The Indyreader Talks to: Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

The Indyreader Talks to: Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

On December 30, 2010, the Baltimore Indypendent Reader’s Clayton Conn and Corey Reidy sat down with Adam Jackson, Dayvon Love, Deverick Murray, and Lawrence Grandpre, from Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle; oterwise known as, “Baltimore’s progressive policy think-tank.” A fairly recent outgrowth from a
Towson University campus organization, the members of LBS have thrown themselves full-throttle into grassroots policy-driven social justice activism. Our interview lasted for several hours and traversed topics ranging from their growth as an organization,to their personal politicizations and inspirations, their commitments as young black men to working for equality and revolution in Baltimore City, and to everything beyond and between.

Adam: Hi, my name’s Adam Jackson. I’m the Executive Vice President of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. I’m from Baltimore City. I’ve lived in Baltimore my entire life. I graduated from Digital Harbor High School, in South Baltimore. I’m also a student at Towson University. I did a lot of stuff on campus. I’m an eight-year policy debater. That’s basically where my experience comes from, my expertise comes from. And that’s why I got involved in LBS. I learned a lot of stuff about
the world that I live in. And that made me want to get involved with the group, because it deals specifically with policy.

Davyon: My name is Dayvon Love. I’m President of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. The idea behind the think-tank was that we wanted to use our policy debate experience to help the community develop the kind of thinking about public policy that would be beneficial. All of us are former policy debaters. I graduated from Forrest Park High School. I’m also a student at Towson University.

Deverick: My name is Deverick Murray. I’m a Towson student. I debated for about seven years. I grew up basically in Baltimore City, in the ‘hood, really not thinking about how policy affected me or the people around me. But as I got older, and as I started to debate policy, at the highest levels of competition, with all the big name schools, I started to realize that the people that are policy makers and legislation makers are people who don’t ever see certain other groups of people, don’t ever watch them interact, don’t ever experience what it is to live their lifestyle. So, when
they make policy options available for people to endorse, they exclude a whole body of people. They’re not thinking about their psychology. They’re not thinking about their situation, or anything like that. That’s the things that we want to change. We want to bring policy to young people, to youth—in order to get them to make good legislation for the most struggling citizens in Baltimore City.]

Lawrence: Hi, my name is Lawrence Grandpre. I am Vice President of Research for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. I grew up here in Baltimore. I attended Baltimore College High School. Debated for eight years. I think probably a bit more so than some of my colleagues here in LBS, I was trained in the traditional style of debate; which is very much seeing politics as a game that you try to win, and not making it about connecting to you personally, or to social justice. But I was from Baltimore, so I was constantly exposed to what these guys were doing. I was stuck on this weird two-sided miniature war 12 that was going on in this community. And I think it mirrored a war that was going on in myself. The more you see the way that politics are talked about in debate, the more you read these articles from the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute, and from all these Washington D.C. think-tanks, the more you think, “That’s what politics is.”

I began to realize that I was thinking about politics and policy through a lens, and a way of thinking, that was totally foreign to the reality that I had lived here in Baltimore. So, what I want to do is sort of take those skills, that I got from traditional policy debate: the research, the analytic thinking, the quantitative thinking, and apply those to policy now. So, it’s not just the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute producing literature that’s relevant in policy. It’s people who actually come from these experiences—who actually see the other side of the world—the “American Experience”—and to have that voice articulated in policy.

Indyreader: What is Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle? What is the project? What are some of the basic goals?

Dayvon: LBS is a youth-run, community-based, think tank that’s dedicated to dealing with issues in Baltimore City. Everyone on the Executive Board is younger than twenty-five years old. All of us are Baltimore residents. All of us are graduates of Baltimore City public schools. We work on a series of different projects. We have an education proposal that is a series of principles and ideas that, if implemented, would have a dramatic effect on the conditions of people in this city.I’ll give an example of one of the deas in our education proposal. It pertains to the idea that students should be trained formally in how to organize a business, particularly in a cooperative economic paradigm. We think that it would help the entrepreneurial spirit that already exists amongst young people in this city. It would translate into some true economic participation with many people that typically aren’t involved.

We’ve also participated in a project to challenge the construction of a youth detention facility. All the data about the effects that prison has on young people, is negative. [Prison] hasn’t been shown to have any effects on improving the quality of life of the community or in transforming the person who is incarcerated. So we’re in the process of trying to develop proposals to create new alternatives for young people that get caught up in the system, and provide alternative ways to address the conditions that lead a lot of people into the juvenile justice or criminal
justice system.

Indyreader: You just mentioned the youth jail, as a specific target to organize around. Several weeks ago, there was the Youth Justice Sunday action. I was wondering if anyone could comment on what the follow-up has been? Any fall-out? Anything that has resulted from that concretely? Or has it galvanized more people?

Adam: Since Youth Justice Sunday a lot has happened. First off, it made a lot more people in the city aware that a youth jail was being built in the first place; which is one of the things that we thought was most important. People that lived in the area didn’t even know that it was being built. So, more people are aware, and people are talking about the more substantive discussion on policy alternatives that people can embrace. When we talk about critiquing our current criminal justice system, we shouldn’t just talk about continuing to lock people up. We should talk about, “What are the substantive ways we can engage the youth population to make them better human beings when they get out of the system? Or to keep them from going into the system in the first place?”

In terms of the actual material effects, a lot of legislators have committed to working withus to figure out how we can address the issue of the jail being built and what the alternatives are that the 104 million dollars can be spent on. There are people that are throwing around that maybe we should invest in the jail or a smaller jail, because the current one is bad or maybe we should refurbish it.
And that’s all fine, well, and good. But a lot of people have said to us that
they want to commit to figuring out alternatives. And that’s probably the biggest thing that’s come out of this so far. It did happen towards the end of the year, so people get slowed down, because the legislative session for the city has come to an end and the legislative session for the state doesn’t come up until the beginning of next year. So, it’s been slow recently. But we actually plan to get it revved up when the year starts and to really get people involved in the conversation who haven’t been involved yet. A couple of legislators have come to our meetings. There are people in the community that have dedicated to help us out, too.

Deverick: Some of the most important things that came out of Youth Justice Sunday are the relationships and the organizational relationships that have been built—people are now getting together. We now have a stronger relationship with Red Emma’s. We do a lot more work with them and a couple of other organizations. I think we have a good organized group of people,who are all young people and who are now trying to work against youth jails. We have also just
basically started to begin organizing with a whole group of people that for any issue we can call upon when it’s time for everybody to show up to do their part. So I think one of the most important things is the relationships.

Lawrence: I think one of the most important things that has come out of Youth Jus-
tice Sunday is the start of a larger discourse on the issue of incarceration. I can recall a specific incident, where one of the kids I work with through debate, the son of a very prominent figure in local politics (who will remain nameless), a liberal figure, and he was like, “I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we just build a new jail, so the kids can have better conditions?” And, so, we had a discussion, and challenged this notion that the “liberal position,” is to think, “‘Oh, new jails mean better conditions. So, actually a good liberal would support building a new jail.” And then [this challenge leads] to recognizing the community opposition, and then we could have a larger discussion on the more systemic issues and larger structure of incarceration in this state and in this city. That’s a tangible thing that I personally know has come out of Youth Justice Sunday. [The construction of the youth jail has since been delayed due to ostensibly unrelated issues with the statistics used to
justify the planned capacity of the facility. –IR]

Indyreader: Deverick, you mentioned the importance of building relationships. How does LBS find solutions or propose ways of going about building alliances between such historically different communities? How do you build alliances between communities, in order to build a movement?

Deverick: Before we got anything started, we created an Eleven Point Manifesto. You can check out it anytime on our website. Our Eleven Point Manifesto is basically like, “These are the eleven things—the eleven goals—that as an organization believe are true. And things that we want done. And things that we want to stand in solidarity with getting done.” You know what I’m sayin’?

One of the most important things is just being active and being everywhere. We as LBS try to spread ourselves out as much as possible, to be everywhere. If we hear that certain people have a certain idea that we agree with, we try to get with them. And be where they’re at. One of the things that we believe, feel, and understand about this fight in Baltimore City, is that it got to be fought from every angle. The reason why the children are going to jail is because the school is bad. The reason why the school is bad is because its in a neighborhood where the family’s in poverty.The reason why the family’s in poverty is because of.... And so we basically created elevenpoints that we feel deal with the wholeness of Baltimore City and it getting fixed.

Not every organization is going to believe in all of the eleven points. The important part is that, when we’re active and we’re out—and we try to come out to everybody’s event, and we try to be at places where we’ll meet other people—when we do those type of things, we say, “Okay, y’know what? We know that y’all aren’t interested in education. That doesn’t mean anything to y’all. But you are interested in the cooperative economics. So, let’s get together. Let’s do the work on cooperative economics. Let’s do all the stuff that we can do on this point. Together. Because this is what we have in common. Because that’s the only thing that’s important.”

Dayvon: I think the way to organize is around specific issues. What has helped us be effective in organizing across different communities, communities that typically don’t work together, is that I think we appeal to alot of different constituencies in the city that have different self-interests but have a similar goal. What LBS tries to do is focus on particular goals. So when we talk about education, we want to be very clear about what those goals are. Even though people may have different reasons for supporting a particular goal, the goal is what’s important. And I think that’s what makes the best organizing: when it’s [based] around particular objectives and around particular goals. Because it then isn’t as fettered by ideology, which a lot of times can [prevent] the type of coalitions that can achieve the outcomes that we all want.

Indyreader: Changing gears a bit, though it does tie along with this conversation: your historical legacies—where do you draw a lot of inspiration from? What personally motivates you? What motivates you as an organization?

Adam: A lot of things I’ve learned in the last four years of my adult life have cultivated my perspective of the world, what I think about power, and what I think it means to be a black man in American society. When I look for inspiration, I think about all the people that came before me that are exemplars of what I’m trying to do. For example, people like Malcolm X. People like Louis Farrakhan. Even the mainstream ones, people like Martin Luther King. All these black men that came before me, that died before their time, that had a large effect on massive amounts
of people. I use them as a reference point. My biggest inspiration is probably Malcolm X. He’s somebody that I’m trying to be like. He’s probably the only black man that I can think of (besides my colleagues) who is the most like an example of what men should be like, of what black men should be like in a world of white supremacy and racism, one that seeks to destroy people like myself and kill people like myself.

Another of my biggest inspirations is my debate coach Daryl Burch. He actually used to be a debate coach at Louisville. He trained them in policy debate and he taught them how to use hip-hop in debates to talk about their social location, and to disrupt different forms of racism in American society through debate. I learned a lot through him. Debate helped me figure out how I can challenge racism through political and policy discussions. It gave me a firm foundation that I wish a lot of other black men had, having older black men to look up to when figuring out where to go to in life. I think that’s why so many of us fall to the wayside; so many of us don’t really have a template to figure out: what do I want to do with my life? How do I challenge domination and oppression, in a world that doesn’t give me a reference point?

Indyreader: You spoke about your template for how to live a life. What are the qualities of this template?

Adam: If I've learned anything, people should commit themselves to destroying oppression and suffering in a world of white supremacy and racism.

Growing up as a light-skinned black man in Baltimore, there were a lot of assaults on my humanity. I don't think people really take that into account. Psychological things that happened over that time that trained me to think that I wasn't adequate enough. For folks thought, that I thought, that I was too good to be around certain folks, who were black, too. Over time I learned that I had to commit myself to something substantive to make my life mean something. FOr people who have middle class parents like me, the message is always: Grow up. Get a job. Get a nice middle-class settled job. Have kids. You know? Grow old. Have grandkids. Die. And that's just not a good life to live. I mean, that's empty. Especially in a world where people like me, who look like me, are suffering. Dying. Don't have access to things they need. And so, the reason why I mention Malcolm X, is because he's the only person I can think of historically, who completely changed his lifestyle and committed his entire life, up until death, to liberating black folks from a white supremacist world. And that's something that when I'm old. I want to be able to say or say to myself, that's what Ive been committing myself to. And every black man in America should be committing themselves to that, whether they know it or not. They should commit themselves to destorying forces that conspire to kill black people everyday.


Over the past few years, I've really taken it upon myself to become acquainted with the legacy of black people in this country -- who've struggled against the forces that have attacked our humanity since we've arrived here, and even before black folks set foot in this country. And the reason why we emphasize black people's struggle struggle against oppression is because for many people these notions of revolution and notions of fighting for social justice are mere abstractions. For us, putting the historical context behind it and seeing ourselves as legatees,

in a tradition of freedom fighters via our own genealogical connection to that legacy, is important. We've spent a lot of time really looking at a broad canvass of people, who affect the nature of our thinking; from people like Harriet Jacobs to Mary Church Terrell to Fannie Lou Hamer to Elijah Muhammad to James Farmer. These are all people that have a spectrum of leadership, particularly in the black community, but also are black folks that have participated in larger struggles against oppression.So many of these ideas we have used as resources. Their legacy provides for us, as a way to develop a solid foundation.

And then, just quickly to answer the question about what those principles look like. I think Malcolm X represented a commitment to discipline. Something that I think many far left, radical movements lack in certain realms . They don’t appreciate the importance of discipline. And I think how disciplined he was is something that is often excluded from in discussion of Malcolm X's legacy. It was one of the first things that people remarked about when meeting him. Also an extreme commitment to family. That’s something that I think often times can be missing in circles, that dedicate themselves to revolution, is the importance of families - however that gets constituted - but... families. The commitment to family is something that I think Malcolm X represented, the connection between the commitment to family and the commitment to struggle for social justice. Being able to make that connection is really important and a principle that Malcolm X teaches. And I guess the last thing I would say as a principle that Malcolm X exemplifies, is the principle of being true to who you are. Being true to what it is that you’re about. ‘Cause unfortunately, there are a lot of leaders who have other motivations for what they’re doing. There are a lot of people that just want to be somebody. And a lot of people that have financial incentives to do what they do. There are a lot of folks that are trying to uphold a particular image. But to me, if you look at Malcolm X’s career, he had very little regard for that and was just interested in staying true to what he was doing. And making sure that he was doing the right thing.

Deverick: I think the most important part, is that most of the time when you get into an idea of activism, or organizing, or doing anything good for people, there’s dichotomy between what you say and who you are. It’s like, what you advocate for is to the left. And where you live your life is to the right. I think the most important part about what we say or how we carry ourselves is that we believe that it is most important to have a balance- a medium - a balanced medium. If I say that this is what we should do, this is what I practice in my home and in my house. To be disciplined. The discipline thing is one of the most important things to us. And that’s what really sets what we do apart.

We have a theme: If washing dishes is what it would take for the revolution, y’know, then where the dish detergent? If I gotta carry boxes all day into this apartment building, all the way to the top floor. Then alright, let me get some gloves.Whatever’s necessary. Whatever needs to be done. It’s not important: money. It’s not important: women. I mean, y’know what I’m sayin’? It’s not important. Those things are not what’s important. If it’s not about the most struggling citizens in Baltimore City, then it's not about what LBS wants to be about.

To answer the prerequisite question, that got to this conversation. I grew up and I spent a lot of time, just like most of my other colleagues - well, pretty much everybody - we all pretty much grew up in the ‘hood. And really,even if we weren’t specifically affected by it, we saw who was affected by poverty. We saw who was affected by not having something to eat on the table. We either went through it or we see what it did to people. We understand the ramifications of situations. Like what’s important growing up in the ‘hood. I would see one of my homeboys. Y'know what I’m saying? His mother on drugs. His father in jail. He got to take care of his little sister. Where his policy at? What policy is made specifically for him? If he sells drugs, the policy for him is the war on drugs. He going to jail. Y’know what I’m saying? If he don’t sell drugs, then...I mean, he can’t get food stamps. He twelve. He can’t get food stamps and with a seven-year-old little sister, how he going to feed her? He can’t get a work permit. How he gonna get a job? Y’know what I’m saying? McDonald’s don’t give out free food. And, so, it’s like, y’know, how else do he get right? And the only way that he can get right and his little sister can get right, is if we do what we’re supposed to do right. And that’s what’s most important for us.

Where do we get our energy from? Who do we love? We love the most struggling citizens in Baltimore City. We get our energy from them. We want to make sure that we can do what’s right for them and everyone else that’s involved. That’s one of the things that’s most important to us. And that’s why we try to build on the discipline of Malcolm X. We want to make sure that everybody have. That everybody can do what’s necessary to have good value to their life.

And I think that those are the important things.


Lawrence: I think my colleagues have covered most of the question on influences. I just want to touch real briefly on the question of, “What are the principles on which you live your life?”

The struggle vis a vis the struggle.

I think one things, that I have seen as very important, is recognizing the universal humanity of people around you. Though that may sound really simplistic, I think from my personal experience, attempting to live up to that has been really profound. I come from a school, a high school especially, where the goal was to train people to become part of the black bourgeoisie. Part of what a lot of people in my situation went through, what I now realize as learning a particular skill. And that skill is to ignore what you see around you. We all road the bus to school. We all came from all over the state to come to the most prestigious high school in the city. We’d walk down the street and see people strung out on drugs. But when you go to Baltimore City College, those people are not your concern. Your concern is your books. Your concern is getting into the right school. Your concern is trying to live that sort of life. Recognizing that universal humanity has become a corrective to that. The learning of how to delete a lot of stuff that doesn’t fit into that narrative of going up the ladder of success. And becoming one of the elite blacks in this country. You know, the “Oprah Model” or what I’d say the “Obama Model”. And sort of recognizing that part of living a life that’s ethically intelligible, and that’s a term that means a lot to me, is seeing the world around you. One part of living that lifestyle is not running away from that darkness, like so many around me have. I go to meet my high school friends now and all of them are black bourgeoisie. They come home and they watch Friends. And they talk about some people that are struggling. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, they just didn’t have it in them.”

And, you know, they sort of copy and mimic the whole conservative-Reganesque-individual- responsibility thing, without recognizing the systems that put individuals in situations that they should view as impossible. Correcting that through recognizing that universal humanity of everyone you see around you, is something that I see as a really important component for trying to live ethically.

Indyreader: What is in a name? Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, what is it? Where does it come from?

Dayvon: What’s interesting about this group is that, actually there was a campus organization at Towson, that my roommate and us started a few years back,back in 2007, and that was dedicated towards social justice, community activism, and mentoring. Those were kind of the ideas it revolved around. The name actually came from, there’s this rapper named Talib Kweli,and so he had an album called The Beautiful Struggle. We think a lot of the things that are reflected in that album, are a reflection of what we want to represent. That we think that the constituents, kind of in a metaphoric sense, the constituents that we represent, those experiences and objectives, are reflected in that music.


Adam: Something to give a bit more depth to what Dayvon said, I think what my colleagues have been doing for the past three to four years now, has been doing a lot of stuff that we don’t think would be possible without a lot of our training and expertise in policy debate. Dayvon, for example, and his partner, became the first all black debate group to win a national debate championship ever. And me and Deverick were ranked in the top ten teams in the country last year. A team of black men. And we weren’t the first to do that. But we were one of the first. A group of black folks to do that. That’s beautiful. But it took us a long time to get there. We’ve done things, in the past few years, that most people don’t get to do in their lifetime. Like for example, at Towson, like Dayvon mentioned, there was a campus group called Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. Well there still is. But a lot of on-campus activism, that we did at Towson, also prepared us for some of the things we’re doing now, in Baltimore. Where for me, for example, I got the opportunity to coordinate a campus benefit concert that raised like $5,000, for Haiti, after the earthquake. And that’s something that I don’t think I could have done, without being trained like I was in debate. Deverick, being President of the Black Student Union, tripled the membership. From like 75 students to like 250. That’s something that most people can’t say that they did for a group, at all. On a campus that’s mostly white, with only 2,000 black students. You know,he did that. And the thing is, most of the time, reflecting on the stuff that I’ve done and all the things my friends have done, it feels wild that I’ve gotten this far. And even with Lawrence, when I first met Lawrence, he wasn’t involved in the same stuff I was. And then over time, he helped train and coach people that became nationally competitive in college debate. He actually helped coach me when I was in debate. One of the best coaches I’ve ever had. All of that was only possible through going through struggle. But, I liked it the entire time I was doing it. ‘Cause I realized how much it benefited the greater good. And how much it benefited me as a person. I guess that’s how you explain our lives. It’s a beautiful struggle. It’s hard. It hurts. But when you get to the end of it, it feels beautiful.


Deverick: Funny thing is, it’s actually not funny, the peculiar thing is that hip-hop and music is so important. Poetry. Rhyme. Arts of black people are just so important. It’s something that just helps and it pushes us so much. The Talib Kweli title is just so important. ‘Cause it’s black music. It’s hip hop. It’s something that we all need. It’s something that we all use at different times of need. And all those types of things. And for our organization, a slogan that we came up with was, “LOVE THE PEOPLE. FREE THE PEOPLE.”

Right? And so that was a real important thing. And when I say, like to show my love... and dedication... and commitment... I can actually show y’all right here. I have a tattoo. (Takes off jacket. Pulls up sleeve. Shows tattoo on his arm.) I actually got a picture. It’s a Black Jesus. With dreads. Holding up a globe. With Africa in the middle of the globe. And it says, “Free the people. ‘Cause He loved the people.”

That’s how much dedication and how much we mean it. Y’know what I mean? This was my first tattoo. The only important tattoo. That I got. I got it because this is the idea that I believe in. This was what was gonna fuel us for the rest of our lives.


Lawrence: I just think, reflecting on that title, probably for me, I read this book called Beauty in the Art of Being Just. And it makes an argument, that something that we are all naturally attuned to in nature is symmetry. And that can be seen a lot in the art world, i.e.: beauty. The notion of aesthetics. And it makes the argument that we’re naturally attuned to recognize this as something we should strive for, something that’s beautiful. When you see a tree and the tree is symmetrical. The left half looks like the right half. It’s full of life. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful. And that's one thing, that I think, is manifested through that word beauty, I think that word beauty has incredible political potential. If we just recognize that. The same ways that beauty in nature, symmetry in nature, is seen as beautiful... we should strive for symmetry, i.e.: equality. Organize our societies the same way that a symmetrical face is beautiful. The same way an equally balanced face is beautiful, an equally balanced society is beautiful. And that strive towards that equal balance is something innate and natural. It’s bred into us naturally. And we should just affirm that natural desire to seek beauty. That natural desire to seek beauty is the same thing as the natural desire to seek equality.And we should just embrace that innate nature towards striving towards equality.


Indyreader: What is struggle? What is the social struggle? What is fighting for justice?


Adam: To put it, I guess concisely, to what I think that means, to struggle for justice means to identify the problems that cause oppression and suffering in the world- and to figure out ways to do violence to it.... to annihilate it. And, at the same time, affirm the things that would create peace and justice and love in the world. ‘Cause one of the things that people underscore, is the ability of things like: racism, sexism, homophobia, all these different social structures, to be very much entrenched in our society and the world at large. Unless you have committed folks, who are willing to inspire the masses to do something about it, there is no way that any of that stuff is gonna change. So for me, because my whole thing is, I always tell people, at twenty-two being a black man in America- it’s already a miracle that I’m still alive anyway. So, at this point, I mean, for lack of better terminology...fuck it. I’m going to do something with my life. Might as well struggle for peace, justice, and freedom, instead of doing nothing. And if I know that people are still struggling or suffering everyday, I feel like I’m just as bad as the people who are doing it. When watching all that stuff happen,and I don’t do anything about it... I’m just as bad. Committing myself to things that bring into existence justice and freedom, that is probably the most concise way I can put it.


Dayvon: When I think of struggle I think, it’s always important to isolate what it is one’s struggling for. ‘Cause I think a lot of times people get caught up in that they’re struggling, without being clear what they’re struggling for. For me what’s important is that we’re struggling for people who typically don’t have the things that people need to survive - things to have a healthy life - a fulfilling life. To figure out a way to bring that to existence for folks who don’t have it. All of the struggling that I do is for that purpose. To make sure that there’s a just world. Where there is peace. And all the things that Adam talked about. Where those things exist... for everybody. And if I’m struggling for that, then that’s the struggle that I’m engaged in.


Deverick: I mean, literally when I think of “struggle”, I think about my heart. Because I feel, this might seem crazy, but I just feel everything. So if I sit down, I work at Lakewood Elementary Middle School, and if I sit down with one of my students and they tellin’ me about something that’s going on in their life. I can feel their pain. Y’know, what I’m sayin’?, I can feel that... their struggle, and what we’re struggling for is to be able to eradicate that pain. For things that it shouldn’t be for. I just don’t think that people should be figuring out where they going to eat at, or how they going to live. I think that’s some pain that they shouldn’t be going through. I mean, stubbing your toe is stubbing your toe. But not having food to eat, that’s a crime.I be strugglin’ against that struggle, in order to get rid of that. Y’know? And so when I think of struggle, I just really think about being disciplined. Like what we talked about early on. Being disciplined in order to be able to eradicate social situations for the constituency that you represent.


Lawrence: I guess it’s ended on me sort of taking a slightly different interpretation on that question. The first thing I thought of was the internal struggle. And when I think of what is struggle, I think that for me its an internal struggle for me to sort of hold onto and manifest an innate humanity. And I feel like in this country, people of color have had that innate humanity stripped from them. So, I see the struggle as a struggle for me to affirm that innate humanity against a constellation of forces that seek to strip that away. Be it the forces of capitalism, or self-hatred, or racism. I see that as sort of being the first step towards making that change. To continuously have that internal struggle. To manifest yourself as being something that can just exist freely. To just exist in a natural sense that can recognize the world that exists as itself. And recognizing the innate compassion that all human beings have for one another. And affirming that innate compassion and that innate humanity. And that being revolutionary. And that sort of being the starting point for being able to externalize the desire to create equality, and symmetry, and beauty throughout the world. So, it’s that struggle to constantly hold onto the bits of humanity that you struggle for. And build upon that, in ways that show yourself as an example of how others can be. And fight back against the forces that can strip that away from you.


More Info

More information about Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle can be found on their website:

The audio recording of this interview in its entirety can be found: here.


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Corey Reidy has been an Indyreader collective member since the start of 2009. And.. she adores it with all her heart. When Reidy isn't editing, writing, interviewing, or other Indyreader-centric organizing, she works to do other forms of radical activism -- including, but not limited to, organizing/being a board member of Hollaback! Baltimore. If she's not organizing, Reidy is most likely reading, biking, or practicing/studying yoga (of which she adores and will 100% go to bat to defend and promote).