Profiled for Being a Good Sun in BART: BART and its anti-poor people harassment increases
“What is your name,” a mechanical voice shouted through the receiver of my phone. Before I could answer this bizarre beginning to a call, he added, “ What is your address, Where do you work, Do you have any other phone numbers…?” The barrage of accusatory questions with no basis continued for several minutes with me barely able to get a word in edgewise, and then.., “Do you have a 13 year old son?”, with this sentence… my heart began to race, my eyes started to blur and the the room began to warp.
After 15 more minutes of terror, i figured out that this was a kkkop calling me. He had my 13 year old sun, Tibu who he had been “detained” at West Oakland Bart for doing nothing.
For the last month, Tibu went to different Bay Area locations, three days a week, from 6-8am, before school, distributing Deecolonewz, the school newspaper for Deecolonize Academy, a liberation school for children in poverty., where Tiburcio is enrolled. He has been doing this as a good Sun, to support his low-income single mama(me) and his very grassroots school, both of which are struggling financially. He did nothing wrong, in fact he did everything right.
“Its not Normal for a 13 year old to be selling newspapers,” the kkkop kept shouting over the phone to me, after he “confirmed" that everything my sun had told him was true. And then, “I’m just worried about his Welfare!!! and why you as a parent allowed this, I believe your parenting are in question,”
Later that night at the BART Board Hearing
“We are just trying to respond to complaints about aggressive panhandlers,” said the nameless BART PoLice representative to the BART board and the tiny sprinkling of actual people in the audience.
On the same day as my sun’s harassment by West Oakland Bart poLice there was a BART board hearing. I am not sure which PoLice terrorized ancestor spoke through me when I suggested West Oakland to my sun that morning but they did and i did and so instead of going to the Rockridge or Downtown stations which he had been going to without incident, he walked into a trap. We realized after he came home that he walked into a “snare” of newspaper sellers (aka poor peoples of color exercising their constitutional rights to free speech), all of whom the BART poLice had profiled as unhoused and aggressive panhandlers.
Right before the kkkop detained my sun, Tibu was given tips on the best location to distribute by fellow newspaper sellers at the West Oakland station, a location of constant poLice harassment which like most poor people of color neighborhoods is over-policed and under constant attack by the paid agents of the state .
The first series of questions he was asked by the kkkop who profiled him as “a runaway” code for houseless youth, and then proceeded from there to continue to repeat the same questions about his school , his address, his mothers name, his reasons for being here, repeatedly trying to trip him up.
As myself, my sun and other youth skolaz from Deecolonize Academy and POOR Magazine stood together at the BART hearing we listened to a stream of racist , classist comments about unhoused people said as though it was common practice to speak of poor people selling newspapers as though they weren’t human, had no voice and no right to speak for themselves
The concept of "panhandling" is the nexus of racist and classist amerikkklan profiling. It is a highly charged and misunderstood issue that us poverty skolaz at POOR Magazine hold a completely different perspective on and always have. In 1998 my mama launched the WORK issue of POOR Magazine to look at and document different forms of unrecognized labor like recylcing, welfare-demanded work, mothering, street newspaper selling and panhandling itself. First of all it's a constitutional right to free speech that Tibu and the other newspaper sellers were exercising, something the youth skolaz are learning right now in their oppressed Peoples Herstory class at school So clearly Tibu unintentionally proved these low-income men of color are being harassed and this harassment should be re-named selling newspapers while Black, Brown, Poor or Young in amerikkklan.
But even the notion of straight up panhandling is labor as my mama Dee proved in issue #3 of POOR, a form of micro-business in fact, and when myself and my mama used to be street vendors which we were for most of my poverty stricken, houseless childhood, we had the same "day" in terms of "sales" as our humble panhandler brothers and sisters sitting next to us on the streets of Oakland and San Francisco. And just like poor people recycling, it is completely raced and classed, depending on who is doing the selling, distributing, asking or soliciting. When people go door to door asking for donations for a poltical campaign, religion or other campaign how are they really different form panhandlers?. And how is it that just because peoples dont have access to a roof or their business is associated with living outside, people feel entitled to judge what they do with their income. Why dont we ask CEO's at Chevron what they do "with their money, if they are going to spend it "all on drugs , the same way we demand to know what pandhandlers do with their money. How is it that corporate recycling companies get million dollar constracts to pick up recycling but when independent contractors who might be unhoused recylce, we accuse them of "stealing our trash" like anyone can steal trash anyway. (Another WeSearch study conducted by POOR in 2006)
My advice always to people about their conundrum about "giving money" to unhoused people is, if you have it and are able to to buy a paper or spport a brother or sister on the street, do it. Stop feeling entited to a story about what they are doing with the money. Panhandling is a very hard job and any kind of sales or solicitaiton work with a multiude of "cold calls" is one of the hardest jobs anyone can have. So just leave it at that , and if you dont want to or dont have the money to support then don't.
Back at the Meeting
Jennifer Friedenbach and other members of the Coalition on Homelessness, DeeNa and Oscar Salinas from the Justice for Nate Greer Coalition were also present to speak on BARTS’ Use of force policies and their relationship to the murder of Nate Greer and other Black, Brown and disabled peoples
I knew that ancestors called us into this because everything about the meeting was wrong. The weird “diversity” training videos presented by the kkkops, showing two middle class women, one Asian, one White in 2016 Prius’ fighting with each, which was supposed to show diffusion tactics to new BART poLice officers. Which truthfully couldn’t train anyone on anything except maybe the newest fashion for 30 something business ladies The building itself, which is almost impossible to get in and once you get in can’t find the location and is completely ableist, with no bathroom access, making it almost impossible for our youth skolaz to be in the meeting because they couldn’t use the bathroom without getting locked out of the meeting room.
We did manage to speak, thanks to Jenny who had to make a special request for public comment, and I knew it was necessary for this board to hear real poor people in the flesh speaking up against this over-policing, my sun’s healing and his brothers and sister comrades at Deecolonize Academy to report and support on.
I know sis-STAR Lateefah Simon was voted onto the Bart Board and as i told her in a text message that day, she has so much work to do. We all do.