Steve Schapiro died Saturday, but it was announced yesterday… He was 87 years old… He was an amazing photographer who photographed everyone from MLK, Muhammed Ali, Barbara Streisand, David Bowie, Ray Charles to Andy Warhol… As we artist say ‘the man had an eye’…

Sad that he died over the MLK holiday weekend since he photographed the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination… He died of pancreatic cancer…

After reading a text James Baldwin had written he was inspired to work with Baldwin on an assignment for LIFE magazine traveling through the South and photographing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Jerome Smith… and along the way creating some of the most iconic images of the Civil Rights era…

Check out his work on his website…

In 2017 TASCHEN books published a book of Steve Schapiro’s photography alongside text by James Baldwin called THE FIRE NEXT TIME… i had already owned Steve Schapiro’s TAXI DRIVER and THE GODFATHER FAMILY ALBUM (he was the on set photographer on those films…) TASCHEN had an event at their then Soho store with Steve Schapiro talking to the great journalist Herb Boyd about his work photographing those crucial moments in the Civil Rights era with James Baldwin…

When i went to the talk you know i had to bring my TAXI DRIVER and THE GODFATHER FAMILY ALBUM with me on the chance he would sign those… And both the good folks at Taschen and Steve Schapiro were kind and generous enough to allow it… Steve was surprised that i had his other books, and he was so gracious that he signed all three of my books… In my THE FIRE NEXT TIME book he signed – he wrote


COVID 1312

nationwide fire sale
everything must go
confederate monuments
police stations
columbus statues
kkk hoods
it all has to go
oppression lost
its lease in many locations
because no one's buying
this shit anymore
at least
for the time being
bob said catch a fire
dylan said a hard rains gonna come
and jimmy reminded us
the fire next time
and amerikkka’s burning
could save the world
in smoke alarm signals

in bristol the scientists
experimented with
whether or not bronze
slave merchant statues
can swim 
(they can't - the experiment
is a success)
in belgium the rabble
refuse to let
the statue of
king leopld’s ghost rest
using it as fuel for fire
to light the way
from then to now
in puerto rico the rebels
brought a guillotine
to the governor's door
and asked those responsible
to step outside
to settle old colonial scores
delivered in debt sheets
wrapped in promises
for more oppression

this virus
stripped the veneer
off the fuckery
made everyone realize
how hard it is to breathe
with a cops knee
on your throat
or in pepper spray
or in emergency room waiting
and the masks
in mass demonstrations
protected many
providing anonymity 
to covid 1312
but it’s no surprise
that some who resisted
still caught
the bugaloo bug from
tear gas canisters
fired by the blue lives crew
promising to turn us blue
from lack of oxygen
simply for demanding to breathe
the irony lost
on killers
found caught in throats
of victims

but don’t let pandemic
fool you
american fuckery
is working from home
it’s looking 
for new locations
to open up shop
proud boy real estate agents
testing the waters
in your neighborhood
dipping a gentrified toe
in the whites-only gene pool
looking to spread the bugaloo bug 
in Hawaiian camo ar15 cosplay
or in blue uniform
with black taped badge number
either way
street research
has proven time and again
a mask provides
anonymity to covid 1312
wash your hands
of amerikkka
keep your distance
and carry your
huey p newton gun club
membership card
locked and loaded

- vagabond ©



Policing in Amerikkka is everything and seems to answers to no one…

The Mayor, of Minneapolis crying over the death of George Floyd in a press statement asking why the officer hasn’t been arrested and charged. He can’t get that done as mayor? He can’t call the DA and say, let’s arrest this man and charge him? NYC Mayor Di Blasio went from defying the NYPD so much that they literally turned their backs on him a few years ago, to defend the brutality of the police, when the NYPD tried to mow down protesters in the street in police trucks? Obama signed the Blue Alert law in 2015 that puts out an alert anytime police are threatened to appease them, even though the data shows that police dying in the line of duty from felonious fatalities is a fraction of what it was in 1971. In LA Mayor, Garcetti praises the restraint of his police as they abuse protesters in the streets.

What is it about the police that gives them such a protected place in society? The media choose their words and images carefully when leveling much needed criticism. Politicians seem to fear them, walking on eggshells on the rare occaison when they speak out against them. DA’s work hand in glove with them and are in no hurry to prosecute them in fear of biting the hand that literally feeds them their convictions. Judges favor them at every turn. Everyday citizens rightfully fear retribution for speaking out against them, especially when every other power in this country seems to be beholden to them.
Why is everyone so afraid of the police? Who do the police answer to? It seems like the police in Amerikkka are the ones who run this whole country. They literally have a license to abuse and kill without any sort of oversight. In the face of protests against police brutality, they have no problem escalating the violence. The complete disregard for human life, especially Black and Brown and Red lives, is shocking and, they don’t seem to have any regard for the safety of those who are protesting. Providing the very need for protest in real-time.
There is a chasm between the sanctified savior fantasy of police in this country and the ugly, violent, brutal reality. The media shapes a narrative in both film, television, and in the news media that portrays them as noble embattled heroes, worthy of respect. It would be easy to take the cynical view, the police are the front line shock troops that are more concerned with protecting capital rather than human life, that the State is trying to create a Stockholm Syndrome for the public. If people support their own oppression, then the subjugation of the State on behalf of capital is that much easier.
How does this end? What institution has any credibility with the public that can rein in the police? The protesting, the rioting, and the looting will continue to go on because the police have decided that more brutality and punishment should be doled out to protesters and, there isn’t anyone who the police answer to, so this decision to escalate tensions is completely their own. The protests began because the murder of George Floyd became the straw that broke the camels back. The police, in all their hubris, and with the full support of the State seem to want to prove to the people that they control their own destiny and, now, the protests have moved beyond the murder of George Floyd to be a battle against policing itself.
In Alan Moore’s graphic novel WATCHMEN, he asked, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” – ‘Who watches the watchmen’. In WATCHMEN Allan Moore was critiquing the role of the superhero in society. WATCHMEN was about the dark side of being a superhero, how the government used superheroes to further their own dark politics. The great responsibility that came with great power in Alan Moore’s superheroes came with a lack of responsibility and abuse of power that the State used towards its own ends.  It seems the same can be said of the police. There is also no accountability for these so-called “superheroes” of our community on the part of the State. On the contrary, the State uses the lawlessness of police, and their ability to oversee, or “watch” themselves as a means of cover for their own designs for population control.

Up until WATCHEMEN superheroes, held themselves to a higher moral standard, and so their accountability was to something greater than themselves. Alan Moore was throwing a lot of cold water on that and getting us to realize that relying on superheores to police themselves would be a disaster. In the same way that police, police themselves. Everyone police investigation of police brutality or murder seems to not only go unpunished but, in many cases, rewarded.

Here we are in 2020 in the second civil war. If war is an extension of politics between nation states in the usual setting of conflict – then are the people not at war with the police because there is no way to negotiate…? And what’s worse is that there are no leaders that the people trust have that can be a voice toward negotiating a peace… Especially since the White House thrives on chaos and does everything it can to instigate it…
There’s an argument to be made, at this point, that Trump and his cronies are essentially using fascism towards nihilism… Or that Trump is a nihilist, and the neofascists are using his nihilism to create a new order. No matter which way it is, how do you negotiate with nihilism or fascism…? You don’t… it’s not possible, both ideologies are bent on our annihilation. So how does this end?
The radical nature of the protests, the form they take, their prolonged and protracted daily disruption as the State tries to open up and “return to normal” from a post-COVID 19 pandemic, and the palpable rage from the protesters has created an atmosphere of fear for the State. If there is one tactic that has been proven to be effective, it’s making the State fear it’s people. Alan Moore also addressed this, saying that ‘People shouldn’t fear their governments, governments should fear their people’. That quote by Alan Moore was used in the film version of ‘V for Vendetta’.

This may be the only way to bring about real change. The focus of the protests has expanded beyond police violence to the root causes of racism in the US. This is quite possibly the first time since, before its inception, there’s an honest discussion about the racist foundation this nation is built on. From the attempted genocide of indigenous peoples to the enslavement of Africans to the internment of the Japanese in World War II, there is an active, painful, necessary conversation finally starting to be had. The confederate flag is now seen as the symbol of hate that it’s always been. Monuments from the confederacy to Columbus, to Spanish conquistadors are being torn down.

The other good news to arise out of all this is that the conversation has spread from the US to around the world. A statue of King Leopold of Belgium who was responsible for untold millions of African deaths in the Congo was desecrated. Youth in the Bristol tore down the statue of a slave trader of the name of Edward Colston was torn down and thrown in the river. Statues of Columbus are being vandalized (and rightly so). The larger than life statue at the entrance of the Museum Of Natural History with Theodore Roosevelt riding a horse with a Black man and an Indigenous man standing on either side is going to be removed. The State has started to take down monuments that it’s always known to have been problematic but reenforced the division that race created so that it could maintain control for capitalism.

And that’s the real fear for the State and for the capitalists. Racism has always been a tactic for capitalism to conquer and divide (as Sam Greenlee – author of The Spook Who Sat By The Door – used to say to me). Racism has always been a part of the machinery that makes capitalism work. If racism begins to be confronted in a real way with real change, then people more easily see how racism was being used by capitalism to pick the pockets of everyone, Black, White, Red, Brown. If racism is seeing its last days, then maybe capitalism is next… maybe… Capitalism has proven that it can absorb every attack ever thrown at it… The question is, will capitalism survive without racism, can it survive without racism… That remains to be seen…

BLACK LIVES MATTER by vagabond ©


always the truth (for dad) by vagabond ©

always the truth
(for dad)

the truth
everything else is bullshit window dressing
always the truth
one needs to be true
to the world
to keep things in line
for ones self
and the world around ones self
like a mantra
over and over
never taught to catch a ball
or drive
no pointers on shaving
or instructions on how to tie a tie
catching a ball driving shaving and ties
all that can be done on ones own
focus was elsewhere

these codes these ways these directions
passed down like maps memories genetics
need to be engineered
like architectural blueprints
for reference over time
as you frame out your character
and set the load bearing weight
of your code
these rough sketches
more complete than imagined
pouring the foundation of a just anger
constructing righteous rage
for foes mistaking compassion for weakness
for fools miscalculating empathy for fear

he insisted
like a mantra
like a rhythm
like a drum
like a discipline
it became a sharpening stone
for thoughts
to puncture the belly and bloat
lies draw fury
false promises are assured wrath
like a mantra
over and over
one needs to be true
to the world
to keep things in line
for ones self
and the world around ones self
and if not you
then who

– vagabond ©

photo from 1976 when my dad graduated Cooper Union (and cured me of all graduation ceremonies including my own – but that’s another story…)




pepsi generation by vagabond ©
pepsi generation by vagabond ©

Inspired a few years back by Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial… and in light of the social unrest and upheaval in the streets with the BLACK LIVES MATTER protests not just across amerikkka, but across the world (see Bristol UK, and Belgium), i thought this would be apropos…  Maybe all the cops need is a pepsi…




mug shot by vagabond ©
mug shot by vagabond ©

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, the fire next time.”
– James Baldwin

This is a confession but not an apology… i’m afraid my death will come at the hands of the police… It’s a fear i live with… Every time i see the cops i think – ‘this could be it, this could be the end’. And i don’t mean every time i get pulled over or stopped or questioned, i mean every time i see the cops… Pulling up behind me, sitting on the side of the road, passing me by while i’m driving, in a store, at the movies, on a corner, i see my life flash before my eyes…

Every fucken time i see a cop the first thought that comes to my head is that i can be killed for no reason. The thought that immediately follows that is that my family and friends will be dragged through some bullshit investigation only to find that the cop(s) who killed me was/were justified and my murderer(s) will go unpunished… i think that outside of my untimely tragic death that this will be the hardest thing for family and friends to have to deal with, to have to endure…

If i’m killed by the police then i want this piece to be read like a last will and testament… This is what i want done after i’m killed… i don’t want a non-violent protest or rally or march or a candlelight vigil… i want a rebellion in the streets… i want the looting of police stations, courthouses and shitty halls… Take those candles for the vigil and use them to light up holding cells and jailhouses so they can be burnt down to embers… i don’t want peace… i want my death to mean something that my life couldn’t ever achieve… i want to strike fear into a shitstem that struck fear into me my whole adult life…. i don’t want mourning or sadness… i want rage to give birth to justice… And not the kind of justice in law books but real justice that comes from revolution…

i don’t want to be a hashtag on twitter… i don’t want Jesse Jackson calling for calm or Al Sharpton calling for an investigation or sell-ebrities selling peace statements in social media… i don’t want people to care if  CNN is doing a town hall meeting with Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper talking about the same old shit where they excuse the few bad apples… i don’t want people getting upset at the panel of all white people that Fox News will convene to talk about my old warrants, arrest records and minor convictions… i don’t want legal analysts or law enforcement pundits on MSNBC convicting me in the court of public opinion while offering their condolences to my family and friends… Fuck your condolences…

i don’t want the prosecution of a few cops i want the whole shitstem put on trial and judged and juried and executed in the same way that i was… i want this execution of the shitstem to be instantaneous and immediate in the same way that my death was… i want it all to die with me… If i’m going to be killed by the police then i want my death to be the last one…

This is my last will and testament in case i’m killed by police for raising my hands or keeping them at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel or for asking a question or refusing to answer one or for swinging back in a failed and futile attempt at self-defense and self-preservation… So there is no confusion i want the lid taken off the frustration and anger we have felt from before day one in this country and i want the brothers and sisters in the streets to rebel… i want my death to come at a cost for the shitstem that has condemned me for the skin i’m in…

i may not raise my hands, i may well resist my arrest and fight back if i feel that the cops have chosen that it is my time to die… What choice do i have? i’m not a fool… i’ve seen the videos of cops beating people into the ground… i’ve seen cops beating people to death… i’m not a sucker, i’m not going out like that… My mother didn’t raise me to allow my death to come easy… My father didn’t raise me to surrender to my executioners… My city didn’t raise me to not get some lumps in… to not return a little of what i’m getting…

“when they kick at your front door
how you gonna go?
shot down on the pavement
or waiting in death row?”
– Guns Of Brixton by The Clash

And if they tell you i resisted arrest it will be true… i mean what choice do i have…? You can die because they want to kill you and say you resisted or you can go out fighting and die… i chose to go out fighting… i don’t have any faith in their just-us shitstem… i won’t be around for the trial… i’ll be dead and hoping the blood from my death will join with the blood of all the others named and un-named to ripen the revolution and act as a reminder of what the world could be if Black Lives Mattered… i would like to imagine that it will go down like that… Just like that… when the cops kill me…



the least of these (for george floyd) by vagabond ©

the least of these

“We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
– Franz Fanon

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:40

george floyd
said i can’t breathe
and the cops
choking him
said ‘yeah
where have i heard that before?
oh yeah, in staten island’
not knowing anthony baez
also couldn’t breathe
in a bronx chokehold
but also not caring
but maybe
he’s not a football fan
since kapernick took a knee

on his way to the temple
he saw the money changers
flipping offerings
the rage built in him
and he turned the tables
and it had to be then
that his fate was sealed
because nobody messes with
the big money boys and lives
to be an example

eric garner
couldn’t breathe either
something about
an alleged loosey cigarettes
side hustle
being a capital offense
and the cops skipped
judge and jury
went straight to execution
and the only one doing time
is ramsey orta
for having the courage
and a phone video

he spoke of love
and fed the hungry
but when he washed
her feet
and healed the hand
on the sabbath
and threw capitalism
out of the temple
that was just too much
and there were rumors
of not bringing peace
but a machete

george floyd
didn’t know the law
something about
alleged forgery
being a capital offense
and the cops skipped
judge and jury
went straight to execution
and the cop that killed him
had his hand in his pocket
like it ain’t no thing
and for him
and his power structure
it wasn’t no thing

meanwhile the brothers
and the sisters
and all those in between
that spectrum
came into the streets
to overthrow the roman soldiers
who protect the money changers
raising molotov cocktails
in toasts to the right of riot
and spilling gasoline to the street
in memory of
with shopping carts
full of rocks
looting the milk aisle
to soothe tear gas burnt eyes
like palestinans in palestine
in a place
some like to call israel
following the example
of a palestinian
from 2000 years ago
who also didn’t come
to bring peace

if they have a legal right to kill
we have a moral right to riot
and between legality
and morality is a chasm
that must be filled
the masks for the ‘rona
helped them
dance in the tear gas
thighs and shins bruised
from rubber bullets
when the wind changed direction
the smoke cleared
signs of the times
could be seen
saying something about
black lives mattering

he led by example
his resistance was existence
the least of these he said
what you do to the least of these
and we all felt less than
and we all felt it done to us
for a moment
no one can breathe
it being held against our will
like anthony baez
eric garner
george floyd

this thing between
them and us
can only be settled in the streets
no judges no juries
just execution
of our rage
a thousand million christs
in the streets
overturning the system
before we refuse to enter
the temples of their injustice
to be ungovernable
because we have no peace
only a machete
to be
second coming reckoning
amerikkkan apocalypse
to clear the air of the stench
that suffocates
to breathe
for the first time
in insurrection
in resurrection

– vagabond ©


half a chance by vagabond © original photo by Edwin Pagan

half a chance

in delirium
a clarity
this virus is the cure
this fever
burns the disease
that kills us with a love
of the root of all evil
if we shed this skin
leave the 20th century behind
step into the 21st century armed
with a promise of new failures
we might have half a chance
of making it

-vagabond ©


less than ideal art and ideas for a less than ideal world…