“Poetry! What is it good for?”

“These are most talented and inspiring young men with a mission to expose social problems through poetry and music. This episode includes several examples of their work. Do not miss this one and check out The Peace Poets.”

“[PWIIGF] is a BCR series focusing on the committed and reverberating poetry of our times — produced by Chris Brandt of Fordham University, English Dept. — and member of Witness Against Torture. For this PWIIGF episode, Chris invited two members of the inspiring NYC activist performance group The Peace Poets — a “family born of Hip Hop, heart, and hope in New York City.” In 2014 Peace Poets song “I Can’t Breathe” protesting the murder of Eric Garner by the NYPD went viral when actor, Samuel L. Jackson, recorded himself singing I Can’t Breathe.”

Keep Families Together

by A-B-E of The Peace Poets

The children led us as we sang and marched from Chicano Park towards Downtown, San Diego, CA., demanding the US government abolish the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) established by President George H. Bush in 2003, to stop Operation Streamline from being established and launched in San Diego, and build towards a world without borders where no human being can ever be considered illegal.

U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has enforced a zero-tolerance policy for migrants and asylum seekers. The policy has resulted in the detention of thousands of migrants. Since the children of these migrants cannot be federally processed, the Trump Administration has separated these children from their parents and detained them thousands of miles away in centers spread about the country. A child 1 (one) year of age has already been asked to make a court appearance.

(Video by Guardian News.)

As we marched into the Downtown San Diego area to protest the separation of families and violence propagated by the border, hundreds of people in the streets were in awe as they turned their heads towards the top of the Westin Hotel. Two brave protectors scaled down the top of the hotel where they courageously dropped a banner that was 3-stories high and delivered the message, Free Our Families Now! #StopStreamline.

People gathered from all over the country and abroad to resist U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman’s recommendation and insistence on replicating Operation Streamline in the San Diego federal court system Monday, July 9th. Operation Streamline has been used in Austin, Texas and Tucson, Arizona throughout the past decade and has proved to be expensive, inefficient, and lucrative for the prison industrial complex, drug cartels, and sex rings who profit off deportees by means of exploitation, extortion, and violence.

Beside the violent abuses endured throughout processing and inside jails and detention centers, people who are legitimately in danger for their lives and seeking asylum for their children and themselves are not allowed the opportunity of due process nor just legal representation. People who are detained are lined up, up to 70 people at a time, and simultaneously processed and typically coerced into accepting guilty pleas for reduced sentences.

Many participated in non-violent civil-disobedience and blocked a Federal building with signs reading Shut Down Sessions! 10 people were arrested and have been criminally charged with felony burglaries, trespassing, and obstruction of justice.

Throughout our time in San Diego, Mi Jente reminded us all that we were all called to “fill in the gap” because everyone’s presence, capacity, and unique contribution is necessary. Mi Jente’s principles are founded on being pro-black, pro-woman, pro-queer, and pro-organizer. They coordinated us all in helping sweep, fold chairs, create art, carry puppets, lead ceremony, translate speeches, teach chants to sing in the streets, and risk arrest. This inner practice during our gatherings was an empowering affirmation of creating the world we know we deserve and want to live in. Thank you to Black Lives Matter San Diego, Jews for Racial and Economic JusticeVeterans for Peace, and everyone else who joined and supported us with so much courage, love, leadership and action!

It’s been such a blessing to have our children guide our actions today as we prayed, marched, and resisted with so many beautiful communities to abolish ICE and advocate for our families separated, detained, and caged, while Jeff Sessions pushes for federal programs like Operation Streamline which processes 10-30 undocumented people simultaneously, forcing them to accept guilt, while violating their right to a fair trial & waiting trial can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. . . Much love and gratitude to all the folks from all over the country and abroad who have come and put their lives on the line supporting and participating in these beautiful actions! . . We are still raising bail funds so please check out @conmijente and donate to get our Warriors of Love back home safely and quickly 🙂 ✊?✌? . . #abolishice #abolishpolice #freeourfuture #nobannowall #shutdownsessions #keepfamiliestogether #shutdownstreamline

A post shared by A-B-E The Peace Poets (@abevelazquez) on



Hip Hop & Spoken Word as Interventions for Social Change.

by A-B-E of The Peace Poets

April 24 – 27th, 2018, I facilitated a professional development seminar, Hip Hop y Spoken Word Para La Intervención Social, at La Casa Encendida in Madrid, Spain. These spoken word poetry and Hip Hop culture workshops were designed for educators, organizers, and activists interested in creating art, building community, and activating creation into action for social justice.

We had spent our week sharing spoken word poems, learning how to beatbox and break, and studying the connection between Hip Hop and the Civil Rights movements, when on the 3rd day of our workshop many of us found ourselves very impacted by a the court decision given that day. The hearing regarded an event that occurred 2 years ago where an 18 year old teenager was assaulted and gang raped by 5 men who called themselves La Manada, (The Wolf Pack), in the Sanfermines festival in Pamplona, Spain.

The judge declared that the 5 men were guilty of sexual abuse but innocent of sexual violation and rape. Some of the reasoning for this ruling is founded on the court’s definition of rape which excuses it as a crime if the victim does not use physical force to resist her aggressors. The victim, who did not consent to being recorded by those who gang raped her, had her eyes closed in the 7 videos while her assailants recorded and violated her. The judges deduced from the footage that the victim emoted no signs of discomfort, aversion, or displeasure and that the recordings (and the sharing of it) from her attackers were not a violation of her privacy either.

It is important to note that although the court definition for rape necessitates physical resistance, there are countless cases of rapists murdering their victims for the precise reason of physically resisting them. Thousands of victims’ bodies still remain missing today. The apparently obvious contradiction of the court hearing is that if a woman does resist being violated, she might wind up being murdered, and if she does not physically resist being raped, out of fear for her life, then the courts do not recognize the violation as rape.

The judgement is a dangerous declaration to men and all violators that raping or murdering a woman has little to no consequence. The 5 men making up part of the Wolf Pack have since served 2 years of their 9 year sentence which has currently been reduced to 5 years. These men might very likely be offered a reduction from the 3 years they have to serve to a 1 year sentence with good behavior and parole. This means that these men could possibly and will probably be free and back in society as soon as 2019. Some of these 5 men are also currently being tried for other cases of sexual abuse and violation that they are implicated in.

As some of the participants mentioned in the workshop, the true horror is not that this is an isolated incident of one young woman who was violated, rather that it is an act that occurs daily. In Spain, statistics show that there are at least 3 Spanish women who face rape daily. These violations often happen in partnerships and relationships as well, and are not reserved as random acts of violence from strangers alone.

That evening, some of the participants from the workshop left together to participate in a protest where thousands of women of all ages, races, sexual orientation, and credences gathered to express their indignation, their rage, and their need for urgent change. It was beautiful to see sisters accompanied by friends, partners, family members, and allies. It’s always beautiful to see the dynamic between a community grow from folks barely knew each other a couple of days prior, to new family supporting and uplifting each other. I was charged by the energy of these fierce women, sisters, and warriors and have taken that vibration to reflect on my own individual and collective contributions to our misogynistic, patriarchal, transphobic, and heteronormative society, and question what kind of brother I want to be in our society.

Winning the struggle against this system is not achieved through the expression of rage on one particular day. The reality of the everyday violence must be confronted and dismantled as we encounter ourselves in these daily interactions. These are the interactions that occur walking down the street, on the metro, in night clubs. The work consists of examining our conversations at work and in social gatherings, examining the thoughts and behaviors that we accept, tolerate, or ignore. The work consist of being critical of the apparently innocent media that we consume, planting its seeds of propaganda which bears fruit in our subconscious and lived realities. We must teach boys and men with a culture and an education that respects and values the lives of all sisters, and all the mothers and grandmothers who have literally given us life.

The last day of our workshop, we finished the cumulative process of taking pop songs and recreating and remixing them into versions that expressed our emotional and intellectual analysis. Participants discussed the subtle and direct ways in which the songs propagated the sexual violences practiced daily. They rewrote the choruses of the songs, added their own rap verses and poetry, scored their song with beatboxing, and added dance to accompany their message. We use the practice of creating in this way to make art which is relevant, has a direct message, and can be used proactively in the streets to accompany marches, protests, and social justice actions, and demand the change that we desire for all future generations. This is the work of saying, yes, we are and have been oppressed, but we are not victims; we have voice and strength, we have survived and we will continue fighting.

This is the work of love. The kind of love that believes that the child of every mother deserves to live dignified and have their humanity respected. It is the revolutionary love that Mamie Till Mobley had for her son Emmett Till. This is the love of Hip Hop in action, and I’m so proud to have connected with new family that has allowed me to continue further humanizing myself.


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.

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.