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When I attended the Society for Neuroscientists annual conference in San Diego last month, I expected to be doused in information regarding the field’s newest knowledge and innovations. Designed to bring together 30,000 of the world’s top neuroscientists, I was so excited to be engaged in this enriching environment for the first time. I never would have expected that I would be encompassed by emotions as I listened to the story of a man named Robert King during a roundtable discussion on contemporary social issues.
Good morning and welcome to Wanda’s Picks, a Black arts and culture program with the African Sister’s Media Network. We are joined in the studio by Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim. Welcome to the show. Today we are going to be talking about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington. We can talk about solitary confinement, political prisoners, the 13th Amendment. We can talk about what the need is for having such an event.
The psychological warfare that is taking place in the prisons here in the United Snakes of Amerikkka is placing prisoners in the soul breaker (segregation) for confinement that equals decades. I refer to segregation being the soul breaker because that is what long term segregation is designed to do, break a man’s soul completely. Among the misconceptions about solitary confinement is that it’s used only for a few weeks or months.
Happy Black History Month. Knowledge is power, something Black people from Frederick Douglass to Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks to Kamala Harris have never taken for granted. If white people would kill a Black person for teaching someone to read, not to mention knowing how to read – enough said! The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s organization, has chosen the theme: “Crisis in Education” for 2017.
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners of the California prison system – and hundreds more across the United States – refused meals to take a stand about the conditions of prisoners in the various forms of solitary isolation – approximately 14,000 human beings in California alone. It was the third hunger strike in California in two years. Dozens of prisoners deprived themselves of solid food for 60 days. One prisoner died.
Roughly 80,000 people are held in solitary in the United States on any given day, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in many cases for minor violations of prison rules (or no violation at all – ed.). Much of the momentum in the movement to reform the use of solitary confinement in the United States comes from the work of prisoners themselves.
“Solitary confinement does one thing: It breaks a man’s will to live and he ends up deteriorating,” testified Texas death row exoneree Anthony Graves before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Tuesday, June19. The hearing, convened by Subcommittee Chair Sen. Richard Durbin, was the first of its kind at the federal level on the issue of solitary confinement.
This spring, the news started going around that a hunger strike was being planned in the Security Housing Unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Prisoners at the SHU had apparently united across racial lines and promised to hungerstrike to the death if need be, starting on July 1.
Transitioning from a prisoner number to an adult person expected to take on adult responsibilities can be overwhelming for many ex-inmates, particularly those who were incarcerated for long periods of time. Each day many of us will share space with someone who has spent a significant portion of his life in a cage. Every one of us should be concerned because these men and women are of us and will be returning to us, our communities, many to our own families.