From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
The urgency of the moment dictates that we continuously forge ahead with revolutionary ideas that are inseparable from the humanist society we have at heart. We have envisioned an ideal, but to reach it demands focus and sincere commitment. Without such a deep-heartedness, the enormous challenges that we will confront might be overwhelming.
Those of us who have been released from being entombed in the security housing units (SHU) here in California are facing changed circumstances. We are now spread out in the state’s archipelago of prisons. The new circumstances have us searching for new beginnings. We are looking for new jumping-off points from which to launch another offensive against the prevailing inhumane prison conditions. For many of us the central idea remains, that is, we are ardently opposed to anything that is akin to a denial of expanding our humanism.
“Unity” is a little word of five letters. However, for the oppressed it is a big word that has an essential meaning. The inherent potential that the specter of unity entails makes it an indispensable element to the creation of a new society. Unity is the muscle of the oppressed through which the incubus of capital relations will be uprooted and totally eradicated.
The same potential exists for prisoners. It is an historical fact that all the significant changes in prison conditions for the better were the result of prisoners being unified.
A case in point: the hunger strike of 2013 was successful because prisoners throughout the state of California demonstrated a unified force. That prompted the california department of corrections and rehabilitation (cdcr) to end its draconian underground SHU gang-validation policy. Of course it would be ideal if we could create a similar unification of prisoners statewide, debunking the propaganda of the prisoncrats that their prisons are run in a humane manner.
We are not idealists, but practical people who comprehend the exact nature of our prison’s realities. There won’t be any wishing on our part because we know that without pain there will be no forward movement. Having the courage to become advocates for change puts us in the crosshairs of the prisoncrats for various forms of retaliation. Some of us are willing to do the heavy lifting in terms of being an example of individuals who uphold the principle of human dignity for all. Presently, we are grappling with the critical question: How and where can we build a solid unification of prisoners while holding fast to the principle that “negativity is the creative, motivating force” that should enable us to create the dialectic anew?
We are not short on ideas that could serve as the catalyst to organize the general prison population. All the prisons in Amerika have similar issues that impede prisoners from expanding their humanism.
All of us prisoners suffer the indignities of poor quality food, inadequate healthcare, long delays in mail deliveries, forced menial labor, deficient clothing, high-priced canteen items, and families overcharged for phone calls. All of these prisoner issues are included in the campaign slogan of the Free Alabama Movement: “Redistribute The Pain,” calling for the boycott as a protest against being treated unfairly. There should be immediate identification with that idea flowing out of Alabama by all prisoners.
The prevailing challenge facing many of us in California is not only the paralysis of fear of administrative retribution. The enactment of Proposition 57 allows for time reduction for good behavior. For prisoncrats, protests and strikes count against good behavior. A combination of fear and incentives not to act looms large in a prison population that is largely ahistorical and apolitical.
Nonetheless, nothing should be viewed as insurmountable because the idea is determined to appear. It is imperative that we do the necessary primary work beforehand so when the idea does appear we can seize the moment.
People Who Believe In Freedom Cannot Rest.