Quote: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor; the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.

We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and – perhaps – we all need some measure of unmerited grace.

~ Bryan Stevenson from Just Mercy

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Quote: When one knows this about a man…

The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing. One watched the lives they led. One could not be fooled about that; one watched the things they did and the excuses that they gave themselves, and if a white man was really in trouble, deep trouble, it was to the Negro’s door that he came. And one felt that if one had had that white man’s worldly advantages, one would never have become as bewildered and as joyless and as thoughtlessly cruel as he. The Negro came to the white man for a roof or for five dollars or for a letter to the judge; the white man came to the Negro for love. But he was not often able to give what he came seeking. The price was too high; he had too much to lose. And the Negro knew this, too. When one knows this about a man, it is impossible for one to hate him, but unless he becomes a man – become equal – it is also impossible for one to love him.

~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

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(1964) Malcolm X’s Speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

(1964) Malcolm X’s Speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity
“This cultural revolution will be the journey to our rediscovery of ourselves. History is a people’s memory, and without a memory man is demoted to the level of the lower animals.” When you have no knowledge of your history, you’re just another animal; in fact, you’re a Negro; something that’s nothing. The only black man on earth who is called a Negro is one who has no knowledge of his history. The only black man on earth who is called a Negro is one who doesn’t know where he came from. That’s the one in America. They don’t call Africans Negroes.” {Click to read his full speech.}

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Gang Member Speaking at Baltimore Rally May 2 2015

This is is from my audio files of the Baltimore rally following the indictment of the six officers responsible for Freddie Gray’s death in police custody.

I’m practicing – i.e. learning – my video editing on clips that I really think should be shared with or without inclusion in my final short-form documentary project. This is just audio with a couple of photos I took at rallies and marches, so it was relatively easy to put together.

This young man was one of several speakers who made quite an impression. I started recording after his introduction so I missed his name; he may be an ex-gang member, but “ex” was not in my notes. There were many gang members at the rally wearing their colors but standing in unity. It was quite the sight.

His main points were: (1) the top three destroyers of the Black Community are poverty, oppression and ignorance. (2) God gave us all the gift of life. (3) We need opportunities, jobs. We need to create our own jobs and support each other’s businesses. (4) This is what democracy looks like.

Gang Member Speaking at Baltimore Rally May 2 2015 from LaShawnda Jones on Vimeo.

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“Not just an American problem, but a world problem” by Malcolm X

“All the nations that signed the charter of the UN came up with the Declaration of Human Rights and anyone who classifies his grievances under the label of “human rights” violations, those grievances can then be brought into the United Nations and be discussed by people all over the world. For as long as you call it “civil rights” your only allies can be the people in the next community, many of whom are responsible for your grievance. But when you call it “human rights” it becomes international. And then you can take your troubles to the World Court. You can take them before the world. And anybody anywhere on this earth can become your ally.

So one of the first steps that we became involved in, those of us who got into the Organization of Afro- American Unity, was to come up with a program that would make our grievances international and make the world see that our problem was no longer a Negro problem or an American problem but a human problem. A problem for humanity. And a problem which should be attacked by all elements of humanity. A problem that was so complex that it was impossible for Uncle Sam to solve it himself and therefore we want to get into a body or conference with people who are in such positions that they can help us get some kind of adjustment for this situation before it gets so explosive that no one can handle it.” (Click to read the full speech.)

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