As a high ranking member of a Lumpen Organization (LO) I encourage all LOs in the Colorado State slave system to organize and unite with the MIM(Prisons) United Struggle from Within (USW). These pigs in the CDOC have taken a page from B.F. Skinner and created an Incentive Program in all Level 3 & 4 yards. This program allows participants more rec time, pod time, DVD player and movie rental for their cells and the privilege of eating before all units. It is clear staff goes out of their way to make sure General Populations know these are "specially privileged." In turn they have to sign a contract agreeing to not participate in any Security Threat Group (STG) related activities, including organized protest, staying write up free, and working any "facility needs job," i.e. kitchen, janitorial, etc., in the event of a lockdown.
This is a classic divide and conquer technique and an insurance policy against peaceful protest, i.e. hunger strikes, work strikes, etc. I encourage all prisoners in the Colorado slave system who are participating in this program to re-evaluate their position. Giving up your morals for simple comforts by entering this program makes it impossible for those of us who want to fight imperialism and injustice for all of us. Any kind of peaceful organized protest against injustice and imperialism will be ineffective because these program participants will mitigate the effects of such protest for these pigs.
At first the program was not being taken advantage of by prisoners so the pigs employed the carrot and the stick technique by decreasing GP's privileges in order to make this program more appealing. Those who openly protested the programs existence were systematically removed from GP and put in Ad-Seg.
The effect of this program is already apparent. The pigs have become more brazen in their actions against us as a whole. There is no fear of any type of retaliation for their actions, and because each prison organization is split by some of its members participating in this program, no organization has any structure. This program is not to help you comrades. Wake up! Look at the long term and don't follow the carrot.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisons attempt to divide and conquer prisoners using many tactics. Privileges are one very effective tactic in buying the complacency of some prisoners. We need to be aware of the impact this has on our ability to organize protests and take action. Educating all prisoners about the big picture of the Criminal Injustice System and its connections to imperialism is an important component in the fight against these potential divisions. Those prisoners who understand the broader context of their day-to-day oppression will be less likely to take small privileges as a buy off in exchange for their silence and inactivity.
I am a strong brother who is currently living on a Special Needs Yard (SNY). I am writing this letter in response to several articles about the many individuals who are or who have chosen to live inside of an SNY yard. I know that I am an exception. I have never been in prison before. I have never testified on anybody or been victimized by another human being. I chose to lock it up or become an SNY yard prisoner despite the stigma because of my experiences as a gang banger. I wanted to give up continuously putting myself into danger and stop standing up for a code and structure that served no purpose other than to steal, kill, beat down and destroy myself, my family and my community.
I won't pre-judge those brothers and sisters in the mainline who believe that everyone on SNY is a snitch, a bitch or a tattle tell. But there are a lot of good and bad brothers everywhere who can and may contribute to this cause. We have to figure out a way that we as a people can use our common sense to focus on who our real oppressors are within and beyond these walls.
We need to address our fears and really look deeply into what are we all really fighting for. Is it to end all oppression or to continue allowing ourselves to oppress our people. Whether we are on SNY yards or on mainline yards, prison is prison and oppression is oppression.
I have started work groups and study groups with all types of individuals around me here, something that structures and constant distrust has prevented many of us on the mainline or in society from doing. I came to SNY for better opportunity, a better way for me to do my time positively and productively. Despite the stigma, I think that it is a better environment to begin to work in, and reprogram our minds from our years and years of brainwashing.
MIM(Prisons) adds: There is little question that the expansion of the SNY program in California that has been long debated in the pages of ULK is part of an effort on the part of the CDCR to weaken lumpen organizations. And this is why SNY receives much ire from prisoners of many political persuasions. While they see the expansion as a plague spreading across the prison system, we have not seen any practical antidote to this come from those who consider SNY prisoners to be absolute enemies. The structures are too rigid and are not adapting as the masses begin moving in another direction. Granted this "new direction" is still largely guided by the CDCR itself, but it has a basis in real contradictions within the imprisoned class. We see plenty of people in GP working with the CDCR in anti-people activities and we see people in SNY supporting independent institutions of the oppressed.
The oppressed need organization, with structure, discipline and security. We should work to maintain these aspects of current organization where they exist. But most importantly, we need organizations that serve the people. And this is why we welcome the work of comrades like this one who are bridging gaps and organizing where others are not willing.
MIM(Prisons) position on the SNY debate remains one of looking at each individuals actions around the revolutionary struggle to judge their value to the movement. The larger problems that led to the current levels of SNY populations still need to be addressed by comrades with a common vision in all populations.
Revolutionary - one who takes part in a sudden, radical, or complete change especially the overthrow or renunciation of one ruler or government and substitution of another by the governed.
Gang - a group of persons working or associated together, esp a group of criminals or young delinquents. Also: mob, band, clan, club, crew, pack, ring, team, crowd, horde, posse, circle, clique, outfit, friends, syndicate.
When the word gang comes into play especially by the media (i.e. radio, television and newspaper) why is it always associated with negative energy? We as members of lumpen organizations have effectively allowed ourselves to be boxed into a stereotype of negativity and successfully strayed from our paths as revolutionaries. It seems that we as revolutionaries fighting for an extreme, radical change to and for our environment have allowed ourselves to become radically changed by unseen puppet masters thus detouring us from our way of righteousness.
As members of the lumpen organizations known as Crips and Bloods, we were formed on the heels of the Black power era to override the oppression and destruction of our inner city neighborhoods and take up the baton passed to us by our forefathers to continue this fight for liberation for the people. How have we regressed from a "group of persons working or associated together" for a noble, common cause to a "group of criminals and young delinquents"?! We have allowed ourselves to be labeled "menace to society" by our true enemy (the U.$. government) but instead of refusing that moniker, we have embraced it and fallen into line like cattle to a slow slaughter.
History, true history, clearly shows what is happening: covert government operations, such as the counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO), are infiltrating our ranks and using their art of "divide and rule" to weaken us from the inside out. For all of us still living in darkness; the light of the matter is that this oppressive government tactic is working and has worked for decades! By pitting our respective families against each other, they allow us to set our own limitations on our growth and development. By keeping the lumpen organizations at each others throats, the government can deal with each faction as an individual. This has to change! Only by stifling our generations of feuding can we begin to focus on bigger and better things; only then can we focus on the rebuilding of the urban communities that we have helped tear down.
When J. Edgar Hoover initiated his counterintelligence program, to combat the Black Panthers and other Black nationalists, it was a form of genocide. They threatened to destroy anybody in the Black community who was a leader, anybody! So, they declared war on us 40-45 years ago and that war is still going on right now. That is why those in power are so afraid of our unification, because you can only keep an oppressed person or people down for so long. Then when unification comes, all of us have the same enemy and they can't have that because we become a united body fighting in solidarity with focus, determination and rage against the machine!
For us in the "department of corruption" we are already united in our suffering and our daily repression. We face the same common enemy, we are trapped in the same oppressive conditions. We wear the same "plantation" clothing, we are brutalized by the same racist, prejudiced pigs. We are one people, no matter your hood, set, creed or nationality, we know we need unity but we need a different kind of unity than we have at present. We want to move from unity in oppression to unity in serving the people and striving towards national independence and liberation.
Crip, Blood, Vice Lord, Gangster Disciple, Latin King, it makes no difference; we are all brothers of the same struggle. The sooner we all overstand this concept the better. We are revolutionaries, but without every individual of every feuding family taking a step for peace, there can be no change. Without change, there can be no revolution.
"Revolution is about change, and the first place where change takes place is within yourself." - Assata Shakur
MIM(Prisons) adds: The United Front for Peace in Prisons was initiated in 2011 to bring together those with an interest in revolutionary organizing. This comrade echoes the principle of Unity that is inherent in the shared conditions imprisoned lumpen class.
As this comrade explains, to achieve unity in practice, we must come together and resist the state-sponsored work to undermine that unity. It is not the labels that matter, but rather our actions that will make a real difference. We must judge individuals by their actions, regardless of their affiliation, location, or background.
I extend my greetings to you all and want to make a few observations based upon questions posed by Loco1 in ULK 23. It is quite true that we obtained the attention of prisoncrats who have assumed that the continual promotion of division of lumpen organizations will keep us at each other throats. Prisoncrats have adapted and pursued new oppressive tactics as a result of the intensive scrutiny that the shot across the bow of battleship CDCR caused.
To retreat is not an option, as to do such only further emboldens prisoncrats to erode civil and human rights of California prisoners, actions which will be mimicked across the nation. We must use our collective brains to adapt new tactics. In war many tactics are used. You may be able to sneak up on an enemy once or twice but in due course the opposition will counter with an ambush. So as master Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, "Those who win every battle are not really skillful. Those who render others' armies helpless without fighting are the best of all!" And that's what was done, embarrassing the prisoncrats who were ill prepared to deal with it. It's only a battle in a broader war.
I am nobody's leader or follower. My duties are to help teach independent thought, which will ensure that an individual can and will anticipate the likely reaction of prisoncrats and minimize the effect. Everyone has seen the so-called increase of privileges, some of which are still very elusive, since they mandate a year without a disciplinary, which will never be possible for a true revolutionary or resister to achieve. These privileges also encourage prisoners to lean on their families and friends to help finance their imprisonment and enrich prison profiteers who feed on the golden state's teat.
The original hunger strike strategy clearly impacted prisoncrats. It should provide a plethora of new tactical ideas. Consider that besides the so-called security concerns over prisoners possessing cell phones, the reality is that cell phones cut into prisoncrats' fiscal resources. The prison phone provider gives the CDCR a concession fee. This is why prisoners' phone privileges, canteen, packages and anything that the CDCR receives a concession fee from, are generally not taken. The income from canteen purchases pay the wages of state SEIU employees who are canteen managers II, I, supervisors and workers in addition to profits being diverted from prisoner welfare to custody welfare activities.
We should consider alternative strategies that hit them where it hurts the most: in their pocketbook. Just like one can go without eating for a week or three, people should be able to go without canteen for 3 to 6 months and empty trust accounts, which will result in more expense to the CDCR. There are numerous ways that the CDCR sticks it to prisoners' families and friends. So if, as Loco1 suggests, it is correct to re-evaluate our actions, it is my opinion that the new strategy should be a fiscal one.
I address this to all prisoners irrespective of your status, as status is given by prisoncrats. Be you general population or sensitive needs, if you choose to allow prisoncrats to manipulate and control you with privileges, you are by proxy their collaborator. As such you cause as much of the problem, rather than a solution.
I also want to point out that tactically and strategically it is never wise to call out numerous lumpen organizations as BORO/Loco1 did. Such will likely have a negative impact, since those named will have to deal with substantively more scrutiny. So while others may think that ULK is a forum to send shout outs, to me the objective is to try to encourage education and the capacity to think independently. The CDCR benefits from dumbed-down prisoners, particularly those who do not have their priorities in order.
Prisoncrats look to pacify all prisoners, particularly the segment that is weakest. So it is on us to try to encourage self-esteem, self-worth, self-sacrifice and self-deprivation, all of which builds character and the ability to endure the picklesuits' plots and conspiracies. The preparation that is most important to any struggle is the will to personally do something to encourage change. I believe that ideas and strategies of the opposition should be examined, and then we can decide on a course of action and systematically pass on the purpose and reasoning, not as leaders to followers but as men and women in concerted struggle.
The fact that there is no real accountability of prisoncrats and their subordinates has again led to the introduction of Assembly Bill 1270 on January 26, 2012 by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano to try to restore media access to prisoners. Taking away media access gave prisoncrats control over what's spoon fed to the public. Independent media access is what made it possible for the pacification privileges introduced in the 60s and 70s, since there was a lot more transparency and prisoncrats were exposed to more accountability. But since the imposition of media restrictions on pre-arranged in-person interviews with prisoners, what takes place in prison tends to be out-of-sight/out-of-mind.
I believe in a United Front, but we must recognize that the composition of that front is varied. I prefer that we always seek to encourage education which brings clarity and understanding to less knowledgeable comrades. I will say, however that ignorance and stupidity is infectious. I guess I could be equated with a silverback, only I do not take to leading. But I am not adverse to the development of consciousness so maybe we should send requests to the education department of all CDCR prisons asking for "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" that Wiawimawo provided us with a review of in August 2011, as it might help open up some minds to revolutionary concepts.
Yes I'm all for a true United Front, where we all (Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue or plaid) can stand together to regain our civil and human rights, not confusing privileges with rights. We can positively seek to cease all the senseless grudges that plague the ethnic divisions and LOs. I do not believe in violence just for amusement. My battle is not with prisoners, it's with prisoncrats. Any prisoner who sees me as a threat, I deem them an agent of the state. "Think and not hate" is what your commentator in struggle relates.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to agree with the criticism of calling out LO members by name which we already responded to elsewhere. But we do not agree with this comrade's abdication of leadership. The movement has a strong need for leaders and pretending that all people are equal in this way gives power over to the imperialists who have no problem seizing leadership. Those who are more advanced, have more education, or more will to struggle, must take up leadership positions in educating and organizing others. We can't afford to have these people step back in the name of equality as that void will be filled by reactionary leaders. The antidote to misleaders is better, more educated leaders as well as a better more educated mass that can judge, choose and reject would-be leaders. Ultimately we are working towards a society, communism, where all people are equal and all can lead, but we must deal with the current reality and uneven development of forces and individuals. USW is an organization for leaders. A vanguard party is the leader of the revolution. And the oppressed people desperately need more leaders.
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2012 permalink
I have spent the last 60 days in the hole for writing an administrative remedy on the superintendent. He turns around and has me placed in segregation and charges me with an offense due to my political activism. I am what they call a trouble maker because I teach others with our knowledge. But that's what I do. I was taught by the old heads to do what I do.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This response to prisoner's fighting for their legal rights against repression is all too common. It is one of the driving forces behind our expanding campaign demanding grievances be addressed. While we organize and educate for broader anti-imperialist change, we can use this campaign to fight for greater freedom to carry out political organizing behind bars. Write to us for a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or to help expand the campaign to your state by customizing the generic petition to your local conditions.
Greetings to you no matter your affinity, association, involvement or activities in LOs or case status. There is a higher cause that demands our attention and support than being side tracked by petty conflicts or lack of prioritization.
As a result of some censorship by prisoncrats here at the infamous Corcoran SHU, only yesterday did I receive ULK23 after a two month delay. In the pages of ULK I see that the sensibilities of some SNYs have been ruffled.
This is not about attacking anyone's sensitivities, nor is it about why any person chooses or allows themselves to be subjected to the indignity and dishonor of being classified as SNY while still trying to allude to being solid, which is illogical and demonstrates confusion.
Let's be clear about the fact that whatever excuse one chooses to justify their conditions does not mean that I should sympathize or empathize with that individual's decision or choice.
I take issue with the premise that General Population (GP) prisoners created SNYs since prisoncrats did that and CCPOA created prison politics and has nourished the growth. The fact that so many so-called GPs are quick to say in the presence of picklesuits or other informants that they are active for some false sense of machismo plays into the ploys of prisoncrats.
When I last sought to address this issue an SNY prisoner took offense even though nothing was directed at only SNYs, as I pointed out the fact that there are and have been a plethora of agent provocateurs and quislings in GP who are traitors to their own LOs working in lock step with the picklesuits.
As a prisoner of the state, it is not my job to inflict punishment on any other prisoner for the crime prosecuted by the state, that's what a sentence is for and I am by no means a surrogate prisoncrat. In this day and age I do not draw a distinction between open SNY prisoners and undercover ones who suck up to prisoncrats and are motivated for the same reasons. Some supposedly solid comrades went to SNY supposedly to receive a release date, which to some may sound like a strong argument but to me is muddy water.
I do not have a duty or responsibility to provide IGI intelligence or a means of controlling the way I may think in exchange for a parole date; that is not freedom. Why concern ourselves with whether a cat hails from the north, south, east or west! I say white, black, brown, yellow or green! Why should I concern myself with what LO he/she claims to belong?
In most cases the need to publicly profess or denounce the appellation is a mental/emotional need, or a result of official intimidation to make decisions that individuals must live with. It does not mean that anyone has given up their usefulness and ability to support a prisoner's cause!
Trust is not a given, nor do I give anyone the benefit of doubt just because they claim to be this or that. Trust is a hard won concept and only fools expose their personal inclinations and assume such will not be used against them by some character who is motivated by self-serving greed or malevolence. Even cowards, traitors, rats and deviants can try to make amends, but that does not mean such will regain trust and respect lost as of a result of ones choices.
The CDCR has found that the practice of intimidation, deprivation and manipulation works well on prisoners who allow themselves to become susceptible to such tactics and motivations to betray their comrades' confidences. In my opinion this is inexcusable, but such is a mental/emotional weakness that's identifiably been around since the beginning of civilization.
In these prisons many fail to acknowledge that 75% of the officially validated disruptive group members are based upon self-admission and/or public display of such affiliations, which include but are not limited to cats telling prisoncrats that they are this or that and so and so is my homeboy!
It is not for me to tell other prisoners what to do, and I do not have any qualms with sticking to morals and principals I grew up with, which means I will not take others down with me and I do not volunteer/provide the prisoncrats with intelligence on myself, family, friends, or people I may know. Why should I? What special consideration or privileges are that important? The problem is too many prisoners focusing on privileges rather than rights.
I am pursuing my own kind of sacrifice in that my prison term has been over since April 15, 2011. Parole is "an established variation on imprisonment of convicted criminal: the essence of parole is release from prison before the completion of a sentence on condition that a prisoner abide by certain rules during the balance of a sentence..." Yet prisoncrats have corrupted and confused the concept of parole to mean something more which while the Federal Bureau of Prisons jurisdiction adds a period of supervised release, such is not parole by definition.
Many prisoners tend to assume that my refusal to sign a parole contract is because I presumably have nowhere to go or have burned all my bridges. I have served all the time doubled and enhanced thus I should be allowed to leave the state and country if I so choose.
I am not at war with other prisoners and I am not into who-riding/who-banging or talking smack about others in what I see as intentional perpetuation of conflict and ethnic biases that keep us from maintaining a United Front in the face of the true demons who constantly attack and abuse prisoners with no real accountability, continuing the erosion and loss of civil and human rights.
I cannot and will not compromise my intellect and principals in exchange for a bigger prison where threat of re-imprisonment is used to try to end my activism for prisoner rights, justice and accountability of prisoncrats/picklesuits. This is my sacrifice in this multifaceted struggle, so GP/SNY whatever your circumstances may be there are many ways to contribute to the struggle and affronts to human dignity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Overall this prisoner's letter makes a good case for the point that prisoners in both GP and SNY need to be judged by their actions, not their prison-imposed label. And that we need to fight snitching and self-labeling everywhere. But we disagree with the conclusion that prisoners who accept SNY classification can't be solid revolutionaries. There are those who move to SNY without ratting anyone out, to preserve their own life. They accept the SNY label as the lesser evil to the alternative of danger or even death in GP. We never know all the facts of these decisions and so we can only look to people's actions, wherever they are, to judge whether they are true revolutionaries on the side of the world's oppressed.
I recently received ULK24, thank you. I share your newsletters with more than twenty people and an article (Correction on SNY debate) caused quite an uproar. I recognize the opinion of what people perceive Special Needs Yards (SNY) is (deviants, rats, etc.) but have major disagreement with the flawed perception.
The first of a few salient points is the strongest. In buying into the SNY/GP separation a fatal flaw emerges in ideology. The idea that SNY refugees who pursue personal safety are filth comes from a criminal mindset of values and morals. This needs correction and as a solution I offer education. SNY refugees are getting away from criminal mindset organizations and street gang policies. 99 percent of conflict within the walls isn't political struggle. It's not being able to pay for drugs, tribalism, promoting racial hatred and warfare for earlier lost battles, revenge for street gang violence, manipulation by imperialist agencies, and good old "I can't do my time so I'll make everyone else miserable."
As a mainline and SHU veteran of fifteen years traipsing across New Folsom, High Desert, Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Chino, San Quentin, and Old Folsom, the idea that I should prepare for death because a corrupt criminal organization declares it so is sheer idiocy. The idea that I could crawl under a rock in a hole somewhere and meekly keep my head down and not try to "make" my situation is sheer childlike fantasy. Convict (criminal) justice isn't blind, it is premeditated power struggles, envy, greed and the law of the jungle coming to fruition. The reality of prison politics is simple, dope is shotcaller. Greed, self-aggrandizement, negative cultural and educational values run rampant like a virus. Split by race, geography, imagined fifty year old slights and insults, the semi-ignorant masses huddle on their claimed patches of territory on the yard and build up walls of separation that tower far above the actual prison walls that confine them. Imperialists stand watching; laughing, and profiting. The convenient high noon-middle of the street showdown of physical combat isn't a noble ideal and it has replaced rational thought as the tool of necessity in the concrete culture.
It needs to be said that Republicans and Democrats don't care if you're SNY or GP, creating a mental separation to divide and conquer is proven COINTELPRO strategy. It makes moving the herd easier.
Bear this in mind please. Just because you are in a cell in prison you are not a political prisoner. As an individual you must make peace with why you're in the cell in the first place. Responsibility for your life is first. If you choose to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do that then wipe away the veil and quit dividing the world in to race, geography, and location, quit dividing your world into SNY and GP, become more than a convict.
SNY was a choice I made that I must live with. To believe that I have no redeemable value is ludicrous. I didn't testify against anyone, no one went to the hole, I did not become an oppressor of my own people. I did not leave my morals on the mainline. I do not live, associate, or do business with deviants, rats, or oppressors. I am vigilant in knowing who and what they've done in my life. I simply now walk stronger alone in my stride.
If you are still on the path of separatism you're stagnant and if your doctrines espouse convict vs. convict violence, drug profits, or control of the mass. You are not a revolutionary, you are an oppressor, as your desire is simply to be king of the mountain. Please do not don the guise of righteousness simply because of a designation the system created that you choose to use.
It is every day actions that define you. if you're still gangbanging, slinging, separating, wake up you're stuck in the matrix like Neo was.
Do something revolutionary, walk across the yard to that semi-familiar face with the ink work of a different tribe on his sleeves. Embrace the viking king, the African warrior, the Aztec warrior and realize that if you can't do it you are by choice dividing and separating, and you're the one who doesn't get it.
My heart and mind are guiding my moral compass true and I cannot see exploiting another for self-gain. Where do you stand really? It doesn't matter in the physical sense as it isn't a physical question. What is in your heart will show up in your everyday life. If I'm just talking, blowing smoke, what I've written above makes me another windblown hypocrite and false seer uttering borrowed phrases and aping the intelligent conversations of my learned betters. But if it resides in every beat of my heart and my stride matches my hearts intentions, recognize, wherever I may be.
Just because you read the little red book and you're on a mainline doesn't make you a revolutionary. Educate yourself, enlighten others, uplift all.
MIM(Prisons) adds: MIM(Prisons) does recognize all prisoners as political prisoners because who goes to prison is determined by the politics of those in power. But there is a difference between why you are in prison, and what you are going to do with your life. So we agree with this comrade that political consciousness must be learned through study and work, and is not given to you the day they close you behind a cell door.
This debate over whether there can be any revolutionaries on SNY has been raging in the pages of Under Lock & Key for 2 years now. MIM(Prisons) comes down on the side of all revolutionary prisoners. We judge people by their work and not by their state-determined classification. There are revolutionaries on SNY and there are rats on GP. And we know the rats in all units like to pretend to be revolutionaries. We can only look at people's actions to determine where they really fall.
Just recently on the John B. Connally unit drastic changes are being made. The administration has been coming down real hard on the already oppressed masses. Not only do they house all the STG (security threat groups) on Building 4, but have divided the whole unit. The dorms which comprise Buildings 18 and 19 house all non-STG and those prisoners who work around the unit. Building 3 houses non-STG prisoners and those in the religious program. Building 7 houses all those not yet qualified to move up on the unit to A-side. Building 7 also houses those prisoners who are less than 10 years into their life sentence and that have over 50-year sentences. Building B houses a mixture as well but they stay on that building with the less fortunate who are kept housed all day in their cells. They eat in the building now that a chow hall was built to accommodate.
This division with the unit capacity of 2,800 prisoners has not only stagnated the progress or process to organize effectively, but has caused those who got it better on A-side to not give much attention to the sufferings of those who experience it much more on B-side. They are ready to cause wars and riots with each other rather than direct that misguided energy towards establishing a union to grieve concerns and make administration hear and act on our behalf.
In expressing such observations, I also know that it is not an easy task, but it can be done even if we are divided. As a whole we are only segregated until we can find better ways to network and communicate and this is why I am encouraged and empowered by your articles and newsletter. There is hope! And it is right here right now!
Most of us have lost our old world ways in Amerika's miracle whip consumer culture. For white people this is particularly true. Our grandparents or great-grandparents came to Amerika and abandoned their ancestral old world customs. Most did so in the belief they had to leave behind the old ways in order to succeed in Amerika. They even kept old world customs and mythology — essentially their native cultural practices — away from their children. Old cultures were forgotten for imperialist, capitalist greed.
Eventually we all search for identity. Unfortunately all too often when our white youth seek identity, they find it in the false belief of their supremacy in the color of their skin. This is because the white imperialist elite actively push this notion. Often whites seeking identity come from the lumpen class. The lower classes of all peoples tend to want to seek an identity because they are disenfranchised from the upper classes who are ignorantly content to unquestioningly follow the U.$. consumer culture.
Because we have not taught our white youth about being proud of their ancestral cultural heritage, white supremacist and separatist groups are quick to jump in and teach them the only thing they have to be proud of is the color of their skin and the false notion of supremacy that comes from living in a society controlled by a white imperialist elite.
As responsible citizens of the world, if we were to teach our white youth the value of their ancestral cultural heritage, it is my experience that we teach them to value other peoples' cultures as well. This would alleviate white cultural envy, which in my experience is one of the driving factors that leads young whites on a search for identity. If we responsible and sensible members of the world recognize this and teach our white youth the value of their native culture and the value of other peoples' native cultures before the white imperialist elite can turn them into foot soldiers fighting blindly for their cause, then we can begin the steps of destroying the false notion of white supremacy.
If we are going to be successful revolutionary comrades in our fight against this oppressive system, especially our prisons, we all need to unite peoples from all ethnic backgrounds. We all have native cultural practices to be proud of, and that includes whites. Though re-educating those who believe in their supremacy or in separatism may be difficult, it is essential that it happens and that we attempt the process with care and compassion, not threats of violence.
As a former racist skinhead I know what I've written to be true. I had to re-educate myself. On the outside, I formed an organization whose goal was to combat hatred using peaceful non-violent tactics. I have worked with dozens of racist skinheads, helping to re-educate them, and have witnessed drastic transformations creating informed and educated revolutionary comrades. I continue my work from my prison cell. Drugs and robberies may have taken me out of society, but I have found ways to keep my eye on the prize even while incarcerated. The goal to unify us all is too great to be forsaken.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We share this comrade's goal to eliminate white supremacy, and we agree that it is often the poorest whites who end up taking up these fascist positions. But this writer misses a key reason behind this drive to racism for poor whites: the economic system of imperialism has created a parasitic labor aristocracy out of the white nation within imperialist borders. This labor aristocracy rallies around the ideology of social democracy, which for some manifests as overt white supremacy. Those on the economic bottom of this labor aristocracy are most easily turned against the oppressed nations with racism.
Even as prisoners, whites have typically developed close ties to their "brothers" who run the prisons that hold them. That said, we organize the imprisoned lumpen as a class, and work to unite with as many white prisoners as we can around resisting the oppression of prisoners.
While there is some interesting and important cultural history among whites in Amerika, who came from a variety of European countries, the overwhelming cultural history is colonialist and not something to celebrate. The invasion of this country, massacre of indigenous people, enslavement of oppressed nations, and plunder of the world is the unfortunate legacy of the white nation. We don't want to encourage white youth to embrace this history and culture, rather we want to help them reject this reactionary legacy and take up work on the side of the majority of the world's people. We study the past to understand the world, to transform the present, and to determine the future.
In this issue on release (ULK24), we are featuring United Playaz in San Francisco, California, to give our comrades inside an idea of what some formerly-imprisoned people are doing to contribute to the struggle for peace since they've been out. Many staff members and volunteers with United Playaz (UP) have spent time in the prison system. MIM(Prisons) got the opportunity to interview one such staff-persyn, Rico, who spent 25 years in the California prison system. Rico is a former-gangbanger-turned-peace-advocate; a lifestyle change that many readers of Under Lock & Key can relate to.
United Playaz provides services to youth, including after-school programs and tours inside prisons, in an attempt to pull them out of the school-to-prison pipeline and (the potential for) violent activity, helping them refocus on their education. UP's mission statement reads,
United Playaz is a violence prevention and youth leadership organization that works with San Francisco's hardest to reach youth through case management, street outreach, in-school services, recreational activities at community centers, and support to incarcerated youth. United Playaz is committed to improving the lives of young people surviving in vulnerable environments, [who] show high incidence of truancy and low academic performance, or have been involved in the juvenile justice system through direct service and community collaboration. United Playaz believes that "it takes the hood to save the hood".
Rico explains how he first got involved with United Playaz,
In 1994 I was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. And at the time Rudy [UP's Executive Director] was bringing a bunch of troubled youth and youth that are involved in the juvenile system and kind of just showed them a glimpse of what's the result of making a bad decision. And that's where I met Rudy. And Rudy saw me work with the kids, and then he found out that I lived in the neighborhood that he was serving the youth and he asked me, "When you get released I want you to check out our program and see if you want to work with United Playaz." So like in 2005 I finally got out after 25 years of incarceration and first I volunteered. And then once there was an opening, a job opening, Rudy hired me as a CRN, a community response network. It's a job that at night we go and do outreach, and drive around the city and just talk to the kids that are hanging out on the street.
MIM(Prisons) asked Rico about the importance of building a United Front for Peace in Prisons, and the challenges faced by such an endeavor.
Back in 1982 we formed a protest while I was in San Quentin. You know, prisoners used to have rights. We had the rights to see our family when they come see us. We had the right to get an education. We had a lot of rights. But slowly they took that away and now they have no rights. If you wanna get a visit, you have to work. If you don't work, you don't get a visit.
So anyway the Asian, Latino, the African American, the Caucasian, we all got together and say, "You know what? Let's all sit down. Nobody goes to work, nobody go to school, nothing." And prison really depends on prisoners. Cuz you have jobs there, that requires like maybe $35,000 a year job, they let the prisoner do that job and get paid like $18 a month. So they're saving a lot of money using prisoners to run the prison system, right? So when we sit down, when we shut down, man, they gave us what we want and everything like back to normal and everything smooth.
There's always incident in the pen, like prisoners hurting each other, but that's a good example that when, how do you say - together we stand, divided we fall. So you know if we are united man a lot of violence in here will probably diminish tremendously, right? Cuz the people inside, they'll preach peace out here. And a lot of kids that are doing bad behavior out here, they're influenced by a lot of prisoners inside the pen. But right now there's no peace. There's no peace. ...
Well, there is [organizing for peace and unity inside prisons] but you have to do it on the under because one thing administration, prison administration don't want you to do is to organize and try to bring peace. In prison they want us to be divided. You know what I mean? So there's ways that we can organize but it has to be on the under.
It is ridiculous that prisoners have to discuss how to go about not killing each other in secret, so as to not upset the prison administrators' paychecks! But this is not the only anti-people development to come from the evolution of the criminal injustice system, which is designed solely to protect capitalism and its beloved profit motive. Rico explains some of the consequences of deciding who stays in and who gets out in a capitalist society,
The more you treat a prisoner like an animal, when they come out they act like animal out here. I mean one time I was in segregation unit, in the hole. This guy he was so violent that he can't be out in the mainline, right? Anyway it was time for him to go. So when they let him out, he was handcuffed out the building, across the yard, in a van, right? And they drop him off outside. When they drop him off they just uncuffed him, "You're free." How can we help someone like that, to be out here? If he's so violent inside that he needs to be segregated, how can they let someone out like that? So if he commit a crime out here, that's gonna look bad on a lot of prisoners. And they have more power to say, "See what happens when we release these guys out?"
But there's guys in there that are doing better than I do - that they can do better than what I do out here, and yet they still locked up in the pen, because of politics. There's a lot of em, a lot of em man. I know some of em personally that should have been out you know and giving back. And they can do a lot of contribution out here to bring peace. How can we get those guys out?
Our answer to Rico's question is that the only way to get all those guys out, for good, is to organize for socialism and then communism. Any reforms we make to the prison system as it is now may let some people out, but as long as capitalism exists people will be exploited and oppressed. This leads to resistance, both direct and indirect, and prison is for those who don't play by the rules. In socialism, everyone has a role to play in society and state oppression is only used against those who try to oppress others.
When the economic system changes to value people over profit, prisons will also change. In China under Mao, Allyn and Adele Rickett were two Amerikan spies in China who wrote a book titled "Prisoners of Liberation" about their experience as prisoners of the Communist Party of China. Their experience taught them that when prisoners have completed self-criticism and are ready to contribute to society, they will be released. On the other side, when prisoners are doing harm to society (such as organizing to reinstitute a capitalist economic system) they are not allowed to be released just because their term is up. Instead they are encouraged to study, read, discuss, and do self-criticism until they become productive members of society.
Anyone with a sympathetic bone in their body can tell what was going on in China under Mao is a much more useful mode of imprisonment than what we have at present. The difference between the liberal and MIM(Prisons) is we know the only way to get there is through socialist revolution so that the prison system is in the hands of those currently oppressed by it.
Another present day challenge we discussed with UP was its goal to be financially self-sufficient in the future. Rico explains the current limitations that come with getting state funding,
If it's up to us, we're gonna go hard, and really fight for peace. But because we're fund[ed] by DCYF [San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, & Their Families], they limit our movement. We can't even participate, or like rally. If there's a Occupy rally right now, we can't go, cuz our organization are prevented from doing things like that. And I think that's important, that we're out there with the rest of the people that are trying to fight for change. Every year we do a Silence the Violence Peace March. That's okay, you know, Martin Luther King, marches like that, we're okay to do that. But when it's like budgets, and crime, and about prison, you know, rally to try to bring those those things down, we can't really participate. ...
What's going on outside the youth can affect them in the future if things don't change. And why wait til those kids get old and take em to expose them to march and fight for your rights? You know I love to take these young adults to a movement like that, cuz that gives em knowledge of life, that there's more than just hanging out on the street. But unfortunately we're not allowed to participate in that kind of movement.
We have learned from history that these limitations aren't unique to UP's financial situation. For the non-profit in the United $tates, similar to "aid" given to Third World countries, capitalists always ensure their money is working in favor of their interests. This is why one of the points of unity of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is "Independence." Money is too easy to come by in this country, while good revolutionaries are too hard to find. Liberation has always been powered by people. So we agree with Rico on the importance for striving for autonomy.
Until then, positive steps can certainly be made within these limitations. There are many levels to our movement and many roles to play in building peace and unity among the lumpen. And without groups like UP reaching the youth on the streets, efforts like the United Front for Peace in Prisons will be too one-sided to succeed.
To close, Rico shares these words with comrades preparing for release,
The only thing I can say is that as long as you're alive there's hope. And if they really want to go home, then do the right thing, regardless. And they gotta stand up for their rights man. And they have to just try to get along with each other and think about peace, because they are needed out here. The experience they have in the pen, they can save a lot of lives out here, with their younger brothers and sisters that look for real guidance from someone who's been there and done that. Good luck, I hope they get out and be out here and help our system change to a better place.
As a "free citizen" you have much greater freedom to organize on the outside compared to in prison, even on probation or parole. Your activism shouldn't end with your prison term!