Salute to Sitawa: Prison Organizer and Hunger Striker

Published July 18, 2021

Salute to Sitawa: Prison Organizer and Hunger Striker

A tribute by Ifoma Modibo Kambon

I’m always blessed to share what’s been on my mind with you, whatever’s in my heart with you.

Black Lives Matter to me, in the realest sense possible. You know, with me it’s always “Can’t stop, won’t stop.”

I want to give a salute out to the Brotha Sitawa. I want to give a power salute out to this Brotha here. You know he should’ve been home. And he’s still fighting just to go home.

They have taken too many of our lives in here. It’s time for us – let the brother go home and spend time with his family; he’s not a threat, he’s not coming back here!

I salute him because this Brotha here, despite all the obstacles that existed in Pelican Bay in terms of communication, it was his ability to organize that Hunger Strike, to give it direction and guidance.

It was him who added value and principles to that strike. It was him who came up with the idea of the demands. It was him who was visionary. I salute him, Sitawa, because it was his leadership that made the Hunger Strike possible.

It was him unbroken. He’s an unbroken lion. He’s a part of a generation that came up before us, of fighters – Black Resistance fighters. So, I salute that Brotha.

He is the Hunger Strike!

It was his organizing skills that made it possible for all the other inmates to come together. It was his voice that gave guidance and direction to that Hunger Strike and created the movement, the momentum for that participation.

He is the one who exemplifies the “Can’t stop, won’t stop” spirit, so I salute that Brotha! He is the Hunger Strike!

The only thing that got him is an invention by the Supreme Creator. That Brotha still stands strong, unbroken! His work today remains strong, although he’s in a bad medical place right now. But this Brotha here is still “Can’t stop, won’t stop,” until he takes his last breath.

I salute him! And there’s other Brothers like me who sing his praises. And he understood that it just wasn’t about the individuals, it was about US, US. How can WE, not just a single person, but how WE, together, can bring some form of justice and relief from what they’ve been doing.

It was this Brotha who stood up! And he had decades of standing up as a man and not tolerating the racism and oppression that existed in these environments. It was that Brotha who stood up in the spirit of all those who came before him.

So, we salute him: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa. To talk about the Hunger Strike is to talk about that Brotha’s skills and what he contributed, more so than anybody.

And although we aren’t necessarily putting anybody on a platform, because with him, when I speak of him, I say “us.” There’s no “I” – it’s “us.” “We” as community. Because he recognized that in order to save himself, he’s got to save all of us.

There can’t be any saving individual selves – there’s got to be the saving of us all. It’s “Can’t stop, won’t stop,” that belief. “We” before “I.”

So, the Hunger Strike to me really represents our history, our history of resistance, our history of putting some value on Black lives; a struggle of justice, of fairness, of equality, where we refused to live on our knees.

And so, while other people got the fame they’re talked about in the books, Sitawa came from generations before him, a Black man who stood up, who valued Black lives.

He stood up in that tradition, that history of being resilient. We got a history of being resilient people that despite all the obstacles, all the oppression and brutality, here I stand, here I rise again.

And he, Bru, he exemplified so much of what it is to be Black, especially in prison; all that he went through as a man just to be and live as a man, as a Black man.

So, the Hunger Strike to me really represents our history, our history of resistance, our history of putting some value on Black lives; a struggle of justice, of fairness, of equality, where we refused to live on our knees.

We stood up enough. We tried so many ways to appeal to their conscience that something was wrong. How do you allow men to just idly live year after year with no hope, no hope?

And he decided enough was enough. Let’s come together. Just like George said: “Settle your quarrels, come together.” Come together and understand that fascism still exists. Put aside your differences. He understood all that.

So, I salute him because it was under those circumstances. If you know what the structure of Pelican Bay is, you really get an appreciation of how he was able to organize that Hunger Strike, when you get massive participation.

But the thing is the day after – you still got the Brothas, the elderly men still standing up fighting; still haven’t abandoned the struggle; still living in the footsteps of those who came before them.

That’s our story. The story doesn’t start in the middle; we always got to go to the beginning. The beginning of the men who died inside these walls, who fought in the spirit of resistance.

We don’t have to go to another land and get a hero to apply to our Hunger Strike. We had the men already in here, who gave their lives for the struggle – the struggle for the creation of a new humanity, of new values and ethics by which men see other men and men see women differently, in a more humane manner, where you really get a sense of what it is to do justice. What they really mean, justice and fairness.

And these men, these men who gave their lives for that cause – Bru Sitawa is a reflection of those principles and ideals.

Send our brother some love and light: Daryel “Ifoma” Burnett, B-60892, CSATF C3-218, P.O. Box 5246, Corcoran CA 93212.

**This is an excerpt from a recorded conversation with Ifoma about his take on the hunger strikes.

The following Agreement to End Hostilities is an initiative Sitawa was part of:

Dated Aug. 12, 2012

To whom it may concern and all California prisoners:

Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:

  1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.

  2. Therefore, beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. And if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!

  3. We also want to warn those in the general population that IGI [Institutional Gang Investigators] will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer “inmates” amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes (i.e., forcing CDCR to open up all GP main lines and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs and privileges, including lifer conjugal visits etc. via peaceful protest activity and noncooperation, e.g., hunger strike, no labor etc.). People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU (Investigative Service Unit), OCS (Office of Correctional Safety) and SSU’s (Service Security Unit’s) old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!

In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners] and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!

Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners and thereby the public as a whole, and we simply cannot allow CDCR and CCPOA, the prison guards’ union, IGI, ISU, OCS and SSU to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000-plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers – SHU and ad-seg units – for decades!

We send our love and respect to all those of like mind and heart. Onward in struggle and solidarity!

Presented by the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective:

And the Representatives Body:

Note: All names and the foregoing statement must be shown verbatim when used and posted on any website or other publication.

Send our brothers some love and light and solidarity. Write to them using the listed names, numbers and housing and add the address: P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. The Bay View sends them all our highest respect, appreciation and best wishes for this historic action.

This is the Agreement to End Hostilities as it was originally posted on the Bay View website, at https://sfbayview.com/2012/09/california-prisoners-make-historic-call-to-end-hostilities-between-racial-groups-in-california-prisons-and-jails/, when it was written in 2012. The signers, the Best of the Best, are scattered throughout California’s 30-plus prisons, still not allowed to live and work together, CDCr still fearful of their legendary organizing ability. All of them are working toward release and deserve all the help and support we can give them.

Send these brothers some love and light at their current addresses:

Todd Ashker, C58191, KVSP ASU 2-194, P.O. Box 5106, Delano, CA 93216

Arturo Castellanos, C17275, PBSP, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, C35671, Freedom Outreach, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland, CA 94601

Antonio Guillen, P18948, SVSP, P. O. Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960-1050

Danny Troxell, B76578, CSP LAC, P.O. Box 8487, Lancaster, CA, 93539

George Franco, D46556, DVI, 2300 Kasson Rd, Tracy, CA 95304

Ronnie Yandell, V27927, CSP-SAC, P.O. Box 290001, Represa, CA 95671

James Baridi Williamson, D34288, SVSP D3-229, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960

Alfred Sandoval, D61000, PBSP, P.O. Box 7500, Cresecent City, CA 95532

Louis Powell, B59864, CSP LAC, P.O. Box 4430, Lancaster, CA 93539

Alex Yrigollen, H32421, CSP SAC, P.O. Box 290001, Represa, CA 95671

Gabriel Huerta, C80766, Centinela, P.O. Box 901, Imperial, CA 92251

Frank Clement, D07919, KVSP, P.O. Box 5102, Delano, CA 93216

James Mario Perez, B48186, SVSP, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960

Paul Redd, free

Raymond Chavo Perez, rest in power

From: SF Bayview