Financial Freedom

The words of the multi-platinum selling billionaire rapper and American icon point to a very factual solution to the problems Black Americans face today.

Black American’s ancestors, slaves ripped from their home country, were poor, destitute, and forced into servitude unwillingly, and were unpaid workforce and the backbone of the American economy for centuries. The physical shackles have been long released, but substituted for more subtle forms of bondage. Today, Black Americans as a whole are still experiencing the economical oppression that echoes from times pre/post/antebellum.

In a capitalist society such as America, poverty may be as good (if not worse than) death – at least death to any hope of the American dream. White Americans from back then realized the importance of economical wellness as a means to greater participation in the American dream. Through legislation, intimidation, and physical force (such as the burning down of Black Wall St. in Tulsa, Oklahoma), they were successful in stagnating the development of Black wealth, but not achieving it’s death. Those times have changed for the most part, but not entirely. The presence of systemic racism has recently been widely accepted as fact, barring a majority of Black Americans from obtaining a grip on basic livelihood, let alone equitable wealth.

Surely these are the facts, but another fact remains… to obtain true freedom in our capitalist society, it is not enough to be only physically free… you must also be free financially. That takes cooperation, persistence, and fortitude of an entire people. In addition to those characteristics, a greater perspective must be gained. A perspective encompassing generational wealth- beyond day to day, or even year to year… not only for your children, but your children’s children. Don’t think in decades, garner a perspective that equates to millennia. Rich is for the moment, true wealth is forever – accompanied with the knowledge and wisdom not only to survive, but thrive…

– Q. Patterson, #1392272

Criminal

To be a criminal is not soley a matter of self determination, no more than being homeless is. It is accompanied with a lack of social responsibility as well. Almost no one randomly wakes up and says “I just want to commit crimes for a living.” No.

Illegal acts are social dilemmas, mostly committed in states of distress, where individuals are seeking immediate relief from very present, very persistent problems. In this search, they make grave mistakes, sometimes harming others… inconsiderate of others, because of the apparent lack of consideration for them by others. The pressures and problems they face are less likely of their own making. Crime on a large scale is a societal problem that plagues the impoverished. A problem few of our leaders see fit to impute upon the victims or simply ignore.

Where the jurisdiction of social responsibility ends, the choice of an individual to select a destiny of their choosing must take precedence. The identity of a criminal must be shed, because a criminal is not what you are just because a crime is what you’ve committed. In opposition, society’s inclination to be “tough on crime” and continue to demonize those who (for the most part) are victims of society’s failures, does not allow for such realization. Truth is, society has had a great hand in trapping millions of people into the role of the “criminal.” Showing them that their lives are less and beyond redemption; that their existence does not amount above the mistakes they have made.

The abolishment of parole and the reluctance to restore it, along with the restriction of earned sentence credits disregards the practice of incentive as a means of enforcing ethical behavior. In fact, it enforces the idea that no matter your behavior, your lot in life is unchangeable, breeding despair and further instilling the persona of the criminal.

To be a criminal is not a crime, it is merely a product of an imperfect society, but to remain one is. To assume that this problem is definite is a grave injustice that stands to keep destroying countless lives and stagnating the evolution of society as a whole…

– Q . Patterson, Brilliance Behind Bars Creator, #1392272

The Cycle of Victimization

When will we, as a country, began to see crime as an extension of a vicious cycle of victimization?

I myself – a ‘convict’ – have been beaten, abused, shot, and stabbed… ridiculed, rebuffed, and victimized. None of my assailants were arrested, or put to trail. Even now, I do not wish the harshest of punishments to befall them. I wish only for a chance for their hearts and minds to be changed…

When I see people who have been victims of crime profess that the people behind bars should face more punishment, I wonder to myself how easy it is for people to forget that they (the ones incarcerated/the “criminals”) are victims themselves: victims of financial oppression and social oppression, victims of mental illness, victims of emotional dilapidation. It’s so easy to ignore the voices of those victims… easier to sacrifice the tears of ‘con-victims’ to appease the ‘real’ victims.

Do not misunderstand, I do not disregard their loss or abuse. NO ONE should have to go through such, life itself is hard enough. I merely want to offer a perspective that may hopefully open the mind’s eye and get us on a path to ending m the vicious cycle of victimization.

I hear the testimony of state senators about constituents as victims of rapes and murders. I also hear the testimony of incarcerated constituents as victims of molestations, fathers and family members lost to wrongful deaths, poverty and abusive upbringings… what I see, what I hear, rings a tone of hurt people, hurting people… is it right? NO. But neither is the outlook that the prisons that span this country coast-to- coast do not house the majority of the greatest victims of society.

This is an injustice that will only serve to further the vicious cycle of victimization… and continue to cost lives… to the grave of the prison system.

– Q. Patterson, BrillianceBehindBars Creator, #1392272

Black America Inside-Out, the Sequel

Happy 1-year anniversary to Brilliancebehindbars.com! A year ago, we at set out on a journey to show society that incarcerated individuals were living, breathing, thinking human-beings, full of latent potential and intellectual prowess. Since then, our country has experienced the worst of it’s times. It has been hit with a highly contagious and deadly pandemic and governmental upheaval, widening the gap across race and political lines… but our mission to humanize and secure scholarships for incarcerated citizens has not slowed in stride…

Within this very month, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. and in our own special way, we show our respects by reviving our original assignment, our premiere event: Black America Inside-Out…

Participants from Lawrenceville, as well as other Virginia facilities, are to select a quote from a prominent black American figure, past or present, and write a paragraph or two about that quote and its relevance to the situation we face in this country now.

Multiple entries are encouraged and like always, do not forget to include your name, the city you’re from, and any other efforts (projects you’re involved in, books/pieces you’ve written, etc.) that you might want to incorporate for additional exposure. We are trying to shine a light on YOU and this is a platform of the people and by the people, so go hard!

With great love and respect for each and everyone of you,
BrillianceBehindBars Creator, Quadaire Patterson

Q. Patterson’s Thoughts on Abolishing Mandatory Minimums in Virginia

On paper, a mandatory minimum is a prescribed amount of time a person who has committed a specific crime MUST actively serve in prison, as opposed to what can be suspended by a judge or jury. The judicial device of mandatory minimum seems extremely arbitrary, due to the fact that their are two bodies (judge and jury) who, through a hands-on knowledge of the facts of the crime, can discern specialities of that particular crime and sentence accordingly. I do not understand the need for mandatory minimums as they are excessive, since descriptive sentencing guidelines exist.

They restrict the ability to sentence justly, being that no two crimes are identical, even though they may share the same charges. The presence of such a device, being that of mandatory minimums, can only leave room for corruptive and nefarious usage. For example, a police officer can threaten you with multiple charges carrying mandatory minimums, effective increasing prison time tremendously if found guilty, simply because you decide to invoke your right to an attorney during questioning, which in turn, makes their job investigating a little harder. This vindictive practice is common amongst law enforcement and is abetted by the law itself through the vessel of mandatory minimums.

I, myself, am a victim of this very practice. Police officers decided to charge me 3 use of a firearm charges (another controversial law enforcement practice referred to as charge-stacking), each carrying a mandatory minimum, 3 years for the initial UFA, and 5 years for each subsequent UFA charge. This comprises 13 years of a 15-year sentence… mandatory minimums should be removed from the courts and the power to impose fitting, fair sentences reinvested to the judges, as they should be.

– Q, 1/14/21

Prompt: (Non)/Violent Criminal Justice in Virginia

The fight to dismantle a racist criminal justice system and free disadvantaged minorities from the grip of systemic racism is an uphill battle… Fear is the prime strategy for politicians who favor long term confinement and profitable human warehousing, rather than opting to see the human soul as capable and worthy of rehabilitation. Fear is easiest, because it does not have to be given to anyone. It is primal, and everyone already has it in abundance.

I caught a bit of the Virginia State Senate meet on prison reform and wondered to myself how easy is it to hide the truth of profile-fueled mass incarceration behind the myth of a colorblind justice, and promoting “community safety” as a means of pumping more young black and brown men through the proverbial prison pipeline…

The senators, representing their respective counties, some for numerous terms and spanning decades of elections, stood to give their uninventive political spiel. Lofty, fear-writhed narratives framing Virginia’s prisons full of rapists, murderous lunatics who can’t for Christ’s sake ever be trusted with civil privilege again… That fantasy propagated by our state senate is far from truth… I’ve also come to find that most politicians at the state senate level just so happen to know numerous victims of overtly violent crimes, and no people incarcerated for crimes of any type. I found that concerning… it’s the tell-tell sign of a major disconnect between politicians and so many minorities who are faced with the ‘awesome’ fact of incarceration illy effecting their families and communities.

The senate pleaded for an amendment that extented the good time earning credit to only those incarcerated that have charges falling within the category of “non-violent.” This provision does not meet the cause for which special session was prescribed – reformation for racial and social justice. The simple fact being that most falling under the non-violent criteria happen to be white ‘victims’ of the drug epidemic. Once again, a chance for some correction of the racist system to take place may be manipulated, distorted, and amended to meet the needs of the already privileged.

Though the provisions for “violent offenders” likes to cite murderers, rapists, and other sexual offenders as the centerpiece of its public safety interest, it is an examination of the more ambiguous crimes of desperation that exposes a line-teetering sensible policy making and subtle racist devices of the past still being unknowingly used to disempower and disenfranchise minorities today…

The crime of robbery, majorally effecting downtrodden poor minorities, a crime of desperation, is considered a violent crime whether actual violence occurred as a result of the act or not. A large portion of the prison system is made up of robbery charges… some were accompanied with coinciding charges identifying violence, such as malicious wounding or assault. Others, not so much.

A crime such as robbery is not a result of some mania or perversion of mind in most cases. This crime directly reflects the pressures facing a 1st world society and its social systems failing its most needed citizens. It is economical disparities that create the prototype robber, not some lust for violence. It just happens to be black and brown Americans that make up the lower side of that economical ladder. Black and brown men are no more violent than any other race in this country, therefore there must be some deeper reasoning behind the mass incarceration of these people.

Aided by time and information, the once ago capital of the Confederacy has made strides in the abolishment of racism… But the dismounting of monuments means little if the ideals behind those statues remains in tact and still dictate how minorities are treated in this country today…

Prompt: What do you think about the criminal justice system in Virginia and how they are separating violent and non-violent offenders?

What do people need to know about you that would show them that you are human? Imperfect, but full of limitless potential and capable of astonishing change…

We are accepting different form of expression, (writings, essays, poetry, and art) that highlight the question at hand.

-Q. Patterson, BrillianceBehindBars Creator

Social Mechanization

How many of us actually understand the complexities associated with social structures and their influence on the minds and lives of their participants?

It is a common thought amongst most of the incarcerated – that we are the sole producers of our fate… that if we are rejected, abused, or oppressed, it is solely our fault. That where we come from or the state into which we were born doesn’t hold power over our destiny. We are right, but only to an extent…

Most of us, here in the penitentiary, are obilvious to the influence of social machination. Which made it hard to understand what is now neatly prepackaged by media outlets as systemic racism. The common mindset of the incarcerated, myself included until recently, is that of self-determination. Nothing more, nothing less. That it was our choice to commit crimes rather than succumbing to pressures brought on by hostile environments and unfruitful conditions. It may be a matter of pride to take on the responsibility of our crime, than to acknowledge that there is a force beyond our control, before our time that has planted us in a position tilted in the favor of failure…

The design of racism and its effects are ideological. It begins in the form of idea, before it festers and works its way into culture, and then manifests into mental illusions, stereotypes and prejudices that the masses come to affirm as facts. The weapon most effective in a democratic society is that of idea. Once the people can be made to believe customized ideas, then laws customized to serve agendas outside of public interest can be easily accepted… leading to a social system that makes a single race out to be villains. Villains who should be kept down thus they rise up to enact some form of violent justice… politicians scapegoating on the backs of an ostracized and victimized people, all the while diverting attention away from political failure and corruption… sound familiar? It’s textbook Hitler.

Not only has the plague of racism infected the minds of the common American, regardless of race, those prejudices gave life to legalisation that created way for mass ghettos largely populated by black people, writhed with violence and poverty. It also gave way for laws that allowed mass incarceration and its great racial disparities facilitated by our American justice system. Even laws for gerrymandering and districting to render black voting less effective and obscure the practice of scholastic segregation.

Sure, many of us have heard of Willie Lynch (or maybe should educate ourselves on the subject) and his divisive philosophy designed to control black slave, but who could of thought that that same system and philosophy could be modified to control American citizens. The methods of divide, fear monger, and conquer… these are the foundations by which we allow our government to ensure that a great deal of young black lives are born and may very well die in specially designed situations manipulated generations (and may sustain for generations more), because of a hatred based on a fear they had no hand in creating…

Yes, the seams of the white supremacist power structure has been identified and called out, but if us as a people do not know where to look for sustaining, meaningful change, then what use is a strike… look into the system. Even though many of us did not experience Jim Crow directly, the aftereffects of its era still haunt our lives with racist laws that have a more subtle tone, are a little more hidden… activated by fear and racist undertones that still serve today to accomplish the mission of great racists, dead and gone… whose hate lingers on, hurting and killing innocents by the hundreds… and sabotaging children’s lives before they even get a chance to live them…

I encourage you to continue to fight, but know what you are fighting for. Want life. Want the right to live. Life for your children, life for your family, life for your human brothers and sisters… and know where to look to get it…

Knowledge is power. Power to change, power to grow, power to rise above…

All power to the struggle…

– Q. Patterson, Creator of BrillianceBehindBars

Prompt: Justice for All? Overcoming Racism in America

From day one, American children are unassumingly taught of a set of illusionary lines concerning race… lines that marked boundaries, established sides, and created imaginary boxes that have kept a great disparagement present between races in America, possible.

The American heritage can be accurately described as one giant story of racial volatility. Its origins are steeped in a history of industrial slavery, initiating racial proclivities sustaining major gaps between the black and white conscious in America since the emancipation of slaves. All the psychological devices used to engineer more complaint products in the slave trade, and ensure that the markets could be ripe with white consumers who actually WANTED to own other human beings, had some serious after-effects. Effects that have prompted a set of unspoken laws and rules that serve to preserve the series of debaucheries that created America and its debased heritage of racial inequality…

No present day American is totally free from the effects fore mentioned. The propagation of racial class and the absurd idea of an inferior or superior race forms the basis of what the present black-white social interaction is in our counter. The concepts of white privilege and black anger show the deep contrast of the American experience. The practice of widely accepted, government sponsored denigration of humans into property, is our history. Black leaders only sought out the complicated task of reconstructing the identity of an enslaved, newly-freed, newly- formed people, Black Americans. The first bit of culture Black Americans assumed for themselves was met with public skepticism and political fear-mongering. The majority and mainstream America instantly demonized it and branded the concept of “being Black” as a lunatic fringe, subversive counterculture. “Being Black,” they labeled as “aggressive” and “anarchist.” Black people were displeased and here to overthrow the government. “They’re angry, they’re loud, you should fear them…”

Time has exposed the truth and brought their devices to heel. The modern-mind of our nation now has experienced the advent of social media in the age of information, a Renaissance in thought on American society and race relations. Now, what do we do with it? We COULD say the atrocities committed against black people were done in the ignorance that befell a still growing America… sure, that COULD be said… but that’s for those who truly believe in the strength of human decency and the belief that love can and will transcend us all into a greater society. Still, for those select few, there is the essential task of activism – manifesting beliefs into the material world by means of work… regardless of color, right is right. That feeling that claws at the heart for change, is justice. It is real and it is one. It is the key to the next step in us all making America ‘greater than it’s ever been.’

Educate the mind, keep up the body, free the soul. All power to the brothers and sisters of the struggle… We are one nation. INDIVISIBLE, with JUSTICE FOR ALL…

Prompt: Write an essay, make art, or write a poem answering the following:

What is your experience with racism? Can it be conquered or overcome? Do you have ideas how to do it?

With the special session coming up, they say there’s a chance for change within the system. Do you see that helping or hurting chances at overcoming racism and achieving justice?

-Q. Patterson

The Blind Indifference

Racism… I wasn’t brought up deliberately to hate another race of people. Sure my grandmother had a lot of animosity directed to the race of people who aimed water hoses and sicked attack dogs on her purely because she recognized and fought for her identity as nothing less than a human being, but she didn’t propagate such lessons of hate.

My mother came up in a time (mid 70s-80s) where the blatancy of racism was considered taboo and uncool, so racism took a more subtle approach and found less need to make spectacles because the concept of racism was inculcated deep into the social system. It suffused its ethereal existence in prejudice and stereotypes that painted one race superior to another. This form of idealism sunk into the minds of pro-Jim Crow generations and served to maintain the grip of white superiority in the battlefield of the mind on a level subconscious and virtually invisible to the masses of Americans.

By my generation’s coming, racism was still projected in its most overt form, as an egregious, flagrant prejudice where most Americans – black, white, and other – would not believe that it existed beyond alt right racist organizations such as the KKK and neo Nazis, but such was its greatest achievement. Just as the old saying goes, racism’s (like the devil) greatest trick was to make people believe it did not exist.

It took more for me than most to believe that racism was prominent amongst Americans. Most unknowingly partaking in the vile and divisive culture of racism. Myself, in my ignorance, included. But now, the Age of Information has dawned, shining a light so bright that the dark subversive culture of racism can no longer leech off the mind of the Free People. People who are now armed with a knowledge and a weapon undefeatable in a war where fear stoking and ignorance is the primary strategy of its enemy. This weapon is Truth.

The only way to ensure that we, Free People, continue to press the enemy back in our unending fight for the America’s soul is to continue to have the ugly conversations. To continue to sound the horn on watch against threats standing in oppostion to the ideal of equality. Continue to believe in the cause and its eminent ascension…

Know that the struggle for equality, in its truest form, is unceasing.

In this struggle, vigilance is key. Vigilance is mindful awareness.

In this struggle, vigilance allows no enemy to gain ground.

In this struggle, ignorance is blindness…

In this struggle, blindness to a very real enemy is lethal.

– Q, June 2020

Reflecting on Juneteenth

In response to the cries of their citizens for racial justice, Virginia has proposed that the tradition of Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of Black Americans from slavery, should be recognized as a state holiday. The governor of Virginia, Dr. Ralph Northam brought on Virginia Beach native, Pharrell Williams to help introduce the proposal. Ironically, the idea is for the holiday to be a paid vacation day…

Gathering a consensus, many do not trust this proposal, seeing it as pandering to blacks as a means to calm protest. Others see it as a significant symbol in the struggle for change. I, myself take a more centered point of view…

The removal of confederate monuments, symbols of America’s less than perfect past and the implementation of holidays such as Juneteenth, to honor a very important step in the future of a more perfect union – and in what was the capital of the Confederacy leading the way! Is this not a message that the country is finally hearing its peoples calls for change? Could be…

I asked an older black man for his take on it. He had some advice that I believe is important for younger generations who are desperately seeking change… He said that they should not be satisfied with mere peace treaties. He has seen throughout generations where his people accept concessions and ease their stances. He urged they should not stop their protest until they KNOW (not assume), that a suitable standard for cultivating true social/economical equality is achieved. They should understand and have intelligible demands. To me, he was saying only they, the people, have the power to make sure that Juneteenth is not just degraded into another political maneuver and a very cruel reminder of a government’s deliberate attempts to hold back a people based on their racial identity. Instead, they should make sure it actually marks a turning in the culture of how America treats race…

All in all, I admire Virginia’s proposal to make Juneteenth a state holiday. I believe it to be a courageous move. It sets a standard for our nation. It also shows the consciousness and transformative power of a state that’s willing to not only recognize its fault, but stands to correct them.

I am a Virginia native, and I’m proud to see the present mind of Virginia overcoming its leading role in the history of American slavery. Hopefully, our nation as a whole can emulate this mindset, and take diligent steps to correct the great wrongs made in its less-than-perfect past.

I do believe in the ideal America. I believe that all of its principles are achievable, and I will fight constantly to ensure that I do everything I can to realize those truths.

Happy Juneteenth to all.

Q, 6/19/20


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