The September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity is an opportunity for prisoners to commemorate the anniversary of the Attica uprising and draw attention to abuse of prisoners across the country. This event was initiated in 2012 by a prisoner organization and has been taken up as an annual United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) event, with people participating in prisons across the country.
We can not effectively fight the oppressors if we don't have unity among the oppressed. And that unity behind bars needs to start with peace and solidarity. This is why activists spend the 24 hours on September 9 promoting peace and education. We call for a full halt on all hostilities and engagements, whether between lumpen organizations or individuals. All participants should use the day to educate and build peace. In some places prisoners will observe a 24-hour fast. In others there will be group classes to study and discuss political history and current events. Figure out what you will do and get started organizing people today.
We use September 9 to build on the UFPP principle of Peace: "WE organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression." This is a critical step in building a united front among prisoner organizations and individuals committed to the anti-imperialist movement. We do not need to agree on every political question, but we must come together united around core principles to build and succeed together. For those who are engaging others to participate, the unity building starts well before September 9. It is a long process of education and organizing to build the anti-imperialist movement.
This 24 hour action will require a little sacrifice, but should incur no harm, and should lead to a reduction in violence as all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities cease for the day. We can build greater awareness of the oppression against which we fight, and build the unity that is necessary for that battle, by organizing groups and individuals to participate. Comrades organizing around the solidarity demo are encouraged to send their plans or reports to Under Lock & Key. To be included in ULK 64, your reports must be in our mailbox by Monday September 17.
Being a recent student participant of an on-site college program, I heard about Grit via my psychology professor, who really sold the book as "the best work of its kind" in his lifetime. He was an abnormally straight shooter, and over the spring semester he gained a high level of respect from me and several Gods attending his classes. That being said when I read the title I became ecstatically interested in reading it. To make things 1000% better ULK sent a request that asked me to direct a selected few ideas from the book's chapters, repurpose the information in a way that makes it useful for prisoners and prisoner movements.
Taking Grit to the cipher those last days of Ramadan provided the forum that I used to gain opinions from the Gods here. First it was introduced and the purpose was established as to what I was planning to do within our cipher with regards to the book. It was agreed that we would give light to its reading, our interpretation of the book knowledge as it regards the prisoner movements (meaning unified actions of prisoners between different lumpen orgs, religious orgs, racial groups and at times including sexually non-conformist groups).
Once that was the base of our collective understanding, we read the very first part out loud in its entirety, without stop. This was done in order to gain a clear mental picture of what the author, Dr. Angela Duckworth, wanted us to know: How she defined "grit." Her purpose for writing this book. How this information could be used (individually, as a group, systematically, as a tool of help or to exploit). Lastly we brainstormed on whether the subject was new, unique or reminiscent of other books any of us read.
This was all done on day one. It included reading the preface along with chapters 1-5, checking the dictionary and thesaurus for words we either didn't understand or had different definitions for. This was to ensure we all stayed on the same page until a full grasp of the work was gained (or as we say, the who, what, when, where, how and why). Once that's gained then each God can go back to the cell and reflect on what is being said versus what the author's voice is trying to persuade the reader of. Because of lockdowns we didn't come back together again for some time. In that time I made 6 copies of the book and hand delivered the copies to each member of the cipher. I read ahead because of these time restraints for my response for ULK to be ready for this 63rd issue.
The subjects that I found applicable to the prisoners and prisoners' movement's need to develop grittier comrades on the front lines are from the Part II chapters: Interest, Practice, and Purpose.
Using "the grit test" [a questionnaire measuring someone's passion and perseverence - ULK Editor], we can discriminate in positive ways to create better recruiting methods when it comes to bringing individuals into the inner communal cipher or cadre. This will change the qualities that community leadership uses to identify like-minded soldiers. Though most will have to use interview methods instead of written questionnaires, and questions will have to be asked again and again in different ways before confirmation can be made.
The study habits and increasing interest in each member's confidence in sharing these interpretations of studied materials must become the job of all in leadership, with little to no critique at first and high praises to study habits and being able to communicate ideas in their own voice.
Standing up to injustice must be celebrated. Especially in times they are made to suffer by the authorities for doing the righteous and self-respecting thing — which is the institution's systematic way of pushing said prisoner to believe they are powerless. This is the creation of the passive prisoner who just puts up with all levels of abuse from authority. To fight this mental bullying the leadership must celebrate the comrade's actions openly with high energy. Leadership must show and prove they are willing to suffer some loss if and when making a stand causes such losses — a united front plus true knowledge of where the cadre stands on issues by actions, not just theory or talk-based instruction.
Grit is made of both passion and perseverance, creating and maintaining, stick-wit-it-ness, evolving interest and deep commitment. As opposed to natural skill, know-how or raw talent which may or may not assist in being a success. Comrades, being grittier means overcoming obstacles, learning from defeats and setbacks, and never allowing them to define who you are nor the movement. Remembering effort is worth twice as much as talent.
Example: Recently myself and eleven other political prisoners attempted to establish a self-introspection help program. At the beginning the administration acted positively about allowing the program to have a pilot try, yet once we got a free body volunteer to facilitate our group the administration changed its decision. This forced me to educate myself on group creation, rules of submittal and how to get sponsored state-wide, which I’m currently in the process of doing. The lesson is: don't stop at the first (or second or third...) signs of resistance.
This chapter was organizational gold when clearly understood. Leaders please pay close attention to each comrade's passions within your cadre or cipher, with even more emphasis on possible new members in relation to the struggles the cadre is immersed in. Understand what each person is passionate about, issues they will be more able to persevere through any pushback or reprisal.
Besides that, knowing each person's passions and convictions helps to know what position everyone is good at and areas they need assistance developing, which can be introduced in creative, fun ways, then incentivized through recognition and praise for gradual growth in areas of difficulty.
Example: Say a comrade is uncomfortable communicating their ideas publicly. This problem is amplified when the COs are involved to the point this comrade doesn't assert his legal rights nor is he respected as a man in the righteous way. Leadership must cultivate these skills in members who have difficulties related to these identifiable areas. The "you spoke really well" type or "the way you used those descriptors in the last essay was golden, so please continue to develop those skills" type of recognition and praise. I call it fanning the flames of passion, then directing the flames of progress and confidence among comrades.
Practice is something all gritty people have in common. You've heard the saying "practice builds perfection." Well after reading this chapter I must take it even further. Without practice as a united front executing plans in concert, you don't know how to work as one body. This will create the "big me and little yous," or followers resentment. Learn to practice making decisions together by hearing everyone involved out, allow each person the opportunity to lead in every activity. Practice writing write-ups, working out as a group, being inclusive as much as possible. This will make the cadre able to operate even when separated.
The author's research shows that this kind of practice must be done in association with a positive state of mind related to the balance of quantity and quality of time spent in skill development. We must also seek out new creative ways of practice in direct relation to the top-level goal. Formal repetition and fun activities loosely associated to goals are also useful tools.
Examples: Getting our comrades to rap in the cipher, incorporating subjects, words, ideas related to the group's mission may help them develop a public speaking style, confidence in speaking these opinions, and help them be more connected to positive public communication as a way to handle issues. Another more formal method is reading and discussing essays with the group, both on the yard and in closed room settings.
ULK readers this may be the most important thing to learn about in this whole book with regards to prisoner movements and issues that create the necessity for a more inclusive united front. This author makes the definition of "purpose" more than the passion of the moment. Purpose is also the intention to contribute to the well-being of others. The balance of both is what is needed in these occasions and is found in all the grittiest revolutionaries.
The comrades that feel they were born to live and die for the people are of such destiny-driven molds where this quality is found, manifested and acted out. These people are rare and even when they reach the stage of public awareness they are usually murdered by one of the system's arms of imperial aggression. Purposeful Revolutionaries must be supported by the people and understood by their peers as the magnetic all-inspiring super-motivation-drivers that they are. When unity is necessary these forces of nature will bring organization.
Example: Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the BPP was placed inside prison for a shootout with the police, and he was railroaded the first trial. The whole country polarized over this miscarriage of injustice creating one of the most supported appeals California had ever seen. "Free Huey" was the call, Black Power was the purpose, and the results are revolutionary history and the thing of legends.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Thanks to this comrade for reviewing Grit from the perspective of a revolutionary anti-imperialist prisoner organizer. We also studied the book and found lessons we can draw from it for our own work. We can't summarize them all here, but will respond to some points in the review above and emphasize what we see as the most important points from the book. (Grit is available from MIM(Prisons) for $10 or equivalent work-trade.)
We are hesitant to take any of the studies in Grit as representing humyn nature itself. As with all bourgeois psychology, the studies were conducted under conditions of imperialism. So we don't know if they're absolute representations of how humyns' minds work. But since we're also organizing under imperialist conditions, the studies do apply to our present conditions.
Throughout Grit, the author uses scientific studies and also case studies of "paragons of grit" — people who have reached pinnacles of performance in their jobs. This is one place where Duckworth's bourgeois perspective shines brightly. The book opens with a study of the most elite forces in the U.$. military, and jumps from athletes to musicians to chemists. The only mention of a socialist hero is when Duckworth puts Joseph Stalin's name right next to Adolf Hitler's. Ey admits Stalin had grit, but also that ey was "misguided" and "prove[s] that the idea of purpose can be perverted." In our communist version of Grit we would include case studies of not only Stalin, but also Mao Zedong, George Jackson, Stanley Tookie Williams, Assata Shakur, and the tens of thousands of people who participated in the over-5,000-mile Long March in China in the 1930s.
Regarding the grit test, we caution against using it as a measure of who should be allowed into our movement. It can be a tool for assessing where people need development, and how much we could count on them to follow through in this moment. But Duckworth emphasizes strongly that grit can grow. In fact, Chapter 5 is titled "Grit Grows," Part II is titled "Growing Grit from the Inside Out" and Part III is titled "Growing Grit from the Outside In." There are many interventions we can use to increase the grit of our cadre. And building our own and our comrades' committment and perserverence should be our focus. The grit test may be useful for measuring if we're improving our abilities to build grit in others, but should not be limiting who can participate.
USW7 outlines above the importance of group practice, and we also want to add the importance of individual development for improvement. Elsewhere in this issue of ULK we lay out the guidelines for deliberate practice. The group mentality is important, but we can't rely on it for our development. Kevin Durant summarizes the ratio by saying ey spends 70% of eir time practicing alone. Both are necessary.
Besides our ability to grow grit, one of the most important points Duckworth makes in Grit is that effort counts twice. Duckworth warns us against being distracted by talent, or assuming that one's skills are dictated by talent. Talent plays a part, but without effort, one's talent won't develop into skill. And without effort, one's skill won't develop into achievement. People who have less talent certainly surpass those with more talent in their achievements. They do this with effort. The ability to put in effort even in spite of repression, setbacks, failures... that is grit.
I'm writing because I have received my first issue of ULK, and I am going to tell you about how I became who I am, and what I am. It started in 2010 at South Central Correctional Center with a brother by the name of Supreme. At that time I was 21 years old and didn't want to hear a thing from no one cause I thought, "you can say what you want but it don't mean a thing if you can’t show it." I never used to listen to nothing until he started talking to me and on top of that he was showing it to me. So I can see that it was true.
Once I started to see what he was showing it all came to me and I said to myself "this is a brother I can believe and count on when I'm in need, and need help against the pigs." Because at that time I was having problems with the pigs and they were giving me hell back to back and I didn't know what to do about it. He saw it and started helping me and showing me how to go at it with them. I saw what he was showing me was working, so now I'm a believer. He's an older brother and I respect him a lot for what he did.
I have had a lot of guys tell me things and couldn't show it. They say "look at the message and not the messenger," but sometimes the message don't mean a thing if you can't show it. I had a guy tell me one day, "yeah man we all should write some letters to people outside. I don't think it's gonna work but we can do it anyway." See! That right there told me a lot, that he didn't even believe what the fxxk he was saying, so why should I believe that would work?
Now I listen to the ones that show and tell and I make sure I do the same. I never feed anyone bull because I don't let anyone feed me bull. And I have a lot of brothers that show and tell. One, a political prisoner, does a lot to help all of the brothers that he can. So I give a lot of love to brothers like him and Supreme.
I liked the whole issue of ULK 62 for May/June and I am letting a lot of other brothers read it too. I have read some of your ULKs in the past but I never had a chance to write to you guys and it seemed like noone ever heard of your paper. I realized that there are a lot of guys in prison that are not doing their job, the job of educating other brothers. So now that is why we have a lot of b.s. where everyone is against each other. We see this again and again in all of Missouri prisons. I don't know everything, and I'm still learning, but as I go on I try my best to help all of the other real brothers gain knowledge.
I know just as well as you know that we have a lot of guys that are faking and trying to bring the movement down working with the pigs. I can tell you a lot of dudes don't like me because I tell it like it is and I don't hold nothing back for no one. A lot of these guys are just all talk, they act like they are something they are not, but see they don't like that I'm about all of that and some, I practice what I preach. I want to help all of the brothers that I can and I mean it and I show it too. So guys don't like me because I show and tell for real! I want to thank you at MIM(Prisons) for your time and allowing me the chance to talk with you all and the reading material you all send me to help me more. I'm still growing.
Keep on fighting the fight, never give up. To all the brothers and sisters of the struggle: a warrior never gives up. Freedom is what we make it.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This article is especially interesting to us because it's easy for such a long-term project as ours to sound like what this comrade is criticizing above. "[W]e all should write some letters to people outside. I don't think it's gonna work but we can do it anyway."
We write letters to prison administrators to defend our right to send prisoners our literature, and a lot of the time it doesn't go anywhere. We run the grievance campaign, and often times we're just sent in circles between the Inspector General, Ombudsman, and the warden. But we're not discouraged. We already have strategic confidence in our work, because we've studied enough history to know that what we're doing today will pay off in the long term. Engaging in the endless bureaucracy is tolerable because we already understand how it relates to the big picture.
However, this comrade's skepticism underlines the importance of how we recruit new people. Our strategy ultimately is to build unity and confidence among the oppressed masses. Busy work (sending letters just to send them) does not have this effect. Even if we don't expect an immediate positive response from admin, if people just see us as wasting their time and resources, it's going to discourage them even more and cause them to distrust us.
Part of encouraging people is in picking battles that are winnable. Part of it is in framing these battles as a piece of our larger struggle. Part of it is in showing historical successes and broadening people's vision. And part of that is relating our goals to the perspective and values of the people we're attempting to recruit.
Within prisons we find ourselves confronted with multiple obstacles to organizing efforts. Obstacles spanning from legal and material to psychological and physical. Before we can even engage in political activities we must confront these various road blocks, what I call "walls" (barriers against activism and organizing).
Psychological walls manifest in two primary ways: 1) lack of receptivity in conversations; and 2) perspectives of hopelessness. For prisoner activists these are Goliathan problems. In the first instance you find yourself talking to a brick wall. In the second your points may be acknowledged as valid but still dismissed as useless opposition. A most frustrating situation, because one – your words can not make an impression; and two – your arguments prove valid but produce no effect. In both cases real victories (read demonstrations) proving the validity of arguments and feasibility of proposed actions is the surest method of overcoming such obstacles. In the former, a prisoner sees the validity. In the latter, a prisoner gains motivation. Even a small victory – a granted grievance – is capable of advancing organizational efforts to be heard and considered.
Material walls are next formidable in line. Including almost every privilege extended to a prisoner and their financial security. Following capitalist society, prisons use these privileges and financial control to maintain leverage over prisoners' behavior/thought. Furthermore, as most prisoners are stuck in parasitic thinking in pursuit of a capitalistic existence, such advantage creates a strong disinclination towards jeopardizing them, even if it is in their best interests. As with capitalism in general, there is no convenient nor easy answer that can be applied with certainty. All prisoners' privileges and financial interests intensify identification with classism (antagonistic) and capitalist priorities. Considering this, no general rules of approach can be established as each's interests influence differs. Fortunately, every answer that can be applied can be approached on first, an individual, then, group or demographic level, expanding in concentric circles.
Legal and physical walls are less conspicuous; most prisoners view political activity as futile. Still once activism gains momentum and organizing becomes realistic, these last walls spring up. Within prisons these signify various administrative "conveniences" (e.g., Ad-Seg, SHU, MCU, punitive segregation, out-of-state transfer, and varied movement/privilege/property/financial/communication restrictions or other arbitrary sanctions). Outside of prisons, many courts conspire to create so many legal formalities, exorbitant fees, byzantine procedures and lopsided laws that most trained lawyers are bemused and at a loss. For the prisoner who does survive such a crucible, pride is only the beginning of the prize.
All in all these many walls constitute the primary, secondary and such obstacles to organization behind bars. These difficulties should not be taken as reasons to dissuade political action but rather, as motivation to pursue these endeavors. Why else would there be so many protective measures if activism and organizing were indeed useless? Once the prisoner understands their interests in the matter these insurmountable walls become merely constant annoyances necessary for progress and material dialectical processes. Nothing worthy of having ever comes easy. With greater obstacles comes a greater and more valuable prize. Rise to such challenges, allowing your hunger for real equality to increase along and as much as difficulties faced; if not more so.
This issue of Under Lock & Key is devoted to exploring tactics in organizing behind bars. We often hear how hard it is to get people interested in politics, how so many are just doing their time, or worse, getting high, collaborating with the COs, or promoting division among prisoners. But we also hear from comrades about organizing successes. We can all learn from our own failures and successes and also from other people's failures and successes.
This scientific process of learning from practice, and using those lessons to improve our practice, is key to moving our organizing work forward. Marxism is based in this science that we call dialectics. Often people talk about it in the context of deep political line. But political line is only useful if it can direct a successful political practice. And so, as we spread revolutionary ideas and organize against the criminal injustice system, we need to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, both for us and for others. And then apply these lessons to improving our own work. Without dialectics the revolutionary movement will stagnate; with dialectics we will continue to learn and grow.
In a few articles in this issue we highlight the work of a psychologist, Angela Duckworth, who has conducted and compiled studies of how to engage and inspire people in work and how to build expertise. Although ey writes about this subject from the perspective of mastering bourgeois work or hobbies, we find some of the techniques and information presented to be directly applicable to revolutionary organizing. We learn from scientific studies like those presented by Duckworth, along with our own practice, to grow and improve our work.
Duckworth is an interesting psychologist because eir work focuses on measuring what ey calls "personal qualities" or traits, but eir work also demonstrates that these traits of a persyn can and do change over time. And individuals and society can have an impact on developing desired qualities. We agree with Duckworth on this assessment of the ability of people to change and grow through both their own work and external forces. In eir more recent works, Duckworth clearly agrees with us that these "traits" are more a product of education and training than inherent in one's persynality. Duckworth's writing is instructive as we look for ways to improve our own dedication and effectiveness, and ways to better inspire others.
MIM(Prisons), like MIM before it, has long maintained that the field of psychology under imperialism is generally used to help people adjust to their oppression and adapt to the horrible culture of imperialist patriarchy. It is a counter-revolutionary weapon when used in this way. Further, bourgeois psychology often attributes behaviors to inherent traits instead of material circumstances and conditions, suggesting that humyns can't change. We don't have the ability to run truly scientific experiments on humyn nature, but we have a lot of evidence from revolutionary societies like the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and Communist China under Mao to suggest that humyns have a tremendous capacity to learn and grow and overcome selfish individualism.
Instead of seeing the selfishness and individualism in capitalist culture as reasons that humynity will "always" have oppression and suffering, we see it as evidence of the importance of a Cultural Revolution under socialism. This concept was executed on a mass scale in China under Mao. The Cultural Revolution recognizes the need for the people to vigilently fight against reactionary culture and capitalist ideas, even after the proletariat controls the government, because capitalist culture and individualism will not disappear overnight.
Of course in the end individualism and self-interest won out in those countries when capitalism was restored. But this doesn't negate the very real changes that so many people made in revolutionary societies. We look to these examples as hopeful evidence, while studying them for improvements needed for better success in the future.
There are people in the fields of psychiatry (medical doctors) and psychology (not medical doctors) who have taken their study of humyns in a revolutionary direction, contributing to the anti-imperialist movement. Frantz Fanon is an excellent example of a revolutionary psychiatrist. Among eir revolutionary work, Fanon's scientific studies contributed greatly to our understanding of the effects of colonial subjugation on the oppressed, and a broader study of the lumpen. Duckworth is not revolutionary, or anti-capitalist, or anti-Amerikan, and ey is still mired in some of the pitfalls of the field of capitalist psychology. But eir research presents some useful concepts and techniques for revolutionary organizing work. In this spirit of scientific learning we touch on Duckworth's work in this issue of ULK.
Just arrived at the Ad-Seg unit @ Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) on a charge for conspiracy to assault C.O.s on a particular facility, drag for "Administration wants you out of here." I get to the cell and the first voice I hear coming through the adjacent HVAC duct is the voice of a Southern California [email protected], who is my neighbor asking, "Ey homes, are you active?" inquiring as to whether I am housed with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as a General Population prisoner or a Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) prisoner. Because I do not engage in the police agenda of separating and segregating California prisons based on racial disparities, I replied, "I'm a konvict!"
To say the least this lost child of Aztlán continued to press down on myself the hellish investigative tactics so often applied under the prison politic culture. As a New Afrikan leader under the strict guidance of the L1 cell of USW, I know the difference between Politics and Politrix. And the California prison system is saturated in Politrix, most practiced by the prisoners themselves. I relieved the lost child of their fears and went to the bunk area and began opening my Prisoners Legal Clinic Accounting System. I was called by another set of prisoners who were housed on an SNY facility and were members of a lumpen group. These individuals sent me their lock-up orders and asked to review mine in order that we could engage in a confidential dialogue in relation to current feuds between [email protected] lumpen factions and a new born faction of Blacks. This brings me to the titling of this report, "Checking Paperwork v Checking Ourselves."
Here it is. I, a leader of the New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist identity is sitting in Ad-Seg unit after being kidnapped from a previous prison to fill "Black bed space" at Kern Valley State Prison; space created by racial altercations orchestrated by the C.O.s. I've been shot in the arm and gassed by the pigs with no reports or medical attention administered. I've had a Sergeant threaten to fuck (rape) me because of my involvement in a case witnessing pigs apply unnecessary force, while the anti-intelligence agents (ISU/IGI) do everything they can to keep my voice as an activist for the "Prison Rape Elimination Act" silent. I've been used to carry out acts of violence on other prisoners, in a mafia-like way by CDCR and KVSP officers. Officers who then doctor their reports to justify removing the targeted prisoner. All this done against my will and yet when I pull up, the lost children of Aztlán ask me am I active.
We need to re-evaluate what it means to be active. In these last hours it means less what the person's p.work says and more to what one's actions say. As a member of the USW-L1 cell I stand on the principle of unity as described by the United Front for Peace in Prisons. For New Afrika, UMOJA brings about UHURU as a five letter word equal to the five point star, and/or square that is Planet Earth. Whether we are visitors or make prison our deathbed, prisoners must begin addressing our problems amongst one another using investigation methods based in true information. Not hearsay or gossip shared with us by the pigs. We must not determine who is active or who isn't solely on a housing status, because when the tables are turned you might be the one de-activated.
In struggle and solidarity.
MIM(Prisons) adds: It is easy for the state to create paperwork, and phoney documents have been a known tactic in CDCR for a long time. This is similar to our discussion around sex offenders, who are regularly ostracized and even attacked based on cases that the imperialist state has put on them. We know there are many who snitch in prison, just as there are many who committed sexual crimes against the people to get there. But we will echo the comrade above, that we must base our judgments on peoples' actions.
We take action regardless of whether we will ultimately win or lose. We take action simply because it is in our nature to resist injustice and oppression. It is who we are. And we recognize that not everyone has that same nature. We should not criticize or look down on those who don't have enough strength for this fight against the odds. After all, oppression of the weak and unfortunate is the very thing we are struggling against. So we hold no animosity towards the naysayers as long as they do not directly interfere with our cause, and we are happy when our actions benefit them even though they refused to participate. People cannot help being the way they are. For those of us with the revolutionary spirit the struggle comes as naturally as apathy and passivity comes to those who refuse to participate.
But the truth is that we most definitely can make a difference. The government and the TDCJ administration would like us to believe they are all-powerful and can do whatever they want without concern for any consequences, but that is just propaganda intended to make us give up before we even start. We know this from experience because we have won victories already. We have seen even just a handful of prisoners come together many times and force the administration to improve conditions or follow its own rules.
We know that just because our actions are ignored at first or because we got a rubber stamp response on a grievance doesn't mean it didn't have an effect. Everything has an effect and it all adds up. We recognize that change in any area of life generally requires sustained action over a long period of time. The pigs' first line of defense is to keep us ignorant and keep us discouraged, but we must know better than to fall into those traps.
What we often see is prisoners coming together in a spontaneous uprising when abuses reach a crisis point. The administration will quickly back down and meet their demands. But then when this temporary mobilization of the mass of prisoners falls apart, the administration incrementally begins the same abuses all over again. If they overstep and the prisoners mobilize themselves once more, then the administration just repeats the process of backing down and incrementally reimposing the same abuses. In this way they gradually accustom the prisoners to accept the abuse of their rights and human dignity.
So another reason why we take action is simply to stay mobilized and able to resist the incremental erosion of our rights. We don't fool ourselves about the possibility of keeping the whole mass of prisoners fully mobilized. The majority will always care more about watching TV and playing fantasy football. But there are also at least a few prisoners who see revolutionary work as a way to pass the time that is just as enjoyable and interesting, with the added benefit that it actually gives them some real power over their circumstances. If we can keep this core of dedicated revolutionaries organized and active at all times, then we can put up constant resistance to the erosion of our rights. And we will have an organizational framework and leadership already in place that allows us to quickly mobilize the masses for some larger project whenever it becomes necessary.
We know all this is an uphill battle, but we can take heart when we study the past. In the broad sweep of history the course of events has overwhelmingly been in our favor. The oppressors of the world have been fighting a desperate retreat for the last thousand years, losing battle after battle in the struggle for human rights. It is clear which way the wind is blowing. And the struggle for prisoners' rights fits squarely within that larger struggle.
There will be a day in the not-so-distant future when people look back with horror and shame at our current culture of mass incarceration and the conditions in these prisons. And those who struggled for prisoners' rights and reform of the criminal justice system will be grouped among the heroes who fought to overcome absolutist monarchies, colonialism, slavery, worker exploitation, racism, sexism, and every other form of oppression. We can take action with absolute confidence that we are on the right side of history. In the long run, we are assured of victory.
MIM(Prisons) responds: So much of what this author writes here speaks directly to the value of perseverance in our work. The project of building revolution (or making any great impact on the world) is made up of many, many, many days of mundane tasks. Some days of excitement. And many more days of mundane commitment.
In a debate on whether people are born as, or developed into, revolutionaries, it seems like this author would argue the former. But surely everyone who's turned on to politics can also remember a time in their life when they were apathetic and passive. Whether from an incorrect understanding of how the world works, or a lack of faith in our own ability to change and make change. At some time, probably over a long time, we decided to stand up.
Well, how do people turn from only participating when there's an acute problem, to making that long-term commitment to building a revolution? (Hint: it's not a persynality trait we're born with.)
Author and bourgeois psychologist Angela Duckworth says developing interest and passion for your work (the type of passion that sticks it out through the hard times) is made of "a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening."(1) In the quote below Duckworth talks about "having fun" as part of developing interest. While prisons certainly aren't fun, we can apply this concept to prisoners facing repression, where the "trigger" for interest is repeated exposure to examples and experiences of resistance.
"Before hard work comes play. Before those who've yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and retriggering interest. Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice. But at this earliest stage, novices aren't obsessed with getting better. They're not thinking years and years into the future. They don't know what their top-level, life-orienting goal will be. More than anything else, they're having fun."
"... [I]nterests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can't really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won't. You can't simply will yourself to like things, either. ..."
"... [W]hat follows the initial discovery of an interest is a much lengthier and increasingly proactive period of interest development. Crucially, the initial triggering of a new interest must be followed by subsequent encounters that retrigger your attention — again and again and again."
Just because someone is initially uninterested in the politics behind the mass action, through repeated exposure and "retriggering interest," we can encourage them to go deeper. And after the initial interest is sparked, Duckworth says deliberate practice, a sense of purpose, and a hopeful attitude, are what enable us to commit and excel. These approaches are what cause us to overcome the adversity that the author describes in the article above, of administrative failures, discouragement from staff, and even our own mistakes.
And Duckworh argues, based on eir decades of study, that these qualities can be nurtured and developed — by individuals themselves, and by people outside of those individuals. As organizers, we need to work to develop interest, practice, purpose, and hope in others. In eir book Grit, Duckworth lays out many methods to do this, some of which we've touched on in other articles throughout this issue of ULK. With this response, we primarily want to highlight that a revolutionary fighting spirit is something that we can cultivate; just because someone doesn't have it now doesn't mean they won't ever have it. And it's the organizer's job to make that process as successful as possible.
14 JUNE 2018 — Uhuru! As of today's mathematics, 14 June 2018, prisoners are being violently pent against one another in a last attempt to interfere with current demands by both the people of California and the federal government to release its ridiculously large prison population.
CDCR, at prisons like the Substance Abuse Tratment Facility (SATF) and Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), has begun engaging in policy changes that manufacture hostilities between the prison populations. One particular change involves rehousing what is called "mainline" prisoners on yards that are considered Protective Custody (P.C.) yards by force. Now these are not P.C. yards by the standards of the law, Protective Custody. Instead they are Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY). These yards house a combination of offenders/prisoners, including prison gang organization defectors called "drop outs", prisoners with sexual offenses, prison sex victims, victims of exploitation by other prisoners and a wide range of other types.
There are offenders who were/are members of street gangs/organizations whose particular gang has been targeted by the larger gang alliances like the Mexican Mafia. Then there are those individuals who are members of left wing political organizations who struggle against corruption and blow the whistle against crooked cops and politicians in office. Though it has been promoted that all who are housed at SNY facilities are child molesters, police informants, gang traders, etc., this is a lie spread by the police pigs in order to establish the chaos that is being born across California in prisons, CDCR.
Prisons have begun rehousing small numbers of mainline prisoners who are considered the "actives" on facilities that have been established as SNY facilities amongst those who are often mis-construed as "non-active." Because these facilities are not what CDCR claim them to be; an environment with no gang activity and very little criminal violence, these facilities are a melting pot for chaos. There are possibly more STGs on the SNY than on the mainline, as the 2012 Pelican Bay SHU Agreement to End Hostilities was designed to cease gang hostilities and stem criminal behavior for all mainliners. (Mainliners are prisoners who were until recently housed at General Population (G.P.) facilities, but now SNY facilities are considered mainline, as there are more SNY facilities than G.P.)
Let the authorities that be take notice: There are those of us who will not participate in wars against ourselves but instead will bare arms against the agents of oppression, where ever they be. And we know all of you. You who see what is happening but do nothing to protect those of us unable to protect ourselves. Trust that justice will be done on the yard as so in the streets. Your time is no more!
[NOTE: The author is among a group of New Afrikan and [email protected] leaders of the United Struggle from Within (USW). Ey was among 40 prisoners transferred to Kern Valley State Prison D-facility after a riot between SNY gangs united against New Afrikans and [email protected] refusing to endorse gang culture and hostilities amongst prisoners, working the police agenda. The author was transferred from a lower level institution less hostile to growth amongst prisoners, and placed into an environment that would definitely invite conflict between them and corrections officers.]
As we come closer and closer to September 9th, Day of Peace & Solidarity, covered in the shadows of Black August, Bloody July, and Blue June, the members of United Struggle from Within(USW) under guidance of the Comrade Loco1 have begun to suffer attacks by the state at the local prison level of Kern Valley State Prisons(KVSP). As we of the common collective refer to it, "Killer Kern", it has been a long time coming this day that members of the MIM(Prisons) guided mass organization came under direct line of fire, but the time has come.
As of late June of 2018, members and supporters of the USW have been on the ground establishing the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons(UFPP) where there has been hostilities between racial factions of the [email protected] nation groups and a particular New Afrikan social group. The hostilities have resulted in riots between both nations that have caught in the line of fire: elderly, crippled, and mentally ill. Members of USW took the lead and waged a strong campaign for the establishment of a Peace Protocol that introduced both [email protected] and New Afrikan prisoners to the UFPP.
USW Loco1, and a key supporter of the UFPP, Silent Israel of The Mafia Alliance(TMA) begun organizing peace talks with various [email protected] nation group leaders on the behalf of the New Afrikans at this local level. Where the pigs had established a culture of turning a blind eye, and even instigating violence against New Afrikans, who are out numbered by the [email protected] factions by far. USW immediately went into overdrive on the consciousness of the masses, which included particularly a call for all convicts to cease in what appears to be radical hostilities driven by police provocations and programming to keep the masses at war and distracted of the rising sun of September 9th. These local leaders put themselves on the chopping block by holding open dialogues with the masses addressing issues like "Racial Segregation" used by the pigs to divide the lumpen, stripping prisoners of the power of uniting. Keeping prisoners in a state of powerlessness.
Loco1 began to spread information about the September 9th commemoration of Attica State Prison, the year 1971, as a means of demonstrating the sort of power prisoners possess if only they'd cease in the war games between themselves and concentrate on the true sell outs, baby killers, sexual predators and traders of national loyalties. The police that is. This instantly made USW and its leader at this local level a target. When prisoner leaderships agreed to cease its hostilities and instead develop a communications system between the two nations, the pigs took it as a personal attack against their false economic interest by Loco1 and immediately orchestrated a plot to have the USW leadership removed and placed into solitary confinement.
As Loco1 and the rising USW supporting committee began gearing up to face off with the pig administration as to its position on a local boycott of KVSP systems and fraud services, in solidarity with the National Prisoners Boycott led by members of the Freedom and Justice Movement, the pigs launched a full frontal agitation campaign to instigate hostilities between themselves and all New Afrikans. What with the New Afrikans leading the way on issues at the local level with: pigs applying excessive force, failing to protect, ignoring prisoner safety concerns, orchestrating a gladiator program, pitting prisoners against one another, etc. Who better to concentrate on? And when New Afrikans failed to bite on their agitation, pigs finally revealed that Loco1 is hatching a conspiracy that involves prisoners repeating history, September 9th, 1971. So to all members of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, USW needs you to pick up the slack and act on your five principles, that these USW comrades do not stand alone in isolation.
A USW comrade adds: I am one of the 40 prisoners who along with Supreme was part of a CDCR plan staged by SATF Corcoran and Kern Valley to remove from the lower level 270 design to a hostile 180 design in order to build numbers for Africans so that the race wars amongst Hispanics and Africans that was instigated by correction corrupt officers and its administration as a last call to prolong releases of nonviolent offenders. It was expected we would come and continue the race conflict. However, I and Supreme came and established a peace between the both sides and now that CDCR see that, CDCR has found other ways to continue to frustrate the peace process such as placing informant Africans in the D yard block 5 & 6 to collect intel or perhaps cause chaos such as a buffoon who they sent in the block yelling racial slurs to the Mexicans while at the same time claiming he's Black Mafia.
The corrupt officers sent him there to attempt to cause a new storm that had been calmed. When neither the Blacks or Browns fell for it! They yet did it again, this time with a Brown who was mentally ill who began yelling nigger at Blacks until finally a Mexican removed him. So here we see two attempts that failed. Now CDCR sent an informant name XXXX with the promise of a job to give intel on us to remove comrades to Ad-Seg units. This so that there would be no peace keepers. Well they removed Supreme to Ad-Seg due to the snitch's alleged claim that Supreme was staging assaults on staff. Myself now being left to keep the peace alone has now become the target of jealous Israelite Africans seeking position rather than appreciating the Moses of their time. We all know the story of Moses who came to his people's aid and then was told by one slave: Who made you ruler over us? You gonna do to me what you did to the Egyptian who mistreated the other one of us yesterday. (Exodus 2: 11-14).
Today Kern Valley is refusing yard to prisoners and showers. The prison administration is keeping the prisoners locked down in violation of federal and state laws. Officers are doing all sorts of trickery under administration in order to create conflict with prisoners. The inhuman treatment is beyond being fixed by its own. CDCR can't police itself and this is demonstrated. I spoke with several righteous officers who don't agree with what is going on and they are feeling that they too are being pent against prisoners in order to feed their family. I come from an alliance of all races, we come and try to bring peace and harmony wherever chaos exist and put it to death. We as USW must begin to understand the facts! This is the facts! Either jump aboard or jump off board. Everybody got choices. To my cousin Master K.G. Supreme, you are not alone, I feel your spirit brotha. "One Love"
Please send me the Texas pack. I shared mine with someone who did not return the entire contents. I have found the information to be most helpful. Just this week I won a Step 1 Grievance using the Texas pack.
The unit grievance officer had erroneously coded a Step 1 Grievance. The previously filed Step 1 had been concerning sleep deprivation only because I am wheelchair mobile, a "wheeler." Thus, the sleep deprivation is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (28 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.). However, the grievance was coded as "denial of access to health care." There is a very big difference.
While at the TDCJ Hospital Galveston (HG) Unit the staff denied me access to a bed for all but three hours during a four day period. Instead, I was forced to remain seated in my wheelchair in a holding tank. Just so their records would show that I had been assigned to a bed each night I was taken to a bed late at night and awakened a short time later to go back to the holding tank. Basically, I only obtained three hours of sleep during an approximate ninety-six hour period.
In further error, the unit grievance officer had misrouted my Step 1 to the senior practice manage. Presumably because it had been incorrectly coded. The senior practice manager knew he had no authority over the grieved issue. Yet he responded anyway, saying as much, and thus denying an opportunity for relief at the Step 1. I filed a Step 2 grievance asserting that no relief was available at the Step 1 for the reasons explained herein above.
In the TDCJ, denial of access to the grievance system is a grievable issue. Thus, I submitted a Step 1 Grievance asserting that (1) the unit grievance officer erroneously coded my ADA Step 1; and (2) the senior practice manager should have rerouted my Step 1 back to the unit grievance officer for appropriate handling.
It was only the availability of the TDCJ grievance codes in the Texas pack which allowed me to cite the appropriate code for my ADA complaint and to identify the erroneous code used by the unit grievance officer. As you know, the TDCJ Offender Grievance Operations Manual has been removed form the unit law libraries. I would not have been able to formulate my argument had the Texas pack not been available to me. But once again I am at a disadvantage with an incomplete Texas pack. Thank you for making this valuable resource available.