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Oct 20, 2017

Picking up the torch of abolition: Millions for Prisoners Day of Action

Cole Dorsey

keywords: Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

Read at August 19, 2017 San Jose sister march for the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March

First, I’d like to say, on behalf of the Oakland Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, how honored we are to be here with you all today and standing up on behalf of the millions of people caught up in the prison or “justice” system and detention facilities within the United States. We’re out here in conjunction with all the people that are marching in DC on this day with the same message. We have a “justice system” that perpetuates the institution of racism in this country through its targeting of the most marginalized communities: people of color, women, and the LGBT community.

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, or IWOC, is a project of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union and is an organization that is now a couple of years old. We have over 1000 prisoners as union members and as many contacts that we communicate with in prisons across the country. As outside members of IWOC our job is to facilitate the formation of inside branches of the Union. Also to publicize and amplify the voices of prisoners as they relay their conditions and their fights for justice on the inside to those of us on the outside.

In my several years in prison I came to realize many things. One of which being that the punitive actions enforced within prisons are designed to break your spirit. From years of solitary confinement, to constant threats against your parole. Also, I realized how greatly the prisons benefitted off the divisions that prisoners create by breaking up into racial gangs, which is typical.

Prisons use arbitrary punishments as a tool to break your spirit and will to fight. Where any perceived infraction of “the program” that they design for you to adhere to, will be swiftly met with severe repercussions that range from: denial of parole, more charges, beatings, and even murder. These are just some of the threats prisoners face when they attempt to confront the system on their own.

Despite this, while I was in prison there were several collective actions that we prisoners took. They were all relatively spontaneous though and a reaction to an injustice like not receiving commissary one week, so we all refused to lock down after dinner. Or when they refused to let my 8-man cell out for rec time and we decided to flood the whole cell block. Historically prisoners have taken collective action to better their conditions or to fight back. Prison officials always responded the same way by acting as if they would listen and heed our grievances, but they only did that to get us back in our cells or stop what we were doing. Once all prisoners are locked up again and they feel they have the situation under control they try to single out and identify the “leaders” and use them as an example through severe punishment.

Prisons only function because prisoners go to their prison jobs which predominately are jobs that keep the facilities running from laundry and maintenance, to food production and assembling products for the state or other facilities to use. The IWW has always advocated that the working classes greatest strength is at the point of production. Thousands of prisoners across the country proved this fact by shutting down 24 prisons across the country last year on September 9th which coincided with the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising. It was the largest coordinated action by prisoners in US history, led by leaders of the Free Alabama movement, free Ohio movement, and IWOC. IWOC estimates at least 57,000 prisoners participated or were locked down to prevent their participation.

Strike leaders produced a document titled, “Let the crops rot in the fields” in the lead up to the prison strike last year, which equated the institutionalization of slavery with the “exception clause” of the 13th amendment. So as slaves were forced to harvest crops by ‘letting the crops rot in the fields’ they meant “don’t go to work” and don’t prop up these institutions of our confinement. That document laid it out in real terms. Whereas during chattel slavery the land owner collected the profits and administered the punishments.
After the Civil War and with the addition of the 13th amendment they codified slavery into law. Armed vigilante groups, which evolved and became the police as we know them today, would capture freed slaves on fabricated or wholly made up charges just to return them to the plantations they had supposedly just been freed from, only now they weren’t plantations. They were called prisons and administered by the state. That was the back room deal made between northern industrialists and southern landowners so they didn’t lose their workforce. The landowner became the warden and the overseer became the guard.

While the majority of prison jobs are to keep the facilities operating, we’ve increasingly seen large corporations getting into the prison game after seeing the potential profit margins they can secure with a workforce to which they pay pennies and in some states don’t pay anything, for the work they do. We’re talking about major corporations like Bank of America, Exxon, Mobil and McDonalds. AT&T has been outsourcing their unionized workforce since the 90’s not to Mexico, not to India, but right here in the U.S., to prisoners.

One of our leaders, Kinetic Justice, co-founder of the Free Alabama Movement, broke it down like this: there is a reason they don’t offer these jobs that they do in prisons, to people on the outside in those most affected marginalized communities. It’s because they’ve realized these communities are more easily controlled inside prisons. Kinetic’s observation on control is that we are now in an age of increasing “surplus” populations and the government has been using prisons as their solution to that problem.
A notable theorist recently pointed out that “The purpose of prison is not to reap profits from people’s labor, but to warehouse those for whom no profit-making work exists.”
We must see prison, juvenile halls, and immigrant detention centers for exactly what they are, which is a part of the institution of racism in this country and a vital component of the carceral state.

So, with that being said, while we support this effort at reform as it was called for by prisoners, we also see it as only one strategy in the ongoing war against prisons. Though we support reform efforts like this when called for by prisoners, at the end of the day we are prison abolitionists. We are revolutionaries. Through our mutual political education classes and our collective analysis, we recognize that the prison and detention centers are used as a weapon to continue to subjugate Black and Brown people and women, and to continue to perpetuate the institution of racism in this country.

While we’re able to bop white supremacists in the head when they try to rally, combating racism as its codified in the “justice system” will require the mutual aid and support of all of us, on the outside, by supplying material support when it’s needed, and also by amplifying, and publicizing the voices of all of our brothers and sisters being held in prisons and detention centers, and attempting to fight back collectively. Same goes for the over 5 million people on some type of monitoring e.g. probation, house arrest etc. They need our support and solidarity as well.

While we’re here today in solidarity with you all and the fight to repeal the “exclusion clause” of the 13th amendment, let me conclude with this. Even if the “exception clause” is repealed, The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee will continue communicating and organizing with prisoners. We’ll continue building inside union branches and we’ll continue hitting the streets loud and hard when our incarcerated members call on us to. We’ll continue in our work until every single prison, every immigrant detention center, and every juvenile hall in this country is completely empty.

Oct 20, 2017

Texas Prisoners at Eastham Unit Challenge Contaminated Water and Deadly Heat in US Federal Courts

Keith "Malik" Washington

keywords: End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

“All human activity is collective – a combination of the work and inspiration shaped by those who came before us and those who labor with us.”
Nancy Kurshan, Out of Control

Peace and blessings, sisters and brothers!

Well, it is official, the prisoners on Eastham Unit, located in Lovelady, Texas, have filed their § 1983 Federal Civil Complaint in the Eastern District of Texas – Lufkin Division. There were 10 of us in the original complaint, but as is customary in Texas, the Judge severed us all and instructed us to proceed as individual plaintiffs. Our lead litigator and resident jailhouse lawyer is a prisoner named William Wells.

William Wells et al. Vs Bryan Collier et al.
Cause #9:17-cv-80

For those of you who don't know, Bryan Collier is the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). TDCJ has the largest state prison system in the United States. Most of the 110 prison units are not air conditioned, and toxic water supplies are becoming a pervasive and systemic problem.

Please allow me to reveal some facts which led us to file this particular lawsuit:
Due to the consumption of contaminated water at Eastham Unit, multiple prisoners have been diagnosed with h. pylori disease from the water. Due to the Heat Index, especially in the summer, prisoners must drink this contaminated water that's causing h. pylori.
This issue raises 8th Amendment concerns, and the US Supreme Court has held that unsafe conditions that pose an unreasonable risk of serious dangers to a prisoner's future health may violate the 8th Amendment even if damage has not occurred and may not affect every prisoner exposed to the conditions. See case law Helling vs McKinney 113 S.C.T. 2475 (1993): “A remedy for unsafe conditions need not wait for a tragic event.”

In this case, at Eastham Unit, several prisoners have been diagnosed with h. pylori disease which destroys the lining of the stomach. There is no known cure.
There have been signs posted in nearby communities which clearly read “Don't drink the water without boiling”, but prisoners at Eastham Unit, and throughout the Texas prison system for that matter, have no means of boiling our water.

The prison store known as the commissary sells us “hot pots” which heat water but don't boil it. If we alter our Hot Pots in order to make them boil, they get confiscated and we are given a disciplinary case for contraband. We are being deprived of a basic human need – safe drinking water! Prison officials are well aware of the situation, and the most ubiquitous item in prison guards' bags is bottled water. But what about us?

There are state officials in Michigan who are now facing prison terms for engaging in similar acts of neglect and abuse. There are many “Flints” in Texas, but the cover-up game is in full effect. My job is to unmask and uncover the deceptions and lies being fed to the public at large. I helped do it at the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas last year, and I'm going to do it here at Eastham Unit!

This is what I want you to understand, the State of Texas focuses its energy and resources in order to exploit and take advantage of poor white, poor black, and poor brown people. The State Government works in concert with the prison agency in order to deprive us of our our human and civil rights! There are no “fat cat” bankers, lawyers, captains of industry inside these prisons. We are lower income folks who come from lower income communities throughout the State of Texas. The Attorney General of Texas, Mr. Ken Paxton, won't come to our aid. The Michigan Attorney General actually spear-headed the effort to protect his lower income constituents! What's wrong with Ken Paxton's moral compass? Paxton is going to side with TDCJ and he is going to send a state-paid attorney to force prisoners to drink contaminated water and suffer in deadly heat extremes!

The State of Texas did the same thing at Wallace Pack Unit – and the remarkable thing was those prisoners at Wallace Pack are mostly all elderly and disabled! I understand the state may not want to air condition the entire system, but we have a moral and ethical duty to protect the lives of our most vulnerable members of society, whether they are incarcerated or not!

But here's the thing – Texas has one of the worst-performing and poorly-rated nursing home facilities in the United States! And these are free citizens who we fail to protect, so it certainly is no surprise we are ignoring the health and safety of those incarcerated seniors, but I believe we can do better! Don't you? I mean, is this how you want your tax dollars spent? Funding litigation which hurts people? And by the time the litigation process is done at Wallace Pack Unit, the state would easily have spent the money it would have taken to install the air conditioning unit! That's crazy!

I've been hearing about Christian leaders talking about restorative justice initiatives. I've been hearing about change. Not all of my friends believe in prayer, but I surely do! However, the only thing this corrupt prison agency respects or understands is legal action.

My name is Comrade Malik, I'm not a gangster or a thug, I am a thoughtful and passionate human being who truly believes in serving the people! Please stop talking about action, step out of your comfort zone and help us fight the good fight!

Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!

Keith “Malik” Washington
Chief Spokespersyn for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement

Oct 20, 2017

Amend The 13th: On the vital importance of ‘Strategic Release’ to Community Development

Joka Heshima Jinsai

keywords: Abolish Legal Slavery in Amerika Movement, Strategic Release, parole, 13th Amendment

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

Greetings Sistas and Brothas.

As the National Agenda of ‘Amend the 13th’ continues to find resonance with the People, we see great enthusiasm for its major components such as support for the Millions for Prisoners March, the Autonomous Infrastructure Mission (A.I.M.) and the Abolition Petition, but of equal importance is public support for the concept of ‘Strategic Release.’
Intentional instability

What has fueled the legacy of legal slavery in Amerika from the Jim Crow era to the present day is unstable and intentionally underdeveloped communities. One of the chief contributors to this instability is systematic recidivism and lack of effective leadership in the process of community development, reclamation and stability. U.S. policies of mass incarceration have fractured family units, have exacerbated generational poverty, have facilitated the school to prison pipeline and have solidified social containment policies for New Afrikans, Latinos and the poor into concrete barriers to social progress no less real than the prison walls which hold so many.

A New Progressive Mentality

But this process of systematic dehumanization also produces its opposite: New Men and Women who have been transformed by their experiences with the productive system into genuine social progressives, the very antithesis to this structural hate. Such New Men and Women have given their very lives to transforming the criminal mentality into a progressive mentality, and transforming their communities into bastions of social progress and stability.

The unfortunate reality is that the U.S. is an attrition-based society, one that prizes retribution and punishment over restorative justice; one that values the conquest of resistance, while viewing mercy as weakness. Though there is overwhelming evidence that these draconian measures do not diminish, but instead actually fuel criminalization, Amerikan policymakers continue to capitulate to the ‘growth’-model of the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC). It was this social reality which led New Afrikan Political Activists to develop the concept of STRATEGIC RELEASE.

The Highest Threshold of Rehabilitation

Under Strategic Release, a Prisoner’s grant of parole, pardon or clemency is based on the positive impact he or she has had on their community and society during his or her imprisonment, and the even greater positive impact they will have on society as a whole if released.

Consideration for Strategic Release is based on a subject’s work product and proven record of service to the community and society, and a formal commitment to continue to work in the service of the community and the People into perpetuity once released.
As such it is the height of social restitution, providing direct restorative justice to the People and our communities, requiring a lifetime commitment to society’s progress and welfare. Strategic Release also requires a minimum of 25 years of confinement as, according to the state’s own Bureau of Justice Statistics, recidivism rates for those 50 and over, or who have served 25 years or more, are virtually non-existent.
This means Strategic Release is the highest threshold of rehabilitation, public safety and social justice any Prisoner can achieve, warranting the highest reward: A second chance to serve society, physically present in their communities.

Reducing Crime

It is this physical presence of Strategic Release subjects in our communities which lies at the heart of its vital importance to the process of community development. The formal adoption of Strategic Release will have a direct impact on reducing crime and violence in our communities where it has been generational, while diminishing the social inequities at the root of criminalization through the contributions and activities of those granted release.

The prospective Prisoners considered for Strategic Release are committed to solving the ills of society without working with the state or law enforcement, but instead through directly working with the People and community; thus they remain perpetually accountable to those who have granted them release. Strategic Release is therefore vital to any community development scheme, as those released to the community, [as] much as fire transforms lifeless ice into life-sustaining water, [they] will breathe healing and life-altering development into our struggling communities.

Viable Alternative to the Carceral State

Strategic Release will provide us all with competent and dedicated leadership at a time when we are facing a crisis in leadership in so many of our communities. Strategic Release will serve as a blueprint for the expansion of restorative justice initiatives and act as a viable alternative to the maintenance of the traditional carceral state. This means Strategic Release will serve to undermine the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC) at the point of criminalization: our communities.

The programs and mentorship provided by Strategic Release subjects in our communities will shut down the school-/poverty-to-prison pipeline at the source. Because the subjects for Strategic Release have literally spent decades analyzing and developing solutions to the ills of society from the perspective of the most disenfranchised and oppressed, the programs, initiatives and institutions they have developed represent a degree of innovation unknown in mainstream Amerika.

Rehabilitation through Serving the People directly

Strategic release provides a new impetus for our imprisoned Sistas and Brothas to take self-development beyond mere rehabilitation, forward to the realm of social activism and a genuine committment to serving the People (and society as a whole). These new interconnected social, economic and political relationships produced by the impact of Strategic Release subjects and their work product will serve to move society as a whole away from the greed, hate and naked self-interest which has exacerbated its core contradictions, on to more cooperative and harmoneous modes of social life beneficial to us all.

Support the Concept of Strategic Release

I encourage you in the strongest terms to advocate for the formal adoption of Srategic Release by your community and state legistlatures; support local petitions for Strategic Release and contact your local community organizers and encourage them to support the concept of Strategic Release.

Please visit the sites of the affinity organizations listed below for additional information and links to others currently pursuing formal adoption of Strategic Release in states across the nation. Amend the 13th stands in solidarity with them and all those actively pursuing the implementation of Strategic Release.

Until we win or don’t lose,

Joka Heshima Jinsai

Founder & Executive Director
Amend the 13th: Abolish Legal Slavery in Amerika Movement
Please visit: www.amendthe13th.org

Oct 20, 2017

Shots Fired

Kamau Jones

keywords: PBSP, Pelican Bay

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

I’d like to open this article with a quote from the noble Quran: “he (Allah) who taught the use of the pen – taught man that which he knew not.” (Chpt. 96: verse: 4-5)
I used this verse to open my letter to the San Francisco Bay View, an excellent newspaper of which I greatly appreciate, to share a piece of my character and my integrity, as a revolutionary. One of innumerable Black-Muslim men confined in the “trenches” of Amerika’s Injustice System of Oppression = “New Jim Crow.” It’s ever incumbent upon every righteous-minded and sincerely believing Muslim, to stand up against injustice, corruption and oppression.

So this pen is my “weapon of choice,” which shall allow light to be shed on the “dark secrets” behind the “Iron Wall” of Pelican Bay State Prison, infamously known to the public and media as “Skeleton Bay!”. This, due to its past cruelty and notoriety.

On May 24, 2017, at approximately 10:30 am, simultaneous Mini-14 Rifle fire rang out like “Strong burst of thunder!” I didn’t personally witness the chaos and mayhem, but nearly one hour later, the Correctional Officers started to bring fellow inmates back in the Units via escort, one at a time. Upon one African-American entering the B-Section Unit, I could clearly observe the “grim look upon his face,” and all he could say was: “It was ugly!”

Right then, I knew that the barrage-volley of bullet-fire I had heard, was in fact FIRED INDISCRIMINATELY at Southern Hispanics here on B-Facility. I’ve had time to do my inquiry as to this incident as far as conversing with men who were on the Yard during the initial incident, which quickly turned brutally violent and perhaps even deadly! It has been conveyed by those present, that a one-on-one fight between Southern Mexicans broke-out and upon the C/O’s observing the mutual combat, which didn’t involve any type of “weapon,” they approached in running form and began immediately using “pepper spray,” and detonating a few “gas bombs.”

Now, I’d like to here be perfectly clear, again, THESE INMATES DIDN’T POSSESS ANY WEAPONS AND ONLY USED “FISTICUFFS!,” WHICH THE C/Os OBSERVED. As the C/O’s are screaming loudly for the two combatants to “get down!,” they ignored the command, continuing their brawl. The Officers then aggressively and unnecessarily, indeed with “malicious intent;” began BEATING them (HUMAN BEINGS) with CDCR’s standard issued “Metal Batons” = “Nigger Sticks!”

The Officers wouldn’t stop hitting them, even as onlookers screamed at the C/Os to do so. However, the Officers disregarded these Southern Mexican Inmates concerns, and instead continued to beat the two Inmates whom were, again, prone out on the ground as the fighting between them was basically over! Because the concerns of the Southern Mexicans Inmates were dismissed, they were forced to go to the DEFENSIVE AID of their loved ones and as they did, the Mini 14 Assault Rifle rounds bean ringing out with deliberate-focused aim!

Once the “smoke and dust cleared,” a total of “NINETEEN BULLET ROUNDS” were FIRED from multiple Gun-Towers (e.g., from the Housing Units and Gym Tower). The local news claimed that “five Inmates suffered gun-shot wounds” and that “Eight Officers suffered injuries, none of which were life-threatening.” I’m not 100% sure if it’s accurate or not, some people here say that the Inmates whom were SHOT, of them ONE WAS DECEASED! I’ve now been at Pelican Bay State Prison for over three years and have been incarcerated for twenty three years, twenty of which have been here on Level IV Facilities across California.

These environments, in which a most clear “racial-class dichotomy exist” that US & THEM!, for the mass-incarcerated = repressed Inmates have been and remain filled with direct and indirect hostilities from C/Os. Many of them, are filled with bitter resentment and extreme arrogance towards the Prisoner-Class, i.e., believing that they can do or say whatever they want to us, as if we’re not human beings deserving of respect and dignity, while in the same breath desiring that “we” extend and display these mannerisms towards them!

I want to here be perfectly clear: WE DON’T CARE HOW MUCH THEY MAY HATE OR DISLIKE US, BUT THEY HAVE A DUTY TO CARRY THEMSELVES WITH HIGHER PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS. Also, let me emphasize that not all Officers share these negative sentiments towards Inmates as in truth, there are those whom are very courteous and respectful. However, for those whom dislike Inmates for whatever personal reasons “which YOU might have,” let me say that: WE STAND UNIFIED UNDER A RACIAL-CLASS OF MEN SUFFERING UNDER SIMILAR CONDITIONS OF REPRESSION AND DEHUMANIZING DEPRIVATION OF OUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS.
As such, as the WISE LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNED and TAKEN TO HEART, we’ll NEVER SIMPLY RESORT TO OUR “OLD IGNORANT WAYS” OF RACIAL HATRED AND MISGUIDED ANIMOSITIES TOWARDS ONE ANOTHER, WHICH WERE TIME AND TIME AGAIN, THEIR TACTIC IN THE PAST TO “DIVIDE & CONQUER” US, BUT WHICH TODAY SHALL FAIL TO WORK. We are unafraid of their “secret schemes” and diabolical tactics. UNAFRAID of their bullets and weapons as well as YOUR disregard for our lives. We STAND STRONG, UNBROKEN WITH DIGNITY, DISCIPLINE and FORTITUDE. Fighting with passion, ambition and determination to live as MEN, and doing whatever we are able to eradicate a system which keeps our minds and bodies repressed and oppressed…for far too long!

We must/shall remain focused, committed, organized and aware of our COLLECTIVE OBJECTIVES. We’ll only succeed as long as we continue to be cognizant of OUR STRENGTHS, OUTSIDE SUPPORT and VITAL PURPOSE. A “revolution” starts with one spark and with one small ember can set a nation ablaze…In Peace/Solidarity!!!

Oct 20, 2017

California Prison Focus and Rise Up For Justice Sponsor Millions for Prisoners Rally and March

Nube Brown, Mathew Sahagian

keywords: Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March

Prison Focus Issue 53
Fall 2017

On August 19th courageous and loving folks in San Jose, California joined with sister marches and rallies all over the country in support of prisoners’ human rights, amending the 13th, and thereby launching the New Abolitionist Movement. Their courage is found in the rejection of an institution so insidious that any criticism can bring a torrent of ridicule and backlash; an institution that tells us ‘they- the other” are undeserving of our humanity, an institution of legal slavery in the ‘land of the free.” And their love is revealed by their enthusiasm for a new society which reunites us in our common experience and affirms those rights which we call human, to all members of our society caged or not, and regardless of skin-color, socio-economic status, or past discretions.

The march launched at 11:45 a.m. with a speech from Amend the 13th’s founder, Joka Heshima Jinsai, recorded and blasted through a bullhorn to crowd of hundreds. Troy Williams of the SF Bayview followed with a call to remember why we march, setting the tone for a purposeful and peaceful demonstration to the public.

As we marched in solidarity through the lively Japantown neighborhood chants rang out: “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we will make your prisons fall” and “Human rights apply to all, even those behind a wall”. Onlookers enjoying a patio lunch stood and applauded, while those passing in cars or on foot honked and cheered as marchers proceeded with signs calling to end mass incarceration and recognize solitary confinement as torture.

As we made our way forward to converge on James P McEntee plaza across from the county jail, marchers were welcomed by Watani Stiner. Despite decades of imprisonment and dehumanization, his joyous introduction spread optimism as it reverberated throughout the crowd: “Welcome all of you beautiful and magnificent souls! Today is a good day to resist! Today is a beautiful day to rise up and say ‘no more!’ Today is a wonderful day to say ‘not in my name!’” With that, the stage was set for voices to be heard and stories to be shared.

Riding a wave of solidarity, speakers shared painful truths about the U.S. prison system. Raymond Aguilar noted, “They incarcerated my body, they incarcerated part of my soul, but they did not incarcerate my mind,” as he spoke to his experience and on the issue of juvenile life without the possibility of parole. On behalf of Mianta McKnight of Justice Now, Julia Arroyo of Young Women’s Freedom Center called out the realities of a system that lacks the resources for girls and women of color returning home from prison.

But among the cheers and outbursts of encouragement, there were moments of sheer heartbreak and anger. We witnessed the pain and loss of a mother, Laurie Valdez who shared the murder of Antonio Guzman Lopez, father to her young son, by San Jose State University police. Alongside her, the frustration of Ato Walker, whose life was disrupted by a racist police officer and an unjust bail system. One by one, speakers rose to share their lived experiences. One by one the crowd was moved, not just to open their eyes, but also their hearts.

As history replays itself on the national stage through white supremacist and neo-nazi violence, we are called not merely to avoid the mistakes of our past, but to wholly reimagine our future. “There is no room for slavery in humanity. There can be no exception for any group,” declared Mariposa McCall addressing the crowd.
Today, we must dare to create a new system- a system without slavery, without prisons. In the shared words of Cole Dorsey, organizer with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), “While we support this effort at reform as it was called for by prisoners, we see it only as a strategy in the ongoing war against prisons...at the end of the day, we are prison abolitionists. We are revolutionaries.”

As the rally closed, we, marchers and speakers all, concluded with a pledge: “We have set the stage for the real work to come. In unity we will become stronger, more committed, and more resolved. We stand firm in our belief that all community members, caged and uncaged, deserve their human rights. We stand committed to the New Abolitionist Movement to end slavery in America once and for all.”

With that the platform was set for voices to be heard, stories to be shared. In this environment of support and solidarity painful issues such as juveniles sentenced to Life Without Parole brought to light by Raymond Aguilar and lack of resources for girls and women of color returning home, advocated for by Julia Arroyo on behalf of Mianta McKnight, were able to be shared.

You could feel the crowd spellbound and moved as we witnessed the pain and loss of a mother, Laurie Valdez as she shared the killing of the father to her young son by SJ police. But it was being together in common humanity that almost became our fresh air. Folks who wouldn’t commit to speaking seemed to feel the love and camaraderie that was generated and spoke in the end. It was the unity, the humanity we felt from being with each other, face to face, looking in the eyes, sharing the lived experience. And it’s not only in the telling that things got done. We had to be good listeners. We opened our hearts, not just our ears. The hope and the drive and the commitment was undeniable in each of those speakers and it encouraged and awakened us. The many issues brought to bare were difficult and varied, like bail reform and banning the box, the deadly issue of simply “not being heard”, and losing our humanity spoken eloquently by Mariposa McCall. In that hour and a half, we bonded through storytelling and being on common
ground, then we pledged to ride the wave of the New Abolitionist Movement together.

Editors Note: 19 August 2017 — Hundreds rallied outside the White House today for the "Millions for Prisoners' Human Rights March." The event was organized by U.$. prisoners and outside groups to focus on the issue of the 13th Amendment.

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