Chess vs. checkers

by Abdul Olugbala Shakur

Life is like a game of chess and checkers. Many of us play checkers. And many of us think we’re playing chess, but, in practice, we’re actually playing checkers. So it should be of no surprise to any of you when I say, most poor people play checkers, prisoners in particular.

“Words Are Effective II” – Art: Criss Garcia, J-93559, PBSP SHU C1-112, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
“Words Are Effective II” – Art: Criss Garcia, J-93559, PBSP SHU C1-112, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

Now what does this analogy im­ply? Most people make decisions in life without thinking ahead or assessing the ramifications of their decisions, especially prisoners! When I was asked to write about the End of Hostilities Agreement and our future direction(s) and plans, I chose to employ the chess and checkers analogy as a vehicle to expedite my task. Most prisoners understand the basic principles of chess, and this is one of the reasons I chose to utilize this analogy.

The End of Hostilities Agreement is rooted in the matrix of a strategic alliance. What this ultimately means: We have long term objectives with short terms necessities. The hunger strike was a short term necessity, while the end to long term solitary confinement, SHU, gang validation and debrief­ing was our strategic goal. But the inherent element that had complemented the amalgamation of the diversity of race, culture, ideology and personality was our capacity to require that we think in terms of chess, not checkers!

Our keepers have the mentality of a checker player, and it was this dis­position that allowed us to outmaneuver CDCr, for we were and are many steps ahead of them. They think one move at a time. It is CDCr’s arrogance that prevents them from seeing us as intellectual equals. I believe that our success via the hunger strike, as well as the class-action lawsuit, have forced our keepers to reevaluate their perception of our collective here in the Short Corridor – thus, the introduction of the new regulations pertaining to obscene material.

CDCr’s reaction to our success is indicative of their checker mentality, not thinking ahead, but rather one move at a time. A chess player would have foreseen the potentiality of future class-action lawsuits.

Simplifying the complexities of my complicated endeavor would no doubt facilitate readers’ capacity to intellectually digest the textual content of my intent and purpose for composing this communique. We as an imprisoned class are trying to encourage our fellow prisoners to think like chess players and understand that our success lies with our ability and capacity to think strategically.

Race riots derive from checker mentalities, antiquated and primitive responses to contradictions that can clearly be resolved by thinking before reacting. What is our best move?

It is CDCr’s arrogance that prevents them from seeing us as intellectual equals. I believe that our success via the hunger strike, as well as the class-action lawsuit, have forced our keepers to reevaluate their perception.

In the June issue of the Bay View newspaper, the New Afrikan activist A’jene eloquently assesses the anatomy of a race riot. For example, when he had correct­ly identified the sources of the vast majority of so-called race riots, he wrote:

“In truth, most of the conflicts between Blacks and Southern Mexicans or New Afrikans and North Amerikans/Whites are motivated by drug or gambling debts or street gang shit. Upon close examination of such conflicts in the tombs, it will be discovered that, in the main, these aren’t inherently ‘racial conflicts.’ If they were, Blacks and Northern Mexicans would be in conflict.”

There exist more relevant and powerful assessments within the content of Brotha A’jene’s article, but I will stop here, for in the above analysis A’jene clearly identified two of the principal factors that can be attributed to race riots. They have nothing to do with race but more to do with an antiquated prison culture and gang psychology.

It is true that the majority of so-called race riots are in fact precipitated by drug deals gone bad, gambling debts and the matter of disrespect, all of which can be resolved via the chess mentality. For example: A brotha should not engage in any illicit activities, such as gambling, across culture or color lines. The potential for a racial conflict is too great to take that chance.

This is thinking before one makes a move – to question what are the consequences or potential consequences of my actions? This cross-culture or cross-color gambling can potentially lead to a conflict between Black and Mexican or White prisoners, where there exists the strong possibility of prisoners being hurt, if not killed! And for what? Because I want to gamble with a prisoner of anoth­er race?

A chess thinker would forbid prisoners from engaging in any activity that has the potential to break out into a conflict between different racial or rival groups. This is a true leader, a chess player having the foresight to see and understand what is in the best interest of his or her race or group!

Think about this: Let’s say during one of those conflicts one of your homeboys gets shot or killed. Who do you hold accountable – keeping in mind how this conflict started? Over a gambling debt? Drugs? As chess thinkers, we value the lives of those who we claim as our comrades, brothas, homeboys, so whatever decisions we make must encompass an assessment of their outcome.

Calipatria Prison is obviously a prison full of checker players, not think­ing before they move, reacting without assessing the consequences of their actions, not realizing that their actions are having far reaching implications, play­ing right into the hands of the pigs, undermining all the hard work we are putting in to put an end to long-term solitary confinement, censorship, brutality, isolation, medical negligence, torture and other CDCr-sanctioned crimes. [But since that story, prisoners at Calipatria have been reading the End of Hostilities Agreement and heeding it – update coming soon. – ed.]

We understood the key to our success was our non-violent protest. This is why our keepers did everything in their power to provoke a violent response from us. But their tricks did not work. We held fast to our resolve. We calculated our every move and those of our fascist keepers, staying at least five moves ahead. And as a result, we have won multiple battles, but the war is far from being over. Each move we make is designed for the end-game – checkmate! – but it is the checker players who impede our forward progress.

I believe if the checker players understood the end-game they would adopt the principles of the chess players, for it is within this knowledge that our common goals are exemplified: 1) Abolish the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC), 2) Abolish the Security Housing Unit (SHU) and put an end to long-term solitary confinement, 3) Put an end to torture, 4) Put an end to the death penalty, 5) Eradicate recidivism!

As New Afrikan imprisoned freedom fighters, one of our primary goals is to stabilize our communities. At present, it is the instabi­lity of our communities that facilitates the path from poverty to crime to prison. It is the fuel which feeds the PISC, so it becomes an imperative prerequisite for us to go beyond the PISC with our agenda.

The End of Hostili­ties Agreement is also applicable to our communities. This is an example of our chess mentality. We are thinking 10 moves ahead, beyond our immediate environ­ment, for we understand the relation between the conditions in our communities and the survival of the PISC.

An individual once told me that he believed that he can beat me in a game of chess, and I told him this may be true, but the difference between you and me: Your game is trapped within the 64 squares on the chess board. The goal is to show you how to transfer your chess game from the game board to the game of life, and the game of life is much bigger than concrete and steel – or drugs and gambling. These things only have a quasi-value on a checker board but are worthless in the game of life.

I believe if the checker players understood the end-game they would adopt the principles of the chess players, for it is within this knowledge that our common goals are exemplified: 1) Abolish the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC), 2) Abolish the Security Housing Unit (SHU) and put an end to long-term solitary confinement, 3) Put an end to torture, 4) Put an end to the death penalty, 5) Eradicate recidivism!

People, this communique is not only applicable to the prisoner class. I am equally speaking to the community at large. The checker mentality permeates the oppressed class on every level, the New Afrikan community in particular. It impedes our growth and development as a people and community. It contaminates our sense of priorities.

We have to think beyond the checker board. Every move we make must be examined and re-examined: How will this decision affect me, my family, my community and my people?

The most powerful weapon we have is on our neck. We are armed with the capacity to build the new pyramids of the 21st cent­ury, and we must not allow ourselves to be disarmed by the game of checkers!

Power to the people who don’t fear freedom!

Send our brother some love and light, especially at this time, when he reports constant punishment for his political writing: Abdul Olugbala Shakur (s/n J. Harvey), C-48884, Pelican Bay State Prison SHU D1-119, P.0. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. This letter is dated July 11, 2014.