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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.
Ava DuVernay undertook the documentary “13th” in order to explore and bring attention to the Prison Industrial Complex. The film’s title refers to the 1865 amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in which slavery was abolished “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The story told by “13th” thus goes back to the early chain-gangs of Black prisoners – men arrested for petty offenses under the post-Civil War Black Codes who were then contracted out to perform labor that they had previously performed as privately-owned slaves.
Major George Tillery is a Pennsylvania lifer, 65, who confronted SCI Mahanoy Superintendent John Kerestes over Mumia Abu-Jamal’s deteriorating health. Prison authorities retaliated against Major Tillery – repeatedly ransacked his cell and denied him medical treatment for seeking medical assistance for Mumia and other prisoners. Tillery was transferred to SCI Frackville and then falsely charged with drug possession, disciplined and given six months in “the hole.”