I'm a father. I'm a son. I'm a brother. I'm a neighbor. I'm a Muslim first, I should say. I'm Black. I'm a descendent of slaves. I think that's critical to include because how my people got here and the connections they had have been lost. Nobody wants to talk about that. But it shapes who I am.
I’m a prison survivor. I've seen more people murdered than I've seen babies born – more boys sentenced than graduate. That’s real. Not everyone makes it out physically or mentally.
Despite all of that, the New York City public school system was the most difficult thing I had to survive: It was the most violent and most degrading thing in my life. So I’m a survivor of the New York City public school system as well.
ON FAITH: My faith is what moves me to do the work that I do because I know that that I've been told by our prophets that we have a responsibility to our neighbors. And the ‘neighborhood’ is vast – isn’t just the ones who live beside us. Even the definition of my name speaks to someone who improves things from the way that they found it. So that's my role - always to contribute, always to add value
ON FUTURE: For the future, I hope for voices of our children to be lifted up and heard – that leadership reflects our community. That one-in-three little black boys won’t wind up in prison because that’s the way our system is set up.
I want my son and his generation to dream, and to believe that with perseverance that they can win – that there are more good people than there are not, and when we stand united side by side anything is possible. The time of innocent bystanders is gone: We’re not accepting bullying, not accepting oppression. It’s about equity. The real kind – not just rhetoric.
ON MAKING CHANGE: I work with POWER North East, directing our LIVE FREE work, to combat the enemy of mass incarceration that is sucking the lives out of our people. The inequitable incarceration of Black people has been institutionalized and normalized. Those three little black boys that we saw climbing up the light post earlier – you know that one of them will end up going to prison. One in three. That’s just the way that the system is designed - sucking the lives of our people. And it has to stop.
I do a lot of work to create safer, more compassionate communities in Allentown and Pennsylvania. I’m also the director of Allentown Promise Neighborhood, working with children living in an 85-block radius, to support them from cradle to career.
I think the duty of our time is that there are no more innocent bystanders. When it comes to racism when it comes to immigration, sexism, classism – we have to watch our privilege – we have a duty to act.
Today, we often hear talk of people being ‘allies’, but the goal of our organizing is to build accomplices. People that are going to stand next to us, who will fight for us when were not in the room. So I'm a male accomplice that is against violence against women. That means I will disrupt it every time that I experience it, or a witness it – whether it’s physical or is in the way an organization is paying and promoting the women who are part of it.