by Veronza ‘Daoud’ Bowers Jr.

Dear People, I send each and every one of you my very warmest greetings from 31 plus years deep inside the Belly of the Beast.

Man-child Pharoah Dawson, 8, wrote to Veronza, having heard he was sick, and commanded him: “Veronza, don’t die in prison.” For young Pharoah’s visit, he wore a T-shirt saying, “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.”

My name is Veronza Bowers Jr. (so named after my Father), but many people call me Daoud. I’m a former member and captain of the original Black Panther Party, and even though government officials claim there are no political prisoners in this country’s prisons and jails, it’s simply not true. Having already “served” over three decades in continuous custody in federal prison, I’m one of the longest held political prisoners in the US of A. There are quite a number of us scattered about, but that’s a very long story.

Picture this in your mind … if you dare: After 30 years of being denied release on parole, despite the fact that your conduct has been exemplary for over 20 years and you have long since met the criteria to be released on parole, finally your MANDATORY PAROLE RELEASE date rolls around: April 7, 2004. Everything is set.

Your beautiful and precious Daughter, who was 5 years old when you were taken away to prison, and is now 36, sent you a top-of-the-line fashion suit of clothes so that you would be properly dressed to “step in the name of freedom, with love.” She, along with three of your sisters, fly in from across the country to be there at the prison’s gate to pick you up.

In fact, there will be a whole entourage of dear friends and well-wishers who will be out in front of the prison with plans to all gather at the home of a friend about an hour’s new Cadillac’s ride away. A grand celebration is planned: a big cook-out at which your God Mother had cooked hot-wings and your favorite home-made strawberry cheesecake. Another family of friends from the island kingdom of Tonga, in keeping with their cultural traditions, has roasted underground fresh fish and seven baby pigs. Others are bringing all kinds of food.

There will be a live band playing jazz and blues, a swimming pool etc. etc. In a word, a lot of caring people have gone through a lot of effort, not to mention expense, to welcome you into their “brave new world” far removed from the world of prison walls that had kept you on ice for so long. They are there to welcome you with unconditional love and support.

On the inside of the prison there have been “going home” gatherings put together by friends, replete with food, music and emotion-filled, open-hearted, teary-eyed talk and laughter. Everyone came together to wish you well and a prosperous life.

Picture this in your mind … if you dare: After 30 years of being denied release on parole, despite the fact that your conduct has been exemplary for over 20 years and you have long since met the criteria to be released on parole, finally your MANDATORY PAROLE RELEASE date rolls around: April 7, 2004. Everything is set.

You’d given away to friends all of your meager possessions: watch, alarm clock, sweat clothes, running shorts and tennis shoes, handballs, weight lifting belt, visiting clothes and shoes, commissary items, rain poncho and winter coat. The only things you kept were three Tai-Hei Shakuhachi (bamboo flutes), a silver concert C flute and some books.

You’d used up all your 300-for-the-month telephone calling minutes because after April 6 you wouldn’t be needing any more from the BOP. You’d made the rounds, shaking hands and hugging so many men you’d probably never see again.

You’d even tried to give words of encouragement and hope to young and old men alike who you were leaving behind in very desperate and hopeless situations. Yes, the time was growing near to leave the world of concrete and steel and razor wire and gun-towers – the land of the living dead – and you were very happy and at the same time very sad.

The last official thing you were required to do, you did. All prisoners, on the day before their actual release date, are required to “go on the merry-go-round,” i.e., you must take a check-out form around to each department head for their signature, which meant that you are cleared of all obligations to that department, viz: your commissary account is closed, your telephone access is shut off, the laundry department is satisfied that you don’t have any instuitional clothing (you can’t imagine why they would think a prisoner would want to keep any), the education and library services department is satisfied you don’t have any books checked out, and a perfunctory signature from the psychology department, lieutenants’ office, hospital and receiving and discharge. You did all of that on April 6. Everything is all set and good to go. We have a lift-off, Houston!

After doing all that, you’re sitting outside in the Native Americans’ Sweat Lodge area with two of your closest friends, just enjoying each other’s company in SILENCE. A loud announcement over the loudspeaker ordering you to “report to your unit team immediately” breaks your peace. You KNOW that something is not RIGHT. Years and years of dealing with representatives of the Beast has honed your sixth sense (maybe even a seventh one) that lets you know the hidden right away.

A loud announcement over the loudspeaker ordering you to “report to your unit team immediately” breaks your peace. You KNOW that something is not RIGHT.

As you walk into your counselor’s office, you know what he’s about to say, even before he says it. So you focus upon the one thing that has sustained you and always pulled you through the roughest of times – even pulled you through those times when knife blades were slashing at flesh, when you learned of the passing of your Dear Mamma and the officials wouldn’t allow you to attend her funeral even though you had only seven months until your mandatory parole release date. Yeah … one breath at a time. “You won’t be leaving tomorrow.”

You already knew that, but you didn’t know why. A strange silence fills the room, and since it’s quite obvious that some reaction is expected from you, you just continue focusing upon the Breath. “Why?” “Well, all we know is that the National Parole Commission called the institution and ordered that you not be released tomorrow. The warden is very upset and he’s been on the phone with them all day trying to get some clarity.”

Veronza was introduced to the shakuhachi bamboo flue while in prison and has developed, judging from his recordings, not only a deeply moving pure tone and smooth technique but the power to transform hearts and minds and heal bodies.

Just like that! A simple phone call from a National Parole Commissioner in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and all of the plans for you to be “stepping out in the name of freedom, with love” are cancelled, wiped out, voided until further notice.

How do YOU feel? … Ash … Me, too!

Sept. 1, 2005, marks the 522nd Day of Unlawful Detention of Political Prisoner Veronza Bowers Jr. Check out his website for an update and how you can help at www.veronza.org.

What you have just read took place way back in 2004 and 2005. If this had been a movie, we could have simply pressed a button and presto! we’re in 2018. But this was not a movie, there were no buttons to press, and unfortunately (for me), 14-plus years later (as of April 7, 2018), I am still being held captive in unlawful detention – 14 years beyond my statutorily determined “Mandatory Parole/Release” date of April 7, 2004. But, fortunately (for me), I am being represented by a team of lawyers – I call them my Freedom Team – who are committed and determined to see me take my long overdue long walk to Freedom. THAT is my battle on the legal front.

As if such a long fight wasn’t enough to test my mettle, in April of last year (2017), I was diagnosed as having lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes). As it is with everything that has to do with us Political Prisoners, getting immediate medical treatment necessitated my Freedom Team filing in the court, and the court issued an order for my immediate transfer from USP Atlanta, Georgia, to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.

Sooo, again, imagine THIS … if you dare: You’ve been in continuous federal custody for 44-plus years, 14 of them beyond the time required by law for you to do on your sentence. Now you’ve been told you have cancer … and you know that several of your Comrades have died from cancer while in federal and state prisons: Albert “Nuh” Washington; Teddy “Jah” Heath; Bashir Hameed; Herman Wallace, who joined the Ancestors three days after being released after having served 43-plus years, 37 of them in solitary confinement; Marilyn Buck – she succumbed to cancer 19 days and nights after her release. And of course you are well aware of the on-going attempts of murder through medical neglect of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the ailments of Imam Jalil Al-Amin. Knowing all of that, and MORE, all you can do is pluck up your courage and prepare to fight for your very life.

As if such a long fight wasn’t enough to test my mettle, in April of last year (2017), I was diagnosed as having lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes).

Even though the court-ordered trip from USP Atlanta to FMC Butner should have been a routine trip … it was everything but routine. In the wee hours of the morning on the day of your departure, a guard comes to your cell and tells you to “Get dressed, you’re leaving on a medical trip.” “Do I have time to pack my personal property?” you ask. “No, we’re already running late.”

Because you know your keepers so well, you’d already secured three boxes for your property. So on your way out you stop at your Homie’s cell and asked him to pack all of your meager belongings and mail everything to one of your Sisters.

When you arrive at R&D (Receiving & Discharge), you learn that the prison bus heading north had already left and that you were going to be driven by van with two guards. Don’t trip! Always bear in mind that despite the government’s denial, YOU are a Political Prisoner and thus treated differently than other prisoners.

By most standards, the trip was uneventful. But to you, having been behind the tall wall of USP Atlanta, the trip was thoroughly enjoyable: the multi-colored cars zipping along with people going to and coming from somewhere; the green trees alongside the highway and big fields with cattle and horses peacefully munching grasses; the rivers and small lakes and ponds; the red-tailed hawks soaring in ever widening circles and other birds doing what they do – in a word, sooo many things bombarded your senses, all you could do was kick back and take it all in, all the while smiling in the realization that life always continues to fulfill its own Self – even YOURS.

Finally, you arrive at FMC Butner. Over the years you’d heard so much about Butner and Springfield (the other medical facility for federal prisoners, in Missouri). Way back in the ‘70s, Springfield was infamously known as the federal prison hospital where they performed frontal lobotomies. Amongst federal prisoners it was called “The End of the Trail,” “The Death House.” If you went there for any serious ailment, more than likely you would die there.

There was so much exposure and public protest, it was said that the frontal lobotomies had stopped. Recall the movie “One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest” with Jack Nicholson. They gave ol’ Jack a frontal lobotomy to destroy his free spirit. Rather than see Jack have to “live” like that, his Friend, a Native American, suffocated him with a pillow.

Then FMC Butner came on line and soon came under fire for its psychotropic drug experimentations, aka frontal lobotomies without the invasive surgical procedure. Prolixson, thorazine and haldol (cocktails) and the effect was the same as a frontal lobotomy.

Now, FMC Butner is widely known and heralded and THE place to go for federal prisoners for treatment of all kinds of cancers and hips, knees and shoulder replacements. Well, you can count your lucky stars that your Freedom Team was able to have you ordered by the court to be taken to Butner, NOT Springfield, as was first considered by the medical staff at USP Atlanta, for treatment of the cancer that was attacking your lymph nodes system.

Through his Rastafarian meditation groups, Veronza brings beauty and hope to the dark dungeons of prison, driving out hostility and violence. One young man who’d been made a paraplegic by a gunshot began to heal through Veronza’s music and massage and was up and walking within a year. Prisoners in hospice care are freed from pain in their last days through the sound of his flute.

Back to your arrival at FMC Butner … again, in keeping with the differential treatment meted out to you Political Prisoners, instead of the usual admittance into the institution procedures, i.e., waiting in an area to be stripped searched, finger printed, mug shot (photo taken) and given a bed roll and assigned to a cell in a particular cell block or unit, you waited less than an hour – with none of the above being done to you – and a SIS (Special Investigative Services) officer and two other guards escorted you to J-Unit.

J-Unit consisted of only six single-man cells on the entire floor. Your cell had a TV with a remote control gadget, a shower, a big bed with a soft mattress and fluffy pillow … all food delivered to you by a non-talkative guard. You thought to yourself, “Wow! THIS is a nice spot.” But, after a few days and nights the same SIS lieutenant and two guards came to pick you up and escort you to a regular unit – the fourth floor.

Everything that takes place in Butner Medical Center takes place on the five floors that make up the center.

Ahhh, the fourth floor – this is where the fight for your very life begins! Everyone on the floor has some kind of cancer or other serious sickness – colon cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer in the lungs, kidneys, liver, brain, bladder, throat, testicles, prostate and lymphoma as you had, skin cancer etc. etc. And then there are the stages: 1-5, the higher the number, the greater the likelihood of it being terminal.

Into your second week on the fourth floor, finally, you are told to report to the Oncology Department, on the first floor, where you have a consultation with THE head doctor who treats cancer patients. (I omit his name respecting his privacy.) He is very cordial and quite candid as he explains his method of treatment for B-cell type lymphoma. He also explains that the numbers game regarding stages do not apply to the B-cell type lymphoma that you have – because lymphoma is one of the more treatable types of cancer.

Everything that takes place in Butner Medical Center takes place on the five floors that make up the center. Ahhh, the fourth floor – this is where the fight for your very life begins! Everyone on the floor has some kind of cancer or other serious sickness.

Soooo, you will undergo chemotherapy once every 21 days, followed the next day with a “booster shot” that helps your system replenish its depleted white cell blood count.

You had already been thoroughly briefed on the entire procedure by a very close Friend who was being treated for the same kind of cancer. Even so, you HAD to ask the good doctor two questions: “Doc, will I lose my long Dreadlocks because of the chemotherapy?” “More than likely you will lose all of your hair all over your body,” replied the Doc.

“And Doc, will this chemo make me sterile?” “Most likely it will,” said the Doc. “Doc, I’ve been in prison almost half a century. I wasn’t there in my Daughter’s life from the time she was 5 years old, and I would really like to father at least one more child before I leave this world. So, can’t I have some of my sperm frozen now, for use later?”

The Doc replied: “You know how the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the courts work. By the time you win approval – IF you prevail – to freeze your sperm, you will be dead.” He continued: “We need to get on with your treatment, Mr. You, as soon as possible.” YOU got it: “OK, Doc, let’s get on with it! you understandingly agree.

Before you left USP Atlanta, the doctor there had told you that you were in for a rough ride. Your Homie (and best Friend) had told you to be strong. And during a visit when you told a very special Woman in your life that you had cancer, she looked deep into your eyes, hugged you so warmly and said so matter-of-factly: “YOU will be just fine.” And even though you understood the possibility of death, this doctor was the first to utter that word.

Sooo, a week later as you sat in a lazy-boy recliner hooked up by means of a picc-line (buried underneath the skin in your left arm) to two large bags of a clear liquid: one, a bag of saline solution; the other, a bag of chemo. The attending nurse brought you a small cup containing several pills for you to swallow and a very warm blanket to ward off the chill in the room. As she began the drip bags, she explained: “If you feel light-headed, nauseous, a burning anywhere in your body, let me know right away, Mr. You, OK?”

Never in your life, even in your imagination, did you ever think that you would willingly sit in a chair and allow someone to administer a poison into your body. But, there you were, reclining and in a deep state of meditation actually feeling and welcoming the poisonous chemo chemical making its way through your blood veins.

You WELCOMED it in the full knowledge that it had been said to kill cancer cells – yet at the same time it killed perfectly healthy cells and tissue as well. The first bag of chemo took one and a half hours, then a second bag was hooked in, which took one hour, and finally a fourth, which took only 15 minutes. You silently thanked the Spirits of your Ancestors for the inner strength to meditate in the face of such adversity. When you returned to your cell, your Friend was there and asked how it went. You told him the details of your meditative experience.

The next day you reported to Oncology to get the booster shot. Your Friend had warned you that the booster shots knocked everyone who had it on their butts, meaning it knocked them down. Surprisingly, it didn’t affect you in that way.

While Veronza “Daoud” Bowers Jr. is a world class creative artist and philosopher, he is also a prisoner, who, for his health and safety, needs to keep his body as fit as his mind and spirit.

Twenty-one days and the second treatment. Twenty-one more days and the third treatment. Twenty-one days and the fourth treatment later, something was dreadfully wrong with you. You’d began losing weight at an alarming rate, you had developed a chest-hurting cough – with none of the other symptoms of a cold.

You brought it to the attention of the nurses and doctor. At first the doctor dismissed your complaints about extreme chest and back pain when coughing or taking a deep breath as simply a strained muscle. You knew your body and you knew better than that. You insisted upon having some tests done. It was a good thing you did because the tests revealed that you had a bad case of pneumonia.

NOW, you are face-to-face in a life or death battle against not one, but two Deadly Beings. In order to treat the pneumonia, you will have to be moved from the fourth to the fifth floor. Ever since your arrival you had been gravely warned about the fifth floor.

The general consensus was that if you get sick enough to be moved to the fifth floor, you would probably die. Well, you have always been a fighter and you certainly didn’t come here to die.

You are again placed in a single occupancy cell, fully equipped with a big flat screen TV with a remote control gadget, a shower and a hospital bed that could be adjusted to your comfort by the press of a button, and a button you could push if you needed a nurse.

You were hooked up to an IV through which antibiotics dripped into your blood veins. Word that you’d been moved to the dreaded fifth floor spread quickly and quite a few Brothers came by to see you regularly. Some would take turns cleaning your cell; food of each meal would be delivered to you, as would the commissary items you bought. A nurse would come three or four times a day to take your vitals, your picc-line had to be flushed twice a day, a doctor and nurse would come by to ask how you were and sometimes listen to your heart and breathing with his stethoscope.

Even though you were very weak, losing weight because of no appetite and the food just wouldn’t stay in your stomach, you FORCED yourself to get out of bed and push your wheelchair four times around the unit – and when alone, you would do push-ups and go through some Tai Chi Chuan and Wu-Ming Gung Fu forms and lots of deep breathing exercises and Qi Gong.

The general consensus was that if you get sick enough to be moved to the fifth floor, you would probably die. Well, you have always been a fighter and you certainly didn’t come here to die.

Then one morning the doctor came to your cell with some papers he wanted you to sign. The doc, as if summarizing the meaning of the papers, said: “Essentially, all it is saying is IF I come in to check on you and find you unresponsive, you don’t want me to resuscitate you. Often times the breast plate bones and others are broken. I’m sure you would prefer to meet your maker in Peace.”

Up until that moment you had established a very good rapport with the good doctor, and in all fairness to him you must say that he meant well. So, you take a few deep breaths to calm your Spirit and explain: “Doc, with all due respect to you and your position as my doctor, let me make myself very clear.

“When I came here, I came here with a determination to FIGHT for my life. I didn’t come here to die. So, in the future I would appreciate it if you would NOT talk to me about death. Talk with me about LIFE.” The Doc smiled, shook your hand and said: “OK, Mr. You, as you wish” … and left. In all of your further interactions with him, he never violated that agreement.

During your stay on the fifth floor, you didn’t dare count the number of men who died. You have always been a lover of life and thus not afraid of death. But it was sooo painful for you to FEEL death all around you.

There were two men in particular whose deaths touched you deeply. With both, you had developed close bonds of Brotherhood and Friendship. Before the one Brother got down real sick, y’all used to play some very good quality games of chess.

But the cancer that was eating away at his body became so painful even the morphine shots he was getting on call couldn’t quite stop the pain. So before he deteriorated so badly he had to be moved to the hospice area, every day you would go to his cell and blow your Shakuhachi (bamboo flute).

After more than 44 years in prison, 14 years beyond his mandatory release date, Veronza has faith that with his Freedom Team of top lawyers and the love of multitudes of supporters around the world, he will win his freedom soon. Political prisoners are kept in prison when the “law enforcers” they opposed decades ago carry grudges they pass down the generations, vowing those prisoners will die in prison. But the words of little Pharoah Dawson, who wrote, “Veronza, don’t die in prison!” are more powerful.

He would always cry … because of the soothing beauty of the sounds and silences. Sometimes he would hum along with certain notes … and described one piece as “The Beginning and the End of All There Is.” And he would always thank you for making his pain go away … if only for a little while.

Even though you were still fighting the Two Deadly Beings who were trying to take your life, you still enjoyed being of service to others. And you were receiving sooo many heart-warming and Spirit-lifting cards and letters from people all over the world: viz., from New Zealand, Tonga, England, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada.

And in the United States, caring people were getting together for letter writing nights to Political Prisoners – thanks to our Jericho Amnesty Movement and the ABC Collectives. You received just such an outpouring of love and concern from sooo many people.

Then came a very short and straight to the point letter from an 8-year-old man-child named Pharaoh Dawson, Son of Sophia Dawson. His letter simply, yet so power-filled, said: “Veronza, DON’T DIE IN PRISON!” All you could say to this is, “I gotcha, Pharaoh!”

All of the above, and so much more, is why you are taking this time to thank all of you, each and every one of you, who sent letters, cards, prayers and thoughts and get-well wishes. It was because of y’all and them and your own WILL TO LIVE that … A BLACK CAT IS STILL LIVING! All Power to the People!

Then came a very short and straight to the point letter from an 8-year-old man-child named Pharaoh Dawson, Son of Sophia Dawson. His letter simply, yet so power-filled, said: “Veronza, DON’T DIE IN PRISON!” All you could say to this is, “I gotcha, Pharaoh!”

P.S. If I were to list the names of all my Family and Friends who showered me with so much love, the list would take up too much space in this already too long account. You know who you are and you know I love you dearly!

Still I MUST give a very special thanks to my Precious Daughter, Veronica, who “doctored” me with her own special medicine.

And I thank the good Brother Dr. Willie Ratcliff and his Dear Wife Mary for publishing this in our Bay View … the very BEST Black owned and edited newspaper in this country, bar none! Won’t you please help to save OUR Bay View? Any amount, big or small, will be greatly appreciated. Contact Mrs. Mary Ratcliff at 415-671-0789. COME ON NOW!

P.P.S. You’ve had two four months checkups via CAT SCANS. The cancer not only went into remission, but there are no traces of it anywhere in your body. Now, you are waiting for a hip replacement surgery.

Send our brother some love and light: Veronza Bowers Jr., 35316-136, FMC Butner, P.O. Box 1600, Butner NC 27509. Visit his website, www.veronza.org, and read Veronza’s account of his journey with the soul-stirring shakuhachi bamboo flute – the music, the healing meditation, at https://www.shakuhachi.com/KJ-Veronza.html.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Scum bag American government putting people in jail for speaking the truth makes me sick. Free Verona now!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don’t let them defeat you Verona stay strong.

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