Often times, people growing up impoverished, have common experience with occurrences and realities that may seem obscure, if not completely non existent to the “average” American, whatever that looks like. Despite the levels of poverty or ways in which it manifests differently for different people, these cultural aspects, often remain consistent and more widespread, than thought or none.
In example, one of the things that often become a common sight in the ‘hood’, is seeing people get arrested and/ or serve time in local, state or federal jails and prisons. When someone gets locked up, AKA arrested, the saying “Free My…” can be used to call for the freedom of one’s family member, friend, or loved one. Right now, for instance, my younger bro is in jail, so I would say “Free My Bro Staticky Staxs!”, calling for the boys, AKA the cops, to let my brother free.
I always struggled with this saying, mostly due to my inability to separate the crime from the person. I couldn’t understand how a person could knowingly and willingly create a crime, and then, be confused or upset when they got arrested. Same thing goes for the loved ones of said person, particularly those aware of the person’s committed crimes.
I felt like, logically, if a person is given relative reasonable information about the potential consequences for their actions, and still chose to engage in those actions, they are then responsible for those consequences. Moreover, because they were dutifully informed, prior to their commitment of said action, there is no room for sympathy or empathy for their subsequent situation.
Notice the past tense. I never used to be able to understand this saying. Now, I understand it more than ever.
I have watched men and women in my life go in and out of jails and prison for all of my natural born life. I have watched the state ship off my cousins, brothers, uncles, friends, romantic partners, and beautiful strangers that are my family in humanity. I have worked hard to rationalize the pain, fear, anxiety, confusion, desperation, and feeling of innate victimization that comes over me, every single time I hear or see, someone, anyone, get locked up. I hardened my heart. Attempted to practicalize and pragmatize the clear indication of human injustice against my people being hog piled off to jail, prison, and federal institutions. And it worked. For a while.
Until… college! Haha! It’s funny because, it makes the most sense it’s ever made to me, why it’s so important for the government to ensure that people like me ever make it to college and instead get trapped in the system of poverty that birthed me.
Man, that place is no good for folks like me! We just start making connections, linkages and stuff! And, we all know that ain’t nothing good ever come from some random ass poor, Black, and daddy less girl from the hood, learning and connecting shit she don’t know nothing about.
I won’t, just yet, go into the horrendous reality of the prison system in this country. But, I will dedicate this moment to shed some light on why ALL of us, should be yelling “FREE OUR PEOPLE!!!”
My brother, Kharlique Kevin Gardner, is one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. He is so thoughtful, incredibly yet, naturally intelligent, sweet and loving, and vibrantly full of life and energy. We’re both so similar, in that we are passionate about any and everything we love, like or even show the slightest interest in, making us exciting people to be around or just watch.
He grew up, practically raising himself in many ways, with a mother who had no idea how to raise a rambunctious boy with ADHD, during the pre- ADHD hype, and a father too emotionally and physically contorted to conceptualize even the slightest demonstration of fatherhood. Struggling with an enormous level of misunderstood energy at school, far too much love in the form of violence at home, and no other options for solid positive or healthy support systems, he literally grew into the best man he knew how to.
I grew up, watching my brother struggle unnecessarily, all of his young and beautiful life. And it killed me. Because I was too young to save him. I was old enough to understand the implications of his life experience while, young enough to only be able to watch helplessly as it unfolded before my eyes. The destruction of a young Black male’s life, before it ever really started.
Kharlique has been through way too much stuff for his young, 21 years of life. Far more than most grown men and women I have met in my lifetime, have gone through. Quite honestly, all of my siblings and myself have. Our truths are too real for folks to digest. Our pills of reality, too large to fit down the throat of the absent minded and intentionally ignorant.
So, people try to bottle us up. Generalize our realities and struggles, trivialize them, and then nicely pack them in a box of bullshit, meant to encompass the reason why us poor folk have to live this way. We’re lazy, deranged, uneducated, unambitious, purposeless and worthless. No wonder, such realities besiege those impoverished people.
But, you don’t believe that right? You don’t think poor people, people that go to jail and prison, and people that don’t appear to love themselves or their communities enough to maintain its upkeep, are different from you? Or do you?
Do you ever reason that prisoners “owe” society for their injustices against it? Have you often forgotten or separated your own illegal past doings from those of the men and women serving time for “crimes” they’ve committed?
What about those times when you purchased and smoked the very illegal, marijuana, illegally drank underage, illegally stole from someone or some place, illegally committed fraud by signing your friend’s name on a government document as a favor or just simply, illegally jaywalked? I’d urge you to reconsider your quick instinct to separate yourself from the 2.3 million men and women imprisoned throughout this great nation of freedom.
Crime is not defined based on the needs of the people but instead the needs of the government. I’ll expand on this at a later date. But for now, consider, why is marijuana illegal, leading to the arrest and temporary/ long term imprisonment of millions nationwide, while cigarettes, which kill half a million people a year, is still securely legal? Seems like a simple answer to some. Politics, right? I say, go deeper. Ask and answer question. Why? Why would politics favor tobacco over weed?
Why would the crime against a bus driver or police office get a stiffer penalty than the “crime” against a woman’s or child’s body? Is it really even about “crime”? Is it really about helping to curve really screwed up societal ills that are hurting and inhibiting our society’s growth? If so, why is it not a “crime” to be poor? Why is it not a “crime” to not be able to pay for food? Why isn’t it a “crime” for banks to steal billions of dollars from people worldwide, yearly? Simple. Because, it’s not about “crime”.
So, when I say free my bro, Kharlique AKA Staticky AKA Forever Young, I am saying free all of us! He isn’t in jail for the benefit of our society or himself. None of our people are. That’s why it’s time. I am prepared to head start the process to reenergize and revitalize the movement for love and it starts with the love we show the most destitute and marginalized of our society. Like, our brothers and sisters kidnapped and huddled into the devastating walls of the American prison system.
I am ready to free my brothers and sisters. The question is, are you?