by Malik Washington
This Juneteenth is different for me than others. This year I won’t be in a cage or a prison. I won’t have a GPS tracking device on my ankle or have to fill out mountains of paperwork in order to report my every movement. For all intents and purposes – I will finally be free!
I remember when I first was released from federal prison in September of 2020. I barely had any clothes to wear. My loved one, Nube Brown, had purchased me a few necessities, but she wasn’t sure what size I was because she had not seen me in the flesh.
Out of all the comrades and former prisoners out here who do prisoner support, there was one who came forward and helped me with clothes, shoes and coats. That comrade was Minister King of Kage Universal.
Minister King aka Pyeface is an artivist and rap artist, but most of all, he is a servant of the people. Like me, he served his time behind bars and is now devoting much of his energy and resources to freeing those he left behind. Minister King and his comrades at California Prison Focus are specifically focused on our elders who have served decades in solitary confinement and are now eligible for release.
Minister King and his colleague Kim Pollak are actually renovating a house, which is in a beautiful rural area. This house will serve as a transitional house for newly released elders and prisoners. It will be much different from what you and I know as a “halfway” house.
I call it a Whole-Way House because it is designed to create healthy and whole individuals after they have been broken and damaged by a system which has no vested interest in our health, welfare or success.
This Juneteenth, we are excited about newfound freedom and victories for justice. Minister King and the new Artivist House exemplifies that freedom. I encourage you to do your research as to how you can support this new vision and direction in respect to re-entry.
It doesn’t have to be based on punishment and surveillance tactics by the state. Re-entry can be based on love, respect and honoring a person’s humanity.
Prison officials blocked my San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper from reaching me simply because the word “Juneteenth” was mentioned!
On June 17 there will be a Juneteenth celebration at City Hall in downtown San Francisco. This celebration is being organized by our sister Phelicia Jones and many others who have a vested interest in the success of Black people. I have been invited to speak at this celebration.
After spending 12 years in a Texas prison, I am intimately familiar with Juneteenth. I know the significance of the holiday and why it is celebrated in the Black community. I have faced white supremacist hate head on and I remember prison officials blocking my San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper from reaching me simply because the word “Juneteenth” was mentioned! Can you imagine that? It’s true!
I had to file a lawsuit which cited “invidious racial discrimination.” The Texas Department of Criminal Justice allows some horribly racist books into their prisons such as “Mein Kampf” and other White Nationalist trash, but they had the audacity to block my access to a newspaper because it mentioned the word “Juneteenth.”
Many don’t know it was this final lawsuit that I filed that actually opened up the prison gates for me in the racist state of Texas. These tactics of using words and names to criminalize our publications or our people in general is a favored tactic by prison officials all over the United States.
Both Nube and I have been receiving reports from prisoners here in California about how CDCr and the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) have renewed their attacks on prisoners who read books by George Jackson or study New Afrikan political philosophy.
I want to break down exactly what is happening so you will understand. You see, there have been new directives coming out of the California governor’s office which could very well open up the prison gates for thousands of our sisters and brothers who are trapped behind the cement walls and concertina fencing.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) FEARS the downsizing of the prison population in California, so various departments within CDCr have sought to increase their harassment of prisoners by confiscating literature and classifying it as “gang material.”
Then, they use this so-called gang material as a means to generate a bogus “gang classification” of the targeted prisoner so that they can sabotage and obstruct any new policy or directive from the governor that may release a prisoner to their family.
The CCPOA seeks to ramp up the fear and create an environment where violence increases inside California prisons so that they can justify a budget increase.
This may sound ludicrous or far-fetched to many of our readers in the free world, but I promise you that the prisoners who are reading this paper in California know that this is really happening. Now that I am no longer under this ridiculous gag order, I will be taking every opportunity I can to talk to every friend and colleague I have in the media about this covert program by the CCPOA to thwart the release of California prisoners.
I think it is very important that we draw the connection between prison funding, job security, mass incarceration and racist hate in Amerika. You see, the downsizing of prison populations means that we will no longer need as many prisons, and that will equate to fewer correctional officer jobs and a smaller budget for corrections. So, the CCPOA seeks to ramp up the fear and create an environment where violence increases inside California prisons so that they can justify a budget increase.
There are actually some of us here in San Francisco who believe that some members of the San Francisco Police Department may be up to similar shenanigans in our city. We have seen slow responses to incidents in our neighborhood. SFPD also has assumed a very hostile stance against our District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
There have also been some very ugly accusations against SFPD which I will not repeat until I gather the evidence, but I can tell you that if I find evidence to substantiate some of the claims that I am hearing on the street, it will shock the world.
When you take $127 million from law enforcement, it creates a hostile attitude among the officers. During the Slave Era, these “officers” were the overseers. You see, there is a connection between the police and Juneteenth. The police in Amerika represent a vestige of slavery. It is going to take a lot of work to change this hostile dynamic.
Recently our new Editor Nube Brown and I have been discussing how various factors drive our people into prisons and jails. If you study the content of our newspaper, you will see the factors illuminated in stark detail.
I can hear the words of my friend Arieann Harrison crying out, “Can we live?!” Apparently, not without a fight.
We fight for access to an adequate and quality education as seen in the struggle for the City College of San Francisco. We fight for equal access to employment and jobs as seen by the direct action of local truckers who continue to fight for an equal share of the construction contract “pie.”
We fight for adequate health care and the right to live in an environment that is free from pollution and carcinogenic contaminants. The environmental racism which continues to play itself out in the communities of Hunters Point and Treasure Island are reminders that our lives really don’t matter to the corporate oppressors or the bourgeois elite in this city.
Then there is the fight to find affordable housing in San Francisco. Black people have been subjected to one of the most volatile gentrification programs the country has ever seen. Here in San Francisco, we have watched our numbers dwindle from 16 percent of the general population down to around 2 percent.
At every turn, we are being pushed out or squeezed out. Whether it be in Sunnydale or the westside of the Sunset, it seems as if I can hear the words of my friend Arieann Harrison crying out, “Can we live?!” Apparently, not without a fight.
Without a doubt, Juneteenth represents a day of denied freedom finally realized. It also reminds us that the struggle continues. It is going to take a lot more than $127 million to restore the Black community in San Francisco to its rightful place.
Our sister in struggle Phelicia Jones keeps reminding me that I and every other Black sister and brother in San Francisco needs to roll their sleeves up and get ready to put in the work. ARE YOU READY?
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People.
Bay View reporter Malik Washington can be reached at Malik@sfbayview.com. Contact him whenever you see news happening. Please visit our website, sfbayview.com, read and share the knowledge, wisdom, understanding and Black culture contained in our one-of-a-kind national Black newspaper and follow @sfbayview on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.