12/27/16

#Justise4All No. 25

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⟦ A Rebuttal to Social Media commentary ⟧

For those who follow, it has been a good stretch of time since I've posted a #Justise4All blog, but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't create a post here unless I was 100% motivated, so long as the Universe provided me the inspiration to do so. Stringent followers will note that, as opposed to a Friday posting, I went ahead with this midweek entry; this is because I was so compelled to accurately respond to a recent bout of commentary on my Instagram page, I didn't want to wait. Striking while the iron is hot, I suppose. Also, this response ties into much of what I've been exploring and posting about elsewhere in recent months; namely, non-cisgender, non-heterosexual, and women's advocacy within racially marginalized communities, and the toxic Black and Brown masculinity that inhibits this crucial process.

Last week, I posted on Instagram about the problematic nature of cisgender, heterosexual Black and Brown men being virtually silent about promoting or defending the new movie, "Hidden Figures." If you're not a media consumer, and per Wikipedia, this picture details the lives of "the African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who, while working in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center, helped NASA catch up in the Space Race." The silence I noted was duplicitous, in that said men were wildly adamant, if zealous, about making sure that all racially marginalized peoples, Black people especially, made a point of seeing "Birth of a Nation," Nate Parker's cinematic tour de force chronicling the life of Nat Turner, whose slave rebellions shook up a young America and ultimately led to his execution. What was worse, in my eyes, was how these men, in their zeal, went about the business of openly slandering Black and Brown women who had any critiques about the movie that were negative, or if they - like myself - refused to invest in the movie itself due to the controversial histories of both Parker and his creative associate, Jean Celestin. That slander included the violent verbal excoriation of "B.O.A.N." co-star, Gabrielle Union, who penned a public op-ed in response to her learning of the rape allegations levied against her colleagues in years past, having read the transcripts from the original court case. Ms. Union is herself a survivor of sexual assault, and made it plain that because of her experiences, she empathized with anyone, women especially, who could not bring themselves to support the film.

My full take on that - and the subsequent arguments, are all on my Instagram profile, so if you're interested, feel free to check them out. Fast-forwarding to the present, the post which rendered some interesting commentary that moved me to write about it was the screenshot of a tweet I posted last week:



While it seemed that my followers were in general agreement with my simple, if harsh, point, others were not. Enter the I/G user Amari 4.0 @darkknight_brightmind1, who not more than half a day ago, left a lengthy rebuttal in opposition to my point. So as to try and keep this concise, rather than post the whole response and then dissect it, I will simply proceed with the parse. You are more than welcome to contact Amari to get his take on Black liberation and social justice, as his I/G profile is quite clear regarding his stance. For the record, I appreciate an intelligent debate, but I've a feeling that once fully vetted, you'll see why this individual not only proved my point, but may very well have sabotaged his own argument. So, to him, and all of you, please review the following: a parse. His text is in bold.

This sounds like anti feminist propaganda!

-FYI, starting of a rebuttal about gender inequality by calling a valid but debatable point "propaganda" is in and of itself textbook propaganda.


For one- Some of those BROTHERS that were upset were very conscious and enlightened gentlemen. I was one of them. You, must have, like the rest have fallen victim to the "Talking Points of white supremacy." All you did was regurgitate it.

-You just did the "Not all White people" response to racism, but put anti-patriarchy in its place by saying "Not all Men." This doesn't address the point, or excuse the original actions being critiqued.

Two- Did you ever wonder....why they didn't bring that HOG WASH CRAP OF A STORY up when Nate Parker filmed Red Tails amongst a few there after. Was the theme of the MOVIE NOT PALATABLE to white audiences? 

-Calling a rape accusation hogwash because the defendant(s) were acquitted is a form of violence against the plaintiff, particularly when you weren't a witness to the incident(s) in question. What is clear is that the court proceedings were not made public knowledge for media consumption around the time of "Red Tails," even if they were available for review.

Three- It was a divide and conquer strategy and it worked SOMEWHAT...The movie still did well DESPITE the upliftment[sic] of a message for a people but specifically for a BLACK MAN in this NOciety- no mistake. 

-By default, you don't have enough evidence to prove or disprove this point, and it would be impossible for you to do so without a major investigative team and professional cyber-journalism.

(Here's where it gets interesting and fun, folks.)

Us Men were the ones on the front line for wars and numerous RIOTS protecting black women. It was the Government that put forth the setaside[sic] for the BLACK WOMEN which created and started the "I don't need a man. I'm independent and could do BAD ALL BY MYSELF nonsense. 

-So, rather than go into all the things that are historically and socially inaccurate with this statement, I'll be short in saying that men are the sole reason why women were not allowed to openly serve in any branch of any Western country's armed forces until recently. Your concept about the independent Black woman being a divisive tool by the US Government to break up Black communities and families is so broad and ridiculous that it's not even worth my time to explain how much reading you need to do, but I'll throw you a bone by saying yes, we know that Black men, the historical/present violence done against them, and their mass incarceration, certainly gave rise to Black women being independent. But their independence is not - nor was it ever - "nonsense." Black independent women saved your community and provided you the opportunity to have a voice in this society: even if you decide to use your voice to promote ain't-shit misogynoir philosophies.

The Sociologist Moynihan predicted what will happen if the Govn.[sic] Keeps giving only the BLACK WOMAN n*gger trinkets and NOT THE BLACK MEN. 

-Using Patrick Moynihan's writings on the Black family as a defense of your argument - a White politician whose ideas were based on Supremacist concepts about family and horribly inaccurate race theories - is just a bad idea. What you should do is read Ta-Nahesi Coates' review of those writings, and then come back to the table when you've learned something. Here's the link to that, btw: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/the-black-family-in-the-age-of-mass-incarceration/403246/

SO, to round trip this thing here....by you capitulating and bending ( it seemed) you're NOT helping with this effusive, vociferous and debilitating argument. This isn't a Male Vs Female type talk either- in hopes that you won't try to spin it. Lastly, what I'm saying is...check their AGENDA first. We collectively lack that....different ideologies, sexual orientation etc. Seems to always impede. By your logic women ( black, not really speaking of brown) shouldn't watch "Scandal"and "Love & Hip Hop" and "How did I get away with murder" amongst many many more. We seem to comment, repost scenes from these horrible depictions but you won't here [sic] ME OR MY CONSTITUENTS go on a Jihad to smash men that couldn't understand LOGICALLY how you won't support the movie WHEN HE WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY. That's not how I depict BLACK WOMEN. But the white media structure sure KNOWS HOW TO PERPETUATE the bullshit and then have signed on Coons to push a made-in-the-dark- narrative. Look further into this issue before prematurely causing potential consternation.
-Let me wrap this up too. From your profile, it seems you are a cisgender, heterosexual Black man. Whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, you exist in a position of privilege over other members of your community, and that's with the understanding that all of us who ID as racially marginalized still exist under the mantle of White Supremacy in a hyper-capitalist society. In the quest for liberation from these things, here's some pro-tips to help you better navigate your narrative. One: you are never, ever in a position to speak for Black women, LGBT Black people, or anyone else who exists at those intersections. Your idea that sexual orientation, gender orientation, or social ideologies that differ from what you understand are an impediment are a product of the privilege you possess, and until you recognize that, your arguments will go nowhere. Two, using three completely different kinds of shows where Black women are centered to make a point about the possibility of Black women in general being portrayed in a poor light is a trash argument, and sexist A/F. Stop grouping Black (and yes, Brown) women in media together to defend your point. Three, and most importantly, whatever "consternation" you think ideas like mine can cause, they are only matched - and exceeded - by the kinds of ideas that those like you have supported, since those ideas still allow for Black/Brown women to be subjugated, LGBT People of Color to be victims of violence from within their own communities, disabled Black/Brown people to be treated like 3rd-Class citizens, and men like you to continue thinking we can fix all of these problems YOU perpetuate if we put them on the back-burner and destroy the White man. In MY humble opinion, I highly suggest that instead of posting your baseless critiques of social media you don't follow, that you invest in an Amazon Kindle app or a library card, because it's pretty clear that you have a lot more research to do before you can square up about this shit and not get your ass handed to you.

9/23/16

#Justise4All No. 24

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⟦ Guest Post: From the desk of Ricardo Ignacio ⟧

Over the past year, I was introduced through Facebook sharing to the page of Ricardo Ignacio, author and activist. As an indigenous American, Mr. Ignacio has been adamant about speaking for his community in the face of rampant anti-Indigenous racism and political subjugation via US governmental interference. Of course, one of the most difficult topics concerns the immigration status of millions of Latinx/Indigenous people living here; Mr. Ignacio holds no punches in his strident critique of the hypocritical nature of White America's stance on documented and undocumented residents. I won't say too much more, besides asking you, dear reader, to take a few moments to read one of his recent posts on these subjects. Unfortunately, Blogger will not allow for an embed of the full facebook post, so I am copy-pasting here, with a link to Mr. Ignacio's page below that.


Original Post Date: June 29, 2016

I was walking out of a school campus in Sacramento, California, and across the street where my car was parked were a group of Caucasian guys standing near a construction site, and whatever those guys were saying or doing seemed to catch the attention of a few construction workers. I wasn’t planning on finding out, but I did have to pass by in order to get to my car, so when I neared them, one of the Caucasian guys noticed me and smiled asking me if I was an American, so I simply answered yes.
“Oh, good! These guys here are not Americans!” He said, pointing his finger at the construction workers.
“Ok.” I replied.
“And it’s these non-Americans the ones who are coming to America and taking the jobs of us Americans, so meanwhile we Americans are unemployed, these immigrants are working and making money!” He explained. “Is that why you and your comrades are here lingering, because you want these construction workers to become aware of your concern?” I asked.
“Yeah, but they don’t even speak English!” He nodded.
The construction workers remained distant, but one of them cautiously approached us, and then politely asked me, “Que onda, paisa?”
“Como andamos, compa?” I replied.
“Pues aqui nomas, mire, trabajando duro.” He smiled.
“Mucho calor?”
“Si, caloron!” He said.
“What is he saying?” The Caucasian guy asked me.
“Not much, we’re just greeting each other.” I said to him.
“Que onda con los gringos, paisa?” He asked me, pointing his finger at the Caucasian guy that spoke with me.
“What did he say?” The Caucasian guy asked me.
“He wants to know why you are here.” I said.
“Can you please translate what we are protesting about?”
“I doubt he’ll care, he’ll probably just laugh, but I’ll do it.” I said, and then explained to the construction worker exactly what the Caucasian had explained to me.
“Oh, he thinks we are taking his jobs?” The construction worker said, but in Spanish.
“Pretty much.” I said.
“I see… ok, well, here…” He said, and then dropped a tool that he held, removed his headgear, his vest, and then his tool-belt, and then said:
“Tell him to put it on. In fact, if the rest of his friends are interested in working, I am the mayor of this company, so tell them they are hired.”
I quickly translated what the construction worker said, and then the Caucasian guy, along with the others began to look at each other, seeming nervous or uncomfortable.
"Is he serious?” He asked me.
“The white guy wants to know if you’re serious.” I asked the construction worker.
“I already took my gear off, tell the rest of them to step into that bungalow and get geared up.” He answered, so I translated.
The Caucasian guys began to speak amongst each other, complaining that it was too hot to work, and some that it was a sh!tty job, and basically all sorts of excuses as to why they wouldn’t work, so finally the Caucasian said to me:
“Tell him that today is too hot to work. Maybe we will come back some time and take his offer.” He said, so I translated.
The construction worker smiled, and then began to explain:
“Tell them that we didn’t come to take anybody’s job. We are only doing the jobs that most U.S. citizens refuse to do, either because the job is too difficult, the weather is uncomfortable, the pay isn’t so great, or whatever the reason, but it is very rare when I see a gringo doing this sort of work. The few that do, they actually appreciate us a lot because they acknowledge that we are the hardest workers in America. They know this, but most gringos can only criticize us because they’ve never actually faced our struggle or worked along with us, so they have no clue what it’s like, but that’s why the very few gringos that do work with us, they are very grateful for us because they know what we are capable of withstanding. Translate that for me, please. Tell the gringo these words.”
I translated, and then afterwards the construction worker added:
“Tell them this also:
If he wonders how and why we are capable of doing such work, such as construction; building the roads they drive on, the houses they live in, picking the fruits and vegetables on the fields that they enjoy, cooking the food inside of restaurants where they eat, washing the dishes they eat out of, and basically holding America together on our backs, is simply because we are America. We are the backbone of America, and we’ve been building America way before gringos came from Europe, so he along with his buddies need to figure out who the immigrants are, because if their goal is to deport us all, then they are condemning themselves because without us America has no backbone, it will all crumble. He and his friends might not know it, but the leaders of America know this, and that’s why we are still here. If they truly wanted us gone then we’d be gone, but they need us, they need our hands and backs because without us then their world would fall. Sure, they deport many of us to make the dumb population believe that they are trying to solve the immigration issue, but realistically they are only controlling the amount of undocumented people here. The leaders of this country want us here, but only a certain amount, in order to exploit us, because by paying a people less than minimum wage is how they get wealthier, so if citizens have a problem with being unemployed then it’s with wealthy gringos who don’t care about their citizens but only about their wealth. Gringos need us, but we don’t need them, we were perfectly fine without them, and we are only doing exactly what we were doing before Europeans came to America, which is to continue working our land."

9/3/16

#Justise4All No. 23

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⟦ On Colin Kaepernick ⟧

Unless that rock under which you live is so big that current events don't reach you, I'm sure you've seen and heard the field day that mainstream media has been having over San Francisco 49'er Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand during the US National Anthem before the start of his games. The following are my posts that happened elsewhere on social media, restructured/reposted here in response to his protest. For those still "insulted" by that protest, Kaep just announced his donating $1M to various community-based charities as a followup measure to his civil disobedience, stating: "I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people...I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed, or given the opportunities to succeed.”

Statements below have been edited for grammar and syntax.


I.

To be extremely, painstakingly clear:

The #NFL has had on its roster players who have engaged in all sorts of unprofessional, if criminal, conduct, both on and off the field. From adultery, to drug use, to alcoholism, to serious battery and assault (civilians and other players), illegal gun possession, domestic abuse, accused rape, and much more. To say nothing of the notorious actions of the various coaches, staff, and non-athletic personnel. All of these indiscretions, depending on their severity and the importance of said individual(s), have been, at any given time, overlooked because the team/franchise/organization to whom they belong deemed them too valuable an asset to let their behavior stop them from being a member of their ranks. In fairness, this includes Colin Kaepernick himself, who was connected to an alleged harassment complaint by a woman he met during a party at the apartment of Seahawks wideout, Ricardo Lockette in 2014.

Yet, Mr. Kaepnernick's legally, Constitutionally defensible act of sitting during the US National Anthem is being excoriated by the public and scores of NFL professionals, citing everything from Un-American behavior to outright treason, and judging from those reactions, it's looking like he will not return to the field as a contracted player once his time with the 49'ers is up, not to mention the very real danger he faces at the hands of deranged nationalists. A man who publicly professed his justified critique of this country's racial discrimination is being treated to the worst of its citizenry because of ignorance, hypocrisy, and a lack of education. Whoever continues to say he should be ashamed, or anything like that, should reserve that kind of talk for themselves and their cabal of idiots.

For this kind of unfounded, asinine hatred, and for so many other reasons, I've no problem saying that this entire country should be ashamed.

#iStandWithKaepernick



II. An open Twitter letter to Heidi Russo, Colin Kaepernick's biological mother.

@Heidirn1:  This thread is for you, because you really jumped off the tower w/your response to your son. I’m adopted. By ethnic make-up, I’m an Afro-Colombian adopted into a working class Irish family in New York City. My [biological] mother gave me up because she wanted to give me a chance to have a better life in better conditions. Like you, she made a choice based on the difficulty of a complicated pregnancy and personal life choices. Unlike you, one main reason for my particular adoption was because I was the 4th son to be born out of wedlock. My mother tried to support her three other children, but knew that I would face a sad outcome if I stayed. Today, I am able to be as outspoken about issues like racism and injustice [because] my adoptive [White] family respects my views. By giving up your right to your child, you seem to have forgotten that you have revoked your right to discipline or reprimand him. Even if you still had that right, your son’s desire to speak out against injustice is not, nor should it ever be, cause for rebuke. You’re still here, and you’ve chosen to be “ashamed” of someone speaking their mind about a serious issue. Several, actually. I can’t speak to what my biological mother would say in response to my beliefs, but I do know that if after not seeing her for years she went on the kind of tirade you did over Colin’s statement, I’d have to immediately check her. Consider yourself lucky that the only response you’re getting is from ppl like me. The only person who should be ashamed here is you, ma’am. Chastising your son’s beliefs proves your shame of his existence. I stand with your son, as a fellow adopted Man of Color, [because] being brought into privilege does not negate global oppression. Nor does benefitting from that privilege obfuscate the need to speak out against and restructure a system built on that oppression. It’s clear you made your choices a long time ago, choices you’ve admitted to having to live with for the rest of your life. You made a choice this week, also. I pray you don’t spend the rest of your life regretting it. But the way things are looking...

8/26/16

#Justise4All No. 22

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⟦ An Open Letter to Susan Edelman, Editor for the New York Post ⟧


I was holding off on doing another #Justise4All post until something came along that was worth my writing. Of course, in a society whose foundations are based in racial division and xenophobia, I knew I wouldn't have to wait long before a story peaked my interest. Case in point? Local alt-right rag, p/k/a the New York Post, and its "editor," Susan Edelman, decided to run [what they thought would be] an exposé on Hip-Hop Artist and New York City Fire Department Captain, Kaseem Ryan, a/k/a Ka. With the incisive subtitle, "FDNY captain who moonlights as anti-cop rapper," Edelman goes on to try and defame Ryan and label him as some sort of rabble rouser.

I won't post a link to the original article. Lightweights don't deserve my attention. However, you can read about the outcry by New Yorkers and the Hip-Hop community in Spin's reaction article: Click Here

As I've said, as much as I do write, I only write when I feel strongly about something, and given my family history, one can understand why this completely rubbed me the wrong way. That said, below is the letter I wrote in response to the NY Post's continued tradition of unprofessionalism and slanderous media parade, sent to Susan Edelman herself earlier this week.



Ms. Edelman:

Your choice to do a smear piece against Kaseem Ryan aka Hip-Hop artist, Ka, shows just how low your rag of a newspaper is willing to go in defaming Black citizens regarding their ongoing struggles w/their broken relationship with national law enforcement. This poorly written, simple-minded, compartmentalizing piece of “journalism” is aimed at painting Kaseem Ryan as a gun-toting, violence-inducing “thug,” when the opposite couldn’t be more veritable. Captain Ryan - for that’s how you should be referring to him - is, as you said, a veteran FDNY member, having fulfilled his duties as a hard-working Fire Officer and dedicating his life to helping others. This drummed up 440 [words] or so pitiful attempt at libel in some abstract support of the NYPD is far more destructive at sewing the seeds of division than any lyric he has put down on paper in his career as an artist.

As an Out Man of Color living in New York City, the adopted son of another FDNY Captain, as well as a family full of retired Fire Officers, I invoke my full privilege as such in calling this article - and your false journalism - for what it is: tabloid garbage. Until you have lived the life of a racially marginalized individual and experienced what it’s like to be seen by law enforcement as a potential threat or a moving target simply because of your identity, you have no right to excoriate those who do. Until you know what it’s like to have a job where the very real threat of mortal danger in the process of saving lives is an everyday occurrence, you haven’t the agency to speak on the lives of anyone who does. And until you realize that this kind of “reporting” is the very thing that’s tearing this country apart and the true culprit behind issues like racism and vigilante justice, you should keep your opportunistic, intellectually dishonest, ignorant opinions to yourself, instead of sharing them with millions of people.

It is, I think, safe to say that your “work” at a sewage plant like the New York Post, is, in every sense of the word, a disgrace. Shame on you.




Regretfully,
Joseph P. Murray

7/9/16

#Justise4All No. 21

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⟦ On the week of July 4, 2016 ⟧


Today, in my neighborhood, they are flying their flags at half mast in recognition of the police officers who lost their lives this past week. While their deaths are certainly unconscionable, and no one deserves a tragedy, the dichotomy of this act speaks volumes about the disparity between the races in this country. I know I will hear the names of these individuals during my music ministry at church when they enter into the Prayer of the Faithful, and there is no question we should all pray for the repose of souls lost to violence. But not once in the last few years has my parish or my hometown recognized or even mentioned the names of marginalized citizens who have been victims of brutality, racism, or injustice.

Last month, I sat through several different Catholic Masses the weekend of - and the weekend after - the horrific events in Orlando as part of my job as their cantor. There wasn't even a tertiary statement about the shooting. No flag was lowered, to the best of my memory, even though President Obama asked for a show of National solidarity. And now, as our divided nation is in parallel sets of grief over the loss of those it holds dear, I have to wonder if people who live where I live, who have been adamant about ideas like "All Lives Matter," and "Blue Lives Matter," have any regard for violence and death levied against Black and Brown bodies, what it does to their respective communities, and how it perpetuates a historical and cultural cycle segregation, one which is a foundational component of the United States.

In the end, I would still love nothing more than to be able to live and thrive in a country that truly invested in equality, blind justice, and fairness. How satisfying it would be to know that my contribution as a US citizen aided in that kind of Utopian vision, one where People of Color, Non-Christians, Women, the Disabled, and LGBTQ/SGL communities were unilaterally respected as beautiful, inherently important individuals, instead of some subhuman, inferior monolith. But the truth, my truth, is the truth of a nation whose very existence is predicted upon racist, sexist, classist, ableist, bigoted violence, as well as the continued exploitation of those whose skin is not the fair pigment of its forefathers. With this in mind, my apologies for my convictions, particularly after this past week, are run out for those who think I don't see the writing on the wall about how far too many White Americans see me, and those who look and love like me. Not only can I not remain silent - and obviously, I haven't - but I can no longer be stagnant or complicit.

So, in a way, I guess, this is an apology of sorts. Not for the things I've said or done thus far, but for whatever actions are to play out in my future. I'm sorry if you can't see value in the application of my abilities in the fight for justice and liberation of marginalized peoples as something vital or necessary. I'm sorry if you only got to know one side of me, and are shocked or upset about this so-called "new" Joey P. Murray. I apologize if the things you've read that I've written have offended you. But I'm not sorry I've written them. Not at all. Because sometimes - most times, actually - the truth is a painful medicine. But that doesn't make it any less important to take in order to cure a disease. And there is little doubt in my mind that racism, discrimination, and bigoted violence, wherever it may occur, is this nation's ongoing, violent, fatal disease, and it must be cured, not by any, but by all means necessary.

6/24/16

#Justise4All No. 20 [Sign This Petition]

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NOTE: The following is a petition to help a young Black girl by the name of Dream Shepherd cope with some very serious medical issues she is experiencing at this time. The e-mail for this petition came across my desk earlier this week, and I was shocked to learn that not only is the beautiful individual in dire need of our assistance, but that she is the daughter of my very good friend and music colleague, Ty Shepherd. Upon reading the letter, I contacted Ty to make sure that I could write a few comments to coincide with my signature, as well as share this information with my friends, family, and fans. Per our conversation, I urge you to please click the link below, read the entire message from Dream's mother, Diana, and kindly add your name to the signature list. You would be doing this family an enormous favor by voicing your support for this wonderful young lady, in addition to creating new, more comprehensive legislation that would help patients like Dream be more properly cared for in the future. You have my thanks in advance for that support of this very worthy cause, and my deep appreciation on behalf of Dream and her parents.

CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO READ MORE AND ADD YOUR SIGNATURE


6/17/16

#Justise4All No. 19

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⟦On Orlando: In Memoriam⟧


*Cishet = Cisgender/Heterosexual **PoC = Person of Color

To be honest and not waste your time, dear reader, I’m not sure anything I have to say about June 12, 2016, hasn’t already been said. I’m sure that in the days, weeks, months, and years that place the tragic attack at Pulse Nightclub further and further into the back of our minds, much more intelligent, compassionate, and critical writing will be authored by people who deserve your attention. In fact, your time might be far productively spent doing something other than going over my thoughts on this horrific moment in time.

Still, you are more than welcome to press on. I didn’t want to let more time pass before getting the last of my thoughts out on digital paper.

Perhaps I can best expiate what’s in my head about this if I stick to a timeline, and so I will. For those who don’t know, June 11th is my birthday. I turned 32 this year. As the last 365 days of my life have been some of the most tumultuous of any that I’ve experienced in the last 1/3rd of a century, what with dealing with my father going through a stressful heart surgery, health concerns, and personal situations that all seemed to present themselves at a fancifully inconvenient time, I was well prepared to use my birthday weekend to celebrate, relax, and express my gratitude to God + The Universe for making it through another one.

The writing, however, was on the wall even before my day began, as the news of the senseless murder-suicide of former Voice contestant Christina Grimmie made headlines at the end of the week. I vetted my feelings about my country’s continued culture of violence, and how a paradigm shift was disparately needed, and tried to make the best of my day. I planned to do my celebrating the following day after my 12pm church gig by heading to one of my favorite spots in Harlem, Loft 142, where I have been going for their #DeBrunch event regularly over the past 10 or so months

I can’t remember what time it was that I awoke on Sunday morning (I’m usually up between 4-5am), but after starting up my computer and logging into Twitter, almost immediately I saw the posts and ReTweets about the unfolding events at Pulse, an LGBTQ friendly nightclub in Orlando, Florida. At first, I thought it was the violent outcome of a fight, something no Gay Man of Color can honestly say they’d be surprised to hear at the end of a long night at an urban club during Pride week. But with a sickening anticipation, I watched the fast moving text scroll like water down the window of my app, with the death toll going from 10, to 20, to 30, and counting. It was like staring into a looking glass, and seeing the worst possible scenarios play out in real time, while you watched, helpless to do anything or contact anyone who could help.

This was not just some one-off shooting. This was something else. Something much, much worse.

As I went about my day, I, like everyone else tuned into the news and their social media, learned the grisly truth of that night; in anguish, I learned about the final death toll, the survivors, the hysteria - and the gunman, who had, as we know now, planned this in advance, and carried that plan out with bloody efficacy.

49 souls, lost to one brief, maddening act of violence. Forty-nine people, most of whom were Gay Men of Color (Latin Gay/Bi/Trans men, specifically), now gone from this plane of existence, because of the prejudice, hatred, and rage of one man, heavily armed, with nothing to lose.

Even now, as I type this, I can feel the acid in my stomach turning and the wash of emotions start to well up in the pit of my ribcage.

To stop the immediate emotional reaction, my critical thinking kicked into high gear, as it tends to do in times of mass physical or emotional trauma. It was the same when I first walked into my family’s home after the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in 2012; don’t lose it, Joey, I said to myself. Find out what happened and use your head. But whereas the physical wreckage left in my hometown in Breezy Point was, with much effort and a boatload of time, reparable, even with the immense sadness that came with the disaster, this far exceeded anything my realm of consciousness was prepared for.

This wasn’t just a hurricane, which oftentimes does leave bodies in its wake. This was another human being, taking the lives of innocent people, many of whom were just like me. Men, non-heterosexual, non-cisgender Men of Latinx/Hispanic/Black/Indigenous origins, were cut down like beasts during a hunt, mowed down and left to die by someone who viewed them as deviant, inferior, subhuman.

For all the talk I’ve spouted about violence - prejudicial, discriminatory violence in particular - and our society’s addiction to it, and the toll it takes on everyone who experiences it somewhat directly, this brought everything I said home with a cold, unrelenting reality. And it was, for all intents and purposes, too much.

I cried. Wept, actually. I wept for my brethren. As I made my way to Manhattan, I all but held it together as I passed from one borough to the next, wiping my tears and forcing a polite smile to MTA workers as I paid my tolls and kept moving. Time moved in slow motion. I wondered if people passing me in their cars could see my grief, or even registered that my facial expressions were that of someone in the midst of processing this news. I wondered if they knew that a small part of my heart had been irreparably broken. I wondered if I knew this is what was happening, that in my mourning the loss of people I never knew, I was losing some part of myself.

The afternoon passed without incident, and in the midst it all, I managed to have a good time. I realized later that a place like Loft 142, where other GBT Latinx/Black/Indigenous Men were patrons, was exactly where I needed to be. I needed to be among friends, colleagues, brothers in spirit who I knew were going through the exact same emotional trauma as I. And so we smiled, drank, laughed, and conversed together as much as we were able, and for the moment, it was good.

I contacted everyone I knew who was a Non-Cishet PoC friend, and told them outright that I loved them, and thanked them for being in my life. My mother, my sister, and several of my closest friends messaged me with words of love and encouragement. I thanked my Creator for the continued blessing of people who cared about me, and for people to care about. It was unbelievably necessary, and I am unbelievably grateful.

When I got home from brunch, having stayed as long as my constitution would allow, my creative spirit was already speaking to me. I had to do, sing, say something. My mind already knew what cover I would record; I played it on the way uptown. It was a song penned and performed originally by Tom Waits, but made more famous by one of my music idols, Bette Midler. The song is entitled “Shiver Me Timbers,” and whereas its original intent mean to draw on the emotions of a wandering soul abandoning his normal life in favor of a life on the sea, I redid some lyrics and pared down the arrangement so as to make it a fitting tribute to the men & women who lost their lives that morning.

It took roughly two days to complete, but I’m glad I did it, and the response has been unbelievable. Again, gratitude.

I originally thought I wouldn’t have much to say, but, like it seems to always do, my heart had other plans. That said, I won’t keep you, dear reader, too much longer. Over the next several days, I did my best to go about my regular routing, but I found it to be more difficult than even I anticipated. Of course, I vented my sociopolitical frustrations about the shooting on social media, lashing out at anyone or anything I saw to be counterproductive to honoring the dead or working to prevent future violence. The most recent idiocy came from the Center-Right Old Guard, with Senator John McCain alluding to the idea that President Obama’s inaction regarding the Middle East was a prime catalyst for actions carried out by mass murderer Omar Mateen. I won’t bog anyone down with my innate rage concerning White American elected leaders and their continued insistence at turning tragedy involving socially/racially marginalized groups into a political opportunity, but if you could see my face while I write this…well, you get the picture.

I realize that it is far more important to focus on the victims of this heinous crime against humanity, and no matter what happens in the future, they are whom deserve our attention. Their families and loved ones are whom deserve our caring and support. And their Communities - my Communities - are the ones whose voices must be lifted up, whose stories must be told, and whose issues must be resolved if we are to stop this from happening. I cannot tell you how much love I felt when getting those responses back from my friends, and almost all of them responded. That love, that solidarity, is so much more crucial than any legislation passed on the heels of this tragedy, and it is that love that I wish to impart on all of you.

As with so many who have spoken out about the Orlando shooting, I want the world to know, especially those connected to the victims, that I bleed, cry, grieve, and mourn with you. I have shed tears for these beautiful souls, as I know you have. I am working through my pain, as I know you are. And I am confident, as I pray you will be, that someday, whenever that day is, we will find a way to work through this. That we will be stronger and more united in our struggles to fight for a world released from its cycles of systemic oppression, unfounded hatred, and indoctrinated violence. If the love I’ve received this past week is any indication, then I am willing to believe that such a day is still possible. I am willing to believe that a shift in paradigm, a collective change of heart, is still something for which we should all retain hope.

There isn’t much else I can think of to say, so I’ll leave it here. As always, thanks to every one of you for your continued support, particularly at this time. Below this text is the YouTube cover I spoke of earlier in this post. I hope you will take a listen; the names of the known victims are listed at the end of the song. Learn those names. Go and find out about who they were. Say a prayer for them and their loved ones, if you pray. If not, send light and energy to them; you have my promise it’s appreciated. I’ll leave you with one of the best text messages I got this week, from my good friend, Timmy O’Brien. I think it expresses with distinct clarity, everything so many of us have tried to say, and I hope you’ll take it to heart:

“You’re loved, don’t be afraid, remain strong.”

6/10/16

#Justise4All No. 18 [Viral Video]

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⟦On Africa, Anti-Blackness, and Supremacist Colonialism⟧

NOTE: The video below is a TEDx talk given in Berlin by Mallence Bart-Williams, regarding the current state of her country, Sierra Leone, and her groundbreaking art/fashion/outreach initative, FOLORUNSHO. Before reading anything I have to say, please take some time to watch her speech. If you are pressed for time, check out the first eight (8) minutes, as they pertain to this post's subject matter.



To find out more about FOLORUNSHO, CLICK HERE

During my time visiting Dad in Florida while he was preparing to undergo surgery, discussions with certain members his side of the family, themselves staunch Conservatives to the point of Irish-American Libertarianism, expressed their vehement disbelief in my worldviews, particularly regarding economics and worker’s rights. As we talked, the age-old, racially charged discussion about unemployment in the US led to commentary about jobless families in the ghetto, with so-called ‘welfare kids’ having cellphones as a point of debate. I shifted the narrative by asking why we weren’t focusing on how places like China were forcing their telecom employees to work sweatshop hours for pennies on the dollar, with little to no right to collective bargaining for better industry standards or pay. They countered by saying that China “wasn’t our problem” and that there were “probably hundreds of people who would be willing to take their place.”

Per the homie @netic, what we didn’t bring up was the fact that many of the natural resources used in tech like cell phones are exploitatively cultivated from the African continent to the benefit of the Supremacist West, at the expense of the stability of African nations, like Sierra Leone (the home of the beautiful speaker in this video) whose territories house said material. The bloody campaigns waged by corrupt organizations to profit from Coltan exports has cost countless lives, many of whom have been innocent children, and worked to undermine various African Gov’t’s, with little intervention on the part of NATO-based countries, yet we continue to use products like cell phones w/o awareness of this issue.

My point here is that whatever those close to me would like to think about my passion for these problems, systemic racism is real, as is clearly evidenced by this topic, in which a violent form of Anti-Blackness exists on both ends of the problem, with a frightening example of corporate corruption on behalf of an aggressive Government stuck in the middle. From the streets of Sierra Leone's most destitute slums, to the housing projects of New York City, the continued social, political, economic subjugation of People of Color by global forces is something which can neither be denied, nor is there an easy fix. Thus Ms. Williams is hardly speaking in the abstract when talking about Karma and nature finally catching up to White Supremacy, should it fail to rectify its crimes against humanity.

And, therefore, neither am I.

6/4/16

Social Media and Racism: Why I shut down my [personal] Facebook page (Extended Post)

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On a cool Fall morning - November 15, 2004, 2:24am to be exact - as I was perusing the web on a public computer in the lab during what was my 3rd year as a Vocal Performance Major at The Catholic University of America, I decided to go ahead and sign up to a new website that friends of mine had been gossiping about for the past few weeks. Per their conversation, the site was a network that, in the short nine-month timespan since its official launch, had amassed a following of College and University students that was so vast, it was very possible to find and connect with other young people whom one might have otherwise forgotten altogether, had the platform not been created. Old friends, distant family, even social enemies; slowly but surely, they were showing up on this website, and unlike its predecessors such as MySpace or Friendster, you could be certain it was them, as their public contact information was on display for anyone who was deemed their “friend.”

The website platform, of course, was Facebook.

At the time THE Facebook, as it was originally called, allowed for students like myself to be able to share bits of data, as well as clue in their friends as to their whereabouts, all the while creating a network of friends, family, and associates that was based in real-time connections and personal life experiences. As it progressed, the qualifications for registering as a member expanded from being a registered higher education co-ed, to simply being able to provide accurate data about oneself. Dropping the article prefix, Facebook saw major attention from the mainstream media when incidents such as the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 saw frightened students exchanging information about where to go and what to do in order to be safe, as well as real-time updates regarding the status of the shooter and the victims. CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team realized very early on, and through situations like the aforementioned, that this creation had the very real potential to become a world-changing digital platform, and capitalized on that potential with little hesitation.

Today, Facebook is a multi-million dollar business, with its stock value hovering above $100 per share. It’s current head count, as of 2015, is well over 1 billion registered users, and with the global population peaking at 7 billion people, we are talking about 1 in 7 individuals with a Facebook account at any given time, in most parts of the world. Because of its unbelievably expansive network, and registration/TOS guidelines that are decidedly far more lax than its previous versions, a member of this social network can create an identity and be involved in digital socialization in whatever ways they see fit. Through Facebook, you can, quite literally, be whomever you want to be, with the capacity to front that identity and your personal beliefs on as many sub-platforms as you are able. And now, with the advent of paid advertising, public pages, and monetized accounts, if you have the capital to do it, you can become a virtual superstar in whichever fields you choose.

Perhaps this is the reason why I stopped using a personal Facebook page. When you stop to look at it, it’s actually pretty terrifying. For the record, and before I go any further, anyone wondering about my public page can rest easy: til I’m convinced otherwise, it’s not going anywhere. However, as of June, 2016, I have decided to stop using Facebook as a direct social network platform. After building a personal page with a total friends list of over 1500 people that lasted for nearly 10 years, I shut down that original account. After taking a few days off from the site completely, I re-registered a new account, with an extremely limited number of friends, and a decidedly different presence. Still, it wasn’t enough to garner the maintenance of my peace of mind, and so, I deactivated that page, and created a completely private, no-friends account with the sole purpose of maintaining an administrator page with which to navigate my public one.

At this point, some of you are wondering why all the hoopla and exhortations over this. Why would I take myself out of this social media phenomenon, and why take time to write a blog about it?


Why, you ask? Well, if you’ve been following my social media presence over the past two years, the answer should come without too much thinking:

Stupid people and racism. Duh. :-).

During my original tenure as a very active Facebook user, I openly admit to [and am thankful for] being able to connect with many people with very little effort. I was able to share my thoughts, my music, and my information with an audience that would have otherwise taken me decades to cultivate, had I tried to do it manually. I was able to keep tabs on friends who weren’t close by or easily reachable by basic transportation. I got to relive memories with buddies from my old school days. And, most importantly, I got to build up my brand as a freelance musician, using Facebook’s various outlets to draw people to my work and keep them tuned in. That, above pretty much all else, was the reason I hung on in the year prior to my canceling my first account. I see now that it was a poor reason, and understand more clearly just how destructive it can be to find such reasons to stay connected to what had become a toxic form of social interaction for me.

Facebook wasn’t an addiction, per se - not for me, anyway - but it had certainly become a vice; one that had worked to destabilize my already highly distractive mental and emotional state. And it was over the last eighteen months that I got to see firsthand just how easily Facebook could make even the most important people in your life turn into complete monsters.

Myself included.

As I said towards the beginning of this post, a primary reason for my quitting Facebook was the racism that, after a certain point, made itself clear to me on a daily basis through my timeline (on the off chance there are readers who don’t do social media, a timeline is a basic live feed of posts and activity taking place within your network of friends on a given platform). It’s one thing to see things like a comment section on a Conservative news blog to get an idea of just how disgusting White America can be when talking about People of Color in various situations; this is par for the course online these days. It’s entirely another to see your childhood friends, people you grew up and played CYO sports with, talk about things like systemic discrimination, economic inequality, racial profiling, police brutality, and the ongoing struggle of marginalized communities with the kind of utter disdain and outright abusive intent that’s usually reserved for the most vicious of KKK leaders (on multiple occasions, I’ve had guys who went to college and played in bands with me call Black protestors ‘morons,’ and poor urban residents ‘animals’).

To be clear, I had kept a conscious arm’s distance away from talking about race in great detail prior to circa 2012-13. In spite of my intersectional existence as a mixed race Colombian adopted into an Irish Roman Catholic family, and all the material provided by that point of reference alone, I kept even my most visceral commentary on world events relegated to an objective, politically based critique. I recently confided in a friend that it was the execution of Troy Davis that began my “wake-up call,” and that the killing of Trayvon Martin solidified my commitment to looking more deeply into just how much racism was plaguing our world, both at home and abroad. What I found, of course, was that so much of our current socioeconomic trends, political divisions, and violent exchanges are deeply, firmly rooted in the prejudices formed through ethnic differences. Still more urgent was the realization that concepts like racial dominance, anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy were oftentimes at the helm of some of the most poignant moments in our recent history.

Through it all, and looking back, my Facebook page, while still promoting my music and keeping in touch with friends, took a turn towards the socially conscious, as I buried myself in news articles, professional research, and identity politics dialogue to find grounding for my newfound awareness. And my friends noticed. All of a sudden, from the shadowy corners of my friends list, people who had never had anything to say about anything else I was posting (including my LGBT/SGL advocacy) were stating outright on my page that not only was I wrong in how I was analyzing these problems, but that my convictions bordered on flat-out betrayal of both my upbringing and my privilege. In a sense, it’s as if they were saying I was lucky to have been raised in such an environment, and that any overtly critical thinking about that might imply I wasn’t grateful for what I had been given.

Seeing it all in hindsight now, I realized I should’ve just told those folks to piss off and stay the fuck out of my mentions or comment threads.

Yet, I engaged them all, arguing, for the most part, with patience and the preening specificity for which I had already become well known. I was met with verbal grenades. Not that I didn’t lob enough of my own, but the assault on my social media with some of the most magnanimous of postings was just shy of what they now call cyberbullying. I realize now that no matter what I may have said or implied, I didn’t deserve half the crap that was expressed to me through this forum, and should have confronted the people responsible for saying those things directly to let them know that they had crossed a line.

Again, all of this because I had now chosen to own the full scope of my identity, and discover just how much race continues to play in to the majority of our everyday lives.

It was several major events involving racially charged bouts of violence in the US on the part of law enforcement that drew everything I was observing to a head. The shooting of Michael Brown, the choking death of Eric Garner, and the questionable passing of Freddie Gray put me in direct opposition to several high-profile users within my network of Facebook friends. I was basically reprimanded like a schoolboy for pointing out that even in the damage caused during the Baltimore riots by residents, you couldn’t bring back the dead or undo the injustices carried out by local police and civic leaders. I was told that an associate of mine was an idiot for expressing how the arrest of violent White criminals (serial killers included) was comparably low-incident versus the patternistic manner in which People of Color are manhandled when being collared for the most petty of nonviolent felonies. And, what I think was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I was literally yelled at by a friend - a Detective - for stating the bare fact that even in the horror brought on by the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the body count was nearly half that of the execution-style killings at a Black Christian church in South Carolina by a young White Supremacist, yet we still had major portions of our population far more willing to express their hatred towards Muslims as opposed to condemning Dylan Roof for his despicable actions; more importantly, that his actions represented centuries of racial violence handed out freely by White Americans since they brought African slaves to cultivate the land they stole and conquered.

Put simply, it had become a shit show, and I’d grown tired of it.

Today, I hold no qualms about not holding back when talking about topics like race and discrimination, because I realize that the reasons I was holding back before stemmed from the kind of backlash I experienced in the final months before I shut down my 1st Facebook page. I was discussing these subjects with the logically false intent of seeking a middle ground, and even when doing that, I was met with a hostility that was not only undeserved, it was totally ignorant. Sadly, though, in restarting a new page in the fall of 2015, I recognized almost immediately that the people with whom I made the more conscious effort to include in my social networking world so as to maintain some sense of sanity were, in some ways, not much better. It was this period that made me realize that if I was to give my convictions a title, “Radical” would not be far off in describing them. I’m not sorry for that, either.

When I was told by a close friend that I was acting “a bit over-zealous” in talking about these subjects, I saw the writing on the wall. Healthy discussions with like-minded friends would turn into unnecessary arguments and text messages. I was hitting my head against a brick wall I had created, and it was making me even more crazy than when I was dealing with my racist former friends. Finally, after making some claims about the recent X-Men movie, the franchise’s culturally appropriative usage of the Holocaust, and having to explain the nuance in what it actually means to appropriate without being directly offensive, I pushed my chair away from my desk, stood up, and probably said something along the lines of: “That’s it. Enough.” Whatever the words were, they were some of the wisest I’ve uttered to myself in a long time.

Within 48 hours of that conversation, I closed my 2nd account, created my administrator account for my public page, and breathed a sigh of relief. No, seriously, it was like “Waiting to Exhale."


As long as this entry already is, I won’t go on boring you with my life after Facebook. One, because as per said entry, this is all literally over an extremely short amount of time. Two, because the whole point of detaching myself from the instant gratification of interpersonal social media is to regain some modicum of what we used to call privacy. Obviously, in keeping my public page open, I will be expressing my thoughts, as well as sharing my music with my followers, but because public pages have become a monetized effort, it’s less likely that what I share will be seen by people unless I promote it, and contrary to popular opinion, I ain’t shelling out monthly coins just so I can get a reaction from somebody when I talk bout redlining or rape culture. Baby boy’s got bills.

What I will say is that I’m convinced that part of the reason I decided to disconnect, in a sense, is because, whether people believe it or not, whether I like it or not, I’m growing up. Whatever it was that made me snap and get rid of this part of my social media identity, it felt alot like someone saying, “Dude, go do something else. You’ve got tons of other important shit on your plate.” And so, I defer to that voice, and look forward to reshaping what it means to be a thirty-something online. I have found that my other platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, have provided me with a way to express myself in real-time and not be accosted by lemmings who are just looking to be a pain in the ass or are so convinced that I’m wrong they can’t actually hold a decent conversation - this may change, but for now, it’s what it is. For the Nth time, http://facebook.com/pmurraymusic is still up, and anyone on Facebook is welcome to contact me there.

But as it stands, I’m actually excited to see how this all plays out. In some small, unimportant ways, making the choice to get rid of my personal page feels like I did the right thing, and anyone who knows me is well aware that I don’t do that as often as I should. That said, I’ll take the ‘W’ here, and hope that my online future is far more healthy and enjoyable than it has been.

I mean, it can’t get any worse, right?

5/20/16

#Justise4All No. 17

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⟦On Reparations⟧


DISCLAIMER: The following financial figures are a subjective projection using the concept of reparations for slavery using some basic research about the United States during the 19th Century, its economy, and its social divisions. This is in no way a definitive set of numbers from which one could be able to draw a defensible conclusion about reparations, as the life and workload of Black slaves varied from person to person, plantation to plantation, and state to state. This post is merely showing the crucial nature of restitution for those who are still suffering from the effects of the Diaspora and American Slave Trade. With respect to the myriad of investigation being done right now on these subjects, I highly advise the reader do their own research to be able to draw their own conclusions, but humbly offer my thoughts as a point of reference.

What a difference a year can make. That's the old saying when it comes to the passage of time, yes? And I think most people would agree that such a saying holds true in many cases. Life can change in a year. True, life can change in an instant, but if the lifespan of a human being remains generally uninterrupted by the ills of the world, a year can provide for lots of life-altering events. It's always interesting to run into people you care about after a year of not being around them on a regular basis. There's always lots of stories, new people, and (hopefully) a new level of maturity and respect that sometimes only 365 or so days can provide.

In this post, however, I wanted to talk briefly about what a difference a year can make in the life of marginalized People of Color in the United States, particularly what a year's work of unpaid labor finally being compensated might look like. I am, of course, referring to the bondage of Africans in this country as part of the American Slave Economy. For hundreds of years, Black bodies were treated as work animals, forced to endure untold suffering, misery, and despair at the hands of their White owners, as well as the White Supremacist society at large. This, to the tune of untold amounts of exponential wealth and prosperity for White America. Slave labor was undoubtedly the fuel behind the rocket launch of the US from her humble yet violently tumultuous beginnings into her place as a formidable world power, and it was the fulcrum behind any and all modern-day manifestations of racially discriminatory free market Capitalism.

In my view, and the views of many, our sovereign nation still owes those millions of Black bodies used as free labor and objects of limitless torture a debt it can never truly repay. Because of this, many Black Americans (as well as their allies) over the course of generations post-Emancipation have demanded that reparations be allocated to the descendants of the Diaspora as a means of economic restitution for the ongoing disparities that exist between Black Americans and their White peers. Some economists have speculated that such an invoice could total in the trillions, when taking into account just how many slaves were brought under subjugation, and just how long the practice existed here.

I know some of you are saying, "WOAH." Especially after reading the trillions part of that paragraph. In fact, this kind of sticker shock is the reaction I daresay is behind most of the pushback by the mainstream US. The notion that this country could owe anyone that kind of money with what some would say is no readily, visually accessible context as to why is a very real roadblock keeping most non-Black Americans from having the most rudimentary conversations about this subject, much less agree to some sort of implementation of the ideas already put forth.

But the fact remains that were slavery in "the land of the free" a labor practice into which its most prominent economic and political leaders did not invest exorbitant amounts of time or money, were this time in our history something that never happened, the United States would have never been able to do in little more than two centuries what her European predecessors had taken almost a millennia longer to achieve after the fall of Rome. Namely, dominate the global sociopolitical landscape with a stable civilization to the benefit of the most privileged of its Empire.

That all being said, here is a very generalized breakdown of what ONE YEAR of compensation for an enslaved African man in the United States of America COULD look like in the late 1800's were he paid for his labor, and what that amount translates to in terms of financial reparations today:


1.) In the 2nd half of the 19th century, one of the biggest natural exports being cultivated by Black slaves was tobacco. Through their tireless work under pain of physical abuse and death on plantations in places like North Carolina, tobacco leaves were harvested, bundled, and sent off to the mills of burgeoning Tobacco companies along the Eastern Seaboard.
2.) At the time, because there was a zero cost incentive for gathering raw materials for tobacco products, and because company owners worked the majority of their employees at a grueling pace for exceptionally low wages, Big Tobacco, as we often call it today, was able to get a big head start in advancing its profit margins and presenting itself as a mainstay commodity in the US.
3.) If we are to reference some of the first records of annual wages for different groups during this period, we find that workers in factories and mills for products like tobacco earned roughly one dollar a day if the worker was White, adult, and male.
4.) Looking at a suggested median workload for an enslaved Black man, taking into account also that he would most likely begin his labor as a child, it has been arguably agreed that he would be performing his tasks for six out of the seven days in a week, with a possible rest on Sundays. Keeping in mind that most slaves, particularly those working in the plantation fields, were constantly on-call for any number of demands by their owners, regardless of the day or time.
5.) An average lifespan for Black plantation slaves was 30 years of age, though often less, as opposed to the 40+ years of their White counterparts.
6.) Thus, if we use the model of an enslaved Black man, starting with his forced labor at the age of, say, 8 years old, and working til he was thirty, at which point he was likely to die from fatigue, sickness, mistreatment, or malnourishment, we are looking at a suggested average of 22 years of uncompensated labor at the hands of unprecedented cruelty.
7.) Breaking that median number down further, with the general age of consent/manhood being 15 years old, we are presented with a seven-year period of child labor, and 15 years of adult enslavement.
8.) At any given time post-Emancipation, Black American men looking for work were almost guaranteed to be paid, at the very most, 3/4 of what their White male counterparts were earning. More often it was less than half.
9.) Knowing this, if we take that approximately 50% differential and apply to it some of the figures presented here, we are looking at a 19th Century enslaved Black man working in the tobacco fields, never compensated for his labor, and missing out on $78 and $156 in annual wages, as a child and adult worker respectively, were he to be employed at a tobacco mill.
10.) Thrown into an inflation calculator that takes into account the various fluctuation of US currency and economic growth between 1850 - 2000, these annual wages come out to roughly $12,900 and $16,600 at the turn of the millennia for work in a tobacco mill being done by a Black boy and man respectively.

And that's just one year.

Taking into account the time span previously mentioned, the cost of reparations for just ONE Black American slave who lived and worked in the 19th Century could equal an amount upwards of $300,000. Again, this is not taking into account the massive amount of variables that could - and should - push that number far higher.

To some, $16K doesn't seem like alot of money over the course of 12 months. But if we are talking about a population of people who have been - and continue to be - denied the same opportunities to invest in themselves and be a more consistent component of the US economy (even though its buying power is some of the most expensive in the country), an extra income of $16K could spell the difference between being stuck in cyclical poverty and being able to start planning a future, a future that could involve owning real estate, building community centers/programs, and contributing to a more stable financial future. And being able to do that immediately, as opposed to waiting on some sort of windfall or relying on inadequate and racially discriminatory Government assistance programs, could be a boon for Diaspora descendants nationwide.


LINKS:

North Carolina and Tobacco: Historical Background
http://www.pbs.org/pov/brightleaves/historical-background/

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237246292_Oxford_Encyclopedia_of_Economic_History

From the UK National Archives:
What Was it Like to be a Child Slave in America in the Nineteenth Century (Contextual Essay) ?
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/education/childhood-slavery-contextual-essay.pdf

History of the Lorillard Tobacco Company
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorillard_Tobacco_Company

National Bureau of Economic Research
Out-of-Print Title: Wages and Earnings in the United States, 1860-1890 (Clarence D. Long)
Chapter Title: Wages by Occupational and Individual Characteristics (p. 94 - 108)
http://www.nber.org/chapters/c2500.pdf

Measuring Worth
Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount - 1774 to Present
Inflation Calculator
https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/index.php

Slavery in the United States
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States

The Economic History Association
Hours of Work in U.S. History
https://eh.net/encyclopedia/hours-of-work-in-u-s-history/

Learn NC
(K-12 Education resource for North Carolina schools)
Work in a textile mill
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newsouth/5493
Work in a tobacco factory
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newsouth/4701
The Life of a Slave (from Slavery in North Carolina)
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-antebellum/5602

4/23/16

#Justise4All No. 16

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⟦ On Trans Lives and the Criminalization of Gender Non-Conformity ⟧


Recently, some of you may have seen the following video posted by Media Matters for America:



This video was created to address and debunk the mythicized "threat" of Transgender US Citizens and their use of public restrooms, a so-called "serious issue" being pushed by Conservative Christian lobbyists and transphobic political bigots via State legislation which relegates Gender Non-Conforming citizens to utilizing bathrooms pertaining to their genitalia, as opposed to their gender identity. Outside of the inanity of this new crop of discriminatory lawmaking on the part of ignorant Supremacists, the very nature of the law is arguably in direct violation of basic Constitutional statute. Having seen the video, similar bigots have created their own "promotional" anti-Trans propaganda on YouTube to try and highlight the "dangers" of Gender Non-Conforming predators, thus somehow justifying the aforementioned policies in places like North Carolina.

So as not to give that video any more subsequent internet support via views by clicking her link, I have downloaded the media and reposted it through my blog's server so you can view it here:


video

Having watched this and being as angry at its false narrative as I know you probably are, the following remarks were first posted on Facebook and the original YouTube stream of the video in response to this asinine creation. They have been edited for grammar and syntax, but I wanted my Non-Cisgender/Heterosexual Communities to know that I will not stand for any kind of bigotry levied at marginalized citizens in this country, and I will certainly not be silent when I have the opportunity to speak out against it:

"PSA to Jane Williams:

This entire video is a logical fallacy of epic proportions. There are so many layers to the BS you've concocted, it’s actually difficult to name and appropriately address them all. However, I’ll oblige some of it:

1.) You are suggesting that because these criminals had either transvestite habits or transsexual tendencies, their mentally deranged state of mind was a byproduct of that behavior. What is fairly obvious here is that these individuals, regardless of their gender ID or personal preferences, were more than likely predisposed to committing these crimes against humanity based on psychological illness far more attributed to factors outside of said ID/Preference. In other words, dressing up as women or ID’ing as a gender opposite of their genitalia was, in most of these cases, neither the cause, nor the result of their crimes.

2.) Speaking specifically to crimes where crossdressing was involved, with only scant details about any of the incidents mentioned due to the low-information gathering of the original ignorant YouTube user, it’s pretty clear that a good handful of the incidents stated here are most likely a case of Cisgender males disguising themselves as women to participate in criminal voyeurism to heighten their heterosexual - although deviant - pleasure. This has absolutely nothing to do with transgenderism, and everything to do with sick, twisted men trying to get off in a bathroom without getting caught.

3.) Considering that what people are boycotting now is legislation regarding nonviolent, transgender US citizens and their access to public restrooms for personal use, it must be noted that several of the incidents mentioned here have nothing to do with that issue, being that the crimes were committed nowhere near a bathroom and had nothing to do with bathroom usage. Further, using crimes of passion, regardless of the Non-Gender Conformity of the criminal, to indicate some sort of widespread mentally deranged state of an entire group of marginalized people is the height of bigotry and xenophobia, not to mention stereotypical White Supremacy. To say nothing of its factual inaccuracy in the history of American Criminal Justice.

Lastly, by conflating multiple kinds of crimes involving sexual assault and violence committed by men of different races coming from multiple socioeconomic backgrounds, whose only common thread is a completely random array of Non-Gender Conformity, and using this as a means of showing support for a piece of State legislation that is in direct opposition to the Constitutional liberties and human rights of US citizens - as well as the fact that other portions of the law involve egregiously unfair labor standards having little to do with this issue, which indicates that this entire process is a backhanded attempt at typical American underhanded politics - this video proves in spades just how ridiculous our Supremacist system can really be when it comes to maintaining its stronghold of both its people and its resources. To call you and your supporters fools would be a credit to your intelligence, and my choosing to even take time out of my life to explain just how asinine you sound should be something for which I should be compensated. Sadly, you will probably skim this and automatically dismiss most of what I’ve had to say.

Having said that, consider the article below before you continue down that road on your high horse, because unlike the stupidity you’ve comfortably chosen to post here, real, targeted violence against Trans Women of Color is something that State legislation SHOULD be working to address, combat, and prevent. Because the last time I checked, violence is violence, so if we’re going to try and stop it from happening, we should try and stop ALL of it from happening - not just discriminate against people who scare you because your Government told you so.

Go be a sheep somewhere else, and have a nice day."

http://www.dailydot.com/politics/trans-women-of-color-murdered/

4/8/16

#Justise4All No. 15 [Instagram Redux]

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⟦On Marginalized US Citizens in Politics⟧


Reality Check:

Black Americans still do not hold a majority [or an equal number] of representatives the in the House.

First Nations [Native Americans] still do not hold a majority [or an equal number] of representatives in the Senate.

Latin America, though an ever increasing and prosperous demographic, still does not hold a majority [or an equal number] of representatives in an overall review of local, municipal, and State governments.

And Asians, while being a centuries-old mainstay in our country's history and current political climate, still do not hold a majority [or an equal number] of representatives in any of these fields.

This is not by accident or coincidence. And it's certainly NOT because the so-called "minorities" mentioned aren't hardworking people with dreams and goals to accomplish such as political inclusion. I find it insulting and disingenuous for White Americans to utilize their privilege as the "majority" in the United States to keep fronting this sickeningly asinine concept of a "post-racial society," when we still can't see Community faces at the forefront of this allegedly "impartial" system of governance, and when we do, they're often times reporting a false sense of security on behalf of their communities and pandering to the revisionist Supremacist dialogue. All of this while members of those same Communities are being vilified by the Press, objectified by White Supremacist politicians, and antagonized by inherently racist, classist institutions like law enforcement and criminal justice. To say nothing of the ongoing xenophobic violence being committed by White ingrates against these people. I don't expect this to get much better, and I won't be surprised if it gets worse. I remain dissatisfied and unimpressed by this time in our history, and I will do what I can to combat the worst of its destructive habits.



⟦On Community Violence⟧


Echoing some sentiments I expressed with my friend, who was grief-stricken over [recent] violent incidents [in marginalized communities] and asked for my input: we are a culture that glorifies rampant violence, in addition to treating its citizens like trash. So you have young people with a chip on their shoulders and nothing productive to do. Add to that a society that sees Black and Brown kids as perpetual potential threats to that society, regardless of whether or not they actually are, combined with a Government unwilling to work with them and families of those kids that are in crisis due to economic hardship and limited access to the benefits of postmodern US privilege, as well as personal hurdles which are further compounded due to the aforementioned issues. It is a recipe for disaster and self-destruction that we keep saying can be fixed with political bandaids and trusting the System. What will it take for everyone to finally see that this System is working perfectly? And if so, what are we willing to sacrifice to create something better? If at all?

3/25/16

#Justise4All No. 14

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⟦On Brussels⟧


Waking up to the news in Belgium this week reminded me of just how insensitive, socially unresponsive, and poorly reported these incidents are. All these "journalists," TV personalities, and politicians...they don't give a damn about the several dozen dead, or the injured. They care about saying something to keep their job and keep them popular with their circle of attention. They care about making sure that you have an emotional response to their nonsense. They care about themselves, and the people to whom they must answer. And you eat it up. You get mad, you get upset, you get scared, all the things that should be secondary to using the two things that can help prevent future incidents like this: your heart and your brain.

With due respect to those who lost their lives in this act of violence, how many people die every day through similar violent acts, and we either don't know about it, or choose not to care? How many people this week committed suicide, or lost their lives due to complications from AIDS, or become victims of rape and sexual assault? All things that each of us can help alleviate or prevent in the simplest ways, many of those ways involving just being kind to people and thinking before we act. But no, we instead wait for the sensationalist theatrics of an admittedly unconscionable crime against humanity to remember just how human we really are. We want the spectacle of death to give us a nudge on the shoulder and force us to re-examine what it is our lives are about, instead of being thankful everyday for the life that we have and using it to make someone else's life better.

I want nothing more in this world then for people to live in peace. I want nothing more than for justice to be done for people who are constantly being robbed of it. I want nothing more than for people to be free. But as long as we are imprisoned by this morbid addiction to death and violence, then death and violence are all we can expect from people who have nothing left to live for. What else besides desperation leads people to think that constant violence and bloodshed will bring them the answers, long-term ones, to satisfy their desires? What else besides the hope for something better in death or perpetuating it would anyone want to take the life of another? And what is it going to take for us to realize just how wrong that actually is?

When you look at the news today, or read your local paper, and they talk about places like Belgium, or Istanbul, or Pakistan, or the ravaged war-torn places of the world like Africa, always remember that you have the potential to be a critical thinker, and that you have the opportunity, as someone who is not directly experiencing these tragic events, to find out just how and why they happen. Pray for the dead, that should go without saying. But it is time that we as a human family stop waiting for tragedy to inspire us to be better people. It shouldn't be a tragic event that spurs us to action to love one another and help each other get free. Your opportunity to stop people from becoming desperate and willing to rob other people of their dignity, their humanity, and their lives, starts right now. Seize that opportunity. Be kind. Think for yourself instead of letting others think for you. Do the research before you condemn anyone. And most importantly, never forget that at the forefront of what so many people are struggling for when it comes to topics like justice and liberation, is love.

3/18/16

#Justise4All No. 13

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⟦On Stereotypes, US Law Enforcement, and Ignorance⟧


Though I’m confident I have noted this before amongst friends and social media forums, I must reiterate a very interesting and poignant observation I’ve made when talking bout social justice issues, particularly when it’s about law enforcement as it pertains to Communities of Color in the US. I find this observation to be sad, generally speaking, because while it is certainly subjective in nature, it is no less honest, and one that various colleagues have noted as well.

What I’ve observed is that when speaking about topics like police brutality, corruption, and summary executions of unarmed Black + Brown Americans, in the midst of getting great insight from the many police officers who are family/friends, the most offended, angry, cold responses about these topics, even just as a tertiary social reference, have been from White American male cops. Across the board, my engaging with White officers who are women, and People of Color employed by Police Departments, even if the discussions have been heated, has always rendered a sense of mutual understanding and respect. For myself and many others, this sentiment, unfortunately, has not been shared by their White male counterparts, to the point where I’ve lost a good friend and musical colleague whom I believe is now a NYPD Detective. Quite simply, he told me to screw off; I believe the last text was, “Go back to your bubble.”

When you run up against mental walls like this, one should be able to understand why the concept of nonviolence and peaceful negotiations suddenly become a useless form of disrupting the system to demand justice. How do you fight people who don’t want to listen, and will shut you down from the moment you engage them?

The latest example of this came from a man - a retired NYPD officer - who saw one of my Facebook posts, and responded by saying: “Your ignorance is astounding.” Not one to take petty insults lightly, I engaged him to demand his reasoning. What I got back was a list of his accomplishments on the job and an angry, offensive take on my perspective. There was no hope of getting through to him about the things I inherently understood about identifying as a Person of Color, how that affects my interactions with police officers, or the historic and present-day antagonizing experienced by marginalized communities on behalf of law enforcement nationwide. The cheapest comebacks had to do with “Bad Apples,” and “Black on Black crime.”

For a man who professed his nearly two dozen years on the job, this kind of glancing blow to a justifiable point of debate solidified what I already had been realizing when it came to this specific issue; namely, that there would likely be this kind of response when speaking to/with White male cops about this, and that this stereotypical indignation must be taken into account when seeking solutions to these problems. As far as addressing the original insult, I will say this much:

Calling someone ignorant on the basis of your personal convictions means you not only misunderstand the definition of the word, but you're using your emotional response to what you are experiencing as justification for your insult. Ignorance, in its purest form, has neither a positive nor a negative connotation. It merely means that one does not know or understand a particular person, place, thing, or idea. In fact, society might be a better place if, when its members are told of their ignorance in a particular area, they didn't immediately take it as an insult but as an impetus to learn more about whatever it is their accuser claims is beyond their scope.

I have never, not once, claimed to be someone who knew or experienced the idiosyncrasies associated with being a police officer. Not only would that be ignorant, it would be a lie. I'm a terrible liar. What I do know is that the individual ability to hold other people accountable to the law, as is part of the job of a law enforcement officer, provides that individual with a form of power. What I also know is that power corrupts. What I've come to understand about corruption is that it happens the moment we receive power, and that said corruption doesn't have to be some major scandal at your job. It can be as minor as taking the few privileges and creature-comforts that are not legally a part of the job but that come with the package.

In this country, we are dealing with an institution that is not only inherently racially biased, but that is inherently prone to corruption. And that propensity towards existing above the laws which this institution is supposed to respectfully enforce has prematurely ended countless lives and eviscerated the lifeblood of entire communities. So I find it odd, if not sad, that people would call me ignorant, when far too much research and history proves me right. In the end, how much good you do in any given situation will almost certainly be weighed against the times you're not willing to identify and work to eliminate the things that stop you from doing good, or simply ignore the bad.

Because that, my ‘astounded’ friend, is called WILLFUL ignorance. And "the power of willful ignorance cannot be overstated."