Legalese for your ease.

Summary of the question posed was; why are many of the bills that are sometimes detrimental to our community written in such complicated legal language, which makes it hard to decipher.


It wasn’t until I became a state legislator did I gain a new respect/understanding for lawyers and law school. The saying, “the devil is in the details” is definitely applicable.

Law is written is a coded language that most untrained eyes struggle to decipher.

When you are writing a bill/law it must be very specific and defined to do its job and hold up in court.

However, all legislators get a summary of each bill. They can also do the often required work to dig deeper and learn the effects of these bills and communicate that summary to their constituents. Legislators in both the House and Senate have not only the clerk but a legal office at their disposal to go line by line to learn how each ammendment/bill works.

They can, as I did bring in constituents like Alex Khaveci who wrote the “Check cashing bill” which if passed would limit what you can be charged. Or Jamarhl Crawford who has been working on legislation for the rights of fathers. Together you can write, or learn the legal language of the bill.

In my opinion, this is not done enough. Not only is it not done enough but like I stated without then communicating it to those you represent, those impacted, you are not doing enough in my opinion.

Now, that’s not necessarily easy but I’ll come back to that. There are other resources available. Your local NAACP chapter has a legal committee hopefully staffed with lawyers who volunteer to read critical bills that impact communities of color. If you or a legislator has a good working relationship that is another good Avenue.

The habitual offender bill aka “3 strikes bill” followed a course like this. Plenty of legalese. I and others had worries of its impact to the residents in our districts as well as tax payers across Massachusetts. I learned the bill. I met with law office and other legal experts including a member of Boston NAACP legal committee. When explained in laymens terms, I clearly saw what I considered dangerous and harmful flaws.

The next steps were to work with community leaders, advocates and residents to inform, educate and organize changes to the bill. And in my opinion even that wasn’t enough. There are 160 Reps and 40 Senators. Most of them did not come from nor represent communities like mine. So after informing like minded, like district colleagues, I organized an info session for my colleagues in the House with legislators from South Carolina and Texas I believe, who had been down this road of criminal justice reform, former wardens, Rashaan Hall (ACLU at the time), Stephanie Soriano Mills (NAACP at the time) and others who could speak to the real impact of the bill as it stood.

Changes were made. Not enough. I still voted against it but the changes that were made, made the bill much less harmful than it would’ve been had those steps not been taken.

It is the job of your representative to make the legalese easy for you. If they are not…I recommend you check your representation.

A footnote: not all legislators have a law background some were teachers, salesperson, organizers, etc. Legislators with legal backgrounds don’t necessarily make good either. They may be law and order or may not understand what it means or takes to do the job. But either way. The tools are there, the job is theirs to do. The community must decide if they’re happy with what they are getting.

Earlier I said it wasn’t easy. As a Rep, I had one paid staff person full time. Interns were a bonus that you had to get and manage on your own if you saw fit. How you create capacity in your office, through colleagues, caucuses and community isn’t easy but in my opinion possible and a must. Or you’re just not reppin it right.

1 leg up aka put your weight on ’em

Those block captains aka bosses are who elected official seek out during campaigns.

Politics like many things is a game of numbers. In essence everyone is a politician of some sort. Whether its your family, friends, congregation, union, or supper club, you have a constituency. The larger your influence is over your group the more valuable electeds and other leaders will find you. In Boston’s communities of color, pastors for good or bad get involved in politics (favor, grants, power) aside. The reason they wield influence isn’t for their moral stewardship of the community or for their sage advice. They have a steady constituency. Each Sunday, a couple of hundred folks gather. This is influence. If I can get in front of your congregation and earn what sounds and feels like an endorsement from pastor but of course isn’t, because that would be in violation of their non profit status, that sways congregants.

In my time as an elected, I was uncomfortable with this particular trade off. First because I found it intrusive to those going to church for fellowship and the good word. I rather engage you on the sidewalk outside in the community streets. I told you I’m 10 toes down in these streets. Secondly, I think pastors in Boston’s communities of color usurp alot of influence from the electeds. But I’ll get to that at a later date. But I get it. Historically, in communities of color, church was the only sanctuary to meet so almost all community business was done there. Besides, where else can you find a couple of hundred folks gathered weekly in these same communities in fellowship ? No where else. Another topic for another time.

Unions endorse because you agree to support them and they agree to support you. They grade you, track you, lobby you, protest you if you go rogue. They wield their power publicly. You’ve been following the BPD union and their statements around body cameras and militarized equipment recently? The leaders speak for their membership.

Some pay tithes, some pay dues, some pay both.

My point was before I digressed was that the larger your constituency, the larger your influence on this group, the more desireable you are politically and the more influence you may wield for the benefit of your group, your community or even your own selfish sinister goals. I’m just keeping it 300 with you.

Unions have political influence because of organized numbers. Pastors have influence because of organized numbers. Civic leaders have influence because of organized numbers.

You want to get a leg up ? Get organized. Grow your numbers.


boston globe photo abovemarty-walsh-victory1000-710x375

local 26 photo above

The ground floor aka 10 toes down

This is where I got on. 1991, 15 years old, a community organizer, going to meetings to hear and share how to create, plan for and control my community into a vibrant, diverse, high quality neighborhood.

Boston is a city of neighborhoods. 18. No time to name them all. You know where you live. In each of these 18 neighborhoods, there are several civic/street associations. Some are run by local non profit organizations. Some are led by residents of the community. They are all unique in style and design, function and effectiveness. The point of them however is to share information with residents and exert control over some of the activities in the neighborhood. I encourage you to join one or create one. If you’d like, I can help you with either.

Some of these activities are “zoning/building development”. Which is who builds/operates what, where, how tall and open during what hours..? Another is public safety and public services. Police districts send a liaison officer to update you on crime and prevention and give you a chance to do the same. Elected officials or their staff also attend these meetings, or at least should to keep in contact with residents they represent.

Sometimes these street associations will band together with others to strengthen their numbers to address common issues that affect the community. For example a large development that no one wants. A problem property address where crime and disturbances often occur. These are the people on the ground floor, the soldiers, they make it happen. They get the pothole and street light fixed, They get the police presence increased. They get the park resurfaced. They also put in the phone calls, emails to city councilors and mayors office to create the consistent pressure to make sure these things happen.

Think of this as your squad. 10-20 neighbors you can roll with. A working committee, knights of the round table. Each squad has a boss aka a board chair aka a block captain or lead organizer. Don’t get caught up in the name though. Get caught up in the work. Either lead or follow a good leader, after all the crew represents you !


above photo  July 2007- serving as DSNI board member with the late, great Julio Henriquez also a board member.


Less opinion, More facts

You hear the opinions. The increase in negativity you feel around you. Maybe you are old enough to remember and enjoy the quiet pre-internet. You remember when you didn’t know what people who are more associate or familiar strangers ate for dinner or what they were thinking about politics. Less white noise. Things were more quiet.

But as the saying goes “opinions are like a%^holes, everyone has one and some stink !”

Don’t get me wrong the irony of me offering my opinion is not lost on me but I promise to add enough facts to make it palatable. Let me share some often spewed opinions we’ve all heard that need more facts.

“We live in a post racial society.” When the US President is called nigger and disrespected because of his skin color even though he is bi-racial. After the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner have again highlighted the long ongoing struggle between blacks and predominantly white police forces regarding policy, procedure, accountability and action, we know we aren’t in any post racial utopia. We never fell for that bullshit.

“Whites are the enemy” – what whites ? All of them ? You want me to walk the streets thinking that the boy I grew up with, shared snacks and toys with, debated top mc’s and global politics with is my enemy? The one that asked me to speak at his wedding reception ? Or the family that lives a few blocks away and has been civically active alongside my family for a decade ? Or the guy my age from Southie who loves his city like I do and grew up the same as I did and now works in politics to serve his city ? I pick my enemies they way I pick my fantasy basketball team, carefully with much thought, research and consideration.

“Most blacks are killed by blacks, so why no protest there ?” – Interestingly, that is a fact. If you don’t count the rape and pillage of sub Saharan africa or the transatlantic slave trade. But this is true of all races and most tribes. Whites are killed mostly by whites, Latinos by Latinos, Capeverdeans by Capeverdeans, Asians by Asians and so on. Two things happen when that statement comes out. First, it makes you think and some BELIEVE that we (blacks) don’t protest the death of blacks when killed by another black. Well, that’s a lie. You know it is a lie. You know you have seen peace walks, rallies, protests and more right here in Boston long before Trayvon was killed. Whether you joined it or ignored it or thought it was effective is a different issue all together. But I and many people I respect have walked with strangers to mourn, protest and rally together to stop the killing of black boys and girls. Second, that statement infers that we should be more concerned about us killing us than sworn law enforcement killing unarmed civilians and our tax payer dollars feeding a judicial system not interested in accountability. It is sad when a Don Trump or some right winger says it. But when I hear it from those who I know know better it makes me wonder, are they communicating their ideas poorly ? Do they believe what they are saying ? Are they regurgitating some ish they heard but don’t fully understand ?

A young Capeverdean man was Boston’s first murder victim of 2015. I would say he is black. I have seen the protest of his killing, the mourning from coaches, friends, extended family immediately and consistently since the news broke. (my condolences to his friends and family as many of them are friends of mine) May he rest in peace and may all forgive.

There are people from all walks that work every day to break the cycle of revenge and death. That is protest. That is action. Long sustained action. Not a hashtag or a photo on social media. Join the work, respect the work and add some facts to your opinions.

It is the opinion of many uninformed people that Al Sharpton & Eugene Rivers are the spokespeople for African Americans nationally & locally. This is often believed because media outlets that don’t even like you or your community rush to them for comment because it pisses off another demographic that doesn’t like you or your community. Heck, I helped elect President Obama and former Governor Deval Patrick and I disagree often with them and don’t consider them my spokesperson. That’s not what I voted for them to be.

No racial or ethnic group is a monolith. I had to inform a woman just the other day that yes, I occasionally enjoy grape soda but no, I dislike watermelon and fried chicken.

If you don’t think rallies are productive, cool don’t rally. But that is your opinion. The fact is, for many, rallies are productive in raising awareness, bringing people together in solidarity, meeting and making allies.

If you don’t think politics is a good way to change policy, cool don’t vote. But you know there were some people who disagree with you and died so you could have that opinion before you were born. Fact is there are elected officials who care and do good work. Fact is you may be unaware or unwilling to form a relationship/coalition with them.

#blacklivesmatter is a hashtag and it is a true statement. The sentiment is born out of a feeling that has been present here in America since slavery and that is that our lives don’t matter. It is not an organization that is now responsible to speak and act for you.

#alllivesmatter is a hashtag and is a true human rights sentiment. Both ideas and sentiments are not mutually exclusive. They can both co-exist like the love I have for good neighbors and good cops and the disdain I have for bad neighbors and bad cops.

If you have a strategy that works for you and/or others. I ask that you employ that strategy, share it, lead and be ready for the opinions of others but don’t lose sight of the facts or offer opinions in the place of facts.


The Struggle

If you knew me before reading this or even know of me you may know that I have been struggling. However, my struggle is just a small slice of the pie. I’ve been thinking of “the struggle”. If you are unaware of what “the struggle” is, then this message isn’t for you.

This weekend past I saw a jazz legend perform by the name of Hugh Masekela. He is one of South Africa’s most influential artists alongside Miriam Makeba (RIP). I first heard the two of them on a Saturday morning in the late 1980s. My parents had us watch Paul Simon’s Graceland concert. It was amazing to me then. I watched it every chance I got. Hugh has been touring the world this year for the 20th anniversary of South African freedom. 20 years since the official end of apartheid. The show was unbelievable. At 75 he’s captivating still. Listen to “Stimela” and “Soweto Blues” which he wrote.

I got to thinking about these questions that have been stirring my soul since I was a child.

  • Am I free ?
  • Who are my leaders ?
  • Are we making progress as Blacks in America ?
  • Are we making enough of the right kind of progress ?
  • Am I doing my part/enough ?

I wrestled with the thoughts as a child and teen, again in my late 20s, and non stop since then. Even after being elected and making incremental changes the questions still loomed. Honestly, I am cynical about politics. Not real leadership but politics. I am cynical about government, especially after my recent and current interactions with the legislative, judicial and penal departments.

Then as the cynicism starts to rise and my blood starts to boil, my anger is diverted. I am upset with you. Yes you. Me too for those of you that quickly get defensive. There is a quote: “You get the government you deserve”.

It was only 50 years ago that Jim Crow laws ended. 50 years. Right before you were born, we reached a milestone after hundreds of years of racist subjugation. I get angry when I think of all of the suffering that proceeded it. I get angry when I think of what 2 generations before generation X had to go through just to end Jim Crow. I get angry when I think of Cointelpro, the influx of heroin and later crack into already impoverished black neighborhoods. I get angry when I watch Django or Roots or the daily news. I get angry when I hear the gunshots in my neighborhood.

But we deserve this government. We were raised on consumption. Taught by history’s most greedy and selfish generation, the baby boomers. So now most of us fake it. We complain. Post a picture, change an avatar or status and go about our day. Your local elected officials, you don’t know their name, number or their responsibility to you and your community. The bulk of your income is not spent within your community. The organizations and institutions that service our communities go largely unsupported by the very people they serve. All the fake facebook, twitter, and instagram activism don’t move me. Don’t get me wrong they can be useful in “the struggle” but. . .

I’m angry at myself. At times I feel like I can step back and say; “I tried” “I did my part” blah, blah but the truth of the matter is, it’s not enough. I’m angry because I am not yet the man I want to be. I am not uncomfortable enough. I AM NOT UNCOMFORTABLE ENOUGH. I want to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that’s what it takes to create change, to lead, to be great. I’ve read Mandela’s story and 90% of his life was discomfort. Discomfort is putting it lightly. I’ve read Malcolm X’s story and 90% of his life was discomfort. Try to buy them here or somewhere similar.

Truth be told, you aren’t obligated to do anything. You can keep on doing what you been doing and things will keep on going the way they been going. Maybe that 3rd grader won’t drop out in 12 years. Maybe he won’t turn to crime. Maybe he won’t spend his whole life in poverty. Maybe he won’t rob you or hurt a loved one. Maybe.

Nobody owes us anything. 2014 doesn’t mean anything more than the number of times the earth has circled the sun since Jesus’ reported birthday. Black president, black governor, great history but the struggle continues. What are you going to do about it personally ? Wait. Before you hit me with the take care of me and mines, ask yourself, is that enough ?

“Obama care can’t heal all this anguish” – Jay Electronica

Falsely accused, wrongfully convicted, unconstitutionally expelled

I wanted to share my personal struggles. Not just for me but for men and women who may be dealing with similar issues.

‘Falsely convicted’ Henriquez is now looking inward

Carlos Henriquez: Shown in a public event before his conviction, the former state rep is now focusing on his "mental, physical and emotional" health.

Carlos Henriquez: Shown in a public event before his conviction, the former state rep is now focusing on his “mental, physical and emotional” health.Nearly five months since he was released from prison, former state Rep. Carlos Henriquez says he is still driven by service.

In an hour-long interview with the Reporter, the 37-year-old Dorchester Democrat remained composed, conceding that every new day is a challenge and that he struggles with depression.

He has slowed down since his release, he said. While he initially told the media that he was determined to break back into his old life and maybe run for office again, he has since stepped back to focus on his “new normal” – taking things day by day.

“It would be a lot easier to deal with it if it was something that I did, if it was something I could own responsibility of it, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Henriquez said. “To be falsely accused and convicted of it, I just don’t know how to find peace with that yet.”

Still a resident of Uphams Corner, his lifelong home, Henriquez has stopped reading the newspaper every day at the suggestion of his therapist. He is focusing on his mental, physical, and emotional health, spending more time with family and friends, biking and playing basketball, and reading the Bible, as well as a book about forgiveness given to him by a friend.

In January, a jury in Cambridge convicted Henriquez of two counts of assault and battery on a woman he was dating and he was sentenced to serve six months of a 2½ year sentence. The two-term state representative was acquitted on an additional count of assault and battery, as well as witness intimidation and larceny. In February, for the first time in nearly a century, the House voted to expel one of its members. Henriquez was released early from the House of Correction on April 30.

Henriquez says he has been able to identify the triggers that set off his depression from his experience over two terms serving the 5th Suffolk district on the judiciary committee. “Because of my time in those hearings, I was able to identify this stuff as it was happening to me,” he said. “As I’m going to work, I see a campaign sign, and it’s a trigger because I think, ‘That’s where my sign would be.’ ”

On top of weekly visits to a therapist, Henriquez attends his court-ordered batterer’s classes and makes his required probation appearances. To pay for probation along with the rest of the bills that piled up while he was away for three months, Henriquez has started working a job as a deliveryman.

On returning home, Henriquez said that for the first time in his life he considered leaving Boston and moving elsewhere. Now, he is focusing on his personal life, he said, he is looking to get married and start a family in the next five years. His ability to buy a home in his neighborhood he has lived all his life has taken on new significance for him, adding to his concerns about gentrification in the neighborhood, which is driving up property values and making it unaffordable for current residents, including himself, to buy a home.

“This is my home,” he said. “Everything I know I learned it here.” Henriquez attributes this to his father, who died a few months before the arrest in 2012 that kicked off his trial, conviction, expulsion, and jail time.

“My father never quit on anything and never ran from anything,” Henriquez said. “It’s why I didn’t step down when I was accused, it’s why I didn’t step down when I was wrongfully convicted. I don’t quit.”

Henriquez has not stopped helping people, either. Even when in prison, Henriquez said he picked up the nickname “The Senator” because he was always helping out, asking the mental health workers there about how they manage the stress involved with their case loads, working with inmates to figure out living situations after prison, and even helping coach fellow inmates through mock job interviews.

Now that he is home, Henriquez has not warmed to the idea of returning to politics, but said he hopes to keep up with what’s going on in his community. He points to progress made with Pearl Meat Factory, a newly opened food production facility on Quincy Street that he championed alongside state Senators Linda Dorcena Forry and Sonia Chang-Diaz.

“It’s tough to watch from a different perspective but I’m happy to see the change,” he said. “It’s more about having the change get done than who does it.”

Henriquez followed the recent tumult at the Dearborn and Madison Park schools, and attended community meetings trying to help where he could. He hopes to expand the ambassador volunteer program in place at City Hall and the State House to the four Main Street districts in the 5th Suffolk, putting a volunteer in a central location to direct visitors to local shops, restaurants, and keep things tidy.

He still finds support in his home neighborhood, he says, noting that young people in the neighborhood who are interested in breaking into politics have turned to him for advice and older women recognize him on the street, say they believe in him and hope he runs for office again. “Those really are the pick-me-ups that keep me going.”

While trying not to pay too much attention politics, Henriquez has kept an eye on the race for his old seat, which Rep. Evandro Carvalho won in an April special election. He says he doesn’t know Carvalho, who is running against Republican Claudette Joseph in his reelection bid, nor has Carvalho reached out to him since his release.

For the record, Henriquez says, he wrote in his own name for the 5th Suffolk seat on primary day. “I still believe I am the best candidate for the job.”