Have you ever loved something with all of your heart regardless of all its obvious flaws and abnormalities? An ugly pet, someone suffering from addiction or maybe someone that has an eleventh toe? That's what Albuquerque is for me. The type of place that none of the weird things I witness in a day surprises me anymore. Fucking Albuquerque, right? But it's also a place suffering from sickness. I no longer flinch when I hear gunshots nor am I surprised at used needles on the ground or unhoused people camping in the cut. It's always been a part of this place and yet I love it with all my heart and will do everything I can to heal it.
This is a story of how an African Chicano Burqueño became a revolutionary.
Growing up in Albuquerque as a young African and Chicano man was something I could only describe as unique. Being both black and chicano I've always had trouble identifying where I fit in while also never having trouble to stand out because I was really loud and had a mustache in 6th grade.
Throughout this search for belonging I noticed I was always surrounded by white faces. White faces at school, and white faces at home. My mom seemed to have a thing for white dudes. Before I was old enough to know the term "tokenism", I had been subjected to it and was ignorant of the racism of my reality until very recently.
My friends-who-were-more-like-brothers were no exception to this. To no fault of their own, it's just the way the world was programmed long before I started telling y'all this story. Still, the level of innocence was a tragedy and worse was the lack of my awareness of it.
A few years back, maybe five or so, I had gotten myself in a pretty bad position. Living anywhere in the world it's easy to find yourself surrounded by drugs, weed, and alcohol. It's especially easy here in Albuquerque. Throw a rock and it will land on a dealer. I started smoking weed at eleven years old, alcohol at fifteen and experimented with a lot of other things for a lot of years after.
Alcohol specifically played a dark and dangerous role on my mother's side of the family for generations. It took her life last year on March 29th. It almost took mine in that story from five years ago that I started to tell you a moment ago.
I was in a bad spot. I drank myself to that black place you can never remember because the alcohol benched you and decided to play this game of LIFE with your body. Lemme tell you, it lost that game pretty bad and gave the controller back to me when it rage quit. When I regained control of my consciousness I found myself sitting in the front yard of what used to be my friends house (alcohol fucked that up for me) with zero recollection of how I got there.
In the midst of some cognitive buffering I felt my brain get smashed from behind. My head buzzed from the back of my head to the tip of my nose as I received a devastating punt to the back of my head.
Fortunately, I had gotten so drunk that I couldn't feel the pain, only the simultaneous jerking of my neck as the person who moments ago was a dear friend continued his barrage of attacks. I desperately tried to run away.
Finally, when I had liberated myself from the onslaught of pillow punches.. I sat down on the curb to catch my breath and collect my thoughts. I had sweat so much that my shirt was soaked all the way down to my shorts. I got up and walked towards a street light, only to realize I was covered in my own blood.
I called for a ride from the person I had initially arrived there with. They took me to Kaseman hospital. My nose was broken, I was concussed, and had an orbital fracture in my right eye. I had to get stitches above and below it.
I was laid up on my dad's couch for three weeks. There's something about getting your ass beat and the smell of healing flesh that makes a person terribly melancholy. I contemplated suicide.
It had been a good while since the last time I saw my father. At the time he recently fathered another child from a fifth woman. The man ended up having six kids by the age of sixty five. My dad was a trip, nuh? That's just who he was though. Even more than a musician he was a father. A Smith father nonetheless and Smith men were born to father children. At least, that's what he always told me. But I didn't really feel it until I was beat up on his couch for three weeks. I had been so fucked up for so long that it wasn't until the third week that I remembered that I have a son of my own.
I hated myself even more than before. But from that self-hatred came a man who finally found a purpose. Slowly I began the shift into the man I am today.
I moved back in with him. He needed help and I owed it to him to provide in any way I can, so I went and got a job. My friends worked for a medicinal marijuana grower and distributor and they needed people to trim for them. I got the certificates I needed (just a HIPAA I think) and in no time I was leaning over pounds of weed, breaking my back. It wasn't worth it so I got a new job.
I had an in at the Hooters by the dollar movies and got hired right away. I was there almost two years and it was the first job that has ever given me a raise. Two raises actually and both in less than six months. I went through hell for that place. Six days a week for a year and a half and never got a vacation. I thought maybe if I say it out loud enough and complain about it maybe the universe would manifest it. Management sure as shit had zero plans of giving me one. I had no choice but to trek forward and try not to lose my cool. It was around this time I started hearing rumors about some 5g Corona something or other. I thought it was a new beverage...
I used to drink 7-9 mini shooters of tequila on a shift just to try and make it through the day without ripping someone's head off. My wife had something of a drinking problem at the time as well, and we'd been having a lot of tension in our relationship. One night when we both had too much to drink after work,, I managed to slash through my hand like Leonardo DiCaprio in Django after a heated yelling match. I still can't feel my fingers.
The following week Hooters had to shut down because of COVID-19. The day after that I got surgery to repair the tendons in the same hand I'm using to write this long winded story of my revolutionary radicalization.
I had been paying attention to politics since the Obama Administration. As the first black president I had high hopes he would do something significant, maybe even revolutionary. I was wrong. He was just another token black dude, as bad as the settler colonial imperialists that preceded him and almost as bad as the Grand Wizard after him.
I had seen protests on TV in the past and for so long I wondered how people found out about protests in Albuquerque. After James Boyd was murdered I felt that calling you get in your chest, that need to go yell at some cops.
After the chilling video of George Floyd's murder hit my newsfeed I rummaged through facebook for weeks thinking, “somebody on my few thousand friends list has got to be involved somehow!” Or at least know where to look right?
Before almost giving up on my search I miraculously stumbled upon the 'events' tab. Yeah, I know, I'm dumb and you feel empathy and compassion for my innocent dimwittedness. Thank you, you're too kind. After this discovery I also found a couple Black Lives Matter groups that operate within the city. Thus began my activism.
The next few months were filled with discovery and controversy. I found a few uncle Tom infiltrators, frauds, and provocateurs. If you couldn't tell, I have a very deep disdain for these individuals. I had a not so pleasant introduction with the New Mexico Uncivil Guard by myself. Nice guys that group (sarcasm). I watched as a self-described "CEO-Activist" endangered hundreds of his followers who I'm sure had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
It seemed like some of the more reliable community leaders didn’t trust me and were difficult to get in touch with. So I started making some noise. Myself and a friend founded our own grassroots organization and managed to pull together a very passionate team. All skilled in their own fields. Educators, mental health workers, students, a finance professional with a 501c3, and a self defense practitioner just to name a few. In a short period of time we did some great work. It was with them that I found another way to put my life to some good use.
My father always scraped by with very little. It was incredible really because we were dead broke all of the time. Some days we wouldn't eat. Because of this, my dad was unable to teach me how to live. Though he did teach me how to survive and how to provide. Laying there on his couch for those three weeks watching him father my baby brother made me remember that I too have a son I need to provide for. And this team of people I had been blessed with showed me that I have a community I felt the need to provide for. This is my purpose. I am a provider.
Life happened as it does to so many people everyday and the team unfortunately dissolved. No matter how bad we want to be organizers we can't just press pause on life when bills start to pile up and responsibilities take precedence. Fortunately for me though, I still have the capacity to provide for my community in multiple different ways. As we speak I'm running a campaign against a Police Union who would rather have cops' knees on our necks than a police department the city can trust.
This journey had it's good and bad moments, nothing has been straightforward. There's always something to be learned. Figuring out what that is is the difficult part. Whoever is reading this may still be discovering who they are, what they wanna do, and what to fight for. Still searching for a purpose. Not knowing is scary but you have to be brave. Bravery wouldn't exist if we weren’t afraid first.
As I struggle to find a way to end this piece the fascist opposition is getting more organized. They're betting on our fear and expect us to stay home. A few of us online are doing what we can to provide the community with the identities of these people. I don't think this is what my dad intended for me, but I love my community and I will provide for them. By any means necessary. We protect us.
In loving memory of my father, Roland "Ro-Dawg" Smith 09/08/1957-09/29/2021 I love you dad, and thank you.