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Poem Against Youth Curfews

Tuesday November 12, 2013 the Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee discussed the potential implementation of a youth curfew that would criminalize anyone under 18 found in any public place, and even in businesses, inside the city of Oakland between 10pm and 6am. 

Dozens of young people, mostly Black and Latino teenagers, crowded the City Hall’s main chamber in opposition of the law. Oakland teens Guisela Ramos, Diana Bonilla, and Daniel Ramos, accompanied by Pablo Paredes, an organizer with the immigrants rights group 67 Sueños, addressed the city councilors with the following poem. Counterpunch has added links to the text where the authors refer to actual events.

I’m here today, to say

Curfews don’t reduce crime, they

Criminalize us, and our day to day

 

I’m here to shed a light on some inconvenient truth

About how our society treats youth

They won’t arrest my 40 year old pimp or the 30 year old john

But they will arrest me when my pimp is gone

White kids will puff pot in parks in the hills past ten, and it will all be chill

But if you’re brown and black on the flats, enforcement will have a different feel

They told me once the definition of insanity

Was to try the same thing over and over, expecting differently

 

Youth curfews don’t recognize our humanity

Haven’t worked and in fact they make us indifferent

Youth weren’t involved at any stage of the process

But we will suffer the losses

5 schools closed at one school board meeting for lack of funds

But we never experience a lack of sexy squad cars, or a lack of guns.

Police ride chargers through impoverished slums

They even “pimped” out a low rider for fun

 

Being detained for a curfew violation

Led to my deportation, and my family’s separation

Pardon my indignation, but this was never about safety, it was about the insecurity of a nation

They fly drones over borders, and place checkpoints on highways

Ghetto birds over gated communities around my way

Curefews, and Andy Lopez, only 13, bleeds in his own driveway

And you wonder why youth look at pigs sideways?

 

30 year olds are the ones who commit homicides

But to mess with their freedom is political suicide

So we focus on youth and our future dies, disenfranchised

Marginalized, criminalized, but Gallo wont even look me in the eyes

I wonder what he has to hide

Could it be, that he was me?

Profiled at age 13

In these same streets

And felt the fear, the anxiety that we breathe?

And the guilt of becoming what he

Tried to leave?

Is it making it too hard for him to see

That all we yearn to be, is free?

Are you feeling guilty?

Do you have nightmares of Andy’s death certificate signed in the same ink as this policy?

 

I couldn’t watch my mom get punched and kicked

Couldn’t sit through, or stomach my family’s shit

Couldn’t watch my mom get battered

Couldn’t listen to her cheek bones shatter

Couldn’t watch her bruised eyes grow fatter

But it was past ten and the fact that I didn’t feel safe in my own home didn’t matter

White people are allowed to feel safe

Black and brown folks have to scatter

When we talk public safety, we never mean the latter

 

I’m here today, to say

Curfews don’t reduce crime, they

Criminalize us and our day to day.

July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
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