Tag: Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the first day of the historic National Prison Strike, Democracy Now interviewed Amani Sawari. The segment began with an excellent interview with Cole Dorsey of IWOC and then suddenly the bright, brilliant, radiant face of 23-year-old Amani filled the screen and a voice of eloquence, inspiration and power filled the room. All it took was host Amy Goodman saying she’s a journalist, and, involuntarily, spontaneously, I pointed at the screen and shouted, “There’s the new Bay View editor!” Amani and I have been talking ever since, and she came to visit Oct. 8-12. What fun we had.
Few prisoners, if any, at San Quentin State Prison participated in what was reported to be the largest prisoner-led strike in United States history. There are many reasons for these prisoners’ lack of involvement. Most of the men imprisoned at San Quentin were unaware of the strike and the groups involved with it like Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee.
I’d like to send out a clenched fist salute to Amani Sawari of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. I have studied the transcript of Amani’s appearance on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. Amani did an excellent job articulating the reasons for our actions. Amani also had the presence of mind to highlight and accentuate the fact that we, the prisoners across Amerika, seek to be treated as human beings and given meaningful opportunities toward our rehabilitation.
When Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Bryan Collier, Correctional Institutions Division Director Lorie Davis and Office of the Inspector General Joint Terrorism Task Force member Nick Vaughn contrived the plot to kidnap me from Ramsey 1 Unit on June 22, 2018, at 4:30 a.m., they figured that no one would notice, no one would care and, if questioned about the strange occurrence, they would claim plausible deniability.
Written Sept. 4, 2018 – Today the heat and humidity inside my cell has reached a level which has caused me to feel dizzy, and I have been experiencing migraine headaches. Senior U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle denied my request for an emergency preliminary injunction. One of my main requests was that she order TDCJ to fix the inoperable and malfunctioning HVAC system here on the McConnell Ad-Seg Unit.
With our planetary situation worsening – from massive flooding in India to Bangladesh, fire-nados raging out of control from Siberia to California and record high temperatures in Scandinavia and the Arctic, etc. – you and your organization are encouraged to join the worldwide RISE FOR CLIMATE JOBS & JUSTICE on Saturday, 8 September. In our region, the march will convene at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, at 10 a.m. This major people’s mobilization precedes the so-called “Global Climate Summit.”
A diverse crowd of around 500 mostly young activists turned out for a rally Aug. 25 at San Quentin Prison. Most came from Oakland, many in two chartered buses, but sizable contingents traveled from San José, Santa Cruz and San Francisco as well. Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a key organizer of the rally, along with Prisoners Human Rights Coalition, CA, and many other Bay Area activist groups, including Party for Socialism and Liberation, helped publicize the action. The idea for the strike originated with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, an incarcerated group of prisoner rights advocates.
This call is for a two-week national strike beginning on Aug. 21, the anniversary of George Jackson’s assassination, and extending until Sept. 9, the anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion in 1971. The call has been taken up inside from coast to coast, and across at least 17 different states. The author of this call, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, is a national collective of incarcerated people who fight for human rights by providing other incarcerated people with access to legal education, resources and assistance.
It was only a few weeks ago – in fact, it was before the Syrian chemical weapons incident – that the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres said that Yemen was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yet once again Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, was as quiet as a church house mouse! She didn’t say a word. She certainly did not plead with the Security Council to intervene with decisive action against the perpetrators of the bombing campaign against the Yemeni people.
What I have discovered is that the state of Texas has conspired with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to downplay and cover up toxic and contaminated water supplies in state-run prisons as well as the rural communities which have found themselves in close proximity to these toxic sites. It is not just the prisoners in Texas who are suffering the ill effects. I have also discovered that what is happening in Texas is not unique.
It’s been a hard silence for the past five days since Operation PUSH launched a statewide prisoner strike in the Florida Department of Corrections prison system (FDOC or FDC) coinciding with Martin Luther King Day. Information from prisoners is coming in at a much slower pace than people on the outside had anticipated, but reports are slowly and steadily making their way through the walls, despite many obstacles.
A prisoner in New York’s Sullivan Correctional Facility was given a glass-laced pastry by a correctional officer in what he describes as an attempt to murder him. Dr. Al-Fatah Stewart complained about guards destroying his legal work and, in retaliation, he was framed with a weapon, placed in solitary confinement and his food was laced with rocks and glass, now confirmed in a laboratory report. Dr. Stewart reports that “there have been a lot of mysterious deaths at Sullivan, but the families can’t afford autopsies … there are a lot of grievances about staff placing glass in prisoners’ food but nothing is ever done.”
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.
Let’s touch upon the phrase, I AM WE. It is an ancient African saying. To me it means: What affects you affects me. It means: We are together; we are one. I AM WE means that with unity, solidarity and agape love for one another, we can overcome any obstacle and achieve any goal! By applying I AM WE, together we can crush imperialism, eradicate white supremacy, destroy patriarchy, change misogynistic attitudes and save our planet!
So let’s take a look at the work we are doing: 1) attempting to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 2) abolishing prison slavery and, in my case, 3) exposing the pervasive problem of toxic water supplies in Texas and Pennsylvania! Yes, I did say Pennsylvania! We have seen retaliation and obstruction of justice tactics by employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Minister Nyle Fort starts us off with a strong quote. I am going to expand his analysis by highlighting the historical fact that slavery in the United States was and is still directly tied to capitalism! So in order for us to combat and abolish legalized slavery in Amerika we must focus our attention on dismantling the system which has allowed this institution of modern prison slavery to proliferate.
On Nov. 10, 2016, the state of Texas transferred me and 43 other men to the Administrative Segregation Unit at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas. Eastham is one of the oldest units in the state. The conditions there are much worse than at the Telford Unit. The most glaring issue for prisoners and guards alike is contaminated drinking water! High levels of copper and lead have been found in the water supply. The water has a horrible stench to it. And the taste? absolutely repulsive!
Sept. 9, 2016, was the start of the largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over 72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states refused to provide their labor to profit the prison industrial complex. California forces 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor in exchange for little or no compensation. Another 4,000 earn $2 a day fighting Californian wildfires with inadequate training and equipment. The prison system in California reaped $207 million in revenue and $58 million in profit from forced labor in 2014-15.
Despite scant media coverage, the largest prison strike in history is entering its third week. Retaliation is rampant, both against the organizers in prison and against the Bay View for spreading the word. The Free Alabama Movement that started the prison-strikes-to-end-slavery campaign is defeating a violent divide-and-conquer scheme to turn prisoner against prisoner with a Peace Summit, reminiscent of the Agreement to End Hostilities in California, which this month is entering its fifth year of keeping the peace.
The United States of America is presently home to 2 million active slaves and approximately 6 million documented as slaves for future use. You ask how the land of the free can be home to some 8 million slaves and why Americans know nothing about it? The answer is that Congress enacted the 13th Amendment in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It abolished slavery throughout the country but it allows all states to enslave all persons convicted of a crime.
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