It is my immense privilege and honor to be asked to write a few words about an organizer, an activist, a writer, a thinker, a comrade, a brotha who I have the utmost respect and love for: Saleem.
I met Robert “Saleem” Holbrook, in 2001 through the Human Rights Coalition, a group of prisoners families. At that point he had been incarcerated for 11 years (that number is now up to 17 – more time in prison than free), serving Life Without Parole for a crime he was convicted of as a juvenile.
Like myself, Saleem is the product of an interracial relationships (“a fellow half breed,” as he likes to joke with me), and his mother, Rose, was one of HRC’s earliest members. Getting to build on being black folks in the struggle who happen to have white mothers was a really powerful experience for me, as it was not something I had gotten to do before. At that time, I had not met any other black folks who were able to honor the efforts and struggles that our mothers went through with our commitment to justice for our people -- black people -- and for all people. But both Saleem’s and my mother taught us what standing up for our rights and for the rights of the oppressed was in their own ways, and gave us the tools to be the people we are today. In 2004, Rose passed away, and I can’t imagine the pain of losing your mother, especially from behind bars. But, as with everything else, he used it to rededicate himself to the cause of justice, saying, “I still fight on encouraged by her words ‘Never give up!’”