Dear 4sm readers, old and new, fellow political prisoners, revolutionaries, activists, allies, friends and supporters, 2015, will be a year of some necessary changes for www.4strugglemag.org.
From its beginning 11 years ago, 4sm set out to publish 3 hardcopy issues a year. We also publish each edition online. Until about a year ago we were mostly successful in coming out 3 times a year. At this point we have put out 24 issues (all back issues remain online). As you know prisoners receive 4sm for no charge and the online edition is also free. The large majority of hardcopies are mailed to prisoners across the usa. We do receive some donations and are always ready to accept paid subscriptions and donations.
The reality is, 4strugglemag is the primary voice of political prisoners in the United States. 4sm is a small and totally volunteer operation. We are dedicated and committed to putting out this unique, independent, and we feel, necessary revolutionary voice of political prisoners. In order to continue putting out 4sm, we will cut back to 2 hardcopy issues a year. They will be published in July and December. These two issues will also still be published online. In addition, 4sm will put up monthly updates, features and news articles online. In total 4sm will be putting out more information, but only 2 paper magazine issues.
Keep sending us your feedback, insight and information. And certainly, we always need your financial support too. You can subscribe and donate here.
For Freedom, Justice, Peace and the Revolutionary future our Planet and so many of its people need,
Jaan Laaman — editor + anti-imperialist political prisoner
The conference brings together political prisoners held in countries around the world. She told the conference that the U.S. is no exception to countries that lock up political dissidents on trumped up charges or deny parole to political prisoners who have already served the terms of their court-mandated sentences. During the conference, she spoke with FSRN’s Jacob Resneck.
FSRN: The issue of political prisoners is something we, as Americans, hear a lot about in other countries. But your organization argues that the U.S. is no different. Is the criminal justice system targeting individuals for lawful political activities?
PD: Um, yes. It’s been targeting them since Sacco and Vanzetti and it continues to target them today. We have many political prisoners: Leonard Peltier, Jalil Muntaqim, Herman Bell… and we also have some who are engaged in struggles against the state and have seen now that COINTELPRO situation which was a program, a counter-intelligence program, by the government was considered illegal. And after 9/11 and the PATRIOT ACT everything that was considered illegal in COINTELPRO has now been incorporated and is considered a legal government means to keep people from resisting and struggling for a better society.
FSRN: Tell us what the Jericho Movement and other legal advocates for these prisoners are doing to try and secure release for these prisoners.
PD: One of the things we are trying to do is that coming to the end of the Obama administration some of our prisoners have, or are in the process rather, are in the process of completing a set of documents for the Justice Department which will be turned over to a clemency lawyer that will be reviewed and then put on Obama’s desk.
This packet is an incredible listing of this person’s history from before they were incarcerated. If they were arrested or something happened to them in high school they have to start there and give them everything that they’ve done and then every infraction that they’ve been charged with within that.
FSRN: We’re here in Beirut hearing the testimony of former political prisoners and also their advocates. What message are you bringing to them from the U.S. and what message will you be taking back to the states?
PD: I’m going to take back this struggle that needs to be done to help build an anti-imperialist front. And that is we must take the struggles of other countries back into the United States to expose French imperialism, American imperialism and whatever and build the unity between our prisoners and their prisoners. We’ve done this with people in the Basque country, we’ve done it with Turkish prisoners, and so what I’ve brought is a group of statements from our prisoners Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim, Leonard Peltier, Mutulu Shakur all sent greetings of solidarity. For them this is a way for them to have their voices heard in other countries and so we have reciprocity, a revolutionary reciprocity, to support each other’s prisoners and to stand in solidarity against this capitalist class throughout the world.
FSRN: Finally, what can ordinary Americans do to support these political prisoners and what support networks exist to help people who think they or friends or family may be targeted by the criminal justice system for their lawful political activities?
FSRN: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
PD: You’re welcome. Thank you. Free the Land!
Related note: FSRN has long aired the commentaries of Mumia Abu Jamal, former Black Panther and radio journalist, via Prison Radio. In October of last year, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill, the Revictimization Relief Act, that could subject anyone convicted of a personal crime to legal action if they speak publicly. Last week Chief Judge for the U.S. Federal District Court in Harrisburg, PA heard opening arguments in Abu-Jamal vs. Kane on 2/26/2015. If he rules that the plaintiffs (Prison Radio & Mumia Abu-Jamal) have standing in federal court, a ruling which is expected shortly, the case will proceed on the merits of whether SB508 is a violation of the First Amendment, and an unconstitutional silencing of prisoners’ voices.
BY JALIL MUNTAQIM
In seven years, by 2023, the U.S. will be 40 percent minority, and 50 percent of the entire population will be under 40 years old. These are the demographics that cannot be ignored as progressives move forward building opposition to institutional racism and plutocratic governing.
In my thinking, it is incumbent on today’s activists to take into account what America will look like in ten years, so we will be better positioned to ensure the future will not be governed by deniers of change. In this regard, I am raising dialogue toward building a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA) comprised of social, economic and political activists who are prepared to build a future-focused America based on equitable distribution of wealth. It is important that progressives seek the means to organize greater unity and uniformity in ideological and political objectives toward the construction of a mass and popular movement. It is well established that the most pressing issues confronting the poor and oppressed peoples are wage inequities, housing displacement, dysfunctional public schools and student debt, climate change, the criminalization of the poor, mass incarceration, and the militarization of the police. In each are negative racial and economic implications creating social conflicts and confrontations.
However, the most pervasive and devastating cause for all of these issues is the unequal distribution of wealth. It is well researched and recorded that the wealth disparity, income gap between whites and blacks is 40% greater today than in 1967, with the average black household’s net worth at $6,314 and the average white household’s at $110,500 (New York Times, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” by Nicholas Kistof). When we account for how such economic disparity impacts educational opportunities or criminal behavior in the black community, we are better able to identify the overall pernicious problem. The Brookings Institute reported last July that: “As poverty increased and spread during the 2000s, the number of distressed neighborhoods in the United States—defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 40% or more—climbed by nearly three-quarters.” The report continued: “The population living in such neighborhoods grew by similar margins (76%, or 5 million people) to reach 11.6 million by 2008-2012.” (New York Times, “Crime and Punishment,” by Charles M. Blow).
Obviously, America is in increasing economic crisis, especially when considering … “According to a recent paper by the economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, almost all of the increase in American inequality over the last 30 years is attributable to the “rise of the share of wealth owned by the 0.1% richest families.” And much of that rise is driven by the top 0.01%. “The wealth of the top 1% grew an average of 3.9% a year from 1986 to 2012, though the top one-hundredth of that 1% saw its wealth grow about twice as fast. The 16,000 families in the tiptop category—those with fortunes of at least $111 million—have seen their share of national wealth nearly double since 2002, to 11.2%.” (New York Times, “Another Widening Gap: The Haves vs. the Have-Mores,” by Robert Frank).
Can there by any serious disputing the reality that this so-called democracy is actually a plutocracy, and the governing plutocrats have us all hustling and scraping for the crumbs, demanding a minimum wage increase, when we should be demanding control of production? Hence, it is necessary for progressives to realize the future of our struggle must be based on participatory democracy, direct-action engagement. It is important for the more educated and experienced activists to teach the younger activists, and young people in general need to know the future belongs to them, and we are concerned about what that future will look like and how to make it productive. It is essential we figure ways to bridge differences between the evolving demographics and growing minority population.
For instance, I am heartened to see young people taking to the streets challenging the common impunity of police repression and violence. Indeed, Black Lives Matter! However, I am not confident these protests will result in anything substantial in terms of institutional changes or build a sustainable movement. We remember Occupy Wall Street (OWS) had created similar national attention, but void a national organization, leadership or agenda (demands), it was a matter of time before OWS would dissipate and disappear after police removed the public nuisances.
In this regard, I am asking activists to post on their Facebook pages and other online sites these musings, for open discussion and dialogue. Specifically, I suggest that young people across the country enter open debate about the future of specific issues that have captured national attention. Obviously, it is necessary to build a mass and popular movement to effectuate real institutional change in this country. This was a vital lesson from the civil rights movement challenging the institution of Jim Crow. Therefore, I am urging young activists to consider organizing toward a “Million Youth Independence Day March” (MY-ID March) for July 4, 2016, in Washington, D.C., making the following demands:
- De-Militarization and De-Centralization of the Police, Demand Community Control of Police;
- Debt Relief for College Students, Lower Tuition Cost for College Education;
- Support the Manifestation of the Dreamers Act—Stop Deportations and the Splitting of Families.
These three issues, as they become part of the national dialogue and challenge to the plutocratic government, are able to unite a universal national determination. A one-issue protest/campaign is not sustainable when confronting an oppressive/repressive government policy supported by right-wing corporate interests. However, these interwoven issues reach three demographics of young people, each directly challenging institutions of government. Again, it is important to use the current unrest to forge a unified and uniform national youth movement.
Secondly, politically, we need to consider how best to ensure these issues become a major factor in the national debate, possibly imposing them into the national election of 2016. In this way, inspiring and encouraging a mass and popular youth movement organized during the election year of 2016, we empower the youth to be future focused. It is well established that it was the youth who were instrumental in getting Obama elected as President. Despite our collective disappointment with his presidency, the lesson learned is the power of the youth when united and determined to accomplish a task. Again, recognizing that in 7 years the electoral demographics will be drastically changed, it is time to prepare for that eventuality, even if some do not believe in the electoral process. Therefore, during the election year of 2016, not a single candidate will be permitted to conduct a public forum without being challenged by these issues. These would be acts of participatory democracy and direct-action engagement. Obviously, to hold a national rally and march in Washington, D.C. during the July 4, 2016 weekend tells the entire country that young people will divorce themselves from the status quo, becoming independent of the Republican/Democratic party politics.
In closing, it is anticipated this proposal will raise questions concerning the potential for the development of a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA). Permit me to say that this proposed organization is only a suggestion. I firmly believe that building a national coalition is necessary to establish a mass and popular movement capable of forcing institutional changes, including the ultimate goal of redistribution of America’s wealth. I request this paper be widely distributed and discussed. I am prepared to enter discussion with anyone interested in the potential development of a National Coalition for a Changed America. Lastly, I humbly request activists to review what I wrote in“Toward a New American Revolution.”
“Our First Line of Defense IS Power to the People!”
Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!
In fierce struggle,
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Attica, February 2015
Write to Jalil:
Anthony J. Bottom #77A4283
Attica Correctional FacilityP.O. Box 149
Attica, NY 14011-0149
February 6, 2015
The prisoner we have been supporting as Jared Chase is ready to let her supporters and comrades know that she is a trans woman who prefers to be called Maya and uses she/her/hers pronouns. She also wants to go vegan, although she is currently not able to receive adequate nutrition in general, much less according to her ethical decisions.
She wrote us recently to say:
“I am writing to tell you all and the world that I am a TransGender woman. All of my life I have always identified as a woman. After 30 years I am finally done hiding, pretending to be something I’m not.”
Communicating with Maya has been difficult, in large part due to repression she is suffering on the inside. As such, we do not have an up-to-date report on her well-being at this time. We will keep you updated about how she is doing and about any opportunities to advocate for her as we learn more.
She will need even more support than before as she tries to get her needs met as a transgender, vegan political prisoner with serious medical needs. An easy way to support her is to write to her (note that her state name will need to be used on the outside of the envelope):
2600 N. Brinton Ave
Dixon, IL 61021
Donations to support Maya and Brent Betterly, the other defendant still incarcerated, can be made at:
Brent Betterly could use some letters of support as well:
4017 E. 2603 Road
Sheridan, IL 60551
Jacob Church was released to a half-way house last November and continues to search for housing and employment while facing harassment from the probation system. Donations for his support can be made athttps://www.youcaring.com/JacobChurch. If you have any insight into jobs or housing opportunities in the Chicago area, please contact us at free.the.nato3(A)gmail.com.
“A Victory For One Is A Victory For All” – A Letter From Anarchist Prisoner, Eric King to Sacramento Prisoner Support and Eric McDavid
From Denver ABC
January 9, 2015
POW CAMP Leavenworth
What a feeling of victory and vindication that must be flowing through your ranks, as well as through all those who have offered prisoner support. The news of Eric’s release reached me Friday afternoon and it felt as if I myself had been set free. What a long, difficult road he has had to travel upon to finally reach freedom’s exit sign. As unjust as the sentencing was, is as sweet the release must feel! Just imagining the Joy his comrades, partner, family must all be feeling fills me with the same joy. A victory for one is a victory for all. Please send my kindest congratulatory message to Eric and everyone involved in his support team.
I have heard that his support team (many of you) has done well to make sure his rehabilitation into freedom will go as smoothly as possible. No one can undo the injustices suffered but many can make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible and I have a good feeling that the people around him will take full care of that. I am curious what, if any at this point, plans Eric has for the future? Work for prisoner support, continued environmental fight? I hope the suffering the state has put him through hasn’t diminished his belief in the causes he once (currently?) took solace in.
Most importantly though is the now, and the now is that our comrade is free, not just free but free substantially sooner than the state would have preferred. With the amount of comrades being released early, hopefully the tone will be set to prevent such vicious inhumane sentencing in any future cases. May this victory lead the way baring the torch of freedom, lighting the darkened path many of us still must thread. I am grateful that Eric had such brilliant support, that no one gave up hope. I am thankful that groups exist to be there for those of us who need it desperately. So congratulations to everyone involved, and to our beautiful cause as a whole. Please keep up the fight. Until All are Free.
In immense Joy & Solidarity,
Eric King 27090045
100 Highway Terrace
Leavenworth, KS 66048
by Jaan Laaman – 4sm editor
2015 is almost a month old and my overall outlook has been optimistic and energized. With a months long new movement in the streets, fighting against government repression and police killings of unarmed men, boys and women too, mostly of color, for me it has been a time of gathering information and supporting and contributing to this new movement.
It is within this context, that I just received somber and hard information about two comrades of mine, two very good human beings, steadfast brothers and courageous fighters in the Freedom Struggle. I am talking about two friends of mine, both long held political prisoners — Phil Africa and Bill Dunne.
William Phillips Africa died on January 10, 2015, in the Pennsylvania state prison system, at SCI Dallas.
Phil Africa was one of the Move 9, all of whom have been in captivity since August 8, 1978. On that day, the Philadelphia police and other government forces launched an unprovoked assault on the Move home. The Move 9 are completely innocent women and men who were thrown into prison for 30 to 100 year sentences. They are all still in prison, except for Merle Africa who died in 1998, and now Phil.
Phil Africa never stopped struggling for justice and freedom, not only for the Move Family and his co-defendants, but for poor and oppressed people of all colors, across this country and around the world. Phil was a good man, intelligent and brave, thoughtful and caring. He could make you laugh and he was self disciplined and worked to stay in shape. He was a father figure, as well as a boxing teacher and sports coach to many younger men.
Phil’s death in the Pennsylvania state correctional institution at Dallas, came under very questionable and suspicious circumstances. See a more detailed posting on Phil’s death here.
My political prisoner brother and friend, Phil Africa, died in that Pennsylvania prison cell in his 37th year of captivity. Phil’s hardships and deprivations are now over. Phil was never a man who bemoaned the harsh, inhumane and injust realities he and other prisoners were forced to endure. Dying in prison is always a sad reality. Phil’s hardships are now over and that is a good thing, even while we mourn his passing. We should also question the circumstances surrounding his death and demand answers from Pennsylvania prison officials.
Continuing in this journey of hard news and harsh realities, let me share some information on another friend and fellow political prisoner, Bill Dunne. Bill is alive and I’m pretty sure in decent health. Like other political prisoners, Bill stays fit, in fighting shape, because it doesn’t matter how old you are or how many decades you have been imprisoned, the government and its agents never cease in their efforts to defeat you, break you and stop you in your/our struggle for justice, freedom and a revolutionary future of peace, equality and protection of our planet. So Bill, like all political prisoners, tries to keep the Spirit of Resistance firm and his body and mind fit.
Bill has been in captivity since 1979, that is for 36 years. He has been held in maximum security penitentiaries and special lock-down control units for all these years. In 2000, when he already had spent 21 years in prison, the United States parole board gave Bill a 15 year hit! That is, he was ordered to spend 15 more years in prison. Two months ago, Bill again appeared before the parole board and in a vicious act of inhumanity and hatred for the Freedom Struggle and Freedom Fighters, the U.S. parole board hit Bill with another 15 year set off! He is not eligible to see the parole board again until 2029. See a more detailed report on Bill Dunne’s parole hearing here.
The ugly reality is that there are political prisoners, courageous and noble leaders like Sundiata Acoli and Leonard Peltier, who have been locked up even longer; Sundiata has been in captivity for 43 years, Leonard for 39 years, and there are others like them.
The parole board’s primary questions, as well as its ‘justifications’ for ordering Bill to, quite likely, spend the rest of his life in prison, was his “continuing association and affiliation with anarchist organizations”, which was, “evidence you still harbor anti-authoritarian views…”
The U.S. government, through its parole board, made very clear that Bill’s real offense, like the so called crimes of all U.S. held political prisoners, was his political beliefs and associations. The activities Bill and other political prisoners may have taken in support of liberation and justice based political views is not the main “crime” in the eyes of the United States government. The ultimate “crime” is Freedom and Justice based revolutionary thinking and beliefs. Anarchist; socialist; communist, National Liberation for Puerto Rico, the Black Nation in the usa, the Native/Indigenous Nations; the Green ecological ideology of protecting our Earth and all its life against imperialist plunder, these are the “crimes” of political prisoners.
I am certain Bill Dunne will challenge and litigate this unprecedented second 15 year hit. I am also sure Bill will continue to work with the ABC collectives and other outside groups the parole board listed; the groups they so hated and feared.
I wanted to express my complete solidarity and support for Bill in his harsh ongoing struggle for justice, life and freedom. And I wanted to convey my heartfelt solidarity and revolutionary love to all the Move Family and Phil Africa’s closest people. We will always remember and be inspired by Phil Africa.
Sharing this information and reflecting on the types of realities that all political prisoners confront and have to deal with, I hope, gives you people outside, a little more understanding of revolutionary struggle and life behind prison walls. I do have some concern that perhaps some of you activists and people of conscience, may be overly intimidated by these realities of prison life. Engaging in the Freedom Struggle always has the potential of confrontation with the state and its abusive police power. This can include being thrown into prison. People should be clear about this. You should also be clear though, that even in extreme examples, like the heroic lives and struggle of Phil Africa and Bill Dunne, imprisoned Freedom Fighters can and do maintain their principles, their dignity and their will and ability to struggle. The more that people and the media, including the non-corporate media, are aware of and supportative of political prisoners and prison struggle generally, the more protection this provides us.
In the Spirit of Phil Africa —
let us remember,
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle!
Jaan Laaman – January 27, 2015
We are saddened to learn of the passing of MOVE 9 political prisoner Phil Africa.
In his own words:
LONG LIVE JOHN AFRICA! On the MOVE!
My name is Phil Africa, I’m from Philadelphia and one of 13 children born to Frank and Maude Phillips. I’m a high school graduate and capable in a number of trades. Altho I’ve been involved in street life since a early age I was never arrested for anything until adult life, not that I was into anything other than growing up poor, in a big family in materialistic, racist 50-60’s America.
As most kids I ran the streets, partied, and played sports in my early teens.
At the age of 16 I was into drinkin, smokin cigarettes, weed, and had my first real contact with the racism of the Philadelphia police. I came to the defense of my older brother who had been stopped coming out of a check cashing place by cops. He was jacked up by them and they said “What is a young nigga doin with that kinda money,” when I stepped forward from the crowd of scared adults, who’d come to “watch” victimize another young Blackman. I attempted to explain how my brother had just cashed his check from workin at the PGA Hospital. Instead of the cops listening to what I had to say, I was snatched up by the neck by this big white boot cop (I was 14 or 15 at the time), told to “face the wall nigga,” at which point the cop proceeded to kick me once in the balls so hard I couldn’t breathe or scream out in pain! I was simply told to “get my Black ass home before I got what my brother was gone get” and as I laid on the pavement they put my brother in their car and drove off.
By this time I reached high school I was drinkin, smokin, sellin drugs, workin and a complete victim to the addictions of the streets this system use to enslave folk to it’s destructive ways.
In my last year of high school I began to feel a need to make some changes in my life. With the Vietnam War goin on, the Civil Rights Struggle, the Black Power Movements poppin up I began to look in more areas for some direction in my life, some solution to the problems I had cause I realized my life was full of complexes, insecurities, depression, hates, and questions. I knew I was on a self-destructive course where at one point I felt I’d never live to see 16, 18, 21 years of age! It’s how I and those around me were living at the time.
I looked to religions, the streets, drugs, education, the different Black movements, at the time, but found none able to offer the inner peace I sought, give me security of direction or give me answers to my questions.
In the early 1970’s I moved to a Powelton Village apartment around the corner from the MOVE Headquarters. I had no idea who or what “MOVE” was, who the man “JOHN AFRICA” was, however right away I saw a difference in these people called “MOVE,” a confidence, health, warmth, strength, security vibrated from them! They worked as a family everything they did and the information they spoke when talked to, “The Teachin” they called “MOVE Law,” the clarity of it, the absolute power of it reflected the source of it JOHN AFRICA! Long Live JOHN AFRICA!
The attraction, the pull on me to MOVE is as profound now as it was almost 30 years ago, in fact it is even more so now!
As one of the MOVE 9 I’ve been unjustly imprisoned since August 8, 1978. I’ve been thru both of the Camp Hill riots in ’83 and ’89 and have spent half of those 19 years in the hole-solitary confinement.
At the present time our P.C.R.A. appeals were denied and we are preparing to appeal to the Federal Courts. We do not expect “justice” from this system as JOHN AFRICA explain, this system ain’t got justice to give cause this system ain’t just, ain’t right!
JOHN AFRICA expose how this system can be made to do what’s needed when it is pressured to. Pressure-massive pressure is what the people must put on this system to save Mumia, end the death penalty, Free the MOVE 9 and all P.P.s and P.O.W.s–and most importantly, work with MOVE to bring about the end of this rotten reform world system!
Long Live JOHN AFRICA! On the MOVE!
In Total Revolution,