Our Palestine statement draws on history of Black internationalism, says organizer

From Electronic Intifada:

Black liberation movements in the US have increasingly been making connections with Palestine. (Mikasi/Flickr)

Black liberation movements in the US have increasingly been making connections with Palestine. (Mikasi/Flickr)

Kristian Davis Bailey is a Detroit-based writer and organizer who recently put together the “Black for Palestine” statement. More than 1,100 Black scholars, activists, students, artists and organizations have signed on, including Angela Davis, Cornel West, Talib Kweli, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and others.

The statement lays out a framework for Black solidarity with Palestinian liberation and calls for exploring the connections between Palestinian and Black liberation as well as the oppressive linkages between the United States and Israel. The statement calls for support of boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel and calls attention to Israel’s oppression of African-descended populations in Palestine.

Davis Bailey has written for Ebony, Mondoweiss, Truth-Out and elsewhere. I caught up with him to find out more about “Black for Palestine” and the opportunities and challenges it presents.

Jimmy Johnson: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Please introduce yourself.

Kristian Davis Bailey: My name is Kristian Davis Bailey and I’m one of the co-organizers of the “Black For Palestine” statement. I’m currently a freelance writer based in Detroit.

JJ: Where were you before Detroit and what were you doing?

KDB: Before Detroit I was a student at Stanford where I was involved with Students for Justice in Palestine at the campus level, across California and nationally.

JJ: Can you tell me a bit about the “Black For Palestine” statement and the process of creating it?

KDB: The statement emerged out of two separate statements that I and my co-organizer Khury Petersen-Smith had organized last summer during the height of the assault on Gaza. We’d each found ourselves unable to publish our statements while the media would pick it up so we figured that this year we would combine our efforts to write a statement on the anniversary of the assault on Gaza which wound up being much bigger than what each of us had organized the summer before.

It is worth noting that some of the key signatories this year had also signed last year. The Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis had signed on to last year’s statement before Mike Brown was killed and connections were being made to Palestine. Hopefully we’ll publish those earlier statements soon.

JJ: You bring up a good connection with the Organization for Black Struggle because the release of this statement is not only the anniversary of the attack on Gaza but also something going on in the US. Can you make that connection? Both your intentions around the timing of the release, as well as the connections you see there.

KDB: It was really important for us to note that the statement emerged out of the past year of solidarity between the Black and Palestinian struggles, specifically: connections people were making on the ground in Ferguson to Palestine. I think none of the developments in the past year would have happened if people on the ground hadn’t themselves started to organically connect what they were witnessing in terms of military vehicles in their communities, being tear-gassed and shot at during protests, if they hadn’t connected those things to what they were seeing in Palestine and if Palestinian organizers hadn’t reached out in solidarity to the people in Ferguson.

What the statement represents is how firm of a connection there is for organizers in St. Louis with the Palestinian struggle. It’s not just a slogan we’ve used at protests but something that people facing the brunt of repression and doing the majority of the organizing on the ground have decided to be a part of themselves. I think that’s why St. Louis is the most represented city on the statement in terms of organizational signatories.

JJ: It sounds kind of like the development and the recruitment of the signatories is really based in joint work that’s being done together.

KDB: Right. Most of the people who signed the statement, whether they’re individuals or organizations, have been actively engaging with Palestine well before the last year. There were a lot of old school organizers who have been doing this solidarity work since the ’60s and ’70s that signed on, in addition to groups like the Dream Defenders which over the past few years have started to engage more with the Palestinian issue. So, I forget what your question is but my answer is “yes” [laughter].

JJ: A Kenyan author named Mukoma Wa Ngugi gave a presentation a few years back at Wayne State here in Detroit and he was talking specifically about relations between African migrants and Black Americans and he talked about the way that white supremacy forms a veil that literally colors the relationships between these two groups but also between all groups, although the details are different for any two groups.

And one of the things he mentioned was that the only way to get past this is to put in work together to supersede and subvert this veil that colors the relationships between, for example, Black folks and Palestinians, Black folks and Arab folks. That sounds a little bit like what’s going on.

KDB: Again I’ll focus on St. Louis because that’s a story I know a little bit about. The solidarity organizing between the Organization for Black Struggle and the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee has been going on for at least three or four years. The two groups both worked together to oppose Veolia being given a contract to privatize the city’s water, both recognizing what Veolia was doing in occupied Palestine and for the danger it presented to the people in St. Louis.

The Organization for Black Struggle was also crucial in a cultural boycott action. I don’t know how many years ago it was but it was Organization for Black Struggle organizers who said, “We will pull out of this event unless these artists are disinvited.” That was the work of very principled solidarity on the part of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee.

At the same time you have a Palestinian member of the solidarity committee whose father is a shop owner in a predominantly Black part of St. Louis and what he had been working on was to take all of the hard liquor out of his store after he was realizing the impact it was having on the Black community in St. Louis. He also set up a couple of initiatives to contribute some of the profits from his shop to local organizing efforts in the community.

I wanted to offer that as a real solid example of what Palestinian solidarity in the US, or not even solidarity but direct action against anti-Blackness looks like, and that’s an example of some of the principled actions and alliances that preceded the Ferguson-Palestine connection and solidarity.

JJ: This isn’t the first statement of Black solidarity with Palestine. Can you contextualize this action a bit in the internationalism of the radical Black tradition?

KDB: Definitely. So Black support for Palestine comes out of the tradition of Black internationalism within the radical segment of our liberation struggle. Malcolm X was talking about the dangers of Zionism in the 1960s. The Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee released its statement at the same time the Black Panther Party was training with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] in Algeria.

In 1970 you had a group of prominent Black activists or scholars take out a New York Times ad supporting Palestinian liberation from Zionism and some of those signatories also signed our statement today in 2015. So there is a rich tradition of Black solidarity with international struggles broadly, and specifically with Palestine. I definitely contextualize this statement within that broader history of Black internationalism.

JJ: What would you say is the purpose of releasing this statement beyond a symbolic declaration of solidarity?

KDB: There are a couple of things. There is the suggestion that both Black and Palestinian people, and people around the world that support us, can join very targeted campaigns against companies that profit from the oppression of both groups, such as G4S and Veolia. Beyond that one of my individual hopes as an organizer is that this represents the current chapter of the Black liberation movement getting involved in the international arena once again to the degree that we were in the ’60s and ’70s. Because I think a lot of that momentum and a lot of those alliances were very intentionally targeted or repressed in the ’80s up through today even.

JJ: Some of the work being done to reignite alliances that were built between radical groups in the 1960s and ’70s, we’ve seen some attempts of that where there is a flattening effect. For example non-Black people of color using a people of color paradigm and erasing the specificities of anti-Blackness. Can you talk a little bit about the opportunities presented by “Black For Palestine” to engage not only Palestinian liberation but the specificity of anti-Blackness in solidarity?

KDB: Definitely. I’m glad you raised that because one of the points of reference I organize from is the understanding that white supremacy affects different groups in different ways here in the United States. So the anti-Black racism and the anti-Blackness that we experience and live under is of a distinct nature from the anti-indigenous or genocidal policies that indigenous folks here have experienced, is distinct from the experiences of non-Black, non-indigenous immigrants to this country.

A lot of times what happens is the differences between these groups are flattened out where we say “people of color” and we talk about how people of color are oppressed under white supremacy without acknowledging the power dynamics that are at play between our communities — so without acknowledging that every non-Black ethnic group or immigrant group in the United States is complicit in anti-Blackness or anti-Black racism.

One of the things that I hope comes up in discussions is a very critical examination of the ways that Palestinians — or just non-Black people in the United States — participate in anti-Blackness. So that for me represents a difference between joint struggle and maybe solidarity, where under joint struggle we acknowledge the different relations in terms of power between our communities and how that impacts how we relate to each other and how we organize.

So I think there’s a lot of room coming out of this statement for folks to organize around Arab anti-Black racism or for Palestine supporters who aren’t Arab to organize against their own anti-Blackness or their position as settlers in a settler colonial society.

JJ: One thing that stands out among many parts of the “Black For Palestine” statement is the phrasing that “Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries.” So can you expand upon this idea of the colonial, carceral state?

KDB: Sure. The first thing I want to talk about is how incredibly powerful of an experience and expression it was to have 10 currently incarcerated political prisoners respond to our call for signatures and sign the statement from behind bars. Their participation in our statement highlights the fact that they’re also a population whose liberation from the prison-industrial complex we need to be fighting for.

Also they represent the internationalism and revolutionary spirit that was intentionally targeted and killed from the 1980s onward. So their participation and inclusion in this statement is a link back to that era, specifically Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli. Beyond that one of the things I’m thinking of about that line on mass incarceration is the need to abolish prisons.

There is different rhetoric around prisons in Palestine and here in the US but I do think they’re similar enough in the sense that we often don’t think of people arrested for drug crimes in the US as political prisoners but they are imprisoned under a very intentional political system that discriminates against them across every point of the so-called justice system.

The need to criminalize the existence or resistance of populations under settler colonialism leads to mass or hyper incarceration both in the United States and in Palestine and that prison abolition in that context is something we need to center.

JJ: What can Palestinian and Black people learn from each other?

KBD: From Palestinians we learn the importance of struggling for self-determination — a right that Black people in the US have never experienced, from our ancestor’s forcible kidnapping to this continent and the end of the Civil War through today. This is a right that Palestinians refuse to let go of through their sumoud, or steadfastness — and it is a right that Black people must claim as well.

The Black for Palestine statement highlighted the right of return as the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians because it cuts to the core of the “conflict” and is dismissed by Zionists and the US as “unrealistic.” For Palestinians to cling to and achieve the most “impossible” of their calls would be a boon to us, as we still fight for the “unrealistic” demands of reparations for our ancestors’ free and forced labor, or the abolition of prisons and the police.

The call for boycott, divestment and sanctions also models what it might look like for Black people in the US, across our varying political ideologies, to present basic criteria for us to exercise our own right to self-determination and to present basic actions people around the world can take to help us actualize our self-determination.

Our post-civil rights condition and the post-apartheid South African condition drive home the necessity for Palestinians to demand economic restructuring and safeguards both against decades of disinvestment and against neoliberal forces within the Palestinian political class. Full justice for Palestinians makes the case stronger for our own organizing in the US; full justice for Black Americans or South Africans makes the case stronger for Palestinians. I see each of these struggles as my own, because a victory for one group is a victory for us all. That is what motivates my work on this issue.

JJ: What kind of opportunities do you think “Black For Palestine” opens up for organizational solidarity with Black people in Palestine, be those articulated to the Israeli settler society or native Black Palestinians?

KDB: I think it opens up a lot of opportunities. One idea that has already come up as a result of the statement is bringing a delegation of African Palestinians here to the US so organizers can engage with them because too often they’re a population that gets erased from the narratives about Palestine within our own movement spaces here in the United States. And I know that there is already ongoing efforts between groups like the Dream Defenders and Black Youth Project 100 to connect Black and Brown people in the United States with the different African populations in historic Palestine, whether that is Ethiopian Israelis, Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers or African Palestinians.

This work is already happening so I think the statement is just another step for potential organizing between Africans in historic Palestine and Black people in the US.

Black August, 35 Years Ago, To Black Lives Matter, Today

From Popular Resistance:

blm-ferguson

Black August, a month of political prisoner activism and commemoration, can help remind us of the nation’s exponentially expanding racist prison system.

Protesters march through the streets of Ferguson. (Jamelle Bouie / Wikimedia Commons)

A year ago this month, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri exploded in the wake of the murder of eighteen-year-old Black teen, Michael Brown, at the hands of white police officer, Darren Wilson. The world watched closely as military Humvees and the national guard armed with tear gas and rubber bullets transformed an otherwise quiet town in the Midwest into a historic battlefront for the Black Lives Matter movement, the present-day Black liberation struggle born after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman over the murder of the Black seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Since the Ferguson riots last August, Black Lives Matter has radically shifted the national conversation on anti-Black racism and police brutality through massive protests, demonstrations, and online mobilizations that have galvanized a new generation of youth of color in the United States and around the world who refuse to allow the police to turn them into another murder statistic. Just last month, hundreds of Black activists gathered together in Cleveland, Ohio in a historic meeting for the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening, which featured panels and workshops on Black labor organizing, queer and trans justice, lessons from the Black Panther Party, among others.

A new Pew Research Center poll released this month further shows how Black Lives Matter is transforming the racial views of Americans (and particularly white Americans) in astounding ways. According to the poll, 59 percent of U.S. citizens believe that changes are necessary to afford equal rights to African Americans, up from 46 percent just last year, with a majority of whites (53 percent) agreeing. Black Lives Matter and related mobilizations across the country have forced white Americans to take racism and police brutality seriously to the point where most of them have come to agree that that police treat Blacks less fairly than other groups. That hot, tragic summer day in Ferguson and the riots they gave birth to last August launched a crucial movement to remind the world that Black Lives Matter.

Yet, as we take a moment this August to honor Ferguson and the past, present, and future of the Black Lives Matter movement, it might be useful to take a moment to recognize another important moment in the history of the Black freedom struggle taking place this month: Black August. More than thirty-five years ago, Black August was created by Black political prisoners in California’s infamous San Quentin State Prison in August 1979 to commemorate the long legacy of prison protest and other forgotten events in the history of Black freedom struggles. As cofounder Shuuja Graham told historian Dan Berger, “We figured that the people we wanted to remember wouldn’t be remembered during Black history month, so we started Black August.” In August 1971, Black Panther leader George Jackson was killed in a prison uprising, while his younger brother was killed the previous August attempt to free three prisoners. August was also the historic month in which Haitian slaves rebelled and launched the Haitian Revolution (August 21, 1791), initiating the successful destruction of chattel slavery on the island and the world’s first independent Black republic, and the month that Nat Turner led a slave revolt in southern Virginia (August 21, 1831). As a “kind of secular activist Ramadan,” as described by Berger, Black prisoners fasted, read, studied, and engaged in physical training and self-discipline. As Mumia Abu-Jamal notes, “August is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”

Over the coming months, Black August’s origins within the prison system can help remind us that as Black men and women are being murdered by police on the streets, hundreds of others are being shipped away and locked up in the nation’s exponentially expanding penitentiaries. The United States has the largest prison population in the world—even larger than China or Russia—and Black Americans constitute a disproportionate percentage of that population. According to the NAACP, African Americans comprise 1 million of the 2.3 million total prisoners in this nation, and are incarcerated six times more than whites. Even though Blacks and Latinos compose one quarter of the national population, they comprised 58 percent of all prisoners as of 2008. Although 14 million whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug, African Americans are being sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites thanks to racist drug policies beginning in the 1970s. As of 2001, one in six Black men had been incarcerated, but if current trends continue, one in three Black men born today can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their lifetimes.

Black August can also help us remember that big money is increasingly behind this prison-industrial complex that devalues Black life. The past forty years have witnessed an unprecedented boom in incarceration rates in the United States. According to a report published by the National Research Council, the prison population grew from 200,000 to about 2.2 million between 1973 and 2009, which meant that the U.S. held about a quarter of the world’s prisoners. The period of prison privatization emerged in the 1980s when neoliberal policies began to expand across the globe, with the first U.S. private prison business operating in Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1984 under the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Today, privately run prisons are ubiquitous across the nation, even being dramatized on screen as seen in the last season of Orange is the New Black. Meanwhile, on the backs of Black and brown prisoners, CCA reported US$1.7 billion in total revenue in 2011 alone.

And Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the beloved “lesser of two evils” for many progressives, is just as mired in this racist monster of the private prison system. Last month, it was reported that Clinton was accepting contributions from known lobbyists for two of the country’s largest private prison corporations, CCA and the Geo Group, in addition to her usual donations from Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. In light of this news, it’s no surprise that Clinton refused to address issues of structural racism when she was confronted by a group of Black Lives Matter activists in New Hampshire earlier this month. “She was not willing to concede that the inherent anti-blackness in the policies that were enacted to address problems is the cause of the problems we have today,” activist Julius Jones stated.

In the streets or behind gray prison doors, Black August offers a moment to focus and honor the long African American freedom struggles that are the current movement’s predecessors.

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View  the original article: www.teleSURtv.net/english

Beloved political prisoner Hugo ‘Yogi Bear’ Pinell, feared and hated by guards, assassinated in Black August after 46 years in solitary

From SF Bay View:

by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll.

Hugo-Pinell-Shirley-his-late-wife1

From December 1970 to 2014, when he finally had a contact visit with his mother, Yogi was allowed to come out from behind the thick glass in the visiting room and touch a loved one only once: When he married Shirley, they were given 15 minutes together. She later died.

By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, was assassinated Aug. 12. The news sparked a victory celebration by  prison guards on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.

“This is revenge,” declared his close friend, fellow Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha, on Hard Knock Radio Aug. 13. “They hated him as much as George Jackson. They beat him constantly, kept him totally isolated for 46 years – no window, no sunlight – but they could never break him, and that’s why they hated him.

“The only way he survived was that this man was full of love.”

Isolated in the Pelican Bay SHU from 1990 to 2014, Yogi supported his SHU comrades’ campaign to end solitary confinement. He participated in the hunger strikes and applauded the Agreement to End Hostilities, authored by 16 of his comrades, Black, Brown and White, and dated Aug. 12, 2012, three years to the day before he was killed. It has nearly erased racial violence from California prisons.

The comrades who conceived and wrote the agreement were following Yogi’s lead.

“There was a time in the prison sys­tems throughout the United States,” according to a story headlined “The Black Panther Party and Hugo Pinell” in The Black Panther newspaper of Nov. 29, 1971, “when the prisoners themselves were divided, not only white against Black, but Latinos against Blacks. This – the result of racism in every area of U.S. society – was particularly apparent in Cali­fornia prisons.

Hugo-Pinell-by-The-Black-Panther-112971-1-web

This is the story from the Nov. 29, 1971, edition of The Black Panther. – Courtesy Billy X Jennings, ItsAboutTimeBPP.com

“Blacks and Latinos fought, stabbed and killed each other in the yards, cell blocks and dining halls of every prison camp from Tehachapi to Tracy. This is always the case when the racist white prison guard, under administration orders, pits one man struggling to survive against another.

“It is the easiest way for the prison to assure almost absolute control over its inmate population. After all, only an idiot would believe he could control 100 men with one man, unless the 100 were divided. Quite often men were paid to start fights between two men. …

“(B)rothers and sisters across the country inside the maximum prisons began to awaken to the fact of their oppression. They began to realize, as Comrade George Jackson would say, that they were all a part of the prisoner class.

Hugo-Pinell-by-The-Black-Panther-112971-2-web

“They be­gan to realize that there was no way to survive that special brand of fas­cism particular to California prison camps except by beginning to work and struggle together. … The prisoner class, especially in California, began to understand the age-old fascist principle: If you can divide, you can conquer.

“There are two men who were chiefly responsible for bringing this idea to the forefront. They helped other com­rade inmates to transform the ideas of self-hatred and division into unity and love common to all people fighting to survive and retain dignity. These two brothers not only set this example in words, but in practice.

“Comrade George Jackson and Comrade Hugo Pinell, one Black and one Latino, were the living examples of the unity that can and must exist among the prisoner class. These two men were well known to other inmates as strong de­fenders of their people.

“Everyone knew of their love for the people, a love that astounded especially the prison officials of the state. It astounded them so thoroughly that these pigs had to try and portray them as animals, perverts, madmen and criminals in order to justify their plans to eventually get rid of such men.

“For when Com­rades George and Hugo walked and talked together, the prisoners began to get the message too well.

“In a well-planned move, the state of California and the U.S. government carried out the vicious assassination of Comrade George Jackson, field marshal of the Black Panther Party, on Aug. 21, 1971. Their plans to slaughter Hugo Pinell are now in full swing.”

What happened on New Folsom Prison’s B yard on Aug. 12, 2015?

California, the prisons are abundantly funded, but the billions of taxpayer dollars are spent in secret, as the media are prohibited from covering prisons. So the stories coming from the mainstream media about Yogi so far are based on press releases from CDCr, the Corrections Department, not from reporters who go inside to hear from prisoners.

Highly paid prison guards and their CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) are called the most powerful lobby in the state. Guards at New Folsom, located in a suburb of Sacramento, the state capital, likely exert much of that influence. Is that why Yogi was sent there after more than 23 years at Pelican Bay?

“Once a man declares that he will retain his dignity, that he will not forfeit his manhood, then he has in essence declared war against the prison,” The Black Panther reported on Nov. 29, 1971. “He has declared war upon the guards, who operate on the smallest amount of intelligence and human un­derstanding, and upon the prison and state officials, whose every move is planned and calculated to help in this government’s last feeble attempts to quell the desire of the people to see power returned into the hands of the people. Hugo, from the very beginning of his imprisonment, made that declaration.”

Yogi’s enemies were not his comrades in the prisoner class – though he reportedly died at the hand of one or two prisoners, said to be white, though their race is unconfirmed. He was no threat to other prisoners. It was the guards who loathed him and loath the Agreement to End Hostilities, which he exemplified and set in motion over 40 years ago.

Khatari-Gaulden-Hugo-Pinell-San-Quentin-yard-1976-from-Kiilu

Sitting in the sunshine on the San Quentin yard in 1976 are Khatari Gaulden and Hugo Pinell. – Photo courtesy Kiilu Nyasha

Did they have him killed to demolish the agreement, to rekindle all-out race riots? Riots are job insurance for guards.

Several of the authors of the agreement have also been transferred to New Folsom, where they have been educating other prisoners to understand and wield its power. A prisoner on the C yard, Hakim Akbar-Jones, P-85158, wrote this to the Bay View in July:

“Let this be understood: At CSP Sacramento on the C yard, the End to Hostilities Agreement is in full effect. Even though the summertime is here, there is rhythm and harmony amongst respective class members. There are diligent efforts made on all fronts to work hand to hand in solidarity to build a better future amongst the prison class. With this said, we stand fast and salute all conscious guerrilla revolutionaries whose concepts have been brought forth and come to fruition, those in solidarity who support the movement, thus bringing on and creating positive change for the oppressed.”

Does this sound like a place where Hugo Pinell, the legend, the giant amongst conscious guerrilla revolutionaries, would not be protected? Did the other prisoners even know that Yogi would be joining them on the yard on Aug. 12?

What else are the guards afraid of?

Three initiatives are underway that could empty the SHUs and empower the remaining prisoners, and the guards, fearing for their jobs, are fighting them. A reasonable assumption is that the guards expect that the assassination of Hugo Pinell will see a return of the bad old days of racial violence to “justify” filling the SHUs and guaranteeing job security and top pay for guards:

Black Guerrilla Family – According to family members of prisoners who have been negotiating the hunger strikers’ demands with CDCr administrators since the hunger strikes began in 2011, CDCr has decided to remove the Black Guerrilla Family from the list of eight prison gangs because it’s a political not a criminal organization, but reportedly the guards and their CCPOA are furiously opposed. If BGF is not a prison gang, then all the Black prisoners “validated” as BGF “gangsters” would have to be released from SHU.

George Jackson University – Abdul Olugbala Shakur (s/n James Harvey) recently settled a suit to legitimize George Jackson University, which 25,000 prisoners signed up for when he and other prisoners and outside supporters founded it years ago. Guards are adamantly opposed to the distribution and study of books that prisoners might find mentally and spiritually liberating and have prevented the prisoner-led institution from taking root. Though the settlement terms have not yet been revealed, guards are undoubtedly fearful.

Hugo-Pinell-1982

Hugo Pinell in 1982

Class action lawsuit to end solitary confinement in California – Currently in settlement talks with CDCr are the attorneys for the plaintiff class of prisoners who have been held in the Pelican Bay SHU for 10 years or more. The attorneys are led by Jules Lobel, president of the very prestigious New York based Center for Constitutional Rights, the public interest law firm that also represents many of the hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The New York Times is giving the case multi-media coverage, including a recent video showing some of the plaintiffs describing how they survive the torture of long term solitary confinement. If the case doesn’t settle, trial is set for December.

These initiatives, bolstered by the awakening in the court of public opinion to the evils of mass incarceration and solitary confinement, are driving efforts by California prison guards and their “union,” CCPOA, to demolish the carefully constructed Agreement to End Hostilities and revert to racial warfare that divides and conquers prisoners of all colors so that the guards can rule over them as cruelly as they want without getting their hands dirty.
We call for a full independent investigation immediately

The Bay View, joining a consensus of prisoner family members and advocates, calls for investigations into Yogi’s death at both the state and federal level. We challenge California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to demonstrate they believe this Black life – the life of Hugo Pinell – matters. Harris, whose office acts as the attorney representing CDCr, needs to counsel her client to reign in the guards, especially the gang investigators.

We also call for the full and fair investigation of all deaths in jails and prisons, where incarcerated people are routinely abused and tortured and even killed. Begin with Sandra Bland and Hugo Pinell.

Yogi’s attorney, Keith Wattley, says his family is planning a wrongful death lawsuit.
Honor our fallen comrade

Long live Hugo Pinell, who showed us the power of the human spirit, that love can survive and overpower hell on earth.

Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell in 2001

To anyone tempted to avenge Yogi’s death against another race, remember the wisdom of the Panthers: “If you can divide, you can conquer.” Ever wonder why the Bay View calls our prison section Behind Enemy Lines? The prison system, not another prisoner, is the enemy that hopes you won’t get out alive.

Embrace Yogi’s spirit and read the words that follow from current and former prisoners who loved him back.

Dr. Willie Ratcliff is publisher and Mary Ratcliff is editor of the San Francisco Bay View. They can be reached at editor@sfbayview.com or 415-671-0789.

Yogi’s time

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Written July 30, 2006 – Few of us know the name Hugo Pinell.

That’s because the last time it was in the newspapers was probably in 1971, or 1976, when he was tried as a member of the famous San Quentin 6, six young Black prisoners facing assault charges stemming from battles with prison guards at the notoriously repressive California prison.

Yet that wasn’t the beginning nor the end of things.

Hugo Pinell (known as Yogi by his friends) came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old from a small town on Nicaragua’s East Coast. If he knew then the hell he would face in America, would he have left the land of his birth? We’ll never know.

He came. And he spent the last 42 years in prison – 34 of them in solitary! He hasn’t had a write-up in 24 years.

Now, his family and lawyer are seeking his parole after a lifetime in some of the most repressive joints in America.

Why so long? Why so many years? The answer, not surprisingly, is politics. Hugo was a student and comrade of the legendary Black Panther Field Marshal, the late George Jackson, with whom he worked to organize other Black prisoners against the racist violence and prison conditions of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Consider this: When Hugo was sent to prison, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president, bombing in the Vietnam War was intensifying and Martin Luther King Jr. was still alive!

Of his introduction to the prison system, Yogi would later write:

Of these three political prisoners, Hugo Pinell, Mumia Abu Jamal and Nuh Washington, only Mumia is now alive, and his health has been precarious lately due to the prison system’s medical neglect and abuse. – Art: Kiilu Nyasha

Of these three political prisoners, Hugo Pinell, Mumia Abu Jamal and Nuh Washington, only Mumia is now alive, and his health has been precarious lately due to the prison system’s medical neglect and abuse. – Art: Kiilu Nyasha

“I was 19 years old when I turned myself in. I pled guilty to the charge of rape with the understanding that I would be eligible for parole after six months. When I arrived at the California Department of Corrections, I was informed that I had been sentenced to three years to life.”

California’s notoriously unjust indeterminate sentencing has led in part to the present prison overcrowding that now threatens to bankrupt the system. California’s prisons are roughly 172 percent over capacity, and parole is a broken, nonfunctional agency.

That’s not just my opinion, but California State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has called the present regime a “failure,” particularly the parole system.

Despite California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2004 promises of major reforms of the parole system, which would lead to significant prisoner population reductions, the incarceration rate has soared. Today, there are a record 168,000 people in 33 state prisons, nearly double the rated capacity.

As Hugo Pinell seeks parole, California is spending $7.9 billion – yeah, with a “b”! – in the next fiscal year, an increase of $600 million a year for a prison system that has one of the worst recidivism rates in the nation, 60 percent!

Clearly, the so-called “Correctional and Rehabilitation” Department has failed in its mission to do both.

Support parole for Hugo Pinell; 42 years is more than enough.

© Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. His new book is “Writing on the Wall,” edited by Joanna Hernandez. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.

Hugo Pinell – Rest in Power!

by Claude Marks

Graphic courtesy Freedom Archives

Graphic courtesy Freedom Archives

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system.

Incarcerated in 1965, like so many others, Hugo became politicized inside the California prison system.

In addition to exploring his Nicaraguan heritage, Hugo was influenced by civil rights activists and thinkers such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King as well as his comrades inside including George Jackson. His leadership in combating the virulent racism of the prison guards and officials made him a prime target for retribution and Hugo soon found himself confined in the San Quentin Adjustment Center.

While at San Quentin, Hugo and five other politically conscious prisoners were charged with participating in an Aug. 21, 1971, rebellion and alleged escape attempt, which resulted in the assassination of George Jackson by prison guards. Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez became known as the San Quentin 6.

Their subsequent 16-month trial was the longest in the state’s history at the time. The San Quentin 6 became a global symbol of unyielding resistance against the prison system and its violent, racist design.

As the California prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Security Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2011.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years, yet his spirit was unbroken.

Claude Marks, director of Freedom Archives, 522 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, (415) 863-9977, www.Freedomarchives.org, can be reached at claude@freedomarchives.org.

Hasta Siempre Hugo (Forever Hugo)

Solidarity forever

And we are saddened

Solidarity left

You when (it) should have

Counted for something and

What your long imprisoned

Life stood for

Now all your struggles

To be free have failed

And only death

Inglorious and violent

Death has

Claimed you

At the hands of the

Cruel prison system

La Luta Continua

– Bato and the San Quentin 3: Willie “Sundiata” Tate, David Johnson and Luis “Bato” Talamantez, who can be reached at batowato@gmail.com

Mumia Abu-Jamal files suit over prison’s refusal to provide medical care

From: Abolitionist Law Center

Untreated diabetes nearly killed Abu-Jamal in March, and the DOC is refusing to treat his active Hepatitis C.

August 3, 2015: Attorneys for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an amended lawsuit yesterday in the Middle District of Pennsylvania federal court to challenge prison medical staff’s denial of necessary medical treatment – denial that nearly killed Abu-Jamal earlier this year.

See Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint and the Amended Complaint.
On March 30, 2015, Abu-Jamal was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness and going into diabetic shock. Although prison medical staff were aware that Abu-Jamal had a dangerously high blood glucose level of 419 on March 6, they failed to treat, monitor, or even inform Abu-Jamal of his condition. Glucose levels like those that Abu-Jamal had can result in diabetic shock, diabetic coma, and death.

Abu-Jamal’s diabetic shock came in the midst of an escalating year-long health crisis that began with a rash in August 2014. The skin condition grew in intensity over the course of the next several months, eventually covering most of his body with a painful, severe rash that is resistant to conventional treatments. The skin condition is abnormal in its duration and intensity, and has led to lesions, open wounds, and swelling.

The lawsuit filed yesterday seeks injunctive relief for prison medical staff’s failure to treat Abu-Jamal’s active Hepatitis C. Recent blood tests provided at the insistence of Abu-Jamal, his lawyers, and consulting doctors have confirmed that Abu-Jamal has active Hepatitis C, which has likely been the underlying cause of his health crisis. Despite the undeniable medical evidence that he is in need of treatment for his Hepatitis C, prison medical staff is refusing to provide any.

Advances in Hepatitis C treatment in recent years have revolutionized the way the disease is treated, with new direct-acting anti-viral medications that have had over 95% success rates in curing the illness in clinical trials. The medications, however, are extraordinarily expensive in the United States due to monopoly pricing practices by the pharmaceutical companies that have patented them.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has yet to promulgate a new protocol for treating Hepatitis C with the new medications, meaning that the estimated 10,000-plus people in DOC custody who have Hepatitis C are not receiving any treatment.

This issue is the subject of a class action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania federal court in June 2015.

Abu-Jamal is represented by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and Robert J. Boyle of New York City.

Updated Action Alert for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Sunday, May 17:

The following is a statement released by: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, International Action Center, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia once again taken to hospital outside SCI Mahanoy; held incommunicado from family, attorneys and doctor.  We need to act now!

Political prisoner and internationally renowned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal has once again been taken from the prison infirmary at SCI Mahonoy in Frackville , Pa. this time to Geisinger Medical Center in Dansville , Pa. about 3 hours from Philadelphia .

Having received no phone calls from Mumia, including on Mothers’ Day when he always calls, Mumia’s wife Wadiya Jamal called the prison infirmary on Tuesday, May 12 and learned of the transfer.  Since then Mumia has been out of communication with his immediate family and doctor, despite the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ obligation and agreement to keep Mrs. Jamal informed of his medical condition.

State regulations also prohibit prison officials from blocking attorney’s access to their clients however visits by his attorneys have also been denied.

On Wednesday, May 13 Wadiya was told that immediate family visitation was approved by Superintendent John Kerestes and the DOC.  This was confirmed by Laura Neal of the DOC Legal Counsel’s office.

Wadiya prepared to visit Mumia at the hospital on Wednesday, May 13, however she was then told by Neal that Geisinger Hospital would not permit the visit because Mumia was not in critical condition and the hospital has a policy of not allowing visits to prisoners.

Mumia’s family and attorneys have been given conflicting reports that updates on his medical condition were released to authorities at SCI Mahonoy.  Wadiya was told repeatedly by medical officials at SCI Mahonoy that no medical updates were given to them.  However Donald Zaycosky, Litigation Counsel at Geisinger told Rachel Wolkenstein, an attorney representing Wadiya Jamal, that a medical update had been provided to infirmary doctors on Thursday, May 14.

Wolkenstein reported that on Friday May 15, Zaycosky stated that under the circumstances an exception could be made to the hospital’s “no visitors” policy.  He explicitly stated that Geisinger did not object to phone calls or family or legal visitation, but wanted to make sure it was OK with the DOC.

On 9:30am Friday, May 15, Wolkenstein forwarded Zaycosky her correspondence with Laura Neal that stated the DOC approved family visitation.  Since then, despite phone calls and emails, there has been no communication from either the prison infirmary or the hospital regarding either medical updates on Mumia’s condition or to confirm or deny family visitations.

Mumia’s family, attorneys and supporters are extremely worried about his current medical condition and alarmed that he is being held incommunicado while his wife, legal counsel and his private doctor are being denied any access to him.

When Mumia was first rushed to the emergency room this March in diabetic shock, a global network of supporters sprang into action to inundate phone lines of prison and hospital officials demanding that they allow visitation from his family and attorneys.  Once again it’s time to activate that support.

Just last week supporters delivered a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf calling on him to release Mumia from prison in order to get the proper medical care he needs.  It was signed by numerous world dignitaries, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Former President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, New York  Congressman Charles Rangel, President of Local 1199 SEIU, George Gresham, Danny Glover, Alice Walker and many more.  For the full letter and list of signers, click here.

Please call the officials below to demand:

-Unrestricted hospital visitations by Mumia’s family,
-Demand access for his attorneys
-Let Mumia call family, supporters and doctors
-Stop state’s attempt to murder Mumia by medical mistreatment
-Release Mumia from prison to be able to obtain needed health care.

Use these demands appropriately for each of these venues.  So with the hospital, we want to emphasize the access and communication issues, the first three demands.

Geisinger Medical Center – 570-271-6211
DOC Secretary John Wetzel – 717-728-2573;  ra-crpadocsecretary@pa.gov
PA Gov. Tom Wolf –717-787-2500; fax: 717-772-8284; governor@pa.gov

Note:  The hospital has Mumia on a “confidential” list so the operators will say they have no one named Mumia Abu-Jamal or Wesley Cook at the hospital. People should tell the operator that their call should be reported to the hospital administration and use both names.

Join the MOVE family and friends for May 13th!

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Mumia Abu Jamal – updated phone campaign

From the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC):

Sisters and brothers, all of you who have shown such concern and love for Mumia:

I saw Mumia yesterday (Monday) in the visiting room at Mahanoy for a little over an hour.  He wheeled himself in in a manually controlled wheel chair.  This was not easy for him.  I then wheeled him to the front desk and where we sat.  He looked better than he did in those widely disseminated photos taken a week ago and, similarly, seemed a little better than Wadiya’s description when she saw him on Thursday.  As I noted in an intro to Wadiya’€™s report, the different descriptions may reflect some differences in the eyes of the beholders, but mostly I think reflect the fluctuations in the diabetic condition he is suffering from.

To clarify some differences in reports.  Mumia repeated that he had lost over 80 pounds.  This enormous weight loss in such a short period of time causes him pain when he sits, apparently especially in the wheel chair.  I suggested a pillow, which obviously should have been provided with the wheel chair, and he said he would get one.  His skin continued to look motley, multi-colored, and very flaky.  It felt dry.  He said it did not hurt but itched badly, and he has to cover his body with the anti-itching cream he uses repeatedly, as he did before coming out for his visit. He is still shaking.  Perhaps one of the doctors we are consulting can explain what the shaking is from. His speech was clear and not at all slurred.  He says he does not have pneumonia, one of the conditions that has been referred to several times, and that his lungs are clear.  The confusion was that one technician confused the scar from his gunshot wound obtained at the time of his original arrest and incarceration in 1981 with possible lung damage from pneumonia.  His diet has changed significantly:  he is getting a lot of fruit and vegetables and his calorie intake is being monitored. It was just increased to 2500 calories a day.  This diet improvement was certainly one of the victories of our campaign, as we expressed outrage at the diet he was being given (pasta for dinner and cake along with oatmeal for breakfast) following a blood sugar level that was so dangerously close to diabetic coma.  The authorities must have been embarrassed by being caught in their wanton neglect of Mumia’€™s needs, whether coming from malpractice or malevolence.

Mumia was very alert and deep, as usual filled with extensive historical knowledge, as we discussed some of the same kinds of political issues we generally discuss when I visit.  He was occasionally even humorous.  His spirit and intellect remain unquestionably Mumia. But he is concerned about some loss in his ability to retrieve words, aphasia like symptoms, and he sometimes experiences fugue states.  He apparently did not experience any of these symptoms while I was there. Very notable to me was the trauma all this has imposed on Mumia, major, major, major physical and emotional trauma.  He feels the steroids given him for his initial skin problem brought on the diabetes, and now the life threatening diabetic picture, not to mention the pain, the itching, the shaking, and the memory issues he described.  ALL DONE TO HIM, IMPOSED ON HIM.

Mumia is deeply grateful to the movement for its love and has great faith in its power. When I asked if he had any suggestions for what we should be doing, he said “€œKeep doing what you’€™re doing.”  So let’s keep those calls, emails, faxes and educational meetings going.

Below is Noelle Hanrahan’s summary of what the doctors in the case say they will need.  Please request these when you write or call the individuals listed at the end.

1) Mumia’s chosen private physician has immediate regular phone access to Mumia in the infirmary. Phone access is limited in the infirmary, and Mumia and his physician need to be in conversation throughout each week.

2) His doctor be allowed to communicate freely and regularly with the prison infirmary physicians who are currently overseeing Mumia’€™s care.

3) The PA Department of Corrections (DOC) allow Mumia’€™s doctor to schedule an immediate Independent Medical Examination in an examination room with a table and medical instruments.

4) The PA DOC develop a diagnostic and treatment plan adequate to understand any underlying conditions that have contributed to his current ongoing crisis, and that consultation with appropriate specialists be arranged in a timely fashion and be used to assist in this effort.

We need a mass mobilization of calls and letters to:

Tom Wolf, PA Governor
717-787-2500
governor@PA.gov
508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg PA 17120

John Wetzel, PA Department of Corrections
717-728-4109
1920 Technology Pkwy, Mechanicsburg PA 17050

John Kerestes, Superintendent-Â SCI Mahanoy
570-773-2158 x8102
Fax: 570-783-2008

ONA MOVE!

Suzanne Ross
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC
P.O. Box 16, College Station, NY, NY 10030
212-330-8029, www.FreeMumia.com, info@FreeMumia.com