Jul 16, 2020
The Champs are Back Unbroken:
Welcome Home Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Paul Redd and Lorenzo Benton!
By Kim Pollak
“No, this isn’t an exaggeration. I am fighting to prevent class genocide... If you are politically involved, a jailhouse lawyer or just a natural leader, you are going to end up in the SHU” Nancy Grimes, the mother of a SHU prisoner, testifying during the public comment period in April 1999 about CDCr’s debriefing policy. (Prison Focus, Spring 1999)
“.… For many of us who were in the fight to abolish solitary confinement and end long-term SHU's for over 30 years, the fight to gain our freedom is a more challenging one, as the power-that-be seems to not be receptive to the positive changes within our lives or nor satisfied by our acts of restoring humanity to a place or a people, where there was little, if any.
…. After going on 42 years of incarceration and 16 parole denials, it does not appear it is getting any easier, as obstacles are constantly thrown before me, due to no fault of my own.” Lorenzo Benton in a letter to California Prison Focus, January 2018
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa aka Ronnie Dewberry, Paul Redd and Lorenzo Benton have finally been released from the grip of institutionalized fascism after over 40 years each in the California state “correctional” system. These men were each locked up in the concrete depths of solitary confinement hell, at Pelican Bay State Prison, for their opinion, resilience and resistance, for approximately three decades each.
Bato Talamantez from California Prison Focus explained that after the dreaded Secure Housing Units (SHU) had opened at "the Bay" circa 1991, concerned families, Human Rights’s activists and ex felons stood witness to that harsh dehumanizing prison era where the worst brutality and abuses came to light during the class action landmark court case of Madrid vs. Gomez. Supporters came to know, admire and respect the prisoner comrades inside and their consistent resistance to oppression. Throughout the years, Sitawa, Paul and Lorenzo, each denied parole multiple times and eligible years ago, have continued to keep the Faith of Resistance Alive, within themselves and in those around them.
Sitawa and Paul specifically, along with other strong and principled thinkers of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective, organized and inspired 30,000 other imprisoned activists, to join in their struggle for freedom from the torture of solitary confinement. They played chess rather than checkers, and chose a peaceful strategy focused on solidarity. In doing so, despite non-cooperation from CDCr, they created and promoted the Agreement to End Hostilities, a statement that is still having impact on both sides of the walls today.
Even from within the most inhumane environment Sitawa, Paul and Lorenzo maintained their warrior spirit and inspired thousands of others near and far, inside and out. They are stellar examples of resilience, integrity and an unwavering commitment to peace, justice and equality. California Prison Focus, Liberate the Caged Voices and KAGE Universal salute Satawa Nantambu Jamaa, Paul Redd and Lorenzo Benton, and welcomes them home with arms wide open!
Following are excerpts from an article titled written by Sitawa and his still-imprisoned comrade Jabari Scott, published in the Prison Focus Newspaper in October 2011 (Issue 44, Pg. 14), followed by a poem from Paul Redd.
Solidarity Had the The Might to Move the Mountain of Prison Torture that Kept us Isolated and Voiceless - We Still Need You Now
We prisoners, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), all our supporters, all state legislators and all citizens of California are being lied to and manipulated….
Gov. Brown and CDCr administrators are currently violating our United States constitutional rights, the California Code of Regulations and other rules, laws, policies and standards with the intent of breaking down and destroying men and women prisoners, family bonds and moral ethics here in California...
My very first run-in with these backward, mountain dwelling
slave drivers was during my journey from DVI Prison to CCI, better known as Tehachapi State Prison….
My week long journey was pretty much uneventful, but I was able to touch base and educate a few young up-and coming, politically conscious prison activists to a better understanding of ceasing hostilities and where we stand in our protracted peaceful protest.
…. It immediately became clear to me that my next two years were going to be another form of modern day slavery and that the past four years of protest – all we fought through and accomplished – had fallen on deaf ears here at Tehachapi.
This hellish modern day slave camp and all its staff have been brainwashed and indoctrinated into an old, prehistoric, backwards prison mentality of the 1960s and 1970s, minus the physical violence, which has been replaced by a new form of violence, mental assault through every facet of this institution and its officials. All of the rights that have been rightfully ours as prisoners are denied.
Staff knowingly violate daily every rule, policy, law, standard and constitutional provision that has been written to provide prisoners with their basic human
rights, and they do it as though they have no conscience at all and it is their normal way of life, that we prisoners should be thankful for and accept with a smile and “thank ya, sir.”
With that, they flex their muscles as though they stand on the absolute power of virtual impunity that allows them to constantly get away with the crimes they commit upon us prisoners daily. Thus, they boldly think we should bow to their whim.
… It was clear to me that this administration utilizes the methods of dehumanization by stripping prisoners of their dignity, one layer at a time.
Pelican Bay Prison Express (Now Prison Focus), November 1995
What do you see?
Decaying society torn apart,
riddled in bullets, drugs, deaths,
self-destruction, broken families (prisons without walls and or bars).
What do you see?
Courtrooms full of angry youth,
both men and women,
victims of a decaying society.
What do you see?
Ourselves thrown into California’s prisons to be Warehoused, never confronting the real problem – how we allow ourselves to be exploited, manipulated.
Yes, we see what you see - yourself.
Yes, we are from you. We call upon our communities to take a stand.
Organize, join forces with outside entities.
Demand that we as prisoners be provided with the proper and correct tools to uplift us
culturally, historically, educationally,
to eradicate this internal illness we have taken on.
Do you see what we see?
Then let us change it together from within.