I am Izell Robinson, Minnesota, inmate number 21006. An innocent man confined within the quadrilaterals of systemic injustice fighting to be heard and affect positive change. Yet to accomplish success, I need you the listeners to hear me and act, so I’m only asking if I can be heard and count on you to act because as an empathetic prisoner, I’m anger-stricken from current events of gun violence against children, shocking within electrifying my conscience to action.
I would be a lie if I said I was not affected and saddened by reports of a spike in gun violence in our inner cities. In the past three weeks, three children have been in the news for being shot in Minneapolis, two of which were critically hospitalized and one that died. More disappointing, there have been no arrests made or information provided to law enforcement leading to arrest.
Also, there’s no large-scale national news or protests in the streets nightly of “Say their names.” Have we become this desensitized and expectant of black-on-black violence that we normalize in the substance of it? We are just as complicit as these reckless guns-toting individuals who have no regard for human life when we are silent but allow their shots to be heard loud. Why is it that we don’t show our hurt, discontent, or speak out unless it directly impacts us, our family, or our friends?
I have an 11-year-old son who was recently chased with a gun by older teenage boys. He was standing up for a friend who was being racially discriminated against for playing in a park with African-Americans and not being African American. Yes: black children spew hatred against others at times. However, my son has been taught to be inclusive and accepting of all. Even if they aren’t black like him, he stood up for his friend not knowing that choice would lead to a scuffle and he and his friends being chased with a gun.
When I learned of the incident, I felt upset and powerless because I’m confined, and fear hit me about what ifs. I am not prepared as a parent not to be able to see my son grow and have a successful life making better life choices than I’ve seemed to make. So I had to have that other talk with him. There’s like four or five talks that black parents have to have their children around: interactions with police, gangs, drugs, sex, racism, and life and death. So as a parent, even though I’m confined, what happens out there in the society around me that I’m eventually going to return to matters to me.
I have children, family, and friends who live in some of the poverty-stricken cities and communities where recent shootings have occurred against innocent bystanders. Even downtown Minneapolis, this past week thing, seen Club Gore shot at, making 12 victims of gun violence, 2 of which died. I can’t fathom being on the street in that moment and the fear that would overtake me as I desire to survive. This hits me, because I devoted several years entertaining at several night venues in downtown Minneapolis.
So yes, all of this unnecessary gun violence causes worry and concern within me. The fact is, regardless of my label of criminal or felon, I am still a human who cares about the life of other humans. My humanity as a black man is not rooted in the belief, but it’s rooted in the belief that your life matters just as much as mine.
Now what’s the solution for gun violence as the frame gets bigger, yet the picture is understood no clearer for communities pressed by systemic racism is charging their emotional triggers? How many grieving loved ones, prayer vigils, and tear-filled memorials will it take for black lives to really matter to black lives? The truth is, tragedy goes beyond the police senselessly killing us when there’s a far more majority of us killing us. We protest and revolt against unjustified homicide but on a selective basis, so where’s the real empathy for those in our community?
If we can stand against police killing us, we can stand against gang violence and kids killing kids. First, we have to rid our communities of this epidemic of allowing guns and drugs to destroy our communities alive. Second, we have to come together with the confidence that we can create a safe and livable community that can foster creative opportunity and success for all people. Third, we have to look to caring about each other by showing alternatives to punishment and working through problems of conflict with understanding over criminalization. Finally, the answer isn’t always in policy and actions of government officials as it is in you and I, the ones that are directly affected and able to brainstorm an aftermath of what ifs. I challenge you to start to initiate the change you want to see, because bravery and bold action over excuses is what makes a difference. Again, bravery and bold action over excuses is what makes a difference.
And with that, I pray that you took something of value from my words that you can utilize to join in the fight against any type of injustice and advocate for reform. I believe the courage of many to take a stand will make a difference. So you and I must be brave in our pursuit to be heard and demand the change we are long overdue.
And I can be emailed through the JPay app, just insert “Minnesota” for state and ID number 21006. Or you can write me at Izell W. Robinson #21006, 7600 525th St, Rush City, MN 55069. All positively supportive contact is welcome and appreciated. Thank you for listening, and thanks to Prison Radio for this much needed platform, linking prisoners with their communities in a healthy way to foster needed dialogue and support.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.