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by john legend

When I saw Kalief Browder’s 2013 television interview, I wanted to meet him. He was 20 and had just come home from a more-than-thousand-day stay on Rikers. Like a lot of people I know who are disappeared by the system, Kalief seemed like the same 16-year-old he was when he went in, but he had an inner strength, an ability to stand up for himself that I deeply admired. He explained why he wouldn’t cop a plea for a crime he hadn’t committed, even if it meant facing 15 years in prison. Offered immediate release from Rikers’s notoriously grimy RNDC, after more than ten months spent in the Bing (solitary confinement), Kalief turned the prosecutor down. He didn’t think it was right to admit to something he’d never done. This weekend we learned that Kalief, who reportedly had no mental illness when he was arrested, killed himself.

New York failed Kalief. The list of things that went wrong in his case begins with his first encounter with the NYPD, whose practice of targeting black teens is well documented. The idea that being accused of stealing a backpack would lead to his arrest and detention would be absurd if it weren’t actually tragic. He should not have been tried as an adult, or had prosecutors, defenders, and judges so overwhelmed with cases that he waited three years for trial, violating his constitutional right to swift justice. He should not have been held in an adult jail where he would spend 700 to 800 days of those three years in solitary confinement. He should not have spent one day being abused by guards or the others incarcerated there.

This Martin Luther King Day, Governor Cuomo publicly released findings from a task force he began last year to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the patterns and practices at Rikers violate the human rights of adolescent males in jail. Rikers shouldn’t even have a youth unit. The RNDC, where Kalief spent three years, where 18-year-old Kenan Davis hanged himself this week, should not exist. Right now legislators in Albany are considering legislation that would end the automatic prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, and remove youths like Kalief from Rikers and other jails throughout the state. Kalief died because our system is broken, and lawmakers can act now to stop tragedies like this in the future.


There will be no love that’s dying here
The bird that flew in through my window
Simply lost his way.
He broke his wing I helped him heal and then he flew away

Well the death of love is everywhere
But I wont let it be,
There will be no love dying here for me.
There will be no love that’s dying here

The mirror that fell from the wall was raggedy that’s all,
It rests upon a rusty nail
Before it made it’s fall

Well the bones of love are every where
but I wont let it be,
There will be no love dying here for me.
There will be no that’s dying here

Four flowers in my asian faces, not a sign we’re dead
I payed for three a sweet old lady gave me four instead

There’s some doubt that’s out about this love but I wont let it be,
There will be no love that’s dying here for me.
There will be no love that’s dying here

The bird that flew in through my window
Simply lost his way
He broke his wing I helped him heal and then he flew away

Well the death of love is everywhere
But I wont let it be,
There will be no love dying here for me
No-o-o-o oh
There will be no love that’s dying for me

There will be no love that’s dying for you and me
Oh there will be no love dying here
No-o not for me
There will be no love that’s dying here
There will be no love that’s dying here

No no no no no no no no no no no
There will be no lo-o-o-ve dying for me.

Read more: Gregory Porter – No Love Dying Lyrics

1000 nights

the tonys r finished
and tears fell freely
as kelli ohara reminded me
we humans need each other

i read a story
in the new yorker
so gut wrenchingly raw
i wrote the author

she connected me
with kalief
an adopted boy
my owns son age

he just finished his first year of college
he did very well
i am proud
of my sons

which one landed in my lap
what radom act of god
placed u in my path
the two of us

so in a suit
he showed up at the view
shiny and sweet
i hugged him tight

1000 days and nights
in adult prison
2 years in the hole
tortured raped starved

just sixteen years old
when he was stolen
off the streets
put in a cage

i hold him
i touch his head
i tell him he is beautiful
he is

i love him
i microwave intensity love him
i vow to the light i will keep him safe
sign my name to his soul

like so many others
cheering him on
thru the darkest of tunnels
toward the sun

his mom who adopted kalief –
her youngest boy
the 7th of 7
who found him hanging yesterday

outside the window
of the apartment they shared
the electric cord
his noose

he came to my home for dinner
smiling from deep down
he told me he met jay z
this one – i thought – would be spared

against all odds
this man child
who refused to say he stole
when he did not

this kalief –
was made of strong stuff
a leader – a prince
a son – 24601

he had a birthday last week
got him an amazon gift card
thursday night – in la
i bumped into jay z

i thanked him for meeting kalief
for reaching out
how maybe
we could help him further

i texted kalief
that i saw jay n kanye
and we spoke about HIM
his greatness

yesterday at 11:03
he texted me

K – Srry rosie i need sum time to myself

R – ok no problem !!! be well

K – Mental struggles thanks for understand

R- totally get it – i am a text away if u
need anything – peace – i love u

an hour later he was gone
i wish i had called
that i had soothed his fears
calmed his traumatized brain

tonight alone
back in my home
i realize
he is home too

1000 days
kalief survived
yesterday he surrendered
part of me has gone with him

my son
our sons
1000 days

joni mitchell always

Shadows And Light

Every picture has its shadows
And it has some source of light
Blindness blindness and sight
The perils of benefactors
The blessings of parasites
Blindness blindness and sight
Threatened by all things
Devil of cruelty
Drawn to all things
Devil of delight
Mythical devil of the ever-present laws
Governing blindness blindness and sight

Suntans in reservation dining rooms
Pale miners in their lantern rays
Night night and day
Hostage smile on presidents
Freedom scribbled in the subway
It’s like night night and day
Threatened by all things
God of cruelty
Drawn to all things
God of delight
Mythical god of the everlasting laws
Governing day day and night

Critics of all expression
Judges in black and white
Saying it’s wrong saying it’s right
Compelled by prescribed standards
Or some ideals we fight
For wrong wrong and right
Threatened by all things
Man of cruelty-mark of Cain
Drawn to all things
Man of delight-born again born again
Man of the laws the ever-broken laws
Governing wrong wrong and right
Governing wrong wrong and right
Wrong and right

joni mitchell 1975

judgement of the moon and the stars

No tongue in the bell
And the fishwives yell
But they might as well be mute
So you get to keep the pictures
That don’t seem like much
Cold white keys under your fingers
Now you’re thinking
“That’s no substitute
It just don’t do it
Like the song of a warm warm body
Loving your touch”

In the court they carve your legend
With an apple in its jaw
And the women that you wanted
They get their laughs
Long silk stockings
On the bedposts of refinement
You’re too raw
They think you’re too raw
It’s the judgement of the moon and stars
Your solitary path
Draw yourself a bath
Think what you’d like to have
For supper
Or take a walk
A park
A bridge
A tree
A river
Revoked but not yet cancelled
The gift goes on
In silence
In a bell jar
Still a song

You’ve got to shake your fists at lightning now
You’ve got to roar like forest fire
You’ve got to spread your light like blazes
All across the sky
They’re going to aim the hoses on you
Show ’em you won’t expire
Not till you burn up every passion
Not even when you die
Come on now
You’ve got to try
If you’re feeling contempt
Well then you tell it
If you’re tired of the silent night
Jesus well then you yell it
Condemned to wires and hammers
Strike every chord that you feel
That broken trees
And elephant ivories conceal