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Last Menard hunger striker calls for a new generation of warriors

June 25, 2014

by Joseph Tillman

First and foremost I wish to thank you for the support and many efforts put forth, not only for us, but for many that endure the daily injustices of prison. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Protect Our Leaders, Defend Our People” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

“Protect Our Leaders, Defend Our People” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

There is so much going on in our struggle. It is easy to feel defeated or just plain tired. Reading the many articles by people everywhere made me come to the realization that I/we are not as alone as we sometimes feel. It was beyond uplifting to hear how people are fighting, while it helped to boost the morale of many.

It was also saddening and humbling. It was sad to see so many of us fighting the same fights for what seems like forever, humbling to come to the realization that I am a pawn in this struggle, meaning it is so much bigger than me and my problems. The systematic, old-fashioned oppression that we suffer has taken its toll and left many unwilling to fight, which is also sad.

I participated in the Menard hunger strike and I actually was the last to come off. The hardest part was not not eating but having to notify my loved ones that I may die while trying to make them understand this is worth my life.

During the period of the hunger strike, I thought out a lot of things, yet I’ve not been able to stop thinking, “This is our turn, our fight.” The men and women who came before us fought bravely and courageously for many things!

However, the plight that is handicapping our generation is mass incarceration. While we’re not being sent out to the fields, we are being used as slaves. It does not matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, crime or anything else.

If you are in prison, you are a slave. Once you are released with that “X” on your back, it’s your “mark.” It shows that you belong to the unworthy, downtrodden dregs of society. I question, though, is it because we have accepted those terms in and on our lives?

We must be the new generation of warriors to demand our rights. I watch as many have relinquished their manhood and humanity to be seen as the animals that “they” would have us be perceived as. We do have a voice.

We also have the spirit of warriors inside all of us. We are still alive and well, despite their attempts to still our minds and quiet or silence our thoughts. I simply want to remind everyone that we have a purpose. We are pawns, pawns for our children and futures.

The plight that is handicapping our generation is mass incarceration. While we’re not being sent out to the fields, we are being used as slaves. It does not matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, crime or anything else. If you are in prison, you are a slave.

It took a while for me to realize I was not alone, that we in Menard are not alone. I see in us the capabilities to change the landscape. It will not be overnight and the hard work and dedication will be endless. But for our future it is well worth it.

At some point we all have to decide what in life we are willing to stand for, to give the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t look for everyone to agree with me. I look for those who seek change to stand up and voice their opinion and do what’s necessary to bring forth the changes they seek.

We also have the spirit of warriors inside all of us. We are still alive and well, despite their attempts to still our minds and quiet or silence our thoughts.

This is hard, yet it is not a losing battle. We simply must take our turns in being held accountable! I repeat, it will not be easy, comfortable or the like. It remains. It must be done.

I do not agree with the assessment of who they say we are. I was incarcerated at the age of 16. I am now 30 and counting! It scares me to think I can be one of the people content with the circumstances in which we are made to exist.

I’m no Malcolm, Martin, Huey or none of the awesome leaders of and before our time. But I will be Joseph. That’s all I can encourage everyone to be: yourself.

As we look to the past, for example, let’s also realize today is a new day. We must be innovative. Most of all, we must stick together. We are truly all we have!

At some point we all have to decide what in life we are willing to stand for, to give the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t look for everyone to agree with me. I look for those who seek change to stand up and voice their opinion and do what’s necessary to bring forth the changes they seek.

It takes for us to do our part for anyone else to get involved. Do not be deceived into thinking the color of someone’s skin makes a difference once you are behind the walls.

The only way we can get free is if you and we see the space between the bars and let that be our focus. Lead by example and let’s try to pull our younger brothers and sisters up, as someone will have to continue the struggle!

I thank all for the support and if you want to lend a hand or talk … whatever, I’m here. We need all the support and encouragement we can get. All those who have been supporting, you are invaluable and we love you. Words cannot explain.

Hope my words and thoughts have helped boost morale.

Send our brother some love and light: Joseph Tillman, R-40962, P.O. Box 1000, Menard, IL 62259.

 

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