Artivist Minister King X asks, ‘What does freedom mean to you?’
by Nube Brown
True to form, as I reached out to Comrade and Artivist Minster King X to do the following interview, he opened the space for more voices offered to him to tell his story in community and shared humanity. While moving unapologetically as a New Afrikan, he stands by his principle of struggling alongside all his comrades who ride or die for the Prisoner Human Rights Movement Blueprint to bring light to our California political prisoners, prisoners of war and principal elder organizers of the historic California Hunger Strikes, freedom fighters and creators of Black August Memorial-Black August Resistance – and all oppressed people. This is Part 1.
Nube: Minister King I’m appreciative that you are willing to sit down with me. You’re doing a lot of amazing work since you’ve been out. You got out only a couple of years ago and hit the ground with passion. Recently, there was another demonstration of the incredible work that you are doing in the movement as an Artivist, bringing everything together into Uncage California, the Hunger Striking for True Freedom tour that culminated at San Quentin prison on Aug. 21, 2021, the most significant day of Black August. But there’s a story behind the month-long tour, about you, to focus on the California Hunger Strikers, our elder California political prisoners and your quest to help them get free. Tell us about that.
Minister King: Thank you all for having me. Thank you particularly, my sister, my Comrade. So, when we think about the project, Uncage California, when we think about Hunger Striking for True Freedom, it triggers what was going on behind the walls during the 2011-2013 Hunger Strikes of us sitting in our cells and bouncing ideas off each other of how we could find a strategic way of getting the message out there.
And sometimes behind the walls we would write articles, create art, radical art, or do a little radical journalism, meaning that we may take those articles and send them to San Francisco Bay View or Prison Focus, Turning the Tide or MIM (Maoist Internationalist Movement), and hope that everybody takes that message and gets it out there in a way that’s profound and resonates with the right people to get them involved and hopefully stay involved, if they have the capacity.
The things I’ve been doing come from self-education of saying, whatever tool I have – it may just be the newspaper; it may be an article that I learned from one of the elders like Abdul Olugbala Shakur – and I’m going to use it.
I remember he wrote an article that I always quote, “Chess vs. Checkers” that’s one of my favorite articles because I remember when a lot of my peers, my age group not just the Africans, New Afrikans but others alike, when we would be in our classes and our study groups, they would come up and say, “Well, how do we adhere to the Agreement to End Hostilities?”
So, I’d tell them in the best way I can, and we’d get that dialogue. But then we’d get these articles; we’d begin to read these articles and I’d say, “Here, here’s the best example; read that article right there.”
They’d come back and say: “Man, did you really understand that? It was beautiful the way he worded that,” and I’d say, so I told you my way and then you got it from the elder, so now you got both generations telling you, “Hey, man, this is a new day; this is the time for us to sit down and share our ideas and do a lot of cultural exchange.”t, they’re our teachers, principal thinkers. So, it’s 2011, during the time of the first of three Hunger Strikes, I go to the hole. I’m in Corcoran. I get a 1030 (confidential information report) on me; I say the hole because I wasn’t going into solitary confinement, I was actually going to the Administrative Segregation Unit, Ad Seg. So, I go in there for an SBI, originally. SBI is serious bodily injury.
Our elders, they’re our teachers, principal thinkers.
Now we’re thinking chess vs checkers. I’m saying it would be a checker move for us to remain hostile and let anything escalate when we had made it this far. It’ll be a checker move and not a principle thought for you to be reactionary and have a riot in a time where we’re actually starting to get some movement building behind these walls. Whether we hunger strike, whether we file a lawsuit, we must take advantage of the resources that we’re starting to get. And we don’t want to let down the people that are starting to get behind us.
Nube: And I would say one of those resources is our elders. Will you say more about them?
Minister King X: Right, they’re our teachers, principal thinkers. So, it’s 2011, during the time of the first of three Hunger Strikes, I go to the hole. I’m in Corcoran. I get a 1030 (confidential information report) on me; I say the hole because I wasn’t going into solitary confinement, I was actually going to the Administrative Segregation Unit, Ad Seg. So, I go in there for an SBI, originally. SBI is serious bodily injury.
The allegations were unfounded, but what CDCr tries to do to introduce a 1030 is they say I was a part of this act that took place on the yard; so then I meet an elder that was on the inside, that was back there and he was like: “Look, you need to learn how to marshal against these issues; so you need to write a 602, a grievance.” He’s giving me insight.
During that time, he also gave me a newspaper. I had already seen this newspaper on the yard, but there was so much going on, I didn’t have a chance to dissect it. So, after I read it – it was a San Francisco Bay View – and after I read the newspaper and I’m seeing what’s going on, I’m like, ah man this is crazy, there’s a lot of information in here about the protested conditions of Solitary Confinement up in Pelican Bay State Prison, organized by the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective in the form of the Hunger Strikes.
And being an artist, I usually take that information and I put it to use. Whatever I learn, I tend to use it. So, I started asking more questions from this elder and I see at the time that there was a small resistance building back there. Those were some of my questions that I was asking, “What’s going on? Hey man, we’ve been back here in solitary confinement for the last 15, 20 years. When we go to board? So I’m getting the narrative of what’s going on now, getting the gist.
And then this elder goes to the SHU (Security Housing Unit) because he was on the end of Ad Seg pending his transfer to the SHU.
Nube: Do you know why he was going to the SHU?
Minister King X: He was going to the SHU to be validated (as a gang member). This was in Corcoran, and when they moved him over there to 4B Left, I became isolated, with not many peers in my racial group. So, then I started asking these same questions to some of the Hispanics back there and we’re having a dialogue about what’s been going on.
During this time the Hunger Strike had been suspended and being that it had been suspended we’re having dialogue about the conditions in Ad Seg, and the guys were like, “Hey man, we need to show some type of resistance back here.” I said, “Well, I have a San Francisco Bay View. We need to reach out to San Francisco Bay View.
“I’ve got the address. We need to write them and tell them what’s going on; we need to send the article first. And after we send our article, we need to look up in Title 15 and see what rules CDCr is violating so we could correlate them to the issues, show that they’re violating their own rules.”
Me and the brother, we fight for peace. We call peace the new cool.
So, when we’re making the claim that it’s arbitrary, then we could put it in the petition strategically. That’s what I thought that we should do: Reflect what these elders already had established just to make sure that we were being consistent with what had already been established.
We go into resistance. It was December of 2011, and the Bay View starts publishing our articles, our petition, our demands. And there was a little flack, there was a little pushback because some people hadn’t gotten a chance to communicate with their people up in Pelican Bay State Prison. But later on, it became beautiful because they realized time was of the essence and that those issues needed to be brought forward.
We had extracted some issues that hadn’t been talked about before. And one of the only things I always used to say, I think it was 3343, I’m not sure if that’s the right cite, but it was always stipulated inside Title 15 that you had the right to recreation; you had the right to rehabilitation.
And, I said, that’s the apparatus that we could utilize against CDCr when they’re taking our TVs. Because on the TV the institution provides resources. Not saying that you want a TV, right, but I’m just saying you had that right.
Your rights are being violated, coupled with being subjected to sensory deprivation, the torture of solitary confinement. So, I said whether we want the TV or not, we want it because we want what we got coming. So, we started pushing issues like that because you may see on the TV, you may see a documentary on law, right? You may see a documentary on culture or whatever it may be, and it’s part of your study.
But you do want to cut it off and study later on and then study what you learned and go further in. But that was just one aspect of it because you also don’t have a window, and it’s cold inside so, OK, not only do I want a TV, I want my thermals. I want whatever else that I got coming. I want all my legal work because I’m fighting a court case right now.
So, we start citing that inside from Title 15; we start citing that inside our petition. We didn’t just create demands, we created a petition because we knew, strategically, we could send it and create a tort claim inside the courts and then go for the tort claim to create a 42 U.S.C. 1983 lawsuit if those rights continued to be infringed upon.
So immediately, the captain at the institution – his name was Cruz – he came to see us; he pulled us out. He was like: “Hey, man, we’re willing to give you what you want if you guys stop the strike,” and that’s unheard of because at the same time he said that we have an RVR, a rule violation report, a 115 for inciting a strike.
And I’m like, “First and foremost, for us to believe you, y’all need to drop the RVRs, the 115s – not just ours, but everybody’s.”
At this point Minister King X lovingly insists that his Brotha Keelo G get a chance to speak:
Nube: All right, Keelo G, tell us what’s going on with you and Minister King and the work that y’all are doing together to bring focus to what’s taking place within our prisons and how our caged elders are being treated, but also how we can facilitate and bring some light to your situation and get you free.
Keelo G: OK, thank you. First and foremost, I want to say how much I really appreciate the time and your efforts in giving a voice to the voiceless. Hi, my name is Keelo G, I am the representative to the Free Keelo G Movement. I’m also a member of Kage Universal, Kings and Queens Against Genocidal Environments. I am the brother of Minister King X and I’m here to bring light to the situations we’re fighting for.
We are against genocidal environments, or any environment that will bring death, possibly, or any type of abuse to any race, any creed or any gender. In this case, we are fighting the cold war against having people serving time beyond what is considered righteous and lawful. Me and the brother, we fight for peace. We call peace the new cool.
We organize within these walls; we try to bring races together and try to bring conflict resolution and we also try to bring to attention that we as a people can be redeemed. We can give fruit and quality to life for the people in our communities.
My present situation is I have a Life Without the possibility of Parole (LWOP sentence), which is a disproportionate sentence that condemns one to death behind bars. I’ve currently served 26 years in prison, and I’ve been in jail since I was 21.
I am now a 48-year-old man who has been redeemed, who has a new consciousness and who has lost most of my social ties, you know, things I was about, but has been resurrected into the new man. And I’m here to bring a little light to the situation.
Minister King and I have, over the years, organized many movements including the movement in our sector dealing with the Hunger Strikes in 2013 to which 30,000 inmates participated in an attempt to end solitary confinement and indeterminant SHU terms. The campaign as a whole became successful, and a lot of the brothers are now either free or walking the mainline as they should.
We also like to bring attention to the fact that art is a foundation to culture, so we try to use art as a means of bringing attention to the different social ills of our society; we call it Artivism. Artivism is just using art as activism, and we combine the two and call it Artivism.
So, this is our platform. This is who we’re bringing attention to. If you feel that you are in a position that you want to give help or assistance to the cause you just heard, you can go to Free Keelo G and sign my petition. You can also be a constituent who goes to your local legislator and fights against Life Without Parole.
I believe that every man has redemption, every woman has redemption and should be given the chance, therefore. So we should have chances to go and prove that we are fit for society so that we can bring change to our community.
As we know, we have a very large problem now with the coronavirus, which I pretty much believe is a social deprivation and has brought some type of mental illness within the communities now. We have so much violence and crime going on and we want to bring more attention to the young brothers and sisters on the street about our peace resolution.
Nube: Beautiful, thank you Keelo G. Where are you?
Keelo G: I am currently in Solano State Prison. I recently dropped my points showing my security risk level. This is again my statement to the world, I am a redeemed man, I am focused, I am rehabilitated and just asking for a second chance as a man now, tired of being a boy.
Understand that humanity doesn’t end for those who aren’t free.
So, given the second chance (parole), we can serve as a pillar of what peace should be. If we have constructed within prison, where we had wars, now we have peace, we can do the same on the street. So, we’re asking for that chance; we ask that those who want to fight our fight give attention to these things that we have just brought up.
Nube: Thank you so much for that. We will make sure to amplify this beautiful ask of the people out here. I really appreciate the work that you and Minister King do together. Yeah, he’s my brother. I love him very much and so by extension that love is for you too. I don’t know if you know Abasi, he is one of the dearest people I know, and Zaharibu used to be there, another dear human being who I call a friend. Keelo G, let’s get you free! Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Keelo G: I just want to bring attention as I thank everyone who supports the prison rights movement, understand that humanity doesn’t end for those who aren’t free. Humanity is for all men and women, you know, whether they’re behind bars or whether they’re free; whether they’re across the country or whether they’re poor or they’re rich. Humanity is universal.
Nube: All right, you stay strong, you stay up, and know that we got you out here. Peace.
Keelo G: All right, thank you. I appreciate everything. Power to the people
Join me next month as we continue this conversation with Minister King X, the Artivist, to learn more about him and his quest to get our California elder freedom fighters and political prisoners free!
Follow Minister King X on KAGE Universal YouTube; California Prison Focus, 4408 Market St. Ste A, Oakland, CA 94608; or prisons.org.