by Tiny, aka @povertyskola, daughter of Dee, Mama of Tiburcio
The hard plastic seats in the Brentwood bus shelter refused to stay under my butt, twirling and slipping under me no matter which way I would sort of sit and lie and try not to be cold. This was just one in an endless series of freezing mornings me and mama spent trying to get warm while sleeping outside.
These years of lonely homelessness, crouched in bus shelters, doorways and park benches across the Bay Area flooded back to me when I heard about the shooting death of Tyrell Wilson, killed by poLice for being Black and houseless in Klanville – I mean, Danville.
“Tyrell was a peaceful man; he was always so careful and I never felt threatened near him.” This poverty skola had the blessing of speaking with life-long resident of Klanville, Veronica Benjamin, on Po Peoples Radio. She is one of the founders of Conscious Contra Costa County and organized a powerful and prayerful multi-racial action for Tyrell six months after his murder by Sheriff Deputy Andrew Hall in March.
The rally was held to bring attention to 33-year-old Tyrell’s life and the life of 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda in 2018, also killed by a racist with a weapon – aka Andrew Hall. The Arboleda family’s attorney, John Burris, said about the charges filed against Hall: “Our view was if they had been prosecuted earlier our second client would not be dead.”
“We held this event today because we are still waiting for justice for Tyrell,” Veronica said at the rally. It took the death of Tyrell to force the politricksters of that county to act. In April, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Hall for the brutal execution of Arboleda, but there are still no charges filed specifically against Hall for Tyrell’s murder.
In both murders, Hall was the executioner, but the racist town was the shot-caller. In Arboleda’s case, a call was made to poLice by Klanville residents claiming that he was “acting funny” – code for a Brown man driving in Klanville.
And, in Tyrell’s case, calls were made that “someone” was throwing rocks into the freeway. Umm, someone who never causes any problems and works very hard to humbly exist without being seen, is going to throw “rocks” onto the freeway. That nonsense is one of the many reasons we poor and houseless peoples never engage with kkkops at POOR Magazine and put this book out and teach workshops of the same name.
The real “criminals” are the poltricksters and poLice who allowed Hall to continue profiling, harassing and killing even after he executed Arboleda – because, like most of these racist kkkops, Hall was doing exactly what he was hired to do.
“When I was on my way to my first date, I was pulled over and accused of being under the influence.” At the action for Tyrell – re-ported and sup-ported on by youth and family Poverty Skolaz media at POOR News Network – there were many speakers, including artist Ras Ceylon, many conscious wite peoples and a warrior advocate from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) presenting new bills to protect folks struggling with mental illness and over-poLicing.
But several people spoke to the extreme racism of Klanville, including a well-dressed pastor in his 40s who described his night of torture at the hands of those armed agents of the state that work to “protect” the multiple settler-colonial lies of witeness – private property and wealth-hoarding – that lead to the arrest, harassment and often death of Black, Brown and houseless peoples.
“When I first got the message about Tyrell’s murder, I was afraid it was my dad.”
This brought me back to the only experience my mama and me had with Klanville. We would carefully and slowly drive into that place to sell our art in their bougie street fairs, because word on the street was, if you sold art there, you could make “bank.” Every single time we would cross the Klanville city line a cop would pull us over.
We went three times, really needing the money that place would bring in, until the third time when they accused my mama of color of being under the influence, even though she hadn’t been drunk that day or any day, she and I decided it was way too dangerous, even for the much-needed blood-stained bucks we could bring in.
“All the bus drivers I spoke to were shocked. They all said Tyrell was peaceful, polite, never caused any problems,” Veronica said. As she spoke on Tyrell’s humble and careful moves, my mind wandered back to Brentwood again and one of this poverty skolaz’ most important teachers, Mr. Charles L.
Sometimes when our car-homes broke down or were towed – read: stolen – for expired registration or “Driving While Poor” violations, which happened often throughout the years of me and mamaz houselessness, we would hop a bus to escape the endless poLicing and neighborhood watch-hating we got in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco when we would try to find somewhere outside to sleep.
One of those times, we had landed in so-called Brentwood, one of one of hundreds of weird wite suburbs splattered all over California. The struggle in these places was an unseen and terrifying game of “not looking dangerous” to all the residents of these settler enclaves, where they casually renamed, claimed and desecrated indigenous land into subdivisions and endless recreation sites.
People who lived there were told and sold the lie of peacefulness, “good schools” and “safety.” It was in Brentwood that we met Charles L., an elder Black man who ever so carefully camped in the bus shelter next to us a block down the over-wide road.
Mr. Charles would spend literally hours folding, vetting, creatively designing and organizing his tiny pile of belongings just to make sure he never took more than the little square under his plastic seat. As a severely organizationally challenged person, I was fascinated with his skills.
Like many of us folks who struggle with extreme poverty, incarceration, homelessness, racism and abuse in this stolen land, Mr. Charles was an unrecognized designer, home decorator, healer and poverty skola and, like Tyrell, had mad skills in organization, but was never seen for the labor and love and humility he lives and walks.
These are some of the many teachings I lift up to this day as skills and skolaz to learn from in our liberation skool for houseless and disabled youth of color, known as Deecolonize Academy and in our poor people-theory of “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-Led Theory, Art, Words and Tears” textbook and the PeopleSkool DegentriFUKation and Decolonization seminars we offer to wealth-hoarders and so-called land-owners who know they can’t keep operating the same way in this lie of “success” within the krapitalist system. They are intrinsically connected to the solutions of issues like closing kkkages and ending poLice murders and lifting up poor and indigenous people-led solutions like Homefulness and Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.
“Living my life in this town has been hard for many reasons,” Veronica explained, “One of which is I was always worried for my father’s safety, who is literally one of the few men of color who live in this town. When I first got the message about Tyrell’s murder, I was afraid it was my dad.” Veronica paused. “We will not stop until we get justice for Tyrell.”
Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, aka “povertyskola,” is a poet, teacher and the formerly houseless, incarcerated daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America” and “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth” and co-founder of Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness. Reach her at www.lisatinygraygarcia.com or @povertyskola on Twitter.