Hot and Spicy Extra Crispy

Hot and Spicy Extra Crispy

This is how the world ends
Not with a whisper but with a bang!

Of a gavel on the Supreme Court 
Or in a grand jury judgement for the killers of 
Breonna Taylor

With gas Guns in state designated Anarchy zones
Were Americans protest peacefully — and otherwise for justice
With the slamming of the doors of 
Bed Bath and Beyond
Because apparently even e-commerce can’t  support
Brick and mortar capitalism during a plague
With apologies to Emeril Legasse
The world is suddenly getting too hot and spicy
And the fires are making everything extra crispy.

Amy Coney Barrett,
What Black Clad Aunt 
Her moment come at last 
Slouches towards the Supreme Court bench
Moving us closer to Gilead.

(Image Credit: ABC News)

What happened to Holly Barlow-Austin? What happened to Aunty Sherry? Prison. Prisons kill.

Holly Barlow-Austin

Holly Barlow-Austin’s husband and mother filed a lawsuit this week, claiming that Holly Barlow-Austin’s death, last year, was the fault of a Texas prison, the Bi-State Justice Center in Bowie County, where she was a `guest’ for two months. Protesters in Queensland, Australia, protested this week at the death in custody of a woman called Aunty Sherry, a Birri Guba woman who died in a cell at the Brisbane police station, September 10. Holly Barlow-Austin was 46 years old when she died; Aunty Sherry was 49 years old when she died. Before the contagion spread through the prisons, the prisons themselves were the contagion, as they continue to be. Prison, jail, police station, immigrant detention center together form a single global gallows. Do not claim to be surprised at current reports of forced hysterectomies in immigrant detention centers. Do not claim to be surprised that South Dakota’s women’s prison reported covid clusters this week, nor that Oklahoma’s did last week. We cannot be surprised. Before Covid killed, prisons killed, as they continue to do. 

Holly Barlow-Austin was arrested for an ostensible violation of probation. She was held, awaiting trial. When Holly Barlow-Austin entered the Bi-State Justice Center, she was HIV-positive, for which she was on medication. Otherwise she was in fairly decent health, regular vital signs, full mobility. When Holly Barlow-Austin left, after two months, she was emaciated, could barely move, and was blind. For two months, Holly Barlow-Austin was regularly denied her medication, regularly denied food and water, regularly denied any dignity. Holly Barlow-Austin called for help. Staff did nothing. Finally, Holly Barlow-Austin was taken to hospital, emaciated, almost immobilized, blind. Then she died. Do not be surprised.

Aunt Sherry’s story is even shorter. She was arrested on Sunday, for `property and drug matters’; arraigned Monday; sent to the Brisbane Watchhouse, the one Human Rights Watch called `terrifying’ last year, to await transfer to a prison; and was found dead early Wednesday morning. Police are `investigating’, while Indigenous peoples and their supporters, as well as all the women currently held in the Brisbane Watch House, grieve.

Grief. Anger. Rage. No surprise. 

Holly Barlow-Austin. Say her name. Aunty Sherry. Say her name. Say their names, shout their names, until your breath runs out. It’s time, it’s way past time, to tear down the entire edifice, to topple the global gallows, to end the witch trials passing for due process, and to start anew. #SayHerName 

(Photo Credit 1: Washington Post / AP) (Photo Credit 2: LSJ On Line)

I Mourn for the 3,000 Lives Lost, and the 500,000 Iraqis that Died with Them

Everyone has a 9/11 story. 

Each person has a 9/11 story. A story of what they were doing that day. What they felt, what they saw. I have a 9/11 story, you do too. That’s been what is solidified in our grief and collectivized our trauma.

My mother was on day four of her first year of teaching. The schools surrounding the city had been called with bomb threats and they evacuated; bridges were blocked so full of traffic that she had to leave her car to walk to my father on the other side. They hugged and managed to make it home, while my sister and I were picked up early from school (I thought my sister had a doctor’s appointment—we both go home on doctor appointments). We ate dinner that night with smoke from the towers visible as far down as Central Jersey (at least, I think that’s what it was). I didn’t think she was going to make it home. My grandmother thought it was the end of the world.

Everyone has a story. And each year we mourn the loss of 3,000 people. 

Now I am older and have grown in a world that has faced the consequences of that attack. The battles and the endless war against an invisible terrorist that has only a menacing brown face. The WMDs that never seem to be where they were supposed to be. I learned of the increase of islamophobia and hatred for others that was excused because it was our grief. I, as a white child, did not have to lose my innocence to learn this lesson. 

The violence done for the sake of retribution when it was just hateful people with more of a “reason” to mobilize violence. The Patriot Act and the constant surveillance of black and brown people that was passed under the guise of freedom—of safety. Of law and order. The violent legacy passed from Bush to Obama to Trump, all for them to continue unabashed and unashamed. Airstrikes that kill mothers and fathers and radicalize young orphans. If you only see the murderous rampage of a country that has taken away so much, wouldn’t you hate that country too? 

I know of the half a million Iraqis that died (at least—because there could be more, we just don’t know about them) because elites weaponized our grief, spiraling it into a patriotism that justified a rich man’s war for oil. Of a military’s need for more resources and profit. Of a country’s need to destabilize the Middle East and expand its imperialistic thirst for blood. There is still more of that blood on our hands, we just won’t acknowledge it. Which country is the enemy today? Do you know? I don’t. 

Everyone has a 9/11 story. But we got to heal, and many will never get that chance, caught in the crosshairs of a resource war. 

We mourn the 3,000 souls lost. Now we must mourn 500,000 more. 

(Photo Credit: PRI / Reuters / Deanna Dent)

Dedicated to Imperfect Heroes Because the Villains Aren’t Perfect Either

Dedicated to Imperfect Heroes Because the Villains Aren’t Perfect Either

The paradox is that we have to use imperfect tools to perfect an imperfect world

I don’t mind imperfect heroes; because the villains aren’t perfect either

It’s all a work in progress as we progress

And maybe that is what is perfect

Teach me, preach me
Just so you can leech me
Dis’ me, stress me
Now you want to test me

Chain me, cane me
Belittle and defame me
Sick me, cure me
Socially endure me

All he tried to tell us is

Imperfect heroes and imperfect villains
Imperfect justice
extrajudicial killings
Get your hands dirty and roll up your sleeves

Imperfect drugs are making perfect junkies
On my back a family of monkeys
Pandemic has us all down on our knees

If Michael Jackson were livin’
He wouldn’t believe
shite Trumps not giving

Shoot me; tase me
Boy, you just amaze me
Fool me; school me
Choke me ‘til I drool, me

Slap me; zap me
better double tap me
Jail me; bail me
Michael tried to tell me

All he tried to tell us is

Lies and deceptions
Not misconceptions
Selling missiles while we defund the schooling
When a mantis prays it’s not piety

There are no bootstraps, and there are no boots
Food lines longer; don’t ask just shoot
No safety net for our society

If Gil were stil among us
He’d write a song for peace and justice

Thunder lightning
Give me COVID-19
Rain me hail me
Brother can you tell me

Spurn me burn me
Now we’re finally learning
Zone-less homeless
Boy they really owned us

All he tried to tell us is

What did he know; and, when did he know it?
If you are angry then burn, vote, and show it!
This system ain’t gonna change itself.

My heroes dead; my enemies are rulin’
This country needs a drastic retooling
I have two fist and only just one heart

If Prince were still embodied
He’d purple hex this Orange John Gotti

Climate crisis; blame it all on Isis
Gangster, Prankster
Legalize The Dank, Sir

Burning forest
Is there still hope for us
Sap glove; bullet
Got a trigger; pull it

All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is

(Image Credit: Rewire / Annette Bernhardt)

(2020) you’ve taken away enough

(2020) you’ve taken away enough

A community in pain
out in Eldorado Park 
a youngster the victim
where crime and drugs rule

A community in pain
out in Oudshoorn 
a doctor on the frontline
the victim of our pandemic 

you’ve taken away
enough from us
a teacher-friend’s remarks
could be a world-wide echo

from the Eldorado Parks
to the Oudshoorns
from Africa to Asia 
to the Americas and beyond

you’ve taken away
enough from us

The youngster brought comfort
The doctor brought comfort 

Comfort well needed
in schools
in communities

you’ve taken away
enough from us

(Photo Credit: The Conversation)

GWU Had Enough Money for Disney, GWU Had Enough Money for Swain: Why Doesn’t GWU Have Enough Money for its Workers and Students?

The George Washington University has boasted an endowment of nearly $1.7 billion. During the COVID-19 crisis that university has access to a $300 million line of credit. The university had attempted to hire Ms. Heather Swain—a notorious rape apologist who helped to cover the abuses Larry Nassar committed during her time at Michigan State University—but apparently now GW doesn’t have enough money to keep its faculty and staff; it doesn’t have enough money to help its most vulnerable students.

While the pandemic has raised issues with how students will be attending university—as well as how the university will be footing the bill and handling budget issues—the George Washington University stands alone in its cuts—cuts that will amount to layoffs, pay cuts, and a reduction in financial aid for students. In the middle of a pandemic, the university is taking money from students who need it most, and health insurance from their employees. 

How can LeBlanc justify the cuts? How can the GW administration call layoffs, pay cuts, and hiring freezers a more practical decision for the budget issues instead of looking into other methods of finding the money?

During his career, GWU President Thomas LeBlanc has made some questionable money decisions. These include spending half a million dollars on his inauguration in 2017, contracting the Disney Institute to administer campus climate surveys at a whopping $300,000 and extending that contract without further discussing the cost to the university community. LeBlanc further created an impression, if not a culture, of institutional nepotism by hiring eight people with ties to his former institution in Miami. 

The hiring freeze came just as LeBlanc announced the hiring of former VP of Communications at Michigan State University Heather Swain, who helped the university cover up its handling of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of athletes. The lack of transparency and poor vetting procedures almost had a known rape apologist once again in a position of power, once again having students at their mercy. Whether or not LeBlanc knew is immaterial; he and the administration cared so poorly for the vetting process and protection of their students that Swain almost secured a job at the university. A half-hearted apology followed by erasure of any announcement that the university had any contact with Swain merely added fuel to the fire. 

LeBlanc is no stranger to shaking the confidence of faculty, staff and students alike. 

Let us not forget his racially charged language in February, when, in a discussion about fossil fuel divestment, “LeBlanc attempted to make a point about the impracticality of majority rule by describing a hypothetical scenario where all students votes to ‘shoot all black people here’”. His apologies were meaningless when in the same breath, students faced attacks by police  when attempting to hold him accountable for his racist comments and demand the university divest from fossil fuel. 

And now the faculty and staff are facing more of this president’s cruelty. The response to the pandemic has included mass layoffs (nearly 70 staff positions in career services, facilities, and the Continuous Improvement and Business Advisory Services office), salary cuts (of $27 million in cuts to faculty compensation), and a suspension of retirement benefits. 

Students are fairing no better in the university’s budget issues. The 10% reduction in tuition for those students who did not return to campus included a recalculation of the students’ aid packages. The changes to the financial aid has made the tuition cost to some students—notably students from marginalized backgrounds—“insurmountable”. The outcry prompted another newly-hired-during-a-hiring-freeze VP—Jay Goff—to address the tuition cut and financial aid issues that students have been facing. 

As an alumna of this university, I am deeply concerned with the handling of the budgetary proposals by the administration. As a student, faculty and staff supported me so that I was successful during my university career. How can the administration, how can LeBlanc, demand excellence of that same faculty and staff while they fear lay-offs, salary cuts, and who knows what else? How can they effectively teach at a prestigious university while their livelihoods are in danger? How can they support students when they proposed a different way, only to be ignored by a man that has mismanaged and bloated those at the top? 

Jacob Blake’s shackles form the landscape of the United States of America

Earlier this week, Jacob Blake’s father reported that his son – shot seven times in the back by policemen, paralyzed from the waist down, fighting for his life – was not only under constant police guard but was also shackled to his bed. Jacob Blake Sr remarked, “Why do they have that cold steel on my son’s ankle? He couldn’t get up if he wanted to. So that’s a little overkill to have him shackled to the bed.” Shackling is what police and prison staff do. Ask the myriad pregnant women who have suffered childbirth while shackled to a bed. It’s the American way.

Earlier this month, a newly published book, Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women, notes, “In 2017, around 225,060 women in the United States were imprisoned in state and federal prisons and jails, and over a million more were on probation or parole. In 2019, approximately 1,400 incarcerated women were pregnant. Giving birth in prison is a horrific experience, both physically and emotionally. Prisoners have recounted being shackled to the bed, and many say they weren’t allowed to have anyone in the room with them other than the hospital staff. One in eight incarcerated parents will lose their parental rights. And incarcerated mothers are the most likely to lose their children to foster care.”

In May 2020, South Carolina banned the shackling of pregnant women (prisoners) in childbirth. This was a major victory, won after years and decades of struggle and organizing. A number of states, almost half the states in the United States, continue to allow shackling pregnant women (prisoners) in childbirth, and the bans of other states are riddled with loopholes and confusion. 

According to the American Psychological Association, “Women subjected to restraint during childbirth report severe mental distress, depression, anguish, and trauma.”  This practice is what Jacob Blake Sr. witnessed, it is what Jacob Blake suffered. Shackles are baked into the fabric of the United States, and not only the so-called criminal justice system. Severe mental distress, depression, anguish, trauma: those are the constitutive, if not Constitutional, elements of justice in America. They are what we apply and what we seek for those who must be controlled. There was no overkill in Jacob Blake’s hospital room, sadly. There was only the United States of America at it again. Jacob Blake is no longer shackled to his bed, but the shackles have not been removed.

(Photo Credit: National Museum of African American History and Culture)

This is Real America: for Jacob Blake and Everybody Else, Too

Julia Jackson, Jacob Blake’s mother

This is Real America: for Jacob Blake and Everybody Else, Too

This is real America.

When they kill us in the streets we march and burn and get arrested.
I guess they want us to act like Georgians
And meekly go to the grave without complaint.

Or wait like Floridian teachers for a judge to agree with them that
The same children who give each other 
pink eye
head lice
And the traditional herd diseases
Will just as easily spread COVID-19
Without a concrete plan.

The answer must be given in the form of a question:
What are diseases caused by human proximity?

We are using our children as lab rats to see what happens
When they cluster together five times a week
And then go home to Ma and Pa 
And Nana and Big Papa

What happens when you push that button?
And which company’s “bug juice” will work first and best?

I had a friend ask me how I was doing during these times
You know as a Black person
And I said:

You mean during this time of political upheaval
During a pandemic
In the face of denial as the American bodies pile up (for various reasons)
And ubiquitous cameras capture the savagery of American life

You mean during a time when
context is still needed because the camera 
And the piles of bodies 
Can lie
And not give the whole story

You mean at a time when America is fighting for its soul
During a presidential election year 
With hearings going on about blatant voter suppression 
Through a manipulated Post Office
And the closing of poling locations in “certain communities”

You mean when leather clad bike hoards cause a super-spreader event
In America’s heartland 
‘Cause ya know we all love a good party 
Especially one straight out of a Stephen King novel
Or a George Romero Zombie Apocalypse movie

You mean at a time when college students have been told they were invincible
And they believe it
So they party like it’s 1999
And everyone goes home sick

It’s only a flesh wound
Rub it
You’ll be alright

Like the Martians of an H.G. Wells story 
All of our technological terror 
Is being humbled by the smallest of things 
The infinite humiliated by the infinitesimal 

A family in Wisconsin clusters together and prays for peace
Prayers from two religious traditions
And asks the question 
Why is my son’s spine shattered 
And why was he shot seven times 

An emasculating extrajudicial judgement in front of his three sons 
They say it will take a miracle for Jacob Blake to ever walk again
Repeating over and over again
This is real America 
How dare we hate what we are, his mother says

You mean at this time when things are so obviously bad that 
It causes you to pause and to offer an earnest existential inquiry?

Oh I’m just fine, I said.
And you’re fine, too.

For our White Nation, Cannon already received justice

I come back into social media to find the story of a young boy that was brutally murdered. His murderer found after a manhunt, his mother calling and actively seeking for the death penalty. The silence from all of you on the deaths of children murdered by police—children who are black, brown, who have mental illness and learning disabilities—highlights your hypocrisy and desire to return to “normal”. Where you don’t have to confront the country’s racist past and present. Where you get to take comfort in your own privilege because your privilege benefits you personally. 

Where you don’t have to come to terms with your “guilt” or your own culpability in this nation’s white supremacist values. 

I watch as posts are made about a boy who was killed too early, by people who made no commentary about Mike Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or the children of Brittney Gilliam who were pulled from their vehicle in Aurora, CO because the police “mistook” her car for being stolen. Who have remained silent on George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain—a boy who played his violin for cats at his local animal shelter; for the lynching of Tamirat “Amani” Kildea in Morristown, NJ. So, my fellow white people, here is what I have to say to you:

You are taking the murder of a young white child by a black man as a call to disrupt the movement for black lives. You are actively working in tandem with white supremacy in equating no justice being done when, for a white nation, our definition of justice has most definitely been done. 

Breonna Taylor

Was the perpetrator arrested? Yes.

Is he currently awaiting trial? Yes. 

Will he face a jury where he may well face the death penalty for his crimes? Yes. 

I’m curious, then, what more is it you’re asking for? 

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Are you asking for justice for the murders of black children too? Where were you when Tamir Rice was killed for having a toy gun? Where are your hashtags for the punishment of the officers that killed Aiyana Stanley Jones? Your anger over the Kameron Prescott, who was killed by police on December 23, 2017? The black and brown boys and girls who have been murdered with no accountability from the boys in blue? 

For Breonna Taylor has not received her “justice”. Elijah McClain remains the butt of jokes for police officers in Aurora. Gilliam got an apology and the promise of “age-appropriate therapy” for her children held at gunpoint by police officers. On hot asphalt, face-down. George Floyd’s death stopped being a crying call for change after some buildings burned to the ground. Not to mention, his killers got to post bail. Sessoms will not be given that luxury. 

You had better think, very carefully, about how you want to be remembered for decades to come. When the progress for civil rights does win, and we look back on this time as a reflection on how we could have done better. Do you want to be those who have actively worked against a movement that focused on valuing the black people as deserving of justice? 

Elijah McClain

Because right now, you are the villains of this story. Your moderate response to racism and white supremacy is your calling card, where the valuation of property over black people is paramount. Where you want to support the movement, but “All Lives Matter”, not just Black Lives Matter. Your All Lives Matter sure sounds like White Lives Matter Most. 

(Photo Credit 1: BBC) (Photo Credit 2: Mother Jones) (Photo Credit 3: The Cut)

Love Me (tender)

Love Me (tender)

Love me tender
love me sweet
never let me go 
connections have made
my life complete
and I love them so

Love me tender
love me true 
my pockets now filled
money dearest I love you
and I always will

Love me tender
love me long
Covid-19 a good start
for it’s here that I belong
opportunity and l will not part

Love me tender 
love me dear
tell me you are mine
I’ll be yours in freedom’s name
till the end of time

When at last my dreams come true
Darling Democracy this I know
the rotten stench will follow you
everywhere you go

Here down South, an Elvis Presley song is the obvious choice.