When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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Gabriel Brignac Character Analysis

Gabriel was Patrisse’s father, a loving Black man who was in and out of prison for selling drugs before dying from a heart attack. Patrisse didn’t learn that Gabriel was her biological father until she was 12 years old, since Gabriel disappeared before Cherice could tell him she was pregnant, and Alton agreed to raise her as his own. When Gabriel learned about Patrisse, he showered her with affection and invited her to his graduation from a sobriety ceremony. This was where Patrisse met his extended family and was warmly welcomed as a Brignac. Gabriel was the glue that held his family together, the compassionate listener who helped them work through conflict and enjoy their weekly barbecues. He took Patrisse to 12-step meetings with him and, though she didn’t think that addicts should be solely held responsible for using drugs (she believed his addiction developed after he returned from the military with no job prospects), she appreciated the honesty she heard in the meetings and the way that Gabriel admitted his mistakes. After becoming a consistent presence in her life, Gabriel disappeared one day, and Patrisse found out that he was back in prison. Patrisse was 20 years old when Gabriel got out of prison, and they again became close, having lunch together every day when he was on break from his cement truck-driving job. When he disappeared again, Patrisse found him at a motel, drunk and high. He admitted that he had been arrested again for selling drugs, and that as a poor boy from small-town Louisiana, he just wanted a life with dignity where people respected him. Patrisse sat with him, telling him she wouldn’t leave. He went to prison again after this, but for a reduced sentence, since he agreed to serve as a first responder to the California wildfires. Gabriel returned from prison again when Patrisse was 26 and died from a heart attack a few years later. Patrisse was devastated and viewed his heart attack as an effect of existing in a racist society that didn’t support him.

Gabriel Brignac Quotes in When They Call You a Terrorist

The When They Call You a Terrorist quotes below are all either spoken by Gabriel Brignac or refer to Gabriel Brignac . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the St. Martin's Griffin edition of When They Call You a Terrorist published in 2020.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I know about crack. Everybody uses it, it seems like. At least in my neighborhood where there are no playgrounds, no parks, no afterschool programs, no hangout spots, no movie theaters, no jobs, no treatment centers or health care for the mentally ill, like my brother Monte, who had begun smoking crack and selling my mom’s things and is already showing signs of what we would much later come to know as schizoaffective disorder.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac , Monte Cullors
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

As I grow older I will come to question 12-step programs, see their failures, all the ways they do not reduce the harms of addiction by making their harms accrue to the individual, alone. They do not account for all the external factors that exacerbate chaotic drug use, send people into hell. The person who only has alcohol or crack at their fingertips almost never does as well as the person who has those things but also a range of other supports, including the general sense that their life matters.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

In 1986 when I am three years old, Ronald Reagan reenergizes the drug war that was started in 1971 by Richard Nixon by further militarizing the police in our communities, which swells the number of Black and Latinx men who are incarcerated. Between 1982 and 2000, the number of people locked up in the state of California grows by 500 percent. And it will be nearly a quarter of a century before my home state is forced, under consent decree, to reduce the number of people it's locked up, signaling, we hope, the end of what will eventually be called the civil rights crisis of our time.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

He says his real addiction is to the fast-paced energy of it all. How else was a man like him ever going to have some money in his pocket, decent clothes, be viewed as someone who mattered? He was invisible before immersing himself in the life, he said. But drugs not only made him feel seen and relevant, the lifestyle itself gave him that sense.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

I try continually to talk to my father about structural realities, policies and decisions as being even more decisive in the outcomes of his life than any choice he personally made. I talk about the politics of personal responsibility, how it’s mostly a lie meant to keep us from challenging real-world legislative decisions that chart people’s paths, that undo people’s lives.

It was easy to understand that when race was a blatant factor, a friend says to me in a political discussion one afternoon. Jim Crow left no questions or confusion. But now that race isn’t written into the law, she says, look for the codes. Look for the coded language everywhere, she says. They rewrote the laws, but they didn’t rewrite white supremacy. They kept that shit intact, she says.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

I have never seen him high before but I refuse to turn away. If he matters to me at all then he has to matter to me at every moment. He has to matter to me at this moment. Seeing him like this feels like my soul is being pulled over shards of glass but I do not turn away. His life is not expendable. Our love is not disposable. I will not be to him what the world has been to him. I will not throw him away.

Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

It would be easy to speculate about the impact of years of cocaine use on my father's heart, but I suspect that it will tell us less than if we could measure the cumulative effects of hatred, racism and indignity. What is the impact of years of strip searches, of being bent over, the years before that when you were a child and knew that no dream you had for yourself was taken seriously by anyone, that you were not someone who would be fully invested in by a nation that treated you as expendable?

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Consider: In the wake of Katrina, there were two Getty images that Yahoo News ran two days after the storm hit. In the first photo, two white residents waded through the water with food. Beneath their picture, the caption read: “Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.” Right after it, they ran an image of a Black boy also wading through the water with food. The caption read, “A young man walks through chest-deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005.”

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:
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When They Call You a Terrorist PDF

Gabriel Brignac Character Timeline in When They Call You a Terrorist

The timeline below shows where the character Gabriel Brignac appears in When They Call You a Terrorist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: We Are Stardust
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...making a living wage, yet never gave up. She also sees it in her father, Gabriel, who, despite struggling with racism and addiction, never stopped trying to be a better version... (full context)
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...has 25 percent of its prison population (including Patrisse’s disabled brother, Monte, and nonviolent father, Gabriel). (full context)
Chapter 3: Bloodlines
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...but while they were temporarily broken up, Cherice fell in love with a man named Gabriel and got pregnant with Patrisse.  Cherice ran into Gabriel recently and told him about Patrisse,... (full context)
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Between this conversation and when Patrisse meets Gabriel a month later, she and Cherice do not talk about him. In that time, Alton... (full context)
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...says yes, of course. He explains that he didn’t want Cherice to tell her about Gabriel because he didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t fully his. Patrisse wishes she... (full context)
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When Gabriel comes to pick Patrisse up, she notices how similar they look. He doesn’t have a... (full context)
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A week after Patrisse meets Gabriel, Cherice takes her to Gabriel’s graduation from his Salvation Army treatment program. Gabriel’s extended family... (full context)
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Gabriel’s family is poor, unlike Cherice’s family, who is middle class. (Cherice was kicked out of... (full context)
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Patrisse listens to Gabriel’s graduation speech, about his healing and gratitude for his family. She will later question the... (full context)
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Gabriel becomes very present in Patrisse’s life, picking her up every Friday to see their sports-loving... (full context)
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Gabriel eventually buys a car and drives Patrisse and her friends around, something Cherice can’t do... (full context)
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Patrisse also joins Gabriel at weekend barbecues where he plays baseball with their extended family. When there is conflict... (full context)
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...for many years. This is the generation of Black people being viewed as prisoners (including Gabriel and, eventually, Patrisse’s brother Monte). (full context)
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...private prison industry will become the largest growth industry in the U.S. by the time Gabriel goes back to prison. (full context)
Chapter 4: Magnitude and Bond
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With Gabriel in prison, Patrisse loses touch with his extended family. They only knew each other for... (full context)
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Monte goes to prison soon after Gabriel. He doesn’t pick Patrisse up from dance class from one day, which doesn’t worry her... (full context)
Chapter 5: Witness
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...but Patrisse feels anger and disgust after all the years of being treated as dirty. Gabriel showed her a different way to relate to religion, centered on community and love rather... (full context)
Chapter 6: Out in the World
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...cousins attend Cleveland because they live in the neighborhood, including Naomi. Naomi’s father, James, is Gabriel’s cousin and best friend—they both moved to LA from Louisiana as kids—and Patrisse’s relationship with... (full context)
Chapter 7: All the Bones We Could Find
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Gabriel comes home from prison when Patrisse is 20 years old and fully immersed in community... (full context)
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At the Center’s annual gala, Patrisse and Gabriel dance the night away while Cherice stays seated, smiling. She is happy just to watch.... (full context)
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Gabriel tells Patrisse how he was less addicted to drugs and more addicted to the lifestyle;... (full context)
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When Gabriel was discharged in 1984, the rates of unemployment for Black people in the LA region... (full context)
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Gabriel wants to have a grounded life and gets a job as a cement truck driver.... (full context)
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Patrisse and Gabriel talk about forgiveness and healing, and about Patrisse’s dream of building a new world.  She... (full context)
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Gabriel lets Patrisse in, and he’s not well—he looks inebriated and sunken. As Patrisse cries, he... (full context)
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This is the first time Patrisse has seen Gabriel high, and it hurts her, but she refuses to leave. “If he matters to me... (full context)
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Patrisse is 26 when Gabriel comes home from prison. (He will never go back.) Patrisse has built a small family... (full context)
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Then Gabriel’s father dies, and he and Patrisse travel to Eunice, Louisiana for the funeral. Eunice is... (full context)
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...to the “Black people who just love you and openly”—and Patrisse spends the summer watching Gabriel enjoy playing baseball with his family. By now, Patrisse is in love with Mark Anthony.... (full context)
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Two days later, Gabriel leaves Patrisse a voicemail saying he doesn’t feel well, but she doesn’t get it immediately... (full context)
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...medical examiner determines if there was foul play. There wasn’t. She goes upstairs to find Gabriel on a stretcher outside his room in boxers and a T-shirt. She keeps his glasses... (full context)
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They bury Gabriel a week later with complete military honors, led by his sister Jackie, who works at... (full context)
Chapter 8: Zero Dark Thirty
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Back in 2006, soon after Gabriel is taken to the fire camp prison, Patrisse wakes up to Cherice telling her that... (full context)
Chapter 9: No Ordinary Love
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...loss and the war on drugs) rather than personal failings led to both Alton and Gabriel’s struggles. (full context)
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...Mark Anthony move into a cabin in Topanga Canyon, the place where she learns that Gabriel has died. Mark Anthony carries her through that loss, facilitating a year-long healing group with... (full context)
Chapter 16: When They Call You a Terrorist
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...Trump’s election, begins working out again, traveling less, and cooking and praying more. Inspired by Gabriel, she also has fun—roller-skating, hosting park days, and more. She spends time with Future and... (full context)