by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
Periodically I will be conducting interviews and conversations with change makers, influencers, activists, celebrities, sports stars and bona fide servants of the people. My first interview will be with my sister in struggle, Tia “Mz. Konnoisseur” Hamilton, the CEO of State vs. Us Magazine.
Tia and I share a passion to not only be successful but to smash the debilitating stereotypes placed upon formerly incarcerated human beings. Without further delay, I’d like to share with all of you the interview I conducted with this incredibly strong and driven Black woman!
Comrade Malik: Sister Tia, can you tell our readers about State Vs. Us Magazine and what inspired you or motivated you to create such a magazine?
Tia Hamilton: State Vs. Us Magazine is a magazine that highlights high profile cases as well as corruption in prisons, police departments and government and wrongful convictions. We focus on success stories of formerly incarcerated individuals like myself. Also, there’s mental health, sports, hip-hop, financial literacy and more.
. . . it was important for me to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters to shake up the mindset of how people perceive us and to control our narrative on how our stories are told.
With that being said, because of my background and the life I’ve lived, it was important for me to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters to shake up the mindset of how people perceive us and to control our narrative on how our stories are told.
Comrade Malik: Sister Tia, when I first saw you on the cover of the first issue of State vs. Us, I thought you may have been a rap artist or a model. Have you had experience in those industries?
Tia Hamilton: I own a radio station called wmskonlineradio.com and it put me in a place where I did hip-hop shows from Baltimore to New York monthly or quarterly. I no longer do shows.
Comrade Malik: Sister Tia, I’ve noticed some clear political messages and aggressive stances in your magazine which address criminal justice reform. I’ve also noticed that you promote a feminist agenda with a pronounced PRO-BLACK FLAVOR, which we love! Can you tell us about some of the people and some of the experiences you’ve had which have shaped and molded your political outlook?
Tia Hamilton: Just living in Amerikkka should be enough to prompt any Black person to want to stand on the front lines. For me, even when I lived a life of crime, I knew then that when given the opportunity, I was going to make a huge difference.
Living as a Black woman and raising a young King, it’s a no-brainer for me to fight for what we deserve and fight for our youth. Everyone isn’t able to fight this good fight and everyone certainly doesn’t have the mindset to fight as well. It’s up to us to LEAD US.
Comrade Malik: This is so important for our prisoners behind the wall as well as our young Black leaders of today!
Sister Tia, you did a remarkable interview with former Black Panther and long-held political prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway. The brother served literally decades inside the belly of the beast before he was eventually released. Tia, can you speak on your interview with Eddie Conway, and the positive impact he has had on the Baltimore community since his release?
Tia Hamilton: Man, Mr. Conway is amazing. What he did for incarcerated individuals while he was behind that wall changed and shaped a lot for them. Things like windows and phones.
His work with Real News Baltimore touches the surface of informative news of our culture and community and it is needed. His energy, knowledge and strength are dope and I enjoy speaking with him every time we get on the phone.
Comrade Malik: Sister Tia, I lived in West Baltimore and attended Morgan State University in the early 1990s. I LOVE BALTIMORE! Can you give our readers an idea of how things are going in the city post-Freddie Gray? What are some of the positive things being accomplished in this beautiful city known as B-More?
Tia Hamilton: Some positive things going on are Urban Reads Bookstore, which is my store that I own. It is the hub for Black authors and prison authors. It also has a cafe, internet cafe, free reading classes, creative writing courses, book signings and more.
Other dope things going on in the city are organizations such as Keys Empowerment, who are in the city schools providing mentoring and mental health services to our children. I also have partnered with them on several events such as the Kings Stop Killing Kings Rally led by Mysonne and Shanduke McPhatter of Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Change (GMACC) in Brooklyn, New York.
I reached out to my brothers and asked them to come down and assist us in redefining these streets with our Black men and youth. It was a success.
Comrade Malik: Sister Tia, I am a big fan of your hustle and work ethic. Can you tell our readers about some of the projects you have going on, like your urban book store? What does the future hold for “Mz. Konnoisseur’?
Tia Hamilton: Urban Reads Bookstore is so beneficial for Black authors and prison authors, my goal is to have more of my stores to populate in our communities, because we don’t have bookstores for us. So I brought it to us for us. Our children need to see more of us in a different light.
Comrade Malik: Lastly, Sister Tia, there are a lot of aspiring authors, entertainers and entrepreneurs who read the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper and who are trapped behind the G-wall. Is there any advice that you can offer us so that we may become successful upon our eventual release?
Tia Hamilton: GET A MENTOR. Don’t be afraid of getting advice from people who have done it already. Everyone should have a mentor in their life. I have three, and I’m a mentor to hundreds.
Listen at all times, even if you don’t agree. It’s vital to listen and learn, then react. Research and communication will solve 99 percent of the problems today. Be open-minded and go have fun. One last thing: THE GRIND DOESN’T CHANGE, THE PRODUCT DOES.
Well, my beautiful Sisters and Brothers, there you have it! Words of wisdom, strength, experience and hope from our Sister in Struggle Tia Hamilton of State vs. Us Magazine.
I highly recommend that, if you are ever in the Baltimore area, you take time to visit Tia’s Urban Reads Bookstore, at 3008 Greenmount Ave., Baltimore, Maryland 21218. I also recommend that you check out Tia’s amazing magazine State vs. Us.
I have benefited greatly from studying Tia’s magazine and I know that both our free-world and incarcerated friends will enjoy this incredible Black-owned magazine. I leave y’all as I came, in the spirit of peace.
Contact info for Urban Reads Bookstore:
- Mailing address: P.O. Box 29291, Baltimore, MD 21205
- Phone: 443-552-1094
- Website: www.oururbanreads.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @urbanreadsbookstore
- Twitter: @urbanreadsbooks
- Facebook: Urban Reads Bookstore
Contact info for State vs. Us Magazine:
- Website: www.statevsusmag.com/
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @statevsUs
- Twitter: @statevsus
- Facebook: State vs Us Magazine
Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in September 2020. He is also co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign and Liberate the Caged Voices. Visit his website at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock LA 71467.