Liberate the Caged Voices: Where’s the humanity?

Liberate-Our-Caged-Elders-campaign-Nube-w-Louis-Powell-poster-in-SFBV-office-kitchen-dining-room-0221by-Griffin-1400x1050, Liberate the Caged Voices: Where’s the humanity?, Behind Enemy Lines
Bay View Managing Editor Nube Brown, from the Bay View office-kitchen-dining room, calls on you to join the Liberate Our Caged Elders campaign by calling Gov. Newsom, 916-445-2841. Demand he release our elders! And please share posts using #LiberateOurCagedElders and visit our campaign website at tinyurl.com/liberatecagedvoices. Join the rally to Free Malik! March 7, 12-2 p.m., 111Taylor St., San Francisco. – Photo: Griffin Jones

by Bay View Managing Editor Nube Brown

Greetings, beautiful people,

I am sharing my letter, which you will find below, to BOP director Michael Carvajal alongside the prisoner solidarity work I do because at the heart of this struggle is love. But the way forward is in shared humanity.

I started this work just six years ago as an ally, an advocate moved by the letters from prisoners, incensed and pained by the stories of abuse, neglect, dehumanization and injustice taking place in “progressive” California’s prisons. I have since fallen in love and join the millions of families feeling the sting and stress of having a partner still unfree.

I came to know, respect and love the men who created the Agreement to End Hostilities that would unite prisoners across racial and geographical lines and organized – along with their families and outside supporters – the historic California Hunger Strikes that would end indefinite solitary confinement. We will not forget them!

They are PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, C35671; Todd Ashker, C58191; Arturo Castellanos, C17275; Antonio Guillen, P81948; and the Representatives Body: Danny Troxell, B76578; George Franco, D46556; Ronnie Yandell, V27927; Paul Redd, B72683; James Baridi Williamson, D34288; Alfred Sandoval, D61000; Louis Powell, B59864; Alex Yrigollen, H32421; Gabriel Huerta, C80766; Frank Clement, D07919; Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922; James Mario Perez, B48186.

Do you recognize Louis Powell’s name from the poster? Are you taking in these numbers that represent not only the men from the list above, but also the many other elders of the Liberate Our Caged Elders campaign? Have you called Gov. Newsom, 916-445-2841, demanding their release!?

Prisons are the physical manifestation of racism.

Despite being tortured by decades of solitary confinement, suffering years of imprisonment beyond their parole dates and aging out of any false notions of being a danger to society, only one of these men on this list, Paul Redd, is home. Raymond Chavo Perez died in prison. Where’s the humanity in this?

Independent physician with decades of work in prison advocacy Dr. Ricardo Alvarez notes: “Prisons are the physical manifestation of racism. We have a simple cost-effective public health intervention in the face of COVID in prisons – release our elderly prisoners. Data shows they do not pose a public safety risk. Free Mumia! Free all elderly prisoners now!” 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was urging way back in March 2020 the release of “older detainees and those who are sick.”

Despite all the data, political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, innocent and imprisoned for 39 years, diagnosed with congestive heart failure and whose recent labored breathing has prompted an emergency press conference by supporters at Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office to call for an end to inhumane imprisonment of the ill and elderly, remain caged. Where’s the humanity in this?

My partner, Malik Washington, is being retaliated against for exposing a COVID outbreak at 111 Taylor St., the halfway house run by for-profit prison corporation GEO Group where Malik resides. If you haven’t questioned the inhumanity of prisons for profit, now is the time. GEO takes in $19,000 a month to contain my loved one. 

Still, I challenge you to never forget modern-day slavery taking place within our prisons as codified by the 13th Amendment exception clause that states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This is a continuation of the crime against humanity that was chattel slavery.

There is no humanity to be found in the Prison Industrial Slave Complex – a system designed to dehumanize, exploit and destroy the people caught in it.

Every moment our loved ones are denied their full freedom, there is damage to relationship with self and others, healing and access to their full potential. Where’s the humanity in this?

There is no humanity to be found in the Prison Industrial Slave Complex – a system designed to dehumanize, exploit and destroy the people caught in it.

Humanity is found in the people – and the people are the only ones who can make real change, be they inside or out. The Black Panther Party still has it right – All power to the people!

“Dear Michael Carvajal, 12/14/2020

“My name is Tracy Brown. 

“Within the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of welcoming into my world the life changing event of becoming a friend, a partner and a fiancé.

“When Keith Malik Washington (34481-037) returned after 13 years of confinement, we had anticipated a necessary transition time at the halfway house, knowing that there is a process for reentry, but that it would include support for the building of a family, sooner rather than later. 

“It is disheartening to think that the BOP does not see the importance of allowing a recently returned loved one to start as quickly as possible towards that end. To my mind, the most basic aspect of securing a happy, fulfilling and successful life starts at home.

“As Keith’s fiancée, I imagined being able to prepare and eat meals together, providing physical nourishment and growth; being able to share thoughts and ideas at the beginning and end of our days, providing mental nourishment and growth; and being able to care, pray and dream together, providing spiritual nourishment and growth, sooner rather than later.

Humanity is found in the people – and the people are the only ones who can make real change, be they inside or out. The Black Panther Party still has it right – All power to the people!

“And what about my son? Why must he be deprived of a mentor, a male with principles and a man of faith who represents resilience, gratitude and the reason for second chances? My son is away at college in Santa Barbara, and while he may come home infrequently, how can he develop a relationship with the man he will call ‘step-father’ if he is deprived access to him? This also deprives Keith of the opportunity to develop those tools that will be so necessary when he begins to reestablish his relationships with his own estranged sons.

“I don’t see how the BOP can claim to support the people in their care and truly wish for their success, if they hinder one of the most important tenets of a successful return – the building and maintaining of family ties. 

“Here’s another point. Keith has employment and after May 2021 has no federal supervision – and he is sober. So why at the end of a long, productive day must he go back to you, while I am at home alone? Keith and I are both left without the benefit of the other. This can’t be what the BOP intends when they speak of rehabilitation and successful reentry, is it? 

“Lastly, do I really need to mention the health consequences of having Keith go back and forth between a congregate setting and work during this Covid-19 pandemic? We work in the same place, along with two elderly people in their eighties. And now it’s come to my attention that you have released 18,000 people to home confinement. Is there a reason you’ve singled out my fiancé for denial?

“I ask that you grant him home confinement without delay,

“Respectfully, Tracy Brown”

To all the grandmothers, mothers, wives, partners, daughters, sisters, aunties, nieces, siblings who love someone behind the walls – I see you, I love you and I hope you feel my solidarity with you. – Nube 

Bay View Managing Editor Nube Brown is a New Abolitionist and activist who also works with California Prison Focus and is facilitator of Liberate the Caged Voices and coordinator of the Liberate Our Caged Elders Campaign and hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon. Connect with her at nube@sfbayview.com