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.
To my brothers and sisters locked down behind the walls:
One important dynamic that developed during the historic uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, that began last August after the police execution of 18-year-old Michael Brown for “walking while Black” was that brothers and sisters who the morning before were into it with each other in rivalries between different street organizations and other conflicts, courageously and defiantly stood together in the face of racist pigs desperately trying to repress the rebellion. The world watched the people of Ferguson stand boldly and unrelentingly in the face of old-school Jim Crow tactics like threatening people with snarling, vicious police dogs straining on leashes held by white cops, to the New Jim Crow-era tactics of armored assault vehicles with snipers atop aiming down their sights at women and children holding hand-lettered “Justice for Mike Brown” posters, body-armor and desert-camo-clad SWAT teams with assault rifles and no ID tags, and the flash-bangs and tear gas of advancing police blockades attempting to push the overwhelmingly Black protesters out of the streets — their utterly failed attempts to get people to “go away” and get this rebellion off the streets and out of the view of the world.
In the face of all of that — and I was there personally on those front lines in those first days, in that tears gas with the people of Ferguson — many, many young brothers and sisters who live every day with the boot of these racist pigs on their necks for the first time saw and experienced the power of standing collectively against the real enemy — the police, the armed enforcers of this whole racist, oppressive system. Blue, red, Crips, Bloods, GDs, Vice Lords, Folks, People — it didn’t matter what organization they represented, or who they rode with — what mattered was that for the first time in way too damn long the people refused to accept another police murder of another Black youth, and the daily repression of police-state New Jim Crow America.
And those of us who have spent time behind the walls, many of us have had similar experiences when we are locked down with brothers and sisters who are in different street organizations, or of difference races. We’ve had the chance to stand together and put those differences aside in the face of our real enemy. Many of you, I’m sure, know of (and some of you, like myself, took part in and/or supported) the California prison hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013. Tens of thousands of prisoners, of all different racial backgrounds, from many different street organizations, came together and put their lives on the line to demand an end to the torture of solitary confinement and demand humane treatment. In fact, the lead organizers of the California prison hunger strike collectively issued an Agreement to End Hostilities in August 2012, in which they called on brothers and sisters locked up across California — as well as on the streets — to put aside their differences and direct the struggle towards the oppressors running this system.
These examples show the power and potential of what we can collectively accomplish when we stand together and recognize who our real enemies are. And look, we know the youth are far too often engaged in rivalries and violence against each other, all of us locked on the bottom of this society, fighting over crumbs or for a little respect. Many of us have been caught up in and been part of that ourselves, myself included. This must be transformed, we must be part of transforming ourselves, and the world.
I’ve been through that struggle myself. I was never no “big time shot caller” or anything, but during my time in prison — particularly during the years I did in solitary confinement — I began to see how all the shit we were going through to try to survive on the bottom of this society was part of how this capitalist system operates. And through a lot of study and struggle, in which this newspaper (Revolution) was very integral, I came out of prison and got involved in the movement for revolution. Because nothing short of revolution is going to end this — the world doesn’t have to be like this and can be radically different.
But you don’t have to be a revolutionary to see and know that if we put aside our differences, especially those of us in street organizations, we can be a powerful force in the struggle to push back the New Jim Crow, the pigs fucking with and trying to lock us up every day, murdering Black and brown youth every fucking day.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for April 14 to be a nationwide day of shutting this system down, to take forward and heighten the struggle that kicked off in Ferguson and spread nationwide through the end of the year. An important component to that would be for those youth and O.G.’s and others in street organizations to make a formal call for nationwide cessation of hostilities with each other and to take up being part of the struggle against the New Jim Crow. So we are calling on those of you locked down to take this up. Write to us — and to everyone you know on the streets, as well — and give us your thinking on this. I know you have been watching and reading and keeping keenly abreast of the historic uprising that has been going down nationwide since Ferguson kicked it off in August. Many of us have been in the streets a lot, and one shortcoming has been getting the voices of the brothers and sisters behind the walls into the mix of this. A nationwide Call for a Cessation of Hostilities between street organizations could play a monumental role in taking this struggle to a higher level.
Send your letters right away to:
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
1321 N. Milwaukee #407
Chicago, IL 60622
Originally published in the March 2, 2015 edition of Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I’m back down after a long legal and political battle, including two weeks on hunger strike in Cook County Jail in solidarity with the California prison hunger strike. Got some reading and writing done as well. Will have more to say soon. Much love – Gregory
“I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me.” – Gregory Koger
Over 50 people came together in Chicago on Saturday, November 2 to celebrate Gregory Koger’s release from Cook County Jail. Gregory’s release came after he served the remainder of an outrageous sentence that should never have been imposed, for a political act that was never a crime. (See “Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail” for background.) The evening of music, hugs, and conversation was sponsored by the defense committee that has fought for his innocence and freedom for four years, warmly welcoming him back to the “outside” where he vowed to continue to fight to liberate humanity.
Sunsara Taylor, whose statement protesting censorship Gregory was filming when he was arrested, sent a beautiful statement.
Statement from Sunsara Taylor, sent to the celebration of Gregory Koger’s release:
I don’t know if this will reach you while you are all together celebrating—but either way I want to send the biggest virtual hug imaginable. I have been furious and agonized every day knowing that you have been unjustly and outrageously held behind bars and denied very basic freedoms. Yet, even behind bars your determination and strength and revolutionary understanding shined. Even as I know that millions of others remain in America’s hellholes and even though I know the world is teeming with unbearable and unnecessary suffering due to this outmoded, illegitimate capitalist-imperialist, life-crushing system we live under—my spirit is lifted and I am deeply happy to know that today you are out. Even more so to know that you are celebrating with people who know and love and deeply respect you. With people who have been touched by you and learned from your courage and strength. I am, as always, proud to count you as a friend and a comrade. It is great to have you back—we have much to accomplish together!
Until all are free,
A member of his defense committee, the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason, spoke for many when she said, “Speaking as a visitor to that hellhole, spending even one hour there was too much. How anyone incarcerated under those conditions could be expected to survive, much less be rehabilitated is unrealistic. Gregory did manage to survive and no doubt had some damned good discussions with his fellow inmates and will continue his fight against injustice.”
Gregory’s heartfelt talk was the highlight of the evening. We want to share this with the readers of Revolution, especially those who are locked down in the hellholes of this country:
“In talking to someone earlier tonight, I recounted that in the last 19 years of my life, I have had 9 months when I wasn’t in jail, in prison, on parole, on probation, or on bond. Including over half the time of the [seven years] since I’ve been out of prison has been spent fighting this case.”
“It didn’t surprise me what the criminal injustice system did in this case, but there were aspects that I think surprised all of us. The fact that I was charged with criminal trespass for just standing there holding an iPhone, which every legal scholar and lawyer we consulted with said there is no way that is trespassing; the fact they tried to hold me in contempt of court because my defense committee had a website that talked about the larger political questions related to this case; the fact that at the very end of the case, the judge issued a secret ruling without any notice to my attorney or myself that there was a hearing happening and then issued a warrant for my arrest. The fact that none of the substantive legal issues we raised were ever addressed by the court was not all that surprising to me because I know how the system works.”
“People have spoken about where I come from. It was very much in the conditions of torture, conditions in which tens of thousands of people in U.S. prisons are held in solitary confinement, where I began to really grapple with the broader questions of society, including why is the world this way. And that is where I ultimately came to conclude, through reading Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature, that there is absolutely no reason for this system to do what it does to people—billions and billions of people in the world—ruining their lives and offering them no hope whatsoever. There are the resources on this planet to feed, clothe, provide housing, healthcare, and education for everyone, and to provide intellectual and cultural life for the millions and billions of people who are systematically locked out of those realms. All that could happen, but it doesn’t because of the capitalist-imperialist system. But we can get to that world through revolution—nothing less. This is what I firmly believe.”
“During the course of this battle I have made friends with so many people who don’t all agree with what I believe, including many who do not agree with communism. But we have united together to oppose the glaring injustices of this system, of which one small part is this case we have fought for the last four years. To me this is an expression and an example of what needs to happen much more in society. An example of both the core strategic approach and outlook of the Revolutionary Communist Party—that we have to bring together people from the bottom of society and people from middle class backgrounds who don’t have the direct experience of that kind of oppression and injustice. We will never get to another world without people from the bottom and people from other parts of society being firmly committed toward humanity. We really had a great expression of that throughout the course of this case.”
“On a personal level, just seeing and knowing everybody here, many of whom I first met through the work of struggling against this case, people from many different backgrounds—writers, intellectuals, and people who don’t have a fucking thing. Artists like [the world-renowned jazz musicians] who are performing here tonight. Other people who know what torture is like [a friend at the party] who was tortured in Chile under Pinochet, who was out there fighting against the torture that’s happening to prisoners in solitary confinement in the U.S. People like me, and like this brother here, who was in the same prisons as me in the same conditions, who are now revolutionaries fighting against the system. I was on a hunger strike the first two weeks I was in jail in solidarity with the California prisoners’ hunger strike against torture…”
“I want to thank everybody. This has been a very trying and difficult four years, but we have built a tremendous amount of strength taking this on. On the biggest level in society, the core fault line contradictions that were embodied and encapsulated in this case—from the role of prisoners in this society, and mass incarceration, to the repression of voices of dissent and critical thinking. I will say that we lost the case legally, but we won it politically.” [cheers]
“This is a big inflection point, not the least for me. This has been a major component of the last 4 years. The last time I was in Cook County Jail three years ago there was a point when I was depressed, recognizing that the place they had me—in that jail cell—was exactly where they wanted me and people like me. But this time I didn’t get depressed, I got pissed off. My life will continue to be dedicated to fighting against this system and its outrageous manifestation of mass incarceration, against the degrading oppression of women and LGBT brothers and sisters; against the oppression of immigrants and all the things this system does to people here and around the world. I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me. So I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight from the bottom of my heart.”
Gregory asks that all those who wish to celebrate his release donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Thousands of dollars are needed to continue to send Revolution newspaper, BAsics, and other revolutionary literature to all the prisoners who are requesting it. Donate online at prlf.org. Or contact PRLF at:
1321 N Milwaukee Ave. #407, Chicago, IL 60622 773-960-6952 contact@PRLF.org
Three weeks from today, on July 23, 2013, a court hearing has been set where the State will move forward with their attempt to put me back in jail for documenting a political statement opposing censorship at the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) with an iPhone – a “crime” for which I received a 300 day jail sentence. Further details of our nearly four-year-long struggle against this political prosecution are available on my defense committee’s website: www.dropthecharges.net
Being under imminent threat of days, months, years of vicious, violent repression at the hands of the State within their timeless tombs clarifies the mind. Uncertainty coalesces into preparation and determination. Instantly the mind shifts to political battle mode, recognizing keenly that one is directly on the front lines of the class struggle – a gravedigger of the bourgeoisie. That you are being called on to reaffirm boldly – and in starkly visceral terms – your commitment to standing with the wretched of the earth, and of your dedication to struggling with them towards the liberation and emancipation of all humanity.
On July 23, 2013, I will attend the court hearing and my legal team will challenge this baseless political prosecution and outrageous sentence. However, I am fully prepared for the State to lock me up. This will be happening as hundreds of prisoners being tortured and held in indefinite detention without charge or trial in Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, and during the National Prison Hunger Strike called by prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU – which is set to begin on July 8, 2013.
I am prepared to follow their courageous example and join them on the National Prison Hunger Strike for as long as the State intends to hold me captive along with the millions of others entombed within the United States’ criminal system of mass incarceration. I will spend every day that I’m held captive working with other prisoners to take up the call for the National Prison Hunger Strike and to step forward as the powerful force for revolution that we have the tremendous potential to become.
I know personally the hopeless life far too many of the youth are caught up in – and I know the horrors of spending many years in solitary confinement. As a teenager, my family lost our home and I got involved in a street organization (aka “gang”) to survive on the streets. After being sent to an adult maximum security prison at the age of seventeen, I became increasingly politically conscious in the midst of spending over six years straight in solitary confinement – conditions that amount to torture under international law.
Since my release from prison nearly seven years ago, my life has been dedicated to opposing and bringing to an end the crimes and injustices of this capitalist-imperialist system. I’ve been in street protests, abortion clinic defenses, human chains defending parents sitting-in to oppose their children’s schools being shut down. I’ve debated and discussed the prospects of and necessity for revolution and a radically different world from prison yards and street corners to universities and high schools.
I firmly believe another world is possible – a world drastically different than the current oppressive and exploitative capitalist system of private appropriation of the vast wealth produced by billions of people globally. This completely outmoded and unnecessary system is enforced by brutal police terror and a court and prison system unparalleled in the history of human society domestically, and by bloody imperialist military force abroad.
The world does not have to be like this! Collectively, we can dismantle these oppressive institutions and bring into being a world without nations or borders, a world of voluntary economic, political and social structures devoted to meeting human needs and unleashing humanity to express its highest potential – a communist world.
Getting to that world will take revolution – nothing less. I would encourage anyone seriously grappling with how to end the injustices of this system and transform the world to check out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. In this talkBob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, gets deeply into the historic roots of the development of this oppressive system and the strategy for how we could make a revolution and unleash those who are counted as nothing by the rulers of this system to transform themselves as they transform the world in the interests of all humanity.
And that is what this political prosecution has actually been all about. Those who rule this system do not want those of us born into life at the bottom of society – that this system has absolutely no future for – to recognize our revolutionary potential. They do not want people from other backgrounds and social strata to see that those most demonized and degraded by the rulers of this sytem can become the backbone of a movement to radically transform all of society. And they will use any means they feel necessary to crush the potential of those most oppressed from stepping forward.
I call on you to stand with the prisoners being tortured in the dungeons of this criminal capitalist system. One way you can do that is by signing the EMERGENCY CALL! JOIN US IN STOPPING TORTURE IN U.S. PRISONS! statement being circulated by The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and donating to have the statement published in the Los Angeles Times. You can sign the Close Guantanamo Now statement being circulated by The World Can’t Wait to support the men on hunger strike in Guantanamo. There are many other bold and creative actions we must develop to support the hunger strikes and to end the torture being committed upon tens of thousands of men, women and children by the rulers of the United States. And I ask that you stand with me in the final stages of opposing this political prosecution, including coming out to the court date on July 23rd.
With Hope and Determination for a Liberated World for All Humanity,
A court hearing has been set for July 23, 2013, where the State will move to put Gregory Koger in jail to serve the remainder of his 300 day sentence for peacefully videotaping a statement against censorship at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday, November 1, 2009.
July 23, 2013 at 1:30PM
Cook County Courthouse – Courtroom 104
5600 Old Orchard Rd Skokie, IL
Neither the Court nor the Cook County State’s Attorney has responded to the Post-Conviction Relief Petition that Gregory’s legal team filed in March. This Petition exposed the lies at the heart of the false charges against him and provides documentary evidence (suppressed by the judge at trial) of the perjured testimony and prosecutorial misconduct that laid the basis for his conviction – and demands that his wrongful conviction and outrageous sentence be overturned. For more details, see www.dropthecharges.net
In his youth, Gregory spent years in solitary confinement while in prison. He transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity. Gregory’s legal team will vigorously oppose any attempt to put him back in jail.
We call on you to come out to stand with Gregory and demand:
A major element missing from the media reporting on this is the fact that there had been a significant ideological change within the leadership of the GD’s and specifically its Chairman Larry Hoover, beginning in the late-1970’s/early-1980’s. The main thrust of this transformation was a move toward mobilizing the organization towards electoral politics, explicitly following the example of the original Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, who was a member of an Irish street gang known as the Hamburg Athletic Club.
Daley was a 17-year-old member of the gang during the notorious “Chicago Race Riot of 1919,” an extremely disingenuous characterization of what in reality consisted of mobs of whites viciously attaching Black folks, some of whom defended themselves. These racist white supremacist attacks occurred not just in Chicago, but in more than three dozen cities across the country in the summer of 1919.
Several important factors contributed to these white supremacist attacks. They occurred in the aftermath of World War I and the victory of the Russian Revolution, led by V.I. Lenin, which established the first socialist state. And they occurred in the midsts of tremendous changes in the U.S. economic base, particularly in relation to Black folks, with reverberating effects throughout the social and political superstructure of society.
Briefly, as global capitalism increasingly moved into the stage of imperialism, and as mechanization began to replace the need for slaves or former slaves working the land as sharecroppers, Black folks began the Great Migration to the north in search of factory jobs and an escape from the horrific racism, lynch mob terror and Jim Crow laws of the south.
The “Race Riots” of 1919 took place in the mix of these developments, along with labor struggles breaking out amongst workers across the country. President Woodrow Wilson stated one of the greatest fears of the ruling class in a private meeting in March 1919: “[T]he American Negro returning from abroad would be our greatest medium in conveying bolshevism to America.” 1
Crushing the Leadership of Growth & Development
Daley’s rise to power out of the street gangs offered an example of a potential path to political, economic and social power to the leadership of the GDs. Larry Hoover led the organization in transforming itself from Gangster Disciples to Growth & Development, and laid out a Blueprint – a vision of how they sought to overcome the shared oppression of the Brothers of the Struggle. This happened in the aftermath of the 1960s, the ebbing of the revolutionary movement, and the specifics of the political repression and assassination of revolutionaries in the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary groups. The films Bastards of the Party and Crips and Bloods: Made In America get into some of the history of this phenomena in California among gangs there – especially the dire impact of the concentrated repressive efforts of the ruling class against revolutionary forces.
By the early 1990s, the GD’s – as Growth & Development – were mobilizing thousands of youth in the projects through 21st Century VOTE, and running candidates for Alderman. Additionally, Growth & Development was involved in the nationwide gang truces of the early 1990s in the aftermath of the LA Rebellion. (See Former Chicago Gang Members and 21st Century Vote – Democracy Now! 3/19/1996).
But the rulers of this system were not about to allow the GDs – or any of the other street organizations – to follow the same path to political power as Daley. By the mid-1990s, federal prosecutors had brought charges against the alleged leadership of the GDs, and buried them in federal prison. Larry Hoover was put in the notorious federal ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado – living under conditions that meet the international definition of torture, that over 80,000 prisoners across the U.S are held under and that prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU have called for a National Prison Hunger Strike beginning on July 8, 2013.
The System Has No Future for the Youth – The Revolution Does
Like many other youth who this system has no future for, I was attracted to becoming a GD in part because of the political ideology of Growth & Development. For example, while I was in Cook County Jail serving part of my 300 day sentence for holding an iPhone at the “Ethical” Humanist Society, one brother put it this way: “When I joined the GDs, they had me thinking I was joining the Black Panthers.” The political and ideological line coming out of the transformation of the GDs is fundamentally capitalism for oppressed nationalities and taking up bourgeoise electoral politics; however, something extremely important that should not be dismissed is that there is an underlying ethos of struggle against the economic and social conditions imposed by the system – especially national oppression.
That can – and increasingly needs to – lead to a radical rupture with capitalist ideas and thinking, and these youth – and even the older brothers – have the potential to become the backbone of a revolutionary force to transform society in the interest of all humanity. I’m a living example of that. And we must stand with these brothers and sisters against any fascist attacks by the rulers of this system, while struggling with them to become revolutionaries and emancipators of humanity.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, gets into this deeply in his recent talk, BA Speaks: Revolution – Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live, in the section: A Revolutionary Situation… The Role of the Youth… & How to Work Today So That There Is A Revolutionary Force When That Time Comes:
“The revolution has a future for the youth. For the masses of youth in this country and throughout the world, this system has no future for them but the revolution does. A revolution and a future in which these youth can and must have a decisive and increasingly conscious role. People tell us that these youth, especially these youth who are on the bottom being stepped on and beaten down every day, have been reduced to conditions where they could not any longer rise up to play this revolutionary role. But this is not true. People need to think about how hard many of these youth have tried to get out of the conditions they’re in and get to some place where they could do something much better. This too gets not only forgotten but consciously covered up.
Right now in the California prisons, the people who carried out self-sacrificing hunger strikes have made a call for peace among people of the different races in the prisons. We should understand how tremendously significant and difficult this is. How much is going up against it, both among the masses spontaneously but also for the workings of the authorities and how much they’ll try to undercut and sabotage all this. This needs a lot of support and needs to be popularized.
People need to know about it, they need to support people who have been condemned and cast aside as less than human and the ‘worst of the worst’ when they reach for something lofty like this. But from the perspective of understanding all that I have been talking about and for those who do understand this, we need to work to make this part of building a movement for revolution. We need to approach everything in that way and from that framework, even while uniting with other people who have not yet been won to that position or are coming from different perspectives.
Or think – let’s go back again to the LA Rebellion. Sometimes it’s forgotten – and we need to not forget – how hard so many of the people caught up in a lot of bad shit tried to break out of that at that time. From the first night of the rebellion to sometime in its aftermath, there was the graffiti on the wall in LA on the first night of the Rebellion: ‘Blacks and Mexicans together tonight.’ Think about what that signified and how significant that was. And then in the aftermath of the Rebellion you had all these attempts at forging unity, overcoming these deep divisions among the people that had grown over years with bitter antagonism. There were unity picnics. There were attempts at unity conferences all around the country. The police would attack the unity picnics.
I remember seeing a picture at that time of two young guys, one a Blood and one a Crip, shortly after the Rebellion with their arms around each other. Do we understand the significance of that and how much that means? These are youth who from a very early age are taught that they count for nothing and deserve nothing but a boot up their ass and a bullet in their brain – or a long time in jail. And so you have nothing and you are told to expect nothing. And so you try to get something by carving out a little space on a street in a neighborhood that doesn’t belong to you, doesn’t really mean anything but it’s all that you can feel that you can plant yourself in and find some meaning and purpose in. And then there are other people two blocks away – whether you’re Mexicans and in your rival gangs, or Black in your rival gangs, or Vietnamese or whatever – people two blocks away just like you. But if they come in the little territory that you staked out your hood, the rules are they’re slippin’ and you gotta shoot them. You shoot them, so then they have to come back and kill you and your family and your friends. And on and on it goes, back and forth for years and years. People kept like in cages.
And here they took the step, after all these years of this bitter experience of friends and loved ones being killed on both sides back and forth, and the meaning of their putting their arms around each other and trying to forge something different… But the system wouldn’t have it and couldn’t have it. They attacked the unity picnics time and again. But more than that the program that these people – that these youth and others, the O.G.’S in the gangs and whatever – tried to come up with was a program for reform, for entrepreneurialism that couldn’t work under this system. There was no room for it.
And so it didn’t go anywhere and many went back to the old ways and youth coming up fell back and, you know were sort of channeled into those ways. But they tried so hard! And so genuinely heroically. And the problem is that under this system there’s no basis for overcoming these kind of divisions. But in striving for and building a movement for revolution there is the basis – and this is what we have to be fighting for: to bring forward the full potential of these and other youth and other sections of oppressed people, men and women, to be the backbone and driving force, and win them through a lot of struggle to be that backbone and driving force of this revolution. [Applause]
And where this happens, when they do make this great leap to becoming part of the revolution – and yes, it is a great leap – then among others in the communities they come from and much more broadly among other sections of society as well, people have to be rallied in different ways and forms to encourage and back up these youth who take this great step of joining the ranks of the revolution. So that they can not only continue to get more and more deeply involved themselves but can play a key part in bringing forward many others. We need to find whatever the forms are to give life and expression to this. We need to find the forms for people who are not going to be on the front lines actively out there fighting the power but are contributing to the revolution and can contribute in many ways to back up these youth. To say in ways that have meaning: we are proud of our youth when they step forward into the ranks of the revolution. We need to even develop ceremonies that express this. We need to develop a collective culture that gives life and meaning to this. And there’s much sentiment out there that can be tapped in this direction.
Everybody wants the youth to do better. Even the churchgoing ladies: ‘[Sighing], these boys out here they ain’t doing anything good. They need to do something better. They need to get to Jesus.’ Well no they don’t need to get to Jesus – they need to get with the revolution. But even the churchgoing ladies can be appreciative of this – and this is not just in one community or among one section of society, but much more broadly. And this is a way that we can implement what’s talked about in that Strategy Statement (A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party: ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION), of developing growing cores of people that constitute relatively small numbers now – dozens here, but then become hundreds and the thousands as we put it in that statement that are actively and openly with the revolution and are influencing millions, among all different sections of the people. And being prepared and preparing themselves to get to the point where they can lead those millions when a revolutionary situation has been brought into being through the workings of this system itself and the ongoing conscious and consistent work of revolutionaries, and people are looking for leadership that has an actual program and has the actual orientation and determination to fight through to actually bring about a radical change.”
1 McWhirter, Cameron, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (NY: Henry Holt, 2011), p. 56
An Appeal to the Brothers and Sisters Locked Down in this Society’s Prisons:
Bear Witness to Torture in U.S. Prisons and to All Law Enforcement Abuse
2.3 million of you are locked away in the dungeons of this society, more people than in any other country in the world! You have been subjected to horrible conditions, and those held in solitary confinement have faced actual torture—arbitrary confinement, isolation and denial of any human contact for weeks, months and even years.
The authorities justify this by calling you “the worst of the worst,” criminal predators who are little more than animals. They say subjecting you to brutal suppression keeps the rest of society safe.
This is not true. The U.S. prison population has leaped by more than 800 percent since 1971 because the authorities have criminalized successive generations of Black and Latino youth. Under the “War on Drugs,” Black men are 10 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug possession, even though Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate. Women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population, and more women are imprisoned in the U.S. than anywhere else on the planet. Whole families of undocumented immigrants—including young children—languish in immigration prisons as record-breaking numbers of immigrants are locked up.
The backdrop to this is the way inner cities have been stripped of the employment opportunities needed to survive and raise families, and the educational system has been geared to fail our youth. This has left millions of youth growing up facing futures without hope. The response of the authorities to all this has been unleashing cops to harass and brutalize youth, unleashing the courts and enacting laws and policies to warehouse people in prison and to subject formerly incarcerated people to open discrimination after their release from prison.
All this has enmeshed tens of millions of people in the web of the criminal “injustice” system. It amounts to a slow genocide aimed at Black and Latino people. It is racist and unjust, and it must be stopped!
We call on you to join the efforts to stop it. The world needs to know of the sadistic, systemic horror of long-term solitary confinement, which is enforced on more than 80,000 people in the U.S. prison system. We know that revisiting this can be difficult for those who are facing or have faced these conditions, but the truth must be laid bare for all. All of society needs to know of the racial profiling that sucked you into the pipeline to prison, of the horrific conditions everyone in prison endures and of the open discrimination formerly incarcerated people face after release. You are in a unique position to expose the lying justifications given by the authorities for what they are.
Send these stories to the Bear Witness Project of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Through this you will be opening the eyes of those who are shielded from the real situation in the inner cities and the actual conditions enforced in prison. And letting those caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison know that what they’re up against are social problems, not individual ones, and that by standing up and resisting them together, we can change the way mass incarceration is looked at in society and contribute to bringing forward a movement that can end it.
Many were inspired by the efforts of prisoners to transform the horrible conditions they are subjected to through hunger strikes in California and other places. The call for racial unity issued by California prisoners and efforts by prisoners to engage and spread radical and revolutionary ideas about what is the problem in society and the world and what needs to be done about them are also inspiring. These heroic efforts need to be made known to all. You telling your stories can help make that happen.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and others will make these stories widely accessible. The stories will be posted online, run in print media, and read and spoken about in electronic media. Readings and other events, involving authors, actors, professors and other public figures, will be held to let as many people as possible hear of the horrors mass incarceration and all its consequences inflict on so many.
As people who have been in prison ourselves, we know that when the authorities imprison you, they tell the rest of society you don’t matter. Show that they are wrong. Lift your heads and raise your voices. Let the truth about the slow genocide strangling Black and Latino communities ring out from behind the prison walls and reverberate among all who hate injustice!
Carl Dix, representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party who was imprisoned in the military for refusing to go to Vietnam
Clyde Young, a revolutionary communist who was imprisoned in his youth
Gregory Koger, a revolutionary communist who was imprisoned as a youth and spent many years in solitary confinement.
Mail correspondence to: PRLF 1321 N Milwaukee, #407 Chicago, IL 60622
or Stop Mass Incarceration Network P.O. Box 941, Knickerbocker Station, New York City, NY 10002-0900
Promo to raise funds for ‘Occasioned by BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World.’ A film about a cultural event where people felt a door opened to the potential for a whole new world… a different way to think, feel and be. Contribute to this film, help this take further flight.
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…
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund just received this letter, postmarked July 8, 2011, from one of the hunger strikers in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at California’s Pelican Bay prison. He is also one of 49 subscribers to Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay State Prison, thanks to the generous donors to Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:
Greetings, I write in concerns of the hunger strike that begun on July 1st of 2011 here in Pelican Bay Shu. And as I get into the current effort made at Pelican Bay let me give some background to what lead to this social protest from the viewpoint of one of the hunger strike participants and its important to see the Repression unleashed on the Barrios and ghettos that lead to being wharehoused in koncentration kamps like Pelican Bay throughout America.
The prisons in California hold the most prisoners than any other state in America yet many of the conditions are the same. Pelican Bay opened for business in 1989, taking a page from the Federal Prison system and what it was doing with its new ‘supermax’ concept of incarceration. California began a new dawn in its housing of those prisoners it felt unruly. Pelican Bay Security Housing unit or Shu as it’s known is a prison within a bulging state prison system and is the future of what is the supermax America.
Supermaxing prisoners is not exclusive to Californians as America has about 70,000 men and women held in supermax prisons nationwide! 70,000 people housed in supermax! This is unprecedented. Never in the history of the world has their ever been as much as 70,000 people housed in supermax prisons, not even in Nazi Germany was their 70,000 supermax prisoners. America has become #1 in supermax prisoners of all time.
The conditions at Pelican Bay may shock the public, the idea that American citizens endure torture daily, yearly and for decades may be a surprise to many, or the fact that many of the conditions for prisoners being held in Guantanimo Bay are really better than Shu prisoners in Pelican Bay is hard to swallow but its true. Shu prisoners here endure 22 ½ hours locked in their cell every day. Their cell is a windowless concrete tomb that includes a slab of cement for a mattress and a toilet and sink. Shu prisoners are held in solitary confinement with no cellmate and for some this solitary has gone on for decades. Its important to note that the United Nations has said that solitary supermax is torture as this is known to create a psychological disorder in what has come to be called ‘Shu syndrome’! The studies that have been done concerning the supermax has shown that after 60 days of supermax people begin to experience a wide range of symptoms from panic attacks to psychosis and even emotional breakdown.
There is no human physical contact between prisoners and any other human being ever in Shu. Everything from food to laundry to books or mail is passed through a slot in the door. The psychological effects from supermax cannot be reversed by rehousing into a regular general population in another prison, yet some have been here in shu for decades, this in a country that claims to uphold human Rights, even occupying other counties under the excuse of their citizens having their human rights violated. And all along people in its prisons have their human rights trampled on without a murmur coming from the ‘halls of Democracy’.
The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that the California prison system is over stuffed with prisoners to the point where it now has a couple years to reduce its population by about 30,000 prisoners. Indeed the Supreme court said about one prisoner a week dies in California prisons due to medical care thats insufficient. One prisoner a week! It should also be noted that California seems to be the epicenter for the prison boom in this country and thus the epicenter for the prison boom globally and so precidents set in California should be followed closely especially when it comes to supermax prisons.
So what does it take to get one sent to a Shu supermax? The short answer is not very much. I was corresponding with someone once who asked me if someone arrested for a drunk driving and sent to prison can ever be sent to the Shu, and that person was shocked when I said yes! The thing that would shock the public the most is that people sent to Supermax in California are not sent here necessarily because of a crime or physical violation in a prison general population, one can come to prison for a drunk driving and happen to be a ‘jailhouse lawyer’ helping other prisoners with appeal’s and tackling violations in prisoner rights and be targeted by guards for Shu. One can get on the bad side of guards or simply refuse to go along with their wrongdoing or refuse to provide information and be targeted for Shu, just being a rebellious or progressive prisoner gets one targeted and labeled a ‘gang member’ and sent to Shu. The Shu is made out as a big stick to intimidate the prison population into passivity, (think deportation threats to migrants or the whip shown to the slave). It doesn’t mean its going to be used but the thought of it existing is enough to control a large portion of the prison population so it becomes a tool not used for rehabilitation but for social control. The fact that the Shu has no kind of self help program’s or classes such as victims awareness, narcotics anonymous, etc, or G.E.D. or college courses shows it is not a place designed to ‘rehabilitate’. One would think with the prison administration labeling those in Shu as ‘worst of the worst’, ‘uncorrigible’ or ‘the most violent’ in California’s prisons one would think there would be atleast one anger management class available (even if it had to be done via mail) but no dice. Instead prisoners are forced to languish in their windowless cell for 22½ hours a day every day.
Once a prisoner finds themselves in Shu and if the prisoners has a life sentence, as this person goes to board to see if he or she is eligible to parole it will be denied because nobody has been paroled from Shu with a life sentence, as administrators see it as ‘if your in Shu, your not ready for society.’ Thus Shu becomes an even bigger stick a huge whip to those of us with life sentences as it is basically a Death Sentence once sent to Shu. Any psychiatrist would agree even the thought of this playing out in ones head while locked in Solitary 22½ [hours] a day must be indescribably cruel. And once here in Shu their is a system called ‘debriefing’ that demands one to snitch on others or even make stuff up in order to be released from Shu and back into general population. After years of torture many will make stuff up on anyone just to escape the mind numbing torture of this sensory deprivation, and unfortunately someone will fill his/her cell and the cycle of torture continues.
Within this house of horrors of Shu that I have described lies an even more draconian existence (if one can imagine this) that within Shu exists what is called ‘the short corridor.’ The short corridor consists of about two hundred men here in Pelican Bay. This is where if prison officials feel you are a leader of sorts, you will be placed in short corridor where food is even less & worse, you have less movement out of your cell, less yard and mail is censored even more. It is these conditions where even reading material such as philosophy or history is censored. Pelican Bay Shu is designed to control, nothing more. We seen even Revolution newspaper being censored and banned from this prison at one time. Take a minute to think of living in a certain zip code or apartment building where city officials notify you that Revolution newspaper is banned and is not allowed in your neighborhood. How would you feel about these city officials? How would you feel about the system that upholds the actions of these city officials? This Hegemony and Draconian existence has led to the non violent civil disobedience playing out in the Shu. Mao said where you find much repression youll find much resistance! This resistance, although non violent is not expected to be met with a smile from prison officials but what other choice is there when you are left in your windowless cell in solitary for years with no recourse from the courts? But the efforts of the Pelican Bay hunger strike is more than the injustice unleashed on Shu prisoners. For vast swaths of the public this situation will call attention to the ills of not just the California Supermax but of the U. S. prison system in general. As I think of the whirlwind sweeping the middle East that was born from a Tunisian street vendor and has now been called an arab spring, I wonder in regards to the efforts of resistance from the Georgian prisoners, I wonder if the American prison system has developed a Georgian spring?
There are many demands some of which are contact visits with family, the ability to make a phone call (some have not been allowed phone calls for decades). Shu prisoners are not currently allowed to use a phone ever so as long as your here you wont use the phone. Medical services, with the present medical system you can sign up for feeling ill and not be seen for weeks, by then you feel better but your still charged five dollars. Those with documented illnesses are denied pain medications and surgeries are put through a stringent review board, treatment is very hard to obtain here. Because of the sensory deprivation a TV/ radio combination is being requested. The T.V. we are allowed to purchase has no radio and radios are not allowed. Music has long been known to be therapeutic yet in Shu it is denied, the act of enjoying music is banned. The ability to obtain colored pencils and art paper are being requested as it is also a form of therapy to create art, this basic act of expressing oneself through art is being denied to Shu prisoners and colored pencils and art paper are currently forbidden. The ability to purchase two care packages a year are being requested as at this time only one care package a year is allowable, forcing some prisoners such as Muslim Prisoners who cannot purchase halal food items on the prison commisary as the prison commisary has no halal food items. Thus many are forced to simply eat the meager slop issued on the trays given for meals.
General population prisoners are able to purchase radios, colored pencils, art paper, use the phone daily and get contact visits, take photos and receive four care packages a year. The ability to take photos is being requested as those who have been in Shu for 20+ years have not been able to take a photo to send their family. Many families do not have the money or transportation to travel all the way to Pelican Bay for a visit and a photo would substitute a visit as at this time Shu prisoners are forbidden from receiving a photo. The ability to recieve direct sunlight is being requested as currently the dog run yard has a sheet of blurred plastic so the sun is blocked out and the way the yard is designed the sun does not make contact with ones skin. It’s a known fact sunlight is essential to health and even bone density. Shu prisoners are withheld direct sunlight at this time. The dismantling of the ‘debriefing process’ is also being requested, the necessity to compromise another in order to leave Shu is a horrendous practice, one I suspect will be looked back on as incredulous as one now sees the selling of human skins in the day of slavery in America.
The whole process of ‘validation’ which qualifies one to be placed in Shu is faulty and without merit, for years its been known that some prisoners will make stuff up to leave Shu. Experts on torture have well documented that when one is tortured people will say whatever you want to know just so long as the torture stops. So as a result more people many innocent of the accusations will be placed in Shu. See Revolution issue #237 on Pelican Bay for the core demands. The issues that force people to seek redress by depriving oneself of nutrients is not exclusive to Pelican Bay Shu. The prison system in America is filled with the injustices that Shu prisoners experience here in Pelican Bay, and to deprive oneself of food is often the last line of defense, the last rock to hurl at a monster who makes life a constant state of torture, a perpetual waterboarding. Marx said in ‘On the Jewish Question,’ “We must emancipate ourselves before we can emancipate others”. I think prisoners are indeed emancipating ourselves and moving forward with a strong Revolutionary surge in seeking justice. Prisoners are tired of the decades long white torture that is often hidden from the public eye and which is now being heard nationwide with the strike – with nothing to lose and a world to win!