A biweekly column in which various contributors from both sides of prison walls explore common ground for effecting change.
“I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” —Tupac Shakur
I remember hearing this quote as an adolescent and thinking to myself that my life mattered and I had to protect my body because there may be a day that I’m called to change the world and I should be ready.
In retrospect, I think about how powerful the power of prophecy and words are. Here I was, a 10-year-old Black boy in the ghetto, who thought that I could change the world all because Tupac said so.
That type of power was not spoken to me by any teacher or so called social worker. Whoever said it later was late because Tupac told me first. Subsequently, there was also another lesson I learned from Tupac.
On that fateful day in 1996 when I returned home from school to hear the news that my hero was dead, all I remember was weeping from a deep place within me that at that young age, I couldn’t understand.
On that day I learned that to be Black and bold meant that you may die and die violently. Unlike the heroes the media portrayed to me, the ones that lived on alternate universes and in the next episode or comic book would be back to fight crime all over again. No, not for me, my hero was dead and never to return again.
In biblical text, there is the prophecy of Jesus. It was prophesied that a Messiah would be born and rise to be king of Israel and free his people from the bondage of the law. So, the ruling king of the time, Herod, sent out a decree to kill all the male children under the age of two just to ensure that this Messiah would be killed and never get to fulfill the prophecy of freeing his people from bondage.
I think we can never pay enough attention to history when we are looking to help make sense of the world today.
Let’s look further into this decree. What if Tupac’s death is just another death in the long line of deaths acted out from the decree from Herod. Tupac prophesied about sparking the brain of someone who would change the world and he died violently. Malcolm X and Dr. King both met similar fates, as did so many other brothers I know, who had the potential to make an impact on the world. Their lives are often cut short violently.
How many times have we heard in the wake of the killing of a Black man by the authority of the state that the death was justified and they were only following their training?
Before I push back on this idea that their training should never lead to the loss of life so often and easy, then the answer could be yes, if the authority is in the lineage of Herod’s army, then the same order could be true; find the Messiah and kill him and to be sure we get him, kill as many males as we can.
The violence in our community that is afflicted upon us, by us, is often referred to as senseless violence and I have grown to see it differently. I’ve come to see it as genius violence. I see Herod’s decree reshaped and repackaged as psychological warfare and delivered with the same intention; Kill Black men, the younger the better.
When we speak of senseless violence, we have to make sure that we are thoughtful of the narrative that we are buying and selling about ourselves. Yes, there are tragedies that happen every day in our community and by no means am I trying to make an excuse or not acknowledge that Black people killing one another is not a major issue in our community that needs to stop.
With that said, I am not here to offer an excuse, but I will attempt to give an explanation. To say that senseless violence is our biggest problem is furthering the narrative that Black men are born senseless and inherently violent, without acknowledging the centuries of oppression, and violence inflicted upon the Black male body.
There are studies that illustrate that people who have been victims of violence are twice as likely to victimize someone else. If we can use these types of studies to justify White violence and explain it away with psychology, then we should do the same for Black males as well?
Who knows best the immediate threat of their life from birth than the Black male who has had violence inflicted upon him in every form possible? So, is it not possible, that in response to the environment the Black male is born into, he began to turn violent on himself and began to see other Black male bodies as disposable?
As a result, this is one of the many factors explaining the violence in our community. To put it plainly, it’s really hard to be a Black male with Herod’s decree lurking around every corner.
In the spirit of Herod’s decree, white supremacy has created this system of mass incarceration to lock up and lock out entire generations of Black bodies with the same intent; destroy as many Black bodies as possible, the younger the better.
I read an article here in the MSR on May 25, 2017 written by Ron Edwards. In this article, Edwards sheds light on the 250 enemies of the state that the city of Minneapolis has created, identifying 250 men (along with their families) that because of their alleged criminal activity and or gang involvement are seen as threats to national security.
This plan is named the GVI which is considered one of the most dangerous programs known to African Americans. In the details of this plan, the 250 men, along with their families, will be rounded up and placed in detention facilities.
Special teams have also been recruited to go in their homes and take these men and their families into custody and a special court will be created in order to determine who will be incarcerated and detained, depending on the court’s findings of the mental health status of each individual.
This is scary in light of what I touched on earlier because this narrative, which has been sold and bought, that the Black male is predisposed to act out in senseless violence means these brothers and their families don’t stand a chance in these courtrooms. This GVI plan is being clothed under the convenient lie of national security, but what I see in this plan is just another tentacle in Herod’s decree to seek out and destroy the Black male.
The BRIDGE partnership is seeking out any and everyone who knows more about this GVI plan to contact us, we stand in solidarity with the 250 men and their families who are directly impacted by this, and we would love to invite you to the table to work in solidarity to prevent this gross injustice from happening.
As a community, if we stand silent while this happens to them, then we should be prepared to face the music when they come to get us all.
As a Prison Justice Organizer, I, too, know the dangers of speaking up and being bold enough to create a path to freedom against all odds. While doing this work inside of prison, I have been exposed to Herod’s decree in so many ways that I’m not in the position to write about.
Just imagine the dangers I face for thinking and living outside of the barriers that prison has placed in front of me and to not only attempt to free myself, but also have the heart and foresight to want to free my brothers as well. Just put it like this, there are people who have an agenda to see to it that this doesn’t happen.
I cannot stop because the powerful quote spoken to me in my youth still echoes in my spirit everyday, “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”
I feel my responsibility to my people is to second that emotion, and do as much as I can to speak truth and life in as many spaces and in as many places as I can to continue the spirit of our ancestors that we will spark the brain(s) that will change the world.
This Father’s Day, we should all take a moment to honor our Black men who are dead or alive or free or in jail. Let’s honor the gold in their hearts and the light in their eyes, because they are so precious and powerful that entire armies have been dispatched to destroy them. We must all band together to protect and preserve our Black males.
I want to urge everyone to think long and hard about the decree and what it means historically. Has the Messiah come and has Herod’s army already destroyed him? Is the Messiah amongst us today and Herod’s army is hot on his heels?
Every time we buy into the narrative of the Black male and the root of all the issues that plague our society, are we aiding in the capture and murder of our own? Or is the Messiah still to come and it is our responsibility to do all that we can to destroy Herod’s army and put an end to the decree once and for all so our people will have a real chance at freedom?
Last but not least, wherever your heart lands in those three questions, your actions should coincide with that belief.
Kevin Reese is a participant in Voices for Racial Justice’s “Bridging the Gap” partnership. Reader responses are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.voicesforracialjustice.org.
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