All posts by denysejohnson485

Are we really protesting Stay at Home orders?

Stay at Home orders started in the middle of March and were extended through April, now into May, and in some states they will stay in effect until mid-June. Businesses have been closed which means no eating out, no school, no parks, no shopping malls, no movie theaters, no nightclubs or bars, no church, basically no public gatherings of any kind. These orders were put into place to stop the rapid spread of COVID 19 that hit the United States out of nowhere, at least in my oblivious world, and ripped through communities causing many to get sick and some deaths. Minnesota was recently recognized as a place whose number of confirmed cases had dropped because we’ve done a good job at social distancing. So why are the Stay at Home orders being protested in states around the country, including ours, when we know it’s working?

Being home has been hard for us all. We don’t get much interaction with our peers, some of us get none if we live alone or with children only. We have had to change our frame of working, most people now working from home, and school, with parents having to home school their school-aged children. None of these transitions have been easy, but they’ve been necessary. Small-local businesses have been one of the largest groups of people impacted. They can’t afford to keep paying their employees, they can’t afford to pay to keep their leases, and they didn’t get much bail out from government grants. Yet and still, they aren’t going out into the streets screaming to be open, or even worse, opening in secret.

Protesting something like this order really just screams privilege. I read on a website somewhere that someone called the people protesting “modern day Rosa Parks.” I was appalled that they would use such a comparison to speak about such an unnecessary movement. Comparing these Stay at Home orders to years of slavery, oppression, murder, rape, and criminalization of a whole community is offensive to say the very least. I know people who are fighting on the front lines of COVID in the healthcare industry and I know people that have fought on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement. Not that I’d rather compare these two communities, but these protestors deserve no attention and no positive recognition for what they are doing. I’m all for social justice movements… but this one just doesn’t move me.

Sentenced to Prison or Sentenced to COVID?

Many of us are aware that our judicial system is not built to benefit black and brown people. We are also aware that black and brown people are arrested at an alarmingly higher rate, and black people at the highest. Right now COVID19 is passing through prisons and even killing some inmates. After hearing how easily the illness is spread, it isn’t surprising that it is spreading quickly in an environment like a prison. There are people in prison for non-violent marijuana convictions, as I mentioned in a previous post, and marijuana is legal in a lot of states. There are people in prison who have been wrongfully accused of a crime and they have lawyers and other advocates working tirelessly to prove their innocence (a lot of times there’s evidence of innocence). There are people who have served their sentence and are weeks away from being released. Should they be forced to stay in prison and risk catching the virus and possibly killing them before they get to taste freedom?

The big question has been do we let people out of prison to prevent them from catching or spreading COVID19? In my opinion, there are a few different ways to handle this, but my answer is mostly yes. If a prisoner is going to be released within 30 days, they should be released now. There isn’t much of a difference that will take place in 30 days. If someone is in prison for a non-violent marijuana offense, in a state marijuana has been made legal, they should be released. Yes the COVID should speed this release up, but come one… they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Prisons need to figure out a way to treat prisoners who have been diagnosed with COVID in a space away from the other prisoners. If the prison industry is a billion dollar industry, why aren’t they using the profits to treat the people they are profiting from. Committing a crime does not mean they aren’t human and shouldn’t be treated as such. I certainly understand that there are some prisoners who committed heinous crimes. I do believe that we as humans should not give ourselves the power to decide who should live and who should die, we have to let the universe decide that. Therefore, all inmates should be treated, pun intended, equally.

In the article I read, link attached below, from BuzzFeed, they mention that prisoners in an Illinois prison are dying from COVID19 within close proximity to inmates who have not tested positive. One of the inmates mentioned is a man named Antonio McDowell who says he was wrongfully convicted of a crime in 1997 by a crooked detective; it has now come out that this same detective has been accused by over 50 inmates of wrongful charges. The courts have been looking into these accusations and some of the accused have been released after these accusations came out and some have the possibility to get out of prison because of this. I just cannot imagine fighting for so long to overturn wrongful charges and then dying from COVID19 in the process. It isn’t fair that this is happening, and it isn’t fair that this matter isn’t being taken more seriously, especially since the war on prisons is not a new plight. There are lots of decisions that are being taken more serious since COVID19 and all of the consequences of it. This is a matter that needs immediate attention for the sake of human beings in a broken system.

Many Inmates Fear Coronavirus Is The New Death Penalty https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/melissasegura/many-inmates-fear-coronavirus-is-the-new-death-penalty

The Opinions of the Rich

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/23/bill-gates-outlines-innovations-needed-to-stop-coronavirus-pandemic.html

I read an article on CNBC about Bill Gates’ blog post on how to stop the Coronavirus from spreading and how to reopen the economy. My first thought is that I am not ever really inclined to take medical advice from rich people who are not in the health industry. One reason being that most of the time you see people in this category making decisions to benefit more dollars and not more people. I don’t think the economy opening should be a priority right now. I understand what that means, I also care more about people’s lives than money.

As far as testing and a vaccine are concerned, I do believe we need faster and more accessible testing for everyone. We have people in county hospitals here that are exhibiting symptoms and need the tests but aren’t getting them; meanwhile millionaires are on Instagram bragging that they got a test, and they don’t even have any symptoms. Again, I care more about people’s lives than dollars.

Bill Gates mentions a vaccine, which I’ve heard many people talk about. That’s pretty controversial. A lot of people don’t believe in vaccines. I know that I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting a vaccine, I don’t get the flu shot because of how my body responds to it. Saying that you know it will fail a few times before we get it right, so who are they going to test it on? How are they going to make sure people living in poverty and can’t afford health care have access to it?

This article, like many that I’ve seen on this same topic, sounds like a bunch of rich people sitting around trying to figure out how to get people better so that they can start making money again. They are never talking about the people who are affected most by this and what they are willing to do, or give, in order to help with this crisis. If people like Bill Gates want to see a change, they should donate to healthcare professionals and scientists who are actually on the front lines treating, researching, and trying to find a solution. I don’t, however, believe they should be contributing to what they think that solution should be.

Prisoners of marijuana…

Many people celebrated the stoner holiday of 4/20 yesterday. I’m almost positive all of the participants woke up today, unless they passed overnight from some other type of illness or complication. Marijuana to date has caused no birth defects, no overdoses, and no person to eat someone’s face off on the beaches of Miami (true story). Marijuana has been made legal in 11 states recreationally, and 33 medically. If my math is correct marijuana is legal, at some capacity, in 44 of 50 states. So why are people of color in the United States arrested at a much higher rate for selling or possession of a drug that is actually more helpful than harmful (research has actually proven this statement to be true).

https://drugabusestatistics.org/marijuana-incarceration/

This article uses visuals, specifically graphs, to show the number of people arrested for possession of marijuana in the United States, during certain years, and even compares it to the number of people arrested for possession of other controlled substances. Some of the years there are more people arrested for marijuana, which again has recorded no deaths due to overdose, than other deadly drugs. This article does touch on a good point, that arrests don’t equal sentences. However, once you are arrested you are put into the system and sometimes have to spend days in a county jail because you aren’t able to post bail. Is that really necessary for non-violent, [legal in some state] drug offenders?

https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/lifers/2019/09/04/pot-weed-war-marijuana-prison-life-sentence-lifers/2057276001/

This article from USA Today discusses how people of color are being placed in jail for non-violent drug offenses at a much higher rate than white drug dealers. It also points out that the amount of revenue made from the legal marijuana business is in the hundreds of millions and most of the people benefiting from that profit are white business owners. The opportunity to be a legal marijuana distributor aren’t as plentiful for people of color and seeing the incarceration rates that is something that needs to be discussed and changed.

Ultimately, I do believe that anyone who was convicted and sentenced for a non-violent marijuana charge in a state that marijuana is legal should be released and their record wiped clean. I personally know people who have a felony record for selling marijuana and haven’t been able to do things like vote, get a good job, or a place to live because of it. They aren’t even able to receive federal financial aid to continue their education once released from prison leaving them to low paying jobs and unsafe living conditions. If an industry is making hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years alone, maybe they can find careers for inmates released after doing hard time for a crime that brought no harm or foul to any person.

Soundset cancelled… where can we get some good outdoor music in its place?

For the past 12 years Minnesota’s own Rhymesayers has hosted the Soundset Music Festival; a one day outdoor hip-hop music festival that showcased hundreds of artists from the local to the national level. Past acts have included local artists like Greg Grease, Prof, The Lioness, and Sophia Eris, and national artists such as Da Baby, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Travis Scott. There were multiple stages that hosted different talent such as musicians, DJs, B-Girls/Boys, and other art installations like artists creating graffiti live. The festival was originally hosted in the Metrodome parking lot, then moved to Canterbury Park, and was finally held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to keep up with its large number of attendees. This year on January 24 on their official website, Rhymesayers posted a letter to their fans announcing the show would be cancelled this year to “assess what Soundset will become in the new decade.”

Rhymesayers’ Official Statement: https://rhymesayers.com/news/2020/01/soundset-will-not-take-place-in-2020

The abrupt cancellation of Soundset left many of us to wonder what outdoor concerts do we have to look forward to this summer? Our weather in the summer is usually filled with sunny, warm, and humid days and cooler nights. The perfect setting for live music. After checking around online I found a few music festivals that might fill the void of a large outdoor venue and live music in the Twin Cities. Here are a few local shows that may be of interest to you:

Twin Cities Summer Jam

            Twin Cities Summer Jam is being held July 23rd through the 25th at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN. The festival is hosted by Minneapolis’ local  radio station KFAN and country recording artist Chris Hawkey, and is nominated for USA Today’s Best Emerging Festival. Performances this year range from Carrie Underwood, the Zac Brown Band, Ptibull, Nelly, and of course Chris Hawkey. Tickets for the festival start at $99 for one day or $199 for all three, with package specials and VIP tickets also available. There are campgrounds where you can reserve a camping space, or you can pay to park on the grounds for $20 per day. For more info visit their website at www.tcsummerjam.com.

The Basilica Block Party

            This year will be the Basilica’s 25th year throwing the Basilica Block Party, hosted by Cities 97.1. This outdoor concert is held at The Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis. Although hosted by a church to raise money for its yearly restorations, this festival is not religious and the agenda of the church is not imposed upon its participants. This is a two day festival, July 10th and 11th. This year’s performers include Sylvan Esso, Dermot Kennedy, Hippo Campus, Mister Wives, and Bora York, just to name a few. Tickets start at $60 for a one day pass or $110 for the two day pass. There are also four additional packages like the Fan Zone package that allows you specific stage viewing spaces, and the Hall of Fame package which offers you all of the VIP perks of the other three packages plus free parking and a commemorative t-shirt. There are also opportunities to volunteer to work the festival. Visit www.basilicablockparty.org for more information on how to volunteer, buy tickets, or read more about the performers.

MPRB Music in the Park

            Minneapolis parks and rec centers host a slew of programs and activities over the summer. Some of these opportunities include summer sports for youth and adults, and fitness classes like yoga or pilates. One of my favorite things to do in the parks over the summer is Music in the Parks. Music in the Parks is a weekly concert series hosted at five parks throughout Minneapolis from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The concerts are held at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minnehaha Falls Park, Father Hennepin Park, the Nicollet Island Pavilion, and Bryant Square Park. The shows usually start between 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm, and include performances from different Swing, Folk, Rock, Bluegrass, and Classical artists. All of the concerts are free to enter and most times there are food trucks and other local vendors there as well. Go to www.minneapolisparks.org for more information and to find schedules, closer to summer.