Tag Archives: American Dream

Women of Color Speak Out: Changing the Climate of Climate Change

This group of strong, dedicated, passionate, intelligent and driven women who have been engaged in the climate justice movement have come together to share their experiences as Women and as Activists.

The audience loved them!

Answering difficult questions and sharing their personal stories of growing up fused with depictions of dealing with stereotypes, racism, sexism and self-doubt, they connected with people in a way that is often hard to achieve. Many people thanked them over and over for having the courage to speak out about the things that they too have also felt, but not had the space or felt safe enough to express their truth.

They were also able to pull together many of the organizations active in the climate justice movement into a unified initiative to expose the truth of so many of our movements for justice, that is, they are being led by women; and that women of color from front-line communities need and should be at the forefront of the movement.

It was a beautiful event and I hear that there is much more to come.

“Get to the Truth” by Renaissance the Poet (New Music)

Lyrics:

Verse # 1
Why’s it such a mystery? The mister be a fiend.
The man was out for blood but now you’re bleedin at the seams.
Sometimes it’s hard to see but the truth is there to read.
If you dare to look inside a book you can’t avoid the scheme.
Don’t know what they taught you but you know they bound to lock you.
In a cell until they pop you and you’ve given up what I do
Speakin on survival, rival all they propaganda
These Simple Politicians always lackin speech with candor
Never see their motives, Trojans claim a heart of gold
Shouting to the masses but their actions have been sold
To the highest bidder, can we hold them to their word?
Hell no…. cuz that would be absurd!!!
At least from their perspective, only answer to a vote
Democracy, hypocrisy hard it’s to keep afloat
While wading through the lies, so thick you have to choke
Slavery not history, the rope’s around our throat.

Chorus

Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Verse # 2
The gravest lie conceived still pervades undefeated
&keeps the people thinking that a drive within is needed
Seeded in for centuries its presence now benign
Cliché in a sense, got us livin by this line
Feelin, peelin back the worth inside the heart of men
Like a fundamental error has been locked within our skin
it’ss been the purview to exploit this ignorance
While we’re strugglin for dollars but we can’t afford our rents
Why can’t you be like Lincoln and make yourself from nothin?-
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and hit the ground runnin
When it’s the American Dream and the America Way
To start from nothing and end gettin paid!!!
But what they don’t tell you, is it ain’t that way
The aristocracy got us a rat in a maze
Based on where you’re born they tell you where you’re goin
Whether be to college or on the block hoein

Chorus
Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Verse # 3
They want us to believe, that our voice really matters
But in truth, ya’ll, they want us all scattered
They want us in a frenzy and to fight one another
They want us ignorant to what they’re doin to our brothers
They don’t want us to bind and to build our strength together
What they want, is for us scrounge the gutter
Pessimistic maybe, till you been in the books
And you see stratification and how it really looks
Till you see the way that money begets money
And how tyrants are made by political funding
It’s a conundrum, no wonder, people have given up
Trying to see through the lies when we got to earn a buck
Ain’t left us no time to dig through policy
And understand political posturing
But lies without grounds tend to fall through the cracks
And through the cracks we’ll see the truth at last

Chorus

Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Reclaiming Legacy

Undoing the colonizer’s language is perhaps one of the most important tasks we as revolutionaries can undertake because it is through and by language that we form concepts and ideas about ourselves and the world we live in.

One of the major objectives of the colonizer mentality and activity, aside from the profit motive and the oppression and suppression of people to serve that end, is the disassociation of those people, and in particular the people from the African Diaspora (16th– 19th Century, c.a. 12 million people), from our historical roots, i.e., to dislocate us from our heritage because without knowledge of our heritage, we would have no claim to legacy.  There is nothing more detrimental that has happened to the African community in American than the systematic dismissal of our legacy. By legacy what I mean is that which we transmit to the next generation and generations thereafter such as, capital, land, and companies that remain within the African community’s hands. Instead, what we have been given and what has taken its place is the love for one’s self, that is, individualism. A love for sneakers and cars and many other things that perish with their Planned Obsolescence and are not intended for inheritance and to be transmitted from one generation to the next.

This is the antithesis of legacy and is an American ideal, not an African ideal and is the foundation of capitalism, which is the force that systematically pits us all in competition and against one another. However, while it is observed that many of the so-called lower classes are in competition with one another, and the African community is most in competition with itself for favor in this society based on white-supremacy, what is almost unnoticed is that White Americans understand the system and have knowledge and appreciation for legacy; thus, they, and especially the top 10% of the wealthiest in this society, transmit capital from generation to generation because they have knowledge of where they came from and thus a direction for the future. There is a serious disconnection between what we are being told and what is happening beyond our notice. Those in the top 10% and especially in the 1% of this capitalistic society do not want us to think about the future generations and do not want us to have ownership of capital because the more capital we possess and transmit between generations then that only means that is the less capital that they have access to, to control and keep within their families.

There are two things that if I am correct, then you are asking yourself right now and that is, (i) Why does he keep referring to the African community and, (ii.) How did they accomplish the destruction of the concept of legacy? Well the two are intricately linked and based on conversations that I have had, it is my suspicion that you are not going to like what I have to tell you because it is going to question the very foundation of your indoctrination in this society. It is the term “Black”.  Now during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s-70s and the Black Power Movement, the term Black was reclaimed by an oppressed people and took what was once a derogatory term and owned it. This was something that was necessary and a natural response to being associated with a negative label.  However, the term “black,” has simultaneously removed us from our connection with our heritage and disconnected us from the knowledge of who we truly are; Africans.

This is not meant to infer that the Black Culture which has emerged in American society or any other society is not important because that is simply not true. However, it is an attack on the colonizer’s language and indoctrination. Instead of labeling us African, which is a continent not a country or nationality, or by a country of origin such as, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, or Congo and thereby keeping us connected to our heritage they selected an arbitrary term, “Black,” to call us. I have never seen a black person and I am willing to bet that none of you have either. Although, I will accept that we have all seen many people of varying shades of brown, some of who are darker than others, but never a black person.  Thus, we have been labeled arbitrarily with a term that has nothing to do with who we truly are and for just as long as we continue to accept and use this definition of who we are, for just that long will we remain disassociated from our heritage.  And not being connected to our heritage we will not have a reason to fight for our future.

What they do not want is for us to come together, the entire African Diaspora and recognize that we are all African from many different African countries, but all sharing a common identity and heritage because we are all over the world and supersede state and national borders. Our power unified is much greater than any state by itself because we have infiltrated all levels of the hierarchy and echelons of the societies in which we now live today, and this is so even within the United States. They have power for only so long as we remain separated and in competition with one another as actors within the capitalistic system and it is the term “Black” which separates us. Once we can remove this term from our vocabulary and move beyond the colonizer’s language and see ourselves for whom we truly are, then we can begin to move forward and build our communities together.

At this point we can begin to focus on our legacy, i.e., the capital we are transmitting to the next generation and the generations thereafter. As we build our community infrastructure and begin to focus on financial security we could start our own banking system to provide more of us with the necessary means to gain access to capital. Couple this step with an educational component to teach fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurial practices that will sustain a business in this capitalist society our people will prove to be successful in transmitting ownership from generation to generation. As our communities begin to build the necessary capital we can begin to operate our own educational system so that we are no longer learning only the colonizer’s lessons, but are also instructing our youth and connecting them with our heritage and arming them for life in this system.

Most importantly, even if the formation of our legacy is a little different than what I have proposed, is that reclamation of our legacy does occur. This will occur through reclamation of our heritage and this will be done by destroying and denying the colonizer’s language about us. We are not “Black” we are “African”. This hurtle challenges an indoctrination of our people that is now comfortable and broadly accepted by many and will be difficult to dislodge. But this is not a hurdle that is impossible to surmount, if we put our hearts and minds to the task.

From Disillusioned to Inspired

There was a time that I had hope for the United States. There was a time that I even wanted to be the President and held that as my most esteemed dream and aspiration. That was also a time when I trusted the government was established to protect and serve me. That dream has vanished, those hopes have been torn to shreds and that trust has been violated beyond repair.

There was a time when I was naïve and although not innocent; I had an immature mind that still believed what I saw on the surface of things. They should have put a warning label on my education that read, “Beware, if you look too deep and make too many connections between the things you find your conception of the world will be irrevocably altered forever.” I chose to pursue a law degree because I thought a healthy knowledge of the way our laws were constructed and function would help me to be an effective servant of the people. I thought studying history would provide me with knowledge of where we came from and help me to envision the future. I thought studying philosophy would teach me the morality and ethics necessary to make the tough decisions when there were no clear answers and both choices had negative outcomes. I was correct on all counts, but I was not prepared for what I discovered.

The laws primary function is a form of social control. Now this would not be inherently wrong if, the laws were equally enforced ubiquitously upon all equally, but that is not the case. And it would not be wrong if all the people under the jurisdiction of the laws helped to create and change the laws as the need for the laws shifted with the times, but this is again not the case. The laws are written to benefit those with power and wealth, while concomitantly suppressing and constricting the rights and privileges of those with less power and wealth. The main problem is that there are so many laws that there is not any person who could know them all and at the same time comprehend their collective meanings and draw conclusions from their interrelated implications. Furthermore, it is not a single law that is the problem, but rather, the system of laws that have been created that stack upon one another to create an unjust system that seems nearly impossible to deconstruct. What is clear from the little that I have learned is that these laws although, they may appear to be fair, they are not applied to everyone in the same force, if at all. Thus, it has become clear that the social control the laws form is intended not for all, by all, but for some particulars by other particulars and therefor, the system of laws is wrong.

Justice is a word that is tossed around often, but it is a word that seems to have lost its meaning. Justice is that which provides for the flourishing of both the private individual and for the collective group or the public. However, the manner in which justice tends to be used, in particular by the government of the United States is in a manner that equates the law, whatever these particulars agree upon to use as social control for other particulars of this society as being just. That is a fallacy and a lie that has been neatly crafted to fool the general public into the acceptance of this inaccurate definition of justice. Based on what justice means, then for the laws to be just, they would have to provide for the enhancement of all who the laws apply. However, the opposite is the case as those with less power and wealth are subjugated and relegated to inferior positions and their ability to flourish is diminished and constricted by the laws and therefore, the laws are unjust.

Assata Shakur said in, To My People:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

What I draw from this is that it is not the duty of the government to protect our freedoms and to provide justice, but rather, it is my, it is our duty to define what justice is and to protect that justice. We do not work for the government, the government works for us, but this is only the case so long as we hold the government accountable to us. In this regard, the words of Thomas Jefferson, from the Declaration of Independence written in 1776 seem most fitting:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

This shows that even the founders of the United States agreed that it was not only a Duty to fight for Freedom and Justice, but also a Right to do so. What it also reveals is that it is the responsibility of The People to determine what justice is and to define how they are to be governed by a government and not the other way around. Furthermore, at the tail end of the Civil War (1861-1865) when the United States was torn over the definition of justice and its application, President Abraham Lincoln remarked in the Gettysburg Address (1864):

…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Again, it is a government of the people and by the people, which situates the responsibility of holding the government responsible and accountable squarely in the hands of The People. The ugly truth is that since this is the foundation of the United States, then the responsibility of the shape and the oppressive nature of the government of this country rests squarely upon the shoulders of The People for allowing the formation of a quasi-Totalitarian government that is ruled in a plutocratic form by particulars that forms laws marginalizing and exploiting others less powerful and wealthy.

This happened because The People became complacent and did not value our vote or the power of our votes or remember how difficult it was to achieve the Right to vote in the first place. And as a result we shirked our responsibility to govern ourselves and to care for our own communities. We turned our backs on those responsibilities and placed them into the hands of others who are not responsible, and are motivated by self-interests, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.

However, it is not too late. I was disillusioned when I began this journey because I was under the impression that it was the responsibility of the government to define justice and to govern us, like most other people, but I have found that that is not accurate. The power resides in us, The People, as it always has. And whenever we choose to assert that power as those who have come before us did and who provide the examples for us to follow, we will find that there is nothing that can stop a group of driven and motivated minds working together on a problem.

The truth that has been concealed is that there is no government without us because We, The People, are the Government.

The Way It Is, Not the Way It Has to Be

My head is swirling with both conviction and confusion over the events of the last few days both here in Seattle and around the country. More than ever before, I am against the totalitarian aspects that this nation exhibits and the events of this week have only served to crystallize my resolve to topple this regime’s agenda. At the same time, the utter apathy and even the contempt of many, if not most Americans, who are condemning those taking a stand and demanding justice is confusing.

DSC_7857

I expected better. I expected more. Given that fifty years have passed since the Civil Rights movement and race has been an issue the entire time, I expected more people to be informed. But it is as though they are diametrically opposed to conceding the point, that people are being treated unjustly.  Strangely though, I don’t believe it is there fault. They have been spoon-fed the same lies and half-truths the rest of us have. They have been inculcated for so long, that even some people of color believe this crap.

This however, does not absolve these people of responsibility. Once you have been exposed to the truth and make an active choice, of your own free will, you are responsible for the decision you make. Therefore, if you are told, read, or experience the reality beyond the spoon-fed fabrications and choose to remain apathetic, then you are responsible for that choice.

The reality is that the system we live in has been built on and is founded upon injustice. The American Dream is a farce because a person’s merit and luck are not all that is requisite to exercise upward social mobility; the system is designed to constrain that mobility and to maintain the status quo.

Furthermore, the claim that is the support structure for much of the system is that minorities have an inherent character flaw that results in poverty; poverty being claimed as the cause for crime and thus, the destitute position of minorities. However, one thing you will not read in your history books is about the “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1920. This was a black city in the south that was a financial center that could have rivaled any on the planet and it was torched to the ground and its citizenry exterminated by the KKK and the police institution. This shows that there is not an inherent flaw in people of color that resigns them to poverty, but rather, reveals that it is a repressive force that subjugates and relegates them to poverty.

Again, I repeat, the American Dream is a farce. This is especially the case if you are a person of color, but even often times the case if you are poor, regardless of color.

The truth is they have turned us on one another and the real culprits behind this mayhem are sitting safely tucked behind their ivory walls. To put it to you straight, the last thing they want is for the classes to unite. So, what they do is drive wedges between the members of these classes to keep us in competition with one another over the fabricated conception of limited resources.

One of the oldest strategies in the book is Divide and Conquer.

The problem is that we do not see we are being divided. The problem is that we do not recognize that it is the wealthiest of our nation and our world who are safely tucked behind their ivory walls, are the culprits dividing us.

The oppression of indigenous peoples all over the planet, climate change, corporations and corporate funding of politics, the financial institution, the Prison Industrial Complex, and police brutality are all part of the same oppressive and repressive superstructure. However, these issues are only addressed in isolation as if they are mutually exclusive of each other, but that is not the case. The people have just been spoon-fed lies and half-truths to blur the lines of reality and fabrication. This is how they set us at odds and in competition with one another.

The tool that is used to accomplish this is something that is understood as something that is harmless and for entertainment, when in reality it is a device for programming, namely, the media and television. In the 1920s advertisers began employing psychologists to direct and target people’s sense of identity, pairing identity with products. In the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took over the radio waves with his “Fireside Chats” to inform the public and shape perceptions in a way and to a volume of people never before conceivable. Then in the 1950s and 60s with the advent of the television, politics were paired with advertising. From that point forward, the information we receive via the media and television has sought to target and shape the public’s identity and has effectively programmed millions.

Something as simple as framing a report in terms of a “riot” instead of in terms of a “rebellion” shapes the way an event is conceived. A riot implies a mindless and emotive, chaotic response that lacks direction and objective whereas, a rebellion is the natural response of the people suffering from an unjust situation.  If all the media and political advertisers have to do is implant one word to shape your perception of an event, then imagine what they can do with a whole sentence, a paragraph, an episode or a series.

What is not occurring is the questioning of the agenda, the reasons behind why the events and the situations and circumstances of the superstructure are being framed in such a way. The people just accept the information they receive from the media and television as if they are authorities on these matters.

So, it is difficult to blame the people who are exhibiting utter apathy and even contempt of many, if not most Americans who are condemning those taking a stand and demanding justice. But, once you have been exposed to the truth and make an active choice, of your own free will, you are responsible for the decision you make.

We are not as divided and as different as they would like us to believe, they just do not want the classes to unify and to oppose business as usual. The system is spiraling out of control and power is consolidating into the hands of the few. First Amendment rights are already being suppressed. The NSA is already monitoring every transmission and storing them in a massive database to be analyzed. These are characteristics of a Totalitarian state and it will affect everyone, unless the system is reeled in.

Soon it will not just be people all over the planet screaming #BlackLivesMatter because they are the first ones to experience the oppressive nature of this regime. Soon, all kinds of people, from all walks of life and colors will be expressing such contempt at the system, but by that point it may be too late to do anything about it.

“The Real World” (Verse Two)

In the realm of the Dream

Life is served on a palter

the work, it doesn’t matter

add-up, laughter come cheaper than Präda

Worries and Woes are absent

flaccid, pass it by,

with a  flash of the passion

but if you ask’em

how lonely the mansion

he’ll lack  an answer

cuz the fact is a phantom

holdin him ransom

runnin in tandem, droppin in random

arbitrary standards

magination damned him

cuz… this is the land of the real

Where hard work

pays perks, quench thirsts, and hurts

time bursts, through curse

and friends are survivors

Standing and walking the road there to shoulder

the weight of the burden,

defendin the verdict,

your struggle is worth it,

a hint is emergent

that hurdles averted

and, outcomes are real

tangible the feel

hold them in your hand

like them cards you have to deal

and you get what you’ve got

but have to use your skill

cuz nothing comes cheap

In the land of the real

 

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/the-real-world-verse-one/

“The Real World” (Verse One)

Livin a dream…

Nah, I’m livin the way that it is

Cuz there is something I’m bound to miss

If my head is up in the mist

Like a fist to the gut

fisticuffs

riskin to rush

cuz I’m missin the bus

missin her love

cuz I’m trapped in the lust

In the land of the lost

betta do what you must

Cuz… this is the land of the real

where cats squeal

caps peal

Bad deals, rap sheets, not rap deals

but real bills and missed meals

Where poverty comes with a blank, check

Where is the rent, betta make, that

Racial Profile, skin is BLACK

Cops they hatin, that a fact

hood they renovatin that

Gentrification, they phasin, balzin away the relations

raisin the rents to erase’em

this is the land of the real

not the land of the dream and appeal

not the land of the cream and the fill

but, the land they tax and kill…

Using the people, breakin their backs

to make them dollars in stacks

legal contracts

all been sealed with melted wax

Collegiate Rapper ((Rappers = Nerds))

https://soundcloud.com/renaissance-the-poet/collegiate-rapper

New track from the “Rappers = Nerds” project, ‘Collegiate Rapper’ byRenaissance The Poet a student at the University of Washington and prior co-creator and co-host of The Cornerstone Open Mic & Artist Showcase.

This project is about building the community, and empowering ourselves through education and this song is about the struggle a young minority faces while dealing with the system of higher education.

Project Info:

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/music-and-poetry/
For some background on the song check out:

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/reflections-of-my-first-quarter-at-the-university-of-washington/

Song Lyrics

 Verse #1

Started on this track, way back, but never thought I’d make it

Pain is over-rated, fated, to be illustrated

So to demonstrate it, the facts originated,

Inside the heart of a mind, addicted to rhyme, that’ll never be faded

See, seein ain’t believing, but reason the season needed

Feed it, like a stomach and read it until defeated

Would ya believe it, I succeeded?

 Beat it, and now it’s more that I’m needin?

Feanin for readin like treasures or women, shit, I’m a heathen!  I’m breathin

Dreamin, while feadin off demons

gleamin  the realist of feelins

As They, surface to meanings,

I mean I’m seein the end

as I be turnin the bend

Of desire, fires of love

burn inside of this man

 Passion’s more than enough, to accomplish my plan

My Intellect sure helps, as I seek to expand

the limits, and the boarders, of all that I am

As a Rapper and a Poet with a Bachelor’s in Hand

Verse #2

Who’d have thought, who not, that I would go to college

Go to get that knowledge, polished, rivalin scholars

Spendin all them dollars, to rise up out the garbage

The steep end of the heap, deep, leaping from the trenches of Martyrs

Me, never thought I’d see it, sobeit that I’m not dreamin

See it, I’m in these classes, & I, still hardly believe it

But must concede it, In to the Realist

Chapter of my life, and into the illist, challenges, so fearless,

But Humility the dearest

Because, when it comes to the task,

alone is a mask, that’s worn in a dash,

the rash are reluctant to ask, for help in a smash

but how are they goona pass their classes

When they’re movin so fast, they can’t, hold onto their asses

the masses drownin , assignments are mountain

& he with the skill surpasses

Expectations, foresight insufficient to displace this

Boils down to relations, and who we orbit in these space ships

Cause this is a foreign land, for a man, who should be in prison

Not at the UW, doing the best that he can, to earn degrees,

Can you feel this?

 Verse #3

I walked into school, cool, with one goal to find

Earn a Law Degree, complete, with an opened mind

Shatter the glass ceiling, pealing, the feelings denied

Breaking the cycle, inventing the Michael, and vetting out all of the lies

Free, or so I thought, the plot, coined me enemy

I’m black, and I rap, that there, the center piece

Of their argument, I must be ignorant, try’n to be

& try’n to see, more than was destined to me, more than being a thug in the streets

But why, supply the American Dream

If the plan was to hold it from me

But they don’t understand that I walk with a team

Composed of friends and family

Who will never see me fail

cuz  I fight for them like they fight for me

and together, we trudge this hell

So, no I won’t be giving up

Renaissance ain’t had enough

Graduating Valedictorian, just the beginning of

My struggle to become a lawyer

at the UW

A dream once impossible

A crude bluff

Chorus:

Dreams, are how it all begins

Dreams, are what define the ends

Dreams, are not just latent plans

Dreams, are what define the man

I am a HUSKY

UW logo

I have dreamt my whole life that I would be worthy enough to attend the University of Washington, but I never truly believed it was possible until now. Still, it feels like I am dreaming.  My life took so many twists and turns while I was growing up that I never knew where I was going to end up and I felt powerless to direct my own life, to say the least. Yet, just over two years ago I decided that I was going give everything I had, invest every ounce of energy, and to make every necessary sacrifice in order to accomplish this life-long dream. In one week from today I am going to walk onto the campus for the first time as a student of the University of Washington.

For me, attending the University of Washington is a gateway into a new life. I am not saying that other universities are not as credible or as life-changing. What I am saying is that as a first generation college student this is an evolutionary step into the future of my family. Even as an American in this supposed “land of opportunity,” when I was born I had a limited set of opportunities to pursue.  I am a man of mixed descent; my mother is African-American and my father is Irish-American, and both of my parents are mixed with Native-American, so I am about as light-skinned as we come. That does not overshadow the “One Drop” rule that states, “one drop of African blood and you are considered African—Black,” and the opportunities for Black children were not as forthcoming as they were for White children when I was born.

My maternal grandmother is retired now, but she worked through temporary work agencies for twenty years because she lacked the education necessary to acquire any long-term employment. My maternal grandfather was a mechanic in the United States Air Force in the 1960’s and when he returned to the states he began to work for Metro driving buses. My mother has been a house-keeper for twenty years and has done everything and provided everything that any child could both need and want. However, she has always felt the lack of not having an education. All she ever wanted was for her children to have a better life than she has had and to have opportunities that she never had.  Everyone in my family is well read and very intelligent, but in this credential society that relies on proof of knowledge in the form of a piece of paper, their intelligence has been neither respected, nor accepted.

I wish that I had more to say about my father’s family, but the truth is that my mother, my brother and I, and even my father were disowned because my father married a Black woman and he had mixed children. There has been a long standing feud between Irish immigrants and African-Americans since the 18th and 19th Centuries, because these two groups were pitted against one another in competition for resources and jobs. That feud has been passed down through the generations and it ripped my family apart; racism and oppression is still alive today and all I need to prove this is my own family experience. The point is that, these are the reasons that I do not know much about my paternal family.  My father however, was not very productive because he suffered from alcoholism and a mental illness that fueled a psychosis that caused us to flee him when I was but a child. I have not seen or heard from my father since I was ten years old. My mother has raised my brother and me since then.

If it is not evident already in what I have said, my family was and is economically challenged. Affording college for two sons, let alone some of the things that most Americans consider staples in their lives was not possible. The tuition and expenses of attending the University of Washington is approximately $20,000 a year and the costs were no less bleak when I was eighteen years old. Unless I was able to earn scholarships, my family was not going to be able to send me to college.

However, I did not have the grades to earn those scholarships because when I was fourteen years old I became a member of the neighborhood gang and I dropped out of school. There are many reasons that can be listed for why I made those decisions, and they are all pertinent, but the reality is that those decisions destroyed my hopes of earning scholarships when I was a teenager and with it my dreams of attending the University of Washington.

At this point, I fell into the footsteps of my father and I thus continued the cycle of alcoholism. It is a vile and corrosive enemy that is a paradoxical trickster; on the one hand alcohol and drugs can be imbibed for spirituality or relaxation, but it can also be addicting and destructive. Some say that alcoholism is a disease, and of those that believe that, some also say that it is a family disease. If that is true, and my experience would suggest that it is at least possible, then that would also mean that my children are at risk. It has also been shown that socioeconomic conditions contribute to the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs. If this is true, then not only was that a factor in my life, but it would also be a factor in the lives of my children. If all of this is true, then my not going to college would mean that I could not climb out of the cycle of socioeconomic despair because I would not have the credentials to earn gainful employment and, the cycle of alcoholism would be passed onto my children who could potentially pass it onto their children as well.

By the grace of God, I was able to get away from the drugs and alcohol and even the gang when I was nineteen years old, but by that time the damage was done. I was distrusted by society, I had a criminal record, I had no education and I was struggling just to keep my head above water. What I had going for me was the desire to break the cycles which had plagued my family for generations. So, slowly with the help of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I began to put the pieces of my life back together and to make reparations for the harm that I had caused to my family and the people of this great society. It took a few years, but I did finally re-earn the trust of society, rebuilt the broken relationships with my family and friends, and I found employment in the service industry.

In 2004, I was given the opportunity to enter into the construction industry. This too, however, was only a step in the right direction because while it did afford me some room for growth, it did not allow me to use my brain. I moved up in the company rather quickly because I was good with my hands and I was good with people, and I started to attend classes to help me with business and construction management, which included project management. Yet, these were only certificate classes, and as I began to excel in them it rewetted my appetite for a real education, at first for construction management, but then for law. There was still the little problem of being able to afford the tuition and expenses, though, and I could not find a way to manage it. I soon came to the harsh realization though that if I did not leave the construction industry I would destroy my body, my chances for a college degree, and I would possibly not break the cycle my family was stuck in. And in 2011, I left my construction career to pursue a law degree by whatever means necessary.

That is when I started to attend North Seattle Community College to earn my Associate of Arts degree. My mother, still a house-keeper took me in so that I could devote all of my energy to my studies and I have lived with her ever since. This was very humbling because since I was nineteen years old, I had been on my own and sought to take care of myself, but there was no way that I was going to be able to do that and succeed in college alone. My mother cared for my living situation and I was able to secure financial aid to afford to pay for classes, book and transportation. Getting approved for and maintaining my financial aid status was not easy, I was constantly having to apply and appeal decisions, but with the help of my mother and the people in the financial aid office at NSCC, I was able to find every cent that I needed to continue my education.

Adjusting to collegiate life was not easy, I had been away from true academic life for many years and I had to relearn how to be a student. When I was seven years old, I suffered from a massive brain injury during a car accident that left me with a very short attention span and migraine headaches. This made reading miserably difficult for me because halfway through a paragraph I might forget everything that I had just read. Yet, I was determined not to be defeated and I invested myself into learning techniques so that I could stay focused.

Professor Gutierrez, my English 102 instructor was incredibly helpful in teaching me how to stay focused. He taught me how to annotate as I read by underlining the important lines, blocking out important sections, and writing in the margin. All of this was vastly different than my experience in high school—when I did attend—because we could not write in our borrowed books and no one taught us how to take notes, and I finally began to have an experience of my own with the books that I was reading. As I began to do this, I found that I could not only remain focused while reading, but that I could actually retain the information better because I had owned it and made it part of myself. He also taught me how to write clearly and precisely and how to provide accurate citations of other people’s work that I assimilated into my own assignments. All of which I carried through into the rest of my classes and helped me to succeed in every one of them.

Beyond all my greatest hopes, dreams, and aspirations I did the unbelievable; I graduated from North Seattle Community College June 14, 2013 with my Associate of Arts degree. And not only did I graduate, but I was also the valedictorian of my graduating class. Even as I write this, I sit in near disbelief that I actually accomplished what I never believed possible, what seemed impossible for so long became a reality and I exceeded what I hoped was possible for a person like me with the history that I have. That very same week I received a letter from the University of Washington stated that I had been accepted for enrollment in the autumn of 2013, my dream was coming true. Yet, there was still one piece of the puzzle that had not been accounted for: tuition and expenses.

I immediately began applying for scholarships and financial aid, but hit just about every roadblock that could emerge. I discovered that I was supposed to have my financial aid request submitted the previous February. Neither my counselors at NSCC, nor anything I read on the UW website prepared me for that. And at that time, the apartment complex that my mother and I were staying at was bought by new owners and for an unspecified reason they evicted us, so we had to fight to find a place to live in a very limited amount of time. My head was not in the game and I barely scraped through the quarter with my grades intact. None of that changed the fact that in being fair to all students, we all need to make the deadlines regardless of the life circumstances are present, or at least so I thought.

As it turned out, the University of Washington also had an appellate process. In the appeal I was allowed to make the true and accurate claim that because I was a first generation college student that I was unaware of how to maneuver through the bureaucratic system. I was also able to establish that I met the need-based-requirements for federal assistance and in late July, my appeal was approved and I was given the money that I needed to attend the University of Washington.

By earning my Associate of Arts degree I have already broken the cycle that my family has been in for generations, but an AA degree does not open many doors however, because in today’s credential society that is nearly equivalent to what a high school diploma was worth thirty years ago. The University of Washington is my gateway into a new life because the degree I will earn will place me in a higher employment bracket and will help me to gain access to the professional degree that I am pursuing. This is a dream come true, but this is only the beginning.

I have several plans for what I want to do with the degrees that I am going to ear at the University of Washington.  The most important of which is that once I graduate I will finally be able to afford to buy my mother a house, get her out of the house-keeping industry and to send her to school to earn the degree that she has always wanted to earn. Besides earning my own degree, I cannot think of a better way to repay her for all that she has invested into me and my development all these years. Next, what I want to do is use the law degree that I will earn is turning that into a mechanism to benefit humanity. Currently, I am working on a project to develop a curriculum utilizing hip hop and poetry to reach other at-risk-youth to instruct them on how to be successful in college. Later, I will be focusing on public policy and the United States government as a means to effect positive change.

For a man like me, all of this is nearly unbelievable and I am beside myself with gratitude. In seven days I will be walking into my first class at the University of Washington and stepping into the first day of the rest of my life.

If I have learned anything through this process, then it is this:

 “All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

~Walt Disney

My “American Dream”

The “American Dream” is an ideal that has changed as the United States has evolved, however, the essence of it has remained consistent. When Thomas Jefferson, the architect of the Declaration of Independence wrote: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (July 4, 1776),  the “American Dream” was taking shape.  The order of these rights is also highly important because without life, then there can be no liberty, and evident from Jefferson’s words; happiness is not possible without liberty. Happiness is not a guarantee, no, but what is important is the ability to pursue a dream. That dream is not the same for everyone and therein lays the essence of the American ideals of being an individual and having personal choice. Although it is true that as the population has evolved so has what the “American Dream” consists of for individuals, it is nonetheless, still grounded in the notions of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

If the “American Dream” is indeed grounded in the notions of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” then the “American Dream” is contingent on these “unalienable Rights” being both granted and protected equally. If these rights are not granted and protected equally, then not all Americans are privy to those rights. If not all Americans are privy to these rights, then that would disqualify it from being an “American Dream” because the term American applies to all citizens of United States. Therefore, for it to be an “American Dream” all citizens of the United States must have the rights of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” both, granted and protected equally.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence women were fighting for suffrage and equality, the institution of slavery was legal, and the Native American population and culture were being systematically exterminated; thus “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was not granted and protected equally to all people who lived in what was to become the United States.  However, while it is true that the people of the United States have historically marginalized the rights of groups that were considered to be less than human, it is precisely the rhetoric in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” which has allowed U.S. citizens to pursue one of the “American Dreams;” equality.

I am both the product and the embodiment of the “American Dream” because I am of Irish, Native American and African descent; I am alive, and I am freely and actively pursuing my dream to become a leading politician in the United States government. I am a student at the University of Washington studying history and I intend to commence onto their School of Law. Without the 13th Amendment in 1865, which abolished slavery, I would not be free. Without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I would not be able to attend the University of Washington because public institutions would still be segregated.  And without the 14th Amendment in 1868, I would not be able to hold political office. Furthermore, because of the laws of miscegenation my parents quite possibly would not have been able to marry because their offspring would have been a mix of the races, thus I would not be alive; the antecedent of “Life, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

My “American Dream” is to ensure that the notions of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” will continue to be granted and protected for all the citizens of the United States of America, and hopefully extended to our entire global population. This is precisely why I am in school and what I am learning how to accomplish. It is by no means an easy task or a small dream, but it is nonetheless, my dream and because of the rights that I have been granted I am free to pursue this dream.