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Get ready! The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington is Aug. 19

June 27, 2017

Wanda Sabir interviews Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim on Wanda’s Picks radio show

Wanda Sabir: Good morning and welcome to Wanda’s Picks, a Black arts and culture program with the African Sister’s Media Network. We are joined in the studio by Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim. Welcome to the show.

Today we are going to be talking about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington. We can talk about solitary confinement, political prisoners, the 13th Amendment. We can talk about what the need is for having such an event.

Robert King: You basically outlined it – this is what this Millions for Prisoners March is about. Annabelle (Parker, an intrepid advocate for U.S. prisoners who lives in The Netherlands) contacted us last year with regards to a Million for Prisoners March on behalf of political prisoners. Prior to that time, this has been our quest, to develop a format for political prisoners, those brothers and sisters who remain in prison from those yesteryears because of their affiliation with the Black Panther Party.

And this is where the 13th Amendment comes in. We want to get Congress to eliminate that clause which allows slavery. In order to do this, Albert and I have been trying to educate people along the way because we live in a world that is operated on a legal basis.

But when morality has been disregarded in favor of legality, when we deify legality and make it holy, somebody will be demoralized. And this is what has been happening over the years. Legality in America, in the courts, has been deified and made holy and we want to make the connection that it was legal to own slaves and it wasn’t until people saw it as being really morally reprehensible that there was an outcry.

Slavery as we knew it was compromised by the Emancipation Proclamation that eliminated slavery for those rebelling states, but this emancipation got erased with the 13th Amendment and that clause about slavery. This is the new Jim Crow, the new slavery.

The 13th Amendment allows slavery in the sense that it legalizes slavery fully. It could have left the Emancipation Proclamation intact and we would not be in this shape. There wouldn’t be any basis for legal slavery, but now there is because we live in a system of legality.

We’ve got to point out that just because something is legal, if it is morally corrupt, we can challenge it. It may be legal and the system may deify it, but we don’t have to accept that immorality. Because of a clause in the 13th Amendment, a person could be given a life sentence and could remain in prison and be exploited for the remainder of his or her life underneath a system of slavery.

This is where the 13th Amendment comes in. We want to get Congress to eliminate that clause which allows slavery.

We have to let people know that there is a connection between prison slavery and chattel slavery way back then. And the fact is that we have a platform now, the platform that is being given to us in D.C. on Aug. 19, and we want to use this platform.

Albert and I have been doing this since he’s been out, and our platform is just broadening. We are outlining this perpetual form of slavery, police brutality in whichever form, but the most important thing, and really our main goal, is to focus on those political prisoners, those brothers and sisters who have been incarcerated for years and years based on this system of illegality that has been deified and made holy.

Robert King walks out of Angola Feb. 8, 2001, free after 31 years in prison, 29 of them in solitary, punishment for the Angola Three’s “Black Pantherism,” in the words of longtime former warden Burl Cain. The Louisiana State Prison in Angola is an 18,000-acre former plantation, still worked by enslaved Africans.

We want to challenge this immorality. Political prisoners don’t have a legal right to go back in court because of laws that restrict them and restrain them, that have put blocks on them. The only way we can get back into court with their cases is from a moral standpoint.

We want to rouse folks and let people know that this is a moral issue, just like during slavery. So basically, this is what we are doing in D.C. This is our program; this is our platform.

Wanda Sabir: I also want to let you know that Sister Laila Halima Aziz from I Am We Ubuntu (principle organizers of the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington) has joined us as well. We’re talking about the 13th Amendment initially as well as some of the other issues around the Millions for Prisoners March.

Albert Woodfox: King has done a wonderful job of giving historical context to the 13th Amendment, which was a result of the Southern traders being defeated in the Civil War. I would like to add that the 13th Amendment was a good piece of legislation but then, to appease the Southern politicians who had been defeated in the Civil War, the clause saying no one should be held in slavery or solitude unless it’s due to conviction for a felony.

Well, what that really did mean is that you went from individual ownership of slaves to the state owning slaves. And first of all, what is a slave? A slave is an individual who, by virtue of his captivity, whatever means are used, by virtue of being held as a slave, has lost all human rights and all legal rights. So a slave, whether enslaved by an individual or the state, is at the mercy of those individuals.

So this march is an attempt by comrades around the world to raise the level of consciousness. As King said, there is a lot of stuff going on in this country in the name of the people, and the people have no idea what it is or why it even exists. So we are trying to raise the level of consciousness, trying to put some things on the minds of the people of America and around the world about what constitutes prisoners.

What bothers me is that the Prison Industrial Complex has found a way to exploit the legal slave status of prisoners in America by signing these lucrative contracts. So now you have a direct attack on the working class men and women in this country and around the world, because you have industries using slave labor to produce their products.

For every legal slave of the state who is producing a product for an industry, there is a working class man or woman who can’t get a job. So under our president and our system, working class people are being pitted against each other – pitted against legal slaves of the states across America.

This 13th Amendment, as King said, is raised to the status of God, and we’re here to say that just as people saw the moral reprehensions of chattel slavery, we have to raise a moral issue of what is going on in America and around the world now with modern day prison slavery. The state is guaranteed to exploit their labor.

The average prisoner is a slave of the state and makes anywhere from less than 2 cents an hour to maybe 10-15 cents an hour to produce products that these corporations are making billions and trillions of dollars off of. So this march is to raise the level of awareness, the level of consciousness of the American people and people around the world to the danger and immorality of this clause in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Malik Rahim welcomes Albert Woodfox to his 69th birthday party on Feb. 19, 2016. Malik and other close friends and supporters of Albert held a party on his birthday, the same day they hoped he’d be released. Though they had to start without him, the joy was incalculable when he arrived. From left are Malik Rahim, Albert’s brother, Michael Mable, Albert Woodfox, and his childhood friend, Parnell Herbert, aka Panther Herb, the playwright who wrote “Angola 3, the Play” that was instrumental in freeing Albert. – Photo: Max Becherer, AP

Wanda Sabir: Thank you, Albert. Malik, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and tell us about the 13th Amendment. What you have in common is that you are all from New Orleans and you’re all members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Albert and King, you all were founders of one of the only chapters if not the only official chapter – San Quentin had one too if I’m not mistaken – of the Black Panther Party behind bars.

Albert Woodfox: Yeah, Herman as well. Our fallen comrade, Herman Wallace, he was also instrumental in founding the prison chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Wanda Sabir: Certainly. I was thinking about Herman, definitely want to pour Ashay for him verbally, now that he’s an ancestor. The three of you, Herman Wallace, Robert King and yourself, Albert Woodfox, were known as the Angola Three. The Angola Three is more than just three people, but you all were the symbols – as King liked to say, the poster children for solitary confinement and its inhumanity toward people.

So Malik, you are known for a lot of things, like being of the first responders with Common Ground Relief during Hurricane Katrina, when the levees were breached. And you’ve been doing a lot of work around environmental justice and you seem to always have your finger on the pulse.

By Sept. 3, 2005, when still no help had come to the poor of New Orleans after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, Malik Rahim had leapt into action, recruiting volunteers – he eventually brought 25,000 to help with the emergency and later with recovery – and gathering and distributing tons of donations through his organization, Common Ground Relief, which received no government or corporate funds.

So talk to us about the Millions for Prisoners March, because – as a member of the Black Panther Party, wow – there have been books written about what happened to you with that incident at Desire [housing project], when your headquarters was shot out by the New Orleans Police Department. So anyway, go ahead.

Malik Rahim: Well, as you said, all three of us is from New Orleans. Where we live has the dubious distinction of being the number one state in the world for incarceration. No one incarcerates more people than America. No state in America incarcerates more people than Louisiana. And no city in Louisiana incarcerates more people than the city of New Orleans.

So we are directly impacted by the criminal justice system – a system that has shown that for almost 300 years that we have been in Louisiana, and by that I mean African people, that justice just don’t get fulfilled for us. Right now, we have about half the prison population incarcerated for over 20 years. And we still have the highest murder rate of any city in America.

So it shows that just locking people up isn’t making no difference. I equate this to what we are doing because I truly believe that outside of war, the most violent environment facing man is incarceration. And we cannot continue to take dogs and put them in an environment that only transforms them into wolves.

And then we put them back out on the street without no rehabilitation and expect them not to be violent. I’m hoping that’d be one of the main things addressed on August the 19th: One, that we can come together. We can come together not just as a people, but as incarcerated people. Not just as African people, but as incarcerated people. That we can understand the plight that we are all facing – and the power that we hold.

Outside of war, the most violent environment facing man is incarceration.

In the early 1970s, I was blessed to be part of a prison movement in California called Prisoners Union. Prisoners Union became the Prisoners Rights Union, a crystallization for women prisoners with children in California that later became Critical Resistance. So I’ve seen the transformation. I’ve seen how prisoners’ rights have gone up and down. And I know now it’s time for us to come together, to put our petty differences aside and start working for the abolition of incarceration as we know it today.

Wanda Sabir: Sister Laila, you are joining us to talk about the organization that is coordinating and sponsoring the March, I Am We Prison Advocacy Network. And I was wondering if you can talk about who is the team and that you can visit iamweubuntu.com on the website, and you can read about the 13th Amendment, you can read about the March, which again is Saturday, Aug. 19. From 11:30 a.m. to noon is the march, and then from noon to 5 p.m., there’s a rally at the White House, in the capital of this country, Lafayette Park, Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest and 16th Street.

Laila Halima Aziz: Thank you so much, Sister. I Am We was actually created and given birth through our comrades who are currently incarcerated in the depths of slavery. First I want to thank the elder who spoke before me; I was really moved. And all the other elders.

These are the Angola Three: Herman Wallace, Robert King and Albert Woodfox.

We can no longer stand by and say what we would have done if we were slaves in the 1800s or the 1700s, because slavery, specifically for the Afrikan community, is just as prevalent – actually, there are more slaves now than during the chattel slavery. Socialized slavery, legalized by the 13th Amendment, has affected millions upon millions.

It has wreaked poverty in our communities, and the direct correlation of poverty is violence. And that’s what we’re seeing. And that’s why when the elder was speaking of Louisiana being more violent than ever, even though it has the highest incarceration rate, it makes sense.

And it’s strategic. And no one who’s making these policies, who’s building these prisons, none of them are without knowledge of how it’s going to have a domino effect on our communities. You have young boys raising themselves, with no men around, because of slavery.

So for Aug. 19, this call was created by the prisoners. We will be in Washington, D.C., and we will be demanding that the loophole is closed and that slavery, for once and for all, is eliminated and abolished from the United States of America.

We will be in Washington, D.C., and we will be demanding that the loophole is closed and that slavery, for once and for all, is eliminated and abolished from the United States of America.

We’re looking at the language from the United Nations human rights articles on what the abolishment of slavery will look like. And then there’s going to be a big push after that. That’s the beginning, that’s the call. But we’re all going to have to work very hard within our states and on a national level to make sure that these policy writers, these legislators, are working on the behalf of our communities. And we’re going to have to be ready to oust them.

Wanda Sabir: Could you talk a little bit about how people are organizing throughout the country for this Millions for Prisoners March, Sister Laila? And how people can help mobilize in their areas to be able to get buses, try to link up to organizations that are supporting the march so that everyone who wants to be there physically can be there?

Laila Aziz: Yes, ma’am. There are local organizing committees in numerous states, from Louisiana to Florida, Texas, New York, D.C., California, all over the United States. And you can join one of those local organizing committees. I would start at either iamweubuntu.com or on Facebook, the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March.

There are also numerous organizations that have stepped up and are part of what’s going on. The newest one is the National Lawyers Guild, and there’s Jailhouse Lawyers, George Jackson University, the US Human Rights Network, Amend the 13th, Jericho Amnesty Project, Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), the San Francisco Bay View National Black newspaper, the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up, Black Lives Matter, Free Tone The Movement, Amwalk Quaker Meeting, the Green Party – there’s actually a Green Party gentleman running for Congress who’s an abolitionist. There’s about 70 to 80 organizations who’ve come in solidarity with this movement.

Herman Wallace did not die in prison, as his captors tried to ensure, but he died only days after his court-ordered release on Oct. 1, 2013. The judge had threatened to go get Herman himself if prison officials continued to stall. –– Photo: Democracy Now

I know for a fact, and my twins are 8 years old, that our children will not live in a country where slavery is legalized when they grow up. And that’s the call we’re making. And so if you want to be a part of it, please sign up. Go to iamweubuntu.com. We would love to have you.

We already have the buses. In two areas, Texas and California, we’re working strategically to see how we’re going to do our rally buses, because we’re so far from D.C. But all of the other areas already have their rally buses and they’re ready to go. All you need to do is jump on one.

Wanda Sabir: That’s excellent. With regard to solitary confinement, Albert, you served 43 years in solitary confinement and King served 29 years; that’s not including the other years that you weren’t in solitary confinement but were confined. And Malik, you’re also a political prisoner, a prisoner of war.

So, Albert, can you talk about solitary confinement and the need for its elimination because it violates human rights. I’m sure you are all aware of the Folsom prisoners’ hunger strike presently, because of the horrible conditions that they are subjected to, despite the laws that were passed after the series of three hunger strikes organized by prisoners in longterm solitary confinement at Pelican Bay that peaked at 30,000 prisoners around the state starving themselves in solidarity.

The CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) is still not extending the Pelican Bay settlement, won in the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, to other categories of solitary confinement. So it’s back again because those particular victories have been limited, that quickly; it hasn’t been two years since that happened.

Albert Woodfox: Well, one thing that the listening audience has to be aware of is, prison administration and security forces are some of the most arrogant and sometimes sadistic people alive. They have unchecked power. There is no oversight by any government organization that I’m aware of. There is no oversight by any community organization that I’m aware of, of the prison systems, both the state and the federal systems.

Solitary confinement has evolved from what was once a form of punishment to now it is a form of imprisonment. Now you have people, they go to prison, they don’t have to do anything to go into solitary confinement, they don’t have to break any rules, they don’t have to be violent because solitary confinement is fast becoming a means of imprisonment, not a punishment, not a period of adjustment for someone who may break prison rules or regulations.

I can’t tell you how many men, when I was in Angola prison, that I’ve seen the infamous warden Burl Cain place directly in solitary confinement. Because in Louisiana, and in other states in America, solitary confinement is no longer a means of punishment; it is a means of imprisonment.

Angry that Herman was allowed only a few days of freedom before the prison system’s murder by medical neglect took effect, Robert King and Malik Rahim organized a big funeral for Herman at the Treme Center in New Orleans on Oct. 12, 2013. – Photo: Ann Harkness

I hear people say, what’s so bad about solitary confinement? Solitary confinement is the most brutal non-physical form of torture that ever existed. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage and determination and strength not to broken by solitary confinement, not to be driven insane and in some cases driven to suicide.

So, solitary confinement is not this innocent form of imprisonment that the prison industrial complex through their various lobbyists and bald politicians are putting out there. Solitary confinement is brutal. The fact that King and myself and Herman Wallace – Herman spent 41 years and he refused to be broken. He gave his life for what we are talking about now, and I’m so heartbroken that he will not be there on the 19th of August to see the fruits of the sacrifice that we’ve all made. And with King and I, he will be there.

You hear people are put inside solitary confinement because they’re violent or because they’re defiant; well, that’s no longer the case. The American prison system is becoming a solitary form of imprisonment. You don’t have to break any rules. All you have to do is become a legal slave of the state by being convicted of a felony.

Most of these prisons they are building now are built for the solitary confinement housing. Housing in dormitories is becoming antiquated.

And let’s be clear on one thing: The men and women, and children in some cases, who are being held in solitary, these are not aliens; they don’t come from another planet. These are your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents, your sons, your daughters.

You should be concerned about what is being done. The prison administration and security forces and DAs and judges and attorney generals are always famous for saying, “in the name of the people,” “we represent the people.”

Well no, they don’t represent the people and what they are doing is not in the name of the people. I can’t imagine any mother wanting her son to be held in solitary confinement for decades. I can’t imagine any father wanting his son to be beaten to a bloody pulp because he would not allow his manhood to be compromised by being treated like a slave. I just don’t believe it.

So they are not speaking for the people; they do not represent the people. They represent themselves. They have accumulated a power base, a system where their power is unchecked. There is no oversight. So they do what the hell they want.

And we are here and on the 19th of August, our voices will say it loud and clear: This comes to an end, no more.

Wanda Sabir: Wow, excellent. Yeah, I was wondering, also speaking about solitary confinement, if you could also talk about the prisoners of war, because there are so many people who have been behind bars for 20, 30 or 40 years for their political beliefs, and this country talks about First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, but that’s not the case for a lot of people that others have forgotten about.

Robert King: Yes, I can speak to prisoners of war. But what I want to do is also elaborate and make a connection between common prison labor and being held in solitary confinement. Both are like a form of slavery, especially with today’s assessment of solitary confinement and its impacts.

At the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, when it announced its opposition to solitary confinement due to the brain damage it causes, Robert King of the Angola Three held forth on a panel that also featured Jules Lobel, Huda Akil, Craig Haney and Peter Scharff Smith. The meeting was held Feb. 16-20, 2017, in Boston. – Photo: Janel Kiley

Both Albert and I have appeared on panels where the American Association for the Advancement of Science came out against solitary confinement and against incarceration. They’ve shown that being held in solitary confinement causes brain damage.

During the ‘70s, under Ronald Reagan, they closed all the mental institutions down, and many of those people who came out of mental institutions ended up in prison. So, what you see today is, as Albert has pointed out, with regards to solitary confinement and the 13th Amendment, solitary confinement seems to have taken the place of mental institutions.

Psychologists had to know that if you were placed in solitary confinement for a period of time, you’d become a psychiatric ward. They dope you up with pills – they try to give everyone pills – that’s the way they try to keep you broken if you allow yourself to get broken.

The point is that yes, those brothers and sisters who are being held in solitary confinement are very much a part of this entire scheme of things along with the prisoners of war, the POW, the former members of the Black Panther Party, immigrants and so forth.

We want to talk about how it impacts everybody, but we also want to point specifically, we want to call out names, we want to call Rap Brown’s name – we can call him Imam Jamil if we want to – we want to call Russell Maroon Shoats, we want to call the names of Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, we want to call the names of these people – and we want to show that they are being held under slavery because they dared to struggle.

If you want to assert your God-given right to fight by any means necessary when you are downtrodden and oppressed for years and years and years, and when you decide to take it upon yourself to act out against this in some form or fashion, and whether you were the originator, the perpetrator or a part of it to some degree, you are held responsible for the remainder of your life. These are connections that we need to make in regards to POWs and political prisoners and we have to also raise the bar for everyone.

See, if you are not a political prisoner in America, you are a political victim. And so when we raise the bar for everyone, we say that the way America’s prisons are run today, we’re all a victim. Anyone who goes to prison becomes a victim.

There are political prisoners who went to prison because they were targeted by the system. The system has laws that allow them to enslave you perpetually.

Yes, there are prisoners of war. We don’t want to say that everyone is a “political prisoner,” but we will say that we are all political victims of a system that is unjust. Being a political victim is almost like being a slave in the system because you are a victim of a system that demoralizes.

Ruchell Magee lies gravely injured on a stretcher in the Marin Courthouse parking lot after the rebellion led by Jonathan Jackson, 17, who had hoped to free his big brother, George, who was not in the courtroom that day, Aug. 7, 1970.

Ruchell Magee has been in his prison cell for 52 years. He was unfortunate enough to be in the Marin County Courthouse at the time Jonathan (Jackson) went in to make his statement and sentiments known, and Ruchell Magee happened to be in court. He did not pull the trigger, he did not do anything and the man has been held in some of the worst prisons in California for over 50 years.

I hear from him periodically; he shouldn’t have to beg for help. We should embrace him and say, “Look, he’s coming home.” And whatever they say about Imam Jamil, or Rap Brown, we can bet that the lies that they told in order to perpetrate his incarceration could have been exposed if he’d had the resources of the FBI.

We can defend people like Imam Jamil and Ruchell Magee. We can raise the issue and keep it to a moral level. We can show the 13th Amendment was a moral document and that it should be rewritten; it should be declawed.

Albert Woodfox: First of all, these comrades, they need good attorneys. Because when you go into a system of institutionalized racism, when you walk into a courtroom, the color of your skin or your ethnicity, the texture of your hair, your physical features – these are really why you are there. That’s something seriously wrong; there’s something morally reprehensible about that.

It’s institutional racism. And that’s what Aug. 19 is about, raising our voices against that. Saying enough is enough. We are not slaves, and we will no longer sit silent and allow you to continue to devalue us as human beings.

And to all the mothers and fathers and grandparents and uncles and aunts and sisters and brothers and children who have the misfortunate to have someone in prison, it is time for you to stand up. It is time for you to show that this is my family. Though they may have made a mistake, they are still human beings, they are still entitled to be treated as human, they are still entitled to dignity and self-respect.

So Aug. 19 is a date where incarcerated men and women who were lucky enough to win their freedom, their families and people who empathize with human dignity, human treatment, can raise their voices and put their bodies behind what they say out of their mouths. I have a famous saying that I always tell people: “The mouth can say anything, but the ass is the proof.”

True to his word, Albert Woodfox campaigns to free other prisoners, here a famously innocent man on California’s death row, Kevin Cooper. Albert wore the shirt at a reception in his honor at ANSWER on Sept. 7, 2016. – Photo: Carole Seligman

So now if you’re saying that you’re against what is going on in the judicial system in this country, whether it’s institutional racism, brutality, mass incarceration, I expect to see you in Washington, D.C., on August the 19th.

Wanda Sabir: There was a big, big meeting in Oakland on the – was it the 40th or 50th anniversary of the Attica uprising? – of the formerly incarcerated and convicted people and families movement. I was wondering if you could tie in any of those platforms to the Millions for Prisoners March on Washington. And I have another one. Since you all are right now in New Orleans, I’m thinking about the Underground Railroad, I’m thinking about safe houses, and I’m also thinking about a translation of that in 2017 language.

Albert Woodfox: For me it was an honor to be there. It was an honor to be acknowledged for withstanding the horror and the brutality of solitary confinement. And for maintaining, first of all, my sanity, my dignity, pride, self-respect, my integrity. And at the same time to never give up, to get up and continue to fight and not be broken. I always say, if I stand for nothing else, I hope it would be the strength and determination of the human spirit.

And Robert and Herman – Herman made the ultimate sacrifice. At some point in time some of this will come out, but it is my personal opinion that the state of Louisiana murdered Herman. They knew he had cancer, and they failed to give him the proper treatment.

And it was only after our lawyers intervened and were bringing in a doctor that they rushed him to a facility and diagnosed him with liver cancer. And prior to that, they were telling him that he was allergic to some damn mice or something. I’m sorry, I get angry just thinking about it.

A wonderful man like Herman who in stature was as great as Mr. Mandela, and we allowed the state of Louisiana to kill him. And that’s going on all across this country. When we fail to get engaged, whether we’re members of the community or whether we’re family members, this is the end result.

At the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 22, 2016, former Panthers Robert King, Eddie Conway, Albert Woodfox, Gail Shaw and Billie X Jennings take a bow. The first three are former political prisoners. – Photo: Billy X Jennings

Wanda Sabir: King, Malik, comments about the idea of the Underground Railroad today and safe houses today, in light of the attack on Black people, Black bodies, specifically by the civilian army or police force? And I know, Laila, you have direct experience with that, with regards to losing a loved one to police violence.

If we’re talking about imprisonment as being the new form of slavery, that really never ended, people just didn’t know that the 13th Amendment did not completely eliminate slavery, but people don’t necessarily know the language. So if we’re looking at that as an analogy, then what about the Underground Railroad. You escaped, Albert, for a little bit.

Albert Woodfox: Yeah.

Wanda Sabir: Yeah. And so, do we break people out? I’m just wondering how do we get our people out of here, out of the prison system. How do we break them out, how do we make it so that people are not captured? Because they’ve got slave catchers, capturers, as well, just sitting in wait at the public schools to catch our young people. And then they lock them up and throw away the key and we don’t ever get them back anymore.

Laila Aziz: First and foremost, the elders who are on this telephone who have given their lives to us so that we can breathe, all they need to do right now is what they’re doing. We ask of nothing else from them. They’ve given it all.

And as for us who are down on this pavement trying to live their legacy and stand up to what these elders on the phone stood up to, by any means necessary, now we are trying to work on policies and legislative things that are going to stop a lot of this stuff, but we already understand what we’re up against.

America is not going to release its love for slavery easily. We’re seeing a lot of the undocumented families have to go underground, because they have ICE and these other slave catchers out here, pulling them out of their families. I live in San Diego, California, right on the border. So I don’t just see the police in my neighborhood, I see the immigration, I see border patrols; all of these people are coming into our homes, banging on our doors and snatching mothers out, leaving children there while they take them to immigration centers and deport them.

So we need to do whatever we need to do to keep our people safe. We do want people to get involved, though. Get involved and understand these laws and what’s going on with these laws and how they’re there.

America is not going to release its love for slavery easily.

Right now we can’t even get bail reform in California. It makes no sense why there’s bail. But it shows you, this is all about money and the powers that be. They don’t care about us.

Albert Woodfox: You know, there are many ways of struggle. I wish we could have employed “by any means necessary” 40 years ago. We didn’t do it. Yet we didn’t draw other means or alternative means. I almost gave my life up many times for the revolution.

I have written my folks out here and said, “I’m giving myself to the struggle.” But you know what I did? I made attempts to do so, by any means necessary. Which didn’t happen. And as a result, I don’t regret that, because I could have done it that way and could have still been talking – probably would have died in prison.

So I had to employ different means for different people. My point is this: Some people at certain points in their life, they throw pebbles in the pond, some throw rocks in the pond, some throw mountains. Struggle by any means necessary is good, but some people can’t – so in the meantime what do we do.

We’ve got people in prison now, been in prison 40 years, and “by any means necessary” hasn’t been employed. And they ain’t got much more time for “by any means necessary.” What do we do? We have to be rational, we have to understand where we are and how we have to do this. And no, we don’t deny anyone the right to struggle in whichever way they want to.

I wish we could collectively struggle by any means necessary. We’ve been trying to do it for years and years. But because we haven’t been able to do it by any means necessary, not collectively, we can dismantle the legal system; we can try to dismantle it while we wait.

We can struggle on many different levels. Let’s struggle on all levels. But don’t forsake one in lieu of the other. If you can’t do it by any means necessary, don’t allow yourself to be derailed from other means. That’s the point that I wanted to make.

I think about what I could have done. I thought about George (Jackson) in ‘71. Had I been in the streets, I’d have flowers growing over my grave right now. And that was my inclination at that time. I would have been willing to go with him. But I didn’t.

Wanda Sabir: I certainly want to thank all of you for joining us this morning to talk about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Saturday, Aug. 19. From 11:30 to 12 is going to be the march, and from 12 to 5 p.m., there’s a rally at the White House, in Lafayette Park, Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to 16th Street Northwest, Washington, D.C. You can visit http://iamweubuntu.com. And there’s also a Facebook site; Sister Laila, what’s the Facebook?

Laila Aziz: It’s the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March.

Wanda Sabir: There are rally buses being organized all across the country. And so if there’s not one happening in your area, you can be the one to organize. And folks respond really quickly when you email them on the website, http://iamweubuntu.com. I’m witness to that.

Hopefully we’ll have another conversation closer to the actual march, but in the meantime, thank you all so much for joining us. Thank you for this important event and for your important work, all of you.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wanda@wandaspicks.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 7 a.m. and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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4 thoughts on “Get ready! The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington is Aug. 19

  1. essay expert

    What we’ve seen lately is a related set of consequences. We’ve seen a hair-trigger response to perceived danger to policemen’s lives in violent altercations by the very rapid resort to deadly force; and in prisons to an attempt to impose order in an increasingly violent environment by draconian punishments for relatively small infractions.

    Go back two hundred years and find that murder was practically unknown in America. Today it’s commonplace. The level of violence in our society, whether on the streets of impoverished urban enclaves or within our bursting prisons, has exploded – small wonder that we see it among our police authorities just as we see it within society generally.

    The causes of this increased and increasing violence can’t be parsed properly in 1500 characters (including spaces). But what’s going on in our prisons may not be a dramatically more intense brutalization of correction officers but the natural if exaggerated reaction to the violence that surrounds them. We’ll see what results are obtained by holding fewer prisoners in solitary confinement and for less prolonged durations; but if the general level of violence increases, expect a backlash.

    Undoubtedly, better hiring and training practices would have some impact. However, the real programmatic solution to police excess in our communities and harsh corrections practices in our prisons is to better address the reality of increasing violence in our society and in our prisons.

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