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From Corcoran PSU SHU: ‘I am a mentally-challenged man’

October 6, 2011

Denied medical and mental health care, he seeks help with his lawsuit

by Christian Lownes

Mentally ill prisoner Eddie Joe Lloyd won exoneration after serving 17 years for murder in Michigan. Let’s hope someone will help Christian Lownes win his freedom.
I have done almost half my sentence and I know that I’m wrong for what I did. I’m paying my debt to society. So I will not mention my crime because I do not want to be convicted all over again.

Now what I will let you know: I am a very mentally-challenged man. I am now writing you from a mental health PSU (Psychiatric Services Unit) SHU segregation program. When I first came into the prison system, I had to go through a cleansing of cocaine and booze and all kinds of drugs. Even after my body was cleansed, I still suffer mentally from the emotional changes a drug addict and boozer goes through for up to three to four years, depending on how long the person was using.

I can write, and I can count dollars but not change. I was taken from regular school and placed in special ed after repeating the seventh grade. My Black teacher friend told me I can learn but I’m a slow learner. I am from North Carolina, Winston-Salem.

I was raised up in my childhood with the Black Panthers doing what you do. Another inmate here in the SHU with me gave me the Bay View to read and all I have been doing is writing down information. I ended up here in L.A. and did crime there. My story is long and there is no time to tell it all now. I have written you to ask for help as a Black man from the South, which I call the Motherland, where many of our people died for me and you to be who we are today.

I have come into contact with scabies, microscopic mites, three times since I have been here. They refused me medical attention for nine and a half years. I am now trying to get into the courts. I have my medical file here with me at this prison where I just arrived, and it’s in my property that I’m patiently waiting for them to give me.

They refused me medical attention for nine and a half years.

People in power are sometimes a mess, but I am 51 years old so I now live in wisdom. Wisdom tells me if somebody hits me and draws blood, get them. That’s why I am here. Yet actually the reason I am here was for nine and a half years of getting bitten when this guy hit me. All the rage was finally released.

I have records wherein three prison doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists denied me medical treatment, saying, “You were treated at Lancaster prison in 2000.” This story they held to for years. It’s true, but I got into a situation again and this is where I came into contact with them again.

The doctors told me I already been treated in 2007. I was totally out of it and I quit asking for help. All this time day and night I’m being bitten. By now the scabies have multiplied in numbers on me. They reproduce right on a human’s body. All the time I’m writing poison control centers learning about parasitic mites.

Then here in February 2011 I get into this fight while in Seg (Administrative Segregation). I had already noticed before Seg that the mites had once again multiplied in numbers on me. In March 2011 all of a sudden these big pus-like sores swelled up all over my legs like little mountains. My ankles swelled up and my feet. I showed them to the nurse, then to the doctor. I told him I had scabies.

My body was infested. They had to treat me five times. But my nostrils are still attacked by mites. An inmate friend of mine who is from Oakland, much more intelligent than me, told me the mites could be in my brain or in my blood. Docs are once again saying, “We have treated you,” and they’re no longer trying to find or even thinking about finding out why I am being attacked in my nostrils.

We have a process for appeals. I am having a hard time with trying to hold on to the little bit of sanity I have left. My nerves and emotions are already in total confusion and they have already said my stories are not lining up or I’m saying two different stories.

So they’re now trying to deny my first appeal. It’s been long overdue for them to send it back. There are three levels of appeal before the courts. When I got into second level this is when they started challenging my brain. I also have a ADA disability appeal I filed in my property, and they sent it back saying I needed to take off the most important documents to my complaint and put the remainder of my story on one of the system forms for appeal. So soon I should get my property, hopefully next week.

Today is Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. I arrived here on Sept. 1, so I counted the days and made me a calendar. See, I’m a little bit smart.

They keep saying at legal firms that I have to exhaust my appeals before they can get me into the courts. I am seeking $6 million compensation. I am trying my best to help myself, but I am greatly suffering from traumatic psychological emotional breakdowns. Sometimes I have to stop doing everything and sing to myself for an hour or I break down and start crying or I start eating when I do not want to eat.

What I’m saying is I’ve been in Seg almost a whole year. It’s loud – noisy, shouting, screaming inmates arguing all the time, doors slamming loud, bad, bad food. After nine and a half years – my emotions already in total psychological emotional trauma – I’m all of a sudden dumped into a world of emotional-enhanced hell before I can even get a chance to heal from the first trauma.

Now I see bugs when they’re not even there. The doctors have on my records that I was mentally feeling like I was being bitten and that I was delusional. I am trying the best I can but I need some real psychological help. And I am not getting it here. I have requested several times to be sent to one of the psychiatric state hospitals where prisoners are, but they’re telling me because of my level of custody they cannot send me to a place where I can get professional mental care.

I do not have anyone to help me do my suit and I wrote you this letter asking if you can get one of the smart people you have there through research. Can they find out how I can get my case into the courts? Even if the state will not let me exhaust my appeals, there has to be a way for me to get justice.

I have medical records to prove everything I have written concerning this case is true. No human being should ever have to go through what I suffered. If you have ever seen a flea bite a dog, this is the same kind of reaction it is when a scabies mite bites a human.

I lived in a world for almost 10 years by myself. I could not tell another inmate what was happening to me. They would have beat me to death. I made sure I did not touch all of my cellmates’ clothes, their bunks, or rub up too close by them because if they would have caught something with me in the cell with them God knows what would have been next.

I lived in a world for almost 10 years by myself. I could not tell another inmate what was happening to me. They would have beat me to death.

I got into a fistfight with inmates, arguments with cellmates, and I had to put up with the daily life of prison staff and the guards. I have a case here. Nobody had to exhaust any appeals to lock me up for my crime. Now here I have a crime committed against me by at least 10 people and now the white man has rules in order for me to take him to court.

What do I have to do to get somebody to hear my cry? I want the world to know what has happened to me and I do not want to settle out of court unless they settle for $6 million and my freedom and no parole.

It’s a small price to pay for what they have done to me. If you get this letter, can you please give me some Black feedback. I am ending this letter by telling you I have my prison medical file, I have over 50-something documents with doctors’ names calling me delusional, and I have documents to show when they treated me. So if my documents come up missing, I wrote you this letter as a witness.

If I have no court case, why are they fighting me even before I can get into the courts. Most people if they knew you didn’t have a case they will let you go ahead with your appeal, my appeal. They won’t answer it or return it back. So how do I get into the courts if they won’t give me the appeal? You can put me in the Bay View. I’ll tell you the whole story. I just want justice and I want some mental help to be able to regain my life or who I used to be.

If you can help or if you want simply to send our brother some love and light, write to Christian Lownes, P-29035, FA1-111, P.O. Box 290066, Represa CA 95671-0066.

 

 

Someday poor people will run Wall Street

October 6, 2011

by Maria Lourdes, PNN New York correspondent

Though Occupy Wall Street protesters are not allowed to use amplification equipment to make their voices heard, their signs say it all. – Photo: Beat Mechanic
I am a poor African-American mother of four. I have worked all my life. One year ago, after all the rich people working downtown as bankers and investors were paid $7 billion, my landlord was foreclosed on. I have never owned a house and probably never will, because I will never have that kind of money or credit. But I have rented a rent-controlled apartment – which I was evicted out of because of the foreclosure.

Now I am homeless with my children.

When Sister Tiny called to ask me how I felt about the Wall Street protests, I said, “Oh yeah, dat’s wut I’m talking about.” Finally some people are speaking up to these legalized gangsters and bank pimps.

Sadly, I can’t go to the protests. I don’t have the time. I am too busy working two jobs just to save money to try to move out of the shelter we are in to hopefully somewhere safe for me and my kids.

But those folks are speaking for me and all poor people who don’t even know if we can pay for the rising cost of food, much less dream of getting a loan or a mortgage from these terrible corporate thieves.

Tiny thinks that someday capitalism will end and po’ mamas like me and her and all of the never-thought-about people will have the chance to take care of ourselves and our children and our land.

I hope so. But right now I walk around my cleaning job with a smile on my face as I empty the trash of rich white people in a luxury hotel I work for. Someday, I dream, maybe these people will finally understand the struggle I have seen and maybe someday the poor people can run Wall Street.

Maria Lourdes is a poverty and mama skolar and Poor News Network New York correspondent. Visit Poor at www.poormagazine.org or email deeandtiny@poormagazine.org.

 

Unnamed young Black man killed by Oakland police

October 6, 2011

by Anita Wills and Cynthia Morse

This is the gate where the young man was shot by OPD and died. Witnesses say he was unarmed, his hands in the air. The yard where police say he tossed a gun is a half block away. Police threw him to the ground, placed a knee in his back and handcuffed him without administering first aid, letting him bleed to death for four hours before an ambulance arrived. – Photo: Anita Wills
On Sept. 28, three members of a subcommittee of the Oscar Grant Committee – Jabriel Ahkile Anita Wills, Gerald Sanders and Sharena Curley – went to 99th Avenue and Cherry Street in East Oakland. The purpose of the visit was to investigate the media’s conflicting reports about a police shooting there.

The news outlets had not reported that the young man was African American or his name or an accurate depiction of the shooting. The witnesses and neighbors we spoke to were friendly and openly shared their perceptions of what happened.

According to those neighborhood witnesses, white Oakland police officers chased an African American man appearing to be about 20 years old from the corner, up 99th and south on Cherry Street toward 100th Avenue. Before he reached the corner house, he tossed a bag and put his hands in the air.

Once his hands were in the air, the police shot and killed him, one bullet piercing the gate where the young man stood and another going through his side. As he was bleeding, the police threw him on the ground, placed a knee in his back and handcuffed him without administering first aid.

Witnesses stated that it took about four hours for an ambulance to arrive. While the victim was on the ground bleeding, one of the officers went through his pockets and threw what appeared to be a wallet and other items to another officer, who then took off.

This shooting took place on Sunday, Sept. 25, but the young man’s family was not notified until the following Tuesday and had not received the body.

Gerald and Anita spoke to a Hispanic man who witnessed the incident. He stated that the police confiscated his cell phone after he took a picture of the shooting. He said the police asked if they could enter his home and he said yes and then gave them the cell phone.

This is Cherry Street between 99th and 100th Street. The young man ran up the street towards the corner as police chased him – that is, south on Cherry Street. The blue house and fence near the corner is where the 11-year-old Hispanic boy saw the shooting. Police said that the man they shot pointed a gun at them and then tossed it in the yard of the house near corner. Yet they shot him in front of the gate in the foreground, which is about half a block away from where they claim to have found the gun. – Photo: Anita Wills
When the phone was returned, the pictures had been deleted. However, the police told him they had a recording of the event and gave him a CD. He stated that he has not watched the CD as he has no computer or equipment to view it.

The media reported that the policeman recorded the killing of the young man with a pager-size video camera worn on his chest, the first time in the Bay Area a fatal police shooting was recorded by an officer’s wearable camera, according to the Chronicle.

Sharena and Anita spoke to the mother and grandmother of a boy who saw the shooting from his bedroom window. The 11-year-old Hispanic boy told his mother that he saw the man put his hands up and then saw the police shoot him. When the boy returned to school the following week, his school principal pulled him out of class to talk to a social worker about the incident.

It turns out that the person interviewing him was from the Oakland Police Department and was grilling him without a parent present. The boy’s mother stated that the police told her they found the gun the suspect allegedly tossed when they chased him. She stated that she had not seen a gun but believed what the police told her.

An African American woman who witnessed the killing saw the young man toss a bag over a fence before putting his hands up. She stated that the young man ran from the police south on Cherry Street toward 99th Avenue – Cherry Street runs north and south and 99th Avenue runs east and west. His back was to the police until he stopped and surrendered, she said.

The young man had no time nor ability to toss a gun where the police claim it was found. The young man stood in front of a gate which was at least half a block from the yard where they claimed to have found the gun.

Several witnesses stated that they heard four shots and watched as the young man fell forward. We believe three of the shots hit him, and one went through the gate, leaving a large dent. After shooting him, the police put him in handcuffs and placed a knee in his back, as he bled from his mouth.

According to witnesses, representatives from the police department have visited and interviewed them. An African American man was sent to interview one of the African American women who saw the shooting. She and her mother spoke about the shooting and stated they saw the man with his hands in the air.

They said that a representative from the police department came by and argued with them about their version of the incident. Other witnesses also believe the police are pressuring them into changing their stories. According to witnesses, the officers appeared to be white males.

While mainstream media have given this police murder very little coverage, it has sparked a media debate not only locally but in the Huffington Post and the Christian Science Monitor over whether a police officer should be allowed to see the recording made by his wearable video camera before he writes his report on the incident it recorded – and whether he should be allowed to see the video at all. – Photo: Liz Hafalia, SF Chronicle
Eleven days after the killing, neither the media nor the Oakland Police Department has released the victim’s name. We spoke to a brother of the victim, who did not want to talk to anyone. He believes the version of the shooting the police gave him.

He would not give us a name for the victim and said the police told them that he had aimed a gun at the officers. The police are supposedly pursuing another person, although they have not put out a description or name of that person.

Another African American woman, who lives closer to the south end of the block – where the young man ran from – stated that she saw the police talking to him before he ran. She said he ran by her home, and she did not see a gun but a bag in his hand.

She stated that she was traumatized by seeing the police shoot him after his hands were in the air in the surrender position. Almost all of the witnesses who saw the shooting spoke of being traumatized by the experience.

The Oscar Grant Committee would like to know why the police are hiding the identity of this African American man who was shot by an Oakland police officer. There are still lingering questions about the true details of what happened that night when the police used deadly force.

The young man’s reputation has been vilified by police and media statements that he was holding a gun. Our investigation shows that he was not holding any weapon and had no time to dispose of a gun.

We will not be contacting the family again, as they are grieving the loss of their loved one. However, we want to know the name of the victim and what really happened that night.

Anita Wills can be reached at ntawls@gmail.com.

 

Fresh and easy displacement

October 5, 2011

by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia

Fresh & Easy won’t take WIC, but its press releases about this new store at 5800 Third St. boasts it carries a full line of fine wines. And this publicity photo from a Fresh & Easy blog shows no people of color shopping there. Who is the Bayview Fresh & Easy for?
You could cut the hate with a knife. All eyes were on my fumbling fingers, unable to sign my WIC coupons fast enough with one hand while holding my 13-month-old son with the other. “Somebody’s using welfare checks to pay for their food,” a 20-something man in a polo shirt shouted into his phone next to me.

I spend so many days like this while trying to shop as a poor mama, it’s hard to even think about them. The life of a poor parent in the U.S. is always a scarcity model rollercoaster ride of hate, systemic abuse, subsistence crumbs and criminalization, best exemplified in the supermarket experience where the so-called “paying” customers suffer through the bother of waiting for poor parents to pay with our WIC coupons, working poor mamas to pay with payroll checks or indigenous elders to count out their multiple coupons.

I began to reflect on this when I heard about the new Fresh & Easy Markets opening in Bayview Hunters Point, the Mission and Portola – a supermarket chain from England which by policy doesn’t accept WIC (Women Infants and Children program). WIC is not welfare but rather a supplemental program so low-income parents can get milk, grains, cereal and other basic foodstuffs. A program used by many working poor as well as mamas on government crumbs so we can feed our children a balanced diet.

The Bayview, Mission and Portola neighborhoods are peopled with a lot of multi-generational, multi-lingual mamas and families in poverty like mine, who need access to affordable fruits and vegetables and non-hormone-filled meat like Fresh & Easy sells, but are these stores really being built for us?

As well, like so much of San Francisco and the whole Bay Area, these communities are under attack from redevelopment and gentrification efforts. Removal and evictions of poor families and elders happen every day in the City to make way for the corporate veneer of Lennar and John Stewart properties, condominiums, lofts and the rich young people they are built for.

So who is Fresh & Easy for? They don’t take coupons, personal checks or WIC and like their “Whole Paycheck” counterparts, they don’t hire union employees – or many employees at all, as they have the new self-pay check-out stands.

Fresh & Easy claims it doesn’t accept manufacturers’ coupons for the same reason it doesn’t accept paper personal checks or WIC vouchers or cash payroll checks: Eliminating manual paper processing saves money.

Pressured by community members who protested outside the Bayview store on its opening day, Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason claims that Fresh & Easy in the Bayview will eventually begin taking WIC.

As this poor mama tries to move out from under the lie of criminalized government crumbs and the non-existent, bootstraps-centered, corporate-underwritten Amerikkkan dream, I have come to realize our collective, self-determined liberation begins with growing our own food in our poor neighborhoods with people-led community gardens, taking back stolen indigenous land and resources with organized poor people led, indigenous people-led efforts. And whenever we have the energy, after all the other things we have to do to survive in this capitalist society, we fight the efforts to exclude and remove us by the smooth talking corporations who don’t see us as part of their grand profit-making plans.

All power to the people.

Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio, is the co-founder of POOR Magazine and Poor News Network and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing up Homeless in America.” She can be reached at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit www.tinygraygarcia.com and www.racepovertymediajustice.org.

 

Fukushima blows lid off exploited labor

October 5, 2011

by Suvendrini Kakuchi

Day laborers, who comprise most of the workers who kept Fukushima running and are now cleaning it up, were looked down on, poorly paid and uninsured. But with public opinion turning against nuclear power, their pay and working conditions are improving a little. – Photo: Suvendrini Kakuchi
Tokyo (IPS) – The Fukushima disaster has thrown up the first opportunity in decades to bring justice to thousands of unskilled workers who risk radioactive contamination to keep Japan’s nuclear power plants running.

“Fukushima has created public awareness on a section of nuclear workers castigated as ‘radiation- exposed people’ but forming the dark underbelly of an industry that depends on them,” says Minoru Nasu, spokesperson for the Japan Day Laborers Union.

Nasu, a long-time labor activist, says that while the nuclear industry relies heavily on unskilled workers, it has left it to thuggish subcontractors to marshal them as daily wagers.

The common practice for the past several decades can best be described as “human auctioning,” Nasu told IPS. Laborers gather at the crack of dawn at designated places such as public parks to be picked up by toughs who take them to the nuclear plants.

According to figures available with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Japan’s regulator, of the 80,000-odd workers at Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants, 80 percent are contract workers. At the Fukushima plant, 89 percent of the 10,000 workers in 2010 were on contract.

The men are given contracts to do unskilled, dangerous work inside nuclear plants for months together. There are no guarantees in the event of an accident or long-term health insurance against such diseases as leukemia or other forms of cancer which may surface years after exposure to radiation.

“When their work is completed, they are expected to simply disappear. Nobody cares about them,” said Nasu.

The story of former nuclear plant worker Seizi Saito, 71, who took the rare step of speaking out for a change, is illustrative.

A plumber, Saito worked 15 tumultuous years at the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture, western Japan, repairing leaks in cooling pipes.

“Work conditions at the plant were frightening, demanding and dangerous. But, the worst aspect was the lack of protection for workers. We were sitting rabbits for unscrupulous authorities,” he told a meeting of supporters last week.

Saito, a thyroid cancer survivor, told the large gathering, which included laborers and anti-nuclear activists, that specialized unions were needed to take care of day laborers doing cleaning work at nuclear plants.

The gathering agreed that the current system was too deeply entrenched for the workers to have any hope of salvation in the near future.

Mikiko Watanabe from the Citizen’s Nuclear Information Centre, a leading research organization that counsels security guards at the Fukushima nuclear plant, said one problem is that the workers are too afraid to speak out.

“They are afraid of losing their jobs and also of facing discrimination in a society that looks down on radiation victims,” Watanabe told IPS. Such fears, she said, made it easier for subcontractors to exploit workers and ignore their rights.

Yet, as nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) struggles to contain the Fukushima meltdown, activists see hope for unskilled nuclear workers.

For one thing, thousands of people have had to be evacuated from residential areas surrounding Fukushima’s damaged reactors, turning public opinion against nuclear power and the lax way in which nuclear plants’ labor is handled.

While most day workers were also evacuated from Fukushima after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which destroyed several of the plant’s reactors, many have had to be brought back for cleanup operations at higher wages.

In recent weeks, TEPCO’s woes have increased with four more subcontracted workers exposed to radiation from contaminated water overflow.

Saito says it was an accident at the Tsuruga nuclear plant in 1981 when contaminated water gushed out, exposing several workers to radiation, that woke him up to the realities.

The government ordered the reactor at Tsuruga closed, leaving 1,500 subcontracted workers like him suddenly without jobs. “That’s when I decided to start a union and speak out.”

But Saito’s union did not last long, mainly because unskilled workers were not able to handle management issues.

Yet, Saito’s failed activism has drawn new support recently as it marked the first national attempt at gathering vulnerable workers together and making a stand.

Mitsuo Nakamura, head of the Corporate Workers Union representing day laborers, explains that it is an opportunity to earn money that attracts people to take the risks.

“The day wages in the nuclear industry are higher than what construction workers earn. This is a draw, especially for the older men who cannot find other jobs,” he said.

Nakamura predicts a rapid decline in the number of workers willing to take unacceptable risks, following public exposure of the working conditions at Fukushima.

News reports say that day laborers at Fukushima are being offered as much as $300 per day. That may explain why most of the workers who went to help stabilize the plant have not returned.

“The nuclear industry has no future without these workers, who play a crucial part in the operations,” said Nakamura.

Suvendrini Kakuchi is a Japan-based Sri Lankan journalist reporting for Inter Press Service and a regular commentator on Asian issues for Japanese publications and television. This story first appeared at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=104978.

 

Hip hop community, support our hunger strike!

October 5, 2011

by Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, for the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement

We prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP SHU) seek support from all hip hop celebrities, fans and supporters to assist us in shutting down all solitary confinement units – i.e. Administration Segregation (Ad-Seg), SHU and Maximum Security units and the like – that hold New Afrikan prisoners and other races in solitary confinement indefinitely.

We embarked Sept. 26, 2011, on a peaceful hunger strike here in PBSP and throughout the state of California in order to obtain our civil and human rights. We are being denied our five core demands (submitted prior to the first phase of the hunger strike in July).

Prisoners are being held in solitary confinement indefinitely on the word of a prison debriefer – i.e., snitch, informer, rat, turncoat – or some false prison gang validation. Therefore, we seek your support and give you all the right to advocate on our behalf:

In the very controversial “prison version” of “They Don’t Care About Us,” Michael Jackson showed that he, as an artist, cared about the issue of mass incarceration and had the courage to speak out on behalf of prisoners in a way that made the whole world listen. Prison hunger strikers need today’s artists who have the ears of the world to advocate for ending solitary confinement, which is officially considered torture.
MC Lyte

Baby

Keyshia Cole

Lil Wayne

Eve

Jay-Z

Goapele

Scrappy

Lil Kim

Kam

Yoyo

Kwame Kweli

Nicki Minaj

The Coup

Erykah Badu

The Game

Foxy Brown

Kanye West

Free

Mos Def

Diamond

Chuck D

Queen Latifah

MOB Deep

Rashida

E-40

Terez McCall

Snoop Dogg

Jada Pinkett

Rihanna

Scarface

Lena

Ryakin Rip

Slim Thug

Solange

Tyrese

Solē

Bun B

Jamie Fox

Will Smith

Chris Brown

Jadakiss

Gorilla Zoe

Black Rob

Rev Run

Busta Rhymes

Ice-T

Ice Cube

WC, Mack-10

Ti

Dr. Dre

Joe Budden

Eminem

T-Bone

LeCrae

Drake

Too Short

Flame

50 cent

Loyd Banks

Raphael Saadiq

Maino

Terrence Jenkins

Rosci Diaz

Big Boi

KRS-One

DMX

2-Mex

Gucci Mane

JT The Bigga Figga

Chino XL

Chingo

Bling

Rebel Diaz

Fat Joe

Tego Calderon

Pitbull

Bubba Sparks

Cypress Hill

Nas

And all the original hip hop heads etc.

We ask that you all support us in our struggle to be liberated from these man-made torture chambers by doing the following:

1. Support the peaceful hunger strike by having your fans contact the governor of California, Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., and the president of the United States of Amerika, Barack Obama, to end torture in California prisons, where prisoners are held indefinitely in solitary confinement – in PBSP SHU, Corcoran SHU, New Folsom SHU and Tehachapi SHU.

2. Donate $10 or more to our Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition, via California Prison Focus’ PayPal account, which can be accessed at www.prisons.org, and mark it for the hunger strike coalition, or mail your donation to California Prison Focus, 1904 Franklin St., Suite 507, Oakland CA 94612. Watch our blog, www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, for information.

3. All of you have power, and that power is in your voice. We ask that you lend that power to our hunger strike. Yes, we will make the sacrifices. There are countless prisoners held in solitary confinement throughout this nation, who come from exclusively poor communities, being tortured. Contact the following New Afrikan prisoners who have been held in SHU since as long ago as 1976 to 2011:

• Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, PBSP, D-1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Michael Mutawally Cooperwood, C-46411, PBSP, D-1-214, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Abdul Olugbala Shakur, s/n J. Harvey, C-48884, PBSP, D-4-212, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• James Baridi Williamsun, D-34288, PBSP, D-4-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Yafeu Iyapo-I, s/n Leonard Alexander, B-73388, PBSP, D-3-104, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Marcus Tashiri Harrison, H-54077, PBSP, D-3-122, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Abasi Ganda, s/n Clyde Jackson, C-33559, PBSP, D-2-101, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Kubaua Gitu, s/n Rubben Williams, B-72882, PBSP, D-2-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Paul Redd Jr., B-72683, D-2-117, PBSP, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, COR SHU, 4B-1L-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212

• Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, COR SHU, 4B-1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212

• Kambui Robinson, C-82830, COR SHU, 4B-1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212

It is important that you in the public know that all of us come from the very communities you all come from. Unfortunately, we have been held in these solitary confinement units from 10 to 40 years, simply put, for nothing. The CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has used every strategy and tactic to get us to debrief, as the only way for us to get out of solitary confinement.

Since we refuse to be emasculated and become the prison stoolie for the prison gang intelligence unit, CDCR has sanctioned the torture of each and every last one of us. Therefore, we prisoners, all races, decided to come together in order to end this cruel and unusual punishment.

Yes, many of you have heard or know firsthand of the horror stories CDCR officials have used to propagate us to the world in order to label us the “worst of the worst” held in Pelican Bay state prison solitary confinement units. Yet ALL RACES – i.e., New Afrikans, Mexicans South and North, and whites etc. came together to end and fight against the torture we all have endured for 21 years here at PBSP SHU by way of a peaceful hunger strike, which we intend to carry out indefinitely.

END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT THROUGHOUT CALIFORNIA and THIS NATION!

We, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, George Franco, Arturo Castellanos and Todd Asker, the four principle negotiators and representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger strike, are requesting for all bodies and minds who are participating in the Sept. 26, 2011, human rights movement to be mindful that we prisoners are in a protracted struggle so that no other prisoners will be held in solitary confinement. All California-held prisoners can be subjected to inhumane, torturous and intentional harsh treatment by CDCR officials, enforced by their subordinates, if the use of solitary confinement is not stopped.

For this struggle to go forward, we need supporters to donate $10 or more to our prisoners’ cause, to shut the SHUs and all solitary confinement units within the state of California and spread this resistance across the U.S. by way of peaceful hunger strikes and other peaceful demonstrations.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity is a coalition of non-profit organizations that have been working many years on prisoner rights issues and shutting solitary confinement units throughout California and the U.S. We prisoners appreciate and continue to need their legal support.

Note: California Prison Focus is the member of the coalition responsible for meeting with the spokesmen for the prisoners. Donations will be used to travel to Pelican Bay once a week and to travel to the other SHUs as often as possible this winter in order to report to the state legislature and to protect the spokesmen as much as possible. Each trip costs $300 to $400 for two investigators for two days for gas and lodging only.

 

Wanda’s Picks for October 2011

October 4, 2011

by Wanda Sabir

Maafa 2007 – Photo: TaSin Sabir
October is Maafa Commemoration Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Black Panther History Month, Democratic Republic of the Congo Awareness Month, and the month to commemorate Dia de Los Muertos and Nigerian Independence, won Oct. 1, 1960.

We want to have a moment of silence for the wonderful man Eddie Marshall, drummer, flautist, composer, who died suddenly last month, too soon for most of us who loved his work and appreciated his graceful presence in the world. This is the month we remember our ancestors.

Maafa 2011

Maafa Season is upon us. The term Maafa refers to the Black Holocaust, that period when African people were stolen and traded in the greatest, most widespread cooperative economic venture to date, which resulted in the displacement of human beings as commodities. The Maafa became so normalized internationally to traders in human flesh as to create a new people. Africans no longer recognized themselves as Africans, as they lost connection to their heritages: land, language, customs and, in many instances, spiritual traditions.

The Kiswahili term Maafa extends that definition of loss and trauma, that is, PTSD or post-traumatic slave syndrome – the flashbacks, both conscious and unconscious, reoccurring instances of the atrocities 150 years after the end of slavery which have direct association to the brutality of chattel slavery.

By this we mean the prison industrial complex as well as daily manifestations of post-traumatic slave disorder in Black communities throughout the United States, the Americas and the Pan African Diaspora. Look at the gun violence and criminalization of public education through state sanctioned miseducation and police terror. Much of our community, especially the youth, have internalized the Maafa and, while no longer chained, many are enslaved as their ancestors were. The difference is while our ancestors resisted and so remained free, we don’t.

The Maafa also references the benefits to some and the harm to others connected to this trade in human beings 500 years later. Everyone is affected by the Maafa, everyone needs to address the role of the Maafa in their community and in their personal lives, both as descendants of the perpetrators and descendants of the victims, and how these legacies are confining and perhaps barring each of us from personal greatness, and by greatness I am speaking of greatness as human beings, which is not necessarily a given.

Maafa 2006 – Photo: TaSin Sabir
We have to claim and work to keep our humanity. Just like so many great men and women, past and present, we can lose it, give it away or have it stolen. Even those newly immigrated to this country benefit from the enslavement of Africans and the rich marketplace that continues to exclude its major stockholders, African people who are descendants of the European slave traders’ commoditization of our ancestors.

The Maafa Commemoration addresses this imbalance of wealth, the poverty that affects disproportionally Black communities here and abroad. The repair or reparations movement is both an internal and external one.

The month of October is Maafa Awareness Month in the city of Oakland, the county of Alameda, the state of California, and the 9th Congressional District. This year the ritual is Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, predawn at Ocean Beach, Fulton at the Great Highway. Visit http://ramadanridesrides4everybody.blogspot.com/.

Getting healthy: a reflection

I am a woman over 50 who lives in an area of Oakland where it is unsafe to ride one’s bike. I decided to start this club to get folks out into areas of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, especially south of High Street on bikes. I am not necessarily encouraging people to ride down International Boulevard alone, though I have on many occasions.

Oakland is not a bicycle friendly town. Just look at the recent repaving of San Leandro Street. It would have been a great time to shift the two lane traffic to one and add bike lanes. No one can ride down International; it is too narrow. Bancroft Avenue is the only street with bike lanes and it is too far north. We won’t even mention MacArthur Boulevard. International or E-14th Street, is the location of many drive-by shootings; however, there are lovely Bay Trails seconds away – one that’s easy to reach is at 66th Avenue and Zone Way, just past the Coliseum BART.

Getting to Zone Way from 66th Avenue is treacherous, to say the least. One can get hit by a vehicle while waiting for the light to change. I have been. Lucky for me it was my bike that was hit and the driver, making a right turn on a red light didn’t even stop after he hit my bike – he just looked at me and kept rolling.

Hegenberger isn’t any better as a street to ride up to get to the Bay Trail. Cars speed up as they pass me and then at the freeway entrances, one cannot see the cars approaching from below so technically one could get run over in the crosswalks, the way they are situated. I always cross diagonally so the drivers can see me.

This is as one is riding to enter the Bay Trail which is just before Doolittle. Once on the Bay Trail one doesn’t have to worry about car emissions or traffic, and the Bay Trail connects one to Alameda and San Leandro. Many folks who live in the ‘hood don’t even know about this treasure.

Just the other day, I learned of a new entrance to the Bay Trail connecting Alameda and Oakland to San Leandro by way of (for me) Bay Farm Island. I usually cross the Blue Bridge. This time I went across the pedestrian bridge and voila, what a pleasant surprise! There are miles and miles of trail along the San Francisco Bay. Across the liquid tapestry I could see South Shore Shopping Center.

Ramadan Rides is an effort, a movement to take back our public spaces. After all, despite the crashing economy and higher taxes for those of us who bought into the American Dream and own property, which, in my case, depreciated, $300,000, one can’t bask in despair – life does go on. We should look at the weed as a prime example of dogged determination. Can’t kill ‘em, can’t uproot ‘em, can’t even cover ‘em. They just keep pushing through the most enormous and gargantuan challenges (smile).

I ride for sanity, I ride to stay calm, but riding alone is not safe. I have been harassed. I have fallen badly on ill maintained streets. So I said to myself, why not start a club for women, for Muslims, for riders 30-80 years old. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is a time for reflection and introspection. It has been a fun journey so far.

The first ride, when the club was in its brainstorm form, was Aug. 7, 2011. It was the weekend The Brotherhood of Cyclists was in town for a large conference. I felt left out of their loop completely, so I drove to Union City to ride with a friend. The two of us rode the trails, kind of rocky, dusty, not necessarily the kind of terrain I prefer. Afterwards I rode the Bay Trail by the house. I still had a bit of energy left to burn. It is my hope that the club can grow from two on two women riders to at least 10 people in the next two weeks. I’d like at least half to be women 50 and over.

Since writing this, I fell down the stairs and haven’t been able to walk, let alone ride for a month. PTSD. It was the day before Katrina and I am a New Orleans native. But I hope to be back on the road before winter, at least by Spring 2012. Visit us at http://ramadanridesrides4everybody.blogspot.com//.

‘Still Here,’ a 3.9 Collective Group Exhibition

The curator says he will be transforming The Sirron Norris Gallery, 1406B Valencia St., San Francisco, for the group show “Still Here.” The word “black” recently has become all too synonymous with the act of vanishing, especially in San Francisco where the 2010 census revealed that the African American population has dropped to 3.9 percent.

What does that mean for a city that prides itself on its cultural diversity when members of its population are no longer represented? The loss of a culture, the absence of differentiation, even the lack of a visual presence can be devastating to a community. With the exhibition entitled “Still Here,” San Francisco artists Nancy Cato, Rodney Ewing, Sirron Norris, William Rhodes and Ron Moultrie Saunders have adopted this statistic and created a banner of support and defiance.

The work they will be creating confronts this anomaly of absence by representing how at least one segment of the Black community is alive and an integral part of San Francisco culture. The work may not stem the tide of the exodus, but to paraphrase the poet Dylan Thomas, “We will not go quietly into that good night.” Opening is Oct. 8, 7-9 p.m. We are very excited to have a live performance by Kippy Marks, 7-9 p.m., http://kippymarks.us/, and also Rocky Yazzie’s amazing frybread! Visit http://www.sirronnorris.com/or call (415) 648-4191.

Black Panther History Month 45 years later! Film Festival and Art Exhibit

The Black Panther Party 45th anniversary photo exhibit is open Oct. 3-Nov. 3. A reception and panel are Oct. 6, 4:30 to 6 p.m., in the Student Center, Fourth Floor, Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland.

The Black Panther History Month Film Festival is at the Main Library in the Bradley Walters Community Room, 125 14th St., Oakland, Saturday, Oct. 8, 12-4:30 p.m. Featured films are “In the Land of the Free: The Story of Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert H. King,” collectively known as the Angola 3, who have been in solitary confinement for more than 39 years. The second feature is “COINTELPRO 101,” interviews with activists victimized by illegal surveillance and witnesses to murders committed by the FBI and other police agencies. Rare historical footage provides a provocative introduction to a period of intense repression. For information, call (510) 238-3138 or visit http://www.oakland.org/. For the entire month-long series of events, visit http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/.

‘Trolley Dances’ features Antoine Hunter’s Urban Jazz Dance Company

Epiphany Production’s eighth annual San Francisco “Trolley Dances” features ODC/Dance, Sweet Can Circus, Salsamania, Capacitor, Urban Jazz Dance Company, Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater and Tat Wong Kung Fu Lion Dancers Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 15 and 16. Tours leave from the San Francisco Main Library, at 100 Larkin St. between Fulton and Grove, every 45 minutes at 11:00 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:15 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. Performances are FREE with regular Muni fare of $2 – youth and seniors $.75. For information, call (415) 226-1139 and visit epiphanydance.org.

Mill Valley Film Festival

The Mill Valley Film Festival runs Oct. 6-16; visit http://www.mvff.com/. On Oct. 9, 4:30 p.m., at the Smith Rafael Film Center, there will be a tribute to Gaston Kabore, director of “Wend Kuni” and “Buud Yam.” The historian turned filmmaker made the third film in his country, Burkina Faso. “Wend Kuni” is about a child who is mute, the child symbolic of a colonized people. How will this child regain his voice? How will he move past the trauma into healing light, a place where he can trust his words again? Kabore’s lovely film takes us to a place not long ago, but too long ago for easy recall. The director, who opened a film academy in Burkina, Imagine, in 2003, received the first FESPACO award for his second film, “Buud Yam,” also screening at the MVFF.

There are films from Morocco, FESPACO 2011 awardee director Mohamed Mouftakir’s “Pegasus” and another film, “The Mosque,” directed by Daoud Aoulad-Syad. My favorite of the African films so far is “Sarabah,” US/Senegal. It’s a sad yet triumphant story of a DJ, Sister Fa. Another film I enjoyed of African American interest is that of 85-year-old Mr. James Armstrong, “Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement.” “A Brush with the Tenderloin,” featuring muralist Mona Caron, and “Hip Hop Maestro,” directed by Christine Lee, which profiles Geoff “Double G” Gallegos and the daKAH Orchestra, is pretty good as well.

The orchestra is raising funds through KickStart to come to MVFF for a closing concert, Valley of the Docs, Oct. 15 and 16. “Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan,” directed by Joshua Dylan Mellars, and “Deaf Jam” are outstanding! “Deaf Jam” is about deaf slam poets – pretty awesome.

More film festivals

The Silicon Valley African Film Festival is Oct. 14-16, http://www.svaff.org/.

The 10th Annual Documentary Film Festival is Oct. 14-27, http://www.sfindie.com/. Of African Diaspora interest are “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” “The Furious Force of Rhymes,” “Scenes of a Crime,” “How to Start a Revolution,” “Yoga Woman,” “Left by the Ship,” “The Creators.” Films screen at Shattuck Cinemas Oct. 14-20 and the Roxie Oct. 14-27.

“American Teacher,” directed by Vanessa Roth, profiles four teachers: Erik Benner, Jamie Fidler, Rhena Jasey and Jonathan Dearman, a former San Francisco teacher at its first charter school, Leadership High, who joined me on the air on Wanda’s Picks, www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks, Sept. 22 to talk about the film and his decision to leave the classroom. Dearman, perhaps the filmmaker and certainly Leadership High students, faculty and friends will attend opening night, if not opening weekend screenings Oct. 7 at the Roxie.

Other films opening are “Finding Joe,” an exploration of the famed mythologist Joseph Campbell, which opens at Landmark in San Francisco and Berkeley. “All She Can,” directed by Amy Wendel and Daniel Meisel, which opened Sept. 16 is certainly worth looking for. It is the story of Luz Garcia who wants to go to college, but the only way to get there when there is no scholarship money for children of color in Beavides, Texas, is to literally flex her muscles and train in weightlifting. Sometimes all one can do is still not enough.

‘She Who Laughs Lasts’

Rape is not a laughing matter. But humor becomes a powerful tool in fighting sexual assault at “She Who Laughs Lasts,” a night of comedy, on Friday, Oct. 21, at the Brava Theatre, featuring comedians Nina G, the world’s funniest comedian who stutters; Karinda Dobbins, an aggressively laid-back comedian hailing from the Motor City; Tamil Sri Lankan-American performer-comedian D’Lo of D’FaQTo Life and returning for her third “She Who Laughs Lasts”; and Micia Mosely of “Where My Girls At?” There will also be a special video screening of “Labels are Forever” by Jenesha de Riveira. Don’t miss the silent auction and comedian meet-‘n-greet pre-show. Light appetizers and other refreshments will be served; doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$50 and can be purchased on www.sfwar.org; no one turned away for lack of funds. The event is wheelchair accessible. San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) is a grassroots, political rape crisis center established in 1973 committed to anti-oppression and providing support to survivors of sexual assault and their friends and families, using education and community organizing as tools of prevention.

‘Women, War and Peace’ on PBS

“Women, War and Peace,” a bold new five-part PBS mini-series, is the most comprehensive global media initiative ever mounted on the roles of women in peace and conflict. “Women, War and Peace” will broadcast on five consecutive Tuesday evenings: Oct. 11, 18, and 25 and Nov. 1 and 8. Check local listings. Visit http://www.itvs.org/films/women-war-and-peace.

On the fly

Did you know? I didn’t. UpSurge! Jazz Poetry Ensemble is at Freight and Salvage Oct. 1 in Berkeley. Should be a great show! Visit http://www.upsurgejazz.com/upsurgehome.html. This Sunday, Oct. 2, 11 a.m., at Lakeside Park Bandstand is the Centennial Suffrage Parade: 100 years of women gaining the right to vote! Visit http://www.waterfrontaction.org/parade/parade_details.htm. The West Coast premiere of Faustin Linyekula/Studios Kabako’s “more more more … future” is Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 29- Oct. 1, 8 p.m., at the Novellus Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, http://www.ybca.org/faustin-linyekula. “Night School: Faustin Linyekula” is Oct. 1, 6-10 p.m., in the Theater Terrace Lobby, $35-$40 regular admission, $30-$35 for members, students and seniors; call (415) 978-ARTS (2787). “The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink ‘80s” is Don Reed’s latest installation on his life, following the “E-14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player” at The Marsh San Francisco, Oct. 8 through Nov. 13. The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, hosts its Sixth Annual MoAD Gala, Saturday, Oct. 15, Palace Hotel, San Francisco. Visit http://www.moadsf.org/visit/.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “red, black and GREEN: a blues” (rbGb) is having its world premiere at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 13-15 and 20-22, at 7:30 p.m. Visit ybca.org or call (415) 978-2787. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s back on the block this 31st season with two one-act plays, “Almost Nothing,” a mysterious and unnerving yarn by Brazilian playwright, Marcos Barbosa, and Douglas Turner Ward’s clever satire, “Day of Absence,” Oct. 11-Nov. 20, at 450 Post St., San Francisco. Call (415) 474-8800 or visit http://www.lhtsf.org/. On Sunday, Oct. 16, after the 2 p.m. show, there will be a post-performance discussion with director Steven Anthony Jones and the playwright, Douglas Turner Ward.

The 29th Annual SFJAZZ Fall Season presents R&B goddess India.Arie with Israeli keyboardist and composer Idan Raichel on Oct. 15 at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. Visit http://www.sfjazz.org/. Berkeley-raised pianist Benny Green celebrates Thelonious Monk’s birthday, re-creating “Monk’s Dream” on the album’s 50th anniversary on Oct. 10. Tenor player Javon Jackson heads a John Coltrane salute with a dream quartet of Mulgrew Miller, Jimmy Cobb and Peter Washington Oct. 28. Master pianist McCoy Tyner pays tribute to his legendary collaborator with “The Gentle Side of John Coltrane,” joined by Chris Potter and José James Oct. 16. The Cuban timba celebration of Tiempo Libre is Oct. 9, and Malian ngoni master Bassekou Kouyate with his band Ngoni Ba perform Oct. 30.

Urban Music presents Al Son del Tunduki Quijeremá with Classical Revolution’s Musical Art Quintet featuring guest poets Michael Warr and Avotcja, Monday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco. Listen to an interview with Maria, one of the founders of Quijeremá, and Michael Warr, poet, on Wanda’s Picks Radio Show, Sept. 30, 8 a.m. Clairdee is at the Rrazz Room in Hotel Nikko Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m., in San Francisco. One long set. Listen to an interview with Clairdee Oct. 4 on Wanda’s Picks Radio, 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. PT live or archived.

Visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picksfor continued Picks like the Stone Soul II concert preview with Sheila E.

‘Limyè pou Ayiti, Lavi Kontinye! An Evening Celebrating Haitian Culture’

“Limyè pou Ayiti, Lavi Kontinye!” (“Light for Haiti, Life Continues!”) is Rara Tou Limen’s choreo-prayer and artistic offering to Haiti, featuring music, dance and song. The performance is on Saturday, Oct. 8, 8-10 p.m., at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Nineteen months after the earthquake, the media’s attention has shifted to other topics, while Haiti remains deeply wounded. Life has moved on for some, but for Haitian people, life will never be the same. We must continue to shed light on Haiti and remind our audiences through artistic expression that Haiti still needs us!

“Celebrating is a way of resisting.” – Faustin Linyekula
The motivation behind this project stems from Rara Tou Limen’s artistic and musical director’s personal and professional relationships with Haiti’s artistic community, who were severely affected by the earthquake. Amidst the dust, destruction, and devastation on Jan. 12, 2010, was celebrated drummer, cultural ambassador and musical director of Rara Tou Limen, Daniel Brevil.

Jeanguy Saintus will collaborate with RTL for “Limyè pou Ayiti, Lavi Kontinye!” Mr. Saintus is the artistic director of Ayikodans, the premiere professional dance company of Haiti since being established in 1987. To further enhance the collaboration, Ayikodans’ awe-inspiring principle dancer, Linda Isabelle Francois, will also accompany Mr. Saintus from Haiti to the Bay Area. As earthquake survivors, this proposed collaboration is critical! Their personal accounts, testimonies and post-earthquake experiences need to be revealed to a wide audience. “Limyè pou Ayiti, Lavi Kontinye!” will serve as group therapy for cast members, while reminding audiences of Haiti’s strength and courage.

Tickets, available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/196319,, are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. 25 Advance tickets are also available at RTL’s weekly class locations: on Sundays at the Malonga Center, Oakland, 2-3:30, and on Saturdays at the Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco, 1:30-3 p.m.

Cal Performances presents the U.S. premiere of ‘Desdemona’

The visionary director Peter Sellars brings the U.S. premiere of “Desdemona,” a collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison and Malian singer-composer Rokia Traoré, to Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Berkeley Campus, Bancroft Way at Dana Court, Berkeley, on Wednesday, Oct. 26, through Saturday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. “Desdemona” explores issues of gender, race, love and destiny as the title character and her African maid Barbary reach beyond the grave to give voice to the mysterious forces behind Othello.

A free two-part symposium on the creation of “Desdemona” and the cultural forces in Shakespeare will be held Oct. 27, 5-6:30 p.m., and Oct. 28, 12-3:00 p.m., at Zellerbach Playhouse, featuring Toni Morrison (via Skype), Peter Sellars, Rokia Traoré and UC Berkeley scholars. Sightlines, pre-performance talks with director Peter Sellars, is Oct. 28 and 29, 7:00-7:30 p.m., in Zellebach Playhouse. Tickets are available through the Cal Performances Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall and at the door. Call (510) 642-9988 to charge by phone or visit http://www.calperformances.org/.

Director Peter Sellars will discuss giving voice to the unheard characters in Shakespeare’s Othello. On Oct. 28, three conversations will be held: the first between writer Toni Morrison (via Skype), composer Rokia Traoré and Sellars; the second between UC Berkeley scholars Abdul Jan Mohamed (English Department), Tamara Roberts (Music Department) and Darieck Scott (African American Studies); and the final, titled “Africa Speaks,” between Traoré and Sellars. These events are free and open to the public. To learn more, go to calperformances.org.

‘Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck’

SOMArts Cultural Center presents “Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck,” Oct. 18, 6:30-9 p.m., a monthly dinner party where writers and foodies come together to eat, write and share. Join co-hosts Lex Leifheit and Irina Zadov the third Tuesday of each month to discover local chefs and writers, bring a dish on the monthly theme, and share your work to be entered in a drawing for edibles, books and other prizes. Composer, vocalist, and writer Ron Ragin is October’s literary guest. Ragin will read from his upcoming memoir, which traces the history of his family’s ancestral home. Oakland-based performer, choreographer and chef Amara Tabor-Smith, whose performance “Our Daily Bread” celebrates what we eat and illuminates the cultures which underlie our eating practices, will contribute as October’s culinary guest.

The event will also include a short, on-the-spot writing exercise inspired by the theme. The house opens at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, and space is limited. Tickets are $10 in advance, $5 with a potluck dish, or $12 at the door, cash bar. Purchase tickets online at feastofwords.eventbrite.com.

‘Illuminations: Dia De Los Muertos 2011,’ 12th Annual Day of the Dead exhibit

El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, exhibition and programming curated by René and Rio Yañez provides a way for people to embrace the beauty of life and to honor the spirits of the dead. Intricate, traditional altars and complex art installations are on display in “Illuminations: Dia de los Muertos 2011” at SOMArts Cultural Center. Visitors are invited to attend the opening reception on Friday, Oct. 7, 6-9 p.m., to enjoy music, interactive performance and the unveiling of over 30 altars and installations. The exhibition is open from Saturday, Oct. 8, through Saturday, Nov. 5, at SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan St., San Francisco.

“Illuminations” also features a collaboration with actor and visual artist Herbert Siguenza of Culture Clash fame. Siguenza has been touring the U.S. in a one-person show called “A Weekend with Pablo Picasso.” In addition to contributing an altar, Siguenza will perform and paint as Picasso during the opening reception on Friday. Oct. 7. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 12-7p.m., Saturday, 12-5p.m. The opening reception is Friday, Oct. 7, 6-9 p.m., $5-$10 sliding scale, dayofthedead.eventbrite.com. The closing reception is Saturday, Nov. 5, 6-9 p.m., $5-$10 sliding scale, muertos.eventbrite.com.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at http://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 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.

 

Educating our community using community radio: Support KPFA

October 4, 2011

by Minister of Information JR

Black Azz, Trikki, Boss Lady, Shady Nate and host Minister of Information JR were some of the voices broadcast on KPFA on the Friday night midnight to 2 a.m. show in November 2008.
People complain about all of the commercials on mainstream radio and the same songs being played in rotation over and over again. But we still continue to listen although the corporations that run the radio stations we like continue to program us into liking music that we claim we don’t like. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We have to do something different, if we want something different.

The alternative is for us to support community radio, where it is very rare to hear the same thing day after day. KPFA, 94.1 FM or kpfa.org, is a community station that needs and deserves your support. A community station is one where community people get trained to do radio and do it. Most people who work at these types of stations are not careerists; they are community people who really enjoy the art of doing radio, whether playing music or talking politics.

I am a broadcaster on KPFA with two weekly shows: The Morning Mix on Wednesdays from 8-9 a.m., which deals with community politics, and the Block Report every Friday from midnight to 2 a.m., where we play mostly music and do cultural interviews. What makes me a different kind of broadcaster than the ones that are on KMEL or Wild 94.9 is that, on the Block Report, you could get your music featured, followed up by an interview with you announcing to the world where your music is being sold and how you got into the business.

On the Morning Mix, we cover community politics, local events, local concerts, prisons, progressive artists, immigrant issues, people creating movements and the like. If you value this type of programming and would like to hear more voices from our community, musically or politically speaking, then we need to put our dollars where our mouth is, period.

So donate during Wednesday’s Morning Mix, because your donation is your vote to keep the show on the air. And you all know we need more voices on the radio speaking from our community’s perspective, not just mine.

Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe,” both available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

 

The Southeast Sewing Club, back by popular demand

October 4, 2011

Peggy Dunn-Ha’apai sews Tongan skirt for her grandchild at the Southeast Sewing Club. - Photo: April Elkjer
San Francisco – The highly popular sewing class offered at the Southeast Community Facility, or “Sewing Club” as most locals refer to the class, is back by popular demand. “As we talked to the community about what resources were important to have at the Southeast Facility, the Sewing Club was one of the top priorities,” says Juliet Ellis, assistant general manager of external affairs for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).

“We now have capacity for 30 students to learn this valuable skill right here in Bayview Hunters Point,” she said. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and City College of San Francisco are obligated to provide educational, workforce and economic opportunities at the Southeast Community Facility as part of its Community Benefits Program.

“The partnership between City College and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission allows increased educational opportunities at the Southeast Campus to better prepare the community to become productive and fulfilled citizens,” says Jorge Bell, vice-chancellor for campuses and enrollment services at City College of San Francisco.

Monique Boone makes pillow cases at the Southeast Sewing Club. - Photo: April Elkjer
Gladys Moffet, a resident of Bayview Hunters Point, was among the first to register for class at the Southeast Community Facility. “I’m happy (the class) is being offered again,” said Gladys as she signed in for her first day of class. “I’ve learned how to sew all types of clothing. Now everyone in my family comes to me when they need something sewed!”

Students of all ages, backgrounds and sewing skills are able to attend the class once again. “This is the only class that I know of in San Francisco that provides the students with access to free sewing machinery,” says Kamille Hitz, the current class instructor. “This is truly a wonderful resource for all.”

Space is still available and residents are encouraged to drop in for the class. There are no requirements but to show up; however, if you have a project you would like help with – even a simple hem – bring it to the class.

The sewing class is offered every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. now until Dec. 20 at the Southeast Community Facility, 1800 Oakdale Ave., San Francisco. You can register for the class during class hours.

Learn about your vintage Singer sewing machine and share Singer stories

To help commemorate their 160th anniversary, Singer invites people to learn historic information about their vintage or antique sewing machines and share their own stories about Singer and sewing. The story sharing is available at www.mySINGERstory.com.

Leilani Randolph makes a dress at the Southeast Sewing Club. - Photo: April Elkjer
“Since the introduction of the world’s first practical sewing machine 160 years ago, the Singer brand has brought the craft of sewing to millions of people across the globe,” said Katrina Helmkamp, CEO of SVP Worldwide, producer of the Singer products. “People are deeply attached to their machines and the memories they evoke. Through the mySINGERstory website, we are sharing information about each unique machine while learning more about those for whom sewing is part of a family legacy.”

Through December, each person who submits a story on mySINGERstory.com will have a chance to win one of the first commemorative edition sewing machines to hit the market in January 2012. This technologically advanced machine will boast innovative features, yet its design and appearance will harken back to the iconic Singer machines of years past.

 

12,000 California prisoners on hunger strike

October 4, 2011

Strikers’ families denied visits, attorneys banned

by Jay Donahue

Oakland – As the renewed prisoner hunger strike enters its second week, the federal receiver’s office released information that at least 12,000 prisoners were participating during the first week. Prisoners are continuing a hunger strike that they temporarily suspended in July. Originating from Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Seg and ASU) across California, prisoners held at Pelican Bay State Prison, Calipatria, Centinela, Corcoran, Ironwood, Kern Valley, North Kern, Salinas Valley, California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Pleasant Valley State Prison, San Quentin as well as West Valley Detention Center in San Bernadino County are currently participating. Over 3,000 California prisoners held in out-of-state facilities in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma have also refused food.

This corridor of the Pelican Bay SHU is the epicenter of the hunger strike. – Photo: Michael Montgomery, California Watch
“This is the largest prisoner strike of any kind in recent U.S. history,” says Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus. “The fact that so many prisoners are participating highlights the extreme conditions in all of California’s prisons as well as the historic opportunity the state has been given to make substantial changes to SHU and Ad-Seg policies.”

Family members of striking SHU prisoners reported that their visits this weekend were denied by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) citing security concerns. “A number of family members received notice that they were not going to be allowed to see their loved ones as long as the strike continues,” says Dolores Canales who has a son in the Pelican Bay SHU. “Denying visits only heightens the isolation that the prisoners and family members experience, especially at this critical time.”

Advocates and lawyers have expressed concern that banning visits, along with other tactics including the possibility of violence on the part of CDCR are being used in attempt to break the strike. “Historically, prison officials have used extreme measures, including physical violence to break strikes,” says Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and a member of the mediation team working on behalf of the strikers.

“As this peaceful protest continues, it’s essential for lawmakers and the media to monitor the actions of CDCR. The department should not be allowed to use underhanded methods to resolve the strike.” Late last week two of the mediation team’s lawyers were banned from CDCR facilities with the prison administration citing unnamed “security threats.”

The prisoners resumed their hunger strike on Sept. 26 after the CDCR failed to address demands made when prisoners initially went on strike for almost the entire month of July. They have also reported heightened levels of intimidation and retaliation from prison officials since July. Prisoners are demanding changes to long-term solitary confinement, gang validation and debriefing processes and other conditions in the state’s Security Housing Units as well as in other parts of the prison system.

Representatives of the hunger strikers have indicated that this may be a rolling strike, with prisoners coming on and off strike periodically, allowing for the possibility of a protracted struggle. Activists and family members internationally are planning protests in support of the hunger strikers in the coming weeks. For continued updates and more information, visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

California Department of Corrections threatens prison hunger strikers, bans lawyers

by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

In response to a renewed inmate hunger strike to protest conditions in the California prison system, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has taken a hard line, threatening participants with disciplinary action and banning two lawyers who represent the strikers. According to the Contra Costa Times:

“Prison officials are investigating the two lawyers for ‘alleged misconduct,’ said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“Letters faxed Friday to San Francisco lawyer Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and Berkeley lawyer Marilyn McMahon of California Prison Focus said they were banned from inmate visits as the department investigated whether they had “jeopardized the safety and security” of the prisons.

“Both women have been active advocates for the rights of prisoners at Pelican State Bay Prison, the Crescent City supermax facility at the epicenter of the hunger strike this week and another one in July.

“’It’s under investigation. I really can’t comment any further on that,’ Thornton said.”

California Watch reports that the attorneys were banned under “temporary exclusion orders” that were signed by Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan on Sept. 29. The order states that an investigation is underway to determine whether the lawyers “violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR.”

“The document does not provide details about the allegations. It cites a section from the California Code of Regulations that reads:

“’Committing an act that jeopardizes the life of a person, violates the security of the facility, constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony, or is a reoccurrence of previous violations shall result in a one-year to lifetime exclusion depending on the severity of the offense in question.’

“Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton confirmed the department had banned ‘some specific attorneys’ from one facility for alleged misconduct. She declined further comment, citing an ongoing investigation.”

Shortly after it banned the lawyers, the CDCR issued a memo to all striking prisoners, informing them that “the department will not condone organized inmate disturbances.” The memo indicated that disciplinary action could be taken against inmates participating in the hunger strike and that those identified as leaders could be placed in isolation in a Security Housing Unit. The memo did not state what might be done to those strike leaders already locked in solitary in the Pelican Bay SHU, where the strike originated.

The current hunger strike, according to inmate organizers, is not a new protest but rather a renewal of the three-week strike that began on July 1. That strike ended after prison officials agreed to some limited concessions, including a review of the policies by which prisoners are placed and held in indefinite solitary confinement in the state’s SHUs. The initial hunger strike also resulted in a hearing in the California Assembly on the treatment of inmates in the SHUs, where thousands of inmates languish in 22- to 23-hour-a-day in isolation in windowless cells, some for 10 years, 20 years or more.

According to a statement issued in mid-September, strike leaders in the Pelican Bay SHU saw little indication or promise of real change:

“As of September 2011, these SHU prisoners continue to be subjected to CDCR’s torturous human rights violations, in spite of the July 2011 peaceful protest via hunger strike, wherein thousands of prisoners of all races and groups united in their effort to bring mainstream exposure and force an end to such barbarous policies and practices. [CDCR has responded with more propaganda, lies and vague double talk promises of change in time].

“SHU prisoners are dissatisfied with CDCR’s response to their formal complaint and five core demands, and therefore will continue to resist via peaceful protest indefinitely, until actual changes are implemented.”

The state is clearly taking an even harder line on this round of the hunger strike. Scott Kernan told California Watch: “Unlike in the first instance where we certainly evaluated their concerns and thought there was some merit to it, this instance appears to be more manipulative, and it certainly has the possibility of being a real disruption to the Department of Corrections and the security of its staff and inmates.”

Last week, the CDCR stated that close to 3,400 inmates at six prisons were participating in the hunger strike, which the department defines as refusing state-issued meals for three consecutive days, according to the most recent data from the corrections department. On Saturday, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reported that “numbers released by the federal receiver’s office” that monitors health care in California prisons “show that on Sept. 28, nearly 12,000 prisoners were on hunger strike, including California prisoners who are housed in out of state prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma … Prisoners are currently on strike in Pelican Bay State Prison, Calipatria, Centinela, Corcoran, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, North Kern State Prison, and Salinas Valley State Prison. Throughout the last week prisoners at California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Pleasant Valley State Prison, San Quentin as well as West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino County were participating.”

James Ridgeway and Jean Casella are co-editors of Solitary Watch, an innovative public website aimed at bringing the widespread use of solitary confinement and other forms of torture in U.S. prisons out of the shadows and into the light of the public square. A unique collaboration between journalists and law students, Solitary Watch’s mission is to provide the public – as well as practicing attorneys, legal scholars, law enforcement and corrections officers, policymakers, educators, advocates and prisoners – with the first centralized, comprehensive source of information on solitary confinement in the United States. This story first appeared Solitary Watch.

Support the hunger strikers

1) Pressure Gov. Brown to ensure the CDCR implement the changes set forth in the prisoners’ five core demands and that the CDCR cease ALL retaliation on hunger strikers. Call Gov. Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841.

2) Build and join a massive crowd in Sacramento for the Day of Action Oct. 5, 12-2 p.m. Protest outside CDCR Headquarters, at 1515 S St. in downtown Sacramento. For carpooling and transportation needs from the Bay Area, contact (415) 238-1801 or prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com.

 

Foreclosure victory as homeowners pack courtroom

October 4, 2011

by Dave Welsh

Lifelong Oakland resident Beverly A. Williams speaks to the crowd gathered outside a Chase branch on Sept. 28 protesting foreclosures, evictions and the mess the banks ignore when homes sit vacant. “The effort today is to expose the banks,” she said. – Photo: Sita Bhaumik
Pittsburg, Calif. – Homeowners from five counties packed the courtroom here Sept. 2 to support a Pittsburg family facing eviction in a foreclosure scam.

After a four-hour marathon session, the Superior Court judge cancelled the eviction. The decision means the Parra-Gullo family can stay in their home with a payment they can afford.

“I believe it was a victory for the family in this case,” said Delia Aguilar, an organizer with the Bay Area Moratorium (BAM), a homeowners group that is fighting wrongful foreclosures and evictions. “I believe the community had a lot of impact, that they came out here to support the family, often from long distances.”

BAM organized 44 people to back up the family in court, coming from Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Sacramento and Solano counties – areas hard hit by an epidemic of foreclosure fraud and chicanery by the banks and real estate companies.

The company seeking to evict the family, Antrea Investments & Trading LLC, fraudulently claimed to have lawfully bought the property from Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank after the homeowners failed to make mortgage payments. However, BAM pointed out: 1) the homeowner was not in default, having made regular payments which the bank accepted; 2) Antrea was not registered with the state to do business in California; 3) a bogus “robo-signing” document was used to try to evict the family; and 4) there was no “assignment of deed of trust” with the county recorder.

Antrea’s attorney Terry Brewer’s jaw dropped when she saw all the supporters filing into the courtroom, exclaiming: “They bring so many people!” Delia Aguilar concluded that “if all the homeowners will come out, like today, then these courts and sheriffs may be more careful in issuing orders that can result in an illegal eviction.”

Aguilar explained that it’s become standard procedure for real estate companies and their eviction attorneys to “move quickly to take the homes from these homeowners, harassing and scaring them, using guerrilla tactics like threatening to get the sheriff to remove them in four hours.

“Sometimes these real estate people will call in law enforcement even before filing an ‘unlawful detainer’ action – as if it was their own personal police force!”

“But if we all stay together,” she added, “we can defeat them and keep our homes.”

BAM is part of a network of groups working for a moratorium to stop foreclosures and evictions and allow people to stay in their homes. The Michigan-based Moratorium NOW! Coalition explains the situation:

“Today the federal government, through its takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac along with the Federal Housing Authority, owns at least 75 percent of all mortgage loans. However, rather than utilizing this federal takeover of the housing market to benefit homeowners and renters, the federal government is continuing to bail out the banks, paying the banks full value for the fraudulent and predatory loans which they created, and then throwing millions of homeowners into the streets.

“It’s time for the federal government to bail out the people and not the banks. President Obama should immediately declare a two-year moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions, during which time the loans could be renegotiated to their real value, with the banks eating the losses for the fraud they practiced. Rather than selling off government owned housing to investors and sharks, the government should train our youth to rebuild these homes and reoccupy them with the millions of homeless and unemployed.”

Dave Welsh can be reached at sub@sonic.net.

Foreclosures have cost Oakland over $12 billion, San Francisco almost $7 billion

The foreclosure crisis is costing Oakland over $12 billion and San Francisco nearly $7 billion according to a new report for Oakland and another for San Francisco released by a statewide coalition of homeowners, community leaders and students. This is the first report to bring to light the full impact of the costs of Wall Street foreclosures in the Bay Area, with detailed numbers for individual neighborhoods, including Havenscourt in East Oakland and Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco, which have disproportionately suffered from the foreclosure crisis. The report shows:

Foreclosures harm all homeowners: Overall, homeowners are estimated to lose $12.3 billion in home values in Oakland and $6.9 billion in San Francisco as a direct result of the foreclosure crisis.

Foreclosures erode the property tax base and impact services for all: Property tax revenue losses are estimated to be $75.3 million Oakland and $42 million in San Francisco in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

Foreclosures cost local governments: The typical foreclosure costs local governments more than $19,229 for increased costs of safety inspections, police and fire calls, and trash removal, and maintenance. In Oakland, these costs are estimated to be $224 million and in San Francisco, $73.4 million.

The full reports can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/wreckingballOakland and http://tinyurl.com/wreckingballSF.

“This report proves what people in California have been feeling for years – banks are financially devastating to our neighborhoods and cities,” said Curtis Warren, a Bayview resident at the brink of losing his home and a member of ACCE, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

The report offers the latest evidence that fixing the housing crisis is central to fixing the economy. Data from the report shows:

• Fixing the underwater crisis by writing down mortgages would save California homeowners $810 every month and pump $20 billion annually into local economy.

• With the extra $810 per month, homeowners could start spending again, making purchases they have been putting off. The increase in consumer demand would in turn help spur 300,000 jobs in California.

• Oakland has 26,479 homeowners underwater by $2.4 billion, and San Francisco has 16,355 homeowners underwater by $1.5 billion. If banks wrote down those mortgages, it could pump $257 million in Oakland and $158 million in San Francisco into local economy and spur a total for both cities of 6,153 jobs.

Wall Street banks crashed the economy, are destroying local communities and are wrecking state budgets in California and across the country. Today, California homeowners are still overpaying for their mortgages, students are getting hit with a new fee hike, and families pay millions in overdraft fees because of the mess created by the banks, which are back to record profits and bonuses. The goals of the Refund and Reinvest in our Communities campaign are to:

1. Fix the economy by fixing the housing crisis through enacting a widespread mortgage principal reduction program, creating 300,000 California Jobs and injecting over $20 billion into the economy.

2. Restore needed state revenue by making Wall Street banks pay their fair share of taxes and closing tax loopholes exploited by rich corporations.

3. Rebuild California neighborhoods by helping homeowners and restoring revenue to local communities by penalizing banks for foreclosures and blight, renegotiating costly interest-rate swap deals and winning court-based mediation for homeowners.

California residents who want to join the campaign or get more information can call (877) 633-9251 or visit www.MakeBanksPayCalifornia.com.

 

Rwanda: Current President Kagame confessed ordering predecessor’s plane shot down

October 1, 2011

Kagame’s former ambassador to the U.S. makes startling announcement about event that triggered Rwandan Genocide

This interview of Theogene Rudasingwa by Minister of Information JR was broadcast Dec. 8 on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio

by Theogene Rudasingwa

Now revealing in this article that Paul Kagame (above), who is credited with ending the Rwandan Genocide, confessed that he, in effect, started it is Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, former secretary general of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), ambassador of Rwanda to the United States and chief of staff for President Kagame.
On Aug. 4, 1993, in Arusha, Tanzania, the government of Rwanda and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) signed the Arusha Peace Agreement. The provisions of the agreement included a commitment to principles of the rule of law, democracy, national unity, pluralism, the respect of fundamental freedoms and the rights of the individual. The agreement further had provisions on power-sharing, formation of a single National Army and a new National Gendarmerie from forces of the two warring parties and a definitive solution to the problem of Rwandan refugees.

On April 6, 1994, at 8:25 p.m., the Falcon 50 jet of the president of the Republic of Rwanda, registration number 9XR-NN, on its return from a summit meeting in Tanzania, as it was on approach from Dar-es-Salaam to Kanombe International Airport in Kigali, Rwanda, was shot down. All on board, including President Juvenal Habyarimana, President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, their entire entourage and flight crew, died.

The death of President Juvenal Habyarimana triggered the start of genocide that targeted Tutsi and Hutu moderates and the resumption of civil war between the RPF and the government of Rwanda. The RPF’s sad and false narrative from that time on has been that Hutu extremists within President Habyarimana’s camp shot down the plane to derail the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreement and to find a pretext to start the genocide in which over 800,000 Rwandans died in just 100 days. This narrative has become a predominant one in some international circles, among scholars, and in some human rights organizations.

Outside Carnegie Mellon University while President Paul Kagame was speaking inside, Kambale Musavuli, student coordinator for Friends of the Congo, led a demonstration by Rwandan, Congolese and American students denouncing Kagame’s crimes against humanity. – Photo: Lindsay Dill
The truth must now be told. Paul Kagame, then overall commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, was personally responsible for the shooting down of the plane. In July 1994, Paul Kagame himself, with characteristic callousness and much glee, told me that he was responsible for shooting down the plane. Despite public denials, the fact of Kagame’s culpability in this crime is also a public “secret” within RPF and RDF (Rwandan Defense Force) circles. Like many others in the RPF leadership, I enthusiastically sold this deceptive story line, especially to foreigners who by and large came to believe it, even when I knew that Kagame was the culprit in this crime.

The political and social atmosphere during the period from the signing of the Arusha Accords in August 1993 was highly explosive, and the nation was on edge. By killing President Habyarimana, Paul Kagame introduced a wild card in an already fragile ceasefire and dangerous situation. This created a powerful trigger, escalating to a tipping point resumption of the civil war, genocide and the region-wide destabilization that has devastated the Great Lakes region since then.

Gen. Kagame uses his satellite phone from the field. The Rwandan Civil War, culminating in the 1994 genocide, had been raging since Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded Rwanda from Uganda in 1990. By assassinating then Rwandan President Habyarimana, Kagame prevented the Arusha Peace Agreement the president had just signed from taking effect.
Paul Kagame has to be immediately brought to account for this crime and its consequences. First, there is absolutely nothing honorable or heroic in reaching an agreement for peace with a partner and then stabbing him in the back. Kagame and Habyarimana did not meet on the battlefield on April 6, 1994. If they had, and one of them or both had died, it would have been tragic, but understandable, as a product of the logic of war.

By killing President Habyarimana, Paul Kagame … created a powerful trigger, escalating to a tipping point resumption of the civil war, genocide and the region-wide destabilization that has devastated the Great Lakes region since then.

President Habyarimana was returning from a peace summit and, by killing him, Kagame demonstrated the highest form of treachery. Second, Kagame, a Tutsi himself, callously gambled away the lives of innocent Tutsi and moderate Hutu who perished in the genocide. While the killing of President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was not a direct cause of the genocide, it provided a powerful motivation and trigger to those who organized, mobilized and executed the genocide against Tutsi and Hutu moderates.

Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, assassinated by Gen. Paul Kagame – Photo: AP
Third, by killing President Habyarimana, Kagame permanently derailed the already fragile Arusha peace process in a dangerous pursuit of absolute power in Rwanda. Kagame feared the letter and spirit of the Arusha Peace Agreement. As the subsequent turn of events has now shown, Kagame does not believe in the unity of Rwandans, democracy, respect of human rights and other fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, power sharing, integrated and accountable security institutions with a national character, and resolving the problem of refugees once and for all. This is what the Arusha Peace Agreement was all about. That is what is lacking in Rwanda today.

Last, but not least, Kagame’s and RPF’s false narrative, denials and deceptions have led to partial justice in Rwanda and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, thereby undermining prospects for justice for all Rwandan people, reconciliation and healing. The international community has, knowingly or unknowingly, become an accomplice in Kagame’s systematic and shameful game of deception.

By killing President Habyarimana, Kagame permanently derailed the already fragile Arusha peace process in a dangerous pursuit of absolute power in Rwanda, to which the international community has become an accomplice.

I was never party to the conspiracy to commit this heinous crime. In fact, I first heard about it on BBC around 1:00 a.m. on April 7, 1994, while I was in Kampala, where I had been attending the Pan African Movement conference.

I believe the majority of members of RPF and RPA civilians and combatants, like me, were not party to this murderous conspiracy that was hatched and organized by Paul Kagame and executed on his orders. Nevertheless, I was a secretary general of the RPF, and a major in the rebel army, RPA.

It is in this regard, within the context of collective responsibility and a spirit of truth-telling in search of forgiveness and healing, that I would like to say I am deeply sorry about this loss of life and to ask for forgiveness from the families of Juvenal Habyarimana, Cyprien Ntaryamira, Deogratias Nsabimana, Elie Sagatwa, Thaddee Bagaragaza, Emmanuel Akingeneye, Bernard Ciza, Cyriaque Simbizi, Jacky Heraud, Jean-Pierre Minaberry and Jean-Michel Perrine.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and former U.S. President Bill Clinton tour Clinton Foundation projects in Rwanda. The two have become close friends, as have the governments of Rwanda and the U.S.
I also ask for forgiveness from all Rwandan people, in the hope that we must unanimously and categorically reject murder, treachery, lies and conspiracy as political weapons, eradicate impunity once and for all, and work together to build a culture of truth-telling, forgiveness, healing and the rule of law. I ask for forgiveness from the people of Burundi and France, whose leaders and citizens were killed in this crime. Above all, I ask for forgiveness from God for having lied and concealed evil for too long.

In freely telling the truth before God and the Rwandan people, I fully understand the risk I have undertaken, given Paul Kagame’s legendary vindictiveness and unquenchable thirst for spilling the blood of Rwandans. It is a shared risk that Rwandans bear daily in their quest for freedom and justice for all. Neither power and fame, nor gold and silver, are the motivation for me in these matters of death that have defined our nation for too long.

In freely telling the truth before God and the Rwandan people, I fully understand the risk I have undertaken, given Paul Kagame’s legendary vindictiveness and unquenchable thirst for spilling the blood of Rwandans. But Rwanda cannot rebuild and heal on lies.

Truth cannot wait for tomorrow, because the Rwandan nation is very sick and divided and cannot rebuild and heal on lies. All Rwandans urgently need truth today. Our individual and collective search for truth will set us free. When we are free, we can freely forgive each other and begin to live fully and heal at last.

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is a former secretary general of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), ambassador of Rwanda to the United States and chief of staff for President Paul Kagame.

 

Alice Walker fights anti-Palestinian bias

September 30, 2011

by Dennis Bernstein

The Palestinian children’s drawings capture the oppression and brutality of life under Israel’s economic blockade and military attacks. But under pressure from pro-Israel groups in the community, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) canceled the exhibit, which had been months in preparation.
Alice Walker is Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author and activist. She participated recently in the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which was a part of the Freedom Flotilla, to break the Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip.

Last year, a flotilla was attacked by Israeli commandos and a number of people were killed and wounded. Walker’s boat was stopped by Greek authorities before it could traverse the eastern Mediterranean to Gaza.

DB: I want to start with the recent attempt by the Children’s Museum of Oakland to prevent Palestinian kids from showing their art. You wrote a very moving piece on your website. It was very personal. Could you just briefly outline what you wrote and your response to this censorship?

AW: Well, I was basically saying that the children need to have exposure of their art because it will be a wonderful way to help them heal from the trauma of being bombed and watching their friends, and sometimes parents, die.

And it’s unconscionable that any adults, especially in this part of the world, and lo and behold in Oakland would want to deprive these children of a venue in which they could expose some of their grief and some of their pain and, of course, some of their art.

And so I just very strongly urge all of us to go to see this art. I’m not sure where it will be shown.

DB: There was an opening, I should tell you, around the corner at a beautiful gallery. There were about 500 people, there was a marching band, there was beautiful food out front, and a lot of people marveled at the extraordinary art that was shown around the corner from the Children’s Museum.

I think they had a better shot there. And now they are getting requests for it to be a traveling exhibition around the world. It is incredible. …

Can I ask you to share the personal part of what you wrote? Because I have seen as a teacher the impact of very troubled kids, oppressed kids, kids who have faced difficult times being able to get through it through self-expression.

And this, the part of this that bothered me the most is that the exhibit was advertised, the invitations were sent out, the workshops were set up, the kids were excited and they were told “No, it wasn’t going to happen.” Could you share the personal side of what you wrote?

AW: There are a couple of things. One is I was injured myself as a child. I was playing cowboy and Indians with my brothers and one of them accidentally shot me in the eye. And that led to a lot of suffering and a lot of grief and a lot of pain.

And I started writing poetry at that time when I was 8 or 9 years old. And my relatives encouraged me to share it, to show it to people. And that was a part of my healing. And so I could easily see that that could help these children.

The board of directors of the Museum of Children’s Art released a statement that defended rather than apologized for their censorship. Board Chair Hilmon Sorey called the drawings “graphically violent and sensitive works,” and he cited the museum’s lack of policy towards such content as the reason for the exhibit’s cancellation. But these concerns had not stopped the museum from displaying the art of Iraqi children a few years earlier.
That having the venue denied to them is a way of making them remain locked in their own private suffering. And this is something that adults with money, in this case, could do to these little kids.

And they are doing it, but it is at great risk to their own souls to do this to children, to force them to remain unexpressed or to try to force them to remain unexpressed in their suffering.

The other part that was so, that came to mind as I was writing this essay was how in 1939 Marian Anderson had been denied …

DB: The great singer …

AW: The great contralto. She had been denied a venue at the Constitution Hall, at Constitution Hall in D.C. by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who were just upset that the place was going to be integrated.

And so Anderson’s friends, including the president, [Franklin] Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt came to her defense and she was allowed to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

And she actually attracted 75,000 people of all colors and kinds and everything. And it was one of the biggest turnouts ever, up to that time, at the Lincoln Memorial.

And so I was just reminding us that these bannings and attempts to censor people, they often backfire. And that is something that we should remember.

It strengthens us as well, because we begin to see the forces that are against us. They are fleshed out; they come out of the walls and woodwork, wherever they’ve been hiding and pretending to be upstanding, kind and generous people.

They suddenly stand revealed as the really very narrow hearted people that they are, and so we don’t have to be fooled. And it’s a great thing not to be fooled by people – to have that little bit of consciousness about who is likely to try to trip you up as you start climbing towards your freedom. Yes.

DB: And just to take off on what you said, it is either you have a very frightening and difficult and terrifying, tragic experience happen to you and either you have a chance to express it to people who care and want to hear it or it gets forced down inside of you and manifests as an illness in various ways. So it can make all the difference in the world.

AW: It makes all the difference in the world. And in fact, one of the things that you learn from having some fairly dreadful things happen to you is that you can survive and you can still be happy.

And I like to tell very briefly a little story of a leper that I came across in Hawaii on the island of Molokai – a man whose face had just about been dissolved by his illness, and his expression of just absolute joy was shining through what was left of his face.

And he said, “You know one of the things I have learned from this hard life here is that you can have these terrible things that happen to you and you can still be happy.”

Now this is good news for anybody but especially for a child who feels just completely squashed by an imperial power that bombs its communities and its schools for 22 days, non-stop, a child that just has lost parts of its body.

To know that somewhere there is this teaching and that there are these people and that someone is waiting for them on the other side of the trauma to share with them what they have gained.

You know, you don’t just lose, you sometimes gain a lot from suffering. And they can stand with you and that’s why I love the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

The campaign to censor the exhibit had the support of major pro-Israeli organizations in the California Bay Area. The Jewish Federation of the East Bay publicly bragged about their success via Twitter.
I love the Middle East Children’s Alliance because their commitment to these children and to making it clear, not only to the children but to the adults in the world, what it is that we need to be doing together, which is bringing them along, helping them stand, and helping them to see that there is still a possibility of being joyful little kids.

DB: Why did you decide to join that flotilla?

AW: Well, I did it because I really believe that it is our responsibility. When the world is out of whack, as it is almost everywhere you look, what do you do? And where do you place yourself?

And how much do we believe what we say we believe about wanting to fight the good fight for the freedom of the people of the world and the happiness of the people of the world.

And I had been in Gaza, and I had been in the West Bank and I had met my tribe of poets and singers and musicians and philosophers and historians and children – and we’re just people.

And, you know, people everywhere deserve to be free of fear. They deserve to be free of people taking their land and bombing their schools and taking their water.

And so it felt like, given my own background in the South with the segregation – and I’m sitting here right now looking at pictures of both my parents – that I have an obligation given how much I deeply understand this kind of pain to try to be present even if we don’t get to where we were trying to get to.

We didn’t get to Gaza. But we did get 10 miles off the coast of Greece.

DB: And you were turned back.

AW: We were turned back by armed commandos from the Greek Coast Guard, and we never got to be in confrontation directly with the Israelis. But they were working against us the whole time. They had been sabotaging the other ships and making it really hard for us to move.

And yet there again, I can’t be discouraged. I feel so much that if you just get off your couch, if you just leave your house, if you just head out to stand with your neighbor, even if they are 10,000 miles away, if you head out, there is a way in which you are already there. Your intention is so important, and the movement forward is so important.

DB: You know, Alice, I’m usually very afraid about everything. Whatever I do, I tend to do it, but I’m frightened. Now you got on a boat knowing that the last round of the Freedom Flotilla faced extreme violence by Israeli commandos. A number of people died, were wounded. How do you deal with your fear? Were you afraid?

AW: Of course I was afraid; we’re all afraid. But there is this realization that an earthquake could just right this minute just cover us all up with rubble, we could be sucked out of our car by a hurricane, we could be drowned in these floods that are happening.

In other words, there’s a way in which you have to start to see now that danger is really everywhere and it’s in every moment, so it is better to, I think, to then approach those areas that are dangerous and difficult in that spirit, that well I could lose my life here too at home.

Alice Walker – Photo: Monica Morgan, WireImage
And also now the thing that I find really remarkable – and I felt this way in Mississippi 40 years ago – when you reach the other people who are as determined and as dedicated as you are, with the love that you have, it’s a kind of heaven.

And it’s not to be missed if you can possibly manage to get to this kind of circle of people who have evolved. I felt on the boat, in the presence of such goodness, such amazing spirit and heart – that it made it worth whatever the sacrifice might have been. I mean if I would go, I would go with these people, and how blissful really.

DB: Finally, and I guess this is the hardest thing for me to understand: We are seeing several recent reports surfacing out of Israel, really put together by the Israelis describing a program, an expanding program of midnight kidnappings and torture of children as young as 12 years old by Israeli soldiers.

Sometimes they are taken to the basements of the settlements, illegal settlements, and questioned and masked, but they are taken by hooded soldiers. And my question for you – and I don’t know if there is a real answer – but what drives a people to go to these lengths to silence children and to repress freedom?

AW: Well, I think that one of the things that probably should not have happened for so long is the constant reiteration of the Holocaust.

I think if we had a slavery industry so that so often you would hear horrible tales about the enslavement of Black people, like every time you turn around, we would have some incredibly crazed Black people who would be doing some much more violent things because of the anger.

I think that whatever happens, you are never permitted to evolve beyond your rage. So everything becomes an obstacle to your liberation from your own rage. So you turn into quite dangerous entities in society.

Alice Walker is the author of many books of poems and prose, including “The Color Purple,” “A Poem Traveled Down My Arm,” and “A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel.” For a list of Alice Walker’s work, go to http://alicewalkersgarden.com/. She spoke with Dennis Bernstein on Flashpoints, a news program at Pacifica Radio broadcast every weekday at 5 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 and kpfa.org. Host Dennis Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@igc.org.

 

Do American taxpayers really want to pay Rwanda to keep Victoire Ingabire behind bars?

September 29, 2011

by Aimable Mugara

Victoire Ingabire, now on trial after nearly a year in maximum security prison, has the look of a Rwandan prisoner – shaved head and pink uniform – but the heart of a Rwandan freedom fighter. Ian Edwards, one of her attorneys, is at the far left, and her other attorney, Gatera Gashebana, stands behind them. – Photo: Alice Muhirwa
According to the ACLU, the inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department reported that the FBI Terrorist Watch List had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 – and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month. At that rate, the list would now contain over 1 million names. The ACLU thinks the list is bloated with the names of many people who are no threat to the U.S. government.

No one in the U.S., however, has gone on trial for terrorism because he or she announced an intention to run for president, though that is the situation of Mrs. Victoire Ingabire in Rwanda, a close ally and military partner of the U.S., which has also received over $1 billion in U.S. foreign aid over the past 10 years.

Ingabire left a very comfortable life, a good job and a loving family in the Netherlands to return to her native Rwanda to stand for the presidency in January 2010. She made every attempt to participate in the political process that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and those surrounding him insist is democratic, but instead she now stands in the dock in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, charged with

1) forming an armed group with the aim of destabilizing the country,

2) complicity in acts of terrorism,

3) conspiracy against the government by use of war and terrorism,

4) inciting the masses to revolt against the government,

5) genocide ideology and

6) divisionism.

Western mainstream media had been claiming that Rwanda had progressed past its dark history, the 1994 genocide. Had that been true and had the more than $1 billion in aid that the U.S. government has since given to Rwanda been used to build democratic institutions, Victoire Ingabire would have been a candidate in last year’s presidential election and would quite likely be Rwanda’s president now, not a maximum security prisoner.

Within weeks of returning to Rwanda, Mrs. Ingabire was summoned to the Criminal Investigation Department, then summoned again and again, until she was finally arrested on April 21, 2010. The arrest happened less than two weeks after Gen. Kagame publicly insulted her in a genocide memorial address, referring to her as a “hooligan” and one of these “useless people who comes out of nowhere,” whom he would “cast off.”

At the time of the arrest, the Rwandan chief prosecutor claimed that there was “overwhelming evidence” against her for “terrorism” and “divisionism,” evidence that they claimed had been obtained from foreign countries such as the United States and the Netherlands. This was back in April 2010. Shortly thereafter, she was released from jail and put under house arrest, forbidden to leave Kigali, to speak to the majority rural population, or to return home to visit her family in the Netherlands.

Thirteen hundred Rwandans and Congolese united to march through the streets of Paris in protest against the visit of Gen. Kagame on Sept. 14. Many held signs supporting Victoire Ingabire, their choice for president of Rwanda had she been allowed to run.
While she was under house arrest, the Rwandan government, which is not only heavily funded but also politically supported by the United States government, continued in its persecution of all its real political opponents. Opposition leaders and activists were jailed, Green Party Vice President Andre Rwisereka was beheaded, his body dumped by a river in Southern Rwanda, and another presidential candidate, Bernard Ntaganda, was imprisoned. Journalist Jean Leonard Rugembage was executed after writing that Kagame had ordered a political assassination attempt in South Africa, and other journalists fled the country.

On Aug. 9, 2010, Gen. Paul Kagame was then re-elected president with an implausible 93 percent of the vote.

Fast-forward to October 2010 and the United Nations’ release of an investigative report accusing Kagame’s army of having massacred Hutu refugees – “children, women, elderly people and the sick” – in Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report said that, if proven before a competent court, these massacres could be classified as crimes of genocide, the very crime that has blessed Gen. Kagame and his government with so much victim’s privilege, most of all in Congo.

Within two weeks of the U.N. release of the report, Kagame’s government moved Mrs. Ingabire from house arrest in her home, under surveillance, to Kigali’s 1930 maximum security prison. Five days earlier, she had told KPFA Radio that the U.N. should expand the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) to include the Rwandan Army’s crimes in Congo, documented in the U.N. report. She had been told, upon her release to her home in April, that she was not to speak to the press, but she had continued to do so and no doubt would have been called for more interviews about the U.N. report.

Neither Gen. Kagame nor his army have been called to answer to the charges of genocide in Congo, but Mrs. Ingabire has now been languishing in jail, often denied visitors, held on suspicion of terrorism and “genocide ideology,” for nearly a year.

When Mrs. Ingabire’s trial got underway this September, the Rwandan prosecutor tried to delay the case by claiming that they are still waiting for the evidence to come in from abroad. This is the evidence that they claimed they already had back in April 2010. When the delay was not granted, the Rwandan prosecutor was forced to start producing “evidence” in the kangaroo court that would be laughable in any self-respecting democracy. An example was the video shown as evidence of her “terrorism” and “divisionism.”

In the video, all that Mrs. Ingabire says is as follows:

Victoire Ingabire, the Rwandan leader who might well have defeated Paul Kagame in last year’s presidential election, is instead on trial for suggesting that all Rwandans, not only Tutsis, were victims of genocide. She consults with her attorneys, Ian Edwards, left, and Gatera Gashebana, who are defending her against charges that could keep her in prison for decades. – Photo: Alice Muhirwa
“I would like to say that today, I came back to my country after 16 years, and there was a tragedy that took place in this country. We know very well that there was a genocide, extermination. Therefore, I could not have returned after 16 years to the same country after such actions took place. They took place when I was not in the country. I could not have fallen asleep without first passing by the place where those actions took place. I had to see the place. I had to visit the place.

“The flowers I brought with me are a sign of remembrance from the members of my party FDU and its executive committee. They gave me a message to pass by here and tell Rwandans that what we wish for is for us to work together, to make sure that such a tragedy will never take place again. That is one of the reasons why the FDU Party made a decision to return to the country peacefully, without resorting to violence. Some think that the solution to Rwanda’s problems is to resort to armed struggle. We do not believe that shedding blood resolves problems. When you shed blood, the blood comes back to haunt you.

“Therefore, we in FDU wish that all we Rwandans can work together, join our different ideas so that the tragedy that befell our nation will never happen again. It is clear that the path of reconciliation has a long way to go. It has a long way to go because if you look at the number of people who died in this country, it is not something that you can get over quickly. But then again, if you look around you realize that there is no real political policy to help Rwandans achieve reconciliation. For example, if we look at this memorial, it only stops at people who died during the Tutsi genocide. It does not look at the other side – at the Hutus who died during the genocide. Hutus who lost their people are also sad and they think about their lost ones and wonder, ‘When will our dead ones be remembered?’

“For us to reach reconciliation, we need to empathize with everyone’s sadness. It is necessary that for the Tutsis who were killed, those Hutus who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it. It is also necessary that for the Hutus who were killed, those people who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it too. Furthermore, it is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.

“It is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.” – Victoire Ingabire

“What brought us back to the country is for us to start that path of reconciliation together and find a way to stop injustices so that all of us Rwandans can live together with basic freedoms in our country.” – English translation by Aimable Mugara of the video of Victoire Ingabire speaking at the Gisosi Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda, Jan. 16, 2010. The video was presented as evidence in the Kigali courtroom where she is on trial for terrorism and “genocide ideology” during the second week of September 2011.

If the Rwandan chief prosecutor thinks that the above words make one a “terrorist” and a “divisionist,” then how many of us would be locked up in Rwanda, quite possibly for 30 years or life, as Ingabire is likely to be? Few of us can be as eloquent and inspiring as Victoire Ingabire, but who would not want peace, justice and the end of ethnic strife in Rwanda? Who would not want all Rwandans to be able to mourn those they lost in the Rwanda Genocide, at the genocide memorials and during each year’s genocide commemorations?

Do Americans, whose taxpayer dollars are contributing to the Rwandan chief prosecutor’s salary, really want to see Victoire Ingabire and all she stands for behind bars for 30 years to life?

A Rwandan now based in Toronto, Aimable Mugara said in a previous story in the Bay View that Rwandans, both Hutus and Tutsis, “want to live together in a democratic society where every single article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to every Rwandan citizen.” Visit his website, www.rwandahumanrights.org, and contact him at amugara@trentu.ca.

 

Carnegie Mellon professors question university president over planned campus in Kagame’s Rwanda

September 29, 2011

Friends of the Congo Student Coordinator Kambale Musavuli leads chants at a Carnegie Mellon protest against the visit of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Protesters say Kagame is responsible for the death, rape and the financial instability of millions of Rwandans and Congolese. Musavuli is a 1998 Congolese refugee, whose family was affected by the violence in the region. “Whenever there’s a genocide, just like the holocaust, we must say, ‘Never again,’” Musavuli said. “It’s my responsibility to be here and to speak up for those who can’t. It’s the value of free speech.”
Faculty members at Carnegie Mellon University’s Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences have signed a petition questioning the university’s partnership with Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, as they plan to open a branch campus in Kigali in 2012. The petition cites charges that his government has committed gross human rights violations in Rwanda and in the Congo. It also cites increased repression of the press and political freedoms.

Below is the petition, dated Sept. 16, 2011.

President Jared L. Cohon
Carnegie Mellon University
Office of the President
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Dear President Cohon,

We the undersigned faculty members of the Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences are writing to express our serious concerns over Carnegie Mellon University’s announced partnership with President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan government.

Also leading the protest against Kagame’s visit to CMU is law student Claude Gatebuke, a Rwandan who works with the African Great Lakes Coalition. – Photo: Emily Russell
Carnegie Mellon University has established itself as a global leader in the arts as well as the sciences in part because our university has extended its reach beyond Pittsburgh. We have established successful programs in countries like Japan, Australia, Portugal, Mexico, and opened a campus in Qatar.

Wherever we go, we bring our university’s vision of what a world-class institution of higher education should be. We rightfully pride ourselves with meeting “the changing needs of society by building on its traditions of innovation, problem solving and inter-disciplinarity.” With the announcement of Carnegie Mellon University’s partnership with the Rwandan government, our university has once again positioned itself on the cutting edge by being one of the first American universities to run degree-granting programs on the continent of Africa.

Given Rwanda’s attempts to rebuild after decades of civil war and murderous ethnic cleansing, Carnegie Mellon’s presence in the African nation indicates that your vision for our university includes not only meeting the changing needs of society but also helping Rwandan society change for the better. News articles in The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education as well as our hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have applauded our partnership with President Kagame and Rwanda.

Another thing we bring is Carnegie Mellon University’s mission. As a faculty we pledge:

“To create and disseminate knowledge and art through research and creative inquiry, teaching, and learning, and to transfer our intellectual and artistic product to enhance society in meaningful and sustainable ways.

“To serve our students by teaching them problem solving, leadership and teamwork skills, and the value of a commitment to quality, ethical behavior, and respect for others.

“To achieve these ends by pursuing the advantages of a diverse and relatively small university community, open to the exchange of ideas, where discovery, creativity, and personal and professional development can flourish.”

Kambale Musavuli, with students from the U.S., the Congo and Rwanda, protests outside CMU’s University Center during Kagame’s visit on Sept. 16. – Photo: Andrew Russell, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
As faculty, we also commend a vision that includes facilitating meaningful social change. Yet we see a risk that could interfere with this vision. Carnegie Mellon University’s mission is based upon the fundamental pillars of any free society: the freedom of inquiry, a commitment to an open exchange of ideas and a belief that freedom and openness are crucial to the cultivation of an ethically sound citizenry. Given our university’s mission we are concerned about how this mission can be achieved in a country run by a president who does not guarantee freedom or openness for his own people.

President Paul Kagame controls a country that, according to Reporters Without Borders’ “Press Freedom Index,” ranks 169 out of 178 countries – the third worst ranking amongst African nations. In a June 2011 article, Human Rights Watch expressed their “serious concern that freedom of expression is not respected in practice under Kagame’s regime,” especially as this repression was connected to Kagame’s 2010 presidential re-election.

They cite numerous instances, including the imprisonment and intimidation of journalists critical of the Kagame regime, as well as the jailing and continued detention of opposition party leaders for endangering national security and “divisionism.” Claims of fraud and intimidation were so widespread that in an Aug. 13, 2010, press statement President Obama expressed “concern” about “disturbing events” prior to Kagame’s latest election. He highlighted the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of human rights workers and the barring of two political parties from participating in the election.

Another June 2011 report, this one from Amnesty International, condemned Kagame’s government, saying, “The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), in power since the 1994 genocide, tightly controls political space, civil society and the media, contending that this is necessary to prevent renewed violence. Human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents cannot openly and publicly criticize the authorities. People who do speak out risk prosecution and imprisonment.”

In 2008, the Spanish National Court, the Audiencia National (who charged Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet), indicted 40 Rwandan military officers for terrorism, mass killings and several counts of genocide against Rwandans, Congolese and Spanish citizens, following the 1994 genocide. Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu stated he has evidence that implicates Kagame, who has immunity from prosecution as a head of state.

Carnegie Mellon University
Even our local Pittsburgh City Council adopted proclamation 1011-1897 on July 12, 2011, identifying the Rwandan government as a major destabilizing force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and scolding the federal government for continuing to fund the Rwandan government in the face of its many human rights abuses.

These actions are not those of a man interested in protecting his citizens, cultivating democratic society, or upholding human rights. Nor are these actions consistent with the ethical and moral principles at the heart of Carnegie Mellon University’s mission. If our mission as faculty is consistent with our university’s – to instill these principles in our students – we are seriously concerned that a partnership with President Kagame’s government compromises our institution’s ability to carry them out. President Cohon, we strongly urge you to consider the consequences that such a partnership will have on our local and global reputation.

Sincerely,

Concerned Faculty Members
Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

To learn more, contact the African Great Lakes Coalition via Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo, at kambale@friendsofthecongo.org.

 

DA’s race: Stop overcrowding prisons

September 29, 2011

by Allen Jones

Allen Jones has dedicated his life to freeing prisoners.
The Supreme Court ordered California to release 33,000 prisoners due to unhealthy conditions and prison overcrowding in the Plata vs. Brown prisoner lawsuit. The high court showed it was serious by demanding the release of 10,000 of these prisoners by a December 2011 deadline.

In an attempt to comply, Gov. Jerry Brown will not just release prisoners to the street. He has shifted the burden of housing low level state prisoners back to California’s 58 counties by signing AB109. This new law eases the pressure on the state prison population but does nothing to solve the problem of prison overcrowding. It only increases the likelihood of county jail overcrowding.

San Francisco will begin receiving 700 of these low level felon offenders as early as October, according to published reports. However, instead of using our empty county beds, which coincidentally are estimated to be 700, to help the state cure its prison overcrowding problem, we should be showing the state how to continue having empty jail beds.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s office has had a history of only using the three strikes law when the third strike is a violent crime. In addition, according to FACTS – Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes – San Francisco sends the fewest three strikers to state prison.

What is troubling is that it appears as though politics has crept into the race for district attorney by using the celebrity Alex Trebek, the three strikes law and a heroin addict to help elect George Gascón to a full four year term as the city’s top law enforcer. This kind of overzealous prosecution is how California has overcrowded our 33 prisons with thousands of petty criminals and should be stopped.

We should be showing the state how to continue having empty jail beds.

“Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek and his wife were sleeping in their San Francisco hotel room when they became victims of a burglary recently. It was described by prosecutors as a “hot prowl,” which means the victims were in the building or residence when the burglary took place.

This is my office, bed and bath, explains Allen Jones.
A hot prowl can be serious, but when confronted outside the room by Trebek, Lucinda Moyers, the alleged 56-year-old woman burglar, did not pull out a weapon; she ran. To charge Moyers under three strikes tells me San Francisco prosecutors split hairs in using hot prowl because of the celebrity factor in this case, which could get a few thousand votes or backfire.

Candidate for district attorney and incumbent George Gascón promised during a panel discussion at the May 18, 2011, Justice Summit to instruct his prosecutors “not to overcharge cases.” Gascón also called three strikes “bad law,” which impressed some of those who attended the conference co-hosted by Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Instead of playing politics by threatening a 56-year-old heroin addict with a 25-year-to-life sentence to get votes, the new DA should show that he or she is not against criminals but against crime.

We need to ask all the candidates for district attorney how will the next DA demonstrate that he or she does understand that we should not be sending nonviolent people to prison?

We could spend less than $5,000 a year to keep Moyers off heroin. Or we could spend $52,000 a year or $1,300,000 total to keep her off heroin for the next 25 years as she sits in prison.

San Francisco General Hospital helped keep a 40-year heroin addict off heroin by investing no more than $5,000 (not including medical costs) in his rehabilitation. Last I heard he was two years clean and is a volunteer. And he was violent.

As we come up on another election Nov. 8, 2011, those of us who are opposed to California’s three strikes law need to ask District Attorney George Gascón a simple question: What part of “release 33,000 prisoners” do you and your staff not understand? And we need to ask all the candidates for district attorney how will the next DA demonstrate that he or she does understand that we should not be sending nonviolent people to prison?

Finally, in upcoming debates for the office of district attorney of San Francisco, those who are opposed to three strikes in its current form should demand that the next DA make a commitment not to prosecute any case as a three strikes case until this state law is fixed, which includes a willingness to help change this law.

San Francisco writer Allen Jones, author of “Case Game: Activating the Activist,” can be reached at (415) 756-7733 or jones-allen@att.net. Visit his website, at http://casegame.squarespace.com. Last November, the Bay View published his story, “Wanted! Black leaders for California prisoner release court order,” which is followed by an autobiographical note. Jones recently wrote this update: “Still living in my truck happy and determined to get people to understand that the answer to all our prison problems is clemency. Clemency is the most powerful tool in criminal justice. We could use this tool to trigger prison reform safely and save billions in tax dollars at the same time. Though not planned, I am living in my truck until I get the attention of Sacramento lawmakers. No politician will take me seriously. After all, I’m just a Black, crippled, homosexual, prison reform activist and homeless.” He lost his home to foreclosure in 2009.

 

Oakland Freedom School encourages literacy in Black youth

September 29, 2011

by Reginald James

Huey P. Newton, portrayed by Elijah Payne, explains the conditions that lead to the founding of the Black Panther Party as Elaine Brown, portrayed by Delaney Mapp, stands in formation at Oakland Freedom School’s graduation on Aug. 5 in Oakland. – Photo: Reginald James
“Oakland Freedom School, how do you feel?”

“Fantastic! Terrific! Great! All. Day. Long. Ugh ugh ugh uggghh!”

So began the call-and-response at the graduation ceremony of Oakland Freedom School (OFS) held on Aug. 5 at the House of Music in downtown Oakland.

“It’s the reee-miiiix,” yells Adrianne Gillyard, program director of OFS. Students and teachers repeat the response, but this time enter into a sustained, Master P-type “uggh” as some dipped to the ground and others leaned back like Neo from “The Matrix.” Seconds later, they pop back up and the chorus ends with a grand Oakland punctuation mark: “You feel me?”

These chants, along with half a dozen others, were the bookends each day at the five-week-long literacy program that is organized each summer by Leadership Excellence. The program operated in two sites this summer: Ile Omode in East Oakland and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in West Oakland.

Students learned many things about African and African American history, ranging from the classical African civilizations of Kemet (ancient Egypt), Songhai and Mali to the Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. The African-centered curriculum is designed to encourage youth to read during the summer while building self-esteem and a strong cultural identity.

The graduation ceremony began with libation lead by OFS teacher Duane Deterville. Libation is a ritual honoring God and our ancestors by pouring water onto a plant while speaking the names of those ancestors. The names of freedom fighters like Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X were said. One person called Oscar Grant.

Each classroom then presented. Children showcased cute but militant formations, using “liberation” and “revolution” instead of the directions of left and right. One spirited group led by OFS teacher Randa Powell had time to “bust a move,” breaking out into dance, then immediately returning to the basic standing formation of “freedom one,” simultaneously showcasing creativity and discipline. The groups’ “strike a pose” was also a crowd favorite.

Next, the Black Panther class marched forward wearing all black, chanting: “The revolution has come! OK! Shine your light like the sun! OK!” The class educated the crowd about the Black Panther Party. Elijah Payne, son of Oakland educators Macheo and Kafi Payne, stood proudly in an OFS T-shirt and black beret, representing the late Dr. Huey P. Newton. OFS student Delaney Mapp, daughter of OutdoorAfro.com founder Rue Mapp, represented Elaine Brown, former chairwoman of the Party, while Kadar Howard portrayed exiled Panther Assata Shakur.

OFS teacher Tiara Phalon’s class was transformed into the “Anansi Players.” The class, named after the spider from West African folklore, performed a dramatic interpretation of trickster Anansi while Phalon read the tale.

Simone Ross portrays Gye Nyame, which is a Ghanaian Adinkra symbol for the supremacy of God, during a skit by the Anansi Players on graduation day at Oakland Freedom School. – Photo: Reginald James
“Freedom Schools” were developed in the early 1960s to organize African people in Southern states to achieve equality. It was in 1964 that the Mississippi Freedom Schools were organized to encourage mass Black voter registration. However, freedom schools’ origins also have roots in the tradition of reconstruction era schools for freedman. Freedom Schools reemerged in 1993 and first opened in Oakland that year, according to OFS teacher Adeilei Ngeno. Leadership Excellence began its Oakland Freedom School in 1999.

“It’s a beautiful thing to still be going strong,” Ngeno said. “It’s a beautiful thing for the babies to have a place to feel safe, to feel loved and to appreciate being African.”

Another favorite youth chant then began: “I am somebody! I won’t be stopped by nobody! I got my fist in the air and the movement in my feet. I got love for my people but it starts with me.”

After a dance performance by another group of students, Leadership Excellence founder and board chairman Dr. Shawn Ginwright provided an update on the organization.

“The organization is not doing well,” Ginwright said of the two-decades-old organization dedicated to the empowerment of African American youth. The economic crisis has threatened many of the organization’s programs. For the first time in over a decade, the organization postponed Camp Akili, a one-week summer camp that deals with root causes of violence, racism, sexism and encourages critical thinking, while still getting youth into the great outdoors.

Yet, the group remains as determined as the youth they serve. “We are in the process of seeing where we will be in the next 20 years.” Following Ginwright, Dereca Blackmon, former executive director, led a closing prayer and asked for financial support from community members present.

The program ended with a Harambee circle, similar to closing ceremonies at Kwanzaa celebrations. “Harambee” is Swahili for “pulling together.”

“It was a great graduation,” said OFS parent Jazz Hudson, whose son Nassor was one of the Anansi Players. “The program has definitely made my son more excited about reading.”

For more information about Leadership Excellence, or to donate to the organization, visit www.leadershipexcellence.org. To see more OFS photos from the summer, visit the Oakland Freedom School Facebook page (http://facebook.com/oakfreedom).

Journalist Reginald James is the host of The Black Hour radio show and edits The Black Hour blog, http://www.theblackhour.com. He can be reached at theblackhour@gmail.com.

 

Hunger strike Round 2, Day 3: 6,000 on strike, threats from CDCR

September 28, 2011

by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

On Aug. 11, about three weeks after CDCR had promised to meet the prison hunger strikers’ demands, supporters held a vigil to remind Gov. Brown to speak out and tell CDCR to keep its promises. – Photo: United for Drug Policy Reform
Today, Sept. 28, lawyers and mediators with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s mediation team confirm that at least 6,000 prisoners throughout California are resuming the hunger strike that began in July. The CDCR refuses to release the specifics: where prisoners are striking exactly and how many prisoners are striking at each prison.

We know that hundreds of prisoners in the general population at Calipatria are joining the hunger strike for one week in solidarity with 200 hunger strikers in Calipatria’s two Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Seg and ASU), bringing Calipatria’s numbers up to 500-1,000 hunger strikers.

Family members have also reported prisoners are striking at CCI Tehachapi’s Security Housing Unit (SHU), demanding that the five core demands written by hunger strikers at Pelican Bay be implemented for all SHU-status prisoners in California. Prisoners at Corcoran, Centinela and Valley State Prison for Women have also joined the hunger strike again in solidarity with SHU-status prisoners across the state.

Prisoners at West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino County are refusing state-issued food in solidarity with SHU-status hunger strikers across the state as well. West Valley prides itself as being one of the largest county jails in California. The majority of people locked up at West Valley are pre-trial prisoners.

Carol Strickman, staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners With Children reports today: “We just received word that CDCR is reporting that 6,000 prisoners throughout the system went on hunger strike on Monday. CDCR is sending memos to prisoners which threaten punishment for participation in a hunger strike.”
In a Sept. 27 memo signed by Deputy Director Scott Kernan, the CDCR has threatened disciplinary action against any prisoners taking part in the strike as well as placement in Ad-Seg and the removal of canteen items. The CDCR recently stated that it had sufficiently addressed the prisoners’ demands and that any future hunger strikes would not be treated in the same fashion as the July strike, which lasted for nearly four weeks.

The prisoners maintain that while some privileges have been approved, such as sweat pants, colored pencils and proctored exams, the CDCR has yet to move on the demands related to solitary confinement and gang validation. “Though promises were made at the end of the last hunger strike, and some progress has been made, it is painfully slow for people who have lived under conditions of torture for years and often decades in California’s prison system,” says Laura Magnani, a member of the prisoners’ mediation team and a representative of the American Friends Service Committee.

“While the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tries to paint the prisoners as nothing more than ‘dangerous gang members,’ we see this strike as a courageous effort to work across all cultural and ethnic divisions through time honored non-violent actions.”

Many of the prisoners have stated that they intend to continue their hunger strike until all of their demands are met, despite the possibility that they might suffer serious health consequences or death. Reports from the July hunger strike indicated that many of the strikers lost 20-30 pounds and experienced dizziness, fainting and heart arrhythmia.

From security housing units to county jails, conditions of imprisonment in California are horrendous, ridden with medical neglect and overcrowding as condemned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the May ruling that found the CDCR to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The expansion of the strike demonstrates that CDCR’s atrocious practices and brutal conditions are in fact a system-wide issue and endemic of the CDCR.

Support the prisoners in winning their demands! Call Gov. Jerry Brown and urge him to make the CDCR comply with the prisoners’ demands!

Visit the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition at http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com and contact them at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com.

 

Palestinian prison hunger strikers declare solidarity with California prison hunger strikers

September 28, 2011

by the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat

Families of Palestinian prisoners in Gaza City demonstrate for their release. – Photo: Ismael Mohamad, UPI
Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners is more urgent than ever. Since the announcement of Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike against the isolation of Ahmad Sa’adat and all other prisoners held in solitary confinement, and against torture and humiliation for prisoners and their families and visitors, Israeli prison officials have stepped up their threats against Palestinian prisoners participating in the hunger strike.

The strike began Tuesday, Sept. 27. The Israeli minister of internal security, at a meeting in Ramon and Naqab Prisons, has threatened to escalate repression against prisoners, threatening to move all prisoners participating in the hunger strike into isolation and solitary confinement and to forcibly transfer those prisoners to other prisons in the occupation prison system. Prisoners are frequently transferred by occupation forces in an attempt to break up social bonds and disrupt organizing against prison repression.

Israeli prison guards put down a Palestinian prisoner uprising.
For decades, Palestinian prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes to demand – and win – their rights, putting their bodies on the line once more to demand the freedom and dignity of themselves, their people, their homeland and their nation. Palestinian prisoners have announced that they will not be moved from their course by the threats of the occupiers. Prisoners’ representatives have confirmed that Sa’adat and fellow isolated leader Jamal Abu al-Haija, in isolation with Sa’adat, will join in the strike themselves.

Furthermore, prisoners announced that they will reject all prison orders, refusing to wear uniforms, stand up for daily counts or accept food. The situation is more urgent than ever as prisoners begin their strike. The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat calls upon all solidarity, international justice and human rights groups and organizations to join us to demand freedom, dignity and justice for Palestinian prisoners.

Solidarity with prison hunger strikers in California

The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat expresses its deepest solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in Pelican Bay, California, in the United States. These prisoners, inside the racist and brutal U.S. prison system, have also stood together on hunger strike to demand an end to abuse and the use of isolation against prisoners, particularly long-term isolation, to demand proper food, and an end to torture and abuse.

World famous political cartoonist Carlos Latuff is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause.
They ended their strike in July 2011 after receiving assurances that their demands would be met; however, this has not happened, and prisoners have in fact been punished and further repressed for participating in the strike. The prisoners in California resumed their hunger strike on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.

Across the world, prisoners stand on hunger strike, demanding dignity and justice. The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat salutes the California hunger strikers, expresses our deepest solidarity, and joins in their demands for dignity and justice. We also note the great leaders and great struggles that have emerged from the racist dungeons of U.S. prisons, from Attica to Soledad. The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat salutes the political prisoners in U.S. jails and the Guantanamo torture camp – and all jails in the world – including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Ghassan Elashi and hundreds more, and demands their freedom.

Ahmad Sa’adat is the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. One of nearly 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners, he has been sentenced to 30 years in Israeli prisons, mainly for a speech he made following the Israeli assassination of his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in August 2001. The systematic assassination, imprisonment and detention of Palestinian political leaders has long been a policy of the Israeli state, as reflected in the imprisonment of Sa’adat and over 20 other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, targeted for their involvement in and commitment to the struggle for the liberation of their land and people. Learn how you can help him and all the Palestinian hunger strikers at the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat at http://www.freeahmadsaadat.org/. Contact the campaign at info@freeahmadsaadat.org or http://twitter.com/freeahmadsaadat.

 

California prisons: Torture by any means necessary

September 28, 2011

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Artist Tommy Silverstein, who calls this painting “Skull,” suggests the deprivation that comes with solitary confinement. He has been in solitary for more than 27 years, currently in the federal prison at Florence, Colo., known as the Guantanamo of the Rockies.
This is a glimpse into torture by any means necessary. Solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) is a reflection of our inhumane treatment and clearly violates our constitutional rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments. Prisoners in all the solitary confinement units in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), whether SHU or Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), are subjected to the same treatment: the application of human torture.

The triggering of deprivation

The objective of deprivation is not complicated: It’s to attack and impair the prisoner’s senses and perception. The weapons of deprivation cannot be effective without having in place the conditioning process to produce degeneration over a long period of time. The conditioning involves psychological, social, cultural, historical and natural phenomena that are observable.

Deprivation is cannibalistic, for even when the spirit is willing to stay the course, the flesh becomes weakened as men feed on themselves and others, eating away at human excellence. The feasting of deprivation will become more than flesh, blood or nature can endure.

Indeterminate SHU sentencing has forced individuals to choose between discontinuity or becoming inflicted with a cannibalistic nature. There are two aspects of deprivation, with psycho-physical causes and effects either way. But in order for deprivation to eat away at the targeted prisoner’s conscience, a conversion reaction must occur that breaks down the psychological defense mechanism.

Declaration on Protection from Torture

The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 3452 in December 1975. The declaration contains 12 articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purpose as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

Types of torture

1. Medical: Honorable Judge Thelton Henderson ordered a receivership over health care in California prisons due to intentional medical neglect that leads to prisoners dying one a week in CDCR – largely after hearing horror stories from the PBSP SHU. Many of these deaths were and continue to be in solitary confinement – this is torture.

2. Solitary confinement: Long-term isolation 10-40 years for non-disciplinary infractions – this is torture.

3. Mail: Prisoners’ mail is being used to create physical and psychological torment when it is being denied and withheld – this is torture.

4. Food: Intentionally disproportional servings, poorly prepared and contaminated deliberately – this is torture.

5. No human contact: No family, friend or real meaningful social interaction with other human beings, sensory deprivation that deprives prisoners of their five senses: feeling, sight, smell, hearing and taste – this is torture.

6. Visiting: Constantly under the “Gestapo” type Office of Correctional Safety (OCS), Investigative Service Unit (ISU), Institution Gang Investigators (IGI), who deliberately intimidate visitors and prisoners – this is torture.

7. Cell searches: Trashing prisoners’ cells to intimidate and harass them, leaving the cells in disarray while taking political writings, pictures, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, magazines etc., causing psychological torment – this is torture.

8. Climate: Prisoners deliberately kept in freezing cold cells, a complaint which has been made for over 21 years, or burning hot cells, depending what time of the year it is – this is torture.

9. Pottie watch: A humiliating, dehumanizing and outright cruel and unusual punishment where prisoners are held in shackles and placed in the middle of a hall sitting on a real pottie as everyone walks by in transition to other places, or where you are placed in a cage with no toilet or running water and forced into a human diaper with a prison jumpsuit over the diaper while your hands are bound into a fist wrap and you’re forced to defecate three separate times during a three-day period and you can see the torment and suffering on the prisoner’s face; this is done to cause severe humiliating mental, physical and psychological torment – this is torture.

10. Family: Each validated prisoner family is deliberately harassed, intimidated and intentionally hoaxed into a false prosecution for a thoughtless crime by a Gestapo (i.e., OCS, ISU, SSU and IGI) with the intent to discourage any prisoner support and communication – this is torture.

11. Grievance: The 602 appeal process is deliberately set up at every level – 1, 2 and 3 – to not afford the prisoner any relief regardless of whether prison officials are dead wrong, clearly establishing there’s no accountability for what officials do to prisoners – this is torture.

No sane targeted prisoner can escape the deprivation that comes with long term internment in one of the many supermax solitary confinement control units across this nation. The science behind the use of deprivation has been perfected by the handlers to operate with devastating force. The wicked techniques of human torture by deprivation are used by U.S. military intelligence and their political police interrogators (PPI), from the prison OCS to the FBI or CIA.

They attempt to break down the will power of the targeted prisoners by conducting a war of attrition against the mind and body. We know there is no separation between physical torture and mental torture. Torture is two-edged and can be effective either way, towards exacting punishment or revenge. We prisoners of course know that breaking our will is the basis of long-term isolation and indeterminate solitary confinement.

The use of deprivation is to take away from the prisoners their human dimension and essence. Deprivation tampers with the senses by way of environment stimuli to the detriment of the targeted prisoners.

Sitawa represents New Afrikan prisoners on the hunger strike negotiating team. He came very close to death during the July hunger strike. Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532-7500.

 

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