A Few Reasons to Take Action

Among other things going on around the town, 350 Seattle shut down 4th Ave downtown Seattle and made visits to the Canadian Consulate, Chase Bank, and Bank of Amerika.

Shutting down business as usual because the normal flow of business is killing us.

Line 3 in Minnesota and Trans Mountain in Canada were two of the primary focuses being the pipelines major corporations and these banks are supporting. These lines are being forced through Indigenous lands, without permission, again.

Energy is something we as a collection of Peoples  have grown dependent on, yes. However, we generally do not want and we certainly cannot afford more of the same. We want healthy and sustainable alternative forms of energy.

There is a conundrum based on some myths that we must confront:

#1 “Progress” is always something good. Sure, time moves forward and new things are invented, but what measure is used to define ‘good’?

#2 It’s not okay to slow down to make course corrections. Cars, ships, even people do it everyday in our common and regular experiences.  However, there is some paradigm that purports slowing down derails this immaculate ‘progress’ that can do no wrong.

If acquiring healthy and sustainable energy sources requires us to slow down long enough to make the appropriate course corrections, that is not a derailment but a wise strategy.

#3 Now may be the only moment we have, but that does not make it the most important moment by default.

I like the conceptualization living like I will die tomorrow, but planning like I will live forever. When we allow a precedence to be placed on this moment, we may be inadvertently sacrificing future moments.

Our energy needs and wants in this moment should not outweigh the needs and wants of future moments.

We are already in the midst of a climate crisis, and with the lag of impact, we will be dealing with the harms for generations to come. That is not to say there are not things a course correction will not help. Quite to the contrary, in fact. A course correction includes addressing the harms and mitigating the pains people, animals, and the rest of our world are about to feel.

This understanding is coming from the “7 Generation Principle” shared by the Iroquois Confederation.

We have a responsibility to those who have yet to become. We do not get to write them off just because they are not here to advocate for themselves. The same is true for those who live in other and more impacted regions around our world.

The way I tend to think about is is to question what our progeny looking back at us have hoped we had done.

One of the course corrections we need to make is to scale back ‘who’ is granted the privilege of defining our course. This currently resides with governments and corporations who have not behaved as though they have the best interest of the planet and our Peoples in mind. They have behaved in a manner that reveals profit and self-interested motives. They should have a say, but not limitless autonomy.

Interrupting business as usual to shift the agenda to these vital and important concerns is a step in the direction of steering us to make some course corrections.


Media about the action:

The Stranger:

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2021/09/17/61275758/slog-pm-strikes-and-protests-all-over-seattle-fox-news-launches-assault-on-city-attorney-candidate-boosters-recommended-for-those-over-65-a

The Seattle Times:

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-climate-activists-shut-down-fourth-avenue-in-protest-of-fossil-fuels/

“This Ain’t Nothin New” Official Music Video

This song has been to date the longest project I have ever worked on. It is simultaneously one of the musical accomplishments I am most pleased with. Not only does it sound good sonically, but the message is also precisely what I want it to be. As a writer and an artist I often find myself wanting to change things when I return to a project. Like oh, that is the wrong snare, that hi-hat is just a little too high, or that line could be rapped better. However, with “This Ain’t Nothin New” none of that is occurring. Part of my deep sense of accomplishment is the feeling that my project is finally complete.

You will find “This Ain’t Nothin New” on all major streaming platforms.

Verse one of this song is about how the history of oppression has been washed away and made trivial. It calls into question the sources of our information and reassert the importance of our internal understanding of the oppression we feel.

Verse two digs into the contradictions between the supposed oppression overcome and the current counterpart. Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” was a major influence to the formation my analysis. Jim Crow being another name for #segregation Alexander cleverly argues that serrations is very much still alive and thriving, it is merely couched under a new name with different conditions. This verse piggy backs on that understanding and expands the conversation to more than prisons. The right to abortion and bodily control seems always under threat and Arizona just repealed the Roe v Wade legislation in the State. The real argument of this verse is that not as much had changed as people often want to believe. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Verse three is about the continued reactionary response to social justice and Liberation movement across generations. It’s also about how the hate groups of the past, namely the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Councils have their modern counterparts; i.e. the Tea Party and Proud Boys, etc… not to mention the fact that there are still kkk and Nazis out here. Fascism has not died. In fact, it seems like there is a resurgence of it on every continent. These are scary times, for certain. The nasty part about having our history rewritten to make invisible the truth of the past and to hide the factors of our present, is that they can use that foundation to manipulate our acquiescence and thus our consent to be oppressed. Thus, #KnowledgeIsPower in this sense because we will not accept anything other than reality and from that point is the point at which our struggle for Liberation begins to thrive.

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Renaissance – New Song in the Works

I am working on a new piece that will have will have both Spoken Word and Hip-Hop elements. Here is a little behind the scenes glimpse of my writing process and to what the new track is shaping up like.

As I have gown more meticulous with my writing, I have also gotten more precise and I think profound in my understandings.

The Waterfall Effect

The waterfall effect is an analogy for growing through transitions.

Often times change, which is ever constant, comes with much uncertainty about the future. It’s hard to see. It’s hard to hear. It’s hard to feel. Much like looking through the cascade of a waterfall.

It’s clear that there is a world on the other side, but it appears distorted and uncertain. While the place we are at, no matter how much our current position pains us, seems clear.

At this point, there is a choice: evolve or remain in a stagnant position, sometimes at our own peril.

Change will occur whether we want it to or not. It will happen regardless of whether we are ready for it.

In my life, I have come to this place, a spiritual waterfall many times.  It often feels like a precipice. The choices and the changes are never the same, so I cannot claim it gets easier in that regard. However, knowing that I have been through transitions before does help.

Entering into the waterfall, often out of desperation, it is not uncommon to feel many sensations of discomfort. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s heavy. It’s uncomfortable. All vision is lost. Hearing is overwhelmed. The sense of being utterly alone settles into the bones.

The weight pushes us under as currents of possibility swirl around us with an almost choking pressure. The perception we left is gone. The perception we hoped for is no where to be found.

This is the part that is so scary. The letting go without having something else to hold onto. The lack of foundation or grounding. The sense of not having something to stand on. Who we are in these moments is not certain, and we trade in certainty, even when those certainties are lies. The comfort in belief is undeniable. Without that, the entire way we understand ourselves, our existence is in Flux. Who am I, is not uncommon to ask. That uncertainty is chilling.

The currents run their course as we struggle to regain some modicum of control, of direction. Eventually, as we struggle through the transition we break free of the unknown emerging from the pool of self-doubt and trepidation into a world we had only partly perceived. Grounding and foundation return and we earn a more firm constitution in who we are. The world is alive with new sensations and perceptions because the person we evolved from has been washed away.

In this regard, it is not unlike being reborn unto ourselves.

There is so much fear of the uncertain, of chaos, of change. This is true even while there is nothing more true then the constant of change. Fixating on one perception of who we are and trying to hold it in stasis, unchanging, is contradictory to how the universe works. Much pain arises from this.
It is an irony, but letting go is the path to Liberation. It is in the chaos that we get the opportunity to redefine ourselves, that we evolve.

It’s Time for a Narrative Shift

We have to shift this binary narrative the State is trying to push on us about “good protester / bad protester”. It is aligned with the narrative of violent and non-violent, which is just more BS. It is aligned with the “he was unarmed” or “he had a _____” whatever, as if their “Second Amendment” doesn’t protect the right to own and bear arms….

 

Real talk, even in the abolitionist world, we have difficult conversation about how to manage people who are responsible for things like child molestation and murder, but most agree that prisons as they now exist are not the answer, period. But that is not what we are discussing here.

 

They want to try to define things in terms of ‘riot’ but that is not accurate. What is happening is REBELLION, plain and simple. And a “rebellion is a natural response to a repressive situation.” These moments do not arise out of thin air, as the State and the media machine would try to have us believe; no they come from generations of oppression.

 

What is happening in Minneapolis and in other cities around the country can only be defined as rebellion. For certain, there are elements of most direct actions wherein some folx do things that can lead to others being harmed. However, in terms of this conversation, that cannot clearly be stated without setting it into the context of the “MONOPOLY ON VIOLENCE” the State claims. It is the State the creates the violence before the protest, and the State that says the People have no right to choose their response, and the State that uses violence to suppress the people!

 

“I will not let my oppressor dictate my response to his oppression.” ~MLK

 

Point is, even when some act and others get hurt, they easy route is to point the finger at those who responded to an oppressive situation. It is much harder to identify the oppressor in the context of the oppression, and to not conflate the response and blame the people who are oppressed.

 

This is the shift we must get to. We must remember the oppressor and the oppression, and not allow them to skew the truth about where the violence is truly coming from.

Arizona Prisons: A De Facto Death Sentence

As predicted, COVID-19 is currently spreading through Arizona Department of Correction (ADOC) facilities. Guards at facilities in at least Tucson and Winslow have tested positive for COVID-19.

 

Despite these positive tests, ADOC continues to disclose inaccurate data about the members of our community who are currently being detained. There are repeated failures to provide the protections recommended to the public. There has also been a failure to release people from these viral incubation situations.

 

It is not a matter of “if”; it is a matter of WHEN incarcerated people will die from COVID-19 in Arizona. Officials must act now.

 

In Arizona detention facilities the people being detained are being denied the proper personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of this virus. They are also, like most of the rest of the public, not receiving tests for the virus unless they have crossed a severe and dangerous threshold of symptoms, and often not even then. They are also being denied the appropriate cleaning supplies to sterilize their living quarters.

 

On all counts, the Arizona Department of Corrections and thereby, the State of Arizona and Governor Ducey are failing the members of our community.

 

The State of Arizona has made the people being detained in ADOC facilities wards of the state, and as such, has assumed a special relationship and responsibility for their care and wellbeing. They have an affirmative duty to provide protection because the people they are detaining are limited in their ability to choose on their own how to respond to this pandemic. The State of Arizona is morally and legally responsible to take appropriate steps to protect the people they are detaining.

 

The failure to release people from ADOC custody is an unconstitutional, de facto death sentence. The virus has been reported to mortally affect those who are older and those who have compromised immune systems, but there are also many instances of people dying from this virus who do not fit those constraints. In fact, even with the “symptom screening” that ADCRR Director David Shinn is reporting to be happening is insufficient because people who are asymptomatic are also spreading the virus. Furthermore, the Arizona Department of Health Services is identifying that it is not only people over 65 that are contracting the virus, and in fact, has identified that the age group of those between 20 and 44 have the highest prevalence of positive tests in the state. Therefore, there is no way of predicting who among those being detained or those working for ADOC will or will not be killed as a result of the negligence of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Also, approximately 49.6% of the 42,000 people held in Arizona prisons are between the ages of 25 and 39 years old. So, what is clear is that everyone is at high risk and ADOC is not responding with appropriate care.

 

The aforementioned issues regarding Arizona’s prisons and those detained within them were predicted by the community. This is why Mass Liberation Arizona, in coalition with 24 other local organizations released a platform of demands for all ADOC facilities in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Among those demands, the following three are vitally important:

 

  • End the restricted or skewed/limited information on the conditions of our loved ones and our community members who are being detained in ADCRR.
  • Prepare and publish accurate, daily reports on the effect and the prevalence of the virus in ADCRR facilities and publish this information on a publicly accessible website.
  • Immediately release of all vulnerable people, people with less than 6 months left on their sentences, and anyone charged with an offense that does not involve a risk of serious physical injury to a reasonably identifiable person.

 

A full list of demands can be found here.

 

None of the community’s concerns were addressed before this became a problem. It is imperative that the State of Arizona, Governor Duecy, Director David Shinn, and Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry heed these demands and act now. Otherwise, more people will be infected and may be killed as a result of their lack of action to fulfill their obligation to protect our families and friends.

Smashing Whiteness

So, yesterday I was riding the light rail on my way to do a workshop in Phoenix when I got into a conversation with a fellow traveler. This person was an elder who was very proud of his Italian identity and the quality of the taste of food that comes from Italian tradition. I respect that and enjoyed the delicious descriptions as well. He also complained about the cost of underwear, calling it highway robbery. I listened respectfully as this elder told his stories because he is an elder.

 

 

Somehow the conversation veered to the question of my heritage. I don’t know how or why. I did not bring anything up about it. I made no references to the food I like or otherwise. I knew this was going to get awkward and it did real fast. I told the truth and said, “I am African and Cherokee.” The elder looked at me with this puzzled look in his eyes, shaking his head and goes, “Cherokee, like ‘Indian’ Cherokee?” I was hoping to escape without having to try to correct this old white man on the light rail about his sideways thinking. Then he goes, “you don’t look African… I mean you are no Sidney Poitier.” There went the sledge hammer to the anvil, but that wasn’t it because he continued with “you look Mexican or Puerto Rican…”

 

I chose not to get up in arms in opposition to all the microaggressions that were coming at me in public because at the time I did not feel that it would do any good for him or me. This elder was fast set in his ways and beliefs and no amount of talking, yelling, screaming, or otherwise would have changed his mind at all in the time that we had together. And I wish that would have been it, but it wasn’t.

 

He then went on to say how he grew up with all these Black and Brown folx, (though not in those terms) and how he had worked with many “blacks” and about how they were good to him and were not cheats and so on and so forth. This was then used as his evidence to support his claim that he was not a “bigot”. ‘Blacks’ were alright in his book. Then he went on to talk about the animals on the African continent and how much he should like to see them one day, like all there is on the Continent of Africa with its many countries are ‘animals’.

 

Something that stood out very starkly about this very insulting conversation, especially giving how it began, was this man’s inability to grasp that my heritage can be African and I not have been born there. It was okay for this American white man to reach back and to identify with his Italian heritage without any question, but it was not okay for me to do so. He could not comprehend it. It was almost as if he had no conception that my ancestors were stolen from their homes, families, and motherlands and brought to this place that despised them for everything but what their bodies could produce. That my direct lineage is from the first African Diaspora and that in no document have I or anyone in my family ever truly be counted as amerikkkan. No, for him I was American. Yet another identity imposed upon me without my consent. Like, how dare I hearken to a heritage that this society has worked so hard for generations to eradicate in our Peoples. It could not and would not compute for him that I have an identity distinct of him; that my People are not defined or measured by his People. For them, for him, that is a terrifying idea.

 

This soft-racism, this skirted veil of ignorance and hatred and OTHERNESS was both offensive and disgusting. This sort of thinking is pervasive. This paradigm that “white” as a political ideology and identity that surfaced and has been sustained in the U.S. since the time of Chattel Enslavement as a foil to “black” as a political-social-economic subjugated class is dependent on the practice of making specific people the other. It is only by establishing this otherness that such things as Walls to keep out migrants and I.C.E., and rampant over-policing of Brown and Black communities who are perceived as the villains of this society can function. It’s coddled in COLOR-BLIND language (please forgive the ablist term) to hide the results of the practice. Yes, it is true that much has changed since the end of the American Civil War and even the public defeat of blatant Jim Crow segregation. However, so much remains, when what we are measuring is net results and impacts.

 

We are still considered OTHER. We are still subjugated into a subordinate class and marginalized. We are still suffering under the lashes of enslavement, albeit, behind ‘prison’ walls and not out in the open. Education is still not equal. Prison bunks are being estimated based on third grade reading scores and prisons are going up faster than schools at all levels. We are still looked at as “Super Predators” whether we are Black or Brown, and people still fear even the sight of us, no matter how much we whistle Vivaldi while walking down the street. This society is barely a century and a half removed from the open system of enslavement wherein many human beings were counted as beasts of burden, and our Indigenous relatives were counted as much less. Far too short a time for the evils of that culture to be wiped away, especially when the dominant group has yet to truly face and come to terms with their cultural memory and responsibility. This includes their unjust position in this society achieved only by the exploitation and murder of millions that still continue to this day.

 

That old man on the light rail, like most of white amerikkka, is not ready to hear all this or to truly face what is necessary to make amends for all the harms that have been done and that still continue to happen to this day. We will hear or read vast and innumerable objections and excuses about how this white person grew up poor, or how this white person was abused by the police, or that this white person was incarcerated. We will also hear that many of the issues and circumstances I and my fellows have and are bringing up about this society happened a long time ago and that no one who is alive today shares in any responsibility of what their predecessors did. We will hear so much talk about how they are good white folks and how they get us ‘blacks’ or us ‘Indians’ or us “Hispanics’ or so forth. All of this in attempt to thwart and avoid the very real truth, that they themselves are still benefitting from what happened in the past and as a result share the burden of rectifying the harms of the past. Rewrite history however you like, tell whatever stories you want to try to hide the facts, the past does not forget. If white is supposed to be so pure, then why does it get dirty so fast? Stains cannot be removed by looking the other direction and wishing them not to exist.

 

What we need in order for this society to heal is to recognize that the foundation upon which it was built was faulty to begin with. We also need the people who have grouped themselves into the political identity of those considering themselves white to challenge their whiteness, their white privilege, and the persistent notions of white supremacy among themselves. Instead of pointing their fingers at the ‘OTHER’ as the root of the problem, those with the least amount of power in this society, they need to take a deep and searching look into their own role in the creations of the problems of this society. In the end, what needs to be smashed is the conception of WHITE. When these things are achieved then, just then, we might actually have some common ground upon which we can begin to design a foundation upon which a healthy society might exist.

Similar Patterns: Learning from the Past

 

Minor observation as a historian, activist, and organizer:
I am not one to declare that history repeats itself because I do not believe that is possible. However, what I do observe often are patterns and similarities. There is something interesting happening right now that has happened several times in the past.

 

As a major push for #BlackPeople in the United States to be recognized as full #HumanBeings emerges, shortly after and running concurrently a push for #Women in the United States to be treated as full Human Beings emerges.

 

Both from my historical knowledge and my contemporary participation I know full well that the struggle for neither, never died. I also know, being a #BlackLivesMatter activist that the struggle against #Patriarchy and #Misogynoir has been active the whole time I have been in the movement.

 

A fear I have that stems from my historical understanding is a diffusing of the energy to push for change in this moment of our movement for justice to be distributed and diluted among the struggles as if they are distinct. It is my belief that the struggles are not distinct and that they are interlinked in intersectional ways that cannot be completely separated, although, they do have different components. For example, in the struggle for #BlackLiberation Black Womxn, Black Fem, Black Trans, Black Queer deal with very particular dicriminations and oppressions that Black Men do not, and very often Black Men are the progenitors of the harm (I am not innocent). Likewise, among Womxn, and People who identify as LGBTQIA, many of who are Black, Latinx, Native, or POC deal with additional discriminations and oppressions that others do not.

 

“An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a quote from Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior, holds the essence of what is on my heart at this moment. Specifically, that these two struggles cannot be torn apart and isolated as they have been in the past.

 

Thus, as I take notice of a similar pattern emerging, it is my hope that our People recognize this as a pivotal moment for us all to pull together and to unify in a way that our People have not accomplished in the past, with a full understanding that all of our #Liberation is collectively interlinked.

 

 

We men have much work to do in guaranteeing the liberation of those who deal with the oppression we are party to being responsible for. Those people who are White and who are suffering discrimination and oppression, have a lot of work to do in guaranteeing the liberation of those who deal with the oppression they are party to being responsible for.

 

If we choose to, we can make this more than merely another moment, we can make this a movement that will finally achieve and guarantee our #Freedom and #Humanity

Dealing with Trauma in amerikka

I took a much needed break from organizing for a few days. The excuse was that I was moving, and while that was actually the case, the truth is that the police violence has had a much greater toll on me than I would have liked to admit. 
I didn’t realize how wound up I was until I was walking down the street to the store and discovered that I could neither keep my eyes nor my head still as I scanned every car and every face for an impending threat. I was doing this subconsciously. When I finally realized I was suffering from trauma was when two little Chiwawa sized dogs barked at me and I damn near jumped out of my skin. Heart racing, palms sweating, head throbbing, and ready to fight whatever was coming.
I have this emotional valve that allows me to shut down my emotions in moments of crises to focus on the tasks at hand. It can be a doubled-edged sword at times because sometimes when people are looking for an emotional response I may be pragmatic and practical, even logical and seemingly heartless when confronting and addressing an issue. Nonetheless, there always comes a point after the threat has subsided that when it is safe my emotions surface. When the ancle-biters had me fearing for my life was that moment.
Being a Black man in amerikkka, even with the light-skinned privilege I have, is a constantly traumatic experience. In addition to that because I fight for the justice and respect our Peoples deserve, I am often a very visible ‘target’ of those who would suppress and repress. The police attack on innocent, peaceably assembled political dissenters in Phoenix, Arizona on August 22, 2017 was not the first time I have been in a situation of violent state repression. Standing Rock was not an isolated event. These are well-honed strategies of the repressive regime under which we struggle to assert our right to exist. The tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bombs are not far removed from the fire hoses and attack dogs that Bull Conner unleashed on people in Birmingham in 1963. The state unleashed fire hoses on the people at Standing Rock in below freezing temperatures the night before I arrived, less than a year ago; ain’t nothing changed.
With the emergence of the alt-right and a resurgence of the kkk, it is not only the police we have to worry about–who we can easily identify–but also general citizen looking people who believe they have been sent on a holy mission to exterminate us. So, it makes sense that I am scanning every car and face to analyze who and where a threat may emerge at any given time. It is people like this, in collusion with the state, who have banished, stolen, incarcerated, or killed many of our people who have been outspoken against the oppression we suffer. However, although it makes sense, it does not dismiss the fact that living like this, in constant fear, is traumatic and it takes it’s toll. 
There is nothing that can justify terrorism like this!
My normal response is to exist in a constant state of rage. I am often told that this is unhealthy. I agree. What happened was that as a result of my constant state of tightened awareness and protection, that I put up walls to shield from those I loved most. I could not separate the defensiveness required to survive the state and the fascist from being part of my family. Unknown to me, this trait was generalized to everyone and I reacted to everyone as if they were out to harm or kill me. They weren’t. However, the psychological trauma I was suffering would not make that distinction for me; in survival mode it was occurring subconsciously.
After an emotionally draining fight with my partner and the Chiwawa fiasco I knew a moment of deep reflection wad needed. It was during this time that I got clarity about what was going on inside of me and why. Then, I communes with my ancestors on multiple occasions asking for guidance and to be led. While I sorted through my possessions getting rid of what was no longer needed or necessary, as I scrubbed the gunk from my old apartment, as I hauled all the things from my old residence to the new, and as I have constructed my new place of peace; the same has been happening within my soul.
The struggle we are in is not only physical, but also, and perhaps more so, spiritual. The physical stress takes a toll on my spiritual integrity. Not that I didn’t know, but this experience reaffirms the vitally necessity of continued spiritual health and well-being especially, while I am in a constant struggle against injustice and those who seek to eradicate our people.
Not everyone is my enemy. Those who are not my enemy should not be treated as such. To do so is vastly inconsistent with the world we are working to create. When I recognize that I am undoing the work I have been doing it is my responsibility to pull back and to get regrounded. To be certain, I am still dealing with the trauma of being Black in amerikkka and the response to my being vocal and active against our oppression. There is much work to be done to overcome the harm that has been done to me. However, the last thing I want to do is to revisit the harms laid upon me upon others. Thus, breaking the cycle of oppression is necessary.  This can only be achieved on a spiritual plain and with those who love us. 
Bad energy can become trapped within us and become stagnant and festering, like water that has been choked from flowing. Hatred, fear, and anger are emotions that we all must feel in amerikkka at times, but they are not things that we must hold onto. When we do it shuts us out from the sunlight of the spirit and blocks us from the love those around us have to share. 
I did not want to acknowledge that I was terrified, and so, I held onto it. I had a rage inside of me that I thought would protect me and all it did was lead me to hurt those whom I care the most about. I had to feel those emotions and let them go so that I could have room for the love that truly fuels my actions and nourishes my soul.

Anti-Trump Protest Phoenix

 

(((Trigger Warning)))

The People, in opposition to fascism, racism, sexism, ablism, genocide, and all out hatred in Phoenix, and we were met with utter violence and repression by the State Regime.

We the People have tremendous power and this terrifies the STATE. We come out with signs and they come with guns, gas, bombs, shields, and plausible deniability.

The People we protesting precisely the type of tyrannical behavior that was wrought down upon us. We had elders, infants, children, disabled people, and other vulnerable folx among us and the police attacked us indiscriminately and without regard.

What this reveals is the power of a message. What this reveals is the power of our unity. What this reveals is how powerful we truly are and how terrified the state of amerikkka is of us.

All Power to the People

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