Freedom Fighters: Making the Connections


I was wrecked by Orlando. This blog should have been written on Sunday, five days ago, but I didn't even have words back until today. I have been existing in a strange daze somewhere on the other side of sorrow and rage. Simply wrecked.
Go back two weeks.

Sitting in the sun blaring parking lot, waiting for BLM Sacramento’s press conference to call out the Elk Grove Unified School District for allowing Nyree Holmes, a young Black student to be escorted out of his own graduation ceremony by three law enforcement officers for the non-crime of proudly wearing an African Kente cloth, Tanya, BLM Sacramento founder, looks down, phone in hand, and says, "They convicted her, an all-white jury, for lynching. A Black woman?!?"

Go back 9 months.

Pasadena, home to a 14% Black population inundated with social and economic issues created through systemic anti-Black racism, and work space for Jasmine Abdullah, a young, bright, Black freedom fighter who invests her life in the love and uplifting of her community. On August 29th, after holding a peaceful rally to bring attention to the murder of 19-year-old, unarmed, Kendrec McDade, Jasmine observed a young woman across the street being chased by a local restauranteur for not paying her bill. After police arrived and several large officers attempted to take the petite 20-year-old woman into custody, Jasmine and fellow protesters try to protect her from a biased police department that has continually proven that young Black detainees don’t come out alive. Jasmine is shown in the video to be voicing concern for her friend and begging them to not hurt her. This is what Black love looks like. No longer willing to wait for the ensuing vigils, rallies, and demands set forth after state violence has already occurred, Jasmine literally and figuratively reaches out her arms to her sister and attempts to take her home. Two days later, Jasmine is arrested for felony lynching amongst a host of other convoluted charges.

Go back 4 months.

Sacramento, home to an unethical, even genocidal, anti-camping ordinance that criminalizes poor people experiencing homelessness for sleeping and simply existing. It is currently an illegal and arrestable crime to be sitting or sleeping in public IF you are without housing, despite the city and county’s tragic lack of shelter beds and housing solutions. On February 20th, 2016 during the ongoing occupation of Sacramento City Hall for the #Right2Rest, protestor Que McCrea was lawfully filming the police as all occupiers were doing. He was, without warning, grabbed, put in a choke hold, thrown to the ground, and forced into a paddy wagon. It was terrifying. Que, who committed no crime other than resisting arrest, was charged with four counts of felony battery of a police officer. He faced six years in prison, and was forced to take a plea deal in which he has probation and will be required to pay for both the medical bills of an officer who scratched himself, and anger management classes. Que hurt no one. He did not once hit or fight the police in any violent manner, he simply tried to stay where he was. Que is Black, experiencing homelessness, and unwilling to stay silent about the trauma he endures daily from a state that does not value his life. Out of 89 arrests during the four-month-long occupation, all charges were dropped, all except Que’s. During his violent abduction, he was heard crying out, “I won’t let you criminalize me again.”

Go back decades. 

This is nothing new. We forget so quickly the struggles generations before us have fought; the acts of resistance they have waged for their survival, for our hope. We are denied their stories, unless their words can be twisted to fit the dominant rhetoric, but we can seek them out. They are here, they never went away. Political prisoners currently populate the halls of institutions of incarceration and injustice, and are exiled from their homes and communities. We can say their names and demand for their release. Assata Shakur, we lift you up. Leonard Peltier, we hear your voice. Mumia Abu Jamal, we won’t stop until you are free. Chelsea Manning, we love you. Look into our collective history of resistance, research and find the connections.

Go back 6 days.

Orlando, a town that is so myriad in white supremacy and homophobia, where Queer and Trans Latinx folx needed to create a safe space to just exist amongst each other, is rocked by incomprehensible pain and trauma. Existence itself is resistance to a culture that continues to celebrate the obliteration of entire communities through systemic racism, gentrification, cultural appropriation, and erasure. The continued incarceration and/or deportation of people of color at shocking rates, the 200 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills passed this year alone, and the genocide of Black Trans women, who have an average life expectancy of 35 years due to systemic and individual bias are all proof of that.

Why is speaking out against, living out loud against, and loving in the face of anti-Black white supremacy, homophobia, patriarchy, and the increasing militarization both domestically and globally such a threat in 2016? Why? Because the privilege to exist safely in this world is predicated on the subjugation of mostly Black and Brown peoples all over the world through our consistently denied, whitewashed, and compartmentalized history and current practice of imperialism and the belief that, “my individualistic desire is inherently more important than your collective need.” What does Nyree, Jasmine, Que, Assata, and all victims in Orlando have in common? Any safety, any community, any space for resistance that marginalized peoples try to carve out for themselves is a direct threat to the status quo. Toxic masculinity allows no room for “we” only “me.” When “me” equals white, cis-het-male, pro-militarism, and Amerikkkan as fuck, we have a violent problem. Watch, as the massacre of dozens of gorgeous loves will turn into increased Islamophobia and a call for war with whatever Middle Eastern country’s resources we want to control this year. Our domestic narrative will shift from racism and homophobia, to gun control and increased need for law enforcement.

Jasmine reaching out against state violence, in her Black Queer body, was convicted of lynching. Lynching is typically defined as, “…an extrajudicial punishment by an informal group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a minority group.”. In 1933, in order to prevent white mobs from taking Black people from police custody for public hangings, an anti-lynching law was enacted. The law she was convicted under was created for her very survival. Irony isn’t the conversation here; instead, a direct assault on resistance is what her conviction is speaking to. They are saying, in no uncertain terms, that Black lives do not, and WILL NOT matter to the state.

The conviction of Jasmine Abdullah is setting a dangerous precedent for all who engage in civil disobedience to seek safe spaces free from oppression. Not long ago, Pulse would have been an illegal establishment, open to raids and police brutality. Every single brilliant soul there would have been criminalized for their existence. Stonewall, a riot headed by Queer and Trans people of color, fought to change that. It was a start. We are not finished.

If you, like me, are wrecked with the events on Sunday and want to show up for your community. Please do. Join us in demanding the immediate release of Jasmine and all political prisoners who have done and continue to do the work toward our true liberation. Write to her. Don’t allow her to suffer alone. Put your broken arms around her and jump in this fight. Jump in this fight for Black lives, our collective salvation rests upon it.

Jasmine, can you hear us ringing for you? Because unlike your beautiful Brown and Black siblings lost to white supremacy, lost to hyper-masculinity, lost to queerphobia, you will pick up the phone, and Baby when you do, I for one, plan to be on the other end ready to work.

Show up for you community today

1) Send Jasmine a message of love and solidarity.

Many across the country are fighting for Jasmine's release – and for the liberation of all political prisoners – but until Jasmine's free, she needs to know we're with her.

The Center for Media Justice, Black Lives Matter and Strong Families have partnered to make sure this happens. Send a digital postcard to Jasmine and let her know that, although she is behind bars, the movement is behind her. Let her know how her courage and spirit has inspired you, and why you are committed to making sure #BlackLivesMatter.

Once a week the Center for Media Justice will print the cards and letters you write and send them directly to Jasmine. Please let Jasmine know we are with her. 

2) Support for Daizon Flenaugh - BLM Sacramento

Dazion Flenaugh was unarmed and mentally ill. He was killed by Sacramento Police for an "aggressive stance." He was illegally detained (shut into the back of a police car and told he wasn't being detained according to police). Being shut back there triggered him, and he started harming himself. He was let out of the car and took off running. Police called for backup and chased him. He was running out of fear, and they made it appear like he was acting like a criminal. They confronted him while he was hiding in bushes. Then when he came out three officers emptied their guns on him. He was hit six times.

Sacramento BLM brought some demands to the city council, and they are uninterested and aren't taking us seriously. So we need outside pressure: emails, tweets, and Facebook shares.

City Council and SacPD are not concerned with meeting the needs of Dazion's family and the Sacramento community. This is where you can help:

  • Send an email to council member Rick Jennings.
  • We need you to tweet and tweet and retweet this.
  • If you are on Facebook, share this status.

3) Demand an investigation into the preventable deaths at California Institute for Women.

Another young woman of color died at the California Institution for Women (CIW) two weeks ago today. Her name is Shaylene Graves, and she was 27 years old and six weeks away from returning home to her loving son, family, and friends. CCWP is working with Shaylene’s family to hold the CA Department of Corrections (CDCR) and CIW responsible for her death. In the wake of Shaylene's death, the prison continues to mistreat her grieving family and friends and to evade responsibility for failing to save lives.

Please circulate the attached images of Shaylene and help California Coalition for Women Prisoners demand an investigation into the preventable deaths at CIW, including the ongoing suicide crisis.

Petition for CIW investigation

Petition update RE: Shaylene

BLM Response to Orlando

In Honor of Our Dead: Latinx, Queer, Trans, Muslim, Black — We Will Be Free | En Honor a Nuestros Muertos: Latinx, Queer, Trans, Musulmanes, Negros – Seremos Libres

It is with pain and heartache that the Black Lives Matter Network extends love, light, protection, and abundance to our family in Orlando, Florida. We love you. Black people are a diverse community, and though the hate-filled rhetoric of the conservative right is currently trying to pit us against our kin — we will always stand with all the parts of ourselves. Today, Queer, Latinx, and Muslim family, we lift you up. Read the full statement from the BLM Network about the Orlando massacre here

 "It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other

and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."

--Assata Shakur


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