Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun expands further on the Free Alabama Movement's strategy for 2018, and discusses the connections between prison struggles and outside movements such as the revolt against police violence. This article first appeared in the San Francisco Bay View.
Greetings of love, dedication and resiliency to all Freedom Fighters and fearless frontline generals, soldiers and warriors who dare to struggle and sacrifice for liberty, freedom and equality from behind these walls, fences and cages of genocide and oppression. As we continue to raise awareness and lift up our voices so that we may be heard on the issues of systemic racism and economic exploitation in the criminal justice system, as well as prison slavery and police killings and brutality, we continue to see an evil and determined enemy dig in its heels in the name of White Supremacy.
In October 2017, it was reported that the Trump administration is seeking more immigration jails and detention facilities to house more immigrants that they plan to arrest. Prior to this, in September 2017, President Trump gave a speech in Huntsville, Alabama, to deliver his latest “rally the troops” speech to a captivated and applauding audience with a clear message to White America that Black people in this country must be kept in our “place” or suffer the consequences.
It was not by coincidence that Trump chose Alabama, the Heart of Dixie, to deliver his racist and misogynistic statement. A footnote on Alabama history is in order here.
On May 21, 1901, at the Constitutional Convention of 1901 of the State of Alabama, we find the following statements in the official minutes of the proceedings from convention president-elect John B. Knox:
“And what is it that we want to do? Why it is, within the limits imposed by the federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this state.”
Mr. Knox further states:
“But if we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law – not by force or fraud.”
President Trump’s choice of Alabama to make his “son of a bitch” speech coincides with the comments made by our Sister Jemele Hill of ESPN, as we can all now see that birds of the same feather flock together. Trump’s statement expressed a clear ideology of white supremacy: When a Black mother gives birth to a Black child who she would raise up to be a man who speaks out against racism and oppression, then, in the eyes of white supremacist ideology, that mother is a bitch. And, according to this ideology, these sons of bitches should be fired or, worse, fired on.
Colin Kaepernick, a man of bi-racial origin, raised by a white family, and deeply rooted in Black and human consciousness, made a stand by taking a knee. President Trump took a fall by trying to stand in the same space as a man.
As vanguards of the current Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement, we, too, are charged with taking a stand. The Campaign to Redistribute the Pain in 2018 is a call to action for those serious about freedom, justice and economic equality. Just like Colin, we have chosen a non-violent action, in exercise of our First Amendment right to free speech, to expose neo-slavery and inhumane practices throughout the prisons and entire criminal justice system.
We already know what lies ahead; we see that Colin has been white-balled by the NFL. Many of us have experienced repression for our efforts thus far, also. We know what happened to Brother Hugo Pinell. We see the torment of men like Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Jalil Muntaqim, Malik Washington, Mafundi Lake, Russell Maroon Shoatz/s, Mumia Abu Jamal and so many more.
For those of us down here in the Deep South in the Free Alabama Movement, things have been no different. Over four years in, and not a single person from any other race, ethnicity or nationality, EXCEPT Black men, has spent a single day – not one – in a solitary confinement cell for exercising rights supposedly secured by the U.S. Constitution. White supremacy is established in the law, just like they said it would be.
But this only tells half of the story …
The ADOC has resorted to using the solitary confinement units at the four maximum security units to stifle the spread of the movement: St. Clair CF [Correctional Facility], W.E. Donaldson CF, Holman CF and Limestone CF. Of the 12 wardens at these four prisons – each facility has three – 11 are Black and only one is white. Also, Donaldson was selected as the “breaking” plantation, where, within the last approximately 24 months, over 80 men have been transferred to this prison and were subsequently beaten, sexually assaulted, and confined to solitary. Fewer than 12 officers carried out almost all of these attacks, and most of these officers were Black: Snelson, Edmonson, Gunn, Gadson, Binder, Phillips, Speak, Turnbull, and Cunningham.
Prior to being transferred to Limestone on Aug. 2, 2017, I had spent the preceding two years at Donaldson, most of it in solitary confinement. When I was let out briefly in 2016, I learned that one of the Black wardens (Angela Miree) and one of the Black captains (Baldwin) had solicited a “hit” on me in July 2016. After their hit was thwarted, the next month I was placed back into solitary confinement.
Immediately above the heads of these Black administrations are two Black regional coordinators, Cheryl Price and Gwendolyn Mosley, who, in turn, have a Black supervisor in Associate Commissioner Grantt Culliver. Incidentally, it is at this level where the decisions are made as to who gets sent to the new statewide SHU at Limestone or the “breaking” plantation at Donaldson CF.
Just to give you an idea of how these Black professionals are making decisions on who is subjected to the “nigger boxes” (as they were called on the slave plantations), here are some figures. In August 2017, the population at Donaldson CF was approximately 1,800, including 1,418 Black, 356 White and five Mexican prisoners; numbers are approximate.
Over 87 percent of all men in segregation at Donaldson are Black. The statewide lockup unit at Limestone is 90 percent Black. St. Clair and Holman seg units are over 83 percent Black. Extreme oppression has always been reserved for Black people in the South – and no less elsewhere.
Of the several beatings that took place at Donaldson prison, one stands about above the rest. When the transfer from Holman took place after the warden (Carter Davenport) was stabbed, five men were sent to Donaldson. One by one as they exited the van they were led into a room in handcuffs, belly chains and shackles, where they were all then beaten one by one. Three or four of them were sexually assaulted. Every one of them identified Officer Justin Gunn (Black) as the leader of the assault.
This incident was so savage that it drew Associate Commissioner Culliver and Regional Coordinator Price to the prison. Yet, nothing was done. Subsequent to this, Officer Gunn beat, sexually assaulted and hospitalized Quintavius Clark. He has since assaulted Brandon (“Bird”), and kicked a man in the mouth while handcuffed, in addition to getting knocked out in a fistfight. When I left the prison in August 2017, he was assigned to tower duty due to his latest assault.
These attacks are being carried out by Black correctional officers and then covered up by Black administrators. The very flag that symbolized oppression for Black people is the exact same flag that these officers salute and pledge allegiance to, which is the same flag that John B. Knox said gives them the power “to establish white supremacy in this state.”
Imagine that, the same niggers that couldn’t get a job with the ADOC 50 years ago until Martin, Malcolm, Elijah, BPP and others stood up to Jim Crow are now leading the charge to suppress a non-violent movement against, as Michelle Alexander calls it, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration.”
We’ve seen it all before, though. Right?! Didn’t we see Black folks denounce MLK in Alabama? When Ferguson erupted, didn’t the state send for Al and Jesse? When that didn’t work, they called in “their” clergy and preachers.
In Alabama, they had ol’ Chaplain Browder bringing chicken and watermelon. Hell, Ferguson went so far as to install a coon police chief. With all the Black professionals in ADOC in Montgomery, can’t we anticipate what’s coming next in their efforts to stop our movement? Mississippi’s Black DOC commissioner just went to prison for human trafficking of Black bodies.
Our Elder Richard “Mafundi” Lake used to always express to us the importance of studying our history in our struggle. Baba Mafundi used to say, “Black people can find the answers to all of our problems by studying Black History.”
Then he would say, “See, you got to organize the people.” That precept, ORGANIZE, is one of the pillars of civilization that our Ancestors left to us. They organized! every facet of their life. Indeed, the process of life itself, and all things in the universe, is organized. And if we are to achieve our goal within this movement, then we, too, must organize – because the opposition, as I pointed out in Part IV of this series, is already organized.
We have 51 states before us. Each state has its own sovereign authority. But in order to create a United States, all 51 states agreed to give up some of their rights for the benefit of the whole body. This is how the federal government was created. The fed has limited authority over federal issues, and the states retained authority over all remaining issues specific to each state.
For example, each state has its own state tax rates, while every citizen has to pay the same federal tax rate based on income. But there are not 51 different currencies. Instead, there is only one U.S. dollar that all 51 states use. This is so because all 51 states agreed to allow the federal government to establish a single currency (see Article 1, Section 8, U.S. Constitution). This structure is pretty much how our National Prisoners’ Rights Movement will have to be organized.
Each of us in our individual states has certain issues that are specific to our individual state that we will need to pursue on a state-by-state basis. These issues will have to be decided by the people in those states. This is the sovereign characteristic of our structure.
At the same time, though, we will need to form and consolidate a national body to create national plans, coordinate nationwide events, and maximize our impact on a national scale concerning those issues that we all share in common.
To date, we have already conducted one nationwide direct action campaign – the Sept. 9, 2016, 45th Anniversary Attica Rebellion Non-Violent Demonstration. Our outside supporters also just conducted the August 2017 Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. These efforts, though successful, illustrate why it is important for us to organize these energized bodies.
Anyone familiar with college basketball probably associates the term “one-and-done” with the Kentucky Wildcats. They have plenty of talent, all of the potential, but very little to show for it. We can’t forge a movement based on “one-and-done” either. This is where a national organizational structure comes in. As of right now, I am aware of two proposed constructs, although I have not seen any specific details as to how either would be constructed or operated. One appears to be the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Coalition, and the other appears to be Prison Lives Matter.
From my perspective, the names that we choose are far less important than making sure that we implement the proper type of structure that creates BOTH inside organizations and outside organizations. As far as how that would look and need to be organized, picture a triangle: At the top is the national organizing body, and the other two points represent outside organizations, such as the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Coalition –Michigan, and those inside, such as the Free Michigan Movement.
STEP 1. The first step in this process would be creating a steering committee to help draw up an outline for establishing a board of directors. These members would be tasked with soliciting candidates to fill a nine (or so) member board composed of six individuals who are incarcerated and three who are in society. Once the nominees are in, an election would be held to select a Board of Executives and Directors.
STEP 2. Establish charters for inside and outside organizations. For example, the incarcerated men and women in Michigan would establish their Free Michigan Movement charter, which would serve as an umbrella for all factions operating inside MDOC.
All of the outside organizations operating in Michigan who are committed to supporting the directives of the FMM would then organize under the outside support charter, Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Coalition – Michigan.
STEP 3. Next, of course, would be the drafting of the bylaws. Within these documents would be an outline of the specific functions, purposes and duties, etc., of everyone associated with the national organization. Only national policies will be coordinated on this level, such as:
Nationwide hunger strikes
Nationwide boycott campaigns and storefront protests of companies like McDonalds, Starbucks etc., that profit from prison labor. We would select only one company at a time and organize nationwide demonstrations.
Nationwide protests at prisons, DOC headquarters, state capitals etc.
Nationwide workstrike dates
Nationwide boycotts of collect phone calls, canteens, incentive packages, visitations etc. in the mold of the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018.
Nationwide 13th Amendment awareness rallies, marches etc.
Nationwide social media events, including “Twitter-storms,” panel discussions etc.
Obviously, this is just a proposal. I am sure there are others out there with ideas on how we should proceed too. We need to bring these ideas together to form a plan of action.
Additionally, there are many organizations in society out there that are kicking up dust but don’t have a platform for connecting to our struggle behind these walls. In fact, many of them are fighting issues that they may not even realize are connected to the 13th Amendment and slavery. Those of us on the inside have to build those bridges through our outside support networks that will connect our people together.
To establish that point:
I recently read up on the events concerning the police killing of Anthony Lamar Smith in St. Louis, Missouri. What stood out the most was how the activists there have completely changed their strategy to now target the economic structure of the city as opposed to just marching and protests. They targeted the malls, entertainment centers, restaurants and even a concert venue. All of their target areas were forced to close. This impacted the pockets of city finances, supporters of murderous police etc., and helped to “Redistribute the Pain.”
As one activist said, “Last time in Ferguson, we were very emotional and just protestors, but we are now activists.” We have to be activists also behind these walls before our pain will be felt.
Ultimately, though, as powerful as their demonstration was, they left plenty of money on the table. Under the organizational structure that I am proposing, those of us on the inside could have been added to that force on the outside. Here’s how:
In Alabama, we just received the winter food package list from Access SecurePak. Where is the company headquartered? 10880 Linpage Place, St. Louis, MO 63132. Most likely, this same company has contracts throughout Missouri’s DOC and probably even city or county jails. A boycott of this business that supports and finances mass incarceration and prison slavery most definitely should have been included. Additionally, and at the same time, work strikes should have been organized at the jails and prisons.
Missouri is no different from Alabama, California, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, or any other state. Prison labor is active and a revenue generator on all layers of the economy in Missouri. In fact, the very streets, roads, and sidewalks that the activists were moving on are probably cleaned in some part by prison slave labor. Some of the stores may even have products made in a prison. Most definitely, the police cruisers that are dispatched to the scenes where our activists are congregated are maintained and repaired by people in jail or prison.
Millions of dollars in labor costs, lost production and lost sales can be effectively mounted onto the backs of cities in an instant, if only we can connect our movement together.
Under the organizational structure that I am proposing here, this unification would merge seamlessly, and the fit would be perfect because we are already aligned strategically on the use of direct action economic activity. For example, the outside organization, Millions for Prisoners Human Rights Coalition – Missouri would be the eyes and ears on the ground that would be informed when a trial like Mr. Smith’s was taking place.
They would join forces with other outside activists and groups, letting them know of our presence on the inside, say, Free Missouri Movement. Throughout the process of trial, planning and coordination would take place, starting at the local city and county jails then moving to the prisons. Then, when the unlawful verdict is reached, the plan of action would go into effect – boycotts and work strikes on the inside, with boycotts on the outside.
This, of course, would be an example of an individual state charter exercising autonomy in a local issue. These plans would also be relayed up to the national board, who would then send advisories out to all other branches nationwide in the event that other branches wanted to join in the same capacity.
It could be a hunger strike, a boycott in the mold of the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018, a work strike or whatever. (Them brothers up in Michigan at Marquette, Kinross, Cotton and Chippewa appear to be ready at the drop of a dime.) The main thing is, we have to get organized, then get connected to the broader struggle in society.
Plain and simple, we have to get connected because police killings and social justice are each a part of prison slavery and mass incarceration. How? What if Mike Brown had lived? Where would he be today? In prison! When Sandra Bland asserted her rights as a human being, where did she end up dying? In jail!
If Anthony Lamar Smith had lived, what would have happened? I’ll tell you what: He would have been arrested, charged with drug possession and distribution, and taken to jail. Walter Scott was running from the slave catcher because he didn’t want to be returned where? Jail!
Mike Brown, of course, would have probably been charged with assault, attempted murder, jaywalking and who knows what else. Since the bail bond system was so thoroughly exposed after his death, we know that his bail would have been near $500,000. And, we already know that the grand jury would have believed Officer Wilson, so Mike Brown would have been indicted. According to Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Mike Brown would have pled guilty, just like 95 percent of all defendants do.
Thus, Mike Brown would be in the county jail, waiting to go to MDOC, where he would become Brown, M, D819642, B/M. Life.
If Sandra Bland had lived, her situation would be even worse. In recent years, rapes, sodomy and sexual violence have been reported in women’s prisons from Alabama, Florida, California and Mississippi, just to name a few. In January 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded an investigation by finding that the women at Julia Tutwiler Prison have been raped, sexually abused and more for a period of almost 20 consecutive years – up to 2014 when the investigative report was issued. And it continues …
A more glaring fact missing from these reports is that many of these women gave birth to children, while other women had abortions. Some of these women were forced to have abortions, while other women who refused abortions, by sometimes married officers, had their fetuses beaten from their bodies. I was once given an eyewitness account by a woman formerly incarcerated at Tutwiler, who recounted seeing a mentally ill young woman beaten until she miscarried by an officer who had been raping her.
There are many Sandra Blands who lived. Yet, where are their protests? Do their Black Lives Matter while they are still alive, or must they die first? What about the children who were born to these prison slave plantation rapes? First and foremost, the Department of Justice report did not even tell us how many children were born – but the ADOC knows how many deliveries were made.
Where are these children whose mothers have life sentences with no family members capable of receiving such child, and the father is a correctional officer, married with a family, and no incentive to tell his wife and family that he has a child at work on a slave plantation? Haven’t we experienced this narrative already? Don’t these Black Lives Matter, too?
When we, FAM’s blogtalk radio show The People’s Platform and Sign of the Times with Queen T, hosted the Scott Sisters from Mississippi upon their release from Mississippi’s slave yards, they told us of women who had given birth to as many as four to five children while incarcerated for over 20 years. In society, we see report after report of women being raped by police officers. Aren’t these issues combined? Then we aren’t the movements combined? If you are wondering why not, #MeToo.
There are over 219,000 Sandra Blands incarcerated today, with the number growing each day. Many of them will be raped, sexually assaulted, impregnated and give birth to a Mike Brown Jr. or Sandra Bland Jr. real soon.
We cannot only accept Black Lives Matter as a slogan. The burden lies with us behind these walls to organize our movement in a way that forces society to recognize our humanity and bear witness to our sacrifices. Our Black Lives Matter only when our Black Lives Matter to us, first.
The year 2018 is important for many reasons. In retrospect, the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 is a call to sacrifice. One can look at a canteen list and quickly see that the offering of snacks, candy, potato chips etc. are the menu for a child. We have to sacrifice cookies, “wraps” and “spreads” if we want to sit at a table and eat as men and women.
We can’t allow our mothers, wives, fathers, brothers, lovers and friends to continue to feed the pig and fall further into their own mode of institutionalization. Some of our loved ones feel guilt or partly responsible for our incarceration, and too many of us play on those feelings for a green dot, money on the books etc.
We are now at a time when we must advance beyond the one-and-done concept of struggle. Since we are enslaved and incarcerated every day, we must also struggle every day. Malcolm X said that if we aren’t willing to die for our freedom then we may as well remove the word from our vocabulary. At a bare minimum, the base of our sacrifice should be a bi-monthly boycott of chips and soups, phone calls and visits.
On Dec. 6, 1865, the USA decreed in the 13th Amendment that we are slaves and property of the government. On Dec. 6, 2017, we have to implement the next phase in our plan to dismantle the institution of slavery by starting the process of defunding it. Slavery is already morally bankrupt. Now we must financially bankrupt it.
In closing, I want to parlay off the words of our Warrior Queen Sister Dr. Ava Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, who has lectured on the financial industry of mass incarceration and prison slavery. In boycotting, we have to redirect our finances towards a plan that will give us financial independence. Through social media platforms, we now have the power to create our own revenue streams. Behind these walls, we have craftsmen, writers, poets, artists and many other talents.
With a national organization, we can create our own online storefront where we can sell our own products, which will allow us to finance our own movement. Then, during the bi-monthly boycotts of the Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018, we can send a portion of the funds that we withhold from the prison industry as donations to our national organization.
Looking back on history as Elder Mafundi has told us to, Ancestor Marcus Garvey has already shown us what we can do when we pool our resources. We have to build our own independent power base because ain’t no one coming to save us. We must self save.
In February 2018, April 2018, June 2018, August 2018, October 2018 and December 2018, we must work towards building our national entity, while also refining local coalitions and networks. We can never defeat an opponent that we fund with all of our financial resources and labor, especially when we don’t have anything close to our own entity that we fund to help us wage our fight.
Without that organized body, we are just fussing and calling it fighting. Until we organize, we are nothing more than just disgruntled employees – the thousands of men that our great Ancestor Harriet Tubman said she could have freed if only we knew that we were slaves …
Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun
Free Alabama Movement
Note: I do not know Colin Kaepernick personally. The info that I wrote about his personal history was gleaned from info that I have read. Any inaccuracies should be attributed to me, not Bay View. My apologies in advance for any mistakes, for it is never my intent to ever mislead the people.
Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd., Harvest AL 35749.