Monday, May 25, 2020

Podcast: "IDOC Watch Panel: Four Voices for Liberation"

I wouldn't normally blog when I'm at a loss for words, but I just listened to a podcast posted on the internet by The Final Straw Radio (a weekly anarchist radio show). The podcast features four strong voices: Kwame Shakur of the Stolen Lives Movement, Sheila, who is a mother, grandmother, and advocate of incarcerated people, Lorenzo Stone-Bey of IDOC Watch, and Zolo Agona Azania who is formerly of the Black Liberation Army, and is a three-time survivor of death row.

The IDOC Watch website says:
“The Indiana Department of Correction Watch (IDOC Watch) exists to be in solidarity with prisoners. This means we correspond with and and foster camaraderie with people who are incarcerated in Indiana, expose abusive conditions and treatment, and fight policies and initiatives that further isolate, marginalize, and harm prisoners. We seek to uplift prisoners’ voices and struggles and educate the masses about prisons, generally, as well as specific issues we are fighting.”
No matter how you found my blog in the first place or why you keep returning, if you do, I urge you to listen to this podcast -- carefully and more than once. Its message is powerful. Its truth runs deep. And its pertinence to the struggle for liberation on any front is unmistakably relevant to all of us, no matter where we live our lives.
NOTE: The graphic above is a photo of a work of art by Keith Perelli of New Orleans. Its title is "Broken" but it clearly captures the undeniable resilience of Black people who have and do resist and outlast the onslaught of social brutality that has been brought against Black men, women, and children for the past five hundred years.Audio Pla

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Eric Brown / TRU.ENation: On the Coronavirus, Angola, and C-Murder

This interview was conducted by Shawn Grant and published at The Source on April 16, 2020. It is being re-posted with the permission of Eric Brown.

Eric Brown, aka TRU.ENation, grew up in a prison. Sentenced to life without parole, Brown began his sentence at age 16, before studying law and working toward his release at age 41. During his 25-year prison stint, Brown experienced inhumane conditions. 

“I’ve seen overflowed sinks that have flooded whole cell blocks; bobcats, alligators and other rodents walking around units and the prison telling the inmates to remove it,” Brown shared. “The showers have holes in the tile where rodents come through, holes in the floor of the shower tiles. Cells only sanitized at the inmates' financial expense.”

Those conditions have only intensified during the coronavirus outbreak as those inside do not have proper protection for their own health and the lack of care paid to the scene is alarming.

In addition, Mr. Brown pointed out the wrongful conviction of many inmates due to corrupt officials, which he has experienced along with his close friend C-Murder.

“We need a major overhaul with the criminal justice system in the United States. We need to free the innocent. The criminal justice system was not designed to protect African Americans,” Mr. Brown says. “It was designed to enslave us. If you are black and get caught up in a system, you are not guilty until proven innocent. You will most likely be found guilty because of corrupt cops, DAs, and judges. They will do everything in their power to convict you, too.”

In a conversation with The Source, Mr. Brown details the conditions and reports coming from Angola, along with other facilities, how the justice system wrongfully convicted him and C-Murder and more.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Otto Rene Castillo: "Apolitical Intellectuals"

As a writer, I've had an office at home for years. It started out as an electric typewriter on a desk in my thirties, became a computer in my fifties, and a separate room in my apartment in my sixties. Now, I'm in the process of organizing that room to take on the appearance, efficiency, and feel of the hub I want to see Louisiana Network for Criminal Justice Transformation become.

For those of you who don't already know, I'm stepping down from my full-time position at the university on August 1st to dedicate the rest of my life to prison abolition. So I'm transforming the office that has been until now a center of creative womanist energy – fighting oppression as I have always done – to reflect the more honed focus I have developed in the past year.

Initially, I removed things: books, personal items, and random clutter unrelated to criminal justice transformation, collected over time and in the way of progress and practicality. I added a printer/scanner/copier and a shredder. And I will soon remove some of the art on the walls, replacing it with LA-NCJT documents and such.

Yesterday, as I continued the process while wading my way through six weeks of largely unanswered LA-NCJT mail, I came across a copy of the following poem by Otto Rene Castillo. Castillo was the Chief of Propaganda and Education for the Rebel Armed Forces in the mountains of Guatemala when he was captured in 1967 by representatives of the right-wing government installed by the U.S./CIA in his country thirteen years before. He was thirty-three years old when he was captured, interrogated, tortured, and burned alive.

When I organized a conference in Havana, Cuba, in 2017 for 300 radical sociologists from fifteen countries, I carried this poem in my heart. It seems appropos to re-post and re-center it again in this dark time with one additional note.

It won't be just the apolitical intellectuals who will be interrogated after this. It will be the anti-stay-at-home folks that have been encouraged by those at the top to pick up their weapons and create drama in public, calling it "freedom." It will be the die-hard ministers gathering their "flocks" to die and go to Heaven. It will be the ones who had the money to order Waitr and the health insurance to buy three months of their prescriptions at once.  It will be the birthday party revellers, the beach goers, yes, even the Netflix binge-watchers, who have hooked themselves up to the simultaneous intravenous drips of mind-numbing drugs and mind-numbing programming, which in fact has already been programming them for years. It will be everyone who let themselves be distracted from the suffering by the circus, who rode Instagram and Reddit while riding the lemmings off the cliff, who thought nothing could be done and so did nothing.

The COVID-19 pandemic is going to change human existence from this point forward. But in the struggle to survive, many are ignoring to one extent or another the creeping onslaught and entrenchment of right wing fascism in this country, dragging White Supremacy, misogyny, and religious fanaticism with it, like the four horseman of a long-awaited apocalypse. The amused smirks of so many when that word is used suggest that much of the population of the United States is still just comfortable enough to ignore the fact that (Netflix be damned) life is not a movie. It will not play to the credits in two hours with snacks. And the revolution will – this time – be televised.