Imprisoned Poet Heard CALL to End Mass Incarceration

A year ago, third-year law student, Delaram Kamalpour had a vision. To connect what she and others were doing in the legal space, with those who were working in the creative space. Her vision, was the impetus for the April 12th-14th, 2019, art fair-workshop, at University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA’s, Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. CALL, Connecting Art and Law for Liberation, attracted some highly visible and long time activist. Of note, were actor and activist, Danny Glover; Los Angeles Poet Laureate 2014-2016, and activist, Luis J. Rodriguez; Hip-Hop artist of Public Enemy, Prophets of Rage, and activist, Chuck D; author, activists, and former prisoner, Donna Hylton; and prisoner-artist, and Prisoner Transformative Justice Coordinator, Donald “C-Note” Hooker.

We followed up the event by interviewing the featured prisoner-poet, Eric W. Davis, aka, San’i A. Mateen, on the website, Call To Action UCLA.

DRPA: San’i, how are you doing?

San’i: Oh, I’m fine, I’m doing fine.

DRPA: Now we wanted to interview you about the poem, Little Brother, as it did not go on noticed, it was the first piece of literary art featured on Call To Action UCLA website. Everything else is visual art. Tell us how did the organizers get your work?

San’i: Well, one of the guys, C-Note, he told me about it. I’ve been messing with him for a long time. We are part of a community strategy think tank that meets every Saturday in the prison. He tells us all the time about these events and encourages us to participate. I’m a poet, and have completed a poetry book and a fiction book. Recently, I was able to get one of them copy written. But all this is above my paygrade as to what to do next. Especially coming from prison.

DRPA: So you heard this from C-Note?

San’i: Yes, but we never act on this stuff. I know he’s gotten his name out there over the wall, and has always been telling me these are the first steps to getting my books noticed, as I become known to the people on the other side of the wall as a writer.

DRPA: We find this work interesting, as on the one hand, there’s a chastisement of little brother, on the other, there’s a chastisement of members of your generation. Wait, let’s first publish Little Brother, so that the readers will know what we are talking about.

Little Brother

How Can Younger Brothers Ever Give

The Love They Were Not Taught To Live

In Which I’m Almost Positive

That Most May Never Know

For Many Begin To Tear Apart

Their Relationships Right From The Start

And Love There Never Grows

Because They Never Cleansed Their Hearts

Still We Do Not Look At Us

Because We Envy, Hurt And Cuss

Each Other While We Make A Fuss

About The Plight We’re In

Which Shouldn’t Sound At All Strange

For Most Of Us Refuse To Change

Because Each Day We Still Arrange

To Do These Things Again

So Yeah, Don’t Sit There Lookin Shocked

For We Are Those Who Still Do Block

Our Ears And Hearts We Won’t Unlock

To Truly Understand

And Our Condition Remains The Same

For When Will Big Brothers Ever Name

Themselves The Only Ones To Blame

For The Problems In All Hoods

For One Of Brothers Greatest Fear

Is Letting Go Our Mournin Tears

That We’ve Collected Through The Years

And Still We Do Not Cry

Yet We Cause Our Women To

By What We Say And Things We Do

But When Will It Dawn On You

That We Also Need To Cry

For Crying Does Away With Pride

Helps Change The Way You Are Inside

So That Your Soul May Be Your Guide

As It Should Always Be

But If You Think I’m Too Sensitive

I’ll Go Ahead And Let You Live

Your Life, Which Life Will Always Give

These Problems That We See

DRPA: Now you touch on, “How can younger brothers ever give, the love they were not taught to live,” and go on to write, “For many begin to tear apart, their relationships right from the start, and love there never grows, because they never cleansed their hearts.

San’i: Yes, I think what happened to Nipsey.

DRPA: You mean Nipsey Hussle?

San’i: Yes. His death was the catalyst to cleanse the hearts of our young men and women. So when I wrote this, that event had not occurred.

DRPA: Yeah, you’re right. Because later in your work, you go on a tirade about crying.

San’i: That’s the whole point. God gave us tears. We all put up with so much BS. But where is the outlet to grieve? Where is the outlet to release the daily stressors, which become cumulative stress, one has within one’s body? It’s going to come out, period. Whether day of the reckoning be internally, like disease, heart attack or stroke. Or externally, like a Columbine, or some other act of violence. Tears are man’s peaceful means to release those stressors. Water, which tears are, symbolizes cleansing; because you can’t cleanse something without water. DRPA: And it’s very critical of us men, not willing to cry.

San’i: Yeah, not willing to release peacefully. That’s how messed up we are in the head. Instead of taking advantage of this peaceful means, granted to us from on High, we only settle for the violet means, and whether it be internally, or externally, violence is meant to kill us.

DRPA: Truly. Well alright San’i, Thank you for giving us this interview. And good luck with your book. Now that people have been exposed to the power of your writing, you should begin to see some traction.

San’i: Thank you.

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