by DaReal PrisonArt
After six years in the federal prison system and 18 years in the most notoriously violent prisons in the California prison system, this August saw the release of Min. King, William E. Brown aka Pyeface. For those who do not know this extraordinary human being, PyeFace, as he was most known by his fellow prisoners, was America’s principal peacemaker behind the wall. Nor did it go unnoticed amongst the prisoner population that his release from captivity coincided with the month-long Black August commemorations.
At first glance, there is no way a child born in Oakland, California, in the mid-‘70s, came of age during the crack era, and did hard time in California’s now defunct youth prison system, the California Youth Authority, could grow into America’s principal peacemaker from behind the wall. At the start of the millennium, after seeing the mid and late ‘90s as a registered rapper with Highside Records, doing time in the feds, he birthed into existence KAGE, Kings Against Genocidal Environments, now known as Kings and Queens Against Genocidal Environments, or United KAGE Brothers and Sisters International Union.
Probably the most unconscionable part of Pyeface’s California prison stint was the deep-seated hatred amongst the administrators within the California Department of Corrections of his universal love for humanity and his message of peace. Prisons are not the place for the promotion of peace, especially in their maximum security and solitary confinement housing units.
Scarcity – as CDC sees everything as a security threat, from dental floss to table salt or a toothbrush – breeds an overly hyper response for such commodities, now known as contraband. This extreme deprivation breeds monsters, takers and abusers, until such time as one is able to exercise the passions for life’s simple things from the prison experience.
Another great fear in prison administration is prisoner unity. With prison guards outnumbered a hundred to one, they could ill afford prisoners getting along. It’s the frustration with the conditions of prisons that is the driving force for prisoner on prisoner violence.
Prisons weren’t designed for the release valve to these conditions being something other than taking this frustration out on each other – because what if they stop fighting each other and start fighting with those that administer that system? It would make the price of imprisonment too costly. And anytime someone is at war with the public’s perception of prison inmates, that person is at war with the men and women whose very livelihood is dependent upon a fully housed prison.
So to make friends by crossing gang, ethnic and racial boundaries is to make an enemy out of every man, woman and child, dependent on the system of mass incarceration. This upside-downwardness as seen in the Superman comics, known as Bizarro world, is the only place where you are punished for being a peacemaker by being placed in the now-defunct or rarely used solitary confinement.
The March-April 2017edition of the prison news publication Under Lock and Key is an announcement to prisoners in California:
“United Kings Against Genocidal Environments is having their Section 1983 lawsuit heard in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The case is to challenge the shutting down of their PEACE program at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) by Chaplin Alex Valnisky and Robert Losacco, even though KAGE was recognized as a ‘religious activity group’ there. Litigational support, declarations and other documentary evidence is needed regarding the convicts who were and are still housed on PBSP A and B yards subjected to this sort of implicit bias. You can send any documents or signed statements in support of these comrades to MIM (Prisons) at our address on page one. Make sure your documents are clearly marked for this purpose!”
In Bizarro world, or in the context of a prison setting, even the prison chaplain is against you for promoting peace, as you are a threat to their livelihood.
Pyeface has always been influential behind the wall, especially when it comes to the arts. A prolific writer of raps and plays, he also excels in the performance arts, such as spokenword and theater. To go into detail on his artistic influence would take too long for a single article.
In 2018, he was a principal writer in the No Joke Theater’s production of “Lost and Found.” His revolutionary spirit comes through in “We Must Find Our Wings.” A play he wrote about a local hip-hop radio station and one of its disk jockeys, Radio DJ, and his interactions with listeners during the call-in segment of his radio show.
Pyeface hit the ground running on another one of his plays, where he wrote and also starred in “Playing My Strike,” a work so powerful, the men at California State Prison Los Angeles County, where it was performed, are still talking about this piece a year later, and it influenced prisoners at this prison to participate in the 2018 nationwide prisoner strike.
Upon his release, he immediately hit the ground running, becoming involved with the Oakland chapter of All of Us or None, a grassroots organization dedicated to social change allied with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and he is active in four basic, often overlapping, arenas: public policy, legal advocacy, grassroots organizing and public education. In each of these areas, All of Us or None strives to realize its core belief, that incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people have the right and the responsibility to speak and be heard in their own voices, transform their lives and communities, and fully participate in all aspects of society.
Less than 30 days after his release, he was a principal organizer and participant in a fundraiser for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper called Truth Be Told: The Darkside of Gentrification, co-hosted by KAGE and All of Us or None. Founded in 1976, the San Francisco Bay View is known as the national Black newspaper and serves as a network for freedom fighters. Many of the prison policy issues being debated by presidential candidates were first proposed by prison writers and thinkers on the pages of the Bay View. Its website, http://www.sfbayview.com, is the most visited Black newspaper on the web, second only to the Final Call. Its free print edition, is distributed throughout the Bay Area and mailed to subscribers, including thousands of prisoners all over the country.
Contact DaReal PrisonArt at email@example.com.