There’s this moment when I walk into the courtroom that surrounds my body with excitement, inspiration, and fulfillment of purpose. It is a feeling that I can’t wipe off my skin because in these seconds I feel alive. I see the bench, I see the seats, I see the brown wood that highlights every courtroom, and I just know the first day I get to open my mouth in court, to know the law like the back of my hand, and to critically state my points in a case, there will be no other experience like it in the world. I get ready to hear the arguments from counsel, my ears pinned on each hanging motion, strike, and appeal. The moment my notepad, binder, busted ink pins, countless hours of research, and files all come together to meet before the honorable judge, I will be ready to do the work I was born to do.
But when I walk into a courtroom, if I stay just a few moments beyond the first thirty seconds, I become the brown wood. See, the coated caramelized haven of justice and law that is in the colors of the courtroom somehow attaches itself onto me, as one black conviction after the next rises in the state attorney’s hands. The excitement, inspiration, and fulfillment of purpose become a hoax, really. That feeling of being alive is now this burning rage mixed with a fire to dismantle the institution that has enslaved, imprisoned, and murdered the faces of my people.
The attorneys, judges, and police officers all dismiss the faces of black and brown people. These faces become objects within the cases, just to prove the founding father’s notion that all men are free. They dismiss these faces because these people aren’t them and, in their system, they will never be free. I, a black man, walk into a courtroom, confident in my walk, my chin never neglecting the sky, my ties triangular to my neck, my shirts ironed and cleaned, my belt and pants up and not loosened, my posture angled and poised, my cheekbones strong, my hair cut, and my eyes hungry and wide. The state attorney says to my boss, “Hey, sir, is this your client?” and such efforts are shattered and reflect the lives of blacks across this nation.
Do you see what arises, what arises in the eyes of the skin that doesn’t look like theirs? I am a conflict of interest. So is my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunts, my friends, and my peers. I, a black man, am a conflict of interest and it’s not because of the knowledge, the awards, the scholarships, or the GPA that I have attained, not because of my work ethic, not because of my desire for more that affects every move I make. It’s not because I studied, worked three jobs while being a full-time student, sat on eight different committees, board of trustees, was co-president of Comcil, or was a founder of a BSU. I am a conflict of interest because I’m a black man in a courtroom who is supposed to be on trial. I’m supposed to be a client as the state attorney already assumed and I’m supposed to be in the system, not working against the system and that, that is what makes me a conflict of interest. My skin isn’t supposed to get past the security, my skin isn’t supposed to be able to get past ninth grade, my skin isn’t supposed to read novels and literature, my skin isn’t supposed to make it past the red and blue lights each day, and my skin isn’t supposed to be here!
But my skin is here, I am here, and I will be this nation’s conflict of interest. That makes it my life’s purpose and mission to take down the institution that promotes white supremacy until I take my last breath.
On my first co-op with the Transgender Law Center, I’ve come to learn that all skill sets are needed to become an effective organizer. I’ve learned that you don’t call the trains here “the bart” but “BART.” I’ve learned that a street without hills doesn’t exist in San Francisco. Let me tell you about a typical day…
I wake up around 7:30 a.m. every morning because my body is still on Eastern Time. I take the muni up to 24th street and walk down to Mission Station. I’ve learned that buses are my friends and so are uber eats apps. From there, I get to Oakland and walk about 3 minutes to my job. Every Monday I have a conference meeting. Normally I get my assignments through emails and get to choose what time I get my lunch.
The field of communications and development at the Transgender Law Center has been fast paced. Every day we are working on a strategy plan for social media, content to push out regarding new information, and ways we can create materials to inspire others to keep pushing in their lives, as well as for others to want to help marginalized groups. Most of my days for TLC are filled with those projects—finding the inspiring people, events, content, and writing about it.
I work with TLC’s social media platforms to communicate various messages that incorporate our efforts for the survival of trans lives and magnifying the voices of trans people of color. Our mission statement reads: “TLC does what it takes to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.”
During my time here, I’ve also worked on two legal cases and developed language for a number of TLC press releases. Next week I will be facilitating my first meeting. I’ve also written action plans for my role here and invitational forms for an upcoming congressional hearing. Learning the foundational tools of nonprofits and how they function has helped me develop new skills and understanding.
The highlight of my job has been the blog post/article I wrote for TLC for “Arianna Lint,” a trans woman of color from south Florida. The blog post is being posted at the end of June and I’m very proud of my work on it. I read a report that contained information for our division of the Protect Trans Health campaign that Arianna had worked on. This report dived into the numbers behind discrimination in the healthcare field that trans people, trans people of color and non-binary people face. From this report I crafted an article on its content and highlighting Arianna’s work in this area. She’s one of the leaders in the department Positively Trans and has her own center in south florida helping trans folks of color living with HIV. Being able to read her compelling and inspiring story and then write a piece about was amazing. From learning WordPress and how to publish on the web, now I am inspired to start my own website to share information to folks back home!
This work intertwines with my goals of becoming an activist and organizer. This co-op is giving me the tool kit I need to continue my dreams and goals for my life.
Hello everyone! I’m currently in the Bay Area on my co-op with the Transgender Law Center. The first week I arrived to the Bay, I got invited to attend the Alumni Bay Chapter meeting. I was introduced to April Wolford ’92 through this meeting and (via technology through Duffy). About a month later, April invited me to grab lunch and to attend the action team meeting for a diversity and inclusion summit they were prepping for at UC Berkeley. I attended two meetings that day and offered suggestions. The action team then asked if I would attend and help facilitate their part of the program of the ally training. I obviously accepted this, because well it’s UC Berkeley.
Yesterday was the summit and it was absolutely amazing. It was incredible to be in dialogue with people wanting to create systemic change, have more diversity in authority spaces, create equality for the treatment of people of color and women in the workplace and build allies and trusting relationships. I facilitated my own group on how to be a ally, how to self reflect, and call out micro-aggressions in the workplace. I helped to open minds, be influenced by listening to others’ stories, and engaged in constructive dialogue.
In my group, there was a story shared with me by a women of color speaking on her experience of discrimination in her work field. She explained to the group how she was now perceived as the angry black woman—for not saying anything in meeting and not looking approachable. She explained this after using a script that we used to role play various scenarios. The script had been created and planed out by the action team and I. Hers was an impactful representation of how women and people of color’s voices are silenced in work spaces. When she shared her story, I was then able to speak more about micro-aggressions that most white people don’t realize they’re doing but also choose not to see. This also gave me the gateway to show the white people in the group how to be a ally for their co-workers. We discussed ground rules to be held during meetings and effective ways to talk to those who have the power of controlling who gets to speak and share ideas in these spaces.
I am writing this now because I wanted to take the time to reflect on this unforgettable experience and be able to add more to my toolkit as an organizer and create empowered spaces for marginalized groups. I was even offered to come back to another summit and join the action team. Through this experience, I was able to gain more knowledge on these issues and connect with those wanting to change these spaces and narratives. I’m absolutely thankful that I got this opportunity and I wanted to share it with the Antioch Community!