#FreeTheWater: Detroit Artists Fight Felony Charges and Prison Time

#FreeTheWater: Detroit Artists Fight Felony Charges and Prison Time

While Flint and Detroit officials continue to walk free for their actions, 2 artists face serious charges for an alleged graffiti act.
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On Wednesday July 13th, 2 Detroit artists headed to court to fight felony charges for allegedly painting the words "Free the Water" and a large black fist on the Highland Park water tower in 2015.

Antonio Cosme and William Lucka are facing up to 4 years in prison on charges of malicious destruction of property, totaling at least $45,000, the alleged cost to remove the graffiti.

Antonio Cosme is a 28-year-old farmer and community organizer, active in "raising awareness about political and environmental injustices." William Lucka, 22, is a muralist and an "outspoken opponent of gentrification and emergency management." The two are members of the Raiz Up collective, a Xicano, Latino, Indigenous hip-hop and arts collective rooted in South West Detroit.

After one year of no correspondence, the two received a court summons in early March. Since then, Lucka and Cosme have been in and out of court. Two lower courts passed the case forward, then offered two settlements- one asked them to take the felony charge or spend time in jail.

Instead, the two artists decided to take the case to trial, set for July 13th.

However on Tuesday, July 12th, eight felony charges were filed against Lucka and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Early Thursday morning, Lucka turned himself in. After his arraignment, his bond was set at $3,500. With the aid of funds raised by the community at the Wednesday court hearing, Lucka was released at a $350 bail before the end of the day.

In a video press release, Antonio Cosme said, "The criminalization of artists is part of a larger war on public space. It’s coinciding with a war on public good. And privatization is being implemented on our public schools, on our water, our healthcare."

Because their lawyer was unable to represent them on Wednesday's hearing, another appearance needs to be filed with the court by next Wednesday, July 20th.

I write this article in an act of solidarity with these Detroit artists and for all those whose creative expression is targeted and criminalized.

It astounds me that two young men of color could face such trumped up charges for allegedly painting on a wall, charges that could significantly damage their futures, when in the last couple of years, Michigan has violently failed its communities in regards to safe water access.

In Detroit, government has continued to shut off water access to thousands of poor and working class families. Water is a human right. Being poor and unable to pay a water bill is no reason for a government to decide who has access to this vital resource. Government assistant programs must not be based on debt but instead sustainable methods that will uplift the people from poverty.

An hour north of Detroit is Flint, Michigan. Earlier this year the world took notice when it was revealed that Gov. Rick Snyder, in an effort to save money, decided to switch Flint's water source from Lake Huron to the toxic Flint River, contaminated with a half dozen toxins, including lead. All 9,000 children in Flint, and all adults, have been exposed to this water.

This neglectful act has led to irreversible damage for the people in Flint, much of which is no longer being discussed in mainstream media: the number of cases of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water; people can no longer sell their homes because their worth has dropped to zero.

As of today, not one member of Flint's government has been charged for their actions, including Gov. Rick Snyder. Of course, excuses are made that a conviction is impossible without valid proof- proof which is difficult to ascertain, they claim. Of course, government is going to protect themselves and their corporate companions.

And yet, when we compare these cases- Detroit shutting off water, Flint poisoning the entire city and two artists accused of tagging on a water tower- I am astonished by the audacity of the Michigan government to so shamelessly expose their injustice system.

It is clear on whose side they stand, but nonetheless, it is also clear on which side the people stand.

Support Antonio Cosme and William Lucka by donating funds for their legal fees.

Let's see to it that their charges are dropped because as they and the great Assata Shakur said, "We have nothing to lose but our chains."

Cover Image Credit: @Lisadet84

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I'm The Girl Who'd Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
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Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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This is Cyntoia Brown And THIS is Why She Deserves To Be Freed, Immediately

A glimpse inside the incarceration of a Tennessee woman who was sentenced to life behind bars for killing a pedophile who solicited her for sex.

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In 2004, Cyntoia Brown, a Tenessee woman, was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was only 16 years old. Now, 14 years later, the court has ruled that she must serve 51 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

So, what happened to Brown all those years ago? Brown says at the time of the murder, she was living with her abusive boyfriend who would often physically and sexually abuse her, force her to sell sex for money, and pump her full of drugs to make her more controllable.

Brown was picked up on the side of the road by a 43-year-old insurance agent named Johnny Mitchell Allen. Allen brought Brown to his home, showed her his extensive gun collection, and then came onto Brown. Brown then resisted Allen's sexual advances. After being rejected, Allen reached below his bed. Brown assumed he was reaching for a gun, and then shot Allen with her own gun out of fear of being shot herself. On the morning of the shooting, Brown's abusive boyfriend advised her that she better come home with money that day. Out of fear of her boyfriend, Brown then stole money from the dead man's wallet and left the home.

Since then, prosecutors have argued that Brown's intentions were to rob this man from the very beginning, though Brown and her lawyers insist that the shooting was done out of self-defense. It's worth noting that Tennessee law states that any sex work done by minors is ruled sex slavery. Brown was 16 years old, and practically in the custody of a man who is said to have repeatedly raped and solicited her to have sex with other men for money. She was under the control of someone stronger and more threatening than herself. She was scared and did what she thought she had to do to make it out of that situation alive.

I'm in no way condoning murdering someone. It's just pretty appalling to me how courts are so quick to send this woman to prison for the rest of her life when proven sexual predators like Brock Turner are given six-month sentences and only made to serve three for raping an unconscious woman in a park. How in the world does shooting a pedophile out of self-defense warrant a more severe punishment than raping a defenseless woman? Does this make sense to anyone? If so, please enlighten me.

Now, people across the country are pleading Tennessee governor Bill Haslam to grant Brown clemency before his term is up in a few weeks. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have shared their sympathy for Brown on social media, which has garnered a lot of publicity from a younger demographic.

On Monday, Governor Haslam gave a speech on education at the Nashville Public Library. After being asked about the amount of justice within Brown's case, Governor Haslam said: "We're reviewing a lot of cases, and while Cyntoia's case has gotten a lot of publicity, I don't think you want us to treat her's any different than a whole lot of cases that I think people want us to review."

Haslam said everyone in his office is looking very deeply into Brown's case and he will make a decision on whether or not to grant Brown clemency before his term is up in a few weeks.

Haslam's conservative reputation could be impacted by his potential decision to show Brown mercy. It all comes down to how he wants to be remembered as a governor. My hope is that justice is shown and that Brown is treated as a victim of sex-slavery, rather than a killer and a thief. No person should be sent to a life behind bars for trying to defend themselves.

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