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An Upbringing of Segregation and Racism Motivates Desmond Abrams to Push for a Better World

(Editor's Note — 1120 Press will be writing from time to time about socio-economic issues, which not only confront and challenge our community but often inform and inspire the art that's created. The following story by Benjamin Joe takes a look at the work being done by Buffalo's Desmond Abrams and the organization he founded, which draws from the Abolishment Movement to take on racism. — Photo provided.)

Desmond Abrams is no stranger to the game of race, privilege and being in dissent. The 31-year-old founder of Transformative Solutions & Consultation LLC was hitting the streets with worker’s rights papers in hand long before Trump was elected. He was even teargassed in D.C. for his trouble during the former president’s inauguration.

“I was motivated at the time by the atmosphere I grew up in,” Abrams said. “I’m from the East Side of Buffalo. I’m from Bailey and Kensington. The most segregated part of town. The poorest part of town. I was basically surrounded by people with not that many options.

“When I looked at the news, what I saw was the war in Iraq. I saw the Hurricane Katrina incident. And I just basically saw an American government that didn’t care about people. That didn’t care about people of color. That didn’t care about the environment and was just very destructive and authoritarian. So, that made me want to strive for a better world.”

For those who have seen Abrams’s team out and about, they already know that TSC is something different in the political spectrum. TSC doesn’t just take every dollar, Abrams explained, it works only for progressives who have an exciting line to pitch.

And pitch they do.

“Since 2021, we’ve worked for progressive candidates running for judge, progressive candidates running for mayor, progressive candidates running for governor … progressive candidates running for school board,” Abrams said.

A Radical Approach

Fresh off working for Buffalo Common Council candidate Matt Dearing, Abrams spoke about TSC and its duties — during election time and after — including the practice of “anti-racism training” that supports the organization when it is not canvassing for its chosen progressive candidates.

“It’s not implicit bias,” Abrams said.

In explaining the program, Abrams said it’s a one-on-one training that is based on the abolishment movement, as well as Black feminist teachings. Its purpose is much more radical than what is understood normally to be anti-racist or implicit-bias training — both of which are present in policing policies around the country, as well as in business.

“We train around the idea of being effective anti-racists and fighting white supremacy,” Abrams said. “We name white supremacy by name. And we say the main way to fight white supremacy is through restorative justice, mutual aid and abolishment’s principles related to the idea of abolishing the prison and police system.”

Abrams explained that implicit bias was “too weak” of a talking point. In essence, he said that training is based on the idea that those in power are confused or ignorant of the harm they commit. Ideas like white supremacy, colonialism capitalism and patriarchy are not usually touched upon in those conversations, he said.

“(And) they rear their ugly heads in many ways, all for everyone’s individual life, right?” Abrams said. “So, that means social workers that go to work and record data. That sounds very benign, but the data they’re recording can really change the life of someone’s whole being. OK? Teachers, for instance… Their attitude towards their students can literally change the lives and perspectives of their students in real time for decades and decades.

“The real issue is people of privilege benefit from these systems of oppression, so we teach them how to use their privilege in a way that’s actually beneficial in a material way for the most marginalized people.

“It’s an hour-long session,” Abrams said. “Usually done once every month, or two months or so. We’re literally just working on how to make this person — usually a person of privilege or a background that is of ‘the haves’ — working with them to use their privilege as a weapon in the fight for good. That means talking about what you do for a living. Finding ways to, I guess you could say, exploit what you do for a living in the service of Black and brown people.”

He noted, for example, that one of the participants in the program is a banker and was asked to give Black business owners the loans they needed to succeed each year. This was not based on financial sensibilities or credit score, but merely on the fact that the entrepreneur was Black.

A Tough Sell to Some

Abrams acknowledged he will not win over everyone. Assignments include reading Karl Marx and Angela Davis, and getting involved in local politics. He also noted one of the instructions given to a professor in the program was to give all Black students in the class an ‘A.’

“People literally hate it. ‘You can’t just give A’s to people… You can’t just give people 4.0’s because they’re Black!’” Abrams said of the reaction. “Why not? When you’re a privileged wealthy white person you get every privilege handed out to you — from tutors or even a peaceful place to do your work. Internet. Cable. All of that.”

Others will more than bristle too at the idea of destroying our judicial system, a byproduct of the restorative-justice method, which Abrams said “centers the needs of the victim and also recognizes the perpetrator has rights, is a human, deserves dignity and love and care and compassion, as well.”

Leveling the Playing Field

Abrams also believes by removing barriers, all people will be able to succeed, and by focusing on equity, not equality, he or someone else will be able to get onto a level playing field.

“It’s never too early to start talking about race,” he said. “And it’s never too late to talk about race and we’re always in some way, shape, or form, dealing with the unjust and unequitable consequences of our society.

“We’re always dealing with it. We see it when we see people who are houseless. We see it when we see people who are really destitute.

“New York State has one of the highest homelessness rates in the country,” he said. “We also have an extremely large prison population and most of these people are Black or brown. That’s not an accident. That’s not a coincidence. That’s something that is a consequence of the racist society and the racist policies that have been put in place since 1619.”

To learn more about Transformative Solutions & Consultation LLC, click HERE


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