[Be The Change] Why ‘Defund The Police’ Isn’t As Radical As It Sounds

With the perseverance of the 2020 Black Lives Matters movement, I’d like to focus catchphrase that has everyone up in arms – defunding the police.

👊🏿👊🏾WHAT does it mean to Defund The Police? 👊🏾👊🏿

First, let’s just start with a few simple definitions – first, let’s just talk about what it is for something to be defunded. From the Cambridge dictionary, to defund is to stop providing the money to pay for something.

With that out of the way, now we need to focus on the matter at hand: what does it mean to defund a public community service, funneled by our tax money? I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure every person who pays their taxes deserves to know where the money is funneled through – regardless of the programs. Schools, hospitals, transportation – all get defunded, all the damn time; but, we still have them as public, societal programs.

We’re not saying eradicate and abolish the police, or decline to fund them entirely – we’re asking that communities, cities and states take a harder look at both where the funding for their police, their training and their equipment come from and the proportional rate of funding compared to other helpful civic functions – public housing and assistance, education reform, child protective services. We’re asking for a reinvestment of Black and BIPOC lives.

Rob Rogers | Defund Police

Now, we could probably try and chant “re-evaluate and redistribute our tax money through better channels of public service than a racist police force because it’s killing people“, or we could shorten it to “Reform the Police“. But let’s face facts, those slogans simply aren’t as persuasive, powerful or conversation starting as a protest march thousands of vibrant faces deep in a beautiful display of the complexities of the human condition, screaming “DEFUND THE POLICE” in unison.

• In 2019, the police murdered 1098 US citizens

• Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.

• There were only 27 days in 2019 that the police did NOT kill anyone


👊🏿👊🏾WHY are we asking to defund police departments?👊🏾👊🏿

Our current police system is rigged against Black and minority communities, and needs staunch and inherent reform from all directions. From the salaries of those at the top, to the training – or lack thereof – for new officers, and the vast stockpile of militarized weapons police forces are receiving.

“…we have everything from office equipment, clothing, tools, radios. But then we have some pretty heavy-duty things, things like armored vehicles, assault rifles, grenades and something called a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), which was invented by the Department of Defense as a counterinsurgency strategy to be able to fight IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Karim, Marketplace Morning Report

If you’ve watched any of the protests at all, you’ll notice LRAD cannons and tanks, armored vehicles and oodles of tactical gear; a stark contrast to what we’ve seen the medical community supplied with in the wake of COVID-19. Since moving up to Seattle a year and a half ago, this city has become a new home to me – and because of that, I’ve taken a vested interest in how our city has been handling the protests. Statistics provided are from USA Today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 115896358_10108235282075537_2139149364256992582_n.jpg

Population, 2018: 744,949 (20th most populated city in the US)

Police dept. funding as % of total budget, fiscal year 2020: 27.2% (5th largest out of 50 largest cities)

Total police budget for fiscal 2020: $409 million (17th largest)

Total city budget for fiscal 2020: $1.50 billion (19th smallest)

Law enforcement employees per 100K: 262 (123rd highest out of 634 cities with 65K +)

Total law enforcement employees: 1,954

Violent crimes reported per 100K in 2018: 680 (111th highest out of 634 cities of 65K +)”


👊🏿👊🏾HOW does defunding work?👊🏾👊🏿

The actual, literal act of defunding is simple, it’s just not easy: all you have to do is reduce spending to the department while moving that money to social services better suited to assist the entire community. Here’s the rub – to get there you have to go through policy makers and politicians; the same ones who are potentially bankrolled by part of that same budget you’re asking to diminish.

How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing? [Infographic]

Defunding the police does not necessarily mean getting rid of the police altogether. Rather, it would mean reducing police budgets and reallocating those funds to crucial and oft-neglected areas like education, public health, housing, and youth services. (Some activists want to abolish the police altogether; defunding is a separate but connected cause.) It’s predicated on the belief that investing in communities would act as a better deterrent to crime by directly addressing societal problems like poverty, mental illness, and homelessness — issues that advocates say police are poorly equipped to handle, and yet are often tasked with. According to some estimates, law enforcement spends 21 percent of its time responding to and transporting people with mental illnesses. Police are also frequently dispatched to deal with people experiencing homelessness, causing them to be incarcerated at a disproportionate rate.

via @thecut
Don't Understand #DefundThePolice? Here Are 8 Online Activists and  Resources That Might Help - BUST

Our educational system is in disarray, many districts using outdated text books or without enough materials for all students. There isn’t enough job training for the unemployed and homeless communities to get them back on their feet, nor are there enough resources to bring citizens out of homelessness – even though there are thousands of high rent apartments that are empty. Our veterans aren’t taken care of appropriately when they return to the states. Mental illness has run amuck and there could be a vast focus on that for the betterment of society.

Each one of those functions is something that has been defunded over time, and each one of those could use reinvestment – let’s face it, that pseudo-utopian version of the United States would be beautiful, with education, access and housing for all; we could actually make America great again. Not to mention, that providing those social functions would help eradicate the future need FOR MORE law enforcement.

👊🏿👊🏾WHO would step in to... 👊🏾👊🏿

In the US, the police deal with far more than just crimes – they also deal with civil disputes, mental health issues, drug abuse and overdoses, as well as family disputes and domestic violence calls.

Let's Talk Defunding the Police in Canadian context - Canadian Cultural  Mosaic Foundation

In each of these situations, an officers lack of diversity or community training can be costly – when you’re a Black American, they can also be deadly – as we’ve seen with Jacob Blake. One look at the infographic and it’s painfully obvious that many of the reasons behind crime are wound up in mental health; and by in large, that’s something that we do not tackle as a society – drug use included; if we had better funding for programs aimed at curtailing drug additions, as well as an end to the drug war – which by in large targets BIPOC communities as well – our society would get back on the right foot again.

In lieu of police serving more social functions with no psychological or sociological background to assist them, we could send in trained mental health professionals; for non-threatening emergencies, we could simply rely on the same EMT crews that are dispatched for car accidents.

👊🏿👊🏾WHEN? The time is NOW. 👊🏾👊🏿

With the Breonna Taylor verdict, or non-verdict, on all of our minds – I know people are angry, upset, outraged. We’re taking to the streets, we’re demanding change – but what we need to do is demand it from the right people. That isn’t the President, or the Executive branch – it starts with your local officials for your city, for your county – and for your state.

Find your local officials here.

We need to remember to vote not just every four years, but every year for state office and every two years for congress. Register to vote, double check you’re registered and if voting by mail or absentee be sure to turn in your ballot as far ahead of time as possible.


Do your own research on local and state government, and truly try to understand how they’re spending their money. How are you going to be a champion for the people today – how are you going to ensure that Black lives not only matter, but are an equally important and integral part of our gestation as a nation? Which side of history are you going to be on?

Hands on Wisconsin: What does "Defund Police" mean? It's complicated |  Opinion | Cartoon | madison.com

[Be The Change] The Racist History of No Knock Warrants

On March 19th, police in Louisville, Kentucky incorrectly served a no-knock warrant on the wrong door; 109 days later, and we still have not arrested the cops that murdered Breonna Taylor in her own home, nor have we done away with ‘No-Knock Warrants’ on a national level.

Only one of on duty cops has been removed from active duty, and none of them have been arrested. It is our job to not let her pass in vain, we need to say her name; then call local officials, and make them say it, too – and then make them revoke their laws on “no knock warrants”.


So, what is a “No Knock Warrant”:

According to Cornell’s Law School: “A no-knock warrant is a search warrant authorizing police officers to enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose prior to entering the premises. Such warrants are issued where an entry pursuant to the knock-and-announce rule (ie. an announcement prior to entry) would lead to the destruction of the objects for which the police are searching or would compromise the safety of the police or another individual.


Historically, no-knock warrants have been used for drug raids, or situations where the police believe there is a high likelihood of evidence being destroyed if they make themselves announced. On the face of it, the law seems relatively harmless and appropriate – until you begin to factor in how the Drug War in the United States has disproportionately targeted minorities, specifically the Black community; the shackles on our feet are no longer chains, but prison sentences. No knock warrants are disproportionately served in lower income and minority communities than anywhere else in the country.


According to reporting from the New York Times back in 2017: “Thousands of times a year, these “dynamic entry” raids exploit the element of surprise to effect seizures and arrests of neighborhood drug dealers. But they have also led time and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, blackened reputations and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense..

In a six year span, from 2010 through 2016, over 81 civilians as well as 13 officers were killed during SWAT raids; that statistic also includes 31 civilians and eight officers during execution of no-knock warrants. Of the citizens that were the subject of those SWAT warrants: 42% are Black and 12% are Hispanic, where only 18% of the population is Hispanic and 13% is Black.


This brings us back to Breonna Taylor. Miss Taylor wasn’t just the subject of a no-knock warrant, but one that was executed at the wrong address. The police were pursuing drug traffickers, and broke into Taylor’s home unannounced. Her boyfriend, believing they were the subject of a home invasion, fired a shot – and the police responded by emptying round after round into Taylor. Fast forward to now, and the city of Louisville has passed ‘Breonna’s Law‘ – which not only bans no-knock warrants but requires the officers serving out other warrants to have their body cameras on.


But, what about everywhere else?

Out of the 50 states, and 1 district in the USA: no-knock warrants may be issued in every state except Oregon and Florida. 13 states have laws explicitly authorizing no-knock warrants and in twenty additional states no-knock warrants are routinely granted.

Call your local senators, city council and congressional folks to re-evaluate their needs of No Knock Warrants and pass legislation ending them on local, state and federal levels.

[Be The Change] The Modern Perpetuation of American Racism

Protests over the death of an African American being arrested by Minneapolis erupted into violence.

Take a little trip back in social history, back to when the slaves were emancipated and went off to find their own land to call home; as a people – we were taken from a continent, had many native rites, traditions and languages extinguish – and then forced into a world where we were considered 3/5 of a person, then to where we weren’t allowed to own property, open a bank account, vote, go to “good” schools in “good areas”.

Fast forward to now, and these ideas have compounded with dangerous ideologies – those that protect and serve, protect and serve the majority. There is no equality, and most of all – there is no equity. Before the Civil Rights movement, Compton was supposed to be the new African American utopia – it’s why my family moved there. In the Civil Rights movement, we saw an uprising of people who were done with this indoctrination – and it was brought down by those who were supposed to protect and serve them; guess what: we’re seeing it again.

The agenda being set up, is one that is supposed to discredit and decimate the “legitimacy” of a group of people who are asking to simply be treated as HUMANS. The destruction of property is not the destruction of a people, or a community; but if what’s valued are capitalist ideals, then this sends a message – one that historically, and unfortunately, has not been listened to. And if I have learned ANYTHING from my history classes, it’s that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes until we learn from them.

So, what have we learned this week:

1. Protesting your rights to “wear a mask” and “go back to the beach” because you’re bored is fine, but protesting the human right to be treated equally somehow is not.

2. Former Presidential Candidate, and potential Vice Presidential nominee Amy Klobuchar oversaw multiple cases involving said officer, and declined to prosecute.

3. The ex-officer that was arrested has been charged…but only with third degree murder / manslaughter. This should have been second degree, or a hate crime. We’re literally saying that the death of George Floyd is no different than selling someone bad drugs; racism and ignorance are not a “bad drug” – they are detrimental mentalities which lead to the destruction of human life, vis-a-vie second degree.

If you’re curious on formal definitions – and given that 1st degree involves pre-meditation, this is how it breaks down in Minnesota:

2nd Degree: Any intentional murder with malice aforethought, but is not premeditated or planned in advance

3rd Degree Murder: Murder is not based on having the intent to kill. This charge may also result if a person sells bad drugs. The maximum penalty for murder is up to 25 years in prison.

Manslaughter: any killing committed as a result of recklessness. (also, Recklessness: lack of regard for the danger or consequences of one’s actions; rashness.)

4. Our President can somehow pull up random quotes from historical racists but somehow doesn’t know who Frederick Douglass was….oh, right, and he’s inciting a larger race riot by literally saying “LOOTING LEADS TO SHOOTING”

5. During this morning’s show, the CNN crew reporting on the events live were arrested on air by the police – let that sink in. That in America, where we pride ourselves in free speech – the police came in and took the whole crew in. What type of message does that send?

Finally: “A riot is the language of the unheard”

If you have never felt that you needed to protest, take to the streets, and raise your voice simply to be heard as an equal: Congratulations on whatever incredible privileges life has awarded you. Are you your brother and sisters keepers? Do you realize that a rising tide raises all ships? Then shape up and wake up to the realities of the current moment.

[Self Discovery] Put the Social in ‘Social Distancing’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware of the way that the Coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 has been making it’s way across the globe in an international emergency event that most generations simply have never been part of. And if you have been living under a rock, I hope you’re keeping your rock 6 feet apart from other rocks.

First things first, let’s all admit – these past few weeks have been eye opening, scary, anxiety inducing, etc. Please remember to reach out and check in on each other. HOW ARE YA! How are your family and friends holding up? Have you been remembering to try and get outside, and hold your head up high? We’ll get through this, but we need to remember – the human condition is the necessity to connect, – so let’s connect! Any new books, hobbies, shows you’ve discovered? Any questions or anxieties other people can help answer? Anyone learned a new joke or got a funny meme to share?

Up in Seattle, we are under a Stay at Home order until at LEAST May 5th. It’s a ghost town, traffic is non existent and I’m anxious. But I’m reminding myself: I am healthy, I am okay. My friends are healthy. My family is healthy. We are okay. We will be okay.

But please remember: This is GLOBAL. As a people so are we – we are the human organism, the human condition. Are you healthy? AWESOME. Do you know anyone over 60, with a medical condition or pregnant? Then do your best to keep THEM safe. What is happening does not discriminate based on age, sex, religion or location. Everyone is panicking in their own way. Be kind. Wash your hands. Don’t cough on things.

This is not an excuse to not vote in the upcoming election, if anything this is why we need to mobilize and unite as a nation. The current administration seems to be doing their best to delay testing, from NPR’s reporting – if they can prove our numbers remain low (even if they’re low from lack of testing) they believe it can boost a re-election campaign.

With the decimation of vital industries with hourly workers and a reduction in both business and working hours – there’s a chance for unemployment to balloon again. We need economic safeguards in our communities and states that prevent families and small business on having to default on their loans, mortgages or their rent. We need legislation that prevents utilities from being shut off for non payment. We need UBI, Universal Basic Income, because the economy will essentially tip on its head once the only people who can afford ANYTHING are only the 1%. We need Universal Health Care. There are people, homeless, immigrant, that do not have access to healthcare currently – Washington has reopened their health care election coverage and I hope other states have; but many people still can’t afford THAT version of health care and the only way to truly stop this pandemic is to both test and treat everyone. If you’re for those points above, let me tell you about this guy, Bernie….but we’ll do that in a latest post.

For me: I got a “flu”-like bug twice in three weeks in in January, one time three days after getting the flu shot, I had a fever of 102, body chills, a headache and nausea, it lasted for 4 days; that was when this was all starting – I’m starting to think I had and then got over COVID-19, but without proper access to testing I will not know. I finally finished Walden. I stated a cool book on The Golden Ratio. I started making essential oil perfumes. I tried my best to not freak out.

Now, in the midst of all the ‘Stay at Home’, ‘Shelter in Place’ and ‘Safer in Place’ orders around the country – it’s becoming more imperative than ever that even though we maintain a safe physical distance, that our social nature – our human nature, stays in tact. Thankfully, living in the digital age there are an infinite amount of resources available that make it feel like you’re not so alone.

Keep Your Head Up with These Tips and Tricks

Join a Book Club: Even though reading is a singular activity, that doesn’t mean you can’t make reading social, get a profile on Good Reads. My latest – Walden, by Thoreau, was something I’d been trying to get through for over a year – but by it’s simple nature, and being written by the most famed Transcendentalist, I thought it would be weird to attempt to rush through it and I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s honestly the perfect pick for anyone who is negotiating with any sort of physical isolation from others, and ways we can dive into our own minds.

Step 2: Get your box

Create a Collaborative Playlist: Music is one of those things that has the ability to bring people together in a million ways, from when times are good to when times are hard. I’m a self proclaimed Audiophile, and I’m sure most of my friends are, too. I’ve been digging on Spotify for a million different reasons, whether is their end of year analytical roundup, their new artist discovery or the ability to dive steadfast into a band’s discography. Lately, one of my favorite functions in Spotify is the ability to make a collaborative playlist. A few years ago for my wedding, we had our guests get down in a collaborative playlist before the big day and let me tell you – it made our wedding party just that much more fun. In light of everything currently happening, I thought it would be a fun way for my friends to share their latest favorites – so go ahead, jam out and add one or two of your favorites, too!

Go To a Digital Festival: Sign up for Youtube and Twitch and watch a live stream of a concert, Insomniac Event’s had to forgo their fabled Beyond Wonderland festival this year due to current circumstances; and as always, they turned a negative into the most positive of pictures by hosting ‘Virtual Raves’ for both Beyond Wonderland last weekend then Hard Summer Staycation this weekend. From the Brownie’s and Lemonade Squad, we’ve been treated to amazing sets from world renowned and up and coming artists through their Desert Mirage series and last but certainly not least, big big love to both Mad Decent, Beatport and the infinite amount of artists out there that are filling our spirits, warming our hearts, and letting us shake our groove thangs. Some of my favorites from this weekend have already been posted – check’em out!

Proximity x Brownies & Lemonade: Digital Mirage
Kaskade
Seven Lions
Gryffin
Insomniac: HARD Summer Staycation – Beyond Wonderland Virtual Rave-a-Thon
Valentino Kahn
Dr. Fresch
Jack Beats

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Foster a Floof: If you’re without a furry friend, or looking to add to your collection – this is a great time to try fostering a pet! It’s proven that having animals around can lower your anxiety while providing adorable stress relief, and plus, being altruistic and caring for others is one of the quickest ways to get out of your own head and into a healthy mental space. The pros at Petfinder have a great web-tool to find local shelters, or simply jump into Yelp or Google Maps and find your closest one. If you happen to have any free time, and aren’t under a ‘SIP’ order, volunteering at the shelter’s is also a great feel good activity!

Be Social with Social Media: In my personal opinion, as a society we are incredibly lucky that what we are going through with the Coronavirus has come at a time where we are vastly, deeply interconnected within our communities. With the Internet, streaming media and social media – we can maintain some semblance of normalcy while going through this strange transitory phase by reaching out to each other. I’ve never been much of a fan of FaceTime, or of Video Conferencing, but I’ve vastly changed by tune over the last few weeks. It’s been lovely to see my friends, cheers them over the phone, and really see them smile – even if we’re miles away.

Sprinkle Some Joy: The biggest takeaway for me is this – you can get through anything with a good spirit, so do things that bring joy, do things that make you happy and do things that make those around you in a better mood. Share a joke, hold back criticism, be gracious, ask questions, engage, laugh, and then maybe – just maybe, share a few memes, they’re honestly great ice breakers if there’s someone you haven’t chatted with in forever. I have a small collection that have been helping me through – maybe they can be just as useful for you!




How are you holding up during this chaotic moment? Any surprising ways you’ve found to be social even in light of being self quarantined? Let me know in the comments below and let’s get through this together ❤

Saying Goodbye to Sake

 Over the past few weeks, my heart has been slowly breaking. It’s been trying, difficult and frustrating to wrap my fingers around the idea that a piece of my life is missing; there’s a definitive void – not just within me, but surrounding me. Words have failed me, and at every turn I feel like I’m going to crumble to the ground, overcome by emotion and struck by reality.


Back in college, I was going through a transitionary period. Becoming a fifth year senior isn’t usually commendable but at an institution like UCSB – it also wasn’t uncommon. It was the Summer of 2007 and I had just moved out of Isla Vista to the Mesa – a wonderful area near downtown Santa Barbara, surrounded by a stunning almost 360 view of the Pacific Ocean. My best friend at the time, a wonderful, warmhearted gal with an affinity for furry friends, moved in with me and between the five housemates we had two cats – Ssleman, a beautiful grey and white cat with a warm heart and a little black kitty that hid every chance it could; and then there was Roxy, a Golden Retriever / Yellow Lab puppy with more energy than I’d ever seen. After living there for a few months and going through a few mental moments of manifest destiny, I decided it was time – time for me to get a cat. I needed something to love beyond myself, to remind me that I was worthy of love; I needed to care about something to remind myself of the circular motion of life.


Arriving at the shelter, I gallivanted into the cat room and immediately felt at home. Throughout middle school and high school, I’d volunteered at cat shelters and there’s nothing like some kitty cuddles to brighten your mood and cultivate altruism. I glanced at an 8 month old Siamese that I immediately wanted to bring home, and a litter of orange tabby kittens not more than 2 weeks old. After getting to know me a bit, the young man working this room had a visceral lightbulb moment…“There’s a cat over here that I think will be perfect for you; he’s a little trickster and a lover.”  As we walked over to the carrier, a beautiful blue-grey cat sat poised in the back of the cage. “No…” I mused “…what about the playful girl next to him?” The man smiled back “Why don’t you guys go into the play room, and if it’s not a good fit we can keep looking.”

As Maguro was plucked from his perching position and was handed to me, his front paws reached out around my neck and he looked at me like I was home.  From the moment we were in the play area, he flopped and stretched ten ways to Sunday, purring, prancing and pawing at me. Looking up with a glimmer of gratitude in my eyes, I laughed “Ok, you guys got me…I’ll take him!”

As it turned out, I couldn’t bring him home immediately – upper respiratory infections are incredibly common in shelter cats and he’d just come down with one. Instead of bringing him home, I played with his sister – Saba – and it felt like she knew I was taking her brother away. I whispered that I would take good care of him and she purred in response.

Eight years later, I can say that without a doubt – he’s actually taken care of me.  From Santa Barbara to now four different homes in Los Angeles, Sake has been my confidant, my best friend, my furry little man and the light of my life. He’s gotten me through heartbreak and deaths, losing friends and losing my mind. 

 

My little Sake bomb. Sir Saks a Lot. He was the most playful, loving creature I’ve ever known. He would wake me up by pouncing on my chest and announcing his hunger with a miniature roar, he would zoom around the apartment with gusto and cuddle-hug you like he was a person. Sake converted friends that had sworn they were solely dog people, and made cat lovers rejoice. He was the best thing that has happened to me in my 30 years of existence. And now, he’s gone.

We only noticed the symptoms a few weeks ago and it wrenches my soul to think if we could’ve saved him. The last two weekends were full of friends that I consider family, doting their love and happiness on him and he loved back in kind – curling up and lapping up attention like it was his job. But in the back of my mind, I was scared, sad and confused. It felt like just yesterday, he was running around in the Santa Barbara sunshine, lounging in the flowers and running to my car from down the street whenever I returned from campus. And now, I was feeding him by hand, cradling him like he was my child, wishing for a better tomorrow. But that better tomorrow never came.

Yesterday, Sake lost his battle against lymphoma. The last thing he ever did in his life was jump into my arms, almost in parallel to the way he came in. We held his paws, wiped his eyes and sang with him until his final curtain call. I’ve never been so conflicted and overrun with emotion; I don’t know if I’ve even ever been this uncontrollably sad. I miss my dapper little man but I know he’s in a better place, cathartically chasing mice and lapping up love in the great beyond.

Because of Sake, I know what it means to love, to care, to be a friend and just listen; I know the true meaning of life, to love and be loved. When you get home tonight, hug your pets…hug your loved ones, life is too short to be anything but blissful. RIP Sake, I only hope that I can have half the effect on the world that you did.

              

[I Can’t Breathe] Race Relations in 21st Century America

Growing up, I was always cognizant on some basic level that my life was different than my peers; I felt psychologically befuddled by my social experiences and more or less like an emotional and physical outcast.  Sure, there was the fact I towered over my friends at 6′ by the time I was leaving elementary school – or that my penchant for math problems superseded those around me. Dressing up for Halloween, I was teased for my Pipi Longstocking and Belle costumes, and over the moon when Jasmine and Mulan became Disney princesses. In middle school, I tried using sun-in, my hair turned bronze; my mom and I frequented an African American hair salon in Palo Alto – Mixed Media, if you want to be specific – and one Summer, we tried relaxing my hair; instead of being easier to straighten, it got brittle, crimped and was more or less destroyed. My skin didn’t burn, instead it evened out into a shade of nutmeg, spotted with dark freckles around my nose.  There’s thinking you’re different, but for me – it was more than that; I knew I was different.

My parents got together in the Bay Area during the 70s; in a time of free love, open minds and radical change.  A goofy, gangley Jewish man from Oregon and a formidable genius from Compton, they met matching wits at Stanford and to this day, haven’t stopped. At the time, the two sides of the family had starkly different responses; my mom’s sister lamented ‘But, you couldn’t find a nice Black one?’ while my dad’s father, founder of the Corvallis chapter of the NAACP, couldn’t be more excited about my mom being part of the family.  Their reactions were opposite, but equal – each painfully aware of the state of race relations in America.

A nation divided by external and negligible traits like socio-ecoonmic status, levels of education and the color of our skin, those with power are busy tearing neighborhoods apart with closed fists and closed minds instead of building our brothers and sisters up with open arms.  Over-militarized and by in large, uneducated, police forces roam city streets in militia formation, filling tension filled streets with former war weapons and palpable, cultural fear.

As a society overglamorized by the news and undereducated by what’s important on a human, spiritual level, we’re so busy putting our community – friends, family, peers, celebrities and strangers alike – into boxes, confirming and or denying formidable existence and their overall importance that some can forget – we’re all members of the human race. As a law of differences and similarities, I might not be much like my Asian sisters and Australian brothers on the other side of Earth – but we’re certainly, undeniably more similar than I am to my cat, or to a rug, or a piece of grass.

I’m a human, an multicultral member of society;
I’m an American and I can’t breathe.

We’re a multicultural melting pot drowning under the repressive regimes of the powerfully ignorant;
and we can’t breathe. 

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Culturally, the compounding of our spotted, racially fueled past has slowly but surely led us here. It’s not that what’s happened recently is new news; African Americans historically have been disproportionately targeted, arrested and gunned down in the name of ignorant police work for decades. And now, within the span of less than two weeks, not just one – but two – police officers have gotten off on non-indictments in Federal Court cases for killing unarmed African American civilians. It’s become increasingly clear where those in power stand, people of a darker skin color, lower economic or academic rank are demonized while policemen, with their overrightous sense of power and what now appears as contempt for their human brothers, are held to outrageously different standards.

Much like the aftermath of the Fergason protests, last night 223 protesters were arrested in New York City for demanding equality, fairness and the essential staples this country was built upon.  The gentleman who captured the video of Eric Garner was charged with a crime.  But, the policeman who killed him with unnecessary and lethal force – he wasn’t even indicted on a crime, in the same manner that Michael Brown’s killer was set free, sans charge.  What it sends is an unfortunate message, historically echoed throughout minority communities: our lives matter less than others; we matter less than others. The way our justice system works it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, albeit an unfortunate one: instead of maintaining a system of checks and balances, with prosecutors and policemen working side by side in the same office, there’s only one system, and it’s busy keeping itself in check.

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Newton’s third law of motion is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – and right now, there are citizens in each and every corner of the nation that are finally inspired, through outrage, frustration and passionate persistence, to exact change on their external world. Peaceful protest, Non Violent Actions, Rallies – they’re not the end all; but they’re most certainly the means to an end – and people are listening.

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order consisting of 50,000 body cameras for the nations 630,000 strong police force. After the outcome of the Garner case, it’s easy to argue that video cameras don’t do enough – but without this camera evidence, do you honestly believe that our streets would be full of protests and our cities would come to a standstill? In a recent news conference, Mayor De Blasio of New York City has demanded that the 20,000 member  police force undergo mandated retraining on the use of lethal force as well as community awareness.  As it turns out, most police officers across the country work in a different county than they live in – meaning that they most definitely don’t serve ‘the community.’ But when body cameras can be turned off, and the police can return to work after their mandated seminars – where does that really leave our nation? We need immense reform from both the top down and the bottom up.  California’s set the tone by passing Prop 47, decriminalizing non violent offenses and lessening the bulging prison population, and an assorted number of states have legalized marijuana – decreasing the amount of nonviolent crimes and offenders.  On top of that, there’s the issue of for profit prisons, some of which need a 90-100% retention rate to stay in business.

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We’re stopping traffic to beg for equality, we’re staging protests, wielding signs and standing strong as a community because we refuse to be silenced any longer. So go, find your voice, wage your peaceful protests and non violent wars, because until we’re heard – as a nation, as part of the human race – we can’t breathe.

[Write On] Repurposing San Francisco’s Old Bay Bridge

Bustling with energy, Muni’s and metro stops – San Francisco boasts tan exponentially growing Tech Bubble, swarming with passionate, hungry young professionals seeking to make a name for themselves.  Rolling hills full of painted ladies, vertigo inducing buildings and shorelines full of wildlife engulf the city from all sides.  Even though places like Delores Park, Lands End and Golden Gate Park are scattered throughout the city, I’m typically left feeling over-industrious and slightly out of touch with nature. Good news, is there’s a new plan in the works that could change all that.

Recently, London’s Westminster Borough approved a ‘Garden Bridge’ for the city – and the more I’m enamored by the idea of converting something so rote and industrial into a whimsical world engulfed by local flora and fauna, the more I’d love to push for San Francisco to take on something similar with the Old Bay Bridge. For the last year, it’s been made increasingly clear that the initial plans to disassemble the Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge over the course of two years has caught a kink; slowly, but surely, the CalTrains budget of $6.4 Billion has been dwindling and there’s been no actual end in sight for the project.  To boot, with the abundance of natural wildlife around the area in the wetlands, sand flats and eelgrass beds – there are multiple ecosystems that would effectively be destroyed if said plans to take down the former Bay Bridge follow through.

Growing up in the South Bay, I’ve seen ample changes to the city.  Over the last three decades, ginormous buildings have drastically altered the SF skyline while earthquakes like Loma Prieta have done their duty to attempt and level it.  Back in ’89 when the quake hit, the Bay Bridge as we then knew it collapsed from the upper deck. In one of the largest public works projects in the history of the United States, the new bridge finally commenced building in 2002 and after a decade of work, finally opened to the delight of the city in 2012.  At the time, there wasn’t a question on what to do with the former Bay Bridge – disassemble it, destruct it, destroy it; just get it out of there!  But by the time the Summer of 2013 rolled around, their bank account had zeroed out but the Eastern Span was only half gone. In lieu of upping the toll fee to subsidize the high cost of taking down the rest of the bridge, there are a few other ideas in the works that I think are just phenomenal.

In an effort to pinch a few pennies on demolition costs, the city is considering leaving a few piers standing, which means the options and opportunities for repurposing the Bridge are effectively endless.  Minus converting the entire thing into a parking structure (which, one could argue, the city desperately needs), or apartments, condos or – heaven forbid, more tech offices, I vote the still standing Eastern span of the bridge is converted into a garden, park or the like. Much like the Garden Bridge in London, if the old partition of the Bay Bridge was saved and reinvented, it would be a wonderful compliment to how corporate San Francisco has become while giving the city a breath of fresh air – literally. 

What do you think should come of the old Bay Bridge?

Let me know in the comments below!