by Malaika Kambon
Shouting “Inside, outside, we’re all on the same side” and “Here comes Oakland,” five full buses and two vans left Oakland to meet up with marchers from as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco and Marin, California, who had already arrived at plantation San Quentin for one of the largest anti-slavery rallies in California history.
All told close to 1,500 people marched past, rallied and spoke truth to power on Feb. 20, 2012, in the very teeth of armed state police, in the air and on the ground.
But neither the California Highway Patrol – on the ground and in the air – nor the Coast Guard – in the air – nor the heavily armed guards at plantation San Quentin positioned on rooftops and standing behind two steel gates not 30 feet from the speaker’s podium were capable of deterring those of us outside the walls who chose to address the crimes of the state sanctioned enslavement, brutality, sensory deprivation and terrorism of those inside the walls and the many attempts to re-enslave the poor, downtrodden, homeless and hungry masses on the outside.
Maximum security inside, minimum security outside – the marchers’ chants of “We’re all on the same side” rang through the salt scented air, over the droning of the choppers flying low in the sky and into the prison itself.
But this was more than just a march culminating in a rally. This was more than just a gathering of many organizations.
For yes, the list of participating organizations, freedom statements read, music played and spoken word was impressive:
• Statements read from political prisoners and prisoners of war included those from Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement; Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3; Yassin Aref from Iraqi Kurdistan; Gerardo Hernandez of the Cuban 5; Kevin Cooper on Death Row in California; Mumia Abu-Jamal recently freed from Death Row in Pennsylvania; Lynne Stewart, the people’s lawyer, incarcerated in Texas; from other women still incarcerated and recently freed from incarceration;
• Letters of solidarity were read from hunger strikers from Palestine to Pelican Bay;
• Ohio State Penitentiary prisoners were on hunger strike in solidarity with the San Quentin action;
• Letters of solidarity were read from Occupy Wall Street movements around the world;
• Indigenous youth and elders drummed spirituality and healing;
• Family members of Death Row prisoners, youth who experienced the hell holes of juvenile incarceration and representatives of immigrants in detention spoke;
• Daniel Hazen of Psych Rights and the U.S. Human Rights Network spoke;
• Jabari Shaw and Timbuktu Akaamka rocked the house, rapping modern day slavery;
• Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer spoke on the worldwide solidarity that got them released from solitary confinement and freed from prison in Iran;
• Luis Talamantez and Sundiata Tate spoke on behalf of Hugo Pinell and in memory of the fight of the San Quentin Six and Black Panther Party Field Marshall George Lester Jackson;
• Elaine Brown read a statement from prisoners in Georgia.
But this was more than just a rally for a cause, against inhumane conditions and unjust prison sentences.
“There is some considerable awareness,” Walter Rodney reminds us, “that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned.”
Walter Rodney reminds us “that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned.”
What was said today is that the days of slavery didn’t ever end.
Within and without, we are daily reminded that Black life in particular is cheap, and that fact has not changed with America’s chief prison warden for the past four-year term – Barack Hussein Obama – being Black.
Obama has watched and said nothing as his minions killed with impunity Kenneth Harding, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant III, Troy Anthony Davis, to name but a few.
But George Jackson’s lumpen-proletariat is speaking forcefully and brilliantly – again, in this year 2012. They have analyzed the situation. See “A discussion on strategy for the Occupy Movement from behind enemy lines.”
They are creating revolutionary cadres, such as the New Afrikan Collective Think Tank (NCTT). They are refusing to be criminalized. They are willing to die to be free. See “Family of California prisoner who died on hunger strike speaks out.”
The prospect of parole, though it rarely exists, is no longer a deterrent to prisoners from confronting the enemy beast with any real determination.
On Feb. 27, 1971, Black and Brown prisoners formed the Third World Coalition for Self-Advancement Through Education (SATE) inside the walls of San Quentin, and the Black Panther Party opened a branch as well.
Additionally, inside and outside, living conditions have deteriorated. Prisoners are criminalized, enslaved, entombed and slated for destruction. Prisoners, particularly in isolation units, are not part of any force of workers. Any pittances paid to anyone for slaving from can’t see to can’t see do not even closely resemble any sort of living wage.
But resistance is fertile – not futile. The struggle for dignity and freedom is waged in new forms of guerrilla warfare: hunger strikes the latest battle being fought on the ground globally in the war for freedom.
And it is spreading, solidifying and galvanizing the youth of our communities in remarkable ways. Witness the youth on college campuses fighting against increasing fee hikes and the closing of classes. Witness communities rising up and fighting back against the closures of schools. See “Saving Oakland Schools: Fighting for the future of Oakland.” And read “Hella Hella Occupy!”
Witness communities developing our own media and speaking truth to power as we fight back against rampant police brutality and for the exercise of our First Amendment right to record the egregious brutality of out of control police, in the finest traditions of Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party. See “The First Amendment right to record the police.”
We are creating international solidarity. The seeds are being sown for the formation of an implacable army of liberation.
Feb. 20’s historic unification in support of those locked down in the maximum security behind the walls of slave camps and gulags across the world was a call to action. It was initiated by the brilliant minds behind bars who fight with their bodies, souls and minds to tear down the monster that engenders the re-enactment of Jim Crow with its every oppressive breath.
We are creating international solidarity. The seeds are being sown for the formation of an implacable army of liberation.
This was solidarity in the face of oppression and determination to end terrorism as law in our communities in the 21st century.
This was a new “David Walker’s Appeal,” set in motion against the systemic enslavement of predominantly Black and Brown humanity that has not ever ceased since its inception to mangle and torture and murder those who fought back and fought for basic human freedoms and the right to live.
We are the new abolitionists. We are not criminals. We are not beasts. We are humanity and we are demanding the right to live and to be treated as such.
We are the power of the people, and we are winning and will continue to do so, as long as just one of us breathes the breath of life. We are the fertile resistance that they cannot stop.
One, two, three, many liberations!
All power to the people! Pamoja tutashinda (Together we will win)! A luta continua (The struggle continues).
Malaika H. Kambon is a freelance photojournalist and the 2011 winner of the Bay Area Black Journalists Association Luci S. Williams Houston Scholarship in Photojournalism. She also won the AAU state and national championship in Tae Kwon Do from 2007-2010. She can be reached at email@example.com.
by devorah major, read at the Occupy San Quentin rally Feb. 20
What an honor you have to live in a way that matters. I challenge each of you in all of your communities to dare to dream – not fantasize, not gloat, not simply imagine – but see where you want to go, create a map and start walking down the road joined and joining with others. Wherever you work, wherever you live, wherever you play, you can make a difference and forward the dream. It’s already happening; right now it is coming together.
just like that
cat says it’ll
reminds me how
when we were teens
we were negro
we were Black and proud
and moving forward
claiming victories every day
on our streets
in our schools
in our souls
we’ve always been
an elastic people able to
back to ourselves
time and time again
cat says she can feel it
smells it in the air
sweet and sour like it was then
only with more love this time
and a sharper even more dangerous edge
then like now
things were seething
people were hungry and
but then as civil rights’ long pull was bearing fruit
we snapped into a revolutionary force
climbed inside our ancestral core
made our music sing change
made our dances say now
locked arms and spirits
became a dark
tide of purpose
we sharpening the rhythm again
bringing out the drums
even though we been
tossed by storm
and cracked in the wind
we coming back together
we’ve got to
we got to just pull in
and believe it and
snap this mutha’ back
Let’s all keep pushing
Written for Occupy San Quentin by a hunger striking prisoner in the Corcoran Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) whose name is withheld out of concern over retaliation against him
I am a prisoner, but that is not who I am. I am a convict, but that does not define who I am. I am first a person, a son, a brother and a friend. I write this in hopes of connecting with you, not as a prisoner who is judged automatically by the prejudices that title carries, but as a person, as a fellow citizen of this great country of the United States of America.
As we are all aware, our society, our world, is not perfect. There are many injustices taking place in all parts of America, from the stock markets of Wall Street to the Security Housing Units of California state prisons. This has been going on for generations and generations and will continue until the injustices are recognized and changes are demanded and fought for.
There are many injustices taking place in all parts of America, from the stock markets of Wall Street to the Security Housing Units of California state prisons.
The Occupy movement has begun to do just that. The people of America have seen and recognized some of the injustices that are taking place right now in this country. But only the surface has yet been uncovered, for the roots of this evil run deeper than where most will care to look. We all must continue to strive to overcome the barriers and find the truth, the solution, then struggle forth for the realization of that perfect and fair society we all dream of.
Today, the “occupation” of San Quentin State Prison and other prisons nationwide marks a big step towards that goal. This shows that Americans are committed and ready for a change, ready to admit their own faults and to uncover the ugly truths that lie within their own structures. And yes, there are many ugly truths hidden inside the American justice system and its prisons.
I write this while hunger striking inside Corcoran State Prison, protesting against the injustices and violations of my and other prisoners’ constitutional rights. Although I might be classified as being part of the lowest of the 99 percent in American society, I am still a part of it; and like other Americans, I hold my head up high and push forward, demanding my rights and striving towards a better future.
I write this while hunger striking inside Corcoran State Prison, protesting against the injustices and violations of my and other prisoners’ constitutional rights.
The struggles we prisoners fight against the injustices we face inside these prison walls and courtrooms are all a part of the bigger struggle against the evil that Occupy has chosen to confront. We are therefore all brothers and sisters in this cause, and I salute you. Let’s all keep pushing for a better tomorrow.
“Inside, outside, we’re all on the same side”
“This is Modern Slavery” by Jabari Shaw and Timbuktu Akaamka