Debajo Del Sombrero Workshop

by A-B-E of The Peace Poets

Some use the words incapacitated or disabled to label and describe people who do not have the capacity to care for themselves or ensure their own safety therefore needing supportive assistance. I’ve reflected on those words after my workshop with Debajo Del Sombrero at La Casa Encendida in Madrid, Spain. Words carry meaning, and their meaning has power.

In our workshop today, beautiful family shared their fears and concerns, their joy and happiness, and the pain and love which they carry in their hearts. Some participants wrote about the structures in some cities that further marginalize incapacitated people and establish paternalistic social limitations on their freedom such as walking the world unaccompanied, being permitted to drive a vehicle, or vote for who they want to represent them politically. Others spoke about their concern for family members who were experiencing health issues while they bore their own. Some spoke about the challenges of having care-persons mistreat them, tell them that they are simply misbehaving and don’t know what they’re doing, and reducing their expression and rejection of abuse as them simply being crazy.

(photography by Alex de la Croix)

We must reflect on the words, crazy, disabled, incapacitated, and others that are brought into these social interactions because they hold a weight and a power that can both oppress and liberate.

In my workshop today, I felt my heart a bit more humanized. I was surrounded by peers of my age and elders, approximately 15 adults who were my new teachers for this short and beautiful interaction. There were times we couldn’t hold in our laughter, other times our eyes were watery. I felt that I was in a room with new family and great friends. I’m grateful that my heart is on the path to slowly chip away from my own incapacity to seeing our family, seeing each other, and learning more compassionate ways to forgive ourselves, love ourselves, and love each other better.


by A-B-E of The Peace Poets

Roughly a year ago, The Peace Poets were blessed to join the Immokalee Workers in Ohio and share our music, chants, and poetry with a beautiful community of brothers and sisters from around the country and the world to join in the struggle demanding the dignity of these courageous and humble laborers.

It was beautiful to see many of them present today in NYC with their spirits on fire. Joined by a few hundred youth, students, activists, and New Yorkers, we were calling for a national boycott on Wendy’s and demanding that their chairman, Nelson Peltz, sign on to the Fair Food Program.


The Fair Food Program would not only help provide a more dignified living wage for it’s workers (by paying only $0.01 more per pound of tomatoes picked), but it would help reduce the sexual violence that women are facing daily while working for Wendy’s. Under Nelson Peltz’s corporate leadership, Wendy’s currently buys tomatoes in Mexico at exploitative prices and creates an unsafe workspace where women are not protected from sexual harassment or assault, and are violated further for voicing the abuse they have endured.

One of the leaders left us with the insight that we may not receive our victory today, or the day after that, but she is confident and knows that we will win this battle. #BoycottWendys


by A-B-E of The Peace Poets

November 9th – 12th, The Peace Poets arrived in Tuscon, Arizona to join families, artists, activists, educators, puppetistas, and organizers in song, prayer, celebration, vigils, and actions gathered for the SOA Watch Border Encuentro. It was beautiful to walk with family from CosechaWitness Against TortureVeteran’s For PeaceCode Pink and so many others protesting the imaginary border constructed with iron walls and violently real consequences, and to demand an end to US intervention and militarization in Latin America through their torture filled curricula taught at WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) formerly known and still referred to as the School of the Americas.


It was an already very emotional moment in front of the Eloy Detention Centerthe night we arrived. We sang chants and songs and families shared personal narratives of their experiences of loved ones or they themselves being detained at Eloy.  Of the 250 detention facilities in the country, Eloy alones makes up a total of 9% of inmate deaths, including the highest percentage of inmate suicides. Undocumented families targeted in the desert face many dangers including the harsh climate of intense dehydrating heat and cold nights, helicopters sweeping down to blow dusts that blind migrants and push them into the dangerous terrain of cacti, and the armed agents who seek to kill or detain them at Eloy Detention Center amongst other perils. Eloy is a private prison contracted by ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) and owned by Core Civic (previously CCA [Corrections Corporation of America]).

We faced the Eloy prison with glow sticks fashioned into bracelets and necklaces so that our detained family would not only hear our songs to them, but so that they could also see us from inside their prison cells. It was such a moving and powerful moment when detainees took their blankets and would cast them against the lights in their rooms to let us know that they could see us, they could hear us, and that we were together.


The following day we gathered and protested in front of the federal courthouse enforcing Operation Streamline, the federal government’s zero-tolerance approach to “streamline” or prosecute, try, and process groups of up to 70 people at a time. Having been inside the courthouse the previous year, made the reality of the violences of the border so much more tangible while seeing 50 – 70 indigenous people shackled in chains. For first nation’s people, migration is equivalent to sovereignty, and their is a cultural and spiritual connection to the lands. We mourned in the thick air of injustice, oppression, and anguish in the courtroom, where indigenous individuals were being grouped and labeled illegal and undocumented by the same empire which displaced so many of them and currently economically and/ or militarily wage war against them.



Through all the pain, it was inspiring and uplifting to participate in many of the workshops throughout the weekend and learn the different ways groups are engaging in activism and creating dialogues to strengthen our commitment and deepen our work. Our sister Dr. Maha Hilal and brother Dominique Diaddigo-Cash blessed us with their workshop, “The War of Narrative & its Casualties,”which provided deep insight on the US’s history of reinforcing xenophobia to systematically oppress people of color and shape media and policy to further criminalize communities of color. The blatant connection between using Islamophobia as a means to illegally detain, torture, and kill Muslim families, along with the creation of a border to fine, imprison, and kill undocumented people who naturally migrated the continent for thousands of years, cannot be ignored.


The final evening of the SOA Watch Border Encuentro, we were reinvigorated and blessed by the words and music of so many talented artists including Rebel DiazLengualertaOlmeca, Lando Chill, Son del Centro, Francisco HerreraCharlie King, and Cihuatl-Ce amongst others. We all danced and celebrated the gathering, knowing that we would be here again the following year, and all the years after that it might take, until our people are free.



We closed the SOA Watch Encuentro with a vigil where we read aloud the names of family members who either disappeared, or had been found dead or murdered at the border. The sun beamed down hard on us, as we slowly and intentionally chanted the names of those young people and elders, women, men, and children alike, killed or left to die for pursing what once used to be a very natural way and part of life. We raised their names up so that we may always remember them and the fight for a world where families are not separated and killed for being born on either side of a border.

Parable of The Sower

Lyrics to our new single:


* The Last Emcee’s Verse *

Everything you change changes you

I’ll be damned if that ain’t true

What you gonna do when life pushes you

And even you think you’re through

I’m an animal with a parable

Careful, I got horns like a caribou

I’m in my element walking down the avenue

Thinkin’ how I’m a break out, I’ma find an avenue

They pitchin’ on St. Nick

I’m spittin’ that flame shit

Hustlin’ yea, some would say same shit


* Chrous *

Cuz everything you change

Touches you profoundly

Things’ll never be the same

I think I finally found me


Cuz everything you change

Touches you profoundly

Things’ll never be the same

I think I finally found me‘


* Abe’s Verse *

I found them heron baggies inside the toilet

You thought they flushed away, they wasn’t even moist yet

I saw ya yell at mommie, I heard ya punching auntie

Told me respect women, is this how you grow manly?

Uncle looking comatose, goddamned nearly overdosed

But this the shit I been exposed since I been like six years old

Okay I’m looking for God now, pray you answer my probs, how?

I hear no words it ain’t odd, Thou never seem to respond out loud

And this nigga weed so goddamn loud, I ain’t hearing shit but banging out/

Bandanas, hammers, Mario (POW), Charles Bronson Death Wish/

Action Bronson rhetoric, Little brother wanna step in this

Regulating with my fists, Do what I do or catch The Reckoning/

Let down by my heroes, I swore not to be em

Till I became em- Had nothing to fear- Then

Lil Bro was killed… Lost my reason for living

Now this Peace Poet (just) hope to save a life that listen cuz…


* Chorus *


* Frankie 4’s Bridge *

Cuz everything you touch, touches you back, true dat, who knew that //

Making a mark on the world could leave you blue black till you blew back to the //

Starting line, life keeps testing this, heart of mine//

Why would I follow rules when I see outside the lines?// (2x)


* Luke’s Verse *

I’m admitting it, I’m spitting it, and I’m fitting it in your brain

All I am is what I’m living dancing with my DNA

Grandma passing whiskey down— That’s plenty for today

I’m feeling kinda tipsy now I got too much to say

Around my way— a holiday’s an alcoholic séance

I started spitting WORD so I had something to play on

Papa was a rock star— teaching me to pray on

But I was just another kid for this system to prey on

Teaching me to kill, whatever’s in my path (and)

Act like I know everything and never have to ask (and)

Forget about my people, only focus on the cash (and)

Have a heart of stone till it all come crashing down

Down… And now I am transformation,

Found me on the corner: work and liberation

Making music for the movement: to FREE US ALL

Making mirrors outta mics til we: SEE US ALL


Mental Slavery

Mental Slavery (Lyrics)

* Chorus *

Look at what you made of me

Brothers in penitentiaries

Sisters Lost they self esteem

Goddamn mental slavery

1st you break their spirits

Then you take their minds

Knowledge they won’t go near it

Then you take your time

Mental Slavery (What the fuck is that)

Mental Slavery (I never heard of that shit)

Mental Slavery (Oh you think you better than me)

Mental Slavery (But can you kick my ass)

* The Last Emcee’s Verse *

I’m peaceful but that don’t mean you get to walk on my people

I got a black belt and a black gun

You know damn well that I won’t run

I ain’t the hardest here

But this ain’t a movie my heart is here

And you ain’t moving these artists here

We warn the people like Paul Revere
Fuck ya fear!

* Ram3’s Verse *

We stayed slaves, they tied the chains, up to my brain – I ain’t even know it/

I write these verses, trying to reverse this, I don’t rehearse rebellion – I show it/

Cuz I’m a black man, on a blacklist/

I wear a black flag, with a black fist/

I know history, so I’m an activist – I’m a Peace Poet – not a pacifist/

I fight for mine – against the system – against the odds – on a land mine/

Hand to hand with one hand tied/

I fight for peace, a contradiction; a schitzophrenic type mind condition/

But my condition has been conditioned/

We lose the meaning of a crucifixion, when non-believers rock True Religion/

Cuz we about that money, right?/

Rich on Friday broke on Monday, right?/

Can’t walk out the house looking bummy, right?/

Used to hang from trees, get sold on the block/

Now we smoke trees that we sell on the block/

That sounds a bit funny, right?/

Well, why the slaves these days don’t know?/

Cuz they the product not the prototype

* Chorus *

Look at what you made of me

Brothers in penitentiaries

Sisters Lost they self esteem

Goddamn mental slavery

1st you break their spirits

Then you take their minds

Knowledge they won’t go near it

Then you take your time

Mental Slavery (What the fuck is that)

Mental Slavery (I never heard of that shit)

Mental Slavery (Oh you think you better than me)

Mental Slavery (But can you kick my ass)

* A-B-E’s Verse * (8)

Go to school get a job

With your college degree

Get married get a house

raise a family

Pay your mortgage and

your taxes annually

Give a fuck bout war

Foreign policies

Slaverys about complacency

But there’s no naivety in


I’m coming after everybody

No detaining me

Mr. Break The Rules

Mister Blasphemy

My revolution is to believe in you

Not an institute

Or a thing or a two

Validating you prepared

For a job by school

No to slang or to bang

With a gang, confused?

9 to 5 or getting live to crime

Socially devised, But it

Ain’t your purpose divine

Fuck the routine to

Try to stack that green

We just learned new ways

To hang off trees

* Frankie 4’s Verse *

The brain child of Rothschild and Rockefeller

the stockpiles of dead babies screaming acapella

over hot piles of lava, a brother hits another

choppers undercover dropping death at high propeller..

Marty Sheen staring at the ceiling, feeling sinning

Before Charlie winning, heart of darkness spilling

oligarchs and drilling, Halliburton illin’

I be thinking S’NOT WHATS UP?

Make a killin’ off a killin’, like WHAT THE FUCK?

Over $39 billion, like WHAT THE FUCK?

But they can’t see me, with they MTVs

Cuz the FCCs got an STD

when these MP3s give a fuck for free

1 in 8 marines— got PTSD

you stressing’ me bout who the best emcee

Nobody on TVs saving me

turn off that modern day slavery

* Chorus *

* Despierto’s Verse *

I don’t drop bars- I crush them, I don’t rock crowds- I hush them

So they can hear me fucking, the system that got ‘em plugged in…

The matrix is a racist- I could never be complacent!

My entire generation’s facing mass incarceration

And the hell we should be raising is a raisin in the sun,

Dried up— I ain’t complaining I’ll be raining til we done,

Fist up— to raise a movement I’m a raise it like a son,

Get up—teach em to fight for human rights and what they love,

I been from Palestine to Africa and back into the fray

I’m a Witness Against Torture, I ain’t never going away

If you wanna see your freedom – then Close Down Guantanamo Bay

I don’t want your thanks for dodging tanks, I wanna see your rage

I’m anti racist feminist, a rapper for the menaces

I rap to make ya reminisce, Welcome back to Genesis,

First you hear our lyrics, then your hear our rhymes

No one can take your spirit

No one can take your mind

End This Slavery.

Spoken Word Group Piece with The Afghan Peace Volunteers & Luke

The Afghan Peace Volunteers and Luke Nephew of The Peace Poets

Live from Kabul, October seventh, 2013

The 12th Anniversary of the United States War in Afghanistan.


As the war turns 12

Me and other Youth in Afghanistan worry we will not make it alive to visit our families for Eid,

As the war turns 12,

Women in Afghanistan are still sold and traded, beaten and degraded

we are still demanding our education… but over two thousand and five hundred

Afghan women have committed suicide so far in 2013

As the war turns 12,

Drone attacks still kill kids like they did my two classmates and my brother in law

Night raids terrify the people praying

For a chance to sleep through the night in peace

As the war turns 12, We, the young people are 75 percent of society,

But we struggle for basic education.

We are searching for a peace and unity we have never seen.

We want to design the future ourselves… because as the war turns 12

The US military says they should have total impunity for their crimes-

but We ask why!

Why do they think they should not be held responsible

As the war turns 12

We hope it will not be possible for the US to leave 9 permanent bases the way they want to

As the war turns 12, American people protest imperial violence

and demand their government stop this war, respect the human rights of everyone in Bagram and Guantanamo bay, WE say Salaam Alaykum, peace to all people, As the war turns 12:

The people of Afghanistan WANT

Enough peace to hear the music of their land,

the laughter of their children,

the sound of a man laying a brick to build a home that he can know is not

going to be destroyed

But war turns people into enemies

Schools into battlefields

Homes into badly built bomb shelters

War turns, us against, each other

But we turn, toward each other

to love all sisters and brothers

We will turn this war torn nation

Back into a place where we can dance

And that is our dream,

We are hoping

This war will never turn thirteen…

Too Beautiful to Burn – Dinnertime Gunshots

The sun has just set and we’re sitting in a circle on the floor. This is how we eat here. There’s ten men and five plates of food. Each plate shared by two hungry men. And tea. There is always tea. Tonight, dinner is good. We’re halfway through our five plates of potatoes and rice and baow. We freeze for two seconds. Baow, Baow. Two more shots ring out. The young men jump to their feet and away from the windows. Within two seconds they seem to be behind the thickest parts of the walls. Dr. Hakim and a few of the guys are still sitting. There is a ten seconds of silence. We all wait to see what will come. Just quiet. The sounds of the street. A carhorn. There is some hustle and bustle, someone running somewhere. Exhale. Faiz looks out the window. Doesn’t seem like anything he says.

They all laugh. Oh, you jumped! No you jumped! You we’re scared. They look at me and smile, “Luke, whats the matter you don’t like the potatoes?” I had switched over to tea. “They’re delicious”, I say. I’ll be back for more in a second. I was sitting there reflecting on how gunshots sound so different this far home. My galloping heart slows back down in my chest and I shake my head amazed at these young men who’ve lived through 12 years of constant war and so generous with their joy.