Until Freedom: An Organization Committed to Racial Reckoning

What is Until Freedom?

Until Freedom Is an intersection of a civil rights organization that is focused on marginalized communities, that is focused on integrating our culture, over voices into civil rights. When we decided to start Until Freedom, what we realized is that there are so many legacy organizations, different organizations and although we stand on their shoulders the way we want to organize is different, the way that hip hop responds to the organization is just different. And we wanted it to be culturally relevant. So that’s why we started Until Freedom with myself, Tamika Mallory, Angelo Pinto, and Linda Sarsour. We believed that we wanted to represent who we are, opposed to joining another organization that would stifle us, we didn’t want to have limitations, we formulated our own organization for the people by the people and we work for the people.

When did you have the epiphany to jump headfirst into being an activist?

It was my first protest, at the Eric Gardner protest in New York City. I sat at the head of the bridge. I think of 37st going into Jersey and I sat in the middle of the street and  I looked around me and saw all of these people and saw this energy and identified ally’s and I knew everybody next to me wanted the same exact thing that I wanted. And I never felt more comfortable, I said music is my passion but this is my purpose, and I tried to figure out how to combine both of those? And that’s what I started to do, I started to utilize my voice and my music to tell a message that was culturally relevant, but was relevant to our struggle at the same time. That is still relevant to my culture and where we come from and was understandable, relatable to the street, but at the end of the day, civil rights don’t look a certain way. You don’t have to look a certain way not to want your people to die. You don’t have to wear a suit, you don’t have to say big words, you don’t have to be a scholar, you don’t have to be a preacher to not want your people to die, to stand up and speak against injustice. I wanted my people just from the block, the regular block boys that want to do something positive, but they are so torn because people have made them believe that was corny or that’s not cool. I wanted to be the face of that and you know I’m cool, I’m going to be in the club with y’all, we going to turn up,  but when it’s time to show up on the front lines, I will do that also, to give all our future revolutionaries and civil right leaders the energy to do so too.

What is Until Freedom’s stance on Police Reform?

For us, we realize that defunding the police is the only message that makes sense, police reform for us you can’t really reform. My friend Shaun King said something at a press conference we had today. He said, “you can’t fix something that’s not broken”. And the prison system isn’t broken and it’s working exactly how it’s supposed to work. So every time you put a band-aid on it, you’re not really fixing anything. So, what you really have to do is dismantle the prison system. Because, when you go to affluent communities where the white people live, there is no police there. The safest and affluent neighborhoods in the world, they are no police there. So, that goes against what they try to tell you, the reason why our community is safe is that the police are there. When you defund the police, you can reallocate billions of dollars that we put into police, they actually never solve crimes, they solve or prevent two percent of crimes, so that means the only thing they do is show up after the crime is committed to locking us up. So they don’t really serve a purpose, other than punitive. If we put this money into the schools, then we can educate our kids, to have proper jobs and all the things necessary so we don’t need police. Ultimately it needs to be dismantled, but first, we must defund it.

Why is there still a delay in the indictment of Breonna’s killers?

We don’t know, justice delayed is justice denied and that’s the reason that we relocated to Kentucky is that we realize at some point they hope things die out and we go back to business as usual and we wanted to keep the pressure on here and let them know that wasn’t an option.

Isn’t the District Attorney a black man?

Everybody that’s your skin folk isn’t your kinfolk, he’s proven not to be one of us. He has the complexion, but that’s all.

Have you encountered any officers that vocally conveyed that they want to see change themselves within the department?

There are a lot of them, when we got arrested in Louisville last month, the officers that arrested us said they stand with us and said that they agree.

How difficult is your family life, as you continue to pursue your activism?

It’s very difficult, it’s a lot of strain on my kids, on my wife and I thank my wife for being the strong person she is filling in the gaps because unfortunately, the calling on my life ain’t easy for a parent or a husband, it’s a lot, knowing that your suppose to be here and this is your life’s calling and your missing valuable time and days from your family, it’s tough.

Can you foresee a day in age when Until Freedom will no longer be needed?

That’s our goal, Tamika says this all the time, our goal is to be never needed. Not having no work to do and being out of a job is our ultimate goal. Hopefully, maybe not in our lifetime, but in our kids’ time, this whole system will be dismantled.

As black men are aware of what’s going on with police shootings, should we be aware of how we conduct ourselves when we interact with the police?

It’s like the same conversation that we have about women that decide to wear tight clothes, does that mean she should expect to be raped? No! It doesn’t justify it, maybe you can say her clothes are too tight, but that doesn’t give anybody the right to rape her. We watch every time how white people get angry when they’re arrested, you see white people curse them out and do all types of shit. White people still have weapons in their hands and still go home, still get cuffs put around their wrist without being shot. So we know that the police are skilled in de-escalation, they just don’t utilize those skills when it comes to black people. We have to be careful not to feed into that narrative, the bottom line is these are officers that are supposed to be trained in de-escalation and are supposed to protect and serve you. They are supposed to understand, when they’re accusing somebody, when they aren’t right, they may be a level of anger. They might not be happy, they might have had a bad day, so every time you interact with somebody who might be dealing with trauma, who might be dealing with mental health, who might be dealing with shit that’s in their house, the wife might have pissed them off and you pull them over for some bullshit and he might be anger. It’s apart of their job to understand that, it’s not the civilian’s job to understand, he’s not trained in de-escalation, he’s not getting paid to de-escalate,  protect and serve us, so you pointing onus on somebody who never been trained, who maybe be dealing with all type of mental and emotional issues to de-escalate a situation that they may not be capable of de-escalating, but your job requires you to be capable to de-escalate situations. So we would love being in a perfect world, where every time you pulled somebody over, they say yes sir, do the right things, but this isn’t a perfect world. The only thing we expect is the people that we pay to protect and serve us to do their job. We expect the professionals to perform at a professional level.

How is it like to work with such strong women as partners, particularly Tamika Mallory?

These are my sisters, we push each other, we challenge each other, we make each other great, we support each other, we love each other. When you speak of these women, these are the leaders of our generation. We are all leaders in this organization, but I follow behind Tamika Mallory, because of her track record, her passion and she’s been doing this for over 25 years. She is a brilliant organizer, there’s not much I can say that she doesn’t know. It’s a blessing meeting someone who’s passion matches yours, on the same wavelength as you, who motivates you, who you motivate. That’s why we formed our organization because we realized our whole energy was aligned, working with each other is nothing short of a blessing.

 Do you see social media as an ally or a hindrance?

For me, I think the best way to use social media is to be informative, utilize your voice, to say things, to inform, to educate, to challenge. If you’re not informing or challenging, when you see people use it as a negative, and you allow them to utilize their voice and if you don’t combat that. For me, it’s counter-narrative, There’s so many false narratives that are getting to our babies. Social media is the gift and the curse, what people do is live their life by social media

Can you please tell me about  BreannaCon and your organization’s involvement?

Oh my god, Breanna Con was the most important and amazing event. Tonight we just ended with the bible, with the preachers and faith-based leaders and I haven’t been in church in so long. It was moving, it was emotional. Breonna Taylor’s family was there, Lamont Aurbry’s family was there, Antwon Rose’s family was there, George Floyd’s family was there. So many people showed up, we were all in unity. Sabrina Fulton, Trevon’s mother, was there. It was just different, we received so much slack for the name, people saying that you are trying to benefit from her name and make a mockery. It was just the weirdest thing in the world. Breanna’s mother sat down with us as we created this whole conference and she was in love with the name everything that we did, she hand-picked with us, so for me, if mother said that her daughter Breanna would love it then that’s what it is, I don’t care what you think on social media. That’s not my goal, my goal is to make the mother be able to smile and get justice as much as we can. Tomorrow we have our march and some of us will be getting arrested but we definitely will be having a strong showing. To let this city know that we won’t be quiet about Breonna.

I took the time to interview rapper turned activist Mysonne as he was in Kentucky for Breonna Con. I could undoubtedly hear his passion and devotion to his mission of bringing social justice to the forefront for all to bear witness. As he caught me up within the current state of a social justice activist that has so much reason to continue the fight. There has been a litany of injustices over the years that have occurred against people of color and Mysonne has walked the walk and talk the talk standing steadfast against the aggressors in solidarity for the cause — Dave “Jakk Doe” Coutard