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This prisoner-led strike is not only about their list of 10 demands; it’s a clear call for their human rights! This is no small feat – and it’s dangerous! These men and women are putting their lives on the line – for themselves and for us. The retaliation began weeks before the strike even began. Don’t think for one moment this isn’t also about us here on the outside. Most of us are complicit in the horrors that have taken place in our nation’s prisons.
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.
My life began in the Jim Crow South, in Houston, Texas. I remember the segregated world I was born into … the separate water fountains, the back of the bus, the going around to the back door of Mr. Fontnoe’s grocery store to buy milk for my mother and grandmother. I recall the segregated section of the movie theaters – and the long, seemingly endless net partitioning the giant sandy beaches, separating the “Colored” folks from the “Whites.” Can you imagine that it once was a reality, a segregated beach!
Aug. 19 at 11:00 a.m., courageous and loving folks in San Jose, Calif., joined with sister marches and rallies throughout the country in support of prisoners’ human rights and amending the 13th. Their courage is found in the rejection of an institution so prevalent and insidious that any criticism can bring a mountain of ridicule and judgment. It is an institution shielded by a centuries old narrative that tells people, “They are not like us,” and consequently, “they” are undeserving of our humanity.
On Aug. 19, you can be part of the New Abolitionist Movement even if you can’t travel to Washington, D.C., for the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. We’re organizing a sister march right here in the Bay, in San Jose. Be with us as we gather at 11 a.m. in Raymond Bernal Jr. Memorial Park, then march at 12:30 p.m. to James P. McEntee Plaza for our rally. We guarantee you’ll be inspired and meet new friends and allies. We feel this is a defining moment for those on the front lines working tirelessly and courageously to bring light to the humanitarian crisis that is mass incarceration.