This interview is a slight departure from our past series of interviews showcasing the chiefs in the Black Hammer Organization. With this interview, The Black Hammer Times sat down with one of our own members, Comrade Saint, to hear about his experiences in Black Lives Matter and how his life experiences as a trans person dealing with homelessness shaped his political development led to joining the Black Hammer Organization.
As some basics, what nation do you represent and what are your pronouns?
I represent the nations of Africa and indigenous nations of Blackfoot & Cherokee. My pronouns are he/him or they/them.
Were you always political, or was there a point where you got radicalized?
It started when the pigs killed Eric Garner in 2014. My uncle lived around the corner from him. Just like Eric, my uncle used to sell loosies – individual cigarettes. The more I got to know Eric through my uncle’s stories, the more angry and hurt I felt about his death.
A couple years later, on my 18th birthday, I got into a bad car accident. While recovering I was bedridden for an entire year.
Did you have a lot of time for learning while on bedrest?
I passed the time on Facebook reading articles and watching videos. I started to get angry because I saw so much harm being done to colonized people, yet I was stuck in bed and couldn’t do anything about it.
I found the world of online activism, and I started to dive deeper into black revolutionary thought.
As I started learning and reading more, I eventually started to write on Facebook under a page called, Saint Jay. In a year I got two thousand followers.
What kinds of activism or organizing work did that lead you to?
I joined Black Lives Matter when I was on bedrest. I was still publishing many widely-shared posts on my Facebook page, so I decided to join the Black Lives Matter journalism group to write articles.
Black Lives Matter is organized in a way where the local chapters act independently of the national organization, so I want to keep in mind that people in chapters aren’t the same people as in the national organization.
Were you also working during this time?
When I was no longer bedridden I started working as a racial sensitivity trainer, teaching white people how to treat people of color. This job kind of fell into my lap.
One of my friends reached to see if I was interested the job; she liked the way I wrote and thought I was good at educating people. I remember replying, “I’ve never done anything like this before…” and she just looked at me and said,
“You don’t HAVE to have done this before for you to be as good as some of the white men who have half as much experience as you do with racism. Think of how many times you had to work your ass off twice as hard as a white person. That’s what experience is.”
Hearing that changed my worldview.
Did you consider yourself a socialist during this time?
I had a brief fling with socialism, but some parts didn’t sit well with me.
For example, Bernie Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist, but what does that really mean? I would see white people talking about socialism in ways that acknowledge privilege without doing anything about it that materially helps me as a marginalized person.
It’s one thing to sit there and validate my feelings, and it’s another thing to dismantle the systems that cause privilege and oppression.
Ultimately, my fling with socialism ended with my experiences doing the racial sensitivity training. Neither lead to any meaningful change.
When you stopped doing the racial sensitivity training work, what did you do?
Around that time my mom and I started to be homeless. I wasn’t able to work a regular job and started sex work.
One of my socialist friends who was starting to get into communism shared this illustration of people standing on boxes to see over a fence as a way to represent wealth redistribution. After seeing that image, things finally clicked for me, and I realized that liberation is how things should be.
What kind of political development did that lead to?
I went through a period of time where I didn’t identify with anything. I then joined a black revolutionary group and found out about anakartas. I called myself an anarchist, but the white people in that camp are too much. So I started with socialism, then moved to anarchism, but finally communism came.
What does self determination mean to you?
To me, the principles of communism and the principles of the Black community are the same.
I don’t know a Black person in amerikkka that doesn’t follow the rule of “if I got it you got it.” Within the plantation, Black people practice communism as best we can. I’m not a communist because of the things I read; I’m a communist because of what my mom taught me since birth.
When my mom and I were homeless, her friends organized a schedule where we could take turns staying at their places, until we could get our own. I can reflect on how I experienced things like that and I can see that these are the same principles that, for example, Mao talks about. These life lessons don’t use as many words as political texts, but they’re still important. Lessons like these are so important to me, and this is why I became revolutionary.
Throughout all your political development, how was your work going with Black Lives Matter?
Not great. Over time, I noticed that the national organization started saying things that I could not get behind, and it didn’t match my experiences with my local chapter.
While I had hoped to be able to make an impact in my community through my writing, in practice though, they just took my work.
The communication was terrible and I got the sense that my work had started to become too radical for Black Lives Matter. They stopped publishing my pieces, but instead, I started to see pieces or phrases of my writing published, but not in its entirety. I reached out to see what the issue was, but I would just get ignored. This went on for about 6 months, and after they endorsed Elizabeth Warren, I decided that I had enough.
It felt so demoralizing, and it felt like I was pouring my soul into something that didn’t deserve it. Because of my successful independent Facebook page, I knew that I could have an impact, but I was prevented from having an impact from Black Lives Matter.
Did you do something else after leaving Black Lives Matter?
I’ve been homeless on and off since I was 7 years old. I never want to have the issue of not having a home ever again. I know so many other trans queer people of color feel this way too. I’m also autistic, and after I left Black Lives Matter, I spent about 5 months learning about sustainable housing by building a tinyhome and mobile home in a bus.
Did this work lead you to the Black Hammer Organization?
Chief Gabby of the Southern Region has been my friend for a while. I later met Chief Suh in anti-racist protests, and we became friends online. I saw that Chief Suh was going through some struggles in a prior organization, but when they joined Black Hammer I started to hear more and more good things about this organization. I thought it was pretty lit that there are no white people in the Black Hammer Organization. During the pandemic I saw how Black Hammer was distributing masks and other PPE to black and colonized communities. At that time I was also sewing and giving away free masks through my Facebook page, and I realized that I could have more of an impact if I was with an organization.
Did you have any reservations?
Security is something I really care about. Not only have parts of my family disowned me because I’m trans, I’ve also had the KKK send me and my family death threats. Chief Suh explained to me that Black Hammer has a security team, has no problems letting people publish under pseudonyms, and recognizes that security concerns are inevitable. That completely reassured me and I decided to join!
How has it been as a member of the Black Hammer Organization?
Compared to Black Lives Matter, there’s a lot more transparency and unity in the Black Hammer Organization. I directly see that I’m helping the community through my actions. I know who the chapters are, and the people in those chapters. It’s a real organization, as compared to a national board and a handful of local chapters which sometimes function as social clubs.
There’s a complete lack of liberalism. It’s amazing. We are all colonized people who are working for our communities. We’re going and doing rather than sitting and talking. I’m so tired and done with talking. All white people ever do is talk and it never got me anywhere. I’m still on the streets yelling for my freedom.
There’s an astronomically different level of care in Black Hammer that was missing in my other experiences. We have an actual news section in The Black Hammer Times, that cares about educating members and the masses. I feel challenged in a way that I’ve never been challenged in school before. For once, this work is directly for my people, and I can see it and feel it.
If something makes you feel like you are being fulfilled, then you should chase that feeling. I have that feeling working with Black Hammer, so I’m going to keep at it.