by Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun (Melvin Ray)

Like his ancestors 400 years ago, Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun (Melvin Ray), though literally in chains, maintains strong family solidarity. From left are his father Marvin Sr., granddaughter Abeke, Bennu (Melvin), sister Gidget, mother “Mama Ray” and daughter Raven Antonia visiting in March 2018.

Greetings of peace and love from the frontline of struggle down here in F.A.M. country. December 2018 brings to a close the final month of the one-year bi-monthly Boycott Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 (February, April, June, Black August, October and December).

Over the course of the year, we received support for this campaign from around the country. Then in June, I received word that the organization of the National Prison Strike had embraced the C2RTP as part of the nationwide strike from Aug. 21 to Sept. 9. This, of course, gave the Campaign even more much needed exposure, which allowed us to remove more funds from the Prison Slavery Industrial Complex.

For all of us who embraced the boycott, I am sure that you/we learned that, indeed, we can survive without participating in the funding of the PSIC by strategically withholding purchases from canteen, collect phone calls, incentive packages and visitation vending machines. As I have explained before, the purpose of strategizing a year-long campaign was to build a “habit” of boycotting.

In understanding that we still have a journey ahead, engaging in sustained initiatives like these can only help us ingrain within ourselves new programming features that will allow us to break old, counterproductive habits and build new consciousness. Boycotting year round helps to change the culture of prisons as well as the fact that it keeps us in the proper universal balance by not funding our own oppression.

December is the month that merely passes the torch onto the next year. Make sure that your fire burns bright by going out of 2018 sacrificing and struggling to END PRISON SLAVERY! Those Christmas package lists are circulating around the nation. Don’t do it! Save that money for the struggle that lies ahead.

For all of us who embraced the boycott, I am sure that you/we learned that, indeed, we can survive without participating in the funding of the PSIC.

Instead of enriching those vendors and bloodsuckers, support SF Bay View, help bring Sister Amani Sawari to the editorship post, or support Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS), F.O.M., Sign o’ the Times blogtalk, MFP Human Rights, PLM, Free Alabama Moement (FAM), Decarcerate the Garden State and other great organizations – and invest in SELF.

Lest there be any doubt, in 2019 the C2RTP boycott must go on. I mean, many cite 1619 as the year that the first slave cargo ships arrived on these shores. Thus, the year 2019 represents a historic marker, 400 years of struggle. Queen Tahiyrah has dubbed 2019 as “The Year of Justice” and this will be the theme of Volume 1, Issue 3, of the next edition of Barz Beyond Barz Magazine (barzbeyondbarz@bmx.com).

For me, “The Year of Justice” will usher in the Special Litigation Project 2019. The SLP will focus on identifying and challenging laws that play an important role in facilitating mass incarceration. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Sessions v Dimaya, 2018 US Lexis 2497, issued an opinion declaring provisions of the Armed Career Criminals Act unconstitutional. Thousands of people’s convictions and sentences were impacted by this ruling. While this was a federal statute, many states have impactful laws just like this that are vulnerable to challenge.

For example, in Mississippi, thousands of people were wrongfully convicted by corrupt and fraudulent state contractor Steven Hayne. Hayne posed with false credentials as a forensics pathologist and/or expert in trials for several decades and sent many innocent people to prison for life, including death penalty cases. If you can find a copy of Spiritual Justice magazine online or elsewhere, please read the article. I guarantee you it will blow your mind. [Though that magazine could not be found, several articles about Hayne are in the journal Reason, at https://reason.com/tags/steven-hayne. – ed.]

For me, “The Year of Justice” will usher in the Special Litigation Project 2019. The SLP will focus on identifying and challenging laws that play an important role in facilitating mass incarceration.

Another example of the type of issue that the SLP 2019 will be focused on comes from Brother Omar Gent in Colorado. Bro. Omar is exposing how prosecutors in Colorado are securing void convictions in felony cases in violation of the Colorado Constitution (see freeourbrothers.com).

Article 2, Section 8 of the Colorado Constitution mandates that all felony prosecutions begin “by grand jury indictment.” Despite this mandatory and subject matter jurisdictional prerequisite, some Colorado prosecutors have been bringing felony cases via complaint or information. These types of felony cases are void ab initio and deserve maximum exposure and attention.

In Alabama, the issue that appears vulnerable to constitutional challenge involves how defendants are receiving multiple convictions for burglary with theft and theft arising from a single incident, which is a clear violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. These flawed convictions are being sustained on the flawed legal premise that the constitutional error is cured by concurrent sentences. See: Ex parte Dawson, 675 So. 2d 905 (Ala 1996).

On multiple occasions, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a concurrent sentence does not ameliorate a double jeopardy violation. See Missouri v Hunter, 459 US 359 (1983). The Supreme Court further explained that it is the second conviction, in and of itself, irrespective of sentence, that is impermissible. Ball v U.S. 470 US 856 (1985).

Alabama prosecutors then use these multiple convictions as two strikes under their Habitual Felony Offender Act to enhance sentences. These dual priors are certified on the federal level as well when a person from Alabama is prosecuted in federal court.

As California Professor Leah Litman pointed out in her April 2018 post on the Harvard Law Review Blog, in relation to the Sessions v Dimaya decision, there are many laws susceptible to constitutional challenge that have “meaningfully contributed to mass incarceration, racial disparities in sentencing, and excessive sentencing” that deserve our attention.

It is my hope that collectives like JLS, Halifax County’s Knights and other writ writers, jailhouse lawyers and the like will take the lead role in this SLP 2019 initiative. At this time, I also want to reiterate the importance and value that I see in us getting our own personal app developed for our Movement. When we take on projects like these, it is much easier for us to organize our steps and to reach and inform the outside support if we centralize our information.

It is my hope that collectives like JLS, Halifax County’s Knights and other writ writers, jailhouse lawyers and the like will take the lead role in this SLP 2019 initiative.

We cannot afford to underestimate, overlook or fail to appreciate the value of technology to our struggle. The internet is filled with information. We need to filter our information so that we can consolidate our message and then make it one click away.

When lawyers, legal aid organizations, paralegals etc. show interest in the SLP 2019 issues, it only makes sense that they download one app and be able to view issues state by state as opposed to trying to navigate 40 or 50 issues, 40 or 50 states, 40 or 50 different blogs or websites etc. We’d lose people who want to help in the abyss of information simply because they can’t find us. Let’s get the app.

Four hundred years ago we came in leg irons, chains and cuffs. In March 2018, I visited my family in these same chains. My dad, Marvin Sr., granddaughter Abeke, sister Gidget, mother Mama Ray and daughter Raven Antonia had to view the spectacle once again. Four hundred years later, I AM 1619 … Aluta continua!

#400yearslater

Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun

Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF E-9, 28779 Nick Davis Rd, Harvest AL 35749.

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