Sunday, March 27, 2016
Dhoruba Bin-Wahad Calls The Tune
As many of my Faithful Readers know, I've always posted a good bit about prison and prisoners. Ever since I joined the collective at the National Prison Center and the staff of the Prisoners Digest International back in 1971, I've considered myself a member in good standing of the prison abolition movement. I've written for publication about prisoners rights. I went into Ft. Madison Maximum Security Penitentiary in Iowa as a Sealed Revelation Minister with the Church of the New Song. I've testified in court. And I've visited -- or tried to visit -- a number of prisoners in multiple states for a range of reasons.
I've counseled prisoners and ex-prisoners and trained others to have a clue about the issues people deal with when re-entering the outside world. I've written letters to judges that helped people get out or stay out of jail. I've taken endless phone calls and written literally hundreds of letters to people inside. I've done political actions related to prisoners rights, some in groups and some alone. I've supported several long-term political prisoners through their ordeals until they were finally freed (the latest being Albert Woodfox, who was released the 19th of last month after 43 years in the hole). And I scared the be-jezzus out of at least one Federal Chief of Classification and Parole who I sent into an apoplectic fit by telling him -- very quietly, I swear -- that he was going to be held accountable for his cruelty.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone what I'm about to do. For the next few weeks, I'm going to post a whole string of items having to do with the criminal injustice system and most particularly, prison. I've been sitting on some of these things for a while and I have some real beauties in store, not the least of which is the entire report on the 2011 investigation into the alleged misconduct of New Orleans Police Department Deputy Chief Marlon Defillo (which is part of the public record, so it can be published, and believe me, it's quite something).
But before I get into all that, I want to pause a moment and introduce a YouTube video of former Black Panther leader Dhoruba Bin-Wahad speaking at Hamline University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2010. The broad topic is U.S. governmental repression and imperialism, but he drops it into a historical and global context and shows how the U.S. ship of state has used and is using its power to try to crush opposing forces and individuals, such as Bin-Wahad himself, who did nineteen years as a prisoner in New York before he was exonerated and freed in 1990. I'll warn you in advance that it's ninety minutes long, but if you'll watch the first ten minutes, I guarantee you'll watch the rest and very likely in one sitting -- the way I did.
Law enforcement and the criminal injustice system are the line between the public and the state. Bin-Wahad's presentation is the perfect introduction to a month of examining that line.
NOTE: If you want to know more about Dhoruba Bin-Wahad's personal journey in the system, get "Passin' It On," which is one of my favorite documentaries of all time.