Monday, January 29, 2018
Thursday, January 25, 2018
On January 15th (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day), the prisoners in the Department of Corrections in the state of Florida kicked off a mass multi-prison month-long work stoppage to protest their conditions. They have called the action #OperationPUSH and their demands are: "(1) payment for our labor, rather than the current slave arrangement; (2) an end to outrageous canteen prices; and (3) reintroduction of parole incentives to lifers and those with Buck Rogers dates." According to The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, 150 organizations coast to coast now stand in solidarity with #OperationPUSH and the Florida prison strike. But such actions always create a backlash and this one is no different.
Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (#158039), a prisoner who has been moved from prison to prison in state after state because of his history of speaking truth to power, wrote an article about the impending strike that was published online January 6th. The following day, Warden Barry Reddish retaliated against Johnson's use of his 1st Amendment rights, ordering that he be given a disciplinary infraction for "inciting a riot."
On January 19th, Johnson wrote to his lawyer:
"Need your and folks' immediate mobilization. Am being literally tortured in retaliation for article on prison strike and conditions, by the warden. No heat. Cell like outside, temp in 30s. Toilet doesn't work. Window to outside doesn't close and cold air blowing in cell. Copy everyone with this letter! Just put into this cell. It's daytime and so cold I can barely write. This is obvious set up [...] This is a genuine emergency! Take care, Rashid"
Florida State Prison Warden Barry Reddish can be reached at 904-368-2500. He needs to move Johnson immediately to a climate-controlled cell with a working toilet. He needs to give Johnson continuing contact with his lawyer. And he needs to stop all retaliation against Johnson for reporting on conditions at the prison. Now.
Most prison wardens are notoriously agitated by any sense that they are not in complete control of everything in their purview. (One can only imagine what the lives of their spouses and families must be like.) So when a prisoner challenges their power -- however reasonably and Constitutionally-mandated that challenge is -- it must be brutally addressed. This is what Barry Reddish is doing. But Reddish needs to be reminded that when a person in a position of authority tries to "make an example" of a human being just because they claim their human rights, it threatens all of us.
It appears that not only does Reddish, as a representative of the Florida Department of Corrections, want complete control over "his" prison, so that he can implement policies and practices that are both inhumane and illegal, but he wants to operate in secrecy while he does it. We will not allow that to be an option.
NOTE: Report back to firstname.lastname@example.org on your actions and anything you may learn in the process.
UPDATE: Rashid Johnson was able to see one of his lawyers on Friday. There are no specifics released as yet, but he is okay and his conditions have improved. On Thursday afternoon (before I published this post), I
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Yesterday, I got out of bed at 6 am. It was 66 degrees in my apartment. It was 16 outside. And -- when I looked at the clock, I realized that I didn't have electricity. That meant: no heat, no coffee, no hot breakfast, no hot shower, no internet, no way to charge my phone, no Netflix or Amazon Prime, and no music. Then, after taking my morning poop, I found out the pipes had frozen and I had used my one flush getting rid of my 6 am pee.
This morning, I got out of bed at 6 am. It was 71 degrees in my apartment. It was 20 outside. As I turned up the heat, turned on the lights so I could read the paper, made coffee and breakfast, booted my laptop, and settled back into my my dark blue leather desk chair, I remembered how un-fun yesterday's get-up had been. "Wow," I thought, "I take a lot of things for granted."
And then I thought about those who woke up in an ice cold cell this morning, behind bars, without enough clothes or blankets, standing on a concrete floor, hungry (but still recuperating from the food poisoning they got from what they were given to eat yesterday), out of snacks, out of stamps, out of soap, out of money, facing two consecutive dimes with nobody left who cares...
Monday, January 15, 2018
The Powers-That-Be in this country have made an art form out of using the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to turn humans (a disproportionate number of them Black) into slaves so that corrupt prison administrators, corporations, and their stockholders can enjoy ever expanding financial gains. It occurs to me as I write this that, while the 13th Amendment does make this practice legal (as immoral as it is), what it does not make legal is the multiple forms of prisoner degradation, humiliation, violation, and abuse that most U.S. prisons have made a standard operating procedure in the way they treat millions of incarcerated men, women, and even children.
It is not only the prisoners who suffer. It is their loved ones, as well, who must agonizingly observe the brutality against and sometimes death of their missing family member or friend while enduring the separation they fight to overcome.
In the early 1970s, when I first became aware of what was going on in the prisons and jails across this land, I was instantly and horrifically aghast. What kind of monsters would so relish tormenting other humans, I wondered. I became ballistic in my rage, working tirelessly to raise consciousness about the matter as often as possible. One ex-prisoner, trying to help me really get my brain around the situation, reminded me that people in this country lock up animals in cages who haven't done anything to anybody. "As long as they do that," he pointed out, "they're not going to care about people they think of as criminals." But I refused to listen.
Still, here we are nearly fifty years later and it appears he was right.
So the prisoners are left no recourse but to riot or to strike -- which in most prisons would be seen as the same thing and treated the same way. This is why Florida prisoners announced recently that they intend to meet the brutality and exploitation with resistance starting today. My heart is with them.
I know that many in the U.S. have no sympathy. They think the prisoners deserve whatever they get, that organizing to rise up in any way that attempts to claim their human rights "proves" their recalcitrant nature. But the article I am re-posting today (with permission of the author) is about why that's the only option prisoners have left.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
All over the United States tomorrow, people will be listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, as if that's all he ever said. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know -- or at least have probably guessed -- that I was more of a Malcolm girl than a Martin girl. Still, if you scroll down the labels list and click on King's name you'll find a number of posts through the years I've been blogging, including a post of a six-part film wherein Dick Gregory tells us the real story of King's murder, if you're interested.
But the little film clip above, which I discovered in 2014, is my favorite of all. I watch it regularly to remind me not how he died, but why.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Thursday, January 11, 2018
A message to us from Rakem Balogun (dated 1/10/18):
Peace, Power and Prosperity, Comrades and love ones.
I'm very eager to inform you that I'm doing well during this time of trials and tribulation for me, my family and comrades. I'm truly thankful for all of your love, support, and prayers. This situation has us closer in solidarity and has proven that we are ONE body as people fighting for liberation. I’m honored to see those around the country rally for my release and for the boost of my morale. I thank every single person who has brought awareness to this situation. This proves that attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
I take pride in this hardship due to the fact that our elders and ancestors have prepared me for this struggle through their hard sacrifice for our liberation. Brothers and sisters such as Geronimo Pratt, George Lester Jackson, Assata Shakur, Afeni Shakur, Mutulu Shakur, Marilyn Buck, Mumia Abu Jamal, H Rap Brown, and the list goes on and on. Studying history through political education made me accept my fate ten years ago. I used my time as wisely as possible through exercise, reading, meditating and fellowshipping with our brothers who are also detained by the United States of Amerikkka Federal Institutions. My goal is to educate those within the belly of the beast one conversation at a time with love and patience.
They can jail me but they cannot jail our movement, which is thousands strong national and world wide. I'm grateful to have GMF, GJU, BEM, Geronimo Tactical, NBPP, HPNGC, The People's Brigade, Harambee Culture, APSP and so many others in support and solidarity. Thank you for all you have done and the effort brings warmth to my heart and tears to my eyes to see love for our unity.
Thank you and I will be seeing you soon.
You can support Rakem by writing him at:
Christopher Daniels #56601-177
Federal Correctional Facility
PO Box 9000
Seagoville, TX 75159
You can keep in touch with the movement to free him at: https://www.facebook.com/freerakembalogun
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
I gave it serious thought, since I believe that the criminal "justice" system in this country is grossly over-used and badly broken. I even drafted a letter. But when I read it over the next day, I decided that it probably wouldn't get the prisoner released. It might even get both him -- and me -- in more trouble. So I'll just put a modified version of it here and walk quietly away.
Sunday, January 07, 2018
In the early 1990s, when I was in grad school, a young El Salvadoran revolutionary came to campus to talk about why she had joined the guerilla forces fighting to overthrow the repressive right wing government that had already killed more than 70,000 of her fellow citizens. One of the students in the audience raised her hand and said timidly, "I'm uncomfortable with the idea of using violence to create social change. How do you know when to pick up a gun?"
The young revolutionary didn't hesitate a moment as she replied matter of factly, "When they start shooting at you."
The audience laughed, but it is unlikely that any of them -- all being young and White, as I recall -- were considering the possibility that their government, their military, their local and state law enforcement officers would boldly and unapologetically turn on them one day. Sitting there, thinking back to experiences I had twenty years before, I recalled seeing blood shed in just such confrontations in the streets of America. And I recalled the four students killed for demonstrating at Kent State in 1970. But when that happened, the shock ripples were palpable from coast to coast.
The deaths (even the blatantly public deaths) of People of Color, however, and most particularly Black people, haven't historically created the same reaction. And this is what I'm blogging about today.
Monday, January 01, 2018
It's more than a little weird to wake up in a White Supremacist country every day looking like me, but having a serious history of consciousness-building related to "race." I mean, I was ten before I even talked to a Black American. I was sixteen before I realized the extent to which most Black people and their so-called "White" counterparts in America live vastly different lives. But today -- five and a half decades later -- I remain incredulous at how little has changed beyond the superficial.
I have read many, many books about "race" relations (the first being Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver). I have watched many, many films -- fiction and non-fiction, well known and never heard of -- about "race" relations. I've done research (scientific and otherwise) on "race" relations. And I have spent literally thousands -- maybe tens of thousands -- of hours talking with Africans and African Americans about all manner of things, including "race" relations. But one thing's for sure: I'll never pull a Rachel Dolezal. 'Cause I'm not Black.