In less than 2 months I will turn 38. I have been reflecting on the last 13 years of my life, how intertwined with activism and journalism my life has become, and the successes and failures of my journey.
As my bio outlines, I started getting involved with activism in late 2009 and by May 2010 I launched a blog called “The Houston Free Thinkers”. Later that summer the idea would evolve into a real world activist community. By Spring 2011, The Houston Free Thinkers was becoming a well-known force in Houston’s activism/music/art community. We began hosting monthly meetings, monthly benefit shows focused on causes like Anti-War, Anti-Police Brutality, supporting the houseless, and helping local community gardens. We also held protests, rallies, “infojams”, and documentary screenings.
In late 2011, when the Occupy movement launched, The Houston Free Thinkers partnered with Occupy Houston to fight the NDAA 2012, online censorship, and much more. Our activism was featured in the local newspapers and TV several times. Needless to say, my name and the names of the most active members were quickly known to the Houston Police Department. We were also building a name among the activist community across the United States which was just then beginning to build alliances using social media.
However, in my opinion, it wasn’t until 2012 that the Houston Free Thinkers really had our shining moments.
In January 2012 we held our inaugural music-arts-activism festival, For The Community. This was our way of saying thank you to the community who had supported us financially and emotionally in the previous hectic 5 months. The festival was a huge success and would go on to spawn 15 more events in the Houston area! The success was due, in part, to the fact that the first FTC involved my arrest, a violent detaining of my friend and veteran Micah, and a Houston police officer pulling a shotgun on a crowd of unarmed people. This was all caught on camera.
After I was released from the county jail I collected the videos, put them together in a video, wrote a press release and sent it to all the local media. Within 24 hours it was a huge news story all over Houston. The HPD would end up conducting an investigation and finding the officer did nothing wrong.
Despite the lack of accountability from the HPD, it was a huge boost for our activism. This incident quite literally put the Houston Free Thinkers on the radar of thousands of new people. The attendance of our meetings grew and I appeared on The Alex Jones Show for the first time. The HFT name was also on all the local media and we got our first taste of the media playing nice and then bad mouthing you publicly. They, of course, called us a “local group of conspiracy theorists”.
The remainder of 2012 was equally impactful. A couple months later, The Houston Free Thinkers and other activists would rally together to oppose the “BusSafe” program which would have had TSA agents randomly searching people who ride the buses and other public transit. Within weeks we successfully rallied hundreds of people to attend the METRO board meetings and forced them to shut down the program before it got off the ground. This again led to an appearance on Alex Jones’ show, more local media coverage, and more activists interested in joining the fight.
The summer of 2012 I traveled with Micah and fellow HFT member Cody Adams to document the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Florida. We had been funded by supporters to document the RNC’s attempts to prevent Presidential Candidate Ron Paul from winning enough delegates to snatch the nomination from the corrupted Republican party. This is exactly what we did, interviewing dozens of activists, organizers, and supporters as we watched Ron Paul get screwed in real time. We also ended up being detained by Department of Homeland Security while livestreaming. This went viral and led to a brief interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and another appearance on Infowars with Alex Jones.
The work and message of The Houston Free Thinkers continued to grow throughout 2012 and into 2013. In fact, in 2013 we would learn that the Houston Police Department was monitoring the HFT, including Micah and me. We were leaked pictures and info from within the HPD showing us evidence of the monitoring. I attended Houston City Council seeking some kind of confirmation or accountability or anything. Of course, the Houston City Council and the Mayor at the time had no interest in getting to the bottom of why the police were investigating local annoying activists.
In fact, it was this dismissal and outright disinterest by the Houston City Council, the HPD, and the local media which originally caused me to approach the blogging I was already doing more seriously. It was around this time in 2013 when I would also get my first paid writing gig and decide that I was going to focus on being a journalist.
Now, here I am in October 2022, approaching the 14th year of my activism and my 38th birthday. What a beautiful journey this has been. I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learned so much and I am excited to share what I have learned in my upcoming journalism course. I will be announcing the details in early November.
Thanks for reading.
Remember, You Are Powerful. You Are Beautiful. You Are Free.
– Derrick Broze
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