Monday, June 26, 2017

The Sound Beyond The Picture (Bigger than life painting of Jacksonville Activist)

If you’ve crossed the Harts bridge since November then you probably have seen the spray painted figures on the huge silos. Many have driven past but don’t know that the faces belong to Connell Crooms and Sara Mahmoud (Palestinian Activist). Last week I had the distinct honor and pleasure of meeting with 26 year old Connell Crooms a local activist and member of the deaf community. I became familiar with his name in April when what started as a rally against American imperialism turned into officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office attacking peaceful protestors. According to Crooms there were agitators in attendance and the protestors had petitioned the police to separate them from the protest. In an effort to strike Connell one of the disturbers struck the officer. After this occurrence five police officers began to attack Connell and it was all caught on camera. He was punched, kicked, kneed in the face, tased and lost his hearing aid which was later found. He was then arrested and taken to the hospital after being knocked unconscious.
Once he was hospitalized there was no sign language interpreter on hand for hours. Even once transported to the jail there was no means of communication for deaf inmates. The only means of communication inside the Duval County Jail are TTY phones. Crooms states being born in 1990 that method is completely obsolete and no longer used. While in jail overnight he had to rely on the help of another inmate to contact his family. Speaking about this life changing ordeal brought on emotions for the both of us. On June 2nd the State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against Connell which was a huge relief but he still doesn’t feel good about it. The officers in question were not reprimanded and as of now there is an internal investigation Connell can only think what if it would have been a gun instead of a taser? He has no expectation for police officers to ever be punished for police crime. Crooms states “It takes death to see justice. It takes a shooting as opposed to a beating”.
At age 5 Connell’s family learned that he was deaf. He graduated from The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in 2009  most notably known for Ray Charles attending. He is also one of the founders of Deafinitely Dope which bridges the gap between the deaf and speaking world through music. Connell signs the lyrics to hip hop music ideally making a music video in his hands. Recently his founding partner Matt Maxey has toured with Chance The Rapper as an interpreter. He is bringing awareness to the American Sign Language. There are not a lot of African American interpreters in Hip Hop music that understand the culture says Crooms.
In November 2016 an artist from Australia Guido Van Helsten saw both Crooms and Mahmoud speak at a Dump Trump rally and chose them as the subjects of his work. The artwork was completed in 4 days using a crane. The paintings were commissioned by Art Republic. When he was told he was being painted he thought it could be hung at home. He swerved off the road when he saw it in disbelief. The mural stands for solidarity “rather you are white, black, gay or trans if you are working class we all stand together.
Currently Crooms is working alongside others on a JPAC (Jacksonville Police Accountability Council). This is a non politically biased council democratically elected by the people to oversee the hiring, firing and investigations of the police. Connell believes this is our only choice unless we as blacks continue to beaten, shot and killed by the police. Police are historically rooted in slave patrols. He states “We can keep changing elected officials and Sheriffs but we need to have oversight over the police”.
Ultimately Connell wants from his activism programs for poor black communities and would love to bring the original Panther party model back. He wants to charge all young African Americans to stand up for what they believe in!
“If you are young and black read up on your history because that’s all we have! We are living in revolutionary times. BE THE CHANGE & FREE PALESTINE”. – Connell Crooms

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Disease And A Cure (Borderico Letter to the Judge)

Dear Judge Howard, If I had to title the story of my life, it would be "A Disease And A Cure". I think the disease began in my 8th grade year at Dupont Middle School. At the time I was staying with my aunt, uncle and cousin on the southside of Jacksonville. I liked those living conditions better. Mostly because I felt more apart of a family with a dad and I had a big brother instead of a cousin. My cousin was an only child so he was spoiled with all of the latest games and toys. I grew up being the only boy with five women so it was a welcomed change. My mom had me playing sports by age 5 or 6. Every year it was baseball and football. I played basketball a couple of seasons but didn't like it much. I also did boxing at the Police Athletic League for a year. I've always excelled academically. I never had a problem learning and always wanted to learn more. Through magnet programs and doing extra credit work, I actually graduated a year early. My 8th grade year would have been my first year playing school sports. I was a good football player and easily made the team. I was also kind of popular and well liked amongst my team mates. About a week before our first scheduled game of the season, I had a horrible day in school. I'm not exactly sure what set off or caused the sequence of events that day, but it ended with three disciplinary referrals and me getting kicked off the football team. All of the infractions were minor, but the fact that it was three seperate violations made it a big deal. I remember pleading with the coach for another chance. My aunt suggested I write a formal letter of apology and get all of my team mates to sign it, which I did, but my coach had already made his decision and said it was final. Reflecting back on that moment, I really think that's where things took a turn for the worst. By the end of that year, I was sent to Mattie V. Alternative school and smoking weed. My uncle sent back to my mom's house, which was in the middle of a drug zone. She stayed off of MLK and Myrtle Avenue at the time. Every single friend I made in that neighborhood sold drugs. My first package came from a guy who went by the name "Pop". I actually used to call him dad because every time he saw me, he called me son and gave me a few dollars. My mom never knew this guy and still doesn't until this day. She was busy working two jobs and doing the best she could to make sure we had food in our stomachs and a roof over our heads. I remember asking him for some money one day at the pool hall. He said he didn't have any, so I asked this guy he was shooting pool against. Before the guy could respond, Pop got mad and pulled me outside to the car. When we got in the car, he pulled out a bag of crack and asked me, "do you know how to sell this?" I didn't but I told him I did. He gave me the whole bag and told me that he better never hear me ask another man for nothing again, including him. That was the beginning of the worst addiction in my life. Selling drugs is a disease that has plagued my life since I was 14. I've made so many bad decisions since then that it's impossible to count them. My worst decision probably being the friends I chose. I've been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time so often that it sounds like an excuse rather than the truth. Excuses are the reason for my current situation. Trying to think for others. Trying to determine what other people need. Putting myself in this situation again has hurt my family more than what I did to get myself here has ever helped them. The first thing the detectives asked me when I was arrested was if I wanted to ever see my son play football again. I didn't answer that question at the time because I knew it was rhetorical, but not a day goes by that I don't wish I could be on that sideline. Being raised without a father has been the only motivation I've ever needed to do any and everything possible to make my children happy. I've made mistakes. Too many. As a matter of fact, I can even see now where I've foolishly tried correcting old mistakes by making new ones! Every choice I've made in life, I chose to make. Sometimes outside influence has had an effect, but for the most part it's been all me. I chose to use drugs while on probation knowing I could be drug tested on any given day. I chose to sell drugs knowing it was against the law. I chose to be in this situation I'm in because of the choices I chose to make. All I've ever wanted to do since January 2011 is be the best father I can be, make music my career, and escape Jacksonville. I made several new friends, good friends you can say. People very supportive of my musical ambitions, hard working, no arrest records etc. One of these friends used to let me drive his cars. I got pulled over while driving his car a couple of times, and he had a gun locked in the glove compartment. It was his gun, he claimed the gun and the charges were dismissed. I was never aware of the presence of the guns. The thought never crossed my mind to even worry about stuff like that because I knew he wasn't one of my typical friends from the neighborhood. Then there's Carrie Thompson. A Godsend. We met at the first "Back to School Drive" I had in the summer of 2012. Since then she has done more for me than everyone short of my mother. Very positive, very supportive, very helpful in any way she can possibly be. Carrie has pushed me and pushed me until success was the only option. With her knowledge and experience in the music industry, she has helped me elevate my career to successful heights. Officially I call her my manager, just like she won't accept any of the monies from my career. She is a part of my family just as much as one of my sisters. It took me every day since January 2011 to attain my status as an artist and I plan on doing whatever I possibly can to retain it. Music is my CURE! It has been the most effective antigen possible for me. I know that I have made the kind of mistakes that carry minimum mandatory sentences. For that, I am regretful and remorseful. I know that my past looks pretty shabby, but it does not accurately represent the man that I am today. Instead of judging me by my past transgressions, I ask that you look at my future potential and chance of being and remaining a positive part of society. I can't speak for everyone in my situation, but I have nothing material worth being seized by the government. I have no cars, houses, jewelry, or anything to forfeit. The only thing I have of any real value is my family and career. My biggest fear is to be separated from my children at a point in their lives when I am needed the most. A period of time that would make it too late to save one of them from the vicious cycle that has me where I am currently today. I fear the day my son might ask another man for a dollar. The day my son looks at another man as his father. I fear the day will come the next "Pop" might approach my son with the same choice I was presented and I won't be there to give him proper guidance that a father should. I've used my family as an excuse in the past to justify the choices I chose to make. An excuse is when you can make the right choice, but you choose to do what you know is wrong. As a better man, my family is the reason I am going to make better decisions. A reason is when you have no choice or control over the situation. I sincerely hope that the story of my life does not stray from the fact that I accept full responsibility for my actions. Have no doubt about that. I have a great mom who did a great job raising me to the best of her abilities. The fact that I did not grow up with a father had no influence over the stupid decisions I chose to make. I understand I must be held accountable for my actions and am prepared to do so. I know I've been given a chance before and didn't take full advantage of it. This time is different because of my children and level of maturity. There is no better teacher than life itself. I can't change the past, but I can choose to change. I am only asking for the same chance I wish I could have gotten from my 8th grade football coach. This is the only opportunity I'll ever need from you your Honor. To be there for my children, my family and my supporters. I owe it to every one of the people who ever believed in me. Hopefully that means I owe it to you.