So I was reading a pretty interesting article, The New Black Power. Good piece on some of the young Black folks putting in work for liberation in Chicago. Got down to this paragraph, and really started thinking about everything that’s been going on since George Zimmerman was acquitted for gunning down Trayvon Martin in July 2013:
But what happened the second day wasn’t part of the plan: George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. The young activists held hands as they watched the TV reports. Some wept.
The tension that had built up found its outlet in that verdict. It was, Carruthers says, “a moment of collective trauma, but also a moment of collective clarity.” That night, half of the participants hit the streets to protest, while the rest stayed behind to write what would become the group’s first public statement. (The New Black Power, Chicago magazine March 2016)
I had spent most of that week keeping up with the trial and preparing for the almost-inevitable protest we would have to have when there was no justice for Trayvon. It was a warm July summer weekend, and I was preparing to be sent back to jail to finish serving a 300 day sentence for a fabricated political prosecution based on video recording a political statement on an iPhone at the “Ethical Humanist” Society of Chicago. I was there in part to record any police brutality and instead became thesubject of police brutality and a political prosecution. That is another story for another time. But after appealing the case up to the Illinois Supreme Court, my appeal was rejected without any of my substantive legal claims being addressed. I also had a warrant out for my arrest for missing an alleged court hearing on said case which was never sent to my attorney. Another surreal side story I’ll omit at this time.
So this entire time that I’m participating in organizing these protests, I have a warrant, I’m preparing to “turn myself in” at the next court hearing on July 23, 2013. Turning oneself in was never something I saw as a noble act, nor did I intend to smugly submit to injustice based on knowing that I was being completely set up. There was nothing that I liked or felt good with about “turning myself in” – except for the agenda of struggle I set for myself to be part of during my time locked up.
I go to my court hearing on July 23rd, accompanied by 30 or 40 friends, comrades and supporters. I began the hunger strike the previous night just before midnight, after a small piece of baklava and my traditional libations of a blunt and a 40oz of Olde English 800. After a few perfunctory words from the judge, I’m taken out of the back of the courtroom in handcuffs into the bullpens in the bowels of the courthouse to be processed and sent on a bus back to Cook County Jail.
I spent two weeks on hunger strike in Cook County Jail in support of the California prison hunger strike that summer. The next summer I’d appear in newspapers and night vision green video returning tear gas to militarized pigs moving on us with APCs and assault rifles, standing with the people of Ferguson.
I’m trying to process and write about all of this, while living with way too many years in solitary confinement particularly but really, prison period. Fighting a 4 year long political prosecution where I was sent back to jail didn’t help in many ways, even though we did a tremendous amount taking on that case and won – hands down – politically even if I lost legally.
Shit has been really hard for the last year or so. In some ways I’ve made some important steps, in my personal life and in my writing. But in a lot of ways I struggle to even make it from day to day. I just gotta keep putting in work on the writing, on fighting to survive, on fighting this system… I got a few stories I need to tell yet.
Had a very serious and heavy conversation last night on Laquan McDonald, Ferguson, Resistance & Liberation on Miss Geraldine Smith’s Radio Show. Was a pleasure and honor to sit with brothers and sisters who have done time behind those walls, now on this side fighting in the struggle together. Thanks to Brian Nelson of Uptown People’s Law Center and Roosevelt Burrell for inviting me. I had just come back from out of town and didn’t know I would even be speaking, and the show is fairly freewheeling, but I tried to make some serious, salient points. As did all of the guests. We had some differences on ultimately what it is going to take to address this, but a real agreement that people need to continue to come together and stand up, that this system cannot keep doing what it is doing to people. Any system that murders people on a daily basis is completely illegitimate. We will not be swayed by frantic calls for calm in the face of these daily murders by the enforcers of this system, or backroom deals with those responsible for the policies and practices that count the lives of Black folks as less than worthy of the same humanity and respect that every person deserves. We will continue to stand firmly for liberation, and against the daily State violence inflicted by the U.S. upon us here and on our brothers and sisters around the world.
Yeah, 2015… 2014 was quite a year. I won’t waste a lot of words here. But bottom line: #Ferguson. #MonthofResistance gets #2. But plenty much love to all the young and old brothers, sisters and (inclusive of and no disrespect to any queer or questioning or whatevs) peeps worldwide who stood up.
But yeah…. Something definitely shifted. From my lowly and humble position on the top tier globally, something moved in the superstructure. From channeled opium of the mass media to broadband handheld simulcast livestreams from Cairo to Quito to #Ferguson. #Trayon to #MikeBrown to #EricGarner to #RekiaBoyd to #Gaza and back again, #BlackLivesMatter.
No footnote to that.
We movin’ on towards a liberated future for all humanity. Believe that. We movin’ to the barricades, my brothers and sisters (and whatevs).
I stand, from the bowels of the belly of this imperialist beast, with you on the front lines. Keffiyyah tight, from W. Florissant to Gaza to Cairo to Roosevelt Rd. to Hong Kong, the people demand liberation. We will struggle on.
I don’t have all the answers, but what we living under – capitalism and imperialism globally – is the death of the globe. Liberation lies in the path toward socialism and communism. From the belly of the beast of U.S. imperialism, I stand with all those on the front lines of the struggle for liberation. If my life means nothing else, I stand with those that this world considers as refuse and irrelevant. Because this system considered me worse than that.
Another world is possible – and in birth. We can and must collectively craft another way forward. Let us collaborate and conspire together to bring this liberated future for all humanity into being.
I have found it difficult to write, as Anthony and I were good friends and spent many hours together, including all-nighters working on the video for the March 19th protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war, watching movies and documentaries on Netflix, struggling with the trauma and pain this system inflicted on so many of us, and kicking it deeply about resistance and revolution and the possibility of a future where people all across the world could live lives worthy of human beings.
I last saw Anthony on October 15th, the global day of protests for the Occupy Movement. It was the first time I had seen him in person in a while, since I had been involved in organizing things around the California prison hunger strike and working on my appeal, and the first time I had been out in the streets in a major demonstration since before my political prosecution, trial and imprisonment in the Cook County Jail last year. We both were amazed at how much had changed in the world since we last saw each other a few months earlier in the summer, and how inspiring it was to be able to be out in the streets in the mix of this profoundly exciting upsurge of resistance around major faultline contradictions that hold so much potential for liberation.
I’m proud to say that my last memory of being with Anthony was standing in the streets with him on that global day of occupation, and the night when the first tents when up at Occupy Chicago, standing with people all across the globe in determined struggle for a liberated future for all humanity.
I hope to be able to write more soon, it has been difficult… But as we here in Chicago have reflected and remembered about Anthony’s life, and as Sunsara Taylor beautifully voiced (in her statement here), what his life was about serves as a living example that millions of people should learn deeply from. In the hours before his passing, Anthony was marching on Wall Street with other veterans, refusing to be soldiers for this monstrous system and instead joining in the struggle against the crimes and injustices inflicted by this system, along with the massive outpouring of people who are stepping onto the stage of history in righteous rebellion, filled with hope and determination for a better world…
Since July 1st 2011, hundreds of prisoners in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU), joined by thousands more in over a third of California’s state prisons and in other prisons across the country, have been on an indefinite hunger strike demanding an end to the horrendous conditions they face languishing for years (some for decades) in isolation and sensory deprivation – conditions that violate international standards against torture. These courageous brothers have joined together to demand an end to the widespread, systematic policies of torture and human rights abuses that affect prisoners not just in Pelican Bay or California but are integral to the functioning of the world’s largest system of mass incarceration.
I know personally the horrors that these brothers are facing. Like too many others locked down in the hellholes of America’s prison system, I was caught up in survival in the street life as a youth and sentenced to serve many years in prison as a teenager. After being given an indeterminate period of segregation in prison, through intense study and resistance to the increasingly repressive conditions, I began to develop an understanding of the dynamics of this exploitative capitalist-imperialist system, and since my release have dedicated my life to serving the people in the struggle to emancipate all of humanity from the oppressive relations of class society.
My experience is shared by millions. With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. holds one-fourth of all prisoners in the world within its unrivaled and historically unparalleled racist dungeons. As Michelle Alexander has documented in her vital recent book,The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, there are more Black folks in jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in this country just before the Civil War. The United States has a higher rate of incarceration for Black men than apartheid South Africa, a regime universally considered one of the most racist in the history of the world. And there are more women incarcerated in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.
The systematic use of torture constitutes a crime against humanity under international law. As the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum describes, “[crimes against humanity] are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority.” Long-term segregation in the U.S. prison system is just such a systematic practice of torture. As Dr. Atul Gawande, who documented torture in U.S. prisons, said in his March 2009 articleHellholein The New Yorker: “In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement—on our own people, in our own communities, in a supermax prison, for example, that is a thirty-minute drive from my door.’
The courageous example of these prisoners coming together, across racial and other dividing lines fostered by those in power, from within the bowels of the most dehumanizing and degrading conditions, and stepping forward to demand an end to the torture and inhumane conditions being forced upon them by the U.S. government, risking death and retaliation in the process, should inspire and challenge us to support their struggle and step forward to join them – as part of getting rid of this whole damn capitalist system and bringing forward a liberated world for all humanity.