“Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun” By Geoffrey Canada

In Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, by Geoffrey Canada, the three major points include the past, the changes, and the present because they help explain the current state of inner-city neighborhoods. In the past, Canada explains that to gain reputation on the block, one would fight, and winning said fights meant an increase in reputation. Children were “safe” more or less from other blocks when they were on their home block because the other children on their block would back them up. In this time, one learned empathy through learning to fight because they had to take some punches.

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While traumatizing in its own way, this type of life was mild to later changes. As Canada grew up, guns started to enter the streets, but they were limited to a few older kids. Furthermore, soon drugs, followed by guns, quickly became commonplace items on the street. As Canada explains in his book, guns, not toughness, determine the pack’s head. This explosion of crime helps explain the mass incarceration of Black people, the high arrest rates, and the many deaths within Black communities.

Often in the United States, many people discuss “Black-on-Black crime” —as if it’s any different than the regular crime— without realizing why crime is high in impoverished, minority communities. The increase in crime and drugs has no basis in an intrinsic fault among minorities or because minorities are dangerous people. Instead, high rates of crime are due to the circumstances to which individuals are subjected to.

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Mothers and fathers who can’t or don’t care for their children leave teenagers and sometimes younger children to fend for themselves. Without a firm adult role model, who do they look to? As Canada explains in Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, they looked to the “older boys,” were literally just the older kids who lived on the block.

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Canada explains that after he left for college, he only returned to the South Bronx for holidays. Still, the city was nothing like he remembered. Kids were used by significant drug suppliers to sell drugs, and they made more money than they or their families had seen in their lifetime. However, since they were kids, they couldn’t buy houses or cars like their older drug dealer counterparts. So, the kids bought clothes and jewelry. But, wearing expensive accessories in areas where robbery is highly likely meant that you were even more of a target. The only solution? Defend yourself.

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Unlike how Canada grew up with fist fighting, the kids nowadays have access to firearms, and so, they bought them, no more needing to know how to fight. As kids increasingly obtained guns, there were no “codes of conduct,” as Canada calls them. Codes of conduct include when you can fight someone else and when you can’t.

gray hand cuffs with the key next to them.
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But with guns, Canada says, “Sometimes these days they yell and curse and then shoot you, sometimes they just shoot you.” So, without rules, people needed to defend themselves, so they also obtained guns, resulting in a tremendous number of weapons being carried down the streets.

Having the opportunity to go to Bowdoin College in Maine and Harvard School of Education, Canada was able to escape this environment. After graduating college, Canada eventually returned to New York City, Harlem, to be specific. He founded a Beacon Schools program that opens in impoverished neighborhoods where school enrollment is low, crime is high, and the city has no interest in fixing. These schools offer children extracurricular activities proven to benefit children, a security presence, and community involvement.

Canada has found that, through the opening of Beacon Schools, the community benefits directly. Crime goes down, enrollment increases, and even violence within the school goes down.

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Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

If you’re interested in crime in the United States, this book is highly recommended. Many individuals, including politicians, believe that the quick fix to crime and deviance is to increase police presence, such as Reagan’s War on Drugs. But Canada offers a different resolution. He advocates offering free, quality educations, security for children, and extracurricular activities.

When you think about it, in its simplicity, all that Canada is doing is offering kids a proper childhood. Children in these neighborhoods have to grow up all too quickly on the streets, which hardens a person. Through an education, activities such as the Tai Kwon Do program he leads, and a sense of safety, the children get to be children again. 

 And as any adult knows, childhood is short as it is, so shouldn’t children get to enjoy it in all its innocence and purity?

Here’s links to Canada’s work:


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  • Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun by Geoffrey Canada
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The Black Panthers And The Police. Who’s Really Radical?

Source: The New York Times

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On February 1st, the movie Judas and The Black Messiah came out. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin it, so don’t worry, no spoilers here. The movie depicts the Black Panther group, specifically the Chicago chapter led by Fred Hampton. The Black Panthers lay among the more radical side of the civil rights movement. Though not solely based upon violence, they weren’t afraid to get violent.

On the other hand, as many people know, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is considered the ultimate peacemaker in the Civil Rights Era. American History textbooks don’t cover much other than Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream Speech and Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience. This means things like Malcolm X., or in this case, the Black Panthers, are left unaddressed and open to uneducated opinions. 

Who Are The Black Panthers?

In 1966, the Black Panthers considered themselves a group founded for the self-defense of Black people. The group was initially founded by Bobby Seale, Elbert Howard, also known as Big Man, and Huey P. Newton. By the 1970s, the group began to see itself as a political party. It had upwards of 2,000 members across the country. Also, the group had set up community programs, one of which, as depicted in the movie, was a breakfast program where children were fed free meals. 

Grayscale photo of a man in a white polo holding a bottle and holding his fist in the air.
Photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash

Despite this, the organization had controversies that stated that members had tortured a suspected police informant within its organization, as portrayed in the movie. In 1969 two significant events occurred. Fred Hampton was assassinated, and J. Edgar Hoover declared the Black Panther movement a communist group.

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  • Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton meet at Merritt college in Oakland, California. -1961

  • Malcolm X. is assassinated -1965

  • Seale, Howard, and Newton found The Black Panther Party -1966

  • The group reaches 2,000 members -1968

  • Betty Van Patter, a Black Panther member, is beaten and murdered allegedly other members -1969

  • The Black Panther Party is designated a communist group by the FBI -1969

  • Chicago Police assassinate Fred Hampton and others and arrest Deborah Johnson. -1969

  • The Black Panther Party disbands officially. -1982

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The Truth May Be Lost To History.

*SPOILER ALERT* 

In the end, the movie depicts the assassination of Fred Hampton and many other members and the arrest of his pregnant girlfriend, Deborah Johnson, who now goes by Akua Njeri. The Chicago Police Department is responsible for the brutal murder of these people. Still, the movie heavily suggests that the FBI, under the authority of J. Edgar Hoover, was ultimately responsible for the assassination.

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 History confirms this theory but clarifies the FBI has never admitted its involvement in the assassination; however, “a federal grand jury later indicated that the bureau played a significant role in the events leading up to the raid.” So the truth to whatever may indeed have happened is probably lost to history.

Who’s Really The Radicals?

Civil rights leaders are often deemed “radical,” but as stated before, the education system hardly addresses such leaders and their group ideals. Malcolm X. is touted as radical and pro-violence; however, many historians clarify that he was instead a proponent of self-defense, which is a subtle yet essential difference. In this case, it’s the Black Panther Party which is still declared as even more radical than Malcolm X. 

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The movie offer subtle hints that Fred Hampton may not have been radically violent. When the members go into rival territory, Hampton orders them to leave their guns in the car as a sign of peace. If someone refuses, as happens in one scene, Hampton tells them to stay in the car. Whether this is true or not, history goes to show that the Black Panther group, as founder Bobby Seale states, doesn’t “hate nobody because of color. We hate oppression.” If the police can have “bad apples,” can’t a civil rights movement also have them?  

History seems to repeat itself in that Black movements tend to die out or fizzle if not solely due to the government; they certainly had a hand in it. For example, Martin Luther King Jr., murdered, Malcolm X. murdered, Fred Hampton, murdered. These individuals were the leaders of monumental groups leading the civil rights movement, which fizzled out after their deaths. While there isn’t and probably never will be proof, in each case, the government had labeled each one a credible threat to society. 

The FBI, under Hoover’s authority, encouraged King to commit suicide and attempted to discredit him. Having converted to Muslim and thus arguably as “radical” as King at the time of their deaths, Malcolm X was considered “controversial in mainstream America” for his ideas of self-defense and self-empowerment. Malcolm X, like King, and Hampton, were under extreme surveillance through COINTELPRO. While the connections aren’t damning, if it smells fishy, it’s probably fish.

Whether the racial movement leaders were genuinely radical or not may be lost in history, but if they are considered radical, what must the police departments, the FBI, and the United States government be considered?

If these institutions were at the hands of these individuals’ murders, that’s far beyond radical. If they weren’t behind the murders, shouldn’t they have known of any threats? Logically, with the amount of surveillance from COINTELPRO, with bugged rooms and phone lines and secret informants, a threat must’ve been detected, so why weren’t they protected? We can’t change the past, and the past won’t necessarily change the future, but truth matters.

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them

– Ida B. Wells-Barnett

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Here’s What It Means To “Decriminalize” Drugs

On November 3rd, without a thought of how high their screen time was getting, the entire country stared at their television and phone screens. However, many people did not see or just scrolled over the articles explaining the many different states that legalized marijuana and even more impressive, the only state that decriminalized drugs. In 44 states, weed is legal in some form, which may be medical, recreational, or both. Oregon took the next step in 2020’s election. They voted and officially decriminalized personal use and possession of all drugs which prompted a negative response from many people. The terms “decriminalized” and “legalized” are very distinct and crucial to understanding Oregon’s decision. So, today I will be discussing what it means to “decriminalize” drugs.

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Throughout the United States history, we can see that politicians have repeatedly passed laws and “waged wars” against drugs. However, “wars” and laws that criminalize drugs disproportionately target minority communities, which results in enormous populations of minorities imprisoned for even small amounts of drugs. Aggressive drug enforcement in the 1980s led to the mass incarceration of African Americans. The United States comprises about 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 4.25% of the world’s total population, and that is the issue with the criminalization of drugs.  

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“War On Drugs”

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There are several times when American Presidents took drastic measures against drugs. President Richard Nixon implemented one of the most infamous, “War on Drugs” during the 1980s. Nixon’s aggressive effort against drugs resulted in Black people, especially men, sent to prison in massive waves. These bold and targeted laws included longer minimums sentences, and hasher sentencing. Beverly Tatum, Ph.D., who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, addresses the many different aspects of racism in America throughout her career. In her book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?”, Dr. Tatum addresses how Nixon’s war on drugs increased minimum sentences for drug-related offenses from just under two years in 1986 to a five-year minimum in 2004.

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Dr. Tatum continues to discuss how drug-related offenses make up approximately 50 percent of the federal population since 1980. Whereas, in state prisons, the number of drug offenders “has increased tenfold since 1980.” Furthermore, Dr. Tatum further shows the ridiculousness of such drastic drug targeting and states that many of the majority of people who make up the drug-related prison populations “are not major players in the drug trade” and do not have violent pasts. Therefore, we can infer that such aggressive tactics to criminalize drugs directly target African Americans and intentionally put more in prison.

What It Means to Decriminalize

We’re now in the wake of the late 1900s’ aggressive drug enforcement tactics. There are plenty of counteractive measures to reverse past presidents like Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan’s actions. However, please do not confuse that with the fact our prison population numbers are still at incredibly high numbers. In the book, “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander, she states that there are “more African American adults under correctional control today in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850.” This quote speaks volumes to our prison systems’ current state. Conditions have hardly changed since the 1800s; they only shifted, though the presidency of President Barack Obama would have you believe racism is long gone.

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There are plenty of counteractive programs that reversed things like the 3-Strike program and other aggressive drug enforcement laws. However, the disproportionate representation of minorities in prisons stays stagnant. This is where decriminalization comes in. Decriminalizing drugs turns drug abuse into a health or mental issue rather than a criminal issue. Looking at drug abuse from an empathetic, health point-of-view provides those addicted to drugs with more opportunity to break the addiction through rehabilitative programs. To send drug abusers with no priors or no violent history to prison for a minimum of five years is the same as giving them a life sentence of hardship and adversity. Additionally, once people are convicted of a crime, they are more than likely to become a reoffender. That’s not because they are or become bad people, but because the circumstances inside prison and the restrictions that surround their release, make it hard to live life as we consider, “normal.”

The rehabilitative approach towards drug addiction will help diminish the disproportionate numbers of minorities in prisons and jails. This approach also rehabilitates more people allowing them to be productive members of society. That is why Oregon decriminalizing low amounts of drugs is a significant step in the right direction.

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Here’s One Reason America’s Youth Is Increasingly Progressive

In the United States, different social groups have different perspectives of the nation’s history. Race, gender, or sexual orientation largely determine one’s view of history. Marginalized social groups remember the horrors of the past and the murdered ancestors. On the contrary, when people of dominant social groups look at history, they see the successes, and thus they want to “make America’ great’ again.” The vast differences between minority and dominant social groups’ perspectives of history help explain a lack of older generations’ progressiveness. Additionally, this also explains why America’s youth is increasingly progressive.   

Considering that 76.3% of the United States population is white, the trends in the nation are influenced the most by the white community. Additionally, at least 80% of Black people already identify as Democrat — and 29% identify as liberal. So, as you read about how America’s youth is increasingly progressive, it is rightful to assume that the white community’s perspective is most prominently changing.

Older Generations

The Silent Generation, Boomers, and the Gen X’s are the oldest generations still alive. The people who comprise these generations were alive to see the past 100 years or so. The things that younger generations look at as “history” are just the past moments for the older generations. They remember times when society was even more opportune and beneficial for white people than marginalized groups. A majority of the dominant groups’ members don’t think of the horrible history our country has, and so, therefore, the country was never anything but great for them. 

The other side of the society, however, sees a not-so-great American history. Older members of disenfranchised social groups personally, or through stories, remember segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK. From this perspective, the United States has never been great. Indigenous American, Hispanic, and Latinx people share this not-so-great perspective of American history. For the Indigenous Americans, it’s the mass genocide of ancestral tribes and hundreds of other horrors. It is the enslavement, murder, and eviction from their land along the southern United States border Hispanic and Latinx people.

Younger Generations 

A protester in Washington DC holds a sign featuring George Floyd.
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

Younger generations, such as Millennials Gen Z, are more progressive than their older counterparts. According to research by the Pew Research Center, the views of voters throughout the different generations have become increasingly progressive over time. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported percentages on generations’ approval of Donald Trump. The numbers were as follows, 54% of the Silent Generation, 43% of Baby Boomers, 38% of Gen X, 29% of Millennials, and 30% of Gen Z. Overall, we can see a downward trend on average of 6% per generation. Despite an overall downward trend, Gen Z rose 1% from the previous Millenial generation. However, it’s important to note that Gen Z has the least number of eligible voters, which means significantly less of a sample size. That aside, since older generations experienced a different era of the United States, their perspective is different.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The younger white population in America doesn’t remember when it was socially encouraged and accepted to overtly abuse people by the color of their skin, their orientation of sexuality, or any other identifying factors. Don’t confuse this with the eradication of racism or other prejudices. While the United States has mostly shifted away from blatant abuse of minority social groups, that does not mean that discrimination doesn’t exist through more inconspicuous forms. However, as I said, the younger white generation grew up in a seemingly more accepting society. So they are more likely to interact with a more diverse group of people and be more empathetic towards minority social groups.

Future Generations

As the less empathetic generations pass on, the newer generations will only become more and more progressive. I like to think about how my generation’s — Gen Z — kids will look at us and our parents as much more conservative than their views.

Photo by Giacomo Lucarini on Unsplash

We can see proof of younger generations becoming increasingly progressive in upcoming political leaders. Older generations think of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as too far left. However, ask anyone just out of college or younger, and they’ll most likely know AOC, and tell you how much they like her. She may have incredibly out-there ideas, but that’s what we, the United States, need. Because everything was impossible ‘til someone did it.


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The Unbeatable Duo, Flu And Corona


Throughout 2020, we’ve encountered murderous hornets, raging fires, worldwide protests, and a pandemic. I haven’t been writing for a while, and there’s a lot to discuss over the last few months. However, what we’re headed for is what’s most concerning. Coronavirus has been rampant worldwide ever since early March 2020, and possibly even earlier. Minority communities have been devastated by coronavirus, and influenza season is coming quick, I’m afraid of the travesty minority communities will face if or when the flu and coronavirus attack at once.

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Researchers

We are nearing flu season, and coronavirus has yet to yield, so scientists are rushing to determine all the potentials and consequences. But, as with COVID, there are still no certainties. In early March 2020, many people naïvely compared Coronavirus’ deaths to influenza’s death rate. Influenza took between 24,000-62,000 lives in 2019-2020, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, COVID-19’s deaths are nearing one million cases. “The worst-case scenario is both [the coronavirus and the flu] are spreading fast and causing severe disease, complicating diagnoses and presenting a double burden on the health care system,” says Marc Lipsitch.

There has been some whisper of a cure going around. Trump mentioned that a vaccine should be ready by late 2020 a few times. However, according to many doctors, the CDC only recommended hospitals prepare for a vaccine mostly because they wanted them to be extra prepared. And even if the vaccine were to come out by the end of this year, only the at-risk citizens and essential workers are likely to receive it. The rest of the country will most likely receive the vaccine well into mid 2021.

Black man covering his face with his hands.
Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash
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Racial Crisis

You probably don’t hear about this issue very often, if at all, on the news. It’s not a new issue, it’s just exacerbated because of COVID-19. The point I’m referring to is the way our country’s medical infrastructure fails our minority communities time and time again. From birth complication rates to vaccination rates, minority communities are always hit the worst. With the influenza season coming, I have the privilege to go and get my flu shot without worry. However, I worry for the lower socioeconomic, minority community, who was already hit disproportionately worse by COVID-19. Add on top of that, minorities are less likely to receive a flu vaccination. In 2018, the CDC conducted a study examining the racial disparities within vaccinations. Here’s what they found:

Chart that shows the percentages of flu infections by race.

As you can see, the white community makes up most vaccinations in the United States, with numbers near 50%. Followed by Asian at 44%, Black at 40 %, and Hispanic at 37%. Hispanics and Blacks receive flu vaccinations around 10% less often than white people. This difference may not seem drastic but add this on top of the coronavirus rates by race.  According to the CDC, per a single case of a white person with coronavirus, there are 2.6 Black cases, 2.8 Hispanic cases, and 1.1 Asian cases. As you can see, COVID-19 is raging through minority communities at more than double the white neighborhoods’ rate. And with influenza season on the way, sadly, too many lives will be threatened.

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The Unpredictability

Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, says, “it is hard to predict” the flu season’s infection rate alongside COVID-19. Cobey explains that what’s to come is incredibly unpredictable because human behavior largely determines the infection rate. While it is possible to look at other nations for reference, there is no surefire way to tell what will happen. For instance, nations in the southern hemisphere experience flu season exactly opposite of us, due to the inverted seasons. Southern hemispheric countries acquired a surplus of flu vaccines. However, they haven’t seen any spikes in flu infections.

Consider This from NPR podcast suggests this could be because of already-in-place mask-wearing regulations and social distancing. While scientists may look to this as a reference for the northern hemispheric nations, there are significant differences. The podcast pointed out that winters are milder in the southern hemisphere than in the north, which means that people spend more time indoors in northern countries, which means more contact between people.

Human behavior comes into play when trying to predict the path influenza will take. Many other countries have been taking COVID-19 much more seriously than here in the United States, and Americans are much less likely to socially distance or wear masks. Therefore, there is no reason the flu will hit any less than it does every other year or worse. Scientists are hopeful for a vaccine come at the end of 2020, and while it may only reach the elderly and at-risk citizens, we’re going to need anything we can get if flu season and coronavirus team-up.

Thanks for reading I’m back to writing an article every week, so subscribe to stay up to date! Please leave a comment, any inaccurate statements, misspellings, or any opinions.

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