Michigan native, Marquaun Kane was born in the Liberty Square Projects in Ypsilanti. His birthplace has been torn down for a few years now, but Kane takes pride in those projects because he was the only child born there and it has been a staple of his family’s history and the adversity of the city made him who he is today.
The 18-year-old is a community activist, educator and unifier. He started advocating and public speaking when he was 15, the summer before his sophomore year in high school.
“I always knew there was a purpose for my life experiences, but it wasn’t until recently that I have discovered that purpose,” Kane explains. “Growing up, I glorified the streets and thought I’d join a gang one day, perhaps the Bloods or Crips and follow tradition. I also wanted to be a Marine. It was honor I wanted to earn–trust and respect, and so I grew up thinking violence and money was the way to get those things.”
I recently interviewed the young activist, where he chatted on his inspirations and goals. Check out the interview below:
Growing up and still to this day who are your inspirations? How did they impact your life?
Many have inspired me, mostly local people in my community, but Brother Malcolm saved my life. He gave me the blueprint to knowledge of self, independence and freedom, and that made me grow confident and love myself and my people.
Before I started volunteering, mentoring, representing and otherwise helping my community, I began to take heed to my situation at home. During middle school, I started to really love and care for my siblings, and so I began to understand that it is my duty to help make their world a safer place.
After all I saw and endured, I tried to shield my siblings from that world. I had no control over my situation, and so I felt helpless, I felt like a victim of my circumstances. Brother Malcolm helped me love myself, and now I live life like I’m fortunate–because I am.
What are some great projects and endeavors you see yourself participating in for your future?
Currently, I’m in the process of starting my business. I will be a social-entrepreneur and will continue to use my platform to gather other (young) people to facilitate change. There are several projects I’m working on and goals of mine, but in short, my mission is, “Free em’ til they all free, feed the babies til they all fed.” Orchestrating youth summits at the local, state, regional, national and international level is something I invite everyone to participate in.
You were recently in NYC for the second consecutive year for a gathering, what event were you attending?
A year ago, I was speaking on a panel about the School to Prison Pipeline. This year, I was attending a conference in New York for the Youth Assembly of the United Nations. I was a delegate for the 23rd session, and will be looking to fulfill other roles in the UN going forward.
I spoke during a session at the event about Mass Incarceration, and how climate change is also contributing to it, in addition to the Prison-Industrial-Complex. Climate change breeds droughts, hunger and poverty– all which contribute to violence and desperation.
In addition, it also exacerbates prison conditions. In Southern Prisons during the summer, when there is no air conditioning, inmates suffer from heat stroke. Conversely, during the Winter, inmates suffer when facilities don’t have heat, as seen during the last polar vortex when there was no heat for a week in a Brooklyn Jail.
I’m on a mission to unify, particularly black and oppressed peoples, but in addition to racism and oppression manifested in the form of self-hate, we also have to deal with the increasing threat of climate change and war.
Another topic was Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. In the United States, they say we have a criminal justice system. In the state of Texas, 75 percent of all inmates in their jails have not been convicted of a crime. 3 out of 4. Combined, wrongful convictions have stolen at least 20,000 years from innocent defendants, and these are just the ones we know about. We have to redefine the meaning of justice, and also what it means to be a criminal, in addition to rehabilitation.
Inside (a few) prisons and jails, you can now find, therapy, healthcare, a library, a course to earn a degree, among other things— all while these same places are being shut down in the general community and or underfunded. A panel of academic experts talked about Peace, and I thought to myself: How can there be peace when the people don’t have peace? When they don’t have equality, liberty or freedom? When newborn babies are being born addicted to crack? When eight people account for more than half of the world’s wealth? When the children of Flint don’t have clean water, and the children of Detroit don’t have a constitutional right to literacy?
Malcolm X said, “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace until they have their freedom.” There will be no peace until the hungry are fed; until the thirsty have water, until the homeless are sheltered, and until every angry, cold child is warmed by the spirit and compassion of the community. I know, because I have been that child. People talk about poverty like the exact opposite of it is wealth. I believe that the opposite of poverty is opportunity, peace, justice and sobriety.
Recently you’ve started a podcast with WMKM Radioto bring awareness to necessary stories ignored by mainstream media, how did this great opportunity present itself?
I started Podcasting with WMBK radio after the New Year. I have a 5-30 minute segment every Monday at noon, depending if there is a guest or not. Although I’m not religious, I was welcomed into the Church of the Messiah in Detroit while I was working on Shauna McNally’s campaign. I conversed with the Pastor there for a while, and then we exchanged ideas and found out how we can work together. He’s the Ghetto Preacher, and so I trusted him and he’s entrusted me as an Ambassador to the Church.
I started working on the Mother’s Day Bailout project, I spoke at the Silence the Violence March, and several other times at the Church. He heard my segment on NPR, and thought I did well with PBS, and so he invited me to be a Podcaster on his radio show.
What are some of the stories you’ve worked on since starting your podcast?
The topics so far have been about my story and upbringing, community building, reprogramming (unlearn and relearn), recognizing the time is ripe for change and how to facilitate it, and redefining the meaning of what it means to be a gangsta and be real. The theme is doing for self, because self-improvement is the basis for community development. Self-reliance, self-defense and being self-taught.
How does a project of this magnitude impact your career and passions?
Several people have reached out to me to show support and to build partnerships, at this rate, there is no telling the size of the impact my work will have on my evolution or on my community.
What other great words of wisdom and words of advice can you offer other millennials like yourself?
I believe that proximity is the distance between justice and humanity. If any of us are going to be effective leaders and lead with integrity, we must get proximate to those who are suffering and oppressed. I’m going to keep spending my time in the hood because I cannot truly help or serve my people if I am too afraid to be around them. I thought interning with lawmakers in the Capitol would give me the solutions, I thought for a while going to college would as well. I reached the conclusion that knowledge of self and self-love are the highest levels of education we can aspire to.