To My Revolutionary Gangsters

Nelson Mandela reminded us that, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and in a society motivated and moved by power and the dollar, education will be the strongest determining factor in the liberation of the oppressed. In communities of color, in communities like East Salinas, plagued by generations of neglect, rooted in racism, negligence, and disregard for the upward mobility and promise of all those who call it home, education will set us free to rise.

To neglect history, to turn a blind eye to truth is detrimental to progress. From history we learn our mistakes, and as Malcolm so often said we must embrace our history to progress from our errors.

Conversations, hate speech, and ignorance have flooded online feeds, the mouths of those in power, and embedded itself in what we call a democratic process. We have a voice to articulate, to demand, and express our dreams, but also our fears and concerns. We have words that allow us to extend and give life to the feelings we carry in hopes for a brief moment that those around us can grasp onto to what it is we are experiencing.

The beauty of speaking truth is sharing a story no one has ever told, a lived experience so one of a kind, only the person who has experienced it has the capacity to share it.

I am grateful for the truth tellers who have flooded our ears, minds, and hearts with their truths. To our felons, gangsters, parolees, and cholos… to our incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, tattooed, ankle bracelet wearing former convicts and dealers thank you for sharing your truth, knowledge, broken spirits, hopes, and lived experiences navigating the systems we will never know unless we experience it first hand.

I am humbled by your presence. I am proud you have chosen to walk the path of justice and carry your mistakes, teachings, errors, and flaws as your flag for all to see, not to label, judge, or condemn, but to learn from. From your stumbles comes a smoother path for those to follow. From your frustrations is born a tenacity to work toward change, knowing that hate can potentially harm others and you have chosen a more righteous path. You are what the world labels as imperfect, but what I adore as real… as down… as 1hunnid. There is value often times in what the world deems punishable when truth be told those punitive behaviors were outcomes of the trauma the world built around you. From our hurt our behavior is born.

Without you my work as a college educated researcher, doctor, professor, and advocate would be disingenuous and empty. I have never known hurt in the ways it has tangled itself in your life. I cannot walk into a room of students and speak on their realities in a way you can. You give me life and it is my hope as you move toward a future free of shackles, curfews, probation visits, and court dates you allow me to share my knowledge. To listen to the words of scholars, to pour through data, to read the scholarly works, and the evidence based studies that have been written about you with the intention of one day writing your own.

Imperfection is what some may see as a wound you can never heal from, but as you know those scars you carry will forever be a part of who you are, but healing is the only option. Thank you in these moments for being you. For allowing me to be me, and for allowing the young folks in the community you and I both call home carry this work with grace, respect, and intention.

Without second chances and forgiveness we lose faith in humanity, and without that faith is the absence of the unshakable solidarity we so desperately need to build relationships, move forward, and build the community our little ones deserve from us. With respect and love for your commitment to be better and reminding me to be better in all that I do.

Continue to be brave. To be all that you are. Haters gon’ hate.

Dr. CP