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Richard Edward Brown was a father, grandfather, friend and revolutionary. Richard resided in San Francisco beginning at a young age and joined the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. He served and protected his community and his people in it. There was a creed the Panthers lived by called the 10 Point Program. The very first point described Richard and his life: “Point One: We want Freedom. We want the power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.”
Aug. 19 at 11:00 a.m., courageous and loving folks in San Jose, Calif., joined with sister marches and rallies throughout the country in support of prisoners’ human rights and amending the 13th. Their courage is found in the rejection of an institution so prevalent and insidious that any criticism can bring a mountain of ridicule and judgment. It is an institution shielded by a centuries old narrative that tells people, “They are not like us,” and consequently, “they” are undeserving of our humanity.
I left CDCr wondering how PBSP could remain in shambles after 22 years of court oversight. As I started educating myself about prison reform, I stumbled upon Keramet Reiter’s 2016 book, “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.” Within those pages, I found validation and some disturbing answers. I wish this book had been available to me before I started working in CDCr.
On Labor Day here at the William P. Clements Unit, a prison in remote Amarillo, Texas, the prisoners awoke to a late breakfast: a single PBJ sandwich, a small bowl of dry cereal and no beverage. This grossly inadequate meal, which is our common fare during institution-wide lockdowns, signaled that a weeks- or months-long lockdown was in effect. Hunger pangs set in almost immediately.
In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016. On Sept. 9 of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.
On Feb. 11 in Sacramento, the California legislature will hold their second hearing on conditions in solitary confinement. The CDCR is refusing to allow prisoners themselves, the most important witnesses, to testify. Contact CDCR officials and urge them to allow the voices of the prisoners to be heard. Help ensure the presence and participation of family members of prisoners in the hearings by donating towards their transport and lodging. Also, see the three action proposals that the hunger strikers have asked us all to work on.
It’s been made quite clear that I’m here in Texas in direct response to my having brought undesired public scrutiny to Oregon’s and Virginia’s prisons. This is an account of what I’ve experienced and witnessed in just a couple of weeks here, which can only be described as Cowboy Justice – as lawless as the Wild West. It is also an appeal to public support and activism.
“Comrade” connotes equality and respect. It implies “I’ve got your back” and “we are one.” Comrades stand united unconditionally and, if need be, to the death. It implies a relationship that is inclusive, not exclusive, and not based on any triviality but revolutionary class solidarity. It represents the socialist future we seek to represent in the struggles of today and the eventual triumph of classless communist society.