In the thick of the 2018 prison strike, Rustbelt Abolition Radio published a notice in the San Francisco Bay View — the extraordinary monthly Black newspaper which circulates through hundreds of prisons and other centers of detention in the United States — asking those on the inside to write to them with their immediate reflections on the prison strike. Specifically: how recent prison strike actions advanced the politics of abolition. The following are a selection of the letters, originally published in an episode of Rustbelt Abolition Radio:
ANONYMOUS WRITER, TEXAS:
Salutation! I am shouting out from general prison population responding to your inquiries and also honoring the throes of birth pains signaled from Abolitionists contemplating covertly [de]employing [Deploying and Employing] inside prisons for direct action.
Moreover, this direct action could produce documentaries creating supplemental income and funds for other purposes.
We think this birth giving weighty consideration to our suggestive advance level of support is attributed to drastic changes in political opinions favoring prisoners as a result of the latest National Prisoner Actions.
Texas Department of Corrections is an ideal environment for the growth and maturity of Abolitionists to rotate through prison doors, which will embolden prison activists and quickly strengthen our position ushering in a world without prisons. Corrupt prison authorities will prove ineffective attempting to continue performing what was illustrated by Prisoner Strike Organizer, Amani Sawari – “the efforts by authorities to disrupt communication between prisoner organizers and outside support also interfere with and impede communication between prisons by inside organizers.”
Further, I think particularly our 2016 strike actions garnered political sentiments for prison abolitionists, as prison authorities had illegally brutalized and isolated prisoner activists for organizing peaceful protest methods, which Amani Sawari indicated may have also occurred to deter widespread participation for current National Prisoners’ Actions, and she exhorted outside supporters to be aggressive in their response to the retaliation.
LETTER: SHAKA SHAKUR: “An Honest Conversation and Self Critique”
There can be no honest conversation as to whether Black Lives Matter (BLM) without including in that conversation the voice of the hundreds of thousands of Black Men and Women behind the iron curtain of the prison walls. There can be no honest conversation about BLM without an honest critique of the civil wars, i.e. gang wars, black on black violence/murder rate that is out of control in our community. While we reject the right wing conservative and generally backwards apologist position who try to use black on black violence as a justification or rationalization for state sanctioned violence at the hands of its security forces, i.e. police or privileged white males who have a license to kill and murder black folks based on their skin privilege, as being identified as white. Nevertheless there has to be an honest assessment, analysis and solution oriented approach.
While we know the street level violence is a direct result of state level violence, the policies of the government (regardless of the “party” in power or the administration), the inequality in the distribution of resources to communities of color and urban areas; disproportionate representation of over-incarceration, saturation policing (for all the good it does), lack of jobs, etc. is a direct contributor towards that violence. What is raging in our communities are often civil wars driven by the drug economy and economics. It is a vicious cycle, motivated and sponsored by state and racist sanctioned genocide.
You cannot close schools, hospitals, clinics and have no jobs and not expect or anticipate the explosion of violence. You cannot put rats in a cage in a controlled environment of behavioral modification, reward and punishment and overall environmental manipulation and eventually they will begin to feed upon one another. While we are far from rodents to be exterminated at the hands of the state and its governmental policies, we have to seize our own destiny and dictate and give guidance for future generations.
When forgiving our proven enemies becomes more important and more of a priority than demanding justice and organizing for real freedom, we have a flawed and defective stereotype. When it becomes more important than organizing ourselves from the bottom up to defend and protect ourselves from those that ravish and murder us from outside our community, as well as those backward elements (of which I used to be one of) within our community and amongst us, then we have to reassess our strategy for survival. We are one of the only people on the planet who can be lynched, mass murdered, mass incarcerated and be subjected to apartheid type policies and governing and still bend over backwards to forgive and try to make peace. Fuck that! It is not a crime to organize to protect yourselves, to survive. Armed self-defense isn’t a crime. To patrol and control your own community isn’t a crime. To fight for human survival is a human right. Singing “We shall overcome” while being marched into ovens or prisons is ludicrous/insane!!!
Does anyone have a problem with white males patrolling (and exercising white privilege) in the streets of Ferguson with semi-automatic weapons and tactical gear? I’m talking about so called white “civilians”/citizens. They were not only patrolling but freely interacting with the state security forces (police) and engaging in coordinated tactical maneuvers. Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Where is the outrage? This was being done under the guise of so called “Oath Keepers” protecting the people from the state. Can you imagine Black men walking not only the streets of Ferguson with semi-automatic rifles or let alone a predominantly white area and it not be an armed confrontation with the police or some other settler armed agent? It isn’t even safe for us to legally walk around armed in an open carry state, let alone an open warzone. Open apartheid in occupied Azania (South Africa) isn’t that long ago.
The civil wars that broke out in the Former Yugoslavia, also in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Rwanda and Burundi isn’t that long ago. Civil wars being dictated by racial and religious hatred, manipulated and controlled by the state and government forces.
While we know and overstand the BLM movement was created to focus on white KKKops killing black people and exposing such, we also recognize that the movement isn’t monolithic. Some groups are also using the strategy and tactic of leaderless resistance. Can genocidal oppression truly be reformed?
Yeah Black Lives Matter but while demanding that you recognize such, one has to overstand that wars are raging in this country called low intensity warfare, and it is imperative that we organize for survival. We have people not only walking into our churches and killing our people but burning them down!!!
Whatever God (or not) that you believe in, when you’re not even safe in a house of worship or sacred space, them people don’t see you as human. How can we forgive and/or rationalize with such sickness and hatred?
This isn’t about good kop or bad kop. Our people all over Amerikkka and our community has a distinctive and oppressive relationship to the state and its security forces, i.e. police.
The Police represents an institution and an organization based upon an ideology and operating procedures. This relationship has always been oppressive both historically and up until one second ago.
These people and institutions have never represented us or our collective interest. It doesn’t matter if you have a “black” president or attorney general. How is that most of our communities are more heavily patrolled than any other; how is it that we are invaded by every alphabet you can think of, eg FBI, DEA, ATF, JTTF, etc., and one can’t stop the murder rate, can’t end or facilitate the removal and replacement of the drug economy in our neighborhoods? Why are they really there? And, more importantly, whose interest are they operating in because it damn show ain’t our interest. This is why we can’t depend on them or the government. With us utilizing the practice and concept of dual power, it allows us to operate utilizing our own resources to build and create our own institutions.
The contradictions and dialectics we see playing out in society also manifest itself inside of Amerikkka’s prisons–behind the iron curtain of barbed wire, surveillance gear, gun towers and genocide, under the guise of corrections. What the hell are they correcting when all they are doing is warehousing us and brutalizing us? Wholesale manufacturing of psycho-sociopaths that are released upon our community. Creating people full of rage, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues. You torture and abuse and then cut funding and remove mental health services in our community!!! A hidden agenda…
You do not “correct’ by cutting all the programs in prison. You don’t correct by removing all the vocational trades and training to the point that there are no real jobs for us, no real mental health intervention–only locked in caged for hours on end, where solitary confinement has become a solution to lack of bed space. So again whose interest are the places serving, while private prisons and investment in such is booming–just ask Michael Jordan!
If Black Lives Matter, they matter on all fronts. We are a nation of people. You can call it Black America or whatever, but we are a nation with a separate and distinct relationship to Amerikkka and its settler agents/representatives. We are of you and at some point will return to you. We must be a part of the BLM conversation and its transitioning.
The New Afrikan Liberation collective in Indiana represent only one aspect/strain in this conversation. Political prisoners and socially conscious prisoners seizing the time and opportunity to not only organize amongst ourselves, but to be heard. From a whisper to a shout, to a scream that our lives matter too!
From one generation to the next on behalf of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective, N.A.L.C.
LETTER FROM MWALIMU:
September 21, 2018.
My name is Mwalimu Shakur, and I’m an inside the walls activist, who has been challenging unjust conditions in prison for over 20 years. I was a SHU inmate who participated in all 3 hunger strikes [in California] to shed light on our long term isolation, in which us New Afrikans who study the works of Comrade George Lestor Jackson, Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Amilcar Cabral and the rest of the revolutionaries who came before us, and left a path to be followed were placed for 20, 30, and some 40 years to curb the educating of the young fertile minds of our youth, so they’ll learn about the fascist oppressors’ practices with their capitalist system, and learn how to combat it.
Since our release back into the general population we’ve been waging a successful war with the imperialist and winning some of our rights, but since our work stoppage boycotts, and sit ins here in Corcoran, we are dealing with repercussions. Such as: the loss of jobs, our education department and a few people went to Administrative Segregation (“Ad Seg” or “The Hole”), but this only strengthens us to keep going until we win.
I believe as more people in the communities come to realize we have come from the same communities, and instead of tearing them down, as we once did by selling drugs, pimpin’ and other forms of criminal behavior, we’re now attempting to rebuild through education and creating self-sufficiency programs which are alternative solution to our conditions. We believe in unity and solidarity, and with our oppressed communities working with us to accomplish our goals, we can have a better world. We rightfully deserve this, as well as a world without prisons.
In struggle, Mwalimu of Corcoran State Prison in California