By Jaan Laaman
More than 2.4 million human beings are imprisoned in the US.
This massive incarceration-overwhelmingly aimed at people of color and criminalizing youth makes the US by far the greatest purveyor of punishment in the world.
Among these millions are a number of political prisoners, and among these courageous sisters and brothers is Herman Bell. Herman Bell has been a political prisoner in the US for nearly 40 years. When national liberation and revolution rocked the world in the 1960s and 70s, Herman was active in the social justice movements of those times, particularly the Black Liberation movement and the Black Panther Party.
Support Herman’s parole here: freehermanbell.org
January 22nd 2016
Happy New Year, Family and Friends! Many, many thanks for so much support
and care over this year from both long-standing friends and new pen pals.
I feel very grateful and am always humbled by the encouragement and
resources sent my way by folks who are doing so much already to increase
our collective chances for survival. The news has been full of stories
about someone winning the big money pool that has accumulated for the US
Lotto – but the most important “win” has nothing to do with money. I am
betting on the movement to win big this year: in getting more control over
their communities and defending against police brutality and racial
inequality, in winning more victories for animal and in the defense of
wild spaces, in creating social relations based on respect, dignity and
compassion for all people….irregardless of their race, orientation,
creed or gender presentation.
Thank you for coming together today, to hold up those members of our
community who struggle so hard behind walls to keep their sense of self
intact. Sovereignty over our selves, our bodies is essential for any other
kind of liberty to be possible. By reaching out to trans prisoners, you
affirm their right to define themselves for themselves – and defend them
against the overwhelming voices who claim that they do not exist, that
they must allow others to define them. In the isolating environment of
prison, this is toxic and intimidating, and amounts to the cruelest form
of psychological torture. By offering your help and solidarity, you may
just save a life. I know that for thelast year and a half, as I have
struggled to assert myself as a transman, as I have advocated for the
relief of appropriate medical care for my gender dysphoria – it has been
the gentle and loving reminders of my extended family of supporters who
have given me strength and courage to continue. Please join me in offering
this help to so many others who need it to keep going. Never underestimate
the healing power of a letter, those letters have kept me going…and I
want to pass that gift on, if you will help me.
Thank you again for coming together on this day, for connecting to those
on the inside who truly need you, who need you to see them as they really
are and striving to be. Until the prisons are gone, we need to work hard
to support those of us inside – especially those of us who are not always
as visible to the rest of the world. We are always stronger together.
Hello interested readers, activists, fellow revolutionaries, friends and comrades, to issue 25. Yes, it has been over a year since our last issue, 4sm 24, came out in Spring of 2014. We have had several obstacles and problems to deal with. Our printers, good movement activists and great professional printers, have had their own struggles with the state, but are now back in operation. Most hard copy subscribers are receiving both issues 24 and 25 in this mailing.
You will see from our revised “Welcome to 4strugglemag” on the inside cover, that we have had to change our printing schedule. 4sm is now producing 2 hardcopy issues a year. One in July/August and the second issue in December. We will now be publishing on this new schedule. Your material/monetary support is always needed.
This issue has many important and informative selections. You’ll certainly want to check out Jalil’s “Future Focus” analysis and call for action. We also have a great interview with Lynne Stewart and her husband Ralph. There are lots of updates and information about political prisoners. With the continuing police killings of so many men, women and even children of color, you should check out “Thoughts on Killer Cops – MOVE/May 13”. This issue is full of useful information. As always, we welcome your feedback and original writings, letters and poems. We’ll see you in issue 26, out in December. And for all you online readers, 4strugglemag.org online now posts new material and information early each month.
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle!
Jaan Laaman, editor
P.O. Box 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734
I am sending a poem that I hope can become your “theme poem.” I based it on your editorial column… I had a discussion with a few brothers that I felt did not understand fully what oppression was, but being a humble man, I realize it’s possible I myself have a limited view, I wondered how many others understand it. If so, can you oppress the oppressor?
Also, I would like to learn exactly what a political prisoner is. There are so many terms: PPOC, POC, PP, etc. that I feel it should be explained. From my knowledge George Jackson was considered a political prisoner, but it was something he became while incarcerated as opposed to being locked up for political reasons. If you can orchestrate a dialogue on that, I’d appreciate it.
1300 Western Blvd.
Raleigh NC, 27606 USA
Note: See 4sm issues 12 and 13 for an earlier version of our “Glossary,” a collaborative and evolving list of definitions. In future issues, we will continue to explore and work together to define terms that are useful to our analysis – so feel free to suggest others.
By COMRADE WAZO
I am against suffering
I am against buckling
I am against any and everything other than
What I am 4… struggling
Of oppressive conditions
Orchestrated by the select
For protecting their interests
Their possessions are senseless
Too excessive, expensive
While the rest of us skimping
So, yes, I am against them
But the masses I am with them
When attacking the system
Because I am against
I am 4 the just
The equal, the free
I am 4 war
In order to achieve peace
I am against facism
I am against racism
I am against agent provocateurs
And their fakism
Of political prisoners
I am 4 the release
I am against the strong
Who are exploiting the weak
In solidarity I speak
With the tongue of the streets
With the heart of the revolutionary
In the belly of the beast
If you are 4 socialism
Are 4 no more trouble
If you are 4 a change
They you must be 4struggle
[Below we share a letter from Tonio X, a long-time reader and supporter of 4sm. This reached us quite a while after it was sent, but we still wanted to share his words.]
I have for years, received and read all of your pamphlets and enjoyed reading every bit of them. Your pamphlets have kept me moving in these death camps, ‘cause they kept me focused on my real enemy in this struggle.
Your pamphlets made me adjust lots of my views – and views of those who I have always shared your pamphlets with.
Before I get too ahead of myself, I want to greet all my comrades with a revolutionary clenched fist. Without us there would be no revolution, the world needs people like us so they can point and say, there goes the people who are agitating the status quo.
I consider all of you my comrades ‘cause even though we are not side by side fighting those forces (enemies) who are trying to keep us silent, we are in spirit. Even though I’m behind these prison gates, and you all are on the other side, our fights are the same, ‘cause we are all the same people.
I love learning from your pamphlets, so I hope you keep sending them to me. It has been a while since I received one. The last Issue I recall receiving was with the picture of a good friend of mine – Geronimo Ji-Jage. He taught me a lot within the struggle, he taught me not to give up, ‘cause once you do then they will come pouncing.
So I say, keep those pamphlets coming. It’s not August, a month which we refer to as Black August, a month of remembrance. We remember all of those who came before us, and among us, it’s also a time when we gather together to remember how the past fallen brothers and sisters have given their lives in the struggle for the people, including not forgotten brothers and sisters who are engaged for speaking up and for challenging this rotten system.
We must remember in 1831 a Black man rose in the midst of slavery and proclaimed to the world that no man, woman and child was meant to be property of another person. This man stood strong, a man we all of an Afrikan descent recognize as Nat Turner. He is a symbol for all of us in the struggle. I always remember him because his spirit lives in me.
I also remember others who made way for us to follow; I remember David Walker (Walker’s Appeal), Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, George Jackson, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth.
In the trenches,
By MICHAEL MACKIE
Formidable are the locks
Which stand sentry to your thoughts
Resistance courses your heart
As the Black Panther walks —
At your side, oh Mu’Mia!
Our Black Shining Prince;
And that’s ever since…
Brother Malcolm’s demise.
From the Phoenixes’ charred ashes
Like smoke you will rise!!!
Paragon of the struggle,
For we see you and love you…
Standing ready to rumble,
Should your captors prove careless.
As cold as they are,
Yet your spirit remains fearless!
In solidarity with the Star —
That you are–
Comrade Pather Jamal!!!
Exceedingly clever and extremely calm,
Yet as torrid as Napalm —
Your words and verbs,
Are like the Mother Of All Bombs!
Brandishing such nerve.
Making “All Things Considered,”
As you’ve blazingly shown,
That Fire can’t be censored,
When it’s “Live From Death Row!”
Cynthia White wasn’t right;
Daniel died by his own.
Fixed was the fight,
At Lady Injustice’s Throne…
Yet for 29 years,
Borne by Blood,
Sweat and Tears,
Her scales wavered in the balance.
For Justice NEVER cared about —
Me nor You, oh Abu of The Truth…
Still the morrow awaits,
For it breathes for you!
Which means to turn back now provides no solution;
We have come too far —
Long live The Revolution!!!
An ode to Mu’Mia Abu Jamal.
Submitted by reader Calvin Davis
December 2014: Cuban 5 Released
From the speech of Gerardo Hernandez to the international solidarity movement for the Cuban 5 at the Palace of the Conventions, Havana, May 2, 2015:
“We still face the battle to free Oscar López too, so that he can enjoy freedom as we do today. We still have Mumia Abu-Jamal. We still have Leonard Peltier. We still have other compañeros who are political prisoners. The committees in solidarity with the Five that supported us so much must see what we can do to end these injustices, too.
We want Oscar and the other compañeros to know that the Five, now that we are free, will continue remembering you and supporting you.
See: “The organizers who never gave up on the Cuban Five” on page __.
1/8: After serving nearly 10 years in prison, the judgment and sentencing against green anarchist Eric McDavid was vacated when it became known that the FBI had failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.supporteric.org
1/15: Norberto Gonzalez Claudio was released from prison, and began his journey back home to Puerto Rico. When he arrived he was welcomed by a crowd of supporters. prolibertadweb.org
1/16: After spending nearly two decades in federal prison, Tsutomu Shirosaki was released to an immigration facility, and later deported to Japan.
1/27: Marissa Alexander, a survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL, spent 3 years behind bars for defending her life from an abusive husband. She is now sentenced to two years of house detention while being forced to wear and pay for a surveillance ankle monitor. freemarissanow.org
3/13: Anarchist prisoners Carlos López, Amélie Pelletier and Fallon Poisson were released from Mexico City (Amélie and Fallon deported back to Canada) 325.nostate.net
4/16: Brent Betterly was the second of NATO 3 to be released. Prior to the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, three Occupy activists were arrested and eventually charged with 11 felony counts. See update on Maya Chase below. freethenato3.wordpress.com
5/16: Plowshares prisoners Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were released. Eighty-five year-old activist nun Rice told Mother Jones that it felt “Not that much different, because none of us is free… and it looks like we are going to go on being un-free for as long as there is a nuclear weapon waiting.”
6/1: Kevin Chianella (from Queens, NY) was released after a 2 year prison sentence for his participation in the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010.
Please remember that prisoner support doesn’t end when a comrade is released. Through halfway houses, supervised release, parole, or probation, there is usually state supervision beyond the initial sentence. Also, prison is traumatic. And of course there is the stigma of being a former prisoner that affects nearly every aspect of one’s life. All of this adds up to the less obvious, but equally necessary, support needed when our loved ones come home.