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A diverse crowd of around 500 mostly young activists turned out for a rally Aug. 25 at San Quentin Prison. Most came from Oakland, many in two chartered buses, but sizable contingents traveled from San José, Santa Cruz and San Francisco as well. Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a key organizer of the rally, along with Prisoners Human Rights Coalition, CA, and many other Bay Area activist groups, including Party for Socialism and Liberation, helped publicize the action. The idea for the strike originated with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, an incarcerated group of prisoner rights advocates.
On April 21, I finally got to see Charlie Hinton’s “Solitary Man” play at the Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley. It was so much more than a cultural experience. The play was gripping, emotional and real, with jazz trumpet sprinkled in. The panel powerfully reflected the layers of pain, survival and resistance in the prison movement. And the event, a benefit for the San Francisco Bay View, was a moving tribute to Mary and Willie Ratcliff’s devotion to their invaluable newspaper.
I’m writing this editorial because I want to brag on my husband, Bay View publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff, and tell you why he and I have faith that a benefactor, someone with deep pockets who cares, will step forward in time to save the Bay View and keep it in print – an angel who understands how much the Bay View means to a prisoner being tortured and a youngster in the hood being framed. Dr. Ratcliff was that angel, that benefactor, to Gladys Knight in 1975, when she ran out of money in the midst of producing a major film in Valdez, Alaska called “Pipe Dreams.”
If we look to any uprising in world history we will see that such rebellions, although they may have included various nationalities, are usually attributed to the dominant force in that rebellion. Rebellions take on the oppression, and those who arise lend their voice in the struggle. The dominant force in an event shapes the event and shapes the character of the struggle. The same can be said of prison struggles.
Having been one of the many who have been let out of the control units (SHU), I can say that there is some victory in this development, but there is much work to be done outside the SHU and still a ways to go before victory is complete. This accomplishment of opening the gates of SHU for many simply means we face new forms of oppression; it changes in form but not in essence.
We want to invite every friend of the SF Bay View newspaper to our 40th anniversary party. It’s a free event this Sunday, Feb. 21, 1-5 p.m., at the Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco. Come one, come all and let’s celebrate 40 years of the most radical Black newspaper in the country. Enjoy a panel of Bay View writers, a fashion show and performances by the legendary Avotcja, Stoney Creation and Sista Iminah reminding us of the beauty and talent in our community.
On Tuesday, federal Judge Claudia Wilken approved the final agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California, calling it humane, innovative and fair. Prisoners celebrated the settlement agreement, whose terms were agreed on last September, claiming it as a victory that bolstered their struggle for human rights. Anne Weills pointed out that “what was missing from the courtroom were all the prisoners who risked their lives in the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013.”
Under the aegis of repressing a “gang” called the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF), the administration carried on a witchhunt against the political thinking of many Black prisoners and punished them by solitary confinement. This article, the second in a series of three, looks at the notion of prison gang, its relation to the prisoner’s need for defense and how that affects us beyond the prison wall.
It has been two years since our Agreement to End Hostilities was released in October 2012, and we continue to stand united. While there have been a few conflicts here and there, we need to commit to ceasing all racial hostilities towards one another and remain peacefully united throughout all prison facilities. By re-reading and re-committing ourselves to the Agreement to End Hostilities, we are taking back control of our own lives and our own futures.
As of this writing, I’m finally getting situated from another mass cell search being done here at the Corcoran SHU by Gestapo police. This is supposed to be a once a year ordeal, so they searched the whole yard. Well, if so, then why do we get searched so often at different, unexpected times and why do they use K9 dogs and the metal detectors on us and our mattresses? This cell search had to be my most humiliating one yet.
The heart of our oppression – indefinite housing in SHU – remains fully intact and has yet to be ruptured. Our Plan B should focus solely on their sacred cow and work toward getting fixed dates for SHU placement. This is where our real struggle will be. Only when our future hunger strikes and work strikes are coupled with strong activism in our communities will we have a successful Plan B.
I was pleased to read about the current talk of creating a political action committee (PAC) for prisoners. There was a time when I despised the whole oppressor political apparatus, but I was lucky enough to have comrades who explained that there is nothing wrong with being involved in local politics because these are the ways that we can transform our communities at the current stage in our struggle.