Change is Gonna Come

Mishel Ramos, Student
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

One December, 67 Suenos took a trip to Stockton, home of seasonal work. And those that work in the fields often make cardboard homes. The group had previously visited the forgotten city as they call it. My folks live in cardboard homes under a bridge, cold nights warmed by fire, surrounded by people with the same struggle. We were inspired by how much people made with what they have, and we came back with the idea to help out, build homes and give food and clothes. But when we finally got to the forgotten city, we were hit by their reality.  Stockton police remembered the forgotten people, and a week before we arrived enforcements raided their home. There was one family that stayed behind with nowhere to go, but they were not willing to talk to us, afraid of what might happen. In Peace and Conflict Studies: An Introduction, by Ho-Won Jeong, he says,“If human beings are denied decent education, housing, opportunity to work and freedom to express themselves they become marginalized. Conditions for social fragmentation are created by a lack of equity and freedom” ( pg. 21 p5). What happened to the families in Stockton is a perfect example of both how they were treated as insignificant, and not respected enough to be given the right to build their own homes out of scratch in a country that is so rich and has enough resources for everyone yet poverty still exists. Structural violence is when certain people, genders, classes and nationalities hold more power as opposed to others, more resources and opportunities than other groups. This unequal advantage is built into the very social, political and economic systems that govern societies, states and the world. Since the system was built with the goal to keep classes and races believing that they are less than, then the system has not failed because it was never intended for us, people of color, to succeed. Hence poverty, hence the multitude of people that got stolen from their right to build their way up. You hate us in the streets but you love us when we are working for your companies.

I come from a community full of hard working people, from working early mornings to midnight shifts all to take care of bills and feed their children, East Oakland is where I reside. My community is one of the many targeted communities, from trying to pass curfew laws, to gentrifying the city that black and brown immigrants already occupy. Gentrification is a part of capitalism.  Capitalism relies on some areas of the world being underdeveloped so that they can be cheaply invested in, "developed," and used to make profits. This happens across countries, within countries, across cities, and within cities. Gentrification is one way that capitalism develops “urban” areas.  Capitalist landlords let certain neighborhoods get run down and refuse to do repairs.  Once the neighborhood is devalued, landlords and capitalists can then invest, fix things up, and sell for a higher price.  The difference between the value of a property when it's run-down and devalued and the value of a property that's re-invested in is called the "value gap."  The difference between what a run down property can charge for rent and what a fixed up property can charge for rent is the "rent gap."  The rent gap is what motivates landlords and capitalists to invest in run-down neighborhoods . . . the potential profit that they can get once they fix things up. In Oakland Jerry Brown, California Governor, came up with the idea that to fix violence he needed to bring in 10,000 more new residents into our city. A city that already has high incarceration rates due to “legal discrimination” – housing: rent, location, condition. Employment and education: built to keep us eating right out of their hand. Public benefits: what is that? We have none. – My community has a lot of racial profiling and targeting so many youth in school. I come from a district that uses a lot of our schools budget that should be going into our education, yet they use a lot of our funding for school police. Our youth are being targeted in and out of school. From the book The New Jim Crow, author Michelle Alexander states, “.. National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals .. No new institutions for adults should be built and existing institutions for juvenile should be closed”. In 1973, there were 350,000 people held in prisons nation wide but today there are 2 million humans incarcerated in the US alone. Over the past twenty years, the State of California has built twenty one new prisons, added thousands of cells to existing facilities, and increased its inmate population eight fold. Nonviolent offenders have been responsible for most of that increase. The number of drug offenders imprisoned in the state today is more than twice the number of inmates who were imprisoned for all crimes in 1978. California now has the biggest prison system in the Western industrialized world, a system 40 percent bigger than the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The state holds more inmates in its jails and prisons than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands combined. There is overwhelming evidence institutions create crime rather then prevent it.

I am a part of a youth group called 67 Suenos, 67 came out of the 67% of the youth that weren’t going to benefit from the Dream Act, the Dream Act “This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning” says Wikipedia. This bill off course did not benefit more than half of our youth, they were viewed as either valedictorians or criminals, but most definitely left out the real part the human part of our undocumented youth. The ones that had to stop pursuing an education because ICE enforcements struck them with deporting a mother or a father and now our youth had to take care of siblings or even have to look for help to provide economic help, we are not criminals but we all cant get straight A’s when we have to worry where our next meals will come from, recently we found out that also from the immigration reform 67% of our undocumented families are being left out of an important conversation, our future. What 67 Suenos does is hold a safe space for youth to learn and get informed with what is happening in the real world struggles and what media is always leaving out. We hold a healing circle for our youth to talk about the things that we have to carry around, it provides us with a space to heal each other and ourselves by communicating and using medicine we call sage, sap of the tree. We go on protest to fight the many things that affects us and our communities. In a letter from a Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King says “we know through a lot of painful experiences that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed… justice too long delayed is too long denied”. And we have to fight the system and unjust laws, like closing Wells Fargo because they are the main source that is investing in the detention centers of our people, boycotting Mi Pueblo a super market that ran background checks on its workers and fired so many workers that worked there for years when the owner was once undocumented himself, protesting Pacific Steel a company that fired a lot of their workers one a week before Christmas and left them without pay. “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope sir you understand our legitimate and unavoidable impotence,” writes Martin Luther King in A letter from a Birmingham Jail. I strongly believe in my heart that there comes a time when people get so tired of all the injustices that they see around them and just have to lash out to the main cause of their oppression, people have to wake up at some point because even sleeping beauty woke up from a spell. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.

For years my people have been taunted about what we “do not have”. Put in our faces pictures of what real beauty is, and that what we look like isn’t. Live in third world countries that have gorgeous landscapes, and yet we have been convinced that beauty is cities full of skyscrapers, city lights, and traffic. Migrated from beautiful lands full of grass and delicious crops in search of the American dream, the one that doesn’t exist. We come from humble communities full of culture and tradition, introduced to busy streets full rushing citizens. Locked into a system that doesn’t want to see us shine. Structural violence tries to keep us shut down yet we look for all ways to break free whether under the system or concrete we will break out of the oppression and set ourselves free. “Peace ultimately has to be obtained by changing social structures that are responsible for death, poverty, and malnutrition” – Martin Luther King. Change is gonna come.

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