amplifying our everyday resistance to the prison industrial complex
Everyday Abolition | Abolition Everyday Interview with Leroy Moore
I’m currently working with Sins Invalid–we’re coming out with our documentary in the fall. As you will read Sins Invalid is more than art for art sake we do disability justice work. Also Krip-Hop Nation put out a CD last year on police brutality against people with disabilities and now we’re going to the University of Washington to do a workshop and performance about those issues. KHN is working with Franklyn Mkhize and Phumlani Wacko Banda of Your True Standpoint and Zululand Choir in South Africa on a song for people with disabilities and also working together on trying to get Krip-Hop Nation to South Africa to do a conference and to meet each other–that’s one of our bigger goals. Follow us on Facebook and we’ll let people know how you can support us! I have also had a column in POOR magazine in San Francisco since the 90’s.
How did you come to abolitionist work?
My father was an activist. He was involved loosely with the Black Panthers so I grew up seeing him advocate and seeing my mother too advocate for me–a disabled black young man. My dad would take me to protests around prisons and equality. Even though he brought me to all these wonderful protests, I never saw black disabled people till I was in my late teens. My advocacy for POC with disabilities started very early. Being black and disabled and not seeing black disabled people around, not seeing them in my father’s activist circles started my entrance into race and disability. One time a small group of Black disabled boys including myself started a letter campaign (before computers) and we wrote to a lot of Black leaders at that time about the lack of anything on Black disabled people and of course we got no response. I always collected articles about what was going on to black disabled people and found out about police brutality, a lot of segregation in education, a lot of black disabled men in prisons and that’s when I started to realize my own fight–specifically black men with disabilities being stopped by police and incarcerated for no reason.
What does Everyday Abolition mean to you?
Everyday abolition means it’s not a job that you go to, it’s something I live with everyday. Everything that I do from my art to my activism–that’s not tied to the non-profit world. I also want to debunk some ideas about abolition. It’s not only rallies. The non-profit world really tries to take activism away from the community and institutionalize it. So now we think a protest is the only thing we can do to show our activism evolving. Today the notion is if you’re not getting paid for it, we don’t see any reason to do it. But it’s also living, loving your family. It’s teaching my nephews about ableism, about racism through art. My art is not only for the movement but also for my nephews and kids growing up. My art is a part of being an abolitionist and being a black disabled person living in a capitalist world.
Getting older with a disability is no joke. People think that activism is only the protest but once you get older you’re pushed aside because you can’t come to the protest. But we all know elders with disabilities are still activists. Kiilu Nyasha is an elder with a disability, does a lot of prison work and many others are the people I look up to, they are still doing the work. Also Patty Berne (co-founder of Sins Invalid).
Can you give an example of a time in your life when your abolitionist politics shaped how you responded to harm?
A couple months ago I was waiting for a bus to go home in Oakland and this Black man came up to me and said “you useless cripple, you go home!” And what I did was that I recited a poem about being black and disabled–a social justice poem. And then the bus came and that was my two seconds to react. He was shocked that I came back at him in that way. Many times people like this guy only see a disabled guy and think I’m stupid and a waste on society. So when I recited that poem it shocked him that “oh this guy is not only smart but this guy is a poet with deep meaning and uses his identity as a cultural/historical pencil to rewrite public’s presumptions ”. It’s shocks people when they realize that I went to school, that I’m an activist and all those things. He was so shocked I didn’t even have to say anything else.
Why are you committed to abolition? What is this work about for you?
The reasons I’m committed to this is because I’ve been on this issue since I was a kid and I see my community/friends continue to go through these same cycles. I really don’t think that 99% of situations don’t have to involve police. If they didn’t, more of the victims would be alive. I also see that there aren’t alternatives. It’s sad when a parent has to call 911 on their own disabled child and be in tears when their child are shot up by the people they call for so-called help. The sad truth is that anyone who comes out with alternatives in their own communities then they are not supported by politicians and the system and even sometimes non-profits. We have to go to the legal route to get anything passed. The community has wonderful solutions but it has to go through legislators to get these solutions passed–and if it’s not the legislators’ idea and he/she can’t get the bling bling for it, he/she doesn’t want to support it. I see a lot of community solutions around police brutality against people with disabilities that the community is doing but it doesn’t get the support. Most of the times after the cameras and are gone, the program collapses.
The popular solution is more training! If the police were anybody else and they had the same issues and the problems kept getting bigger and bigger, their funding would be cut! It goes a lot deeper than training. Training is a Band-Aid they, the media, police and politicians convince the community they’re going to do but once the pressure is off, they cut the funding and the training disappears. The cases against people with disabilities are increasing, especially now with the high popular attention around people with autism. Now the police are getting more training about people who are autistic. First it was people with mental health disabilities and now the new flavor is autism. But it’s the same solution.
I am a black man and I see cases of police brutality and wrongful incarceration happening continually. I used to be more involved in street activism, now I’m more on the cultural side (making arts, music, writing) about it. The reason I’m still involved is that it still happens, it’s a part of my experience, seeing other black men and women with/without disabilities getting abused by police, wrongful incarceration is off the wall. It needs community involvement not only legislative involvement. Some White and even people of color with disabilities who are middle class and are elites don’t want to deal with this issue, you don’t get funding or if you do get a grant, it’s for a watered down solution and it’s not sustandible . I continue to write about it, make songs about it, poems about it because for one of many reasons in this avenue my cultural work reaches a bigger audience and I see it leaving a deeper realization in my communities. I don’t want to see black disabled youth dealing with that.
How have your abolitionist politics informed how you build relationships?
It affected them a lot. It really made me get in contact with people who share my beliefs. It made me learn the issues and not only people with disabilities but also LGBTQ people, people who are poor. It made me stop and listen and learn from other communities who also go through oppression. I was looking for an outlet for my writing but it was not being published by anybody–the black press or any other presses so I reached out to the San Francisco Bayview Newspaper and Poor magazine.
On the flip side, people can get too comfortable. We talk to the same people, preaching to the choir. Imagine if we had a protest in Beverly Hills! Most of these police live outside the cities like in the suburbs and we need to take it to their communities and their homes. Sometimes I think activists talk to each other too much. I do believe we need that sense of community too. (My politics) made me build a lot of coalitions especially around disability and I know I still need to learn from others too. Even in this internet-connected world, we don’t always know who’s doing this work. It’s not our fault–they keep us separate and busy with dumb shit!
What inspires you to resist punitive and punishment based responses/prevention to harm and violence?
Inspiration can come and go and after you feel good it rarely leads to action beyond charity or a one-day act–but what gets me involved is personal contact. When my activism was on the streets and writing about it, parents used to call me about their loved ones with disability being abused by police. One perfect example is the whole case years ago that me, Poor magazine and the San Francisco Bayview Newspaper took on about Michael Manning–a black man who was railroaded. We stayed on that case until he was a free man. The reason I got involved in that case was making a personal contact with the family and going in and seeing him in prison.
It might sound radical and off the wall but I think that in america, if it doesn’t happen to you, you think it’s not there. I use this example of 9/11 because it didn’t happen a little bit here and there but all at once it stopped the whole country. We need that kind of reaction to get people to connect, to get them to see it’s more about “we” than about “I” I hope not but it seem like we do sadly. I don’t want more people to die, it’s not that. It’s how we all reacted to it but we don’t react to something that’s not a crisis situation. Also some of our reactions to crisis is more discriminating policies or action like homeland security and on and on.
What kind of supports have you set up to make it possible for you to resist the state and the PIC in your life? eg informal street networks, care collectives, living with people you know.
It’s weird because although we want to be independent but in this country, you’re dependent on something plus that independence of America I think plays into the “I” syndrome of this country. For example, I live in a section 8 apartment and get SSI and I can’t be more dependent on the state but at the same time, I still try to make my independence from the state. For example, last year I got a call from the freaking white house. They wanted me on some kind of Obama disability thing. I went along with the whole process knowing in the back of my mind they were going to say no. And at the end I told them I would only be a part of it when they paid their reparations to the black community. The phone went dead. I played into it for months, knowing that once they see my whole picture they wouldn’t want me but I had to get that in there before I let them off the hook plus other things were red flags for them like my activism around police brutality and the biggie was my years of not paying taxes (which today I’m trying to “fix”) . From a family view, sometimes we become so independent that we create whole careers and industries to take care of our elders called nursing homes but that is a whole another can of worms.
Back to the white house thing. Some people I knew said “omg this is a good opportunity to work with the white house” but at the end of the day, you can only go to sleep with yourself. And I knew that I would have to bury a lot more of myself. It’s strange because I was a political science major in college and always wanted to run for office. I ran for student office in my undergrad years but as I got involved–I used to sit on the mayor’s task force for disability and housing–but after I got taste of that I knew I was more of an asset as an activist than a politician. But at the same time we need to support our politicians who are activists. Bottom line from all the above examples comes back to be honest with yourself, knowing the environment you live in and pick and choose when you need to use the system and when to advocate against it and knowing the results of both outcomes. With individual and institutional isms many of us can’t live in reality television way of being.
Are there any ways that you survive without relying on traditional ways of making money? Or avoid participating in the mainstream economy? eg economies inside, sharing and trading resources in non-traditional ways.
I learned all of that from Poor Magazine. PM really taught me how to trade and about underground economics. It’s hard once you’re raised in this culture and going to school, you’re pumped into the 9-5 and your career–so coming from that, I was glad that I was taught by Poor mag and other elder activists that it doesn’t need to be only that way.
My dad lives in Detroit and seeing what they’re doing up there like community gardens, and so much more that’s a big eye opener. Look at the work of elder, Grace Lee Boggs, The Boggs Center and Hip-Hop artists/activist, Invincible of Detroit or the Homeless Action Center in Berkeley, CA. who helped defeated the mayor Sit/Lie proposition and the list goes on these are the people that are creating a new world that I want to live in. At the last US Social Forum Boggs told us, disabled activists “We don’t need a ramp to a burning house!” You can interrupt that anyway you like but it was and still is a powerful statement. The above people and many more are many examples of how people in cities have their own resources outside of that structure. Poor Magazine’s homefullness project in east Oakland is being built–and not with devil-opers or the city. It’s with people doing it, taking back culture and listening to mother nature. The question is: can we do that in this capitalist society? We can always look at MOVE in Philly and they had the same kinda idea. They got bombed. The question remains: can we actually do this without the system? e.g. having schools without using the charter system but schools that are put together by the people, doing the curriculum so it’s not all about tests. My involvement with the coalition on homelessness taught me as well.
I really want to point out the work that Patty Berne is doing on disability justice. She is one of the extraordinary minds behind disability justice. A lot of POC and other organizations are clueless when it comes to disability justice so I want to point out the work of Patty Berne and a lot of other folks who know: it’s not about “I” its about “we”.
The laws in the US that criminalize people–these laws are not for everybody. We people who are poor, of color, who are LGBTQ, with disabilities should not follow the law. That means the possibility of incarceration but on a large scale- these laws (like stop and frisk) are not enforced in wealthy neighborhoods. That’s obvious. Many rich individuals don’t do their taxes then why should we do our taxes? Just don’t follow the laws.
Leroy F. Moore Jr. is a Black writer, poet, hip-hop\music lover, community activist and feminist with a physical disability. He has been sharing his perspective on identity, race & disability for the last thirteen years or so. His work began in London, England where he discovered a Black Disabled Movement which help led to the creation of his lecture series; ‘On the Outskirts: Race & Disability. Leroy F. Moore Jr. is a consultant on Race & Disability, co/founder & community relations director of Sins Invalid go to www.sininvalid.org to learn more. He is also the creator of Krip-Hop Nation (Hip-Hop artists with disabilities and other disabled musicians from around the world) and produced Krip-Hop Mixtape Series. With Binki wi of Germany and Lady MJ of the UK started what is now known as Mees With Disabilities, an international movement. Leroy formed one of the first organization for people of color with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay area that lasted five years. He is associated with the National Black Disability Coalition. Leroy was Co Host of a radio show in San Francisco at KPOO 89.5 FM, Berkeley at KPFA 94.1 FM. He has studied, worked and lectured in the field of race and disability concerning blues, hip-hop, and social justice issues in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa. Leroy currently writing a Krip-Hop book with Professor Terry Rowden. Leroy has won many awards for his advocacy from the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council under Willie L. Brown to the Local Hero Award in 2002 from Public Television Station, KQED in San Francisco.
Leroy has a poetry CD, entitled Black Disabled Man with a Big Mouth & A High I.Q. and has put out his second poetry CD entitled The Black Kripple Delivers Krip Love Mixtape. Leroy is a longtime columnist, one of the first column on race & disability that started in the early 90’s at Poor Magazine in San Francisco.