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TDCJ has me classified as a “High Profile Inmate,” but no one here has actually told me why I have been placed on high profile status. The only reasons I’ve been given is “you have lawsuits.” However, this supports my argument that the prison agency TDCJ has been retaliating against me for accessing the courts. Last year I won a civil lawsuit when I challenged TDCJ’s unconstitutional beard and religious headgear policy. While I was litigating that suit I was not subjected to this humiliating treatment. So why now?
I’d like to send out a clenched fist salute to Amani Sawari of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. I have studied the transcript of Amani’s appearance on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. Amani did an excellent job articulating the reasons for our actions. Amani also had the presence of mind to highlight and accentuate the fact that we, the prisoners across Amerika, seek to be treated as human beings and given meaningful opportunities toward our rehabilitation.
First and foremost, I send out a clenched fist salute to all of the women and men incarcerated across the United States who stood up on Aug. 21 and who continue to do so! Without your sacrifice there will be no change. oppressors and enemies of freedom are waging an aggressive war and assault against any individuals or organizations that have defined themselves as anti-imperialists and/or prison abolitionists. This illegal and unconstitutional ”program” is a nationwide program enacted by the U.S. Department of Justice! Ol’ racist Jeff Sessions is at it again!
All of my life, I have wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. We have been taught to want for my brother what I want for myself. In this moment in history, I want freedom for ALL political and politicized prisoners. Kwame Shakur is the co-founder and chairman of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective, and he has begun a Prison Lives Matter movement which is holding a remarkable event in Indiana on July 18, 2018. The theme will be “Prison Lives Matter: In the Spirit of Nelson Mandela.”
So let’s take a look at the work we are doing: 1) attempting to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 2) abolishing prison slavery and, in my case, 3) exposing the pervasive problem of toxic water supplies in Texas and Pennsylvania! Yes, I did say Pennsylvania! We have seen retaliation and obstruction of justice tactics by employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The order to ban entry to the U.S. by travelers from numerous majority-Muslim countries is subjecting not only Muslims coming here but also those already here to a reinvigorated campaign of Islamophobia. Now the state of Texas and its prison agency, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, is attempting to use a statement I made in 2012 as justification to deny me my religious right to grow a fist-length beard and wear my kuffi prayer cap throughout any TDCJ facility.
On Nov. 10, 2016, the state of Texas transferred me and 43 other men to the Administrative Segregation Unit at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas. Eastham is one of the oldest units in the state. The conditions there are much worse than at the Telford Unit. The most glaring issue for prisoners and guards alike is contaminated drinking water! High levels of copper and lead have been found in the water supply. The water has a horrible stench to it. And the taste? absolutely repulsive!
It is our intention to transform “prison slaves” into respected and productive members of the international proletariat movement. As a proletarian, YOU, the sister or brother sitting on your bunk, or in your cubicle, or in the day room reading this essay – YOU are a WORKER and not a SLAVE. Your lives matter, and you have great potential to be an extremely productive and successful member of the new society we are struggling to create.
On the front page of USA Today for Dec. 27, 2018, we saw a shocking headline: “Grave discovery unearths legacy of Black convict labor.” The unmarked graves of 95 “prison slaves” were found on a construction site in Sugar Land, Texas. These Black men, ages 14 to 70 years old, were our ancestors and the first victims of what we have come to know as prison slavery in Amerika! These contract convict laborers were subjected to this form of slavery because the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution still allows slavery. Only the name has been changed. Slavery is still alive!
On Oct. 4, 2015, at the McConnell Ad-Seg Unit located in Beeville, Texas, prisoner Jarvis Dugas, No. 1386881, was preparing for a visit with his mother. Dugas, who is known to his friends as “Homestead,” is a Black man who is mentally handicapped and physically disabled. He walks with a pronounced limp. Dugas’ mother, Regina Strange, is a former employee of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She is all too familiar with the overt tactics of mistreatment, abuse and degradation associated with the corrupt prison agency and because she knows that, she regularly visits her son Jarvis.
By now some of you may have heard that my comrades and I have been attempting to convince the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (sic!) to approve a contact visit between Miguel Flores, an imprisoned artist housed here in Ad-Seg with me at the McConnell Unit and his mom, Paulina Gracia, who has an aggressive form of leukemia. Miguel’s mom has cancer, and the prognosis is not good. Normally, prisoners in segregation are not allowed contact visits. This is going to take a massive collective response. I believe in all of you, and I think that y’all believe in me, so let’s join together and make this happen!
When Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Bryan Collier, Correctional Institutions Division Director Lorie Davis and Office of the Inspector General Joint Terrorism Task Force member Nick Vaughn contrived the plot to kidnap me from Ramsey 1 Unit on June 22, 2018, at 4:30 a.m., they figured that no one would notice, no one would care and, if questioned about the strange occurrence, they would claim plausible deniability.
Written Sept. 4, 2018 – Today the heat and humidity inside my cell has reached a level which has caused me to feel dizzy, and I have been experiencing migraine headaches. Senior U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle denied my request for an emergency preliminary injunction. One of my main requests was that she order TDCJ to fix the inoperable and malfunctioning HVAC system here on the McConnell Ad-Seg Unit.
The basis for the Prison Lives Matter Campaign and this demonstration is not only to shed light on the poor treatment and inhumane living conditions that prisoners are subjected to, although we know this is the initial motivating factor for most families and supporters who get involved with the prison movement and demonstrations such as this one. However, the objective is to tie this struggle into our overall class and national struggle against racist capitalist-imperialist domination and exploitation of the proletariat.
A settlement has been reached in the Pack Unit lawsuit, and air conditioning will be installed temporarily during the summer months, until the Texas legislature allocates funding for the installation of permanent AC units. Last year, I attempted to file a motion on behalf of myself and all Texas prisoners who are similarly situated to the prisoners at the Pack Unit. The Texas Civil Rights Project, based out of Houston, requested that I withdraw the motion because it had the potential of delaying relief for Pack Unit prisoners.
It was only a few weeks ago – in fact, it was before the Syrian chemical weapons incident – that the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres said that Yemen was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yet once again Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, was as quiet as a church house mouse! She didn’t say a word. She certainly did not plead with the Security Council to intervene with decisive action against the perpetrators of the bombing campaign against the Yemeni people.
What I have discovered is that the state of Texas has conspired with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to downplay and cover up toxic and contaminated water supplies in state-run prisons as well as the rural communities which have found themselves in close proximity to these toxic sites. It is not just the prisoners in Texas who are suffering the ill effects. I have also discovered that what is happening in Texas is not unique.
I have always said that if you want to understand the nature of a thing, you must research its origin. I would venture to say that the iconic freedom fighter and servant of the people Malcolm X was the first “Prison Panther,” although he was not known officially as such. However, when Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in 1966 at Merritt College in Oakland, California, the legacy of their hero, OUR HERO, Malcolm X was on their mind.
Our movement is fighting hard to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to strike its “slavery clause” that forces prisoners to work for free or for pennies in the prisons, in the fields like slaves of old and in sweatshops manufacturing goods. We are calling for your help in raising the public’s awareness of the existence and the urgent need to end prison slavery inside the state of Texas and across the nation. Let’s dedicate Juneteenth 2018 to abolishing slavery once and for all!
Comrade TACO, I have been one of your most avid supporters within my organization. But I can no longer associate with you or remain silent. I am asking that you embrace accountability for the good of the Black Riders. To me, accountability means being responsible to myself for my choices and for the consequences of my choices. For me, accountability is an internal skill, not an external process. TACO, nobody can force you to be accountable. And lastly, I will tell you that accountability is a rigorous and difficult process.