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To all those still locked inside

October 30, 2016

by Sista Soul

My journey began in the mid-1980s, when folks in my community began to hear about a “supermax” prison that would be built in nearby Crescent City, California. At that time, my colleague Tom Cairns and Mike Da Bronx, my husband, and me were busy at KHSU producing a weekly radio show called Alternative Review.

Troy Williams at Humboldt State University

Troy Williams at Humboldt State University

We got hold of the famous writer Nat Hentoff for our show because he was on the case writing what he knew about these new “supermax” prisons. That was the very beginning of my awareness and what was to come.

In 1990, I would get one of the first letters from that place, Pelican Bay State Prison. It came from a young man named Troy Williams. He liked my radio show. He wrote me a letter letting me know how he liked the music I was spinning. I wrote him back and thus began a fantastic friendship.

Today, after he served 27 1/2 years for a crime he did not do, we are family in the deepest sense of the word.

It was not only Troy who schooled me all along the way. In fact, you who are reading this most likely played a part in my education and for that I will forever be grateful.

Since the successful hunger strike of 2013, so many of you have left PB and are now in hopefully better places. The SHU as we had known it is no longer. Don’t get me wrong; there is much to be done to end the draconian practice of solitary confinement all over the U.S. – and the world for that matter. We will get there!

It was not only Troy who schooled me all along the way. In fact, you who are reading this most likely played a part in my education and for that I will forever be grateful.

What many of you may not know is that I began my radio show in 1980, some 36 years ago! I took a few breaks now and again but never for too long.

Since the successful hunger strike of 2013, so many of you have left PB and are now in hopefully better places. The SHU as we had known it is no longer.

Dec. 18, 2016, will be my last Sista’s Place show on KHSU. I feel like now is the time. So much was accomplished and yes, so much more remains to be done.

Make no mistake, this journey was not anything I planned. It just happened. I could not turn a blind eye to the suffering of so many held in disgusting circumstances.

I will remain engaged in the struggle – there will always be struggles.

What I want each of you to know is this: Never give up hope. Do all that you can to better yourself. Reach out as best you can. Never allow yourself to be divided by race or location.

We are one. Read, study and challenge yourself.

What I want each of you to know is this: Never give up hope. Do all that you can to better yourself. Reach out as best you can. Never allow yourself to be divided by race or location.

You know where I am from. This white girl from the South Bronx understood at a very early age what racism and poverty and classism were doing to so many people I grew up with.

I was hassled a few times by the institution that is PB. They never could totally silence me.

I have no regrets whatsoever! I’d do it all again!

So, you stay in touch and inform me of your progress. You can be sure, in spite of this being a “form letter,” that if you are reading this, you are a part of my family.

In peace and with love and respect and gratitude,

Sista Soul (Sharon Fennell)

You can reach Sista by writing to Sharon Fennell, P.O. Box 222, Samoa, CA 95564.

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