new years eve
the void stretches out to greet me
(as it does every year)
i don’t know
what i’m supposed to do about it
the new year over my shoulder
warm on my neck whispering like a lover
that will break my heart
it’s a suckers bet
signing checks with it’s mouth
that it’s ass can’t cash
it will be different this time
i remember last years betrayal
and the year before that
and the one before that
all the possibilities wasted
on an exuberance
that won’t get past the 2nd of January
as you stand or sit
at the same job (or no job)
with the same lover (or no lover)
the same god (or no god)
the same government
the same president
the same cops
the same bank account
such a sad bunch of suckers
believing to believe
the new years eve atheist
the new year looks like a shitcom rerun
of last year
boring in its familiarity
the potential left to freeze
in a puddle on 45th St and bway
as street sweepers
tare the streamer
Originally published on 7/4/10 and republished on 7/4/11, 7/4/12, 7/4/13… and in keeping with what has become a tradition… Republished today…
“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. “
– Fredrick Douglass
Summer 1898, during the Spanish American War a rag-tag volunteer force of machete wielding sugar cane working Puerto Ricans known as Macheteros fought alongside the Spanish to repel the US forces that invaded Puerto Rico on July 25th. In the center of the island just outside of the mountain town of Aibonito in the mountain pass of Asomante the Macheteros fought the advancing US military to a standstill and then to a retreat. It was the greatest victory for the Macheteros. But the victory was short-lived when the Spanish surrendered to the US and the fighting ceased a few days later. In the process the island nation of Puerto Rico went from 400 years of Spanish colonial rule to US colonial rule. The true shame of it is that Puerto Rico was on the verge of gaining it’s independence from Spain when the Spanish-American War broke out. On December 10th of 1898 the Treaty Of Paris was signed and the US officially took control of the Spanish colonial possessions of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. The colonization of Puerto Rico is the adolescence of US foreign imperialism. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 2nd, 1917, the Jones-Sahforth Act made Puerto Ricans citizens of the US without any consultation on the part of Puerto Ricans. Two months after that 18,000 Puerto Rican men were conscripted into the US military to fight in WWI. The US military needed to swell the ranks of it’s African-American canon fodder with Puerto Ricans where they were put to fight in segregated regiments. Many of these Puerto Rican troops were sent to Panama to be human guinea pigs in US chemical gas experiments where 335 of them were wounded. The Pentagon and the War Department never kept data on how many Puerto Ricans were killed or wounded in the war. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
Post World War I the US government began a wide-spread program of population control in Puerto Rico. They began sterilizing Puerto Rican women. The sterilization of these women was done without their knowledge and consent or was done by misinforming the women of the permanence of the sterilization procedure. By 1965 one-third of Puerto Rican women were systematically sterilized. The imperial design of the US was that they wanted Puerto Rico but not Puerto Ricans. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
October 20th, 1935 the founder and leader of the Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos gives a radio address in which he criticizes a program to “Americanize” the University Of Puerto Rico that is being instituted by US colonial interests. A group of students in support of the measure want Albizu declared “Student Enemy Number One”. On October 24th Albizu is declared “persona non-grata” at a university demonstration. Students supporting Albizu respond in protest. Four Nationalists are killed by the police on that day which becomes forever etched into the history of Puerto Rico as the Rio Piedras Massacre. Eye witness evidence of the massacre is ignored and the police involved in the killing are promoted. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
February 23rd, 1936 Colonel Francis Riggs who is the commanding officer of the police on the island is assassinated by Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp in retaliation for the Rio Piedras Massacre. The two Nationalists are caught by the police and executed without a trial right after the press takes their picture. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 12, 1937 Palm Sunday several hundred Puerto Ricans gathered in the city of Ponce to celebrate the abolition of slavery and to protest the incarceration of independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos on charges of sedition. Hours before the protest was to take place the Governor of the island Blanton Winship (installed by President Roosevelt) revoked the permit they had received from Ponce’s Puerto Rican mayor. In defiance to the revoked permit they marched anyway. Lines of policemen with rifles and machine guns were set up to meet the protesters in their defiance. The demonstrators would not be turned around by the threat of violence. They marched forward singing “La Boriqueña” the Puerto Rican national anthem. The police fired on the crowd then chased and clubbed them as they tried to escape the violence, 235 were wounded and 19 killed. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
June 11th, 1948 a law known as “Ley de la Mordaza” banned the display of the Puerto Rican flag, banned the speaking of independence and outlawed the struggle for independence. On October 30th 1950, in response to that and other indignities that Puerto Ricans suffered under, a woman named Blanca Canales led an armed uprising of Nationalists in the mountain town of Jayuya in an effort to free Puerto Rico from the clutches of US colonial rule. The uprising was put down and thousands of Puerto Ricans were rounded up and arrested and given long harsh prison terms. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
November 1st , 1950 Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola made an attempt to assassinate President Truman. Griselio Torresola was killed in the attempt. Oscar Collazo was caught tried and sentenced to death. In 1952 the US renamed their colonial relationship with Puerto Rico a “Free Associated State” so that the US would not seem like an imperial power in the eyes of the world. Once again this was all done without the consultation of the Puerto Rican people. Oscar Collazo’s sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment, he served 27 years before an international people’s movement succeeded in freeing him and four other Nationalists. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 1st of 1954 four Nationalists Andres Figueroa, Irving Flores, Raphael Cancel Miranda and Lolita Lebron fired shots into the US House of Congress while it was in session. They unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and yelled “¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!”. The goal of the operation was to bring international attention to the fact that the US was an imperial power in Puerto Rico. Some 30 shots were fired and five congressmen wounded in the attack. They were caught and served 25 years in prison for fighting for the independence of their country. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 21, 1965 Don Pedro Albizu Campos the Nationalist leader dies of injuries he sustained from the radiation experiments that were conducted on him while he was serving a second prison term that held him responsible for the US House of Congress shooting. After 11 years of serving his sentence he is pardoned only to pass away a few months later in his home. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 4th, 1980 a group of 11 Puerto Rican members of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional – Armed Forces of National Liberation) a clandestine organization fighting for the freedom of Puerto Rico using military means and labeled by US law enforcement as a “terrorist group”, are arrested in Evanston Illinois. The 11 are brought up on various state and federal charges but are all charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. In their trials they choose to take prisoner of war status under the United Nations Geneva Convention. As prisoners of war they refuse to recognize the US as having any legitimate power over them and because they chose this status they refuse to take part in their trials other than giving opening and closing statements. They are each found guilty and are sentenced to long harsh prison sentences. After 20 years some are pardoned and released. So what is the 4th Of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 19th, 1999 David Sanes a security guard was mistakenly killed by the US military during a bombing exercise on the island of Vieques that the US military used as a live exercise training area since 1941. His death galvanizes a successful peoples movement and Puerto Ricans go out into the military bombing zone to become human shields to get the US military out of Vieques. Although the US military has left Vieques it has not cleaned up the unexploded ordinance that litters the island. Among that ordinance is depleted uranium. The cancer rate in Vieques is 50% higher than it is in Puerto Rico. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
September 23rd, 2005, Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios is assassinated by the FBI on a what is considered a national holiday to Puerto Ricans. On September 23rd of 1868 an uprising against Spanish colonial rule is fought in an effort to gain independence. Puerto Ricans remember and commemorate the uprising as the birth of the Puerto Rican nation. Filiberto Ojeda Rios was the father of the clandestine armed movement in Puerto Rico, he founded the Ejercito Popular Boricua the EPB, the Popular Puerto Rican Army affectionately known as Los Macheteros and labeled a “terrorist group” by US law enforcement. He had been a fugitive and one of the most wanted men by the FBI for fifteen years. When the FBI assassinated Filiberto they shot and wounded him but purposely decided to deny him medical attention as he bled to death for over 24 hours. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
This is only a select list of transgressions. This is only a random sampling of the wrong done to a people who have rightfully sought their independence as Malcolm said “By any means necessary”. This is only a small taste of the last hundred years of struggle in a nation that has fought for it’s freedom since 1493 when Columbus “discovered the Americas”. These are the fragments of a hidden history, of an ongoing struggle, for independence intentionally kept from us (both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans alike) so that we can celebrate the independence of a nation that stands in the way of another nation’s independence. As a point of clarity we Puerto Ricans are not asking for our freedom. We are trying to take it in much the same way that the US took it’s independence. The difference is that the British Empire did not pretend to be an advocate of global democracy and freedom it was an openly imperialist nation. The US on the other hand preens and primps itself as a global bastion of democracy and freedom while in the same breath holding a colony and denying the self-determination of the Puerto Rican people for over a century. Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the Western hemisphere so again I ask you what is the 4th of July to Puerto Rico?
Check out MACHETERO my six time international award winning film on the violent struggle for Puerto Rican independence from an anarchist POV with a Pan-Africantist vibe. It’s on VOD and available TODAY as a digital download. http://vimeo.com/ondemand/machetero
i answered a call for Puerto Rican artists to do something around the 100th anniversary of Puerto Ricans being forcibly made US citizens in 1917 by the Jones-Shafroth Act. i say forcibly because no one asked Puerto Ricans whether or not they wanted to be American citizens. The title of the exhibit “CITICIEN” is a clever play on words, combining the word citizen and the Spanish word for 100 which is cien, thus “citicien” which sounds like citizen.
The piece i did is a digital collage called Boricua Migration and it features a photograph of my grandfather Moises Santos from the 1940’s when he first came to this country. The forced American citizenship made immigrating to the US legally easier for Puerto Ricans than for other immigrants but it also placed Puerto Ricans in a strange space where they were treated as immigrants who were American citizens. Outside of Puerto Ricans not having to concern themselves as immigrants with citizenship the experience of Puerto Rican immigration was no different from other immigrants. The racism and exploitation that Puerto Ricans experienced as immigrants in America were so engrained into the American zeitgeist that many Americans are unaware that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and are shocked when confronted with the fact.
With that in mind i added some text from the song ‘America’ from West Side Story which i thought highlighted the Puerto Rican experience of being both of and between two places. When Puerto Ricans were made American citizens it was a legal move that created a existence of duality. To be Puerto Rican is to be caught existing both within and outside of the reality of being Puerto Rican and American all at once. The work of the Nuyorican poets Pedro Pietri and Jesus Papoleto Melendez captured this as did the conceptual photography of Adal Maldonado.
When will I go back to San Juan. When will you shut up and get gone? Everyone there will give big cheer! Everyone there will have moved here!
This piece, Boricua Migration, created for the Citicien exhibit was a concept that i had explored earlier for JL Torres collection of poetry called Boricua Passport. JL Torres poetry also touched on this hybridized identity of American and Puerto Rican existence. This latest piece could be seen as a visual re-mix of the original. Puerto Ricans have always had to struggle with the legal definitions of American citizenship in strange ways since Puerto Rico itself is a colony and Puerto Ricans have no political or legal autonomy over themselves. Since colonialism inherently brings with it second class citizenship the legal and political power of Puerto Ricans doesn’t reside who they are as citizens but depends wholly on where they live. On Puerto Rico they are American citizens who cannot vote in US presidential elections and only have a non-voting representative in the US congress. The moment Puerto Ricans move to the US they, in theory, become full US citizens in that they can now vote in US elections.
So the legal machinations of citizenship are complex for Puerto Ricans and the reason for that sits squarely on the shoulders of the US colonization of Puerto Rico. To complicate matters even further a Puerto Rican lawyer who believed in the decolonization and independence of Puerto Rico, Juan Mari Bras, sued the US and Puerto Rican government for his right to Puerto Rican citizenship. His argument was that the Jones-Shafroth act that made Puerto Ricans American citizens didn’t negate Puerto Rican citizenship. He won the case and now Puerto Ricans can actually apply for Puerto Rican citizenship. Initially the “CitiCien” exhibit which explores these issues of Puerto Rican citizenship was supposed to run at Clemente Soto Velez until March 8th, but has been extended until March 26th of 2017.
If you get a chance to see the exhibit check it out… Here is the press release for the CITICIEN show at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.
Multimedia Art Collective DEFEND PUERTO RICO has launched the CITICIEN Exhibit Highlighting 100 Puerto Rican Artists On The 100th Anniversary of the Passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act.
Signed in 1917 by President Wilson, The Jones-Shafroth Act granted U.S. citizenship to anyone born in Puerto Rico on or after April 25, 1898, a complex and significant turning point for the people of Puerto Rico.
Curated by Puerto Rican artist Adrián Viajero Román, DEFEND PUERTO RICO’s CITICIEN traveling exhibition will feature 100 artworks highlighting the historical and present-day impact of the Jones Act, with its opening reception scheduled for Thursday, March 2, 2017 at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center (107 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002), from 6-10PM.
Following strict visual guidelines of size and a black-and-white only palette, the exhibit’s theme is one of visual consistency and commitment, acting as a metaphor of the unified voice and solidarity of Puerto Ricans during this critical political time. Coinciding with the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the Jones Act, CITICIEN, in an effort to nurture greater solidarity and collaboration, will feature 100 Puerto Rican artists from the island and the diaspora, including Antonio Martorell, Nitza Tufiño, Diogenes Ballester, Sofia Maldonado, Celso Gonzalez and Melissa Montero, among others.
Visitors will have a chance to experience artist talks and workshops throughout the duration of the exhibit, attendees at the opening reception will be able to watch a series of short films and interviews, as well as interact with immersive 360 and AR experiences that have been produced as part of the DEFEND PUERTO RICO Project. In addition, we will have a live music performance by Puerto Rican music ensemble “Los Pleneros de la 21, which is made possible by support from the NYC Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito’s office, and the Cultural Immigrant Initiative Fund.
NEXT EXHIBITION LOCATION: SAN JUAN, PR
FEATURING WORKS FROM:
Abey Charron • Aby Ruiz • Adál Maldonado • Adrián Viajero Román • Adrielo • Alberto Ongay • Alejandro Epifanio • Alex Feliciano • Alexis Diaz • Amalia Avilés • Andres Rodriguez • Antonio Martorell • Arianna Chikki Cuesta • Barbara Diaz-Tapia • Bemba Prints • Betsy Casanas • Bles – Eli Rios • Bluster – James Alicea • Bonafide Rojas • Camille Imilse Arroyo • Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez • Celso Gonzalez • Christian Martir • Crystal Clarity • Damaris Cruz • Daniel Alago • Danielle De Jesus • David Zayas • Denis Gonzalez • Diego Romero • Diogenes Ballester • Don Rimx • Ector Javier • Edgardo Larregui • Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez • Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi • Elizam Escobar • Faviana Silva • Fernando Román • Francisco Molina Reyes II • Gabriela Vazquez Martinez • Gretchen Ruiz Ramos • Güillo Cruz • Gustavo Santiago Jiménez • Harry Martinez • Herminio Rodriguez • Javier Padilla • Jean Oyola • Jo-El Lopez • Jocelyn Ortiz • Jose Andreu • Juan Angel Roman – Nepo • Juan Pablo Vizcaino Cortijo • Juan Sanchez • Juanito Guerrilla • Karlo Andrei Ibarra • Leenda Bonilla • Lester Rey Irizarry • Luis Cordero • Luis Vidal • Luis Carle • Manny Vega • Marcos Dimas • Maria Dominguez • Mario Ruben Carrion • Marta Mabel Perez • Martin Garcia-Rivera • Máximo Colón • Mayra L. Córdova • Melissa Alvarez • Melissa Montero • Mia Román Hernandez • Mikey Cordero • Michelle Angela Ortiz • Migdalia Luz • Miguel Luciano • Miguel Trelles • Miguelangel Ruiz • Milaniza Montalvo • Moriviví Colectivo • Natalia Nicole • Nelson Santiago • Nia Andino • Nick Quijano • Nitza Tufino • Norberto Morales • Oliver Rios • Otura Mun – IFE • Patrick Urbain • Priscilla Anacakuyani Bell • PSEUDOMERO • Rafael Rodriguez • Ralph Serrano • Raquel Martínez Díaz • RIBS – Robin Padro • Ricardo Cabret • Roberto Biaggi • Samuel Miranda • Saul Castellanos • SHELLYNE RODRIGUEZ • Sofia Maldonado • Tammy Cedré • vagabond • Vanessa Rodriguez • Virgen Enid Dominguez • Will Rosado • Xavier Muñoz Torres • Yasmin Hernández
About DEFEND PUERTO RICO
Defend PR is a multimedia project designed to document and celebrate Puerto Rican creativity, resilience, and resistance. Recognizing the complex and dynamic landscapes that comprise Puerto Rican daily life and struggle, Defend PR seeks to deepen connections between Puerto Ricans on the island and throughout the diaspora, in the hopes of nurturing greater solidarity, collaboration, and kinship.
“It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” A US Major on the bombing of
Ben Tré in South Vietnam 2/8/1968
We seem to be in the midst of a huge paradigm shift here in the US… It feels as though some kind of critical mass has been reached in regard to the whole country catching up to the hell that mostly Black, Brown, Yellow and Red men, women and children and even some poor white people are catching when it comes to police brutality and police murders. The root of all this of course is that the US has never ever dealt with its racist history.
The sins of the past that have been ignored, in part, to not have to feel the collective pain and shame that would tarnish the well marketed image of the US as the land of the free and home of the brave. It also doesn’t want to revisit the transgressions of the past because america is built upon the genocide of Native Peoples and the enslavement of Africans and to admit that the wealth and power of the US is built upon genocide and enslavement is to make it no better than any other colonial european power.
The strategy of US domination hasn’t changed since it’s founding. The very same bully tactics that built the country into a world power are the same bully tactics used to maintain it’s place as a world power. When you reach deep into the reasons of why the US has a race problem that it doesn’t want to deal with, you can easily see that its because the US doesn’t know how to be any other way.
The problem of the US – is the problem of race. If the US were to reaches back and own up to its past it would then be forced to own up to its present. Honestly reassessing the present would lead to real changes in the future and not the kinds of changes that result in voting acts or civil rights bills but real change that would threaten american hegemony as a world power. For the US to honestly deal with its race problem is to threaten the US as a world power. The global domination of this country is a house of cards built on a foundation of genocide and enslavement and the ongoing police killings of unarmed Black, Brown, Red, Yellow and even White bodies could quite possibly be the crack in that foundation.
The microcosm of Mike Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile and countless others becomes a reflection of the macrocosm of Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanemo Bay, CIA enhanced interrogation methods, the Cuban blockade and the unconditional support of Israel in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, just to name a few parallels. In this new age of social media that allows the oppressed to bypass state and corporate media you can see the connections being made between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip sending messages via twitter to protesters in Ferguson on how to deal with the tear gas enveloping them. The irony isn’t lost that the very same tear gas used by US military forces against protesters in Ferguson is the very same tear gas used by Israeli military against the Palestinians. That tear gas is made in the US and paid for by the Pentagon which distributed it to both military forces for the exact same reasons. The microcosm of Ferguson is the macrocosm of the Gaza Strip and the common denominator in all this is US domestic and foreign policy that’s has its root in the racism.
The police state in Ferguson and New York and Oakland is the police state in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel. Just look at the terminology that’s thrown around. Protesters and protest labeled as domestic “terrorists” and “terrorism”. The harassment and humiliation of “check points” in Gaza and Iraq has it’s equivalent in “stop and frisk” in New York. The police in the SU are an occupying force who see themselves in “hostile territory” and “surrounded” by a populace that they must “profile” in order to “survive” their “tour of duty”.
The post 9/11 heroic reverence for law enforcement in the US that elevated them from civil servants to saints allowed these agencies sworn to uphold the law to boldly become the very terrorists they were lauded for fighting. The politics of xenophobia and jingoism post 9/11 only inflated the problem and emboldened law enforcement with the idea that it would not need to be held to account for its brutality. From the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques “that went to far” to the NYPD choking of Eric Garner by one police officer using a choke hold banned by the NYPD in 1994 as three other officers held him down, law enforcement has taken that post 9/11 reverence (which was falsely placed to begin with) and used it to insulate themselves from ever having to answer for any of the brutality it imposes. Whether it’s CIA contractors who cannot legally be held responsible for illegally detaining and torturing “terrorists” or grand juries in Ferguson and New York unwilling to prosecute police for killing “suspects” – accountability is not something law enforcement agencies in the US ever have to concern themselves with.
If you think that the connections between CIA tactics like black sites being used to torture “terrorists” and police wanton abuse in the form of frivolous arrests, beatings and even killings is going too far just look at the Chicago police department’s Homan Square. If Chicago police wanted you to “disappear” for a few hours before processing you or wanted to beat you without having to process you at all or even leave you dead in an interview room, they took you to Homan Square. If you’re political beliefs were something the Chicago police didn’t agree with then they brought you there as well. From Guantanamo to Homan Square the politic is the same and the tactics are the similar.
The bullet proof hubris of law enforcement in the face of accountability is like telling the emperor he has no clothes and the emperor telling you ‘So what?’. An example of this kind of naked hubris reared up it’s ugly head during the Trayvon Martin case when President Obama stated that Trayvon could be his son. Although Trayvon was not killed by law enforcement it was still a shot at law enforcement because of the way the case was handled from the eventual arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman to the not guilty verdict. Law enforcement didn’t like President Obama being Black for a moment and commenting on Trayvon Martin because although in this case it wasn’t law enforcement that killed Trayvon, it was someone with a similar mentality to law enforcement. And how many other cases of murder by law enforcement fit the profile of what happened to Trayvon?
In another direct indictment of law enforcement by a politician, the mayor of New York City Bill De Blasio whose son is Black and is placed in the unenviable position of having to choose between his role as a politician (which have historically always supported the idea that police not be held accountable for their actions) and being a father who can get a call in the middle of the night about his own Black son. When DeBlasio expressed how troubled he was over the grand jury deciding not to prosecute in the police choking death of Eric Garner he immediately called the Justice Department and asked for an investigation. He also talked about having to talk to his Black son about how to deal with the police. The NYPD PBA President Pat Lynch who never saw an incident of police misconduct, brutality or killing that he couldn’t defend immediately held a press conference and said Mayor DeBlasio “threw cops under the bus”.
When two NYC police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lui were killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a Baltimore man who it was sais killed them in retaliation for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, Mayor De Blasio came to the hospital. All along the hallway police officers were lined up in support of the two fallen officers and as Mayor Di Blasio walked down the hall of the hospital these officers turned their backs on him. It was a protest against Mayor Di Blasio’s recent criticism against the NYPD.
The impunity that law enforcement operates under in the US has reached absurd new heights. Who do these law enforcement agencies think they work for if not Mayor’s or President’s? Whether it’s the CIA defending its enhanced interrogation techniques or it’s the NYPD not discipling an officer for using a banned chokehold that killed a man who posed a threat to no one, it feels as though law enforcement isn’t going to accept any criticism for its actions. The non-chalant attitude of law enforcement towards criticism from the very people they are sworn to protect and serve has always been an issue. From the revelation of COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgram) tactics by the FBI during the era of the Black Panthers or the American Indian Movement and beyond to civilian deaths at the hands of local police departments, the critique of american law enforcement techniques has always fallen on deaf ears due in large part to the political establishment always taking the side of law enforcement.
The daily protests in Ferguson that went on for months have dragged the issues of police brutality and the killing of unarmed Black men by police onto a national stage. From the massive protest in New York City over Eric Garner to the recent unrest in Baltimore over Freddie Gray the police brutality show is on a national tour. And if you think you’re immune just wait until the national show pulls into your town. That’s not to say that there isn’t a local or regional horror show of political theater of so-called “justifiable” police killings happening all across the country, it’s just that some shows rise to the level of national attention.
Whether the show is local or regional though a wave is building and the nation as a whole is starting to see and feel the injustice that passes for law enforcement on a daily basis. It’s gotten to the point where even many politicians who have historically always blindly defended law enforcement are questioning police tactics. You would think that law enforcement would be somewhat nervous and worried about the sudden erosion of their most ardent supporters but they seem be completely inoculated against any criticism. Instead law enforcement seems emboldened and is digging in for the long haul to defend the indefensible.
It seem that this idea that law enforcement can do no wrong, propagated by politicians, the media and the majority of white america has convinced law enforcement itself that it can do no wrong. And now we have a law enforcement system in america that fears nothing in terms of accountability. Not its citizenry, not the politicians who always defend them, not the district attorneys they work with or the judges they face or the grand juries they must answer to. And why would or should law enforcement fear any part of the system when that system on a whole has historically always encouraged a hands off approach to law enforcement? A part of this emboldened behavior of law enforcement is also coming from that misplaced post 9/11 hero worship of law enforcement.
The other part of that unrepentant and emboldened attitude that law enforcement has taken is coming from the history of racism in the US. The very foundation of the US is built on a racialized genocide and enslavement and so it follows that its institutions are also going to be built on that very same foundation. Law enforcement in the US has always been racist because the US is a racist nation. The front line of white supremacy in america has always been law enforcement. The hiring of Black and Brown officers means nothing when the institutions of law enforcement demand that they stop being Black and Brown and be Blue. The racial integration of law enforcement doesn’t negate white supremacy because what was once white supremacy is now blue supremacy.
In a strange way the flagrant disregard of criticism by law enforcement whether by people at the bottom who suffer the most at the hands of police brutality or by politicians at the top who have always blindly supported police and their brutality and are suddenly seeing the monster they have created, is something that really shouldn’t shock anyone. The guiding force in US policing both in terms of its foreign policy and domestic policy is one in which the US can do no wrong. The criticism leveled at the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques that amount to torture falls on ears that are as deaf as police unions.
In the face of a broad nationwide movement to take stock of how law enforcement deals with this epidemic of killing the very citizens its sworn to protect, the Fraternal Order Of Police is asking the US Congress that police be included in hate crimes legislation. Hating police would be a hate crime. Instead of law enforcement trying to investigate their procedures, they are looking to defend them. “Right now, it’s a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their skin, but it ought to be a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their uniform as well,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. White supremacy looks for some protection under the cover of Blue supremacy in order to nullify any leveling of the playing field.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is asking law makers in NY to consider making resisting arrest a felony instead of a misdemeanor. This would further solidify the current thinking by police and their supporters that if you are resisting arrest then you are guilty. Resisting arrest opens you up to police brutality and in many cases a “justified” killing by police. So instead of law enforcement seeing if their policing tactics are too aggressive they are doubling down by defending those tactics with attempts at more legislation that will protect police in cases of police misconduct. We now live in a Kafkaesque world of Orewellian double speak where you can be charged with resisting arrest without having been charged with a crime to be arrested for, in the first place.
In another instance of white supremacy exercising it’s might in police culture there is a lawsuit in New York City by officers of color who say that they must meet arrest and summons quotas or face reprimands. The officers claim that they must make at least one arrest a day and write at least 20 summonses in precincts where the majority of people are people of color. So if a person of color wants to join the police force to “do some good” or “change it from the inside” they are thwarted by a system that is forcing them to continue a long tradition of white supremacy in US policing.
Over 5000 people have been killed by police in america since 9/11. That’s more people than soldiers killed in the Iraq war. The chances of being killed by a cop in america are 29 times greater than being killed by a terrorist. If you’re a Black male you are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than if you are a white male. When you think about how worried people are about the threat of terrorism and the amount of time, money and energy spent on combatting it and you look at the actual terror of police brutality and killings you wonder how priorities can be so misplaced. Or maybe you can have a more cynical view of it and realize that the priorities of terrorism and policing are historically in keeping with american racism.
The consistent protests in Ferguson went viral thanks to the savvy use by protesters of social media and the world started sending messages of support and solidarity. It was this global support and solidarity which helped open the door to the parents of Mike Brown going before the United Nations to speak about police brutality and police killings of unarmed Black men in the US. It seems to have made an impact. Following that the UN began pressuring the US to review it’s record and make substantial changes in the way it polices its citizens. This strategy of going before the UN is not a new idea. It was Malcolm X who made the argument that the race issue in america should go before the United Nations and not before the US Government. Malcolm X argued that the race problem in the US was a problem of human rights not of second class citizenry. He knew that exposing the race problem in the US to a world stage would erode it’s ceaseless marketing attempts at being the greatest nation of freedom and democracy in the world.
The powder keg that is the race problem problem in the US was bound to explode in the front lines of law enforcement because it’s where the US race problem is most blatant, most raw and most naked. The police murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley John Crawford, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile were all unarmed Black people and the capture of actual suspected Pennsylvania cop killer Eric Frein, the capture of James Egan Holmes who went on a shooting rampage in a movie theater in Colorado, or the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the suspected Boston marathon bomber who are all white, is a glaring example of the racism in the US. That’s not to say that Eric Frein, or James Egan Holmes or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have been killed by police (an absurd statement that i must qualify because racism is such an explosive issue and because i’m not white it might be construed that in my critique of a white supremacy system that i might want to call for their deaths) but if actual suspected cop killers and movie theater shooters and marathon bombers can face the police and live to tell the tale why can’t unarmed Black people? The answer is simple and plain. Because race is a problem that the US won’t tend to and the reason it won’t tend to it is because it threatens the very existence of this nation as we know it, both on a foreign and domestic scale.
The problem with the US maintaining white supremacy in a domestic sense is that america is becoming less white everyday. The problem with the US maintaining white supremacy in a foreign policy sense is that the power of the US is eroding everyday to so called developing and third world nations with the rise of China, Brazil, and India and the defiance of these nations to those policies in Venezuela and Bolivia. In order for the US to maintain it’s ideology of white supremacy domestically it must transform that white supremacy to a blue supremacy. White supremacy has been allowed to evolve into blue supremacy in the name of law and order. The problem is that with the US imprisoning more people than anyone else in the world and 60% of that prison population coming from Black and Brown people who make up 29% of the US population it’s not difficult for people of color to accept the idea that white supremacy to blue supremacy.
The same analogy applies to the US foreign policy as world cop. Every nation that the US has invaded and attacked since World War II has been a nation of non-white people with the possible exception of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. The problem it’s running up against in moving from white supremacy to blue supremacy is that both domestically and abroad people of all races and nations see the pattern of systemic US racism for what it is and are standing in resistance to the Blue supremacy of the US.
The convergence of this new Blue supremacy and its ideology both domestically with the killing of unarmed Black men and internationally with the enhanced interrogation techniques of the CIA and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is most evident in the Pentagon bringing it’s surplus equipment from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to local police departments. The new blue supremacy like the old white supremacy uses law and order as its smoke screen for its ongoing brutality. The problem with this new Blue supremacy is that the law comes from the same white supremacy it always has. There is an equivalency in how the US wants to deal with its global hegemony and those who oppose it whether that be domestically or abroad.
The paradigm shift in the US in recent years against this Blue supremacy has the potential to be the catalyst that the US needs to face its racist history and all that it’s wrought. If that dialogue and the work that surely must come after it is done then there is a chance at making a substantial change that is too long in coming. The most difficult thing that the US has to face in putting down its racism is all the benefits that it’s reaped from that racism. This is perhaps the real reason that the US will never look at its race problem because the race problem has always been only the frosting on the layer cake that is class war. If racism were ever to fall in the US not only would everyone find some equality in terms of race but also in terms of class both domestically and potentially internationally. The police and the military have always been the front line troops in helping elites amass wealth and so the battle against the white supremacy that amassed that wealth has become the Blue supremacy that runs deeper than any of us care to imagine…
This is my film No Way Home if you want to watch it, it’s $1.50… If you want to buy it it’s $3… Could i let you see it for free? Sure… But shit cost me $15K to make… and that doesn’t include the labor of my friends and family who worked for free… These co-conspirators are named in the credits of the film, i won’t bore you with names you’ve never heard of (but deserve to be known) and that have no bearing on anything since you haven’t yet seen the film… It would only make this post longer and we all know how shorter is better on the internets… But damn, they are an incredibly talented bunch… and i’m blessed to be able to call them friends and doubly blessed to count them as artistic co-conspirators…
i shot it on film… Yeah film, 100′ rolls of Kodak Vision 3 • 7213 • 500T stock … On a Bolex connected to a battery belt to power the motor… We shot some of it in Queens and Brooklyn and Washington Heights in upper Manhattan in New York City and we shot some in Valley Of Fire in Nevada and in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Vegas… Some more friends of mine who are musicians and also worked for love, not pay… created a beautiful original improvised score… They’re names are in the credits too…
It’s 20 minutes long… It’s about finding god in yourself and in others and fusing the fractured pieces together… It could be a narrative if you believe narratives can be a simple as this… It could also be a non-narrative… i’m too close to know… or care… i hope you like it but i don’t really give a fuck if you do… My friends and i made some beautiful unforgettable memories making the film… and if you watch the film and pay close attention you’ll feel that beauty coming through wrapped up in the images and the sound… Anyway the beautiful unforgettable memories we made are enough with or without a film… There are pieces of this in the film to prove these statements… Watch it… look closely, listen intently, leave yourself open and the reward will come…
i don’t do this film thing for the money… i don’t do it for the love either… Although maybe there’s a kind of love there but if there is, it’s a complicated love… i do this to stay safe, to sane, to stay secure in my own soul, to stay stabile in my own mind… When i’m not making films my blood goes bad, the saliva in my mouth drys up, my muscles get tight and nothing feels right… The demons squat my well being and evict my peace and my worthlessness threatens to rise above my head and drown me… Only making the films eases the pain, reduces the fever, alleviates the ache of feeling too much, makes the waters of worthlessness recede…
Not to say that making the films is not without its own pain, fever and ache… But it’s different… It’s tangible… it’s something that can be touched and held and the problems of filmmaking can all be solved… Unlike trying to find the god within yourself or within someone else and trying to fuse the fracture…
It would be nice if you saw the film… and even better if you got something more than beautiful images and honest poetry and incredible music… It would be good to even make a few dollars to recoup and reinvest into the next film that’s building in me like a storm in the distance ready to test me… again…
31 years ago the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on the home of the MOVE organization… Six adults and five children were killed and 65 other homes in the area were destroyed due to the fire that consumed the area…
it sounds good
is a cancer that
that needs surgery
an operation that will
free us both
and if they won’t
and stay still
for us to carefully
remove the growth
cut them open
and they can die
must be shed
we can be surgeons
or we can be butchers
but this thing
must be settled
satellites and cameras
have replaced faith with fear
the evidence of this has been recorded
as constant reminder of the failure
god forgive us for not doing more
the frontline has us surrounded
if only we could forget
long enough to imagine
if only the satellite and camera looked away
long enough for us to improvise
Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted in this space here… Share what you like… both on line and off…