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[Idealism/Religion] [New Afrika] [Macomb Correctional Facility] [Michigan] [ULK Issue 83]
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Black Religion in Michigan Prisons

capitalism plus dope is genocide

Religion was part of the impetus that went into the creation of modern prisons in the United $tates of Amerika. With the opening of the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829 in Philadelphia, the experiment of molding human behavior with confinement and a bible, the idea was isolation and self-reflection would lead to penitence and a corollary eradication of sin, or criminality. However, the seeding of religion within such a volatile atmosphere never took root as designed, but has nevertheless served a persisting role behind the walls, bars and fences of condemnation and incapacitation, with positive and negative consequences. This short article visits the phenomenon of Black religion as it occurs from a materialist perspective within the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), and its implications relative to Black life inside and outside the walls.

Social organization within the MDOC is controlled by Black men from the enclaves of cities hosting large segments of Black denizens. Power dynamics on the prison yards were determined by crews and cliques from these enclaves, with the inhabitants of Detroit overwhelmingly determining the direction and atmosphere of the prison yard; but the power of crews and cliques would start to diminish as a result of the Black power movements of the 1960s and 70s which had serious implications on how social (power) dynamics would be reformed. This reshaped the inner prison structure within the MDOC.

The prison system witnessed an exodus of Blacks from Christianity into the bosom of Black Muslimhood (Islam) for many Black cons – often infused with a radicalism endemic of the times. As prisoners from the cross-section of Michigan cities with the largest Black neighborhoods adopted membership into religious organizations like the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), Orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam (NOI), and lastly the Melanic Palace (and Islamic Palace) of the Rising Sun (MPRS/MIPRS), the diversity of the crews/cliques coagulated into unions of these religious folds. The yard was now structured, for the most part, by these four religious blocs who set the rules of compliance and how prisoners related to the powers that be: prison guards and administrators.

These Black religions served multiple functions from individual protection and a greater collective security in the face of growing quantitative and qualitative changes characterized by violence; a sense of belonging; quasi-familyhood and a material support system, however loose; an avenue to educate oneself and engage in character edification for self-betterment; an alternative power base to offset, counter and resist the state agency of the MDOC and its forms of repression, oppression, and aggression typical of a white political body utilized to isolate, control and dominate potential Black rebels, societal dropouts, and the politicized elements capable of organizing and fomenting direct opposition to white racism and anti-Black hate and containment.

During the onset of the 1980s, the Melanic Islamic Palace of the Rising Sun caught fire with its inductee membership [soaring] to rival other Black religious groups. But what set the Melanic Islamic Palace apart was their willingness to inflict violence on prison guards and staff. This, too, would prove to have both positive and negative consequences. Positive in that energy was invested in degrees of political education and the building of a requisite consciousness steeped in Black nationalist rhetoric, which spilled over and was consumed primarily by the NOI, and to lesser degrees the MSTA and Orthodox Muslims. Negative in that the State, like any serious sociopolitical entity, started focusing attention on these groups which would later bloom into a tsunami of backlash and repression that would blast the political and radical elements out of MDOC religious groups, pushing them to take up a near exclusive God-centric and moralistic brand of religious practice.

The Melanics would eventually be repressed, banned from group service, and branded a security threat group which is tantamount to free society’s terrorist designation. The ripple effects of this move would fuel the aftershocks for decades to come to this very day. Political content and its verbiage are now nearly obsolete among the Black religious groups for fear of repression and possible banishment of group worship. Radical activism has not only largely died out, but can also be frowned upon by Black religious adherents. The yard structure and its rules based compliance has all but evaporated with exception of a few prisons. And with those older prisoners from the 1970s and 80s having returned to society, become frail seniors in prison or having died off, a leadership vacuum was opened to be filled by the incoming street gangs of the younger generation who would steer asunder the remaining residue of rule by structure. A by-product of this alteration in yard power has been that the Black religious groups have become old in age relative to its membership, have become socially and politically ineffective, and have reverted to existing as mere prison social groups who sometimes operate as prison yard gangs.

In the midst of the expiring decades in prison from the 1970s to the 2020s, the move towards Black Muslim-ism in prison has had some serious uninttended consequences, mainly, a lost and/or move away from Afrikanism (consciously and unconsciously). Plagued by anti-Afrikan bias as a result of post-slavery cultural, spiritual and mental colonialism (mentacide), with the exception of few, the Black Muslim groups argued instead for an Asiatic and/or Arab identity that didn’t require them to identify with the savage, barbarian, backward, uncivilized Africans who had no history and remained primitive, as their white masters had intentionally misinformed them during the breaking process of Afrikans to Niggas. And when/where a colonial based Blackness was expressed, unbeknownst to its propounders, it was delivered from a religious package that actually vitiated Blackness as it grew out of a Eurocentric conceptuality birthed during the Hellenistic epoch.

This contradictory pro-Black western (Eurocentric) religious conceptuality carries itself from behind the walls into open society as one of the nails in the coffin to serious liberation struggle advanced by Black people inside the imperialist center of North Amerika. Unfortunately, Black has proven to be ineffective as a sole basis for unity in this country as its nuanced nature cultures fragmentation, and Black western conceptualized religion only fuels the fractures of Blackness into an extreme polylithic substance that rejects a collective Black consciousness that’s bound for, or even focused on liberation.

But does there exist any light to dispel this dark period of irrelevant prison-religion utility? With the 2022 revision to the MDOC religious policy permitting the group service of the indigenous Afrikan Ifa spirituality, and the often radical Hebrew Israelite religion, one might argue the cusp of change is potentially present, and a new day may be dawning. However, I am not convinced. The perpetual distortion of indigenous Afrikan spirituality with western conceptuality spells doom to prospects of Black religion being utilized for liberation purposes. And like education, if a subject is not used for liberation, despite whatever radical nature it may acquire, and pro-Black or anti-white rhetoric it protest, its final product will prove to be a pro-Amerikan assimilationist one.

So the problem with Black religion in prison, speaking in the context of Blackness, no different than Black religious experience in the free world, is it’s devoid of power politics, is Eurocentric (laden with western [Hellenistic] concepts), and is reformist-integrationist-assimilationist (pro-Amerika). These three elements fight against the ability of the Black body to develop a monolithic character (collective consciousness), at least as it concerns Black unity as necessary for our capacity to adequately struggle for liberation or an activist model and mentality that is capable of loosening the screws and weakening the bricks of the prison complex structure.

Prison religion, or Black religion in general has made Karl Marx into a prophet where they serve to actualize his quote: “religion is the opium of the people.” And while I am certain over time many brothers within the MDOC will be exposed to Ifa and even grow to appreciate and practice it, no different than those brothers who have acquired knowledge about Kemeta, it will yet remain tethered to western monotheistic conceptuality through which brothers will be taught to practice it. In this way, it’ll be of little consequence as the receiving receptacles will fail to decolonize their minds of western conceptuality. Instead, the example of the Haitian revolutionaries must be followed by marrying our spirituality to struggle for power. Otherwise, Ifa will function as a mere symbol of Afrikanism, and brothers will be lying to themselves about being Afrikan-centered while actually promoting an inconsequential cultural nationalism that does absolutely nothing to foment a consciousness that could serve as models to alter prison conditions to their benefit. Ifa will be a mere badge of knowledge; a gold chain or Rolex shown off as a fetish, and will soon be denigrated to the margins of irrelevancy on par with the rest of black prison religions within the MDOC.

In my final analysis, drawing from more than two decades inside the cage, I conclude Black religion in the MDOC has been regressive. And contrary to some external beliefs outside the walls, Black prison-religion is not progressing towards Afrikan-based religious affiliation. Black Islamism is still the preferred go-to as it has successfully positioned itself as the popular vehicle for black intellectualism, freedom and expression of Black pride. In the end, however, Black religion in the MDOC is failing Black convicts and has betrayed and continues to betray authentic Black activism and struggle.

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[Drugs] [Deaths in Custody] [Michigan] [ULK Issue 82]
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Chemical Suicide in Michigan Prisons

chemical suicide

During a documentary interview with a citizen from Mexico regarding the flow of illegal drugs across the border into the united states, the Mexican said, rather matter-of-factly:

“We don’t have a drug problem in Mexico. The united states have a drug problem so Mexico have a problem trafficking drugs into the united states. For the united states to be the greatest country in the world, it seems everybody has to be high in order to live there.”

As social beings, the environments that we inhabit are essential for both our survival and human development. And social environments influence our behaviors and informs the mechanisms we use to survive the social stressors that push us towards drug usage and addiction as a means of coping. Otherwise, one may literally commit suicide.

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), as a micro-societal reflection of what’s occurring in the macro-society, is wrestling with imprisoned men addicted to drugs on a scale rivaling the crack-era (epidemic). And in some respects, actually surpassing that horrible 1980s into the 2000s phenomenon. And the elements that catapults the present epidemic to rival the crack epidemic is the cocktail of mental illness and severe emotional instability, with a dosage of western social liberalism mixed in. The result is a generation, both younger and older, socialized into a neo-Nigga mentality born out of social backwardness or retardation, a strong sense of love abandonment, while simultaneously carrying the epigenetic traumas from this country’s imposition of myriad forms of violence on us in perpetuity. Out of this is produced The Nigga Creed: “Fuck it! Deal with us!”

In the MDOC, brothers are high strung on K2 in a liquid form that is free-based (or vaped, as it is euphemized) from paper. The phenomenon is akin to crack in that tiny pieces of K2 laced papers sell for $3 to $5, meaning the high is cheap like crack. And because the K2 high doesn’t last long, it is chased after just like crack addicts chased crack. Also like crack, brothers sell all of their possessions to acquire K2 (nicknamed Twochi; or duece). But it’s worse than crack in that (1) guys don’t know nor seem to care what they are smoking; and (2) duece makes them hallucinate or have episodes of passing out, tripping, paralysis. violent possessions and overdose.

During a phone conversation with a comrade imprisoned in the Florida prison system, he shared that K2 had ravaged the Florida system years previously. That K2 had gotten so bad, the groups on the yard had to come together and ban K2. Unfortunately, at the present juncture in Michigan prisons, this is not possible because the groups that have the yard (NOI, MSTA, Sunni, Melanics, other lumpen organizations) are betraying the people and what they say they stand on as it is these very groups dealing in and using K2 – quite literally without consequence.

K2 is not detectable so one cannot drop a dirty urine for it, unless, which is frequently the case, it is laced with Fentanyl or PCP. And sadly, in addition to K2. somehow, brothers have found themselves hooked on meth (ice).

The ramifications of this reality has been staggering. There is an absence of activist personality, the so-called pro-Black prison vanguard groups have become apolitical and anti-radicalism. At the facility where I’m housed, I am absolutely the only prisoner advancing political education through our study group, the Sankofa Commune, which has existed since COVID lockdowns.

Brothers in the MDOC are struggling and we find ourselves in terrible shape. The conditions born out local poverty and state institutionalization as a result of poverty, is traumatizing culminating in degrees of mental and emotional instability. Requests for mental health therapy sessions go unanswered and drugs are the only outlet, aside from violence, that mends, however temporarily, the pain experienced by the broken men. Four murders have occurred on this prison within a year. Chemical warfare and chemical suicide are hard at work. Live from the MDOC!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is the latest article on the scourge of K2 that’s been hitting the prison population hard, dating back at least 10 years.(1) That is very inspiring to hear the report from Florida of groups coming together to ban it. We’d love to hear more about this and try to promote this model elsewhere. For those who don’t know, we released our Revolutionary 12 Step Program last year, so those who are interested in organizing alternatives where they are can get a copy of the pamphlet from our Free Political Books to Prisoners Program or on our website. Unless of course you’re in Texas or Florida where it’s considered a security threat.(2) Where the pigs don’t even pretend to not be trafficking drugs.(3)

We would also advise comrades that in moments like these when the traditional leadership roles of the oppressed nations in prisons (such as the NOI) are partaking in anti-people behavior as described to use dialectical materialism to try and see how to solve this problem. What is our analysis of mass imprisonment? What is our analysis of groups such as the Nation of Islam? In a given situation, is the contradiction between these organizations and the anti-imperialist forces of USW antagonistic or non-antagonistic? Should they be antagonistic? If they are antagonistic and we decide that it shouldn’t be, how can we turn it non-antagonistic? Given our political line, and our strategy of USW in mind, what should be done?

Notes:
1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas, Under Lock & Key No. 59.
2. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program, Under Lock & Key No. 78.
3. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop, Under Lock & Key No. 73.

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[Education] [Drugs] [Michigan] [ULK Issue 77]
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Academics Advance Amidst the Addicted

While the suboxone once reigned supreme here in Michigan prisons, since the start of the pandemic resulting in lockdown in state, K2 (Twoche, as its called here), has eclipsed suboxone. Previously you only saw non-Black prisoners doing suboxone, but this is no longer the reality as it has now cut across racial/ethnic lines. K2 is the new crack within the prison context. I’d wager at least 80% of the facility I’m caged with have a K2 addiction. It is very much reminiscent of the 1980s/early 1990s, especially for those smoking (or vaping, as they call it) K2 out of self-manufactured pipes made from the fiber glass ink pen holders. So its not at all uncommon to see a neo-slave on the prison-plantation free basing. You see guys selling all of their possessions, spending all of their money on K2 just as I saw crackheads do decades ago. You even see the choyboy, the aluminum brittle pads being used to ignite flame. It’s sad.

Even sadder, however, is that these guys don’t have a clue what they’re ingesting in their bodies. Frequently guys are having PCP and other dangerous liquid substances brought in by prison guards that is not K2. Some have gone to some extremes in manufacturing K2 within the facility from liquid chemical compounds (the synthetic weed form has long ceased being used. K2 is now in liquid form). I’ve seen guys use oven cleaner and other chemicals to make a compound that meets and interrupts the brain chemistry to produce a reaction resulting in a high. The manufacturer of this concoction, strung out himself, then partakes in his own made up substances. It is literally sickening!

The widespread nature of addiction can only be considered to be state sanctioned repression. No shakedowns occur. No instances exist where the substance is being sought after by the state to remove it from the facilities. Being that it keeps guys in stupors, states of docility, the facility is alright with it as it allows them to push their agenda in keeping the prison locked down as the voices don’t exist in numbers to push back against the de facto semi-segregation we’ve been kept under for over two years now. They only have to contend with the effects in the form of overdose and other tripping episodes as guys sometimes fallout, hallucinate, become paranoid, experience the illusion of impending death, or become stuck in a state of immobility (literally). I can’t believe this shit.

In Michigan, we’re suffering from a near total lack of political consciousness or will to resist the myriad forms of repression and overt oppression.

I’ve started a small study group among some of the younger brothers (24-28 years old). I’ve been exposing them to revolutionary concepts and manners of struggle. I’ve introduced them to Marx, Lenin, Mao, the BPP, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Fanon, Antonio Gramsci, you name it. They are loving the experience. The expansion of their consciousness is being noticed as more young guys are approaching us to be allowed into the circle. These youngsters are leaving traditional religious formations to indulge in revolutionary thought ways.

All Power to the People!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides an update to the report from Michigan in ULK 75 that discussed the rise of Suboxone in Michigan prisons prior to the pandemic.

Thanks for ending on a positive note after depicting the overall sad state of affairs there. It is inspiring to know you comrades are rising above the environment, and we are confident that the study and implementation of lessons of revolutionary history will be the best medicine to combat addiction among the masses in the years to come.

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