Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun discusses the Free Alabama Movement's strategy for 2018, and mentions some of the repression that has been employed against prison organizers.
Malcolm X said it best: If you ain’t willing to die for your freedom, then you need to remove the word from your vocabulary.
Whether one consciously chooses to risk his life for liberation or not, the fact remains that for those of us behind these walls, the moment we commit ourselves to this struggle, each day thereafter brings with it the possibility of being murdered in a state-sanctioned killing. I was poisoned once. My body discharged blood for over 12 hours while I received medical attention. I was beaten while handcuffed. In July 2016, an honorable man approached me and told me that a warden (Angela Miree) and a captain (Baldwin) had approached a man to carry out a hit on my life. There is a price to be paid for struggle, but nevertheless, a luta continua.
As the young revolutionary Kwame Shakur points out, we are behind these walls to be controlled, and the moment we break the chains of psychological slavery, we become a threat. They say, a threat to security.
It’s revealing that we are housed in institutions whose security is predicated on our remaining ignorant. In the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the state was targeting citizens who were politically conscious and locking them up as political prisoners. This plan began to backfire when those political prisoner forces, being concentrated in the then-small prison populations, began transforming the so-called criminal elements.
Subsequent thereto, the capitalist state changed strategy and began their campaign to target and incarcerate the politically and socially unconscious. Thus, the political prisoners, who had prison populations of fewer than 250,000 to educate, all of a sudden were being inundated with hundreds of thousands of new, young, inexperienced, miseducated prisoners to try to reach. At the same time, the most vocal and active teachers were being locked in solitary units so their knowledge and leadership could be suppressed.
What we are seeing today with the re-emergence of the prisoners’ rights movements is testament to the fact that not only did our elders not forsake us even from the enclosures of solitary, but also that those of us who did not fear solitary confinement took advantage of the opportunities that being near our elders brought us. We are today reaping the harvest of what we can say, with a degree of scientific certainty, it took us approximately 50-60 years to overcome: the removal of the political prisoners from the prison population and for their knowledge to circulate to a population of over 2.6 million.
My brother in Florida, Uriel Ben Yahweh, commented in his article that in the FDOC “none of the ‘gangs’ are really into anything REAL.” This is an example of the proof that the government stopped targeting the conscious en masse and started saturating the prisons with millions of socially programmed, miseducated and easily controlled bodies.
Elder Russell Maroon Shoats/z’ thesis, “Liberation or Gangsterism,” explained that the gang mentality is the antithesis of liberation formations. The stronger the influence of gang and drug culture, the better for the state.
In Alabama, the prisons that were at the forefront of the Free Alabama Movement are now saturated with violence and are virtual war zones. The conscious elements were removed from populations and/or transferred, and influence was given to those who would steer the camps away from the struggle and back towards gang-banging, drug addiction etc. Classic “divide and conquer” tactics.
At the same time, just as in FDOC, free world religious and other organizations were brought in to take the focus off of self-determination and return hope back to spookism, savior complexes, corrupt lawyers etc. In Alabama, it was Chaplain Browder who came in with the “chicken and potatoes” on Sept. 8-10 at Donaldson CF to try to stop momentum for the Sept. 9, 2016, 45th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion; just as Bro. Ben Yahweh states in “Florida bribes prisoners with fancy food to distract from Millions for Prisoners March.” Chap. Browder also brought ice cream etc. during the planned “May Day” 2016 strike.
As the title of this article states, we are all bound by the same chain. All of us behind these walls have at its core the same problem: the 13th Amendment. All 51 states have this single law as the foundational glue of their prison systems. They are all already united. Commissioners and wardens attend conferences together where they discuss policies and tactics. They coordinated their responses to Sept. 9 with food bribes. Just look at all of their connected parts.
For starters, they all damn near have the same name: ADOC, FDOC, MDOC, GDOC, CDOC, TDOC etc. Then, all of their laws intersect. A felony in Georgia can be used to enhance in Alabama. A felony in Florida can be used to enhance in the feds. Every state allows each other to extradite. A brother like Kevin “Rashid” Johnson can be shuffled around on a “compact” from one state to the next. So, as a movement, we have to organize and unify nationally as well, because in the areas where they are connected, there is where we will find the real opportunity to defeat their system.
They all use pretty much the same two or three phone companies – GlobalTel, IT Solutions, Securus etc. They all use the same inmate incentive packages – Keefe Group etc. – and we all shop with Union Supply and a few others. Most states use either JPay, CorrLinks or one or two others. Therefore, the basic structure of how we can organize our movement to inflict power blows on the system are already intact. Once we identify these areas, then we have to attack.
When I originally wrote this article, the theme was on how we need to consolidate all of the many different organizations that we currently have into one. But after reading the latest edition of Bay View, I see that this process is already underway – somewhat. I say somewhat because there appear to be two entities emerging (though there are already many more still): Prison Lives Matter and Millions for Prisoners Human Rights coalitions. While I am not sure on the dynamics of either of these structures, one thing is certain – we need to bring all of our forces together.
From my perspective and from my experiences within and as the founder of Free Alabama Movement, the ideal structure should consist of an inside coalition with a national governing body and an outside coalition under a separate body that is subordinate to and supportive of the inside. The movement has to be led from the inside, while the outside forces help us to build our inside network, mobilize our message and plans, and help with awareness campaigns – marches, protests, boycotts etc.
The dynamics of our sources of power and influence are different on the inside as opposed to the outside. Each base should be organized to achieve maximum impact. The inside power base lies in work strikes, boycotts and filming and documentation for those who have access to cellphones.
The outside base’s power lies in its ability to protest at prisons and DOC headquarters, hold rallies and boycotts by refusing to send money into prisons, accept phone calls, or spend money on shoe and hygiene packages etc. The outside is also the de facto communications network for the simple fact that y’all can communicate our messages from prison to prison through contact with family members, social media etc.
One thing is for certain: Whatever we do, we have to root all of our actions in economics. The system couldn’t care less about our activities so long as it doesn’t affect their profits. They were just talking about the dread of a government shutdown in Washington, D.C. In Iowa, prison officials announced on Sept. 18, 2017, that they do not plan to re-open four prisons that were closed in February amid a $5.5 million budget cut.
Prisons are corporate entities. We can make the calls to End Prison Slavery and Amend the 13th all we want, but the fact remains that if we don’t organize around defunding the enterprise, nothing is going to change.
When Dr. King went to Washington, D.C., and told the president of the U.S. about the plight of Black and poor people in the South and in the ghettos, the president told Dr. King to go back to your people and make Congress change the law. Then, just as now, Congress already knew what was going on.
Congress knows what the 13th Amendment states. Indeed, on the 250-year anniversary of its ratification, President Obama celebrated this amendment in a formal event at the White House.
We can’t just have workshops and informative speeches about the 13th amendment. We also have to give the people a plan of what we all can do, collectively, to MAKE Congress change this law, while at the same time working to bankrupt the system and abolish it.
We say that we are in a war or prisoners of war or whatever. Well, where are the war strategies? We see the U.S. government prepare for war all of the time. What is the first thing they do? They seize the assets of their enemy, impose sanctions on trade, and cut off diplomatic relations.
These same principles can work for us also. Our labor and our financial contributions are their assets. They trade the products we produce and services we provide, in addition to what they make off of our families.
This is called economic warfare: “the use of, or the threat to use, economic means against a country in order to weaken its economy and thereby reduce its political and economic power. Economic warfare also includes the use of economic means to compel an adversary to change its policies or behavior or to undermine its ability to conduct normal relations with other countries.”
Well, as we all know, they didn’t kill Dr. MLK for marching on Washington, D.C. But the moment he started talking about economic boycotts, supporting work strikes and building a movement based in economics, he was assassinated.
Cutting off diplomatic relations means that we can’t still have people talking about the way to End Slavery and Amend the 13th Amendment is to write to politicians and leaders. Them motherfuckers ain’t leaders anyway.
Our leaders are people like Mafundi Lake, Tara Belcher, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz/s, Assata Shakur, Kwame Shakur, Imam Saddique A. Hasan, Jalil Muntaqim, Carolyn Lake, Mae Smith, Joka Heshima , Annabelle, Kila Baruti, Queen T., the California Hunger Strike leaders, Dec. 9, 2010, leaders, Jamil Al-Amin, FAM, Unheard Voices, Malik Washington, Albert Woodfox, Mary Ratcliff, Mutulu, MOVE, Pam Africa etc. The letter writing should be directed to the people on the inside, SASE enclosed, asking what can be done to help.
The Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 is more than just a boycott against prison contractors. It is more than just a call for the next salvo in the struggle to end slavery. It is, among other things, the next step in the process to forge our struggle into a national movement. And its premise of waging a bi-monthly campaign is designed to address the stagnation that we keep experiencing from all of the one-and-done events.
In 2016, we had one nationwide event on Sept. 9. In 2017, we had one nationwide event on Aug. 19. Now what? The government doesn’t take off. Our suffering goes on daily. Nationwide. Thus, it’s time for our planning and organizing of campaigns to expand, too.
These captors have plans for us for five, 10, 15, 20 years in advance. We need to be inflicting pain on the monopolies at these same rates.
My friend Cole Dorsey commented that the ultimate goal is to abolish prisons. As we all know, the easiest way to run any company out of business is to bankrupt it. Again, these prisons don’t pay for themselves just by standing erect.
Political pundits are on the radio today as President Trump conducts business before the U.N. Every talking head has a different opinion about what he should say.
The only thing they all agree upon is this: If the U.S. withdrew funding from the U.N., it would collapse. It seems strange to me that we have all of the sophisticated organizations and supporters, but it’s hard to find one willing to advise family members to stop funding prisons through commissary, incentive packages, phone calls etc. If the incarcerated individual is not strong enough to sacrifice, then that’s where the outside network can step in to reach the family members.
We have to be mobilizing and organizing people around a singular, clear cut plan to solve the problem. All the other stuff has to be deemed suspect.
I will close with this. Recent news reports indicate that a recent security breach of the credit agency Equifax allowed the name, date of birth, social security number and address of over 143 million Americans to be stolen. At present, there are about six class-action lawsuits pending nationwide. At the same time, other legal experts are advising citizens to opt out of class actions and file small claims actions instead. Small claims are being advised because they are faster and more money goes to the victims instead of the lawyers. The legal experts warn, however, that their advice has a negative effect in that too many small claims actions could quickly bankrupt Equifax. So they say that anyone who chooses this route – I have my family checking to see if my data was breached – better hurry.
Once again, we see economics at work. Pull our money out of the prison system, and we get the same result. Equifax caused pain by not protecting critical data. The people are about to redistribute the pain right back to Equifax with the lawsuits. Won’t you join this call to “Redistribute the Pain in 2018” to prison profiteers and modern slave owners?
Bennu Hannibal Ra Sun
Free Alabama Movement
Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd., Harvest AL 35749.