The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Gender] [Abuse] [Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Rock Mountain] [California] [ULK Issue 11]
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Transgender Struggles in Segregation

I'm a 40 year old transgender prisoner activist. I've been held prisoner by the state of California for 20 years, including 10 years in Pelican Bay SHU and am currently confined to Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU), awaiting transfer to Tehachapi SHU for the past year.

I was initially placed in ASU for "refusing to double cell" and put in disciplinary segregation for objecting to random housing assignments with sexually violent predators because I am a transgender female on hormone therapy. I was placed in punitive, inhumane conditions, simply for exercising my constitutional right to personal safety.

Subsequently I was charged with "battery on a peace officer" for spitting on the lieutenant in ASU. Then I was physically assaulted by Correctional Officer Llamas, who falsified a report charging me with "battery on a peace officer" because I stuck my arm out of the food port on my cell door; he pepper-sprayed me and twisted my arm for demanding to see his supervisor.

I am an experienced jailhouse lawyer and am currently pursuing two federal civil rights lawsuits: 1) concerning medical neglect at Pleasant Valley State Prison, and 2) inhumane conditions and sex discrimination at RJDCF-ASU.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Utah] [ULK Issue 11]
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Utah's Finest

To protect and serve or belittle and torture?
It's the same to me, to them I'm not sure
Kind of feels like these pigs they feel that
They enjoy our deaths, our "suicides" and body bags
Abu Ghraib wasn't a fluke or freak of nature
Those atrocities pale in comparison to what I see here
Except this stuff's o.k. if we're Amerikans?
Faces filled with expressions of understanding
Loving benevolence as if they're doing me favors
And I'm deserving of my cage, not a slave here
Questioning my motives, like "Why's he fighting back?"
Your corrections made me this way, that's real as a heart attack.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Hip Hop: Living Culture or Commodity?

Hip-hop can be a very powerful weapon to help expand young people's political and social consciousness. But just as with any weapon, if you don't know how to use it, if you don't know where to point it or what you're using it for, you can end up shooting yourself in the foot or killing your sisters and brothers." — Assata Shakur

There are four main elements that make up what hip hop culture really is: Break dancing, DJing, MCing and Graffiti art. Each element plays a major role in hip hop. This beautiful culture originated in the Bronx, NY from the oppressed lumpen proletarians. The music from this culture was diligently expressed through MCing (rapping) about oppression and the conditions the oppressed people were going through in this capitalist decadent society. It was not about money, cars, jewelry and negativity but as the years went by and white capitalist businessmen saw a fortune in this culture that they could exploit the voices that created hip hop were greatly silenced.

The common refrain of many submissions we got for this issue of Under Lock & Key was that "Hip Hop is Dead." But the reality is much more complex, and we are not ready to dismiss hip hop. The objectification and commodification of culture often signifies the end of its existence as a culture, as Fanon argued. However, in the height of imperialism, where the capitalists have learned to fashion their products to niche markets, all cultures will be commodified, and yet the oppressed still need a culture to call their own.

The reason why MIM(Prisons) is focusing on hip hop in this issue on culture, is that hip hip came from the oppressed nations in the u$. Today, "hip hop" is pretty much considered synonymous with oppressed nation youth culture even as that culture continues to evolve in many different ways. This is true in the united $tates, but also true to an extent in many parts of the world today.

We put our hope in the oppressed nations because of their objective interests in progressive change. That interest comes through in hip hop culture, as much as the white corporate media and its white consumer audience do to discourage that. Still the mainstream acts like all you need is a certain type of a beat in a commercial and it's hip hop. Or dress your employees a certain way and it's hip hop.

In their day, the Black Panther Party criticized Black bourgeois elements who fetishized pieces of African culture with no context as "pork chop nationalists." There was no connection to a real people with an existing lifestyle. The Panthers were greatly influenced by Frantz Fanon, who wrote in an essay entitled "Racism and Culture":

"Exoticism... allows no cultural confrontation. There is on the one hand a culture in which qualities of dynamism, of growth, of depth can be recognized. As against this, we find characteristics, curiosities, things, never a structure."

Hip hop developed as a living, dynamic life of a people; oppressed people in north amerikan ghettos. As we'll touch on below it is still a living evolving culture that has been both adopted and adapted by people around the world. But before going global, hip hop culture was commodified by white record owners for white consumers. They sold this exotic culture to white youth looking for rebellion and excitement. Decades before, thousands of white youth gave money and support to the Panthers to express their desires to challenge the dominant culture and status quo. With hip hop, corporate amerika could sell a much more sanitized and safer version of Black rebellion to whites. And while there were benefits in terms of the building of public opinion around the struggles of the oppressed, this was soon drowned out in what became a new form of cooning - reinforcing racist ideologies.

Commodification of Hip Hop

Hip hop culture began in the late 1970s, but it wasn't until the middle to late 1980s that the cultural life and expression of hip hop grew to influence youth throughout amerika and the world.

During the late 1980s and early 90s, the culture continued to thrive. In this era, Black and Latino youth further developed their voices through hip hop to express their anger, fears, ideas, art and frustrations within the dominant white-oppressor culture, with its police brutality and poverty.

Hip hop culture isn't just about the music, it's about a lifestyle - from the clothes we wear, style of hair, taggin' rail cars and walls with radical art and graffiti, unity and more. It's a culture of resistance.

As Immortal Technique wrote in his article, "Gangsta Rap is Hip Hop" a few years back, what was called Reality Rap in the early years of hip hop was a reflection of the conditions that the MC's saw around them. These images were influenced by machismo and other viewpoints that were part of the survival techniques of those coming up in that environment. As survival also required recognizing that the system does not work for us, this Reality Rap was a reflection of the mass revolutionary spirit that had fueled the Black and Brown power movements of the previous generation.

The first response from white amerika was predictably negative, but the amount of attention given to hip hop quickly escalated as fears rose. There was a reason why the George HW Bush and Bill Clinton administrations spent so much time disparaging artists like 2pac and Ice-T. Someone was telling Dan Quayle and Tipper Gore to carry out their censorship campaigns. (see Hip Hop in the Scopes of the State)

To counter their critics, rappers said they were merely reporting the truth. It is true that the rapper has usually served as a block reporter, but there are two problems that have skewed this reporting. The first is bourgeois views of "objective" reporting, that pretend that what is reported and how it is reported could be somehow outside of class struggle. This view allows the oppressed to report on conditions thru rap without taking an approach that serves our struggle. The attitude is "this is just how it is", which leads to acceptance and reinforcement of the status quo.

This becomes an even bigger problem with the pressures from an industry, which tries to protect its bourgeois interests. This brings us to the second problem: the block reporters who make it are the ones reporting in a way that sells to white youth and please white corporations.

Coming from the depressed ghettos of the 1980s, flooded with crack cocaine by the CIA, there was no question of whether or not to become a professional rapper if the opportunity presented itself. As Tupac rapped in his song Don't Stop, "If I wasn't spittin' it'd be prison or death/This rap game all we've got left." Yes, a lot of us found a way to eat, but the result was a lack of potency in the music and a watered-down culture where cars and ice are the motivating factor. It is a culture that is teaching our youth that it's all about them (as individuals). That it's cool to be a dope fiend (sippin' syrup, etc.) and to be victims of HIV/AIDS (it's ok to have multiple sex partners, without ever mentioning protection). Is there any wonder why the highest rates of HIV/AIDS are among Blacks and Latinos between the ages of 13-24?

White-owned corporations saw a profit to be made and stepped in to co-opt the movement. They became owners of record labels and put up money so these impoverished and oppressed people could sell their soul and music for crumbs while these CEO's got millions upon millions of dollars.

With the help of the rappers, the record labels promoted a one-sided image of oppressed youth, an image that has been pushed on the oppressed for hundreds of years - one of uncontrollable libidos, violence, substance abuse and general barbarism. They did this through lyrics about smoking crack, robbing and shooting other Blacks and Latinos in oppressed communities, misogynist raps and raps with no substance. We started to stray away from the four elements and this type of hip hop started to negatively influence the youth and poison their minds. While culture reflects life, it also influences it. And arguably, the corporatized thug image contributed to the thousands of deaths that plagued southcentral Los Angeles and other amerikan ghettoes in the 1990s.

Hip Hop is Dead until it takes up revolutionary politics


So with this contradiction in the culture of the oppressed came total destruction of the originality and with this concrete analysis there must be change. Like comrade Lenin once said, "concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the most essential thing in Marxism, the living soul of Marxism." We must regain the true culture of hip hop, which is based in the real struggles of the people and helps to teach, empower and unite the masses. This culture can be used to ignite the lumpen proletariat to support the revolutionary cause, like Mao once said, "Revolutionary culture is a powerful revolutionary weapon for the broad masses of the people."

Culture is an essential element of the history of a people, and it's social development. Culture in general, and hip hop culture in particular, plunges its roots into the base of the material reality of the environment in which we live in the hoods and barrios and it reflects the organic nature of society, which is more or less influenced by the dominant white society and culture of our oppressed communities. Currently the revolutionary side of hip hop is not the dominant aspect of the contradiction with the corporate/oppressor side. Amilcar Cabral once had this to say about culture:

"Study of the history of liberation struggles shows that they generally have been preceded by an upsurge of cultural manifestations, which progressively harden into an attempt, successful or not, to assert the cultural personality of the dominated people by an act of denial of the culture of the oppressor... it is generally within the cultural factor that we find the germ of challenge which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement."

We saw this germ in the Reality Rap two decades ago. If hip hop is to transform into a true vehicle for social change, we must demand that our artists keep it a hundred and give us more analysis in their music. Stop promoting the use of addictive narcotics, that they become more active in our communities, and give our youth the encouragement to study, unify, and resist oppression. Hip hop needs to reflect the struggle, and push it forward. If they fail to do this, hip hop remains sterile and dead.

Hip Hop as Reflection of Amerikan Culture

During the 1990's, people like Dolores Tucker and Tipper Gore earned the loathing of the booming hip hop culture as they targeted it for censorship and blamed it for the moral depravity of oppressed people. There was a lively debate around whether art reflected life or the other way around. But the answer to those involved was clear: people didn't start rapping about murder, drugs and misogyny because they were trying to corrupt the youth. The youth were corrupted by a system that did not provide them with positive outlets and this was reflected in hip hop, both for good and for bad. Everybody knows censoring rappers isn't going to improve the hood, but improving the hood will change what people are rapping about.

Even after its takeover by white-owned corporations, hip hop continues to be under fire for its misogynistic, materialistic, explicit content and for delivering negative messages to today's youth. What they did is sanitize the rebellious voice of the oppressed, while maintaining the negativity as a form of pseudo-rebellion to reinforce racist stereotypes of what oppressed nation youth are all about. Yet, upon deeper examination, one tends to see that the messages are merely the same ones being transmitted to the society at large by the institutions which govern society.

The parallels between the ideas propagated through the mass media and other sources; and the ones rapped about on the radio by recording artists are not hard to recognize. While this society proposes to thrive on such "rights" as "freedom of speech" and embraces such abstract concepts as individualism, materialism, and using sex to make a profit, it lambasts and condemns artists who are the products of such defunct ideas and who have chosen to endorse and promote them for monetary gain—similar to their capitalist counterparts and employers, only creatively set over catchy beats in rhyme form.

While the hip-hop/rap culture is made up primarily of lower-class, urban youth, generally from the New Afrikan community, the question that arises is: Why are these destructive, negative values so unacceptable now? It seems that as soon as these inner-city youth find a way to use this society's own value system to their benefit, and use their experiences and conditions of poverty, drugs, and crime as an avenue to create material wealth, they are demonized for their efforts. "Rap music" is condemned, rather than society as a whole. This theme is a regular refrain for many rappers who tell their critics through rhyme, "I am what you made me."

While rappers are being chastised for glorifying violence and criminality, the chastizers fail to confront the underlying causes of such crime and its solution, instead placing the blame on rap culture. From a young age, youth are taught by society that accumulation of wealth is the desired goal of life, to look out for yourself and obtain as much as you can. At the same time — through acts of war at home and abroad — our country reinforces the idea that during the quest for the "almighty dollar" any means may be employed to get more money, including violence, murder, and deceit. When a person not from a privileged upbringing and background employs these same tactics, even for the same objectives, they are labeled "criminals" and are subject to incarceration and, in some cases, death. The laws that govern this country blatantly display the fact that they were made to protect the privileges of the upper-class and oppressor nation at the expense of the lower-class and oppressed nations.

If we want to get to the root of the problem, our attacks shouldn't be aimed at a rap culture that developed from the harsh conditions of this society and which only reflects the same backward ideas and values that have been indoctrinated into the masses since birth. Instead, our attacks should be concentrated at a capitalist system that institutionalizes these degenerate values and ideas, and the ugly conditions it has consequently created in this country. Only when we begin to confront the root causes of crime, poverty, unemployment and racism will we be able to teach and educate our youth, and society as a whole, to new positive and progressive ideas and values, based on people helping and caring about other people-in one word: socialism. Anything short of this is a failure to confront the real issues and is simply a step backward.

Hip Hop Lives in Palestine, Senegal, Somalia...

When hip hop blew up in the amerikan market, it was only natural that the capitalists tried to push it globally, as much of the Third World is so brainwashed into worshiping anything that comes from the united $tates as being superior. In many cases, the Third World has adapted hip hop to their own conditions and needs though. In fact, Third World hip hop has consciously rejected many aspects of hip hop that we are also critical of: the killing, the misogyny, the drugs and promiscuity. Many Third World nations are not comfortable with all that. In Muslim countries in Africa, there are hip hop heads who very much look up to rappers from the u$, but do not imitate much of the negative lyrical content. (see http://www.africanunderground.com) There is a class difference between the Third World masses and the u$ lumpen, who have become cultural leaders globally because of u$ imperialism not in spite of or in opposition to it.

While we can be very critical of hip hop for promoting drug use, violence against the oppressed, misogyny and racism, others want to back-handedly criticize it for empowering the oppressed. In contrast, revolutionary artists often embrace while redefining the gangster and the hard images of both mainstream and underground rap music. With the globalization of hip hop and the "I'm more hard" and "I'm more gutter than you" personas that are even pushed by the mainstream, we've seen the appearance of Third World voices with a more internationalist voice.

New York-based artist Immortal Technique said in his title track about the Third World, "it makes the hood in amerika look like paradise." Meanwhile, Somalian rapper, K'naan, claims to be from the most dangerous place in the world and challenges the studio gangster images of rappers in the u$ in his song "What's Hardcore?":

I'ma spit these verses cause I feel annoyed
And I'm not gonna quit till I fill the void
If I rhymed about home and got descriptive
I'd make 50 Cent look like limp bizkit
It's true, and don't make me rhyme about you
I'm from where the kids is addicted to glue
Get ready, he got a good grip on the machete
Make rappers say they do it for love like R-Kelly
It's hard
Harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined
Harder than harboring Bin Laden and rewind
To that earlier part when I was kinda like:
We begin our day by the way of the gun
Rocket-propelled grenades blow you away if you front
We got no police, ambulances, or fire fighters
We start riots by burning car tires
They looting, and everybody start shooting...

This is the kind of "Reality Rap" that the OG's from Los Angeles used to spit, before "gangsta" became a caricature.

A thriving Palestinian hip hop scene has popularized the slogan, "Hip Hop's not dead, it lives in Palestine." This is coming from youth who are using hip hop to express their desires for national liberation, combating the slander being used to label their people as terrorists.

The idea of a global culture is still a new reality. But if such a thing can exist that is really based in the lives of real people, then it must represent the interests of the world's majority. Maybe a culture that arose from the oppressed in the heart of the empire, and was then popularized by the empire itself, can be turned around by the masses to become just that. We are currently seeing two futures of hip hop play out. One has billions of dollars behind it, the other has billions of people. If we can still call it "hip hop" culture in all its different forms around the world, then we can bet on the oppressed peoples' version winning out.

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[Gender] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 12]
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Medical Science Skewed Under Patriarchy

Greetings komrades,

I received ULK July, no. 9 and I disagree with part of your response to the prisoner that wrote on gender. You stated that the prisoner's characterization of women as "very emotional" beings is actually a good example of sexist views.

However this is a topic I have long ago done research in. Medical science in fact states that men think with the left side of their brains which is the logical and reasoning side, and women think with the right side of their brains which is emotional and sentimental. Thus this is not a sexist view but a medical one.

This means if medical science is correct then that would mean that female officers are more emotional than male officers, which of course doesn't make them more dangerous than male officers. Both male and female officers are illogical because the system which they adhere to is illogical. It is also an established fact that some of these hoochies that been dogged one too many times by males on the streets who become guards all of a sudden, because they lack the education to gain better employment, will exercise their piggish authority over male prisoners with a wrath, just because they can.

However that's not to say that male guards don't do the same when they remember that their lunch money was taken away one too many times in high school by thugs, thugs similar to the ones they now have authority over.

To summarize, the job of Gestapo in any U.$. concentration camp sucks, but women guards should never be allowed to work in men's prisons. They're just slightly more useless than their male counterparts. When something serious pops off they all run for cover in fear for their lives. Courage is not a criteria to become a correction pig. "A man who controls his emotions controls his destiny. The one that doesn't is unstable in all his ways."

MIM(Prisons) Responds: Although it may be scientifically too soon for us to say that men and wimmin are completely alike, we must remember that all studies about nature vs. nurture (in this case brain chemistry vs. socialization) are done under hundreds of years of patriarchy. It is impossible to determine how humyns ultimately behave with no outside influence, because we are very deeply affected by the culture we grow up in.

At this point in time under the patriarchy, it is counter productive for revolutionaries to make sweeping proclamations about innate characteristics of men and wimmin. This debate is a distraction from the real issues, and plays into enforcing gender stereotypes. However, this comrade gets it right when he says that "both male and female officers are illogical because the system which they adhere to is illogical." No matter the emotional tendencies of any persyn, they will behave in illogical ways when put in an illogical position. In order to prevent the wrath of any CO, we need to eliminate the illogical job in an illogical society. This can only happen by eliminating capitalism and the profit motive, which will in turn get rid of the prison system.

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[Abuse] [Clinton Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 10]
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Kkklinton Continues Persecution of New Afrikans

Dear Brothers and Sisters at MIM,

Despite today's harsh realities, my warmest. I have not received the latest MIM newsletter and I know the reason why: Clinton.

Today is the 28th of July and the population here just got off lock-down. The reason is simple, "annual tribalism". In fact I wrote to the brothers and sisters at MIM about our last incident around the same time last year.

This year marks the second gang "nonsense" which these CO'S (corruption overseers) love because they get to reap the real benefits of "sectarianism". While we as a people continue to run around with this "thug of the year bops" and claim a "G'd up status or mentality" these sick pigs enjoy the following: punching you and anyone that looks like you and I in the face, kicking out teeth in which the pig who did the most damage (more than 2 or 3 teeth kicked out in one kick) receives kudos from his co-workers, throwing you and anyone that looks like you and I down the stairs while in "full facility shackles". Not to mention 2 - 3 "justified Murders" a year and I can not forget the overtime hours, plus the compensation pay.

Now comes the fun part (notice my sarcasm because I'm laying it down pretty thick.) There was a 8 man rumble in the yard on the east side, which we on the west side had nothing to do with, yet we still suffered 5 days with no showers, small portions of our already inadequate food, groping by some pigs who had no gloves on, and the list goes on and on. I just know that I'm going to hear some disturbing news about brothers receiving their "annual torture" for something that did not involve them. See while some of the so-called "gangsters" bang on each other the "pigs" bang on us all!

I really hope brothers can work it out because as I see it, for the past 15 years it just keeps getting worse. As a brother I try to talk with the vanguards, O.G's, etc. of these gangs in a way that our brother Fred Hampton, Sr. Did with the rainbow coalition. (May his benevolent soul rest in solidarity) We as a people need to bring about a tangible change! We need solidarity instead of hostility. Towards one another, unification is the grassroot for upward social mobility.... Lets Unite!

PEACE AND SOLIDARITY FROM ONE OF YOUR COMRADES AT THE CLINTON PLANTATION

MIM(Prisons) Adds: In our recent censorship report we mentioned Attica Correctional Facility as being notorious for not allowing mail correspondence to prisoners, creating a virtual blackout on news from within. Clinton Correctional Facility isn't so bad, but is perhaps the second most notorious facility in the New York State system. While generally very bureaucratically accountable, the NYSDOCS allows these facilities to continue as they do, proving that their willingness to play by the rules is conditional. Clinton has been particularly repressive towards New Afrikan Maoists and their literature. MIM(Prisons) has also had little success getting literature to comrades in Clinton, as this comrade attests to. We haven't confirmed anyone receiving ULK in Clinton in 4 months. Historically, Clinton has been the destination for many high profile and overtly political prisoners.

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[Culture] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 10]
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Rapper$ Delight

Our komrades in MIM(Prisons) ask "what role does Hip Hop have to play today?" As a revolutionary culture, that is.

Since rappers are hard core capitalists it's a waste of time for me to even contemplate this question. As revolutionaries we must not waste time or energy on things we know aren't going to change. Let's keep it one hundred on a revolutionary level. Hip Hop has digressed not progressed.

It has come a long way. It's gone from "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy and Cop Killer by Ice T (who ironically enough now plays a pig in one of today's many cop shows) to "You're a Jerk" by the new boyz (the present #1 video on 106th and Park - B.E.T.) and "Throw it in the Bag" by Fabulous featuring The Dream (a shoplifting song).

So you see komrades, what Hip Hop has to do concerning the revolution and what they're doing and continue to do and will always do is on the opposite side of the revolutionary train of thought. I don't knock Hip Hop's hustle. It is what it is. I enjoy Hip Hop as entertainment while disregarding most of their lyrics lest I be tempted to shoplift (humor).

On the real, though, prior to the presidential elections B.E.T. (Black Entertainment Television), the Hip Hop channel, pushed hard for the election of Obama. Almost 24/7. Rappers threw rallies, wore shirts and pins promoting the vote for Obama. What do you think would've happened if this much attention would've been given to Sean Bell when he was murdered by three pigs of the NYPD? What would've happened if every single rapper who was still in the rap game at this time made entire CDs rapping about police brutality? Would it have raised a revolutionary consciousness within our urban youth? What if every CD put out at this time was dedicated to the memory of Sean Bell? What if every CD has the face of Sean Bell on its cover instead of a video girl in a thong bent over a Benz? Yea, that's all we're going to get: what if.

Instead this is the reality check. Michael Vick formerly of the Atlanta Falcons gets sent to prison for fighting some dogs, they're about to send Plexico Burress, formerly of the New York Giants to prison for shooting himself accidentally, and the three pigs who riddled Sean Bell with bullets get sent home to their families. Meanwhile Sean Bell's children have no father. Sean Bell was unarmed.

It's a "bloody" shame too, because the fact is, music in general has always bridged together cultural differences.

Is Hip Hop a vehicle for change? It can be, but it won't be. It will continue to pursue the all mighty dollar. What does the revolutionary culture or revolutionary culture (without the "the") look like? In the Hip Hop culture I don't see it. But if I was a Hip Hop rapper this would be some of my CD titles:

Sean Bell, Blood in my Eye, Police Brutality, Assassins with Badges, Modern Day Gestapo, When will they Murder Me?, Attica 71, It's now or never.

But since I can't rap a lick that ain't gonna happen either. So all we can do is what we can do. If you know how to rap then put it down and bring revolution to the rap game because what's already there is simply a Rapper$ Delight.

MIM(Prisons) replies: While we certainly agree with the points made on the injustice of the Sean Bell murder, we point out that many people still rap about Sean Bell years later. And a whole CD was put out for Oscar Grant, with many others putting out singles in respect to him. Most of them were very critical of the police and their connection to the state including Obama. These don't get as much play as the other crap out there, even crap by the same artists who put out these revolutionary songs.

It costs millions of dollars to make a song "popular." Therefore, if you look at the list of songs that get the most rotation, they're all owned by two corporations: Universal and Sony (occasionally Capitol gets one in). If you aren't sponsored by one of these companies you cannot afford the payola. That is part of the game. So even the big artists who do some songs for the people have to write most of their songs for the money, or else they choose to not be a "big artist." Therefore most of what the people listen to is still crap.

If you check out some of the artists that aren't on BET, in XXL or on for-profit radio stations then there is no doubt that a revolutionary undercurrent to hip hop is still present. What will never happen is hip hop becoming revolutionary for profit. But hip hop is already playing a revolutionary role at the fringes.

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[Organizing] [California] [ULK Issue 9]
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Prisons Using Agents to Expose Active Prisoners

Being confined in this new millennium has caused me to wonder about the intelligence of prisoners who receive benefits from the theft, conversion and criminal actions of those charged with enforcing laws, rules and regulations. Here you have prisoners who accept from correctional officers magazines, books, and other items of value that belong to other prisoners and smile and grin saying they came up. Basically at the expense of another prisoner. It's the same old practice used by law enforcement time after time on unsuspecting prisoners they see as potential sources of intelligence and are used until they have no further use and are tossed back to the lions with the customary amusement.

I can not, for the life of me, understand why a prisoner will go out of his way to provide correctional staff and officials intelligence that establishes that a prisoner has membership or association with a prison gang, street gang, or other disruptive group which automatically requires special attention and placement considerations which could include being indefinitely confined in a security housing unit until that individual rats out his comrades, dies or paroles, yet there seems to be new acceptance.

It's amusing to me when I see some of these characters bragging and boasting being validated by the prisoncrats as a gang member while making it a point to ask others, typically around the picklesuits, "are you active". It's as if the new concept of the penal system is to not only tell on yourself but trick others to tell on themselves! It's as if prison agent provacateurism has gained tacit acceptance, and some new status symbolism.

When asked if I am active, I have to ask "active in what?" Since as with so many other English language concepts the word has been coopted into supposedly meaning one thing for the dumb down prisoner but in reality meaning something significantly more onerous to the prisoncrats. And it's no secret but many in the prison population have yet to understand or realize the significance and these concepts and ideas are becoming interwoven into the fabric of prison social structure, forcing many real men to adopt anti-social positions in order to stay out of the cross.

Being a general population prisoner of consciousness, I do not miss much. However I have noted that there are so many idiots who are sycophants to an old concept that has morphed and changed into something that is truly malevolent. One has to go back to the number one concept of "trust no one" with anything of any import. Those who are real you will be able to tell, and those who are not will eventually expose themselves. Educate yourselves and pay attention is all I can advise you in this CDCR trap in which many do not seriously consider the reality of the struggle, but instead practice acceptance.

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[Prison Labor] [National Oppression] [New York] [ULK Issue 8]
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Slavery Without Capitalist Exploitation

UPDATE: On 9/17/2009 the comrade who wrote this letter was killed in Attica Correctional Facility

I received the January 2009 issue #6 of Under Lock & Key, for which I was most grateful. I salute the Mexican comrade for his excellent and exemplary contribution to that issue ("Misplaced rejoicing in prisons over Obama victory"). I am a Black man, the son of an Eritrean emigrant and a descendant of First Nation peoples and Africans enslaved and transported to the Amerikas. The comrade was right on target, especially when he wrote: "... How can there be real change if the system is never changed, only its leaders? For those of us who are convinced that we are 'soldiers' ask yourself, who's soldier are you? Are you some common criminal's soldier? Do you fight and work for greed, power and lust of recognition? Or will you be the People's soldier?..." Yes. I salute the comrade for his courage and determination. Palante, siempre, hermano!

I am responding as well to your request for feedback on your assessment of the prison labor/economics situation. I have been aware of the reality of MIM's findings for some time, and am in agreement with you wholeheartedly. I perceive that prisoners' disagreement with MIM's assessment is not rooted in an analysis of the facts on the ground but rather is due to their misunderstanding and confusion regarding the nature of our enslavement.

It seems that prisoners who disagree with your findings do so actually because they fear that such assessments will confound the acknowledgment of U$ imprisonment as slavery and a capitalist enterprise. U$ imprisonment is certainly slavery and it is certainly a capitalist enterprise whether prison labor is a source of great profits or not. Forced or coerced labor is not the most defining characteristic of slavery and such labor within U$ imprisonment is hardly the source of the real lucrative profiteering that stems from U$ imprisonment in general. The depraved creatures who crafted the language of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution understood this all too well.

slave n. one owned by another: one completely subject to another or to some habit or influence;
slavery n. the holding of persons as property;
(The New International Webster's Pocket Dictionary of the English Language, New Revised edition. Trident Press International 2002)

And it is enough for the state and government to "own" us to profit from us, whether we are sweating away in their industries or not. Much of the elaboration that follows is adapted from "Prison Town", by "The Real Cost of Prisons" project:

During the 1980's and 90's many jobs and sources of income evaporated in the rural and farm areas of this country. Federal, state and local officials were then tasked with discovering a new type of "growth" industry that would revive and sustain the dying economies of the municipalities, districts and sectors they were elected or appointed to serve. Prisons were touted as a viable growth industry with significant potential. Perhaps it was for this reason that former New York State legislator Daniel Feldman stated, "When legislators cry 'lock 'em up!', they often mean 'lock 'em up in my district!'" Certainly it was for this reason that Texas judge Jimmy Galindo said:

"We live in a part of the country where it's very difficult to create and sustain jobs in a global market. [Prisons] become a very clean industry for us to provide employment to citizens. I look at it as a community development project."

Some private developers build prisons in states like Wisconsin without legislative edict from officials and then "sell" the prisons, prompting people like former Wisconsin state corrections chief Walter Dickey to declare,

"... It flatly introduces money and the desire for profit into the imprisonment policy debate, because you've got an entity in Wisconsin, a private entity, with a strong financial interest in keeping people in prison and having them sentenced to prison."

Investment banks, construction companies, private developers, real estate agencies and many others stand to profit immeasurably from prisons in innumerable ways. Federal, state and local officials are then lauded for bringing financial security and economic prosperity to their respective regions and lobbyists.

This phenomenon was complemented by another phenomenon, namely the "mandatory sentencing", "three-strikes-you're-out" and "rockerfeller-type drug" laws introduced by legislators during the same aforementioned period of rural economic decline. It is no secret nor is it debated that such legislation contributed to a 370% prison population growth since 1970. Small wonder, then, that there are more prisons in America than there are Wal-Mart stores.

Thus it matters little whether the imperialist slaveowners can glean profits from our work on their institutional plantations. Their ownership of us prisoners ensures a diverse profit source, whether by accommodating the labor aristocracy or enriching corporate entities.

Thanks to MIM(Prisons) for providing a venue where revolutionary-minded prisoners can connect and exchange ideas. Among other things, Under Lock & Key certainly accomplishes that. I hope that the information in this letter will be useful towards compiling the upcoming issue on prison labor/economics.

MIM(Prisons) adds: As we explain in the introduction to this issue of ULK, we prefer Marx's definition of slavery to the one found in Websters and so conclude that imprisonment is a system of oppression distinct from slavery. We agree with this prisoner's discussion of the ways that corporations, labor aristocrats, and Amerikan imperialism benefit from imprisonment. In addition to the points discussed by this comrade, the lockup of oppressed nations by the U.$. prison system also prevents the self-determination of those nations through their own labor. So, while capitalist profits are not generally extracted from the 2.3 million locked up, that is a huge chunk of labor that is being denied to the oppressed that otherwise could utilize their people locked up to further the development of meeting the needs of their respective nations, and the oppressed people of the world in general.

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[Control Units] [New York]
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Mental Health Programs Just Expanded SHU

UPDATE: On 9/17/2009 the comrade who wrote this letter was killed in Attica Correctional Facility

I commend MIM and Reel Soldier for the successful release of Unlock the Box. You comrades are relentless in the struggle.

For well over a decade now, the NYSDOCS (New York State Department Of Correctional Services) has been developing housing units and programs to confine mentally ill prisoners who are serving penalty terms in the SHU (Special Housing Unit). These programs/units were created and developed to counter a lawsuit (Disability Advocates, Inc. v. OMH) against the NYSDOCS declaring the confinement of mentally ill prisoners in SHUs to be cruel and unusual punishment. The law firms who brought forth the suit have accepted these programs and subsequent legislation as part of an "out-of-court" settlement (take not that the mentally ill prisoners within the NYSDOCS were not given any consideration in the matter of the settlement, as they were never consulted as to whether they agreed to the terms themselves).

Simply put, units such as the GTP (Group Therapy Program), BHU Phase One (Behavioral Health Unit), and the STP (Special Treatment Program) amount to no more than glorified Special Housing Units (SHUs). They are being used arbitrarily as warehouses for prisoners whom they (the NYSDOCS) wish to keep locked down but must "accommodate" due to the settlement agreement and new legislation.

I have been confined to such programs since late May of 2005 (due to diagnosis of PTSD and Antisocial Personality Disorder). These programs have proven generally to be anything but therapeutic, primarily because they are only slightly modified SHUs structurally and are subject to the automatic efforts of security and administrative staff to assert control over prisoners/patients during the therapeutic process. Much of the "programming" (especially Dr. S. Samenow's "Commitment to Change" video series) is blatant brainwashing administered to induce total subservience to prison and state authority.

What is most disheartening is the vanishing of the general political consciousness of prisoners in the NYS prison system, that was given birth during the 1960s & 1970s. How many prisoners are even aware of the history of the Black Panthers, or that ideologically they were Maoists?

This article referenced in:
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[Gender] [California] [ULK Issue 6]
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Female guards watching male prisoners shower

I wanted to bring to your attention that the psycho-sexual warfare in California include the fact that I am in a Security Housing Unit and I am required to exit the cell to go to the shower with nothing on but a pair of boxers. I also have a problem with female staff working in the unit during showers because I am not an exhibitionist and I believe it is improper for female staff to view naked male prisoners just as it is not proper for male staff to view female prisoners' showers.

California Code of Regulations Title 15, Division 3, Chapter 1 Article 2 "Security" Section 3287 "cell, property and body inspections" sub (b)(4) explicitly prohibit male correctional employees from non-emergency body searches of female prisoners. I resent and take offense to female staff looking at my nakedness, whether they derive some psycho-sexual pleasure or not it's simply not right, and another example of the double standards of the CDCR. When staff come for showers I have to ask if female staff are working in the building and if so I simply decline the shower and most of the regular male guards know this.

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