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Elaine Brown’s “A Taste of Power,” a memoir which chronicles her leadership of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense when co-founder Huey P. Newton is imprisoned, still resonates with me. The idea that a Black woman is nominated to the leadership position of the most powerful civic organization in the country at that time is still remarkable and speaks to what Kathleen Cleaver calls revolutionary imagination.
Our Formerly Incarcerated Quest for Democracy (Q4D) Day continues to grow and evolve. This year we had over 250 committed people. We had around 30 teams advocating on legislation relevant to formerly incarcerated people and our communities. Grassroots co-sponsors got a chance to educate community members about their bills. And Sen. Holly Mitchell as well as Assemblymembers Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Autumn Burke addressed participants.
San Francisco’s jail population is steadily decreasing, and we hope that the number of San Francisco youth struggling to find support during their parents’ and family members’ incarceration will decrease with it. This is why we as youth who have all experienced parental incarceration in San Francisco oppose a new jail in our city. Why invest in a new jail rather than the potential of our youth?
For many months here in Texas, Comrade Rashid, our minister of defense, and I have struggled hard to shed light on the heinous acts of barbaric violence perpetrated by Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees against prisoners of every race, nation and creed. If it was not for Dr. Willie and Sister Mary Ratcliff, publisher and editor of the San Francisco Bay View, revolutionary voices might never be heard by the public at large.
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners of the California prison system – and hundreds more across the United States – refused meals to take a stand about the conditions of prisoners in the various forms of solitary isolation – approximately 14,000 human beings in California alone. It was the third hunger strike in California in two years. Dozens of prisoners deprived themselves of solid food for 60 days. One prisoner died.
Marissa Alexander did not get a chance to see her youngest daughter take her first step, to hear her say her first word or blow out the candles on her first birthday cake. These and many more memories that mothers are excited to photograph or catch on film weren’t possible for Alexander because she was living behind bars – all because she fired a warning shot in the air, harming no one, to ward off Rico Gray.
In Arms Reach in Harlem, directed by Terrance Stevens, who is paralyzed, focuses on mentoring at risk youth and children with incarcerated parent(s), providing one-on-one mentoring, after-school tutoring, college preparation courses, creative development through art and music and free prison visitation services.