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Above the din of disturbing news – that discordant banging you’re hearing, steadily getting louder and louder, that you can no longer ignore – that’s the drumbeat of the unfree. Dehumanized by the labels “prisoner,” “inmate” and “convict,” even reduced to serial numbers like Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” these men and women are, just like you and me, or any mortal – irrespective of flaws, frailties, even felonious acts and misdemeanors – endowed with the right to be treated with dignity, decency and respect.
On May 4, former Black Panther Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald agreed to a five-year denial of parole instead of insisting on a parole hearing, even though he has served more time than any former Black Panther still behind bars: 49 years. Chip is now 67 years old and living with the consequences of a stroke; his friends and family fear he will die in prison. He has been moved from one state prison to another over the years and is currently in the California State Prison-Los Angeles. I spoke to his lawyer, Charles Carbone, whose office is in San Francisco.
The Eureka chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has sent out a press release regarding Humboldt State University’s recruitment efforts in minority-majority neighborhoods –telling HSU to forgo the revenue these prospective students offer until they implement substantial support for students of color. Following is the press release, dated April 25, 2018.
California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.
The 13th Amendment reads in Section One: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Understanding this contradictory character of the 13th Amendment sheds light on the utilization of the criminal justice system in the perpetuation of bondage for the purpose of institutional racism and class exploitation.
Good morning and welcome to Wanda’s Picks, a Black arts and culture program with the African Sister’s Media Network. We are joined in the studio by Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim. Welcome to the show. Today we are going to be talking about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington. We can talk about solitary confinement, political prisoners, the 13th Amendment. We can talk about what the need is for having such an event.
Working towards the success of the Millions for Prisoners March has been a central theme of the Amend the 13th’s agenda since the outset. In a movement dedicated to not only abolishing legal slavery in Amerika, but transforming the nature and structure of unequal social, political and economic relationships upon which mass incarceration is based, support for the March is of course an obvious priority – but what is not so obvious is why this march is vital to the very future of progressive social change in Amerika.
The debate about what are considered fundamental human rights is constantly evolving and changing. And in the United States, incidents like the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, have raised questions about whether or not access to clean water is a basic right – although arguably this has been a discussion among people all around the world, and in marginalized parts of the U.S., for quite some time. A new report issued by the NAACP also reframes access to energy service and electric power as a basic human right.
As always, allow us to begin by paying our respects to the families who lost their loved ones during the historic California hunger strikes. Prior to the solidarity hunger strikes, the four principal negotiators, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Todd Ashker, found ourselves locked inside Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor. There we would discuss the vision of effecting genuine change in CDCr’s long term solitary confinement combined policies, practices and conditions.
For those who are not familiar with W.L. Nolen, this beautiful New Afrikan brotha was one of the founders of the Black Liberation Movement in the California Prison System, along with Comrade George Jackson. Comrade W.L. Nolen was instrumental in shaping and molding the exemplary model of undaunting resistance that many of us New Afrikans now find ourselves emulating today.
For us to make sense of the relentless, 400-year-long onslaught of racist violence against New Afrikans and other nationally oppressed people in Amerika and the absence of a collective program of comprehensive self-defense and secure communities among the majority of the New Afrikan population in the U.S., it’s important we first grasp the origin of this contradiction, as all other points of contradiction and irrationality flow from it.
Nine people were killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, co-founded by Denmark Vesey, whose rebellion was planned for June 17, 193 years ago. Victims included South Carolina Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the historic church. This is nothing short of a terrorist assassination. Watch the videos updating this story, including President Obama's eulogy of Pastor Pinckney on June 26 and the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds by a Black woman, Bree Newsome on June 27.
The uprising in Baltimore has delivered an unmistakable and powerful message that the time is over when people will tolerate the unending and outrageous murder and brutality carried out by police. The torture and murder of Freddie Gray for nothing – and the ongoing, infuriating lies and coverup – is only the latest in a long line of such horrors in not only Baltimore but all over the U.S., from North Charleston, S.C., to Ferguson, Missouri, from Pasco, Washington, to New York City and beyond – THIS MUST STOP!
Every morning, young and old African Americans are paraded through courtrooms in San Francisco, dressed in orange jumpsuits not unlike Guantanamo inmates and often shackled in handcuffs or chains. The vast majority of judges and prosecutors are resigned to that daily reality. The City’s jail in 1994 had 4.4 times the proportion of Black inmates as in San Francisco as a whole. By 2012, the jail population was 9.5 times more Black than The City. It is time to address the apartheid-like conditions in the metropolis and stop giving passes to the “liberal” coastal cities like San Francisco.
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. The events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, present us with yet another opportunity to address the inhumanity of racism. But the country will again not take advantage of it because we will continue to treat this act of inhumanity as though it is an isolated incident and not an act that flows from the very structure of this nation.
What began as a local call for justice for Mike Brown has grown into a nationwide shout for justice. Mike Brown falls in a long line of others killed as a result of systemic racial bias and violence against Black and Brown communities. John Crawford III, Ezel Ford, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Marilyn Banks and countless others named and unnamed have been killed through the excessive use of force by law enforcement. If you want to join in this national fight, sign up to organize locally and come to Ferguson, Missouri, Oct. 9-13.
Last Tuesday, Jan. 7, a crowd of supporters gathered in the bitter cold in New Orleans’ Lafayette Square outside the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to show their support for Angola 3 inmate Albert Woodfox. Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement – or what the state of Louisiana calls “Closed Cell Restriction” – for 42 years. By most estimates, 42 years is the longest any prisoner has been held in isolation.
There is a matter of some urgency that should be passed along as broadly as possible, because it is just that serious. We issued a statement, “Creating broken men, Part 2,” where we voiced our outrage at the inclusion of the mandatory brainwashing components of Section 700.2 of the CDCR’s Step Down Program (SDP.) Since that time several things have developed.
Ever since the George Zimmerman verdict was read finding him “not guilty” and justice for a murdered Trayvon Martin was denied, there’s been a nationwide outcry for us as a country to sit down and have a serious conversation about race. President Obama encouraged us to have these conversations on race locally at home, amongst friends, at church and amongst our colleagues at work.
Paraphrasing Bro Mumia’s words: Jailhouse lawyers must look beyond the state’s imprisoning bars, bricks and cement to build relationships with others in the so-called “free” world to further and support social movements that spread liberating and progressive space within society. We behind the concrete walls start this new progressive movement. But we need the outside support of our communities to stand with us.
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