This Sunday, April 15, will mark one year since David Josiah Lawson, who was a sophomore at Humboldt State University (HSU), died after suffering multiple stab wounds at an off-campus party. Currently, no one is in custody for his death. Shelley Mack is an attorney in Arcata and is currently working with Kyndra Miller, a lawyer based in San Francisco, to assist Ms. Lawson with litigation. On April 13, Mack delivered a notice of claim to the City of Arcata in Lawson’s death.
Sharon Fennell, also well known by her disc jockey name Sista Soul, has been a Humboldt resident for over 30 years. Fennell, through her volunteer work at KHSU, has grown to become an advocate for prisoners and shown faithfulness in bringing awareness to the conditions and contradictions of America’s penal system. After 36 years, Fenell – or Sista as she is called by friends and close acquaintances – has decided to move on. She has one more radio show this Sunday, Dec. 18.
My journey began in the mid-1980s, when folks in my community began to hear about a “supermax” prison that would be built in nearby Crescent City, California. At that time, my colleague Tom Cairns and Mike Da Bronx, my husband, and me were busy at KHSU producing a weekly radio show called Alternative Review. In 1990, I would get one of the first letters from that place, Pelican Bay State Prison. It came from a young man named Troy Williams. He liked my radio show.
This is a story about music, radio and the connection to the human spirit. The date is Jan. 10, 1992, and Troy Williams and his cellmate at Pelican Bay Prison are using wire to make an antenna for a radio. Williams was looking for something on the radio he was familiar with, but as usual he was greeted by a flurry of country music. This particular night however, Williams and his cellmate were fortunate.
The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a “corporation” whose objective is to profit. In California alone they pay up to $20,000 more per solitary confinement unit than for a general population unit. This keeps officers working, which is why they become willing pawns who have an interest in oppressing prisoners.