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Cultivate the seed to grow: Inside prison and out, we must nurture our youth

December 25, 2015

by Mutope Duguma

I greet you all with love and respect as usual, and it’s been awhile, but I recently made a transition from Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit solitary confinement units to General Population – GP – here at Calipatria State Prison. I won’t bore you with my usual long-winded rhetoric but instead speak to some of the key contradictions that I am seeing that we as New Afrikans face in and out of these stoops.

Mutope Duguma in a photo taken Sept. 2, 2014

Mutope Duguma in a photo taken Sept. 2, 2014

Our young people for the most part have been seriously compromised, and we can see this in their behavior. And we who understand how a people should be socially developed inside a society in ways that lead to one’s growth and development have to be very proactive about how we nurture our young people.

No one is receptive to the hard hand approaches, but instead time and energy have to be spent on educating these young New Afrikans who have no “sense of self.” Many have come out of communities that have been demoralized; therefore, they have no “moral compass” as to how they are to behave.

We can hold responsible the educational institutions and the deprivations that many of them have been subjected to throughout their lives, which can arise in direct relation to the poverty and economic deprivation that they – and all of us – have been compromised by.

We have to realize that when a people have been socially engineered or conditioned to be a certain way inside a “malignant sub-culture” that teaches them to devalue themselves in every aspect of their lives and to which they were colonized for centuries, we cannot expect to reverse this psychic trauma overnight. What we have to do is put examples in place of what New Afrikans look like in practice, as well as spend time with those who are receptive to education.

Our young people for the most part have been seriously compromised, and we can see this in their behavior.

It’s a lot of our young people who are very intelligent, but they don’t have the nerve or discipline to speak to their peers without being ridiculed or subjected to some form of “peer pressure” by those whose intellect has not yet been cultivated.

The young people who have developed intellect, nerve and discipline tend to have no tolerance for tackling such contradictions in their peers. Therefore, those who tend to be dysfunctional get to run around recklessly, which leads to most of the problems that many of the social groups fight over.

It is essential that those who hold themselves as “men of influence” educate these young people. To not do so speaks to what they actually mean to you.

I’ve also learned that if the men of influence are not themselves educated and disciplined, then they tend to be a part of the problem. We have a serious responsibility to these young people behind these prison walls and in society.

It is essential that those who hold themselves as “men of influence” educate these young people. To not do so speaks to what they actually mean to you.

Ending hostilities is truly our lifeline

I have been out of solitary confinement for 90 days now, and my overview of our situation is that the penal system has failed across this nation. It’s not just a California problem; it’s a national problem, where prisoners all over Amerikka are being socially compromised due to mass incarceration.

And it is an incarceration that places us inside of a man-made social experiment that cultivates each of us inside a manufactured reality that is not of our choice, but instead is the making of the puppet masters – the lawmakers – who use their political power to coalesce men and women inside their prisons, jails, camps and juvenile facilities.

We prisoners have to ask the question why are so many human beings, especially of color, being carted off to these penal institutions, where billions of dollars, if not trillions, have been spent to maintain such repressive environments that establish us under social tyranny that makes its way back to our communities.

We have a serious responsibility to these young people behind these prison walls and in society.

We have to see these penal institutions as vessels that socially engineer us into a pathological, violent behavior that is diametrically opposed to our human development. We can now concretely identify in California prisons the violent nature of prisoners being a direct result of the cause of violence in our many communities.

The prison system is manufacturing a violent prison mentality, which none of us can actually be held responsible for because our “keepers” – government and especially CDCr officials – have always had complete control over the social tyranny in prison. No prisoner can be blamed for being placed in such violent environments that their keepers have chosen for them to be housed in.

We have to see these penal institutions as vessels that socially engineer us into a pathological, violent behavior that is diametrically opposed to our human development.

The majority of us coming out of California’s solitary confinement units, such as the Pelican Bay SHU, were compromised years ago – neutralized by being removed from general population completely and targeted for extermination.

This was and is our reality, where we who survived to the extent that we did, had already started psychologically preparing ourselves to die in the wretched environment of solitary confinement. But we were able to change our reality to some extent with the Prisoner Human Rights Movement and our hunger strikes.

So where is our movement today? We are right where we started off in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and each of us who know about these eras has to stay focused on what’s at stake. To not do so will set us right back into a pit of chaos, which can render each and every one of us vulnerable to our keepers once again.

The Agreement to End Hostilities is truly our life line. It has nothing to do with your courage or strength; it’s about changing a violent prison culture into a civilized environment that eventually entails – or demands – that each of us be released from these animal cages and be allowed back to our communities.

The Agreement to End Hostilities dictates:

  1. That we prisoners establish respectful communication lines between our four principal groups;
  2. That we prisoners establish a principled standard where each prisoner holds his or her own individual discipline;
  3. That we prisoners educate the younger prisoners as to why discipline in prison benefits us all;
  4. That we prisoners recommend to CDCr, collectively, that which is needed in each prison to facilitate bringing the Agreement to End Hostilities to life, such as educational programs and privileges;
  5. That we prisoners cannot expect the Agreement to End Hostilities to be successful without us seriously getting behind it.

The Agreement to End Hostilities is truly our life line. It has nothing to do with your courage or strength; it’s about changing a violent prison culture into a civilized environment that eventually entails – or demands – that each of us be released from these animal cages and be allowed back to our communities.

It’s a real struggle on these GPs (general population yards), one that I welcome wholeheartedly, because so much has changed in these GPs that it’s like they are all modified lock-up yards. I believe in time that we can change this by demonstrating how prisons are counter-productive to a free society.

One Love, One Struggle,

Mutope

Send our brother some love and light: Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05996, CSP B5-C246, P.O. Box 5005, Calipatria CA 92233.

3 thoughts on “Cultivate the seed to grow: Inside prison and out, we must nurture our youth

  1. Zoe Wyse

    Mr. Duguma,

    Thank you so much for your beautiful description of the power of positive education and influence to help change culture and attitudes. I agree with you that peaceful education to reach people's hearts and minds is usually so much more helpful in creating lasting change than more domineering approaches.

    I am sure you are already a wonderful force for peace and compassion for other people in the prison where you are living right now. Your thoughts on how lack of self-respect sometimes causes some people to behave in less helpful ways makes me believe that you are able to find compassion in your heart for people who do not always feel peaceful, since most often their anger or less helpful behavior arises from fear or other issues. I hope you can find strength to continue with this.

    As I'm sure you likely already feel (based on your thoughtful reflections about positive change), people who are sometimes quite angry and abusive may also have had a difficult past. Each small act of peace, even to people who are not currently feeling peaceful, creates powerful positive change, even if it is not easy to see the effects in people or if the change in their hearts takes a long time. It is also so wonderful that people in prisons are advocating for their human rights through the court systems, since these are rights they deserve and the court system can work to protect. It is also inspiring that many human rights advocates and legal groups are standing in solidarity with this important work. It is also wonderful that steps are increasingly being taken by correctional staff and administrators to transform prisons into more peaceful and humane places.

    With patience, peace and compassion, we can all create wonderful changes in prisons and in our community. Many people in the larger community, as you probably know, are also advocating for the human rights of people in prison. Your actions to create more peace, compassion and humanity in the prison you are living in right now create huge ripple effects that spread far and wide. I hope you know how much your work matters. I send you many, many good thoughts and hopes for the important work you are doing to cultivate peace and caring. I hope it also gives you hope to know that many others are deeply concerned about how quickly our society moves to incarcerate people who could in fact be a part of our community.

    Thank you again for this beautiful reflection on using education and peaceful means to create good changes and growth. I am sure you are making more of a difference than you are even aware of in many people's lives every day, and you are helping them find hope, find peace in their hearts, and inspiring them to work together to create a more joyful future.

    You say that your efforts have nothing to with courage and strength, but I think you are displaying both great courage and great strength in trying to create peaceful change and talk about educating other people in your community so they will respect themselves more and thereby embrace peace. That takes courage and strength that is nothing short of extraordinary. Those efforts deserve the utmost respect. I send you so very many good hopes for the most wonderful possible future for you and others you know. I know you will do so many good things in your life, because you clearly already are.

    Zoe

    Reply

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