Monthly Archives: May 2017
It has been exceedingly difficult to write about the Trump presidency, seemingly crumbling before our eyes. In part that’s because of the sheer pace of new revelations, scandals superseded by new scandals, the inane utterances – and tweets – of the president, a daily cascade of craziness. Part of this is the news media, which rushes at us on a 24-hour clock, with no sense of cessation. Part of it is Trump’s sheer obsession with social media.
In the spirit of the MOVE conference held May 5-7 in Philadelphia to educate the public about the MOVE organization, I will like to expound on the U.S. government sanctioned attacks on MOVE within the larger context of the FBI’s campaign of harassment, murder, frame-ups and imprisonment of Black revolutionaries during the radical ‘60s and ‘70s, and even today, in an effort to thwart the realization and actualization of Black unity, Black power and Black liberation.
The annual Black Health and Healing Summit will take place the first weekend in June, June 1-3, in San Francisco and is expected to attract hundreds of health care professionals and community activists seeking to learn more about Black health inequities and strategies for improvement, as participants also experience the groundbreaking work of Dr. Joy DeGruy, the author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”
Joc Scholar and Centric are two different musical artists who are unstoppable when combined. They are called the Grand Opus, a hip hop duo from Northern California. Joc Scholar, the emcee, is from Fresno, and Centric, the producer, is from Oakland. Centric loves producing and working with people and does not allow anything to stop his passion. According to me, when one listens to the Grand Opus album, “Forever,” you will quickly realize Scholar is a genius emcee.
Last week I noted that there had been a rash of police shootings all over the Bay Area and some of y’all thought I was literally seeing or making up things. Well over the Memorial Day weekend we had three people shot by Bay Area police in two days. Three police shootings in two days is a lot. Ten police shootings in six months by two police departments is a lot. One doesn’t have to look to places like Texas, St. Louis or Louisiana or other Trump-loving states to see questionable police shootings. A lot is happening right here in the Bay Area.
I left CDCr wondering how PBSP could remain in shambles after 22 years of court oversight. As I started educating myself about prison reform, I stumbled upon Keramet Reiter’s 2016 book, “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.” Within those pages, I found validation and some disturbing answers. I wish this book had been available to me before I started working in CDCr.
From May through August, three floors of black and white jazz photographs are on display at the African American Art & Culture Complex. They depict Harlem of the West, the San Francisco Fillmore jazz era that was bustling from the 1930s through the 1950s. Jazz was “king” and the Fillmore music scene was alive and flowing from end to end in the African American community.
Steve Bloom, a comrade and veteran activist, asked me several questions regarding my contribution to “Look for Me in the Whirlwind.” The questions delve into aspects of our political struggle against oppression back in the 1960s and ‘70s and are still pressing concerns. My story is closer to what untold numbers of highly motivated 1960s and 1970s “revolutionaries” usually don’t write about or discuss nowadays. I believe I have answered comrade Steve Bloom’s questions.
Have you ever seen the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring actor Jimmy Stewart? He played George Bailey, who urged the members of the “Building and Loan” to “Stick together – don’t panic, ‘cause old man Potter is not selling – he’s buying!” With that same sense of urgency, I make a similar comparison. This isn’t Bedford Falls, nor is this a movie. This is the state of the state of California, as well as the United States of America, and our lives I’m talking about.
“The Forever Tree,” a fictional short screening at the SF Black Film Festival this year, is set in Harlem in the year 1919 and utilizes history and magical realism to tell its story. In the film, the main character interacts with Madame CJ Walker, Garvey is talked about, and the Book of Enoch is talked about as well as the Dogon star. I sat down with the co-writer and producer of “The Forever Tree,” Stephen Hintz, so that he could give us a little background into what went into this film.
“Administrative segregation” is prison bureaucratese for solitary confinement. On Thursday, prisoners in solitary at California’s Old Folsom State Prison went on hunger strike for their Eighth Amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. I spoke to Raquel Estrada, wife of Anthony Estrada, a prisoner writing for the strikers in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, who elaborated on the conditions of her husband’s confinement.
At Old Folsom, prisoners are housed in ASU for long term confinement from a year to 14 months. This leads to prisoners sitting idle, in forced single cell. Their demands are in line with fair and dignified treatment of a human being. On the third day of their hunger strike, Warden Ron Rackley has threatened to deny at least one striker any visits, to give him a 115 (disciplinary write-up) and revalidate him as a STG gang leader for organizing the hunger strike as well as to have him transferred out to another prison.
Mary L. Booker, a longtime associate of Bayview Opera House and civil rights advocate, passed away at Coming Home Hospice in San Francisco on May 11 of leukemia. She was 85. Booker moved to San Francisco in 1955. Five years later, she started Infinity Productions at Bayview Opera House, where she offered free acting workshops, in addition to writing and directing several productions. A strong advocate for social justice, Booker used the theatrical arts to promote African-American culture and bring together community members from different generations.
In recent months, renewed interest in the lives of those who were released to the mainline after decades in California’s infamous SHU torture units has prompted many to ask us the question: How did you survive decades of solitary confinement? To understand how I survived almost two decades of solitary confinement, you must first understand why the state subjected us to these torture units in the first place.
In other countries, people enjoy better healthcare at lower cost. Everyone has access to healthcare and average life expectancy is greater. In Canada, with their version of Medicare for All, no one goes bankrupt because of healthcare expenses. In the U.S., healthcare bankrupts more than a million every year. In a recent Kaiser poll, 81 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of all voters supported an Improved and Expanded Medicare for All. What is being done to move us in that direction?
Today, May 25, congressional Democrats and a coalition of progressive organizations representing millions of Americans kicked off the long-anticipated infrastructure fight, launching a massive campaign to create millions of new jobs – and invest billions in much-needed projects in African-American communities across the country. The Millions of Jobs Coalition announced grassroots events across the nation next week touting the progressive plan.
On May 16, inmates at Old Folsom State Prison made contact with the outside world to announce that they will begin a hunger strike on May 25 in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom. When incarcerated people take action to fight for their dignity, their rights and their lives, those of us on the outside must answer with solidarity. Our support is crucial in getting their demands met and minimizing retaliation against them. We must let these brave individuals know that we have their backs, and that they will not be forgotten.
San Francisco has the highest employment disparity between Blacks and Whites in the country according to a February 2017 report from the Brookings Institution. The legend of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men who stole from the rich to give to the poor has more myth than truth to it. However, in San Francisco, the story of Mayor Hood Robin’ and his Merrie Men, who steal from the poor to give to the rich has more truth than myth.
When I started Krip-Hop Nation 10 years ago, the first artist I met online and face to face was Rob “Da Noize” Temple of Brooklyn. Since that time, Noize Studio has become a second home for Krip-Hop Nation and the studio that professionally produced and mixed most of my spoken word mixtapes and Krip-Hop Nation’s songs on our six CDs. Now Temple, his studio and family are being evicted as the forces of gentrification are burning and privatizing Brooklyn at a fast pace.
In an era where the Koreans own the multi-billion-dollar Black haircare industry in the U.S., we need to know about and learn from Black business pioneers like Madame Sara Spencer Washington. Atlantic City’s Madame was a multi-millionaire in the 20’s, running a business empire called Apex Hair and News Co. Her grandson, filmmaker Royston Scott, sat down with me to discuss his documentary called “The Sara Spencer Washington Story,” which will be screening at the SF Black Film Festival.