to watch for what is actually happening right now in the Bay Area.

It’s been three years since Minister Christopher Muhammad (center) began holding town hall meetings every Thursday in Hunters Point. Now there are weekly town halls in seven cities. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaMin. Christopher: Well again, as you’ve correctly stated, we’ve tried our best. As the desire and charge from the Honorable Louis Farrakhan said to me and us, “Warn your people. Arise and warn your people because there are things that they are planning. We can see now,” he says, “how many young brothers are being scooped up in these raids that are really designed to remove Black men wholesale from communities permanently.”

We have to understand that as the capitalist system begins to die, as you see it dying – President Obama is trying his best but it’s only so much stimulus he can come up with – the reality is that the economy of America is all but destroyed. And so as a result of that you’ve got a whole people who are not going to be just unemployed but unemployable.

And the only growth industry practically left in the United States is the prison industry. So a young brother on the street represents to the system $50,000 a year and if they can get you in prison for 25, 30, 40 years, you as an individual represent $4 or $5 million to the system, and if you’ve got hundreds of thousands of young brothers locked up starting at the age of 16 or 17 and matriculating through the prison system, then you’ve got a permanent slave who will represent billions of dollars to a system called the prison industrial complex.

So one of the tools of those who operate this complex is criminalization through the media by raising the stakes and portraying Black and Brown men as criminals and thugs and terrorists and hoodlums and gangbangers. In that way you now raise them in the eyes of the average person as a threat to society. Then it becomes easy for the law enforcement officials to come in and scoop all of these brothers up under the guise of fighting domestic terrorism.

A young brother on the street represents to the system $50,000 a year and if they can get you in prison for 25, 30, 40 years, you as an individual represent $4 or $5 million to the system. Then you’ve got a permanent slave who will represent billions of dollars to a system called the prison industrial complex.

And here’s the interesting thing about what happened in East Palo Alto. It was a group of young brothers, they called themselves Taliban, but they were like a hip hop group of people who would go to concerts and get everybody excited at hip hop concerts. What the government and what the police department did was they took this group and made them the Taliban Gang to connect them to what’s happening in Afghanistan. Then, according to what I read, 500 officers from ATF, FBI, DEA, sheriff, county, local all came together to scoop or arrest 40-some Black men.

No wonder so many hands went up when the crowd was asked whether they had loved ones in prison. When the Caravan for Justice brought hundreds of people of color to lobby their lawmakers, police surveillance was everywhere – on the Capitol roof, in helicopters and on the ground in plain clothes. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaNow keep in mind they said they were watching these young brothers, investigating them for 18 months. Our question is – they said there were murders, extortion, drug dealing, all of this – our question is, if you’ve been watching these young brothers for 18 months, how many murders did you observe? How many could you have prevented? How much drug sales did you observe? How many people did you allow to involve themselves in criminal activity and you sat back and watched? How many others came in the community and bought drugs and you sat back and watched?

So there appear to be certain law enforcement officials who allow criminal activity to take place and allow the activity to get to a certain point that when they finally come in to do something, now young men are not looking at a month or six months but are now looking at 25 years. And as one mother said to us recently, why would the police chief of the Palo Alto Police Department watch my son involve himself in some illegal activity, yet wait for 18 months when now the young man is looking at 24 years? You could have stopped this young man and we could have diverted him and got him into a program.

So it appears as if law enforcement is bent on this criminalization effort. As we’ve said to you and your audience before, it’s because they want the land. They want the land of Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond and Palo Alto – get the land, remove the people, criminalize the young brothers, put them brothers in prison for the rest of their lives.

Now you have a system that perpetuates itself. If you’re a prison guard, you’ll have employment for life. If you’re a policemen, you’ll have employment for life. Because you now have a perpetual system of slaves being bred into the criminal justice complex.

T-Kash: We want to talk about the environmental racism situation in the city of San Francisco that exists. Give us an update on that.

Min. Christopher: Well, yes, as you may know, our people who live in not just San Francisco but Richmond and Oakland, we’re being exposed to toxins that are literally killing our people. Not only are we being killed by police and racism and just systems in general but we’re also being destroyed by toxins that are in our community and as you may know the City of San Francisco along with wicked companies poisoned Black and Brown children in Hunters Point, and the City to this day has not done anything about it.

POWER was in the house! Central players from Day 1 in SLAM, Stop Lennar Action Movement, Alicia Schwartz (center) and Jaron Browne (right) of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) were the main brains behind Prop F that would have mandated 50 percent affordable housing. – Photo: Francisco Da CostaIn fact I was on your radio station earlier today on the news dealing with this, because the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, and his health department has yet – after three years of poisoning Black children – has yet to test these children to see what damage has been done by these exposures.

So since he’s running for governor, we felt we couldn’t just sit back and let this man run for governor and proclaim to be an environmentalist and somebody who cares about the health of children when you have an environmental racist catastrophe going on in San Francisco that you haven’t done anything about. So we’ve been trying to dialogue with him. And since he’s been having town hall meetings all over the state, people want to know what is he going to do about that issue.

So we have to fight on so many fronts because we’re under attack on so many fronts. And I’m hoping that the hip hop community and the young artists that are listening and that are in the studio will see this as their moment to stand up like men and women and let’s fight for the future of our community. Most of the young brothers have children. What is the future for your baby right now if we don’t change this reality, if we don’t fight for our people?

This is our time to fight. And so we want to build this movement and force the oppressor to do the right things because for too long they have gotten away literally with murder. Our peoples’ condition is getting worse and worse and nobody’s sounding the alarm on the condition of Black people and poor people so it’s on us now to give voice to the voiceless poor.

T-Kash: You mentioned that Gavin Newsom is running around in a pseudo-gubernatorial campaign. He’s registered as a Democrat. Some of us are under the false belief that the Bay Area is a progressive, completely progressive place and everybody loves everybody and it’s all Democratic and liberal and free. And then you have somebody like Gavin Newsom who is right here allowing this to happen. How do you get people to undo some of their political dogmas so they’ll be more prone to helping people and not so apprehensive?

Min. Christopher: Well, most people when they learn of what the truth is they stand up. The problem is you have a group of ours who are comfortable because they’ve sold out to the Democratic Party. And they’ve been playing plantation politics for so long we don’t know no other way. In the ‘60s we were fighting the system and fighting the man. Now anytime that you look around, Black people are into visions of leadership from the president on down.

So the problem is that most times when you have people in position it appears to be window-dressing because many of these brothers and sisters oft times are too afraid to own up to the real issues that impact our people. Many times even the preachers are even afraid to stand up. Look how many preachers called for candlelight vigils when the officers were slain in Oakland but some of these preachers wouldn’t even stand up and be seen when Oscar Grant was murdered. Well, what is this about?

This is why the hip hop generation young warriors have to speak for themselves. If others are too scared to speak for you and stand for you, then you stand for yourself. The movement has always been built on the backs of young brothers and sisters who rose up from the street to defend and stand for justice for our people.

The hip hop generation young warriors have to speak for themselves. The movement has always been built on the backs of young brothers and sisters who rose up from the street to defend and stand for justice for our people.

As it was then, so it is today. It’s going to require us to stop hanging out, stop doing the things that are self-destructive. We have too much to live for. I’m calling on the young brothers: STAND UP! You have nothing to lose but your chains – and your life if you’re not careful.

T-Kash’s show, Friday Night Vibe, can be heard every Friday except the last Friday of the month at midnight until 2 a.m. Saturday morning on KPFA 94.1 FM in Northern California. Minister Christopher Muhammad heads Mosque No. 26 at 5048 Third St. at Revere in Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco. He also leads the movement that meets every Thursday, 7 p.m., at Grace Tabernacle Community Church, 1121 Oakdale at Ingalls, near the Hunters Point Shipyard, San Francisco. Learn more about the Caravan for Justice at Everyone is welcome and urged to attend the Thursday evening town hall meetings and the next Caravan for Justice.